Blue Balls

I saw a movie today in which nothing happened. No build-up, no payoff, no shootout or car chase or first kiss or courtroom drama. No mystery, solved or lingering, no childhood romance or complicated family life, no dilemmas relating to career or parenting or religion or old-school morality. No glorious technicolor dreamcoat. No unintended leaks of laughter. No CGI. Or soulful interactions, or nuanced flicks of an eyelash. No blow jobs in the alley. No torch singer on a piano. No afterlife, or altered life, or simple life, or coma. Except in the audience, I am sorry to say.

Nothing. Happened.

Have you read any books like that?

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34 responses

  1. Hmm. I’ve read some painfully slow books, but even in those something happens.

    Was the movie visually interesting? Great soundtrack? Anything?!

    I’m imagining some stream-of-consciousness dreamy montage of a movie…which could maybe work (for me) under the right circumstances.

    • Nothing. Absolutely nothing to get hold of. I could totally do a dreamy montage, in fact I adored The Place Beyond the Pines, but that movie had all kinds of wonderfulness and this one…pfft, nada.

  2. I wonder if maybe I’ve started reading some books like that, but didn’t keep going, because they were … like that.
    I did recently read — as research you understand — two bestselling romances. I forced myself to finish the first, although nothing much happened except for the protagonist TELLING us how horrible her ex-husband was while SHOWING us how horrible she was herself. Although I think that was unintentional. And the second, which was kind of funny, and quite well-written, didn’t interest me enough to bother reading past the halfway point.
    They just didn’t seem to matter.
    But right now I’m reading Choke. Yeah, I’ll be finishing that.

    • Romances seem prone to featuring the complaining character who has nothing to complain about, or the person who resists the proffered love for no discernible reason. I never make it through those.

  3. I’venever read a book in which nothing happens, but I’ve read a few in which things happen for no real reason—the characters don’t learn anything and the plot remains unmoved.

    Which movie was it? RIPD?

    • Closed Circuit, by the director of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, another quiet movie that I did like (mainly because of Gary Oldman and Benedict Cumberbatch, who are mesmerizing). In fact, I prefer character-driven movies. But this one was like a long, flat sine wave.

      (Though if Jim Broadbent had been better used, I might have come around. Unfortunately his fabulousness couldn’t even make a dent.)

      • (As an example, near the end of the movie the two lawyers have to get a witness to court, through the MI5 agents or whatever. One lawyer says to the other, Do you remember the plan? Yes, yes, I remember… And then they just walk right in. Nothing. Fucking. Happens.)

  4. My first inclination is to say that your movie sounds like my life but I have given birth a couple of times, that’s dramatic, emotional and well, you know. I could use a little CGI. I think I’ll buy some at the local CGI store, it’s run by a plastic surgeon.
    About reading a ‘nothing happening book’, I put them down and don’t waste my time. Time’s too precious at my age; I can’t waste it.

    • I agree. it’s different with a book, because you can at least skip to the end to see if anything interesting occurs. In a movie, you’re stuck, desperately shoveling in the popcorn and waiting for the lights to come up.

  5. if i have, i don’t remember. i do remember a number of parties as such.

    were there at least pretty people to watch?

    i saw the new woody allen flick and cate blanchett was soooooooo good. so good she was hard to watch.

    • I’m not a big Woody Allen fan, but I adore Cate Blanchett. What’s the movie called?

      There was Rebecca Hall in mine… She’s lovely but my jaws just ached with boredom, waiting for something to HAPPEN. Oh, it was so bad.

      • it’s blue jasmine.

        you may enjoy it even if you’re not big on woody (ha ha), b/c it’s a bit heavier than his usual dialogue-driven stories. it’s definitely woody-esque, but rigged up a notch.

        bobby cannavle is pretty great in it too.

  6. Hm, if there was, I probably fell asleep reading and gave up. I’m not one to persist with stories that don’t reel me in. One exception, however, is a French movie, ‘Beau Travail’ by Claire Denis. Don’t ask me what happened, because all I remember is lots of intense staring and homoerotic scenes of beautiful, half clad men in the desert. It was absolutely mesmerising.

    • Intense staring and homoerotic scenes featuring half-clad men? Perfect for a night at home. I’ll have to look for that one the next time I’m in a mood.

  7. Yes, I didn’t finish it though so, maybe something happened at some point, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. It was THIRTEEN MOONS by Charles Frazier. I was SO disappointed in it. After COLD MOUNTAIN, I couldn’t believe he could write something so boring. I can’t remember what it was supposed to be about… it was that bad.

  8. No, because it seems I’ve developed a 30 page limit. If nothing’s happening, or I don’t give a shit, by 30 pages, bye-bye-book.

    I read an agent interview (prominent agent in a prominent magazine) this weekend and of the 7 books she listed that she fell madly in love with, edited, pushed into the world. loved-loved-loved, were “brilliant!” ….. I never got past my 30 pages. Maybe I have bad taste.

    • Maybe the agent has bad taste.

      I was stalking an agent a few years ago, before the e-books, who had my full. While waiting for the verdict, I read a book by one of her clients, which was beautifully written but so pointless that I couldn’t finish. I remember being alternately bored and turned off by the characters, and thinking What? Why? a lot.

  9. Samuel Becket. A change in consciousness. However subtle something does happen–triggered by thought on the pages—in the mind of the reader.

  10. Just yesterday I finished Aristotle’s Selected Works. I won’t say nothing happened in its 700 pages, but I will venture it is not a book to everyone’s taste. Its successor in my reading, Philosophy in the Middle Ages, is likewise a tome sans most mundane excitements (though it does contain selections by Peter Abailard, whose illicit affair with the delectable Heloise cost him his cock, or maybe just his balls (her family had him seized and castrated)).

    After slogging through those 1400 pages of turgid prose comes Descartes’ short (56 pp.) but dense Meditations on First Philosophy. Then my reward! Don Quixote, Madame Bovary, Moby Dick, and In Search of Lost Time. Stay tuned! (I always do.)

  11. I remember Siebold’s Austerlitz not having much physical action, but it was still a fascinating read. I’m sure there’s been others–a few of the novels assigned in my MFA program seemed to go by without registering in my conscious mind.

    • I’m in favor of being fascinated, and I don’t mind how that comes about. But there has to be something. Make me care about what’s in front of my face, it’s all I ask.

  12. I read a lot of mysteries because I’m a lazy reader and I read when I’m tired. There’s been several times when the story has engaged me for a while, and maybe started to lose me a little after a while, but I keep up with it for a long time, then I give up because I eventually, and totally and truly, don’t give a damn whether the characters live or die. Then I wonder why I thought it would be a good read in the first place. But I guess things actually happened in the books at least.

    • I have a shelf full of Agatha Christie paperbacks that I’ve been hauling around since my teenage years. I know them back to front, so for me they are like warm milk at bedtime. I read Agatha last thing, after I’ve managed to put down the latest unputdownable.

  13. It’s been over twenty years, but wasn’t Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky (and the Bertolucci film) pretty much about nothing happening? Gorgeousness in language and visuals, though, as I recall.

    • Tulasi-Priya, I just read The Sheltering Sky last month and plenty happens. There’s sex and death and robbery and deceit and ennui and disease and imperialism and repression and incest and decadence and clashing cultures and even a sort of a car chase.

      I never saw the film. I’m given to understand it was serious misunderstanding of the source text.

      • I was a but a callow youth when I read the book, so it’s not surprising that the movie (what little I remember of it) is what seemed slow and uneventful. Must re-read the novel.

  14. I’ve seen a couple of French films like that. I can’t think of books, probably because I would quietly put them aside. I’ve read some where very little happens, but there is usually a hook or divine language to keep you there.