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Assassin in a Three-Piece Suit: Slow Fire, Minimalism, and the Eighties

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paul Attinello


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The solo opera Slow Fire (1985), with music by Paul Dresher on a text by vocalist Rinde Eckert, seems at first to be energetic and fairly humorous, a recognizably enjoyable example of mid-1980s minimalist performance art that showcases the sampling and live electronics that were new and exciting at that time. However, as we are introduced to the inside of the protagonist’s mind, we gradually realize that frightening things are living there – things that will explode into the outside world in the final moments of the opera. These involve images of driving and death, suicide on the road, the urge to own and control the frontier, and thereby the world – intricately combined with threads about fathers and sons, guns and possessions, advertisements and technology, business and murder, paranoia and civilization, all ultimately suggesting that contemporary men are always already poisoned by their own testosterone and its urgings. In the course of this dazzlingly flexible work of theatre, juggling as it does verbal and visual puns and surreal metaphors, we enter the mind of a modern barbarian – a rigid, unrelenting paranoiac whose endlessly cycling memories are haunted by his father’s rifle suicide, and who has solved the nightmare of that first gunshot by becoming a hired assassin in a suit and wrap-around shades. In that context, he suggests the polished savagery of the 1980s business warrior, linking the reality of violence and death to metaphors of right-wing brutality and the rise of a ruthless right-wing capitalism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Attinello P

Editor(s): Slethaug, G., Ford, S.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Hit the Road, Jack: Essays on the Culture of the American Road

Year: 2012

Pages: 126-146

Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press

Place Published: Montréal; London

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780773540767


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