Fragmented literary forms, when mishandled, can seem like archaic relics of a previous era’s literary avant garde. But they have always seemed to me to be necessary; the way they are broken helps them fit around the shape of something that could not be described if the form was whole. As you read along in The Tooth Fairy—and you should read along—by about Page 30 you can see Chase is not interrupting himself so much as moving threads along a loom much larger than the one you imagined at first. In Chase’s aphorisms and in the gaps, there is a shape implied, something seen in the corner of his eye, building itself as he writes. He is trying to reach for a grip on something that might ordinarily be unbearable to him and the reader both—these are not simple complaints.
It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but Grand Budapest Hotel left me with the same feeling I had after Django Unchained, both films in which wildly talented auteurs walk up to a serious historical era, only to skitter away from its most harrowing implications. To me, Django Unchained represents what I hope is the nadir of Tarantino’s exhausting self-regard, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, for all its delightful tics and peculiarities, is finally the film that had me screaming for Wes Anderson to say something. Anything, really. Here we have the crumbling of grand old Europe, dark armies marching across picturesque lands, the first early glints of the Iron Curtain. Anderson could actually interact with all this heavy stuff and still construct his chintzy hotels, still send his manic characters twirling like tops around elegant old rooms. Instead, he made a chase movie.