How the Light Gets in
Brief Impressions of the written works of David Duchovny
Written work includes:
The X-Files: The Unnatural
The X-Files: Hollywood A.D.
House of D (Movie)
Holy Cow (Novel))
Bucky Fucking Dent (Novel)
Hell or HighWater (Album))
This is in many ways simply a fan letter musings to the writer, David Duchovny. Most known for his acting in the X-Files and Californication, the quality of his writing in his albums and two novels surprised me. I had been a fan of the X-Files in the day, but had rarely thought about the show or its stars since the 2008 “I Want to Believe.”. I could honestly say in 2015 that I had never watched anything David Duchovny appeared in outside of the X-Files. It was the X-File season ten filming that convinced me to watch the original episodes again. Mostly out of curiosity, I listened to Duchovny’s album. As I am a sucker for break up albums and I found it derivative of my favorite Bob Dylan Album “Blood on the Tracks” I listened to it on repeat in a way I had not listened to an album since college. Much like “Blood on the Tracks” my favorite song off the album changes daily and in each listening I find new interpretations to the lyrics. I read “Holy Cow” only realizing near the conclusion that I had read it too swiftly and had missed its more serious meaning. I returned to the beginning to read it again. By that time, watching the ninth season of the X-Files, I was missing Mr. Duchovny and so watched Aquarius. Then, I was hooked- Californication, Goats, New Year’s Day, The Rapture, Phantom, The Secret, and guest appearances. BFD came out. He went on an European tour and the Duchovniacs posted videos on you tube and a 55 year old fan girl was born. The last time I was a fan girl I was seven and wrote Bobby Sherman a letter. I fought the fandom’s pull, but I am lost to its power now.
While I love his acting and he is a gorgeous man, I think I would be over it by now if I was not first and foremost a fan of Duchovny’s written works- eagerly anticipating a second album and a third novel. He is, as he says, a man of words. If I had to choose between further acting projects or more of his words, I would choose his words.
His writing for whatever format-television, movie,novel or lyrics- all seem to me to have a similar quality which is unique and distinct to him. I have been describing it as a sweet quality. Each work seems to me to be almost a fairy tale as I am involved in experiencing it. I am left at the end with an uplifted feeling of hope. I am secured in the knowledge that the world is good.
Then, away from the experience of the work, I think about it dispassionately and realize the sweet, fairy tale fantasy is utterly and completely ridiculous when you look at the themes of his work objectively. BFD is about the death of a father. Holy Cow about a cow learning she is destined to be slaughtered and eaten. House of D involves a women’s correctional facility and a mother’s overdose. The fan favorite X-Files, the Unnatural, has the Klan riding out to kill a black baseball player who dared to play a game against white men- and the alien bounty hunter is among them. Hollywood AD really is the opposite of a fairy tale. It is about complete disillusionment. It is about disillusionment of childhood heroes, of the reality that the sixties didn’t end how we wanted, that the church doesn’t have the answers, that your work could suspend you on a whim for a mistake, and that what we see in Hollywood is ridiculous and sublime- which isn’t a big deal to me- but might be if you had spent 8 years in one part in Hollywood amassing a fortune and now ponder if the work was worthwhile. Just listing the themes is exhausting and depressing. Then, I think David Duchovny must be the world’s most morose and melancholy man to pick these themes. Wonder if he’s a downer at parties.
No, I bet he’s a blast at parties because remember he is sweetness, hope, providing security that the world is good. How can he be both things and do them both simultaneously so well?
It is important to note that he doesn’t pick depressing themes and then sugar coat them in sweetness and nice. I am not saying that at all. He seeks out the darkness. He deals with the darkness head on and serves it up with all the ugliness it contains. He doesn’t hide from it. He stands with his demons on the map of the world wondering if he closed his eyes forever if he could see what he want to see not sure how to get off the goddamned dead end road. He jumps into the primordial ooze with the same determined obsession that causes Mulder to chase aliens.
It is just that, in his case, after the plunge, what bubbles up to the top of the ooze, grows feet to walk and then wings to fly above it all, is this sweetness and lightness which is every bit as truthful as the darkness. So the alien becomes a man, the zombies dance in a graveyard, the child returns to New York from Paris a man, a cow discovers there’s no place like home, the losers are celebrated, we’ll beat the devil and it will always be raining in this song.
He does this in a way that is not Disney, is not saccharine, is not a plot device and is in no way incongruous in the storyline. I know of no other writer who accomplishes this in quite the same way. This is his uniqueness and his gift.
What makes it interesting is that somewhere always is the story of how the sweetness occurs because of, not in despite of, the darkness. How that happens is not always clear, not always defined, but it is always contained in the story or the song. The thing we are left to ponder and the reason we want to return is this question asked and answered time and time again: How does the light get in?
Now, not much criticism in this brief review and I can always find something to criticize. Are the plot devices sometimes not quite believable, does Hollywood AD try to do too much, are saguaro cactus in Roswell, NM the true alien? There is nothing perfect. Those musings will have to come on another day.
Right now I am crossing the Brooklyn Ferry with Walt Whitman on a spliff the side of a canoe, watching zombies dancing in the cemeteries, riding a bicycle with my family, hitting a baseball with a strong man’s arms around me, seeing the light from a star that died long ago, loving the losers, Sugar Magnolia playing in my head.
i mean…in the unnatural when mulder just like immediately jumps up to steal scully’s ice cream…that’s such a married thing to do…that’s a several years into our relationship and we love each other and are more comfortable with each other than with anyone else in the world thing to do…that’s honestly…
He thought it was a great plan. Elegant in its simplicity. Subtle yet effective. In retrospect, perhaps he went a little too far with the subtlety, which would explain why they’ve been here for nearly two hours already and she still hasn’t caught on that he’s not really reading obituaries.
He taps a pencil absently against the desk. Maybe he should call it off. She just stepped out a few moments earlier, muttering something about Vitamin D and fresh air going to waste; maybe when she gets back, he should pretend to have found something and tell her they’re done here.
Except that he’s already dragged her out on a beautiful day – as she keeps reminding him – and if he packs it in after only a couple of hours, without even getting to the part where they flirt and he makes her laugh, then her lasting impression is going to be a negative one. He was supposed to charm her, not annoy her so much that the next time he calls her up on a Saturday, she’ll turn him down.
No. No, he can salvage this. He has a whole speech prepared, about box scores and Pythagoras, baseball and actual human emotion, carefully crafted to appeal to both her scientific sensibilities and her romantic ones. He just needs to find an excuse to actually say it all.
Hey! No, I was just talking about MSR in lacklustre episodes in general. There are too many to name, especially in the later seasons (where Mulder & Scully are WAY more flirty with each other and the show is kind of losing its edge). I actually LOVE The Unnatural, even outside of its iconic, bookended MSR moments, because I love baseball, aliens, Jesse L. Martin, David Duchovny’s sappy writing, and seeing KKK members get beat up.