Spent two days a week shoving rather pricey quantities of oft-jagged euphoria up their snout, the nearest conduit to tSoundtrack: Baths - Maximalist
Spent two days a week shoving rather pricey quantities of oft-jagged euphoria up their snout, the nearest conduit to the terrible/beautiful master, the hub of experience, the center of narrative gravity, all transformed into a polis of sheer pleasure, pumping its flood 'round itself, the radiant, briefly blinding, photoflashbursts of a crackling and snapping electrical whitehotheat trumpeted its silent blaring in one set of ears alone. The clearblue afternoon visionmemory of childhood, filling with the unified dart 'n' glide of a school of novelty bubbles, piscine-swimming as ocular candy, good enough to eat and visually revel in. Bubbles become sentient lightbulbs as the sky dims. It’s all surreal fireflies and childhood bliss converging with the just-so summer heat of an eternal July 4th, roiling carefree in the head.
Them's Crashin' Words
The lonesomeness will not stand. It sits. It crouches with tremendous effort until its knee caps tremble with the fluidity of the inner rot, the ravenous appetite of each engorging, twinkling and fading bit that holds this so-called personself together. It eyes the world and does enough hand waving to slink along without wrapping the twine or gasoline-ing itself in the public square, expressing a simultaneous lack of and an overabundance of concern for what happens post-oblivion. With the fullest pains in tact it finds a proper motion in the limp-along that eats away at all the sophisticated distancing techniques of humor and irony and even nihilistic resignation, with its pursed lips always on the brink of a tear-soaked smirk that’s really not fooling itself. The sheer agony of things has to be faced head-on for exactly what it is. To purge the hurt of its power they will ratchet up the threats and complaints and unpleasant reflection of an unpleasant reality. They will refuse to step back into the well-trod and flimsily ungirded platform of pretending as if their initial judgments were somehow off the mark. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. This slavemaster habit that tunnels through this mattersgrey, that rewards the futile pursuits of whittled-minded bliss, this massive blotting out of the world, this thing, this cluster of events, this dubious, desperate, resigned, deluded hunt for some respite, for some even-keel?, for something mashed together, sitting like a tumor, aglow with the manic’s sense of playfulness, pulsing in a pose of temptation with barely hidden dislodged jaw and pitiless knives of the mouth catching the ray, shed and cast off, of the fiery splotch, resistant to orbit, that wolfs down upon itself, sated into cataclysm, twin-commanding a green thumb and a scorching ire upon the slowly drifting fragments of the globe. Spreading its wings and face all around the coiled chiasma of thinking 'n' feeling, flush with tangibility, the viscosity of minds, and that cannot escape the need for and/or creation of and/or perception of meaning, no matter how fucked up it carves itself up to be. The mirror shard as scalpel, the inward-bent as surgeon....more
A lot of stuff gets compared to the films of David Lynch. This book is no exception. In an interview I read with Butler right before starting this booA lot of stuff gets compared to the films of David Lynch. This book is no exception. In an interview I read with Butler right before starting this book, Lynch's film INLAND EMPIRE was raised as a prominent influence on his work. The comparison is apt enough. I'm a huge Lynch fan and got to see him present the film at the Music Box Theater in Chicago back when it was first released. It happened to fall on a day that my friends and I also went to the flying boat-shape known as the Milwaukee Art Museum (it has retractable wings!) to view a huge collection of the works of Lynch-influencing painter Francis Bacon. The day was full of the promise and hype I'd projected upon it. While I enjoyed the film on the whole while viewing it that night, and in a non-drug-free way, and it definitely was full of muscle-clenching suspense and disorientation, but I didn't feel the same way I did after watching his others and upon reflection realized that maybe, just maybe, my hero Mr. Lynch had dropped the ball. I've yet to get around to rewatching it since then, some five years ago now, a fact which doesn't exactly help diminish my assessment. Much like the film, I found this book a bit disappointing, especially after assuming I'd love Butler's work based on my encounters with praise from two of my beloveds, Amelia Gray and Ben Marcus.
The book is well-written, but it just left me feeling a bit numb. See, one of the things that makes Lynch's masterpieces like Blue Velvet, Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive work so well is that they utilize more than just a bunch of scary lighting and ominous music. Some of the most frightening and weird scenes are in broad daylight. This book, rather, just beats the reader over the head with the final, strobing, chaotic, pitch black murder scenes, from open to close. Granted, there's some tension utilized but rarely with the kind of subtly and variety I felt myself craving. There was a quote early on from Butler in that same interview that gave me some sense that he'd be able to meet this more balanced approach to surreal and dark fiction:
I’ve never done drugs besides drinking. I tried a cigarette once and hated it though when I’m drunk I’ll puff on them and blow the smoke. Drugs aren’t for my demeanor; I feel jacked up on eating and walking and laying on the floor. I get the experience of drugs from going to the grocery store or using a cell phone.
I liked that because I figured he'd be bringing some interesting descriptions of banal things to the table. But I simply didn't find that in this book, at least not in the ways I'd hoped I would.
Every last millimeter of Scorch Atlas is filled with dread and darkness and disorder. Frankly, it began to bore me rather quickly, despite the skillfull and imaginative descriptions. It's likely that I was just not in the right mood for this while reading it (or Krok's review influenced to me too strongly) and let me emphatically state that I'm still interested in reading more from Butler, but this particular book just didn't leave me wanting more of the same, because that's essentially what the book did: offer more and more and more of the same--surreal, scary, gross shit described ad nauseum and printed on paper that's designed to look scuffed, burnt up, water-logged, etc. I couldn't help but think of the dumb goth kids in high school as well as those Scary Stories books from my earliest memories of horrific fiction. Now, the writing itself is worlds above and beyond that of bad goth poetry or creepy folk tales as told to children, but having to look at the overdone book design on every page just brought a lot of this stuff to mind once I started to get tired of the unrelenting thematic and descriptive sameness of these short, fragmented pieces that comprise the book.
I'm sorry Blake Butler, I thought I'd love this book but I just quickly stopped caring to read about nightmarish landscapes and bodies slowly falling apart and all while staring at the spooooooooky pages. I have a feeling I'll like some of your more matured/later work better. There is No Year and EVER still look exciting to me. I wish I'd ordered one of those instead.
This is a four-star book and I had a three-star go at it....more
"Fiction is empathy technology," was the sound the target and the arrow made when conjoined at the bulls-eye by another incisive explanatory summation"Fiction is empathy technology," was the sound the target and the arrow made when conjoined at the bulls-eye by another incisive explanatory summation in a long and winding queue of incisive explanatory summations of the multidisciplinary-hat-donning writer and public intellectual, Steven Pinker, at a fairly recent panel discussion/debate held on the subject of morality as it relates to the analytic and creative reach and potencies of the methods and accumulated knowledge of the sciences. This phrase leapt out of the placid murmur of my laptop while I was making some vain attempt to fall asleep a few months ago. I immediately—without a single jump cut of hesitation—preserved it with unquestioning keystrokes. I felt it was a beautifully compact coordinate and that it was magnetically in-want of my symbiotic yearning and yielding, secretly in-command, unknown but felt as a palpable ache beneath the stratum of the clown-sad artifice, in a language older than sensation. An ache with a heartbeat. And a mouth sealed in resignation by the pitiless omnidirectionality of it all—of all the canted arrows R. Feynman slings into the mouths of babes. The increasingly less muffled thud of the heart, and I, stricken with both the need for and terror of hidden motives that may be finning about in the heart of the heart of the heart of anything, an addition to the anxious fluctuations of the asymmetrical piecemeal assemblage meant to give a sense of self-possession, cutely euphemized as a conscious individual human being—ah, behold the insignia of terror and triumph. Attempts to navigate the great outdoors and the accursed oblong shell housing the illusory continuity commonly euphemized as ____________. O, the tragicomic slapdash cartography of being a feeling, thinking thing! Woe!
"Fiction is empathy technology" amasses as a singularity, hyper-densely atremble with illuminative energies—from which emerge many profoundly morally consequential and intellectually contributive ideas about the nature of and the highest virtues of art generally, and literary fiction more specifically, which possibly—arguably—holds a particularly unique and prized position among the arts and sciences in its intractable entetherment to cultivating empathy and compassion, free of the cynical reflex.
(GIS: fiction is empathy technology)
When applied to my readerly experience with the thoroughly satiating and inspiring novel 10:01, this connective tissue between art and the strained attempts to see the world through someone else's eyes—to be broken down and rebuilt by compassion—in the shifting climes of context, this quaking epicenter of illumination in potentia then detonates within—erumpent and joyful—the seduction of the prismatic bloom and the realignments of everything fleeing everything, fanning out with a bone-rattling force and its echo-chamber-shattering reverberations, louder than the deepest roaring at the heart of the sun, straining beyond the event horizons of sense perception and the abstracta of theory vainly imagined to be purified of experience, and into the unutterably lonely, itinerate, radial swells of the sea of immeasurability.
Pinker’s quote summarizes the deep and probable evolutionary and motivational origins of fictional narratives and their continual ability to teach us not only the importance of empathy but how to carry it out to actual practice, and to heightened levels of activation and attentional commitment that demand more than the knee-greets-mallet reflexes of Pavlovian instinct, and/or the mere dutiful obedience to social conventions and the inherently sullied good intentions and/or the manipulative pathologies of the iron fists of unprincipled coercion.
Empathy is a teachable skill, and one that is pliable and subject to growth and decay, and as such can be honed, intentionally sculpted, improved upon in myriad ways, and then conversely it can be neglected and atrophied and debased or altogether obliterated by the terrifying ravages of sociopathy, a condition which has a still largely ungrasped nature animating it and therefore eludes the possible preventative measures that could be used to sidestep the uncountable scores of human cruelty and suffering, laid out by the fractured millisecond upon its bloodied ledger. Luckily, the rapid advancements in the modern sciences of the mind are making undeniable progress through meticulous multi-disciplinary study, sorting and sifting through the dauntingly elaborate and nebulous constellations of cause and effect in order to zero in on some truly salient factors that give rise to those of us who cannot feel the minds of others. So perhaps there are seedlings of hope to be found scattered throughout the unresponsive stretches of infertile earth, and an array of both willfully concerted efforts and the beautifully aligned, dumb luck accidents of the bilateral anophthalmia of chaos that's intrinsically woven into the order of things.
This first encounter with Lance Olsen’s writing elicited an unqualified demolition of ye old proverbial floodgates and the unfettering of surges that overwhelmed my shores with reinvigorated thoughts and feelings about the abilities of art to be so much more than mere novelty, or intoxicating entertainment, or the pathetic inward collapse of the full embrace of the bedpost notches of fashionable consumption—and this sense of excavation and re-engagement and even optimistic inspiration all frankly felt and feels life changing to me. Olsen's empathy technology is extremely advanced, and expertly fashioned and maintained in this truly unique and cardiac-resuscitating collection of human experiences. _____________________________________________________
I urge everyone who will read this review to read this book. I was going to write a much more forthright, much less insanely purpled-prose style and unrevealing review (if you could see my wild notes you'd have your proof of this), but realized that I would have just ended up summarizing the entire thing in a much too revealing way. So just take my word/s for it.
And thank you thank you thank you to Jasmine for alerting me to this book and author. This is one of those testimonials that reminds me that Goodreads is something I'll forever be in debt to for its sheer usefulness in giving me access to the existence of books I probably would not have access to otherwise. _____________________________________________________
Addendum: I will try to (continue to) more straightforwardly articulate things about the book in the comments section....more
I read this book in June of 2011 and recently thought about it again when I stumbled upon an interview the author'd conducted with some Nietzsche apprI read this book in June of 2011 and recently thought about it again when I stumbled upon an interview the author'd conducted with some Nietzsche appreciation society or somesuch. I liked what he had to say about the remaining relevance of the literary fiction form, as it jibes with my own opinions and those of others I respect who've been asked to justify the medium they've committed themselves to work within:
"For the last fifty years or so, The Novel’s demise has been broadcast on an almost weekly basis. Yet it strikes me that whatever happens, however else the geography of the imagination might modify in the future in, say, the digital ether, The Novel will continue to survive for some long time to come because it is able to investigate and cherish two things that film, music, painting, dance, architecture, drama, podcasts, cellphone exchanges, and even poetry can’t in a lush, protracted mode. The first is the intricacy and beauty of language—especially the polyphonic qualities of it to which Bakhtin first drew our attention. And the second is human consciousness. What other art form allows one to feel we are entering and inhabiting another mind for hundreds of pages and several weeks on end?"
This book attempts to inhabit the mind of the iconic bristly-lipped German philosopher in his final day of genuine madness. If the language weren't so beautiful it could've been a disaster, and at moments in veered dangerously close to being 'a bit much' but my now distant-seeming memory of it remains largely favorable, despite not enjoying it as much as the first Oslen book that I read, and read right before picking up this cringe-inducingly-titled novel. Like 10:01, it defied my cynical skepticism and ended up being well-worth the currency of my time, attention and money. Much of it is told through flashbacks and details the often mythologized and heavily scrutinized figure with both kind and unkind depictions. Historical accuracy seems a bit besides the point in a novel like this, but it still managed to feel real enough while my eyes were stuck in its pages.
For those who don't know, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche went into a state of insanity for the final ten years of his life. In the early stages he was signing his bizarre letters as "Dionysus" or "The Crucified" and so forth, saying stranger more nonsensical things than he ever published as philosophy while his faculties were intact--this all being immediately after a now famous story about his initial trip to the sanitarium being spurred by him collapsing and weeping while clutching a horse that was being beaten and whipped in the street. The majority of these ten years were spent in bed-ridden catatonic silence while his sister handled his estate and manipulated his writings to serve her own dubious purposes, which would not be corrected until Walter Kaufmann came along to translate his works into English in the 1950's and discovered her omissions and additions. In any case, Olsen attempts to describe the point of view of someone with a genuine degenerative brain disorder (consensus is that syphilis was rotting his brain away for many years) who's on their deathbed. This person just so happens to be a now famous German philosopher with more than a few interesting biographies floating around.
A central narrative arc via flashbacks involves Nietzsche's disastrous attempts at finding lasting romance with Lou Salome, a Strong Independent Woman who snared his affections and also left him standing in the cold with a wedding ring in his hand. It also touches on Nietzsche's father being a Lutheran minister and dying when he was a young boy, both patriarchal details making for great psychoanalytic fodder for scholars to wax theoretical about over the decades, considering the legacy of the philosopher's anti-Christian, God-slaying, Life-On-Earth-embracing canon.
I suspect that only those with some interest in Nietzsche at some point in their lives will possibly find this book worthwhile. Even as someone who realized that Nietzsche wasn't as great on the whole as I once thought him to be, I found something valuable in this and I think purely on the human level of trying to embody the consciousness of someone else, which Olsen's kick-off quote describes as being The Novel's true wheelhouse, and despite my previously acquired knowledge and pretty serious appreciation of the mustachioed man's writing and bio.
Olsen has a real talent with language that's on display here and that alone made it worth the price of admission for me....more