According to this book, I am 30% white, which isn't bad for a guy who's something stupid like 100% Caucasian. Well, it would be 100%, but (you guessed...moreAccording to this book, I am 30% white, which isn't bad for a guy who's something stupid like 100% Caucasian. Well, it would be 100%, but (you guessed it) I have a smidge Native American in me. It must be all that genetic native wisdom that keeps me away from musical comedy. (less)
Alright, I have no interest in finishing this. I can deal with nameless archetypal sorts, but isn't it still possible to give them personalities? Not...moreAlright, I have no interest in finishing this. I can deal with nameless archetypal sorts, but isn't it still possible to give them personalities? Not overly complicated ones, mind you; that would just gum up the symbolophoralogism or whatever. But christ.
Such. bland. writing. Take, for instance:
". . . their bodies were still being riddled by bullets which was a sheer waste of ammunition, it all happened so incredibly slowly, one body, then another, it seemed they would never stop falling, as you sometimes see in films and television."
Ok, never mind that some authors think commas are all the punctuation they need - I can't stand it when they describe something as being like in the movies. It's gotten to the point with a lot of authors where, rather than put any effort into what they're writing, they simply say, "you know, like in the movies." I'm no snob. If you want to make a wry comparison to a specific filmmaker that I won't catch, go for it. But you wouldn't write, "It was all very sad, the way life is sometimes sad." My god, even that's better than what Saramago sharted out.
One more thing. You know why it doesn't matter that Saramago forgoes quotation marks and line breaks (even The Road had line breaks!)? It's because it doesn't matter who's speaking. Not one bit, Who said that, Everyone, Saramago, Everyone who groped along blindly before finally saying bag this and opening their eyes.
I'm not usually so comfortable rating a book I've given up on. (less)
Holy fuck people. I've never known the phrase "it'll put hair on your chest" to apply to a book, but this was every bit as ludicrously masculine as pr...moreHoly fuck people. I've never known the phrase "it'll put hair on your chest" to apply to a book, but this was every bit as ludicrously masculine as promised in the other reviews. It's like Rambo; you deride the very concept, but then even the fairest of women watching it is like, "AARGAHASPLCHKTAHAHA IDON'TCARE BLOWMORESHITUP!"
I closed the book, put my jacket on, and headed downtown. Waiting for the cross signal, an old man looked at me. "You look like you've just been throu...moreI closed the book, put my jacket on, and headed downtown. Waiting for the cross signal, an old man looked at me. "You look like you've just been through a war," he said. I looked at my reflection in the tinted windows of a passing Cadillac. I looked the straight-faced man of thirty that I was, but every hair was in place. "I've just finished reading The Ghost Soldiers," I said. "Even for prose poems, they weren't very poetic. More like Italo Calvino's fables. Flash fables." "Perhaps they weren't poetic, but were they prophetic?" he said. "Listen, I can't worry about that now. I'm supposed to give a lecture on anti-war novels to the punks down at CBGB's," I said. "I've got a couple of sick grand-children to get home. I'm waiting for them to be dismissed from school now," he said. I thought of all the strange old folks of Hyrule and Ultima. How all of their non-sequiturs come back eventually.
"Here comes one of them now," he said. I saw a small boy trotting toward us in the same direction as the car with the tinted-windows, which was coming back our way. The boy crossed the street and the car turned the corner and hit him. The driver got out of the car. He wore aviators and had a wire in his ear. He knelt down to the boy and felt for a pulse. He was dead. The driver pointed at me. "His wild hair drove me to distraction!" he said. People began to stare. I smoothed my hair down self-consciously. I swallowed hard and looked at the old man. He said, "listen, young man. When you've lived as long as I have, you learn that hair's got nothing to do with it."(less)
When you start a book like this, you sort of go, "Jeeze, I almost hope I don't like it," because you know if you do, you're going to have to explain y...moreWhen you start a book like this, you sort of go, "Jeeze, I almost hope I don't like it," because you know if you do, you're going to have to explain yourself. And, confound it, I liked it.
I want to conflate a couple of the points from the letters section of this book with an anecdote of my own:
In 2005, while I was living in China, the whole of China became incensed at yet another inaccurate history textbook published in Japan. The text described the Nanjing Massacre (a.k.a. The Rape of Nanking) as "The Nanjing Incident." In response, the Chinese government mobilized college students. They took to the streets, chucked bottles at the Japanese embassy, and called for a worldwide boycott of Japanese goods.
Around the same time, I'd attempted to set up an information booth/charity collection for the genocide in Darfur (a genocide, it should be noted, that the Chinese government helped to arm in exchange for oil). The response was supreme indifference. They claimed that they'd love to help but, pitifully, there were too many Chinese citizens in need of help first.
"Why," I asked, "is the rest of the world meant to care about a massacre that occured 70 years ago when you don't care about a genocide ocurring right now?"
It's because people are consumed by this implicit belief that they really are special. OUR pain is greater. THIS crime is unprecedented. And so on and so forth. And when you feel you've been wronged, you can justify any theft or crime of your own. I've seen this attitude elsewhere in the world, too. Apologies are rarely recognized and when they are, they're not enough. Generations of people cling to the idea of reparations, no doubt because it's tough getting by in this world and people will take what they can get. But perpetuating guilt perpetuates conflict. It's terribly short-sighted.
This is part of what Finklestein tries to point out about Israel and it's important that he does. Communities need dissent from within. God forbid you're an outsider. Look at what they're saying about Gunter Grass. Suddenly Grass is an anti-semite and banned from Israel, despite his belief in the right to a Jewish nation. All anyone can do now is point out that he'd served in the Waffen SS. Well, so did the Pope. If even a bad poem can get their panties in a bunch, clearly they need to hear from dissenting Jews. Of course, then they just say that he's a self-hating Jew. The larger Jewish community has sealed itself off from valid criticism. Plenty of other groups do the same.
Remember when Bill Cosby had some hard words for the black community in America? Oh, how they were pissed. He'd betrayed them! And what would the white people think when they heard him talk like that? Do you remember what he said? He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I don't care what the white people will say. I'm not talking to the white people. I'm talking to YOU." His point, obviously, is that you can't worry about how others might twist the argument. You have to deal rationally with what you know. So, yes, white supremecists loved Cosby's criticism. Sure, radical Palestinian factions adore Grass's poem. And of course neo-Nazis have clung to Finklestein's arguments, but you just can't let that affect your thinking. Do they have a point or don't they?
Of course, Finklestein needs to be kept in check, too. At the end of the documentary "American Radical," Finklestein tells the Palestinian media that he believes there is hope and that that hope is Hezbollah. That made me wince a little. I don't agree, but I do get why he has such an extreme reaction to bullying.
First they laughed at Finklestein, calling him unbalanced. Then they banned him from Israel (like children in tree-houses), and next?
“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Let's hope we all see jingoism for what it is, very soon.(less)
This book ought to be in the curriculum for atheism studies AND at seminary schools. Crusoe is an exemplary model of a supplicant, but seen from a fre...moreThis book ought to be in the curriculum for atheism studies AND at seminary schools. Crusoe is an exemplary model of a supplicant, but seen from a freethinking perspective, he's clearly just an ass.
The layers of coeval to post-modern meaning should be enough to make this at least a 3-star rating, and I'd certainly give it that if not for the wretched ending.
A thing called wanhope was once considered the greatest sin of all. It's the absence of hope, the belief that you are beyond redemption or god's forgiveness. Such a presumption was thought to be offensive in the extreme, a humility so great it actually makes you self-centered. Crusoe basks in that shit.
There's also a touch of "there but for the grace of god, go I." Let's not even talk about how disgusting that philosophy is.
But then you've got to remember that this is fiction and that Defoe is actually committing a substantial offense himself in fictionalizing god and deciding what he'd do to someone like Crusoe. That is, of course, assuming Defoe wasn't writing subversively and I don't think he was. But if we can separate the work from its author and deconstruct the plot from a current, sane standpoint (i.e. a nonbelieving one) then Robinson Crusoe suddenly becomes a brilliant work of satire.
Here's this guy perfectly content to suffer god's judgment so long as supplies and safety abound, but then he spies the cannibals on the shore and it dawns on him. Quoth Wolf Parade: "God doesn't always have the best god-damn plans, does he?"
"Maybe there are only atheists in foxholes. If the faithful truly and fully believe in a protective deity, why would they dive into a foxhole to protect themseleves from the bullets whizzing by? A part of their brain knows damn well that if they do not protect themselves, the bullets will hardly discriminate between those who claim faith and those who reject it." ~ J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD
And now Crusoe works post-haste to abandon the Spaniards he'd promised to save, as well as Friday's father who's still sort of on death row. Nice.
That's Crusoe in a nutshell. Intolerant of slavery while a slave, but without much of an opinion when he wants a slave for himself; accepts that he's an instrument of god to save his countrymen, but content to ditch his comrades in absentia; and so on and so forth.
And you've got to love how Defoe whistles past the graveyard in describing how Crusoe returned to the island without being strung up by his toes by those he'd abandoned.
I read this book on an island called Koh Mook. That's what I'm going to call Crusoe's island, because it was inhabited by a bunch of morons. (less)
I wonder how I would have felt about this book had I known nothing of Atwood beforehand. But as Snowman might say, no sense wasting time with pointles...moreI wonder how I would have felt about this book had I known nothing of Atwood beforehand. But as Snowman might say, no sense wasting time with pointless repinings. Fact is I did know something about Atwood before I started Oryx and Crake and I read with a very critical eye because of it.
For those who aren't aware, Margaret Atwood does this insufferable thing where she denies that her books are science fiction - because, as she claims, if it's plausible (and is this, even?) it's not sci-fi. I'd like to know on what planet this book isn't science fiction and with what non-science it came to be on that planet. (This guy nails it: http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts/Pe...)
By chance I read "The Island of Dr. Moreau" just before starting this book and Atwood provided the introduction for it. In it she said, "Wells is acknowledged to be one of the foremost creators in the genre we now know as ‘science fiction’. . . ‘Science fiction’ as a term was unknown to Wells. It did not make its appearance until the late 1920s, in America, then coming to prominence in the 1930s, during the golden age of bug-eyed monsters and girls in brass brassières." Bless her, she really is working hard at being a consistent little cork-nut and manipulating us into agreement.
Atwood is waging a one-woman war on the definition of science fiction in what can only be an attempt to be taken more seriously (see Ursula K. Le Guin's remarks below*). Rather, she says, her works are "speculative fiction." I've got a word for you, Margaret, and you should know it well: bogus. Fahrenheit 451 and The Man in the High Castle are speculative works by authors who typically write sci-fi. But speculative though O & C may be, it is also undeniably science fiction. If you're going to be so haughty about your work, you damn well better be prepared to be held to high standards. So alright, you want to be elevated to "Literature" with a capital L? Let's assess.
Atwood's prose is disarmingly crisp and it took me a while to see past it (actually, it's a little too breezy at times; did her list-like sentences with a disdain for conjunctions irritate anyone else?). But the writing is good and the world is fairly well drawn. It's also oddly drawn. Giving snippets of a chaotic world is an effective world-building technique in dystopian works, but if you're going to emphasize certain parts, they should have a bearing on the plot. For example, what did the the child porn thing contribute to this story? She spent far too much time on it for it to have amounted to so little. Is this developed in the sequels?
I also thought at first that her characters were well drawn. They joke as people joke and are filthy as people are secretly filthy, but then an uneasy suspicion set in. Is she making a statement about general apathy, men's specifically? There's a very casual way about her depiction of men as pedophilic beasts or their permissive attitudes toward such behavior. Oryx's personality seems to be saying, "that's just what men do" and even Snowman, who is in love with her, persisted in his kiddie-porn viewing well after developing feelings for her. So what's this all about? It feels like there's an implicit cynicism here and that Atwood is tacitly concurring with Oryx, and not just as a warning of what could happen to our sexuality. I'd like to hear people's thoughts on this, though, as I may be entirely wrong.
But the thing that makes this work most mediocre is, I think, that it's a hybrid (fitting that she wrote the intro to Moreau, then) of a number of other science fiction books. Have your pick, but as I see it this combines Nancy Kress's "Beggars in Spain" with a couple of John Brunner's books (right down to the engineered bioluminescent animals). There's no crime in being derivative, so my annoyance here must only be at this book's reception. I expected more. However, there is something brazen about Atwood's go at this sort of story, borrowing so heavily from established sci-fi classics while also repudiating any such genre label for herself. This lack of self-awareness carries over into the text. Take Snowman's thoughts about his marketing job, for instance: "[H]e'd come to see his job as a challenge: how outrageous could he get, in the realm of fatuous neologism, and still achieve praise?" She's got to be taking a stab at herself here, right? With an author better attuned to what she was writing, I would assume so.
*" . . . she says that everything that happens in her novels is possible and may even have already happened, so they can't be science ﬁction, which is "ﬁction in which things happen that are not possible today." This arbitrarily restrictive deﬁnition seems designed to protect her novels from being relegated to a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders. She doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto.” ~ Le Guin(less)
Entertaining enough and clearly ahead of its time, but it's sort of Frankenstein Lite. This might be sacrilege, but I kind of think this could be re-w...moreEntertaining enough and clearly ahead of its time, but it's sort of Frankenstein Lite. This might be sacrilege, but I kind of think this could be re-worked and given more gravitas to better reflect this "silly ass of a world." (less)
What a prosaic pile of shit (shit being the operative word here, there being enough of it within the first 20 pages). The preface alone was like liste...moreWhat a prosaic pile of shit (shit being the operative word here, there being enough of it within the first 20 pages). The preface alone was like listening to 5th grade boys at a sleepover taking turns with a gross-out story of poo-monsters, reanimated turkeys and whatever other random crap passed through their ADD-addled minds.
I recently suffered through the new Dylan Dog movie and do not intend to relive it in book form. I only tried to because a friend I'd recommended House of Leaves to told me to give it a shot. The difference between our recommendations, however, is that where Johnny Truant's initially base narrative becomes more informed and his grammatical mistakes eventually explained, the narrator of JD@tE remains a complete dipshit throughout.
Funny and horrifying? There was nothing funny about this and the only horrifying thing is that a friend praised it to no end.(less)
He said, "he said, I thought," I thought, at least a thousand times and just "I thought" about twice as much as that, I thought.
I didn't find the narr...moreHe said, "he said, I thought," I thought, at least a thousand times and just "I thought" about twice as much as that, I thought.
I didn't find the narration cute. Not only did it fail to re-align perspectives, it jarred me out of a repetitive story that I didn't care to have repeated in the first place! Maybe it's the translation, but this read like a bad parody of, I don't know, 'Notes from Underground' + something by Knut Hamsun.
I am also generally against using real people as characters in fiction. I find that it lacks imagination and staying power and that it's often pretty insulting to (the memory of) the person used.
There were a couple of good thoughts here, including the idea of "The Existence Machine," but he abandoned them in favor of telling us again, in the same bland phrasing, about The Loser living in "Glenn Gould's" shadow. Oh boy! Can I hear it one more time? Make sure you tell it just like the first hundred times now!
I wish I'd given up on this one, but at least I was overjoyed when the tail end of my ebook ended up being a long (undeserved) afterword along with extracts from Bernhard's other novels (which, needless to say, I won't be reading).