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John Brunner's From This Day Forward
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 10, 2014
As I'm sure I've already written elsewhere I usually...more review of
John Brunner's From This Day Forward
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 10, 2014
As I'm sure I've already written elsewhere I usually avoid reading short stories, I prefer novels - &, yet, obviously, the short story form typically involves a striking idea presented tautly, leading to an impactful conclusion - & Brunner, I've now discovered, is as expert at it as J. G. Ballard & C. W. Kornbluth - high praise from me, indeed! [How was that for a sentence full of qualifiers & punctuation?]
In other words, I agree w/ the cover's quote from the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle: "MAINTAINS A HIGH LEVEL THROUGHOUT." Yes. When I started reading it, I decided that I didn't want to quote from every story, that I just wanted to 'get a feel' for the bk & make some sort of sweeping statement in my review. Not having written the review yet [I'm in the midst of writing it at this point] I don't 'know' if that's what'll happen. I do 'know' that the most important thing about it for me is that it contains the story "Factsheet Six". I'll explain that eventually - but, 1st, the first page of the bk promotes it thusly:
"FROM THIS DAY FOREWORD,"
AS IT WERE
It behooves us all to be interested in the future, because that's where we're going to spend the rest of our lives.
I wish I knew who said that! I wish I didn't know so many people who aren't listening to it!"
We start off w/ a 1955 (or earlier) story called "THE BIGGEST GAME". Brunner wd've been around 20 when it was originally published so don't feel defeatist if you're young & creative & think there's not much hope of getting acknowledged at yr age. "The first time Royston noticed one of the men in black was as he paused before entering the gym." (p 7) 'The Men in Black'! Did that image originate w/ this story? Well, ok, there's a Three Stooges short called "Men in Black" from 1934 in wch they play doctors. But that has nothing to do extraterrestrials & this Brunner story does.
"In American popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, Men in Black (MIB) are men dressed in black suits who claim to be government agents who harass or threaten UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen. It is sometimes implied that they may be aliens themselves. The term is also frequently used to describe mysterious men working for unknown organizations, as well as various branches of government allegedly designed to protect secrets or perform other strange activities. The term is generic, used for any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_B...
What I'm getting at is that Brunner is up there w/ the best as a short story writer. Considering that he started so young & that this bk covers material published in magazines from 1955 to 1972 the ideas are consistently fresh & strong & established early w/o necessarily 'giving it away' too soon for the ensuing thrill ride. "THE TROUBLE I SEE" begins:
"When Joe Munday was four years old he ran screaming from behind a truck. The truck was a large and heavy one. It was parked in the steeply sloping street which was Joe's playground and the front yard of his home. Moments later the driver let his brake off, and his clutch failed. The truck rolled twenty feet backward before he could jam the brake on again and clamber white-faced to the ground to see if the kid he'd noticed on the sidewalk was okay." - p 18
Brunner, like many SF writers, seems to embrace a practical state of mind. I'm sure he always read scientific articles & news. Many SF writers work in science or other pragmatic industries. As such, his stories proceed along logical lines to not necessarily foreseen ends. The above quote sets up the reader for Munday's precognition but where will it lead?
"AN ELIXIR FOR THE EMPEROR" jumps to ancient Rome, apparently in the century prior to its decline. Brunner doesn't stay in a small range of topics or locales: "The roar of the crowd was very good to his ears, just as the warm Italian sunshine was good on his body after three years of durance in the chill of Eastern Gaul. Few things made the general Publius Cinnus Metellus smile, but now, for moments only, his hard face relaxed as he made his way to the seat of honor overlooking the circus." (p 28) "Publius Cinnus Metellus" = Publius the Curly-haired Mercenary. Maybe Brunner just meant 'The Dick'.
"Marcus Placidus clutched his belly as though he would squeeze the poison from it" (p 47) Marcus Maecius Memmius Furius Baburius Caecilianus Placidus was a Roman statesmen - whether he was a clever villain who eventually got poisoned is unknown to me. Whether Brunner was really referring to an actual historical figure or not is also unknown. ""We shall see," murmured Apodorius." (p 47) Apodorius may've been a Jewish geometer. ""Does it make you smile, Cinatus Augustus["]" (p 47) Cinatus Augustus just seems to be a male name. This seems to be Brunner's alternate history of the decline of the Roman Empire. Nice.
The saying is "Youth is wasted on the young" & Brunner's "WASTED ON THE YOUNG" takes that away w/ the notion of a "professional youth": ""Well, are you going to make me stand here where anyone passing down the corridor might see me? Are you going to have people start to wonder why an adult comes calling on Hal Page, the professional youth? You see, I know about the notice you've had, and the reason for your spectacular party tonight."" (p 49)
Yep, Brunner keeps it lively, he keeps hopping around place & time: "Some of the fiercest fighting of World War II ebbed and flowed for months on either side of the territory of the Kalangs, but there was only one occasion on which the larger sweep of world events intruded into that inaccessible and hilly region of northern Burma to which they laid claim." (p 60) "The kalangs of java were a community of skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators . Without their expertise , it was difficult to harvest teak and for the kings to build their palaces" - http://www.answers.com/Q/Who_were_kal... Isn't reading fun? I don't know about YOU (whoever YOU are) but I like looking things up mentioned in bks & broadening my knowledge (or whatever it is).
"PLANETFALL" is a particular favorite: a young man born on & living on a large spaceship gets a day off to be on Earth for the 1st time & meets an Earthborn girl named Lucy who wistfully wants the visitor's lifestyle. The reader gets to witness their respective perceptions through a nicely efficient narrative framework:
"At the beginning he exclaimed over everything. To see dogs on the street excited him tremendously. "The wealth!" he breathed. "The richness of the place! Why, that one must weigh half as much as a man, and two such would consume his food, his drinking water, his air supply . . . And here they run in packs around the houses!"
"Lucy said nothing, and he saw that the dogs were snuffling at garbage cans; then, how they visited the corners of walls, and how their soilings lay on the sidewalk and in the road." - p 84
"A fight began outside a bar. From the far side of the street, still hand in hand, they watched. A crowd gathered. Its members stood by, not minded to interfere. On the contrary they shouted encouragement, and only scattered when a police siren announced the imminent descent of a patrol flyer.
"Valeryk shook his head in bewilderment. "The—the waste of energy . . ." he began and got no further.
"Not without malice Lucy said, "Don't you fight among yourselves where you come from?"
""What for? How can we? The system depends—our very lives depend—on co-operative effort. This is one of the strange things about planetside dramas and stories which we pick up: this fantastic violence, this sense of surplus energy ready to boil off in new and unpredictable ways. But when it's reduced to that . . . !"" - p 85
"THE VITANULS" takes us to India for another fantastic premise: ""I think I follow you," the matron said at length. "I take it the anti-death pill is a success?"" (p 103)
& now, Gadies & Lentlemen, for the stunning centerpiece of this collection: "FACTSHEET SIX": I knew that Mike Gunderloy's phenomenal zine "FACTSHEET FIVE" was based around a John Brunner story but I'd never read it.. until NOW. WOW, does it put things in context!
The earliest issue of Gunderloy's FACTSHEET FIVE that I have is the 5th one. It's from February, 1983. It's 2 double-sided 8&1/2 X 11" sheets folded once & saddle-stitched, very modest. Mike introduces it as "the not-dead-yet zine of crosspollination & crosscurrents". It's intended "for direct mailing to the Good Folks"; its "Frequency: Irregular"; "the reason this is so late is simple: [Mike was] broke."
The FACTSHEET in Brunner's story is a one-page mailing of mysterious origin sent out to financially influential people. It contains revealing information about consumer-damaging products. Things like:
"LUPTON & WHITE LTD, Caterer's equipment. 127 employees of firms using bread-slicers, bacon-slicers and other cutting devices supplied by this company lost one or more fingers in the period under review." - p 117
The story was 1st published in 1968. According to Wikipedia, Ralph "Nader came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers in general, and most famously the Chevrolet Corvair." Surely, Brunner's story was inspired by Nader, a man I deeply respect. People wanting to learn more about his consumer activism are directed here: https://nader.org/ . The publisher of the FACTSHEET is beginning to have influence on major investors who're withdrawing their support from companies exposed as producing unsafe products.
Gunderloy's FACTSHEET FIVE #5 contains 37 capsule reviews of such things as IMPOSSIBLE BOOKS, an anarchist bookstore in Chicago; ID NTITY's "report on an attempt to undermine reality maintenance traps" (that's ME folks! - "id ntity" is one of my 60 or so names); SELL OUT, a list of things for sale by mail; CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, "a bilingual journal of anarcho-pacifism"; & 18 bk reviews. The general thrust just being what's out there that Mike had come across & read or otherwise encountered. At that point it was pretty slim pickin's. Still, the fledgling thrust was on a counterculture of small-scale publishing as an alternative to corporate profit-driven mass media. As w/ Brunner's FACTSHEET, there was plenty of room for a hard critical look at the downsides of capitalist society & plenty of room for proposed solutions that might just fall into 'the right hands', the people who might change things - not, as in Brunner's story, necessarily major investors, more of a grassroots mvmt.
The inevitable skeptics & cynics who might think that a mere 15 zines wd never grow into something big enough to challenge BIG MONEY wd've probably been listened to in early 1983 - but what about in 1991 when Gunderloy's FACTSHEET FIVE #44 appeared (the last, as I recall, under Gunderloy's editorship) in its glorious 8&1/2 X 11" 132pp w/ about 22 zine reviews per page adding up to thousands?! In less than a decade, the 'zine revolution', the revolution of self-publishing by people mostly under-represented in the mainstream had blossomed into something truly fantastic! The grassroots had become extraordinarily robust & opinions contrary to capitalist propaganda were very, VERY widespread - probably to an unprecedented degree.
Gunderloy's FACTSHEET FIVE helped bring Brunner's fictitious FACTSHEET to real life. This was an accomplishment that took more energy on Mike's part than most people wd ever expend on anything in their whole life. So where are we now? I wonder. The internet has, to a certain extent, replaced zines & its international communication relative, Mail Art, but the agendas of the technical networks that the internet relies on are potentially very contrary to what strike me as the general public's best interests. Anonymous's efforts on behalf of the victim(s) of police murder in Ferguson is at the forefront of what can be done with computers in the politically effective range.
Brunner's SF prescience is usually astonishing. I don't know what precedents inspired "THE EPOCH OF MRS. BEDONEBYASYOUDID" but consider the following passages:
"a so-called pomegranate bomb—filched from the stores of a company responsible for supplying key munitions to the government of South Viet-Nam—exploded on the anti-suicide nets of the Empire State Building. Just one. Although the device had been designed for optimum effect following the ground-burst of a "mother" bomb containing two dozen such "daughters," the force of its explosion was adequate to rupture the wire netting it rested on and the small steel spheres it emitted caused a substantial number of casualties." - p 173
This story was 1st published in 1971 when the Viet-Nam War was still going on but it's full of shades of modern-day terrorism. Consider this:
The "Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, [a] terrorist attack that took place a short distance from the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. A pair of homemade bombs detonated in the crowd watching the race, killing 3 people and injuring more than 260."
"It was revealed that devices used in the attacks were household pressure cookers that had been packed with an explosive substance, nails, and ball bearings—the latter two elements acting as shrapnel when the bombs detonated."
"Dzhokhar revealed to investigators that he and his brother had obtained the plans for the bombs from Inspire, an online newsletter published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)."
In other words, the bombs used in the Boston Marathon Bombings were similar to the "pomegranate bomb" in Brunner's story. I wonder, is al-Qaeda's Inspire closer to mainstream media or a zine? More from Brunner's story: "At nine-nine, during one of the busiest periods of the day at the 125th Street IRT station, a container began to leak a gas officially termed "DN," not recommended—to quote the army manual regarding its applicability—"where fatalities are impermissible."" (p 173) Now consider this:
"Lethal nerve gas attacks in the city of Matsumoto in 1994, and in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, led to the deaths of 19 people, as well as to a large number of injuries. These attacks caused great shock, in that they constituted an illegal use of chemical warfare agents against a defenceless public. These acts of terrorism were carried out by the members of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese doomsday cult." - http://www.opcw.org/news/article/the-...
In both cases, the attacks were made by religious people. Religion will be the death of us all. I doubt that Brunner's story inspired either of these attacks, more likely the military sources of the weapons combined with religious fanaticism was the inspiration. Still, I'm reminded of my own movie entitled "Imagine Utopias!" in wch I caution creative people against diabolical morbidity lest they inspire people who wouldn't have the imagination to think of such terrors on their own.
Adding to the variety, Brunner ends on a prose poem of sorts. (less)
Notes are private!
Sep 10, 2014
Sep 11, 2014
Blaster Al Ackerman's Huff Hacks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 8, 2014
"I forget who wrote this book, or what itssssssssssssssss...more review of
Blaster Al Ackerman's Huff Hacks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 8, 2014
"I forget who wrote this book, or what itsssssssssssssssssssssssssssss title is, or what it's about.. or who I am or why I read it.. but I'm convinced, CONVINCED I TELL YOU, that there's something about it that you must know..
"YOU! No, no! It's impossible! You're dead! But, but, I tell you it's not TRUE, I didn't do it.. argurgleEEeeeee.."
So begins John M. Bennett's account of a recent trip to Gary, Indiana that he took as a boy of only 77 in 1942 while war production was in full swing. The rest is self-explanatory:
.domination world eventual for plans and hospitalizations many his about things wonderful me told and politics development center/highway shopping local on in me filled has ,Chairperson Committee neighborhood as capacity his in ,John .Bennett M. John with conversations grand having and sitting of pleasure extreme the have had I years the Over
(from the highly honored CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, a poem sequence comparable to the story of John Wesley when he was wandering loose that time down around Juarez and couldn't stop twitching)
(from JMB's extended gland of ecstacy CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(Once again, ladies and gentlemen, from JMB's mighty CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and, one would guess, many of Rudolf Steiner's books--including several hundred vols of those fog pressed in you until you just had to "dance the logorrhea glottis" "way down there" "in the hazur of fat," I betcha)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and this, I believe, is pure CANTAR DEL HUFF with maybe a little Haddock on the side, and that's the best reason to have an experience with an outsider who suspects nothing)
(from JMB's familiar CANTAR DEL HUFF. Too familiar by now perhaps, some will say? Look at it this way. How many dots and dashes, what strange relation to a bee, how much mucus in yr beard lavished upon it, count yr nose your legs & groin ah butt the fundus interest and before you know it "all is torn off" all is string you defy the deaf with . . . wacka wacka)
(This of course is from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, it is also from JMB's rOlling COMBers. What JMB wrote while drunk is there for all to see, and then making for the bride's place and an all-night party. The snow tastes more like weasle pee because of the undergrowth. Here we are jumping labmice retaining fluid like the disaster story of mice and floods)
(from JMB's vivid notions proper to a buried head otherwise known as Cantar Del Huff intended for a mental home go on drinking as the webbed-darkness of a sewing basket helps you imagine what loins of trichinosis are made upon)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF--more the spirit than the words in this case you might think but then again I still think about your shirt after lunch, yr fondled grey blusters and tell m other ham "Rock Wigwam")
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and in this case several new ones of 8/23 such as "Rugged" etc. Now we must go on. Look at the tree, watch the tree. We will know the real truth--but later, much later--when we wake at the end of the world. Laughs, drinks water . . .
[Reviewer's interjection: To some of you.. well, admittedly, not very many, maybe not even anybody but me & I'm not really a part of "you" - am I part of "you" when I look at me in the mirror? In wch case, is the "me" that's part of "you" the reflection or the guy looking? Anyway, like he was saying, "To some of you" the above interjection before this interjection might remind you of this:
"You realize you're in the downstairs hall of a college building; it's some kind of dormitory building, you've never been there before, you're wearing a gunny pink robe, like a cheesy old dressing gown. With yellow crusty stuff spilled down the front. (Laughs. Drinks water.)"]
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and let me again assure you that you are in no danger of any indignity from those hysterical ones who go around unaccompanied by a stocky angry man whose neural flow is full of uneven spurts, indicating emotional disturbances, but oddly enough whose deja-vu keeps him accompanied by those hysterical ones who go around accompanied by him at all hours)
(from the immortal CANTAR DEL HUFF, and that's not all! Poems from 8/30 also make their bow this time. It seemed to me that this time I stepped in, stood by the door, closed the door, avoiding the puddles of snow which he who possessed the reckless sanka-butt had tracked in from some world I couldn't imagine. Perhaps Earth)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF which that from underneath comes very near even when death by tractor-seeds leapt out into the air as though to convey the virus of undula / / ah ah / /)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, an authority that genuinely speaks from its heart, letting us know that the roof yr burning mall burns like doubled snake-faces thrashing like a biological context of insects healthy despite certain accusations of lacerations. Another minor influence is a speaker-of-filth with curly hair)
(Kenneth Fearing meets JMB and they disport themselves by the light of those great ones from 7/12, 7/19, and the ever-popular CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's habitual best-seller CANTAR DEL HUFF and also some of the new ones of 7/19, here it is. That is what we've been leading up to. I said we cannot trifle with this reality, now that Heidegger demands a new beginning to our thinking but a beginning can never be the thing that preserves its full momentum. I said oooohh-ooooohh the rain is falling)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF; "not since yr meat trained to glow like spiritualism and mesmerism has the clangy wish for yr head bouncing in a shopping cart emerged beside yr cage, kinda rusty and enchanted," says a big fan of this hack)
(from 6/21 and of course Bennett's amazing CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, a poem so memorable that its territory resembles that "where the dying spend their time before death." Those who return alive from such a place, bring to a point of view equal in its rapture and chilling exposure to the slum world of the big frogs and the tiny frogs)
(from JMB's famous CANTAR DEL HUFF which, beyond the tents where friends pissing meet and blame each other, as cannot fail to leave a lasting stain. But what is sadder? Burning mouth inside a clam sombrito wired? or Mr. Pecho getting smutty with "my" brim" and I jumped in (out into my "muffin fiesta")
(from Bennett letter about romane of neighborhood violence, poems of 5/3/06 and 6/7/06 and the epic CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF. I know it now. But I didn't know it before Mollie called me. I was in my way to see Ricori. Troubled I hung up and went back to my chair. Had she not asked me about Ricori? What did he have to do with any of this . . . and would the questions stop there?)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and how I was struck by the fact that JMB was able to concentrate for such long periods. Under his circumstances I wd certainly have found it harder to suppress my nervousness. But I came to believe that this was because he felt that his job of driving the headache beef round and round a temple with a faucet buried in the center explained why, at present, he enjoyed such a top reputation among the avant garde for his curious blend of sadism, science fiction and world-weary pessimism)
(from JMB's oft-requested CANTAR DEL HUFF and "Psyciatry or no, there's much you have to learn about new clothes, clothese designed to show what they were supposed to hide-- Meanwhile, get this through your head. You're on the long passage!")
(from JMB's poem of sharer of his roving life waiting latent in all men or anyway in all those named CANTAR DEL HUFF who thought rushing contact high in space together, a living, fierce, gyrating sock drawer possess the same as some drunk half-staggering comrade named Baron)
(from--what else?--JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF and rOlling COMBers)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF plus a few newer ones such as "Done beetle" and "User" etc. Out of some dim inner room came the people who had said all along it's so hard to keep in touch with old high school friends. But tonight I'm not home to any outlaws)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF or any agony of bruised vocables, and I mean that, dear polyphead, those curiously bruised vocables, nor yet another writing "scarred-with")
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF plus some newer gems from 9/24 or if it sometimes is how like appearance of tender exiquity I sad what thing of abased calling reality never has to worry about the too-same look of Uncle Flood and vice versa)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF--and shaving off the shirt-clay, you know that the question's gonna arise: Can your rectum tolerate crude rotation, it might be as a water-wheel at a distance from your all too prompt anticipation as from a salami occasional reincarnation of the Hairless Thing can be found, only now they call it the cave behind yr eyes)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF by JMB, the poet himself, who says with his wife out of town "ideas beyond themselves and them standard functions as well as objects that both refer to abstract ideas that situate those objects as if it illuminated the contrast between abstract atemporality and the identical present not to mention all that bang thump bang thump bang thump bang thump bang thump bang bang bang bang BANG bang sure do torque my jaws")
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF or where you hail from do they say she is the heavenly mother the stars are fish swimming in the heavenly ocean a touch of giganticism to give her arms with 400 breasts but sometimes in the afternoon)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF about which little is known unless you count anything you might grab out of any sun which would be more difficult than grabbing the planet itself. Why not do it directly by just taking the planet, stopping it in its orbit and hurling it into the sun itself. The forces present in the sun would be more difficult to handle, if you see what I mean, jelly bean)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, oft celebrated in song and story. Tonight what about that disintegrating ray which affects only inorganic matter? I examined it before breakfast and I could reduce it to the size of a spark plug and retain the same power. All we have to do is verify that it could be buried in the sand about three or four miles south of here. What you stroked beside the gleaming thigh full of boxes deafness next the hornets' meathead where I sucked my hat a boon filled and empty of my skull and boiling urine washed the gun projection off, as yr itchy tooth of hair says. next I cleaned the meathead off yr neck and proudly subscribed to a magazine, Giantess, that was exactly what I have been fantasizing about. Unfortunately, it's no longer in print)
(from JMB's delightful CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF which many have called "the either animal" and to walk and dress and wake and take and leave and laugh at or not, reminds us that there's two farts and how long can not choosing between such an opposite pair while you go whining either back, to the first or forward and that to the frozen well only musing how long yet it is not to an idiot it falls to talk wisely, is it? Oh I'm all confused)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF, and did you notice that opening from "L ucked" and "C lunch" and others by JMB, 9/13/06. During this period, an occassional reincarnation of the Hairless Thing can be found. Only now, the accent is on an excerpt from some spiritual thing, sacred because thick yr phone "clamping" / tick yr fool conch pry it off you cluck, see the pool blaze with farm animals, liberated and fuzzy-like, yowling in yr lap a place they recognize through the rude noise of "rough trade")
(FROM JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF or is it that these of 10/11/06 are more to blame? or has something else more like panic got hold of you--you'll agree this wd be a perfect moment for a real case of agoraphobia (fear of large spaces)--and just in case that is what you're feeling, I think it only healthy to tell you that a concealed computer has been welded beneath the floor and shortly after I had that insight I abruptly experienced a sensation in my eyes that I have never had before! It was a high-speed eye-movement that made people disinclined to be near or converse with me. I myself feel it as an exceedingly fast flickering motion. It occurs to me that with this condition I'm also in danger of running awkwardly and tripping over things, and so I figure I better just hunker down here and wait for you to bring me all my meals. Since in all essentials I'm telling the truth, I fear no repercussions, though I do believe that there's a latticework made of billions of glowing balls and that this is called "Balls-on-Parade." When you consider that anyone with this sort of overpowering insight has at least twice the average brain capacity, you can see that I represent the beginning of a breakthrough into something new and greater than sematico "slayer" descended from your nose)
(from CANTAR DEL HUFF)
(from JMB's CANTAR DEL HUFF "running" through the crowded room nine ways to mull over fallen men from the middle period of development of the western United States; the "murk-thought" you carried regarding these fallen sleek duffs was not unlike the danger your country is in that it doesn't even know about; shall we call it a steady clunk wrapped behind a pocket fire and pills dancing on the kitchen floor - lotta weeds here . . . lotta weed-heads, too, for that matter, thank the Lord)
NOTE: FILL IN THE BLANKS are drawn at random by Blaster Al Ackerman using the poet John M. Bennett's classic work CANTAR DEL HUFF while Bennett was in town reading at another venue and tempting young people to observe how flat balloons stuff his shoes.
.backwards out laid trail lamer swaying the avoid to order in years pen last these up scarfed it whatever or simmer my led "doubt in labio coo coo" whose lavage blind in for excell to tried scarfing as such practices what knowing your us with sharing for you thank so ,ass my olive evening's with the acrid kinda save raisins my explain to order in anchovy particular this about writing am I .anchovies stapled with wrote It .particular in remember I form One .floor the on forms for good were work of kind any for search always not do who people ordinary when farming started father my--way Either (less)
Notes are private!
Sep 08, 2014
Sep 09, 2014
John Brunner's Catch a Falling Star
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 3, 2014
I think I've been somewhat resistant to labeling Joh...more review of
John Brunner's Catch a Falling Star
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 3, 2014
I think I've been somewhat resistant to labeling John Brunner a Fantasy Writer b/c I prefer the Science Fiction genre but this bk has convinced me he's a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer b/c it's yet-another reasonably major work of his along those lines.. - although, "those lines" are pretty ambiguous & this cd really also be called SF. Whatever.
Alas, as w/ so many Brunners I've been reading lately, "A much shorter and substantially different version of this novel appeared under the title The Hundredth Millenium, copyright ©, 1959, by Ace Books, Inc." This version being copyrighted 9 yrs later in 1968. Yawnsville, Daddio, I wish Brunner hadn't taken the typically commercial path of rewriting so many older works.
The bk begins w/ a John Donne quote:
"Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me, where all past years are . . ." - p 2
& I have to wonder whether this brief passage might've been the inspiration for the entire work. "a mandrake root" being 'human shaped', getting it "with child" is evocative of ceremonial magik - also a possible origin tale of the "Trees of History" & the plant-houses that appear in Catch a Falling Star:
"It has been established, for example, that these houses which so cosset and protect us are not a product of the natural order of life, but cunningly fashioned by subtle tampering with vegetable heredity; where today can you find such an artificer as he who contrived the first of them? Likewise the lights that hover nightly in the sky, and render us independent of the fixed return of the sun" - p 9
The far-distant future (or past) described is one in wch people are taken care of by their environment, houses grow from plant seeds, lights fly in the sky & can be called down to illuminate local areas, meat walks to the town & conveniently dies to be delivered as edible packages direct to the home. The people living this life take it for granted, they don't know the origins of these comforts. Some people become "Historickers", people who somehow immerse themselves in the past b/c they consider the present to be an inferior decadent time. This is done w/ the aid of "Houses of History" or "Trees of History".
One such resident, not a Historicker & critical of such escapist immersions, realizes that another sun is approaching the Earth & that in hundreds of yrs it'll burn the surface clean of humanity & other such life-forms. The tale takes off from there on a hero's journey that sometimes borders on Gulliver's Travels in its exaggerated mutations of humanity.
"Cool night breezes tugged at his full beard as he stood listening to the clamour and fitful music of the city going about its night-time affairs. In the far distances he could faintly discern the insane laughter of the next day's meat as it assembled on the gentle slopes of the hills inland prior to descending to the shore and there making rendezvous with its predestined master, Death. Overhead hordes of circling lights blinded the populace against the stars." - p 12
Jump-cut to the journey's having begun & the heroes having encountered a meat-herder for the 1st time in their lives:
""I feel a kind of curse is laid on us! Why are we happy here, tending our beasts and never going further than the brow of our valley? Other men explored the world, sailed the sea, levelled mountains, and that spirit is in me—somewhere!" He thumped his chest with a bunched fist. "It must mean something, that our visitors are separated now by generations when formerly they came in hordes, and every year! I think in short that our lives are going to waste, performing empty tasks for the benefit of distant unknowns who have never given us the benefit of gratitude. Tell me honestly, stranger Creohan: before you encountered Arrheeharr, did you even suspect that we existed?"" - p 83
Jump-cut again to a vanished moon mentioned peripherally, perhaps the reason for the development of the tame flying lights; a vanished moon being a subject in another Brunner bk recently reviewed by me, The Dramaturges of Yan (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... ):
"Before them the Dos had reigned, and the Glygly, and the Ngrotor; before them, the Chatrik, whose domain had not ended with the frontier of the air—but they had been content to plant huge forests of mutated lichens across the face of the now-vanished moon, which ultimately ran wild and digested all the satellite's substance into organic matter that was sprayed out and seeded into nowhere, leaving a mere mist of particles to testify to the former presence of a solid astral body. Likewise they had built pyramidal uninhabitable houses, or temples, on the arid soil of Mars, for a purpose comprehensible only to themselves. They could not have turned aside a star . . ." - p 150
Thusly evoking for me future bks in wch lichen are the 1st space travelers or pyramids on other planets are used as tombs for people who become reincarnated thru gene cloning by far-future beings. Imagine being reborn thru cloning by non-humans billions of yrs from now!
But, I digress, unusually in SF, the bk cover doesn't deliberately mislead the reader into irrelevant fantasies in avoidance of spoilers. Instead, it anticipates an exciting turning point in the plot near the end:
"As they drew closer, they detected an opening in the side of the mountain, not large—perhaps twice as tall as Creohan—and trapezoidal in shape. Limping, they crosse the rough heaps of rock scattered over the threshold, and saw it gave into a passageway whose walls were illumined by pale blue fluorescence, the colour of a summer sky. Beyond, something huge and powerful pulsed, as though they were entering the veins of a beast and listening to its heartbeat. The air was crisp with a scent of electricity." - p 207
Don't worry, I haven't spoiled the plot for you anymore than the bk cover does. The story lies in the getting there. (less)
Notes are private!
Sep 02, 2014
Sep 03, 2014
Mar 01, 2006
Jan 01, 2006
Hannah Weiner's Open House
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2014
Don't I EVER run out of things to say & 'too many words' to s...more review of
Hannah Weiner's Open House
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2014
Don't I EVER run out of things to say & 'too many words' to say it in?! Apparently not. Click on the link for the full review:
Hannah Weiner & I read on the same bill at the EAR INN in NYC on January 9, 1982. You can read a description of my part of the reading here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... . I was 28, Hannah was 53. That was my 1st reading in NY. The EAR INN was where the Language Poets were reading at the time. As I recall, I had the impression that Hannah & I were on the same bill b/c we were the 'lunatic fringe' of the 'Language Poets', b/c we didn't quite fit in.
I knew about Hannah mainly as the author of Clairvoyant Journals & I'm sure I wd've read the 1978 issue of Kirby Malone & Marshall Reese's "E pod #3" wch published Hannah's "eleven days from Clairvoyant Journal 1973" along w/ Jackson Mac Low's "Homage to Leona Bleiweiss". I may've also read her Clairvoyant Journal 1974 (Angel Hair Books, 1978) by then & any contributions she might've made to "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" magazine such as "CAPITALISTIC USELESS PHRASES AFTER ENDLESS" amongst other things I'm not remembering. That sd, I don't think I had a broad knowledge of her work.
At this EAR INN reading I had deliberately restricted myself to only speaking prepared texts so that I'd be giving a reading the entire time I was there. I had 61 prepared single sentence texts on specially shaped cards that were for 'small talk'. This, of course, inhibited actual conversation between people. Nonetheless, somehow Hannah & I discussed guerrilla actions on the streets. I somehow told her that that was what I did & that that was one of my primary interests & Hannah told me that she had also done guerrilla actions. This upped my interest level in her.
"I am trying to understand through my continued writing which of these WORDS I see are 1) my own ordinary conscious thought; 2) from my developed superconscious mind which has precognitive, clairvoyant powers; 3) telepathic connections with living people; 4) BIG QUESTION communications from non-living forces." - "The words in CAPITALS and underlines are words I see" - p 63
"Spoke (Sun & Moon) was written differently. The words appeared on my forehead in groups short enough for me to remember and write them down and the continuation or interrruptions were included in this word-group seeing. This is true even though the style varies from a journalistic technique (June & July) to a poetic technique (August) and a prose technique (Sept.). The exceptions are the large words which appeared once on every page, about 3/4 of the way through, as I was writing down the seen forehead phrases. Words for Spoke were not seen on any furniture, in the air, or otherwise. This, as far as I can remember, was also pretty much the same technique for the long poems Nijole's House (Potes & Poets Press) and Sixteen (Awede)."
"I saw words in a wide variety of sizes, script and printed, on my own forehead (the large capital words on my forehead began in a retreat in June 1973 (Unpublished Journals, 1973) and on other people, forehead included" - "MOSTLY ABOUT THE SENTENCE" - pp 125-126 & 126
Since I knew Hannah as the writer who transcribed words that she envisioned on her own forehead & on the foreheads of others & on other such places where most people don't see words I was under the impression that she was looking at my forehead & reading from there as we spoke. I wondered whether she liked what she read. Whatever she read there, if anything, she was very friendly to me & I was relieved - after all, having someone read words on yr forehead is akin to having someone dream about you: you don't know whether you're the villain or not.
I don't know whether I met Hannah on other occasions, I suspect I did. In September of 1982 I published a tape called "Public Language" w/ her reading on it - arguably the 1st published Language Poetry recording - still available here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/WdmUCat... . At any rate, I liked her - but while I found her clairvoyant writing interesting I was more interested in writers who worked from a significantly new basic structural premise for every new piece - wch basically meant just about nobody except for myself & Concrete Poets (&, as I probably later learned, OuLiPo writers) [Ha ha! Imagine the outrage of some people reading that claim!]. In other words, I think I thought that Hannah was a bit of a one-trick pony.
NOT SO! & this excellent compilation edited & introduced by Patrick F. Durgin of Kenning Editions, the publisher, is what drove that home for me. Not only was Hannah a more diverse writer than I realized, she was more politically conscious than I realized & more articulate in her writing theory.
P 9 essentially starts the bk off w/ a reprinting of a poster advertising a series of events called "HANNAH WEINER'S OPEN HOUSE" - hence explaining the title of the bk. This series consisted of events at 7 locations over 2 days (Oct 4 & 5, 1969) & involved the participation of Vito Acconci, someone whose work I deeply respect, Bernadette Mayer, ditto, John Perreault, Weiner, Abraham Lubelski, Marjorie Strider, & Arakawa (another person whose work has caught my attn). In "Sreet Works I, II, III, IV, V" she explains:
"I. March 15, 1969. In mid-town Manhattan, I pasted blank labels on signs, doors, walls, posts, etc. in order to draw attention to the environment.
"II. April 18, 1969. I met the other Hannah Weiner. She is tall and blonde. I am short and dark. She does Psychodrama."
"During the month of October, for IV, I did OPEN HOUSE. I invited the public into the homes of participating artists. From 3 to 26 people showed up at different places. We sat around kitchen tables, or on the floor and talked and smoked or had a party. I met new friends." - p 25
Wow! This resonates deeply w/ me. Sometime in the mid 1970s I conceived of a piece, & probably wrote instructions for it, to gather together a large group of people to cover over all locations signs in an area, such as street signs, w/ fly paper so that the words wd disappear & air-born whatevers wd adhere on the signs instead. Hannah & I were much more on the same page than I'd ever realized! (Not to mention that I was an "honorary member" of a group called "Psycodrama" [sic].)
Durgin writes in his Intro that "The entire Clairvoyant Journal project, beginning with The Fast (United Artists, 1992) and Country Girl (Kenning Editions, 2004), and continuing with Pictures and Early Words, Big Words, and the Clairvoyant Journal proper, spans a period synonymous with the onset of what was diagnosed as psychotic episodes indicative of schizophrenia." (p 13)
As a person positively inclined toward what little I know of the Anti-Psychiatry mvmt & very pro self-definition, I'm always on the lookout for people who self-define contrarily to such psychoanalysis. After all, what gives psychologists the ultimate say-so on the mindsets of others? Their expertise? Perhaps the person they're appraising is more expert on the subject of their own mind than the shrinks are - at least they shd be if they're introspective. Beware of letting other people define you!
To my delight, Weiner does an excellent job of defining her experiences in her own terms - or, possibly, in the terms of open-minded & supportive friends. As Durgin perspicaciously explains later on in the Intro:
"As Judith Goldman and others have duly noted, it is disingenuous to equate what Weiner called "clairvoyance" with either illness or a supernatural gift of fortune-telling. Although Weiner's claims regarding clairvoyance are, to many readers, her calling card, it's important to relativize those claims in terms of form and content, especially form. This is why clairvoyance can be more appropriately synonymous with, in her own words, "clairstyle."" - p 16
For those of you unfamiliar w/ what this "clairstyle" entails, the Intro quotes from a New Wilderness Audiographics audio cassettes release's liner notes:
"In 1970 Hannah Weiner began to see pictures and energy fields. Two years later she began to see words. This came after a period of intense artistic activity in the late 60s, and after experimentation with altered states of consciousness and the development of a strong belief in yoga. She was interested in signaling, and had just completed a series of Code Poem performances, using the "International Code of Signals for the Use of All Nations."
"After nine months of seeing disorganized words in small print, all over the place—on curtains, walls, toes—she went on a retreat conducted by Swami Satchitananda. There, for the first time she saw words clearly printed, in capitals, on her forehead." - p 16
She expressed this by developing a typography that distinguished between the different ways she experienced the words. More about that later. Back to how she defines her experience:
"I bought a new electric typewriter in January 74 and said quite clearly, perhaps aloud, to the words (I talked to them as if they were separate from me, as indeed the part of my mind they come from is not known to me)" - p 127
Note that she attributes the origin of the words to a part of her mind not known to her. I suspect that it's more common for people who experience such voices, usually heard instead of seen, to consider them to be of external origin. I'm reminded of a woman I met while waiting for a bus in a Greyhound stn in Harrisburg, PA. The woman told me that she hears voices originating from a man named Michael & that he constantly orders her around - telling her to do things like stand up & salute when an American flag appears on TV. Since both she & I found that oppressive & since I was trying to help her in the simplest way during this brief encounter, I suggested to her that she didn't need to follow his orders. Now cf Hannah's description(s):
"Living with these words is like living under orders. It always knows more than I do so I usually obey the directions, trying to put aside my personality, EGO, desires, habits, etc., except for fatigue which often stops me.
" - "The words in CAPITALS and underlines are words I see" - p 64
The Clairvoyant Journal published by Angel Hair (Anne Waldman again) has enuf typographical diversity to keep me visually interested & I find the clairstyle justification to make it even more interesting since it deviates from the more expected aesthetic motivations. The last page in the "CLAIRVOYANT JOURNAL" excerpt ends on "thas enough of this page" laid out as a very neat circle in wch the letters become backwards as they pass the 4 o'clock point. (p 74)
"Especially in the Clairvoyant Journal the person writing is bossed around by voices, and gives up her autonomy to the other parts of herself. A relinquishing of constant conscious control to let the other part of the mind dominate. The ego belongs to the conscious part, the writer's voice, and often, or nearly always, I reacted with some ego controlled emotion such as anger or impatience or amusement to the seen words or voices." - "MOSTLY ABOUT THE SENTENCE" - p 131
"I was afraid to leave immediately on signal and dont obey instructions" - "FROM SPOKE" - p 105
She, too, is receiving orders but she considers the orders to be from an unconscious part of her mind & she relinquishes conscious control b/c she thinks "It always knows more". I'm not convinced "It always knows more" & that following the orders is a good idea but at least Weiner self-defines the process (or, perhaps, her psychoanalyst provided this explanation) & proactively uses it to produce what I find to be interesting writing.
"The manuscript begins in the fall of 1970, describing a 3 week fast. The early material contains much information on the nature of the kundalini energy and electro magnetic sensitivity that I have never seen elsewhere. KNOWLEDGE. I was receiving messages" [reviewer's note: the original typography has the word "FORCE" above the word "messages" & slightly encroaching on the word "magnetic" wch appears above it. I don't know how to reproduce that arrangement in this review.] "through FEELING energy at that time. Later pictures developed, and colors. Then in Aug. 1972 words developed.
"Unfortunately the fasting experience left my body weakened and I am still ill often and tire easily. I feel that I should spend my time working with this gift. MONEY. It leaves me without a source of income." - "The words in CAPITALS and underlines are words I see" - p 63
A few words about fasting.. & MONEY. I've fasted many times, more than I can recall but at least 10, probably more. I started when I was, perhaps, 28, most recently when I was 59. I've fasted for 3 wks at least twice, for 4 wks definitely twice. Let's say Hannah was 41 when she fasted. I was 43 when I last fasted for 4 wks. That was the 1st time fasting seemed to take a toll on me. Before that I'd always felt excellent during the fast & after. Last yr when I fasted for 3 wks at age 59 I felt great, psychologically & physically. Thanks to the vicious shenanigans of a former friend of mine, I was in dire poverty & cdn't really 'afford' to eat anyway. It felt great to lose weight, averaging about a pound a day, but I've noted that my body has developed the habit of gaining it bak ASAP - the weight loss, despite its being healthy, is responded to as an emergency. Fast w/ care but don't be put off it altogether.
"MONEY"? Yeah, what a drag. I've never had much of it & never will. No matter how intelligent you are, no matter how creative you are you're going to be 'valued' mostly by what class you're in: if you're born into ruling elites yr value is immediately higher for one yr than what I have to live on throughout my entire life. No need for a get-out-of-jail card either: you're considerably less likely to ever go there. As I'm fond of saying: "I hate money but my _____ [originally I put "landlady" in the blank but any bill collector will do] loves it!" In other words, those of us born into the 'Western World' are mostly born indentured servants. Is it any wonder so many of us try to be runaway slaves?
But let's get back to the beginning of the bk again:
""My life is my art. I am my object, a product of the process of self-awareness. I work part-time as a designer of ladies underwear to help support myself. I like my job, and the firm I work for. They make and sell a product without unnecessary competition. The people in the firm are friendly and fun to work with. The bikini pants I make sell for 49¢ and $1.00. If things can't be free, they should be as cheap as possible. Why waste time and energy to afford?
"Art is live people. Self respect is a job if you need it. On 3 Wednesday evenings I will be at my studio, where I work. My boss, Simeon Schreiber, will be with me. There will be bikini underpants for sale, at the usual prices, and one made especially for this show by August Fabrics and A. H. Schreiber, to whom I am grateful."" - "OPEN GROUND PRESENTS HANNAH WEINER AT HER JOB" - p 23
I wrote above that "I was more interested in writers who worked from a significantly new basic structural premise for every new piece" & this compilation gives an excellent glimpse into the variety that Weiner produced w/o my having previously known about it. How many people have people visit them at their job as an opening of their "first one man show"? (p 23)
What I'd like to know more about, tho, is why Weiner seems to've started such activities so late in life. She was born November 4, 1928. This "first one man show" was March 11, 18, & 25, 1970ish. She wd've been 41 at the time. The earliest work represented in this bk seems to date from 1969 when she was 40. "i had just at 35 started to write" (p 59) Why so late? What was she doing before then?! The earliest significant writing of mine that I can remember was done at age 13.
In "THE MAGRITTE POEMS", footnote numbers are interpolated. These footnotes are extensions of the poems rather than the more typical explication - a formal device that I enjoy:
I rushed through the door.
You had bitten a way for me. (1)
1. See your dentist every six months for a regular check up." - pp 26 & 28
"The Golden Legend
your stone loaves (8)
that float past
8. made from wheat and rye flour, rye meal, yeast, table salt, vegetable shortening, malt, caraway seeds, caramel, onion powder, calcium propionate and water." - pp 28 & 29
& then there are the Code Poems. I love these. When I started reading this I realized that the entire bk is 'waiting' to be read on one of my voluminous bk piles. "These poems and performance pieces are from the INTERNATIONAL CODE OF SIGNALS for the Use of All Nations, British Editions 1859, 1899 and American Edition, post-war, 1931, a visual signal system for ships at sea." (p 34) Wonderful! Taking these very purposeful codes out of context & repurposing them has an OuLiPian quality of humor-producing restraint. I found her "Romeo and Juliet" particularly rich:
SDQ Romeo: What is her name?
SDL Juliet: My name is
ENC dazzling, am, is, are
SDT What is your name?
SLD Romeo: My name is
EBQ Juliet: Your name is not on my list: spell it alphabetically
JG Romeo: I wish to have personal communication with you
" - p 36
Weiner takes advantage of this Semaphore code's use of the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet's inclusion of "Romeo" as the way of clarifying the letter "R" & the word "Juliet[t]" as the clarification of the letter "J". Obviously, these 2 names wd've been picked b/c of the familiarity of the famous Shakespeare play. Hannah takes this a step further. For those of you not familiar w/ this alphabet:
"The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic or ICAO spelling alphabet, as well as the ITU phonetic alphabet, is the most widely used spelling alphabet. Although often called "phonetic alphabets", spelling alphabets are not associated with phonetic transcription systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet. Instead, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) alphabet assigned code words acrophonically to the letters of the English alphabet so that critical combinations of letters and numbers can be pronounced and understood by those who transmit and receive voice messages by radio or telephone regardless of language barriers or the presence of transmission static.
"The 26 code words in the NATO phonetic alphabet are assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet in alphabetical order as follows: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_pho...(less)
Notes are private!
Aug 26, 2014
Sep 02, 2014
John Brunner's The Dramaturges of Yan
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2014
As w/ so many Brunner bks, most of what I potentially...more review of
John Brunner's The Dramaturges of Yan
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2014
As w/ so many Brunner bks, most of what I potentially have to say about this 1 wd contain too many spoilers so I'll approach it somewhat abstractly instead. I've been on a Brunner review spree ever since my review of The World Swappers
of February 18, 2013 ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23... ). This is approximately the 39th bk I've read & reviewed by him so far & I'm still enjoying it so Brunner hasn't disappointed me (cf Keith Laumer whose work I got sick of pretty quickly).
Right off the bat, before we even have a chance to run for home-plate, or even to nibble off of it, there's 'wild vs gene tinkering', a subject of some interest to me since I tend to be an 'endless' object maker (&, hence, material-manipulator) who has deep respect for wildness:
"A few years ago he had decided to tinker with the faulty gene in the original species which sometimes caused it to revert to the wild state, its flowers mere balls of characterless green fluff, and achieved spectacular success" - p 5
Loaded words! "faulty gene"! What makes a gene "faulty" exactly?! In this case, its no doubt healthy reversion to its "wild state" wch, however, humans find aesthetically unappealing b/c its flowers become "characterless green fluff"!!!!! Ah, the endless myopic selfishness of humanity.
But that has nothing to do w/ anything so let's move on.
"He half-turned in his chair, stretching out a hand to prod Pompy, and froze in mid-motion. Over the distant silhouette of the Mutine Mandala the white disc of the moon was rising.
"But there was no moon on Yan, and had not been for nearly ten thousand years." - p 11
Now we've furtively groped our way to home-base & the story's beginning to pant or to be pantless.
"Briefly, he found himself wondering what it would be like to make love again with a girl having breasts and a skin all of one colour, who needed sometimes to break off from a kiss because she had to breathe in through her mouth. But that had nothing to do with his problem. Nothing at all. It was irrelevant." - p 12
Yes, we're at home base - or are we in left field? Regardless, add this one to the list of SF bks that touchdown upon sex between humans & humanoids (or non-humans) from other planets - the yr of publication being 1972: not the earliest such story but still having a place in this history before more recent, & probably more pretentious, contenders. But let's kick off elsewhere now:
"The notion of "carving softness" lacked the paradoxical quality of the original, because carving suggested knives or chisels, hard sharp edges, whereas the root associations of the Yannish words implied that the tool was softer than the material being worked—like water eroding a rock. Yet "eroding" had overtones of long patient geological processes, while the Yannish verse made it clear that what happened took place instantly!" - p 17
Translation thrown a curve ball, the broom of the curling iron, the grid-iron has got me by the short-hairs, a hairy predicament this mixed metaphors translation biz, a real KO. But Brunner's always higher than par for the course (of the River Smor):
"Now, as though a supernal finger had beckoned them equatorwards, the potential gradients of the polar stratosphere stretched into long easy declines down which poured the brilliant discharges of the arctic night. Huge draping curtains of luminosity shook out their folds along the course of the River Smor, bluish and yellowish and occasionally shifting without warning into deep red. Free radical sown from above sparked fresh reactions, so that the curtains seemed to draw apart, looping upwards and becoming vast double inverted rainbows with the colours interchanged. On the airy stage for which the aurora now formed a sort of proscenium arch, magnificent pyrotechnics began. Intangible jewels glittered, fiery wheels resolved, blasts of lightning threaded whiter than the eye could bear down the black-with-silver background of the night." - p 21
Love those fireworks after the game but is it really appropriate for checkers? Maybe it's b/c "They did not educate their children in groups; instead, they transferred them—starting the day after birth—along an incredibly subtle network of relations, which might easily taken them to a dozen cities or villages, to let them gradually absorb the "life-style" of their race." (p 36) One of those relatives being Dr. Lem, whose name is the spitting image of a certain Dr. Stanislav Lem, Polish SF writer extraordinaire. But I'm getting out of the ball-park here. These sportscasters are a pain-in-the-ass while the plaster-casters are something else entirely:
""Oh, it's only a news-machine," he said after a pause. "What's wrong with that?"
""You'll find out," Ducci said grimly. He had his own premonitions of what was going to emerge from all this, and they weren't pretty. "Get over there and inactivate it."
""But that's illegal! They're allowed to go anywhere, if they don't invade privacy," Guiseppe pointed out.
""I don't mean wreck it," his father snapped. "Just delay it for a while." Retrieving the binox, he studied the thing's angular, glinting form, long legs tipped with climbing hooks and suction-pads disposed around the self-powered motor unit and the cluster of extensible sensors. "Luckily it's one of the old marks, an Epsilon, not a recent one like a Kappa or Lambda. It'll take a while to orient itself. Go on—feed it a rumour or something, send it on a false trail. It's important!"" - p 38
That's right, it's "illegal"! Three strikes & you're out! But it's not really foul play. But I'm giving you a bad tip on the horses, the cock fights, the fowl play.
""Alchemy," Chart said, "Are you familiar with the magical and alchemical manuals they wrote on Earth some fifteen hundred years ago?"
""They were composed in a sort of association-code, using agreed conventional images—dragons, astrological figures, various oblique references of that kind. Provided one had been trained in the jargon, one could read them with relative ease. Outsiders, however, found only obscure and baffling nonsense.["]" - p 84
Like Crowley's "drinking the elixir from the curcubite", eh? Witness "The Postman Always Rings the Homunculous of Woody Allen & Hollis Frampton Twice" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovbUq... . "["]Is there a human culture in the galaxy? If there is, then I built it."" (p 90) Home run!! (less)
Notes are private!
Aug 16, 2014
Aug 31, 2014
Jun 01, 2008
Jun 01, 2008
Tom Kupsh's A Mythic Obsession - The World of Dr. Evermor
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 19, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 5...more review of
Tom Kupsh's A Mythic Obsession - The World of Dr. Evermor
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 19, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 55073 characters, and the max is 20000" For the full review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I 1st encountered Dr. Evermor's work at the House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI, when I was on tour w/ The 'Official" Project in 1992 although I didn't know it was his at the time. I think I had something like $75 to live off of for the rest of the tour - driving from Wisconsin to Colorado to Kansas to Ohio & back to Maryland. House on the Rock was expensive (by my impoverished standards) to get into, something like $15, & not everyone in the band wanted to risk spending the money. By the time I got out I might've spent as much as another $35 on tokens to play the automatic music machines & to buy souvenirs. That's how much I loved it. I called it one of the "Wonders of the World" - & Dr. Evermor's contributions were part of that - strictly speaking, tho, his name for HoR work wd've been "Mr. Buildmor".
Mr. Buildmor's main contribution wd've been to the "Organ Room". In Marv Balousek's bk about HoR's founder, Alex Jordon, entitled House of Alex he has this to say:
"Enter the Organ Room and we have descended into the bowels of a giant organ. In this deepest part of the wizard's ominous lair is a place where organ pipes soar like giant cave bats overhead while huge monsters of hyd[r]aulic machinery nap motionlessly on the floor. In this dimly lit world turned inside out and upside down like some kind of bizarre nightmare, suspended catwalks rise past a two-ton farm tractor hanging on the wall like a painting or past a huge propeller that once drove a whaleback freighter. A clock runs backwards in a mockery of time itself. A ladder rises dramatically, rung after rung, ending at nothing but roof beams" - p 14
Now, I think it's only a "nightmare" for people who don't enjoy being awed & disoriented by truly visionary sculptural combines of history & spatial imagination. For the rest of us, the Organ Room is a phenomenal joy. I did talk to some of the volunteer gallery attendants in there & they sd that the disorientation from the multi-leveled flooring & the superabundance of simultaneous soundtracks made it difficult to last for long as a GA in there. But for a person nurtured on the complex simultaneities from George Ives (Charles's dad) on thru Henry Brant & John Cage, etc, this is a paradise. But, one person's paradise is another person's hell. In fact, I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that the original name for this exhibit was "The Hell Room" but that it was changed from that to "The Organ Room" to avoid offending Christinane sensibilities. The story as told by Kupsh is perhaps a bit more tactful:
"At first the building was called the Inferno Room after "The Inferno" of Dante's Divine Comedy. Later, with the assembly of a huge theater organ, it would be referred to as the Organ building. " - p 22
In 1998, I was back again b/c my "Attention-ExSpanDex" tour w/ etta cetera involved driving cross-country. This time, tho, I went to Dr. Evermor's own scrap sculpture park where what was once the Guiness Book of World Records's largest scrap metal sculture, "The Forevertron" was & still is located & to the sculpture garden backyard of another HoR builder Sid Boyum (alas, deceased by then) as well as to the HoR. Impressive wd be an understatement for Evermor's sculpture park. I got to meet him & his partner Lady Eleanor: 2 charmers, indeed.
I photographed these attractions (& Dreamtime Village where etta & I stayed w/ our very special hosts mIEKAL aND & co) using our own packings of 35mm slide film & a half-frame camera for shooting filmstrips that Martin Heath of Cincecyle in Toronto had been generous to give me not long before. I cassette interviewed Dr. Evermor too. The resultant products became part of the "Say Cheese! - 5 days in Wisconsin" filmstrip that I made to document my WI exploration.
I hit it off w/ the Evermors right away. I was wearing the pants & jacket that I made in the 1980s from 100s of zippers & I think they were impressed by the similarity of our sortof "waste not, want not" sensibilities. Even tho our encounter was short, I left feeling like we were friends - a feeling that I'm sure many people have experienced after meeting these warm & friendly people. I left with a fantastic gift from them: a large photocopy of a drawing of the Forevertron in its proposed new park setting drawn by Jake Furnald.
13 yrs later, in 2011, I was back. Dr. Evermor had had one or more strokes, he & Lady Eleanor were divorced (but still partners), & the good Dr. was living in a nursing home. When I emailed Lady Eleanor telling her I was coming & asked her if she remembered me she replied that of course they remembered me & sd she still had a foto of me in the zipper clothes. When we met, she even gave me a color print-out of it! THAT'S considerate!!
This time I shot mini-dv at the park & then Lady Eleanor took my girlfriend & I out to eat where I shot more footage of her talking about personal trials & tribulations of recent yrs. THEN we went off to visit Dr. Evermor & his cronies at their home where even more footage was shot of the various tale-tellings. Despite the sadnesses, it was a wonderful time.
NOW, I'm finally getting around to making a movie that combines the 1998 footage w/ the 2011 footage & I decided it was about time to read this biography that I picked up in 2011 before I cd really delve into movie editing.
I'm happy to say that this bk, written by a man who worked w/ Tom Every (aka Mr. Buildmor aka Dr. Evermor) is respectfully & lovingly written. The author, Tom Kupsh, clearly has genuine feelings for the great accomplishments of the Dr. & the Lady. While the bk is realistic, there's no snarky I'm-envious-of-this-guy back-stabbing going on. I'm giving it a 5 star rating not b/c the writing's genius (it's not) but b/c it's a great exposure to a phenomenal person's life work. The Everys & their work shd be known & loved the world over. My copy is even signed by both of them w/ multiple words & flourishes. Oddly, neither of their dates given jive w/ each other's OR w/ the actual dates when I got the bk. As part of Tom's signature says: "Time Binder / Time Traveler"?!
I do, at least, point out, however, that a possible shortcoming of Kupsh's approach is that the bibliography starting on p 191, doesn't include Marv Balousek's House of Alex wch seems to fit in the 'unauthorized biography' category & includes highly critical material about Alex Jordan, who Tom Every worked for in the 1970s.
Kupsh starts off w/ a wonderful quote before his Preface:
"Start a huge, foolish project,
"It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
"—Rumi" - p vi
The comparison to Noah is particularly apropos considering the nature of the Forevertron's transcendental purpose. SO, the bk's off to a great start. I do have a bone to pick, tho:
"He is somewhat of a celebrity in the world of self-taught artists and has earned the respect of scholars and collectors who eagerly seek him out." - p vii
"in the world of self-taught artists": being "self-taught" is commonly used as an implied put-down of sorts: 'Oh, y'know, he's self-taught': the implication being that that's somehow inferior to learning how to do things from other people in an institutionalized setting. Well, show me one of these lauded professors who's built anything as incredible as the Forevertron. The point is that the accomplishments of 'self-taught' anything often far overshine anything by those of taught people if only by the superior ingenuity required to not have techniques & ideas handed to you on a silver platter. Besides wch, no-one's completely 'self-taught' - the alert person learns something from every available source. The un-alert person just learns what they're fed in school & then waits for someone to pay them before they lift a finger. Don't expect much of a visionary nature from 'insiders'.
"All of the writing and reporting about Tom and his work falls into three categories: First, what I call weekend-getaway pieces, which appear in local and regional newspapers, on television, or in guidebooks. These are of uneven quality, and sometimes the research is scant or incomplete and often filled with misconceptions. Second, more serious reporting about Tom and his work does occasionally appear in the form of feature articles found in nonart magazines and art sections of newspapers. Some of this research is well researched and well written. Thirs, there are a growing number of serious and scholarly pieces in publications that focus on outsider art; these works are well researched and carefully written and some are cited in the bibliography of this book." - p vii
As I'm writing this review, I also put online an interview w/ me conducted by aundre-g talking about Outsider Art for issue 3 of his zine "Strike". I don't mention Dr. Evermor in it. I'm not sure I even considered him an "Outsider Artist" at the time but now it seems obvious to do so. Here's the link: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Intervi...
& much to Kupsh's credit, he does succeed in going a bit deeper here than any of those categories. This bio cd be 2 or 4 times as long, it cd get more into what it's really like to be an outsider in this, or probably just about any, culture but maybe it'll stimulate someone else's doing exactly that. It's an excellent intro & can stand on its own even if someone does or does not surpass it.
The claim is made that the Every family history has a famous pirate in it. Dr. Evermor embraces this lineage:
"Two hundred years before, a distant relative, Henry Every (Avery), had given up legitimate trade and had become a well-known pirate holed up on the island of Madagascar. The "arch-pirate," as he was known, would later be lionized in the stage production of Charles Johnson's play The Successful Pirate. Henry Every also inspired a fictional tale of piracy in Daniel Defoe's novel King of the Pyrates in 1719. Tom holds the pirate Henry Every in fond regard, thinking himself cut from the same cloth; he even went so far as to name his truck the "Fancy" after the arch-pirate's ship." - p 1
Now, I certainly 'get' the 'romanticization' of pirates as people who've 'had enuf' & who retaliate against the mainstream imperialist culture w/ a ferocity & daring that teaches the more successful oppressors that some people fight back. But even reading Peter Lamborn Wilson's Pirate Utopias - Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes, obviously so titled to emphasize the freedom of pirates, will reveal that pirates were also slavers & that, as w/ most high-profit crime, the brutality of the mainstream society is mirrored here w/o its make-up on. Take this bit from Henry Every's wikipedia entry:
"Following his discharge from the navy, Every began slave trading along Africa's Slave Coast. In 1693, he was again employed as a mariner, this time as first mate aboard the warship Charles II, which had been commissioned by England's ally, Charles II of Spain (the ship's namesake), to prey on French vessels in the West Indies. After leaving London in August 1693, the Charles II anchored in the northern Spanish harbor of Corunna, where other vessels were assembling for the expedition. The crew grew discontent as Madrid failed to deliver a letter of marque and the Charles II's owners failed to pay their wages. On the evening of 7 May 1694, the restless sailors mutinied. With the Charles II renamed the Fancy and Every elected as the new captain, the Fancy sailed south en route to the Indian Ocean, soon plundering five ships off the West African coast." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Every
Ok, slaving was business-as-usual then but, still, there must've been strong humans w/ energy & integrity who had scruples against it & who weren't so hot-on-the-heels-of-wealth as to stoop so low. Ok, the sailors mutinied against not being pd, that's completely understandable & shd be a lesson to exploitative elites the world over, but all they ended up doing was switching their targets from who they were hired to attack to anybody else they cd victimize. They were mercenaries. & like all mercenaries, the bloodlust isn't exactly satiated w/ merely the winning of monetary gains:
"The battle roared on for hours as the pirates boarded the Ganj-i-Sawai. The captain of the Mughal ship, terrified, ran below decks and hid among the concubines. After a fierce battle, the surviving Indians surrendered. The exact date of the battle is unknown, but probably sometime in July of 1695.
"Looting and Torture:
"The survivors of the battle were subjected to several days of torture and rape by the victorious pirates. There were many women on board, including a member of the court of the Grand Moghul himself." - http://latinamericanhistory.about.com...
There are always apologists for this kind of behavior regardless of whether it's done by the 'good guys' or the 'bad guys' but I prefer a more gentle & sensitive world. I recently witnessed one of Disney's popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. I was somewhat astounded by how utterly violent the movie was, admittedly in a very aestheticized way, but still I'd never before seen anything by Disney that went so far in this direction. I've always associated Disney w/ a less traumatic family fare. END OF TANGENT.
A more positive side to the pirate mindset might be represented by this: "The Every coat of arms contains the Latin motto "Summ Cuique," which translates as "to each his own." These days it could be translated as "do your own thing," a motto that would be lived up to in its fullest in the person of Tom Every." (p 3) Some of us chafe under the rule of others.
"Tom has not tried to accommodate society and its norms in his life and work but rather has tried to ignore everything and everybody that does not fit his vision. He is at heart an anarchist, and he has occasionally paid the price for this stance." (p 181) Ha ha! I'm an anarchist & one of the prices I pay for having a philosophy that values true justice instead of the bullshit Injustice System that we live under currently is that I'm relegated to a highly marginalized position while those around me who don't articulate their criticisms of society at all or nearly as deeply get financial rewards out the wazoo.
I admire Kupsh's matter-of-fact & respectful descriptions. Here's a part about Dr. Evermor's dad:
"He told Tom that he chose Platteville because the dress code was not as tough as the code at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and he didn't have a lot of money. He made his way through the first two years there attending classes during the day and sleeping in the warm powerhouse, where he had a part-time job watching the boiler gauges at night.
"After two years in Platteville, he transferred to the university in Madison, where he pursued a degree in civil engineering. After graduation, he took a job with the state, where he spent his working life making his way up through the ranks and ending up as a chief of engineering services for the State of Wisconsin. During his career, he was responsible for the layout of state highways." - p 3
Like all people who grow up w/ a healthy respect for "Waste Not, Want Not", the young Tom Every started in on an appreciation for the reuse value of things at a very early age. For those of us who've worked toward or at least supported recycling, this characteristic makes his work all the more important:
"What Tom really liked was collecting loads of newspapers and hauling them to collection centers in his red Radio Flyer wagon. It was wartime, and the whole country was collecting and recycling strategic materials; it was a patriotic duty to collect materials for the war effort. Young and old alike did what they could. As the war came to and end, interest in collecting and recycling waned for most people, but not for Tom. He kept gathering up almost anything that people didn't want: paper, used toothpaste tubes, scrap metal." - pp 4-5
When I was a kid I'd walk the mile to the nearest commercial area & pick up the recyclables on the way. By the time I got there I'd earn enuf by turning in bottles to buy a MAD Magazine or a comic. Otherwise, I wdn't've had any money. Sometimes I wonder whether some people who throw things out their car windows have something similar in mind. Mostly I think they're just being lazy & uncaring. Nonetheless, I've seen people walking along & picking such stuff up for the sake of getting the pittance they can for it. It saddens me that people are so desperate but, at least, there's something that they can make a little money from.
"Dad would take me twice a year to collect old signs from sign makers. He had a box built into the back of his 1940 Ford and he loaded that thing up with those old signs and we used them to patch the buildings—always trying to figure out how to do something with what you've got.
"One day in 1950 his dad got tickets to the fights at the University of Wisconsin Field House. There, from a ringside seat, Tom first saw Alex Jordan. By this time, Jordan was really too old for the sport, but he boxed that day as a heavyweight." - p 6
Enter Alex Jordan, the founder of the House on the Rock, who Tom Every wd go on to work for & collaborate w/. Both Jordan & Every might be called 'pugnacious' - or at least stubborn in their pursuits of their goals despite societal resistance - wch, in my experience, almost inevitably brings into play some of what I call Criminal Sanity. As a 10 yr old, Every had a brush w/ the law wch he subsequently replied to w/ an imagination that's probably characterized his whole life:
"The next day, the constable showed up with a fifteen dollar ticket for each of them for operating a bike at night without a light."
"As usual, Tom could not leave well enough alone. The Labor Day parade was coming up, and he was determined to create a response to his run-in with the local authorities. He got some batteries and decorated his bike with every light that he could find. He mounted a large sign above it that read "Legal Bike—Approved by the Police Department." He got one of his friends to dress up like a policeman (complete with pillow potbelly to imitate Waldo) and chase him down the street. He took second prize in the comic division." - pp 9-10
Evermor's disregard for laws that get in the way of his getting things done is nicely exemplified by this story from his adulthood:
"At the House on the Rock, Tom was collecting artifacts from everywhere and had to move a lot of very big things into and around the state. There were all of those regulations and permits that he saw standing in the way of progress. He picked his routes across Wisconsin very carefully and did quite a bit of his after nightfall, often with Eleanor following behind (with bail money) in case anything went wrong. They chanced it. he tried to avoid low-hanging power lines, but in a tight spot he used jumper boards. Jumper boards are made of one-by-six lumber; he bent the boards over the top of the load, and the power lines would hit the boards and slide harmlessly over. He was lucky." - p 24
PLEASE READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Aug 11, 2014
Aug 31, 2014
John Brunner's The Super Barbarians
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 2, 2014
I'm trying to alternate here between reading & review...more review of
John Brunner's The Super Barbarians
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 2, 2014
I'm trying to alternate here between reading & reviewing bks that have deep personal significance for me &/or substantial content to be addressed carefully AND SF, mostly John Brunner bks. The Brunner's are always a relief, they're fun but not throwaways. I have a bag of Brunners in my bedrm & I'm gradually making my way thru the bag. It won't be long now before I've read them & I'll have to start picking from other pleasure reading possibilities.
The Super Barbarians is a sortof Poetic Justice bk, a bk about invading barbarians digging their own grave - w/ a little help from those conquered. Alas, in 'real' life, the 'barbarians' might not be so 'easy' to get out of the way.
The Earthling protagonist is on the home planet of the conquerors as a well-pd servant. Regardless of the perqs of the job he's still a 2nd-class citizen (or not a citizen at all): "There were only four other passengers aboard—two unprosperous-looking private individuals and two retainers wearing the arms of the House of Shugurra, a cleft skull on a black ground. They were all Vorrish; accordingly I took the rearmost seat as befitted an Earthman." (pp 10-11)
The reader learns that the Earthlings lost the war against the Vorrish even tho 'it cd be worse':
"All kinds of subtle things reminded us of our defeat. For instance, we ourselves now called that engagement the Battle of Fourth Orbit instead of its original Earthly title, the Battle of the Martian Sphere. The Vorrish, naturally, referred to the Solar planets by numbers, not names." - p 12
But Earthmen have managed to have special status in relation to other subjugated worlds, even tho defeated:
"Earth was the only one which had had to be reduced by all the houses working in unison. This was another point they bore in mind when thinking of us.
"And that was why Earthmen were the only subject race of the Vorra permitted to walk occasionally on the surface of Qallavarra. That was why there was an Acre of Earth and not an Acre of any other planet." - p 18
What really made this bk fun for me was a particular plot element that I don't want to spoil but still want to refer to. SO, I'll quote the following & put a blank where the 'punchline' is. I'll leave it to yr imagination:
""As for you, Shaw!" Pwill resumed. "If I thought you'd been at all responsible for what's happened, I'd have had you gutted and spitted on pikes long ago. But since my son tells me you didn't, I'll accept that. I think he's still capable of telling the truth occasionally. I think!" He threw a venomous scowl at his heir, who returned it with interest.
""What do you know about—?" he continued, and stopped short, as though a word were on the tip of his tongue and he could not complete it. Llaq closed her hands on the arms of her chair and hissed between her teeth.
""______!" Pwill finished, catching the hint his wife threw him." - p 51
[LET IT BE HEREBY ANNOUNCED THAT I MIGHT START USING THIS BLANK TECHNIQUE MORE OFTEN IN FUTURE REVIEWS - THIS BEING THE 1ST REVIEW TO DO SO]
"I turned the paper over, and began to understand. The other side bore what the uneducated among the Vorra might very well take for a magical symbol of some kind—especially if they had been suitably primed beforehand by some of Kramer's mumbo-jumbo." - p 58
As I've often fantasized before, what if things like Voodoo sigils were actually circuit diagrams or some other sort of scientific symbol for wch the science has been lost? Of course, some Voodoo practitioners might claim that the science isn't lost, that the science is Voodoo. What "might very well [be] take[n] for a magical symbol" in the preceding quote is actually a molecular diagram.
Philip K. Dick enthusiasts may find some slight plot similarity between this (1962) & Dick's "We Can Remember It for you Wholesale" (1966) - although Dick's story is more twisted. "That, though, was surely a bonus. What mattered was the regaining of my lost knowledge. i could even recall how it was lost. I had been compelled to hide it from myself." (p 108)
Once the chaos of war's unleashed how many disasters have happened just as a result of misunderstandings & 'friendly fire'?:
"The first direct attack on the House of Shugurra was not made by the House of Pwill at all, it was discovered later. A detachment commander of one of the allied lesser houses wanted to silence a gun-post enfilading some ground he needed to move his men across. He had only a mortar capable of reaching the gun-post, and the mortar was not wholly accurate. Still, he set it up behind a small hillock and let fly. The bomb dropped fair on the huge glass dome crowning the house, and fell through before exploding and killing over a thousand noncombatants—women, children and sick old men—gathered there from outlying buildings.
"Mad with rage, and still thinking, thanks to inadequate intelligence reports, that only the House of Pwill was ranged against him, Shugurra Himself ordered retaliation." - p 145
"From then on the Vorra were content to fight anyone and everyone they could find. That was the way they were." - p 146
It seems to me that the reason why blacks replaced Irish & other criminalized British subjects as slaves in the early days of what became the USA is b/c they were easier to subjugate b/c of their recognizability. Sometimes I think the USA military picks on Asians & Arabs for much the same reason. (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 31, 2014
Aug 02, 2014
Apr 01, 2014
Apr 01, 2014
Trevor Blake's Confessions of a Failed Egoist
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 27-30, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 145254 charac...more review of
Trevor Blake's Confessions of a Failed Egoist
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 27-30, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 145254 characters, and the max is 20000" - read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
At what point were the bks of philosophers of yore considered IMPORTANT? Was it always in their lifetime? Or did the bks have to grow on what little portion of the population that they eventually reached? Were they mainly considered IMPORTANT by their friends & colleagues & publishers during their lifetimes? What I'm getting at is that I consider this bk to be important NOW, while its author is still alive. It's not that I think the author is a great intellectual, necessarily, it's that I think he's maintained his integrity as a Free Thinker w/o sliding into the unrigorous muck of subcultural conformity.
Before I go any further, I shd get out of the way that there's an entire chapter of this bk about me - &, yes, I'm happy about this. Nonetheless, unbelievable as it may seem to those of you who have less integrity than I do, who're shallower than I am (sez me), if I disagreed w/ the bk, if I found major fault w/ it, yes, I'd criticize it at the risk of losing one of the few supporters I 'have' in the world. Of course, I put "have" in 'single quotation marks' b/c I no more 'have' Trevor than he 'has' me. He's a Free Thinker & so am I - our friendship for each other ranks less than the value of 'having our own minds'. & for those of you who scoff at 'Free Thinker'?: Fine, make an argument.. but don't just scoff - opinions w/o buttressing, w/o logical or experiential argumentation supporting them, amt to nothing but yr own hot air. Trevor supports his arguments AND manages to be pretty fucking funny at the same time.
Trevor fits neatly into a legacy of thinkers of the last 40 yrs who've tried to take a look at their environment, narrow & close, far & wide, social & antisocial, & tried to think of it w/o cluttering pre-fab stereotypes that get in the way of clear perception. I think he's succeeded far more than most. Hence my saying this bk's IMPORTANT.
My also saying that the author's not necessarily a "great intellectual" is rooted in the idea that the type of analysis required for the above process isn't necessarily an intellectual one as much as it is one of introspective honesty. To be a "Failed Egoist" is both a 'paradox' of sorts & a way of avoiding the oversimplification of dogma that unintrospective egoism becomes in its more dreary & tiresome megalomaniacal form. A 'true' thinker, even an egoist, questions even themselves - Blake is excellent at this & I respect him for it.
Starting in 1978 I began to seek out interesting people in the world to correspond w/. By perhaps a decade later I was corresponding w/ about 1,400 people. Most of them weren't exactly as interesting for me as I wd've liked but the few that were were amazing & the rest were at least usually seekers.. Seekers after a deeper, more international, community than what was offered to them locally. Seekers after a stimulus from a broader gene pool than what was available locally. Seekers after free thinkers too rare in immediate environments, people that had to be found thru more intensive searching.
For better or worse, I probably most strongly identify w/ what might be called the Lunatic Fringe - something hinted at by the term Post-Left Anarchism. By "Lunatic Fringe" I mean people whose opinions are considered unacceptably extreme by even the people in the cultural/political milieu most likely to accept them. If I understand correctly, "Post-Left Anarchism" is meant to be a form of anarchism whose practitioners no longer associate w/ being the 'extreme' left - instead, something different, something separate. In other words, Free Thinkers, people beholden to no particular norms of no particular sub-culture. By "extreme" I don't necessarily mean 'terrorists', I don't mean people for whom maximum violence is the great transformer - I prefer Hakim Bey's "Poetic Terrorism": fight mind control w/ mind DEcontrol - not fire w/ fire.
I hope that my own most intensive engagement w/ the world-at-large hasn't ended as I've become more & more unacceptable to the young just by virtue of being older than them. As such, my time of maximal identification w/ broad issues & my attempts to clarify my position in relation to them may stretch from the late 1960s to the present. That sd, it wd be dishonest of me to pretend that I have the same level of international (or, as I prefer, "patanational") social immersion now as I did in the 1980s. SO, people I met in the 1980s tend to be the 'founding fathers' or 'founding motherfuckers' or founding 'fatherfuckers' of movements that're still IMPORTANT to me now. Of course, someone's bound to take exception to the male-centric "founding fathers" - perhaps I'll address that later.
Enter Trevor Blake. We started corresponding in 1985 or 1986. That was a little late in contrast to people who also continue to be important to me from that era: "Blaster" Al Ackerman & Ivan Stang, eg - Trevor was a bit younger, he seemed a little less 'formed'. Nonetheless, he was publishing a magazine called "Surreal Estates" & publishers usually have something to say & I'm usually willing to pay attn. Surreal Estates #6 had an interview w/ me in it. It came out in 1986 when I was still having trouble finding a tattooist. Things were different in those days, very few people had tattoos: it wasn't a nauseating trend like it is now. The 1st 2 tattooists I asked to tattoo the 3D brain tattoo on my head refused.
Surreal Estates, IMO, was a bit slovenly & underimaginative from a graphic design perspective but the questions he asked me were good & I was glad to have the opportunity to get my theories & opinions out there. It was the 1st interview w/ me not formatted to fit the superficial requirements of a 'news'paper (Pam Purdy, to her credit, had interviewed me in my Tim Ore identity for the BalTimOre City Paper in the spring of 1982) & to also be published independent of such mainstreams (2 other interviews had been conducted but neither were published).
Trevor Blake is open-minded, someone who's consistently sought out the unusual & carefully decided whether it was for him or not - Confessions of a Failed Egoist impresses me as his most articulate expression of this process that I've encountered to date.
Confessions of a Failed Egoist might be sd to be the latest bk in a lineage that includes, for me, in approximate chronological order:
Re/Search #6/7: Industrial Culture Handbook (1983) - edited by Vale
The Book of the SubGenius (1983) - most credit due to the Sacred Scribe Ivan Stang
The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (1984) - edited by Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein
Chaos - the broadsheets of ontological anarchism (1985) - Hakim Bey
The Abolition of Work and other essays (1986) - Bob Black
Confessions of an American Ling Master (1986) - Al Ackerman
Re/Search #11: Pranks! (1987) - edited by Andrea Juno & V. Vale
Apocalypse Culture (1987) - edited by Adam Parfrey
High Weirdness by Mail (1988) - compiled by Rev, Ivan Stang
The Assault on Culture - Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War (1988) - Stewart Home
Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989) - compiled by Bob Black & Adam Parfrey
T.A.Z. - The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (1985/1991) - Hakim Bey
The Blaster Al Ackerman Omnibus (1994) - Al Ackerman
footnotes (2006) - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Anti-Media - Ephemera on Speculative Arts (2013) - Florian Cramer
These bks are both the creed of a new blatant pervert & a history of its lineage. These perverts have the audacity to not even kiss the asses goodbye of the parents that, like Chronos, wd eat them, wd smother them - but not as a natural aspect of the passing of time: instead these parents try to eat their children in the hope that they can then shit them out again as clay to be molded into Golems to fight their wars for them, to have no minds of their own. In defiance, this perverted new breed rips its way out of the parental throat leaving their wd-be controller & exploiter speechless. Or maybe these blatant perverts are just crowbarring the Doors of Perception open in a hurry to get to the Emergency Exit.
What's 'wrong' w/ this picture? Well.. maybe nothing. On the other hand, w/ the exception of Andrea Juno as the co-editor of Re/Search, there're no women represented in the authors & editors - there are women represented w/in the bks themselves. I cd've padded the above list by adding women to make myself seem more politically correct but that wd've been cheating. I cd've included the Andrea Juno edited Re/Search: Angry Women (1999) wch I recall as being excellent - but my copy of it was stolen or loaned out & never returned or given away before I got enuf of a chance to read it. Furthermore, while I had some slight correspondence w/ Vale I don't recall having any w/ Juno. This is a personal list, a list mainly centering around people I was (or still am) in contact w/ & around movements I've been mainly directly involved in. If I'd had as long an association w/ my friend Hyla Willis as I have w/ other people listed above, subRosa's Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices wd probably also be on the list.
Other issues of Re/Search are excluded from the list, eg, #10: Incredibly Strange Films (1986) & Modern Primitives (1989). The former b/c I don't perceive the films as being particularly "incredibly strange", I saw Re/Search as reviving a market niche; the latter b/c I've never particularly thought that tattoos & piercings et al were interesting as "modern primitivism" - again, I saw this as market-niche-speak. Now Re/Search has been as commercially successful & as widely disseminated as it has precisely b/c of the publisher's trend-savviness. Unfortunately, that's the same thing that made me lose interest in it. Prior to Modern Primitives only some "incredibly strange" people had tattoos & piercings, after Modern Primitives every moron wanted to be in on the fashion. I still like tattoos but the ones that truly interest me have to stand out in a sea of conformity.
Otherwise excluded, perhaps 'wrongfully so', is Semiotext[e] USA (1987). This was a disappointment to me b/c by the time it came out it already seemed 'out-dated' b/c I'd seen so much of its contents elsewhere already by then. It was really only a few yrs 'behind-the-times' but I was a harsh critic in those days. Also excluded, again perhaps 'wrongfully so', is Yael Dragwyla's The Book of the Outlaw (1986). This is the smallest of the publications listed & the most derivative one insofar as it's a take-off of Aleister Crowley's The Book of the Law (1904). Neither of these characteristics are adequate justifications for rejection - it's more that The Book of the Outlaw doesn't strike me as being as sweepingly visionary as the other bks do.
Possible future inclusions might be 2 bks by another friend of mine, Anna McCarthy: Ambient Television (2001) & The Citizen Machine - Governing by Television in 1950s America (2010) but those are both bks on my excessively long must-read list that I haven't gotten to yet. However, these latter 2 bks by Anna may be rejected b/c they're probably more academic media analysis published in the academic environment than they are howls from the Lunatic Fringe - wch then brings up the somewhat uneasy inclusion of The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book & Anti-Media - Ephemera on Speculative Arts.
The most important birthplace of these blatant perverts is from outside academia, from outside the art world, from outside the approved gathering places for difficult thinkers. Aliens are in yr midst! We're outside the pre-fab contexts for challenging thinking b/c those contexts are too safe to be truly challenging.
For that matter, the 'uneasiness' of my list shd be qualified by my mentioning that I'd forgotten about Chaos until I just now went looking in my library & I've never even read T.A.Z. in its bk form - I'd just read small photocopies that Bey had sent me in the mail that led up to it.
In other words, don't take the above list as some sort of definitive 'these-are-the-important-revolutionaries-heretics-visionaries-of-my-lifetime' list: it's more 'these-are-the-important-revolutionaries-heretics-visionaries-of-my-personal-social-circle-(&-slightly-beyond)-that-I-feel-philosophically-closest-to' or some such - even that's misleading insofar as I've had close to no contact w/ the Industrial scene (although I cd be considered an 'elder' of sorts of the related noise music scene) & have very little contact w/ Adam Parfrey. Most or all of the people are so-called 'white' (Lardy how sick of that description I am!) & North American or European. Even more importantly, in terms of correspondence networks, is that we all speak English - hence communication was easier between us than my networking w/ people in Japan, eg.
On the verso of Confessions of a Failed Egoist's title p it's written: "The author thanks tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE for technical assistance on "Co-Remoting with the Thunderous."" (p 2) That means that Trevor was considerate enuf to send me an advance copy of the article by email wch I then replied to. In an email that I sent to him on March 28, 2013 I wrote:
"Ok, I've revised/corrected the article you sent me & I'm both including it in the message body here & attaching it. I tried to not interfere too much w/ the tone of yr text but there were a few things I changed significantly: 1st, I'm not now nor have I
ever been a thief. I am, actually, an exceptionally honest person & any problems I have are more likely to be associated w/ that. 2nd, the bkstore I cofounded
has been a stunning success. 3rd, I actually work for a living & always have. Currently I do tech work for multiple museums & other exhibit-related institutions
such as universities. Also, while I certainly travel, I own my house in Pittsburgh & have lived here for the last 17+ yrs. As such, much of what you've written is entertaining but somewhat 'romantic' & inaccurate. 4th, I don't consider myself to be in the least bit cruel - in fact, having been VERY cruelly treated by many, MANY people my whole life I find cruelty to be despicable. Most likely, anyone who says that I'm cruel, indifferent, or a thief doesn't know me & is just a malicious gossip wanting to exploit me for their own dubious purposes - definitely NOT someone to be trusted.
"As for the description of the way I live? Well, it's true, I don't know ANYONE who lives like I do - but these days the differences revolve more around my utter dedication to intellectual pursuits & research while most people around me cd care less about much of ANYTHING (w/ a few highly remarkable exceptions, of course)."
I appreciate Trevor's giving me the opportunity to critique his article before its publication in this bk b/c it gave me the chance to counteract some of the unfortunate flak that a person like myself, a minor controversial celebrity, has to deal w/ from time to time. After all, while Trevor & I are certainly friends, we've only met in person once, in 1989 (as I remember it) - as such, some of his impressions of me are bound to be gleaned from suspect 3rd party sources.
Confessions of a Failed Egoist, like many bks I like very much, struck me as so quotable that I cd (im)practically repeat the whole bk here - merrily, merrily commenting on it all the way. Just the chapter titles, as given in the Table of Contents, give a pretty good idea:
Confessions of a Failed Egoist
Co-Remoting with the Thunderous
Infinite Material Universe
It's a Sin
Multiple Name Identities
My Crowded Fist Theater Shouting Fire...
Shot from the Egoist Canon
So You Want to Meet an Alien?
Trajectory Through Anarchism
Triumph of the Wilt
Why Should I Speak of Them?
Wm. Trevor Blake
Yes You Can Say No!
Most, or all, the work I like has a sense of play, a sense of fair-play, a cents of fare-pay, a sense of humor - Trevor's exceptional.. but not an exception to what I like. Consider the opening 2 paragraphs:
"I am an egoist, a circular thinker of the most self-contained philosophy. Keep reading, though, and you'll see I'm not a very good Unique One. I see rusty rivets and loose lashings in the HMS Egoism. Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it.
"Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or to wage war." - p 5
An egoist is a person who thinks of themself 1st & foremost - most people do this but in a way that's severely moderated by fear of negative consequences from the larger social whole. Only the brave (or devious) dare to challenge external society's 'right' to try to reel in the Individual's pursuit of their desires & self-definition. Self-definition is crucial to me & to most people I can relate to. The beauty here, for me, in Trevor's beginning is: "Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it" - no cow (or water buffalo) is sacred - not even the one you ride in on, cowboy. (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 24, 2014
Jul 30, 2014
John Brunner's The Repairmen of Cyclops / Enigma from Tantalus
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 26, 2014
This is another Ace Double, 2 b...more review of
John Brunner's The Repairmen of Cyclops / Enigma from Tantalus
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 26, 2014
This is another Ace Double, 2 bks back-to-back & upside-down in relation to each other so that both sides of the bk are the fronts, possibly my favorite of the Ace Doubles by Brunner that I've read so far. You can read my reviews of The Space-Time Juggler / The Astronauts Must Not Land here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22... & of Castaway's World / The Rites of Ohe here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... . Paperbacks are cheap but this bk is 49 yrs old & still in good shape. Will the same be true of e-files 49 yrs from now?
I read The Repairmen of Cyclops side 1st. Writing reviews of Brunner novels is always a challenge b/c I read them mostly for the entertainment of the plot & the things I enjoy about them the most wd be spoiled for the review reader if I were to mention them here. It's always interesting to begin to read a story & to be uncertain where it's taking you & whether the 1st character is really the main one. In this case, a retired astronaut is hunting a wolfshark on the planet Cyclops. An interesting enuf beginning on its own but even better where it goes.
& then comes Maddalena Santos. I'd encountered this character before in The Avengers of Carrig (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) wch I only read about 7 wks ago but wch I'd almost forgotten about already. The Avengers of Carrig having been a rewrite of Secret Agent of Terra, The Repairmen of Cyclops is a sequel to the latter. Santos is in the Corps Galactia's Patrol Service wch pays its members by prolonging their lives 10 yrs for every one yr served. After solving a major problem on Carrig she had a post where nothing much happened for 20 yrs & as she enters this story she's about to take a one yr leave. The policy issue of non-interference w/ ZRPs, Zarathustra Refugee Planets, is at the forefront:
""After twenty years watching a gang of Zarathustra refugees getting nowhere, Gus, I'm pretty well convinced myself that it's a crime to leave them to make fools of themselves. I'm sorry to disappoint you within minutes of our first meeting in years, but that's the way I feel right now, and if you want to convince the delegates to this conference that non-interference is the right course, you can start by trying it on me!"" - p 18
"The problem was a recurrent one, and had been debated for a century and a half. Its roots, though, lay much further back—to be precise, some seven hundred and seventy years before, when the primary of a planet called Zarathustra went nova." - p 28
That places this novel over 700 yrs in the future from Castaway's World where the refugees were but recently arrived to the planet they crash-landed on.
I'm plunging into reading Brunner's novels much as an 'average' reader, I reckon, insofar as I don't have a plan to read the novels in chronological order or to try to read related novels back-to-back in sequence. I haven't bothered to learn about what novels are related before reading them either. As such, I'm only beginning to understand that there're several inter-related ZRP novels - this, after having just read all of them (except the original Secret Agent of Terra) - I was just beginning to look forward to another! On the other hand, Polymath having been a rewrite of Castaways World (you can read my complaining about that here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... ), & The Avengers just being a rewrite of Secret Agent maybe it's best that Brunner got out of the rut & left it alone. Or did he? If there's a rewrite of The Repairmen that wd really be too much!
I usually like to point out at least one of Brunner's writerly touches: "He hesitated, eyes screwed up against the glare, raising the sole of one foot to rub it on the calf of the opposite leg as he always did when concentrating on a problem." (p 21) That's the kind of detail that enriches a scene w/o needing to directly contribute to whatever the pressing plot matters are.
In Castaway's World & Polymath, the Polymath is the person who saves the day by applying his special training. Brunner explores the opposite possibility w/ Cyclops:
""I'm sorry," Langenschmidt gave a crooked smile. "So we take the rest as read. They made one of their rare mistakes on Dagon, and picked for its polymath a man who couldn't stand the strain. He clashed with one of the continental managers, who finally couldn't endure it any more and decided he could do better for himself on some other planet. He, and about four thousand followers, left Dagon and set out to—well, to homestead Cyclops, I guess.["]" - p 62
""The pattern would be similar to that in the Carrig affair, then?" Maddalena hazarded. "A small group would be in full possession of the facts, but because what they have to offer is so valuable, those who benefit from it won't investigate what they're getting—turn a blind eye, as they say."
""Turn a blind eye. It's a phrase that's survived on Thirteen, where there are a good many eye afflictions. I believe it's pre-galactic in origin."
""Prehistoric, I'd have said," Langenschmidt muttered. "Except on the ZRP's, I've never seen a blind person. When eyesight is so valuable, it's worth taking the trouble to preserve."" - p 86
It's also worth taking the trouble that I take care to copy these quotes correctly b/c I almost jumped directly from the "is so valuable," in the 1st paragraph of the p 86 quote above to the "it's worth taking" that follows the second "is so valuable," in the 4th paragraph. Wd anyone have noticed?
Anyway, writer's digression aside, another writer's digression: I quoted the bit above about "turn a blind eye" to imagine Brunner considering the expression & thinking about how to incorporate it into a futuristic story 'realistically'. I'm reminded of George Perec's e-less novel (is there an electronic version available?) A Void in wch the letter "e" doesn't appear & in wch he, too, uses expressions that he has to recontextualize: hence, "a needle in a haystack" might become "a pin in a haystack". "Turning a blind eye" might become "turning a blind sight organ".
& there's always politics: ""On the other hand, they do seem to be typical of those who get to power, get influence, get wealth simply because they desire them so greedily. Truly civilized people don't crave power. They have—what would one call it?—empathy, perhaps, which holds them back."" (p 147) In other words, the scum rises to the top.
THEN THERE'S Enigma from Tantalus: "Voidech was right. Tantalus was the only possible name." (p 8) "Tantalus (Ancient Greek: Τάνταλος, Tántalos) was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his eternal punishment in Tartarus. He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantalus ) That didn't really make any sense to me until I read further in Wikipedia that: "Tantalus's punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalise)".
However, given that it's the "Tantalan" resident of the planet itself that seems to be doing the 'tantalizing' it doesn't seem appropriate to me that the planet itself shd be named after the person mythologically tantalized. In my review of Brunner's Bedlam Planet I note that: "The Author's Note on p 4 informs us that: "In writing this novel I have made extensive use of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (the English version of Larousse Mythologie General) and am in consequence indebted to its compilers, editors and translators."" Apparently, Enigma from Tantalus is a slight precursor to that.
""You spent too much time with that horrible man Caversham," Lynette told him in a practical tone. "You let him infect you with his cynical dislike of people, and it's got you down."
""You don't do him justice," Harry countered. "Veliz liked to make him out a pathological misanthrope, but he's not. He's—" He stopped, groping in the air for the right word. "He's a question-putter," he finished lamely. "And the questions he asks don't happen to be palatable ones. They're still valid." - p 10
Long personal tangent: I was working on the graveyard shift of a copy shop. Since I was working midnight to 8AM & since my friends usually went out to drink at night pre-midnight I usually wdn't join them so that I wdn't be drunk when I went in to work. After about a yr of this I was sick of the social deprivation so I went out & had a few drinks before I got to work.
Typically, it was on this late shift that all the grifters came in looking for free or cheap copies &/or computer use. That night when I was a tad drunk, a middle-aged guy who still lived w/ his mom came in wanting me to hand-place copies for the same price as if he were doing self-serve. I explained that the cost was more if I did it & he started arguing w/ me. Eventually he threatened to complain about me to the management. I sd something to the effect of: "Fuck it! You can get me fired for all I care! I'm sick of this job!"
The next day the customer's mom called & complained about me. Then the manager, BalTimOre's most pathetically untalented 'punk' singer, called me & informed me that I was fired. I started to ask him a question wch wd've shown him that his own behavior at work was hardly any more exemplary than my own & he cut me off w/ something along the lines of: "I know how you operate! You ask questions!!" This was intended to be an insult. It seemed only fitting to get such a critique from someone whose self-opinion bordered on megalomania - w/o substance or introspection, of course.
The plot thickens when:
"Veliz's shoulders sagged forward as if a heavy burden had been placed on him. He said, "You're saying that when the starship lifted from here the other day it took with it a—a stowaway? A unit of Tantalan disguised as a human being?"
""No, and yes," Harry grunted. "Not a stowaway, which is impossible—a mass discrepancy that great would be instantly detected. A copy." - p 27
Now, the idea of a non-human camouflaging itself as human is probably a fairly standard trope these days but I wonder who wrote such a story 1st. Is this the one? Published in 1965? Dunno, but I doubt it - it's just the earliest one I can think of at the moment.
Brunner's not a 'hard science' sf writer but he still manages to get in more than a few futuristic tech touches:
""Who was that?" muttered Brand over his shoulder as the offender was hauled back out of the way.
""One moment." Standing beside him was the girl who acted as his remembrancer, four-eyed because wherever she looked two lenses mounted on her forehead looked also. From the lenses threads ran back under her sleek gold hair; from the circuits traced in conductive ink on her scalp, using her body as the antenna, signals went to computer memories all over Earth and at several points elsewhere in the Solar System.
""The name is Pigoyan," the girl murmured. "Sensiservice. That'll be the woman aboard the Fulmar—Tanya Hesit."" - p 30
Brunner did foresee humanity's increasing dependency on machines. As long as it works, most people are happy w/ it.
"There was a need. A machine saw to it.
"There was a problem. A machine solved it.
"There was a wish. A machine granted it. This was Earth, but the outworlds were all, to a greater or lesser degree, copies of the original." - p 43
I got slightly interested in topology when I was making my documentary about an old friend who died in a car crash in 2010 along w/ another old friend named Sarmad Brody: "DEPOT (wherein lies the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin)". Franz had studied topology & incorporated it into his writing. Brunner proposes a new development:
"Relly wasn't just a man playing at science; he was a highly original researcher in one of the most advanced modern disciplines, the one known formally as polytopology and nicknamed mathemadness." - pp 48-49
The term "hunchback" is used to apparently signify a psychic but it wasn't obvious to me what Brunner's etymology for it was until this:
""Don't tell me, Master Brand—let me back a hunch. I'd say that after talking to everyone else here with me, you expected me to refuse to talk with you, to slouch unmannerly in the chair if I did turn up, and to mutter dark anarchical insults about the Powers of Earth."
"In spite of himself, Brand felt a smile come to his face matching the other's. he said, "Are you a hunchback? I was under the impression you were suspected fo some other more recherché talent."
""I wish I was a hunchback," Caversham said. "I've just come off Tantalus, as you know, and the nicest people I met there—the only nice people—were the hunchback["]" - p 76
Eventually, Brunner refers to the Turing test w/o specifically using its name:
"The problem was this: given a room divided by an opaque curtain, from the other side of which comes a voice; determine by asking questions, without raising the curtain, whether the other occupant of the room is a human being or a perfect mechanical copy." - p 85
Might this have inspired the story in the 1st place? In the end, this tale sets up the reader for a sequel. Was one ever written? I don't know & I'm not sure I care.
While I was reading this bk, I was also working on my backyard, prepping it further for my mad domination & my sculpture-in-progress entitled: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine". I was also listening to large amts of Flamenco music. I was working on editing one or more movies - including a masked nudist party one from my 60th birthday party. I was "stooping" w/ some friends, neighbors, & acquaintances. I was getting a recording out of the library. I was probably flirting w/ at least one or 2 female friends. SO, I HAVE A LIFE (sortof). Where does reading this stuff fit in? Sometimes I wonder (like today) - nonetheless, I've already started reading another Brunner. All in a day's work. (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 24, 2014
Jul 26, 2014
John Brunner's The Day of the Star Cities
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 19, 2014
This is another one of those plot-driven bks that I...more review of
John Brunner's The Day of the Star Cities
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 19, 2014
This is another one of those plot-driven bks that I have very little to say about that wdn't amt to spoiling it. The time appears to be the near future (as of 1965 when the bk was published). There're a few futuristic touches like "panic sprays", perhaps placed like sprinklers, capable of subduing the riotous. There's been a disaster wch the reader already knows about if they've read the blurb on the back cover but wch is still being hinted at on p 9:
"The pock-mark gaps in the neat mesh of human symbols—the devastated areas, the fallout zones, into which the lines of highways and railroads led like footsteps over precipices—had to be included on the printed map; it wouldn't be beyond self-deception to pretend that Omaha, for instance, still existed. (Though, of course, you didn't have to state aloud that the city had gone.) But the heavy black border isolating the tongue-shaped area in the center of North America, the other similar border around a kidney-shaped zone in Western Brazil, and the patches of silver foil like distorted pentagrams which symbolized the alien cities—those Waldron had added by hand the day after he'd grown tired of the popular fiction that governments in Washington and Ottawa still held sway over the whole of their former territories."
Then there's foreshadowing like this: ""Got one unusual thing about him. Mirror image layout. Heart on the wrong side, large lobe of the liver on the wrong side, all the way down the line.["]" (p 12) Then there's the repurposed language, a believable slang of the circumstances:
""Who was this man? Had you seen him before?"
""Not to my knowledge. Of course, he was a weirdo, so—"
""What makes you so sure?"
""Jesus! I'll lay a bet that people in the restaurant who'd never before been within a mile of one pegged him as soon as they saw him. And I've seen plenty."" - p 15
It must be strange to be an author & to write a bk that has a calculated trajectory & to then have the decision made, possibly w/o the author's input, to have that trajectory disrupted by having certain things revealed on the back cover of the bk. In this case, Brunner waited until p 21 to reveal what the readers already knew:
"He remembered the beginning with fearful vividness. With casual simultaneity, all fissionable material on the planet had been exploded with an efficiency varying from eight to eighteen percent conversion. Every missile and bomber base, every bomb in flight, every nuclear power station and every refinery where the stocks exceeded a couple of kilograms had mushroomed into fire. It was a day and a half before the survivors knew it wasn't war."
My interest always perks when I run across an unfamiliar word & Brunner usually provides at least one: "anti-missile bases had created comparable havoc around the major conurbations further south" (p 42) conurbation: "a large area consisting of cities or towns that have grown so that there is very little room between them" ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... ) I reckon the more familiar word for me wd be "megalopolis".
What dates this bk, published a mere 49 yrs ago, is this: "A young woman looking like a fashion model in spite of the circumstances, who turns out to have a Bachelor of Science degree and a responsible post in the Scientific Service—remarkable!" (p 44) Wd anybody even bother to mention a Bachelor's degree anymore? In this era of being practically required to spend a fortune to get a PHD to buy yr way into the upper middle class?
& then there's this: "a successful free trader in the near-anarchy" (p 80) I'd hope that if Brunner had written this story in an era he didn't actually live to see, say the early 2000s, he wdn't've equated "free trade" (was that term in use anywhere then in the sense we now know it?) as something that's nurtured by "near-anarchy" given the anarchist preference for fair trade.
& then there's even more 'datedness': "From the main entrance of the building a tall colored man in white coveralls with an embroidered name on the chest had emerged." (p 87) These days, for the people trying not to be racist, African American (yes the story takes place in the USA) or Person of Color seem to be preferred. "Colored" probably seems quaintly suspicious to most. That's what my parents, born in the 1920s, wd've sd. It seems to me that in the 1960s & 1970s, when I was 'growing up' (did I ever? YEP), Black was the preferred term: witness Black is Beautiful & Black Liberation - that sort of thing. Now, everybody's got color & pure blackness is an exaggeration while pure whiteness is nonexistent (in skin color, ie) & not everybody who's 'African American' necessarily has such intimate ties to Africa. I don't think of myself as a European American, I say I'm from BalTimOre (where I was born). So all these terms strike me as clumsy. These days, if skin-color 'must' be referenced at all (dubious), I just prefer "darker" & "lighter".
& then we're back to a disappointing misuse of "anarchy" again: ""But isn't it courting disaster to trespass on Grady's anarchy["]" (p 102) "Grady's anarchy", in both the misrepresentation of this character & in its 'actual' story-condition is actually government, feudal of sorts & tyranical, but still government - a far cry from "anarchy". Then again, it's appropriate for this character to use the word in this way so it's not really "disappointing" after all.
A very recurring theme in bks of Brunner's in the 1960s & maybe early 1970s is hypnosis. I remember it being in The Productions of Time (you can read my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18... ) & The Evil That Men Do (you can see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18... ) amongst others:
""No, wait!" Waldron leaned forward. "There's something you said this morning, yourself. 'Except ye become as little children'—remember? Now there's a trick you can pull with hypnosis, isn't there, called regression? You get sort of sent back to an earlier time and behave and think like a child." - p 138
I've actually witnessed such a regression. I was at an acquaintance's apartment. She was a nurse, her boyfriend was a hypnotist. As a party thing he regressed her to a childhood birthday. It turned out that it was a birthday when she was punished. She spoke w/ the voice of a child. If she was acting, she's the best actress I've ever witnessed. Her boyfriend seemed rather nasty so I have to wonder if he deliberately chose a date to make her suffer. Long story short.
Brunner always manages to spin a good yarn AND to remember to add those ephemeral details that set the tone w/o being necessarily immediately plot-driven:
"There would be snow later, probably; the leaden overcast was threatening and the wind had a keen edge to it. But Fred Johnson paid little attention to the state of the weather, like all the others standing patiently with him on the bleak hillside. His main reaction to the possibility of snow was a vague regret that he would not see how glorious the heavenly city appeared when there was a mantle of white on the earth around it." - p 152
Probably the most interesting aspect of this Brunner for me was the way the characters are driven by an assumption that I find no grounds for whatsoever in the story: "The aliens regard us as rats" - & actions proceed from this assumption. I think that other conclusions that're just as logical if not more so can be derived - such as that the "Star Cities" are there for human use in precisely the way the humans eventually use them. I wonder if Brunner imagined that as a possibility & left it out of the story for the reader to figure out on their/our own? If he did, that wd be an exceptional bit of reverse psychology on his part! (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 15, 2014
Jul 20, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath reminds me of J. G. Ballard's short story coll...more review of
John Brunner's Polymath
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath reminds me of J. G. Ballard's short story collections: Vermilion Sands, Chronopolis, The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard, & most likely others that I don't have in my personal library.
Why? Is it b/c they're both British SF writers w/ radical leanings? No, among other things, their radicality is quite different. It's b/c of the way the publishers reuse older material to sell newer bks. In Ballard's 1971 Vermilion Sands, there's a story entitled "The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista" that had previously appeared in the 1963 collection Passport to Eternity. In 1971's Chronopolis, there's "The Voices of Time" (The Voices of Time), "The Drowned Giant" (The Impossible Man), "Manhole 69" (The Voices of Time), "Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer" (The Impossible Man), "The Sound-Sweep" (The Voices of Time), "The Watchtowers" (Passport to Eternity), "Zone of Terror" (The Voices of Time), "The Cage of Sand" (Passport to Eternity), & "Deep End" (The Voices of Time).
Therefore, in Chronopolis, there're 9 stories out of 16 total culled from previous collections. That's pretty annoying for people who want to read the 7 stories not in the bks they already have but don't want to pay for the filler. It gets even worse when we get to 1978's The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard insofar as "Manhole 69" had now appeared in at least 2 previous collections, "Chronopolis" in at least 1, "The Voices of Time" (2), "Deep End" (2), "The Overloaded Man" (1), "Billennium" (1), "The Garden of Time" (1), "Thirteen for Centaurus" ("Thirteen to Centaurus" in Passport to Eternity), "The Cage of Sand" (2), "End Game" (1), "The Drowned Giant" (2), "The Terminal Beach" (1), & "The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D" (1). That's 13 out of 19 stories, at least, that'd previously appeared in bks. Buying The Best got the consumer Anthony Burgess's Introduction as well.
Ok, reprinting the same stories in multiple collections isn't such a heinous crime, I'm really just having some fun & showing off a little tangential data in order to build up to the annoyance of Polymath. Polymath (1974) is just a slight rewrite of Castaways World (1963) wch was part of an Ace Double. You can see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... & if you want to just get an idea of what the story is you might as well just skip to that earlier review & not read any further here.
On the verso of the title p it says: "A shorter and substantially different version of this novel appeared in 1963" (p 4) They don't tell the reader the name of the previous bk. It's the "substantially different" claim that I scoff at here. Castaways World is 127 pp, Polymath is 156 = 29 extra pp. The plot doesn't change at all. Polymath begins w/ this: ""One thing about those damn winter gales," Delvia said in a make-the-most-of-it tone. "They did give us a bit of stored power to play with." (p 5) Castaways World begins w/: "["]One thing about those winter gales," Delvia said in a make-the-most-of-it tone, "they gave us a bit of stored power to play with." (p 5) "winter gales" becomes "damn winter gales", etc.. These are the kinds of 'substantial' changes the reader can expect.
Of course, the filler has to get a bit more, uh, filling, in order to add on another 29pp: So, in the beginning of chapter 2 the 15th paragraph in Polymath is the same one as the 5th paragraph in Castaways World - it just takes 10 paragraphs longer to get there but those 10 paragraphs don't make much difference.
On p 91 of Castaways World we can read this:
""No . . ." She kicked at the sand. "Mainly I come out here to look at Zara. It seems absurd that the star that I used to think of as the sun is still up there, shining quietly, when in fact it's a raging cosmic explosion. How long till we see it happen, Lex? Sixty years?"
& on p 118 of Polymath we get this:
""No . . ." She kicked at the sand. Grains of it rattled on the nearest reflector, like dried corn spilling into a pan. "Mainly I come out here to look at Zara. It seems absurd that the star which I used to think of as the sun is still up there, shining quietly, when in fact it's a raging cosmic explosion. How long till we see it happen, Lex? Is it sixty years?"
Maybe the biggest question in the mind of readers of this review by now might be: 'Doesn't this guy have anything better to do than write a review of a bk wch he probably read knowing it was just a fluffed-out repeat of something he'd already read?! To wch I answer: "Yes, I do have better things to do. BUT, grains of this review rattle in my reflective brain, like dried corn spilling into my brain-pan." (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 07, 2014
Jul 12, 2014
Nov 01, 2001
Paul Verlaine's The Cursed Poets
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 9, 2014
Yadda, yadda, review too long. See the full thing here: https:...more review of
Paul Verlaine's The Cursed Poets
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 9, 2014
Yadda, yadda, review too long. See the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I probably 1st learned about Paul Verlaine thru learning about Arthur Rimbaud (born October 20, 1854) when I was a teenager in the early 1970s. Rimbaud wd've probably been an author I wd've heard about from the same group of friends who wd've exposed me to Hermann Hesse, Kahlil Gibran, & Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I wd've then read the New Directions Paperbook editions of Rimbaud's A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat & Illuminations - both translated by Louise Varèse.
In the former, in the introductory "A Rimbaud Chronology" (prepared by Hubert Creekmore for the publisher w/ its "factual data [..] taken largely from the definitive biography pf Rimbaud by Professor Enid Starkie" - p vii), I read that when Rimbaud was around 16 he "read everything he could lay hands on including the work of the new poet Paul Verlaine." (p x) "Bretagne, who knew Verlaine, suggested that Rimbaud write to him and himself added an introduction. In the letter Rimbaud enclosed some of his poems and received an enthusiastic reply from Verlaine and an invitation to come to Paris." (p xii)
1871: "Rimbaud's visit to the Verlaine household in Paris scandalized both the conservative family and the neighbors. His wife's parents felt that Verlaine, although twenty years older than Rimbaud, was being debauched by the young man" (p xii) Rimbaud & Verlaine's relationship resulted in Verlaine's leaving his wife & the 2 of them moving to London.
1872: "the following January, Verlaine, ill with influenza, recalled Rimbaud by picturing himself as dying alone in a strange city; and their debauchery was resumed. During this period, Rimbaud felt a growing disgust for Verlaine's sentimentality and wished to separate himself from what he now considered a debilitating influence." (pp xiii-xiv) "When he announced that he was leaving, Verlaine shot at him three times with a revolver, striking him once in the wrist. Mme. Verlaine and Rimbaud managed to quiet his hysteria, but when, on the way to the railroad station, Rimbaud remained firm in his decision to leave, Verlaine again lost control and threatened him. Rimbaud called for police protection. Verlaine was arrested, tried and sentenced to two years' hard labor and a fine." (p xiv)
&, w/ that latter, I, as a young anarchist, parted ways w/ Rimbaud. Given that I was about the same age as Rimbaud was when he went thru this I probably had the strong philosophical inclination to NOT have someone arrested under such circumstances. Now, I'm just glad I've never been shot. "In 1875 he traveled to Germany, and in Stuttgart, Verlaine, just released and full of his new religious zeal acquired in prison, joined him. Of this visit which lasted two and a half days, Rimbaud wrote in a letter to his old friend Delahaye: "Verlaine arrived here the other day pawing a rosary. . . Three hours later he had denied his God and started the 98 wounds of Our Lord bleeding again."" (p xv) Verlaine had it bad. Obviously, Rimbaud gave him something that his wife didn't. "at last in May, 1888 [Rimbaud] returned to Hasar as partner of two established gun-runners and slave-traders." (p xviii) Here, I part ways w/ Rimbaud again.
"When he did not answer a letter from Verlaine, the older poet assumed that he was dead and had an edition of his poems published in 1886." (p xvii) Rimbaud didn't actually die until November 10, 1891. Now, finally, I get to The Cursed Poets. The translator, Chase Madar, begins w/: "Assembled from articles published in the journals Lutèce and La Vogue, the full version of Les Poètes maudits was first published in 1888. The little book helped build the reputations of the poets; it also helped fortify Verlaine's own renown, and finances." (p 5)
Verlaine's praise for the 6 poets he writes about is enthusiastic, well written, convincing (to me, ie), &, apparently, deeply sincere. I got the impression that Verlaine, does, indeed, obsessively care about poetry & has well-developed ideas about what constitutes important poetry. One of the poets praised is Rimbaud. I provided the back-story about Verlaine's relationship w/ Rimbaud partially to show that Verlaine's praise for his writing continued even tho Rimbaud had him put in prison. This can be taken to mean both that Verlaine was 'hopelessly' 'in love' w/ Rimbaud &/or that he intended to praise the poetry as great regardless of how disastrous his personal relationship may've been w/ him. A lesser man, a man less sincerely dedicated to poetry, might've retaliated against Rimbaud instead of continuing to praise him. I can think of many an ex-girlfriend who destroyed my work upon breaking up w/ me - thusly revealing the petty vindictiveness that made them worth breaking up w/ in the 1st place.
Most of the poets written about by Verlaine were probably obscure at the the time, some are still obscure today: "Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Verlaine himself don't need my introduction, but the other poets very well might. Tristan Corbière was, with Jules Laforgue, a major influence on T. S. Eliot; his directness and unfussily abrupt prosody have aged well." (p 5) I am, as always glad to learn of the more obscure people - & it's particularly enlightening to have Verlaine's contemporaneous critique.
But the above version of who's obscure by the translator is not Verlaine's own at the time of writing over 100 yrs before this edition:
"The name and work of Corbière and those of Mallarmé are assured for the duration of time; some will stay on men's lips, the others in the memories of all worthy of them. Corbière and Mallarmé have been published, — that enormous minor detail. Rimbaud, too scornful, more scornful even than Corbière who at least flung his volume square at the century's nose, did not want any of his verse to appear in print." - p 59
"It has to be said: Much of Verlaine's prose is deep purple fustian. A good weave, and made of sturdy stuff, yes, but still deep purple fustian. Often it's been tempting to leach out some of the purpleness, but that is not the translator's role; that would, in fact, go against the translator's humble, professional duty not to try and improve (read: distort) the original work." - pp 5-6
Bravo! No translator shd try to 'improve' the original work - a translator's very difficult job is to try to faithfully present the work in the language the intended readers know. Alas, in the very next paragraph, the translator writes:
"In many instances, the poem given by Verlaine differs from the definitive version; in all cases I have taken the definitive version rather than the one originally given in Les Poètes maudits." - p 6
I wd've preferred that Madar, the translator, wd've NOT made this decision. Something's becoming "definitive" is not always w/o a suspicious process behind it. For scholarly purposes, having access to variant versions of a poem might be quite useful for understanding its development etc. To have access to such a rare collection of poetry gleaned from a source as primary as Verlaine is an opportunity wasted by defaulting to more well-known versions. As Verlaine writes, pleading for poems by Rimbaud he knows to exist:
"So let us here beseech all our known and unknown friends who might possess Les Veilleurs, Accroupissements, Les Pauvres à l'église, Les Reveilleurs de la nuit, Douaniers, Les Main de jeanne-Marie, Souer de Charité and anything else signed by this prestigious name, to be willing to send them to us for the probable case in which this work must be finished. In the name of the honor of Letters, we will repeat our prayer. The manuscripts will be religiously returned, once copies are made, to their generous owners." - p 59
Keep in mind, this wasn't the day of photocopiers & scanners. Either he was going to have them hand-copied or typeset or whatever. Copies of poems were RARE. "Definitive" versions of poems might've been Rimbaud's idea of the best one or a Rimbaud scholar's idea of the best one or whatever but that doesn't necessarily discount other versions.
Otherwise, this is a lovely edition insofar as the poems are presented in both French & English. Alas, one thing that's apparently missing are portraits of the poets that the reader learns about having been in the original edition by reading Verlaine's "About The Following Portraits". The only one provided in this edition is of Rimbaud & is the same portrait on the cover of the edition of Illuminations that I have (although less cropped in The Cursed Poets). Verlaine has this to say about it:
"Étienne Carjat photographed M. Arthur Rimbaud in October 1871. It is this excellent photograph that the reader now has in front of him, reproduced, just like the picture taken from nature of Corbière, by the process of photogravure.
"Is he not the "Sublime Boy" without the atrocious failure of Chateaubriand, but not without the protestation of lips which have long been sensual, and a pair of eyes lost in very old memories rather than any dream, however precocious? A kid Casanova, but even more so a certified expert in love-affairs, doesn't he laugh with his flaring nostrils and his handsome dimpled chin; doesn't he seem to have just said, "go take a hike" to all illusions that don't owe their existence to the most irrevocable will? The proud mop of hair could only be tousled, like cushions gracefully rumpled by the elbow of some sultanesque whim. And this virile disdain for all good grooming, so useless besides the devil's own quite literal beauty!" - pp 10-11
Yes, Verlaine had it bad - but at least he wasn't mediocre about it!
"We might have called them Absolute Poets to be more cautious, but, aside from the fact that caution is hardly in season these days, our title has something for the type of reader whom we hate, and, we're sure of it, something for the survivors among the All-Powerful Ones in question, for the common herd of élite readers — a rude jab of the middle finger that makes us feel better." - p 12
So, apparently, the middle finger gesture dates at least back to the 19th century & was used in France. According to Wikipedia, "The gesture dates back to Ancient Greece and was also used in Ancient Rome. Historically, it represented the phallus. In some modern cultures, it has gained increasing acceptance as a sign of disrespect, and has been used by music artists, athletes, and politicians. Most still view the gesture as obscene." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_finger ) Looking online, I also found this:
( http://www.ascii-middle-finger.com/ ) Nice! Even the URL's a hoot!
The 1st poet discussed is "Tristan Corbière [who] was a Breton, a sailor, and the aloof scornful type par excellence" (p 13) A "Breton" being a person from Brittany, the Northwest coast of France, an area that interests me more & more partially thanks to the information rc'vd about the area from a friend of mine from there: Brittany's incorporation into France is not necessarily any more welcome than many other such incorporations. Verlaine references his 'Breton-ness' thusly:
"What a Breton bretonning in the grand old style! The child of the moors and great oaks and riverbanks that were! And how he remembers and cherishes, this frightening faux-skeptic, the closely held superstitions of his tender, rustic brethren of the coast!" - p 21
The 1st of his poems presented starts off in French like this:
Si ma guitare
Que je répare,
Trois fois barbare,
- The full translation from Madar follows:
If my guitar which I repair, triply barbaric, Indian kriss,
Torturer's tool, guillotine, bag of tricks, doesn't do well . . .
If my worse voice can't tell you of my sweet martyrdom . . . — A dog's life! —
If my cigar, comfort and lighthouse, doesn't bother you at all; — Fire for burning . . .
If my menace, passing cyclone, lacks gracefulness; — Mute from howling! . . .
If my soul the sea in flames has no sharp edge — Cooks by freezing . . .
Then I'm leaving!
- pp 14- 15
(Corbière lived from 1845-1875, not quite making it to 30 yrs old) for those of you who, like myself, get a sense of a person's originality or lack thereof based on their placement in a chronology)
1st, I love the poem; 2nd I'm struck by the challenge the translator faces: the original has the last words of the 1st 3 lines of each stanza rhyme, the 4th & last line of each stanza rhymes w/ that of the 4th line in the 1st 3 stanzas & then the rhyme changes so that the 4th lines in the next 3 stanzas rhyme w/ each other AND w/ the final line that stands alone. This rhyme scheme is obviously taut & influences what words Corbière can choose.
Madar's approach to the translating is to not render the rhyme schemes but to opt instead for the sense of the words only. Given that I'm NOT a translator but that I appreciate the extreme difficulties of doing a good job of it, I can only admire the success w/ wch Madar does his job. What I'm reminded of is the Preface written by Jean Calais to his edition of the poetry of Villon published as number one of "The Pick Pocket Series":
"Some of these poems as a result are literally reckoned and others literally are not. Nowhere did I deliberately deviate from the muse (sic) of the original, and where I did I always believed I was playing an actual rope supplied by Villon. If I have anywhere taken liberties with a particular passage, it is a text which continually liberates its intelligence by the undoing of its adversaries.
"I did take the task "seriously." That is, I wanted to make the best poems possible, ones that would have the directness, the vitality, the immediacy and the energy (not to mention the sunsets) of the original, without sacrificing authenticity and everyday liveliness."
I loved Calais's rendering of Villon but, not being familiar w/ the original French, am not qualified to comment further on the quality of the translation. It certainly got me interested in Villon so I reckon Calais more than did his job there.
All that sd, I can't help but yearn somewhat for poetry translations that accomplish all this AND preserve the rhyme scheme. A tall order, I know, but on a generally formal level (rather than a strictly 'poetic' one), an order prodigiously met by Gilbert Adair in his translation of George Perec's La Disparition, wch Adair translated as A Void. If Adair can take a French novel in wch the letter "e" never occurs & translate it into English w/o having the letter "e" occur EITHER & still preserve the plot of the novel AND have it be 'good' reading than, surely preserving the rhyme scheme in relatively simple poems shdn't be so impossible. Of course, translators aren't necessarily pd well enuf to justify the expenditure of time that might be required, etc, etc..
Corbière strikes me as borderline proto-Surrrealist in "ÉPITAPHE" ("EPITAPH"), the last section of wch is translated as:
"Of je ne sais quoi. — But not knowing where; of gold, — but penniless; of nerves, — but nerveless. Vigor without force; of élan, — but with a sprained ankle; of soul — and no violin; of love, — but of the lowest kind; — Too many names to have a name. —" - p 17
But, in the long run, not really stream-of-consciousness enuf to be Surrealist, too expressive, but successfully I find, of a "je ne sais quoi" state of mind.. or being.. I reckon that the "soul" w/ "no violin" is some sort of associative reference a little more metaphorically based than it's preceding pairs & that it's rooted in cultural imagery that wd've been plain to the readers of its time.. But what if "violon"'s rhyming w/ the end word of the next line, "étalon", determined its choice a bit more than its meaning? What if another word, less metaphorical, wd've been chosen if the rhyme had worked that way? That's when I wonder what a rhymed translation wd be like.. A translation that preserves the sound structure & has to resort to straining the metaphor to do it..
Verlaine comments on Corbière:
"As for the rest, we would have to cite the entire section of this book, and then the entire book, or rather it would be necessary to reprint this unique work, Les Amours jaunes, which appeared in 1873 and is today nearly impossible to find, a book in which Villon and Pyrrho would be pleased to find an often worthy rival — and the most renowned of today's true poets would find a master (to say the least) of their own stature." - p 18
Indeed. He's got me interested. & I certainly understand the "we would have to cite the entire section of this book, and then the entire book" - as anyone who reads my reviews may groan knowingly! SO, is These Jaundiced Loves "today nearly impossible to find"?! No, thank the holy ceiling light, no. There're copies available online for as low as $6.21. Do I HAVE $6.21? No, indeed, I don't, not after losing my last $6 out of my pocket yesterday. Maybe someone else will find that $6 & buy These Jaundiced Loves w/ it! Not bloody likely.
& now we reach Rimbaud. I wrote earlier that "I provided the back-story about Verlaine's relationship w/ Rimbaud partially to show that Verlaine's praise for his writing continued even tho Rimbaud had him put in prison. This can be taken to mean both that Verlaine was 'hopelessly' 'in love' w/ Rimbaud &/or that he intended to praise the poetry as great regardless of how disastrous his personal relationship may've been w/ him." & here's how Verlaine (in translation, ie) introduces the subject:
"We have had the joy of knowing Arthur Rimbaud. Today things separate us from him without, of course, his genius and his character ever having lacked our deep admiration." - p 29
"Here a parenthesis, and if these lines happen to fall under his eyes, then let Arthur Rimbaud know that we do not judge men's motives, and let him be assures of our complete approval of (and dark sorrow at, as well) his abdandonment of poetry, provided, as we don't doubt, that this abandonment was for him sensible, honest, and necessary." - p 30
[Coincidentally, while I was reading the above, I was also reading (well, not quite simultaneously) Stephen Emerson's "Letters to Verlaine" in RAMPIKE Vol. 23, No. 1]
For the complete review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Jul 02, 2014
Jul 11, 2014
Jul 05, 2005
Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 26, 2014
I enjoy reading crime fiction but doing so...more review of
Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 26, 2014
I enjoy reading crime fiction but doing so is a pretty low priority for me & I don't know enough about the authors to be able to pick out more than a handful that I've ever found very interesting. I like to think that this handful represent la crème de la crème but there may be all sorts of obscure crime fiction writers out there whose work I unjustly neglect. Judging the bk by its cover, Bonfiglioli seemed to have some potential to at least dangle from the edges of the handful - & that's where I place him now that I've read this bk.
The bk's cover led me to expect the protagonist, Charlie Mortdecai, to be an 'anti-hero' of sorts - a not particularly likable character who nonetheless (sortof) solves the crime (or whatnot).. &, yeah, that's what he was for me.. except that he wasn't quite as unlikable as I expected & the bits meant to make him that way weren't that convincing.
Bonfiglioli's actually a pretty literary writer, he's no Mickey Spillane. Each chapter begins w/ an epigraph: "The epigraphs are all by Swinburne, except one which is a palpable forgery." (p 6) "The Swinburne forgery is, in a way, signed." (p 7) I don't really know anything about Swinburne, I may've never read anything by him. The only association I have w/ him is thru a song on The Fugs First Album called "Swineburne Stomp" & attributed to "A. C. Swineburne [&] Ed Sanders". I don't know whether the extra "e" in the Fugs version was something done as a joke to turn "Swin" into "Swine" or a mistake or a way to avoid copyright infringement or what. I didn't try to figure out wch epigraph is the "palpable forgery".
The novel takes place in Jersey Island, a place I know next to nothing about but that interests me b/c it's an independent country that's under the protection of Great Britain but not part of it or a part of France - even tho it's right off France's coast - nor is it part of the European Union (not that that wd've mattered as of the time of this bk's writing). Making things even more politically tricky, I reckon it's more accurate to say that it's right off Brittany's coast - St Helier, Jersey being only an hr & 20 minute ferry ride away from St Malo, Brittany. Brittany being perhaps comparable to the Basque country insofar as its inclusion in France is similarly unpopular as the Basque country's inclusion in Spain is. Jersey has its own language, Jèrriais: "Seyiz les beinv'nus `à Jérri" translating into "Welcome to Jersey" & looking somewhat like French. A French version of the proceeding being something like "Bienvenue à Jersey" w/ "Jersey" probably being something else. Catalan, spoken by the Basque people, being like a mix of French & Castilian (what's generally known as Spanish). Ah! Independence (&/or attempts thereat)!
"Much more important (outside St Helier) are the Honorary Police, who are of course unpaid. They do not wear uniforms — you are supposed to know who they are. Each of the twelve Parishes has a Connétable; under him are the Centeniers, each of whom in theory, protects and disciplines a hundred families and leads five Vingteniers who guard twenty families each. These are all elective posts but elections rarely afford any surprises, if you see what I mean, and in any case there is little competition for these honours.
"No one is legally under arrest in Jersey until a Centenier has tapped him on the shoulder with his absurd, tiny truncheon of office (you can imagine how the Paid Police like that rule)" - p 13
"The Honorary Police of Jersey are used to being teased: all those whom I have had the pleasure of meeting are just, honorable, intelligent and can take a joke." - p 7
The only thing I can remember reading about Jersey prior to reading this novel was The Beast of Jersey, a 'true crime' bk about Edward Paisnel "by his wife Joan Paisnel" (as the bk cover has it) who (according to the bk's back cover) "was a Jekyll and Hyde figure who terrorized the island for eleven years, [who] in 1971 [..] was convicted of thirteen sex offenses against young children."
"Paisnel was obsessed with the powers of evil. In his Hyde moments he wore a hideous rubber mask and nail-studded bracelets. And at home he had a secret room filled with the ritual tools of Black Magic."
SO, I was further engrossed in Something Nasty in the Woodshed when, after the 1st of series of rapes that constitute the central crimes of the story, the similarity of the crime to those of "The Beast" are introduced by the character Sam:
"'The Beast of Jersey,' Sam explained. 'You know, the chap who terrorized the Island for a dozen years; used to creep into children's rooms, carry them out the window, do odd things to them in the fields — not always very nasty — then pop them back into their little beds. The police think that there may have been more than a hundred such assaults but naturally most of them were not reported, for reasons which you will, um, appreciate. He used to wear a rubber mask, most of the victims said that he had an odd smell and he wore bizarre clothes, studded with nails. Just before you moved here they caught a chap called Paisnel, who is now serving thirty years, rightly or wrongly.' - p 27
What the "not always very nasty" instances were, if any, I don't know. Looking thru Joan Paisnel's bk again all the assaults seem nasty enuf to be permanently traumatizing.
"'What was interesting,' Sam went on as I chewed my spleen, 'was that Paisnel kept on saying that it was "all part of something" but he wouldn't say what and he said that when he was arrested he was on his way to meet "certain people" but he wouldn't say whom.'
"'Perfectly obvious,' said George; 'the beggar was one of these witches or witchmasters. It all comes back to me now. The plumber told me all about it when he came in drunk just after Christmas. Seems it wasn't this Paisnel fellow at all, all the locals know who it was, including most of the Honorary Police . . . or did he say Paisnel was just part of it?'
"'That strain again,' murmured Sam, 'it hath a dying fall . . .'
"'Quite right. And this Paisnel had a secret room, hadn't he, with a pottery frog or toad in it and that was supposed to be "part of it " too. And there was one of those Papist Palm Sunday crosses in the car he was nabbed in and they say he screamed when they asked him to touch it.'" - pp 27-28
According to the Wikipedia entry on him, "Edward Paisnel returned to Jersey briefly following his release from prison but moved away due to the strength of local feeling against him. He died in the Isle of Wight in 1994." - ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Paisnel
Something Nasty in the Woodshed being copyrighted in 1972, Paisnel must've been a fresh topic at the time. Bonfiglioli's choosing Jersey as a location & working The Beast into the plot were intriguing factors in my engagement w/ the bk. But if this had been only a rip-off of a disturbing true crime story I might not've liked it at all in the long run. Instead, Bonfiglioli manages to write a fairly rich tale. He sets the tome by beginning w/ this:
"Seven thousand years ago — give or take a few months — a great deal of water left the North Sea for good reasons of its own, which I cannot recall off-hand, and poured over the lower parts of on North-West Europe, forming the English Channel and effectively separating England from France, to the mutual gratification of both parties (for if it had not happened, you see, we English would have been foreigners and the French would have had to eat bread sauce)." - p 9
So Bonfiglioli works in some scholarliness & has a pretty good sense of humor. He's also pretty damned flippant considering some of the horrors of his plot. After George's wife gets raped, George is sitting in an armchair ruminating:
"' Bloody swine,' he growled. 'Raped my wife. Ruined my wistaria.'
"'I'll send me man round first thing in the morning to have a look at it,' said Sam. 'The wistaraia I mean. They're very tenacious things — soon recover. Wistaria,' he added; gratuitously, it seemed to me." - p 25
"A cold coming I had of it, I don't mind telling you, just the worst time of the year for a vigilante patrol. I believe I've already given you my views about the month of May in the British Isles. This May night, as I picked my glum way down to Belle Etoile Bay, was cold and black as a schoolgirl's heart and the moon — in its last quarter and now quite devoid of the spirit of public service — reminded me only of a Maria Teresa silver dollar which I had once seen clenched between the buttocks of a Somali lady who was, I fancy, no better than she should be. But enough of that." - p 159
These are apparently intended to reinforce the narrator's depiction as sexist. In one scene, Mortdecai's inner monologue runs like this:
"You see, we anti-feminists don't dislike women in the least; we prize. cherish, and pity them. We are compassionate. Goodness, to think of the poor wretches having to waddle through life with all those absurd fatty appendages sticking out of them; to have all the useful part of their lives made miserable by the triple plague of constipation, menstruation and parturition; worst of all, to have to cope with those handicaps with only a kind of fuzzy half-brain — a pretty head randomly filled, like a tiddly-winks cup, with brightly-colored scraps of rubbish — why, it wrings the very heart with pity. You know how your dog sometimes gazes anguishedly at you, its almost human eyes yearning to understand, longing to communicate? You remember how often you have felt that it was on the very brink of breaking through the barrier and joining you? I think that's why you and I are so kind to women, bless 'em. (Moreover, you scarcely ever see them chasing cats or fouling the footpaths.)" - p 59
Contrarily, in the author's prelude of sorts he says: "The fictional narrator is a nasty, waspish man: pray do not confuse him with the author, who is gentle and kind." (p 7) It's not too hard to interpret that as a bit tongue-in-cheek. In general, the perspective as presented thru the narrator is also pretty tongue-in-cheek:
"Nothing really had happened in the newspapers that day, either, except that some Arabs had murdered some Jews, some Jews had retaliated on some Arabs, some Indians had perfected an atomic bomb for dropping on Pakistanis and various assorted Irishmen had murdered each other in unpleasant ways. You really have to hand it to God, you know, he has terrific staying power. Jehovah against Mohammed, Brahma against Allah, Catholic against Protestant: religion really keeps the fun going, doesn't it. If God didn't exist the professional soldiers would have to invent him, wouldn't they?" - pp 44-45
Maybe they did.
The author's, Bonfiglioli's, literateness commingles w/ his dubiously separated narrator's: "Nerciat rubbed shoulders with D. H. Lawrence, the Large Paper set of de Sade (Illustrated by Austin Osman Spare)" (p 84) fits in well enuf as a description of the occultist Earl's library (complete w/ the Spare detail) - but I found the narrator's quoting Borges a bit far-fetched: "Borges remarks that we have chosen our own misfortunes. 'Thus,' he explains, 'every negligence is deliberate . . . every humiliation is penitence . . . every death a suicide.'" (p 101)
&, then: "('This is the last and greatest treason: To do the wrong thing for the right reason' sings Alfred Prufrock, if that's the right way round. And if it matters.)" (p 103) Bonfiglioli's being sly here by having his narrator's 'ignorance' twist the quote around: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason." - T. S. Eliot, from his play "Murder in the Cathedral" Ok, I reckon it's realistic enuf to have the educated narrator quote arguably the most famous poet in Britain, someone whose works he was probably forced to read somewhere along the line.
A part of what makes Something Nasty in the Woodshed as entertaining as it was for me is the way he does manage to squeeze in a variety of topics in a sufficiently plot-consistent way. EG: He has the defrocked priest who's come to conduct a black mass to scare the hypothetically occultist rapist bring up this:
"'Well, two years ago I read a book by a man called Konstantin Raudive. It's a perfectly respectable book and endorsed by respectable scientists. Raudive claims, indeed proves, that he heard gentle chattering and muttering coming from the unused intervals of tape from his recorder. I had had the same experience but had put it down to the random wirless reception . . . er, radio?'" - p 111
It's amazing to me the ways in wch Raudive's theories crop up now & again in my life - thru my own experimenting w/ them in the '70s (probably thanks to Chas Brohawn); to conversation between myself, Alan Lord, & Istvan Kantor (Monty Cantsin) about them in an igloo in Montréal in February, 1983, as part of the 6th International Neoist Apartment festival; to incorporating Raudive recordings into my movie about Franz Kamin: DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin) in 2010.
I also found it interesting the way the narrator's & the defrocked priest's description of the state of mind necessary for paranormal experiences jives w/ my own personal experiences:
"I could have told him, had he the wit to ask, that the necessary conditions were that we should have been playing a real game for several hours, that I should have ingested perhaps a third of a bottle of brandy, that I should have been slightly ahead of my table-stakes by virtue of the ordinary run of cards and that, in short, I should have been in that sort of drowsy euphoria where I was effectively asleep in all bodily departments except my card-sense.'
"'You couldn't have put it any better!' cried Eric. 'All the conditions were there, you see: mild fatigue, mild euphoria, mild depression from the brandy — I'll bet your alpha-waves were at something very like ten cycles per second.'" - p 114
Furthermore, my own experiences w/ excessively drinking Pernod jive wonderfully w/ the following:
"For years I had believed that these lines:
'Shot? So quick, so clean an ending?
Oh that was right, lad, that was brave;
Yours was not an ill for mending,
'Twas best to take it to the grave'
were about a horrified young Edwardian who had discovered that he was homosexual. I am in a position to correct literary history in this matter. The lines are about a horrified chap in early middle age who has discovered one morning, that he has not head for Pastis. This, you see, was not the common hangover of commerce, it was a Plague of Egypt with a top-dressing of the Black death." - p 119
Ok, my really bad hangovers have been w/ whiskey but my excess of Pernod mixed w/ water is the only instance of my drinking that I know of that resulted in an almost immediate outbreak of herpes 2. I've never drunk it since.
Is it largely peculiar to mysteries that the main character is obsessed w/ food? Or does such obsessiveness constitute a subgenre across all literature?
"How you deal with the tongue of an ox is as follows: you bid the butcher keep it in his pickle-tub for a fortnight, brushing aside his fanciful pleas that it should be taken out after eight days. Then you rinse it lovingly and thrust it into the very smallest casserole that will contain it, packing the interstices with many an onion, carrot and other pot-herb. Cover it with heel-taps of wine, beer, cider and, if your cook will let you, the ripe, rich jelly from the bottom of the dripping-pot. Let it ruminate in the back of your oven until you can bear it no longer; whip it out, transfix it to a chopping-board with a brace of forks and — offer up grateful prayers to Whomever gave tongues to the speechless ox." pp 127-128
All in all, a good read in the category of fun-to-read-distracting-not-very-important. In other words, I was, once again, distracted from the loneliness of daily life. (less)
Notes are private!
Jun 17, 2014
Jun 26, 2014
Apr 30, 2013
Dec 31, 2013
An Amediaite's Mediated Anti-Media
Florian Cramer's Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 6-11, 201...more An Amediaite's Mediated Anti-Media
Florian Cramer's Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 6-11, 2014
Important bks deserve lengthy reviews. The full review of this one is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Ok, I've been friends w/ the author, Florian Cramer, since I rc'vd a friendly letter from him dated August 27, 1990. He was probably living in Berlin, Germany, at the time. We 1st met in person when he came to visit me in BalTimOre in January of 1993. On January 16th, 1993, we made our 1st collaboration together: a movie entitled "What's Your Fucking Problem You Bloody Gash" (you can witness that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXwhu... ). This pretended to address the issue of why there are so few neoist women.
Since then, I've spent time w/ him in Berlin in 1994, 1997, & 2004; in Hungary in 1997; & he's visited me in Pittsburgh in 2003 & 2012. In the fall of 1994, he was probably the 1st person to publish writings of mine online. In September, 1996, he was also responsible for having many or all of these same writings published on the "of(f) the w.w.web" CD-ROM. He currently hosts many of my websites: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/ .
I consider Florian to be one of the world's leading intellectuals. I consider him to be a great scholar. I consider him to be a prominent neoist. I consider him to be one of my best friends. He has a meticulously analytical mind. He's not easily taken in by hype. I think of him as someone who's highly interested in making infrastructures evident, perhaps as a form on 'enlightenment'. He strikes me as always searching for a hidden essence. "What is a hacker?" [..]:
"1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary." - from "the famous self-written Internet dictionary of computer hackers" (p 220)
In Anti-Media, in the article entitled "In Some Respects Reversed: Georg Philipp Harsdörffer's Frauenzimmer Gesprächspiele" (2004) Florian writes: "Contemporary digital artists such as jodi work" [..] "making the formal systems underlying computer games legible." (p 197) "Seeming to go against the understanding of Spiel (game) as an artificial thing, Harsdörffer etymologizes the word as an onomatopoeic term for flowing water. In doing so, both the signified of the word 'game' as well as the word itself become a sort of game. Or, to use the terminology of Schottelius' linguistic theory, which was published at the same time as Harsdörffer's Gesprächspiele, the word becomes a 'stem word' in which the essence of the thing that it expresses is inscribed." (p 197)
In footnote 13 of the section entitled "Poetic Art of Wisdom: Quirinus Kuhlmann's '41st Kiss of Love'" the reader learns that "Together with Schottelius, Harsdörffer pursued his poetic study of language as part of the Fructiferous Society. Kuhlmann dedicated his '41st Kiss of Love' to a patron who is likewise a member of this literary society." (p 254)
The Fructiferous Society, Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft in the original German, "was a German literary society founded in 1617 in Weimar by German scholars and nobility. Its aim was to standardize vernacular German and promote it as both a scholarly and literary language, after the pattern of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence and similar groups already thriving in Italy, followed in later years also in France (1635) and Britain." [..] "It disbanded in 1668." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_... ) Florian revived this society in 1997 or thereabouts & invited me to be one of its only members (despite my essentially not speaking German). I went on to make a movie entitled "Story of a Fructiferous Society". Interested readers can read my article about that movie in OTHERZINE issue 17 (Fall, 2009) here: http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/... .
"A die in the middle of ornamental vines that outline the perimeter of an overturned triangle; above this, the line, 'Auff manche Art verkehrt' (In some respects reversed). This is how the 'Haubtregister' ('index') of the eighth volume of Georg Philipp Harsdörffer's Frauenzimmer Gesprächspielen ends." [..] "Does the emblem represent the Gesprächspiele itself, which appeared in eight volumes between 1641 and 1649, or does it represent the author, Harsdörffer, who as a member of the Fruitbearing Society was given the name of 'The Player'?" - p 193 Florian is "The Forked One" & I'm "The Ballooning One" - both of our names refer to specific plants.
Given my whole-minded endorsement of the fruits of Cramer's labor, I'm nonetheless uncertain about this bk's title: does it really address & define "anti-media"? Are the writings really "ephemera"? Is the subject really "speculative arts"? I reckon I have to write this review in order to answer these questions. Cramer's introductory paragraph holds great promise:
"While this book was in the making, an article in the online arts journal Triple Canopy almost destroyed it. "Speculative" turns out to be one of the most fashionable buzzwords in what authors Alix Rule and David Levine call "International Art English' ('IAE').' Rule and Levine analyze the lingo of 'the art world press release', particularly on the e-flux mailing list, and reconstruct how in the 1970s, French structuralist and German Frankfurt school jargon was imported into the canonical American arts journal October. From there, it mutated into today's globalized, pseudo-scholarly contemporary art English. Rule and Levine predict the 'implosion' of this 'decadent period of IAE' along with art biennials and the globalized 'curatorial' art discourse." - p 7
In my review notes I referred to this as an "hilarious beginning!" Now, after many mnths have elapsed since I started reading the bk, I'm not totally sure why I found it so "hilarious" - perhaps simply b/c Florian seems to be effacing himself from the get-go, perhaps b/c he's immediately acknowledging the pitfalls of language that has the appearance of intellectual substance but that may really be more of a lingo-smokescreen behind wch emptiness hides. University art students are taught to embellish their work w/ the appearance of heavy theory thru the use of jargon known only to elites - but does the mere use of the jargon inevitably signify a parallel degree of specialization in the work itself? Or might the jargon just be the Emperor's New Clothes intended to make anyone who points out the substantial nudity seem like an intellectual child?
Now, I have my very sizable collection of magazines in my personal library organized into 2 areas: read (& that means read as completely as whatever my knowledge of the languages involved enables me) & not-read (meaning not read at all or only partially read). I find that I only have 2 issues of October, #3 (Spring 1977) & #17 (Summer 1981), & that I haven't read either of them (or, perhaps, only an article here & there). Somehow, October (1976-the present) has never appealed to me in the way that, say, Art-Language: The Journal of Conceptual Art (1969-1978), Avalanche (1970-1976), General Idea's FILE (1972-1989), The Fox (1975-1976), High Performance (1978-1997), lightworks (1975-2000), semiotext(e) (1974-1984?-the present?), View (1978-1993), & VILE (1974-1983) did.
semiotext(e), at least, started introducing French philosophy to the US slightly before October came around but their style was so flagrantly radical queer that I was impressed by the sheer audacity of it. I've always imagined that their "Man/Boy Love" issue from Summer, 1980, & their "Polysexuality" issue from 1981 probably put a substantial damper on their academic distribution - no more cash-cow university bookstores. &, indeed, while I still see "Polysexuality" available from The MIT Press, the "Man/Boy Love" issue is nowhere to be found - perhaps this is b/c it was newsprint, perhaps not. October is also distributed by The MIT Press.
It's tempting to slanderously hypothesize that the reason why something like October endures is b/c it's such a dry academic journal that the likelihood of its ever making any significant political difference in the world, despite its possible Marxist orientation, is nil. In other words, my ongoing (&, perhaps, increasingly tedious) contention is that the more IAE people use, the more funding they're likely to get b/c the more obvious it'll be to funders that the blah-blah stays safely in la-la. Alas, that's an oversimplification. October, obviously, thrives b/c it's the most entrenched in academia & academia thrives when it's the least threatening to the status quo.
Moving on: Florian continues in his introduction to say that "Joseph Beuys, a highly problematic figure with his left-nationalist missionary aspirations, summed it up in his formula that everyone was an artist, and accepted — among others — cooks and nurses into his Düsseldorf academy class." (p 10)
This issue of "everyone['s being] an artist" seems to have run thru, at least peripherally, my entire life. At some point, I might've found the notion challenging &/or exciting &/or radical: What if everyone's creativity were encouraged? Wd we have a more playful, a more flexible society? Maybe - but, 'when it comes down to it', not everyone wants to be an artist, not everyone gets the stimulus from it that people that it comes more naturally to do. Furthermore, the more 'art' is promoted as something that everyone can 'do', the more creativity seems to become undervalued.
I remember working in a bkstore in BalTimOre: I was playing the music of Anthony Braxton, a musician of consummate skill. A customer came in & sd: "My grandson could play better than that!" I replied: "You must have a very talented grandson." This imbecile didn't know shit from shinola but she was sure her ignorant opinion was unassailable. I prefer a society where skill is recognized & appreciated.
If "everyone['s] an artist" is everyone also a murderer, a car mechanic, a cook? I find it easy enuf to believe that all of us have some latent potential along any of those lines - but that doesn't mean we shd delude ourselves into thinking we're the 'real thing'. By all means if you want to be an artist & everyone's discouraging you as lacking talent, do it anyway but, please, I hope that you don't perpetuate the notion that critical standards are absolutely disposable.
Florian, like myself, is a neoist. Neoists may be almost entirely 'white' males from 'western' backgrounds (wch is unfortunate) but that doesn't really mean we're all the same.
"A 1985 issue of SMILE — a zine that could be published by anyone, thus anticipating the shared identity of 'Anonymous' — contained an aphorism that is quoted elsewhere in this book:
"Anti-art is art because it has entered into a dialectical dialogue with art, re-exposing contradictions that art has tried to conceal. To think that anti-art raises everything to the level of art is quite wrong. Anti-art exists only within the boundaries of art. Outside these boundaries it exists not as anti-art but as madness, bottle-racks and urinals.
"A book called 'anti-media' can't help being about 'media' for the same reasons. The only difference is that 'media' lack boundaries where 'art' — in the sense of contemporary visual art rather than in the broadest sense — has to draw them out of its own systemic and economic necessity. In both anti-art and anti-media, a love/hate relationship is undeniably at work." - p 14
Some people call me an "artist", some probably call me an "anti-artist". I don't consider myself to be either - much like I don't consider myself to be a Christian or a Satanist. One advantage that I can see to the term "anti-media" is that I'm not likely to be called an "anti-mediaist" or an "anti-medium". How about Amediaite?: a person who tries to avoid the propaganda traps of mediated existence - akin to an Atheist.
"In their research on International Art English, Rule and Levine note that: 'Usage of the word speculative spiked unaccountably in 2009; 2011 saw a sudden rage for rupture; transversal now seems poised to have its best year ever.' It was too late to change the subtitle of this book as it had already been announced by the publisher." - p 15
Yes, in IAE there are fashionable words wch, as in clothing fashion, are meant to make the user seem up-to-date. It doesn't pay to not be on top of the latest art trend. But what about the people who make their own clothes, who coin their own neologisms? The fashionable people are just buying into a system that rewards them in the same way that going to an elite university & getting a degree from there does - but it doesn't make them creative people. The mere fact that Cramer is even willing to criticize the language of his own bk's title rather than to try to further milk a particular word's recent IAE popularity cd be construed to mean that he's abandoning a sinking ship to try to stay fashionable OR that he's maintaining his integrity. I believe the latter is the case.
"One ought to think that it's a waste of time to give 'interactive media' and 'interactive art' any more serious thought, that there's a broad consensus that these were false promises and sunken big budget ships of late 1980s and early 1990s institutional laboratory art founded on such wacky ideas as — in the case of the German ZKM — 'the Bauhaus of Second Modernism'. We should be only a couple of years away from a time where these monstrosities will be turned into pop culture and celebrated as period kitsch, with the installations of Jeffrey Shaw and company representing 1990s retro kitsch next to Star Trek props for the 1960s, flokati rugs for the 1970s and Commodore home computers for the 1980s." - p 20
I get the impression that the above critique is Euro- &/or Internet- centric. IE: that rather than addressing the concept of interactivity in a broader sense, Florian is reacting against specific instances of "'interactive media' and 'interactive art'" in his immediate environment. Herr Stiletto Studios, another neoist based in Berlin, (probably) coined the term "interpassivity" wch pokes fun at the underacknowledged limits of the not-very-active 'interactivity' that Florian critiques. IMO, if the "'interactive media' and 'interactive art'" doesn't live up to its promises that doesn't invalidate the term, it invalidates the execution in its name.
"While there is, in other words, no such thing as 'interactive media' or 'interactive technology' if one doesn't reduce the notion of interaction to machine feedback, interaction technology and interaction design can and do exist — that is, technology and media that enable and constrain particular human interactions. Language might be the first and most important technology to be named here, architecture is a close second: the possibilities opened up and constraints imposed upon human interaction and communication by language, the constraints and options of human interaction created by the architecture of buildings, cities and landscapes. Nowadays, this also includes information protocols and information architectures, such as the famous 1990s example of AOL chat rooms being limited to 12 participants and banning conversations on AOL. In other words, information technology is 'interactive' only to the degree that it defines platforms of interaction — making it, just like architecture, both powerful and limited." - p 21
Ah ha! That strikes me as a great clarification: "that is, technology and media that enable and constrain particular human interactions." Has there ever been a debate where the ways in wch the debaters use their vocabulary aren't subtly at odds w/ each other?
"While 'interactivity' remains the radioactive cadaver and zombie that never seems to die, its rhetoric has been largely replaced by that of 'openness', in notions such as Open Source, Open Content, Open Access, open technology and even open society. 'Openness' is the biggest red herring of the IT industry. Software like OpenVMS, HP OpenCall, Apple OpenFirmware, Novell Open DOS, SCO OpenServer, file formats like Microsoft Office Open XML and websites like OpenBC and OpenID demonstrate how the word 'open' is the standard newspeak for a product not being open. But ultimately, the ideology that equates technological openness with social openness is based on cybernetic thinking just as much as on the ideology of interactivity, since it flatly conflates society and technology." - p 22
What Florian doesn't mention here is the definition of the collective identity, Monty Cantsin (&, perhaps only by implication, its successors), as an Open Pop Star - a notion conceived of by mail artist David Zack in 1978 or thereabouts & then developed thru neoism. One might explain this omission by saying that a name (& its attendant 'naming' subtext(s)) is not a 'technology' but given his statement from p 21 that "Language might be the first and most important technology to be named here" that explanation probably doesn't fly. Given that Monty Cantsin is the foremost collective neoist identity, Anti-Media is salted & peppered w/ references to it:
"The name SMILE is a travesty of FILE, a paper published by Canadian artist group General Idea that originally imitated the graphic design of LIFE magazine. FILE in turn had been parodied by Anna Banana's mail art periodical VILE and Bradley Lastname's fanzine BILE in the early 1980s. SMILE mutated, among other things, into MILES, SLIME, LIMES, LISME, EMILS, C-NILE and iMmortal LIES. As an 'international magazine of multiple origins', it appeared in more than 100 known issues published by different editors in Europe, America and Australia, many of whom adopted the collective pseudonyms Karen Eliot and Monty Cantsin." - p 26(less)
Notes are private!
Jun 06, 2014
Jun 11, 2014
John Brunner's The Avengers of Carrig
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 2, 2014
This is probably the 1st of the many Brunner bks that I'v...more review of
John Brunner's The Avengers of Carrig
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 2, 2014
This is probably the 1st of the many Brunner bks that I've read that I have close to nothing to say about. It's probably also the 1st one that was generic enuf for it not to even seem like it 'had' to be written by Brunner. The back of the title p informs the reader that "A considerably shorter version of this novel appeared in 1962 under the title Secret Agent of Terra" (p 4)
If you're just looking for light reading to breeze thru w/o much caring, this is the Brunner for you. Otherwise, don't bother. The plot was enjoyable enuf, any significant writing about the bk wd have to reference the plot b/c there's so little else there. In other words, there're no remarkable esoteric references, there's no political subtext beyond the obvious good guys & bad guys, etc.. I reckon that for such a short bk it manages to bring in enuf varied environment & characters to be stimulating but, still, this is basically something just written to keep the author's bks rolling out there. It might fare better as a movie, one of those swash-buckling adventure yarns like "Star War[t]s" or "Dune[-Bunny]":
""I think," the young server said, and had to swallow nervously before going on—"I think it's a man. Hanging by some kind of harness under the parradile's body!"" - p 143 (less)
Notes are private!
Jun 02, 2014
Jun 02, 2014
Feb 07, 2012
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Dear fellow reviewer, if you reviewed this in 20,000 charcters or less, I'm...more review of
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Dear fellow reviewer, if you reviewed this in 20,000 charcters or less, I'm not sure I trust you. I didn't, so read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I'd at least skimmed 1 or more review(s) of Gaddis on GoodReads. I'd read that he'd been lambasted by the original critics. Did I read that someone even wrote an entire bk in Gaddis's defense?!
I was expecting this to be brilliant. I was expecting it to be difficult. I was expecting it to be experimental. What I WASN'T EXPECTING is what it was: viz: a total success at what most people (I reckon) expect novels to be: viz: an engaging tale, richly described, w/ interesting characters who're exceptionally well-developed: w/ great dialog, wonderful description, & a thoroughly exciting plot that takes the reader to multiple locations in the 'western' world. So what exactly was the fucking problem w/ the original critics?! Really?!!
William H. Gass has this to say in his introduction:
"Many think that it is reviewing which needs to be reformed, but I believe the culprit is the species, which surrounds itself with lies, and calls the lies culture, the way squirrels build their nests of dead twigs and fallen leaves, then hide inside. In any case, as the German philosopher Lichtenberg observed, when reader's brow and book collide, it isn't always the book that is lacking brains." - p viii
Ok, it's long. But the average attn span in the mid 1950s when it was originally published hadn't been eroded by television yet. Ok, many of the characters are flamboyantly perverse. In that respect, this cd even be sd to be contemporaneous w/ OR, pause for effect, slightly ahead of William S. Burroughs. Gaddis's acerbic humor rivals just about anybody. & he sure as fuck is erudite.
& then there's always what I call "Stereotype Projecting", possibly my biggest nemesis in life. People have limited experience, they encounter something outside that experience, unable to cope & unwilling to take the 'risk' of bothering to try to perceive the encounter freshly, they pigeon-hole it in a panic - in a defensive (& harmful) reflex, they put it in the category of 'the enemy' & leave it there. Just to be safe, just in case. Ergo: new information not assimilated, new information slotted into utterly irrelevant projected stereotype instead. Gass has this to say:
"Interpretation replaces the original with the lamest sort of substitute. It tames, disarms. "Okay, I get it," we say, dusting our hands, "and that takes care of that." "At last I understand Kafka" is a foolish and conceited remark." - p xi
If Gaddis has a central target (& he probably doesn't) it might be ignorance. Gaddis, quite reasonably from my POV, knows alot & sees no good reason why others shdn't too. Some of his characters do, some don't. In the end, they all seem to crack. Perhaps Gaddis has a different central target: the absolute unworkability of it all, of humanity's path(s). & THEN THERE ARE THE WORDS (bless 'em!):
"though some fainaiguing had been necessary at Italian customs" - p 25
"fainaiguing"? According to Wiktionary, it's the "Present participle of fainaigue" wch is an "Unknown Britishism, of uncertain origin" - "Maybe from fain, homonym of feign (“to pretend”) and ague (“acute illness”) or cognate French aigüe (as in maladie aiguë, “acute illness”) – literally “to act sick”", "To evade work or shirk responsibility" - "Derived terms": "fainaiguer", "finagle". If I were to use the word in conversation, I can all too easily imagine the person far-more-illiterate-than-I immediately 'correcting' me w/ "finagle".
Gaddis definitely takes the long view, this is epic - but it's not one of those epics where we just slog thru the family tree, it's epic as if we're living it, not being subjected to a fleshed-out genealogy. We start w/ Reverend Gwyon as the main character & he's as fascinating a one as I've ever read-tell-of:
"Reverend Gwyon took all this in a dim view. As his son lay dying of a disease about which the doctors obviously knew nothing, injecting him with another plague simply because they had it on familiar terms could only be an achievement of a highly calculated level of insanity. Wyatt's arms swelled at each point of injection. The doctors nodded, in conclave, indicating that science had foreseen, even planned, this distraction. From among them came Doctor Fell with a scalpel in his hand and a gleam in his eye seldom permitted at large in civilized society" - p 42
Ah, medicine.. Medicine as "another plague" [..] "on familiar terms". The dr I choose to go to on my rare visits agrees w/ me that "less is more", to quote her. I've only taken antibiotics on a very few occasions - hence my immune system is robust. Then again, I destroy myself w/ bad food & excess alcohol use. & I probably won't live as long as people who take medicines from here to eternity. Oh, well, I'm as unworkable as Gaddis's characters. Gwyon solves his son's health problem in a most unusual way.
Gaddis does have some of his characters be as erudite as their author - probably to serve as a vehicle for himself. Is there self-parody at work? Gwyon's sermons are a tad controversial, he seems to make his congregation a bit uneasy. "It did not seem quite necessary, for instance, to note that Moses had been accused of witchcraft in the Koran; that the hundred thousand converts to Christianity in the first two or three centuries in Rome were "slaves and disreputable people," that in a town on the Nile there were ten thousand "shaggy monks" and twice that number of "god-dedicated virgins"; that Charlemagne mass-baptized Saxons by driving them through a river being blessed upstream by his bishops, while Saint Olaf made his subjects choose between baptism and death. No soberly tolerated feast day came round, but that Reverend Gwyon managed to herald its grim observation by allusion to some pagan ceremony which sounded uncomfortably like having a good time. Still the gray faces kept peace, precarious though it might be. They had never been treated this way from the pulpit. True, many stirred with indignant discomfort after listening to the familiar story of virgin birth on December twenty-fifth, mutilation and resurrection, to find they had been attending, not Christ, but Bacchus, Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, Adonis, Marduk, Balder, Attis, Amphion, or Quetzalcoatl," (p 56) Interested readers are directed to Brian Flemming's 2005 documentary "The God Who Wasn't There".
Gaddis often lets the readers know things only if they already know something else. "Anyone could have seen it was transition she was reading, if any had looked. None did." The place? Paris. The yr? Probably sometime between 1927 & 1932, maybe as late as 1938, maybe even later if the issue being read wasn't hot off the presses. "She was drinking a bilious-colored liquid": Pernod, perhaps? Her interests? Contemporary avant-garde culture, James Joyce's "Work in Progress" (later to be known as Finnegans Wake). Even tho she's only presented as speaking Français, the reader knows that she speaks English if the reader already knows that transition was an English-language journal. For me, that's one of the greatnesses of Gaddis's writing - instead of spelling everything out, every step of the way, he puts the reader in the position of coming in mid-stream w/ whatever swimming agilities they have & lets them experience the whirlpool more for what it is:
"Otto stood, examining his fingernails. Then he looked at his watch, and music burst upon him. —What is it? he asked, approaching the door of the studio.
"—This? Something of Handel's, an oratorio Judas Maccabaeus.
"—Oh. It's . . . it's splendid isn't it, Otto went on, unable to show his appreciation by listening. —Lo the conqueror comes, sang the bass.
"—It always seems too bad when they have to translate these things. I mean, it must sound much more impressive in the original.
"—I mean . . . in German, he said" - p 136
Now, the original is in English but Otto's bluffing, he's trying to say something learn-ed [sic]. If Gaddis had had Wyatt (who Otto's talking w/) correct Otto & if such a correction were to be made by all of the characters every time such a mistake is made then all of the characters wd become homogenized. Instead, Gaddis just has Wyatt disgusted. Many people's lives & livelihoods revolve around Wyatt while he still remains, in many respects, socially dysfunctional. Esther, Wyatt's wife, & Otto are en route to a party & Esther hands Otto a scrap of paper w/ the party's address on it:
"—No. The other side. God knows what that is, something of his.
"—The equation of x [to the power of n] plus y [to the power of n] has no nontrivial solution in integers for n greater than 2." - p 136
At 1st, I thought this was a different way of expressing Fermat's Last Theorem ("In number theory, Fermat's Last Theorem (sometimes called Fermat's conjecture, especially in older texts) states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat... ) wch took 358 yrs for mathematicians to prove. "God knows what that is, something of his" becomes emblematic of Wyatt's isolation from those around him. But I don't really know - & this "not knowing" is what surrounds Wyatt as he becomes more & more introverted & detached from other people.
Then again, maybe I DO know what I'm talking about after all b/c on p 361:
"Now damn it talk to me, let's get all this straight. What's on your mind?
"—The equation of x to the power of n plus y to the power of n has no nontrivial solution in integers for n greater than two.
"—That is Fermat's last theorem."
Notice that "136" & "361" are anagrams of each other. Coincidence?
Wyatt leaves Esther, drifts away, basically, & Otto becomes her lover. Gaddis's depiction of the difference between the 2 is subtle:
"Later, he called from the bathroom, —This handkerchief drying on the mirror, can I take it off and fold it up? It's dry . . . Esther? did you hear me? This handkerchief . . . ?
"—Yes yes, she cried out, suddenly, then caught her voice and controlled it. —Yes, take it down. She picked up Otto's jacket from the couch and went toward the bathroom where she heard the sound of the electric razor.
"—It's all right if I use this isn't it?
"—Why yes. Yes, of course. I'm glad you're using it.
"—There's a straight razor here, he said turning to her where she stood in the doorway with his jacket, the machine whirring in his hand, —but I don't think I could manage it." - p 148
Cf that to this interaction between Esther & Wyatt on p 90:
"—Wyatt, something awful's happened. Where are you? Then she almost screamed, seeing him standing in the door of the studio with blood all over one side of his face and his neck. —What happened?
"—What is it? he asked. —What awful thing?
"—What's happened to you? she cried running up to him.
"—What? He stood there with a straight razor opened in his hand.
"—What are you doing?
"—Shaving . . .
"—Did you do that . . . shaving? What are you doing in there, shaving.
"—Oh, he said running his fingertips over his chin, and looking at the blood on them. —It's a mess, I'm sorry Esther. The mirror, I was using this mirror in here, you have the one in the bathroom covered . . .
"—Covered! she burst out impatiently, twisting the letter in her hand.
"—It has a cloth over it, I thought for some reason you might . . .
"—It's a handkerchief drying, why didn't you just pull it off."
The reader has to remember 2 somewhat minor incidents 58pp apart in order to appreciate this. Indeed, Gaddis tries the memory of even the most ardent reader. A character's name isn't necessarily given in a scene & the reader must remember the character being referred to by name in previous scenes from way-back-when to have a fuller idea of what's going on:
"She hardly spoke, except when he spoke to her and even then, only if he addressed a question, which she would answer very slowly, deliberate and brief. Though once she had burst out with, —Then do Pilgrims need a pass-port too? Or I shall wear a cockleshell, and he will know me and he will know me well . . . Which disarmed Stanley: what could she know of Santiago de Compostela? or when with the same light about to break in her eyes, waiting only his confirmation, she had asked whether it were true, Did the mice eat Saint Gertrude's heart? —For she is a patron saint of them . . ." - p 766
In this case, the lack of solidity of the character, the link to a prior scene at a mental hospital, Stanley's following fate, all add together to make the reader question whether the character 'even exists'.
&, well, let's hope that scenes like the following will be obvious to them by the time you get to them or you might just be hopelessly lost:
"—We even got held up by a highwayman, her husband confirmed.
"—It was on a train.
"—You still call it a highwayman anyway, her husband said patiently, smiling his cheery smile. —And he even talked English.
"—It was broken English. And what do you think he told us? That we're as much to blame, because we're there, that the victim abets the violence just by being there, he said, and he even made a quotation to prove it.
"—From Dante he told us. He took all our money, at gun-point.
"—Every peseeta we had on us.
"—But he didn't take the cameras, the fat man said. —I guess he didn't know how much they were worth.
"—He said he ought to do us a favor and throw them out the window, can you imagine? My . . . don't they keep it cold here, she shivered.
"Her husband got out his billfold and found a scrap of paper. —Here's a souvenir of it. He made me write it down so I'd remember to get this book and read it. Transcendent Speculations on Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual, that's a mouthful isn't it. I wrote this down at gun-point." - p 881
Or how about this?: "—He says they even get food packages from America, like there was this Protestant minister who came here on a visit about thirty years ago and he always sends them these packages of food." - 884 IE: Wyatt's dad Reverend Gwyon.
It's so much fun to write these reviews & to rearrange the order of the author's meticulously worked-out sequence into my own:
"—Why do they get excited about the ruins in Rome here, Berlin is just as good now.
"—You can always see an ancient city better when it's been bombed." - pp 909-910
"They were going to drive up in some nameless person's new Renault, and they were somewhere in the Fremola valley, when it didn't go right, so they opened the hood to look at the engine, and there was nothing in there but an old tire, they must just have dropped the engine right out. So they just left it there, it was the only thing they could do. In the Saint Gotthard Pass, it was the only thing they could do." - pp 941-942
Uh, did they think to check if the engine was in the back?
While Gaddis certainly gets his digs in at the Ugly 'Merican, he spares no-one, including the French: "Over this grandstand disposal of promise the waiters stared with a distance of glazed indulgence which all collected under it admired, as they admired the rudeness, which they called self-respect; the contempt, which they called innate dignity; the avarice, which they called self-reliance; the tasteless ill-made clothes on the men, lauded as indifference, and the far-spaced posturings of haute couture across the Seine, called inimitable or shik according to one's stay." (p 64) "But on most hands the French were still being taken at their own evaluation. They were still regarded as the most sensitive connoisseurs of alcohol. Barbaric Americans, the barbaric English, drank to get drunk; but the French, with cultivated tastes and civilized sensibilities, drank down six billion bottles of wine this year merely to reward their refined palates: so refined, that a vast government subsidy, and a lobby capable of overthrowing cabinets, guaranteed one drink-shop for every ninety inhabitants; so cultivated, that ten per cent of the family budget went on it, the taste initiated before a child could walk, and death at nineteen months of D.T.s (cockeyed on Pernod) incidental; so civilized, that one of every twenty-five dead Frenchmen had made the last leap through alcoholism." (p 943)
Corruption & derangement; encyclopedic knowledge & talent - these factors combine to take Gaddis's characters on a roller coaster ride w/ no safety measures, w/o, even, a roller coaster:
"And the shadow he cast behind him as he turned away fell back seven centuries, to embrace the dissolute youth of Raymond Lully, and infatuation with the beautiful Ambrosia de Castello, which she discouraged; and if she seemed to succumb at last, offering to bare her breasts in return for a poem he had written to their glory, it was to show him, as he approached in that rapture of which only flesh is capable, a bosom eaten away by cancer; he turned away to his conversion, to his death years later stoned in North Africa, and in his celebration as a scholar, a poet, a missionary, a mystic, and one of the foremost figures in the history of alchemy." - p 77(less)
Notes are private!
May 25, 2014
May 29, 2014
Jan 01, 1971
John Brunner's The Traveler in Black
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 20, 2014
I have a paper bag full of John Brunner bks on the floor o...more review of
John Brunner's The Traveler in Black
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 20, 2014
I have a paper bag full of John Brunner bks on the floor of my bedroom, where I do most of my reading. When I need a break from whatever more challenging bks I'm reading (it's been William Gaddis's The Recognitions + others for quite some time now) I dip into the bag & pull one out. Two dips ago I pulled out Now Then, a collection of 3 novellas that include his earliest published story + a bit called "Imprint of Chaos". My review of Now Then is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... . The most recent Brunner dip produced The Traveler in Black. I noticed that a revised "Imprint of Chaos" began this & that 3 more tales developed the initial idea further. I almost put it back in the bag to pick another one b/c, while I liked "Imprint of Chaos" I didn't want to repeat read it & wallow in what I consider to be a somewhat minor Brunner work.
In my review of "Imprint of Chaos" I postulate the Traveler in Black as Entropy Personified & quote the following to substantiate this: "The black-clad man chuckled. 'He to whom the task was given of bringing order out of chaos in the universe,' he replied."
Now, according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... , entropy is:
"2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity"
wch (ignoring the implications of the word "degradation") describes the Traveler in Black's purpose quite well. HOWEVER, the "b" part of the above definition:
"2 b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder"
- in particular the "trend to disorder" is the OPPOSITE of the Traveler in Black's goal. So wch is he? Entropy Personified? Or Anti-Entropy Personified? I think he's Entropy Personified w/ "entropy" meaning the bringing chaos into order:
"["]I am he to whom was entrusted the task of bringing order forth from chaos. Hence the reason why I have but one nature."" - p 26
"["]what is the purpose of your task?""
""Why! When all things have but one nature, they will be subsumed into the Original All. Time will stop. This conclusion is desirable."
Manuus looked sourly at the brazier. "Desirable, perhaps—but appallingly dull.["]" - pp 26-27
I think I wd've asked: 'Why is it "desirable" & to what? Whom?" Also, I'm no sure I don't agree w/ Manuus's position: is order necessarily preferable to chaos? I'm sure many people in my lifetime have been preoccupied w/ that issue upon noticing that the 'order' imposed on them isn't one conducive to the flourishing of their natural strengths. Take the character Jorkas:
"this was not a young man riding a horse, nor was there in fact a horse being ridden, but some sort of confusion of the two, in that the man's legs were not separated at all from his mount. They ended in fleshy stalks, uniting with the belly of that part of the composite animal resembling a horse." - p 33
""Yes, he bears the imprint of chaos, does he not?" said the man in black. "He is left over, so to speak. He is fairly harmless; things have by-passed him, and his power grows small."" - p 35
""He has rather endured from a period of absolute confusion["]" - p 35
Imagine what we now call mythological beings, such as the minotaur (ignoring that as a metaphor), as actual creatures from a time when natural diversity was much larger. The bringing of 'order' seems to all too often carry w/ it the stamping out of unusual. Jorkas, being a Rara Avis, disappears as possibilities become more narrow-minded. Whenever I'm confused, it's probably usually due to an insufficiency of knowledge or a lack of clarity of communication. I generally prefer to solve this problem thru increasing my understanding. Is an age of "absolute confusion" an age of 'insolvable misunderstanding'?
Jorkas's power becomes so reduced that "the eldritch song Jorkas had been used to sing was turned a lullaby with nonsense words to soothe asleep happy babies in wicker cradles." (p 189) I suppose, as fates go, that's not such a nasty one.
The Traveler in Black identifies himself thusly:
""I have many names, but one nature. You may call me Mazda, or anything you please." - p 12
Many readers may recognize "Mazda" as a brand of car (modest, aren't they?) but how many know this?:
"Major Deities and Figures. The driving forces of Persian mythology were two powerful gods, sometimes presented as twin brothers. Ahura Mazda was the creator, a god of light, truth, and goodness. His enemy Ahriman, the spirit of darkness, lies, and evil, created only destructive things such as vermin, disease, and demons. The world was their battlefield. Although they were equally matched during this period of history, Ahura Mazda was fated to win the fight. For this reason, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, was the supreme deity of Persian mythology. The Zoroastrians identified him with purifying fire and tended fires on towers as part of their worship." - http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Pa-Pr...
"The Wager Lost by Winning" (the 3rd of 4 tales here) (almost) begins w/:
"Leaning on his staff, the traveler in black stood in the shade of a chestnut-tree and contemplated them as they filed by. Directly he clapped eyes on them, the banners had told him whence they hailed; no city but Teq employed those three special hues in its flag—gold, and silver, and the red of new-spilled blood. They symbolized the moral of a proverb which the traveler knew well, and held barbarous, to the effect that all treasure must be bought by expending life.
"In accordance with that precept, the Lords of Teq, before they inherited their father's estates, must kill all challengers, and did so by any means to hand, whether cleanly by the sword or subtly by drugs and venom. Consequently some persons had come to rule in Teq who were less than fit—great only in their commitment to greed.
""That," said the traveler to the leaves on the chestnut-tree, "is a highly disturbing spectacle!"" - pp 121-122
If the Traveler in Black is Entropy, he's a moral judge form of entropy so I suppose having him be a religious/mythological figure is more apropos. One of the most entertaining aspects of this bk is the 'poetic justice' he metes out by giving the people he encounters 'what they ask for' in a form w/ highly undesirable results for them.
""This I pledge on my life!" the merchant fumed. "If my daughter carries on the way she's going, I shall never want to speak to her again—nor shall I let her in my house!"
""As you wish, so be it," said the traveler. From that moment forward the merchant uttered never a word; dumb, he stood by to watch the fine procession in which the girl went to claim her bridegroom, and before she returned home apoplexy killed him, so that the house was no longer his." - p 131
""I must have been!" Viola moaned. "Would that hasty wish of mine come undone!"
""The second time a person calls upon me," said the traveler, "I may point out the consequences if I choose. Do you truly wish to find yourself once again on the green at Wantwich—alone?"
"There was an awful silence, which she eventually broke with a sob.
""However," the traveler resumed, when he judged she had suffered long enough to imprint the moral permanently on her memory" - p 164
One way I cd 'justify' rereading "Imprint" was by looking for differences between the earlier version & the one printed here. In this version, an epigraph from Ovid begins it:
"Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum unus erat tota naturae vultus in orbe, quen dixere Chaos: rudis indigestaque moles.
—Ovid: Metamorphoses, I 5" - p 7
Wch Google Translate (slightly edited by yrs truly here) transforms to: "Before the sea and the lands of all things of heaven, [there] was one which cover[ed] the whole face of Nature in the world, whom the men have spoken of [as] Chaos, rude and undeveloped mass."
Another bit not in the original is this part:
"Manuus hesitated. "Who," he resumed at length, "imposed—?"
"And his tongue locked in his mouth, while the traveler looked on him with an expression blending cynicism and sympathy. When at last the enchanter was able to speak again, he muttered, "Your pardon. It was of the nature of a test. I had seen it stated that . . ."
""That there are certain questions which one literally and physically is forbidden to ask?" The traveler chuckled. "Why, then, your test has confirmed the fact. I, even I, could not answer the question I suspect you were intending to frame.["]" - p 26
What I'm reminded of here is the notion of YHWH as the unspeakable name of 'God'. "Yahweh is called the Divine Name and the Tetragrammaton, or four-letter word, because it has four letters in Hebrew. Most Jewish people won’t even say Yahweh. Instead, they say HASHEM—a Hebrew word that means “The Name”, or they say Adonai—the Hebrew word for Lord. Yahweh is also called the Ineffable Name, or the unspeakable Name, but God’s Name is not unspeakable." ( http://www.hisnameisyahweh.org/hisnam... ) Until I decided to look up "the unspeakable name of god" online I didn't realize that there's a Christinane controversy over Yahweh's being actually sayable (apparently contrary to the Jewish position).
When I've given any thought to it at all, wch isn't often, I've imagined the Jewish position as meaning that anything truly profound is, by definition, beyond human understanding. Imagine the full 189, 824 letter word for the chemical Titin as an attempt to logically describe the chemical in detail (you can witness 2 relevant works of mine online here: https://vimeo.com/86542569 & here: https://archive.org/details/Piano_Ill... ). Now imagine trying to describe the universe using the same method & inserting ____ (blanks) for everything encountered that you don't have a word for. The description wd hypothetically be infinite, the amt of _____s wd be infinite, the amt of words wd be finite. One might call that an unsayable name.
W/o getting further into theological points that're ultimately just wanker bullshit to me, what I imagine in Brunner's scenario, & as an alternative to theological takes, is something being 'unaskable' by virtue of its utter existence outside of the state of mind in wch questions are asked. People awaking from dreams or coming down from expanded consciousness trips routinely find their memories of the experiences 'indescribable'. It may be that these people have too limited an ability TO describe &/OR that the experience is, in actuality, Indescribable - IE: outside of the parameters of what description is capable of b/c of the limits of description. If something is indescribable there's the possibility that no words exist to describe it &/OR that words, by their very nature, are in adequate. Cd the same thing that's postulated here for description also be possibly 'true' of questions?
I'm always thankful to writers who expose me to words I don't already know. "Geas" was the main one here: "geas [..] Pronunciation: /geSH [..] (In Irish folklore) an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person." ( http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/... ) The Traveler in Black's rooting in various mythologies reminds me of Brunner's 1968 Bedlam Planet wch is prefaced by this Author's Note: "In writing this novel I have made extensive use of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology" (the interested reader can see my review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... )
Brunner creates some fictional etymology too: ""And do not lament excessively for Ys. For cities, as for men, there comes a Time . . . Besides, there is a prophecy: a prince shall seek a name for his new capital, and he'll be told of Ys, and out of envy for its greatness he will say, 'I name my city Parys, equal to Ys.'"" (p 117) Wch I counter w/ this quote from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
"Paris [,] capital of France, from Gallo-Latin Lutetia Parisorum (in Late Latin also Parisii), name of a fortified town of the Gaulish tribe of the Parisii, who had a capital there; literally "Parisian swamps" (compare Old Irish loth "dirt," Welsh lludedic "muddy, slimy").
"The tribal name is of unknown origin, but traditionally derived from a Celtic par "boat" (perhaps related to Greek baris; see barge (n.)), hence the ship on the city's coat of arms." - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?t...
Of course, Brunner's version of Paris's etymology is one way of setting the story in a mythical past. Another tactic for the same purpose is to occasionally use slightly archaic language: "Garch's trusted counselors were three, as aforesaid." (p 193)
All 4 of the stories begin w/ a conjunction of planets: "Accordingly, on the day after the conjunction of four significant planets in that vicinity, he set forth" (p 9) "this season followed the conjunction of four significant planets hereabout" (p 71) "or perhaps if they were learned in curious arts and aware of the significance of the conjunction of the four planets presently ornamenting the southern sky in a highly ornamented pattern." (p 122) "leaving the shop lit only—through a skylight—by the far-off gleam of four crucial conjunct planets wheeling downward from the zenithal line." (p 183) A conjunction of planets representing a sort of form-out-of-chaos, perhaps? What I think of is the March 9, 1982 Party for People from the Future during a conjunction of the planets - organized by the Krononautic Organism (a project founded by the fertile imagination of Richard Ellsberry in BalTimOre).
In the 2nd part, "Break the Door of Hell", there's this: "Women, too, passed: high-wimpled dames attended by maids and dandling curious unnamable pets; harlots in diaphanous cloaks through which it was not quite possible if they were diseased" (p 80) wch reminds me of this in Jacob Aranza's 1983 Backward Masking Unmasked - Backward Satanic Messages of Rock and Roll Exposed:
"Allen Parsons Project also has an album entitled Eve. The album's front cover reveals two ladies' faces behind veils. If you take a close look you can see that both ladies have sores and warts on their faces.
"One state's venereal disease investigator looked at the warts and sores on the faces in the picture and concluded that the ladies in the picture were suffering from secondary syphilis.
"How many young people listening to Eve realize that the theme of the album is VD?" - p 65
I'll bet Allen Parsons wd be surprised that that's the theme of his record (esp since he spells his name "Alan")!
Not all of the Elementals left over from the time of chaos & defeated by the Traveler are harmful to the more orderly world of the humans: "At one side of this green was a pond of sweet water which the traveler in black had consigned to the charge of the being Horimos, for whom he had conceived a peculiar affection on discovering that this one alone among all the elementals was too lazy to be harmful, desiring mainly to be left in peace." (p 132)
Did you ever wonder about the Beatles song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"?: "authorizing the mansion's master smith to forge the silver hammer-head." (p 195) "that mirror was cracked across, and the traveler knew with what hammer the blow would have been struck: silver-headed, hafted with a portion of his anatomy that some man—albeit briefly—would have lived to regret the loss of." (209)
According to Wikipedia, "Linda McCartney reports that Paul had become interested in avant-garde theatre and had immersed himself in the writings of Alfred Jarry. This influence is reflected in the story and tone of the song, and also explains how Paul came across Jarry's word “pataphysical”, which occurs in the lyrics." Furthermore, "In 1994, McCartney said that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life, being "my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell&... )
Now, I love Jarry's work, so this unexpected reference to it delights me. When I started researching the silver hammer for this review, I expected to find some common mythological reference, not Jarry. However, the only hammer I know of in myth is Thor's & I don't recall it being silver. U still think Brunner took the image from myth but it may just be a variant on familiar imagery.
All in all, for people interested in mythology, Brunner's spin-off will probably be a delight.(less)
Notes are private!
May 09, 2014
May 21, 2014
Feb 12, 1970
John Brunner's The Squares of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 9, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 21001 characters, and th...more review of
John Brunner's The Squares of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 9, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 21001 characters, and the max is 20000" - In other words, see the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Do you ever think about the urban planning that goes into things like the way traffic lights work? I do - & I'm impressed when such things work so efficiently that traffic keeps flowing w/o my getting too annoyed by delays, w/o accidents.
"I came quickly to the central traffic intersection that lay at the focal point of the flow generated and governed by the four great squares. I stopped there for some time on the sidewalk, watching the vehicles move—and they did move, with no breaks. Ingenious use of precedence lanes and total avoidance of same-level crossing had eliminated the need for stoppages altogether, and there wasn't a traffic signal in sight" - p 25
On the other hand, I think about the way highways can be built that isolate certain communities & cause urban blight. This, of course, can be a type of racism/classism: the people to suffer the blight are considered disposable, unimportant. I remember when I-70 was planned to go thru Baltimore City & the communities to be effected by this protested & actually WON, thank goodness, & prevented the highway from cutting thru, & dividing their neighborhoods. That was probably in the early 1970s.
WELL, once again, Brunner had the foresight to present just such an issue in a highly developed & entertaining way - & he did it in 1965. &, as w/ pretty much everything I like, there's more to it than that, much more. Subliminal Suggestion features prominently. Remember the book by Wilson Bryan Key called Subliminal Seduction (1974) about the way advertisers used subliminal means to convince you to buy things? You can read reviews about that here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... . I think Key wrote a follow-up bk too. I don't have any problem believing Key's premise but I never bothered to read his bk b/c it struck me too much as sensationalism. Yes, unscrupulous people will use whatever techniques they can get away w/ to make themselves richer & the rest of us poorer - that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll succeed enuf for it to be worth it for any of us to become obsessed w/ it. The more insidious propaganda methods used by TV News, eg, are far more successful in framing the worldviews of the people who waste their time 'tuning in' (but never really tuning out). That sd, protecting yr free-thinking is certainly a worthy goal from my POV.
""It is too dangerous to watch television in Aguazul."" - p 87
""Who first saw the possibilities? I cannot say. It was all kept very secret. In most countries use of subliminal perception is banned by law, because its effectiveness—oh, it has been made reliable by testing!—it is inhuman. But in Aguazul there was no law. The single obstacle was that most of our people are, illiterate. Yet that in its way was an advantage; it was soon found that even for persons who could read, pictures worked better than words. A message in words can be argued with, but pictures have the impact of something con los ojos de si."" - p 93
"Western society, biased toward the objective mental mode of experience, tends to be blind not only to the power of images but also to the fact that we are nearly defenseless against their effect. Since we are educated and thoughtful, as we like to think, we believe we can choose among the things that will influence us. We accept fact, we reject lies. We go to movies, we watch television, we see photographs, and as the images pour into us, we believe we can choose among those we wish to absorb and those we don't. We assume that our rational processes protect us from implantation, or brainwashing. What we fail to realize is the difference between fact and image. Our objective processes can help us resist only one kind of implantation. There is no rejection of images." - pages 257-258, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television - Jerry Mander
[See my review of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ]
""There are few places in Vados where it is safe to watch television, señor. This is one of them. I have a device which I think in English is called a 'blinker.' Our name for it means 'sieve.' I have just played you that recording without the blinker."
""A blinker, so far as I'm concerned," I said, "is one of those gadgets that you can set to shit off commercials. You haven't any advertising on that program."
""No?" she said, and gave her wan little smile again. "Did you ever hear of a technique called subliminal perception?"" - p 90
In the Introduction to The Squares of the City, Edward Lasker tells us: "this story in which the two chief protagonists in a South American country attempt to direct the actions of their followers by using the unconscious but powerful influence of "subliminal perception," a technique which may well threaten all out futures." (p 5) In other words, this novel is about CONTROL, a subject dear to my heart, a subject explored deeply by another favorite writer: William S. Burroughs.
"I saw myself—or at any rate a recognizable likeness of myself—dipping my fingers for holy water into the font at the entrance to the cathedral. Another few yards of tape: I was shaking hands with el Presidente, and then in a few more moments I was kneeling before the bishop I had seen coming out of the elevator at the TV studios. Finally, before the sequence began to repeat, I was shown—this was so crude it nearly made me laugh—as an angel in a long white gown, holding a flaming sword over the monorail central, from beneath which figures ran like frightened ants." - p 92
"I frowned. "Well, I know the principle—you project a message on a TV screen or a movie screen for a fraction of a second, and it's alleged to impress the subconscious mind. They tried it out in movie houses with simple words like 'ice cream,'["]" [Strange, my neighbor & I just now made plans to go get ice cream..] "["]and some people said it worked and others said it didn't. I thought it had gone out of fashion, because it proved unreliable or something."" - p 92
"I chose my words carefully. "I have," I said. "In fact, I spoke to Señora Cortés of the television service, and her husband, the professor, admitted at once without my asking that they use this technique. I don't like it msyelf, but according to what Cortés says, they seem to have some justification, at any rate—"
"She seemed to wilt like a flower in an oven. "Yes, Señor Hakluyt. I have no doubt there was also some justification at any rate for Belson. Good day to you."" - p 130
Lasker continues by telling us that "The author has added an ingenious twist to his story which will be particularly intriguing to chess fans. the game in which his characters move as living pieces has not been artificially designed by him to suit the progress of his plot. It had actually been played, move for move, some seventy years ago in a match for the world championship between the title holder, the American master William Steinitz, and the Russian master Mikhail Ivanovich Tchigorin." (p 5) I'm reminded of George Perec's great novel Life: A User's Manual (1978).
In 1997, I was invited to coordinate a small Latin American festival at a local university. I wasn't a Latin American expert by any means so I might not've been the best person for the job - it just sortof fell in my lap. In the long run, I think I did it passably well. A side-effect of this was that I went on a spree of reading Latin American novels (in English translation). I became particularly fond of the authors published by Avon Bard. I ended up reading work by (if I hadn't read them already), but not limited to:
Allende, Isabel (Chilé)
Argueta, Manlio (El Salvador)
Arlt, Roberto (Argentina)
de Assis, Machado (Brazil)
Asturias, Machado (Brazil)
Azuela, Mariano (Mexico)
Bastos, Augusto Roa (Pataguay)
Bioy-Casares, Adolfo (Argentina?)
Borges, Jorge Luis (Argentina)
Brandão, Iganácio de Loyola (Brazil)
Carpentier, Alejo (Cuba)
Cortázar, Julio (Argentina; France)
Donoso, José (Chile)
Fuentes, Carlos (Mexico)
Ibargüengoitia, Jorge (Mexico)
Infante, G. Cabrera (Cuba)
Koster, R. M. (United States of America; Panama)
Llosa, Mario Vargas (Peru)
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia (Columbia; Mexico)
Queiroz, Rachel de (Brazil)
Sánchez, Luis Rafael (Puerto Rico)
Souza, Márcio (Brazil)
Traven, B. (Germany; Mexico)
The Squares of the City is set in a fictitious South American country &, as such, is vaguely open to a reading as Latin American fiction. I think it passed nicely. Sometimes it seems that Latin American countries have horrible reputations as dictatorships in North America (Argentina certainly earned it in the 1960s & 1970s - as did Chile under Pinochet after the US helped put him in power, etc, etc) but, then, there's so much great political fiction from Latin America that there seems to be a substantial liberation going on too (obviously).
"I looked around, and the buildings said proudly, "Progress!" The laughter on the faces of youths and girls said, "Success!" The satisfied look of businessmen said, "Prosperity!"
"But even in that moment, in my first hours in Vados, I found myself wondering what the peasant family would have answered, trudging up the hill toward their shantytown." - p 17
Yep, one person's 'prosperity' might well be codependent on another person's destruction. More about that later.
""But this is a thing you find everywhere in Vados, indeed throughout the country. It is perhaps our national game so much as it is of the Russians, let us say." As though mention of the name had reminded her, she took another draw on her Russian cigarette and tapped the first ash into a tray on the table. It is, of course, a dream of our president that one day such another as the Cuban Capablanca should be found here in Cuidad de Vados. For that reason we play from childhood."" - pp 21-22
Since I'm usually pretty busy w/ a variety of things, when I'm reading a bk I'm also witnessing movies & reading other bks & these multiplicities sometimes coincide in stimulating ways. In this case, I witnessed Andrew van den Houten 2005 Headspace at about this point in reading The Squares of the City & was struck by the chess connection in relation to the last-quoted. In it, a mediocre chess player encounters some much better chess players in the park & gradually becomes enabled to beat the best of them due to an increase of intelligence under mysterious circumstances.
I become more engaged w/ what I read when the author references things that interest me - maybe just a casual passing mention of music that I like.
"I caught on. "Ah, Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. Yes, I know what you mean. Is that the sort of thing you have in the Plaza del Sur?"
""Exactly. Only—our national temperament being what it is—our discussions sometimes grow more heated than among the phlegmatic English."" - p 22
What 1st struck me about this passage was the way the 2nd speaker seems to trivialize a heretofore only hinted at disturbance that seems potentially of more importance. Having now read the whole novel, I'm more just interested in Speakers' Corners anywhere. Yet another bk I've yet to read (even tho it's in my personal library) is The Speakers (1964) by Heathcote Williams. Will I live long enuf to read everything that interests me? People willing to elongate my life shd feel free to apply. My own excursions into Speakers' Corner type public speaking might be best represented by my "Soap Box Opera episode 4": http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk .
Vados seems so 'perfect' BUT "["]The people of the villages and half-pint towns up-country from here saw this prosperous new city on their doorstep, so to speak, and decided they wanted to move in. Why, they argued, shouldn't they get a slice of this cake? Of course, to people like you and me it's obvious why not, but imagine trying to explain the facts to an illiterate Indian peasant.["]" (p 31) The reader won't have much trouble figuring out that the speaker here is from the privileged end of the spectrum. Later, a more compelling reason for this immigration is revealed. It all hints of classism & other imposed inequalities:
"["]The man of mixed blood who was addressing the crowd on his behalf is a certain Sam Francis. He had just assured the crowd—and I, for one, believe him—that he we will not spend a cento on himself until the fine is paid. And yet there are holes in his shoes."
"She swung around and pointed at the speaker under the Citizens of Vados banner. "There you see Andres Lucas, secretary of the Citizens Party. The shoes he is wearing probably cost him fifty dolaros, and he probably has more than twenty pairs. I do not know where Guerrero is, their chairman."
""I do," I said after a pause. "Lunching in the Plaza del Norte."
"She nodded without surprise. "The check there will be as much as a pair of Lucas's shoes.["]. - p 38
Finally, the real reason for the exodus of the peasants is revealed:
""They must have had homes where they came from," said Angers sharply.
""Had, Señor Angers! When they were starving because their water was taken for the city, when their land was dry, where else should they go but to the city?["] - p 50
Think this is unrealistic? Look at the recent history of India: dams are built, farmland is flooded, farmers are displaced, they go to the city as workers. In 2000, I had an Australian friend who was going to India to document rural Indian women who were going to chain themselves to their homes that were about to be flooded for just such a dam. Their purpose? To show that this displacement is MURDER, their plan was to die, if necessary, if the flooding went ahead. As usual, the beneficiaries of 'modern' society are often woefully ignorant of or cynically indifferent to the price that's pd for their luxury. What suffering went into making the computer I'm typing this on? What suffering went into the electrical power that keeps it running? Into the internet infrastructure that'll enable the posting of this review?
""At home"; yes, that was the trouble in Vados. Or a good part of it anyway. Twenty thousand people who couldn't regard the city as their home, although they lived in it—simply because it wasn't their home. They were in a foreign country in their own homeland." - p 54
One of the things that the Black Panthers always sd that impressed me deeply was that the police in their neighborhoods were an occupying army. Indeed.
The narrator, a traffic flow designer whose skills have earned him international acclaim & jobs among the informed, parades his impressive experience before us: "I'd had to allow for the snarls in traffic flow caused by the muezzins in Moslem cities calling the devout to prayer, and the consequent five-times-daily interruption of everything, much to the annoyance of the nonreligious citizens. I'd had to work out a design for an embankment along the Ganges where it was certain that at least a million people would suddenly turn up once a year, but which had to cope with them and with its ordinary traffic without wasting unduly much space on the million-strong crowd which would remain idle the rest of the year. I'd helped develop the signal system in Galveston, Texas, designed to give every fire appliance within twenty miles nonstop to any outbreak without interfering with traffic on any route not used by the engines." (p 61)
"and the total impression left on students like myself—who went through college faced with what seemed like equally appalling alternative futures: nuclear war or a population explosion that would pass the six billion mark by the end of the century" (p 82)
The above prediction of the worldwide human population by 2000 was written about 1965 or thereabouts. Estimates from multiple groups have the human population as less than 3.5 billion at the time - &, yes, those same groups have us at over 6 billion as of 2000. Now we're supposedly at over 7 billion. Scary, eh? NOW, where I live it's not crowded - one cd even say it's 'underpopulated' - so where is this population increase showing up the most? Wherever it is, expect some spill-over.
When I read a bk, I make pencilled jottings on its inner jacket about things that seem noteworthy as I go along. Since I don't know the bk in advance (I rarely reread bks), the notes are made based on whatever I know of the bk so far. THEN, when it's time to write the review, I go thru the notes in order & pick out the ones I want to use (usually almost all of them) & put them in the order they originally appeared unless a different order seems more compelling. I generally avoid following the plotline - both to avoid spoilers & in the interest of exploring subtexts. As I'm writing this, I've rejected a few possibilities as too plot-centered. The next quote is an exception. The structure of the novel is such that, predictably, what seems initially placid, becomes more & more violent as the secrets are revealed to the protagonist:
"Someone had thrown red paint all over Vados's statue.
"Police in the Calle del Sol were bundling young me into trucks; there was blood on the ground, and one of the police held two wet-bladed knives.
"During the lunch-hour meeting in the Plaza del Sur, Arrio had been hanged in effigy from a tree by enraged supporters of Juan Tezol, in protest against his being jailed. Police had had to clear that up, too; the evening edition of Libertad spoke of many arrests.
"My car had had the air let out of its tires.
"And Sam Francis had committed suicide in jail. . . ." - pp 175-176
Now that I've given away entirely too much of the plot, I'll distract you w/ trivia:
""All right, that wasn't an invitation. Go ahead and sing. How about La Cucaracha?"
""That is a bad song, señor. It is all about marijuana.["]" - p 214 (less)
Notes are private!
May 15, 2014
Mass Market Paperback
John Brunner's Now Then
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 28, 2014
"After a lot of discussion we arrived at the conclusion that, were som...more review of
John Brunner's Now Then
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 28, 2014
"After a lot of discussion we arrived at the conclusion that, were someone to make a serious attempt at forecasting the events of the year 2000—political, social, technological—he would have to spend at least two years simply gathering facts before putting a word on paper; then during the 6 months the book would take to write, things would happen to invalidate his careful prophecies." - from Brunner's PREFACE, p vii
I don't know when Brunner wrote the above-quoted preface but I reckon it was 1965, the date of the original publishing of this bk. Brunner goes on to use this statement as a buttress for the novella form used here in the 3 stories in the bk. None of them particularly 'forecasts' its future. That aside, I think Brunner succeeded in prophesizing in the research-backed manner described above in his The Sheep Look Up (1972) so I think he took his own pessimistic statement as a challenge that he rose to.
Back to Now Then: for Brunner enthusiasts, this will be a collection of note if for no other reason than that it has as its last story, Thou Good and Faithful, the 1st story Brunner ever sold to a science-fiction magazine when he was still a teenager. I was 13 when I submitted a story to Analog magazine, my 1st & only submission to a SF mag. It was rejected. My story deserved the rejection (altho I wish I still had a copy of it!), Brunner's definitely deserved its acceptance.
The 1st tale is "Some Lapse of Time".
"The disease which had killed Jimmy was one of the latest to be identified. Max knew the man who had given it its name—had studied under him, in fact. he called it heterochylia, because the poison which jaundiced the skin, discoloured the whites of the eyes and eventually so disturbed the nervous system that death resulted, was found in the chyle—the fluid which transfers ingested fats from the small intestine to the bloodstream. Jimmy's chyle had been typical: thick, discoloured, foul-smelling at the autopsy. A compound had appeared in it which made it biologically useless.
"How such diseases occurred: that too was beginning to be known. They were among the statistically most likely consequences of radiation gene-damage; a mere nudge could disturb the delicate structure responsible for conveying the complex information about normal metabolism." - p 14
I made a feeble attempt to find a definition for "heterochylia" online & got alotof prmises of Arabic-to-English translations that led 'nowhere'. I wanted to know if Brunner invented this disease. I'm none the wiser.
The 2nd tale, "Imprint of Chaos", justifies the bk's cover copy: "science fantasy" - in other words, this is the 2nd thing I've read by Brunner that's sortof Sword & Sorcery. The 1st one being his The Space-Time Juggler. "Imprint of Chaos" begins:
"He had many names, but one nature, and this unique nature made him subject to certain laws not binding upon ordinary persons. In compensatory fashion, he was also free from certain other laws more commonly in force.
"Still, there was nothing to choose as regards rigidly between his particular set of laws and those others. And one rule by which he had very strictly to abide was that at set seasons he should overlook that portion of the All which had been allotted to him as his individual responsibility." - p 60
A 'God'? Do you, dear reader, ever think about what you might be a 'God' in relation to? Everytime I find a stinkbug in my house I scoop it onto a moveable flat surface & take it to an egress, usually a window, & put it outside. I like to imagine the stinkbugs having a myth about a 'God' who delivers them from the world-of-famine (my house) to the world-of-plenty (the outdoors where there's lots of tasty vegetation).
"Laprivan heaved in his underground prison, and the road shook. Cracks wide enough to have swallowed a farm-cart appeared in its surface. From them, a great voice boomed.
"'What do you want of me, today of all days? Have you not had enough even now of tormenting me?'
"'I do not torment you,' was the calm reply. 'It is your memory that torments you.'
"'Leave me be, then,' said the great voice sullenly. 'Let me go on wiping away that memory.'
"'As you wish, so be it,' the traveller answered, and gestured with his staff. The cracks in the road closed again; the dust-devils re-formed, and when he looked back from the crest of the hill his footsteps had already been expunged." - p 61
Mythology as abstraction, as metaphor:
"Once—twice—a third time something burgeoned, which had about it a comforting aura of rationality, of predictability; about this aura, time was created from eternity. Time entails memory, memory entails conscience, conscience entails thought for the future, which is itself implied by the existence of time. Twice the forces of utter chaos raged around this focal point, and swallowed it back into nonexistence; then the will of Tuprid and Caschalanva, of Quorril and Lry, and of an infinite number of elemental beings, reigned once more. But none of them was supreme, because in chaos nothing can endure, nothing can be absolute, nothing sure or certain or reliable." - p 72
Or is it even metaphor? Imagine the stinkbug's perception of me: I doubt that it has the perceptual apparatus to perceive me at the scale I think of myself in - instead of seeing me as a being x-number of times larger than itself w/ a body not so dramatically different from its own (we both have legs, eg), it might, at 'best' see me as a 'hand' holding the piece of paper that it's being transported on. What if there were something comparable in our own lives? We, at least, have developed tools for perceiving on scales not intrinsic to our usual sensory means: our eyes, our ears, our proprioception. The "elemental beings" are anthropomorphisms of forces that are harder to wrap out heads around otherwise. How capable are we, even w/ our tools, of perceiving the weather as a totality that a tornado in our proximity is only a 'limb' of?
2 pp later, Brunner shifts the scale of the tale to something easier for most of us to relate to: "To park a car while one goes for a walk in the woods is not uncommon. To return and find that the care is no longer there is not unprecedented. But to return and find that the road itself, on which the car was parked, has likewise vanished, is a different matter altogether." - p 74
The man who finds himself in this dilemma, who finds himself outside his version of predictability, also finds himself being worshipped as a "God':
"They found Bernard Brown, much worried, to judge by his appearance, seated on a large silver and ebony throne on an enormous altar. Before the altar the townspeople were coming and going with gifts—their most prized possessions were heaped there now, from their inherited silverware to their newest garments. Around the throne itself, on the altar, were piles of luscious fruit and choice cuts of meat, together with bottles of delicious wine. bernard Brown was sucking at one of the fruits and attempting to question the people. But the people would not answer him; they merely listened respectfully and then went and wrote down what he had said, with a view to creating a canon of mystical precepts from it." - pp 85-86
"'I've seen you before,' said Bernard slowly. 'Who are you?'
"The black-clad man chuckled. 'He to whom the task was given of bringing order out of chaos in the universe,' he replied. 'And who are you?'" - p 97
The final tale is Brunner's aforementioned 1st sale, "Thou Good and Faithful". It's from an era that's hard to imagine these days, an era when smoking a pipe on a spaceship is somehow ok: "The Captain nodded, pipe clenched between his teeth". (p 100) Things become garbled so fast in retellings that the idea of a story known to us staying recognizable in a distant future in wch its written form may no longer exist is similarly amusing:
"'It's against all possibility for an Earth-type planet to evolve metallic intelligence.'
"Another bombshell. 'Who said that they evolved?'
"'Frankenstein!' said Deeley in an awed voice.
"'what was that Deeley?'
"'I said Frankenstein, Captain. It's the name of a pre-atomic story dating back to the late Dark Ages on Earth, about a man who built the first robot and it killed its creator.'" - p 123
All in all, these are more juvenile efforts of Brunner's but I enjoyed them nonetheless.(less)
Notes are private!
Apr 23, 2014
Apr 29, 2014
Jan 12, 1980
Jan 12, 1980
John Brunner's The Infinitive of Go
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2014
I'm not exactly cranking out the reviews so far this yr....more review of
John Brunner's The Infinitive of Go
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2014
I'm not exactly cranking out the reviews so far this yr. That's partially b/c I'm in the midst of very slowly reading William Gaddis's The Recognitions AND Florian Cramer's Anti-Media. As such, I squeeze in the relatively easy reading of Brunner bks in the midst of the Gaddis & the Cramer to give myself a rest - wch is NOT to say that the Brunner bks are inferior!
The Infinitive of Go revisits Brunner's Meeting at Infinity (1961) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) insofar as it explores parallel universes AND it revisits Brunner's A Web of Everywhere (1974) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) insofar as it explores teleportation. As such, it didn't strike me as groundbreaking for Brunner but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
The opening epigraph of Chapter One reads:
to travel faster
than a speeding bullet
is not much help
if you and it
are heading straight
towards each other
" - p 1
Ha ha! Technology may solve some problems but, like medical drugs w/ their inevitable side-effects, may just aggravate others.
"Sometimes, he thought bitterly, Chester reminded him more than anybody of the Moslem warlord who burned the great library of Alexandria, on the grounds that if the manuscripts therein agreed with the Koran they were superfluous, and if they disagreed they were heretical." - p 9
& there we have the basis of my argument against religion encapsulated. Just as Christians have proposed the notion of "One Way" (ie: their way & no-one else's) so did a Moslem burn the world's greatest body of knowledge. NOW, I detest religion - esp the 2 main perpetually warring gangs: the Moslems & the Christians. However, in the interest of fairness, I quote the following Wikipedia article as a way to show that the Moslems may've gotten a bad rep in relation to the burning of the Alexandrian library that they may not entirely deserve:
"The famous burning of the Library of Alexandria, including the incalculable loss of ancient works, has become a symbol of the irretrievable loss of public knowledge. Although there is a mythology of "the burning of the Library at Alexandria", the library may have suffered several fires or acts of destruction of varying degrees over many years. Ancient and modern sources identify several possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
"During Caesar's Civil War, Julius Caesar was besieged at Alexandria in 48 BC. Many ancient sources describe Caesar setting fire to his own ships and state that this fire spread to the library, destroying it.
"[W]hen the enemy endeavored to cut off his communication by sea, he was forced to divert that danger by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library.
—Plutarch, Life of Caesar
Bolstering this claim, in the 4th century both the pagan historian Ammianus and the Christian historian Orosius wrote that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina had been destroyed by Caesar's fire. However, Florus and Lucan claim that the flames Caesar set only burned the fleet and some "houses near the sea". Years after Caesar's campaign in Alexandria, the Greek geographer Strabo claimed to have worked in the Alexandrian Library.
"The library seems to have continued in existence to some degree until its contents were largely lost during the taking of the city by the Emperor Aurelian (270–275 AD), who was suppressing a revolt by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. During the course of the fighting, the areas of the city in which the main library was located were damaged. Some sources claim that the smaller library located at the Serapeum survived, though Ammianus Marcellinus wrote of the library in the Serapeum temple as a thing of the past, destroyed when Caesar sacked Alexandria.
"Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391 AD. The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391. The historian Socrates of Constantinople describes that all pagan temples in Alexandria were destroyed, including the Serapeum. Since the Serapeum housed a part of the Great Library, some scholars believe that the remains of the Library of Alexandria were destroyed at this time. However, it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction, and contemporary scholars do not mention the library directly.
"In 642 AD, Alexandria was captured by the Muslim army of Amr ibn al `Aas. Several later Arabic sources describe the library's destruction by the order of Caliph Omar. Bar-Hebraeus, writing in the 13th century, quotes Omar as saying to Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī: "If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them." Later scholars are skeptical of these stories, given the range of time that had passed before they were written down and the political motivations of the various writers." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_...
Tangent over (sortof). Much later in the novel, Brunner has the Christians be the ones stomping on knowledge: "The worst problem came from a handful of Christians who had been invited to join the team; they proved to be fundamentalist to a man, and Landini in their terms was necessarily a tool of Satan. The fact that he admitted to being a non-practicing Catholic aggravated matters . . ." (pp 110-111)
"A fifth channel: a fundamentalist preacher was declaring with enormous fervor that Landini must be a devil because the only intelligent beings the Lord ever created were Adam and Eve, and they were white, and their original sin was to engage in relations with their own children in order to propagate the species, and that was why the Lord made some of their children black, and if anything that stood up on its hind legs and talked to you wasn't precisely like Adam and Eve that was a sure sign that creature was accursed and the blessing of the Lord would rest upon anyone who got it, and the Godless servants of Satan who were trying to foist it on an unenlightened public, in the sights of a rifle and had it skinned and mounted and presented it to a church or a museum where the faithful for ever after might inspect the work of the Evil One . . ." - p 140
"When he sent his one and only published paper on the poster principle to a carefully-selected journal known for its hospitality to avant-garde ideas and its willingness to reprint lengthy computer analyses of the type known jokingly as "yet another four-color problem"—after the classic computer-exhaustive list of solutions to that classic poser in topology—he had been firmly convinced that it would instantly be recognized as a breakthrough. He had dared to hope it might be called a work of genius." - p 11
Ha ha! Seems like the kind of journal that wd print something by me. I wonder if Brunner had any particular journal in mind as an inspiration?
In the world that the main character, Justin, starts out in, Chester gets Dept of Defense funding to develop Justin's teleporter (called a "poster"). "What it amounted to was this: he had become a weapon, and against his will." (p 12) A typical problem of scientists whose work depends on massive funding that only the military or insidious corporate interests are capable of providing.
Brunner is great at depicting social scenes in wch personality quirks are deftly skecthed:
""You haven't met these people before," Levi said, giving Lane a skeletal grin. "They aren't scientists. They're magicians. They invent terms as and when they need to. What's rho-space? It's where the object goes which is being shifted from transmitter to receptor at the speed of light! I was told that something moving that fast would acquire infinite mass. Yes, they say, so it must. So where's the mass? It manifests as energy. Now just a moment, I say! You're using a lot of energy for the transfer, but it isn't infinite! Of course not, they say. The surplus doesn't even show up as heat. Of course not, they say. Where is it? It's in rho-space, they say. Are you any the wiser? I swear I'm not!"" - p 26
Now, I often write these reviews in a way that deliberately avoids plot-spoilers & that deliberately encourages personal tangents. Hence I quote the epigraph at the beginning of Chapter Eleven b/c it reinforces my own reasoning for not taking sleeping pills:
two sleeping-pills as always
bringing guaranteed oblivion
in the night of a whirlwind
by day a cold awakening
in a room full of wreckage
with only the sky for a ceiling
" - p 72
This "guaranteed oblivion" seems like all too poignantly comparable to the way that most people, in the US at least, seem unaware of just how much their personal liberty has been eroded away post-9/11 - & Brunner's novel seems to anticipate this somewhat:
"Instead of treating the situation as though it were the result of enemy action, drafting blanket legislation of a type previously seen only during a war—which, Justin had often sourly thought, was largely intended to ensure that as many citizens as possible could legally be entered in Federal computer-files" - p 72
It's always interesting for me when SF writers imagine future-tech & then try to describe it in a potentially believable way: "["]The device is conventionally termed a 'poster'. It is not"—he recalled Cinnamon's annoyance when Lane said people were being scrambled—"the matter transmitter familiar as a science-fiction prop. There is not direct communication between the dispatching and the receiving ends; the space within them is rendered congruent under the control of advancing computer systems and the location of the object being transferred becomes indefinite, so that it so to say shuttles from one to the other." (p 95) What's particularly interesting here is the side-effect of the process being "under the control of advancing computer systems" & the way Brunner develops that. BUT, I don't want to give too much away.
""The total dimensionality of the universe is of an order of aleph-four and may well be as high as aleph-five—in other words, much more infinite than infinity. Don't ask me for a quick course in Cantorian transfinities, please!["]" - p 127
Well, I looked them up in my own excellent Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory) bk - specifically on page "356 surreal numbers" in the "GLOSSARY: terms" section & all I found was this measly: "transfinite numbers = Georg Cantor's term for infinitely large numbers". That doesn't tell us much now does it? But it DID give me an excuse to reference my unpublished bk that I wrote over 6 yrs ago.
Parallel World history is always fun as either an example of wishful thinking or as dystopian warning or whatever: "This Adolf Hitler of yours: near as I can figure, he corresponds to a pan-Germanic fanatic who acquired a small following during the economic depression but murdered his lover, a guy called Roehm, and spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum writing crazy letters to the government about Jewish money-lenders." / "What about Stalin?" someone demanded. / "He didn't change his name. As Iosip Dzhugashvili he did more than anyone to bring about reform in Russia!" / "The Viet-Nam war!" came another shout. / "You mean when the nationalists took over from the French colonial power?"" (pp 136-137) (less)
Notes are private!
Apr 09, 2014
Apr 15, 2014
Mass Market Paperback
Jan 01, 1969
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2014
[sidenote: the actual edition I read is Ace's paperback versi...more review of
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2014
[sidenote: the actual edition I read is Ace's paperback version also from 1969 & NOT the hardcover bookclub edition - nonetheless, the cover's almost identical & the publisher & date are the same so it's not worth the trouble to create a new edition here - the paperback page count is 397 (not including the ads in the back).]
ALSO, 'of course', my review is "5727 characters" too long so the full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Whew! Another beaut from Brunner. In his intro to a 2003 edition of Brunner's 1972 The Sheep Look Up, author David Brin calls Sheep a "self-preventing prophes[y]" wch I think is an excellent way of looking at The Jagged Orbit (1969) too. As w/ Sheep, Brunner apparently bases his pessimistic projections on relevant mass media articles - in Jagged's case, ones written about racial unrest in the US in 1968. Brunner interweaves a pessimistic prediction of racism escalated, psychotherapy used as a mass control tool, & arms sales feeding off of carefully cultivated fear.
Regarding the latter, I think of when the G20 was in Pittsburgh in 2009. Some elements of the mass media spread a lurid image of any & all protesters as armed terrorists. (See my parody of this, made jointly w/ Rich Pell, entitled "TV 'News' Commits Suicide" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU-_a... ) One friend of mine told me that people where he worked were gathering their armaments, fortifying their homes (that were nowhere near where the protests were going to be), & even planning to flee to even more distant outskirts in precaution. All of this fear was completely unjustified. W/in a wk after the G20 ended there was a giant arms dealer event at the local convention center. Gee, I wonder if that was just coincidence (I'm dripping w/ sarcasm here in case the reader didn't notice).
An example of Brunner's imagined 2014 weaponry is something that can:
"(a) Energetic: in actual field trials a skilled operator reduced a sample group of 25 Reference Accomodation Blocks (12 stories reinforced concrete) to Unihabitable condition in 3.3 minutes, 12 being demolished and the remainder set ablaze." - p 347
Nice, huh?! During the 2009 G20 the City of Pittsburgh wasted huge amts of money on buying 2 sound cannons for dispelling protesters w/ the threat of inducing deafness. Pittsburgh 'needed' those like a hole in the head. Literally (& figuratively).
REPRINTED FROM THE LONDON OBSERVER OF 10TH MARCH 1968
"Colour—The Age-Old Conflict by Colin Legun
"Having recently spent several months in the United States, I came away sharing the view of those Americans who think that, short of two miracles—and early end to the Vietnam war, and a vast commitment to the public expenditure on the home front—the US is on the point of moving into a period of harsh repression by whites of blacks that could shake its political system to its very foundations."
"Voluntary separation—even separation into different bits of territory—is not always necessarily retrogressive. Although it is suspect to liberal minds—because of the horrors of twentieth-century racialism—liberals were the champions of all the nineteenth-century separatists who wanted independence from the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires and still today react sympathetically to the claims of Scots or of Welsh." - pp 244-245
I find the last-quoted paragraph a little misleading in its comparisons. The Scots & the Welsh (& the unmentioned Irish - who might've been 'too hot to handle' by the OBSERVER at the time), at least as I understand it, were on their own turf when they were colonized by the British. As such, they just wanted the colonialists to release them from their imperialistic hold. 'Black' separatists, on the other hand, were mostly forcibly brought to the US as slaves, they're not even on the land they were kidnapped from - any separatism means creating a new homeland rather than a reversion to an older one. Nonetheless, Black Panther claims that police in their neighborhoods are basically just occupying colonial troops strike me as accurate.
White Supremacists were/are big promoters of separatism. At least one such group proposed making the Northwest coast of the US be for 'whites' only - w/ Florida being for 'blacks' only. Such an idea is a throwback to the 'separate but equal' Jim Crow laws that certainly didn't insure any equality at all. It's all too easy to imagine white supremacists taking advantage of this geographical 'caging' by bombing black-Florida if such a separation were ever to take place.
REPRINTED FROM THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN OF 13TH MARCH 1968
"Seven burned to death
"Mr David Lumsden, aged 26, stood outside his burning home in Toronto and screamed at passing motorists to stop and help as his wife and sex children were burned to death. All the drivers ignored his calls." - p 294
ASSUMPTION CONCERNING THE FOREGOING MADE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS STORY
"It would have been even worse if they'd stopped to watch the fun." - p 295
Coincidentally, as I was reading this, I was installing an exhibit on race for one of my jobs & spending some time w/ a person in the process of having a mental breakdown - both very relevant to this bk. But what made The Jagged Orbit particularly poignant to read now is that it's set in 2014, the actual yr in wch I've read it.
The back cover blurbs are by authors Philip K. Dick, Robert Bloch, & Thomas M. Disch. Dick goes so far as to say that "It is an superb work, plotted with amazing skill, and showing a magnetic artistry much above anything Brunner has previously shown." Disch then ups the ante w/ "Enough new ideas to fill a novel each by Dick, Farmer and Pohl." High praise indeed. It appears that this was a breakthru work for Brunner.
The dedication inside reads:
"—the only person I know who really can fly a jagged orbit." - p 5
I assume/deduce that the "CHIP" in question is the great Samuel R. Delaney - gay, 'black', SF (& otherwise) writer whose work I have profound respect for. Why do I put the word "black" in single quotation marks? B/c I am so damned sick of the destructiveness of the simple-minded divisiveness of humans classified into 'black' & 'white', etc, etc.. Why not African-Americans then? B/c I'm also sick of humans categorized in terms of so-called (ancestral) origin. People ask me: 'Where is your family from? What nationality are they?' & I reply: 'I'm a BalTimOrean.' In other words, I'm from where I was born - not from some nation I may've never even been to. Some people claim that all humans originated in Africa & spread from there - are those who ended up in 'America' all African-Americans then? I prefer to think of people as individuals, not as representatives of some dubiously united 'ethnicity'. I certainly don't represent all so-called 'white' people, why shd I think that any 'black' person wd represent all so-called 'blacks'?!
Chapter ONE, entitled "PUT YOURSELF IN MY PLACE", sets a mildly experimental formal tone by consisting of only "I —" followed by Chapter TWO's "-solationism" on the verso. 1st person singular in isolation: this appears to set the mood for a critique of people living in so much fear of each other that no solidarity is likely or easy.
As w/ most novels about the future (now, for me, the present) there's lingo used extrapolated from the time of writing: "Meanwhile, continuing: something big brewing among the X Patriots. The routine reading carried him straight back to the Gottschalks and the superficial verdict that they were once more fomenting discontent among knee extremists to ensure good sales for their latest product among frightened blanks." (pp 12-13) Think "Malcolm X" in connection w/ "the X Patriots".
&, of course, along w/ the lingo there're the prophesies of technology: "They hadn't had a vuset in the apt before—only an ancient non-holographic TV which offered nothing more interesting than the three surviving 2-D satellite transmissions insisted on by the PCC. Since those were beamed primarily at India, Africa and Latin America, and she and Dan spoke neither Hindi, Swahili, nor more than a smattering of Spanish, they had seldom bothered to switch on unless they were orbiting." (p 16)
"Flamen's ingratiating voice said, "In this world which is so often terrifying, aren't you envious of the security people feel when they've installed Guardian traps at their doors and windows? You can't buy better, and you'd be a fool to buy anything less good."
"He vanished. A tall scowling kneeblank marched forward in his place, and before Lyla had time to react—she was still not awake enough to have convinced herself that the three-dimensional full-color image was going to stay buried in the screen—spiked metal bands had clamped on him at neck-, waist-, and knee-height. Blood began to ooze from the points where the cruel metal prongs had sunk in. He looked briefly bewildered, then sunk unconscious.
""Guardian!" sang an eldritch castrato voice. "Guar—dee—ann!"" - pp 17-18
"She moved to the door and began to strain against the handle of the winch to lift clear the hundred-kilo deadfall block that closed it against intruders overnight.
""Put your yash on," Dan said, stepping into a pair of green breeches and bleting them tight around his waist.
""Hell, I'm only going to the comweb!"
""Put it on, I said. You're insured for a quarter-million tealeaves and it says in the policy that you have to."" - p 19
There we have the technology, the paranoia, & the lingo all neatly rolled in one. My own prediction is that capitalism is aiming toward a society in wch people own as little as possible & rent as much as possible. Streaming is a big step in this direction. That seems to be the case in Brunner's 2014: ""But you're supposed to do duty to the Lar first, aren't you?" / "We only have it on seven-day appro," (p 18) "["]Got anything less revealing?" / "I don't think so. All my February clothes have expired["]." (p 19) "replacing the Lar in its niche, distantly aware that if she had indeed thrown it away there would have been a hell of a fight with Dan. The seven-day appro was up tomorrow and if they couldn't return it they would be billed two thousand tealeaves." (pp 151-152)
Brunner foresees junk mail w/ the greatest imagination. Junk Mail, Spam E-Mails, & Telemarketers have been among the banes of my existence. ""Practically all satches, same as usual. I do hate saturation mail! It clogs the comweb same as garbage does the drains, and I swear ninety percent of it goes straight into the drains without being read. . . .["]" / "She pantomimed tearing them across, but they were reinforced against that; they could only be torn along the line which would liberate the chemicals powering their in-built speakers. Satch mailing campaigns were too expensive to let illiterates escape." (p 27)
"Meantime, Dan had ripped along the sealing strip of the one from Lares & Penates Inc., and at once the room was full of a familiar high thin voice.
""You can't afford to be without a cult tailored to your private needs in this age of the individual. Consult Lares & Penates for the finest specialized—"
"It took him that long to locate the power-capsule driving the speaker and break it between finger and thumb. Promptly, he dropped the envelope with a yelp, shaking his hand.
""It burned me! That's a new one! They must have got wise to people cracking the capsules."" - p 28
For my own modest take on one aspect of our increasing branding as consumer-slaves, witness my "North Deface" movie here: http://youtu.be/r8Dre9tTEyE
& The Jagged Orbit anticipates The Sheep Look Up as self-preventing prophesy in glimpses of environmental concerns: "Humidity index in New York in excess of previous high for the current date, a factor ascribed by officials to the effect of the city's five and a half million air-conditioners. The insurrection probability index slipping ahead of schedule into what is nicknamed "the sweaty season downturn"" (p 31)
One of the main characters is a "spoolpigeon", an exposé TV show host. The network he works for is called Holocosmic: "if you dig into the private lives of the Holocosmic directorate you'd come up with material for another Hundred and Twenty Days without the need to plagiarize" (p 46) That's the Marquis de Sade's One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom being referenced. & this spoolpigeon, hypothetically an investigative reporter watchdog guarding society from corruption & hypocrisy is that to a small extent - but using Manufactured Consent means (to paraphrase Noam Chomsky) to create the damning 'evidence':
""Very well then. Let's find out what stock we have available for Uys. I don't have to ask about Mayor Black; he's vain, and we have tape on him we could lasso the moon with." Flamen moved to a computer on the wall at right angles to the first one.
"More or less what I thought," he muttered when the data were screened in response to his question. "Practically nothing! Black-and-white 2-D material and that's it. Well, we can make do with that. This is a recent one, comparatively speaking." The screen blurred, cleared, showed Uys coming down the steps from a plane door, presumably at home in South Africa, being greeted by his family and gesturing away a group of reporters.
""Let's have color . . . holographic depth . . . yes, that's better . . . good . . . we can abstract from that and blend it with Mayor Black and let's see now . . . American location and b.g., better have some macoots . . . Ah, that's not bad for a start, is it?"" - pp 186-187
"He struck some codes on the keyboard. "Voices—we're bound to have something on tape, I guess, even for Uys, and even if we haven't the machines will fake a South African accent. Characteristic phrase-weighting—let's spice it with a few choice Afrikaner slogans . . . And here we go."" - p 187
Now, apartheid, the racist legally imposed separatism in South Africa was in full force in 1969 when The Jagged Orbit was published. As such, it's no wonder that one of the villains here is an Afrikaner, one of the 'whites' who maintains, enforces, & benefits from South African racism. I'd like to hope that such self-preventing prophesy on the part of creative anti-racists was one of the factors that led to the downfall of apartheid in 1994. Good riddance.
I'm sure that Brunner had fun envisaging the fashion 45 yrs in the future but, alas, such extravagances are few & far in between in the actual 2014: "Conroy hesitated, looking over the array of students and taking especial note of the girls. About a quarter of them were in street yashes, like Alice who had just spoken; the remainder wore a fantastic galaxy of costumes ranging from a height-of-last-year-fashion oversuit with inflated bosom and buttocks to a waist-length orange wig and a pair of shabby Nix." (p 58)
In Brunner's 2014, racism is an undiluted or even more intensified version of what he saw in 1968. 'Black' & 'white' people seen together are at risk just for the association. Racist profiling by the police is the norm. &, alas, racist 'white' cops have far from disappeared in the actual 2014. Look at the case of the police beating the innocent Jordan Miles in Pittsburgh & getting away w/ it. &, of course, similar instances are abundant. Perhaps the main difference between 2014 & 1968 is that at least Miles cd get a civil suit settlement of $119,000 even tho the cops went free on the "excessive force" charges. Anyone who's seen pictures of Miles's face after the cops beat him will know that excessive force was used - beating a person's face until it's swollen almost beyond recognition is hardly 'necessary' force - esp considering that the person being beaten was innocent in the 1st place. On the brighter side, 'blacks' & 'whites' seen together these days is considerably less likely to elicit a massive racist outburst than it was 45 yrs ago.
""What thin partitions sense from thought divide," she murmured as she came abreast of the watchful police at the head of the escalator.
""Talking to yourself, hm?" said one of them with a harsh laugh. "Watch it, darl, or you'll be booked for a one-way ride to the Ginsberg!"
""Here comes a knee," said one of his companions. "Let's work him over, huh? We didn't get anyone yet today, but there's always a chance. You! You kneeblank there!"
"On the firm ground, Lyla turned to look, and yes it was Harry Madison they'd chosen to drag aside and search: five tall policemen so armored and masked that one could not have told whether they themselves were light- or dark-skinned, with helmets and body-shields and pistols and lasers and gas-grenades. But there was no future in arguing. It would only make things worse if she said she and Madison were together." - pp 228-229
Harry Madison, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the novel, is a "kneeblank", a 'black' soldier who was put in the "Ginsberg" mental institution & kept there apparently overlong for unclear reasons. Why did Brunner call it the "Ginsberg"? What doing so evokes for me is Allen Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish" in wch he expresses his responses to his mother's 'schizophrenia' & its broader implications.
"What did they put you in there for, anyway—if you don't mind my asking?"
""For too many questions," Madison said. "That kind of question you just asked. They put a gun in my hand and said go kill that naked savage with a stone spear, he's the enemy, and I said why is he the enemy and they said because he's been got at by communists and I said does he even have a word in his language for 'communism' and they said if you don't kill him you'll be under arrest. So they arrested me. I went on asking questions and I never got an answer, and I didn't feel inclined to stop until I did. So, they discharged me and put me in the Ginsberg["]" - pp 241-242
For the complete review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Mar 29, 2014
Apr 01, 2014
Sep 10, 2007
Sapper's Bulldog Drummond - The Carl Peterson Quartet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 23, 2014
Yes, surprise, surprise, once again I'v...more review of
Sapper's Bulldog Drummond - The Carl Peterson Quartet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 23, 2014
Yes, surprise, surprise, once again I've been verbose. Read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... 'cause this little bugger is truncated:
If I had any 'guilty pleasures', reading Bulldog Drummond might be one of them.. but I don't, so it isn't. Many yrs ago, but probably w/in the last decade, I read Mickey Spillane's One Lonely Night. I thought I reviewed it on Goodreads. Apparently, I haven't. IF I HAD I'd be directing the reader of this review to my pan of the Spillane bk - but I didn't even bother to pan it. Spillane wrote hard-boiled anti-Communist propaganda crime fiction in the 1940s & 1950s. No doubt they were very popular. The lurid cover of One Lonely Night has a naked 'white' woman hanging from her wrists from a rope hanging from a ceiling. In the story, she's being brutally interrogated by some commies. We all know that commies love torturing pretty 'white' women - I mean it's not like they fought against nazis or anything, they're just low criminals & all that talk of economic justice & fairness & suchlike is just a smokescreen to cover up their natural sordidness. Thank GOD for detective Mike Hammer.
Well, as the reader can no doubt tell, I don't have much respect for Mickey Spillane. I always wondered at John Zorn's choosing him to name an album after. The record's great but why Spillane? Why not Hammett? Why not Chandler? Why not Highsmith? Why not Ellroy? They're all much more interesting writers, more realistic, less politically insidious, even more 'hard-boiled'. It's hard not to conclude that Zorn isn't very literate. And if I didn't already think Spillane was a hack, now that I've read Sapper Spillane strikes me as an unoriginal hack (is it possible to be an original one?) b/c Sapper's Bulldog Drummond is a strong candidate for flagrant precursor to Spillane's Mike Hammer.
I got interested in the Drummond character b/c I picked up 3 DVDs on sale for a buck apiece or thereabouts from a local bkstore. All hail obsolescence, right?! Thanks to it, I can pick up copies of all the stuff that's beneath the purchasing habits of all those people who're being led by the noses to keep up w/ the iJoeses [sic]. I checked out Bulldog Drummond's Revenge (1937, 55 minutes), Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937, 67 minutes), & Bulldog Drummond's Bride (1939, 57 minutes). I found them fast-moving & funny & I was entertained. What I didn't find in them was the anti-Semitism & anti-Communism of the bks.
"Jack Buchanan, the debonair song-and-dance man, played Bulldog Drummond in The Third Round (1925), but he was not the first screen Drummond. This distinction goes to English matinée idol Carlyle Blackwell who played the character in the 1922 movie, Bulldog Drummond. However, it wasn't until the advent of the talking cinema that the screen incarnation of Hugh Bulldog Drummond took off, and for about a decade from 1929 there was a spate of Drummond movies.
"In 1929 Ronald Colman, perhaps the best screen Drummond, took the role in Bulldog Drummond, based on the first novel. Colman returned in 1934 in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.
"During the Thirties old Bulldog was played on screen by Kenneth MacKenna, Ray Milland and John Howard, John Lodge and Ralph Richardson. In general the movies were lighter in tone than the novels and tended to use original plots, although Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937), with Milland, was a reworking of the original novel, and Bulldog Drummond's Peril (1938), with Howard, was based on The Third Round. Arrest Bulldog Drummond (1938), again with Howard, was based on The Final Count." - p XIII
I find 22 Bulldog Drummond movies listed on Wikipedia dating from 1922 to 1969 starring 14 different actors in the lead role. This tendency for the movie studios to make multiple movies based around the same detective character over a period of decades yielded a shitload of Charlie Chan movies & witnessing the Drummond movies led to my revisiting Chan wch, in turn, led to my making a movie called "CHAN(geling)" about actor Warner Oland & yellowface.
SO, yeah, Sapper's Drummond is a 'man's man' - a boxer/ex-soldier who plunges right in & exposes the world-takeover schemes of the fiendish murderer/thief Carl Peterson. Peterson, a man of exquisite taste & no scruples, is a great organizer of both capitalists & commies alike. They work together, hand-in-hand, to bring the Brits to their knees thru sabotage & chaos. To be fair, the anti-Semitism is a side-note in contrast to the full-blown anti-Communism. Ironically, Sapper is a WWI vet whose feelings are strongly anti-"Boche" (a pejorative term for Germans) but whose politics cd've easily paved the way for nazism.
SO, when I was reading David Stuart Davies's intro I was wondering if I cd even get thru the damned thing:
"Drummond is a man's man in an era when that was what a man was supposed to be. He has all the virtues and vices of his class and time. He is scrupulously honest, trustworthy, fearless and loves a good fight; but he is also a casual and good-natured bigot. His attitude to foreigners and Jews would today have the political correctness brigade blowing a collective gasket." - p VIII
"The Bulldog Drummond stories serve not only as entertaining, racy, thud and blunder thrillers but also as an interesting, if not palatable, historical reflection of upper-class attitudes to foreigners and Jews at the time. It is interesting to note that this seam of xenophobia and anti-Semitism fades significantly after the first two books in the series as memories of the war begin to fade." - p IX
'thud and blunder"! Blood and thunder indeed.
"It is in Bulldog Drummond (1920) that our hero first encounters Carl Peterson when the villain is involved in a plot to deliver England into the hands of the evil Communists - purely for financial gain, of course, for Peterson is above politics. The story features the archetypal damsel-in-distress scenario and introduces Drummond to his future wife. / In The Black Gang (1922) the Communist revolutionaries return and receive even harsher treatment from Drummond & Co.". - p XI
Silent weapons must've been all the rage in the 20s & 30s b/c Drummond & Chan & Mr. Moto stories all have their versions:
"He lingered for an instant, peering into the darkness and recovering his breath, when with a vicious phut something buried itself into the tree beside him. Drummond lingered no more; long years of experience left no doubt in his mind as to what that something was. / 'Compressed-air rifle — or electric,' he muttered to himself" - p 42
Bulldog does have a good sense of humor, there's alotof tricksterism here, & that's one of the saving graces of the stories that help counterbalance the aristocratic taking-for-granted-of-privilege & other such socio-political naiveties. He fools arch-criminal Peterson into kidnapping a man disguised as the intended victim & then presents him w/ a bill for the trouble he's gone to. It's wonderful as poetic justice:
"'What's this —— jest?' he howled furiously. 'And this damned bandage all covered with red ink?'
"'You must ask our friend here, Mullings,' said Hugh. 'He's got a peculiar sense of humour. Anyway, he's got the bill in his hand.'
"In silence they watched Peterson open the paper and read the contents, while the girl leant over his shoulder.
"To Mr Peterson, The Elms, Godalming.
"To hire of one demobilised soldier.............................................5...0...0
To making him drunk (in this item present
strength and cost of drink and said soldier's
capacity must be allowed for)................................................5...0...0
To bottle of red ink.................................................0...0...1
To shock to system..............................................10...0...1
"Total..............................................£20...0...1" - p 59
&, of course, Drummond has daring - but then it's easy to have daring when you're a fictional character - the author doesn't necessarily have to have daring in 'real' life. However, it seems to me that the author must have a sense of humor in 'real' life in order for his character to have it.
"In the days when Drummond had been a platoon commander, he had done many dangerous things. The ordinary joys of the infantry subaltern's life — such as going over the top, and carrying out raids — had not proved sufficient for his appetite. He had specialized in peculiar stunts of his own: stunts over which his men formed their own conclusions, and worshipped him accordingly." - p 65
But then we get back to his commie-demonizing:
"'I know not what this young man has done: I care less. In Russia such trifles matter not. He has the appearance of a bourgeois, therefore he must die. Did we not kill thousands — aye, tens of thousands of his kidney, before we obtained the great freedom? Are we not going to do the same in this accursed country?' His voice rose to the shrill, strident note of the typical tub-thumper. 'What is this wretched man,' he continued, waving a hand wildly at Hugh, 'that he should interrupt the great work for one brief second? Kill him now — throw him in a corner, and let us proceed.'
"He sat down again, amidst a further murmur of approval, in which Hugh joined heartily.
"'Splendid,' he murmured. 'A Magnificent peroration. Am I right, sir, in assuming that you are what is vulgarly known as a Bolshevist?'
"The man turned his sunken eyes, glowing with the burning fires of fanaticism, on Drummond.
"'I am one of those who are fighting for the freedom of the world,' he cried harshly,' for the right to live of the proletariat, The workers were the bottom dogs in Russia till they killed the rulers. Now — they rule, and the money they earn goes into their own pockets, not those of incompetent snobs.'" - p 108
Strangely, having "sunken eyes" seems to be some sort of indicator of insanity - &, of course, as a "Bolshevist" the man is a 'fanatic'. What I wonder is: why isn't Drummond also a fanatic? He certainly meets the criteria as much as any of the other characters.
"'Have you ever seen a woman skinned alive?' he howled wildly, thrusting his face forward at Hugh. 'Have you ever seen men killed with the knotted rope; burned almost to death and then set free, charred and mutilated wrecks? but what does it matter provided only freedom comes, as it has in Russia. Tomorrow it will be England; in a week the world . . . Even if we have to wade through rivers of blood up to our throats, nevertheless it will come. And in the end we shall have a new earth.'
"Hugh lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair.
"'It seems a most alluring programme,' he murmured. 'And I shall have much pleasure in recommending you as manager of a babies' crèche. I feel certain the little ones would take to you instinctively.'" - p 109
Let's keep in mind this is fiction. Is there any historical record whatsoever of a Bolshevik speech in wch the sufferings of humans are treated so cavalierly? Perhaps there are, I wdn't know, I'm certainly not enuf of an historian on the subject. &, of course, this is supposedly what Bolsheviks were saying behind-the-scenes, not necessarily for public record. If there is such an historical record, I'd be grateful if any reader were to call my attn to it in a comment here but I want specifics not some vague generalizations that 'we all know is true'. Keep in mind that there is historical record of big business's uncaring attitude for human life: take the famous Ford Pinto "Cost Benefit Analysis" in wch it was decided that it was more cost-effective to leave a dangerous gas tank in the design of the Pinto than it was to fix it:
"One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the delay [in changes to the Pinto gas tank design] was a "cost-benefit analysis" of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford's estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million. However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year. Essentially, Ford argued before the government that it would be cheaper just to let their customers burn!" - http://www.engineering.com/Library/Ar...
That's pretty fucking callous if you ask me.
My inclination is to think that "Sapper", an aristocrat/officer despite the lower-ranking implication of his pen-name, is expressing the anxiety of his class about the 'threat' of the arrival of economic justice in England. Bulldog Drummond is a man of independent means - in other words, he's rich, he can buy & command at a significantly high level in the established hierarchy, he doesn't work for a living, he goes to his club to eat, he has an expensive car (certainly not the equivalent of a Pinto), he has servants who're duly obedient & respectful, etc, etc..
In other words, he's the perfect person to be terrified of a revolution: what if he had to work? What if the work he did was low-paying, health-destroying, demeaning? What if he cdn't support his family, if his wife were an addict & a prostitute, if he were completely criminalized just for trying to survive? These are the niceties that "Sapper" completely ignores - in Drummond-world, there's no reason whatsoever, apparently, for any working class person to be disaffected - being a servant for Drummond, eg, comes natural to people of lesser abilities & intelligence & spunk & anyone rebelling against the status quo that supported the author & his alter-ego the Bulldog is obviously a naive dupe, greedy, a criminal, whatever - anything but a person w/ sincere insights into the destruction wrought in most people's lives by the established order.
The arch-criminal, Carl Peterson, is the only one who's given much respect b/c he manipulates people in much the same way the aristocratic elites do - just as a 'bad guy' instead of as the supposed 'good guys' that the aristocrats are represented as being. &, yet, what examination of British aristocratic wealth (or any other such wealth) isn't going to dig up a history of wealth built on slavery, overthrow of existing social structures, etc, etc?! There's more than a little self-delusion & hypocrisy going on in "Sapper"'s depiction of his hero. &, of course, anarchists get lumped into the enemy camp:
"[']You say he was with a crowd of revolutionaries last night. What do you mean exactly?'
"'Bolshevists, Anarchists, members of the Do-no-work-and-have-all-the-money Brigade,' answered Hugh. 'But excuse me a moment. Waiter.'
"A man who had been hovering round came up promptly." - p 139
This is where the subtext of "Sapper"'s adventures in La-La Land come to the fore for the attentive critical reader: "Anarchists, members of the Do-no-work-and-have-all-the-money Brigade"?!: here we have a 'hero' who certainly does-no-work-and-has-all-the-money but that's completely unacknowledged - & all his cronies are able to drop whatever they're doing to rush off into adventure at a moment's notice. I'm an anarchist & I think I can claim w/ substantial historical accuracy that many, if not most, anarchists are people who work, that in the 40 yrs preceding the writing of these Bulldog stories many or most of these anarchists wd've not only worked but wd've worked in factories from age 6 or so on precisely to support the completely luxurious lifestyles of the Bulldog Drummonds of the world. & if these anarchists wd've taken off work to rush off to adventure they'd know for sure that they'd lose their jobs & have to survive somehow in a way that they wdn't have to resort to if they were being pd a living wage & treated decently by their truly greedy bosses.
Somehow, tho, in the highly delusional world of these stories, the aristocrats aren't capitalists - what this means is that all the dirty work is far behind them in their PR-touched-up histories & that their nasty shit is done by armies that they control ('good) instead of insurrections that they don't ('bad'). A visiting American sums it up nicely for the aristocratic PR POV:
"[']One gigantic syndicalist strike all over your country — that's what Peterson's playing for, I'll stake my bottom dollar. How he's doing it is another matter. But he's in with the big financiers: and he's using the tub-thumping Bolshies as tools. Gad! It's a big scheme' — he puffed twice at his cigar — 'a durned big scheme. Your little old country, Captain, is, saving one, the finest on God's earth; but she's a little bit sicker than a good many people think. But I reckon Peterson's cure won't do any manner of good, excepting to himself and those blamed capitalists who are putting up the dollars.'" - pp 140-141
In Bulldog propaganda a "syndicalist strike" can only happen as a result of the machinations of a criminal mastermind - not as a result of workers actually trying to improve their debased conditions - & if there are any capitalists who stand to benefit by this destabilization they're certainly not the aristocrats AND any 'sickness' of the English socio-political conditions isn't a result of failures & greed on the part of the ruling elites!! 'Heaven' forbid that such an accusing analysis be turned toward Drummond & his ilk. Phrasing things in this way is a strategy for convincing the reader that if they're dissatisfied w/ the capitalists that're suppressing their wages or whatnot that they're actually in league w/ the Blosheviks instead of in opposition to them - as wd make the most sense.
In other words, let the aristocratic superhero, Bulldog Drummond, take care of the problem - don't be joining in solidarity w/ yr fellow workers & trying to take control - after all, Drummond's 'just like you': he speaks like the common man, he's not an intellectual, blah, blah.. This is a message that persists to this day in movies like The East, even tho that's more sympathetic to anarchist critiques, where in the end the anarchists shd leave everything well enuf alone & leave the cleaning up to the rogue superhero law enforcement types (who wdn't actually do shit or even be aware of what's going on w/o the anarchists).(less)
Notes are private!
Mar 12, 2014
Mar 23, 2014
Keith Laumer's The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2014
This is about as low as my reading habi...more review of
Keith Laumer's The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2014
This is about as low as my reading habits get. It's tempting to write a review of this that just makes excuse about WHY I'd read such crap. That wd actually strike me as pretty funny. SO, I'll incorporate that into the review (but it won't be exclusively that).
The excuses: The 1st Laumer I read was Time Trap, wch I reviewed in mid-June, 2013 ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16... ). His writing impressed me somewhat at the time as 2nd (or 3rd) generation pulp of possible substance. In that 1st review I concluded w/: "Laumer's got humor aplenty & this bk came dangerously close to getting a 4 star rating. I look forward to reading more by him."
I read 8 more bks by him in quick succession, gradually getting more sick of him. The last of these was The Invaders, the predecessor to the novel currently hypothetically under discussion. This is how that review begins:
"This is the 9th, &, maybe, the last for awhile, Laumer bk that I've read (all in a mnth) & reviewed. In my last Laumer review, of Galactic Odyssey ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76... ) I ruminate somewhat haphazardly on the excessive use of fantasy to distract one's self from dealing w/ 'real life'. I've found myself resorting to such escapism b/c my recent attempts to interface w/ 'real life' have been largely pretty unrewarding. Nonetheless, the struggle goes on, eh?
"As a part of my project of reading a slew of Laumer bks & exploring them, I've actually stooped so low as to read a bk "First in a thrilling new series based on the smash ABC-TV hit" as the front cover proclaims: viz: The Invaders. When I bought it, it was cheap, I was still hesitant: did I really want to be so thorough in my exploration of Laumer that I'd read this drek?!
"This bk was published in 1967. I stopped watching TV sometime around 1969 or 1970. SO, this wd've still been when i was watching it. Stopping watching TV was one of the best things I ever did. When I was in my early teens, when this bk was published, I'd spend Friday nites watching things like "Get Smart" & snacking. Now that I have almost no friends & very little social life what do i do almost EVERY nite? Watch movies & drink alcohol. It's not what I do all day, it's my R&R - usually after a long time of working on projects & going out & about in the world. Still, it's a little too much like what i was doing when I was 13. & reading The Invaders makes me feel like I've come full-circle to nowhere." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62...
Shortly after I discovered Laumer I drove from home (PGH) to former home (BalTimOre) to participate in a memorial to my old pal "Blaster" Al Ackerman. As is usually the case when I drive that route, I stopped off at Wonder Books in Frederick, MD, to shop - esp looking thru their HUGE SF section. I was even prepared w/ a list of the Brunner, Korbluth, Laumer, & Pohl bks that I already have so that I cd make sure to not get any repeats (probably did anyway thanks to reprint packaging).
ANYWAY, I was looking at this list a few days ago w/ the intent of updating it w/ the bks that I got there (a shitload of Brunners) & I went into the SF section of my personal library & noticed a stack of 10 Laumer bks I haven't read yet - just waiting to be whipped thru & filed away. EXCUSE: these 'nagged' at me, 'demanding' closure.
EXCUSE: Since I was in the midst of trying to make VHS 'masters' from the 4 DVD-Rs that constitute my recently finished movie "Titin" (you can see the 'trailer' for that here: https://vimeo.com/86542569 ), I wanted something simple to read that wdn't distract me from what little attn I needed to pay to the duping process & vice versa. I'm already reading William Gaddis's great The Recognitions & Florian Cramer's great Anti-Media but I found that I cdn't give them the attn they deserve while I was keeping an eye on the duping process.
So, The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond is what I chose. SHEESH! What hack writing it is. No doubt Laumer got pd for it, that made it worth his while, but what about the rest of us? Wd I've even enjoyed this at age 13? Maybe.
The tv series that these Invaders stories were based on was created by Larry Cohen. Cohen made such movies as It's Alive, God Told Me To, Q, & The Stuff - all of wch I've seen & enjoyed at least a little. he's not a favorite filmmaker of mine or anything but he's interesting enuf - in a way he's parallel to Laumer in that respect.
Laumer's language is simple in the way that tv shows are simple: it's aimed at the borderline illiterate: "Late-afternoon sunlight slanting through dusty leaves made a pattern across the tables of the sidewalk café. As David Vincent pulled out a chair, a waiter in a stained apron strolled over." (p 7) Ok, it's not that bad but it still reeks of hack-writer-job to me. & he does actually use the word susurrate TWICE ("the sound of its churning rotors susurrating in the near-stillness" - p 27) so that's a plus.
Ultimately, I don't think reading this is even worth it for the Cold War atmosphere in an invasion from outer space is mistake for the US under attack by the Russians: ""One thing I can't understand," Dwight was saying. "My shipboard seismograph gave me some strange readings down there. Paul studied them; it seems the Russkis had succeeded in drilling a Mohole—a shaft right down through the rock to the fluid inner core of the planet—probably as a power source—something our side isn't capable of accomplishing at the present time." (p 53)
Later, another character hypothesizes: ""I've never seen or heard anything like them," Doria said. "It's as though they were creatures from another planet—but I suppose that's silly." She shook her head. "they must be a mutation from some ordinary creature. We've been dumping radioactive wastes in the ocean for years now; that might cause something like this."" (p 73) Not that this wasn't & isn't worth worrying about (it is) but this type of thing was a total cliché even by 1967 when this was written.
In short, I don't think there's much, or anything, original here:
""If they'd come to us openly, asked for asylum—they'd have gotten help," David said.
""Would they?" Mr. Lal smiled faintly. "Even among our own, we seize on the most subtle differences to persecute our brothers. Indian against Pakistani, Moslem against Hindu—we are all guilty, David. Would we then welcome alien beings, stranger to us than the spider or the squid?"" - p 113
Ok, it's not like I'm not down w/ the message, I'm just saying that this whole bk reads like a series of things-that-must-be-here. ANYANYWAY, I read the whole damned thing (it was quick) & felt like I was wasting my time:
""In the meantime, find that Earthside transmitter!" The general's voice was the crack of a whip. "I don't care who or what you use! Call on the Army, the Air Force, the Navy—whatever you want! But find that transmitter and destroy it!"
"David turned the volume down; his eyes met Lieberman's.
""That means us," the physicist said. "It won't take them long. Every signal I send will bring them closer. All we can do is hope to carry out what we started, before Moore finds us."
""Or the alien machine blasts the crawler," David added. "Either way, chances don't look good."" - p 141
Just b/c I wasted my time reading this doesn't mean that I recommend it to you, I don't! The main 'good' thing about the experience is that if & when I read the remaining 9 Laumer bks I have waiting for me they can only be better than this one was. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 16, 2014
Feb 16, 2014
May 01, 1974
Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2014
Harrison's yet another SF writer whose work I've...more review of
Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2014
Harrison's yet another SF writer whose work I've seen around for decades w/o ever having much interest & w/o ever reading any of it (except, perhaps, for a short story here'n'there if he wrote any). SO, it's time to read something by him! Was I impressed? Not particularly, it was ok, maybe the lack of writerly innovation is motivated by this being a sortof tip-o-the-hat to Verne & /or Wells. That wd fit the plot somewhat. Note that the main submarine in Harrison's story is called Nautilus the same name as Captain Nemo's sub in Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
This is an alternate history novel in wch Britain won the war-for-independence w/ the colonies - resulting in no USA - as of the 1970s (when the novel seems to be roughly set) the Americas are still a colony:
""Because of the revolt and the ill feelings that followed after it in the American colonies, we remain a colony to this day. While others, Canada and Australia, for example, have attained to full independent dominion status within the empire."" - p 23
That last spoken by an American named Washington in conversation w/ a peer of the realm. Washington becomes the man who heads the construction of the train tunnel across the Atlantic Ocean. That, in itself, is a pretty interesting main plot. After all, the English Channel Tunnel was discussed for over 190 yrs before it was finished in 1994 & that's only 31.4 miles. SO, imagine a train tunnel ±3,000 miles long! While, in a sense, the technology for at least attempting such a feat may've existed for a while, the actual ability to do so is still way beyond us. Of course, there's also the issue of WHY? When we have planes & large boats, etc..
Harrison answers this question cleverly enuf w/ his alternate reality plot. Running thru the novel is all the technology that doesn't exist b/c America never got its independence & all those American inventors never got a chance to exist. & that was one of the most fun things about reading this for me.
"It was a hansom cab, two-wheeled, high, black, and sleek, the driver perched above with the reins through his fingers, these same reins leading down to one of the new-fangled conversions that were slowly removing the presence of the horse from central London. Here there was no proud, high-stepping equine frame between the shafts, but instead a squat engine of some sort whose black, metal, bricklike form rested upon three wheels." p 31
Cars exist, but they haven't become common & they've evolved in different ways. There's been no Henry Ford. Gas lamps are still the main public lighting: "A fine rain was falling, darkening even more the black pavement of Kensington Gore so that each yellow gaslight above had its mirror-imaged fellow". (p 32) Apparently there's been no Edison, no Tesla, no Westinghouse. "from his belt there hung the required wire recorder that lectured him day and night on what he was seeing" (p 125) Anyone who knows about the technical problems of a stationary wire recorder will find imagining a portable one particularly hilarious - kindof like a Pinto Space Shuttle.
The notion of alternate time-streams becomes relegated to being something promulgated by a minor psychic character who postulates a possible time-fork on July 16, 1212: ""Suffice to say, Gontran spoke before he died, and revealed the fact that he had planned to lead Christian troops that night by secret and unguarded paths that he knew of, being a shepherd, that would bring them behind Muslim lines. He died and this was not done. Now I ask you to consider what might have happened if he had succeeded in his plan."" (p 34) This possibility, of course, being the one that leads to the world as we (sortof) know it today.
Harrison's pretty thorough in his imagining of what-might-be-if the USA hadn't existed: ""Iris, darling, you can't mean that! You're a girl of the twentieth century, not a Victorian shadow of a woman. You have the vote now, or at least will next year when you are of age; women have a freedom under Elizabeth they never knew before."" (p 37) Apparently, Women's Rights have lagged behind. "No tea this time, as on their last meeting, for Iris had reached her majority in the meanwhile and was one of the new brand of liberated women who drink in public places. She had a Tio Pepe sherry while he perforce had a double brandy." (p 115)
On the other hand, the Britain of this story has sad traces of what's still going on just about everywhere today, a variation on the tropes of human trafficking: "In his release it all came out, the wretched man's history since he had first set foot in England twenty years previously, as well as what his fate had been since. An illegal emigre, helped by his friends to escape the grinding unemployment of Paris, friends who eventually turned out to be less than friends, none other than secret agents of the French crown. It was a simple device, commonly used, and it never failed. A request for aid that could not be refused—or he would be revealed to the English authorities and jailed, deported." (p 53)
& conditions in America (& elsewhere) are different too, of course, as things seem stalled in the 18th or 19th centuries: "The Iroquois, forced by law to check tomahawks and scalping knives at the city limits or to leave them home if they were residents, found a ready substitute in the table knives from the grill. The Irish, equally restricted in the public display of shillelaghs and blackthorn sticks above a certain weight, found bottles and chair legs as a workable substitute and joined the fray. War whoops mixed with the names of saints and the Holy Family as they clashed." (p 55) "Since the original thirteen states attempted to form their own government and failed, this country has grown until now it numbers thirty-one states and the California Territory." (p 60) "Gamblers there were in the crowd, sleek men with dark clothes, neat mustaches and white hands—and ready derringers on their persons to confront any man so rash as to dispute the honesty of a deal or the fall of a pair of dice." (p 121)
"the rendezvous up the Hudson River, below the ruined fortress of West Point, long associated with the heroic General Benedict Arnold" (p 149) For readers unfamiliar w/ the references: West Point, aka the United States Military Academy, is where officers are trained - candidates must be nominated, often by a member of Congress (this probably helps keep the ruling elites in power); Benedict Arnold was an American general during the Revolutionary War who defected to the British Army.
Even J. Edgar Hoover makes an altered appearance: ""Would you care to comment upon the fact that Mr. J. E. Hoover of the Long Island region branch of the Colonial Bureau of Investigation, thinks that sabotage may be involved with the broken cable and that he has a man in custody?"" (p 75)
In one sense, at least, technology has developed more quickly: "There was even more scribbling on pads and quick looks at the Wall Street Journal to see what the condition of steel and concrete stocks were; already some of the men were using their pocket telegraphs to get in touch with their brokers." (p 64) "pocket telegraphs"? Shades of cell-phones.
& computers have their British history: ""They are making wholly electric Babbage engines now, calling them computers as if that made a difference; they are much smaller but still filled with bugs. Give me good solid metal any time" (p 93) Most of the technology is far behind what it wd've been if there'd been more 'Yankee Ingenuity' involved & that seems to be an important subtext of the novel. "the telephone chimed. He took it from the drawer, put the microphone on the table before him and the receiver to his ear, and threw the small switch which activated it." (p 104)
One of the many strengths of Tunnel Through The Deeps is Harrison's imaginings of the technical difficulties of a trans-Atlantic train tunnel: "["]There are, of course, the abyssal plains that form the bottom, lying at an average depth of sixteen thousand feet below the ocean's surface, but other features must be taken into consideration. Down the center of the ocean runs the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a great mountain chain that is in reality a double row of mountains with the gorge of the Rift Valley between them. These mountain ranges and the Rift Valley are crossed at right angles by immense canyons called fracture zones that resemble wrinkles in the Earth's hide. Other features also concern us, the Mid-Ocean Canyon, like an underwater riverbed on the ocean's floor, seamounts, and islands and trenches—that is, extraordinarily deep gulfs—such as this one, on the map here, that is over 5 miles in depth. And there are more factors to consider, underwater earthquakes and vulcanism which are concentrated in specific areas for the most part, the very high temperatures of the sea bottom near the Rift Valley as well as the fact that the sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at the rate of about two inches a year.["]" (p 109)
[An aside is that in my edition of the bk there's a misprint that puts the last line on p 109 at its top instead. If I were to read it as it's printed, the p wd begin: "the rate of about two inches a year. It appears, and the ge-the length of the tunnel with no physical connection".. & "sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at ologists confirm the suspicion, that new matter rises from"..]
All in all, I thought this was a well-developed & entertaining exploration of possibilities. Despite that, it still didn't do much for me. Maybe I'm just getting burnt out on SciFi after having read so much of it in the last yr+. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 13, 2014
Feb 14, 2014
Jan 01, 1985
May 01, 1985
Frederik Pohl's Black Star Rising
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 8, 2014
This was a JOY to read.. or a HOOT.. or something.. Altho...more review of
Frederik Pohl's Black Star Rising
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 8, 2014
This was a JOY to read.. or a HOOT.. or something.. Although.., actually, it sortof petered out by the end & was a bit of a disappointment. Still (moving), all in all (n'at), I had fun reading this. It's in the genre of a-culture-not-currently-dominating a-particular-nation becomes THE-culture-dominating a-particular-nation. Other examples of this genre being Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962) (in wch the Japanese have won WWII & are ruling the US), John Brunner's Times Without Number (1962) (in wch the Spanish Armada defeated the British navy in 1588 instead of the other way around) (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63... ), & Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps (1972) (in wch George Washington failed in the rebellion he led against the British Empire) (I'm reading this one now). In Black Star Rising (1985) the US & the USSR have fought a war that's destroyed most of the people in their respective countries & elsewhere & the Chinese & the Indians have stepped into the vacuum. Specifically, the Chinese now control what was the US. Much of the novel revolves around the resultant tension (but it goes much further):
"Castor's annoyance at her sarcasm exceeded his worry at being involved with the Renmin Police. In faultless Mandarin he answered her. "A high police officer will understand these things better than a peasant, I know."" - pp 4-5
Throughout most of this, Pohl has touches that add entertaining detail. Take, eg, Castor's witnessing the occupying Chinese government's remake of the western "High Noon": "So his mood was sulky. But it improved, as he got caught up in the grand old story of the Renmin marshal of a century earlier, fresh from Home, threatened by a gang of anti-Party elements. The marshal, whose part was sung by the famous Feng Wonfred, was all alone against six armed enemies, but aided by the schoolteacher and other cadres, he struggled against the anti-Party rightists and forced them to criticize themselves." (p 10)
& even tho the Chinese occupation wasn't an invasion (have the Chinese ever invaded anyone?) there's still the prejudice that they bring w/ them to give them an invader-like characteristic: "What Castor had mostly studied was space. Everything about space, theory and practice. It was his dream. Because it was only a dream, it was also a curse. He had discovered bitterly early that only an ethnic Han Chinese had any real prospect of receiving space-going training." (p 12)
As is usually the case w/ any reasonably well-written story, main determining elements are revealed slowly - rather than in an obvious chronological order:
"It was always cool under the water and so much cleaner than the land; the currents that fed the Gulf brought no muck, no industrial wastes, no city sewage—no reminders of the terrible wiped-out world of a century ago. Or not very many, anyway. There was always the death-glass." - p 15
"He wondered what the world had been like, in those days just before the United States and the old Soviet Union had thought about the unthinkable and reached the wrong conclusions. Suppose they hadn't? Suppose they had sometime said to each other, "Look here, there's no sense in stinging each other to death like scorpions in a bottle, let's toss these things away and think of something else to do with our hostilities."" - p 16
Most, if not ALL, of my life, I've felt like the outlaw that society tries to constantly force into a mold that I'm completely opposed to. It hardly matters whether that mold is provided by mainstream culture or some 'alternative' 'politically correct' subculture that I may largely agree w/ but still want to maintain independence from. I want to be a free thinker, I don't want fear of retaliation from people who disagree w/ me to determine either the way I publicly function or the way I privately think. Sometimes I imagine 'friends' of mine chafing at the bit to put me in a 're-education' camp. Hence, this passage 'appeals' to me as a dystopic critique:
"For criticism the platform held a single chair, with all the others arranged in arcs before it and below.
"Castor looked at the hot seat as a condemned felon might view the electric chair of old. To sit there was not an honor. To sit there was to be hopelessly and painfully alone. The man or woman sweating in the hot seat matched three hundred pairs of accusing eyes with his own abashed ones, heard three hundred condemning voices with his solitary pair of shamed ears, spoke in self-criticism or (foolishly, vainly) in defense in his own single stammering voice" - p 21
Castor, the main protagonist, 's hero's-journey-of-errors begins when he discovers a severed human head while farming. The victim turns out to be an enemy of the Chinese occupation:
""He was arrested twice while a university student. Both arrests were for counterrevolutionary activities. The first was for participating in a rightist meeting. The second was for defacing the people's property by spray-painting graffiti. He painted such slogans as 'America for Americans' and 'Chinese Go Home' on the walls of his dormitory. Apprentice Feng was expelled from the university after the second arrest and has since been the subject of observation."" - p 39
The differing perspectives on whether the Chinese are invaders or benefactors remind me of the ongoing nightmare of the US occupations of Afghanistan & Iraq:
""You Yanks! How many of you secretly hate us?"
""It is natural to hate one's conquerors," Castor replied boldly, sucking at the pipe.
""But we are not conquerors! We came here to help, when you and the Russians had stung each other to death—and nearly killed the whole world, too! We brought you doctors and teachers! We helped you rebuild your land!"" - p 43
""Except that you are still here," he said at last." - p 44
Even the Renmin police inspector's relatively privileged life isn't free of the disastrous consequences of the US/USSR war: "It took Castor only a moment to realize this, and to realize that Police Inspector Tsoong's home was built on the heaped-up ruins of what had once been some sort of town. From the reek of petroleum in the air he realized another fact. No matter what Tsoong Delilah had jokingly promised, there would be no tandem skin diving for them this time. There had obviously been an oil surge from the rickety old wells a hundred kilometers out on the Gulf, and swimming would be no pleasure." (p 44)
One of the biggest joys of reading this, for me, was the character of "Manyface" who initially appears to have multiple personalities:
""I am looking for—no, I'm not—PLEASE!—for Bama Repub—shut up—lic citizen, Pettyman Castor—aw, he's not there—PLEASE! LET HIM FIN—of Production Team—I want to watch the opera . . ."" - p 54
The name "Manyface" is a clandestine nickname for a high party functionary. His actual name is: "FUNG-HSANG-DIEN-POTTER-SU-ANGORAK-SHUM TSAI - CORELLI - HONG - GWAI Bohsien - Futsui - Kaichung - Alicia - Wonmu - Aglat - Hengdzhou - Mingwo - Anastasio - Ludzhen - Hunmong." (p 56)
However, the explanation for this complexity is a novel one that I don't want to give away here:
""No, not at all. Split personality—or as Professor Fung's colleagues describe it, 'multiple personality disorder,' is a psychological thing. It is trauma, usually from early childhood damage, that in some way causes a retreat from reality. Manyface is very real. So are all his voices."" - p 71
"an ancient named Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that every society gets invaded by its own barbarians once in each generation—those barbarians it generates itself, the young males from seventeen to twenty-three." (p 148) I like this 'quote'. I tried to look at the Congressional bio for Moynihan online but cdn't connect to it so I went to Wikipedia instead. I found the following tidbit interesting:
"Moynihan was an Assistant Secretary of Labor for policy in the Kennedy Administration and in the early part of the Lyndon Johnson Administration. In that capacity, he did not have operational responsibilities, allowing him to devote all of his time to trying to formulate national policy for what would become the War on Poverty. He had a small staff including Paul Barton, Ellen Broderick, and Ralph Nader (who at 29 years of age, hitchhiked to Washington, D.C., and got a job working for Moynihan in 1963).
"They took inspiration from the book Slavery written by Stanley Elkins. Elkins essentially contended that slavery had made black Americans dependent on the dominant society, and that that dependence still existed a century later. This supported the concept that government must go beyond simply ensuring that members of minority groups have the same rights as the majority but must also "act affirmatively" in order to counter the problem." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_P...
In keeping w/ my previous comment that "main determining elements are revealed slowly":
"What Jupe had been doing was scouting a new nest site. (The detour to hunt inklings was an afterthought.) With a hundred and thirty-one sisters over the age of eight in their nest, it was time to fission. Everybody wanted a new nest when possible. A new nest meant one of the seniors could become a Mother Sister without waiting for Nancy-R to die. It meant even more that another male could be born, without upsetting the established 170-to-1 ration. It meant most of all that America was alive and well on World, and growing!" - p 153
I'm sure Pohl had fun providing this particular fantasy for his heterosexual male readers: 170 women for every man, all eager to fuck whenever possible.
""Oh, my God," said Miranda, when Jupe had finished explaining to her how the Mother Sister took her own ova, fertilized them in vitro with anonymous sperm from the banks, and implanted them in her "wife."" - p 180
Is that possible now? I recently had a boss who was a lesbian who gave birth to twins thru artificial insemination but I doubt that it also involved using the ova from her lover. Still, it's probably possible (or will be soon).
""Just that they are the other races the erks have helped," Jupe explained. "That's what they do, you remember? The erks have never failed to give aid to the oppressed, in all their history. Of course, it hasn't always worked out the way you'd want it, but still—"" - p 189
A touch of parody of the US as World Cop maybe?
"Ah, Hsang-the-psychologist! For him the Yanks were not merely a puzzle. They were a threat to his most basic beliefs.
"It happened that those beliefs were illicit, but that did not make them less strongly felt. As in most Socialist countries, the Han Chinese had early on repudiated the foul-smelling ravings of that degenerate toady of the bosses, Sigmund Freud. The sexual interpretation of dreams was not merely heretical in China. It was punishable by law." - pp 224-225
WELL, it never occurred to me that psychoanalysis might be banned in China. I find this fascinating. So I did a (very) little searching online for "Chinese law + psychoanalysis" (after failing w/ "Sigmund Freud + Chinese law") & opened up the 1st thing I found: Anne-Marie Schlösser's Oedipus in China: Can we Export Psychoanalysis? from wch I extract an opening paragraph:
"A night scene in an overfilled third class train carriage with wooden seats and dim lighting, somewhere in China. This is how the novel of Dai Sijie starts, “Mr. Muo’s travelling couch“. Mr. Muo keeps records of his dreams - his own, during his travels through China, and those of his fellow countrymen. He has just completed his training in analysis in France and now, after returning to China, sets out to apply his acquired insights to cope in a country that seems to him, at least in part, grotesquely altered. He is convinced that nobody, not even the “official representatives of law and order“ can escape the truth of psychoanalysis. It is his intention to bring this truth back to his homeland where for a long period of time psychoanalysis was prohibited. His undertaking evolves into something of a ludicrous adventure. And the question arises: is China ready for psychoanalysis? Do we have anything to offer and do Chinese people need it?" - p 4 of a downloaded PDF (This article is no earlier than 2007 b/c there're references from that time.)
&, yes, there's an implied lesson to be learned from Black Star Rising: "For the erks had never found an undivided civilization. There were always differences of opinion or policy or religion or habits of thought . . . and to the erks a difference meant a struggle." (p 248) SO, if there's no such thing as "an undivided civilization" & that's a problem, what's the solution? Of course, one can say that there's no solution b/c there's no problem. One can also say that these divisions are a form of codependency &/or symbiosis (as Pohl implies in one case). But does that help ease the suffering? Alas, no. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 07, 2014
Feb 08, 2014
John Brunner's The Atlantic Abomination
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2014
After writing a huge review of OPEN SPACE 15/16 ( h...more review of
John Brunner's The Atlantic Abomination
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2014
After writing a huge review of OPEN SPACE 15/16 ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) it's a relief to read something that I don't have much to say about. Brunner's been my 'new' favorite SF writer for awhile now so I don't mind considering one of his works to be borderline mediocre since all in all I like his work immensely. THIS is possibly the 'worst' thing I've read by him yet. It's pretty much a generic potboiler: monster-from-outer-space-lurking-in-hibernation discovered-by-scientists-wakes-up-&-threatens-humanity. That sort of thing.
That sd, I'll mostly ignore the plot from now on & concentrate on more ephemeral things that interest me. The Atlantic Abomination has a "Cast of Characters" near the beginning. This was published in 1960 by Ace Books, Brunner's The Rites of Ohe (1963) was also published by Ace & also has a "Cast" list. See my review of that one here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... . I assume the Cast was imposed by Ace on these bks. That's probably of little interest to just about anyone but me but I find such formal devices vaguely important as cultural dating signs.
My "potboiler" accusation is exemplified by this type of prose: "How many times had the weaklings of this world fled cowering before the wrath of Ruagh and others of his kind? It was of no comfort to recall and count such occasions. Now he, Ruagh—the unquestioned master of thousands—was himself in flight, before the terrible and not-to-be-withstood anger of blind nature. . . ." (p 5)
& to get ephemeral again:
""And who," asked Peter of the trees around the little lodge, "gets up early on their honeymoon?"
""Queen Victoria and Prince Albert," said Mary mysteriously, coming out of the door on to the sun porch with a plate of pancakes.
"" 'S fact," she nodded, portioning out maple syrup. "I read somewhere that they got up early on the first morning after their wedding, and the lord chamberlain or some bigwig wrote disapprovingly in his diary that this was no way to ensure an heir to the throne."
"Their eyes met across the table. For a moment they kept straight faces, but at length they burst into helpless laughter.
""Poor Victoria!" Mary said when at last she could speak.
""Poor Albert, don't you mean?" Peter contradicted. "Or maybe not. He always seemed like a straightlaced kind of prig to me. Say, these are delicious."" - pp 57-58
I don't know if Brunner was practicing any tongue-in-cheek humor here but the Victorian Era in England saw substantial population growth & one of the most common penis piercings is called the "Prince Albert" (wch may or may not have anything to do w/ the actual prince & wch may or may not've been known as such at the time of the writing of this bk). At any rate, there was also a London-based underground sex magazine called "The Pearl" (July 1879-December 1880) during the Victorian era that's pretty spicy.
One of the more interesting things about this novel for me is that there's a near future in wch nuclear bombs are tightly controlled by international agreement - something that Brunner, as an anti-war activist, wd've certainly endorsed:
""I'm not going to authorize the construction of a nuclear missile without UN approval," the president said bluntly. "It took us years of squabbling to get rid of the damnable things, and I for one hope there'll never be another made on this planet! How about conventional missiles? Is there any way of pinpointing the exact location of the monster?"" (pp 80-81) ""Yes, I still want UN permission to build that nuclear missile." (p 97)
One of the largely unexplained reasons for this nuclear deproliferation perhaps having something to do w/ this bit of casually thrown in background: "There were no cars or trucks moving in Jacksonville. The wide streets, laid out anew after the great disaster of '65, when a missile from the coastal defense base fell during practice firings and wrecked the heart of town". (p 84) This "great disaster of '65" wd've been set by Brunner a mere 5 yrs after the publication of The Atlantic Abomination - showing Brunner's concern that such a disaster really might be imminent.
The political situation of this future is further hinted at:
""What's the President doing?"
""He's in Minnesota somewhere at an emergency hideout left over from the Cold War. Reports are he will broadcast to the nations this evening."" - pp 94-95
Note that this is post Cold War, more wishful thinking, it seems, on Brunner's part since the Cold War was in full bloom at the time of this bk's writing & the threat of nuclear war between the USA & the USSR was enuf to scare many people into thinking that the full-blown annihilation of most humans as a result of some sort of imbecility on politicians &/or the military was all too possible.
"Men had done this to each other, too. Feeling the habit of marching taking over from his conscious volition, Peter had visions of other armies of history. They had thought men were finished with such cruel stupidity. Perhaps this last time was going to set the seal of guarantee on the hope." - p 95
"They had thought men were finished with such cruel stupidity"!! Now,there's a future I'd like to live to see! I don't expect it, tho. I almost feel nostalgic for the animosity between the USSR & the USA these days where the conflict of State Terrorism vs Religious Terrorism is so horrifying.
As a widely read 60 yr old who was only born 8 yrs after the end of WWII, some aspects of this bk are understandable in ways to me that might not be to a younger reader: "What had made the master single these out? Peter wondered. Perhaps he could not in fact control the whole population of the world. Perhaps he intended to train a corps of collaborators, Quislings, who would make his authority effective." (p 88) "Some of the others he's picked are genuine bastards. There's an old-time prison governor from Alabama who was here on vacation, and a genuine sadist like I never saw before. There's a first-class Quisling-type woman." (p 89)
A "Quisling"? A British reader in 1960 wd've likely known this term given that it was purportedly coined by a British newspaper in 1940 to mean a collaborator w/ a foreign invader. The term refers to the Norwegian WWII era leader who cooperated w/ the invading nazis so that he cd rule the collaborationist Norwegian government. It seems to me that such a term might be dying out.
But what about something like this?:
""That's up to you, general, I'm afraid. Or rather, to the technical experts. By the way, I told Vassiliev about this, out at the Atlantic site, and from what he said I think we can expect something rather special in the way of Soviet electron-amplifiers shortly. That might be the answer to getting usable pictures from a super-fast missile." - p 99
The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) existed from 1922 to 1991. To someone of my age, it was a major force in world politics & the above passage showing the US & the USSR working together reeks of utopian fantasy - but what about to someone born in, say, 1992? The word "Soviet" might already be just a vague referent. How long before it, too, disappears along w/ Quisling as something understandable to the general population?!
"Even the last chance, the sowing of a curtain of blazing napalm across their path, brought such hideous results" (p 107) - "napalm"?: again, anyone of my generation will probably remember napalm vividly, in some way or another, after seeing the famous photograph of a young naked Vietnamese child (purportedly named "Phan Thi Kim Phuc") running screaming down a road, badly burned by napalm, on June 8, 1972. This was another heinous invention brought to the world by Americans (at Harvard, no less).
"Men change their gods, and when they have changed them often enough they cease to fear their power." (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 02, 2014
Feb 04, 2014
Jan 01, 1971
Roland Penrose's Picasso
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 28, 2014
I picked this up at a friend's yard sale, not that that's likely t...more review of
Roland Penrose's Picasso
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 28, 2014
I picked this up at a friend's yard sale, not that that's likely to matter to you, dear reader, much, for probably less than a dollar. I mention that b/c it's astounding how many things a person can acquire in this surplus society w/o having much money. I like Picasso's paintings, mostly the Cubist stuff. He had a period when he was associated w/ Surrealism too - that never really made that much sense to me: I kindof figured Breton adopted him in the same way that, say, Maciunas adopted Ligetti into Fluxus - possibly to attract more fame.
I've been reading William Gaddis's exceptional novel, The Recognitions & there's a part where Wyatt, a main character & an artist, is deeply impressed by a Picasso at a museum: "When I saw it all of a sudden everything was freed into one recognition, really freed into reality that we never see, you never see it." (p 92 of the Dalkey Archive edition) I've been in the mood to look at paintings so that was a good impetus to look at this particular bk - even tho I have other art bks that're more important for me to read.
Another thing that prompted my interest is that it's credited to Roland Penrose. I've got a great bk edited by Herbert read called, simply, Surrealism & that's got B&W repros of at least 3 of Penrose's pieces: "Beauty Prize" (1932), "The Jockey" (1936), & "Captain Cook's Last Voyage" (1936). I like them ok & I've thought of Penrose ever since as one of the few British Surrealists. "Penrose was on the organizing committee of the International Exhibition of Surrealism held in London in 1936, which included several Picasso paintings." (p 5)
Alas, crediting this to Penrose is a bit misleading. The publishers took a pre-existing Penrose text & used it. The rest of the bk, including the notes that accompany the painting repros, is written by David Lomas, who gets 2nd billing - presumably b/c he's not an art star. I wdn't credit either of them w/ being particularly exceptional writers.
"Penrose met Picasso in 1928. When he came to write a biography, Picasso. the Life and Work, Penrose was able to draw upon their lengthy friendship for many of his valuable insights. A humorous instance of this is his revelation that Picasso grafted the snout of his beloved mistress Dora Marr in portraits of her — something one could not discover without the chance to observe both at first hand!" - p 5
This particular Picasso bk is from 1971. I reckon the challenge of putting out yet another bk by a famous artist is in trying to distinguish it somehow - hence the Penrose attribution. By far my favorite Picasso painting, "Guernica", is only reproed small & in B&W - maybe that's another distinction of the bk, maybe the publisher thought "Guernica" had already gotten enuf exposure.
"The turning-point in Picasso's early career came when he was 25. The struggle in which the young artist found himself involved is forcibly illustrated in the great picture, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," [there's a plate of it & it's on the cover] "painted in Paris in the spring of 1907. It came as a shock to his friends that he should abandon a style that they had grown to love and produce a form of art that they could no longer understand. No one, not even Matisse, Braque and Derain, nor his devoted patrons, nor even his close friend and admirer Guillaume Apollinaire could stomach this work, which at first sight seemed to them outrageous. It took many months to digest this insult to their sensibility, but gradually they came not only to accept it but to find that it was exerting a profound influence on them." - p 7
Ha ha! I like this story. The painting probably seemed very grotesque at the time & weirdly 'uneven' stylistically. According to Lomas, it wasn't even exhibited until 9 yrs later in 1916. What if it had NEVER been exhibited? I think of the fall of 1978, I had just turned 25, I decided to make the transition from artist to Mad Scientist. I enacted this by having a gathering at my apartment where I gave away 19 or so art objects that I'd made. I gave a drawing to my mom on a separate occasion. One of the recipients immediately ripped up one of the drawings in honor of my transition. That wasn't really what I had in mind. I repossessed one of the sculptures eventually, I'm glad I did. I don't know whether a single friend kept any of the work. I asked one of them that I'm still in touch w/ recently if he still had the 'self-portrait' sculpture I gave him. It was a piece of plexiglass about 2 ft wide by maybe 5 ft long that had a hole cut in it & other modifications. It was meant to be leaned w/ one end on baseboard & the other on the floor. It was one of my favorite pieces. He didn't know what happened to it. My mom found the drawing I'd given her when she was moving house 29 yrs later. She asked if I wanted it, I did. It was a drawing I'd done of an island in a cemetery stream that I drew a vacuum cleaner on. When it came time to get it she'd lost it, probably thrown it away.
It was good to be reminded of Picassos I'd forgotten about such as the "Manager from New York" costume (1917) he designed for "Parade", the ballet that Satie did the music for. When I got to his "Weeping Woman" (1937) painting I was surprised to be strongly reminded of some of Gary Panter's work, maybe something like the cover to Frank Zappa's "Studio Tan" record (altho maybe that's pushing the comparison too much). Panter seems to have explored a similar over-the-top turf & seems to have been influenced a little by 'primitive' arts like Picasso was. I think particularly of Panter's "Barely Newport" series of acrylic on paper paintings that remind me of African masks. I actually enjoy Panter's work more than Picasso's for what it's worth. At any rate, they both impress me as having an extremely forceful RAWness (it's no wonder that Panter was a prime contributor to the great RAW comics).
"If anything, the effect is intensified in Weeping Woman. the refined palette of the preceding plates reaches a jarring expressionist pitch. Attention falls first on the open crying mouth and on the fingers, framed by the edges of a handkerchief. This section, like a picture within the picture, is filled with zigzag rhythms. These shock waves literally explode the equanimity of an elegant Parisian woman, who gives vent to an ocean of tears; indeed her eyes are like tiny boats tossed on a turbulent sea." - p 108
I really like Lomas's "her eyes are like tiny boats tossed on a turbulent sea": it's a perfect description, I can't look at this painting & find it restful, it's powerfully unsettling.
"In the autumn of 1957 Picasso embarked on a period of exceptional concentration, shutting himself off from friends for more than two months." Big deal. "During this time he painted a series of variations on Las Meninas of Valazquez, a painting that had fascinated Picasso when he first visited Madrid with his father at the age of fourteen. Working rapidly on a greta number of canvasses of all sizes he vigorously transformed Valazquez's handling of this strangely ambiguous version of the old theme, the artist and his model. He respect the principal elements of this dramatic composition, the lighting, the spacing of the figures, their gestures, and even the texture of their dresses, but he became ruthless in the transformations he brought about". - p 22
& what an amazing painting of Picasso's it is! To the right there's a crudely outlined figure that's starkly in contrast to the Cubist clutter of the left. What thing that I kept thinking of while I was looking thru this is the tired critical cliché of Cubism looking at objects from all angles. Ok, there are faces seen in profile & fully frontally. I like that. But can't we just appreciate Picasso's apparent lust for distorting things?! I'll bet he had fun doing that - adding the dog's snout to his mistress's face? That must've been fun - & it's interesting to look at.
"It is a misconception that cubism offers a more objective or complete view of the world by surveying objects from several different angles. Picasso cautioned that the realism of cubist painting is elusive and impalpable, like a perfume. Cubism in fact owes much to the persistence of symbolist attitudes into the first decade of the century. Instead of treating art as a mirror of nature, symbolism stressed the subjective vision of the artist" - p 68
I just think of Picasso as using the visual equivalent of distortion pedals.
I'd never heard of Picasso's friend Casegmas who committed suicide in 1901. Picasso did various works in response to that, including "La Vie", a blue period painting, from 1903. AND I didn't know that Picasso joined the Communist Party after the liberation of Paris, where he lived during the nazi occupation. It's claimed that he was in the French Resistance. Another blue period painting is "Child Holding a Dove" (1901): I've got a print of this one, didn't even know that was the title - &, in fact, uh, the painting shown is NOT the painting described - OOPSIE! Plate 4 has been cut out of my copy. SO, uh, forget that.
Lomas describes "The Old Guitarist": "A beggar playing a guitar tune and hoping thereby to attract the charity of passersby" (p 44) How about this? A guy who writes copy for coffee-table bks tries to attract alms from passersby as he mumbles about Picasso. Does that seem worng somehow?! Why shd this guitarist not just get pd? Why does he have to beg?! Actually, I'm not convinced he's begging anyway - there's no cup or hat in the painting & the scene doesn't even seem that urban.
I love these Cubist paintings: "Nude" (1910):
"Curves and painted highlights are used around the hip and shoulder regions. These points of articulation attract close attention because Picasso has attempted to render the figure in motion. The use of cubist devices to suggest movement was exploited by the Italian futurists, and notably by Marcel Duchamp in his famous Nude Descending a Staircase.
"Attempts have been made to relate the peculiar space and transparency of objects in cubist pictures to such contemporary developments as the invention of X-Rays." - p 70
I like it, I don't recall ever thinking of the X-Ray angle. "Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler": do painters still do portraits of their art dealers? "Still Life with Cards, Glasses and a Bottle of Rum: "Vive la France'": another beaut, rich deep colors, nice variety.
"Still Life on a Table - with a view of the rue de Penthièvre in Paris - contains many of the same elements, only they have been shuffled like pieces of a jigsaw waiting to be solved by the viewer. The round gueridon table appears in many late still lifes by Braque. Upon it is place a compotier (fruit bowl) and a guitar as well as a row of house façades from the background! These objects are framed as if to create a second picture within the picture, adding another twist to the pictorial puzzle." - p 82
Yep, love it, like so many of the ones I like it's like a collage w/o actually being a collage - that makes it more interesting to me. & then there's the "Three Musicians" - a variation on this one adorns the cover of a turnabout VOX record of Schoenberg's "Verklärte Nacht", Op. 4, & "Chamber Symphony", Op. 9 - thusly instantiating deeply into me.
"Seated Bather" & "Figures by the Sea (The Kiss)" are both pretty wacky. Lomas says about the latter: "An amorous embrace turns into a lethal duel between two combatants who seek to devour each other. Their dumb animal heads have no eyes with which to see (love is blind!)." (p 98) Hhmm.. Each of the 2 figures has 2 circles on their faces that are different from what appear to be 2 nostrils & wch look more like eyes than ears to me. Dunno, but I love the way Picasso seems so uninhibited.
"The Sculptor"'s another stunner. The composition's so damned lively. Lomas says that its "stippled dots [..] refer to neo-impressionist painting". (p 100) He might be right, to me it just looks like stippling. I love the way he has one small area of faux marble in the lower right that gives such a different weight in contrast to the other writhings.
"Cat Devouring a Bird" (1939) borders on a dime store painting except that there's nothing cute about it, it's ferocious. Lomas says it "was painted at an ominous juncture in European history: in January 1939 Barcelona surrendered to Franco's forces and in September the German war machine rolled into Poland.
"A fearsome cat disembowels its pathetic victim with teeth an claws (excoriations on the surface of the canvas mime this aggression.) All its terrifying lust for violence is concentrated in the expression of its head which is, as Roland Penrose notes, 'at the same time ferociously animal and disquietingly human.'" - p 110
I quite agree, I have no problem accepting this as allegory & find its emotional directness very affective.
"Woman in a Fish Hat" (1942) shows, yes, a woman wearing a fish w/ a fork & a lemon slice on her head. Captain Beefheart wears a fish mask on the cover of his "Trout Mask Replica" record (surprise, surprise) & I'm sure I've seen Monty Cantsin sporting a fish hat too. You saw it in a Picasso 1st, Ladies & Gentlemen.
&, WHEW!, another amazing painting: "Women on the Banks of the Seine, After Courbet": Lomas has a nice analysis:
"In reworking it he embellishes the Courbet with a rich decorative style first used in a remake of El Greco's Portrait of a Painter. The colour scheme also points to El Greco (his painting was a major influence on Les Demoiselles d'Avignon). If so, two stranger bedfellows could not be imagined:a Spanish court painter of the seventeenth century who painted in a highly stylized manner, and a nineteenth-century radical socialist whose name is synonymous with realism. For Picasso it was possible to encompass both these artistic alternatives. In his lifestyle, too, he lived out this curious alliance: as a member of the Communist Party and a multi-millionaire living in a castle." - p 116 (less)
Notes are private!
Jan 24, 2014
Jan 28, 2014
Aug 01, 2013
[This review is NOT elegant]
OPEN SPACE 15/16
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Practicing Promotextal - January 19-27, 2014
Once upon a time the...more [This review is NOT elegant]
OPEN SPACE 15/16
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Practicing Promotextal - January 19-27, 2014
Once upon a time there was a reviewer who had too much to say. His reviews were inelegant (ie: LONG). This one's no exception, you shd really read the whole thing, really:
In Elaine Barkin's OPEN SPACE 15/16 article "Telling it SLANT or In Search of the Early Years or 'A Sitting on a Gate'", a remembering of her involvement w/ the magazine Perspectives of New Music (reprinted from the same as it appeared in Volume 20, Nos. 1 & 2 (2012)), she describes PNM in a way that cd just as easily be a description of OPEN SPACE:
"In 1980, the Big Fat White issue included complex theoretical-philosophical discourse by Robert Morris, John Clough, David Lewin, and John Rahn, sitting in the same pew with Arthur Margolin's evocative "Mozart's D major String Quartet / k 593 / mm. 53-56" (four measures to die for: ERB), preceded by Wallace Berry's "Symmetrical Interval Sets and Derivative Pitch Materials in Bartók's String Quartet No. 3", my own "A Dedication / Five ADmusementS, & A Digression", all coming after a 250 page riot of texts celebrating Kenneth Gaburo" - pp 350-351
"Ben's stunning "TALK. If I am a Musical Thinker." melding with Naomi's arresting Rohrschachian ink-blobs, its layout created with the assistance of Bruce Huber, beckoning reader-viewer-listener. But many had been crying "foul", hiss-filled air reeked again; several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance; did "IT" belong in The Academy, in Music-Talk? Did they—or whoever they were speaking for—think that they "owned" Perspectives?" - p 351
"For many of us, Perspectives had become a utopian vision, communitas. Why not dream of better ways of doing things?; being inclusive, responsible but not narrowly responsive to any one way" - p 351
"It was more like a Crazy Quilt, each unique patch from a different expressive-investigative corner of the emerging, diversely un-unified multicultural music-analytic-theoreticspeculative-soundscape." - p 351
Now I, alas, don't have any issues of Perspectives of New Music in my otherwise very substantial personal archive/library - probably b/c it was mainly aimed at academia where high prices cd be pd for its sustenance & where the majority, if not the entirety, of its readership & contributors lived anyway. The same observation cd be aimed at OPEN SPACE as well: after all, single issues are priced at $45, double issues (like the one being reviewed here) at $80, & even the student rates price per issue is $38! The "utopian vision, [the] communitas" definitely doesn't include people outside that financially luxurious environ as far as purchase access goes.
Nonetheless, many OPEN SPACE recordings, tapes & CDs, had cheaply wended their way into my collection before I ever made contact w/ OPEN SPACE's editors & I've since found these folks to be generous & exceptionally open-minded. If they weren't, I wd've never been included in 2 issues so far - occupying, as I do, a place in what many wd consider to be a 'lunatic fringe'.
In many ways that are important to me, I IDENTIFY w/ Barkin's statement: consider this seemingly trivial instance: she places commas after quotation marks - something that some people to this day find almost insufferably heretical even tho I, personally, do the same thing & find it quite logical. & there are many things in Barkin's descriptions above that resonate w/ my own experiences in different environments. Take, eg, "several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance": in the mid 1990s I was a participant in a list-serv for improvisors called PhiBa, for Philadelphia-Baltimore, where I had similar experiences to those that Barkin had w/ the Yale students.
In one thread I participated by cutting & pasting other people's comments & reorganizing them into a more experimental text wch I then posted as a continuation of the thread. My logic was that I was playing w/ the list-serv as a way to improvise, using, of course, the musician's common imitation & recontextualization technique, thinking that I was moving the discourse onto a level on a par w/ everyone's purported interest. There was an uproar, a strong voicing of disapproval to the effect that 'I didn't join this list-serv for poetry!!' I didn't get the impression that anyone even noticed that I was quoting from previous postings. Ironically, 2 of the people who protested the most were 2 Pittsburgh-based musicians that I'd encouraged to join the list.
Since I'd been a prime mover in the improvisation community in BalTimOre before moving to Pittsburgh where I once again became involved w/ improvising, it seemed fit to me that the participation of PGH peops justified renaming the list-serv PhiBaPit or some such. I even went so far as to propose that the Washington DC participants be acknowledged in the name as well. My proposal was met w/ stony silence. This was clearly a snobbish closed circle.
I repeatedly submitted info about an upcoming event I was organizing to the PhiBa improvising calendar: the Anonymous Family Reunion to take place at Ringing Rocks State Park & at the Sonambient Theater where Harry Bertoia's sound sculptures are housed. Both locations are in eastern Pennsylvania w/in fairly easy driving distance of Philly & B-More. These locales were chosen for their extraordinary potential as places for site-specific improvising. But, apparently since they weren't 'conventional' improvising events at a club or gallery, my promotion was ignored by the administrator of PhiBa & not posted in the calendar. When I finally complained about this, the moderator acted frostily as if I were just being an asshole. When the Anonymous Family Reunion finally happened in the late summer of 1997, only one participant came from PhiBa. He & I are still friends 16+ yrs later. It probably wasn't much after this that I dropped off the list-serv. W/ the exception of the very few friends & collaborators that I met thru it, it was mostly a waste of time.
OPEN SPACE 15/16 begins w/ a memorial from Benjamin Boretz, the founder of PNM & coeditor (& presumed cofounder) of OPEN SPACE , for composer/teacher Harold Shapero (1920-2013). As Barkin writes about the 1st issue of PNM from the Fall of 1962 it had a "memoriam to Irving Fine who died way too young and also with whom Ben and I had studied at Brandeis" (p 346) &, Lo & Behold!, here's another tribute to a Brandeis music prof that Boretz studied w/ who managed to hang in there until 51 yrs later after the 1st issue of PNM! Long live longevity!
Boretz describes Shapero as a "local young-turk jazzpianist all-music wunderkind, [who] was not yet 35, inconceivably young for an actual official professor." (p 1) To quote Wikipedia: "The Young Turks [..] was a Turkish nationalist reform party in the early 20th century, favoring reformation of the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Empire." "The term "Young Turks" has since come to signify any groups or individuals inside an organization who aggressively pursue liberal or progressive policies, or advocate for reform." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Turks )
I 1st recall encountering the term as, perhaps, the tile of a publication from the late 1970s or early 1980s by artist Stephen Seemayer about artists that he appreciated in LA & its rough urbanity, including himself. More recently, however, in a 2005 record called Totalitarian Sodomy by punk band "World Burns to Death" I encountered a song called "All the Young Turks" about wch they write "This song is inspired by a poem called "The Bride", written by poet Siamanto (real name Atom Yarjanian) who was born in 1878 and died in 1915, one of the first of the 1.5-million people murdered by the Young Turks movement during the Armenian genocide." That puts quite a different spin on things, eh?!
Back to Boretz: "Harold himself wrote about "the musical mind" as a manifestation of subconscious processes". (p 1) while this article is brief, it's still highly welcome to me b/c I only have 2 records w/ Shapero's music on it & don't really know his work at all. One of these is on the Columbia Masterworks series - one of the highest recommendations - & is a playing of his "String Quartet No. 1" (I'm listening to it now). The other is on The Louisville Orchestra's First Edition Records & is his "Credo for Orchestra" (I'll listen to it next). Boretz praises Shapero's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra". Perhaps I'll get to hear that someday.
Perhaps the person whose articles herein excited me the most is James Hullick, or ")-(Ull!c]<" as he (almost) writes it here. In his "Never Mind the Bollocks" he says: "Meditating on sonic art as an act of social conscience can lead to philosophy; and specifically the interabilities agenda. "Interabilities" is a term that denotes the interaction of people of all abilities. As an agenda for sonic practice, it describes people of varying abilities working together toward some sonic outcome. In and of itself, the term "interabilities" does not have anything to do with the quality of a sonic outcome. People of all abilities could be working together to make absolute rubbish and the term "interabilities" would be met. But the ethics behind interabilities activities elevates the activities beyond this broader blanket term. In the case of sound, for example, if people of all abilities work together to produce a truly dreadful concert, then the positive ethic and social benefit of the interabilities agenda can be lost. The audience may have suffered. It lies at the heart of the interabilities agenda that interabilities activities will eventually strive to inspire participants and audiences alike to our greatest vision of humanity — where all people stand equal in society, and where all abilities are considered of equal worth to the wider human mission." (p 6)
Now, I very much like this statement & laud the term "interabilities" wch I've never encountered before & wch )-(Ull!c]< may very well have coined. HOWEVER, I question some of its implications: )-(Ull!c]< being the guider of these interabled activities is in some sense the composer. He's also, presumably, being pd to be an interabilities facilitator. In his ideal interabilities scenario do ALL PARTICIPANTS have equal access to being the guide/facilitator & to equal pay? Also, are ALL PARTICIPANTS going to be in agreement on what a "truly dreadful concert" is & will someone's opinion be more privileged in relation to this? ()-(Ull!c]<'5, eg?) & will they all be in agreement that "if people of all abilities work together to produce a truly dreadful concert, then the positive ethic and social benefit of the interabilities agenda can be lost"? & that "The audience may have suffered"? &/or even that this 'suffering' is a bad thing? I've been told by 'friends' of mine who know close to nothing about what I do that my 'obvious' intention is 'just to irritate people' - this b/c I produce dense & challenging work that people find difficult to process - hence, it 'must' be 'sadistic'. NOT.
Cf this excerpt from my own article in this issue, "30 4 5 + 97.9": "my 1st reel-to-reel recorded audio piece from 1976: dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada A part of the significance of this latter was that it is a piece designed to be easily performable by almost anyone & that what wd distinguish one performance from another cd just as validly be the performers' incompetence or other foibles as well as their skills & strengths. This was an important 1st step for me in stepping outside of the disciplines of classical music into what I usually now refer to as "Low Classical Usic"." (pp 200-201)
The idea being here is that this, too, is an example of an interabilities situation but there is no such thing as a "truly dreadful concert" & whether "The audience [considers itself to] have suffered" or not is irrelevant - unless actual nonconsensual physical pain (psychological pain can be a bit harder to assess) is being induced. &, of course, I am the d composer here &, despite the extreme d liberate simplicity of the score/title, my function as such places me in a unique unequal position in relation to the performers.
)-(Ull!c]< does address possibilities that other more people living in a more insulated world wdn't even think of in their delusional utopian imaginings. That's one of the things that leads to my respecting his article(s) so much. "So while I think an interabilities agenda should be open to the experience of darkness that many people feel, I also think that we can find ways of embracing both the darkness and the light, that don't end in murder." (p 10) "The project responded to the story of Milarepa, a Buddhist saint from the 11th century (c. 1052-1135) who had started life out as a mass-murderer." (p 10) I'm reminded of an interview w/ John Waters from several decades ago. He'd made Pink Flamingos in wch his drag queen star, Divine (named after a Jean Genet character), actually ate dog shit. Waters remarked about changing the direction of his filmmaking b/c 'To be more shocking I would've had to kill somebody and I wasn't going to do that.'
In a promotional email sent out announcing this issue, the OPEN SPACE editors proclaimed:
"As a longtime supporter, you already know something of our guiding aspiration to extend the boundaries and horizons of the community of creative thinkers and artmakers. After fifteen years of publication, we believe our new issue has broken through to a significantly new level toward that goal; we have produced a 364-page panoramic, kaleidoscopic book which is composed in a meaningful way to lead you through a huge diversity of subjects treated with consummate seriousness, personal investment, and creative originality.
"The current issue of The Open Space Magazine includes an introduction to magical practice"
& it's this latter sentence (chopped off in my excerpting of it here) that leads to my next comments. Robert Podgurski provides a "Graphic: First Enochian Call to Spirit" that I find interesting to look at in a similar way to the way I enjoy Visual Poetry or a score. Peteris Cedrins also contributes things occult-relevant. I particularly like his imagistic writing:
"'Twas the night before feminism, & all through the hows ... ... ... the stirrings of rats, & at night there are bats in your hair. The colibri of hope are finally kaput, to be eaten like ortolan. Laima's lord tells of the south wind, wch years ago brought blistering heat to the village. Between two to four hundred prostitutes were deported to northern Kazakhstan as anti-Societ elements. Kiss the doorknob, kids would say, & you'll see Riga. It was an iron doorknob, of course, In the dead of winter. Lick it. Eat the bunting." - p 33
Other Podgurski sigils & a poem close the issue. The PNM logo in White's article quoted above looks very much like a sigil too. I'm reminded of my own fanciful theory that sigils are actually circuit diagrams for controlling energy flow (both metaphorically & directly). Maybe someday I'll actually build circuits somehow based on them & see what happens when electricity is introduced.
As w/ White's recalling that "several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance" & can easily imagine that happening here in reference to "an introduction to magical practice". But, to me, it's the mindset that I'm interested in. One ex-girlfriend who was a poet was interested in experimental writing but her tastes in relation to music were pop all the way. I've never understood that. Why differentiate so between disciplines? It's the experimentation that does it for me.(less)
Notes are private!
Jan 17, 2014
Jan 27, 2014
John Polidori's The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 15, 2014
When am I ever going to start wr...more review of
John Polidori's The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 15, 2014
When am I ever going to start writing those superficial capsule reviews again?! This one's "too long", see the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The 1st time I remember running across mention of Polidori & his story "The Vampyre" was probably in Ken Russell's 1986 film Gothic. I had a brief phase of reading Gothic lit 40 yrs or so ago when I learned about it thru reading that the Surrealists liked it. As I recall, Polidori is depicted somewhat unsympathetically as an hysterical weak character who attempts suicide. He did, eventually, actually commit suicide.
Gothic luridly depicts the summer of 1816 when the poets Lord Byron & Percy Bysshe Shelley + Byron's physician Polodori + Jane 'Claire' Clairmont & her writer step-sister Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (better known after marriage to Shelley as Mary Shelley) "amused themselves rather strenuously by reading some German ghost stories and [..] then challeng[ing] each other to compose similar tales of supernatural terror." [..] "Polidori began his only novel, Ernestus Berchtold; or, The Modern Oedipus (1819), and Mary Godwin [..] embarked upon the composition of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus". (p ix of the Introduction to The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre)
"Gothic tales and fragments began appearing in the magazines shortly after the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764, and were common after 1790, when the craze for the Gothic in Britain reached its height." - p xv
This collection interests me for several reasons, not restricted to the reading of the Polidori story rounding out my knowledge of Gothic lit somewhat. For one thing, 3 of the tales presented were originally presented as having been written by "Anonymous" & still credited to such in this volume. For another thing: "These fictional possibilities of claustrophobia were exploited to the full in William Mudford's Blackwood's tale 'The Iron Shroud' (1830), in which a prisoner discovers his metallic cell is gradually shrinking and will thus certainly crush him to death. It was upon the basis of these works that Edgar Allan Poe soon developed the hysterical intensity of his most memorable stories, notably 'The Pit and the Pendulum' (1843), which is indebted directly to Mudford's tale." (pp xvi-xvii)
"The Iron Shroud" is not one of the stories herein collected but Charles Lever's "Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer" (1836) cd also be sd to've been a predecessor to Poe's "The Premature Burial" (1844). & in the introductory footnote to Edward Bulwer's "Mono and Daimonos"  it's stated that: "In an 1835 letter to the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe listed 'Monos and Daimonos' as one of those tales that was 'invariably' popular with readers because it displayed 'the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque: the fearful coloured into the horrible: the witty exaggerated into the burlesque: the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical'. A year later Poe cited 'Monos and Daimonos' to support his claim that, in Bulwer's writings, 'all is richly and glowingly intellectual—all is energetic, or astute, or brilliant, or profound'. Poe's 'Silence—A Fable' (1838) is heavily indebted to 'Monos and Daimonos', to the point where, as Mabbot points out, some sentences are taken 'almost verbatim'." (p 262)
I don't think that I share Poe's appreciation of the story. Here're a few samples:
"My father died when I was eighteen; I was transferred to my uncle's protection, and I repaired to London. I arrived there, gaunt and stern, a giant in limbs and strength, and to the tastes of those about me, a savage in bearing and in mood. They would have laughed, but I awed them; they would have altered me, but I changed them; I threw a damp over their enjoyment and a cloud over their meetings. Though I said little, though I sat with them, estranged and silent, and passive, they seemed to wither beneath my presence." - p 54
""I commenced my pilgrimage—I pierced the burning sands—I traversed the vast deserts—I came into the enormous woods of Africa, where human step never trod". - p 54
"Seasons glided on, and my youth ripened into manhood, and manhood grew grey with the first frost of age; and then a vague and restless spirit fell upon me, and I said in my foolish heart, 'I will look upon that countenances of my race once more!' I retraced my steps—I recrossed the wastes—I re-entered the cities—I took again the garb of man; for I had been hitherto naked in the wilderness, and hair had grown over me as a garment." - p 55
Given that I 'grew up on Poe' & have always thought of him as a pioneer (wch he certainly was - but more, perhaps, for things like "X-ing a Paragrab" (published post-mortem in 1850) & "The Gold-Bug" (1843). This latter was renowned for its central cryptoanalytic element. I remember reading in a bk that Poe's code-writing was so substantial that it was still used during the American Civil War 20 yrs after the publication of "The Gold-Bug". However, while there's plenty on Poe in David Kahn's substantial The Code-Breakers I deduce from it that Poe's Civil War encoding influence is not accurate b/c I didn't see it mentioned at all (I just skimmed - cd've missed it). The likelihood for the accuracy is small anyway since the story was so popular that it seems unlikely that the code in it wd've been useful for any truly secret purpose.), I was interested to see such strong precursors to his more macabre works in this bk.
Polidori's story in & of itself is 'worth the price of admission' for the scholarly tidbits surrounding it for anyone interested in this period of English lit. "Better still, this prose tale, entitled The Vampyre, seemed to follow the pattern of Byron's best-known poetical productions—Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18) and Manfred (1817)—by incorporating a strong element of confessional self-portraiture, but this time treating the familiar figure of the accursed outlaw in even more lurid terms as a bloodsucking demon or 'vampyre' with the tell-tale name of Lord Ruthven—clearly an echo of another recent fictional portrayal of Byron as Clarence de Ruthven, Lord Glenarvon in the novel Glenarvon (1816) by Lady Caroline Lamb, Byron's cast-off mistress." (p vii)
Byron as the vampyre strikes me basically as Byron as the 'sexual predator' or Byron as the guy who gets laid b/c of his forceful & talented (& rich) persona while the envious envy. Byron must've been quite the celebrity in his day b/c he features in other stories collected here as well: EG: in Anonymous's "The Curse" Byron is slightly misquoted: "'For never having dream'd of falsehood, we / Had not one word to say of constancy.'" (p 114) from "Don Juan"; & in the "Preliminaries for The Vampyre": "It is said, indeed, that upon paying his [Byron's] first visit at Coppet, following the servant who had announced his name, he was surprised to meet a lady carried out fainting; but before he had been seated many minutes, the same lady, who had been so affected at the sound of his name, returned and conversed with him a considerable time—such is female curiosity and affection!" (p 238) Not to mention, presumably, lust.
"The story had made an indelible impression on the imagination of Europe, and Polidori had succeeded, however inadvertently, in founding the entire modern tradition of vampire fiction. Not only was his tale the first sustained fictional treatment of vampirism in English, it also completely recast the mythology upon which it drew." - p x
"French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, whose Relation d'un Voyage du Levant (1702) was the eighteenth century's first account of vampirism" & "Dom Augustin Calmet was one of the most famous biblical scholars of his day, as well as the leading eighteenth century authority on vampires". - p 278
"As the basis of imaginative literature rather than of sick jokes, however, the folklore of vampires as represented in Calmet's accounts had some serious deficiencies: it was obscure, confused, and above all comically disgusting. According to the villagers of Serbia and Hungary, their vampires were bloated, shaggy, foul-smelling corpses who preyed on their immediate neighbors and relatives, or on nearby cattle (so that vampirism could be acquired by eating contaminated meat). Popular remedies against vampires involved digging them up and smearing oneself with their blood, or pulling out their teeth and sucking their gums,as well as the more conclusive precautions of staking, decapitation, and incineration. Still more unappealing was the fact that the legions of the undead were composed entirely of peasants. Some readers of Calmet's anthology pointed out that there seemed, oddly, never to have been an urban vampire, nor an educated bourgeois vampire, let alone one of noble birth. The historical and mythological importance of Polidori's The Vampyre lies in its drastic correction of the folklore's shortcomings, and especially in his elevation of the nosferatu (undead) to the dignity of high social rank." - p xii
In other words, Lord Ruthven is herein credited as the 1st aristocratic vampire - his folklore predecessors having been, so the Introduction here claims, all hairier peasants. This interests me insofar as there's the implication of class predation - the rich prolonging their lives at the expense of everyone they can sink their fangs into, blood of the virgin n'at. &, of course, there's the 'sexiness' of submissively succumbing to such treatment: what an 'honor' to be sucked dry by the ruling class! Furthermore, as an aside, there's a tiny remote dead-end street in my neighborhood named Ruthven wch'll now be forever associated w/ aristocratic vampirism in my mind.
In Polidori's tale he describes his surrogate self thusly: "About at the same time, there came to London a young gentleman of the name of Aubrey; he was an orphan left with an only sister in the possession of great wealth, by parents who died while he was yet in childhood. Left also to himself by guardians, who thought it their duty merely to take care of his fortune, while they relinquished the more important charge of his mind to the care of mercenary subalterns, he cultivated more his imagination than his judgment. He had, hence, that high romantic feeling of honour and candour, which daily ruins so many milliners' apprentices." (p 4)
Aubrey is tricked into making an oath to not disclose the death of Ruthven who he later learns hasn't actually died (or has been 'reborn'). The stupidity of 'honoring' this oath is an indication of the aforementioned lack of judgment when he learns that his sister is about to marry the vampyre: "He began to speak with all his wonted warmth, and to congratulate her upon her marriage with a person so distinguished for rank and every accomplishment; when he suddenly perceived a locket upon her breast; opening it, what his surprise at beholding the features of the monster who had so long influenced his life. He seized the portrait in a paroxysm of rage, and trampled it under foot. Upon her asking him why he thus destroyed the semblance of her future husband, he looked as if he did not understand her—then seizing her hands, and gazing on her with a frantic expression of countenance, he bade her swear that she would never wed this monster, for he—But he could not advance—it seemed as if that voice again bade him to remember his oath". (p 21) & here we have the formal trick common to so many horror stories: the reader (or viewer in the case of movies) is maddeningly frustrated by the lack of communication that's a matter of life & death.
"The guardians hastened to protect Miss Aubrey; but when they arrived, it was too late. Lord Ruthven had disappeared, and Aubrey's sister had glutted the thirst of a VAMPYRE!" (p 23) Ok, that's a spoiler - but the reader can see this one comin' from a mile away. W/ this in mind, I note that the value of this collection for me wasn't so much the 'thrillingness' of the stories as it was the look into the lurid recontextualization of the history of the time & the language used for this purpose: from Horace Smith's "Sir Guy Eveling's Dream":
"'Now that we be upon this subject of dreams and apparitions, I may forbear to mention that full strange and terrible one of Sir Guy Eveling, and the consequences tragical issuing therefrom, which I do the more willingly pen, forasmuch as the dismal tale was hushed and smothered up at the time by the great families with which he was consanguined, people of worshipful regard and jeopardous power, whereby folks only whispered of the story in corners, and peradventure bruited about many things which were but fond imaginings.[']" - p 25
"[']he was of a haute and orgulus stomach that would not agnize the wisdom of beadsmen, nor even brook the tender counsellings of friends and kinsmen, whereby he waxed wild, and readily fell to mischief and riot, giving up his mornings to dicers, racqueters, and scatterlings, and casting away the night with ribalds, wasselers, and swinge-bucklers[']". - p 25
"[']This was that self tempest which there be many now living may remember, sith it followed hard upon the Proclamation of our late King Edward[']" - p 28
A footnote on p 259 informs the reader that "our late King Edward: presumably Edward VI, who acceded to the throne in 1547 and died six years later at the age of 15." That wd put the story told as having occurred 276 yrs before its publishing. I have no informed opinion about the accuracy of the language used but I assume it to be somewhat affected. Nonetheless, I love it: Take that, you orgulus swinge-bucklers!!
Some of the stories are based on news of the time demonstrating that the popular taste for True Crime stories is hardly an invention of the 20th century. Take, eg, William Carleton's "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman": The name derives from the green ribbon worn as a badge by members. Events leading up to the atrocities described in Carleton's tale began on 10 April 1816, when Michale Tiernan, Patrick Stanley, and Philip Conlon broke into a huntsman's lodge occupied by Edward Lynch. The three men demanded guns and assaulted Lynch and members of his family before being driven off. At the trial Lynch and his son-in-law Thomas Rooney identified the invaders and, in the face of strong public sympathy, all three men were convicted and hanged, most probably on 21 August. In the early hours of 30 October, the Ribbonmen meted out their revenge. Led by Paddy Devaun, a weaver and parish clerk at Stonetown Chapel, they massacred Lynch and seven others, including his daughter and grandchild. In the aftermath, Devaun and seventeen other Ribbonmen were executed." (p 260)
Again, the language & the history are the best part for me. This story has Irish brogue in it: "'Well,' said I, 'I'll just trust to God, and the consequinces, for the could, Paddy, ma bouchal; but a blessed dhrop ov it wo'nt be crossin' my lips, avick; so no more gosther about it—dhrink it yerself, if you like; maybe you want it as much as I do—wherein I've the patthern of a good big-coat upon me, so thick, yer sowl, that if it was rainin' bullocks, a dhrop would'nt get unher the nap ov it.'" (p 37)
The organizer of the massacre tries to get everyone drunk so that they'll commit the atrocity they've sworn to even tho they don't know what it is: "'Well,' said he, smiling, 'I only wanted to thry yees an' by the oath yees tuck, there's not a Captain in the county has as good a right to be proud of his min as I have—well yees won't rue it, may be when the right time comes; and for that same rason every one of yees must have a glass from the jar; thim that won't dhrink it in the chapel can dhrink it widout[']" (p 40)
Now the author is writing from a 1st-person perspective as if he were actually there at the events leading up to the killings & at the murders themselves. Whether that's true or not I don't know but he depicts some of the men as having the guts to resist the peer pressure: "The proceedings, however, had by this time taken too alarming a shape, for even the captain to compel them to a blindfold oath; the first man he called flatly refused to swear, until he should hear the nature of the service that was required. This was echoed by the remainder, who taking courage from the firmness of this person, declared generally, that until they first knew the business they were to execute, none of them should take the oath." (p 42) Really? I wish I cd believe that such people exist but in my own experience most people are just cowards & can be manipulated into performing just about any heinous deed as long as they're not taking responsibility for it.
Paddy Devaun eventually coerces all to follow him where they find that the plan is to set a house full of people on fire & not let anyone escape: "'Its no use now, you know, if one's to hang, all will hang; so our safest way, you persave, is to lave none of them to tell the story: ye may go now if you wish; but it won't save a hair of your heads. You cowardly set! I know if I had told yees the sport, that none of ye except my own boys would come[']" (p 47) I've been the guy to say NO many a time but, thank goodness, never in such a horrific situation. Megalomaniacs need robopaths to enact their genocide - fewer of each wd make the world a safer place for the rest of us.
the full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Jan 11, 2014
Jan 18, 2014
Mar 20, 2012
Mar 20, 2012
Francis Poole & Blaster Al Ackerman's Break Up My Water
(Illustrations by Haddock)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2013
Blas...more review of
Francis Poole & Blaster Al Ackerman's Break Up My Water
(Illustrations by Haddock)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2013
Blaster Al Ackerman died this yr. I got this bk as part of my quest to read everything by him I can find & to try to compile an overview of his work. As such, this review will concentrate largely on Blaster w/o any intention of slighting Poole & Haddock. Blaster 1st came to my attn thru Mail Art. Blaster was one of the great tricksters of MA - rarely interested in using the network as just a way of repetitively spreading his name around, Blaster used the network as a way of maximizing considerably more complex interpersonal relations - often under a slew of aliases - even Blaster Al is an alias. Haddock, or Eerie Billy Haddock, as I'll probably always think of him, was one of Blaster's most cherished correspondents. In Blaster's last missive to me, in the mnths before he died, he was excited that Haddock had gotten a tattoo of one of Blaster's drawings & then quit his job! As for Poole? Well, alas, I know very little about him - I associate him w/ the great, &, alas, now defunct, "Lost & Found Times" - edited by John M. Bennett - another close friend of Blaster's &, probably, his main publisher.
Blaster was a slippery eel, an Eel Leonard, a subtle man whose subtlety may've reached its apotheosis in his writing. Blaster didn't just turn a phrase, he contorted it, he wrung its hairy little neck, he turned it on its back & flung it across the ring & into inner space, he gave it a slobbering kiss despite its Hansen's Disease, he caressed it while it lay melting, he he.. He took a phrase & sought out its fistula w/ robotic insects partial to freon huffing - these insects were introduced to the rectum during crowded bus trips w/o the phrase even turning around, that's how crowded it was.
"This book has not received moral or financial support from any literary awards competition, academic, government, or interplanetary arts agency. In fact this book has been turned away by publishers more times than a leper at a wedding reception." - p 4
This latter being on the verso of the title p where the copyright info n'at is.
Blaster spent at least the last 20+ yrs of his life being the most accomplished couch surfer of any human being I've ever met. So he was supported, indeed, he was SUPPORTED - but by individuals, not by grant-givers. Grant-givers favor people who don't need the money, people who can barely wipe their ass w/o declaring it the latest breakthru in technological primitivism (or whatever today's catchwords are) & expecting $15,000 as a result. Grant-givers prefer the cheap imitations to the originals, originals are too loose, Lautrec, loose cannons, ie. 'Better' to support the exploiters, the parasites off the originators, they know who butters their bread & don't fire off rounds at squares. Blaster was easy to get along w/ & very, VERY difficult to pin down. Bless 'im.
In Poole's Introduction, he writes: "I would send Al a poem, prose fragment, or dream I had written down and if it resonated with him he would "hack" into the piece and add his own images and voice, steering the work in other directions. In turn, I would rewrite some of the things he would send me." (pp 7-8) &, yes, this bk is oneiric - as if the dreams, themselves, are playing (imp)practical jokes on the dreamers.
An epigraph that begins the bk is classic Blaster: "If you ever drop your keys into a pool of lava, forget about them, cuz man, they're gone. --Jack Handley" (p 11) Such 'sage' 'advice' stinks of Blaster's MO - on the one hand, yeah, it's 'sensible': don't try to put yr hand in a lava pool, on the other hand, uh, if you're so close to a lava pool that you've managed to drop yr keys in mightn't you have something more, uh, pressing to care about? It's all so 3rd-hand. Blaster sets up the pins & then makes them levitate:
"Last night I dreamed about a whirling apparatus similar to the thing used to make cotton candy... only in my dream it was filled with millions of mosquitoes. They were spinning around and being pressed together into some kind of mosquito paste or pâté. Such an unappetizing taste it had!" - p 15
Now that's credited to Ackerman & Poole so I may be misattributing that passage by concentrating on Blaster alone. Still, the setting the reader up w/ a vision of something particularly unappetizing to yr average human & then having the dreamer EAT it ANYWAY & then comment on its DREAM TASTE seems like a typical Blaster twist. Blaster was a twister.
Now, in Poole's 'EVERY TENT MUST BE RAISED" we have: "They were going to take me to the hospital but we had to get home first before my curfew and by that time I was feeling a little better. When I went inside the house I was disoriented and crawled into bed. The next day I was feeling a little fuzzy and my head still hurts. Also my ribs and neck. Admittedly I had had a few drinks but wasn't loaded, although I think Dr. Spivey suspects I had gotten into his nurses's bag o' silly pills." (p 17)
Blaster's collaboration produces this: "They were going to take me to the hospital but we had to get home first before my curfew and on the way I dreamed again of the floating pencil in anus light. When I went inside the house I beheld my whole AA group coming toward me waving human torches that were igniting the Kama Sutra for all time." (pp 18-19)
It somehow strikes me as 'perfect' that in Blaster's dream he dreams about somewhat else dreaming. What did I say about "the dreams, themselves, are playing (imp)draculatical jokes on the reamers"? Well, nothing, actually. "In the dream I saw that you were dreaming that you'd been turned into a medium-sized, crablike thing, covered with jet black integument." (p 20) Even the word "integument" seems like classic Blaster. 'I even got into an intense integument w/ him about it.'
Poole's "CALIFORNIA DREAM" features Blaster in a cameo appearance: "We decided to leave and found the car. The driver had left. We got in and I drove down the road which abruptly went up a cliff almost vertically. Just as the car reached the top and the front wheels began to grip where the road flattened out, the car fell backwards, only the rear wheels touching the road surface. I thought it would flip over completely and land on the roof. But it didn't. The car ended up resting on all four wheels. The Blaster was silent and looked stunned." (p 25)
In the collaborative rewrite, Blaster twists an already oneiric story off into a new dimension: "The Blaster and I cautiously approached the giant's body. We didn't see any blood but he wasn't moving. We moved a little closer and we began to see the portion of his skull which had been broken open by his fall. No blood but there was a jagged actinic light and, at this, we couldn't help but sense the auroral energy of near Hilbert space contact. We knew we were peering clear down into the universal "Brane" (short for "membrane")—or so the mathematicians are always trying to tell us." (p 27) Right, as if "the mathematicians are always trying to tell us" anything, eh?! Such word-play as a veering from "brain" to "brane" as an excuse to throw in Hilbert space is what I call Schizophrenic Literalism (well, not really).
In the titular bra, "BREAK UP MY WATER", Blaster does something I've never seen him do before: ACKNOWLEDGE A PSEUDONYM!!: "EEL LEONARD a.k.a. Blaster Al Ackerman". (p 31) One might almost think that Blaster isn't Eel after all, eh?!
"One afternoon I was hanging around in the yellow weedy space out behind the 7-Eleven when I found a kind of sump hole in the ground. It seemed filled with tapioca and I took my shoe off and unwrapped the bandage and as I got my foot down into the oozing wetness I wiggled my toes around and eventually saw that it was a million frog eggs ready to hatch and that they had all coalesced around my foot, as though to kiss and love on the sores" (p 34) Of course, there's a bandage, of course, there're sores. Blaster's 'normal' life really is, sortof, 'normal': people are suffering, people are in & out of 'reality' - to a color 'blind' person the colors are what they see - not what someone 'objectively' tells them they are.
& Poole's atmosphere is similar to Blaster's: "I was standing in the kitchen, slightly ill from the smell of sour milk in the sink filled with dishwater and dirty dishes. Outside there were several kids from the neighborhood who seemed to be playing some kind of game in the dirt. They were pushing and kicking at each other and yelling." (p 38) But Poole's slight decay is realistic, Blaster depicts the meta-realism of the brain-damaged. Poole: "A desert highway where me and my brother were left on the roadside; no water, no money, no hope. Bone-colored sky and desert of bone." (p 45)
"A new flame midget can adorn your feet" (p 40) What's a new flame midget? How can it adorn yr feet? Such images from Blaster are rich, filthy rich. "so that you see nothing pee dropped blooms from my hat there's nothing to do about what pee drops just as there's nothing to do about when a window wobbles in the back of my eye hopefully creeping toward yr blouse but just as likely seeping in the leaves and grabbing your knobby back thrust goodies". (p 40) I'm reminded of the writing of Rupert Wondolowski, another of Blaster's main publishers. A little surreal, a lot grotesque, a fun-house mirror of human fallibility seen from the home for the hopelessly senile. Did Blaster hack Wondolowski like he did his old buddy John M. Bennett?:
"suddenly my hanky floats across the room and tiny yellow hairs watch your aspic and a pants shadow seems to leave your dampness file and tiny yellow hairs shudder on the floor off in the direction of my belt hole while crash rental tests my buttered ham which is like meat mist without tested ham and tiny yellow hairs nag heel sleep, that's way more than back and forth before bobbing skull turns up by that time more tiny yellow hairs have arrived by that time the crust grins like a runny shirt fund for you my french-fries in the jello clasp the rest, so go on admiring my giggling under the bed although it just might be more clocking the floor brought to you by that gush demon of tiny yellow hairs pustules and teeth" - p 55
Another collaboration between our too fine authors yields: "This was meant to be the title of a poem by Blaster Al but before anything materialized I had a dream about a woman named Hatchback Helen. I was back in the Navy, on submarine duty, and had been at sea for many months. Totally out of touch with my wife, the former pride of Needles, California; Miss Uranium U-238." (p 57) Nice veering, nice kerplunk. & how about this simile?: "To begin with I could only envision half the world as solid reality, the other half was like an eggplant in a graduate seminar on people made of clay." (p 58) Right.
"And that's about it—not much more than a series of cloying encounters that in the end can leave you gibbering. But how often do you find pirate women who are ready day and night to tell you the old, old story of How the Snake Lost His Limbs?" (p 69)
This writing is highly imagistic, wch, as far as I can tell, is likable to many people b/c the content can be ignored in favor of going along for the ride - so why isn't it more popular? For one, it isn't mass-marketed - one has to be 'in the know', one has to care; for another, like many great things, it-----doesn't-----quite-----fit: it ain't exactly surrealism, it ain't exactly poetry; it certainly ain't about to be taught in UNIVERSITIES anytime soon (thank the holy ceiling light!) b/c, 'uh, I mean, are these guys serious?!' After all, we wdn't want another Ern Malley on our hands now wd we?
Read this bk.. before IT finds you, snaking thru the weeds around yr domicile, & reads YOU instead. (less)
Notes are private!
Dec 21, 2013
Dec 28, 2013