Feb 26, 2013
really liked it
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's The Day is Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 21-22, 2017
This is the 1st Nordic crime fiction I've read. The a review of
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's The Day is Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 21-22, 2017
This is the 1st Nordic crime fiction I've read. The author's Icelandic, the action takes place mostly in Greenland. Perhaps Lars von Trier's The Element of Crime (1984) might qualify as my 1st exposure to the genre but there's probably something earlier than that that I'm not thinking of. Wd Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960) qualify? I associate the popularity of the genre, if it is popular, w/ Stieg Larsson's trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all of wch were made into movies after the author's death in 2004 (according to Wikipedia). I've probably seen the movie made from The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Still, this is the 1st of the bks I've read. A back cover review says ""Worthy of Stieg Larsson." —Kirkus Reviews"
The author is described on the back cover as being "a director of one of Iceland's largest engineering firms. Her work is found on bestseller lists all over the world." For the sheep readers, the people who're afraid to read anything that hasn't been preapproved for them by some sort of semi-delusional mass consumption, this last sentence is perfect. For a person like myself, it's a complete turn-off b/c my experience of what constitutes 'best-selling' is that robopaths flock to it - & robopaths are only literate enuf to read their marching orders, to consume their cult propaganda. I bought a used copy of this so I didn't contribute to the dubious statistics.
One of the things that impressed me about this the most, if "impressed" is the right word, is that the protagonist, a lawyer accustomed to doing divorce cases, mainly gets done what she gets done by being a reasonable level-headed person that people will trust & talk to. I suspect that these are professional qualities that "a director of one of Iceland's largest engineering firms" might respect. I respect them too. I also don't think they're necessarily likely to characterize most lawyers. Lawyers are, after all, in the business of 'winning' thru argumentation - wch generally involves all sorts of underhanded manipulation. Wd you trust a lawyer? I have friends who're lawyers, obviously we like each other b/c of interests in common & mutual respect. Still, the qualities of the lawyer hero, Thóra, as presented in this bk are a bit too idealized for them to be believable to me. She's a bit too trustworthy. Take away a lawyer's cushy economically spoiled lifestyle & you might have a cornered rat. SO, the mystery:
"She swallowed her disappointment. "Are the workers in Greenland?"
""No, they're in Iceland. All but two people who are probably still on-site. The others cam home during their allotted leave, but now refuse to return."
""What do you mean when you say that the two who remained behind are probably still on-site?"
""Nothing's been heard from them for around ten days, and they can't get hold of anyone there to go and find out what's happening. It's possible that the camp's communication system has simply failed, but apparently the only way to find out is to go there. If a logical explanation is found for their silence, it's conceivable that the other employees can be persuaded to return. That of course would be the best solution for the bank."" - pp 14-15
Thora's hired by a bank to try to solve a potentially financially damaging snag in a nascent mining operation in a sparsely populated area of Greenland. Taking the job appeals to her b/c there's some mystery involved & she's sick of divorce cases. The story is generally not a very happy one but there is a little humor early on:
"She leaned in and whispered, "Did you notice that Bella is the only other person awake?" Stealthily, she turned to check if this was still the case. "If she weren't here I could invite you to the toilet and initiate you into the mile high club." She looked Matthew in the eye and grinned. "Damn it, what a shame she had to come." She turned back to the window, pleased with herself." - p 38
As I'm sure you all realize, the mile high club is for people who dump their poop out to freeze in the high altitude while their partner parachutes attached to a line & catches it in a net. They then get reeled back in & beat the pooper w/ the frozen club.
Ok, ok, I'm joshin' ya, the mile high club is just a name for people who have sex on airplanes. But you probably already knew that.
One of the main characters is a hunter who still lives according to the traditional lifestyle. He observes the Icelandic company employees discretely from a distance: "It was not his job to rescue full-grown children who came here on a fool's errand. He would concentrate on saving the dog; it was far more important to him." (p 60) The hunter has important wisdom but it's framed in a belief system that's not acceptable to the more modern people around him.
An Icelandic author writes a bk about Greenland. I wonder how many people conflate Iceland & Greenland? I don't but I do associate the 2 even though I know that Greenland's colder & definitely not greener, etc..
"Thóra skimmed over the text. It didn't surprise her that it was thought that those who fist settled in Eastern Greenland around two thousand years ago had all died out. One migration and settlement followed another, but it always ended the same way: No one managed to survive for long in this harsh region. It wasn't until the eighteenth century that settlements started to thrive on the east coast, but in the nineteenth century the population started to decrease. One village after another fell to ruin after the villagers died from hunger or other hardships" - p 64
Sigurdardóttir does an excellent job of establishing a plethora of possible explanations for the still unknown fate of the missing persons & for the fate of the previous dead of the area: "Inuits believed that something called a Tupilak had killed them all." (p 67) When I think of something like a Tupilak, an apparently threatening curse or monster-like figure, I think of plans of ways to warn future people away from toxic waste areas w/ danger-lives that far exceed the likelihood of surrounding civilization lifespans. In other words, warnings that rely on imagery rather than language since the language may be long dead while the threatening imagery may still live on.
""I have a feeling this is probably some kind of Tupilak," said Friòrikka, pointing at the figurine. At first Thóra had found the figurine resembled a banana upon which something had been scratched, but when she looked more closely she saw that it was an intricately carved bone to which had been tied some strange-looking odds and ends: hair, some kind of leather, and a bird's claw. The craftsman appeared to have tried to make the bone itself resemble an ogre, and indeed the figurine looked quite monstrous. It had a large face with open jaws and numerous sharp teeth. Little hands with claws were carved into its belly but otherwise the monster was covered with a pattern that they couldn't understand, but that possibly symbolized something. On the figurine's back a tail could be distinguished." - p 115
"The woman frowned. "We're not bad to outsiders. We don't like the place you choose to live in. No one should be there; you are disturbing the evil that dwells there and by doing so you're putting us all in danger. We just want you to go somewhere else."" - p 134
As it turns out, the Greenlanders are correct in their warning but can't explain it in a way that seems anything but superstitious to the Icelanders so the warning is written off as being merely fanciful instead of representing a real danger. All sorts of things turn out to be correct.. but for the wrong reasons:
""Didn't those bastard Greenlanders just sabotage the equipment?" asked Eyjólfur immediately. "They'd certainly be capable of it."
""What the hell are you talking about, boy?" snapped the doctor. "Why would they want to sabotage anything here? I'm certain I know more about the natives of this country than you do, and I can tell you for sure that they're the kindest of people and wish no one ill."
""Except for their women," interrupted Friòrikka. "They're not particularly kind to them." Again she seemed to regret having spoken, and pressed her lips shut.
"The doctor harrumphed, then said, "The way that a particular people or race handles alcohol says nothing about its disposition. Alcohol doesn't really bring out the best in Icelanders either. What if we were deprived of our sustenance, like these people have been because of bleeding-heart liberal Westerners banning the hunting they depend upon?"" - p 90
What if everyone's a little bit right & a little bit wrong? Then there's the whole process of sifting thru it all & not throwing out the baby w/ the bathwater. There's definitely some clear-headed wisdom in this bk, & I admire it for that, but it strikes me as the type of wisdom that a person can have, an author can have, when they have a comfortable distance from actual problems that they may never have to directly experience the miseries of - b/c, if they did, they'd be just as destroyed by it, if not more so, than the people immersed in it from birth usually are.
The hunter, Igimaq, tries to fulfill what he considers his duty by warning people away from the cursed area. Alas, the distance between the culture he represents & the culture he's trying to warn is too great, the problem is more than a language gap - wch, in itself, is usually more than enuf to cause problems. He decides to appeal to his old friend who has some power in the community as a tribal elder & who at least partially understands the problem: "No one would listen to him that way. Besides, it was only this former friend of his who knew the story and so would hopefully understand the gravity of the situation immediately. Unless he had lost his connection with his roots." (p 107)
""Don't you remember what we were taught, Sikki?" The hunter stared at his friend. "We are responsible for this area." He recalled as if it were yesterday how the two of them had been entrusted with this task; Igimaq because he was a direct descendant of the greatest hunters in the village on his father's side, and Sikki because he was in line to become the next angekokk, or shaman, as his father and grandfather had been before him." - p 155
Another mysterious artifact is found: "After most of the ice had been removed from it, it turned out to be a bone that had been polished, with holes drilled in two places in the middle. A leather strap had been tied to it at both ends, meaning that above all, it resembled a giant's armband." (p 108) One might be tempted to jump to a conclusion that it's another relic similar to the Tupilak. After all, it's a bone w/ pieces of leather tied to it. But one of the strongest lessons of this bk is don't jump to conclusions or you'll never figure out the truth.
As w/ most mysteries, suspicion is cast on various characters:
"No doubt the therapist would quickly lose his appetite if Arnar started to describe the events leading to his fall. Terrible, mindless vengeance and violence—and not from someone who kills for survival but from him, a supposedly civilized human being. And toward his colleagues, too . . . He felt sick when he recalled the reasons behind his actions. But though the others' behavior toward him had been disgraceful, he alone was responsible for what had happened. And for that, he couldn't blame alcohol." - p 112
"Naruana could only hope that Igimaq didn't know what his son had done, how low he had stooped. Hope that he hadn't seen him as he stood there, his hands stained with the blood of a prey no hunter would boast about." - p 128
"Arnar turned his back to the wall. "What do you think about killing animals?" he asked.
""Me?" asked the young woman, as if he could have meant someone else. "I don't find it pleasant to think about, but it's okay if the animals are meant to be eaten."
""And people?" asked Arnar, without changing his expression or his tone of voice. "Is that all right?"" - p 151
"Friòrikka sounded skeptical. "You know, I read somewhere that in the old days the Greenlanders never had any actual religion. In place of faith they lived with fear." Friòrikka's breathing was regular, as if she were drifting off and speaking almost in her sleep. "That's how I feel. I'm not religious but I feel a persistent fear of something, though I don't know what."" - p 183
If the following is accurate then Greenland is more interesting to me than ever:
"It was an ancient custom; those who lived together in small groups could not afford discord, meaning that those who raised their voices or bickered with each other were looked down on. The only way to express one's disapproval was to remain silent, because words spoken in anger had a way of snowballing, intensifying and provoking hostility that would eventually put the survival of the entire community at risk. The Greenlandic language was thus free of invective and Igimaq was not about to start swearing in Danish." - p 264
That's certainly a lesson that more people shd learn.
There're times when I suspect authors of saying just enuf to stimulate the reader to figure out at least one aspect of a mystery shortly before the answer is presented in full.
"Eyjólfur frowned. "I don't know. He wasn't so awful that people would have thought about killing him." He looked awkwardly at Friòrikka in the hope of support. "Right? It wasn't like that, was it?"
"Friòrikka looked from him to her lap. "No. Definitely not." She abruptly fell silent. It was as if all the air had gone out of her." - p 355
It was after the reading the above (& what led up to it) that I realized who killed _____ & why. I felt satisfied w/ myself when my theory was verified shortly thereafter. I'll bet there's even a term for when authors nudge the reader into solving a problem.
All in all, I admit to begrudgingly finding this bk wise & well thought thru. One of the things that makes my praise for it "begrudging" is that the writing style fairly screams of SOON-TO-BE-A-MAJOR-MOTION-PICTURE - but maybe it's not brutal or shocking enuf for that. ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 18, 2017
Jul 22, 2017
Oct 01, 1968
really liked it
Jules Verne's Round the Moon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 15, 2017
My complete review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/ review of
Jules Verne's Round the Moon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 15, 2017
My complete review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is the sequel to Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1863 or 1865). I'm not sure whether I read that one or not. If I did I might've read it 50 yrs ago. Round the Moon was written in 1869 or thereabouts. I find it interesting partially b/c as far as Verne's Science Fiction goes it's more SCIENCE than it is an adventure story. It seems evident to me that Verne researched this fairly thoroughly & dwelled perhaps a bit too much on presenting astronomical data in a barely fictionalized way. As such, I find it hard to imagine that this was as popular as his other Voyages Extraordinaires. It seems to me that this wd've appealed more to scientists concerned w/ nit-picking his facts than it wd've been to a general readership.
Verne posits a gun club founded during the American Civil War membership in wch involves inventing or modifying a cannon or other weapon.
"Then the war comes to an end—a black day for the members of the Gun Club. What future is there for its unique services to the military arts? The club's President, Impey Barbicane, calls a special meeting, assuring members that there will be an announcement of the greatest importance. He lays before them a proposal which takes their collective breath away : the Gun Club will sponsor a monster cannon which will fire a projectile to the moon!" - p 6
The above quote is from Robert A. W. Lowndes's introduction. One of the strange things about it is that the club's president is referred to as "Barbicane" while everywhere else in the bk he's "Barbican".
"A few years ago the world was suddenly astounded by hearing of an experiment of a most novel and daring nature, altogether unprecedented in the annals of science. THE BALTIMORE GUN CLUB, a society of artillerymen started in America during the great Civil War, had conceived the idea of nothing less than establishing direct communication with the Moon by means of a projectile! President Barbican, the originator of the enterprise, was strongly encouraged in its feasibility by the astronomers of Cambridge University, and took upon himself to provide all the means necessary to secure its success. Having realized by means of a public subscription the sum of nearly five and a half millions of dollars, he immediately set himself to work at the necessary gigantic labors." - p 9
Ha ha! The stage is set, the recap is in place. According to an online inflation calculator, $5,500,000 in 1869 wd be worth $93,173,707.43 in 2016. Given that I'm from BalTimOre this whole biz about the Baltimore Gun Club titillates me (or something). BalTimOre is a city of violence (& extreme narrow-mindedness) & I'm sure that the preponderance of guns there contributes to that enormously. As such, when the former Mayor of BalTimOre turned Governor turned Presidential candidate, Martin O'Malley, came out in favor of gun control in his presidential campaigning I was both pleasantly surprised & sure he knew what he was talking about. I rue the day that guns were invented & wd like to see arms merchants shot to the moon in a cannon under the conditions described in this novel. The recap continues by stating that the projectile/spacecraft:
"had not reached its mark, though it had approached near enough to be affected by the Lunar attraction; and that, its rectilinear motion having become circular, it should henceforth continue to describe a regular orbit around the Moon, of which in fact it had become the Satellite." - p 11
That having been the case, our heros the astronauts died off pretty quickly & that was that. Really there's no further reason to even discuss the novel (JUST KIDDING!). Now, of course, this having been written in 1869 it's bound to be a bit short on the scientific end of things considering the developments in the almost 150 yrs that've elapsed since then. There are some phenomenal DUH moments that're so far-fetched that they're practically unforgivable even as plot devices in the mid 19th century. One of them is that the astronauts don't even give a thought to what they're going to do once they get to the moon (other than land on it) nor do they give a thought about how they're going to get back. That's just unbelievably stupid, even for members of the Baltimore Gun Club.
"how were they ever to get back? Could they ever get back? or ever even be heard from?" - p 12
""See here, friends!" cried the Captain; "this going to the Moon is all very well, but how shall we get back?"
"His listeners looked at each other with a surprised and perplexed air. The question, though a very natural one, now appeared to have presented itself to their consideration absolutely for the first time." - p 77
Right. Do you really expect us to believe that Mr. Verne?! Even dogs on the Moon seems believable by comparison.
"["]Compel those Selenites to acknowledge, on spite of themselves, that the terrestrial race of canines is far superior to that of the very best Moon dog among them!"
""Dogs in the Moon!" sneered McNicholl, "I like that!"
""Plenty of dogs!" cried Ardan, "and horses too, and cows, and sheep, and no end of chickens!"
""A hundred dollars to one there isn't a single chicken within the whole lunar realm, not excluding even the invisible side!" cried the Captain, in an authoritative tone, but never taking his eye off the chronometer." - p 17
Verne might be on slightly more solid ground when he imagines the propulsive force necessary: ""Oh! four and a half little minutes!" went on Ardan. "Only think of it! We are shut up in a bullet that lies in the chamber of a cannon nine hundred feet long. Underneath this bullet is piled a charge of 400 thousand pounds of gun cotton, equivalent to 1600 thousand pounds of ordinary gun powder!["]" (p 18) Then again, maybe he isn't, I'd be no judge.
The following passage made me think of The Hunt for the Meteor, wch was the last Verne bk I reviewed ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ):
""It is a simple bolide, but one of such enormous dimensions that the Earth's attraction has made it a satellite."
""What!" cried Ardan, "another satellite besides the Moon? I hope thyere are not more of them!"
""They are pretty numerous," replied Barbican; "but they are so small and they move with such enormous velocity that they are seldom seen.["]" - p 30
I don't know how obvious some of the stupidities of the astronauts wd've been to the 19th century reader, probably not very, but to this 21st century reader Verne plays the the-reader-is-smarter-than-the-characters card a bit too much:
""What do you know?" cried the Captain, stretching over and seizing him by the left.
""The reason why we did not hear the report!"
""Well, why did we not hear it!" asked both rapidly in the same breath.
""Because we were shot up 30 times faster than sound can travel!"" - p 35
That was 'painfully' obvious to this reader many pages before the characters ever had the epiphany. Given that the speed of sound is reputed to've been discovered in 1640 that knowledge was presumably not that obscure over 300 yrs later when this bk was written. The projectile still has fairly Earth-like gravity until it reaches the gravipause between the Earth & the Moon. "Every now and then, he would climb up, by means of iron pins fixed in the wall, to inspect his treasures" (p 42) It's my understanding that they wd've experienced zero gravity long before then. Then again, I can just look that up on the internet. Didn't Verne know how to use the internet? Sheesh, those 19th century people were retarded. Well, ok, I take that back. They did know how to use Integral Calculus:
""It means," said the Captain, now taking part in the discussion, "that the half of v prime square minus v squared equals gr multiplied by r over x minus one plus m prime over m multiplied by r over d minus x minus r over d minus r ........that is———"" - p 48
Verne gets into quite a bit of what is to me abstruse math. This is endearing to me but reinforces my assertion that "I find it hard to imagine that this was as popular as his other Voyages Extraordinaires" A footnote on the bottom of page 52 is interesting in this light:
"NOTE. In the French edition, the algebraical formulas having been very incorrectly printed, it cost the Translator a good deal of time and trouble to rectify them. The idea of explaining in the text how they had been arrived at, though at first seriously entertained, was soon abandoned. Doing so might perhaps have gratified the curiosity of some rare scientific student, but it would certainly have exhausted the patience of the general reader. For the benefit of our friend the student, however, we here append another of the means for solving the problem, over which the Cambridge men had so woefully blundered. It is furnished by one of our mathematical teachers." - p 52
The problem solving for this goes on for another 1.5 pages. I'm grateful for it even tho I didn't understand enuf of it for it to be of any value to me.
The dig at the "Cambridge men" is interesting. Their miscalculation cd've cost the whole mission's success. There are 3 astronauts, 2 Americans & one Frenchmen. Verne was French. He uses the Frenchman for comic relief & gives the Americans the serious scientist characteristics. That seems politically motivated on his part. He essentially predicts that the Americans will reach the moon 100 yrs before it happened. I have to wonder why he picked the "Cambridge men" to be blunderers. That seems to be potentially touchy. Maybe somebody at Cambridge gave a bk of his a bad review.
"How could they imagine that the Observatory men had committed such a blunder? Barbican would not believe it possible. He made the Captain go over his calculation again and again; but no flaw was to be found in it. He himself carefully examined it, figure after figure, but he could find nothing wrong. They both took up the formula and subjected it to the strongest tests but it was invulnerable. There was no denying the fact. The Cambridge professors had undoubtedly blundered in saying that the initial velocity of 12,000 yards a second would be enough to carry them to the neutral point. A velocity of nearly 18,000 yards would be the very lowest required for such a purpose. They had simply forgotten to allow a third for friction." - pp 54-55
Interesting. Verne has scientists making mistakes. This is realism, maybe it's even a realism that appears in other Verne bks but I don't remember that happening. Round the Moon is full of things going wrong & human error. That's one of the things I like the most about it. It's not populated by scientific super-beings but more by regular humans. Well, actually, they're a bit on the dumb side:
"["]When we get to the Moon, what shall we do there? How are we going to amuse ourselves? I'm afraid our life there will be awfully slow!"
"His companions emphatically disclaimed the possibility of such a thing.
""You may deny it, but I know better, and knowing better, I have laid in my stores accordingly. You have but to choose. I possess a varied assortment. Chess, draughts, cards, dominoes—everything in fact, but a billiard table."
""What!" exclaimed Barbican; "cumbered yourself with such gimcracks?"
""Such gimcracks are not good to amuse ourselves with, but are eminently calculated also to win us the friendship of the Selenites."" - p 57
Despite Verne's obvious attempts to be as scientifically accurate as possible throughout most of this (when he's not just being silly) things like this drinking-in-zero-gravity description aren't very convincing:
"A slight effort carried him sailing over to the side of the Projectile. Opening a cupboard and taking out a bottle and a few glasses, he placed them in a tray. Then setting the tray itself in the air as on a table in front of his companions, he filled the glasses, passed them around, and, in a lively speech interrupted with many a joyous hurrah, congratulated his companions of their glorious achievement in being the first that ever crossed the lunar line." - p 90
It's easy to be critical of a description like this 148 yrs later. I'm sure that if I were to try to describe a situation 148 yrs in the future it wd be ridiculous. Still, how, exactly, did Ardan, the French adventurer, pour the alcohol? If the glasses were staying still in mid-air wdn't the booze also stay still in the bottle when it was turned upside-down? Wdn't this, then, necessitate applying some force to the bottom of the bottle to eject the alcohol in the direction of the glasses & wdn't that force then move the glasses as the booze hit it? Still, Verne does get into such thing as changes in relative muscular power:
""Shall my muscular strength dimish in the same proportion?" was the next question.
""On the contrary, it will be relatively so much the more increased that you can take a stride 15 feet in width as easily as you can now take one of ordinary length."
""We shall be all Samsons, then, in the Moon!" cried Ardan.
""Especially," replied McNicholl, "if the stature of the Selenites is in proportion to the mass of their globe."
""If so, what should be their height?"
""A tall man would hardly be twelve inches in his boots!"
""They must be veritable Lilliputians then!" cried Ardan; "and we are all to be Gullivers! The old myth of the Giants realized! Perhaps the Titans that played such famous parts in the prehistoric period of out Earth, were adventurers like ourselves, casually arrived from some great planet!"" - p 92
As much as I'm pleased to see Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels referred to & as much as I'm pleased by Ardan's theory re Titans, I have to say that these speculations about the size of "Selenites" as based on the same relativities of humans, as well as on humanoid form, are a bit too silly for me. For one thing, everyone knows that Moon people are all female & scantily clad & that they listen to Theremin music all day. Where Verne really starts to get tedious is where he gets into the history of Moon mapmaking. Still, I appreciate that he goes to such scholarly lengths:
"A few years afterwards, Hevel of Dantzic (1611-1688), a Polish astronomer—more generally known as Hevelius, his works being all written in Latin—undertook to correct Galileo's measurements. But as his method could be strictly accurate only twice a month—the periods of the first and second quadrant—his rectifications could hardly be called successful.
"Still it is to the labors of this eminent astronomer, carried on uninterruptedly for fifty years in his own observatory, that we owe the first map of the Moon. It was published in 1647 under the name of Selenographia." - p 104
Verne was obviously preoccupied w/ whether people actually observe the Moon or not. I respect that, I think that people take for granted many things in their life w/o ever bothering to observe them closely. I'm sure I do.
""Have you ever seen the Moon?" said a teacher ironically one day in class to one of his pupils.
""No, sir," was the pert reply; "but I think I can safely say I've heard it spoken about."
"Though saying what he considered a smart thing, the pupil was probably perfectly right. Like the immense majority of his fellow beings, he had looked at the Moon, heard her talked of, written poetry about her, but in the strict sense of the term, he had probably never seen her—that is canned her, examined her, surveyed her, inspected her, reconnoitered her—even with an opera glass!" - p 106
As our heroes get closer to the Moon in their projectile they get to observe color. This, of course, wd be Verne's extrapolations from the observations of astronomers whose work he wd've read.
"In certain spots the greenish tint was quite decided, particularly in Mare Serenitatis and Mare Humorum, the very localities where Schmidt had most noticed it. Barbican also remarked that several large craters, of the class that had no interior cones, reflected a kind of bluish tinge, somewhat like that given forth by a freshly polished steel plate. These tints, he now saw enough to convince him, proceeded really from the lunar surface, and were not due, as certain astronomers asserted, either to the imperfections of spy-glasses, or to the interference of the terrestrial atmosphere." - p 125
Verne spent a great deal of time on scientific detail in Round the Moon. I reckon he wanted to get that pert student to actually look at & think about the Moon.
"Toward five in the morning, the northern limit of Mare Imbrium was finally passed, and Mare Frigoris spread its frost-colored plains far to the right and to the left. On the east the travellers could easily see the ring-mountain Condamine, above 4,000 feet high, while a little ahead on the right they could plainly distinguish Fontenelle with an altitude nearly twice as great."
"if we remember that Tycho, though nearly a quarter of a million miles distant, is such a luminous point on the lunar disc, that almost any moonlit night it can be easily perceived by the unaided terrestrial eye. What then must have been its splendor in the eyes of our travellers whose telescopes brought it actually four thousand times nearer!" - p 180
""Now what is the consequence of this law? If the orbit were a circle, the satellite would always preserve the same distance from its primary, and its velocity should therefore be constant. But the orbit being an elipse, and the attracting body always occupying one of the foci, the satellite must evidently be nearer to this focus in one part of its orbit than in another. The Earth when nearest to the Sun, is in her perihelion; when most distant, in her aphelion. The Moon, with regard to the Earth, is similarly in her perigree, and her apogee. Analogous expressions denoting the relations of the Projectile towards the Moon, would be periselene and aposelene. At its aposelene the Projectile's velocity would have reached its minimum; at the periselene, its maximum. As it is to the former point that we are now moving, clearly the velocity mist keep on diminishing until that point is reached. Then, if it does not die out altogether, it must spring up again, and even accelerate as it reapproaches the Moon. Now the great trouble is this: If the Aposelenetic point should coincide with the point of lunar attraction, our velocity must certainly become nil, and the Projectile must remain relatively motionless forever!"" - p 200 ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2017
Jul 20, 2017
Jan 01, 1968
Charles Olson's Mayan Letters
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 13, 2017
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show review of
Charles Olson's Mayan Letters
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 13, 2017
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've written before that Olson probably came to my notice b/c Ed Sanders used one of his poems as lyrics for a Fugs song. Since then, I've probably very sparsely read a poem here &/or an excerpt there but nothing really substantially Olson related until I read Charles Stein's The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum - The poetic cosmology of Charles Olson & his use of the writings of C. G. Jung. In my review of that I wrote:
"I have the utmost respect for scholarly works - even those on subjects I'm not necessarily that interested in. IF SOMEONE'S GOING TO TAKE THE TROUBLE TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING THAT HAS DEEP CONTENT, ONE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT SOMEONE'S GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IT DEEPLY - & that's certainly the case here. This is no half-assed study, Stein truly cares about the subject & takes us places w/ it that perhaps no-one else wd - & that makes this a valuable bk.
"W/ that sd, reading this didn't necessarily make me any more interested in Olson or Jung than I already was. In fact, it firmly established for me that Olson is a type of poet for whom I have very little entry point." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11...
I DID enjoy reading this. I chose it b/c I've been doing language research for my 'opera', Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas (you can some idea of the progress of the software for that here: https://youtu.be/fiAVrCNtKvQ ). It wasn't really any use for my research but I'm glad I read it.
The preface was written by the well-known poet Robert Creeley to whom these "Mayan Letters" were directed: "Some time towards the end of 1950, it was in December I think, but the letter isn't dated, I heard that Charles Olson was off to the Yucatan." (p 5)
Olson as a person comes across, perhaps, a bit more in this than he might in a poem. Writing about caring for a bird that'd been injured by vicious rock-throwing boys, I can relate:
"So I reached down and raised the right wing up to the top of the wall. Then the left. And, itself, it pulled its body up, perched for an instant, and swung off, off and up, into the sky, god help us, up and out over the sea, higher and higher, and, not like the others but working its wings in shorter, quicker strokes, it pulled off and off, out over the shrimp ship moored out in the deeper water, inside the bar, from which it swing inland again, and, as I watched it a good five minutes, kept turning more an more to the west, into the sun, until that peculiar movement of the wings began to give way to the more usual flight of a chii-mi." (pp 10-11)
Helping out an injured bird is the kind of thing that's going to make me like someone &, yes, Olson comes across as just my kind of fellow: questioning authority & getting his ass out there in the world to try to have his own perceptions of it instead of the prepackaged ones.
"I am the one who is arguing that the correct way to come to an estimate of that dense & total thing is not, again, to measure the walls of a huge city but to get down, before it is too late, on a flat thing called a map, as complete a survey as possible of all, all present ruins, small as most of them are.
"They'll cry, these fat and supported characters: 'Oh, they are all over the place, these, ruins!' Which is quite, quite the big and astounding fact - so much so are they all over the place that Sanchez & Co., Campeche, Mex., is not the only sand and gravel company in business: already, in this walking area from this house, I have come to learn of four sites – and of some size more than 'small' – which have already been reduced to white cement in bags!" - pp 14-15
Olson's disgust w/ the reduction of ruins to building materials that eradicate the history of the culture the ruins potentially contain cd be seen as a creative reuse in wch the history isn't perceived as of much value as the present. Olson does have an appreciation for creative reuse of contemporary items:
"You will imagine, knowing my bias toward just such close use of things, how much all these people make sense to me (coca-cola tops are the boys' tiddley-winks; the valves of bicycle tubes, are toy guns; bottles are used an re-used, even sold, as cans are; old tires are the base foot-wear of this whole peninsula (the modern Maya sandal is, rope plus Goodyear); light is candle or kerosene, and one light to a house, even when it is a foco, for electricidad" - p 18
Olson's letters are predictably peppered w/ references to other poets, in this case to Ezra Pound:
"Ez's epic solves problem by his own ego: his single emotion breaks all down to his equals or inferiors (so far as I can see only two, possibly, are admitted, by him, to be his betters – Confucius, & Dante. Which assumption, that there are intelligent men whom he can outtalk, is beautiful because it destroys historical time, and
"thus creates the methodology of the Cantos, viz, a space-field where, by inversion, though the material is all time material, he has driven through it so sharply with the beak of his ego, that, he has turned time into what we must now have, space & its live air" - pp 26-27
I once performed on video a text of mine written esp for George Quasha's "Poetry Is" project in wch I sd:
"Poetry is, when unquestioned, just another religion
to be exalted as a proxy for the self.
"Poetry is a way of saying something vague while deluding oneself
as being rigorous.
"Poetry is something that sets off my Bullshit Detector.
"Poetry is something that I enjoy most when poets make
the least claims for it."
I don't think George will ever use the footage. His series seems to prefer statements by people who use poetry as "a way of saying something vague while deluding" themselves "as being rigorous." I, as a matter of fact, currently love poetry (sortof) but I have no intention of coming inside it as if it can become pregnant in the process. Whether Pound "destroys historical time" or whether he's "turned time into what we must now have, space & its live air" is open to debate. That strikes me as the kind of thing that one poet writes to another in order to glorify the myth of the potentials of a shared profession. To again quote from my "Is Is" txt:
"Myth is alright as long as no-one believes it."
but maybe I'm just a spoil-sport.. William Carlos Williams's Paterson, NJ, makes it in here too:
"but such blueberry America as Bill presents (Jersey dump-smoke covering same) also WENT (that is, Bill, with all respect, don't know fr nothing abt what a city is)" - p 30
Now maybe Olson never intended these letters for publication, maybe this snarky comment about Williams cd've been considerably broadened into a critique. Regardless, Williams's Paterson was published in 5 volumes & I doubt that it was all hot air so maybe he at least knew something about Paterson, a city, at least.
Olson puts his money where his critical mouth is & goes off to practice some amateur archeology when he can endure the heat:
"christamiexcited, getting that load off my heart, to you, thursday, did a trick. for it pulled out, that afternoon, down the road AND BROKE THRU–
"hit a real spot, which had spotted fr bus, and which same, apparently, untouched: Con & I came back with bags of sherds & little heads & feet – all lovely things
"then, yesterday, alone, hit further south, and smash, dug out my 1st hieroglyphic stone! plus two possible stela (tho, no crowbar, so no proof)" - p 37
Predictably, I like Olson's idiosyncratic expressiveness: "christamiexcited" instead of "Christ! Am I excited!", "fr" instead of "from" & "tho" instead of "though". Fortunately for him, he was writing using a typewriter - there was no spellcheck to fight him every step of the way. He cd actually write the way he wanted to w/o having to constantly undo 'corrections' that actually represent the limited intelligence of the app programmers. In general, I like his observations too:
"It's grass that is the big enemy of maize, the only real one, for they burn off the bush, before they plant. But grass keeps coming in. And in the old days, they were able to stand it off – for as long as seven years (the maximum life of a milpa) – by weeding out the grass by hand. But then came the machete. And with it, the victory of the grass in two years. For ever since that iron, the natives cut the grass, and thus, without having thought about it, spread the weed-seed, so that the whole milpa is choked, quickly choked, and gone, forever, for use for, maize (grass is so tough it doesn't even let bush or forest grow again!)" - p 39
In general, Olson convinces me he's a scholar so I'm interested in his forays into Mayan linguistics:
"Example: the big baby I spotted yesterday means CHUNCAN means TRUNK OF THE SKY – and by god, the pyramid is so sharp and high it is just that, and most beautiful, high over the sea and the land (more like a watch-tower than anything templish) ..." - p 38
"CHUN-CAN, by the way, which I told you was TRUNK OF THE SKY, is – says Martínez not that (which is what the Seybanos told me) but TRUNK OF THE SERPENT. He says, to be the 1st, it would have to be CHUN-CAAN. (Which of course it may have been.)" - p 44
"One curious this is, that the place of origin (in the legends) keeps coming up as TULE (also Tula, Tullan, Tulapan). And it is sd to be the place where he, 'the great father-priest,' was"
"But this TULE us curious in other ways (not to mention the fact that, in one people's version it is on the other side of the ocean to the east, & in another, to the west): the wildest of all is, what you will remember, that ultima Thule, was the outermost reach of the world to the ancients, was, to the Greeks. Thoule, or Thyle. In the light of Waddell, I should like to know (or Berard, as well as Waddell, for that matter) if that word goes back behind the Greeks to the Phoenicians, Cretans, Sumerians." - p 46
"(Hippolito, for ex., was telling Con and me – with considerable excitement – about a Lacondon Indian who was his & Stromsvik's guide when they were at Bonampak three yrs ago (these Lacandones are an isolated tribe in Chiapas, near the Guatemala border, who have stayed in a state of arrestment apparently equal to the period of the Maya before the cultivation of maize – which goes back, maybe, 3 millennia before Christ, or , into that area of time which coincides with the opening out of the Persian and Mediterranean world by the Sumerians.)" - p 47
I have a special interest in the Lacadone, about whom I know next to nothing, b/c I read a short mention of them in what might be issue 2 of High Frontiers magazine (1985) in wch the Lacadone are described as highly anti-authoritarian. I even had a self-inking rubber stamp made using brown ink that reads: "bin in tsikbal yete wes - lacadone I'm going to talk to the president". Talking to the president means taking a shit & a 'pencil for the president' means a corncob for wiping one's ass.
"But it's hieroglyphs, which are the real pay-off, the inside stuff, for me. And that's not in situ, that is, you can't see them – why Sánchez is so very much the value, for me, here (he came to dinner Monday night, and by god if he doesn't come in with the whole set of little books published in Campeche with his drawings of same, damndest sweetest present, and, too much, as you'd say, too much ..." - p 50
It'd be interesting to see a much larger edition of this bk w/ pictures of things that Olson refers to. I have to wonder about at least one minor detail of this edition: Olson supposedly typed (& hand-wrote) these letters. Unless he was using a Selectric typewriter w/ replaceable font balls I doubt that his typewriter had italics. Therefore, italicized words like "see" in the above may've been hand-written in for emphasis (that strikes me as unlikely but then I don't know Olson's letters so it might be something he did) OR a liberty in printing has been taken or?
In general, I found this bk fascinating enuf - whether it's Olson's attempt to follow the Mayan calendar:
"monday, mars (Or, as I figure it comes out, on the Maya calendar: CEH, day AKBAL (Ceh meaning the New Fire Ceremony, Instituted by Kukulkan, 1159 AD or c." - p 52
or his description of cleaning w/ shell fragments:
"...yesterday was a bitch, & beautiful : we took 7 A.M. bus down coast, to a glyph, then set off up the road back, walking some 8 kilometres to a place on coast called Sihoplaya, which same beach is only equalled by Oregon coast : we stripped, and washed each other with the sand (not sand, but minute fragments of shells)" - p 52
or his recounting of a myth:
"moon is girl, living with grandfather, weaving, sun is not yet sun, is a young man full of himself, who wants this girl, & poses as great hunter, to win her first looking. to come closer he borrows the nature of hummingbird, but, while drinking honey out of teh tobacco flowers near her house, grandpa pings him with a clay shot fr blowgun. moon picks sun-bird to bosom, then to room, then sun to consciousness, then sun to human shape, and business! he persuades her to elope. but g-pop gets rain to toss bolts at pair fleeing in canoe : sun converts to turtle and escapes, but moon, trying on crab shell, is not protected enough & is killed." - p 55
or his comments on the language:
"what i want to get to, with you, is, at the nature of this language, of which the glyphs are the most beautiful expression (much more beautiful, by the way, than the codices, which are late & Mexican (pictographic, not, as were the Maya, both ideographic & phonetic) and much more beautiful due to the limits of stone plus the limits of language)" - p 58
"Well, said, it doesn't seem to say much. But i smell it as important, tho, just yet, i can't demonstrate (it opens up, the fluency of, the glyphs, for me : which is what i have felt in them since that first day i saw them through Sánchez's drawings. and leads straight on in to the heart of their meaning & design as language, not, as astrological pictographs
"the distinction is, that it is necessary to separate the glyphs from the use they were put to, that is, no argument, that the major use was, to record in stone the investigations by the learned of time & planets, but – because the stone has stayed, while another use – for books, painted or written with a brush – has mostly disappeared, there is not reason not to come in quite fresh from the other end, and see the whole business of glyphs as, 1st, language, and, afterward, uses of same
"and it is the fact that the glyphs were the alphabet of the books that puts the whole thing back to the spoken language. Or so it seems to me, this morning." - p 62
Olson suffers from gastro-intestinal & other illnesses that people from North America seem to be generally not immune to when they visit more tropical climates.
"Uxmal & Kabah
"(((found out, it's tick poisoning, which, I've had : you shld not be me, this morning, with my trunk wholly raised in sores, plus, fr the jail water, tourista, viz, GIs : up at 6 this morning))) ..." - p 70
UGH. In other words, there're more limits than just cultural ones. He has to be restricted by the environment & by his budget.
"Any one place requires, instantly, two to three days : that is, all one can do the first day, is to get there. For by that time the sun is too far up to do anything but sleep in some place out of the sun. So that evening, and the next morning, early, are the only work times. Which means, almost, the 3rd day, for return. All of which is too expensive for the likes of one sole adventurer as me!" - p 71
"LATE CLASSIC VAULT II TEPEXU"
"abandonment of site, even tho site still top shape!" - p 77
"As against the agronomy explanations of, the abandonment of, the southern cities. AVKidder argues, excellently, that it won't hold (either (1) that they maized-out, or (2) that they cut off so many zapote tress, they got erosion, & silted up their lakes into malaria swamps), simply because such sites as Quirigua (on the river Montagua, which, floods like the Nile, offsetting either of above explanation, obviously) and the Usumacinta sites (river, again : Piedras Negras, Palenque) were also deserted when, the other, inlands, were! Copan, likewise! which sits, even today, ready, for occupancy" - p 78
WHY?! I know so little about this part of the world. Olson's gotten me more interested. Contrarily, the poverty, I expect, but it's saddening, as usual.
"And by god none of them get enough to eat, even so. And I do not mean by gorging American comparisons. By minimums. 4 eggs, for example, for an omelet for a family of 7!" - p 81
Olson's full of 'unfettered' observations. Here's another example of one that I find pleasing:
"Con figures, the animals, can't any more resist Saturday night in town – paseo, Senor y Senora, pasanado? – than any of us can. Every Saturday night – and no other night, by god, if three goats don't come in and chew their way through it all! And precisely ma, pa, and little goat! Exactly like a Maya family in, from the farms, back of Quila!" - p 83
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 18, 2017
Jul 14, 2017
Jules Verne's The Hunt for the Meteor
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 11, 2017
As w/ H.G. Wells, Verne is like an old friend from my ch review of
Jules Verne's The Hunt for the Meteor
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 11, 2017
As w/ H.G. Wells, Verne is like an old friend from my childhood whose stories I'll never get tired of. &, again as w/ both of them, I pace my reading of them far enuf apart so that I'll probably never read them all. Here're the Verne's I've read, roughly in the order of their writing:
Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1869-70)
Around the World in Eighty Days (1873)
The Begum's Fortune (1879)
The Demon of Cawnpore (1880)
Carpathian Castle (1892)
For the Flag (1896)
The Village in the Treetops (1901)
Master of the World (1904)
The Lighthouse at the end of the World (published posthumously 1905)
The Hunt for the Meteor (published posthumously 1908)
Yesterday and Tomorrow (published posthumously 1910)
Into the Niger Bend (published posthumously 1919)
The City in the Sahara (published posthumously 1919)
Now, I'm informed by the Wikipedia entry re Verne that the "posthumously published volumes in the Voyages Extraordinaires were extensively altered and in some cases entirely written by by Verne's son Michel." & that apparently applies to The Lighthouse at the end of the World AND The Hunt for the Meteor in the above list. However, some of the others aren't in the Wikipedia list at all so perhaps they're completely discredited.
"Until recent years, The Hunt for the Meteor (La Chasse au Méteore) was the only one of Jules Verne's posthumous works to be translated and published in English; it appeared, however, under a title which revealed its secret prematurely." - p 5
'I wonder what title that might've been.' you ask. But is that a question? Where's the question mark? Can it be 'answered' by The Chase of the Golden Shower? Close, but no question mark.
"Another of his attempts at humour breaks down in translation; neither the original translator or I as editor have been able to render the extraordinary malapropisms of the housekeeper Mitz." - p 6
Of course, I don't know what the original malapropisms were like en Français but I find the translations quite satisfactory.
""And My Crown?" she questioned, this being her pronunciation of Omicron's name.
""He's busy upstairs," replied Francis. "We'll manage without him this morning."
""All the better," grumbled Mitz. "I wish he'd stay and moon about in his absurdatory for good and all. We'd be better off here without that prize idiot."" - p 22
Mitz doesn't really get a fair deal & neither does Omicron. Omicron gets no credit for discovering the meteor b/c he's a servant. I cry 'FOUL!'
"Mitz, a model servant, and whose like it would be hard to find nowadays, belonged to that lost breed of domestic servants, resembling a dog in being attached to her masters and resembling a cat in being attached to the house." - p 16
Really, Verne?! That's disgustingly classist. I expect better from you. Of course, Mitz's 'master' is a person of more dollars than sense, Forsyth is a man of leisure, someone privileged enuf to be an amateur astronomer.
"And what was Forsyth's occupation? Medicine, law, literature, art, business? No, not at all. Sciences? Well, not sciences in the plural, but science in the singular, that sublime science which is called astronomy." - p 17
""It's quite possible," Omicron agreed. "It's very probable, even: for, a few days ago, when the sky was a little clearer, I thought I could see . . ."
""And I saw it too, Omicron."
""Both os us, then, both of us, and at the same time!"
""Omicron!" Forsyth protested.
""Yes! You first, no doubt," Omicron conceded, with a significant nod. "But when I thought I could see the thing in question, I thought it must be . . ."" - p 18
Much of the conflict in this bk centers around Forsyth & Dr. Hudelson, a neighbor astronomer, both trying to claim discovering the meteor to the exclusion of the other.
"Why didn't the two old friends share their shooting-star between them? There was no material advantage, no pecuniary profits to be hoped for. Even the honour was purely platonic. Why, therefore, grudge there being two names associated with the discovery? Why? Because they were both vain and touchy. And when these two foibles arise in question, how can reason prevail?" - p 44
"When Forsyth learnt the value of his meteor, he cried: "As I discovered it, and not that rascal in Morris Street, it belongs to me; and if it should fall on the earth, all this wealth would be mine!"
"On his side, Hudelson, as he shook his fist towards Elizabeth Street, declared: "It's my property, my children's inheritance, which is circling in space. If it should fall on our globe, nobody could take it from me, and I should be fabulously rich!"": - pp 70-71
The meteor, for reasons that will be revealed, is valued at 231,520 millions sterling - in other words for more than any human being has ever had to this day. Do I really believe that there are people so venal that they cdn't share that? Maybe.
Omicron's claim to the discovery is dismissed b/c he's a servant. Since Verne (or his son Michel) wrote that into the story one might think that there's critical commentary implicit but I'm not so sure. Verne seems to accept the status quo.
"The town in which this strange story begins is situated in Virginia, U.S.A.; it may be called Whaston, on the right bank of the river Potomac; it is useless to specify its exact whereabouts, for it does not appear even on the best maps." - p 7
Whaston, despite its obscurity & presumed small size, has at least 5 newspapers, something that cdn't be supported in hard copy in today's electronic age in any but the largest cities. There's the Daily Whaston, the Whaston News, the Whaston Morning, & the Whaston Evening, there's even a satirical one called the Whaston Punch. What? No Whaston Astronomer?
As w/ Whaston, try calculating how to get to Cross Village, MI, sometime on yr MapQuest or whatnot & you'll find it to be pretty obscure. There's at least one romance going on between here & there but there're 2 romances going on in Whaston.
"Seth Stanfort checked him: "Is it really necessary," he asked, "for Miss Arcadia and myself to dismount?"
"Mr. Proth reflected. "No," he decided. "The marriage can quite well be celebrated on horseback."" - p 13
Indeed, why not? I've never been married but when I got divorced from Laure Drougoul for all I know I was in a car at the time. Perhaps Verne shd've gotten divorced instead of married since he finds the qualities he likes in wives lacking in real life:
"Whenever he was preoccupied she respected his preoccupation. She even inquired after his work, and her kindly heart dictated encouraging language when the astronomer seemed to have lost his way in the infinity of space. She was a woman of the sort whom every husband could have wished to marry, and especially the astronomers. Unfortunately, her species is rarely met with outside novels." - p 26
I find this next type of detail to be the sort of thing that makes Verne particularly likable:
"Dr. Hudelson's house was comfortable, with a courtyard in front and a garden at the back. On its roof was a sort of square tower, thirty yards high, on the top of which was a terrace, and at one of the corners rose the mast on which, Sundays and holidays, there was hoisted the Star-spangled banner, the flag of the United States with its fifty-one stars."*
*"Verne was looking well ahead, for when he wrote, the flag had only forty-five Stars, and even now there are only fifty!" - p 28
Having been a Pittsburgher now for 21.5 yrs I'm always delighted when PGH gets mentioned in something I'm reading: "To the Head Astronomer of Pittsburgh Observatory, Pennsylvania." (p 33) I've been to that observatory, observatories are always very interesting to me.
The discovery of the meteor leads to people fearing that it'll crash into their town:
"As the said meteor had appeared in the zenith of Whaston, the town must be situated in its trajectory. And, if this were a closed orbit, it would again pass over the town. Suppose that the meteor should, for some reason or other, stop in its course just at this time. Whaston would then be hit, with results that could scarcely be conceived." - p 48
For one thing, one of the most literate towns in the United States might be destroyed. God's Wrath, people, doncha no yer serposed to be ign'rant?
The meteor is made of gold. Poo! I gave it away. Well, you'd probably figure it out by reading the bk's back jacket.
"Throughout the world this had become the one centre of interest. Unlike the Gauls, whose only fear was that the sky might fall on their heads, humanity at present unanimously desired that the meteor would stop in its course, and, yielding to the earth's attraction, would fall and enrich the globe with its wandering millions." - 68
Ok, here's where it gets confusing to me. Isn't the reason that gold is highly valued simply that it's rare? & wdn't the arrival on Earth of one large chunk of gold that's bigger than all the gold hitherto known simply devalue gold in general? & how exactly were people expecting to benefit from it? Ok, I cd understand all the excitement if the meteor were some sort of self-renewing source of food but gold? Whatever. & that's part of what Verne riffs off of here.
There are plenty of extraordinary characters in The Hunt for the Meteor but the one who's most remarkable has the best name. If I ever have a gerbil, I'll know what to name it:
"Speaking colloquially people were apt to say: "Zephyrin Xirdal? . . . What a man!" and indeed, in mind and in body alike, Zephyrin Xirdal was something out of the ordinary." - p 73
"For Zephyrin Xirdal, matter is only an appearance and has no real existence; this was shown by the complete impossibility of ascertaining its ultimate constitution. Whether matter be decomposed into molecules, atoms, or even more minute particles, there will still remain a last fraction insusceptible of any analysis, and this will always be so until a first principle which is not matter is admitted. This first immaterial principle is energy." - p 82
Xirdal is, of course, a genius whose inventive abilities will turn everything around. He's also presented as absent-minded enuf to stop doing something major b/c he simply forgets about it.
""Well, I'm just off by train. I'm on my way to the seaside, where I mean to spend a week revelling in the fresh air."
""You're in luck!"
""Why not come with me? We can talk quite comfortably in the train."
""That's so! . . ." began Zephyrin.
""Unless anything is keeping you in Paris just now."
""Nothing in particular? . . . no experiment that you're making?"
"Xirdal tried in vain to remember.
""No, nothing," he replied." - p 88
"And, in the meantime, while Xirdal, mounted on his new hobby, was hurrying towards the train that should carry him far from the city, there, in the Rue Cassette, up in a room of the sixth storey, a dark harmless-looking box went on softly buzzing, a metallic reflector was still projecting its bluish light, and the cylinder of eddying dust articles still travelled, so slender but so rigid, into the unknown depths of space.
""Left to itself, the machine that Xirdal had neglected to stop, and whose very existence he had forgotten, proceeded blindly with its obscure mysterious task." - p 89
How many people use the word "milliards" any more? Why, just t'other day, I sd: "If I had a milliard for every time Zephyrin Xirdal left a box proceeding blindly with its obscure mysterious task, I'd be a milliardnaire!" & people looked at me as if I were tetched in the haid. It's sad living in a world of people w/ small vocabularies.
""And, yet, sir, if it's made of gold, it must be worth millions."
""Millions and milliards, Kate. Yes, there are milliards shooting round above our heads."" - p 95
My, how times have changed. Take, eg, the Earth's human population. 110 or so yrs ago:
""Admitting," he said, "that the earth contains fifteen hundred million inhabitants["]" - p 96
Now, that estimate probably wasn't very accurate. Still, today's estimate of human population is 7,500,000,000. That means the population has increased by 5 times in a mere 110 yrs. &, yet, I find people less worried about that now than they were 50 yrs ago. Watch out! This problem is going to come up & bite us on the ass! Not b/c it means to but b/c the person next to you won't be able to move away from where yr ass IS & it'll just look tooooooo tempting. Since constant murder doesn't really seem to be helping maybe we shd try something else? I don't recommend missionaries & their position on abstinence either.
"Thanks to the missionaries, the former fashion of tattooing has now disappeared from among these people" - p 142
Pooh. Let's put an image of a guy crucified on a cross everywhere instead.
"Although the meteor had been considerably flattened in its swift descent, its spherical shape was still perceptible. Its upper portion was fairly round, while the crushed base fitted into the anfractuosities of the ground." - p 160
While the plot of this bk doesn't necessarily follow the deepest intricate path or process of the mind, it lives up to ye olde Verne verve that we know & love.
"Verne had always been aware of the evil effects which the lust for gold can have on the human character: it suggested an episode, for example, in the first of his "Strange Journeys," Five Weeks in a Balloon, and it forms the theme of three of his posthumous stories. Though in the present work it is dealt with lightly, it is considered very seriously in The Golden Volcano and The Survivors of the "Jonathan"." - p 189
The reader is further referred to B. Traven's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 11, 2017
Jun 12, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Nov 01, 2011
Nov 01, 2011
it was amazing
Alan Lord's ATM SEX
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 9, 2017
My full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The back c review of
Alan Lord's ATM SEX
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 9, 2017
My full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The back cover of this bk exclaims: "There's a strong possibility Alan Lord may be the world's only "Trilingual Writer Satirista Musician Songwriter Civil/Structural Engineer Ex-Avant-Scenester"." There's also the strong possibility that Alan's a polymath. Just reading this bk by him will certainly entertain you & provide food-for-thought but getting to know him in his more complete manifestation is what's ultimately the most important b/c reducing him to just an entertaining writer wdn't begin to do him justice - even tho it wd probably satisfy most people.
I 1st met Alan in Montréal on Monday, February 21, 1983, at the "Parade de Propagande" that was the opening event of the "Sixth International Neoist Apartment Festival". These sorts of things don't happen everyday & the type of people who participate in them are rare & tend to form tight friendships or ferocious rivalries. There's a very deep seriousness to having a good time. Why settle for less?
At the time, I was carrying around a small battery-powered tape player w/ a speaker. It had a loop tape of applause in it. Every time I met someone & shook their hand I'd play the tape as a way of announcing that this was HISTORIC. Meeting Alan was historic. How many people value each other highly enuf to recognize such things?
In the recent past, Alan thought that he might die of cancer. He put together 'his life' on a USB drive so that people cd have access to his record of his accomplishments as a writer, a musician, an event organizer, an engineer, a neoist, an all-around human being. I'm one of the people fortunate enuf to have one of these. May Alan live long enuf to add considerably more to it. I won't give this bk a star rating b/c this is one of those instances where rating something from another person wd be doing it a dis-service. The most important people in my life are beyond the possibility of being rated, they're outside the prison (even if they're in one wch, fortunately, Alan isn't).
During the same APT 6, Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor), Boris Wanowitch, Alan, & I (& others) spent the nite in an igloo that Boris had built on a government bldg parking lot. It was, ahem, a bit uncomfortable. We spent part of the time talking about Konstantins Raudivé's claims of being able to communicate w/ the dead using a tape machine. This was not yr ordinary nite. People willing to have extraordinary lives tends to have extraordinary opinions. Consider this bk as Alan's expressions of these extraordinary opinions. He explains the title:
"No no no. It's not what you're thinking. I don't mean a couple doing it at an ATM machine. Or a spastic-fingering chick humping the machine screeching in ecstasy. Or some guy jerking off, then trying to jam his feverish dong into one of the slots, spluttering jism all over the teeny metal number-keys, groaning and then wiping his cock with a crumpled cash deposit envelope.
"Nope, none of that disgusting stuff. I mean, come on—whadya think I am? Some kinda disgusting creep or what?
"What I'm talking about here is the Real Dilio, dude, the real raw deal, the cold hard cash bills being ejaculated at me one after the other, coming and coming and coming, right into my trembling greedy cash-starved hands. Cash that's as good as or better than or infinitely more satisfying than some crappy old disease-and-guilt vanilla sex hand-me-down job with a complete stranger or some lonesome ready-known schlubb." - p 9
Need I point out that the above is multileveled in its trickiness? 1st, he gets to pour forth perverted sexual fantasies & then immediately disown them as if he wd never think such things, let alone express them! even tho he just did & did. Then he presents the reader w/ the supposedly preferable 'clean' 'alternative' as if this is what he endorses when he's obviously not endorsing it at all. A double whammy. Satire exaggerates what it pokes fun at to show its underbelly, it turns over the corpse of culture to show the knife wounds.
& Alan has fun w/ the language. Thank clod he doesn't inhibit himself away from using slang. I wonder if his spiel-check constantly 'correct's words that don't fit into its all-too-limited-not-even-AI-non-understanding-of-language like mind does? If you ever meet someone from the future you'll recognize them not b/c they can bet money on the right horse but b/c spew-chuck has hunted down every last pun in the world & eradicated it: they won't have a sense of humor.
"Yeah, it's really all over now baby blue, like kaput hasta la vista sayonara done for, monsieur — and so I'm telling you — I collapse head first into the worst fucking Post-ATM Coital Depression I've ever fucking experienced, man" - p 10
Yes, you'll be able to ferret out those people from the future by showing them copies of ATM SEX & seeing whether they don't understand it at all. If they don't get the Dylan reference, if they don't understand "fucking" as an adjective, if they don't get "Post-ATM Coital Depression" then they probably learned 21st century English from some brain implant designed by a humorless AI that's far more A than it is I. & they really won't get the psychology of "Security Desks".
"I can't fool them. They know I'm up to no good. If I can't find the directory board within fifteen seconds, I start panicking. They'll know I don't know where I'm going. They'll know I've never been there before, that I have no business being there. Help!
"Ok—time for the "Bumpkin Routine"—see if they'll fall for it. I go over to the Security Desk. "Excuse me," I stammer, hoping they won't see the bead of sweat on my perspiring lip, "which floor is GloboDeth Industries on?"" - p 12
For those of us who get followed by security guards as soon as we walk into the bank or the store, this is hilarious. We know that for many of the normal people who get hired for this sort of job we are guilty even after being proven innocent (if we're lucky enuf to even get that far) b/c, hey!, we smack of being free thinkers. In the meantime, while the security guard wastes his or her time scrutinizing & intimidating the 'suspicious character', that guy in the really nice suit is bilking all the stockholders of millions of dollars & flying off to the Cayman Islands. But that's ok, it's the guy who's there to deposit a $60 check that you have to watch out for. Why the guard will even hold the door politely for the white collar criminal & be grateful if the man-in-the-suit calls him by his 1st name - even tho the guard had better not do that in return! The guard knows his or her place.
"If you wanna blow up a bank, then dress like a banker. A successful one." - p 14
My point exactly. In 2003, I had a plane ticket to go to Southern California. I went early to the airport to go thru the usual security procedures b/c I never know how long sniffing my shoes & my asshole's going to take. On this occasion it didn't take long for a change & I had time to wander from bkstore to bkstore checking to see whether they had anything other than romance novels, how-to-bilk-everyone-in-the-world self help bks, & thrillers.
I was dressed in my "velcro period": clothes that I'd altered by sewing strips of velcro on them so that I cd mix & match various objects, mostly silk-screens on fabric but also an empty audio cassette case. In the field of imaginationless drones I stood out like a very healthy erection. I went to one store where a nervous looking older white hick woman probably asked me about my clothes. I explained that they had velcro on them & demonstrated by peeling off one of the objects & reattaching it.
I thought I was demonstrating cleverness & creativity - but, NO, I was apparently demonstrating my devious terrorist techniques. You know how it is: you go up to a terrorist on the streets & ask them about their suicide bomber vest & they show it off & explain how it works & then they pull the pin (or whatever they use). Maybe they even show you their cellphone code for setting off all the IEDs they've planted around in case you want to take part in the fun. What's wrong w/ this picture? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the person who's having this paranoid fantasy is out-of-touch w/ 'reality' b/c they watch too much TV & just know that anyone different from them is going to go on a killing spree at a moment's notice?
SO, I'm at a bkstore & I'm surprised to see displayed in the middle of the rm a series of bks by Noam Chomsky, including a little one on 9/11. I'm delighted! Some intellectual reading. SO, I go to look at them & shortly thereafter I hear a voice addressing me to the effect of: "Excuse me sir, do you have a ticket?" & I turn & see a State Trooper standing a safe distance away from me at the entrance to the store. Did the bkstore employee press an alarm or something when I went for the Chomsky?
Now the man's being polite, I'm not angry w/ him, this is 'normal' in my life, I'm always a suspect. If I go to a university to give a lecture I might get stopped by their cops & interrogated. Sure, I'm giving a lecture, right. Of course, I'm really there to rape the students. Anyway, he asks to see my ticket. I show it to him. As he walks towards me to see it another State Trooper arrives to stand in a 'safe' place to watch the interaction. I assume he will shoot me at the slightest 'false move'.
The 1st State Trooper says: "I'll explain why I'm doing this: Since you've been in here I've gotten 3 phone calls asking how you got in here." YES! How did I get in there? Well.. I pd for a ticket & went thru security like everyone else. The same people who either thought I was a terrorist or a homeless person or whatever wdn't even notice the person wearing the pilot's uniform walking thru w/ a briefcase full of explosives. We all know that terrorists call as much attn to themselves w/ colorful clothing as possible so that everyone will stare at them while they prepare to blow everything up. NOT. I'd say "use yr heads, people" but once yr brain's been washed a little too often there's no turning back. Hanging it out to try just doesn't work.
When the Weather Underground planted bombs in corporate bldgs do you think the guys w/ long hair & tattered jeans & peace signs on did the job? Of course not! They sent pretty young women in wearing nice feminine clothes. Same w/ things like the Algerian Milk Bar bombing. Believe me, if I go somewhere & there's a pretty young woman wearing all 'feminine' clothes I'm going to be stopped & harrassed while the pretty young woman flashes her pretty young smile at the stupid, stupider, stupidest bigoted protector-of-yr-safety. It's so predictable that terrorists can count on it.
"You can think of GloboDeth Industries as sort of like Halliburton. Except we're Canadian. Long live Free Trade, eh?" - p 15
But, of course, if you really want to blow shit up become an arms dealer or join the military. THAT'S 'respectable'.
One might say that Alan has a 'bad attitude'. Fortunately he pokes fun at himself, at men, at women, at greedy people, at people who want to save the world, at people w/ facial tattoos (I have one). As is only fair, everyone is fair game.
"Save The Panda Watchers
"Did you know that those cute Panda Bears are forever just one step away from extinction? Yes, all they eat is bamboo shoots, but bamboo shoots are not very nutritious. They barely give a Panda Bear enough energy to make it over to the next bamboo grove. But what if the bamboo grove isn't there when they get there? Or the next bamboo grove is on a hilltop two miles away? Uh-oh ... we're talking edge of extinction here, folks. Oh yeah, that's a big problem.
"What about the Panda Watchers? Yes, the folks who stay on the couch all day watching nature specials on Panda Bears, munching on Doritos. You know, those Doritos ain't too nutritious either. Will they have enough energy left to even rop the bag open and get at one of those crucial disgusting fake-cheese-covered fluorescent chips before it's too late?
"Remember: Panda Watchers are also only one Dorito away from extinction. Please save the Panda Watchers by donating generously to the Frito-Lay Corporation." - p 18
Now, Alan has certainly called my attn to a serious problem w/ that one. But let's think about it: Are there really enuf nature specials on Panda Bears to contribute to such a problem in the 1st place?! I think not. No, Panda Watchers are actually Simpsons watchers & they're not eating Doritos, they're smoking pot. All the world needs to do to save the Simpsons watchers is just let their electricity get turned off for non-payment.
"You just won the lottery. Congratulations! You're a very very lucky man. But you're right—it won't change you, and it shouldn't change you. No sirree—just forget about the millions you just won and keep working at your old job. because you love your job and certainly don't wanna give it up." - p 25
That's gotta be based on a real-life incident. I'm convinced that there's a conspiracy at work somewhere there. There's a secret government agency or a right-wing think tank that plants 'news' like this in mainstream media & then watches for deaths of working-class people from apoplexy.
& y'know what I'm going to do about it? I'm going to put implants in the Panda Bears that enable them to find the conspirators. They are then going to eat them. There will then be documentaries about it shown instead of Simpsons episodes & the potheads will switch to speed. Problems solved.
"I would like to take the opportunity to thank all fruit producers out there for kindly applying a sticker to all manner of fruit. Because there's nothing I like better in the world than to take the quality time necessary to peel off the stickers from a plum or apple I am about to eat. It forces me to relax and enter a wholesome Zen-like non-mind space." - p 28
Well, the joke's on Lord here. All those fruit stickers? They originate w/ the Street Ratbags. Lord probably thought he was paying attn.. but he wasn't. While he was taking for granted that he knew what those stickers sd he stopped reading them. That gave the Ratbags time to put stickers on that sd things like "Bananas for Sarcasm", "reclaim the streets", "honorary member of the SRLA", "Bananas against Sarcasm", "Bananas for Animal Rights", "RESIST", "Bananas for disarmament", "bananas have freudian slip appeal", "NEOIST BANANA CAUTION @", "down with $ism", "Bananas against the WTO", "IMF" w/ a null sign over it, "!?! Bananas not cars", "i read the STREET RAT", "Don't tread on me", & "Monty Cantsin smokes bananas". That's the way a successful revolution works, folks. It sneaks up on you real subtle-like. That's why I have a genetically modified fruit tree growing in my toilet. It bears all fruit & there're no stickers. I'm a survivalist.
Alan provides us w/ a "Report From Planet Murka". I'm not sure how he got into Murka to smuggle this report out. Immigration's pretty strict.
"Murkans are a strange bunch. It is strongly advised that all sentient beings approach them with extreme caution. One minute they're way too friendly, then at the slightest imagined offense they'll swing wildly to murderous violence. They loudly boast that they are a peaceful people, but then at home all they do is watch violent "shows" (a theater of sorts) on a small electrical device that emits photons all day long. People in these mini-plays run around with a metallic tune attached to their hands, and senselessly kill each other by means of said metallic tubes." - p 36
It's amazing. I'm a Murkan & NO-ONE's figured out yet that we're born w/ these tubes. They. Are. Part of us. Anyway, I've sd some nice things about Alan in this review but after reading the above I sent a smart missile to his house to remind him to watch his manners. Sorry about that, Alan, that time we spent in the igloo together only goes so far.
Alan's full of commentary on female-to-male relations. One suspects that maybe he's played w/ fire a little too often.
"Romantic Tips For Dudes
""A man isn't a man until he makes a woman feel like a woman"
"Doesn't make any sense, huh? Well it does to a woman, dude. See? That's why you don't have any luck with the dames. Don't know how to read 'em, don't know how to feel 'em. That's why your Mojo is always safely tucked away in your Calvin Kleins.
"You have to learn how to come up with a similar meaningless hogwash, pull 'em over to you tenderly by the shoulder, and whisper inane stuff like that to them with imploring sad-puppy eyes.
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but you'll have to try hard not to make a face or roll your eyes and burst out laughing like an idiot. Because it works, Dude, trust me. They eat this up in scoops. Which means Mr. Mojo Risin' will be next in line." - p 46
Alan might be on to something here. A woman friend of mine did tell me recently that she went back to her boyfriend who she's consistently described as abusive & uncaring b/c of his "sad eyes". That's why I got plastic surgery recently to make my eyes look like those big-eyed waif paintings of Margaret Keane. I didn't exactly get laid as a result but I did get recruited into a cult & now I'm writing this from a UFO. It's not so bad, I haven't gotten laid but my sperm is being used to impregnate vaguely humanoid creatures temporarily lifted off a planet whose name I don't know.
Alan was writing about coupons in this next section but I think his focus to be broadened to apply to every way in wch corporations & governments waste our time w/o paying for it:
"One last thing: You printed five paragraphs of tiny print legalese. It would take me approximately one minute to read all that. I make $40 an hour. Divided by 60, that makes my time worth 66 cents." - p 48
Lawyers have obviously missed out on a gold mine here. I want to be reimbursed for every SECOND I've wasted waiting for drs who're always late, on telephones waiting for someone to help me whose salary I'm paying, waiting for buses that don't even necessarily show at all - let alone on time. My time is VALUABLE so now they have to pay for wasting it. In fact, why stop at money? Every time a dr keeps you waiting you shd have the right to whip them w/ razor wire. Then they shd be kept waiting in an ER while people double-check their IDs & make doubly sure that their insurance covers every imaginable thing that they're about to pay 50,000 times more than it's worth for.
'Would you like fries with that?' 'Do you have a Rewards card?' 'Would you like to join our Bread Club?' 'Did you find everything you were looking for?' There're only so many snappy answers I can come up w/ before I just die as a result of standing at the check-out counter so long being probed for weak points in my anti-marketing armor that my life ceases flashing before me.
"No, I don't want to win a camera while eating a Pringles chip. No, I don't have an Air Miles card and no, I don't want one. No, I don't have your store's credit card, and I definitely don't want one either. Yes, I found everything that I wanted. If I didn't I wouldn't fucking be here in front of the check-out counter. Now can I just pay and get the hell outta here?" - p 51 ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 02, 2017
Jun 10, 2017
Feb 01, 1999
really liked it
James Ellroy's Clandestine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - JUNE 6, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... review of
James Ellroy's Clandestine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - JUNE 6, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
It's been a while since I read an Ellroy bk. I'd forgotten what a good writer he is. Take this 2nd paragraph of the Prologue as an example:
"Nostalgia victimizes the unknowing by instilling in them a desire for simplicity and innocence they can never achieve. The fifties weren't a more innocent time. The dark salients that govern life today were there then, only they were harder to find. That was why I was a cop, and why I chased women. Golf was no more than an island of purity, something I did exceedingly well. I could drive a golf ball three hundred yards. Golf was breathtaking cleanliness and simplicity." - p 1
Some people chase ambulances, some people chase women, women move slower.
"I breathed it all in, and gave what I hoped would pass for an ironic grin: "So you don't like cops," I said. "Big deal. Most people don't. Would you rather have anarchy? There's only one answer, Miss Weinberg. This is not the best of all possible worlds. We have to accept that, and get on with the administration of justice."" - p 30
Of course, these days there're plenty of people who, yes, wd rather have anarchy - & those who wdn't, for the most part, are only reacting to the term like a Pavlovian dog preconditioned to experience fear w/o having more than a very vague idea of what it is they're afraid of.
"Lorna did not relent. "I can't accept that, and I won't. You can't change human nature, but you can change the law. And you can weed out some of the sociopaths who carry badges and guns.
""For example, my father told me you were curious about that man who caddied for you today. I know about him. He's one of your victims. An attorney who's a member of this club once represented Dirt Road Dave in his suit against the Lose Angeles Police Department. During the Depression he had stolen some food from a grocery. Two policemen saw him do it and chased him, and when they finally caught him they were angry. They beat him unconscious with their billy clubs. Dave suffered internal hemorrhaging and almost died. He sustained irreparable brain damage. The A.C.L.U. sued your police department, and lost. Cops are above the law and can do what they please." - p 30
Now, I'm an anarchist &, unlike most anarchists I know, I don't hate cops. I think most of them are working class people who are in over their heads. Still, let's be realistic: the above story fits in w/ my idea of realism. I'll give a few relevant stories that explain why:
I had a friend whose brother was in the LA Police. One day my friend was at his parents' house when his brother came by w/ another policemen. They were joking about going out to "shoot cans. Afri-cans, Mexi-cans" Nyuk, nyuk. Black Panthers talked about the police as being like an occupying army in their neighborhoods. I think that's spot-on.
I had another friend who was a junkie poet. He was a nice guy, he probably resorted to some theft to support his habit. The police took a dislike to him. 2 cops cornered him in an alley & one of them systematically beat him w/ his billy club in the same spot on his stomach over & over again to cause internal organ damage &, thereby, shorten his life. He sued the police w/ the usual outcome of NADA police responsibility. I haven't seen the friend for decades. He's probably dead. He was a sensitive person who just cdn't make it in this society in the approved-of ways. If being a poet in this society got more respect he probably wdn't've had to resort to theft - but being a poet or most other types of creative person is undervalued to an extreme in this society.
Yet another friend of mine, of Mexican descent, was at a protest in California at a motel where illegal immigrants were being held for deportation. My friend was arrested & taken to jail where he was hog-tied (ie: w/ his hands tied behind his back to his feet) & beaten repeatedly on the soles of his feet so that he cdn't walk properly. That was torture. His mom reported this to Amnesty International who informed her that there is no torture in the US. They've since changed their tune.
I've sat in a courtrm before & witnessed a man sentenced to jail for stealing a piece of meat from a supermarket. The man was very skinny. My point is that if you're poor in this country there's a different set of laws & treatments for you than if you're rich. The police know that rich people have too many retaliatory resources AND that their actual purpose is to.. protect & serve THE RICH. They're a bodyguard pd for w/ public money, heaven forbid that the rich shd have to pay for anything.
For maybe the 1st 15 yrs that I had sex, from 1970 to 1985 - & more sporadically up 'til 1996 - the use of diaphragms was a common form of impregnation-prevention. This was preferable to birth-control pills b/c it didn't disrupt the biological cycle of the woman. Once fear-of-AIDS changed the whole dynamic of sex, the use of condoms started to dominate & diaphragms seemed to fall into disuse. I never really had a handle on when diaphragms were invented so it was interesting to find them in the 1951 of this novel:
"I pushed open the door. Maggie was starting to insert her diaphragm when she saw me. She jumped, startled and angry, into the bathtub, where she covered herself with the shower curtain.
""Bill;" she said, flushed. "Please, goddamnit, I'll just be a minute. Wait in the bedroom, honey. Please. I'll be right there."
""I just wanted to watch you, sweetheart," I said. "I wanted to help you with it."
"Maggie said nervously, "It's a private thing, Bill. A woman's thing. If you don't see me do it, then you don't really know it's there. It's better for you. Believe me, honey."" - p 38
Ah, humans & our complications. This was a one-nite stand. Can you imagine a cat-in-heat going thru this? [Cat steps into litter box & turns her back] "Meooooowweerr."
"Jack groaned and the old woman giggled as Wacky did his Frankenstein imitation, walking toward her slowly, arms extended, groaning deeply." - p 46
"232. Player-Belt Girdle Monster
- Neoista?! Puccs - Black Black Galéria & environs, (Buda)Pest, Hungary
- Monday, July 7th, 1997, 6PM
- Black Black Galéria is the gallery of Opál Színház (Opal Theater). It's in a complex of basements which was entered by stooping through a sidewalk-level window & walking down a sloping board laying on a sand pile. Large piles of sand were faintly visible off to the left when entering. At the bottom of the piles were 2 rooms. Off to the right off of the 1st room was the closed off entrance to living quarters. Off to the left of the 2nd room, 1 could walk through another awkward entrance down into another room where Amen! had an exhibit. At the end of this room was a cage that blocked entrance to a room beyond. This cage is reputed to've been lived in for 1 month by 1 of the main people of Opál Színház. I stayed mainly in the dim light on the sand piles off to the left when 1 entered - playing tapes with my Player Belt (see entries 212 & 217, etc..). Eventually, etta cetera, Brian Damage, Ghera & I ventured forth into the gypsy neighborhood - with the Player Belt playing my tapes all the while. Back in front of Black Black, the neighborhood people had gathered out of curiousity. My tape started playing loud steady explosive sounds & I began to walk stiffly with my feet hitting the pavement in sync with the sounds holding my arms out like the stereotypical zombie/monster. etta probably took something from me (like my flaming steam iron necklace) & I started pursuing her through the thick of the crowd. Children started laughing & pretending to be terrified & running frantically to get out of my way."
How did that get in there? I'm listening to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross's "Sing a Song of Basie" (recorded 1957 - a little late to be of the same period as the novel) as I wrote this. Thought you might like to know. 'Bill' insults his superior officer & pays the price, a transfer to an unglamorous & dangerous district:
"Wacky Walker never made it to Seventy-seventh Street Division, Watts, L.A.'s heart of darkness, but I did.
"Beckworth bided his time and in June, when Captain Larson retired, to muted fanfare, after thirty-three years on the job, I got my orders: Officer Frederick U. Underhill, 1647, to Seventy-seventh Street Division to fill manpower shortage.
"Which was a joke: the ranks at Seventy-seventh Street were swelled to bursting. The ancient red brick building that served the hottest per capita crime area in the city was painfully overstaffed with cops, and undersupplied with every crime-fighting provision from toilet paper to fingerprinting ink. There was a shortage of chairs, tables, floor space, lockers, soap, brooms, mops, and even writing implements. There was no shortage, however, of prisoners. There was an unsurpassed daily and nightly parade of burglars, purse snatchers, dope addicts, drunks, wife beaters, brawlers, pimps, hookers, perverts, and cranks." - p 65
I'm sure that Ellroy is well-read & researched on the eras he represents but this still seems daunting to me as a writerly task to try to accurately represent a place & time he doesn't have personal familiarity w/. It's 1951, & Ellroy has Underhill blackmailing a bartender for information b/c he's caught him w/ pot:
""Shut up. Listen to me. I'm interested in pickup artists—pussy-hounds, guys who score regular here. You help me out and I'll let you slide. You don't and I'll bust you. I'll call for a patrol car and tell the bulls you tried to sell me these three reefers. That's two to ten at Quentin. What's it gonna be?"" - p 83
Two to 10 at San Quentin prison for selling 3 joints. Those were the days. The days of ridiculous penalties for victimless crimes. The days when being gay meant hiding it to save yr life. Henry Cowell, major American composer & music theorist & publisher, etc, was imprisoned in San Quentin in 1936 w/ a 15 yr sentence for a "morals" charge. He wd've gotten out at the time this novel began if he'd served the full sentence, wch he didn't, he got out after 4 yrs.
I'd originally read that Cowell was busted in a sting operation for cruising in a park. Perhaps that story was circulated to generate more sympathy for him & for others like him. Wikipedia claims that having oral sex w/ a 17 yr old boy. I don't know wch story is true. Having been a 17 yr old boy in 1971 who hitch-hiked & got such offers fairly often I can truthfully say that saying no was all it took to prevent it from happening so I assume that the 17 yr old consented. At any rate, those were the days. The days when a major composer cd get sentenced to 15 yrs in prison b/c of his sexual activities. We're not talking Oscar Wilde in 1895, sentenced to 2 yrs hard labor for indecency, we're talking the 20th century.
""Don't thank me yet, Officer. You are a very gifted young man, but your arrogance supersedes your gifts. Arrogance cannot be tolerated in police officers; to tolerate it would be to promote anarchy. The Los Angeles Police Department is a superbly structured bureaucracy, one you have sworn allegiance to. Your actions have reviled the department. Know that, Underhill. Know that your ambition is threatening to kill you as a policeman. Do you understand me?"" - p 96
There they go, picking on anarchy again. What's so bad about thinking for yrself & sabotaging unjust institutions? Sheesh.
My 1st encounter of a close kind w/ Ellroy's work was upon witnessing the movie "L.A. Confidential". I loved it & thought it represented as great Film Noir made long after the 'classic' era for Noir. The Ellroy bk that the movie was based on was copyrighted in 1990, 8 yrs after Clandestine. Clandestine seems to hold the seeds of at least 3 later bks: L.A. Confidential, the Black Dahlia (1987), & My Dark Places (1996). The only bk that I've read by Ellroy earlier than Clandestine is Brown's Requiem (1981). Clandestine presages L.A. Confidential b/c it's got the brutal Lieutenant Dudley Smith in it taking a suspect to an abandoned motel & 'interrogating' him by beating the shit out of him until he gets a confession.
"Dudley Smith was a lieutenant in the homicide bureau, a fearsome personage and legendary cop who had killed five men in the line of duty. Irish-born and Los Angeles-raised, he still clung tenaciously to his high-pitched, musical brogue, which was as finely tuned as a Stradivarius. He often lectured at the academy on interrogation techniques, and I remembered how that brogue could be alternately soothing or brutal, inquisitive or dumbfounded, sympathetic or filled with pious rage." - p 97
Smith explains to Underhill something he did to try to discover who the Black Dahlia's killer was:
""Dick Carlisle and I snuck the stiff over to the warehouse late one night. I dyed her hair jet black, like the Dahlia's. I stripped her nude, and tied her ankles with a rope, and Dick and I hoisted her up feet first and hung her from a low ceiling beam. Then Dick went and got our eight degenerates from the Hall of Justice jail. We let them view her, one at a time, lad, with appropriate props. One scum was a knife man; he had scores of arrests for knife fighting. I handed him a butcher knife and made him slice the corpse. he could hardly do it. He didn't have it in him. Another filth was a child molester, recently paroled from Atascadero. His M.O. was asking little girls if he could kiss their private parts. I made him kiss the dead girl's private parts, smell that dead sex flesh up close. He couldn't do it. And on and on. I was looking for a reaction so vile, so unspeakable that I would know that this was the scum that killed Beth Short."" - p 125
It didn't work. I doubt that the above story is rooted in historical fact, it seems more likely to be rooted in Ellroy's lurid imagination. Maybe I'm wrong. Here's another story that seems more likely to be realistic:
"["]At five minutes of six we will kick in Eddie's door. We will subdue him, and put the fear of God into any colleen or homo who might be sharing his bed, then send them on their way. I have an interrogation place set up, an abandoned motel in Gardena. Freddy, Dick, Engels, and I will travel in my car. Mike will follow in his. This is apt to be a long interrogation, lads["]" - p 134
Think of the murders of Black Panthers Fred Hampton & Mark Clark (while they slept a drug-induced sleep as a result of downers put in their food by an undercover agent) by the police in Chicago in 1969 & you'll get a good idea of the way the police sometimes work.
In the meantime, Underhill is dating cop-critical legal eagle Lorna whose artistic taste we get a glimpse of:
"There was a Hieronymus Bosch painting that represented insanity—hysterical grotesque creatures in an undersea environment importuning God—or someone—for release from their madness. There was a Van Gogh job that featured flowery fields juxtaposed against brown grass and a somber sky. There was Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"—three lonely people sitting in an all-night diner, not talking. It was awesome and filled with with lonely wonder." - p135
I share her tastes. At the same time that she's dating Underhill, however, he's being schooled by Smith. Dudley's techniques are do NOT appeal to Lorna's tastes:
""Eddie," I said, "do your parents know you're homosexual?"
""Do they know that Lillian is a lesbian?"
""You don't want them to find out, do you?"
""No!" He screeched the word, his voice breaking. He wrapped his arms around himself and rocked back and forth." - p 165
Yep, those were the days. At least people can be a little more openly gay these days so such blackmail is less likely to be effective. Of course, let's not get too happy here, right? There're still cases like Pittsburgh policemen David Sisak, Michael Saldutte, & Richard Ewing beating the shit out of black teenagerfor no good reason Jordan Miles in the all-too-recent 2010. The cops got financially penalized but did no time. The attorney who represented Ewing was quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying: "they'd do it all over again. They did nothing wrong. They have nothing to be ashamed of." Any civilian who beat a cop like they beat this kid wd probably be given life w/o parole or executed. There's no way they'd get off like these cops did. These are the days. Still, Lorna & Fred get married, demonstrating once again that opposites attract.
"So the dead hovered over my wife and me, solidifying their presence as Lorna and I lived on. For years we loved, and it was worth the price in sorrow that my blind ambition had exacted from me and so many others. For a long while I wanted nothing that I didn't have, and I was moved beyond movement by Lorna's willingness to give it to me." - p 201
I love a little romance, esp in my own life. Thank you, you know who.
The dead are definitely hovering over this novel. Given that I'd read Ellroy's My Dark Places about the murder of his mom when he was a kid, it was easy to see parallels to his actual life story & the fiction in Clandestine:
"NURSE FOUND MURDERED IN EL MONTE
Strangulation Death for Attractive Divorced Mother"
"one of the Scouts, Danny Johnson, age 12, thought he saw an arm poking out of a line of scrub that runs along the fence on the school's south side." - p 209
Ellroy's own mom was a divorcee living in El Monte. "Some kids found her." (p 3, My Dark Places).
""Marcella was such a good woman. A good mother, devoted to her son." Mrs. Hariis, 43, was divorced from her husband, William "Doc" Harris, several years ago. They have a nine-year-old son, who was spending the weekend with his father. When notified of the death, Harris (who has been eliminated as a suspect) said, "I have every hope the police will quickly catch my wife's killer." Nine-year-old Michael, distraught, is now living with his father in Los Angeles." - p 210, Clandestine
"Hallinen and Lawton quizzed Ellroy on his ex-wife's social life. He told them Jean was a secretive woman who kept things to herself. She lied when it suited her—and she was really 43, not the 37 she claimed. She was promiscuous and an alcoholic. Her son found her in bed with strange men on several occasions. Her recent move to El Monte could only be explained as a run from or run to some lowlife she was seeing." - p 13, My Dark Places
"The victim's son was pudgy, and tall for 10 years old. He was nervous—but did not appear in any way distraught." - p 12, My Dark Places
Ellroy was put into his father's care. The parallels go on & on. Ellroy's mom's murder was never solved.
""Well," he said, "she said the kid was gettin' into fights, and talkin' dirty . . . and . . . exposing himself to all the other little kids."" - p 215, Clandestine
"I was becoming quite a large kid. I was foulmouthed and spouted profane lingo on the schoolyard. My father's favorite expression was "Fuck you, Fritz." His favorite expletive was "cocksucker." I mimicked his language and reveled in it shock value.
"I was refining my Crazy Man Act. It kept me miserably lonely and sealed up in my own little head." - p 99, My Dark Places ...more
Notes are private!
May 29, 2017
Jun 08, 2017
Oct 01, 1984
it was amazing
Greg Bear's The Infinity Concerto
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 3, 2017
This is the 18th bk I've read by Bear & I admit that I di review of
Greg Bear's The Infinity Concerto
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 3, 2017
This is the 18th bk I've read by Bear & I admit that I didn't particularly expect to be surprised by him but, Lo & Behold!, I was. This is not only a Fantasy bk instead of the usual Hard Science Fiction it's a dagnabbit-all-to-heck'n'tarnation excellent one!
Fantasy writers often write epics, usually in the form of trilogies. The Infinity Concerto is so epic it's practically a trilogy all by its lonesome. Instead, it's part of a diptych. The 2nd part's called The Serpent Mage, I haven't read that one yet.
I read on the back cover "and it is not good to be human in the Realm of the Sidhe" & that was exciting enuf b/c, thx to having done a piece inspired by Yeats (sortof) called "The Only Jealousy of Cascando McKenna" ( https://youtu.be/1YQI5IBEA0A?t=29m24s ), I knew that the Sidhe are part of Irish mythology & that it's pronounced "she" (or something close to that).
""The Shee sound like they—" Michael began, but Savarin interrupted.
""Pronounce it correctly. It's spelled S-I-D-H-E, from the ancient Gaelic—or rather, the ancient Gaels heard hem calling themselves by that name. They pronounce it as a cross between 'Shee' and 'Sthee.'" - p 35
THEN, on p 1: "He rolled out of bed, kicking a book of Yeats' poems across the floor with one bare foot.": a sort of foreshadowing that's only recognizable as such if you understand that Yeats referred to the aforesaid myths. This led to my feeling like a Mr. Smartypants b/c not only did I immediately get it, I'd already done a piece about it. n'at
The world must be full of children who thrill to secret adventures in alternate universes entered thru strange passages. I was certainly one of them. To this day, I love secret doorways behind bkshelves & the like.
"It was a silly decision. The world was sane; such opportunities didn't present themselves. he withdrew the paper and read it for the hundredth time:
""Use the key to enter the front door. Do not linger. Pass through the house, through the back door and through the side gate to the front door of the neighboring house on the left, as you face the houses. The door to that house will be open. Enter. Do not stop to look at anything. Surely, quickly, make your way to the back of the house, through the back door again, and across the rear yard to the wrought-iron gate. Go through the gate and turn to your left. The alley behind the house will take you past many gates on both sides. Enter the sixth gate on your left."" - p 3
I'm hooked. Those instructions had been given to him by an old man friend of his known as Arno Waltiri who had been a film music composer:
"Two months before, on a hot, airless August day, Waltiri had taken Michael up to the attic to look through papers and memorabilia. Michael had exulted over letters from Clark Gable, correspondence with Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a manuscript copy of a Stravinsky oratorio." - p 7
I found the reference to Korngold particularly engaging - not b/c I like his music that much but just b/c I even know who he is & b/c he was one of the composers condemned by the Nazis as "degenerate" who was lucky enuf to escape to the US. To quote from the liner notes of a CD entitled "The Music Survives! Degenerate Music":
"Another pre-war progressive was Ernst Krenek. His opera Jonny spielt auf, more than any other, embodied the concept of 'Entartete Musik'. An offensive half-ape, half-Negro playing a saxophone and with the star of David on the lapel of his tuxedo, named Jonny, became the logo for music they didn't like. The opera was an enormous hit all over Europe and was the first to confront audiences with sights and sounds familiar through the modern world around them: cars, whistles, jazz bands, sirens, electric bells — with the final jubilant chorus suddenly interrupted by an air raid siren: a frightening premonition, making its place at the end of our sampler all too appropriate.
"Jonny spielt auf was used to launch the 'Entartete Musik' series alongside another, contrasting, opera — Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane. Both operas were premiered in 1927, though Korngold's father, Vienna's most important critic, tried to collaborate with the National Socialists to prevent Jonny detracting from Heliane's success. Korngold's opera took music to levels of expressiveness not even reached by Strauss or Puccini. The aria 'Ich ging zu ihm' is one of the more reflective moments in this work. During his exile in Hollywood, Korngold created a cinematic style which would shape the future of film music, as can be heard in the excerpt from his soundtrack Between Two Worlds.
"The irony of the Jonny vs Heliane 'fight' is that the progressive, subversive Jonny was written by the monarchist, Roman Catholic Krenek, whereas the author of Heliane — a whirlpool of noble Germanic sentiment — was the Jewish Korngold. Both composers were Viennese of Czech extraction, roughly the same age, established in Berlin and exiled in Southern California where they died, probably having never met one another."
As such, the reference to Korngold in The Infinity Concerto, while completely casual & one-time-only had a similar poignant foreshadowing resonance as did the reference to Yeats. Waltiri is a fictional composer but Bear adds the extra nice touch of providing an appendix of "The Film Scores of Arno Waltiri (Highlights)" on p 342 that includes Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, & Henry Roth's Call It Sleep.
I found this list to be tantalizing. Roth's story of a Jewish immigrant family in NYC has never been made into a film as far as I know. Perhaps Bear's hinting that he'd like to see it be. Austen's Northanger Abbey is Austen's parody of Gothic novels & has been made into TV versions by both the BBC & PBS but is that good enuf? Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was a bk made w/ photographer Walker Evans & documented the lives of impoverished tenant farmers during the Depression. As far as I know that hasn't been made into a movie either. Another hint from Bear? Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King was made into a movie by the great director John Huston in 1975 starring Sean Connery - that was 9 yrs before this bk was published so it seems reasonable to assume that Bear knew about it since the movie wd've been a high profile release. As such, it seems to be an anomaly in the 4 choices I picked as a sampling.
""I submit to you, perhaps Waltiri knew the answer to an age-old question, namely. 'What song did the sirens sing?"
"Michael closed the book. "It's not all nonsense," Waltiri said, returning it to the shelf. "That is roughly what happened. And then, months later, twenty people disappear. The only thing they have in common is, they were in the audience for our music."" - p 11
I'm hooked even more. Waltiri dies.
""Two days later, a tiny brown sparrow flew into Arno's study, where the library is now. It sat on the piano and plucked at pieces of sheet music. Arno had once made a joke about a bird being a spirit inside an animal body. I tried to shoo it out the window, but it wouldn't go. It perched on the music stand and stayed there for an hour, twisting its head to stare at me. Then it flew away." She began to cry. "I would dearly love for Arno to visit me now and then, even as a sparrow. He is such a fine man."" - p 13
So he goes.
"Walking straight in the darkness was difficult. He brushed against a wall with his shoulder. The touch set off an unexpected bong, as if he were inside a giant bell." - p 13
Into another world.
"He left Clarkham's house. A flagstone path curved around the outside of the side gate. When he had gone through the front door there had been no moon, but now a sullen green orb rose over the silhouettes of the houses on the opposite side of the street. It didn't cast much light. (And yet, the moonlight through the French doors had been bright. . . .) The streetlights were also strangely dim, and yellowish-green in color." - p 14
""Why the alarm?" Michael asked.
"Risky tossed her lank hair and spat in a corner. "The riding of the noble Sidhe against the race of man," she said, her voice thick with sarcasm. She appraised Michael with a cool eye. "You're new," she said." - p 26
As a fantasy writer, Bear distinguishes himself by referring to few or none of the standard template character types. Contrast that to James P. Blaylock's The Elfin Ship (& my review thereof):
"In addition to the afore-mentioned standard fare of elves n'at there're also trolls:
""The two trolls waiting on the riverside, however, were anything but laughable. As Jonathan stood watching the trolls which were watching him, the one atop the roots reached down in among them. came up with a tone, and began to gnaw at it." - p 44
"Apparently the secrets of strong teeth are known to trolls. They must not use US dentists. & then there's that "evil creeping over the land"" - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...
Instead we have things like animated mannikins:
"He assumed a stance before the mannikin, imitating Coom and feeling foolish—
"And it promptly swing up its stick and knocked his to the ground. The mannikin vibrated gleefully, twisted on its stake and became limp again." - p 73
As if all this weren't excellent enuf, Bear goes into another favorite territory of mine: language:
"["]I'd say the resemblances between Sidhe and human languages are strong, but the syntax and methods of understanding are quite different. For example, the Sidhe use a meta-language . . . a language of contexts. And Cascar is like a hundred languages thrown together. They never run out of words that mean the same thing, or very nearly. I can't speak it well. I can sometimes make myself understood, but . . ."
""I understood it for a time," Michael said. "During the Kaeli. One of the Crane Women touched my head, and I understood everything they said."
""And what was that like?"
"Michael thought back, "Like listening to music. Each word seemed to be the equivalent of a note. Notes are always the same in music, but place them next to each other and they sound different . . . or lengthen the notes, shorten them. Use the same word in a different context, and it means something else . . . sounds different."" - pp 141-142
"["]There is a section in 'Hudibras' by Samuel Butler—if I can remember . . ." He screwed up his face in concentration and peered at the ceiling, "'But when he pleased to shew't, his speech/ In loftiness of sound was rich;
"A Baylonish dialect
Which learned pedants much affect;
It was a party coloured dress
Of patch'd and py-ball'd languages;
'Twas (Irish) cut on Greek and Latin
Like fustian heretofore on sattin.
It had an odd promiscuous tone,
As if h' had talk'd three parts in one;['"]" - p 143
Wch is quite similar to language as I envision it.
Bear throws in another spinner:
""Human sex is dangerous here."
""Such things are closely regulated. We do not want children. The Sidhe and Breeds can have young—we cannot."
"Michael just looked at him.
""The people who have been here longest, and the Breeds, say it is because there are no seedling souls in the Realm. A human child is born empty. A Sidhe or Breed child is expected to be that way, and already has an internal . . . how would we say . . . compensation. But human children are vessels waiting to be filled. They are filled by creatures from the Blasted Plain—Adonna's own aborted children, some say." He set his lips and waved off further inquiry. "Talk about it is considered obscene. No more."" - p 144
A sample child:
""Ishmael," Helena said, kneeling on the walkway. The pit was as deep as it was wide, and the walls were made of slick, hard tile. The figure was naked and the pit was bare except for three bowls, receptacles for food, water and waste, all arranged neatly against one wall.
"Michael's eyes had adjusted well enough that he could make out the details of Ismael's face. It was small, round, disproportionate to such a tall body. The hands were large and hung from arms which began thin at the shoulders and widened to grotesque forearms and wrists.
""We have some questions to ask," Helena said.
""I'm not otherwise occupied."
""Has he been here since he was born?" Michael whispered.
""Almost," Helena said. "He was one of the first that we know of. He's been here since the War."
""Time passes," Ishmael said. "Questions." He sat down leaning against the tiles and stretching his pale legs out on the floor.
""Who are you?"
"A sideshow for the guilty. A product of lust. Something so evil it must be evilly confined through all its endless life. An abortion walking. Victim."" - p 177
Oi! That's rough.
"["]I can't love you, not like I should. Today you've seen why."
"The Yard. To love you properly, I'd want to give myself to you completely . . . and I can't." She searched his face and reached out to touch his cheek. "Don't you see? They've taken love away from us here. We might make a mistake, a slip. I couldn't stand the thought of having a Child."" - p 182
& I thought I had problems.
Michael finds himself in a world where a new god is revered.
""I'm an atheist," Michael said. "I don't believe there's a God on Earth."
""Do you believe Adonna exists?"
"That took him aback. He hadn't really questioned the idea. This was a fantasy world, however grim, so of course gods could exist here. Earth was real, practical; no gods there. "I've never met him." Michael said.
""It," Eleuth corrected. "Adonna boasts of no gender.["]" - pp 159-160
Interesting theological question, eh? If a god exists in an imaginary world is it imaginary? Or something like that. Then there's always love & confusion:
"["]Why are you confused?"
""I told you," he said.
""Not really. You don't love me? That confuses you?"
"He said nothing, but finally nodded. "I like you. I'm grateful . . ."
"Euleuth smiled. "Does it matter, your not loving me?"
""It doesn't feel right, making love and not reciprocating everything. Feeling everything."
""Yet for all time, Sidhe males have not loved their geen. And we have survived. It is the way."
"Her resignation didn't help at all. It twisted the perverse knot a little tighter, however, and the only way he could see to forestall the discussion was to kiss her. Soon they were making love and his confusion intensified everything, made everything worse . . . and better." - p 161
Michael gets his training:
"Spart schooled Michael on how to throw a shadow while asleep, and how to sleep like the dead, his heart barely beating, while at the same time his mind was alert. He controlled his breath until he seemed not to breathe at all. He explored his inner thoughts, paring them down to the ones most essential to his exercises." - p 184
That all seemed worthwhile so I decided to try doing the same. Every time I threw my shadow in my sleep I fell out of bed. Every time I slept like the dead I actually died (don't ask me how I came back). Every time I controlled my breath I farted too much. I guess I just don't have it in me.
Michael's life never has a dull moment.
"He half-ran, half-stumbled crab-wise, trying to find the center of impulse again. But he had no clear way to throw another shadow. The guardian, dress flapping and pressing back against her distorted frame, had risen a foot or so above the path and was accelerating toward him like a piece of fabric on a spinning clothesline. She pitched head-forward in her flight until the hat pointed directly at him and the dress fanned out, a deadly trailing blossom." - p 203
"For a moment, the dim lighting and the folds of her skin had concealed the fact that she was unclothed. She sat naked and still in the large chair. Michael was convinced she waited for him to come close enough to reach out and grab. But nothing moved. She didn't even appear to breath. Was she dead?
"He reached out to touch her shoulder. His finger curled back involuntarily into his palm and he forced it to straighten.
"The skin gave way beneath his finger, first an inch, then two. Repelled, unable to stop, he continued pressing. She hissed faintly and her head folded in like a collapsing souffle. Her arm and chest began to collapse and she fell into a pile of white translucent folds, sliding from the chair to the floor." - p 205
Have you ever had a day like that? It's horrible visiting yr old mom. About the best that you can hope for is that some Sidhe will smear some paste on yr forehead while you sleep.
"The paste had evaporated. The visions swirled and Michael opened his eyes slowly. He had never dreamed in the Realm, and he didn't believe what he had seen was actually a dream. It had a certain quality, a stamp, which indicated he had once again had a message from Death's Radio . . . this time, without the use of words." - p 226
Bear's vision of reaaaaalllllly Old School War is practically appealing after the nightmares of the 20th century.
""It was not entirely a bad thing, that war. Nobody died . . . not forever. We were like young gods then and injuries of combat, while distressing, were remediable. But gradually we learned the desperate arts of tact, and lying, and deceit, of gamesmanship and honour. Then we learned distrust and our magic grew stronger. The war became earnest. Enemies found it necessary to either be polite or to attempt to destroy each other. There was no middle ground." - 234
""No swords, no baubles. Those are all human misunderstandings of magic, human preoccupation with technology. Magic lies purely in the mind. The Sidhe are among the most dishonorable, unreliable creatures on all the faces of Creation, but they have one thing—concentration. What they want, they focus on completely."" - p 299
That cd be dangerous if you happen to be walking at the time in an earthquake zone or something. Then again, Sidhe are more or less immortal so why worry?
All in all, this was great. Bear's at least as good a fantasy writer as he is a hard science SF one & that's a pleasant surprise. Also, what the heck, he acknowledges doing linguistics research wch puts him in a category similar to Tolkein. Wdn't fault him for that!
"please refer to a marvelous book by Robert A. Stewart Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland, first published in 1937 by the Cambridge University Press. It's still in print from Armorica Book Company/Philo Press. A good university or public library should also have it. Lovers of languaes—or dabblers, such as myself—will find it fascinating." - p 341 ...more
Notes are private!
May 26, 2017
Jun 05, 2017
it was amazing
**spoiler alert** NOT FOR CHILDREN TO READ
Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame" & "The History of a Crime: The Testimony of an Eye-Witness"
by tENT **spoiler alert** NOT FOR CHILDREN TO READ
Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame" & "The History of a Crime: The Testimony of an Eye-Witness"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 27, 2017
The full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I picked up this 1898ish hardback edition of The Novels of Victor Hugo: Volume I for something like a dollar. Life is good. It's published by P. F. Collier & is "profusely illustrated with elegant wood engravings" wch are, yes, really something to behold. I decided to read it partially just to hold this old hardback bk in my hands. The physical feel of the bk alone does it for me. Hugo lived from February 26, 1802 to May 22, 1885 so this bk was only published 13 yrs after his death. There's something special about that.
In André Breton's 1st Surrealist Manifesto he declares that "Hugo is Surrealist when he isn't stupid." (p 27, Manifestoes of Surrealism, The University of Michigan Press, 1969 - original manifesto: 1924) What he meant by that is unclear to me. Having read 3 of Hugo's bks now I wdn't call any of them Surrealist or stupid so I have to wonder if Breton wasn't just trying to rope Hugo into a lineage of his creation w/ a disclaimer added on to protect his own interests.
I'd previously read Notre-Dame under the title The Hunch-Back of Notre-Dame in a goat-skin bound 1928 edition from Walter J. Black, Inc, but I wasn't sure whether this was the same story or not so it seemed worth the dollar I forked over. I'd also read Hugo's The Toilers of the Sea. I read them over 40 yrs ago so my memories of both were dim. The Hunch-Back of Notre-Dame I probably remembered more from the film starring Lon Chaney. At any rate, as I discovered whilst rereading it, I really remembered almost nothing about it & it's a much richer bk than my sketchy outline recalled.
This bk was written at a time when people who were lucky enuf to get an education were taught Greek & Latin. As such, it's not uncommon to find things written in both languages in bks w/o any translation provided:
"Some years ag, while visiting the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, or, to speak more properly, exploring every corner of it, the author of this book discovered, in a dark corner in one of the towers, this word, in Greek capital letters, engraven upon the wall—
[Not quite - what I've written as a "T" is missing its left horizontal]
These characters, black with age and deeply cut into the stone, with certain peculiarities of form and posture belonging to the Gothic calligraphy, as if to declare that they had been traced there by some hand of the middle ages—and, above all, the dismal and fatal meaning they conveyed—struck the author forcibly." - p 5
Yes, but what does it mean?! This question, regarding the above passage, had already been asked of Yahoo Answers & produced "need", seemingly the most accurate answer, & "anarchy", seemingly a mistranslation. Don't ask me, I just work here.
"Yet the 6th of January, 1482, was not a day of which history has preserved any record." - p 5
Ok, I'll bite, I looked-it-up-online & the 1st entry refers to the Hugo novel & to the annual Feast of Fools, a popular medieval festival. A Day of the Week website informs me it was a Friday. I didn't find anything historical for that date so Hugo chose it well.
My memory of The Hunch-Back of Notre-Dame had little more in it than the hunch-back bell-ringer of the famous church rescuing a gypsy girl & protecting her by pouring boiling oil off the ramparts of the church. That memory turns out to be more than a little defective. A substantial part of the beginning of the novel is detailed descriptions of the history of Paris of the time. It's evident that Hugo did extensive research (or faked it, wch seems considerably less likely) & went to great effort to establish the scene.
"It is certain that if Ravaillac had not assassinated Henry IV., there would have been no documents relative to the trial of Ravaillac deposited in the registry of the Palais de Justice, no accomplices interested in causing the disappearance of the said documents, and therefore no incendiaries obliged, for want of any better expedient, to burn the registry for the sake of burning the documents, and to burn the Palais de Justice for the sake of burning the registry—in short, no fire of 1618." - p 7
Thusly showing the difficulty of some of his research. Hugo puts some interesting speech in the mouths of his characters. Here's "the sworn bookseller to the University" speaking:
'""I tell you monsieur, the world's at an end. Never were there such breakings-out of the scholars ! It's the accursed inventions of the age that are ruining everything—the artillery—the serpentines—the bombards—and, above all, the printing-press, that German pest ! No more manuscripts—no more books ! Printing puts an end to bookselling—the end of the world is coming !"" - p 12
Interesting, isn't it? Hugo reminds us that there was a time when book-selling was a matter of selling manuscripts to universities, presumably for high prices based on rarity. The arrival of mass-production wd dramatically change all that. To most of 'us', the invention of the printing press marks the beginning of the era of bks.
Hugo is a very dramatic socio-political observer. The only bk that I can recall reading prior to this that rivals it in melodrama was Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew, a bk that has such a sheer length of doom for its characters that it may still be unsurpassed for me. Still, Notre-Dame may have a similar quantity of misery but it's more compacted, the misery moves along at a quicker pace. It interested me to read in the 2nd bk of this volume, The History of a Crime: The Testimony of an Eye-Witness that Sue was in politics at the same level that Hugo was.
""No ! Croix-Dieu !" he cried, with his voice of thunder : Jacques Coppenole, hosier. Dost thou hear, usher ? Neither more nor less. Croix-Dieu ! a hosier—that's fine enough. Monsieur the archduke has more than once looked for his gant in my hose."
"This play upon the word gant, a glove, pronounced exactly alike Gand or Ghent, the great manufacturing town in Flanders, occasioned a burst of laughter and applause from the people below.
"We must add that Coppenole was one of the people, and that the auditory around him were of the people also ; so that the communication between them and him had been quick, electric, and, as it were, on equal footing. This lofty air which the Flemish hosier gave himself, by humbling the courtiers, had stirred in the plebeian breasts a certain latent feeling of dignity." - p 22
Keep in mind that Hugo was of the period immediately following the French Revolution. The revolution was from 1798 to 1799 & Hugo was born in 1802. Notre-Dame was written in 1831. According to Wikipedia's entry on Hugo: "Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism. His work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time." I'm a little confused by that since he wd've been 29 when he wrote Notre-Dame & since I'd hardly call it "royalist" so if "decades" had to pass to make him not a royalist here does that mean that he was a passionate royalist when he was 9? Here's an example of what I'd call a parody of the king's viciousness:
"The king reascended in silence to his closet, followed by the persons of his train, horror-struck at the last groanings of the condemned. All at once his majesty turned round to the Givernor of the Bastille. "By-the-by," said he, "was theree not someone in that cage?"
""Par-Dieu, yes, sire!" answered the governor astounded at the question.
""And who, pray?"
""Monsieur, the Bishop of Verdun."
"The king knew that better than any one else, but this was a mania of his." - p 225
To quote Wikipedia's entry again:
"In 1848, Hugo was elected to the National Assembly of the Second Republic as a conservative. In 1849, he broke with the conservatives when he gave a noted speech calling for the end of misery and poverty. Other speeches called for universal suffrage and free education for all children. Hugo's advocacy to abolish the death penalty was renowned internationally."
Those details may not be germane to Notre-Dame but they're definitely germane to The History of a Crime & they seem implied, to me at least, in Notre-Dame. If there's any conservatism in Notre-Dame I'm not able to recognize it as such. More than anything else, it's a very grim look at the ways-in-wch-things-can-be-stupid-thanks-to-the-follies-of-human-nature-&-the-struggles-for-power. If slaughter can happen b/c of misunderstandings & bull-headedness (sorry, bulls, it's more human-headedness but the readers wdn't understand that expression) it will. More or less every person in the story is ironically wrong in some fashion or another & there's plenty of misery & death for innocents.
Notre-Dame was so different than my memory of it that I wasn't sure it was the same as The Hunch-Back of Notre-Dame that I'd already read & thought it might be a precursor or sequel to it. THEN, along came CHAPTER V: "Quasimodo, the Hunchback" (p 27) in wch he was chosen to be Pope of Fools:
"The acclamation was unanimous ; the crowd rushed toward the chapel, and the blessed pope of the fools was led out in triumph. And now the surprise and admiration of the people rose still higher, for they found the wondrous grin to be nothing but his ordinary face." - p 29
Perhaps the most charming characters, the most guilt-free ones, &, therefore, the ones DOOMED, are the gypsy girl & her intelligent trained goat:
""Djali!" cried the gypsy.
"Gringoire then saw come up to her a little white she-goat, lively, brisk, and glossy, with gilt horns, gilt feet, and a gilt collar, which he had not before observed ; as, until that moment it had been lying squat upon one corner of the carpet, looking at his mistress dance."
[It's a "she-goat" but it's watching "his" mistress dance? Wassup w/ that?!]
""Djali," said the dancer, "it's your turn now ; " and sitting down, she gracefully held out her tambourine to the goat. "Djali," she continued, "what month of the year is this?"
"The animal lifted its fore foot and struck one stroke upon the tambourine. It was, in fact, the first month of the year. The crowd applauded.
""Djali ! " resumed the girl, turning her tambourine another way, "what day of the month is it?"
"Djali lifted her little golden foot, and struck six times upon the tambourine." - p 36
Now, I don't want to give too much away of the story, for those of you who might read it, but I do want to say that it's a tragedy &, as w/ most or all tragedies, it's based on an ongoing series of misunderstandings - many of wch wdn't be easily corrected b/c of things like Quasimodo's deafness or the main priest character's personality-as-warped-by-religion. Hugo clearly wants the reader to love the gypsy girl & her goat & to see how the whole confused & corrupted & demented society will inevitably scapegoat them both b/c it's not capable of getting out of its own cesspit of stupidity. No-one but the author, apparently, is capable of a detached enuf perspective to see how it all clashes blindly.
A character, initially presented as potentially sympathetic, ends up going into the wrong neighborhood:
""Onde vas, hombre?" cried the wooden legs, throwing aside his scaffolding, and running after him with as good a pair of legs as ever measured a geometrical pace upon the pavement of Paris. Meanwhile, the stump-man, erect upon his feet, clapped his heavy iron-sheathed platter upon his head, while the blind man stared him in the face with great flaming eyes.
""Where am I?" said the terrified poet.
""In the Court of Miracles," answered a fourth specter who had accosted them." - p 45
The poet, Pierre Gringoire, our potentially sympathetic character, who later turns out to be a fool & a coward tells a bit of his history:
"My father was hanged by the Burgundians, and my mother ripped open by the Picards, at the time of the siege of Paris twenty years ago." - p 57
That seems about as miserable as living in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.
In Hugo's prolonged description of Paris, in general, & Notre-Dame, in particular, the reader learns of Notre-Dame's history beyond the time of the novel:
"Thus, to sum up the points which we have here laid down, three kinds of ravages now disfigure Gothic architecture : wrinkles and knobs on the surface—these are the work of time : violences, brutalities, contusions, fractures—these are the work of revolutions, from Luther down to Mirabeau : mutilations, amputations, dislocation of members, restorations—these are the labors, Grecian, Roman, and barbaric, of the professors according to Vitruvius and Vignola. That magnificent art which the Vandals had produced, the academies have murdered. To the operations of ages and of revolutions, which, at all events, devastate with impartiality and grandeur, have been added those of the cloud of school-trained architects, licensed, privileged, and patented, degrading with all the discernment and selection of bad taste—substituting, for instance, the chichorées of Louis XV, for the Gothic lacework, to the greater glory of the Parthenon. This is the kick of the ass at the expiring lion. 'Tis the old oak which, in the last stage of decay, is stung and gnawed by the caterpillars." - pp 60-61
Back to Paris & the cathedral at the time of the novel:
"Now what aspect did all this present when viewed from the top of the towers of Notre-Dame in 1482 ? We will endeavor to describe it.
"The spectator, on arriving, out of breath, upon this summit, was first of all struck by a dazzling confusion of roofs, chimneys, streets, bridges, squares, spires, steeples. All burst upon the eye at once—the formally-cut gable, the acute-angled roofing, the hanging turret at the angles of the walls, the stone pyramid of the eleventh century, the slate obelisk of the fifteenth ; the donjon tower, round and bare; the church tower, square and decorated ; the large and the small, the massive and the airy. The gaze was for some time utterly bewildered by this labyrinth;" - p 66
Hugo was trying to describe Paris as seen from on top of Notre-Dame but writing 349 yrs later. That's no small feat & my admiration for the seriousness w/ wch he approached this daunting task is considerable.
Another main character is Frollo, the priest who kindly adopts & names Quasimodo & saves him from an even more ignominious life than he eventually suffers thru. he has many good characteristics but his priestly unnatural suppression of his sexual instincts leads to his downfall & to the downfall of others around him. At 1st, his future seems bright:
"Having digested the decretals, he plunged into medicine and the liberal arts, He studied the science of herbs, the science of unguents. He became expert in the treatment of fevers and of contusions, of wounds and of imposthumes. Jacques d'Espars would have admitted him as a physician ; Richard Hellain, as a surgeon. In like manner he ran through every degree in the faculty of the arts. He studied the languages Latin, Greek, Hebrew ; a triple sanctuary, then but very little frequented. He was possessed by an absolute fever of acquiring and storing up science. At eighteen, he had made his way through the four faculties ; it seemed to the young man that life had but one sole object, and that was, to know." - p 80
"impostume"? An "archaic word for abscess" according to Dictionary.com.
Quasimodo is the Notre-Dame bell-ringer. Too bad Frollo didn't have enuf sense to get him to protect his ears b/c bells are damned loud &, yeah, anyone who rings them at close hand is going to get deaf if they aren't cautious. That's one of the reasons why there're keyboards for ringing the bells located a safe distance away.
"It is true that their voices were the only ones that he was still capable of hearing. On this account, the great bell of all as is best beloved. She it was whom he preferred among this family of noisy sisters that fluttered about him on festival days. This great bell was named Marie. She was placed in the southern tower, where she had no companion but her sister Jacqueline, a bell of smaller dimensions, shut up in a smaller cage by the side of her own. This Jacqueline was so named after the wife of Jean Montagu, which Jean had given to the church—a donation, however, which had not prevented him from going out and figuring without his head at Montfaucon. In the northern tower were six other bells ; while the six smallest inhabited the central steeple, over the choir, together with the wooden bell, which was rung only from the afternoon of Maunday-Thursday until the morning of Holy Saturday, ir Easter-eve, Thus Quasimodo had fifteen bells in his seraglio ; but Big Marie was his favorite." - p 84
This deafness in a societal reject, an outsider, is neither much noticed or cared about. When Quasimodo is taken to trial he & his judge both are deaf wch results in total injustice as neither deafness is acknowledged & miscommunication & classism rules:
"["]Registrar, have you taken down what the prisoner has said so far?"
"At this unlucky question a burst of laughter was heard, caught by the audience from the registrar—so violent, so uncontrollable, so contagious, so universal, that neither of the deaf men could help perceiving it. Quasimodo turned round, shrugging up his hump in disdain ; while Maitre Florian, astonished like himself, and supposing that the laughter of the spectators had been excited by some irreverent reply from the accused, rendered himself visible to him by that shrug, apostrophized him indignantly.
""Fellow," said he, "you gave me an answer then that deserves the halter. Know you to whom you are speaking?"" - p 95
I wonder if Hugo had actually witnessed a scene like this or heard tell of one. I was in a courtrm once when a man was charged w/ sleeping on a park bench. When asked what he had to say for himself, he explained that he'd just eaten some food out of the trash can by the McDonald's & that he'd uncontrollably fallen asleep. It was immediately obvious to me that he was hypoglycemic & that that caused him to sleep when he probably wd've been content w/ just sitting in the park. He was sentenced to something like a mnth in jail. The whole process was very perfunctory - & this was in the 20th century, not the Middle Ages. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 03, 2017
Jul 15, 1988
Greg Bear's Psychlone
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 27, 2017
You'd think this guy is one of my favorite writers or something. This is review of
Greg Bear's Psychlone
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 27, 2017
You'd think this guy is one of my favorite writers or something. This is the 17th bk I've read by him & I always pick up any titles of his that I don't already have. It helps that they're cheap. He always has a grandiose idea that he develops fully. This wasn't one of my favorites but then I read ANOTHER ONE that I liked so much that he was instantly 'redeemed'.
"Final message from the U.S.S. Matheson, received 1630 hours May 24, 1964:
""Mayday, repeat, Mayday. Situation is getting worse. They are all over the decks now. Blue fire crawling over my radio and the ports.["]"
"From The Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1977:
"PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP)—Police are investigating the death at sea of five members of an English family whose boast was found drifting erratically near Anaa island in the Tuamotu group, 240 miles east of Tahiti. The yacht Enchanted, rented from owners in Tahiti["]" - p 1
If these are true stories I can understand why they might've inspired Bear to provide a fictional explanation, in this case a highly imaginative & dramatic one. However, I didn't find either online in an extremely cursory search. Searching for "USS Matheson" did yield a link to Psychlone so I conclude that they're fictional but may be based on other stories of the same ilk. After I did the search a strange vehicle did appear outside my bedrm window & a pink light was beamed in but I was too busy writing this review to pay it no mind.
""Stay the night at least. You'll know as much as I do, which right now is nothing. He's not senile, Larry. I know him pretty well—we've gotten reacquainted in the last few years. He's just as skeptical as you and I."
""But these books—"
""I know, some are ridiculous. Not all, however. There's genuine scholarship on that shelf."
""Mixed with a healthy dose of bullshit. All this Frank Edwards crap, Jeane Dixon, strictly National Perspirer stuff. Are you two trying to set me up for a night in a haunted cabin?"" - p 10
I'd never heard of Frank Edwards but, yeah, he apparently really was a writer of popular bks on UFOs & paranormal subjects. Jeane Dixon's a little more familiar to me, she was an astrologer & claimed to be a psychic. The National Perspirer is probably an obvious joke to most readers of this review but since historians will be reading my reviews a thousand yrs or more in the future it's my duty to explain even this: The National Inquirer is a celebrity gossip magazine that's sensationalist & lurid. What's a "celebrity" you ask? Be glad you're in the future.
"Officer Lawrence Perez Preston—nicknamed "Sergeant Preston of the Mexies" (p 34) - presumably a take-off of "Sergeant Preston of The Yukon", a 1950s American TV show about a Canadian Mountie. Get yr yuk on.
We get our BIG CLUE fairly early on:
"The door to the hardware store was open. The light had gone out or been moved, however, and now the store was dark. He waved the beam of his flashlight back and forth in slow arcs. Everything seemed to be in order. Then the light fell on the floor and he saw paperback books scattered all over. The wire display rack was resting across the yellow wood magazine stand, a few books still leaning in the wire bins. There were bits of paper scattered, but not a whole lot of them—as if one book had been picked out and torn to shreds. He retrieved a corner of a mangled cover. "Hiro—" he read. "By John—" - p 36
After that I went to take a break to eat a Hershey bar but all I found was its shadow. The clues just keep coming:
"Tim knew he had problems to solve—personal problems. His nightmares were bad. Sometimes he would dream he was back in the house when everything happened. Other times he would dream his mother and father and somebody else were coming to visit him. They were very unhappy. The third person was a man in uniform. Tim was pretty good at recognizing uniforms, but this fellow's was a puzzle." - p 56
"He wrote a name down on the cardboard model box, using the citrus-smelling glue tube. The glue made the name shiny and transparent, just like his night visitors. Dream visitors, he corrected himself. he was asleep—must have been asleep—when he saw them. The name was Corporal S.K. Percher." - p 57
Percher being another fictional character, doncha know. &, yeah, a bunch people die violent deaths & nobody knows what the heck's going on:
"Most of the news stories concerned Lorobu. There were conjectures about "killer" satellites, hidden caches of nerve gas, germ warfare and even UFO attacks. Several religious groups used the story to further their own ends. One evangelist in North Carolina announced that Lorobu was merely the beginning of God's wrath, brought down on the United States because of loosening laws against homosexuality." (p 58)
Weren't they surprised when they went to heaven & found out that, yes, God & Allah were both old men w/ long white beards who just happened to be screwing the shit out of each other when they arrived. Oopsie! The plot thickens!:
"Now he was the last one. Beverly Winegrade—the blond clerk he had had a crush on several months ago—had killed Cynthia. Next she would try to get him, and if she didn't succeed, she would kill herself. That was the way it had been before.
"He was the last one to hold out against the insistent voices behind the smiling images of his parents and the man in the uniform.
"Maybe Cynthia would join them.
"And Beverly, eventually. Then they would all come for him. And behind them, controlling them like puppets, would be the voices, screaming in a language he didn't understand." - p 64
Of course, the reader is mystified, even w/ these clues & plot-thickeners.. but a few glimmers of light peep thru those dark, dark clouds of death:
""It may take those it kills along with it. Perhaps that's how so many names are connected with it."
""A giant string of spiritual flypaper, winding across the land," Jacobs said." - p 91
It's that word "with" that gave it away for me. Note that it appears TWICE in 2 sentences. I wonder what it means?! Poor Tim.. & you think YOU have problems:
"He scrunched his eyes shut. The faces of people from Lorobu flashed in his head like images on a pack of shuffled cards. He twisted his head back and forth, trying to drive out the vision.
"He couldn't. Behind the faces, rapidly fading, there arose redness, then a purple smoke, something like water . . . and for the first time, he saw them. . . .
"Eyeless, mouths open.
"He screamed." - p 100
""It killed my best friend and his father. We haven't done anything to it, but it wants to kill us, now. Why?"
""Maybe we're thorns in its side." Prohaska seemed to struggle for the proper phrasing, his lips working. "Have you ever been in a room with a very dull person, and watched the hate grow when he met a smart person?["]" - p 114
I'll bet you think I'm going to go off on a tangent inspired by that last part. You. Are. Wrong. (Although I admit it's tempting.)
"Taylor, unlike many people in his business, genuinely believed in his merchandise. He had put tiny pyramids in his bathroom and bedroom, and in them he kept his razor blades, bars of soap, even bottles of vitamin C, to preserve them. When he swore an oath about his merchandise's efficacy in concentrating the pyramidic energy of the cosmos, he was honest and devoted." - p 146
When I was too young to have hair on my face to shave off, probably around 15, I read somewhere about pyramids aligned in a certain way to compass points kept razor blades sharp that were kept in them. It seemed unlikely, after all razor blades got dull b/c of the friction they were subjected to. I mean wd you get a manicure if you kept your finger tips in a pyramid overnight? Anyway, I decided to try it anyway so I made a cardboard pyramid, aligned it properly & asked my stepfather to keep his razor in it. Much to my astonishment my stepdad reported it as working. Since then, I've read that keeping one's penis inside a vagina has remarkable health benefits & I've tried to test that out too.. but that's a different story.
""Is it unprecedented? You're an expert on folklore. Has anything like this ever happened before>"
""We say this and it so often—haven't we any names? Of course—but they are swear words to the scientists and the liberals, as much as sexual language is to the conservatives. We are talking about a possession of some sort, but no, I know of nothing like it—except perhaps the invasions of nunneries and monasteries, or incidents of mass hysteria."
""Like The Devils of Loudon."" - p 175
Damn! There I go, spoiling the whole plot, thanks to my sexual frustration the whole world becomes violently hysterical & everyone goes crazy & kills everyone off. There's a paradox in there somewhere. Anyway, I really just quoted the above to give me an excuse to plug one of my favorite movies, The Devils by Ken Russell.
"Fowler pulled change out of his pocket and counted the quarters to see if he had enough to complete the call. He fit the stack of coins into the telephone slot and waited for the switching-equipment sounds to give way to strong ringing." - p 186
Ok, so I lied, I didn't give away the plot, it has nothing to do w/ my sexual frustration; it has everything to do w/ how maddening pay phones used to be. Pay toilets were even worse. Do they still exist anymore? After the revolution whoever invented pay toilets will have to PAY. ...more
Notes are private!
May 13, 2017
May 27, 2017
Jan 01, 1979
David Bischoff's Nightworld
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 8, 2017
This is Bischoff's 1st published novel, he was born in December, 195 review of
David Bischoff's Nightworld
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 8, 2017
This is Bischoff's 1st published novel, he was born in December, 1951, in Washington, D.C., I was born in September, 1953, in nearby Baltimore, this was published in 1979, Bischoff wd've been 27 at the time. So, yeah, I suppose somewhere in the back of my thoughts I tend to appraise this w/ those factoids in mind. I've only previously read his The Crunch Bunch (1985) wch was a Young Adult novel. I liked it but had already forgotten it a mere 8 mnths later. That's to be expected, I read it as 'light reading', the same reason I read this one.
Usually when I choose to read something 'light' it's b/c I've just finished something 'heavy' (in this case Mark Abley's Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) &/or b/c I'm in the midst of reading something 'heavy' (in this case Victor Hugo's Notre Dame back-to-back in the same bk w/ his The History of a Crime) & I 'need' a break. The 'inevitable' problem then ensues that the 'light' reading does provide welcome relief but fares poorly in contrast. Such is the case here w/ Nightworld.
So, yeah, Nightworld is 'light' alright, it has a sufficiently engrossing plot but nothing visionary, it's funny(-ish), the writing style's not about to go-down-in-history but it does its job. In the PROLOGUE the stage is already set:
"The vampire turned in the same direction, for at the base of the mountain lay the Gates.
"They gleamed with silver fire as the vampire approached and slipped its identification card into the appropriate slot. With a sharp-nailed finger, it tapped the combination.
"A voice erupted from the speaker grille . . .
""Guardian Nine Oh Sex Aye Four," it said in an emotionless monotone. "You are expected, Vampire Four Nine Bee Oh Oh. The Master awaits. Follow the red arrows to the elevator. The path has been altered since last you entered. To veer from it is to suffer damnation—"" - p 2
Here we have the vampire trope updated for the computer era. I've long since tired of traditional monster stories, having read Dracula in 1965 or thereabouts & having gotten bored w/ the tendency of hacks to beat a(n un)dead blood-sucker to death w/ a sharpened stake. Still, Bischoff has a fresh take on things & that helps save this novel: S-O-N! Save-Our-Novel!
This is one of those reviews where I have almost nothing to say about the bk b/c it's plot-centric & I don't want to be a spoiler. The stage gets set further:
""Centuries ago, this world was a colony of an empire in space. For reasons of its own, that Empire designed this world in a style which belonged to a time centuries past on the Homeworld. But then, the Empire suddenly died, or, at any rate, lost contact with this world.
""Styx's technological facilities, which were quite extensive, were regulated by a machine called a Computer, situated somewhere deep below the surface of the planet, For some reason, the Computer malfunctioned, doing strange things to the environment, manufacturing hideous creatures, and recreating terrible mythological conditions modeled on the many legends of Homeworld's myth-rich past."" - p 17
Right, likely story.. That's a good enuf premise for a bk to sprout out of, esp if it pleases Satan: "This was the most important task ever set before the hoofed little fellow, and above all else it wished to do a good job, to please the Master. Pleasing Satan meant long hours immersed in pleasure-center stimulation. Did Bischoff get to immerse himself in "pleasure-center stimulation" after pleasing his publisher? Or did someone like Penelope come along?:
"But those lines of her face seemed designed, rather than a random collection of parental characteristics. They were that perfect—smooth, symmetrical, aesthetic yet specially accentuated into an idealization of facial structure." - p 93
Yeah.. wassup w/ Penelope?! No doubt, yer average reader figures out pretty early what her story is but.. I won't ruin it for you. &, no, she's not "Miss Jones".
"Fierce pride pulsed through the memories. Strong hatred for the Divine throbbed through them. Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. Better an independent entity in tortuous solitude than a lackey to some other Consciousness." - p 110
It's odd. That's the 2nd time the "Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven" has been quoted in my presence in the last yr. My retort is: Better to not rule or be ruled. I mean: Why wd I want to rule in Heaven or Hell? Or anywhere else? Or serve anywhere either? Neither Masters nor Slaves. N'at. For that matter, better an independent entity in sociable solidarity than a lackey to some other Consciousness.
The story follows a pretty standard line: bucolic-hero-gets-life-disrupted-&-goes-on-hero's-journey-to-come-back-a-better-man. N'at. What the heck, I like this myth. I prefer it hero-goes-out-meaning-well-& gets-psychologically-&-partially-physically-destroyed. I think of James P. Blaylock's The Elfin Ship & The Disappearing Dwarf &/or Esther Friesner's Majyk By Accident & Majyk by Hook or Crook & Majyk by Design - not that those are 'classic' examples or anything.
"His had been a placid life before, secure, reliable, steady. He knew who he was, who his parents were, who his God was, and how he related to all. He had a solid, tangible place in his world. His world was an important wheel that fit into the machinery of what he knew. Indeed, he was able to look nostalgically at the events of only two weeks ago, before the advent of Turner in his life. The Oliver Dolan who had those experiences seemed tangibly altered from the youth now suffering from insomnia." - p 116
This having been published in 1979, tape was still cutting edge technology. I know that my space ship will have VHS no matter what.
"The captain let that pass. He walked to an instrument panel between a pilot and copilot who were busily supervising orbital insertion, drew a small cassette from the breast pocket of his uniform, and slotted it.
""This little recording was made specifically for you, to be viewed upon near-arrival on Styx," Worthington said, punching 'play', "Check the video."" - p 130
You can tell this spaceship is less technologically advanced than mine wd be b/c they're using mini-dvs, a storage unit w/ a very limited lifespan. That must be why the captain punched the play button instead of more gently pressing it. The thing is that that type of frustration-venting just tends to make matters worse.
The character that saves & disrupts Oliver Dolan's life is Geoffrey Turner:
"010101111—TURNER, GEOFFREY: PRESENT PSEUDONYM OF HISTORICAL MANDROID PRODUCED 2266 AD. LAST IMPERIAL DUTY: SUPERVISION OF WORLD-SCAPING OF PLANET STYX OF STAR SYSTEM AZ108063. PREVIOUS NOTORIETY: NOVELIST FAMED FOR WORKS OF SCIENCE FICTION—'THE TIME MACHINE' (1895); 'WAR OF THE WORLDS' (1898); 'FIRST MEN ON THE MOON' (1901) FURTHER INFORMATION: 010101110 — WELL, H. (HERBERT) G. (GEORGE)." - p 141
H. G. Wells, homage has been pd to him in many a story. I wondered whether "Geoffrey Turner" was an in-joke name, such as the name of a Wells character, but I haven't reached any satisfactory conclusion.
""Of course, her activities took decades. Bust she was in no hurry—she was effectively immortal. And when the revolution came, not a shot was fired, not a person killed. There was no coup as such. Over the years and under the careful guiding hand of the computer Victoria, society began to emulate British Victorian society. English became the standard language of the world—British English. The sort we speak now." - p 145
But are the characters speaking "British English"? I actually didn't notice any instances of clear Americanisms OR Britishisms. I didn't notice any colour vs color of theater vs theatre.
Anyway, the hero gets his opportunity for pay-off but doesn't even obtain "orbital insertion". Too bad.
""You're safe," she said. About her torso she wore a skin-tight glossy sheath ornamented with strips of dazzling, winking lights and gemstone clusters. This material rose to a point just below her breasts, which were bare beneath the translucence of a silky top. Her legs were wrapped in the gauzy nothing of a full, sweeping skirt speckled with mirror-beads that shone in the light." - p 193 ...more
Notes are private!
May 06, 2017
May 08, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Apr 01, 1977
it was ok
Isidore Haiblum's The Return
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 24, 2017
When I picked up this bk at my favorite local bkstore, the incom review of
Isidore Haiblum's The Return
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 24, 2017
When I picked up this bk at my favorite local bkstore, the incomparable Caliban, I thought that I was getting a work by someone whose writing I'd probably read as a teenager & then, basically, abandoned. Then I looked up his bibliography online & none of his titles seemed familiar. Since many of my bks that I'd had as a teenager were destroyed by my barbarian family I didn't have those to consult. Instead, I found Haiblum's The Identity Plunderers on my personal library shelves. I haven't read that one in the past decade or there wd be my review of it on Goodreads & I don't recall it at all even though almost all the SF on shelves is what I've already read. Nonetheless, the spine of the bk doesn't show signs of the bk having been held open. It's unlikely that you, the reader of this review, have any interest in any of that but I'm just trying to give you an idea that Haiblum's somehow mysterious to me. Chapter One begins:
"Cramer kicked the nurse in the stomach.
"She doubled over, bumped against the wall, tried to scream, and couldn't. She weighed two hundred and sixty-nine pounds, was bald-headed, and looked like an ex-wrestler. Slowly, she straightened to a half-crouch, glared at him, flexed her fingers meaningfully, a thin layer of sweat coating her broad, glistening skull. The nurse was going to kill Cramer.
"Considering the fact that he was strapped into a strait-jacket, that possibility, he had to admit, was all too real." - p 7
Coincidentally, that reminds me of something that Stewart Home might write in one of his neoist-exploitation novels. In that case the "Cramer" wd be Florian Cramer. But I digress. What this reminds me of even more is the 1st short story I wrote when I was 13, it was about the protagonist escaping from a mental institution using laundry chutes. I even submitted it to Analog magazine even though it didn't qualify at all. It was rejected. I destroyed my juvenilia long ago so I don't have it anymore. Too bad. Don't destroy yr juvenilia folks, you might want it one day to prove to yrself that you were more precocious than you realized at the time.
"He knew he was going mad. He rocked back and forth, his head in his hands, but that didn't make it any better. Probably nothing was going to make it any better.
"On the 3-D, Colonel Gains was streaking back to earth; ten days had gone by, and now his ship had burst through the clouds, a tiny, golden shimmering speck in the sky—right on schedule.
"Cramer had been on the other side of the rec hall when he had felt it; it had whipped him around like a magnet; the magazine he had been leafing through had fallen from his hands to the floor; he was being drawn, irresistibly, against all reason, toward the 3D, like some fish snared by an invisible hook and line" - p 35
&, yes, much of the bk describes him escaping from a high-security mental institution. But what else is happening to him? That's the central mystery of the bk. Since we're on the subject of mental institutions, it might be worth mentioning that I was once pd to be on what was called the "Board of Normals" at a mental hospital where "Normals", such as myself, were subjected to the same tests as the patients in an attempt to try to understand why the "Normals" were functional & why the patients weren't. The "Normals" were quite an eccentric lot. I remember taking a taxi to the hospital & having to go to great lengths to convince the driver that, no, I wasn't going to the patient admissions entrance but to a staff entrance instead.
"The floor under his feet faded out. In its place—a whirlpool; he was being sucked under. He worked his lips to tell someone about this, but no sounds came out. The elongated lights were winking on and off steadily now, pulsing like a heartbeat. The sounds that came to his ears were no longer familiar; they seemed to be coming from vast distances—the howling and rushing of some great wind, like no wind he had ever heard before.
"Through all this, only the space ship was real, stark against the blue of the sky, the gray of the clouds, a gleaming needle, homing earthward, taking on weight and substance as it grew larger, came closer. . . .
"It was something inside the ship." - p 36
"Numb fingers traveled in the direction of indistinct knobs, fumbled clumsily with them; presently there was a sharp click—the set flicked out; the halo of light wizened to a dot, hung in midair for an instant, like a suspended firefly, and was gone.
"The walls, floors, and figures of the rec hall began to reshape. The sounds—mixed voices, footfalls on polished floors, the pop of Ping-Pong balls—were merely human again. Kenmore was dropping back into place around him like a large puzzle." - p 37
One of the things that I liked about the institution where I was employed as a "Normal" was that they were trying to be drug-free. I whole-heartedly endorsed that. On the flipside, tho, there were fluorescent lights & TVs that were on all the time. It was my opinion that the flickering from these 2 light-sources was unhealthy. Maybe Cramer was just watching too much TV, eh?!
"Cramer thought: He doesn't know he's doing it—he's broadcasting . . . unawares. Like static off an electric eel, or the twitter off a cricket, it's not a conscious effort" - p 38
""Dr. Linsford means that we are notified, automatically, of all cases that might conceivably be related to the neuron-disruption syndrome. Such symptoms as you mentioned would fall into that category."
"Neuron disruption, Cramer knew, meant Starky." - p 41
& "Starky" means 'stark raving mad', a madness in a homicidal form. While things might nor be looking good for our hero Cramer he still manages to escape & to be found by allies who enable him to take on a new identity w/ the help of some futuristic plastic surgery:
"Gelg laughed. "this is the real things," he said. "We use chemo plastics. But once the skin mold is fixed—that's it. Only the proper chemo combination can restore the original features."
""What kind of MD are you?" Cramer asked.
""MD? What MD? I'm a dentist. Don't worry, young man, I won't pull any teeth. The facial change is computer manipulated. See? Untouched by human hands, so to speak. I merely press the buttons!"" - p 88
Cramer uses his new ID to try to trace down the peculiar source of his troubles. Penetrating a potential enemy's lab he bluffs his way thru:
"Cramer sighed, "What are those beep, beep things."
"Dr. Tellfax said, "What are what?"
""Beep, beep," Cramer said.
"Dr. Klausner said, "Beep, beep?"
""Precisely. Or something like that."
""Well, now," Dr. Klausner said. "This is most peculiar." He removed his glasses and began polishing them. "Amazing, in fact."
"Dr. Tellfax said, "I am at a loss—a loss to know how you people work."" - p 104
Beep, beep. You've heard of "Westerns" but what about?:
"They ate. Later they set up the 3-D. The last half of an Eastern was followed by the news-view." - p 114
Now THAT's beep, beep funny. But WHY exactly?:
"The signals plucked at him like fingers.
"He raced toward the twenties, still speeding west.
"He knew what he'd have to do: There could be no talk, no hesitation, no wasted motion.
"It was shoot—and shoot quick." - p 160
Humanity's one solution. I was born in 1953. I grew up saturated w/ M.A.D., Mutually Assured Destruction. Most, if not all, SF writers warned against this M.A.D.ness. Haiblum's no exception:
""They watched, my dear Cramer, and saw this globe's first steps into space. They continued to watch. The wars, the bloodshed, the incredible destructions that the peoples of this world unleashed against each other, did not go unnoticed. No indeed. This was not the kind of neighbor the mind people—for so we shall call them—wanted. This was not a force they wished to unleash on the universe. Are you following along, Captain?"" - p 167
The Return appears to've been Haiblum's 2nd novel. As such, it's, perhaps, a bit amateurish. I was left w/ a feeling that a later bk might be a sequel but it's unclear to me whether that was the case. I didn't really find this that interesting. What's more interesting to me is this: "His many articles dealing with Yiddish" (from the "About the Author" section in The Identity Plunderers). ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 15, 2017
Apr 25, 2017
Aug 06, 2003
it was amazing
Mark Abley's Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 16-21, 2017
Skip this, READ THE full-len review of
Mark Abley's Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 16-21, 2017
Skip this, READ THE full-length review: "Unfortunately, no longer spoken here": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is the 2nd bk I've read on this subject. The 1st one was Daniel Nettle & Suzanne Romaine's Vanishing Voices - The Extinction of the World's Languages (You can read my full review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I gave Vanishing Voices a 5 star review, the maximum here, but sd that it deserved an "11". At 1st, while I was reading this one, I was thinking it doesn't quite deserve as high praise but, WTF, I'm still giving it a "5" &, yes, it's a fantastic, important bk. Kudos to the author, he did a magnificent job. I'm deeply impressed. I hope hope hope hope hope more people read this bk & others like it. Really. Please.
I've been researching endangered languages for an 'opera' that I'm (d) composing called Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas & I'll never even begin to do justice to the subject - esp considering that the opera is so experimental that its relevance to the subject at hand might not even be obvious to appreciators of such things. No matter. That's why I read this bk. This review will be excerpted from for the libretto.
"A minority language always depends on popular will. It dies as its voices fade in the midst of PalmPilots, cell phones, and Walkmans. It dies as its remaining speakers find they have less and less to talk about.
"The price of that loss is beyond estimation. We have grown used to giving cultural artifacts a dollar figure: so many thousand for a Yeats manuscript, so many million for a Ming porcelain. But a language is more than any artifact. You can't slap a price tag on a language, no matter how small and obscure, any more than you can pin down the financial value of an ivory-billed woodpecker or a bill of rights. Mati Ke lacks the ever burgeoning scientific terminology of English and Japanese, nor does it enjoy a written language. But like all other human languages, it is a full and rich expression of a way of life, a culture, an identity. Whether or not it ever makes sense to use the term "primitive society," the phrase "primitive language" is an absurdity." - pp 4-5
A previous owner of this bk had pencilled in the margins next to the above-quoted: "rather poetic, don't you think?". I've been saying for a long time, maybe decades, that I think that endangered languages are being pushed out by technical ones & that the endangered languages are more poetic. These days I think it's more accurate to say that the endangered ones are more metaphorically sensitive to the environment in wch they're spoken.
"But a CD-ROM of an extinct language bears an uneasy resemblance to a stuffed dodo." - p 6
I found that a particularly interesting comparison insofar as there is no such thing as a "stuffed dodo", they're all composites made from other bird parts & artistry, no dodo was ever preserved. Did Abley know this when he wrote that? B/c, if he did, that makes the comparison even more apt.
"In Oklahoma, for example, I spent some time among the few remaining speakers of the Yuchi language. Yuchi is what linguists call an isolate: it bears a clear relation to no other living tongue. I wanted to discover what knowledge and understanding may die with Yuchi if it does indeed disappear." - pp 7-8
Exactly. As I later agree w/ the author as I read deeper in this bk, I prefer the Whorfian position that each language helps produce a distinct world-view - as opposed to a Chomskian position that no language can be that distinct from another b/c of inherent shared traits between all languages.
"Chomsky and his followers assert that all human languages depend on a generative grammar (or GG) that underlies the bewildering twists and wriggles words make on the surface of speech."
"Emphasizing the shared properties intrinsic to every language, they refuse to see any merit in the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis," which influenced many scholars from the 1930s through the 1950s. As set out by Benjamin Lee Whorf (a brilliant amateur linguist, whose lack of a doctorate has often been held against him) and his great mentor Edward Sapir, the hypothesis suggests that the language a person speaks determines the way that person thinks." - pp 45-46
Whorf's key point is that conceptual content can't always be easily and exactly interchanged among languages: what is said and how it is said interact in complex ways." - p 47
""How," Devitt and Sterelny ask, "Could anything a person does to his experience — how could any of his modes of representation — affect stones, trees, cats and stars?"" - pp 47-48
The representation of cats as companions rather than as food might affect them, eh?!
"Let's return to the extraordinarily limited range of nouns by which Devitt and Sterelny symbolize "the world." They single out stones, trees, cats, and stars as emblematic of items that no mode of human representation can possibly affect, Is this as accurate as it is obvious? When you look at the words more closely, the self-evident truth of the proposition begins to blur.
"To begin with, there's a little ambiguity in their meaning. Our collective experience has a direct impact on stars like Madonna, cats like Wynton Marsalis, and Stones like Mick Jagger. But a broader, subtler answer is this: we signal our attitude to things in the world — cats, for example — by the way we talk about them. "The cat that spent the night in the rain" may have less of a claim on our affections than "the cat who spent the night in the rain." "Who is that cat in your arms?" suggests something different from "What is that cat in your arms?" (not to mention what is that cat doing in your arms?"). Language implies feeling. Feeling, one way or another, inspires action.
"Leave the confines of English behind, and the waters muddy even further. With the aid of the Concise Oxford Turkish Dictionary, I decided to see how those four nouns are expressed in a language far removed from the Indo-European family to which English belongs. Turkish is the largest member of the Altaic family; thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands, have gone by since our remote ancestors (somewhere in central Asia, presumably) spoke the same words. In Turkish, I discovered, "cat" is kedi. But kedi-balugi, far from being a "catfish" as the literally translated compound says, is what we call a "lesser spotted dogfish." A kedi, unlike a cat, is involved in phrases meaning "to go bankrupt," "to cause bad blood," and "to look at with intense longing." A "stone" is a tas, most of the time. But a stone in the kidneys or gallbladder is kum hastaligi — in which case it indisputably affects your personal experience. And a çekirdek is also a stone, one you might unearth in a plum or an olive. Still, a Turkish stone would generally be called a tas. But a tas, I regret to say, is not always a stone. Sometimes it's what we call a chess piece. At other moments it's an allusion or an innuendo.
"Are stars — the heavenly variety, I mean — any simpler? Alas, no. A Turkish star can be a yildiz or a baht, and both are tied up in human lives. Baht can signify "good luck" or "destiny." Yildiz also implies deestiny, but it has the extra sense of "pole star" or "north." Finally we arrive at trees. There are several Turkish options. But the likeliest word, listed first on the page, is agaç. Troublee is, agaç also means "wood" or "timber." And surely the fate of trees can be profoundly affected by whether we think of them — in the mind's eye, in the same breath, always — as timber. (Consider the difference between the phrases "I like cows" and "I like beef.") English enforces a distinction between the living organism of a tree and the useful material that organism provides. Turkish does not.
"Perhaps, then, the inexhaustible, inviting world does show evidence of being constructed, to a significant degree, out of our linguistic experience." - pp 49-50
Ordinarily, I wdn't quote so much at one time. However, I think that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is a deeply significant one that's worth defending at length. Neither Chomsky nor Sapir-Whorf is in favor of seeing languages & their speakers become extinct - but when one is of the opinion that entire world-views are at stake that seems to dramatically up the ante to me.
"Above all, I wanted to test my own hunch that the looming extinction of so many languages marks a decisive moment in human history — a turning away from vocal diversity in favor of what optimists see as a global soul and others as a soulless monoculture." - p 8
Count me as among the latter. Even among my younger anarchist friends I see a more or less unquestioning preference for Hollywood spectacles & their imitations over anything created from a more independent mass-media-questioning position. B/c of this monoculture I feel like the information in my head is of little or no interest to almost anyone anymore. Why do they 'need' it? There's always the latest app, the latest tv show, the latest same-old same-old sports spectacle. & I'm in a place that 'benefits' from the spoils of this monoculture. Yuk.
"What will we lose if our abundance of languages shrinks to a fraction of what now survives? A speaker of English or Chinese might answer differently from a speaker of Mati Ke. The simplest response, perhaps, is this: we will lose languages that are astonishingly unlike any widespread tongue. Languages employ sounds and organize the mental world in ways that are natural to their speakers but can seem downright weird to other people. Nootka, one of the languages of Vancouver Island, is a case in point. As the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf once noted, to express the idea "He invites people to a feast" Nootka requires but a single word: tl'imshya'isita'itlma. Literally, "Boiling result eating those go to get somebody." Not quite so literally, "He, or somebody, goes to get eaters of cooked food." The Nootka would alter their speech — adding hissing noises or extra consonants for effect — when they were talking to or about children, fat people, short people, left-handed people, circumcised males, lame and hunchbacked people, greedy people (also ravens), and people with eye defects." - pp 8-9
Now, maybe, just maybe, somebody was pulling somebody's leg here. If they were, they had a great sense of humor. Is there just one word in English to express inviting people to dinner? Not that I know of. Maybe the Nootka-speaking culture is more sociable in that way. That's important.
"Guugu Yimidhirr, the source of "kangaroo," may still have a dozen or two speakers. But the languages that first told of koalas and kookaburras are no more." - p 15
What if linguists were able to take a closer look at the etymologies of such words? There might be stories there giving substantial insight. I think of things like: "The Trukese name for the night of the full moon is bonung aro, meaning "night of laying eggs." - p 74 (Vanishing Voices) In other words, a name that might seem fanciful or mystical might actually refer to specific biological knowledge.
The thing is, I'm one of those people who prefers that all knowledge be preserved but that's a pretty tall order, eh? It's probably too much for even the collective human mind to endure. Hence, some knowledge is lost, over & over, & human 'progress' is dubious.
Spoken Here was published in 2003. In it, Abley mentions that the "latest edition of Ethnologue, a directory of the world's languages, lists 417 as "nearly extinct." Of these, 138 are in Australia: a third of the total." (p 16) I have the 15th edition of the Ethnologue (2005), having been exposed to it by reading Vanishing Voices, & I can happily attest that it's what cliché language might call an 'invaluable resource'. What I didn't glean from reading Vanishing Voices is that the Ethnologue is a religious product:
"The Derbyshires' work in Brazil had been paid for by a controversial organization called SIL International — formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Based in Dallas, Texas, SIL is among the largest employer of linguists in the field — linguists, that is, who actually study the world's languages rather than engaging in arcane analysis of the structural underpinnings of speech. Every few years SIL publishes an updated version of Ethnologue, an invaluable catalogue of each of the world's languages along with its dialects, its family relationships, an estimate of its speakers' numbers, and the principle countries where they live. The institute has long done terrific work. Yet its motives are open to question. SIL is part of the Wycliffe Bible network — a group of Protestant missionary societies, drawing their inspiration from a verse in Matthew and a few more in Revelation: "After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice . . ." Christian praise must be uttered in every human language — or so goes one interpretation of the text — for only then can the world come to an end.
"You could say, in brief, that SIL is in the business of saving languages so that they will all disappear." - pp 237-238
"For a critical view of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (to use its old name), see David Stoll's Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire? The Wycliffe Bible Translators in Latin America (London: Zed Press and Cultural Survivial, 1982). SIL's own Web site gives a much more secular view of the organization than does www.wycliffe.org. In July 2002 the Wycliffe site said: "Pray for the SIL training sessions going on in North Dakota and Oregon. Pray the God will enable each student to learn the basics of linguistic analysis. Pray too that God will burden the students' hearts for Bible translation."" - p 295
Oh, well, at least there're some protestants out there as fanatical as the Jesuits. Having been raised in a Christinane household, the woman who introduced my mom & stepdad was a missionary. I remember her telling a story once about walking some steps in Brazil when she came across some sort of native religious ceremony, perhaps the sacrifice of a chicken (why do chickens always get such a bad deal?). The missionary was horrified b/c, after all, Christians had made sure such religions were made illegal. How dare the people of the country she & her ilk were invading practice their own religion?!
"The location of a language, from an Aboriginal perspective, was decided in the Dreamtime. But the location of Wadeye — now the largest Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory — was selected by Father Richard Docherty, a missionary who founded the place in the 1930s and christened it Port Keats."
"Murrinh-Patha became a lingua franca." - p 18
"The recurrent isolation has helped keep Murrinh-Patha strong. For this is one of the very few traditional languages in Australia whose speakers have increased in number over the past generation. Lately it has spread beyond Wadeye to neighboring areas.
"Simplicity is not a reason for the language's success. Some of its complexities seem mind-numbing — unless you're willing to take the plunge and call them mind-expanding. In its pronoun system, where English slices the world into singular and plural, Murrinh-Patha has four categories: singular, dual (with forms hat vary for two males, two females, and siblings), paucal (meaning three to about fifteen people, and again using different terms for males, females, and siblings), and plural (more than fifteen people). Each of these categories, moreover, has separate words for the first person ("we two males," for example), the second person ("you two males"), and the third person ("those two males"). "How are you?" we say in English, no matter how many people we're addressing and who they happen to be. Murrinh-Patha is a lot more precise. For "you," it compels a choice among nhinhi, nankunitha, nankungitha, nanku, nankuneme, nankungime, and nanki." - pp 18-19
& that's the lingua franca! I wonder if people for whom Murrinh-Patha is a 2nd language (or 3rd, etc) frequently make mistakes like referring to a hetero-couple as '2 sisters'. I can imagine a plethora of giggle-potential. I like imagining whole long stories just based around differentiating. & what about more-than-15 being plural? Why 15? Is 15 a traditional family gathering & most groupings beyond that involving more than family? Let's say 4 grandparents, 2 parents, 2 uncles, 2 aunts, 3 of the 3rd generation & 2 babies? At any rate, there must be a perceived need for such specificity that most English-speakers don't feel. That, in itself, is interesting.
But then, alas, we get back to human nature at its most depressing, or, at least, the 'human nature' of conquering peoples.
""Yabbering" and "jabbering" are interesting words. They show up all over the English-speaking world whenever a speaker feels like sneering at animals or a minority people. Look up "jabber" in the Oxford English Dictionary, and you'll find quotations in which the term applies to monkeys, Flemish servants, seabirds, and Jews. It often betrays contempt, the dictionary observes, for "the speaking of a language which is unintelligible to the hearer."" - p 21
Bringing us back to such derogatory terms as "subhuman" & "savage". Ignorance covers its tracks by degrading what it's ignorant about - if someone doesn't speak a language then that language isn't worth speaking, it's just 'jabber'. Yuk.
"many speakers of Yolngu and other Aboriginal languages have become convinced of the existence of a "secret English" — a version of English that has special, even sacred force."
"This is a fantasy, of course. Or is it? Words do have power. Across Australia, many of the worst massacres of Aborigines took place after books and magazines had appeared calling them "a species . . . of tailless monkey," "the lowest race of savages in the known world," - p 41
&, indeed, this is very important to understand: mass media spreads certain perceptions, it defines people & ideas for the masses, it propagandizes for or against - & this can have very serious consequences. Take, eg, Donald Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer's recent statement that Adolph Hitler, who fatally gassed millions of citizens of his own country & of the countries that Germany had invaded, hadn't used chemical weapons against his own people: "You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical; weapons." ( https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2... )
Regardless of whether Spicer is really as much of an imbecile as he seems, the effect of his statement is to reinforce holocaust denial versions of history. Such denial is a way of covering over genocide & paving the way for a 'good nazi' myth that appeals to Trump's nazi & white supremacist supporters. BEWARE. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 21, 2017
Jan 01, 1985
Jun 01, 1986
really liked it
Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2017
Maybe some day I'll start writing flash fiction reviews & review of
Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2017
Maybe some day I'll start writing flash fiction reviews & I won't need to redirect you anymore. In the meantime, my full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Another new writer to me. While I was reading this I coincidentally ran across an excerpt from a Damien Broderick book where he discussed the difficulty of pigeon-holing this as SF (or some such). That interested me. &, yeah, I wdn't call it SF, it's more of a romantic art history fantasy. I liked it.
The basic premise is that a fictional member of the Paris 1924 circle of Surrealists encounters brief glimpses of a woman who turns out to be from 1968. Then he gets brought forward in time to the May 1968 revolution in France partially impelled by attraction to the mysterious woman. Other nightmare forces get drawn into the revolutionary conflict & more Surrealists from 1924 enter the fray as magicians that'd partially inspired the revolution.
Given that I like Surrealism, esp the paintings & movies, & given that all of the Surrealist characters, except for the main one, Robert, are based on historic figures, & given that I have some interest in the Parisian events of May, 1968, I enjoyed this.
Chapter one begins w/ this epigraph:
""Putting life in the service of the unconscious."
THE HISTORY OF SURREALISM"
I have Nadeau's bk, it's one of at least 20 Surrealist bks I have, & when I read the above quote I assumed that I'd read it. SO, for the vague purposes of this review I decided to pull the bk off of my shelves & to leaf thru it looking for something useful & was surprised to find that it's one of the bks about Surrealism I haven't read. As punishment to myself, I then flung myself out the window, I live on the 41st floor of a home for incurably sane threats-to-the-status-quo, only to find myself right back at my desk again where I'm writing this review. Weird. While I haven't read the bk, it appears that one or more rats have nibbled at its lower right corner. Make of that what you will.
When I read these bks for review I write notes in pencil on the inside front cover. This bk has a browning cover whose age is causing it to fall apart. Pencil notes on this browning jacket are hard to read, they're even harder to read once the cover has tape over the notes to hold it together. As such, I struggled to read the note for p3: "_____ & the _______ TOWER"? "Breton & the ______ tower"? It even occurred to me that I might've thought of some reason to refer to the bk about the 'unabomber' & the Harvard professor who reputedly sadistically used him. But, no, it says: "BRETON & THE FORTUNE TELLER". Too bad, I had higher hopes.
""Objective chance," the fortune-teller said. It was obvious from the way she spoke she didn't understand the words. "He's right. You'll see."
""See what?" Robert said. "Are you going to put a curse on me?"
""Unbelievers," the woman said scornfully. "I think that some day we will go on strike."
""You will?" André said. His somber mood of a moment ago was gone. "For what? For higher wages?" He put a hand in his pocket and drew out a few coins. We'll eat lightly tonight. Robert thought as André gave her a few francs.
""For belief," the woman said. "For magic."
""For dreams," André said seriously. "Go on strike for your dreams."" - p 3
Jacques Rigaut is another character. He's obsessed with suicide & he eventually kills himself. Whenever I think of Surrealist suicides I think of Jacques Vaché instead. Vaché was dead by OD by 23, Rigaut by shooting himself at age 30. Don't commit suicide, folks, if you're sensitive enuf to be that depressed you're probably adding to the well-being of the world more than the brutes who cruelly plow their way thru w/o getting depressed or feeling much of anything other than the occasional triumph of their sadism. Don't let them have the upper hand.
""Nobody will get anything when I die," Jacques said. "I don't have anything. And I won't have anything in four years, either."
""You're sticking to your schedule then?" Robert asked. He had heard Jacques's story before but it still intrigued him. What would it be like to place yourself under a death sentence? André, he knew, was fascinated.
""Yes, I am," Jacques said. "In 1919 I gave myself ten years and I haven't seen anything since then to dissuade me. In fact it makes life easier, simpler. I make no plans for the future. I put nothing off until later. I haven't saved any money—I don't need it. If someone asks me what I want to do with my life I just say, 'Die.' "
"That's a stupid question anyway," Robert said. He's bluffing, he thought. He likes the attention. It's just a game he's playing. But he's been playing it for so long, about six years. "Have you got a date picked out?" he asked.
""Oh, yes," Jacques said. "Ten years to the day from when I first made my vow. I don't tell anyone when it is. I don't want anyone to stop me."" - p 111
Hadn't these people heard of "intervention"?! You know, where you realize that your friend, who you care about, has a self-destructive problem & you try to assist them to work thru it?! Rigaut made his vow to commit suicide when he was 20. That's hardly an age when one has reached maximum wisdom. Rigaut was in the midst of the creation of Surrealism, certainly that alone was worth living decades longer for. What a stupid waste. I'm glad, eg, to've lived long enuf to witness 37 yrs of Neoism. Rigaut's vow & subsequent suicide make for a good story but surely his continued life wd've been worth more.
"["]I—" he paused to emphasize the word—"have never been arrested."
""I'm not so sure that's something to be proud of," André said. "All the great men and women of history have been put in jail. In jail or in mental institutions. Nietzsche, de Sade . . ."
""I'm just as crazy as they were," Jacques said. "I just don't get caught. And when have you ever been arrested? But I don't mean to begin an argument. I wanted to show you, gentlemen—" he opened the newspaper—"our advertisement, which came out today." - p 8
"André looked through the newspaper. "Here it is," he said finally. " 'Bureau of Surrealistic research, 15 Rue de Grenelle. We welcome all bearers of secrets: inventors, madmen, revolutionaries, misfits, dreamers. Relate to us your stories, answer our questions, tell us your dreams, leave your work and play with us. We sow the seeds for the new night-blooming flower. Open 1-5.' " He closed the paper. "All right," he said. "We'll see what kind of response that gets."" - p 9
Now I was hoping to find the Bureau in the index to Nadeau's bk so I cd conveniently quote from it about when it started & what some of the 1st accounts of it have to say. Alas, zilch. I cd look for similar info online but that gets too easy & boring after a while so I decide to consult other bks on Surrealism in my collection instead.
It's not in the index of Wayne Andrews's The Surrealist Parade, one I just picked up t'other day. Tsk, tsk. There is no index in André Breton's Manifestoes of Surrealism & I didn't look thru it thoroughly enuf to see if the Bureau's mentioned. It's not in the index of Marcel Jean's The History of Surrealist Painting. Tsk, tsk. There is no index in Herbert Read's Surrealism, flipping thru Read's lengthy introduction I find no mention of the Bureau. The index to Sarane Alexandrian's Surrealist Art doesn't mention it. Tsk, tsk. The Lucy R. Lippard edited Surrealists on Art doesn't have an index & the Table of Contents doesn't appear to point to anything promisingly relevant. Tsk tsk. I skip over José Pierre's 2 little volumes: Surrealist painting 1919 - 1939 & Surrealist painting 1940 - 1970. The index to the Marcel Jean edited The Autobiography of Surrealism doesn't mention the Bureau. I even looked briefly at the Jack Hirschman edited Artaud Anthology but got nothing useful out of that except a reminder that he & I share September 4th as a birthday. These are all bks that Goldstein might've seen before the release of her bk in 1985.
I remember the Bureau as something I'd read about so I'm surprised to not find mention of it in any of the above. Alas, I resort to looking online. Wikipedia provides this: "Located at 15 Rue de Grenelle, it opened on October 11, 1924 under the direction of Antonin Artaud, just four days before the publication of the first Surrealist Manifesto by André Breton.
"According to art critic Sarane Alexandrian, the public at large was invited to bring to the Bureau "accounts of dreams or of coincidences, ideas on fashion or politics, or inventions, so as to contribute to the 'formation of genuine surrealist archives'."' ( https://en,wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureau_... ) Perhaps I shd've looked deeper in Alexandrian's bk.
Robert time travels:
"Robert ran after her. The street seemed to elongate as he turned the corner; the houses moved for a moment and then were still. Someone shouted. A loud blasting noise came from the direction of the river. Terrified he ran on, hoping he hadn't lost her. he felt horribly disoriented now. Where was he? "The police!" a high woman's voice said to his right. "The police are coming!"
"He blinked, blinded again as his eyes teared from the smoke. Those impossibly tall buildings—surely he would have noticed them before." - p 11
Imagine running & having your environment morph into its future self around you. Nice. I have to wonder sometimes how many authors write passages imagining how they'd play in motion picture form.
"He walked toward the lights of the Tuileries Gardens, passing quietly through the trees. How could he tell André, after all? He had known André since— He stopped a minute. Since 1917, that awful and miraculous year, the year he had gotten trench fever and been sent home from the front. André, a medical student then, had been working in a mental hospital. They had met in a bookstore, reaching for the same volume of Rimbaud." - p 18
Breton had been a medical student studying mental cases so the above is passably believable. To someone like myself (me, myself, & I) meeting in a bookstore is romantic. Not long ago I tried inviting a woman I was attracted to in a bookstore to a reading. If she had gone it would've been the beginning of an ever-increasing era of sheer ecstasy in her life. She declined. The turkey neck I had tied to the fleshy appendage I was waving at the time should have in no way turned her off. People are so weird. At the Bureau the fictional Robert reports to the historical Artaud:
""Of course not," Antonin said. "All the world will pass through this doorway. First the shamans, the magicians. The Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama might have passed through today—if he did you missed him. And then everyone. Everyone is a magician. Everyone is the Dalai Lama."" - p 29
& the Dalai Lama is named Monty Cantsin. & Artaud turns out to be fictionally correct in more ways than one. But the fictional Robert is having none of it. He'll get his. I'm reminded of the 1970s Maryland Writer's Council's bookstore in downtown Baltimore. The guy who ran it, whose name I'm, alas, forgetting, provided the rare visitor w/ some powerful ranting. The only time I remember meeting him the rant was about Baltimore being like Paris in the 20s. He might very well have had the Bureau of Surrealist Research in mind. I liked him. Other people I talked w/ about him considered him 'crazy'.
Much of the 1924 action takes place in a café where conversation runs rampant:
"Yves Tanguy began to tell a story about a man who claimed that he was employed to live someone else's life. "His employer was too frightened to go out and do anything by himself, so he hired this man to live for him. He'd go to bars and get into fights, went climbing in the Himalayas, became a smuggler in Africa, took monk's vows for about a month . . . And everywhere he went he'd bring back something, some souvenir, so that the employer could claim to have done these things himself. Or that's what he told me, anyway."" - p 35
In my personal experience, it's 'good business practice' for rich people to get other people to take the risks for them & to then take the credit for themselves. I could point to at least 2 'friends' of mine who've done just that. Beware. But let's jump-cut to 1968:
""Look!" Robert said, pointing down the street. A group of people had moved a dining table out into the street and were sitting around it eating and talking. Were they protesting something, perhaps an eviction, or were they celebrating the absurdity of the moment? He laughed. Everyone is a surrealist, he thought. We just do what everyone would do if they could. As they watched, a reporter came up to the group, took out a pad of paper and a pen and began to ask them questions. With great solemnity someone at the table began to butter the reporter's tie. The reporter stepped back." - p 57
On page 60, a threatening nightmare character appears, a nightmare on the side of the forces of hierarchy. If only the characters could learn to avoid places like page 60 & the back cover they wd've been fine.
"Someone screamed or cried out. A fifth man had appeared among the players, a man wearing a mask of horns and fur and metal, a fantastic mingling of man and machine. The players jumped from the stage. Robert strained to see clearer. Was that really a mask? Where was it joined to his body? He shuddered, seeing a creature come fresh from his nightmares, from the dreams he could never remember in sunlight. Than man raised his hand and the earth rocked. More people screamed." - p 60
Now imagine this: 'Robert & Solange sat peacefully in the café on page 59, enjoying each other's company. Robert knew that Solange was nervous about something but was afraid to express it. Finally, she burst forth with: "Robert, we have to find a way to avoid the next few pages or one or another of us might be injured or killed!" Not as prescient as Solange & inclined to put on a conventional masculine front, Robert replied: "It's ok, I know the author, (s)he wouldn't let anything really bad happen to her protagonists, she's too romantic." Just then, page 60 was reached, Solange, not convinced by Robert's ill-justified bravado, reached off the page & flipped the pages furiously until they were safely out-of-trouble & in bed with each other. Life is good.'
Goldstein has Breton criticize Artaud - but then I have to wonder where Breton's money came from & how Artaud supported himself. These things matter.
""He doesn't take surrealism seriously," André said. "All he sees are commercial possibilities. We aren't an art movement but a movement to change the world. We aren't surrealists to make money."" - p 66
Breton's criticizing Artaud's acting in movies. The selected filmography provided by Wikipedia includes "Graziella" (1926), "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928), "Verdun: Visions of History" (1928), "La Femme d'une Nuit" (1931), "Lucrezia Borgia" (1935), & "Koenigsmark" (1935) - none of which wd've been made as of the time of Bréton's fictional (but plausible) criticism. In retrospect, this fictional criticism seems unfair given the way Artaud led his life in contrast to the way Bréton led his.
Given my liking of Surrealism & my interest in the historical figures placed in this fictional narrative, I enjoy scenes like the following:
""Surrealist morality," Georges said. "That's good. 'It is the highest morality to sleep in a church whenever possible,' ' he said, imitating André's pedantic way of speaking. " 'Ant surrealist who fails to do so must atone for his sin by—' "
""Reciting all of André's poems."
"They walked in silence for a while. "I'll tell you one of the things I'm tired of." Robert said finally. "Everything André does he does for political reasons. To shock someone. I don't want to sleep in a church if there has to be a reason behind it. I just want to have a good time."" - p 72
""Look at that," Georges said, whispering. By the rays of the setting sun they could see a crudely drawn mural of Christ on the cross. "What if we added a bit to it—a couple over here making love in the corner—"
""What?" Robert said, mock-horrified. "Realism in art?"" - pp 72-73
That's funny. What's really funny is imagining a church that you can walk into & lay down in & go to sleep safely. I remember around 1972, a decade before this novel was written, hitch-hiking w/ a friend & asking a minister if we cd stay the night in his church. The answer was NO. He explained that he'd 'had bad experiences'. Around the same time I hitched into Syracuse to visit my sister. I arrived too early to considerately phone her so I went into a church to lay on a pew. Shortly thereafter, a woman who presumably worked for the church entered the room & saw me & left. Given that even as a teenager I was acutely aware of what bullshit Christinane's purported caring for the poor was I expected the worst so I snuck up into the balcony & hid & peered discretely over the balcony wall to see what wd happen next. It was only a few minutes later when the same woman came in w/ 2 or 3 policemen & pointed to where I'd been laying down. After the police left, I got out of there. So much for Christinane 'charity'.
All too few women seem willing to acknowledge that there're oppressive matriarchies everywhere. As such, it's nice to read a novel by a woman writer in wch the main character parody his rich narrow-minded mom.
"Claude came into the room without knocking. "I've been thinking about your future, young man," Robert said, still sitting behind the desk. "I've decided it would be best for you—best for the entire family—if you became—say, a shepherd. I can give you money for a warm coat and a pair of fleecing shears, but that's all. It's time for you to grow up, you know."
""She's talked to you already, has she?" Claude said.
""Yes, she has," Robert said. He noticed that he was still holding one of the pieces of paper and he put it back in the drawer. "I suppose you're going to take over the family business now?"
""That's right," Claude said, nodding pleasantly. "What do you think? I can use a partner, someone willing to learn. You might even be able to stay in Paris."
"Robert put his feet up on the desk. "I don't even know what the business is," he said. He thought of Rimbaud, trader in darkest Africa. The idea still did not appeal to him. "What do we sell? Black slaves? Objects of religious significance? Cursed stones?"
"Claude sighed. "All right, you're a poet," he said. "I don't understand why poets can't make the effort to get along like everyone else."" - p 79
Imagine fiction w/o all those "he saids". Just sayin'. Or imagine fiction w/ nothing but "he saids". Steve McCaffery cd pull that off.
Probably one of my favorite things about Surrealist writing are the manifestoes:
""Can I read it?" André said, "Here, wait. I brought you these," he said, handing Robert the papers under his arm. "The manifesto of surrealism. I wrote it last week. We're a movement now, with a name and a purpose. I can add your name to the others who have signed it."" - p 85 ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 09, 2017
Apr 16, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
it was amazing
Devon Fick's Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 22-28, 2017
The next thin review of
Devon Fick's Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 22-28, 2017
The next thing I knew, "Ricnickfick", wch is what you shd be reading, was here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Oooooohhhhhhh, mmmmmmyyyyyyyy. I tend to look for work that strikes me as original, work that shows a truly active mind - rather than work by someone who's just cranking out a salable object in a pre-existing genre using all its established tropes. An unusual formal appearance is usually a good sign. If I had seen this bk at a yard sale or a thrift store I might've thought that it was an amateur publication about an amateur sports league of little or no interest to anyone other than someone in the community that the sports league comes from or an extreme sports fan interested in all sports trivia.
Being a person who often looks for stimulation in unexpected places, I might've opened this bk to see just what a report from an amateur sports league might look like. THEN I wd've realized that the cover was deliberately misleading & that the interior was a treasure trove of absurdity & I wd've been hooked IFF I'd bothered to look past the cover long enuf to discover whether the cover was 'for real' or not - wch is not what almost everyone else I know wd probably do.
Then I addressed the circle of creatures on my lap & gathered around me in a semi-circle: 'Let this be a lesson to you: never judge a bk by its cover. Why you might open it & get a slight electric shock.' & that's what I got from this bk.
Oh.. Oh, yeah.. One other thing: Devon friend-requested me on Goodreads. I looked at his profile before deciding yay or nay & realized that he was probably the very same Devon who'd worked at Normal's Books & Records in BalTimOre. I was a cofounder of Normal's. Devon didn't start working there until after I'd moved on to clearer pastures. Devon was one of those people who worked there long enuf for me to see him again & again during my 3 or 4 times yrly visits to BalTimOre for work. I liked him.
Thru our Goodreads connection I learned that he'd written a bk. Being one of those strange people w/ actual curiosity about what people that I know do, I proposed that we trade - saying, as I usually do, that I'd review his bk on Goodreads. Given that I have 13 bks published in the last 40 yrs & that it's been very rare indeed for anyone to review any of them, I feel that such a trade offer is a fine one & proves that I'm an exceptionally praise-worthy & decent person, at the very least.
Devon sent me 7 of his "Today's Pamphlet"s (in wch some of the bk had previously (or posthumously) appeared), a bkmark, & Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1. I was a little wary b/c there's always the chance that I won't like someone's work, that I'll write a not-completely praising review & that they'll then proceed to try to ruin my reputation thru character assassination or even go to the extreme of hiring a hit-man. However, now that I've read the bk there're no worries in my mind - it's clear that Devon is a ragingly insane homicidal tornado & that if I were to even say the slightest thing critical about this bk I'd suffer a thousand fates worse than death - as wd everyone who's ever even shook my hand, let alone shared a friendly word w/ me. SO, yeah, this bk is AMAZING, an important addition to the pantheon of absurdism. If you don't read it, yr lungs will fill w/ diarrhea faster than a respiratory therapist can drain them. Now you know what yr problem is.
It's not too difficult to place Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1 in a lineage - but this isn't to say that it's an unoriginal work, it's got plenty of personality. Nonetheless, keep these folks in mind (in chronological order):
Alfred Jarry, especially his Ubu plays
Blaster Al Ackerman
One thing that I noticed is that the page numbers are 'off'. The 1st numbered page is "5" - counting back from it the front cover is "2". That flies in the face of convention (wonderful expression that, eh wot?!) by placing the odd numbered pages to the left as well as by having the bk start on "2" instead of "1". This is the kind of detail that I suspect most people don't pay attn to but it caused my body to vibrate at a higher speed until I saw a bright light that seemed to beckon to me. Unfortunately, my electric bill was waaaaaaayyyyyyyy higher as a result.
There are charts on pp 5-6 that give the names of the hockey clubs, yes the "Pondicherry Association" is presented as a league of hockey teams, & the place they're in + other statistics that're a bit more mysterious like:
& Commissioner Tally
Such categories of apparent appraisal strike me as exaggerations of sports jargon that might be arcane to a person such as myself who's not particularly interested in sports & who, therefore, doesn't follow its particulars. Under "BUBBLE SORT" the team called "Terrifying Large Bat" has a "O(1) Auxiliary" rating while "The Pennies" gets a "-1(1)x". In the 2nd chart, under "KELVINS", the "Phipps Air Conditioning and Cooling Supplies" club gets an "UNCOMMON" rating while the "Small Pizzas" get "$42" & "H.C." gets "O+A". Such apparent nonsense is almost explicable as displaced scientific notation taken away from its original indexical context. "KELVINS" being, perhaps, then understood as a temperature measurement, eg.
The team names are almost enuf to keep somebody's left ring-toe awake twitching at night:
Terrifying Large Bat
The Shimmering Rubies
Phipps Air Conditioning and Cooling Supplies
Uncolored Condiment H.C.
By p 7 the reader is provided w/ a "SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL LIST OF OWNERS" that includes such notables as:
"Dr. Pennies (The Pennies)—b. 1962, somewhere in South Stapp-les, parents unknown. Stands 7'2 and is completely hairless, perhaps albino. Little is known of the accumulation of his fortune but he is rumored to have murdered many people and is described as "unscrupulous, violent and exceedingly spooky." The Pennies dissolved midway through the 2011-12 season following the disappearance of Dr. Pennies.
"Winnie Boxes (Condiments)—b. 1975, Outer Lankville, parents unknown. Lazily studied chemistry at Lankville Outer University and began experimenting with uncolored condiments. Made a fortune. Purchased an expansion franchise midway through the 2011-12 season.
"Fick (The Shimmering Rubies)—b. 1973, Temples Islands to Gernhard, an undertaker and an unknown simple woman of the Depths. Accumulated vast wealth after founding a company to clean up large spills. Purchased The Shimmering Rubies, 2011."
"Ric Royer (Terrifying Large Bat/Bats)---b. 1975, Lankville Falls to Venticlius, a filmmaker and director of Coots: The Dog that became Rich and Sheree, a sculptress, best-known for her enormous owl lamps. After completing several degrees, Royer became enormously rich in the small boat industry. "Just like Coots," he once said, in reference to his father's film. Founded the Bats, 2011."
A reader might notice quite a few things that're off in the above: EG: Not only is "Dr. Pennies" physically unusual but his rumored murderousness is mentioned as if it's just-another-little-detail in the bios of the club owners rather than something that wd disqualify him from free citizen status. &, in fact, being a club owner who's a murderer is more the norm than the exception in The Pondicherry League. This cd be taken as a parody of the reputed violence of hockey or it cd be taken as something more along the lines of the main characters of the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom - wch is more the way I tend to take it: the wealthy & powerful, the 'good' citizens, being those most capable of conscienceless mayhem.
By way of an intro to such violence here's a little excerpt from Jarry's Ubu Roi as translated by Cyril Connolly & Simon Watson Taylor:
"PA UBU. Bah! I'm getting rich. Now I'll have them read the list of what I've got. Registrar, read my list of my titles and possessions.
REGISTRAR. Count of Sandomir.
PA UBU. Begin with the orincedoms, stupid bugger!
REGISTRAR. Princedom of Podola, Grund Duchy of Posen, Duchy of Courland, County of Sandomir, County of Vitebsk, Palatinate of Polock, Margravate of Thorn.
PA UBU. Well, go on.
REGISTRAR. That's the lot.
PA UBU. What do you mean, that's the lot! Oh well, then, forward all the Nobles and, since I don't propose to stop getting richer, I shall execute them all and confiscate their revenues. Come on, down the hatch with the whole lot. (They are stuffed down the hatch.) Hurry up, faster, faster, I'm going to make some laws next.
SEVERAL. That'll be worth watching.
PA UBU. First of all, I shall reform the code of justice, then we will proceed to financial matters.
SEVERAL JUDGES. We are strongly opposed to any change.
PA UBU. Pschitt! Firstly, judges will no longer receive a salary.
JUDGES. And what shall we live on? We're all poor men.
PA UBU. You can keep the fines you impose and the possessions of those you condemn to death.
FIRST JUDGE. It's unthinkable.
SECOND JUDGE. Infamous.
THIRD JUDGE. Scandalous.
FOURTH JUDGE. Contemptible.
ALL. We refuse to judge under such conditions.
PA UBU. Down the hatch with the judges. (They struggle in vain.)
MA UBU. Oh, what have you done, Pa Ubu? Who will administer justice now?
PA UBU. Why I will. You'll see how well things will go."
- pp 40-41, The Ubu Plays, First Evergreen Edition, 1969, Fifth Printing
I imagine that few readers wd be so naive as to think that there's never been a political situation under wch the judges & other authority figures cd "keep the fines you impose and the possessions of those" [they] "condemn to death" but I hereby remind you that in 1692, as part of the Salem Witch Trials, "The only person who seemed to profit from the witchcraft hysteria was Sheriff George Corwin who confiscated property and pocketed fees collected from the accused and their relatives." ( www.coryfamsoc.com/articles/witch.htm ) Such over-the-top barbarity by 'leading citizens' whose crimes are conveniently 'ignored' & endorsed by representatives of the law is a running theme in Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1. I'll return to it eventually.
In the meantime, it's worth noting that "Fick", the owner of "The Shimmering Rubies", has a name strikingly similar to that of the author - & that "Ric Royer", the owner of the "Terrifying Large Bat" team, is the name of a friend of Devon Fick's. Another character in the bk is "John Berndt" who's in the same group of friends. In fact, Berndt & Royer put out a CD together, based on a concept by Royer, called There Were One and It Was Two: Annotated Artifacts from the Doubles Museum. In other words, the depiction of the characters is an in-joke. For all I know, all the character names might be references to friends of the author.
As I've already explained, Devon worked for Normal's, Don't you remember?! Yr memory has been so bad ever since yr coworker sawed off the top of yr head. & don't just sit there staring at me like you don't know what I'm talking about either! Ahem. Ric worked there too. John never worked there but thru an act of legerdemain he's an 'owner'. Blaster Al Ackerman moved to BalTimOre in the early '90s shortly after Normal's was founded, apparently smelling a soft touch from hundreds or thousands of miles away, & proceeded to not work there too. It was Blaster who probably started the practice of writing stories in wch Normal's personnel appeared as characters luridly different from their actual selves. Take, eg, "MORE BURGEONING TEAT MADNESS":
"I was first made privy to my great insight or vision one Sunday afternoon in August. I was, on that day, hanging out in Normal's Bookstore, on 31st St., in Baltimore, Md. It was a slow day as far as book sales went; with so few customers coming in, you couldn't even pass the time imagining what sort of grotesque secret perversions they might be harboring because, as I say, there weren't even any customers coming in to be observed.
"That was why Fred proposed playing the belt game. The four of us—Fred, Rupert, Pego John and your truly—had been sitting in the front part of the store for about six hours and time was hanging heavier than stones snatched from a grasshopper. The belt game would help kill an hour or so. The lack of air conditioning on such a sultry day indoors there among the piles of unshelved books was a big inducement to get something going among the four of us.
"We had been playing the belt game quite a lot that summer. It consisted of everybody taking off his belt and then drawing straws to see who would be "it." The "it"—that is to say, the player who got stuck with the short straw—was required by the rules of the game to shut his eyes and grab his ankles so that his tail was presented freely to the air whereupon each of the other players took a turn at stepping in and hitting him as hard as they could with their belt. The idea was that after each cut of the belt for the "it" to guess who had just hit him. If he managed to guess correctly, the player who'd been caught would become the new "it." And if he didn't manage to guess correctly—well the rule was for the game to continue until he did, no matter how many turns it took. Over the long haul it could be brutal.
"Pego John got busy behind the counter making straws from a page he'd ripped straight out of a Trollope first edition (which explains why so many of the books sold at Normal's had pages missing, and perhaps, too, by inference, the sharp decline in bookstore customers that summer), but it was still several minutes before we finally had everything arranged to our satisfaction. For one thing, Rupert had to be helped to his feet and balanced and steadied. Fred took him by the left arm and I took him by the right. I had the feeling we were lifting a sack of half-paralyzed birds."
- p 35, The Blaster Al Ackerman Omnibus
I witnessed a wonderful performance of Ric Royer at the Blasterthon!!!!!!!! memorial (Blaster was accidentally turned into scrapple at a party, worst scrapple we ever ate - don't blame me, I told everyone that I thought that a clandestine after-hours party at the slaughterhouse under the influence of locoweed was a bad idea but no-one ever listens) at wch he convinced a member of the audience to be "it" in some similar game. Pego's dad smoothed out the lawsuit.
All of Blaster's characterizations of Normal's personnel had them as completely deranged. Of course, everyone who was around suddenly last summer knows that it was the customer who was made to bend over & spread 'em if we caught them stealing or marking down prices - but that was a perfectly reasonable way of dealing w/ the problem, nothing deranged about it. Or take the story "Ten Fingered Earl":
"This turn led me to thoughts of Camel McCullough (so-called because he refused to drink water), my one-time classmate at Poe Elementary, because I could dimly remember that Camel had once explained to a group of us how the slightest contact with the dread tent worm or its canopy could raise huge sores on a man's body, and even in some cases cause his testicles to drop off."
- p 83, Corn & Smoke
Now, once again, everyone around suddenly last summer knew that "Camel" was Courtney McCullough, yet another Normal's employee & that his aversion to drinking water was b/c he took the sage words of Alfred Jarry re its being "the universal solvent" seriously. Blaster's implying that Camel might be an alcoholic wd've been like throwing a crack pipe at someone living under foie gras whilst living under scrapple themselves.
Blaster's threatening to send the stories to other employers (no-one actually made enuf to make a living at Normal's except for Blaster) & parents of the Normal's employees if they didn't buy his wares so that he cd then take them back & resell them to someone else wasn't really taken as blackmail but just as good clean fun that they were quick to play along w/.
Fick took the testicle that fell off as a result of this practice & ran w/ the ball.. even tho hockey uses a puck. One of the great things about Results of Interest from the Pondicherry Association - Season 1, & I'm being completely serious here, is that it's an entire novel, Blaster, despite my encouragements to do otherwise, never made it past a short story. I'm further reminded of Blaster in Fick's "INTRODUCTION By The Honorable Judge Socquettes":
"I purchased a large radio that fits over the chest—sort of like a reverse backpack. It's an ingenious device and it comes in handy at Pondicherry Association games. You can follow the action while listening to the commentary. There is a little microphone and a tape machine and I occasionally record my thoughts. I buy a box of standard-form hamburgers and allow them to defrost in a parcel that looks like clothes, thereby giving the impression that the burgers are wearing an outfit! By the second period, they are done." - p 8
Blaster's practice of collecting hamburgers at neighborhood cook-outs whilst posing as "Uncle Pearl" & putting them in his pockets & then forgetting about them was certainly the inspiration for that one. But enuf of Blaster, let's get to some hockey action!:
"The Pondicherry Association of Hockey Teams is expected to begin play tonight."
""We're inflamed--this is a great new league with a rich history," said Terrifying Large Bat owner and GM Ric Royer, who purchased his franchise during the summer after noticing an ad in the Farm Gazette. When it was pointed out that the league had no history at all, Royer became confused and claimed, "I am confident that it will be a success."
""It is not within our capacity to protect these masses from the consequences of their decisions," said Pennies owner Dr. Pennies, as he looked out over an arena slowly filling with fans. "If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of these masses, do you think he would have done so? By now?"
"Dr. Pennies, who stands 7'2 and is completely hairless, then disappeared down a dark hallway, allowing his question to linger in the airless night." - p 9
Royer is probably the most prominent character & he's presented as exceptionally bonkers & unscrupulous, proceeding throughout the bk as constantly reaching new depths of charges:
"Royer then consumed half a second cake before vomiting crisply into a trashcan. Unfortunately, the trashcan was the sort made from wicker, so that the vomit leaked out of the bottom. A custodian had to be called."
"TONIGHT The standings could very well change after this evening's slate of contests, which will feature several Pondicherry league players. Royer predicted an 8-point gain for his club. "Our statistics will expand lusciously and by lusciously, I mean by exactly 8 points because I plan on cheating," he said."
- p 10
The next thing I knew, "Ricnickfick", wch is what you shd be reading, was here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 28, 2017
Aug 12, 1985
James P. Blaylock's The Disappearing Dwarf
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 14, 2017
I just read Blaylock's 1st bk, the predecessor of review of
James P. Blaylock's The Disappearing Dwarf
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 14, 2017
I just read Blaylock's 1st bk, the predecessor of this, The Elfin Ship, less than a mnth ago so one might think that reading this now means that I'm enthusiastic about Blaylock's writing & just cdn't wait to get more of it but it was more of 'house-cleaning' activity. reading this one meant that I cd finish w/ Blaylock & have all of his bks in my collection up on the shelves & out of my piles-of-bks way. That's not very flattering, eh? But, don't get the wrong idea, I enjoyed it.
As I've explained in probably far-too-many other reviews: I have a tendency to read stuff-that's-important-to-me slowly & to intersperse stuff-that's-easier to give myself some slack. The Disappearing Dwarf is definitely in the latter category.
I'd read that Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy is one of Blaylock's favorite bks & he quotes from it at the beginning of this. The quote is about imbibing "radical moisture" in order to "know not what it is to fear death", in other words, potomania - alcohol-induced 'bravery' (or foolishness). I like that Blaylock likes Sterne but I must admit to finding none of Sterne's formal inventiveness & playfulness in Blaylock's writing.
I read The Elfin Ship less than a mnth ago but the action since then has advanced more than that: ""We've been back six months," the Professor said, "and you've got an air of boredom about you.["]" (p 5) It might be interesting to read a series of bks during the seasons that they take place in & taking a break between them equivalent to the time lapsed in the stories. That wd've meant that I wdn't've read this one until July. Oh well, too late.
As I mentioned in my review of The Elfin Ship ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ): "There's the peaceful small village that the reluctant humble hero hails from. There's the magician & the elves & the dwarves n'at. The evil creeping over the land." In other words, the standard tropes of fantasy. Add to those the door-into-an-alternate-world-or-some-such:
""This notation here," the Professor continued, "hasn't anything to do with dogs, I'm sure of it. It refers to a door, I think."
""A door to where? To the center of the earth?"
"The Professor perked up at the idea. "Quite possibly so, Jonathan. There are theories about it being hollow, you know."" - p 15
Indeed, there are & I once enjoyed reading those theories enuf to even organize the "Sinnit-Nut Hollow Earth Symposium". A digitized recording of Side A of the original cassette release from this can be heard here: https://archive.org/details/noise-arc... Please read the comment that I added if you go there.
Blaylock's wonderworlds are reruns of sorts, images from a pre-existing image pool imagined slightly anew by him. That's ok, I like this neo-Verne world, this world w/ caves filled w/ antiquities & oddities (if not treasure):
"In the dim shadows of one corner stood a collection of stuffed animals, a sort of taxidermist's wonderland, that looked as if it had stood just so for two hundred years. An elephant with long curving tusks and tufts of wooly hair along his back watched them through green glass eyes. Beside him stood a great long hippo and three crocodiles that had to have been twenty feet from head to tail. There were zebras and antelope and great cats and a weird hollow-eyed buffalo that was almost as big as the elephant. Four white apes stood in a cluster further back in the darkness. Pushed in among these strange dusty creatures were more chairs and wardrobes and tables and candelabra and such, heaped together in disarray." - pp 34-35
What? No stuffed humans or elves or dwarves or trolls or linkmen or goblins? Wassup w/ that?!
"Most puzzling of all the notations on the map was the legend scrawled across the top—merely the word "Balumnia," the name, possibly, of the city along the river or of the country where the river lay." - 44
""I once read a book about this Balumnia," he said. "It must have been twenty years ago. It was a wonderful book by the elf author, Glub Boomp. A fantasy novel."" - p 63
If only Jonathan read my review of The Elfin Ship it wdn't've taken him 19pp to remember Balumnia b/c I wd've reminded him that he knew what Balumnia was a mere 6 or 7 mnths ago:
"""Fine," Jonathan said, picking up an empty wooden crate and putting the pirate book in the bottom with a few others by the same author. Then he ran across a shelf of books by Glub Boomp, the elf author from the White Mountains who wrote about lands way off in space and about the Wonderful Isles and a country beneath the sea called Balumnia that was peopled by mermen. Needless to say, Jonathan stacked these away in his crate too."
Then again, according to that version of the story Balumnia is "a country beneath the sea" "that was peopled by mermen" wch ain't the case here. Get yr stories straight people. Some of us DO pay attn (sortof).
Selznak was the evil dwarf magician in The Elfin Ship who was defeated in the end but whose life was spared b/c our heroes aren't bloodthirsty sorts n'at. Surprise, surprise, he's back in the sequel & up to no good AGAIN:
"["]I promised Twickenham in a way that I'd keep an eye on Selznak. Of course he was up to no good, but it was pretty common stuff—murder and the like—and it was clear he knew I was there. In April he disappeared. I had it on authority that he was off downriver, so I moseyed along down to the Wood, where I lost track of him. You can't track evil through the Wood. There's too much of it already.["]" - p 48
Blaylock seems to be of the school of untamed-nature-is-evil-nature's-ok-when-it's-being-harvested-in-sleepy-hamlets-but-not-in-its-full-vitality. I doubt that I'd survive a night in the Amazonian jungle but that doesn't mean I want to turn it into grazing lands for McDonald's cows-bred-for-slaughter. Blaylock even imagines his obese character eating singing squid. I guess it depends on what they're singing.
""Well," said Gump, sticking in his two cents worth, "we don't have to worry about any squids. The Squire would just eat the things. I've seen him eat squid sandwiches that would turn your head. They were marvels. And he wouldn't care if they sang either; he'd eat them anyway. A singing sandwich is right in the Squire's line."" - p 65
If he ate a squid that was singing Cathy Berberian's "Stripsody" wd my head turn around 360 degrees & keep on turning? Wd I get head if the squids were singing the "Ode to Joy"? Things like this cd be important y'know.
I recall that Blaylock likes the work of Robert Louis Stevenson too so it's no surprise that shades of Treasure Island appear:
"If books could be believed—and it was beginning to look as if they could—then it seemed as if pirates spent their lives amassing great chests full of emeralds and gold for the purpose of burying the lot if it away on some goat-populated desert isle, only to sail back years later and fight over it and make up songs about it and bury it again, finally, somewhere else. He had never heard of pirates spending any of it." - p 67
What the piratical HEY!, I like Treasure Island so much I even watched a sequel movie called Return to Treasure Island recently. The main moral I got from that is: don't-get-married-if-you-still-want-to-have-fun & The Disappearing Dwarf does seem to echo that somewhat, too, by having our heros be bachelors.
The back cover of this edition has the following copy: "Into darkest Balumnia", wch strikes me as spin-off of the old "Into darkest Africa" but Balumnia isn't made out to be the least bit like Africa. UNLESS Africa's like this:
"Bomb or no bomb, Sikorsky or no Sikorsky, he'd had enough of being on the lookout. As he straightened up he caught a glimpse of a pair of eyes, milky eyes, watching him from the darkness of a recessed doorway not three steps away. There was a whispering in the doorway and the faint cackle of something laughing weirdly to itself, at a joke that no one else could hear or wanted to hear. From the shadows of the doorway, a thin, pale, skeletal hand reached out toward him, beckoning to him with a bent finger. Tattered lace hung round the wrist." - p 128
That's not the way I remember darkest Africa but, then, I've never been there. I've never even been there w/ Jonathan, the fictional character, but he & I are like 2 peas in a pod anyway:
"They pushed in through the doors of the inn and booked two rooms for the night from a lad in enormous spectacles who read a thick book behind a wooden counter. Jonathan cocked his head sideways to read the title on the volume. he had always been compelled to discover what it was that anyone he met was reading." - p 149
Well, ok, we're not really like 2 peas in a pod but I do the same thing when I see someone reading. Such as Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop or Theophile Gautier's The Mummy's Foot:
"When they did, they were presented with the sight of a hippopotamus head, mouth agape, staring back out at them. In among his teeth sat a small, satisfied-looking pig with his mouth open too. And in the pig's mouth, peering out as if through a window, were the head and shoulders of a mouse. A price tag dangled from one of the hippo's teeth: Two hundred dollars."
"Too bad this place isn't open," Gump said. "I'd like to talk him down fifty or so and buy that thing. I've always wanted one."" - pp 165-166
Gotta have one, simply gotta. Although it wd be even cooooler to have the mummified piece of Nearchus's ear that Zeno bit off:
""If there are three north-south streets between Royal and Oak that aren't on the map, and six east-west cross streets . . ."
""And no end of alleys," Gump interrupted.
""And, as you say, no end of alleys, then how many blocks do we have to explore in that one section?"
"The Professor ticked off streets on his fingers. "Let's see, that's . . . eighteen square blocks altogether."
""Multiplied by no end of alleys," Jonathan said.
""How do you multiply something by no end?" Gump asked.
"Jonathan shrugged. "You'd have to have a lot of zeros."
""More than we have time for," the Professor put in. "It all has to do with the study of infinitudes. Very complex affair."
""We studied those in school," Gump said. "It was fascinating. You take a line and divide it in half. Then you cut it in half again . . ."
""What do you cut in half again?" asked Bufo. "Both halves or just one? Seems pretty sloppy just to cut one half in half and leave the other one half alone. What does it do with himself?"" - pp 175-176
I'd never heard of fishing w/ kites before but I like the idea (even if it shd be called 'birding w/ kites'):
"Not far from the road two dark gypsys were fishing for seabirds with kites. Jonathan was tempted to stand and watch for a bit, as now and again a big gull or heron would swoop down and lunge at the bait dangling at the tail of the bird-shaped kite." - p 212
I HAVE heard of John Sheehan's "balloon fishing" where you go to a fishing spot before any of the other fisher-folk arrive & attach a balloon to your hook, submerge it underwater somehow, & then bring it up casually as if there's nothing abnormal about snagging an inflated balloon w/ a fishing line & leave w/o explanation. So, that's kinda normal to me - but what I want to know is what were the gypsys planning to do w/ the seabirds's credit info?
Sometimes it helps the plot to have the characters be considerably slower on the uptake than the reader:
"he barely gave a thought to the strange fact that the girl's hand was very cold and was dry as dust. For a moment, just as she stepped out into the moonlight, Jonathan had the strange thought that her hair wasn't blond, as it had seemed to be in the lantern light. It seemed momentarily to be gray, like old ashes in a grate, and her face, rather than being pleasantly thin, appeared skeletal just for the slip of an instant." - p 220
Some guys never learn - but don't feel too bad, Jonathan, computer dating services tend to pair me w/ women who look like they'd been left for dead in a body of water & bloated out to twice their living size.
This, predictably enuf, is the 2nd bk of a trilogy, it has to be a trilogy, right?!. the 1st 2 parts were only published a yr apart but the next one, The Stone Giant didn't come out until 6 yrs later in 1989. Maybe by then Jonathan managed to hook a live one. ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 14, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Jan 01, 1977
really liked it
Ron Goulart's Crackpot
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 7, 2017
This is the 42nd bk I've read by Goulart. It was published in 1977. Joh review of
Ron Goulart's Crackpot
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 7, 2017
This is the 42nd bk I've read by Goulart. It was published in 1977. John Waters's Crackpot was published in 1986. That just goes to show ya that there's more than one way to crack a pot. The cover of this one calls Goulart "The Mack Sennet of Science Fiction". Since the 21st century seems to be becoming the era-in-wch-no-one-remembers-anything-anymore I'll tell you who "Mack Sennet" is given that you probably don't even know the name of the last person you had sex with.
For one thing, "Mack Sennet" is probably Mack Sennett. The cover of this bk left off the last "t". The assumption is that this was a simple mistake. But what if it ISN'T A MISTAKE?! What if the person who designed the cover encrypted a plea for help?! What if Little Billy Book Cover Designer was actually chained to his desk trying to get a message-in-a-bottle out to the public to come & save him? Maybe the message tells us to remove the last "t" from "Goulart" to produce "Goular", suspiciously similar to "Ghoulish"?
Anyway, Mack Sennett founded Keystone Studios & was famous for slapstick comedies like those done by The Keystone Cops. Poor Little Billy was probably trying to tell us that the Keystone Cops have bungled his rescue. Most of Goulart's novels are set on planets other than Earth but this one's a home-o. That makes it somewhat unusual. Another little (Oh, Little Billy, forgive us!) thing that makes it unusual is that Goular(t) uses a formal literary device that has page one, the beginning of the 1st chapter, begin thusly:
"These things all happened at approximately the same time on June 13, 2015."
& page 145, the beginning of the last chapter, begins thusly:
"These things happened at approximately the same time on June 29, 2015."
That might not seem like much, & maybe it's not, but I noticed it so it struck me as worth mentioning. Full circle n'at. Note that the bk's set 38 yrs in the future from its date of publication - wch happens to be 2 yrs in the past of this review. I love that sort of thing, don't you? Reading bks that're set in the future wch happens to be your present or past? That way the reader can see how much of a prophet the writer succeeded at being.
In this case, Goulart's remnants of the USA have started a war w/ Mexico by annexing some of it - not such a far-fetched scenario. Mexico is simultaneously in the midst of a Civil War. It's not quite the same as having the Great Kleptocrat proposing wasting $11,000,000,000.00 of the taxpayer's money on building a wall to separate the USA from Mexico but it's close enuf in absurdity to be worth bringing up. The Great Kleptocrat & his Plunderbund aren't funny at all but Goular(t) certainly is:
"Two more of the large-size paramedic andies pushed through the door before he reached it. "We request, Dr. David F. Westchester, that you surrender yourself to us under the provisions of the Goofy Doctor Act."
""Who's goofy? Simply because I cut off a few wrong parts from a few spoilsport patients, does that make me a loony?"
""You're not authorized to cut off any parts," the android up on the ramp pointed out. "You're a rectal smear man pure and simple."
""Oh, sure," said Dr. Westchester. "That's a great job for a man with my training. I graduated from the Bible Truth Medical & Faithhealing College of Topeka, Kansas, Heartland Empire, at the head of my class. Now I must spend my days looking into people's poopoos. It's an ignoble and—"" - p 11
Shades of Dr. Benway. Wch, by the way, is the name of the last person you picked up on Tinder. Goular(t)'s future, our past, is full of intrusive dysfunctional technology every-wch-way-you-turn:
""You've just stepped," informed the next gutter-speaker, "into the footsteps of Rance Keane, noted gunfighter, who is by apt coincidence, now appearing—"
""This isn't Rance Keane's square. It says Butch the Wonder Dog."" - p 15
I'm reminded of the reminder messages I kept getting on my iJones about a non-existent event that's 'already happened'. Goular(t)'s future, our past, is a mess.. just like our present.. but different:
"A fragile blond man at the sofa end, after coughing, said, "We'll return to this stimulating debate on the moral validity of our position in this conflict with Mexico when 'Aspects of War' returns in three minutes."
"A naked girl, decorated with cosmetic polka dots and gold bangles, replaced the debaters on the screen. "How'd you like to spend a night with a hot ticket like me?" she inquired in a husky voice, "I bet I'm every man's idea of a terrific lay. Yet not so long ago I was merely another frustrated house-frau. Then I heard about the International Home Hooker School of—"" - p 28
What do you think she wd've sd before she was so-rudely-cut-off? 'the International Home Hooker School of Pancakes'?
Our hero, Rafe Santana, is a Mexican-American news-caster who's getting what seems to be a promotion by being sent to Mexico to cover(-up) the war. He gets some instructions:
"["']Minimize, while not totally ignoring, the Mexican claims that our motives in annexing are based on a desire for commercial gains and new territory to exploit. Emphasize, rather, the fact we are bringing a stability to the Mexican people, giving them a security which they haven't ever had under the fluctuating regimes of Mexico City.'" Less let the memo drop to the vibrabed, gazed up at the mirrored ceiling and then selected another piece of fax-paper. "This came in two days ago from the Secretary. Hum . . . '. . . nothing basically wrong with having a MexAm anchor on the War Desk. Indeed it may, subtly of course, serve to emphasize that the Mexican people do accept and comprehend what we are doing for them.' Isn't that nice?"
"Rafe's hands had tightened into fists. He cleared his throat. "I want this job," he said. "So read me everything Secretary McRaine has to say."" - p 33
The next passage was fun to read given that for the 1st time in my life my local water company had 100,000 or so of its customers boiling our water for 36 hrs or so b/c of water in a particular reservoir not passing inspection:
"The houseboat restaurant bobbed gently on the black water. The proprietor leaned close to Rafe to say, "I wouldn't order the seafood plate."
"Rafe said, "Not going to order anything until my friend arrives."
"The proprietor was a big wide man, dressed in a two-piece off-white evening suit. "They're dumping some kind of leftover chemical weapon stuff in the gulf," he explained in a low voice, glancing at the dozen or so other customers scattered around the softly swaying room. "The fish tastes okay, but for six or eight hours after you eat it you have an uncontrollable urge to tell the truth. I confide this in you, because in your business—"" - p 37
If only chemical weapons were that benign.
1st we had Ern Malley in poetry, now there's Fulmer Anderson. That strikes as an excellent pen-name for someone writing about the Adventures of Melania's Rump:
""You've probably never heard of me. My name is Fulmer Anderson."
""My trouble, besides a publisher who's snarfing me, is I keep creating immortal characters. You do that and readers won't know you, they'll only know your immortal characters. I wager you can't tell me who wrote Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan or Fu Manchu."
""Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sax Rohmer. What immortal characters have you created?"
""Well, someone with a literary background such as you obviously have possibly doesn't read series books," said Fulmer Anderson. "I write the Masochist series and the Sadist series, and my latest series is about Mr. & Mrs. Lust."" - p 38
Obviously, Goular(t)'s prophetic abilities fell a bit short on this one. No 21st century newscaster wd be able to remember the names of those authors. Goular(t)'s dysfunctional future has just about everything automated, even the priests - so who does the child molesting? After all, the sports coaches are probably automated too.
"A robot priest, one of the old-style black cylinder types, was flat on his back beside the font. Apparently he'd slipped on the slick flooring and been unable to upright himself. He was sprawled there, wheels spinning futilely, muttering, "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa."
""Let me help you, padre." Rafe stooped, got a hand under one of the robot priest's several arms.
""Bless you, my son," spoke the robot when he was back on his wheels. He made a lopsided sign of the cross with one of his arms. "Have you come to see the magnificent Church of St. Isaac? It is one of the finest completely mechanized churches of God in the entire Western world."" - p 46
There are apparently at least 6 saints named Isaac so Goular(t) might be making a joke here.. or a clue about the whereabouts of Little Billy. What I think of is an ex-roommate of mine who sd mea culpa all the time. It used to really get my goat.
In Goular(t)'s future, our past, androids even officiate at funerals. Do they go to work in an Uber taxi? Or do they just 'live' in the funeral home?
"In the shadowy, sweet-smelling hallway an android was waiting. He had a pink face, blond curly hair and wore a long white robe. "Gentlemen, allow me to convey my deepest sympathies. I am a Model 207XR Nondenominational Reverend. I'll be officiating at the brief but touching ceremony . . . um . . . I find myself with a slight problem." He motioned the nephew aside, led him into an alcove where a fountain was spewing multicolored water. "You're the relative of the deceased?"
""I've officiated at over two thousand cremations since I was installed here at the Wee Forge in the Briars . . . uh . . . but, young fellow, this is the first time I've had to deliver a farewell sermon about anyone who died in a bordello. Frankly, I'm stumped. Perhaps if I tried a few—"" - p 91
See? Technology doesn't solve everything now, does it? Although a main thread running thru this tapestry of electronic wonder is a device called a "Gadget" invented by a man named "Crackpot". The illegal Gadget enables any of its users to remotely control other machines. It comes in very handy:
"you ordered the Low Budget $12,000 Funeral for your late uncle."
""It's sufficient I think, especially since—"
""The point is, sir, you haven't paid so much as a penny, not one cent. The credit number you provided turns out to be spurious, further—"
""Don't worry." From a coat pocket the young man produced a Gadget, much like the one he'd given his late uncle. "You're not going to make a frumus, are you? No, you're going to tell your computer it's all been paid for. The whole thing, including a small wake afterward for those old guys.
""Why, yes. Certainly. Was there some doubt?"" - p 92
Why, I'd give Melania's Rump to have one of those. Maybe I cd save Little Billy.. or, at least, get some truth in advertising:
"Above the eggshell-white halfdome huge throbbing light-signs announced AmericaMecca Market! Bringing the USA to the World! Junk Food! Gimcrack! Shoddy Appliances! Marked-Up & Unsafe Drugs! Hundreds of Other Worthless & Dangerous Items!" - p 94
Goular(t)'s a barrel of laughs going over New Mexxxico's Niagara Falls. ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 04, 2017
Mar 07, 2017
Oct 10, 2001
Oct 10, 2001
**spoiler alert** review of
Jay Russell's Brown Harvest
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 27, 2017
This is the truncated review, read the full **spoiler alert** review of
Jay Russell's Brown Harvest
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 27, 2017
This is the truncated review, read the full one here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Having already reviewed Bruce Hale's The Malted Falcon (2003) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34... ) & Anne Capeci's The Maltese Dog (1998) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50... ) wch are both knock-offs of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1929) & Roy V. Young's Captains Outrageous Or, For Doom the Bell Tolls (1994) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41... ) w/ its at least titular references both Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous & Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls I reckon I'm working toward becoming a minor 'expert' on this genre of derivative intertextual bks.
Of the related bks in this genre (of sorts) in my personal collection I still have Ben H. Winters's Android Karenina (2010) & Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) (there's even a 2016 movie from this one!) & Regina Jeffers's Captain Wentworth's Persuasion to go.. AND the "Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys in A Ghost in the Closet (1995) by Mabel Maney.. but I'm not in any hurry to read any of them. It's hard to believe that such bks have been around for at least 23 yrs now.
Actually, I suppose one cd date them even further back to things like Kathy Acker's work whose publishing dates back to 1972. I've only read her Blood and Guts in High School (copyrighted 1978 but not published until 1984) wch I hated but skimming thru it again now it looks more interesting than I remembered so I might give her another read. I see that there's a post-mortem publication by her entitled "Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective" (pub. 2002 from manuscript of 1973) that fits in even more neatly here. Then there's Stewart Home's series of novels that started w/ his Pure Mania (1989) knock-off of Richard Allen's skinhead novels.
SO, Brown Harvest, knock-off of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest (1929): Red Harvest is an important bk to me, Brown Harvest isn't.. but, still, I wanted to read it b/c I love Red Harvest so much. To quote the entirety of my capsule review of that:
"This subject is probably discussed at great scholarly length elsewhere (perhaps in Joshua Waletsky's 1999 documentary "Dashiell Hammett: Detective, Writer") but, at the moment, I'm not sure where, so I'll add my 2¢'s worth: "Red Harvest" is about a detective hired to 'clean up' a town who pits various gangsters against each other in the process & destabilizes the criminal community into a bloodbath, a Red Harvest. The detective becomes increasingly psychotic as he begins to enjoy the mayhem he catalyzes. NOW, Hammett was a Pinkerton. The Pinkertons were strike breakers & union busters - mercenaries for robber barons, capitalism's thugs. Hammett was a Pinkerton in the town where the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was busy exploiting workers, ruining the environment, & making huge wads'o'dough. An IWW (International Workers of the World) union rep came there to agitate for better conditions. He was murdered. What was Hammett's connection, if any, to all this? & did it inspire the writing of "Red Harvest"? Hammett later went to jail for refusing to snitch to HUAC (House Unamerican Affairs Committee). Hopefully, I haven't garbled this story too much. I'm writing these reviews mostly off the top of my head."
That Goodreads review was written December 26, 2007 when I was 1st starting to write reviews on Goodreads so it's very minimal & written long after I'd read the bk. To expand on it a bit here:
"On April 19, 1920, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union called for a strike in the mines around Butte. They hoped the strike would help secure higher wages, an eight-hour day, and end the use of the rustling card, a system that allowed employers to blacklist employees involved in union organizing, among other goals. The strike came at a weak point for the union movement in Butte. World War I had undermined the power of the Butte Miners Union and the mines around the town were open shops. Only six years earlier, in 1914, the Butte Miners Union Hall had been destroyed. Rising copper prices, fatal mining accidents, and recruitment by the IWW had further exacerbated tensions in the town. Three years before the strike, an IWW organizer named Frank Little was beaten and hanged from a railroad trestle by unknown assailants. Thus, the strike began in an atmosphere of tension." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacond...
SO the IWW's Frank Little was murdered in 1917. Hammett "left school when he was 13 years old and held several jobs before working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He served as an operative for Pinkerton from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. The agency's role in union strike-breaking eventually left him disillusioned." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashiel... )
"The story goes that in 1917, Dashiell Hammett was offered $5,000 by an officer of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company to kill labor union organizer Frank Little, who had come to Butte, Mont., to stir up striking miners. Hammett, who was working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency as a strikebreaker, declined the offer. Little was killed, and it was believed that other Pinkertons may have been behind his lynching. Despite it all, Hammett stuck with the Pinkerton job.
"The story has become pivotal for many people attempting to understand Hammett and his work, which includes the novels “Red Harvest,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man,” and many short stories. Hammett’s longtime lover Lillian Hellman once called the tale “a kind of key to his life,” and novelist James Ellroy linked the episode to “the great theme of [Hammett’s] work.”
"Trouble is, the story probably isn’t true.
"And that’s not news, by the way. Hammett’s biographer Richard Layman called the story “implausible” in his 1981 book “Shadow Man,” and Ellroy has labeled it “mythic.” But in his new book, “The Lost Detective,” Nathan Ward analyzes and dismantles the claim in more detail, part of an extensive bid to clarify Hammett’s early years and his transformation into one of the most influential crime writers of all time." - https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinio...
I don't necessarily believe the above assertion of 'implausibility' but, then, I haven't read The Lost Detective. Be that as it may, Red Harvest has always struck me as a critique of detectives rather than a glorification of them. Red Harvest strikes me as a deeply felt story rooted in actual personal experiences while Brown Harvest is more of a literary exercise detached from direct detective experience. I don't respect it nearly as much as I do Red Harvest. Still, I enjoyed it.
Of course, the thing's full of literary references & a big part of the fun of reading it is to recognize them. Chapter I is entitled "A Man in Brown and a Woman in White": I don't know whether "A Man in Brown" is a reference or not & I'm not going to look it up b/c that wd spoil the process of relying on my own memory for me. "a Woman in White" is, presumably, a reference to Wilkie Collins's 5th novel, 1859, & considered to be one of the earliest mystery novels.
The protagonist is returning to his once small hometown after a 20 yr absence. He'd been the boy detective, the son of the police chief, & the smartest-boy-in-town (or so it was thought at the time). Life ain't what it usta be (or never really was) & his town's had its name changed by his archnemesis from childhood, a greedy unscrupulous man who owns a big software company:
"WELCOME TO IDEAVILLE
Our past is your future
sponsored by Black X Software,
a Blackwell Unlimited Company
"They'd gone and changed the town's name to something out of some Stalinist wet dream." - p 2
Chapter I of Hammett's Red Harvest is called "A Woman in Green and A Man in Gray". It's 1st paragraph is this:
"I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think of anything fo what he had one to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better."
"richardsnary" seems to be quasi or faux Cockney Rhyming Slang. Anyway, "Ideaville"'s a nice touch, a seemingly optimistic name for a town that's as bogus as any other PR that covers vicious competition & other ruthless business practices. In 'Poisonville' it was gangsters competing, in Ideaville it's video game companies.
Our grown-up boy detective notices the changes around town:
"Clearly the current population of Ideaville need never go in want to low-calorie frozen yogurt or blueberry bagels or one-hour photo processing (with double prints)." - p 12
"I walked up Pinkwater Avenue instead, tried" [to] "not get depressed by the enormous Blockbuster Video that stood where a row of stores, including the old taxidermy shop, used to be." - p 16
Blockbuster managed to last for 28 yrs before they closed in 2013. It seems to me that "one-hour photo processing" was long gone by then. After local processing stopped, I'd send film to Dwayne's. Then, also in 2013:
"But now Kodachrome, the first commercially successful colour film, has become history itself after it was developed for the last time yesterday.
"Dwayne's Photo, a family-run business in Parsons, Kansas, was the last place in the world where the 75-year-old Kodak product could be developed.
"The die was cast after Kodak announced in June last year that it would stop making the chemicals needed to develop Kodachrome in a round of cost-cutting after the company reported a £84million loss."
SO Both one-hour photo processing & Blockbuster are things-to-be-remembered-w/-nostalgia now - a mere 16 yrs after this bk was published. Nonetheless, the process of corporatization is still ongoing. Every local hardware store I went to in my area is now out-of-business having collapsed from the Home Depot competition.
"On up Industry Street, I recognized nothing at all. The mom-and-pop storefronts of my youth had all given way to the familiar franchise names that litter mains streets everywhere, offering the comfort of the dull, the easy, the familiar and monstrously corporate." - p 14
Russell's 70+ yrs later dystopia is no longer so obviously the domain of the local crime bosses, as it was in the time of Red Harvest, it's now the domain of the metaphorical absentee landlords, the people who won't even spend their vast wealth locally.
Chapter II is "The Little Sister", "The Little Sister" is the name of Raymond Chandler's 5th novel (1949), another great one. Our hero continues to note the changes to his home town:
"The pool hall across the street was, at least, still a pool hall. Way back when, it had been the hangout for a pack of local greasers who called themselves the Lions. They were a "gang" who were a few years older than me and were serious enough about juvenile delinquincy (jeez, does anybody even use that phrase anymore? Other than me, I mean?) that even I knew better than to tangle with them. Of course, in the modern context of Crips and Bloods, with their Glocks and hookers and Columbian coke connections, the Lions' zip-guns seem as quaint as powder horns and muskets." - p 26
I'm pickin' up what he's puttin' down. When I was in high school in the late 1960s & early 1970s kids in my school stabbed each other w/ pins. That was about as bad as it got there. At the 'bad' school, Pimlico High, near the horse race track, the kids used knives. Ahh.. in another 20 yrs people will be nostalgic about automatic weapons in high school once the innovators bring in biological weapons & dirty bombs. (DO NOT DO THIS, PLEASE!!)
"The doughnut machine started spitting out blobs unbidden. One after another, little squirts of heaven were ejaculated from the nozzle and plopped into the hot fat, The counter man started punching at the off button, but the machine wouldn't respond, just kept spurting out sinkers." - p 73
Ok, that's got to be a reference to one of my favorite kids bks: Robert McCloskey's Homer Price (1943). Just as w/ the reference to Blockbusters & one-hour photo processing, even though this bk was published in 2001, it already seems dated. That's how much the world has changed in 16 yrs.
"I had to pass through a meta; detector inside the door, beneath the unhappy gaze of a uniformed officer. My loose change set off the alarm, so I had to empty my pockets and go through a second time. It held up the line and evoked a few more muttered curses from behind.
""You really have security problems here?" I asked, depositing my money back in my pockets.
""Can't be too careful," the guard said, and shrugged." - p 75
The 1st time I remember going thru a metal detector was in 1978 when I went to the MOVE 9 trial in Philadelphia. Their prosecution shd've just been called a persecution since that's all it ever was. Anyway, I think the above quote shows that the bk was written pre-9/11 b/c the idea of even questioning "security problems" has practically disappeared. The hero was lucky he didn't have to take his shoes off.
The other Hammett knock-offs I've already read & reviewed, The Maltese Dog & The Malted Falcon were kid's bks. Brown Harvest definitely isn't. Our hero's dad, who our hero didn't realize was corrupt when he was a kid, has been demoted to "Drug Czar", a mocking title for his presumed duties as an investigator of illegal drug activities. Way back when, he was exposed for fucking underage girls, including ones even younger than his son.
"he was the invisible hand of decency that kept even a quiet Midwestern burg from crossing too far over the already unsteady line of its own uncertain moral disorder.
"Until, that is, he started taking kickbacks from property developers.
"And blow-jobs from underage whores." - p 81
Russell ends Brown Harvest w/ "Acknowledgements". Truly telling about how much life has changed since the '50s is the last paragraph of this:
"And Rosie, if ever you read this goofy book, remember that your dad promises to never be like the Czar, though you'll always be his little czarina." - p 341
The father-son have a little talk.. after 20 yrs of separation:
""Getting much these days?" I asked.
"He frowned in puzzlement, then followed my gaze to the stickers. A wave of anger passed across his face, but it dived off just as quickly into the fresh glass of gin.
""Probably as much as you got in prison," he slurped. "'Cept I don't have to bend over to get mine."
""Son of a . . ."
""Didn't think I knew about that, huh? You ain't got the patent on knowing, sly boots. What was it now? Three years in a . . . medium-security facility, was it? Computer fraud, right?"
"I felt a fury in my gut, tried not to let it show. "I was a hacker," I said as calmly as I could." - p 83
Chapter V is named "Continental Ops" referring to what I think of as Hammett's earliest short-story collection. Our hero's childhood love, Sandy, whose funeral he's come back for, is revealed as having betrayed him in a way that set off the chain of down-uppance:
""You were set up, loser!"
""What are you saying?"
""Who told you about that deal? Where did you get your, as it turned out, very bad information from?"
"I hadn't thought about any of this in years. I didn't like to think about it. But I cast my mind back to the details of that final, awfui case and . . .
""Sandy," I gasped." - p 95
The Hardy Boys always solve their case & come out solid. Our boy detective gets used, fucks up, & comes out diarrhea.
Chapter VI is "Farewell My Lovely", the title of Chandler's 2nd novel (1940).
Russell's critique of what was contemporary American society way back when in 2001 includes the eeriness of what I call Professional Smilers:
""My name is Vi. Welcome to the Boxcar."
""Uhhh . . . . nice to be here."
""Yes it is, isn't it. It's so nice. So very nice."
"She reached up and pulled on a string which dangled just behind my left shoulder. A dinner bell, fashioned out of a large, dented tin can, rang out with a tome as true as the finest Stradivari.
""All aboard!" she called out and everyone in the place looked our way. Each and every diner had a big smile plastered on his face. A few even nodded at me. I looked around for Rod Serling but couldn't spot him." - p 116
How long before "Stradivari" is too obscure a cultural reference? My spellcheck doesn't recognize it, of course. How long before "Rod Serling"'s something no-one I personally know will recognize. That may already be the case w/ anyone under 40.
"west of town at Miller's Crossing" (p 142): I think of the Coen Brothers movie w/ that one. I've seen "Miller's Crossing" but I didn't even realize it was based on Hammett's The Glass Key (1931). Duh.
Chapter VII is "Playback", the title of Chandler's last novel (1958).
Given that Ideaville is a gamer town, there're bound to be gamer addicts:
""Den's a gamer, isn't he?" I said.
"Sand shrugged, half-nodded.
""You see how he looks," she said, matter-of-factly.
""Terminal?"" - p 165
Fatal gaming. Too much of a good thing.
"["]You mean that they killed her, right?"
""And they know that you know? How could they let you live?"
"Sandy turned away again. I do things for them. All kinds of things."
""So they've helped you set all this up?"
""Yes. They use me in their fight against Roach and Blackwell."
""Good. That'll work for us."" - p 172
Let's cf that to the beginning of chapter IX of Red Harvest, shall we?:
"We had another drink.
"She put her glass down, licked her lips, and said:
""If stirring things up is your system, I've got a swell spoon for you. Did you ever heard of Noonan's brother Tim, the one who committed suicide out at Mock Lake a couple of years ago?"
""You wouldn't have heard much good. Anyway, he didn't commit suicide. Max killed him."
""For God's sake wake up. This I'm giving you is real. Noonan was like a father to Tim. Take the proof to him and he'll be after Max like it's nobody's business. That's what you want, isn't it?"
""We've got proof?"
""Two people got to Tim before he died, and he told them Max had done it. They're both still in town, though one won't live a lot longer. How's that?"
"She looked as if she were telling the truth, though with women, especially blue-eyed women, that doesn't always mean anything." ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 28, 2017
Jul 01, 2003
really liked it
Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 22, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com review of
Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 22, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/....
This is just the truncated review:
As I've probably written at least a few times elsewhere, I rejected crime fiction as a not-particularly literate populist genre for decades until I finally read writers such as Dashiell Hammett & Raymond Chandler. Now that I'm an enthusiast for the genre I'm discovering more & more of its practitioners to be both interesting writers & highly perspicacious political commentators & historians.
I'd noticed titles by Xiaolong at my local favorite used bookstore but hadn't pd them much mind. One day I realized that it'd be interesting to read Chinese crime fiction given my almost complete dearth of knowledge about Chinese literature at all. SO I got this bk w/o any particular high expectations for it - more just thinking it's about time I read something Chinese.
Whether that's what I've accomplished or not is somewhat ambiguous to me. While the novel heavily centers around Chinese politics in the 1990s, post the Tianamen Square suppression of protests in 1989:
"The Tiananmen Square Massacre, commonly known in China as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件)[a] were student-led demonstrations in Beijing in 1989. More broadly, it refers to the popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests during that period, sometimes referred to as the '89 Democracy Movement (八九民运). The protests were forcibly suppressed after the government declared martial law. In what became widely known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks killed at least several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths has been estimated at anywhere between the hundreds to the thousands." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananm...
its author moved to the United States around that same time. Therefore, while the descriptions of Chinese politics may be perfectly accurate there's always the doubt that they might also serve US propaganda purposes. In general, I choose to accept the novel's descriptions, largely b/c they're subtle enuf & true to my experience of human nature enuf to seem realistic. Nonetheless, perhaps a grain of salt from the Red Sea is appropriate.
In fact, I began to wonder if the novel had ever been read by a Chinese readership, ie: if it'd been translated from the original English into Chinese. This led to my finding an interesting article downloadable as a PDF online:
"Annali di Ca' Foscari, Serie orientale
Vol. 51 — Guigno 2015
"Qui Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
in Chinese Translation
A Macro-Polysystemic Analysis
"Paolo Magagnin (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, Italia)"
Rather than reproduce the entire 14pp, I choose a 2 paragraphs that're most politically to the point:
" 113, 184); critical, sarcastic or otherwise disrepsectful remakrs about Mao Zedung and his leadership (e.g. Qiu 2000, pp. 19, 61; omitted in Qiu 2003, pp 18, 59)"
"However, a certain number of references to other more or less sensitive socio-political issues are faithfully replicated in the metatext, such as the scars left by the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution, the 1957 Anti-Rightist campaigns and other campaigns (e.g. Qiu 2000, pp. 93. 166, 248, 253, 264; preserved in Qiu 2003, pp 97, 160, 242, 246-247, 256 respectively)"
Magagnin goes on to deduce from these observations that:
"Our analysis shows the existence of a central political system that generally does not accept the discussion of sensitive issues, such as the status and authority of the governing party and its leadership, the decline of socialist ideology and the disillusion of the governed, media censorship, the repression of political protest and violation of human rights (such as the Tian'anmen crackdown), the presence of ubiquitous corruption in a Chinese metropolis (as the deletion of the name of the city seems to suggest: the actual setting, however, is an open secret, since reviewers and scholars overtly refer to Qiu's works as being set in Shanghai) etc.
"However, the same central political system seems to allow some forms of cautious criticism of the most disastrous political campaigns of the Maoist era (mainly the Cultural Revolution and the Anti-Rightist Campaign), the expression of moderate dissatisfaction with the old or the new political line of the Communist Party, as well as the denunciation of corruption — understood as an umbrella term for <> (Kinkley 2007, p. 4) - provided that it addresses specific and localized instances of illicit behavior, and does not question the image of the Party as a whole." - edizionicafoscari.unive.it/...death-o...
Thank you, Paolo Magagnin. Magagnin's analysis about what happened to the Chinese translation more or less reinforces Qiu Xiaolong's political descriptions. Unfortunately, I don't read Chinese so I can't verify Magagnin's take on things. I've also never lived in China so it's quite possible that I'm entirely too prejudiced for my opinion to be of much 'objective' value.
The protagonist, Chief Inspector Chen, is a poet & a scholar whose State-directed path has led him into the police dept. Thru patronage he's advanced more rapidly than wd've ordinarily been the case & he's been fortunate enuf to receive a private apt:
"At the end of the Cultural Revolution, Chen entered Beijing Foreign Language College with a high English score on the entrance examination and then obtained a job at the Shanghai Police Bureau. And now there was another demonstration of Chen's good luck. In an overpopulated city like Shanghai, with more than thirteen million people, the housing shortage was acute. Still, he had been assigned a private apartment." - p 10
Still, considering that he's a Chief Inspector in a Special Case dept the apartment isn't much by 'Western' standards - even a drastically overpriced slum apt is NYC is probably better:
"It was not luxurious. There was no real kitchen, only a narrow corridor containing a couple of gas burners tucked into the corner, with a small cabinet hanging on the wall above. No real bathroom either: a cubicle large enough for just a toilet seat and a cement square with a stainless-steel shower head. Hot water was out of the question." - p 11
Still, w/in the Shanghai context, even such a minimal place wd usually be occupied by an entire family so Chen is envied.
An emphasis on culinary delights has become a recurring theme in some of the crime fiction I've been reading. In this case, Chen is making a meal for guests to celebrate getting the apt:
"For the main dishes, there were chunks of pork stomach on a bed of green napa, thin slices of smoked carp spread on fragile leaves of jicai, and steamed peeled shrimp with tomato sauce. There was also a platter of eels and scallions and ginger, which he had ordered from a restaurant. he had opened a can of Meiling steamed pork, and added some green vegetables to it to make another dish. On the side, he placed a small dish of sliced tomatoes, and another of cucumbers. When the guests arrived, a soup would be made from the juice of the canned pork and canned pickle." - p 12
Now, cf that to my review of Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed:
"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" - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
Or to my review of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's The Buenos Aires Quintet:
"There seems to be a subgenre of crime fiction where the detectives are food connoisseurs. Agatha Christie's well-known Hercule Poirot," [..] "& Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's Pepe Carvalho:
""'I have several other alternatives already prepared: onion tortilla with cod; sweet and sour lamb with herbes de Provence, and figs in syrup.[']" - p 186
""[']I would like to draw your attention to what we are about to eat. Pantagruel potpourri!
""On the one hand, a vulgar anthology of all the meats we Argentines are so fond of; on the other, the glory of the first modern literary work devoted to the joys of pleasure and of culture: Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel.[']" - p 331" - "Don't Let Them Get Away - With It! - !": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
"They had first met on a professional level. She had been assigned to write about the "people's policemen," and his name had been mentioned by Party Secreatary Li of the Shanghai Police Bureau. As she talked with Chen in her office, she became more interested in how he spent his evenings than in how he did his day job. Chen had had several translations of Western mystery novels published. The reporter was not a fan of that particular genre, but she saw a fresh perspective for her article. And then the readers, too, responded favorably to the image of a young, well-educated police officer who "works late into night, translating books to enlarge the horizon of his professional expertise, when the city of Shanghai is asleep." the article caught the attention of a senior vice minister in Beijing, Comrade Zheng Zuoren, who believed he had discovered a new role model. It was in part due to Zheng's recommendation that Chen had been promoted to chief inspector.
"It was only partially true, however, that Chen had chosen to translate mysteries to enrich his professional knowledge. It was more because he, an entry-level police officer at the time, needed extra cash. He had also translated a collection of American imagist poetry, but the publishing house offered him only two hundred copies in lieu of royalties for that work." - pp 14-15
Ok, he has to live in a tiny underequipped apartment but he "only" gets "two hundred copies"?! I suspect there're some translators/poets in the US who'd be delighted to be pd that well. All in all, tho, Xiaolong's depiction of Communist China, while not dramatically oppressive, makes it seem like a place I'd find absolutely insufferable - except for the food, wch seems pretty tasty.
"During the Cultural Revolution, the only thing close to dancing for the Chinese people was the Loyal Character Dance. People would stamp their feet in unison, to show their loyalty to Chairman Mao. But it was said that even in those years, many fancy balls were held within the high walls of the Forbidden City. Chairman Mao, a dextrous dancer, was said to have had his legs still intertwined with his partner's even after the ball." Whether this tabloid tidbit was fictitious, no one could tell. It was true, however, that not until the mid-eighties could Chinese people dance without fear of being reported to the authorities." - p 19
Scratch China off the list of potentially nice places to live. I have a hard enuf time screening my own movies in the US@ but when an attempt was made on July 23/24, 2004 to screen my "Funny Farm Summit Meeting" at the BLOG Night of Experimental Cinema in the Blue House Art Center, Chengdu Museum of Modern Art, in Shanghai it was shut down by the police. If I can't screen nudist movies & I can't dance the whole country is going to have to change before I'll budge.
"The Shanghai Police Bureau was housed in a sixty-year-old brick building located on Fuzhou Road. The gray iron gate was guarded by two armed soldiers" - p 23
Xiaolong's descriptions are very matter-of-fact & ordinary, he doesn't appear to be sensationalizing. Still, to a person like myself, already aware of the police state aspects of my own country, the presence of 2 armed soldiers in front of a police station doesn't bode well. Soldiers coupled w/ police in the US more-or-less automatically means potentially fatal & definitely violent suppression of the populace.
A woman, a model worker, has been murdered & her body has been dumped in a remote body of water wrapped in a garbage bag. It's been discovered & Chen & his assistant detective Yu are discussing the likelihood of the body's having been carried to the water in a car:
""Well, not too many people have their own cars—except high cadres, and they would not have their chauffeurs drive them around on such an errand."
""It's true. There're not too many private cars in Shanghai, but the number is increasing rapidly. We cannot rule it out."" - p 28
The negative impact of the Cultural Revolution runs as a theme throughout Death of a Red Heroine. Here's a little background:
"The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement that took place in China from 1966 until 1976. Set into motion by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve 'true' Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party."
"Millions of people were persecuted in the violent struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultura...
One of Chief Inspector Chen's friends is nicknamed "Overseas Chinese Lu":
"during the Cultural Revolution" [..] "Lu's father had owned a fur store before 1949, and was thus a capitalist. That had made Lu a "black kid." In the late sixties, "Overseas Chinese" was by no means a positive term, for it could be used to depict somebody as politically unreliable, connected with the Western world, or associated with an extravagant bourgeois life style. But Lu took an obstinate pride in cultivating his "decadent" image—brewing coffee, baking apple pie, tossing fruit salad, and of course, wearing a Western-style suit at the dinner table. Lu befriended Chen, whose father was a "bourgeois professor," another "black kid."" - p 33
I must be a moderate violent anarchist b/c I'm so fucking sick of people being persecuted. I don't think the nazis shd do it, I don't think the capitalists shd do it, I don't think the communists shd do it, I don't think religions shd do it, I don't think anarchists shd do it. By all means, assist w/ stopping persecutions but don't become a persecutor yourself. Sheesh.. Is that so fucking hard to understand?!
Chen's father had also been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. Chen finds a bk by his dad at a bookstore:
""You have an eye for books," the owner said, holding a bowl of rice covered with cabbage. "It's a hundred and twenty Yuan."
""What?" he gasped.
""It was once criticized as a rightist attack against the Party, out of print even in the fifties."
""Look," he said, grasping the book. "My father wrote this book, and the original price was less than two Yuan."
"Really," the owner studied him for a moment. "All right, fifty Yuan, with the poster free, for you." - p 35
Now, as a former bookstore owner, I can honestly say that I probably wd've given it to Chen for free if I'd been convinced of his story.. but my partners wdn't've. Then again, they wdn't've price-gouged like this either. It takes all kinds: wonderful people like myself.. & jerks. I just haven't figured out what the jerks are good for yet.
"The early chorus of the cicadas assaulted him in hot waves.
""Zhiliao, Zhiliao, Zhiliao . . . ."
"It was a homophone for "understanding" in Chinese." - p 47
I asked my Crystal Rectangle "What do cicadas sound like?" & chose to read the WordReference.com answers:
"Copyright", a "senior member", had this to say:
"I think you'll get many answers to this, for good reason. From Wiki, ... each species has its own distinctive song ... Some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB (SPL) "at close range", among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. This is especially notable as their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans, should the cicada sing just outside the listener's ear (unlikely). Conversely, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans.
So here's the inaudible sound ( ). And the Kansas cicada sounds like ooo-eee-ooo-eee. And the Thai coastal cicada sounds like a high-speed drill bit going through steel with no lubricant... a screech, in other words. So, maybe screech, scream, warble... and I look forward to others' cicada sounds."
"Checking Google, for what it's worth (not much, considering I didn't use quotation marks in the search):
cicada song: about 2,470,000 results
cicada noise: about 1,100,000 results
cicada scream: about 505,000 results
cicada screech: about 237,000 results
cicada chirp: about 219,000 results
cicada whine: about 188,000 results
Google results with quotation marks:
"cicada song": about 30,700 results
"cicada noise": about 5,170 results
"cicada chirp": about 1,130 results
"cicada scream": about 54 results
"cicada whine": about 34 results
"cicada screech": about 27 results"
"nzfauna", another "Senior Member", adds this:
"In entomology circles: Depending on the species, cicadas chirp or click, or a combination or both."
Now, honestly, while I appreciate the effort that these folks put into their answers I find them inadequate both descriptively & for my purposes here. Given that homophones are "Words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. / For example: "there", "their", "they're"." ( http://www.homophone.com/ ), it looks like I'm going to have to choose "whine" from the above list even tho I don't think cicadas whine at all. I like the sound of cicadas &, as w/ the sounds of birds, I take them as indicative of there being peace around me. Still, the word "whine" gives me a chance to bring up its homophone, "wine", perhaps wine made w/ the
Notes are private!
Feb 24, 2017
A. Bertram Chandler's Space Mercenaries & Emil Petaja's The Caves of Mars
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 21, 2017
There was pr review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Space Mercenaries & Emil Petaja's The Caves of Mars
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 21, 2017
There was probably a time in my life when I wd've felt like I was being too unintellectual to be reading bks w/ titles like Space Mercenaries & The Caves of Mars.. but, what the heck, I ACCEPT that SF is my life's blood (metaphorically, ie). I almost always find something enjoyable & stimulating in SF.
Space Mercenaries is the last of the Chandlers I have laying around the house to be read. This is the 23rd I'll've read & reviewed in the last 9 mnths. I don't really care if I say much about it b/c I've already written so much at length about him. Readers interested in my take on Chandler wd be better off reading reviews that're here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... or here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... b/c I don't have anything new to say in this review.
"["]I like money," remarked the ex-Empress Irene. "I have always liked money. But I possess a conscience. A luxury," she added thoughtfully, "which I can now afford to indulge."
""Mmph?" grunted her husband, as he made a fractional adjustment to the gain control." - p 5
I dunno about this "Mmph" business. I think John Grimes shd sue. Next thing we know Trafford'll be stinking the place up w/ a pipe.
""Give the wench time to recover from her brain-washing. She had a far rougher time on the hallucinogenic world than either of us. It'll be months before she's anything more than a puppet."" - p 8
Ok, ok, I wasn't going to tell you wch bks are being referred to but then I won't be able to show off that I know. &... drum roll please, the story being referred to is.. The Alternate Martians (You might as well read my review of it here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ).
"From the Terran viewpoint Slithila City had little to recommend it—but a climate congenial to reptiles is not likely to appeal to mammals. Trafford had made Slithila his first port of call after lifting from the planet of the hallucinogens, for only one reason: it was the nearest world with a regular service of interstellar passenger liners. He had wanted to get the prisoners off his hands" - p 11
The polka-dotted swoomerang spun around & flicked its forked tail in Irene's direction:
"The driver regarded her with the expression of a petulant crocodile, then stared reproachfully at Trafford, "Kapitan, do I the orders of this egg-layer take?"" - p 12
Wha?! "polka-dotted swoomerang"?! Where did that come from? What's wrong w/ this review?! The hallucinating was in The Alternate Martians, the reviewer is not supposed to interpolate fictional elements just for his or her own amusement! Keep in line there, buddy-boy!
Linguists: Is Slithilan SOV? 60 pp later & we're in Sweden, these spaceship setters sure do get around:
""There were not many neutrals, but among the neutral powers was Sweden. The Swedes owned a considerable merchant fleet, and their ships, with Swedish flags painted on their topsides and superstructure, sailed in the big convoys that plied between the United States and England. In spite of their display of national colors they were often fired upon by German aircraft that attacked the convoys. And there is nothing more annoying tha"[n] [Ok, I'm correcting a typo here] "being shot at without having the wherewithal to shoot back. The Swedish mariners didn't like it.
""Finally, some unsung genius came up with an answer to the problem. Of course, the ships could not mount armament that was the property either of their own government or of the British or American Admiralties. But . . .
""It was then, and is now, perfectly legal for Masters and Officers to carry weapons for their own protection. Normally, such weapons are only side arms—but there is nothing laid down in black and white. So the Swedish ships did, at the end, carry machine guns—and these guns, legally speaking, were the personal property of each Captain and his Mates. They signed receipts for them. Those point thirties or point three-oh-threes or whatever were private property, not government issue."" - pp 72-73
&, yes, that historical tidbit alone made reading this bk worthwhile to me. But what about telepathy-jamming, you ask? If I'm commanding a bicycle from a neutral country shd my telepathy-jammer be my own property or my government's?
"Metzenther, working with a team of local biological engineers, had produced a number of personal thought-wave jammers, each of which consisted of a fragment of a cat's brain, kept alive in a tiny vial of nutrient solution, which continuously broadcast on an emotional rather than an intellectual level, which screamed hungrily—and the hunger motivating the scream was for the red, bleeding flesh of birds, any sort of birds." - p 76
That's all well & good, I mean it's positively the cat's pajamas but have you ever had one of those mornings when you're hungover & you go to the fridge & you grab what you think is the strawberry jam & you spread a dollop on the bread that you don't notice the mold on & after it's too late you realize that you've just eaten that fucking cat-brain thought jammer by mistake?! I mean, that's a really bad way to start of your late afternoon.
Uh.. Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was upside-down in The Caves of Mars. Have you ever heard of Emil Petaja? Maybe when you were in a dangerous bar near the waterfront? Whispered w/ fear as the patrons slink hastily toward the exit door? Well, out boy Petaja was of Finnish ancestry so I shd probably be listening to Einojuhani Rautavaara's "Cantus Arcticus" right now insteead of Lutoslawski's "Mi-Parti for Symphony Orchestra". Sorry Finland. OR, I shd be listening to something by Charles Wuorinen, maybe his "Time's Encomium" b/c it's electronic & electronic music & SF go together hoof & mouth. Ideally, I'd be listening to music by a Finnish-American composer living on Mars but Wikipedia is really lacking in info about that category.
"Emil Petaja was born in Western Montana in 1915. In his early years, he immersed himself in reading fantasy books and exploring his surroundings. He attended the University of Montana, but did not receive his degree; instead, he moved to Los Angeles, where he became acquainted with some of the great mainstream writers of his time.
"In California, he wrote 14 science fiction novels and 150 short stories. He wrote in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, detective and western fiction." - http://www.finnala.com/Petaja_Emil.html
So, ok, Petaja isn't a pen-name for William Faulkner. Too bad. The story opens like a door onto oblivion:
"He'd stopped at a bar and downed two quick drinks before his climb up this neon-splashed ad pylon on the highest building he could find. But he wasn't fuzzy. BY no means! Wind pressed his leanness against a narrow strut; three inches of steel supported his booted foot." - p 5
"He couldn't bear to look down at the plastic arm they had glued onto his right shoulder stump. It worked after a fashion, sure. It had helped him climb up here. But, being the kind of man he was, an awkward mechanical arm just wasn't enough. he couldn't take it. He wouldn't. So . . ." - p 6
At least he wasn't climbing an ad python w/ a Plastic Jesus glued to his stump.
Then there's Mars. Where, o where, did its inhabitants go? I think there was s slight fuck-up at the very popular bubble gum factory & before you cd say the 1st name of every microbe on the planet while juggling Martian pink elephants everyone turned invisible.
""It's not a new theory, exactly," Ric pointed out.
""No. But my evidence is. In my opinion the migration was not caused by any lack of water or dwindling atmosphere. They had progressed to the point of producing their own, or evolved beyond the point of need. No. Some sudden overwhelming tragedy occurred. Possibly self-inflicted. Something that wiped away all trace of the existence of those great cities and reduced them to electronic dust."
""What could do that?"
""We almost succeeded in doing the same thing." Alan pointed out. "Had it not been for an almost perfect stalemate, the Third War would have brought Earth to exactly the same kind of ending."" - p 10
That's a pretty generic SF premise, I prefer mine. As for "the Third War"?! We wish, right?! How about the Three-Hundred-Thousandth War? Anyway, next thing you know, your arm's vaporized by a doorway.
"Ric ran his hand along the smooth rim thoughtfully, then in, further and further in and down, where the crevice widened near the floor.
"It happened then, and fast.
"His arm was bitten off, as if by sudden lightning." - p 11
At least he didn't stick his 3rd leg in there. Imagine climbing an ad python w/ a Plastic Jesus glued to that stump. Nasty. What happens next? Weeelllll, I introduce "M-P" w/o telling you what it is.. letting yr lurid little imagination run rampant w/ "Military Police" or Motor Petrol" or "Malignant Puma" or "Massive Penis" or "Mutual Problem" or "Marvelous Passions"..
"M-P didn't need hypno-ads. Everyone who tried it praised it to the skies. Their health was so improved they were reborn. New teeth sprouted in octogenarian mouths, diseased organs replaced themselves, sightless people saw. Deaf-mutes chortled their heads off, extolling M-P. The strange fungi spores swept the world like a beautiful plague." - pp 15-16
& the next thing you know we're 34pp more into the bk & it's like we're at Jonestown or something.
"the voice out of nowhere came again.
""My dear friends! My children!"
""Father!" they chanted in ecstasy.
""I greet you again before our day of happy toil begins," the deep voice intoned, with a sense of inner power and paternal warmth. "We are all happy here in Gilead, are we not?"
""Yes!" The affirmation was a great roar to the topmost crag.
"The rich voice was deliberately slow in coming. Each word was a pearl. "We are happy because we are healthy. Our bodies and our minds are free from all ills. That is as it should be. That is as it will be for all mankind!"
""I thank you for your love and your trust. Now, each one of us must dedicate this bright day to his tasks. With sustained courage and hope, and with the realization that he is participating in the beginning of a new and glorious Earth! There are greater miracles to come, my children. All of you shall become the vanguard of a new super race!"
"There was more, a hint that the time was drawing near when the whole world would not only accept them with open arms but would revere them as courageous pioneers. All the while this benevolent voice rang out across the wide valley Ric squirmed. The verbiage was familiar and distasteful, somehow. It smacked of bad old times, of dictators who cozened their followers with "superior race" nonsense." - pp 50-51
"["]Once a megolithic leader created an ingenious ring of stone on an island, which by its astronomical accuracy in reading the movements of the sun and the moon told our astronomers that momentarily our minds could fuse."
""Stonehenge!"" - p 102
"["]While our scientific minds were hopefully struggling with Earth-contacts and other vast mysteries, lesser minds were struggling for domination of our people. Just as your lofty minds have been superceded by power-mad militarists, so the Yeth. There were wars, suicidal wars. Atomic fission was discovered. Our resources were depleted. Our atmosphere was polluted.["]" - p 103
Yeth sirree-bob, there're definitely recurring themes in SF for at least 20 yrs post the inexcusable bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki. If they had to bomb, why not the Emperor's palace, eh?! Pessimism was a badly needed warning & most of us who read SF were on the same page, so to speak. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 21, 2017
Jul 12, 1982
Jul 12, 1982
James P. Blaylock's The Elfin Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 20, 2017
Blaylock's name was vaguely familiar when I picked up t review of
James P. Blaylock's The Elfin Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 20, 2017
Blaylock's name was vaguely familiar when I picked up this bk & its successor. As it turns out, I've read one other bk by him, The Last Coin, 9 yrs ago. People often comment on how-time-flies when you get older but it's forever weird to me that in the 9 yrs from 1977, when I published my 1st bk, & 1986, when I went on the "6 Fingers Crossed Country T.Ore/Tour" my life changed dramatically but in the 9 yrs since I read The Last Coin it doesn't seem like much time has gone by at all.
Anyway, one thing that's changed is that the reviews I was writing then were just capsule reviews & now they're often veritable monsters of cross-referencing or what-not. The review I wrote then is basically this:
"Blaylock is in that minority of SF writers who're also clearly comical. I like that combination. Other writers that spring to mind are the team of G. C. Edmondson & C. M. Kotlan, Ron Goulart, & Rudy Rucker. I'd read more by him if I ever ran across anything again. There's something about absurdist SF that's dear to my parallel dimension baboon heart."
Not much, write? [sic] I really don't remember The Last Coin & that review isn't going to help much. As far as my recent reading goes, I'd put The Elfin Ship more in the company of Esther Friesner's Majyk: something that I enjoyed but don't necessarily recommend.
The front cover of The Elfin Ship has a quote from Philip K. Dick on it that says: "A magical world, magically presented... having journeyed there, you will not wish to leave, nor ever to forget," The front cover of The Last Coin has a quote on it from William Gibson: "Blaylock is a singular American fabulist!". That's pretty powerful promotion-speak. Blaylock must be a popular guy. Dick died on March 2, 1982. The 1st edition of The Elfin Ship was published in August 1982. Was Dick's praise sd on his deathbed?!
When I was a kid & every yr was a thousand yrs apart, I read Tolkein's The Hobbit followed in probably quick succession by his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm pretty sure I read the latter at least twice & the former I may've even read 3 times. I don't usually do that so, obviously, I loved it.
The Elfin Ship seems to be exploring similar territory. There's the peaceful small village that the reluctant humble hero hails from. There's the magician & the elves & the dwarves n'at. The evil creeping over the land. The epigraph is a quote from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Even tho that was a famous bk in my childhood &, apparently, still is, I can't remember reading it. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
" The Wind in the Willows is a children's novel by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. Alternately slow moving and fast paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animals in a pastoral version of Edwardian England. The novel is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality and camaraderie, and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames Valley." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Win...
It seems like a precursor to Tolkein then. That folksy pastoral thing is established in The Elfin Ship right away:
"Jonathan waved him in and shut the door against the cold wind. First it was airships, then Gilroy Bastable, all out under peculiar circumstances. "H'lo there, Gilroy! Quite a night out, wouldn't you say? Could be described as a wet one if it came to descriptions, don't you think?"" - p 6
""Filthy night out; that's what I call it. Full of mud holes and hurricanes. Blew my hat into the river. I saw it with my own eyes right here in my head. Hat sails off spinning like the widow's windmill, turns round the church steeple twice, then lands smack and was gone in the river. Brand new hat. Hideous night."" - p 7
& then there's fun w/ dream (il)logic:
""But I was thinking, Professor, that if a dog had a dream about a man, mightn't that man say a few words now and again, like men do? And so, if a dog were to talk in his sleep it mightn't all be dog talk; perhaps the people in his dreams might get a word in now and again."" - p 35
In addition to the afore-mentioned standard fare of elves n'at there're also trolls:
"The two trolls waiting on the riverside, however, were anything but laughable. As Jonathan stood watching the trolls which were watching him, the one atop the roots reached down in among them. came up with a tone, and began to gnaw at it." - p 44
Apparently the secrets of strong teeth are known to trolls. They must not use US dentists. & then there's that "evil creeping over the land" that I mentioned earlier:
""Who is this Selznak?" asked Jonathan, gazing into his glass of ale and wondering what sort of a fiendish thing Gosset had encountered. He offered some of his ale to the Professor, who looked at it then shook his head. "He's not an altogether nice chap, I gather."
""Nice chap!" Gosset almost shouted. "A curse is what. A dwarf of some sort from the Forest. Came upriver six months back through Willowood. You heard about Willowood?"
""Yes," said the Professor.
""All gone by the boards. Empty! Things are . . . abroad in the land," Gosset said darkly." - p 60
The Goblins were probably my favorites. They're like indestructible party animals:
"Jonathan was certain it was intent upon firing the ship. Instead, the creature set fire to its own hair and leaped blazing to and fro about the deck. Wild laughter issued from between its pointed teeth, and the fire seemed to melt the skin from its face and it ran down and left only a grinning skull with flaming hair." - p 71
Now, there's an instance where "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" gets a little tricky. Then there're axolotls:
""All we need are axolotls. A man can't keep live axolotls with him all the time, you know. What we have to do is find an axolotl den and borrow a few. They don't mind. Not a bit. Glad to do it, in fact, as long as they're returned to their den afterward and given a bit of salt."" - p 84
Now, here's where Blaylock starts to get on rocky turf. I seriously doubt that a Mexican salamander aka a Mexican walking fish, a neotenic salamander, wd take kindly to being taken away & borrowed, salt or no salt so any aspiring magicians out there had better come up with a vegan substitute - & I don't mean platypodes either.
"Dooly went back to looking for shallows. He shouted and pointed at an odd creature near the shore, and the Professor and Jonathan at first feared that it was the little rope-chewing beast. But it turned out to be nothing more than a normal unremarkable platypus that blinked at them in a friendly way as they drifted past." - p 134
Now, given that Blaylock is an American author & that the platypus is native to Eastern Australia & Tasmania it wd appear that The Elfin Ship's setting is not the US@ or necessarily any existing Earth continent. What saves Blaylock from being reported thru time travel to HUAC as a result of this suspicious activity is that he frequently mentions bookstores in a positive light:
"They passed two interesting-looking bookstores, filled to overflowing with a likely hodgepodge. It looked like G. Smithers country to Jonathan, and he noted the cross streets, intent upon stopping in for some browsing on their return." - p 149
Goblins & trolls wdn't stop me from used bookstore browsing either.
""Well how much is it worth, do you suppose, six pence?"
""Easily," said Jonathan.
""Then half that. Everything here is half price. Didn't I tell you that already? Seems like I did. The almanacs are free, but you'll have have to wrestle the mice for them."
""Fine," Jonathan said, picking up an empty wooden crate and putting the pirate book in the bottom with a few others by the same author. Then he ran across a shelf of books by Glub Boomp, the elf author from the White Mountains who wrote about lands way off in space and about the Wonderful Isles and a country beneath the sea called Balumnia that was peopled by mermen. Needless to say, Jonathan stacked these away in his crate too.
"But he really struck paydirt when he stumbled upon the collected works of G. Smithers of Brompton Village. At home Jonathan had a dozen or so volumes, most of them dog-eared and falling to bits after having been read and re-read and loaned out and so on. But there was a complete set of G. Smithers, one hundred-twenty-nine volumes in all and every one as good as the other." - pp 175-176
[It's a little-known fact that the merman of Bulemia camouflage their undersea village w/ vomit to keep away the unwelcome]
In short, our hero has the right priorities.
"The Moon Man—for that's how Jonathan thought of him—was a peculiar-looking person, there was little doubt about that, but it was very easy to see that he might well be a king of some nature. Behind his spectacles his eyes were very jolly, but Jonathan could see that there was some nature of seriousness on his mind. As with the Squire, however, Jonathan would find that the Moon Man liked the right sort of things: eating apple pie and cream for breakfast, capering with platypi on the riverbanks, strolling along between hedgerows, admiring marbles with the Squire and, it turned out in time, investigating the mysteries of kaleidoscopes and paperweights." - p 156
Along w/ all the rest of the usual fare there're rings-of-power too. A fantasy bk that didn't have any of these standard tropes might be hard to write but it might make a nice change.
""Show friend Dooly your ring, Squire, like a good fellow," Twickenham said.
"The Squire put his bag of marbles away and winked at Dooly. Then he very slowly said, "Twicky Twicky Twicky Twickenham—ham sandwich," and waved the ring on the middle finger of his left hand in Dooly's direction." - p 161
""Of the rings, three have been found. Miles the Magician has one, Squire Myrkle another, and you, Dooly, the third. Where the fourth is is unimportant. It's likely that your grandfather traded it finally also. Rumors came along several years ago that he was spending a good deal of time of late beneath the sea in a submarine contraption and that he had as a companion a pig of exceptional intelligence dressed as a clown. It was kept previously in a teakwood cabinet above Seaside by a bunjo man, or so the story goes. I'm beginning to suspect, however, that something is amiss in the tale.["]' - p 165
The pig's tail is screwy, that's what's amiss. But that's ok. The descriptions of how the towns have changed now that something's a foot in this tail struck me as ferally appealing:
"["]The houses are inhabited now by things from the swamp. Goblins and hobgoblins and animals behaving in odd ways go about freely in the town and even carry on trade with two or three of the merchants who have elected not to give up their shops."" - p 180
Even the hobgoblins are upwardly-mobile in a prosperous society.
"The whole quiet vista was something close to awesome; it silenced all of them. But perhaps most awesome of all was the weird ship that floated at anchor off a sandy spit halfway around the lagoon and at the end of the path across the rocks. It was an astonishing craft, obviously built either by elves or by one of the tribes of marvel men in the Wonderful Isles—built by someone, anyway, who knew what such devices ought to look like. It was a spiraly affair, with odd, seemingly senseless crenelations and spires and a series of what might be taken for arced shark fins down the center of its back. On a foggy night the thing would certainly resemble a sea monster more closely than a ship, for it had several round portholes at the front, tow of which on either side of its pointed nose, glowed from some inner light and looked for all the world like eyes. On the sides were protruding fins, shaped like the fins of an enormous tide pool sculpin. Seawater to the rear of the vessel seemed to be churning and bubbling, and a whoosh of water shot out of the end every minute or so." - p 200
A part of why the above passage 'works' for me is that it evokes Jules Verne's character Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea & Mysterious Island - 2 novels that've made a positive impression on my fantasy life. Blaylock is far from wholy original but he's good at keeping a literary tradition of comraderie & adventure going.
"Escargot dug around in his bag and came up with a bottle of cream sherry and a bag of walnuts. In the light of one of the lanterns the four of them sat about on deck chairs cracking walnuts and sipping the sherry which was very good—made across the sea in the sunny Oceanic Isles." - p 229
Sounds good to me.
""And two nights ago. In this very room. I opened up that wardrobe and there was a ghastly sight. There was moths. A dozen of 'em, and they had my sweater on the floor. Knives and forks they had. The whole lot of 'em, and they were sawing the bloody sleeve off. Moths the size of golf with little arms and hands. It was ghastly. A positive horror."" - p 269
The thing is, they didn't have napkins, the barbarians. Now, I admit, the goblins don't seem to consistently use napkins either.
"A figure appeared shortly thereafter, outlined in the lamplit window. Jonathan could see that it sported one of Lonny Gosset's caps, sidewise on its head. The thing cackled with laughter and dumped what must have been the contents of a silverware drawer out onto the roadway, for there was the clatter and clang of cutlery as the contents of the drawer fell together below. The sound, apparently, pleased the marauding goblins somehow, for something like a cheer rose from a number of goblins within the cabin. One of them stumbled out and down and retrieved the spilled silverware, then clambered back into the cabin and dumped the boxful out the window again." - p 286
Sigh.. the goblin kids w/ their sideways caps & their dumped cutlery music these days.
"About the Author" informs us that "His favorite author is Robert Louis Stevenson: his favorite book is Tristram Shandy." (p 339) I can relate. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 21, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
A. Bertram Chandler's Contraband from Otherspace & Philip E. High's Reality Forbidden
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 19, 2017 review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Contraband from Otherspace & Philip E. High's Reality Forbidden
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 19, 2017
This continues my spree of reading A. Bertram Chandler bks. This will be something like the 22nd of his bks I've read & reviewed in the last 9 mnths. As far as I can tell, I haven't given birth to anything yet.
This is yet-another bk in the John Grimes saga, something that I deeply enjoy w/o being passionate about. Grimes & Sonya resign their respective positions to go into business for themselves but, these being adventure stories, of course they're not just going to plod along making money.
"["]It seems that there's a little one ship company for sale, just a feeder line running between Montalban and Carribea. The gratuity barely covers the down payment—but with your gratuity, and our savings, and the profits we're bound to make we shall be out of the red in no time at all. Just think of it, John! You as Wonder-Master, and myself as your everloving Mate!"" - p 7
But before they get that there biz launched a mystery comes their way: "["]It seems that this ship just appeared out of nothing—those were Hall's own words. There was no warning at all on the Mass Proximity Indicator. And then, suddenly, there she was—on both M.P.I. and radar. . . ."" (p 9)
"The Psionic Radio Officer was slumped in his chair, staring vacantly at the glass tank in which, immersed in its cloudy nutrient fluid, floated the obscenely naked brain. The Commodore tried to ignore the thing. It made him uneasy. Every time that he saw one of the amplifiers he could not help wondering what it would like to be, as it were, disembodied, to be deprived of all external stimuli but the stray thoughts of other, more fortunate (or less unfortunate) beings—and those thoughts, as like or not, on an incomprehensible level. What would a man do, were he so used, his brain removed from his skull and employed by some race of superior beings for their own fantastic purposes?" - p 15
Funny that you shd mention that. I founded a small orchestra called "HiTEC", Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative, & one of our text instructions was entitled "Brain-In-A-Vat":
"Decide that you're a brain-in-a-vat instead of a brain-in-a-skull & that your perceptions of what's happening in the current Systems Management session are programmed perceptions rather than 'real' ones. Adapt yr Management to what you think is the most likely 'reality'."
I like the perceptual challenge(s) of thought experiments like this.
Grimes & co eventually board the mysterious spacecraft & theorize about its dead occupants:
""My dear John," Sonya told him in an annoyingly superior voice, "these hapless folk are neither the builders nor the original crew of this ship. Refugees? Could be. Or must be. This is a big ship, and a fighting ship. You can't run a vessel of this class without uniforms, without marks of rank so you can see at a glance who is supposed to be doing what. Furthermore, you don't clutter up a man-o'-war with children."" - p 28
The plot thickens, of course. It's a veritable blood clot.
"It was the tissue culture vats that held the shocking secret.
"The flesh that they contained, the meat that was the protein supply for the tailed beings who should have manned the ship, was human flesh." - p 34
These mysterious beings who eat human flesh try to contact Grimes & co in the ghost ship: ""Heenteer tee Ceerseer. Whee ees neet yeer veeseen screen een?"" (p 72) It's a Pidgin English! The creatures must be Pigeons! (or Businesspeople)
"Yes, it was familiar, and the Commodore could make out the site of his first landing—one of the smaller clearings that, by some freak of chance or nature, had the outline of a great horse." - p 74
NO! It's Businesshorses.
""Greetings," replied the Commodore.
""You come again, man Grimes." It was a statement of fact rather than a question.
""I have never been here before," said Grimes, adding, "Not in this Space-Time."
""You have been here before. The last time your body was covered with cloth and metal, trappings of no functional value. But it does not matter."
""How can you remember?"
""I cannot, but our Wise Ones remember all things. What was, what is to come, what might have been and what might be. They told me to greet you and to bring you to them."" - p 76
"They came to the clearing, to the charred patch of ground already speckled with the pale green sprouts of new growth. And already the air ferns had begun to take root upon protuberances from the ship's shell plating, from turrets and sponsons and antennae; already the vines were crawling up the vaned pod of the landing gear. Williams had a working party out, men and women who were hacking ill-humoredly at the superfluous and encroaching greenery." - p 80
I like to say that Pittsburgh, where I live, is a temperate rainforest & that if humans were to stop battling the plant-life that the city wdn't be visible from the air in 50 yrs. Even the spaceship in my backyard wd be overwhelmed despite its force-field. The problem is that these horses can graze on any field.
"Grimes took her upstairs himself. With a deliberately dramatic flourish he brought his hand down to the keys, as though he were smacking a ready and willing steed on the rump. It was more like being fired from a gun than a conventional blast-off. Acceleration thrust all hands deep into the padding of their chairs. The Commodore was momentarily worried by a thin, high whistling that seemed to originate inside the ship rather than outside the hull. Then, had it not been for the brutal down-drag on his facial muscles, he would have smiled. He remembered that the Streen, normally coldly unemotional, had always expressed appreciation of a trip in a space-vessel and had enjoyed, especially, violent maneuvers such as the one he was now carrying out. If Serressor was whistling, then he was happy." - pp 82-82
The moral: "smacking a ready and willing steed on the rump" causes whistling.
Well, not really, b/c now it's time to flip ye old Ace Double to the Reality Forbidden side. Whenever I read an SF bk by an author I haven't heard of it's probably a good idea to check on ye old internet whether that name's a pen name of some other author that I have heard of. But, NO! Not only was that his non-pen name name there's even a website dedicated to his writing: http://philipehigh.com/ . You can even get Reality Forbidden on Kindle! How SF can you get?!
""We can find our own way out, thank you."
""Oh, but you can't. You can find your way in but you cannot find your way out until I have shown you."
""Does it matter?"
""Of course it matters." the old man was suddenly shrill and petulant. "There is a way in and a way out, a way to enter and a way to leave. That is the order of things and we must obey orders."
"Behind his back, Glliad looked sideways at Kendal and tapped his temple meaningly. His lips formed the word "nits."" - p 6
Of course, what the old man was referring to was this review. Reality being forbidden by the horses n'at YOU think that you can leave this review whenever you want to but you can't. The review is in yr mind now. Horses & tigers. They're out to get you.
"The corridor turned again and the old man paused. "Keep to the left here, there is a tiger in the third room."
"Gilliad looked at Kendal and raised his eyebrows despairingly. When he reached the door with the word "Tiger" on it he kicked it contemptuously with his toe.
"There was a snarling sound and Gilliad screamed. He flung himself back from the door and put his hands over his face.
""Oh, my God," he said. There was a jagged gash beneath his left eye and blood trickled down his cheek." - pp 6-7
Horseshit. Who do these guys think they're kidding?!
"["]Before you try and answer that, we see it something like this. We see you floating in on a repeller unit just like a feather. When you touched the tops of the trees, however, all the various appendages crumpled and snapped off as they were designed to do. As a crash it looked real good even if the repeller did get you down safely and burn itself out automatically as soon as you touched down.["]" - p 9
Are you pickin' up what he's puttin' down?!
""We wanted to know"—Kendal was suddenly sweating visibly—"if coherent culture existed, what methods it had employed to suppress the machine."
""Machine? You mean the wish-machine"? He stared at them and suddenly burst out laughing. "My God, man, they're legal here." - p 10
"Their voices were cool, neutral and without triumph. "In the event of an addict being apprehended, what is the procedure?"
""The addict is confined in a temporary prison until the effects wear off."
""Then"—Gilliad tried to hold back the words or alter them but found the task hopeless—"then he is paraded through the streets and publicly executed in a slow-heat cubicle."" - p 21
This bk was written in 1967 by a British author. I wonder what the drug laws were like in Britain at the time?
"Drugs considered addictive or dangerous in the United Kingdom are called "controlled substances" and regulated by law. Until 1964 the medical treatment of dependent drug users was separated from the punishment of unregulated use and supply. Under this policy drug use remained low; there was relatively little recreational use and few dependent users, who were prescribed drugs by their doctors as part of their treatment. From 1964 drug use was increasingly criminalised, with the framework still in place as of 2014 largely determined by the Misuse of Drugs Act."
"Following pressure from the US, the UK implemented the Drugs (Regulation of Misuse) Act in 1964. Although the Convention dealt with the problems of drug production and trafficking, rather than the punishment of drug users, the 1964 Act introduced criminal penalties for possession by individuals of small amounts of drugs, as well as possession with intent to traffic or deal in drugs. The police were soon given the power to stop and search people for illegal drugs."
"1964 – Dangerous Drugs Act, following UN 1961 Single Convention. Criminalised cultivation of cannabis.
"1964 - Drugs (Prevention of Misuse Act) criminalised possession of amphetamines.
"1967 – Dangerous Drugs Act. Doctors required to notify Home Office of addicted patients. Restriction on prescription of heroin and cocaine for treatment of addiction." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_po...
W/ that info in mind, at least part of Reality Forbidden seems to be a warning for the way that drug laws in the UK were going at the time.
"["]The potential addict is the man with problems, the type of man who lives beyond his income, the man with an erring wife, or worries too much about this and that, the unrequited lover; in short anyone who has good reasons for wanting to escape either from himself or his problems.
""In the subjective world which the machine, responding to his imagination, creates for him, his problems are resolved. Naturally, once the effects of the machine's stimulation wears off, the real problems of the world loom even larger and he resorts to the machine again—once this becomes habitual he is a second degree addict.["]" - p 31
"Keisler cleared his throat and straightened in his chair. "It was only when several good men had met rather messy ends that the authorities began to wonder and, by the time they had finished wondering, the truth was all too clear. Ina large number of cases, the addict's imaginary protectors were coming to his aid."
"["]Some speak glibly but a little obscurely of a 'retained hypnotic mental impression' while a more cautious school is engaged in physical research. They are working on the theory touched upon by most great physicists, that thought has substance.
""Which school of thought is right I'm not prepared to say, but this fact is inescapable—if an advanced addict concentrates too long on a means of defense, this means of defense becomes objective to a Susceptible." - pp 35-36
This notion of thought becoming palpable, of mind-over-matter essentially, is a key fantasy to many people, myself included. Movies like Dr. Strange appeal to it. It's just like ceremonial magick: there are people who practice it who seem to think that they can get the power that they're otherwise lacking in their life by going thru the right mumbo-jumbo.. & maybe they can.. although I've never known anyone to succeed. I think they'd be better off becoming an accountant for a university & ripping off a million or so. They'd stand almost no chance of being prosecuted - unlike if they stole a piece of meat from a supermarket.
"He turned from the window, frowning. "From right now Ontario is a beleagured province; we stand alone." He pulled himself abruptly erect and grinned twistedly at the other. "The Mother Country stood alone more than once, guess we can, huh?—let's go and have a beer."
""A beer!" Gilliad, borught up in regimented society looked vaguely shocked. "Shouldn't we tape a report or something?"
""What the hell for?" Osterly tapped a small device strapped to his left wrist. "Everything was recorded, they'll have it all; if they want me they'll send for me—come on."" - pp 46-47
That's right, we've just uncovered a plot to attack a large population, let's go relax now, that was hard work.
Question: Why did you wish to conceal your identity?
Answer: It was a prepared policy.
Question: Did all the Immunes adopt it?
Question: How old are you?
Answer: Two hundred and eighteen.
Question: How old do you hope to be?
Answer: Around three thousand." - p 83
Ok, give the guy a break. I mean, let's get real: If he revealed his true age he'd never get laid.
""Attention all citizens. Observers report three active volcanoes twenty miles beyond the city limits. Remember, please, that this volcanic activity is not real, it is subjective." - p 112
'Attention all citizens. Observers report three major tv news networks in this country. Remember, please, that this news is not real, it is propaganda.'
"Osterly, his pipe halfway to his mouth, froze. This was the end, there were limits to what the human mind could conceive. God, earthquake, fire, flood and tempest. The Immunes had not only thrown the book at them but the wrapping and price tag as well." - p113
Horsepuckey.. Wait a minute! What's THAT doing here?! That's from the other review! ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 19, 2017
dos-a-dos (Double Book)
Jan 01, 2017
it was amazing
Paula Gillen's Head Trip - The 80s
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2017
I don't have a separate section for Photography in my p review of
Paula Gillen's Head Trip - The 80s
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2017
I don't have a separate section for Photography in my personal library, photography bks are filed under "Art". I have many unshelved piles of bks, 'waiting' to be better organized, the 'new'(ish) arrivals that may've been sitting there for yrs. Looking thru the shelved Art bks I found these photography ones:
Extended Frames - Sue Abramson
Photobooth Portraits - Benjamin Allen
Mark Boyle's Journey to the Surface of the Earth
A Discourse on Domestic Disorder - Robert Cumming
Sidetripping - Charles Gatewood
Photogram - Susan B. Laufer
Take One and See Mt. Fujiyama and other stories - Duane Michals
Royal Road Test - Mason Williams, Edward Ruscha, Patrick Blackwell
Photomosaics - Robert Silvers
Photo Synthesis - Jerry Uelsmann
I'm sure there're more but that's a pretty good sampling of what I find interesting: original work w/ strong technical/formal innovation that reinforces unusual & imaginative content - basically what I try to do in my own work.
& then there's Paula Gillen. Paula's an old friend of mine, we've known each other for 40 yrs - although we've been more out-of-touch than in-touch most of that time. Nonetheless, there was a time when we were close & worked together extensively as artist & model. This, as far as I know, is Paula's 1st publicly available bk of her own work. I've created 2 webpages in honor of its being released: one specifically for the bk itself here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Book201... & one in honor of our collaborations together here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/CoGil.html .
Paula & I mainly worked together from about 1977 to 1981 until we reconnected in 2010. In the meantime, during the era when we were out of touch, to quote from the Collaborators webpage: "She went to NYC (1987) & worked as a freelance photo researcher/photo editor for many magazines such as Vanity Fair, People, Business Week, Time and her last gig, at The New Yorker magazine. Sometime in the early days of all this history she went to Malaysia to photograph too.
Despite the subtitle of this bk being "The 80s", these 120 photos were taken from 1975 to 1985 in Baltimore (MD), Branford (CT), Chicago (IL), Mercer County (NJ), New Haven (CT), New York (NY), Philadelphia (PA), Robbinsville (NJ), Rockport (ME), Saugatuck (MI), & Trenton (NJ). 47 of these were shot in Baltimore (where she went to undergrad school), 59 from Chicago (where she went to grad school) - so the vast majority are from her art school days. I'd like to see a bk that covers a broader span of work, a bk that wd include the Malaysian photos - wch are very different from everything collected here.
Given that I was friends w/ most of the Baltimore people that Paula photographed, looking thru this bk is a very personal experience for me. There're 13 photos of Bonnie Bonnell, who I had a brief, tempestuous relationship w/; 4 w/ Laurie Stepp, who I had a longer not-quite-so-tempestuous relationship w/ (& who I lived w/ briefly in 2 different places); 1 of Alfred Harris, someone I'd known since high school & who I'd lived w/; 4 of Billy Moriarity, who I'd briefly lived w/; 1 w/ Doug Retzler, who I'd known since high school, lived w/, & collaborated w/; 1 of Richard Tryzno Ellsberry, who I'd collaborated w/; & 4 self-portraits from Paula, who I'd lived w/ & collaborated w/; etc, etc.. There're only 3 photos of me (or 2 - one's a diptych).
One of the differences between me & those listed above is that they were art school students & I wasn't: Bonnell (MICA), Stepp (MICA), Harris (MICA), Moriarity (MICA), Retzler (UMBC, MICA), Ellsberry (UM), Gillen (MICA). I had, & still have, the philosophy that if one wants to be creative the best way of going about doing it is to be creative - wch has nothing to do w/ art school.
What does Gillen have in common w/ the other photographers listed above?
She was photographing a similar time & place as Abramson did but Extended Frames "records the work of a performance group known as CoAccident" ( you can get a tape of them from me here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/WdmUCat... ) & "used continuous time exposures while hand-cranking the film through the camera" as Abramson's introductory note explains. Abramson's focus was on the more intellectual subculture while Gillen's was on the more rowdy & bombastic arts scene. Still, these scenes interpenetrated. Abramson's photos use a very specific experimental technique that I've never seen anywhere else, Gillen's technique, as represented here, is less single-project oriented & more varied as a result.
Allen's Photobooth Portraits aren't just straight shots, they're collages of what're mostly head-shots. Gillen is also mostly focused on people & also uses collage. There the formal similarity ends.
Arbus is famous for straight-forward documents of subjects that're either off of mainstream society or so mainstream that they seem somehow more intense. She photographed drag queens, nudists, crying children, strippers, twins, triplets, the disabled, spaces w/o people that 'speak' of mainstream culture in a way that's strangely unsettling. As she writes in the intro to this bk about getting her subjects to pose for her:
"I'm extremely likeable to them. I think I'm kind of two-faced. I'm very ingratiating. It really kind of annoys me. I'm just sort of a little too nice. Everything is Oooo. I hear myself saying, "How terrific," and there's this woman making a face. I really mean it's terrific. I don't mean I wish I looked like that. I don't mean I wish my children looked like that. I don't mean in my private life I want to kiss you. But I mean that's amazingly, undeniably something."
The picture of Arbus in that bk makes her seem like a fairly average, pretty artist, someone in good health, w/o a brutalized life. I like Arbus's work but her own intro to it makes her seem somewhat exploitative. Some of Paula's friends might come across as societal outcasts too but they're her friends & I, at least, don't think she's exploiting them/us. There's more of a sense of humor to it that her subjects are participating in - unlike Arbus's gaze that's freezing a certain pain.
Mark Boyle's Journey to the Surface of the Earth? This is much more conceptual & process oriented than anything that I know of Gillen ever doing. There is a photo in his bk of his 1st performance of a light show called Son et Lumiere for Bodily Fluids and Functions (1966) that's akin to Gillen's photos that superimpose projections over models such as her "Black Eye" & many others. But Gillen's are strictly for the photos while Boyle's were performative.
Cumming's photos are narrative-evoking & somewhat stark B&W. His "An electric shock." shows a hand sticking a knife in an electric socket. Gillen's "Tour of Old Faithful" shows a carrot apparently plugging the drain of a bathroom sink - w/ a toy plastic boat sitting on the rim. Her "Kitchen Aid" shows 2 rubber gloves sticking out from cabinets under a kitchen sink holding a broom as if sweeping.
Fantastic Photographs presents a variety of work from a variety of photographers. Much of it might be called Surreal, much of it has photographs w/in photographs - such as Tomiyasu Shiraiwa's photo of a hand holding a photo of a hand next to a waterfall next to waterfall. It's recursive. That bk came out in 1979. Too bad Paula's work wasn't more well-known by then, she wd've fit right in. Take, eg, her "Hostage Situation" in wch model Susan Lowe's leg is dangling from a hole in the ceiling w/ her son grabbing the leg from below.
Gatewood's a slightly revised Arbus - possibly appealing mainly to an audience who'll never have as direct an access to the bikers, the drag queens, the addicts, the S&M practitioners, the borderline derelict, the weirdos. Like Arbus, he makes it 'safe' for the people who experience his photos to look at the 'dark side'. He goes there for them. Paula's friends are a little more 'savory', yes, there's some drag, yes there's some drug abuse, but mostly these people are middle class kids that're playing, they're not downwardly mobile yet. That might come later.
Laufer's photograms (or Rayographs or Schadographs) are perhaps furthest away from what Gillen is doing. There aren't any people. Gillen comes closest w/ her stenciled backdrops - such as in her "Nuclear Threat". But Laufer's photograms are consistently 'abstract' while Gillen's backgrounds are a way of engaging a human narrative.
Man Ray's photographs are usually more focused: one obvious subject such as a woman w/ a bondage mask on. He, too, made photograms & these tend to have a slightly more busy composition. Take his "Rayograph (gun with alphabet squares)" & cf it to Gillen's "Found photo" which appears to be police evidence of a gun with a ruler next to it showing its size. Of course, Man Ray was also photographing his artist friends - people like Joseph Stella & Marcel Duchamp. Will Paula's friends be so renowned someday? Perhaps. & maybe that's what makes Paula's subjects closer to Man Ray's than to Arbus's or Gatewood's.
Duane Michals's photo-narratives consist of a sequence of straight-forward B&W pictures w/ hand-written text underneath them telling the story. The title tale ends w/ a shot of a man laying in bed w/ an erection tenting his underwear. Most of Paula's pictures don't have text but her "Shoe Horn" shows a man's body from the same perspective as the Michals photo but instead of underwear there's a shoe covering the presumably erect penis. Perhaps it's a coincidence, perhaps it's a tribute.
As for The Nude? That, like Fantastic Photographs, is a collection w/ some variety aside from the obvious organizing motif. Paula's photographed a fair amt of nudes & they're not just straight-forward look-at-what-a-lovely-body-this-person-has school. Her "Deer", eg, shows a nude woman laying in leaves w/ her lower legs painted in a somewhat camouflaged way. In The Nude Dieter Appelt has a photo of a man laying down w/ his legs striated, perhaps w/ clay or paint.
Royal Road Test documents taking a Royal typewriter & the exploded view results of throwing it out of a car window on Sunday, August 21, 1966 while going 90mph in the desert. I like the idea, it's similar to what Mark Boyle did in Journey to the Surface of the Earth. Gillen never really went there, her intent wasn't to set a process in motion & document the results. Her photography is mostly more conventionally composed.
Photomosaics? These are fabulously labor intensive. Paula's work, involving mostly other people, isn't so meticulous, even w/ preparation there's always the 'capturing-the-moment' that means that what she shoots is what she gets. Silvers's pictures are heavily edited in the computer in the 1990s, Paula's photos in Head Trip weren't exactly pre-computer but they were done before any of us had one. These are 2 very different kettles of fish.
Super Stereograms? The closer we get to the present, the further we get away from Head Trip. The social nature of Head Trip is still relevant to our time, the imagery is still exciting, but the technology since the 80s has produced much more lavish eye-candy.
Jerry Uelsmann? As w/ the photographers in Fantastic Photographs, there's plenty of influence from the Surrealist painter Magritte here. He manages to fuse images so seamlessly that it's as if the subjects were born that way, impossible tho that wd be. Gillen's not nearly the darkroom technician, her fusions are done in the studio, w/ lighting, projections, props, backdrops, careful posing of the models. In stunning photographs like "Missionary Position" the results are almost the same.
Joel-Peter Witkin? What an amazing artist. His work combines, most infamously, dead human body parts - such as a severed head, w/ elaborate backdrops, props, & naked humans - including apparent hermaphrodites or transsexuals. These are further distressed to create a faux antiquity. I don't do them justice. Gillen is, admittedly, nowhere near this. Then again, there's no good reason for her to be. Artists like Arbus, Gatewood, & Witkin are all steeped in the so-called dark side while Gillen distances herself w/ humor. She's not nearly as morbid.
Nonetheless, in her 2 pages of text near the end she explains that "I worked silently to create images that spoke for me. I visualized my struggles with physical and mental illness (Voices in My Head, Corset and Wasted), thoughts on feminism (Suburbs, Double Bunny and Phallic Living Room), and memories of rape and other experiences, which scarred my psyche (Missionary Position and Afraid)."
Rather than the photographers that I've listed above, Gillen cites her influences & milieu more along these lines:
"Baltimore was my home in the late '70s. Its particular brand of urban blight was my inspiration. The crumbling walls of abandoned industrial buildings, the empty storefronts with shattered windows, the half-lit neon signs on funky dive bars and crusty old strip joints provided a perfect backdrop for an aspiring young photographer. I did my best to keep up with the local talent. By my account, they were tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE; Cindy Heidel; Susan Lowe; Stan Edmister; Doug Retzler; Tom Diventi; William Moriarity; Bonnie Bonnell; Laurie Stepp; Jayne De Sesa; David Franks; Michael Gentile; John and Richard Ellsberry and their still reigning queens John Waters and Joyce Scott.
"It was during this decade that conceptual and feminist tendencies in the art world started to expand my consciousness. I took trips to NYC and saw art by Vito Acconci, Hannah Wilke, Martha Rosler, Lucas Samaras, Pat Oleszko and William Wegman."
Of those listed as the BalTimOreans, David Franks is dead but the rest may still be alive. I have 2 short movies online I made w/ David, if you're interested: "Hairballs, Wigs, & Weaves for Skinheads" ( http://youtu.be/b08MlvL-60k ), & "On Temperance" ( http://youtu.be/kOUigEfApi4 ). David was a professor at MICA around this time.
Of the New Yorkers, Paula went on to work w/ Pat Oleszko whose brazen humor was more obviously inspirational than anyone else listed. The thing is, tho, Paula's work contains traces of everything gone over here so far. It's a rich world, it's a cartoon world, it's a world full of good humor barely covering the trauma of groping sexuality.
Recently, I saw a movie by Paul Morrison entitled Little Ashes (2008) about the shared art school days & beyond of the now-famous Salvador Dali, Federico Garcia Lorca, & Luis Buñuel. While the movie is a bit insufferable as soap opera melodrama at times it totally nails the suffering & turmoil of creative people's escalated growing pains. Buñuel is shown as secretly loving Lorca while Lorca overtly loves Dali while Dali needs the agency of Gala to enable him to deal w/ his impotence &/or bisexuality &/or? Dali watches while Lorca fucks a woman who's in love w/ him. He can only bring himself to fuck her as a surrogate for Dali. Buñuel switches his attn to Dali & convinces him to leave Spain for fame & fortune in Paris. These are people w/ deep talents, deep confusions, & deep lust. So were the people of Baltimore in Paula's photos. It might seem stupid to normals who're 'content' w/ following the usual trajectory but some of us are too passionate to ever settle for less - even at the risk of our sanity. So be it.
As for the photographs in Head Trip? Well, I recommend that you get a copy of it & see for yourself. You can go here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Book201... & see the photographs of me & read Paula's text. But I'm not sure you'll have really lived until you see photos like "Braces" or "War Room". Why not make Paula happy & buy a few hundred copies to donate to psychologist waiting rooms the world over? ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 16, 2017
really liked it
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's No Happy Ending
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 15, 2017
I'd already read Taibo's Return to the Same City i review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's No Happy Ending
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 15, 2017
I'd already read Taibo's Return to the Same City in June of last year as my 1st bk by him. It picks up where this one ends, the detective hero has been murdered. SO, I knew to expect that this really wdn't have a happy ending. If I hadn't read that 1st I might've been hoping & expecting for the hero to somehow survive all the odds against him. Such foreknowledge put a weird spin on my reading experience. As I wrote in my review of Return:
"The detective hero had been killed off in the last bk featuring him. "A Note from the Author" 'explains':
"Don't ask me when and how Héctor Belascoarán Shayne came back to life. I don't have an answer. I remember that on the last page of No Happy Ending rain was falling over his perforated body.
"His appearance in these pages is therefore an act of magic. White magic perhaps, but magic that is irrational and disrespectful toward the occupation of writing a mystery series."
The character, apparently resurrected, is not exactly in a hurry to jump back into risking his life again" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Anyway, this resurrection created a happy ending for the book w/o one. Good. I like happy endings. This one's happy for me for various reasons: it's short, it's easy to review. I've recently written 2 long reviews & need a break. See? Everything's happy. The beginning murder has a theatrical aspect to it:
"A Roman foot soldier sat on the toilet, staring at the tile floor, his throat slashed.
"Blood oozed slowly down the brass breastplate, over the short, pleated skirt, the hairy legs, and into one sandal. A helmet with a faded plume rested on his head. A long wooden spear leaned against the wall.
""They've gone too far this time," Héctor muttered, cautiously lifting the Roman's chin. A four-inch gash cut across his throat.
""The sons of bitches who killed this guy."" - p 4
That got me to thinking: Are there no other types of "Roman soldiers" other than this ancient stereotype? EG: Is there a contemporary Roman solider wearing body armor against bullets & a helmet with a face-plate & that sort of thing? Or wd that be an Italian soldier? Having the 1st victim be an atavistic one created an unexpected spin that had to be resolved. the corpses increase w/ no obvious explanation:
"And now this: two dead men and a plane ticket to New York to keep him from sticking his nose in where somebody thought it didn't belong. But if they didn't want him to get involved, then why the hell had they gone and dumped a dead Roman in his bathroom, and then sent him a photograph of this other guy?" - p 8
Detectives are like obsessive-compulsives seeking closure. They must know. That's the way they work - or, at least that's the way they work in novels. In real life they probably fake evidence just to get pd or are perfectly happy to stop investigating something if they get pd to stop, etc.. It's hard for me to believe that (m)any of these novelistic heros have ever existed. I have a friend who worked for a detective agency. His boss wd send him out to test people's phones to see if they were tapped. My friend didn't know the slightest thing about that. He'd pretend & the detective wd give the client a report that their phone wasn't tapped. Maybe that's more common. These days what do detectives do? Background checks thru some online service that they pay for?
This is one of those 'exotic character' novels where the people are unusual & that helps keep the story interesting:
"The Filipino enjoyed passing on his art, and you were a good disciple. After the course in gymnastics, you went on to karate, and from there (once again the hand of fate) to the esoteric secrets of the escape artist, magician, and daredevil. The Filipino had once worked as an assistant to an Indian contortionist, touring bars and clubs in California, and he knew some unusual and wonderful tricks. So unusual and so wonderful, in fact, that you would spend entire sleepless nights contemplating the subtleties of escape from a sealed coffin, from a straightjacket, of the dangerous motorcycle jump through a ring of fire.
"A year and a half passed in strenuous training, and then one day the Filipino disappeared." - pp 38-39
I reckon that Taibo knew he had a winner when he thought of having the novel revolve around his hero avoiding getting killed & then finally failing to do so. There're plenty of plot twists in this but that No-Happy-Ending business must've been enuf of an Ace-Up-The-Sleeve to keep this novel short & breezy. I love it when I read something that I know was inspired:
"The first shot hit the stack of papers. Thousands of words flew in all directions, leaving the smell of fresh ink in the air." - p 88
Beautiful. Instead of immediate blood & guts the reader gets "thousands of words" flying in all directions. SO, our hero investigates more & more:
"This shadowy, violent organization had shown evidence of its existence before. The first time was during the Ayotla Textile strike, when a paramilitary group appeared out of nowhere, shooting and beating the picketers before the laughing gaze of the police." - p 103
"The official explanation wrote the whole thing off as an unfortunate clash between antagonistic student groups. But then there were the photographs of the army-issue M1 rifles, and the riot police allowing the armed men to pass unopposed, and the tape recordings from the police radio frequency, over which police officers directed the Halcones' attack." - p 107
Taibo is always on the side of the strikers & protesters & against the side of the death squads & paramilitary groups. I'm w/ him there. Even tho this is fiction it does get those juices flowing in the direction of imagining the real-life counterparts.
But, WAIT!, maybe this isn't so fictional after all:
"The Corpus Christi Massacre, Corpus Christi Thursday Massacre, or El Halconazo (The hawk strike, so called because of the participation of a group of elite Mexican army soldiers known as Los Halcones) was a massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City on June 10, 1971, the day of the Corpus Christi festival."
"Los Halcones (The hawks) was a black operations army group that was trained in the United States. The group was created in the late 1960s to repress demonstrations and prevent other large popular movements such as the student movement of 1968 from rising again. Their first attack against the students took place on October 2, 1969, a year after the Tlatelolco Massacre. Their initial duty, as told by the government to the public, which was not aware of their name nor their real purpose, was that there was going to be a police group that ensured the security of the recently inaugurated Metro. The members of Los Halcones were identified with nicknames and its members were of various backgrounds, including sports clubs, the police, and thugs for hire "porros" who were provocateurs created to counter and watch universities. After the Halconazo, the number of Los Halcones members increased exponentially in the UNAM and IPN); militaries, which were referred to with the nicknames "maestros" (teachers) or "paisanos" (countrymen). These militaries had at their command dozens of halcones, the vast majority of whom had participated in the Tlatelolco massacre, as well as gang members and criminals. The latter were released from jail under the condition that they form part of the new shock group with payment." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_...
Yep, that's the way Taibo & his Spanish counterpart, Montalban, rolls. For me, then, these novels become political education about Mexican politics. Note that "Los Halcones (The hawks) was a black operations army group that was trained in the United States" - cd that be at Fort Benning? Our hero speaks to a friend:
""I might not be back for a few days . . . If I don't come back, I want you to have my books on the Spanish Civil War. They're on the bookshelf in the hallway. I inherited them from my father."" - p 117
That's the sort of detail I like. The author knows that these bks are important. W/o making such provisions they might just get thrown away. Knowledge lost. Other people might just cut the pages up for collages. Knowledge lost.
"Héctor, who had never exactly thought of himself as a man on a collision course with authority, saw the State as something akin to the witch's castle in Snow White, from which emerged not only the Halcones, but other things too, like his own engineering degree, or the crap you saw on television. There were no gray areas there. It was all one big infernal machine that it was best to keep as far away from as possible." - p 139
Ah, yes, the state. Trump & his billionaire cronies wd like to do away w/ aspects of it, the aspects that provide checks & balances for their greed & White Supremacism. Then again, they'd like to keep the state b/c it enables them unprecedented access to power. Funny how that works.
Usually, I try to avoid spoilers. No Happy Ending gives me an excuse to not do that for a change:
"He'd almost reached the cover of a newspaper kiosk on the corner when a shotgun blast caught him in mid-torso and lifted his torn, broken body into the air." - p 175
No Happy Ending was published in 1981. Return to the Same City was published in 1989. It only took Taibo 8 yrs to reverse the No Happy Ending. if only real life were like that. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 15, 2017
Jan 01, 2000
Jul 27, 2000
it was amazing
Daniel Nettle & Suzanne Romaine's Vanishing Voices - The Extinction of the World's Languages
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 6- review of
Daniel Nettle & Suzanne Romaine's Vanishing Voices - The Extinction of the World's Languages
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 6-12, 2017
I have much to say on this subject & I say it here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . The below is just the truncated beginning of the review so you might as well go to the full thing (broken into 3 chapters).
1st off, this is one of the most important bks I've ever read - wch is to say that it's one of the most important to ME. Here's a list of the other 9 in a top 10 I might put it in w/, not organized into a hierarchy:
The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia - Alfred W. McCoy
Finnegans Wake - James Joyce
footnotes - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Why do Birds Sing? - David Rothenberg
The Many-Headed Hydra - Marcus Rediker & Peter Linebaugh
Gargantua & Pantagruel - Rabelais
t he bk
t he referent 4 wch consists of
t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs from a letter/whatever stencil - Michael Frederick Tolson et al
Impressions of Africa - Raymond Roussell
A Void - George Perec (translated by Gilbert Adair)
That list is highly subject to change. It's tempting to put David Rothenberg's Thousand Mile Song in there or William S. Burroughs's The Soft Machine or whatever. Note that I included 2 of my own bks. I wdn't ordinarily do that but I'm so moved today. Anyway, the rating system on Goodreads has "5" as the highest. I'd give Vanishing Voices an 11.
For decades I've been saying that I think that imperialist languages are technical & that the languages that are being forced into extinction are more 'poetic'. Starting a year or more ago I decided to start (d) composing an 'opera' entitled Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas intended to be an outgrowth of this opinion. I started acquiring bks, such as this one, to research & to get libretto material from. I'll be culling from my review here for that.
I was explaining my 'opera' to a friend of mine & mentioned the idea that "imperialist languages are technical" etc & my friend, being the type who has to always argue about everything in order to show 'how smart she is' regardless of whether she'd ever given it a moment's thought before, asked me if I wasn't "just being romantic"? I told her that: 'No, I don't think so.' At that point, I'd just started reading Vanishing Voices but I hadn't gotten far enuf into yet to be able to quote from it or explain the authors's positions or to know if they reinforced my own or not.
WEEEELLLLLLL, Vanishing Voices reinforced everything that I'd previously thought & expressed it so articulately that I was very happy to be both born out & to know that such a resource was available. Of course, I'm not in the least happy that the language extinction problem exists. As w/ so many bks that're deeply important to me, reading this w/ the intention of reviewing it was intimidating b/c I felt like practically every paragraph was worth quoting & commenting on & it was very difficult to restrict my note-taking to a reasonably manageable quantity.
"The extinction of languages is part of a larger picture of worldwide near total ecosystem collapse. Our research shows quite striking correlations between areas of biodiversity and areas of highest linguistic diversity, allowing us to talk about a common repository for what we will call "biolinguistic diversity": the rich spectrum of life encompassing all the earth's species of plants and animals along with human cultures and their languages. The greater biolinguistic diversity is found in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, who represent around 4 percent of the world's population, but speak at least 60 percent of the world's languages." - p ix
The notion of "biolinguistic diversity" is essential to me. Many people I know probably care about any species of animal being endangered but wdn't give much thought to endangered languages. I think it's very, VERY important to recognize that it's all part of the same concern & this bk bears that out brilliantly.
There're 4 photos on pp 3-4 of the last speakers of 4 languages.
"In 1984 Esenc had already written the inscription he wanted on his gravestone: "This is the grave of Tefvik Esenc. He was the last person able to speak the language they called Ubykh." With Esenc's death in 1992, Ubykh too joined the ever increasing number of extinct languages."
[In case the reader is imagining Esenc as some sort of 'wild man' I hereby note that his picture shows a man in a suit & tie, w/ a neatly trimmed mustache & glasses]
"Four years later in South Carolina a native American named Red Thundercloud died, the last voice of a dying tongue. No longer able to converse in his native language with the remaining members of his community, he took the language of his tribe to the grave with him. Red Thundercloud was alone among his people, but not alone among native Americans. Roscinda Nolasquez of Pala, California, the last speaker of Cupeño, died in 1987 at the age of 94, and Laura Somersal, one of the last speakers of Wappo, died in 1990.
"In another part of world on the Isle of Man, Ned Maddrell passed away in 1974. With his death, the ancient Manx language left the community of the world's living tongues. Just a hundred years earlier, not long before his birth, 12,000 people (nearly a third of the island's population) still spoke Manx, but when Maddrell died, he was the only fluent speaker left. Two years before his death, Arthur Bennett died in north Queensland, Australia, the last person to know more than a few words of Mbabaram, a language he had not used himself since his mother died twenty some years before." - p 2
There's really no 'need' for me to say much about any of this b/c the authors say far more authoritatively everything I might say. The purpose of this review is to try to summarize what they say enuf to get people interested in reading the bk. Many people might shrug off the death of languages as a 'natural' occurrence but how wd they feel if the language they speak were to die off around them as an obvious result of socio-political conditions that're irrelevant to actual qualities of the languages concerned?
"English, as Glanville Price put it, is a "killer language." Thus, it has been said that Irish, for instance, was murdered by English. Others, however, have in effect put the blame on the Irish by saying that the language committed suicide. The Irish writer Flann O'Brien, although pro-Irish, resented and rejected the attempt to revive the Irish language, because he was of the opinion that the difficulties faced by Irish were "due mainly to the fact that the Gaels deliberately flung that instrument of beauty and precision from them."" - p 6
This was one of the only things in Vanishing Voices that I had my doubts about. I'll take the authors's word for it that that was really O'Brien's opinion but when I think of O'Brien, whose work I know reasonably well & whose writing I love, & Irish I think of this passage:
"What's this I have in me pocket? Dirty scrap of paper. Some newspaper heading I cut out. 'Language in danger.' Of course, if I was a cultured European I would take this to mean that some dumb barbarous tonguetide threatens to drown the elaborate delicate historical machinery for human intercourse, the subtle articulative devices of communication, the miracle of human speech that has developed a thousand light years over the ordnance datum, orphic telepathy three sheets to the wind and so on. But I know better.
"Being an insulated western savage with thick hair on the soles of my feet. I immediately suspect that it is that fabulous submythical erseperantique patter, the Irish, that is under this cushion—beg pardon—under discussion.
"Yes. Twenty years ago, most of us were tortured by the inadequacy of even the most civilised, the most elaborate, the most highly developed languages to the exigencies of human thought, to the nuances of inter-psychic communion, to the expression of the silent agonized pathologies of the post-Versailles epoch. Our strangled feelings, despairing of a sufficiently subtle vehicle, erupted into the crudities of the war novel. But here and there a finer intellect scorned this course. Tzara put his unhappy shirt on his dad (Fr. for hobby-horse as you must surely know), poor Jimmy Joyce abolished the King's English, Paulsy Picasso started cutting out paper dolls and I . . .
"As far as I remember, I founded the Rathmines branch of the Gaelic League. Having nothing to say, I thought at that time that it was important to revive a distant language in which absolutely nothing could be said." - pp 102-103, The Best of Myles - Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O'Brien)
No, no.. That's not the passage I'd intended to quote at all! HOWEVER, in the course of looking thru every page in the above-quoted 400pp bk I stumbled across that relevant passage instead of the one I'm looking for. Wish me luck. Back tuit.
"The Irish lexicographer Dinneen, considered in vacuo is, heaven knows, funny enough. He just keeps standing on his head, denying stoutly that piléar means bullet and asserting that it means 'an inert thing or person.' Nothing stumps him. He will promise the sun moon and stars to anybody who will catch him out. And well he may. Just take the sun, moon and stars for a moment. Sun, you say, is grian. Not at all, Dinneen shouts that grian means 'the bottom (of a lake, well)'. You are a bit nettled and mutter that, anyway, gealach means moon. Wrong again. Gealach means 'the white circle in a slice of half-boiled potato, turnip, etc.' In a bored voice he adds that réalta (of course) means 'a mark on the forehead of a beast'. Most remarkable man. Eclectic I think is the word.
"That, of course, is why I no longer write Irish. No damn fear. I didn't come down in the last shower. Call me a bit fastidious if you like but I like to have some idea of what I'm writing. Libel, you know. One must be careful. If I write in Irish what I conceive to be 'Last Tuesday was very wet,' I like to feel reasonably sure that what I've written does not in fact mean 'Mr. So-and-So is a thief and a drunkard.'" - pp 276-277, The Best of Myles - Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O'Brien)
Nope. That's not what I wanted to quote either. But, HEY!, it shd serve to prove that anything by Myles na gCopaleen deserves to be in my top 10. In fact, I hereby alter what my top 10 are by adding the previous 2 runner-up bks & the above-quoted bk. Let's just say that my top 10 are in base 13. 13's an unlucky number b/c it doesn't get a chance to be itself, it has to stay 10 or under. Some numbers have all the luck. HERE'S the part I wanted to quote:
"A lady lecturing recently on the Irish language drew attention to the fact (I mentioned it as long ago as 1925) that, while the average English speaker gets along with a mere 400 words, the Irish-speaking peasant uses 4,000. Considering what most English speakers can achieve with their tiny fund of noises, it is a nice speculation to what extremity one would be reduced if one were locked up for a day with an Irish-speaking bore and bereft of all means of committing murder or suicide.
"My point, however, is this. The 400/4,000 ratio is fallacious; 400/400,000 would be more like it. There is scarcely a single word in the Irish (barring, possibly, Sasanach) that is simple and explicit. Apart from words with endless shades of cognate meaning, there are many with so complex a spectrum of graduated ambiguity that each of them can be made to express two directly contrary meanings, as well as a plethora of intermediate concepts that have no bearing on either. And all this strictly within the linguistic field. Superimpose on all that the miasma of ironic usage, poetic license, oxymoron, plamás, Celtic evasion, Irish bullery and Paddy Whackery, and it is a safe bet that you will find yourself very far from home. Here is an example copied from Dinneen and from more authentic sources known only to my little self:
"Cur, g. curtha and cuirthe, m.—act of putting, sending, sowing, raining, discussing, burying, vomiting, hammering into the ground, throwing through the air, rejecting, shooting, the setting or clamp in a rick of turf, selling addressing, the crown of cast-iron buttons which have been made bright by contact with cliff-faces, the stench of congealing badger's suet, the luminance of glue-lice, a noise made in an empty house by an unauthorized person, a heron's boil, a leprachaun's denture, a sheep-biscuit, the act of inflating hare's offal with a bicycle pump, a leak in a spirit level, the whine of a sewage farm windmill, a corncrake's clapper, the scum on the eye of a senile ram, a dustman's dumpling, a beetle's faggot, the act of loading every rift with ore, a dumb man's curse, a blasket, a 'kur', a fiddler's occupational disease, a fairy godmother's father, a hawk's vertigo, the art of predicting past events, a wooden coat, a custard-mincer, a blur-bottle's 'farm', a gravy flask. a timber-mine, a toy craw, a porridge-mill, a fair-day donnybrook with nothing barred, a stoat's stomach-pump, a broken—
"But what's the use? One could go on and on without reaching anywhere in particular.
"Your paltry English speaker apprehends sea-going craft through the infantile cognition which merely distinguishes the small from the big. If it's small, it's a boat, and if it's big it's a ship. In his great book An tOileánach, however, the uneducated Tomás Ó Criomhthain uses, perhaps, a dozen words to convey the concept of super-marinity—drthrach long, soitheach, bád, naomhóg, bád raice, galbhád, púcan and whatever you are having yourself.
"The plight of the English speaker with his wretched box of 400 vocal beads may be imagined when I say that a really good Irish speaker would blurt out the whole 400 in one cosmic grunt. In Donegal there are native speakers who know so many million words that it is a matter of pride with them never to use the same word twice in a life-time. Their life (not to say their language) becomes very complex at the century mark; but there you are." - pp 278-279, The Best of Myles - Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O'Brien)
Now, obviously, O'Brien is, ahem, taking some liberties here. But, at the same time he does have something to say about what's possible in languages-known-to-entirely-too-few. Imagine how funny he might be in Irish writing about English! At any rate, I'm so inspired by the above that I'm going to look up a list of the top 400 words in English & read them as "one cosmic grunt" at an open poetry reading 2 days from now. (Witness my document of this: "Cosmic Grunt / Betsy DeVos" - https://vimeo.com/203362094 )
But let's get back to something not in the least bit funny: the murder of a language thru the genocide of the language's speakers:
"As a telling example, we can take what happened in El Salvador in 1932, when after a peasant uprising anyone identified as Indian either by dress or physical appearance was rounded up and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. Some 25,000 people were killed in this way. Even three years later radio broadcasts and newspapers were calling for the total extermination of the Indians of El Salvador to prevent another revolt. Many people stopped speaking their languages to avoid being identified as Indian, in order to escape what they feared was certain death in a country which officially had no Indians." - p 6
"Linguistic diversity, then, is a benchmark of cultural diversity. Language death is symptomatic of cultural death: a way of life disappears with the death of a language." - p 7
& let's get real here, Holmes, there're people who want that to happen. I'm not one of them.
"The worst case, however, is Australia, with 90 percent of its estimated 250 Aboriginal languages near extinction. Only some 50 languages are widely spoken today and of these only 18 have at least 500 speakers. These 18 account for roughly 25,000 of the remaining 30,000 speakers of Aboriginal languages. There is no Aboriginal language that is used in all arenas of everyday life by members of a sizeable community. It is possible that only two or three of the languages will survive into the next century." - p 9
One of my preoccupations for decades is that languages don't necessarily translate into each other as easily as the naive might imagine. Some ideas are more native to one language than another, one can expect for there to be ideas in one language entirely lacking from another.
Let's take a somewhat shocking example. My motto (of sorts) is "Anything is Anything". In English that's a pretty straightforward tautology (at least at 1st glimpse). My multilingual friend Florian Cramer, who probably speaks at least 5 languages if not more, offered to translate it into German, his 1st language, for me, He concluded that there's no equivalent in German for "anything". That IS shocking isn't it? His translation had to substitute something like 3 to 5 words for "anything".
I tried Google translation & got "etwas". I then tried the Google translation to get "etwas" into English & got "something". Something ≠ Anything. Looking in my handy German dictionary I find "anything" translated as "etwas" or "alles". Reversing that in the same dictionary I find "etwas" translated as "something" 1st & "anything" 2nd. At any rate, I trust Florian's claim that "Anything is Anything" doesn't translate in its full meaning as easily as: "Etwas ist Etwas" (wch translates back as "Something is Something") or "Alles ist Alles" (wch translates back as "Everything is Everything").
"Thanks to the efforts of linguists, at least there will be some record of Ubykh with its unusual sound system containing 81 consonants and only 3 vowels. (Compare English with only 24 consonants and approximately 20 vowels, depending on the combination of sounds in a particular variety; or Rotokas, a language spoken on Bougainville island in Papua New Guinea, with the smallest number of sounds in any language, only 5 vowels and 6 consonants.)" pp 10-11
"In fact, from the evidence we have to date, it would appear that the most grammatically complicated and unusual languages of the world are often isolates—unrelated to any other language—and often spoken by small tribes whose traditional way of life is under threat. The majority of "world" languages such as Chinese, English, Spanish, and Arabic, spoken by 50 million or more people, are, by contrast, not isolates and they are also not as grammatically complex as many of the world's smaller languages." - p 11
OK, this is a tangent: I prefer complex culture, complex music, eg. I'm exasperated by the way global conqueror iTunes has reduced musical language to a level of imbecility, to "songs" played by "bands". iTunes might as well adapt Rotokas as its language, that way it would at least save something endangered. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 12, 2017
Jan 01, 1984
Apr 02, 1985
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's The Wild Ones
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2017
Dedicated to Anna who delighted me by responding positi review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Wild Ones
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2017
Dedicated to Anna who delighted me by responding positively to my reading an Ace Double SF bk (wch might not seem like much but in these illiterate times..)
The front cover of this proclaims it to be the LAST John Grimes novel. Sad but true. The cover shows a buxom woman being burnt at the stake by some hooded men. She has shackles on her wrists wch she's broken. In fact, she's a "robomaid", a robot, so she will escape fairly unscathed. Whew!
I tend to read bks for fun & bks for serious purposes. I read this & 3 other novels at the same time that I was reading Human Tuning, a bk that I tried to give an in-depth serious review of (see the final product here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). The other serious reading was of Vanishing Voices - a bk that's now every important to me & that I hope to use quotes from in my in-progress 'opera' entitled "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas". Vanishing Voices is next up in review queue & it's going to be quite the challenge to write about. I'm happy that writing about The Wild Ones will be comparatively easy.
The "Publisher's Note" says that: "It is ironic that "Jack" Chandler dedicated this novel to he "favorite wrist watch" for he could not have known that his own time was fast running out. He died in June, 1984, shortly after mailing the manuscript of The Wild Ones to his literary agents in America, though he had apparently been in good spirits during its writing." (p 2)
Of the 22 other Chandler bks I have in my possession the dedications are as follows:
The Rim of Space (1962) "For Susan whose blend of saintliness and cynicism is peculiar to the Rim."
Beyond the Galactic Rim (1959/1963) No dedication
The Ship from Outside (1963) "For Susan, as always."
The Coils of Time (1964) "For Susan, as ever."
Into the Alternate Universe (1964) "For my nose-to-the-grindstone keeper"
The Alternate Martians (1965) "For the Mars that used to be, but never was."
Empress of Outer Space (1965) "To all those excellent storytellers who, as well as affording us hours of enjoyment, have provided the inspiration for the Dream Sequence."
Space Mercenaries (1965) No dedication
Contraband from Otherspace (1967) "For who else but Susan?"
The Road to the Rim (1967) "For Admiral Lord Hornblower, R.N."
The Rim Gods (1968) "For itchy-footed Susan"
Spartan Planet (1969) "For Susan, whose idea it was"
The Dark Dimensions (1971) No dedication
The Prime the Pump (1971) No dedication
The Inheritors (1972) "For my favorite aelurophobe"
The Gateway to Never (1972) "For Susan, as usual"
The Big Black Mark (1975) "To William Bligh"
The Far Traveler (1979) "To all far travelers."
To Keep the Ship (1978) "For Susan—who bears little resemblance to Susie."
The Anarch Lords (1981) "For Vice-Admiral William Bligh R.N., one-time commanding Officer of the H.M.S. Bounty, one-time Governor of New South Wales, with belated apologies for the participation of an ancestral Grimes in the Rum Rebellion of 1808 A.D."
Kelly Country (1983) "For Ned Kelly, a man who could have been king."
Frontier of the Dark (1984) "For Harlan Ellison, who made me do it"
"On 25 May 1938 Chandler had married Joan Margaret Barnard at the parish church, Beccles, Suffolk. In New York during the war he met John W. Campbell Jr, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who urged Chandler to contribute to this and other science fiction magazines. Following the breakdown of his marriage he moved to Australia in 1956. Employed (1956-75) by the Union Steam Ship Co. of New Zealand, he started as third officer and advanced to master. After his divorce he married Susan Wilson, a designer, on 23 December 1961 at the registrar general’s office, Sydney; they later divorced. Encouraged and bullied by his wife, he returned to writing. He published some forty novels and two hundred short stories, under his own name and the pseudonyms of Andrew Dunstan, S. H. M., Carl Lawrence, and, most frequently, George Whitley. Many of his books were translated into other languages, including Russian and Japanese." - http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chand...
It appears that his "favorite wrist watch" may've replaced his wife as his "nose-to-the-grindstone keeper". Then again, maybe not.
"Another cause for worry was that Billy Williams, his chief officer for many years and, for quite a while, during the term of Grimes' appointment as governor for Liberia, relieving master, was taking a long overdue spell of planet leave, returning to his home world, Austral." - p 6
Now, I 'have to admit', I don't really care about these recurring characters in Chandler's bks, even tho I enjoy reading them, the whole space opera really isn't important to me. Still, I've written reviews of something like 20 of these bks so I might as well find some other reference from another bk to Williams' so I can add a little to the overview:
"""Somethin' odd about these bastards, Skipper," whispered Williams to Grimes.["]" - p 350, Book 2 in the Saga of Commodore John Grimes: "The Inheritors" & "Gateway to Never"
There, instead of gratuitous sex (wch I'm not convinced is EVER gratuitous) there's gratuitous quoting! Speaking of sex, Grimes's sexual adventures got a little kinkier as Chandler got older. In The Wild Ones, he's in a menage à trois w/ 2 women who were descended from a genetic manipulation of kangaroos:
"The airship captain lowered his voice. "And these young ladies with you. . . . From New Alice, you say. Would they be the end result of some nutty experiment by some round the bend genetic engineer?"
"Shirl and Darleen possessed abnormal, by human standards, hearing. They turned as one away from the window to face the airshipman. They smiled sweetly.
""Yes captain," said Shirl. "Although we are legally human our ancestors were not, as yours are, monkeys."" - pp 24-25
"He kissed her good night then made his way to his quarters. The double bed, he saw, was already occupied. By Shirl."
"And Darleen." - p 36
"And Darleen had found two large, smooth pebbles, about the size of golf balls, and was clicking them together with an odd, compelling rhythm. Both girls were crooning softly to the beat of the singing stones. There was melody, of a sort, soft and hypnotic. Grimes felt the goose pimples rising all over his skin.
"They were not alone. He and the girls were not alone. Silently the kangaroos had come from what had seemed empty desert" - p 44
Nudity's a recurring theme in Chandler novels. I'm glad he managed to squeeze some in in his last novel: "["]I remember when you were only twelve, when we were living in that old school house in Flynn Street, and you appointed yourself secretary of the Flynn Street Nudist Club which held its meetings by the pool in our backyard . . . As I recall it, you were the only male member."" - p 30
I'm sure "male member"'s a double entendre. Anyway, pro-nudism puts Chandler in a proud tradition w/ H. G. Wells & yrs truly. That last passage is from a scene where Grimes is visiting his parents. His mom's a bit disapproving but his dad toasts thusly:
"George Whitley Grimes raised his condensation-misted glass of beer to his son and said, "Here's to crime!"" - p 32
George has his reasons for his toast, one of wch is that he likes his highly efficient & intelligent robomaid who he's modified to be more independent & to use a slang vocabulary at times - much to the disapproval of his wife:
"["]And there's one really far-fetched one—association with humans of more than average intelligence and creativity."
""I like that," said George.
""You would, Herr Doktor Frankenstein," sneered Matilda. "But, from what I've told you, do you think we've a wild robot on our hands, John?"
""It seems like it," said Grimes." - p 54
Grimes calls his parents by their 1st names, a practice I've always associated w/ a 'liberality' that was entirely lacking in my own upbringing & wch I always find a bit unnerving in others's:
""And after that? Back to Earth with a full load of similar forms filled in?"
""I don't know, George. The mate told me that Damien has some further employment in mind for me."" - p 61
"Like most spacemen he always carried on his person a multi-purpose implement that was called, for some forgotten reason, a Swiss Army Knife." - p 66
I'm reminded of the time when my friends Jake T. Unclean, Peter Pan, & I were on tour & we got pulled over by the Oklahoma State Police for something like "driving too much in the left lane" or whatever pretext it was for pulling over the obvious weirdoes for harassment. Each of us was taken individually into the patrolman's car & interrogated. When Peter was being questioned it came out that he had a Swiss Army Knife. The cop then asked if he was in the Swiss Army. Good thing he wasn't carrying a Leatherman.
The kangaroo women are jealous of their Grimes they are & they harm anyone who has sex w/ him or even tries to:
"Selena had decided to walk from the sub-base to the ship, escorted through the fog by one of the native guides. Suddenly, without warning, she had been struck by a heavy missile."
The kangaroo women are experts w/ boomerangs & w/ making any handy object serve as one. Never date a boomerang expert descended from kangaroos. I'm thankful to Chandler for that lesson.
The Wild Ones is esp appealing to me b/c it's ultimately an animal rights novel. Grimes & co are on a planet run by religious people who use their religion to justify greedy sadism. What's new, eh?!:
""Couldn't you kill the pups before you skin them?"
""Keep your nose out of things about which you know nothing. Kill them first, and ruin the pelts? Everybody knows that a pup has to be skinned while it's still living."
""But , , , It's cruel."
""Cruel? How so, spacer? Everybody knows, surely, that the Lord God gave Man authority over all lesser beings. How can the exercise of divinely granted authority be cruel?"" - p 156
It turns out that the seal-like creatures being skinned alive for their pelts are intelligent & the kangaroo women & the robomaid are capable of communicating w/ them. Fancy that. I'm reminded of selkies, legendary creatures sd to be seals in the water & humans on land - this in turn reminds me of a song wch I'll sing for you if you click on this link: https://youtu.be/oBBjSe3REHA?t=3m16s .
The robomaid doesn't have hair but she can be disguised w/ it:
""But nobody would know that she is a robot, sir. I was with Tomoko when she applied the make-up, the body paint, the cosmetics. And Tomoko made a very thorough job, even to a merkin. You could strip her and nobody would dream that she wasn't a human woman—as long as you left her dark glasses on."" - p 162
When you're trying to decide whether the person you're dating is a robot or not look at the eyes, don't bother w/ the pubic wig. Another lesson learned from Mr. Chandler.
&, yes, while we're at it, let's save the whales too, ok?!
""What gave us our imagined superiority over certain other intelligent inhabitants of the Home Planet, Earth? The cetacea, I mean. Our hands. Our tool-making, weapon-making, weapon-using hands. With our hands we built the whaling ships, made the harpoons and the harpoon guns. With our hands we launched the harpoons—and continued to do so even after it was generally accepted that whales are intelligent beings.["]" - p 188
Yes, all in all a good read & not at all a bad novel to have be your last one there, Mr. Chandler. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 13, 2017
Feb 04, 2017
Feb 24, 2013
Feb 24, 2013
it was ok
John Beaulieu's Human Tuning - Sound Healing With Tuning Forks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 25, 2017
My review is too substantial review of
John Beaulieu's Human Tuning - Sound Healing With Tuning Forks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 25, 2017
My review is too substantial for here so it's truncated. Read the whole thing. Do it at work, I don't care: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is, admittedly, one of those bks that I spent entirely too long reading & that I dread reviewing. From 2010 to 2011 I made one of my most ambitious feature-length movies, DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin), a 3:40:39 magnum opus in tribute to my friends Franz Kamin & Sarmad Brody who died together earlier in the yr in a car crash. As an aspect of making DEPOT I was fortunate to meet John Beaulieu, the author of this bk, who'd been a close collaborator of Franz's for decades. For an edit of the Beaulieu portions of the DEPOT footage go here: https://youtu.be/1xhKN3hqedk .
In early 2012, I went to upstate NY to visit John & others to screen the finished movie for them & to give them DVD-R copies. John seemed to deeply appreciate DEPOT. One manifestation of this appreciation was that he gave me 2 sets of tuning forks that he has specially manufactured for healing purposes & the bk that I'm reviewing here to explain their intended use & the history of how he came to use them. I've always been an enthusiast for tuning forks so I was delighted by this present. I eventually made a movie called "mm 71 presents: TUNING FORKS" ( https://youtu.be/TwYDwJnHRe8 ) that used those tuning forks - but not really in the way that John intended, more as grist for the spontaneous mill.
My difficulty in writing this review is that while I respect John as a sincere & well-intentioned person who has dedicated himself to aspects of culture, esp musical culture, that I can deeply relate to, & their potential application in a healing way, at the same time I'm a philosophically very different person. I want to review this bk respectfully but find myself in conflict w/ its worldview. That's ok, I can agree to disagree w/ other people (the problem I usually find is that while I can agree to disagree w/ many people they don't extend a similar courtesy to me & wd apparently rather just see me destroyed - fortunately, that doesn't seem at all the case w/ John). 6 yrs ago I also reviewed Beaulieu's Orgone Music - Visual Harmony. You can read my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11... . At any rate, 'wish me luck', writing this is going to be a long process.
I 1st learned about anechoic chambers from John Cage's famous story about being in one & being surprised to learn that what he was hearing was his nervous system & his blood in circulation. Beaulieu also references this story as his 1st introduction to these soundproof rms. He then set out to investigate on his own:
"The first time I sat in the NYU anechoic chamber, I immediately heard the high-pitched sound of my nervous system and the low tone of my blood circulating. After a few minutes I heard swallowing sounds, stomach growls, mouth pops, heart beats, air entering and exiting my nose and mouth, little clicks in my spinal joints, and even the sound of my eyebrows when I blinked. Over the next two years, I spent over 500 hours sitting in the anechoic chamber listening to the sounds of my body. I tested the effects of different tuning forks as well as mantras and toning, and recorded their effects on my nervous system.
"The sound that most interested me in the anechoic chamber was the sound of my nervous system. I observed that the sound of my nervous system was directly related to different physical, mental, and emotional states. For example, if I was calm, my nervous system would make a low, even, soft sound. One day after an argument with a subway attendant, I sat in the anechoic chamber and observed that my nervous system sound was higher pitched. louder, and had a screeching quality." - p 4
Now, I've long since learned that many people make claims that closer investigation reveals to be gross exaggerations for the sake of self-promotion or other ulterior motives. As such, I might be suspicious of Beaulieu's claim of having "spent over 500 hours sitting in the anechoic chamber". HOWEVER, I believe it - partially b/c I, too, have dedicated large amts of time to doing things that most people I know wd never even consider doing for an hr & partially b/c John simply strikes me as an honest person - a quality I respect highly (& find all too rarely).
Otherwise, Beaulieu's experiences & observations in the anechoic chamber strike me as valuable & I'm grateful that he spent as much time as he did notating them. Beaulieu decided that he wanted to work w/ more frequencies than were then available in tuning forks: "I realized then that I needed more tuning forks. It was very difficult to get them in 1973." (p 5) This is the sort of practical detail that tends to attract my interest. How many people think about whether tuning forks are available in a broad range of pitches & tuning systems? Probably very few. I tend to give Beaulieu credit as a person who probably changed that situation somewhat. Since then, Warren Burt has also done so in Australia. Go to: https://youtu.be/TiCYlcBm5nM?t=2h5m52s for more info on that.
"The eight tuning forks I ordered in 1974 are exactly the same as the Solar Harmonic Spectrum set we use today (see Solar Harmonic Spectrum Chapter, page 61). My original work in the anechoic chamber was based on systematic experimentation with each Pythagorean interval. This is a form of research called phenomenological research which focuses on the effect of the tuning forks on consciousness. I approached the experience of tuning forks by keeping a journal with specific protocols to help me better understand my experience of the sounds. Each week I would sit in the anechoic chamber and immerse myself in an interval and record my experiences. I would relax, listen to my nervous system, and tune myself to an interval. I realized that each interval was a gateway into different states of awareness complete with thoughts, emotions, and sensations." - p 6
John generously gave me 18 tuning forks. 5 were organized in a velvet pouch as what he calls "BioSonic Brain Tuners", 8 were organized in another pouch as "Biosonic Fibonacci Tuners" & the remaining 5 were loose. As I understand it, these loose ones cd be combined w/ others to make different sets. As such, the Fibonacci tuners include the 256 (cps) C, the 384 G, the 426.7 A, & the 512 C - while the missing 288 D, 320 E, 341.3 F, & 480 B are filled in by the loose ones I have. As such, I have a complete set of "Solar Harmonic Spectrum" forks.
"To listen to the sound of your nervous system, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, sit comfortably, and close your eyes."
"The sound of your nervous system is a primary indicator of your current inner tuning. Listen to the sound as you would to the sound of a tuning fork. The sound of your nervous system carries a lot of information." - p 7
So far, so good. Why not? The above seems like a healthy practice to get into, a way of being more self-aware - something that I'm completely in favor of.. &, yet, wd I do it? Not bloody likely. I'm always busy, busy - w/ things like writing this review, eg. Nonetheless, I consider myself to be highly self-aware - so there's more than one way to feed 2 birds w/ one piece of bread n'at. It's more important to me to write this than it is to set aside quiet time for studying my nervous system. Simultaneous w/ writing this I'm currently listening to a CD called Tapestry - New Music from the Americas. I'm enjoying it, I don't think it's great, but the listening combined w/ the writing is a form of multi-tasking that constitutes my norm. Coincidentally, Tapestry is on the INNOVA label, the same label that didn't publish what was to be Franz Kamin's only commercial CD. Too bad.
SO, I've admitted that I wdn't follow Beaulieu's healthy suggestion. It's like this: I've had a fan for over 35 yrs that was well-manufactured. It's gradually gotten so dirty that the motor doesn't work right. I set it aside for cleaning, I set it aside somewhere where I'd look at it every day & be reminded that it might not take more than an hr or 2 to get it fully operational again. It sat there for yrs. Last night I finally put it out by the curb for bulk trash pick-up. I was happy to see that someone took it from the curb before the garbage collectors did. Maybe it'll get repaired now. I'm not going to put myself by the curb & hope that someone comes along to repair me. Instead, I'll work myself to death. That's ok, at least I'll leave behind a legacy that may worm its way into other people's brains - thusly affording me a form of immortality.
After the 'triumph' of equal-tempered tuning from, say, the late 16th century (EV) up into the early 20th century when composers such as the now-well-known Harry Partch started to erode its prominence away w/ a return to just intonation, there's been an increasing preoccupation w/ tuning systems in the mid-to-late 20th century & the beginning of the 21st. Beaulieu has his own spin:
"Through my experiences in the anechoic chamber, I was able to explore many areas of my mind. Each sound was a gateway that took me to different states of awareness which I preferred to call tunings. The mind is like a radio or television, and tuning forks are ways of changing the channel through tuning the nervous system."
"One day I realized that all the realities and tunings I was exploring were generated from a common energy Source. The Source was greater than my mind and was the "key' that allowed my mind to move effortlessly throughout different experiences, dimensions, and realities. It was then I knew that healing is about the constant adaption and creativity necessary to tune and retune the nervous system to the Source." - p 12
In my notes for writing this review I tell myself regarding the notion of the "Source": "Where we part ways". My dilemma here is explaining why. Perhaps the simplest way of putting it is that this notion of the "Source" is essentially the notion of a 'God', an originator, & the idea of "the constant adaption and creativity necessary to tune and retune the nervous system to the Source" is just another way of saying 'to become one with God'. I'm an atheist, I don't believe in 'God', nor do I have a desire to tune myself into a hypothetical (&, IMO, imaginary - but not imaginative) 'God' as "Source". I see this as a destruction of difference, as the homogenization & imperialist anti-thought that all religion represents to me. No thanks. I'll get into more detail about this later.
"Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity Therapy, described the concept of strings orchestrating the universe very elegantly:
""Life is a song. It has its own rhythm of harmony. It is a symphony of all things which exist in major and minor keys of Polarity. It blends the discords, by opposites, into a harmony which unites the whole into a grand symphony of life. To learn through experience in this life, to appreciate the symphony and lessons of life and to blend with the whole, is the object of our being here."" - pp 15-16
Yuk. That passage may seem innocuous enuf to most people but to me it's utterly repulsive. 1st of all, I'm not impressed by "Dr." wch can be as much bullshit as any other honorific. 2nd, I don't think that "Life is a song" any more than I think it's a bank acct or a an excursion into outer space or whatever. "[S]ong" probably means something very different to Stone than it does to me. He seems to be evoking "song" as a 'piece of music' w/o taking into consideration that usually a song is short & has lyrics & is just about the only musical form that musical illiterates are capable of referring to - given a lack of imagination & vocabulary. Hence the world is full of mediocre singer-songwriter-guitarists & sadly lacking in people w/ contextual imagination. For me, the evocation of the song in this metaphor is an evocation of LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) simple-mindedness redolent w/ language-for-the-rubes.
3rd, Stone's vocabulary is just generic. It doesn't display any actual knowledge. We have "song", "rhythm", "harmony", "symphony", "major and minor keys", & "discords". What if I were to apply my minimal knowledge of cars in a paraphrased metaphor?: "Life is a car. It has its own spark plugs. It is a revving of all motors which exist with empty & full tanks of Gas. It takes us places, by forward & backward motion, into a parking spot which unites the whole into a grand going-out-of-business sale with our fellow consumers."
4th, this generic musical vocabulary resorts to 'contrasts' like "major and minor keys" for the probably simple-minded reason that those are the 2 differences he's heard of that can then come to symbolize a much broader range than they actually do. After all, "major and minor keys" are just part of a very simple system, one of little interest to a person, such as myself, who's grown up in the realm of possibilities exemplified by such music as Musique Concrete - in wch "major and minor keys" are largely irrelevant.
5th, Why wd we want to "blend the discords, by opposites, into a harmony which unites the whole into a grand symphony of life"?! Maybe the discords are just fine the way they are. Maybe it's the religious person's notion of "One Way" or "One Nation Under God" that's the trouble.
6th, I don't think that there IS one "object of our being here", that implies a purposefulness to being that I think is completely delusional, & I don't think that "to appreciate the symphony and lessons of life and to blend with the whole" is any better an idea than it wd be to jump into a giant juice blender to be mutilated into undifferentiated pulp.
"The word node is a scientific term which means "a point at which the amplitude of vibration of a standing wave system is zero.""
"In systems science, nodes are called attractors. An attractor is a region within an oscillating field that pulls everything towards it. It is an attractor that allows us to shift from one energy field to another.
"In the healing arts, attractors are called still points. They key to shifting from one mental/physical pattern to another is still point. Dr. Milton Erickson, M.D., was an expert in using hypnosis and trance states for healing. He called the state of trance "neutral" which is another term for still point. He believed that for a person to change, they must first go into a trance. The practitioner could then guide them into a new life pattern using suggestions." - p 21
What strikes me as inaccurate or misleading about Beaulieu's string of reasoning is the way he changes the meanings of the words from proposition to proposition. He starts off w/ defining a node as:
"a point at which the amplitude of vibration of a standing wave system is zero."
& I find that all well & good. Imagine a sine wave depicted on an oscilloscope. I think of the node as the point where the wave crosses the x axis. The distance between these nodes is an indication of the frequency, the pitch.
Beaulieu then goes on to claim that ""In systems science, nodes are called attractors." I know little to nothing about systems science but as far as I can tell w/in it nodes are NOT called attractors, they are things w/in attractor networks. Consider these quotes:
"In the mathematical field of dynamical systems, an attractor is a set of numerical values toward which a system tends to evolve, for a wide variety of starting conditions of the system." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor
"An attractor network is a type of recurrent dynamical network, that evolves toward a stable pattern over time. Nodes in the attractor network converge toward a pattern that may either be fixed-point (a single state), cyclic (with regularly recurring states), chaotic (locally but not globally unstable) or random (stochastic)." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attract...
As a noun, attractor's 2nd definition (of 2) on Wiktionary is:
"(mathematics, physics) A set of points or states to which a dynamical system evolves after a long enough time. That is, points that get close enough to the attractor remain close even if slightly disturbed." - https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/attractor
The original node referred to exists in a standing wave, ie: in a system that's stable & unchanging. In the attractor network, nodes are not only not synonymous w/ attractors they're part of a dynamic, ie: changing, system. In the original definition of node nothing is being attracted to it, the node is a manifestation of stability. Even if Beaulieu were correct that nodes are attractors he'd still be using the word in 2 different senses as if they were the same.
But it's in the final paragraph quoted in wch "nodes" have become "attractors" have become "still points" have become "trances" have become "neutral" have become "still points" again - all to ultimately justify using hypnosis to implant suggestions I really get annoyed. Again, an attractor is part of a dynamic process & is, therefore, by definition not a "still point". Additionally, there's nothing "neutral" about a trance, there's definitely something SUSCEPTIBLE about it & there's definitely nothing neutral about susceptibility.
"Pythagoras of Samos was a Greek mathematician, philosopher, and musician who lived in 550 B.C. He discovered Pythagorean Geometry and is considered to have recorded the world's first facts in mathematical physics. Pythagoras conceived of the whole universe as a vast musical instrument. He called the vibrating strings of the universe the "Music of the Spheres." He developed a musical scale, called the Pythagorean scale, based on universal harmonies." - p 15
Right. What Beaulieu seems to ignore here is that such 'ancient wisdom' has long since been demonstrated to have serious flaws, to be ridiculously oversimplistic.
"Musica Universalis or Music of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies - the sun, moon, and planets - as a form of musica - the medieval Latin name for music. This music is not audible, but simply a mathematical concept.
"The Greek philosopher Pythagoras is frequently credited with originating the concept, which stemmed from his semi-mystical, semi-mathematical philosophy and its associated system of numerology of Pythagoreanism. At the time, the sun, moon, and planets were thought to revolve around Earth in their proper spheres. The spheres were thought to be related by the whole-number ratios of pure musical intervals, creating musical harmony." - http://www.crystalinks.com/harmonysph...
As some of the more erudite among you may recall, the earth is no longer commonly believed to have the sun, moon, & other planets revolving around it while it stays in a fixed position. You might also understand that a part of the reasoning behind this earth-centric idea was that Man was created in the image of God & was, therefore, the center of the universe. Astronomers who refuted this idea were later tortured & killed by the Catholic Church as heretics. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 11, 2017
Feb 01, 2017
Jan 01, 1984
Jan 01, 1984
A. Bertram Chandler's Frontier of the Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2017
Usually, when I'm reading 2 or more things at on review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Frontier of the Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2017
Usually, when I'm reading 2 or more things at once, as I was when I was reading this bk, it's b/c there's one thing that I'm reading that's important to me that I'm reading slowly & then one or 2 other things that I'm reading for relief from the seriousness of that. Frontier of the Dark was a relief bk. Note that I haven't uploaded a review for several wks - that means I'm somewhat dreading writing the 'difficult' reviews so I'm procrastinating. In the meantime, I've read 6 bks to be reviewed. The psychological pressure for closure is building. I must write these reviews.. or else.
As those of you who've following these reviews know, I've read quite a few Chandler novels in the past yr. I must be so relieved by now I might just blend into my bed, an amorphous mass barely f=distinguishable from the crumpled _____. Notice how I didn't fill in the blank? That's b/c you know to fill it in w/ "sheets". It's that much of a cliché. Or maybe I'll become a werewolf. That wd be a nice change, I've become so damned polite & considerate in my old age (sez who?! shriek the _____). &, yes, this Chandler bk is about werewolves.. in outer space.
I've noted in some other Chandler review (&, no, in my current mood I'm not going to bother to figure out wch one) that he seems to read other bks for inspiration & to then give the subject the Chandler-spin. In this case, I reckon he'd trolled thru the werewolf lit a bit.. or the movies.. or something.. & thought that putting werewolves in space might be worth dedicating a whole novel too. I'm not sure I agree, but, HEY!, he was 72 when this came out, at the end of his life.. who KNOWS what drek I'll be whiling away the hrs w/ a mere 9 yrs from now as I I wait for the Grim Reaper to make his next chess move (or shd it be Scrabble?).
The dedication is "For Harlan Ellison, who made me do it". Whenever I think of Ellison, I think of those Dangerous Visions anthologies that he edited that have the reputation, or the marketing image, of being outré (or some-such). Ellison's introduction to the 1st volume begins:
"What you hold in your hands is more than a book. If we are lucky, it is a revolution.
"This book, all two hundred and thirty-nine thousand words of it, the largest anthology of speculative fiction ever published of all original stories, and easily one of the largest of any kind was constructed along specific lines of revolution. It was intended to shake things up. It was conceived out of a need for new horizons, new forms, new styles, new challenges in the literature of our times." - p xix, Dangerous Visions
That was published in 1967 & the comp has 544pp. Ok, a few of my favorite SF writers are represented: Frederik Pohl. Philip K. Dick, R. A. Lafferty, J. G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delaney. I don't have any other SF comps from before 1967 that're more than 544pp but volume one of the Anthony Boucher edited A Treasury of Great Science Fiction is 527pp & is from 1959. Furthermore, a comp I have entitled The World's Great Romances (1929) is 724pp & another, The World's Great Detective Stories (1928) is 842pp.. so, methinks Ellison is, perhaps, enthusing a bit too much. Then again, he did specify "original" & the latter 2 comps just mentioned consisted of reprints of previously published stories.
Furtherfurthermore, all the stories look like the usual array of paragraphs containing linear prose so I question just how deeply the "new styles" went & just how much it wd "shake things up". We're not talkin' Naked Lunch here. What am I getting at? Wdn't you like to know. Well, maybe, you cdn't care less, maybe you're only reading this b/c yr 2 yr old is holding her new AK47 to yr head & DEMANDING that you do. Don't say I didn't tell you so. I mean what the fuck do you think you're doing giving yr 2 yr old such a destructive thing?! Do you think the NRA is going to pay for yr funeral dipshit?! Uh, where was I?
Oh, yeah, Chandler & Ellison: imagine this: maybe they were corresponding, maybe they were having a chat at a World SF Con, maybe Chandler sd something like: 'Y'know, Harlan, old boy, I''ve been toying w/ the idea of writing a novel about werewolves in outer space but I can't decide if it's too obviously pandering to a borderline illiterate sensationalism-seeking readership.' To wch, Ellison, whose 'revolutionary' editorial vision may've mainly been a wee bit on the shake-n-bake side of revolution, may've encouraged it as a stellar idea. Of course, that's completely my silly fantasy & isn't meant to actually critique Ellison, whose writing is, most likely, much more important than this trifling review.
Right off the silver-bullet-loaded bat, Chandler brings in an aelurophobe: "Nick Falsen had never liked cats, and cats had never liked him." (p 1) wch is a term I learned by reading his The Inheritors, my review of wch can be read here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . I reckon Chandler has used the word & its concept enuf to be called an aelurophobephile, a person who loves cat-haters w/o having to be a cat-hater himself. Really, what I want to make a neologism for is: 'A person who loves the word aelurophobe' but that's tough one. A biblioaelurophobephile perhaps? That's not right either.
The main character isn't John Grimes for a change it's this Falsen upstart & he's being expelled from the spaceship that he crewed on:
"Canning had not forgotten and—to the displeasure of the other officers—the second mate was not popular—had ruled that Falsen be given a fighting chance. The master of the star tramp Epsilon Crucis ordered that his second officer be marooned on Antares VI, an inhospitable planet barely capable of supporting human life" - p 1
Abandoned on Antares VI the 1st woman he finds, on the very 1st fucking day, is highly compatible w/ him. Some werewolves have all the luck. Chandler then uses this meeting as an excuse to drop in Sirius, the Dog Star, & Beagle, Darwin's ship's name - both for obvious jokey reasons:
""You're Dog Star Line," he stated rather than asked.
""How did you . . . ? Oh, my uniform, of course. Yes, Dog Star Line. Purser, catering officer and maid-of-all-work aboard the good ship Beagle." - p 6
Of course, the detail that these 2 are werewolves isn't completely flung in the reader's face, it's slowly leaked, complete w/ silver bullet references such as "". . . with lethal ironmongery trained on us from inside that ship." / "That shouldn't worry us much. Unless . . ."" (p 13) ""Yes, Mr. Falsen. Teeth must have been its main weapon, perhaps its only weapon. But the really frightening part of it is that it must have been immune to the fire of my people's lasers.["]" (p 31) They didn't have silver DISCO BALL lasers, the anti-werewolf equivalent of a sawed-off shotgun light show.
After these 2 team up they meet a matriarchal group of space explorers who're their ticket off the planet, if they play their fangs right.
""But in the course of our survey we were bound to have investigated what appears to be a geological anomaly, the only hill within kilometers. This call for help that was not seriously required has impeded our work. You are not injured. You do not seem to be dying of starvation."
"Falsen said, "I'm sorry about that."
"The officer glared at him, then turned to Linda.
""Lady," she said, "I will waste no more time in conversation with this inferior being, Tell the man to follow us to the airship. You are to be taken to the Lady Mother." Linda looked bewilderedly at Falsen.
""The Doralans," he told her, "have a sort of matriarchal setup. The Lady Mother, I suppose, is the captain of their ship."" - p 14
NOW, here goes that Chandler fellow again: he can't just have the werewolves fighting it out w/ the humanoids, he has to have them be matriarchal humanoids. Really, it's a nice touch. Do were wolves kill their moms? Do androids dream of electric sleep? Do androids dream of electric sheep in wolves's clothing?
Linda, an aelurophobe, as we all know all werewolves are, I mean who ever heard of a werewolf w/ a pet cat?, let's it all hang out by page 24:
"While the body of the cat, its throat torn out, bled on the deck, she stripped. Falsen did not watch her change, nobody had ever seen him do so and he hoped that nobody ever would. he stood there, facing the door. From behind him, from deck level, he heard the tearing noises, the noisy slurping, the splintering and crunching of fragile bones to an assimilatable sludge." - pp 24-25
Is there a Guide to Eating Ettiquette for Werewolves? How about teen lesbian vampires who lurk in the appropriate aisle of Borders? Ok, all joking aside (or tucked under my tiny buttocks), Chandler pulls this off by doing things like introducing ecological concerns:
"Orders, thought Falsen, might be legally correct but morally wrong and, although he was coming to both like and respect the Lady Mother, he sympathized with the stand that the ecologist was making. He recalled the histories of one or two Earth-colonized planets where the conservationists had been shouted down. The flame trees on Austral, the water dragons on Cruxhaven, the first destroyed because their pollen caused some distress to certain asthmatics—among whom were the governor and his wife—the second wiped out because they made the occasional meal from the herds of Terran cattle grazing on the rover banks." - p 70
""The dolisen is. It is a herbivore that comes out of the rivers when the flaren trees bear their fruit. It is then that the females give birth. If, for some reason, the dolisen became extinct there would be no more flaren trees. The droppings of the animals are essential to fertilize the plants. And should the flaren trees be . . . exterminated there would be no more dolisen.["]" - p 72
The werewolves sit "down to a meal of some sweet mush and anise-flavored tea. It filled their bellies but did not satisfy." (p 76) I feel ya. A group of the Doralans & our 2 werewolves crash in an aircraft in a remote & 'inhospitable' area. The dead are put outside. The issue of how to survive, of what to eat, arises:
"["]There is not food in the car."
""There is outside," Carlin said.
"And there is precedent, thought Falsen, ample precedent. But usually survivors of a wreck waited until they were starving before doing the obvious thing.
""Carlin!" cried the pilot. "Surely you do not intend . . ."" - p 93
The following is paraphrased from this Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive_(... :
'Piers Paul Read's 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, details the story of a Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on Friday, October 13, 1972. After extreme hardship the survivors resort to eating the passengers who didn't survive.'
I have to wonder whether this was an inspiration to Chandler. I assume it was.
Chandler tries to make some elements of the story not too obvious for the reader:
"["]that something must be identified and brought under control—or exterminated."
"Yes, there was something, Falsen thought.
"There was the thing that he knew about, that would be there no matter where the spaceship landed on this planet's surface.
"But there was something else." - p 106
& what that something else was was pretty damned obvious to this reader - but I'm not tellin'. I'm not tellin' b/c it wd be a spoiler but I will say that, for me, the weak point of this novel was how obvious the hints were all along & how much the plot of the bk depended on these hints going largely unnoticed by the reader. I reckon this was aimed at a not very sophisticated readership. One of these very obvious hints happens on page 113 & is akin to other stories of Chandler's that I've reviewed:
"At first he was awkward. But this, he soon realized, was not her first experience of interspecies sexual congress. (She must have done more at the Antarctic Academy than acquire a taste for Terran liquor.) She fondled him expertly, and her little capable hands guided him into the voracious depths of here, the hot moistness, the unfamiliar, soft-yet-firm internal protuberances that clutched and held.
"He wondered what the sound was, the vibration that was transmitted from her body to his, then knew she was purring with pleasure."
Chandler complicates the story by having his werewolf have ethics:
"the Lady Mother . . . For one of his kind conscience was an expensive luxury; nonetheless, he possessed one. It was troubling him now, nagging him about the immorality of giving with one hand and taking away with both." - p 158
As usual, any writer who manages to make a cultural reference that I'm both familiar w/ & enthusiastic about increases my enjoyment of the reading:
"Yes, in the city of Old Los Angeles, those fantastic constructions called the Watts Towers, steeples built from all sorts of metallic, glass and ceramic odds and ends. They were not the original towers, of course. They had been rebuilt more than once and improved upon every time." - p 163
In Chandler's future the Watts Towers had been rebuilt but in the century after they were built by Simon Rodia that still hasn't been necessary yet:
"In 1921, Rodia purchased the triangular-shaped lot at 1761-1765 107th Street in Los Angeles and began to construct his masterpiece, which he called "Nuestro Pueblo" (meaning "our town"). For 34 years, Rodia worked single-handedly to build his towers without benefit of machine equipment, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds or drawing board designs. Besides his own ingenuity, he used simple tools, pipe fitter pliers and a window-washer's belt and buckle.
"Construction worker by day and artist by night, Rodia adorned his towers with a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics. Rodia once said, "I had it in mind to do something big and I did it." The tallest of his towers stands 99½ feet and contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. The monument also features a gazebo with a circular bench, three bird baths, a center column and a spire reaching a height of 38 feet. Rodia's "ship of Marco Polo" has a spire of 28 feet, and the 140-foot long "south wall" is decorated extensively with tiles, sea shells, pottery, glass and hand-drawn designs.
"In 1955, when Rodia was approaching 75, he deeded his property to a neighbor and retired to Martinez, California to be near his family. A fire ruined Rodia's little house in 1956. within a few years the Department of Building and Safety ordered the property demolished. A group of concerned citizens, calling themselves "The Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts", fought successfully to save the Towers by collecting signatures and money and devising an engineering test in 1959 that proved the Towers' strength and safety. Bill Cartwright and Nick King purchased the Towers from Mr. Montoya for $3,000.00 in 1959. They founded The Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts and saved the Towers from demolition with a “stress” or “load” test, designed by Bud Goldstone. The Towers proved stronger than the test equipment. Therefore, the test was stopped and the Towers were deemed safe, and preservation efforts began. The Watts community considered the Watts Towers part of their heritage and called upon the new owners to also invest in the community. Thus the Watts Towers Arts Center began." - http://www.wattstowers.us/history.htm
I laud the preservation of these towers. They DO represent the perseverance of an individual's will & imagination & I scorn the visionless scum who wd've torn the towers down if they'd gotten their way.
Regular readers of Chandler's work will've read descriptions of the "Mannschenn Drive" ad nauseum. By having a werewolf worried about having a change triggered by the Drive's peculiar qualities he at least managed to inject a little fresh _____ into the stock language:
"He knew what recalibration entailed, working at the control panel in the Mannschenn Drive room in close proximity to the uncannily precessing rotors, exposed to the full intensity of the temporal-precession field, an intensity far greater than that experienced while the Drive was working normally in deep space. Should he be involved too closely in the operation, there would be the very real danger that he would not be able to control himself." - p 185
& even werewolves deteriorate w/ old age even tho they can't be killed by lasers:
""You'd be sicker still if we had to live like wild animals on some savage world. Oh, you might like to revert every now and again, just as any human enjoys a holiday away from the big cities, in the woods or on the seashore. But all your life? You wouldn't like it. Even people like us need the attention of a dentist now and again, are subject to failing eyesight and deteriorating digestive functions, and all the rest of it. There's one killer who's bound to get us in the end: old age." - p 187
& Chandler didn't live much longer after writing that. If his characters had lived in the US they might not have gotten dental care either given that entirely too much of their money wd be stolen for 'health insurance' (HA HA) that doesn't cover dental. These days, if you want to feast on human flesh it's not enuf to be a werewolf, you have to actually be in the health business - then you can cannibalize off everyone around you AND have PR camouflage to disguise it as somehow altruistic. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 06, 2017
Jan 25, 2017
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's Book 2 in the Saga of Commodore John Grimes: "The Inheritors" & "Gateway to Never"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Book 2 in the Saga of Commodore John Grimes: "The Inheritors" & "Gateway to Never"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 31, 2016
READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I just finished a review of Book 3 of this Saga in which I devoted much of my writing to trying to tie together the many inter-related Grimes (etc) stories, that I've haphazardly consumed, into a coherent linear narrative. That was fun. The reader is encouraged, nay, demanded, nay, forced at imaginary laser pistol point to read it, in totum, here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... .
The Inheritors is dedicated thusly: "For my favorite aelurophobe". Wiktionary informs me that aelurophobe is an alternate spelling for the apparently more commonly used "ailurophobe" wch is a "person with an irrational fear or hatred of felines." ( https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ailuro... ) The word is obscure enuf so that the reader isn't really tipped off about the humor of the story it precedes. Nearer the end we get: "perhaps Morrow was an aelurophile" (p 161) wch is, of course, a cat-lover rather than a cat-fearer.
As usual, Grimes has a mission:
"We have reason to believe that there is a humanoid—or possibly human—settlement on the fourth planet of this system. Should this settlement exist it is probable that it is a hitherto undiscovered Lost Colony. You are reminded that your duties are merely to conduct an investigation, and that you are not, repeat not, to interfere in the internal affairs of the colony." - p 5
I'd already read-tell of this planet from reading The Far Traveler (1977) written as a quasi-sequel of sorts to The Inheritors (1972). SO, the inter-relationships just keep on coming. Chandler has Grimes mention Kipling:
"He paused, then delivered his own quotation. " 'Transportation is civilization.' "
""All right," she said at last. "Who wrote that?"
""Kipling—and science fiction?"
""You should catch up on your own reading some time. . . ."" - p 21
Welllllllll, it just so happens that I HAVE READ Kipling's science fiction & have even reviewed it on this here newfangled GoodReads thingamajig:
"This 1st story, again, reminds me of Poe - but the 2nd & 3rd stories use anthropomorphosis of machines to make technical description more entertaining - & I don't think Poe wd've done that:
"""Good business," said the high-pressure cylinder. "Whack her up, boys. They've given us five pounds more steam"; and he began humming the first bars of "Said the Young Obadiah to the Old Obadiah," which, as you may have noticed, is a pet tune among engines not built for high speed. Racing liners with twin-screws sing "The Turking Patrol" and the overture to the "Bronze Horse," and "Madame Angot," till something goes wrong, and then they render Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette," with variations.
"""You'll learn a song of your own some fine day," said the Steam, as he flew up the foghorn for one last bellow." (p 27)" - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44...
SO, there's something vaguely relevant to what Grimes quotes.
Drongo Kane makes an appearance again as the bad guy. The back cover of the bk states "DRONGO KANE NEVER BROKE THE LAW He was a cunning ruthless opportunist who paid when he had to and stole when he could". According to the 1st result in a Google search:
"Australian Slang. 1. a stupid or slow-witted person; simpleton. Origin Expand. 1920-25; probably to be identified with drongo, as a name for the Australian bird Dicrurus bracteata; though often popularly alleged to have originated from the name of an unsuccessful racehorse of the 1920s."
Alas, Drongo Kane is definitely venal to an extreme but not a simpleton or he wdn't be able to be so diabolical.
""I hope that Drongo Kane is bound for Morrowvia, Captain."
""Why, Mr. Saul?" Grimes essayed a feeble jest. "Two's company, three's a crowd."
""Racial hatreds die very hard, Captain. To my people, for many, many years, 'slaver' has been as especially dirty word. Ganda, as you know, was colonized by my people. . . . And some hundreds of them, rescued by Kane's Southerly Buster before their sun went nova, were sold by him to the Duke of Waldegren. . . ."
""As I said before," Grimes told him, "they weren't sold. They entered the duke's service as indentured labor."" - pp 28-29
Of course, Grimes really knows what's what. He's putting a fine point on things but he knows that Kane's a slaver. To quote from Peter Linebaugh & Marcus Rediker's excellent The Many-Headed Hydra:
"Many indentured servants, Thomas Verney explained in 162, came from the "bridewells, and the prisons." - p 58, The Many-Headed Hydra
"John Donne promised in a sermon of 1622 that the Virginia Company "shall sweep your streets, and wash your dores, from idle persons["]" [..] "He wanted America to function as a prison, and for many it did."
"Of the several hundreds of children shipped to Virginia at this time,"  "the names of 165 were recorded. By 1625 only twelve of those were still alive; the other 153, or 93 percent, had died." - p 59, The Many-Headed Hydra
"Indentured servitude" my ass. That's what known as a euphemism. Work Will Make You Free Trade. In The Far Traveler:
"The Baroness, Grimes's temporary employer, finds an affinity w/ Kane, a completely unscrupulous character who Grimes keeps foiling:
"""Did Mr. Delamere and his family come with you, Captain Danzellan?" asked Grimes. "Call them up, and we'll wet the baby's head!"
""And Kane exclaimed, "You can break the bottle of champagne over it if you want to!"
""The Baroness laughed as he raised her hand. "Quite an interesting character, this Captain Kane. A rogue, obviously, but . . ."
"""Mphm," grunted Grimes." - p 121"
I don't really consider slavers to be "rogues", they're business-as-usual types who become Barons & Baronesses when they continue to get away w/ their crimes.
Chandler has Grimes be a man-after-my-own-flesh, insofar as pro-nudism is a recurring theme:
"That all of them were unclothed was no indication of their cultural level—naturism was the rule rather than the exception on several highly civilized planets, such as Arcadia." - p 51
The naturist society under observation here is that of Morrowvia, the formerly lost colony, now found. Indeed, they're my idea of civilized, wch, unfortunately, doesn't jive w/ any civilization on Earth that I know of, insofar as they don't fight each other: "["]But to fight each other . . . unthinkable!"" - p 81 Good luck w/ that. The USA, the country where I live, has been at continuous war for all 63 yrs that I've been alive.
Dagnabbit-all-to-heck they're so civilized there's not even any pollution:
"Some of the airmen, Maya said, were wanting to fit their clumsy, unmaneuverable craft with engines—but Morrow (he must have been quite a man, this Morrow, thought Grimes) had warned his people, shortly before his death, of the overuse of machinery.
"He had said (Maya quoted), "I am leaving you a good world. The land, the air and the sea are clean. Your own wastes go back into the soil and render it more fertile. The wastes of the machines will pollute everything—the sky, the sea and the very ground you walk upon. Beware of the machine. It pretends to be a good servant—but the wages it exacts are far too high."" - p 86
Did you know that Andy Warhol's father died from sickness contracted from drinking contaminated/polluted water at a construction site he was working on? Imagine that there was a time when you cd take a walk & drink from a spring w/o fear of toxins. That wasn't that long ago. I'D LIKE THAT TIME BACK AGAIN IN MY LIFETIME.
But there are always the Drongo Kanes of the world to shit everything up by pushing susceptible people's egos out of control by things like 21 gun salutes:
"Surely not, thought Grimes dazedly. Surely not. A twenty-one gun salute for somebody who, even though she is called a queen, is no more than the ma[y]or of a small town. . . ." - p 121
To again quote my The Far Traveler review:
"One of the reasons the Baroness likes Kane, the slaver, is that he kisses-royalty's-ass - something that Grimes is too ingenuous to do:
""Kane was first out of the leading dinghy, throwing a hitch of the painter around a wooden bollard. Gallantly he helped the Baroness from the boat to the low jetty." - p 136" - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
""That you, Mr. Saul? Keep your eyes open for any activities around Southerly Buster. Kane has just sent a message to his ship. It must be a code. Just one word. Blackbird."
""Blackbird . . ." repeated Saul. Then, "Have I your permission to use force?"
""What are you talking about, Saul?"
""Operation Blackbird, Captain. Didn't you know that blackbirding was a euphemism for slave trading?"" - p 131, The Inheritors
Yet-another Google search yields this as its 1st entry:
"Blackbirding is the coercion of people through trickery and kidnapping to work as labourers. From the 1860s, blackbirding ships in the Pacific sought workers to mine the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands in Peru."
Righto. I doubt that anybody uses that slang anymore but it's good to know. "[T}rickery and kidnapping to work as labourers" is what's building wealthy cities like Dubai, United Arab Emirates, now isn't it?!:
"Dubai and similar petro-dollar based Arab states know that the only way they can attract so many slaves is to offer them slightly more "salaries" than they get paid in their home countries which are already poverty stricken. They do not have any concept of minimum-living-wage in these Arab countries.
"They get paid $100-$200 on average. Not enough for groceries, let alone having a one bedroom for themselves to sleep in peace. Their reality is very grim, and the conditions they have to work in are very harsh and wretched." - https://www.quora.com/To-what-degree-...
"A 2006 NPR report quoted Baya Sayid Mubarak, the Indian consul for labor and welfare in Dubai, as saying "the city's economic miracle would not be possible without armies of poorly paid construction workers from the Indian sub-continent". The NPR report stated that foreign construction workers lived "eight and ten to a room in labor camps" and that "many are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt, which amounts to little more than indentured servitude.""
"The BBC has reported that "local newspapers often carry stories of construction workers allegedly not being paid for months on end. They are not allowed to move jobs and if they leave the country to go home they will almost certainly lose the money they say they are owed." Additionally, some of the workers have allegedly been forced to give up their passports upon entering Dubai, making it difficult to return home." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_r...
The González sisters in Mexico used it:
"Delfina and María de Jesús González (known as "Las Poquianchis") were two sisters from the Mexican state of Guanajuato, located 200 miles north of Mexico City. From the 1950s until the mid-1960s the sisters ran Rancho El Ángel, called the "bordello from hell" in San Francisco del Rincón.
"The police picked up a woman named Josefina Gutiérrez, a procuress, on suspicion of kidnapping young girls in the Guanajuato area, and during questioning, she implicated the two sisters. Police officers searched the sisters' property and found the bodies of 11 men, 80 women and several fetuses, a total of over 91.
"Investigations revealed the scheme was that they would recruit prostitutes through help-wanted ads; though the ads would state the girls would become maids for the two sisters. Many of the girls were force fed heroin or cocaine. The sisters killed the prostitutes when they became too ill, damaged by repeated sexual activity, lost their looks or stopped pleasing the customers.
"They would also kill customers who showed up with large amounts of cash. When asked for an explanation for the deaths, one of the sisters reportedly said, "The food didn't agree with them." Tried in 1964, the González sisters were each sentenced to 40 years in prison. In prison, Delfina died due to an accident, and Maria finished her sentence and dropped out of sight after her release.
"Although they are often cited as the killers, there were two other sisters who helped in their crimes, Carmen and Maria Luisa. Carmen died in jail due to cancer; Maria Luisa went mad because she feared that she would be killed by angry protesters. The sisters were the subject of the 1977 book Las Muertas by Mexican author Jorge Ibargüengoitia." - http://murderpedia.org/female.G/g/gon...
Ah, yes, sisterly solidarity. It's a good thing only men are capable of violence & treachery or this world wd be an even bigger mess.. Uhhhhhh.. Note that Maria was released from prison despite her involvement in 91 murders. Anyway, the term blackbirding might not be in use anymore but the practice is still highly appealing to the unscrupulous. Watch out.
The expression "catting around" appeared in my review of The Far Traveler: ""["]My Second Officer—among others—did some tom catting around["]" & I'll bet you can't give me one good reason why more such expressions shdn't be quoted from The Inheritors: "She was purring." (p 156) "Dog tired," (p 157)
"["]Not unless you can pull a rabbit out of a hat."
""Not a rabbit," she told him. "Most definitely not a rabbit."" - p 157
"["]It took me hours after I was able to get my paws on the records. . . ."" - p 167
The term "subhumans" was used to great effect by nazis to justify crimes against humanity. Chandler explores this deeply in The Inheritors:
"["]They manufactured, in their laboratories, androids—beings of synthetic flesh and blood that were, in effect, artificial men and women. Then they made 'underpeople'; the word coined by a Twentieth Century science fiction writer called Cordwainer Smith and later, much later, used in actual fact. These underpeople were even less human than the androids, their very appearance making obvious their animal origins.["]" - p 160
Leave it to SF to imagine such things & the seemingly inevitable social consequences.
As Grimes & Co uncover the history of Morrowvia they learned about its founder, Morrow:
"["]Evidently he disapproved of the nudity taboo, just as Commander Lazenby's people do on Arcadia. His political ideas bordered on anarchism. Possibly he was an anarchist. I seem to recall from my reading of history that there was quite a powerful, ir influential, Anarchist Party on Earth, in both hemispheres, at the time of the Second Expansion. It worked underground, and it contributed to the decline and fall of the Russian Empire. And we see here the results of Morrow's ideas. Utterly unselfconscious nudism, no central government, no monetary system. . . ." - p 163
Given that I, this here reviewer, am an anarchist, it was Chandler's references to Anarchism that attracted my attn in the 1st place. The Anarch Lords was the 1st bk I read by him. Here's an excerpt from my review of that:
"Back to Liberia, the planet, in Chandler's The Anarch Lords:
""Suffice it to say that the original colonists, the idealistic Anarchists, after a bad start during which their settlement almost perished, became devotees of the goddess Laura Norder . . ." (I'd better laugh, thought Grimes, to keep the old bastard in a good mood.) "Their numbers increased and eventually they were able to exercise control over their environment. There was a resurgence of Anarchism and armed revolt against the authorities. The president—he was more of a dictator, actually—appealed for help to the Federation. After the mess had been more or less cleaned up it was decided that the Liberians would be far happier if governed by an outsider, somebody whom everybody, right, left and center, could hate." - p 9
"It's funny, I haven't personally been accused of being an 'idealist' in a long time. Have I become accepted as a 'realist' or has that old criticism of anyone who wants to change things in a way that they consider to be more fair & more liberating become obsolete itself? Whatever the case, reading mention of "idealistic Anarchists" has a familiar feel to it." - “Taking the “Lords”.. ..out of Anarchy”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The Inheritors is from 1972 & The Anarch Lords is from 1981. he seems to've become somewhat (but not completely) disillusioned w/ anarchism in the intervening yrs. So much for The Inheritors. Chandler belongs up there w/ Philip José Farmer's Strange Relations etc..
Moving on to "Gateway to Never": Chandler's excellent at infusing each new bk, each new installment of the Grimes Saga, w/ substantially new ideas - not always, but often, carrying a subtext of social/philosophical commentary. In this case, he tackled what I, at least, consider to be a tricky subject: illegal drugs - usually the ones consumed for the individual's private or small social circle pleasures or psycho-exploration.
In my probably not very popular opinion, the society I live in is entirely too dependent on drugs - both legal & illegal. I've eschewed medicinal legal drugs most of my life -preferring to allow my body's own defense system to do its job as best it can as much as possible. I've tried many of the illegal drugs, mostly preferring the ones I associate w/ consciousness expansion but trying others that I now wd consider much too destructive & addictive. I've never been a drug addict of any kind - not even addicted to alcohol - wch I've probably abused more than most things.
In the USA, the government has certainly been connected to the heroin & the crack business - for all the usual greed & control reasons. As such, it's as despicable as ever that poor people - &, yes, it's usually poor people - get put in prison for abusing these drugs. It's all a slaving racket from my POV: create vampiric ghettos of no-opportunity, pump addictive drugs into them, penalize people caught using them, use them as slave labor in prisons. It's all business-as-usual: a few make massive profits while the many suffer great despair.
Making things even more complicated is that drugs like LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, & peyote, to name a few, are generally used to have experiences that can be profound in a very positive way. SO, lumping together all illegal drugs into the same category gets ridiculous. These days, such oversimplifying is being challenged by the Medical Marijuana movement. Frankly, I'm sick of pot but that doesn't mean I want people to go to jail for using it.
Chandler has Grimes address the complexity of the illegal drug issue:
""All right. As you know very well the Rim Worlds are far less permissive than Earth and the older colonies. By comparison with them, we're practically puritanical.
""Are we? I haven't noticed anybody suffering agonies of repression." ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 29, 2016
Jan 05, 2017
Aug 01, 1978
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's Book 3 in the Saga of Commodore John Grimes: "The Dark Dimensions" & "The Rim Gods"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Book 3 in the Saga of Commodore John Grimes: "The Dark Dimensions" & "The Rim Gods"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 29, 2016
Go. Here. Now: “Rim Dimensions: The The”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I enjoy reading Chandler's writing, even when I'm fairly sure that he's cranking out material b/c his publisher thinks he has more to mine in an area he's had popular acclaim w/, wch is the case here. I've read & reviewed 16 other bks of his so far in 2016. Even tho I've made some attempt to read the inter-related ones in order so that I can make some sense of their connections I've mostly read them pell-mell. I didn't find "Book 1" of this series in the store where I found Books 2 & 3 & I intended to at least read Book 2 before read Book 3.. but I accidentally reversed the order. Oh, well..
If I think of Books 2 & 3 of the Saga as containing 2 bks apiece, as I do, that brings my Chandler reading up to 20 of his bks. Of these 20, 16 have Grimes in them. Of these, in addition to the 4 bks of Books 2 & 3 of the Saga, 8 have Grimes as the main character: The Anarch Lords, To Prime the Pump, The Big Black Mark, To Keep the Ship, The Far Traveler, Into the Alternate Universe, The Road to the Rim, & Spartan Planet
Beyond the Galactic Rim is a collection of 4 short stories all of wch feature Grimes to some degree or another & featuring his earliest appearance that I've noted in "Forbidden Planet" (1959).
Nebula Alert & The Ship from Outside have Grimes making cameo appearances.
Kelly Country has the protagonist be named John Grimes but he's in a very different story from those of the Rim Saga.
NOW, just so you have an idea of how much of this Grimes material there is & how complicated it might be to try to read them in chronological order: According to http://www.bertramchandler.com/johngr... :
Grimes stories in order (the ones I have in bold are the ones I've read) w/ the info somewhat abridged by me for the purposes of this review:
John Grimes: Survey Service
The Road to the Rim (Nov 1967)
To Prime the Pump (1971)
The Hard Way Up (Oct 1972)
The Broken Cycle (1975)
Spartan Planet (Apr 1969)
The Inheritors (Jun 1972)
The Big Black Mark (Feb 1975)
John Grimes: Far Traveller Couriers
The Far Traveller (1977)
Star Courier (Mar 1977)
To Keep the Ship (1978)
Matilda's Stepchildren (1979)
Star Loot (1980)
The Anarch Lords (Sep 1981)
The Last Amazon (Jun 1984)
The Wild Ones (1984)
John Grimes: Rim Commodore
"Chance Encounter" (ss) New Worlds, Mar 1959
Into The Alternate Universe (Dec 1964)
Contraband from Otherspace (Jan 1967)
"Grimes at Glenrowan" (ss) IASFM, Mar/Apr 1978
"Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo" (ss) Unpublished
"Grimes and the Great Race" (nv) IASFM, Apr 1980
"Grimes Among the Gourmets" (ss) Other Worlds, ed. Paul Collins, Void, 1978
"Grimes and the Odd Gods" (nv) F&SF, Jun 1983
"Grimes and the Jail Birds" (ss) F&SF, May 1984
The Gateway to Never (Jun 1972)
The Rim Gods (Feb 1969)
Alternate Orbits (May 1971)
"Hall of Fame" (nv) (as "The Kinsolving's Planet Irregulars") Galaxy, Jul 1969
"The Sister Ships" (nv) Galaxy, Sep 1971
"The Man Who Sailed the Sky" (nv)
"The Rub" (nv) Galaxy, Apr 1970
"The Dutchman" (nv) Galaxy, Nov 1972
"The Last Hunt" (ss) Galaxy, Mar 1973
"On the Account" (nv) Galaxy, May 1973
"Rim Change" (na) Galaxy, Aug 1975
"Doggy In The Window" (nv) Amazing, Nov 1978
The Dark Dimensions (May 1971)
The Way Back (1976)
Perhaps you can understand my confusion, Note, for one thing, the absence of Kelly Country. The stories are divided into 3 categories: Survey Service, Far Traveller, Commodore. That's the logical progression & makes sense but note that Into the Alternate Universe is from 1964 so that early bk apparently already has Grimes as a Commodore. The prequels came later. If I were to arrange the novels that I've read (ignoring the short stories) into a narrative chronological order instead of into the order they were published in (&, presumably, written in) we'd have this:
The Road to the Rim
To Prime the Pump
The Big Black Mark
The Far Traveler
To Keep the Ship
The Anarch Lords
Into the Alternate Universe
Gateway to Never
The Rim Gods
The Dark Dimensions
NOW, note that Book 2 of the Saga has The Dark Dimensions followed by The Rim Gods & note that Book 3 (the one that I swear I'm going to eventually review here) starts w/ The Inheritors & ends w/ Gateway to Never.. SO , maybe, just maybe I read them in the order I'd intended to after all.
The thing is that Chandler's always writing something about the Rim like 'where the fabric of space-time is stretched thin' & then he overliteralizes the metaphor & turns it into an analogy & has Grimes meet himself when parallel time-tracks cross paths, etc, etc.. SO in one bk we read about such a meeting from one perspective & in another from the other perspective. SOO, as I was reading these, I was trying to piece it all together from my sometimes vague memories of the bks that I've read so far.
E.G.: Maggie Lazenby appears in The Inheritors, the 1st bk of Book 2 of the Saga. She'd previously appeared in Spartan Planet. Uh, but back to Book 3, the one I'm ostensibly reviewing:
The Dark Dimensions: My 1st reaction was: 'Have I read this? Or does it intertwine w/ 1 I have read?' to wch I answered myself w/ YES (meaning YES to the latter question). On p 2 as Commodore Grimes is getting his orders from the Admiral I picked this brief passage to quote:
""But it's not Kinsolving's Planet again, is it?"
"The Admiral laughed. "I can understand your being more than somewhat allergic to that peculiar world.""
SOOO, then I 'had' to think: wch bk had Kinsolving in it? In my review of Beyond the Galactic Rim ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) I wrote:
"The 2nd story, "Wet Paint", begins thusly:
""In all probability you've never heard of Kinsolving—most people, and that includes the majority of spacemen, have not. It's one of the Rim Worlds, which means that it's well off the beaten track even for the Commission's Epsilon Class tramps. It's an Earth-type planet, but not sufficiently similar to Earth to make it attractive to colonists. The gravity is a little too heavy and the air is a little too thin and a little too rich in carbon dioxide. Its sun is hot enough, but not very bright, and its light is so blue as to convey the impression of chilliness. Then, of course, there is that aching emptiness of the night sky for six months of the year without even a moon to take the curse off it.
""Kinsolving, then, is just a name in the Survey Commission's files—just a name and a few lines of relevant data. Discovered and charted by Commodore Pearson of the Survey Ship Magellan, named after his second-in-command." - p 29"
&, then, in the accompanying review of The Ship from Outside I quote:
""["]It was mainly a rehash of all the old legends about the Outsiders and it contained the statement , alleged to have been made by Maudsley, which I'll quote: 'Put Macbeth and Kinsolvings' Sun in line, and keep them so. That's the way that we came back. Fifty light years, and all hands choking on the stink of frying oil from the Mannscheen Drive . . .'""
The short story, "Wet Paint", has a 1st person narrator who I take to be Grimes but who's never specified as such as far as I can tell by superficially skimming over it again now. The narrator & co go to Kinsolving & investigate a report by a previous visitor named Captain Spence that apparently ancient cave paintings were discovered that still had wet paint. They find a caveman. &, yes, this ties in w/ The Dark Dimensions insofar as Clarisse Mayhew, one of Grimes's crew for THIS story, is the daughter of that caveman who has inherited some special psychic properties from him. Righto.
Grimes's mission is to investigate the Outsider spaceship, an enigma that's been previously investigated, usually w/ destructive results for those-who-dare.
""Is that all?" asked Grimes.
""For the time being, yes. Oh, personnel for Faraway Quest. . . . You've a free hand. Make up the crew you think you'll need from whatever officers are available, Regulars or Reservists. The Federation has intimated that it'd like an observeer along. I think I'm right in saying that Commodore Verrill still holds a reserve commission in the Intelligence Branch of their Survey Service. . . ."
""She does, sir. And she'd be very annoyed if she wasn't allowed to come along for the ride."" - p 4
I 1st remember encountering the Sonya Verrill spy character when she seduced Derek Calver in The Ship from Outside. Chandler's bks are hotbeds of inters(t)ex(t)uality. I quote from my The Ship from Outside review ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... )
"A one-night-stand can lead to jealousy can lead to serious mental collapse can lead to interruptions to the quest. Now that's realism.
""Calver kept to his own quarters, seeing nobody unless required to do so on ship's business. He was thinking too much and he was drinking too much. He hoped that the drinking would inhibit his thought processes, but it did not. He was thinking too much and he was remembering too much, harking back to the old days before the skein of his life became so hopelessly tangled. He could not blame Jane for this, but neither could he blame Sonya. he tried to blame himself, but even this he found difficult." [p 74]
& in Into the Alternate Universe, Sonya picks Grimes as her future husband. I quote from yet another review of mine ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ):
"Sonya, the spy, is no longer w/ Calver & is lookin' to settle down:
""You know that there have only been two men, real men, in my life. Bill Maudsley, who found the Outsiders' quarantine station, and who paid for the discovery with his life. And Derek Calver, whose first loyalties were, after all, to Jane . . . Damn it all, John, O'm no chicken. I'm rather tired of playing the part of a lone wolf—or a lone bitch, if you like. I want me a man—but the right man—and I want to settle down." - p 12"
Does that help put things into a more linear narrative flow? But who cares?, right? I'm just creating this continuity for my own scholarly amusement & satisfaction. Then again, Chandler provides these recaps too - in this case about what was learned from Calver's expedition to the Outsider:
""The test . . . yes, it's ingenious, and amazingly simple. It's a mirror that's held up to you in which you see . . . everything. Yes, everything. Things that you've forgotten, and things that you've wished for years you could forget. After all, a man can meet any alien monster without fear, without hate, after he has met the most horrible monster of all. . . ."
""Himself."" - pp 12-13
Chandler loves throwing in vernacular & often repeats particular expressions:
"Part of his luck, perhaps, was in having a really outstanding navigator aboard his ship. Carnaby's last captain had said of him, "He could find a black cat in a coal mine at midnight in three seconds flat."" - p 47
What took you so long? Chandler's future of space exploration has English as still the dominant language. That, of course, makes it easier for him as an English language writer:
"Yes, he could hear a whisper, no more than a faint, faraway muttering, even though the volume control was turned full on. He could not distinguish the words. He did not think that the speaker was using Standard English. He regretted, as he had done before, that he was and always had been so distressingly monolingual." - p 51
"Mayhew grinned. "I rather think, Commander Verrill, that wee shall shortly experience the pleasure of renewing out acquaintance with the ex-Empress Irene, and Captain Trafford, and all the rest of Wanderer's people."" - p 53
To wch I note to myself: wch bk? In other words, yeah, I've read whatever story is being referred to here but they're all muddled together in my mind. Welp, Trafford was in Nebula Alert & in Empress of Outer Space where Empress Irene becomes ex-Empress Irene when she marries Trafford. Gawrsh. Somebody cd write, or may already have written, an intertextual guidebk to these Chandler stories that wd be fascinating.. but not as fascinating as the connections between real live human beings in the wild & wacky cultural conspiracies of this here Planet Earth. I wdn't write the Chandler (I've already somewhat written the cultural conspiracies one).. but I might read it.
""A few years ago," Grimes continued, "I was instructed to take Faraway Quest out to investigate some strange, drifting wreckage—wreckage that, obviously, had not originated in this universe.["]"" - p 57
&, yeah, again, I asked myself: wch bk? Not surprisingly, the answer to that one is drum roll please, The Far Traveler. An ongoing interest of mine is Cockney Rhyming Slang so I'm delighted to see that make an appearance:
""I've got here in the telescope," drawled Williams, "Odd looking bitch . . . she's on the screen now, if you care to take a butcher's."
"Grimes took a "butcher's hook," reflecting that life was already sufficiently complicated without his second-in-command's rhyming slang." - pp 62 -63
The meaning of this is PFO (Pretty Fucking Obvious) but let's take a little etymological digression, shall we?
"butcher's hook Look. Late 19 C. Generally reduced to butcher's, it is frequently heard. In Australia, where the usage is the same, it has the additional meaning, crook (angry)." - p 45, Julian Franklyn's A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang
Instead of reviewing the next 170pp of The Dark Dimensions, let's just say that I was pleased w/ the way Chandler wove together so many other threads of the space-time fabric-stretched-thin but I don't want to spoil it for you.
The Rim Gods are up next on our menu. This one, as the title might lead the perspicacious to speculate (or speculum) has some poking fun at the little nipper of religion.
"Piety . . . Rector. . . . That ship's name, and that title of rank, had an archaic ring to them." - p 208
""I've visited Francisco," he told her. "A pleasant world in many ways. But an odd one."
""Odd? How, sir?"
""I hope I'm not treading on any of your corns, Miss Walton, but the whole planet's not more than a breeding ground for fancy religions."
""I'm a Latter Day Reformed Methodist myself, sir," she told him severely. "And that's not fancy."" - p 211
"["]We of the Skarsten Institute are Neo-Calvinists. We deplore the godlessness, the heresy that is ever more prevalent throughout the galaxy—yes, even upon our own planet. We feel that Mankind is in sore need of a new Revelation, a new Sinai. . . ."" - p 214
"According to the Book of Exodus, Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הר סיני, Har Sinai) is the mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, these events are described as having transpired at Mount Horeb. "Sinai" and "Horeb" are generally considered to refer to the same place, although there is a small body of opinion that the two names may refer to different locations." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblica...
I, on the 3rd leg, am sure that it was Mount Helen & that it was the 1st 10 Positions of the Kama Sutra. I cd be wrong tho.. Let Clarisse de(i)cide:
""And just how, Mr. Commodore Grimes, do you propose to call a warship to your aid?" asked the woman.
""Easily, Deaconess, easily," said Clarisse Lane. "Have you forgotten that I am a telepath—and a good one? While this ship was on Lorn I made contact with Mr. Mayhew, Senior Psionic Radio Officer of the Rim World Navy. Even though we never met physically we became close friends. He is an old friend and shipmate of the Commodore, and asked me to keep in touch to let him know if Commodore Grimes was in any key danger."" - p 232
NOW, in keeping w/ all the placing my duckies in a row that happened in pt 1 of this review, I call to the reader's attn that Clarisse Mayhew was a character in The Dark Dimensions - the bk that precedes this one in Book 3 of the Saga. Note that Clarisse Lane isn't married yet in this bk that follows The Dark Dimensions here but precedes it in terms of original publication date.
Anyway, just in case it might be the END TIMES we might as well prepare to meet our maker, eh? Our Maker's Mark:
"["]Life is not a game. Life, death and the hereafter are not a game. We are not playing. We are working. Is it not written, "Work, for the night is coming? And you, sir, and I, as spacemen, know that the night is coming—the inevitable heat death of the Universe. . . ." He gulped more of his drink." - p 237
Some people worry about the littlest things.
"Grimes said reasonably enough, "But you people believe in predestination, don't you? Either we're damned or we aren't, an nothing we do makes any difference."
""I have learned by bitter experience," Smith told him, "that it is impossible to argue with a heretic—especially one who is foredoomed to eternal damnation. But even you must see that if the Commandments are given anew to Man then we, the Elect, shall be elevated to our rightful place in the Universe."
""Then God save us all," said Grimes." - p 238
W/o spoiling it, I think I can risk quoting this tasty little pieceage next:
"Grimes realized that he was laughing uncontrollably and saying, over and over to himself, "Not Sinai, but Olympus! Not Sinai, but Olympus!"" - p 251
But then I get back to that dagnabbitted-all-to-heck question again: wch bk?:
"But it was easier for them than it had been for him, when he made his own first landing on Tharn—how many years ago? Too many."
"his robot probes had told him that the culture of the planet was roughly analogous to that of Earth's Middle Ages. Even so, he had been lucky in that he had set Faraway Quest down near a city controlled by the priesthood rather than an area under the sway of one of the robber barons." - p 258
Oh, goodie! I get to correct Wikipedia:
"Tharn is a fictional planet and a comic book location in titles published by DC Comics. It first appeared in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 #3 (January 1990), and was created by Keith Giffen, Al Gordon, Tom Bierbaum and Mary Bierbaum." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tharn
The fictional planet Tharn is in The Rim Gods & that's from 1969, 21 yrs earlier than its supposed invention as cited above. Even earlier (can you feel my pulse quicken?) Tharn appeared in The Rim of Space but Derek Calver's the hero in that one. As I've pointed out, over & over (don't you ever listen to me?) Calver is close enuf to Grimes to BE Grimes:
""Mphm," grunted Calver noncommittally." - p 55, The Rim of Space ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 26, 2016
Dec 31, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
Apr 15, 1994
really liked it
Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 8, 2016
As is so often the case, I have more to say about & to qu review of
Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 8, 2016
As is so often the case, I have more to say about & to quote from this bk than the review space has rm for so this review is cut-off in middle age. For the full review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
As someone who's read quite a few bks by Greg Bear it was hard not to notice his endorsement of this bk on its cover: "Science Fiction of a Very High Order!" Given that I think of Bear as one of most prominent of the 'hard science' SF writers I reckon I was somehow expecting this to be a similar ilk. Perhaps to some people it is. To me it's more atmospheric. I was vaguely reminded of Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl (my review of wch is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... ) wch in turn reminded me of Jules Verne's The Demon of Cawnpore (my review of wch is here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17... ). But the Verne & The Child Garden don't remind me of each other at all. So much for that.
For the 1st 50pp or so of this I was pretty excited to've 'discovered' such an interesting SF writer! After all, this bk was written in 1989 & I was just learning about it in 2016, 27 yrs later. That seemed remarkable. After those 1st 50pp I just started getting bored & wishing the bk was over. I won't exactly 'blame' that on The Child Garden, I was simultaneously in the midst of reading AG Davis's Báthory (wch I've since reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) & John Bealieu's Human Tuning - Sound Healing with Tuning Forks (wch I'm still reading & haven't reviewed yet - but I have made a related movie entitled "mm 71 presents: TUNING FORKS" wch is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/TwYDwJnHRe8
I found that the introduction showed great promise:
"Viruses made people cheerful and helpful and honest. Their manners were impeccable, their conversation well-informed, their work speedy and accurate. They believed the same things.
"Some of the viruses had been derived from herpes and implanted DNA directly into nerve cells. Others were retroviruses and took over the DNA of the brain, importing information and imagery. Candy, they were called, because the nucleic acids of their genes were coated in sugar and phosphates. They were protected against genetic damage, mutation. People said that Candy was perfectly safe.
"Milena did not believe them. Candy had nearly killed here. All through her childhood, she had been resistant to the viruses. There was something in her which fought them. Than, at ten years old, she had been given one final massive dose, and was so seared by fever that she had nearly died. She emerged with encyclopaedic knowledge and several useful calculating facilities. What other damage had the viruses done?" - p 1
I like the idea of viruses being calculatingly used to change people's lives to be an interesting one. Contrarily, I find that many or most people are wishfully thinking for the-thing-that-will-make-them-smarter/richer-more popular/whatever-without-any effort. Something like the drug in the movie Limtless (2011). Or the pill-that-you-can-take-to-keep-you-healthy-so-you-can-party-all-the-time. That, to me, is just. plain. stupid. I prefer people who envision what they want & then set about doing what seems the most practical way of getting it - preferably w/ ethics involved. But that's neither here nor there in relation to this bk. I found myself identifying w/ the protagonist, Milena, somewhat b/c she's "swimming up-dam" as I like to say, struggling against the main virus-accepting forced consensus of the society she's in. The intro continues to intrigue:
"People were purple. Their skins were flooded with a protein called Rhodopsin. It had once been found only in the eye. In light, Rhodopsin broke down into sodium, and combined carbon and water.
"People photosynthesized. It was a way of feeding them all." - p 3
Unfortunately, they shit shadows.
Just kidding. In 2000, I interviewed a guy in Melbvourne, Australia named Daniel Tonzig who talked about the idea of having human skin chloroplasts to help people process sunlight as food. In his scenario, people's skins wd be green. I found what he had to say very interesting & I incorporated it into my movie called Don't Walk Backwards wch has, unfortunately, never been screened b/c it's 8:24:43 long. It also doesn't have a single murder or heist in it (Am I insane?).
Perhaps most interestingly:
"It had once been normal for the human body to produce a cancer cell every ten minutes. Cancer, it turned out, had been rather important. Cancer cells did not age. They secreted proteins that prevented senescence. They had allowed people to get old. Without cancer, people died in or around their 35th year." - p 4
"Cancer is a disruption of the process of growth. Some cancer cells produce their own growth hormone, giving themselves the signal to divide and multiply. Others increase the number of growth hormone receptors on the membrane of the cell, or duplicate the internal message bearers that carry the command to grow. They do not respond to messages of overcrowding from other cells. They need blood to feed and so they secrete proteins that induce the body to grow new blood vessels for them.
"They do not need to be firmly attached to the intercellular matrix, as normal cells do. They can split off from the main tumour, float freely in the bloodstream and find new sites to grow. Cancers are a dysfunction of what is called differentiation. They do not mature into fully functioning blood or bone or muscle or skin cells — they are not differentiated. When they find a new site, in different kinds of tissue, they can grow there too. They can spread. The word for that is metastasis. The word for that is malignant.
"And cancers are immortal. Normal cells stop dividing after between fifty and one hundred and fifty times. Normal cells senesce. Cancer cells go on growing." - p 323
When I was around 15 I became aware of the degree to wch some people inflict illnesses upon themselves psychosomatically. It seemed plausible to me that people have more control over their health than is generally assumed. It was probably around then that I stopped taking any medicines - even such common things as aspirin. Given that I've led a somewhat nihilistic life or, at least, reckless life, I've definitely been exposing myself to far greater toxicity than is likely to be good for longevity. Nonetheless, I've made it to 63, longer than I expected to live &, who knows?, maybe I'll make it a bit longer.
Along the way, I've developed an increasingly negative attitude toward 'Western' medicine. The extortionist prices in the USA, where I live, are so outrageous that they've gone beyond most if not all dystopic predictions. EG: The Pennsylvania Insurance Department actually approved over 30% increases for health insurance company fees for 2017. Words like "criminal" or "insane" fail to even remotely describe the heinousness of such a bad decision.
But it's not only the greed of the medical industry, & the insurance companies in particular, that's the problem. There's a whole culture of sickness that, like the culture of terror, keeps people in a constant state of fear. Just as the fear of terrorism suckers people into complacently accepting that their tax dollars make arms manufacturers & dealers, the real terrorists, filthy rich so does the fear of illness make people complacently accept their money being sucked out of them like blood by a vampire for completely unnecessary health expenses.
Think of the way it works: a person's in pain, they don't want to be, they seek relief, they take pain killers & it's like their body's alarm system is shut off but the fire's still burning. How can that possibly be good for them? A person coughs, it's uncomfortable, they take a cough suppressant, the cough stops but that doesn't take away the body's need to expel harmful bacteria now does it? Both examples show how 'medicine' works contrary to the body's attempts to heal itself.
There's little doubt that modern living has elongated life expectancy - when people aren't dying off from the never-ending wars etc. The average lifespan of a man in France in 1885 might've been something like 45. It's something like 80 now. That's pretty remarkable. What might it be in another 130 yrs? Whatever it is, I'm not likely to be here to find out.
In the meantime, I have to live in the present. I've decided to live my life as much as I can in a way that I choose to live & to at least try to accept when my lifestyle finally leads to the fatal deterioration of my body. Such is life, such is death. I don't believe in heaven or hill or any typical wishful thinking afterlife. I do believe that the 'components' that make up 'me' will metamorphose & that my self-consciousness will cease to exist - as such, 'I' will cease to exist but some continuation of 'me' will reconfigure w/o any memory of its predecessor(s). So be it.
Meanwhile, my mom has had cancer at least twice, my dad had it at least twice - dying of brain cancer, my sister had it at least 3 times - dying of brain cancer at age 63. So what do I do if I have cancer? At least provisionally, I hope I never find out if I do. I can accept dying - I just don't want to spend the last decade or so of my life getting chemotherapy or irradiation & constantly stressing over the idea that I'm going to die.
How does this tangent relate to my review of this bk? I like the ideas that herpes might be repurposed to serve positive purposes & that cancer might be discovered to be something more than or other than what contemporary 'medicine' makes of it. I don't have to believe it, I don't have to cling to it like a life-raft, it can simply be added to my library of thinking-outside-the-box. 'Medicine' & science aren't infallible. When I was a child it was common for tonsils to be removed. Such operations are probably quite rare now. I had mine removed, I think doctors were experimenting on children for their own unnecessary research & profit. What might the contemporary equivalent be? What if the whole approach to 'cures for cancer' is wrong? What if it's just another manifestation of greed & sadism? It was partially my hope that The Child Garden, as "Science Fiction of a Very High Order!", might investigate this further.
"Many diseases had cured cancer. One of them sealed the proto-oncogenes in Candy. Others produced proteins that coaxed cancerous cells into maturity and stopped them dividing.
"But some of the cancers were new and viral and quick. The cures did not stop infected cells producing new copies of the cancer virus, and the virus spread with the flow of blood. A curious balance was struck in the bodies of some of the people who already had cancer. The cancer virus infected the body cell by cell in an orderly fashion. The cancers differentiated. They matured and ceased to proliferate in wild shapes.
"What was left was a systematised tumour in the form of a healthy human being, with its memories, its feelings. As long as it was feed and avoided accidents, it would live. It was immortal." - p 23
Perhaps The Child Garden did explore the notions that science & medicine can be wrong &/or wrong-headed, that drs can have motives other than healing-related, etc - but in the long run, even tho this is a fairly complex bk, it ultimately had a sortof Catholic-Church-Horror-Movie feel to it.. The main character even hands over her Christian cross necklace to her religious husband in her death throes. Yuk. But, again, in the 1st 50pp or so I found this bk fantastic:
"The fashion in everything was for history. People's minds were choked with it. Young people wore black and pretended to be the risen corpses of famous people. The Vampires of History they called themselves. Their virus-stuffed brains gave them the information they needed to avoid anachronisms. It was a kind of craze." - p 8
"'Good evening,' he said, looking sour, his accent American. 'We've managed to escape Virginia. She is busying herself listing all the ways in which Joyce is a bad writer. Her jealously is so nakedly evident, I was embarrassed.'
"The woman with him was trying to smile, under a low cloche hat. The smile wavered pathetically. 'Tom?' she said. His back was turned towards her. 'Speak to me. Can't you speak? Speak?'
"'T S Eliot and Vivien!' exclaimed Cilla, and complimented them." - p 9
For the literate, or, at least, the English literate, this passage will probably be fun. Two Vampires of History are imitating the famous modernist poet & playwright T. S. Eliot & the woman he married in 1915 Vivienne Haigh-Wood (Eliot). T. S. is referring to author Virginia Wolff's reputed animosity to author James Joyce. For people who don't get this, "Virginia" & "Joyce" cd both be taken to be female names.
The Child Garden is rich in imaginative details such as the above & well-worth reading for those alone. Milena, the main character, is alienated b/c she hasn't been controlled by the viruses &, therefore, isn't going to ever be a Vampire of History, is asked by the Vampires who she's imitating:
"'Who am I?' Milena responded with deadpan hostility. She did not take his hand. 'Oh. In life, I was a textile factory worker in nineteenth century Sheffield. I died at twelve years old. I'm a rather bad Vampire because I have no teeth. But I do have eczema and rickets.'
"The Vampires made excuses and left. 'Well. That sent them packing,' said Cilla." - p 10
In other words, Milena chooses to focus on the life of a person who wasn't rich & glamorous, a person who the original vampires, the rich & glamorous of the industrial age, created a devastatingly deprived life for so that the shit cd rise to the top. Good onya meatey! Milena's lover is a polar bear, a genetically modified human given polar bear characteristics so that she can survive to work in the Antarctic. Rolfa has childhood memories wch Milena is mysteriously lacking:
"'There's no musk oxen in the Antarctic.'
"'No, no indeed, no we lived in Canada for a while, you see? Papa thought we should go there to make our fortune. North instead of South. Didn't work. He kept trying to save the musk ox. Herd them north, where there still some tundra. Strange thing to do really. It makes me think my father might not be so bad after all. He taught them how to play football. They're terribly intelligent, you see. They played in teams. I used to play with them.[']" - p 38
Yet another interesting idea, the bk's brimming w/ them. Nonetheless.. there's a feeling to it.. it's strange for me to appraise a bk based on a 'feeling'.. the feeling of the Catholic Church Horror Movie, the feeling that everything is 'sinful' or 'dirty' or 'sick'. I can't really even claim that I'm being fair here, it's a gut reaction. I'm reminded of the utterly repulsive series of films by the Polish Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Dekalog, even tho in almost every respect they have nothing in common w/ The Child Garden. But Kieslowski manages to drench everything in 'sin', it's subtle but incredibly disgusting. It's as if his purpose is to make everyone either kill themselves or turn to the church for 'salvation'. The Child Garden seems similarly debased, all relationships are doomed, there are no happy endings. Maybe this is 'realism' but I prefer to think otherwise.
Milena meets Rolfa's polar bear family & receives the all-too-familiar prejudice-against-anyone-who-isn't-'one-of-us':
"'Shut the door!' the Polar girl shouted. There was angry thumping, the girl stalked past Milena and flung the door shut. 'It makes our hair fall out, you little Squidge,' she snarled. 'Rolfa! Slump your fat tush down here!'" - p 44
"'Don't eat the toenails, Zoe,' said Angela. 'What will Ms Shitbush think of us?'
"'You seem to be having some trouble with my name,' said Milena, giving up trying to cut her seal. She had to hold her hands up almost over her head to reach it. 'My last name is Shibush. My family are from Eastern Europe, but the name itself is Lebanese. I believe your name is originally Asian, too, isn't it.'"
"'So you actually work in Toy Town, do you, Squidge?'
"'Were you talking to me?' Milena demanded.
"'I wasn't talking to the seal.'"
"'My name is Milena. Perhaps no one told you that.'
"'OK. Milly. You work at that place.'" - p 48
Milena finds her mind partially occupied by someone named "Heather". This proves useful when she's being pursued by a mind-reader called a "Snide":
"'Are you Milena?' a girl, a stranger, asked. Green-blonde hair and Vampire make-up. With a kind of heave, Milena hauled the virus to the front of her mind. Heather, I am Heather. She didn't get around to answering aloud." - p 70
"What, Milena wondered, have I called up in my mind? Viruses were supposed to be a passive reservoir of information, like your own memory. They were not supposed to drag you through the minutiae of experience. Das Kapital was over three thousand pages long, and Heather was determined to read it all, exploring every last dreary, undeniable nuance. She had no intention of ever finishing, she would go on and on, determined to control, without a shred of self-doubt or pity. God, the woman must have been a pain. When she was alive.
"Heather, Irish Heather, if only there were some softness about you, some hidden anguish or pain, then I could feel sorry for you, I could understand, sympathize, but there is something inhuman about you. You wanted to be a disease. The match between you and the virus was perfect. You and the virus both need minds to inhabit, DNA to remould. Like Helen Lane's tumour, you are immortal, undead, and you have hold of me." - pp 70-71
At age 10 all of the children are "read" - ie: their life experience is absorbed into a "Consensus", a collective mind that makes decisions & has great power. A few exceptions are unable to be read, Milena is one of them. That makes her both important & a misfit.
"The Public Reading Rooms — the rooms in which the public were Read — were underground in bunkers. The bunkers were under what had once been the Department of the Environment. The Department of the Environment had been torn down to plant a forest.
"The forest was the Consensus. The Consensus was a garden of purple, fleshy tress that reached up and fed on sunlight. The mind of the Consensus was below. A buttress in marble wall ran around the garden. In the wall, there was an old stone plaque that had been preserved. 'This is Marsham Street,' the plaque said, '1688.'
"Underneath there were corridors of brick. They wound their way through fleshy roots and a gathering of synapses called the Crown. Below, like tubers, there grew mindflesh, on which memories were imprinted, memories and the patterns of response. They were models made of children. Read at ten years of age." - p 83
The reader gradually reads more & more details of the mystery of Milena:
"Quiet, she thought, and followed Root.
"I thought I was free, Milena thought. Instead, I was being tolerated. Or used. They wouldn't leave me alone, if there was no reason for it.
"Of course the must know they haven't Read me." - p 84 ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 04, 2016
Dec 22, 2016