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John Brunner's The Day of the Star Cities
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 19, 2014
This is another one of those plot-driven bks that I...more review of
John Brunner's The Day of the Star Cities
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 19, 2014
This is another one of those plot-driven bks that I have very little to say about that wdn't amt to spoiling it. The time appears to be the near future (as of 1965 when the bk was published). There're a few futuristic touches like "panic sprays", perhaps placed like sprinklers, capable of subduing the riotous. There's been a disaster wch the reader already knows about if they've read the blurb on the back cover but wch is still being hinted at on p 9:
"The pock-mark gaps in the neat mesh of human symbols—the devastated areas, the fallout zones, into which the lines of highways and railroads led like footsteps over precipices—had to be included on the printed map; it wouldn't be beyond self-deception to pretend that Omaha, for instance, still existed. (Though, of course, you didn't have to state aloud that the city had gone.) But the heavy black border isolating the tongue-shaped area in the center of North America, the other similar border around a kidney-shaped zone in Western Brazil, and the patches of silver foil like distorted pentagrams which symbolized the alien cities—those Waldron had added by hand the day after he'd grown tired of the popular fiction that governments in Washington and Ottawa still held sway over the whole of their former territories."
Then there's foreshadowing like this: ""Got one unusual thing about him. Mirror image layout. Heart on the wrong side, large lobe of the liver on the wrong side, all the way down the line.["]" (p 12) Then there's the repurposed language, a believable slang of the circumstances:
""Who was this man? Had you seen him before?"
""Not to my knowledge. Of course, he was a weirdo, so—"
""What makes you so sure?"
""Jesus! I'll lay a bet that people in the restaurant who'd never before been within a mile of one pegged him as soon as they saw him. And I've seen plenty."" - p 15
It must be strange to be an author & to write a bk that has a calculated trajectory & to then have the decision made, possibly w/o the author's input, to have that trajectory disrupted by having certain things revealed on the back cover of the bk. In this case, Brunner waited until p 21 to reveal what the readers already knew:
"He remembered the beginning with fearful vividness. With casual simultaneity, all fissionable material on the planet had been exploded with an efficiency varying from eight to eighteen percent conversion. Every missile and bomber base, every bomb in flight, every nuclear power station and every refinery where the stocks exceeded a couple of kilograms had mushroomed into fire. It was a day and a half before the survivors knew it wasn't war."
My interest always perks when I run across an unfamiliar word & Brunner usually provides at least one: "anti-missile bases had created comparable havoc around the major conurbations further south" (p 42) conurbation: "a large area consisting of cities or towns that have grown so that there is very little room between them" ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... ) I reckon the more familiar word for me wd be "megalopolis".
What dates this bk, published a mere 49 yrs ago, is this: "A young woman looking like a fashion model in spite of the circumstances, who turns out to have a Bachelor of Science degree and a responsible post in the Scientific Service—remarkable!" (p 44) Wd anybody even bother to mention a Bachelor's degree anymore? In this era of being practically required to spend a fortune to get a PHD to buy yr way into the upper middle class?
& then there's this: "a successful free trader in the near-anarchy" (p 80) I'd hope that if Brunner had written this story in an era he didn't actually live to see, say the early 2000s, he wdn't've equated "free trade" (was that term in use anywhere then in the sense we now know it?) as something that's nurtured by "near-anarchy" given the anarchist preference for fair trade.
& then there's even more 'datedness': "From the main entrance of the building a tall colored man in white coveralls with an embroidered name on the chest had emerged." (p 87) These days, for the people trying not to be racist, African American (yes the story takes place in the USA) or Person of Color seem to be preferred. "Colored" probably seems quaintly suspicious to most. That's what my parents, born in the 1920s, wd've sd. It seems to me that in the 1960s & 1970s, when I was 'growing up' (did I ever? YEP), Black was the preferred term: witness Black is Beautiful & Black Liberation - that sort of thing. Now, everybody's got color & pure blackness is an exaggeration while pure whiteness is nonexistent (in skin color, ie) & not everybody who's 'African American' necessarily has such intimate ties to Africa. I don't think of myself as a European American, I say I'm from BalTimOre (where I was born). So all these terms strike me as clumsy. These days, if skin-color 'must' be referenced at all (dubious), I just prefer "darker" & "lighter".
& then we're back to a disappointing misuse of "anarchy" again: ""But isn't it courting disaster to trespass on Grady's anarchy["]" (p 102) "Grady's anarchy", in both the misrepresentation of this character & in its 'actual' story-condition is actually government, feudal of sorts & tyranical, but still government - a far cry from "anarchy". Then again, it's appropriate for this character to use the word in this way so it's not really "disappointing" after all.
A very recurring theme in bks of Brunner's in the 1960s & maybe early 1970s is hypnosis. I remember it being in The Productions of Time (you can read my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18... ) & The Evil That Men Do (you can see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18... ) amongst others:
""No, wait!" Waldron leaned forward. "There's something you said this morning, yourself. 'Except ye become as little children'—remember? Now there's a trick you can pull with hypnosis, isn't there, called regression? You get sort of sent back to an earlier time and behave and think like a child." - p 138
I've actually witnessed such a regression. I was at an acquaintance's apartment. She was a nurse, her boyfriend was a hypnotist. As a party thing he regressed her to a childhood birthday. It turned out that it was a birthday when she was punished. She spoke w/ the voice of a child. If she was acting, she's the best actress I've ever witnessed. Her boyfriend seemed rather nasty so I have to wonder if he deliberately chose a date to make her suffer. Long story short.
Brunner always manages to spin a good yarn AND to remember to add those ephemeral details that set the tone w/o being necessarily immediately plot-driven:
"There would be snow later, probably; the leaden overcast was threatening and the wind had a keen edge to it. But Fred Johnson paid little attention to the state of the weather, like all the others standing patiently with him on the bleak hillside. His main reaction to the possibility of snow was a vague regret that he would not see how glorious the heavenly city appeared when there was a mantle of white on the earth around it." - p 152
Probably the most interesting aspect of this Brunner for me was the way the characters are driven by an assumption that I find no grounds for whatsoever in the story: "The aliens regard us as rats" - & actions proceed from this assumption. I think that other conclusions that're just as logical if not more so can be derived - such as that the "Star Cities" are there for human use in precisely the way the humans eventually use them. I wonder if Brunner imagined that as a possibility & left it out of the story for the reader to figure out on their/our own? If he did, that wd be an exceptional bit of reverse psychology on his part! (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 15, 2014
Jul 20, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath reminds me of J. G. Ballard's short story coll...more review of
John Brunner's Polymath
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2014
John Brunner's Polymath reminds me of J. G. Ballard's short story collections: Vermilion Sands, Chronopolis, The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard, & most likely others that I don't have in my personal library.
Why? Is it b/c they're both British SF writers w/ radical leanings? No, among other things, their radicality is quite different. It's b/c of the way the publishers reuse older material to sell newer bks. In Ballard's 1971 Vermilion Sands, there's a story entitled "The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista" that had previously appeared in the 1963 collection Passport to Eternity. In 1971's Chronopolis, there's "The Voices of Time" (The Voices of Time), "The Drowned Giant" (The Impossible Man), "Manhole 69" (The Voices of Time), "Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer" (The Impossible Man), "The Sound-Sweep" (The Voices of Time), "The Watchtowers" (Passport to Eternity), "Zone of Terror" (The Voices of Time), "The Cage of Sand" (Passport to Eternity), & "Deep End" (The Voices of Time).
Therefore, in Chronopolis, there're 9 stories out of 16 total culled from previous collections. That's pretty annoying for people who want to read the 7 stories not in the bks they already have but don't want to pay for the filler. It gets even worse when we get to 1978's The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard insofar as "Manhole 69" had now appeared in at least 2 previous collections, "Chronopolis" in at least 1, "The Voices of Time" (2), "Deep End" (2), "The Overloaded Man" (1), "Billennium" (1), "The Garden of Time" (1), "Thirteen for Centaurus" ("Thirteen to Centaurus" in Passport to Eternity), "The Cage of Sand" (2), "End Game" (1), "The Drowned Giant" (2), "The Terminal Beach" (1), & "The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D" (1). That's 13 out of 19 stories, at least, that'd previously appeared in bks. Buying The Best got the consumer Anthony Burgess's Introduction as well.
Ok, reprinting the same stories in multiple collections isn't such a heinous crime, I'm really just having some fun & showing off a little tangential data in order to build up to the annoyance of Polymath. Polymath (1974) is just a slight rewrite of Castaways World (1963) wch was part of an Ace Double. You can see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... & if you want to just get an idea of what the story is you might as well just skip to that earlier review & not read any further here.
On the verso of the title p it says: "A shorter and substantially different version of this novel appeared in 1963" (p 4) They don't tell the reader the name of the previous bk. It's the "substantially different" claim that I scoff at here. Castaways World is 127 pp, Polymath is 156 = 29 extra pp. The plot doesn't change at all. Polymath begins w/ this: ""One thing about those damn winter gales," Delvia said in a make-the-most-of-it tone. "They did give us a bit of stored power to play with." (p 5) Castaways World begins w/: "["]One thing about those winter gales," Delvia said in a make-the-most-of-it tone, "they gave us a bit of stored power to play with." (p 5) "winter gales" becomes "damn winter gales", etc.. These are the kinds of 'substantial' changes the reader can expect.
Of course, the filler has to get a bit more, uh, filling, in order to add on another 29pp: So, in the beginning of chapter 2 the 15th paragraph in Polymath is the same one as the 5th paragraph in Castaways World - it just takes 10 paragraphs longer to get there but those 10 paragraphs don't make much difference.
On p 91 of Castaways World we can read this:
""No . . ." She kicked at the sand. "Mainly I come out here to look at Zara. It seems absurd that the star that I used to think of as the sun is still up there, shining quietly, when in fact it's a raging cosmic explosion. How long till we see it happen, Lex? Sixty years?"
& on p 118 of Polymath we get this:
""No . . ." She kicked at the sand. Grains of it rattled on the nearest reflector, like dried corn spilling into a pan. "Mainly I come out here to look at Zara. It seems absurd that the star which I used to think of as the sun is still up there, shining quietly, when in fact it's a raging cosmic explosion. How long till we see it happen, Lex? Is it sixty years?"
Maybe the biggest question in the mind of readers of this review by now might be: 'Doesn't this guy have anything better to do than write a review of a bk wch he probably read knowing it was just a fluffed-out repeat of something he'd already read?! To wch I answer: "Yes, I do have better things to do. BUT, grains of this review rattle in my reflective brain, like dried corn spilling into my brain-pan." (less)
Notes are private!
Jul 07, 2014
Jul 12, 2014
Nov 01, 2001
Paul Verlaine's The Cursed Poets
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 9, 2014
Yadda, yadda, review too long. See the full thing here: https:...more review of
Paul Verlaine's The Cursed Poets
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 9, 2014
Yadda, yadda, review too long. See the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I probably 1st learned about Paul Verlaine thru learning about Arthur Rimbaud (born October 20, 1854) when I was a teenager in the early 1970s. Rimbaud wd've probably been an author I wd've heard about from the same group of friends who wd've exposed me to Hermann Hesse, Kahlil Gibran, & Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I wd've then read the New Directions Paperbook editions of Rimbaud's A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat & Illuminations - both translated by Louise Varèse.
In the former, in the introductory "A Rimbaud Chronology" (prepared by Hubert Creekmore for the publisher w/ its "factual data [..] taken largely from the definitive biography pf Rimbaud by Professor Enid Starkie" - p vii), I read that when Rimbaud was around 16 he "read everything he could lay hands on including the work of the new poet Paul Verlaine." (p x) "Bretagne, who knew Verlaine, suggested that Rimbaud write to him and himself added an introduction. In the letter Rimbaud enclosed some of his poems and received an enthusiastic reply from Verlaine and an invitation to come to Paris." (p xii)
1871: "Rimbaud's visit to the Verlaine household in Paris scandalized both the conservative family and the neighbors. His wife's parents felt that Verlaine, although twenty years older than Rimbaud, was being debauched by the young man" (p xii) Rimbaud & Verlaine's relationship resulted in Verlaine's leaving his wife & the 2 of them moving to London.
1872: "the following January, Verlaine, ill with influenza, recalled Rimbaud by picturing himself as dying alone in a strange city; and their debauchery was resumed. During this period, Rimbaud felt a growing disgust for Verlaine's sentimentality and wished to separate himself from what he now considered a debilitating influence." (pp xiii-xiv) "When he announced that he was leaving, Verlaine shot at him three times with a revolver, striking him once in the wrist. Mme. Verlaine and Rimbaud managed to quiet his hysteria, but when, on the way to the railroad station, Rimbaud remained firm in his decision to leave, Verlaine again lost control and threatened him. Rimbaud called for police protection. Verlaine was arrested, tried and sentenced to two years' hard labor and a fine." (p xiv)
&, w/ that latter, I, as a young anarchist, parted ways w/ Rimbaud. Given that I was about the same age as Rimbaud was when he went thru this I probably had the strong philosophical inclination to NOT have someone arrested under such circumstances. Now, I'm just glad I've never been shot. "In 1875 he traveled to Germany, and in Stuttgart, Verlaine, just released and full of his new religious zeal acquired in prison, joined him. Of this visit which lasted two and a half days, Rimbaud wrote in a letter to his old friend Delahaye: "Verlaine arrived here the other day pawing a rosary. . . Three hours later he had denied his God and started the 98 wounds of Our Lord bleeding again."" (p xv) Verlaine had it bad. Obviously, Rimbaud gave him something that his wife didn't. "at last in May, 1888 [Rimbaud] returned to Hasar as partner of two established gun-runners and slave-traders." (p xviii) Here, I part ways w/ Rimbaud again.
"When he did not answer a letter from Verlaine, the older poet assumed that he was dead and had an edition of his poems published in 1886." (p xvii) Rimbaud didn't actually die until November 10, 1891. Now, finally, I get to The Cursed Poets. The translator, Chase Madar, begins w/: "Assembled from articles published in the journals Lutèce and La Vogue, the full version of Les Poètes maudits was first published in 1888. The little book helped build the reputations of the poets; it also helped fortify Verlaine's own renown, and finances." (p 5)
Verlaine's praise for the 6 poets he writes about is enthusiastic, well written, convincing (to me, ie), &, apparently, deeply sincere. I got the impression that Verlaine, does, indeed, obsessively care about poetry & has well-developed ideas about what constitutes important poetry. One of the poets praised is Rimbaud. I provided the back-story about Verlaine's relationship w/ Rimbaud partially to show that Verlaine's praise for his writing continued even tho Rimbaud had him put in prison. This can be taken to mean both that Verlaine was 'hopelessly' 'in love' w/ Rimbaud &/or that he intended to praise the poetry as great regardless of how disastrous his personal relationship may've been w/ him. A lesser man, a man less sincerely dedicated to poetry, might've retaliated against Rimbaud instead of continuing to praise him. I can think of many an ex-girlfriend who destroyed my work upon breaking up w/ me - thusly revealing the petty vindictiveness that made them worth breaking up w/ in the 1st place.
Most of the poets written about by Verlaine were probably obscure at the the time, some are still obscure today: "Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Verlaine himself don't need my introduction, but the other poets very well might. Tristan Corbière was, with Jules Laforgue, a major influence on T. S. Eliot; his directness and unfussily abrupt prosody have aged well." (p 5) I am, as always glad to learn of the more obscure people - & it's particularly enlightening to have Verlaine's contemporaneous critique.
But the above version of who's obscure by the translator is not Verlaine's own at the time of writing over 100 yrs before this edition:
"The name and work of Corbière and those of Mallarmé are assured for the duration of time; some will stay on men's lips, the others in the memories of all worthy of them. Corbière and Mallarmé have been published, — that enormous minor detail. Rimbaud, too scornful, more scornful even than Corbière who at least flung his volume square at the century's nose, did not want any of his verse to appear in print." - p 59
"It has to be said: Much of Verlaine's prose is deep purple fustian. A good weave, and made of sturdy stuff, yes, but still deep purple fustian. Often it's been tempting to leach out some of the purpleness, but that is not the translator's role; that would, in fact, go against the translator's humble, professional duty not to try and improve (read: distort) the original work." - pp 5-6
Bravo! No translator shd try to 'improve' the original work - a translator's very difficult job is to try to faithfully present the work in the language the intended readers know. Alas, in the very next paragraph, the translator writes:
"In many instances, the poem given by Verlaine differs from the definitive version; in all cases I have taken the definitive version rather than the one originally given in Les Poètes maudits." - p 6
I wd've preferred that Madar, the translator, wd've NOT made this decision. Something's becoming "definitive" is not always w/o a suspicious process behind it. For scholarly purposes, having access to variant versions of a poem might be quite useful for understanding its development etc. To have access to such a rare collection of poetry gleaned from a source as primary as Verlaine is an opportunity wasted by defaulting to more well-known versions. As Verlaine writes, pleading for poems by Rimbaud he knows to exist:
"So let us here beseech all our known and unknown friends who might possess Les Veilleurs, Accroupissements, Les Pauvres à l'église, Les Reveilleurs de la nuit, Douaniers, Les Main de jeanne-Marie, Souer de Charité and anything else signed by this prestigious name, to be willing to send them to us for the probable case in which this work must be finished. In the name of the honor of Letters, we will repeat our prayer. The manuscripts will be religiously returned, once copies are made, to their generous owners." - p 59
Keep in mind, this wasn't the day of photocopiers & scanners. Either he was going to have them hand-copied or typeset or whatever. Copies of poems were RARE. "Definitive" versions of poems might've been Rimbaud's idea of the best one or a Rimbaud scholar's idea of the best one or whatever but that doesn't necessarily discount other versions.
Otherwise, this is a lovely edition insofar as the poems are presented in both French & English. Alas, one thing that's apparently missing are portraits of the poets that the reader learns about having been in the original edition by reading Verlaine's "About The Following Portraits". The only one provided in this edition is of Rimbaud & is the same portrait on the cover of the edition of Illuminations that I have (although less cropped in The Cursed Poets). Verlaine has this to say about it:
"Étienne Carjat photographed M. Arthur Rimbaud in October 1871. It is this excellent photograph that the reader now has in front of him, reproduced, just like the picture taken from nature of Corbière, by the process of photogravure.
"Is he not the "Sublime Boy" without the atrocious failure of Chateaubriand, but not without the protestation of lips which have long been sensual, and a pair of eyes lost in very old memories rather than any dream, however precocious? A kid Casanova, but even more so a certified expert in love-affairs, doesn't he laugh with his flaring nostrils and his handsome dimpled chin; doesn't he seem to have just said, "go take a hike" to all illusions that don't owe their existence to the most irrevocable will? The proud mop of hair could only be tousled, like cushions gracefully rumpled by the elbow of some sultanesque whim. And this virile disdain for all good grooming, so useless besides the devil's own quite literal beauty!" - pp 10-11
Yes, Verlaine had it bad - but at least he wasn't mediocre about it!
"We might have called them Absolute Poets to be more cautious, but, aside from the fact that caution is hardly in season these days, our title has something for the type of reader whom we hate, and, we're sure of it, something for the survivors among the All-Powerful Ones in question, for the common herd of élite readers — a rude jab of the middle finger that makes us feel better." - p 12
So, apparently, the middle finger gesture dates at least back to the 19th century & was used in France. According to Wikipedia, "The gesture dates back to Ancient Greece and was also used in Ancient Rome. Historically, it represented the phallus. In some modern cultures, it has gained increasing acceptance as a sign of disrespect, and has been used by music artists, athletes, and politicians. Most still view the gesture as obscene." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_finger ) Looking online, I also found this:
( http://www.ascii-middle-finger.com/ ) Nice! Even the URL's a hoot!
The 1st poet discussed is "Tristan Corbière [who] was a Breton, a sailor, and the aloof scornful type par excellence" (p 13) A "Breton" being a person from Brittany, the Northwest coast of France, an area that interests me more & more partially thanks to the information rc'vd about the area from a friend of mine from there: Brittany's incorporation into France is not necessarily any more welcome than many other such incorporations. Verlaine references his 'Breton-ness' thusly:
"What a Breton bretonning in the grand old style! The child of the moors and great oaks and riverbanks that were! And how he remembers and cherishes, this frightening faux-skeptic, the closely held superstitions of his tender, rustic brethren of the coast!" - p 21
The 1st of his poems presented starts off in French like this:
Si ma guitare
Que je répare,
Trois fois barbare,
- The full translation from Madar follows:
If my guitar which I repair, triply barbaric, Indian kriss,
Torturer's tool, guillotine, bag of tricks, doesn't do well . . .
If my worse voice can't tell you of my sweet martyrdom . . . — A dog's life! —
If my cigar, comfort and lighthouse, doesn't bother you at all; — Fire for burning . . .
If my menace, passing cyclone, lacks gracefulness; — Mute from howling! . . .
If my soul the sea in flames has no sharp edge — Cooks by freezing . . .
Then I'm leaving!
- pp 14- 15
(Corbière lived from 1845-1875, not quite making it to 30 yrs old) for those of you who, like myself, get a sense of a person's originality or lack thereof based on their placement in a chronology)
1st, I love the poem; 2nd I'm struck by the challenge the translator faces: the original has the last words of the 1st 3 lines of each stanza rhyme, the 4th & last line of each stanza rhymes w/ that of the 4th line in the 1st 3 stanzas & then the rhyme changes so that the 4th lines in the next 3 stanzas rhyme w/ each other AND w/ the final line that stands alone. This rhyme scheme is obviously taut & influences what words Corbière can choose.
Madar's approach to the translating is to not render the rhyme schemes but to opt instead for the sense of the words only. Given that I'm NOT a translator but that I appreciate the extreme difficulties of doing a good job of it, I can only admire the success w/ wch Madar does his job. What I'm reminded of is the Preface written by Jean Calais to his edition of the poetry of Villon published as number one of "The Pick Pocket Series":
"Some of these poems as a result are literally reckoned and others literally are not. Nowhere did I deliberately deviate from the muse (sic) of the original, and where I did I always believed I was playing an actual rope supplied by Villon. If I have anywhere taken liberties with a particular passage, it is a text which continually liberates its intelligence by the undoing of its adversaries.
"I did take the task "seriously." That is, I wanted to make the best poems possible, ones that would have the directness, the vitality, the immediacy and the energy (not to mention the sunsets) of the original, without sacrificing authenticity and everyday liveliness."
I loved Calais's rendering of Villon but, not being familiar w/ the original French, am not qualified to comment further on the quality of the translation. It certainly got me interested in Villon so I reckon Calais more than did his job there.
All that sd, I can't help but yearn somewhat for poetry translations that accomplish all this AND preserve the rhyme scheme. A tall order, I know, but on a generally formal level (rather than a strictly 'poetic' one), an order prodigiously met by Gilbert Adair in his translation of George Perec's La Disparition, wch Adair translated as A Void. If Adair can take a French novel in wch the letter "e" never occurs & translate it into English w/o having the letter "e" occur EITHER & still preserve the plot of the novel AND have it be 'good' reading than, surely preserving the rhyme scheme in relatively simple poems shdn't be so impossible. Of course, translators aren't necessarily pd well enuf to justify the expenditure of time that might be required, etc, etc..
Corbière strikes me as borderline proto-Surrrealist in "ÉPITAPHE" ("EPITAPH"), the last section of wch is translated as:
"Of je ne sais quoi. — But not knowing where; of gold, — but penniless; of nerves, — but nerveless. Vigor without force; of élan, — but with a sprained ankle; of soul — and no violin; of love, — but of the lowest kind; — Too many names to have a name. —" - p 17
But, in the long run, not really stream-of-consciousness enuf to be Surrealist, too expressive, but successfully I find, of a "je ne sais quoi" state of mind.. or being.. I reckon that the "soul" w/ "no violin" is some sort of associative reference a little more metaphorically based than it's preceding pairs & that it's rooted in cultural imagery that wd've been plain to the readers of its time.. But what if "violon"'s rhyming w/ the end word of the next line, "étalon", determined its choice a bit more than its meaning? What if another word, less metaphorical, wd've been chosen if the rhyme had worked that way? That's when I wonder what a rhymed translation wd be like.. A translation that preserves the sound structure & has to resort to straining the metaphor to do it..
Verlaine comments on Corbière:
"As for the rest, we would have to cite the entire section of this book, and then the entire book, or rather it would be necessary to reprint this unique work, Les Amours jaunes, which appeared in 1873 and is today nearly impossible to find, a book in which Villon and Pyrrho would be pleased to find an often worthy rival — and the most renowned of today's true poets would find a master (to say the least) of their own stature." - p 18
Indeed. He's got me interested. & I certainly understand the "we would have to cite the entire section of this book, and then the entire book" - as anyone who reads my reviews may groan knowingly! SO, is These Jaundiced Loves "today nearly impossible to find"?! No, thank the holy ceiling light, no. There're copies available online for as low as $6.21. Do I HAVE $6.21? No, indeed, I don't, not after losing my last $6 out of my pocket yesterday. Maybe someone else will find that $6 & buy These Jaundiced Loves w/ it! Not bloody likely.
& now we reach Rimbaud. I wrote earlier that "I provided the back-story about Verlaine's relationship w/ Rimbaud partially to show that Verlaine's praise for his writing continued even tho Rimbaud had him put in prison. This can be taken to mean both that Verlaine was 'hopelessly' 'in love' w/ Rimbaud &/or that he intended to praise the poetry as great regardless of how disastrous his personal relationship may've been w/ him." & here's how Verlaine (in translation, ie) introduces the subject:
"We have had the joy of knowing Arthur Rimbaud. Today things separate us from him without, of course, his genius and his character ever having lacked our deep admiration." - p 29
"Here a parenthesis, and if these lines happen to fall under his eyes, then let Arthur Rimbaud know that we do not judge men's motives, and let him be assures of our complete approval of (and dark sorrow at, as well) his abdandonment of poetry, provided, as we don't doubt, that this abandonment was for him sensible, honest, and necessary." - p 30
[Coincidentally, while I was reading the above, I was also reading (well, not quite simultaneously) Stephen Emerson's "Letters to Verlaine" in RAMPIKE Vol. 23, No. 1]
For the complete review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Jul 02, 2014
Jul 11, 2014
Jul 05, 2005
Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 26, 2014
I enjoy reading crime fiction but doing so...more review of
Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 26, 2014
I enjoy reading crime fiction but doing so is a pretty low priority for me & I don't know enough about the authors to be able to pick out more than a handful that I've ever found very interesting. I like to think that this handful represent la crème de la crème but there may be all sorts of obscure crime fiction writers out there whose work I unjustly neglect. Judging the bk by its cover, Bonfiglioli seemed to have some potential to at least dangle from the edges of the handful - & that's where I place him now that I've read this bk.
The bk's cover led me to expect the protagonist, Charlie Mortdecai, to be an 'anti-hero' of sorts - a not particularly likable character who nonetheless (sortof) solves the crime (or whatnot).. &, yeah, that's what he was for me.. except that he wasn't quite as unlikable as I expected & the bits meant to make him that way weren't that convincing.
Bonfiglioli's actually a pretty literary writer, he's no Mickey Spillane. Each chapter begins w/ an epigraph: "The epigraphs are all by Swinburne, except one which is a palpable forgery." (p 6) "The Swinburne forgery is, in a way, signed." (p 7) I don't really know anything about Swinburne, I may've never read anything by him. The only association I have w/ him is thru a song on The Fugs First Album called "Swineburne Stomp" & attributed to "A. C. Swineburne [&] Ed Sanders". I don't know whether the extra "e" in the Fugs version was something done as a joke to turn "Swin" into "Swine" or a mistake or a way to avoid copyright infringement or what. I didn't try to figure out wch epigraph is the "palpable forgery".
The novel takes place in Jersey Island, a place I know next to nothing about but that interests me b/c it's an independent country that's under the protection of Great Britain but not part of it or a part of France - even tho it's right off France's coast - nor is it part of the European Union (not that that wd've mattered as of the time of this bk's writing). Making things even more politically tricky, I reckon it's more accurate to say that it's right off Brittany's coast - St Helier, Jersey being only an hr & 20 minute ferry ride away from St Malo, Brittany. Brittany being perhaps comparable to the Basque country insofar as its inclusion in France is similarly unpopular as the Basque country's inclusion in Spain is. Jersey has its own language, Jèrriais: "Seyiz les beinv'nus `à Jérri" translating into "Welcome to Jersey" & looking somewhat like French. A French version of the proceeding being something like "Bienvenue à Jersey" w/ "Jersey" probably being something else. Catalan, spoken by the Basque people, being like a mix of French & Castilian (what's generally known as Spanish). Ah! Independence (&/or attempts thereat)!
"Much more important (outside St Helier) are the Honorary Police, who are of course unpaid. They do not wear uniforms — you are supposed to know who they are. Each of the twelve Parishes has a Connétable; under him are the Centeniers, each of whom in theory, protects and disciplines a hundred families and leads five Vingteniers who guard twenty families each. These are all elective posts but elections rarely afford any surprises, if you see what I mean, and in any case there is little competition for these honours.
"No one is legally under arrest in Jersey until a Centenier has tapped him on the shoulder with his absurd, tiny truncheon of office (you can imagine how the Paid Police like that rule)" - p 13
"The Honorary Police of Jersey are used to being teased: all those whom I have had the pleasure of meeting are just, honorable, intelligent and can take a joke." - p 7
The only thing I can remember reading about Jersey prior to reading this novel was The Beast of Jersey, a 'true crime' bk about Edward Paisnel "by his wife Joan Paisnel" (as the bk cover has it) who (according to the bk's back cover) "was a Jekyll and Hyde figure who terrorized the island for eleven years, [who] in 1971 [..] was convicted of thirteen sex offenses against young children."
"Paisnel was obsessed with the powers of evil. In his Hyde moments he wore a hideous rubber mask and nail-studded bracelets. And at home he had a secret room filled with the ritual tools of Black Magic."
SO, I was further engrossed in Something Nasty in the Woodshed when, after the 1st of series of rapes that constitute the central crimes of the story, the similarity of the crime to those of "The Beast" are introduced by the character Sam:
"'The Beast of Jersey,' Sam explained. 'You know, the chap who terrorized the Island for a dozen years; used to creep into children's rooms, carry them out the window, do odd things to them in the fields — not always very nasty — then pop them back into their little beds. The police think that there may have been more than a hundred such assaults but naturally most of them were not reported, for reasons which you will, um, appreciate. He used to wear a rubber mask, most of the victims said that he had an odd smell and he wore bizarre clothes, studded with nails. Just before you moved here they caught a chap called Paisnel, who is now serving thirty years, rightly or wrongly.' - p 27
What the "not always very nasty" instances were, if any, I don't know. Looking thru Joan Paisnel's bk again all the assaults seem nasty enuf to be permanently traumatizing.
"'What was interesting,' Sam went on as I chewed my spleen, 'was that Paisnel kept on saying that it was "all part of something" but he wouldn't say what and he said that when he was arrested he was on his way to meet "certain people" but he wouldn't say whom.'
"'Perfectly obvious,' said George; 'the beggar was one of these witches or witchmasters. It all comes back to me now. The plumber told me all about it when he came in drunk just after Christmas. Seems it wasn't this Paisnel fellow at all, all the locals know who it was, including most of the Honorary Police . . . or did he say Paisnel was just part of it?'
"'That strain again,' murmured Sam, 'it hath a dying fall . . .'
"'Quite right. And this Paisnel had a secret room, hadn't he, with a pottery frog or toad in it and that was supposed to be "part of it " too. And there was one of those Papist Palm Sunday crosses in the car he was nabbed in and they say he screamed when they asked him to touch it.'" - pp 27-28
According to the Wikipedia entry on him, "Edward Paisnel returned to Jersey briefly following his release from prison but moved away due to the strength of local feeling against him. He died in the Isle of Wight in 1994." - ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Paisnel
Something Nasty in the Woodshed being copyrighted in 1972, Paisnel must've been a fresh topic at the time. Bonfiglioli's choosing Jersey as a location & working The Beast into the plot were intriguing factors in my engagement w/ the bk. But if this had been only a rip-off of a disturbing true crime story I might not've liked it at all in the long run. Instead, Bonfiglioli manages to write a fairly rich tale. He sets the tome by beginning w/ this:
"Seven thousand years ago — give or take a few months — a great deal of water left the North Sea for good reasons of its own, which I cannot recall off-hand, and poured over the lower parts of on North-West Europe, forming the English Channel and effectively separating England from France, to the mutual gratification of both parties (for if it had not happened, you see, we English would have been foreigners and the French would have had to eat bread sauce)." - p 9
So Bonfiglioli works in some scholarliness & has a pretty good sense of humor. He's also pretty damned flippant considering some of the horrors of his plot. After George's wife gets raped, George is sitting in an armchair ruminating:
"' Bloody swine,' he growled. 'Raped my wife. Ruined my wistaria.'
"'I'll send me man round first thing in the morning to have a look at it,' said Sam. 'The wistaraia I mean. They're very tenacious things — soon recover. Wistaria,' he added; gratuitously, it seemed to me." - p 25
"A cold coming I had of it, I don't mind telling you, just the worst time of the year for a vigilante patrol. I believe I've already given you my views about the month of May in the British Isles. This May night, as I picked my glum way down to Belle Etoile Bay, was cold and black as a schoolgirl's heart and the moon — in its last quarter and now quite devoid of the spirit of public service — reminded me only of a Maria Teresa silver dollar which I had once seen clenched between the buttocks of a Somali lady who was, I fancy, no better than she should be. But enough of that." - p 159
These are apparently intended to reinforce the narrator's depiction as sexist. In one scene, Mortdecai's inner monologue runs like this:
"You see, we anti-feminists don't dislike women in the least; we prize. cherish, and pity them. We are compassionate. Goodness, to think of the poor wretches having to waddle through life with all those absurd fatty appendages sticking out of them; to have all the useful part of their lives made miserable by the triple plague of constipation, menstruation and parturition; worst of all, to have to cope with those handicaps with only a kind of fuzzy half-brain — a pretty head randomly filled, like a tiddly-winks cup, with brightly-colored scraps of rubbish — why, it wrings the very heart with pity. You know how your dog sometimes gazes anguishedly at you, its almost human eyes yearning to understand, longing to communicate? You remember how often you have felt that it was on the very brink of breaking through the barrier and joining you? I think that's why you and I are so kind to women, bless 'em. (Moreover, you scarcely ever see them chasing cats or fouling the footpaths.)" - p 59
Contrarily, in the author's prelude of sorts he says: "The fictional narrator is a nasty, waspish man: pray do not confuse him with the author, who is gentle and kind." (p 7) It's not too hard to interpret that as a bit tongue-in-cheek. In general, the perspective as presented thru the narrator is also pretty tongue-in-cheek:
"Nothing really had happened in the newspapers that day, either, except that some Arabs had murdered some Jews, some Jews had retaliated on some Arabs, some Indians had perfected an atomic bomb for dropping on Pakistanis and various assorted Irishmen had murdered each other in unpleasant ways. You really have to hand it to God, you know, he has terrific staying power. Jehovah against Mohammed, Brahma against Allah, Catholic against Protestant: religion really keeps the fun going, doesn't it. If God didn't exist the professional soldiers would have to invent him, wouldn't they?" - pp 44-45
Maybe they did.
The author's, Bonfiglioli's, literateness commingles w/ his dubiously separated narrator's: "Nerciat rubbed shoulders with D. H. Lawrence, the Large Paper set of de Sade (Illustrated by Austin Osman Spare)" (p 84) fits in well enuf as a description of the occultist Earl's library (complete w/ the Spare detail) - but I found the narrator's quoting Borges a bit far-fetched: "Borges remarks that we have chosen our own misfortunes. 'Thus,' he explains, 'every negligence is deliberate . . . every humiliation is penitence . . . every death a suicide.'" (p 101)
&, then: "('This is the last and greatest treason: To do the wrong thing for the right reason' sings Alfred Prufrock, if that's the right way round. And if it matters.)" (p 103) Bonfiglioli's being sly here by having his narrator's 'ignorance' twist the quote around: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason." - T. S. Eliot, from his play "Murder in the Cathedral" Ok, I reckon it's realistic enuf to have the educated narrator quote arguably the most famous poet in Britain, someone whose works he was probably forced to read somewhere along the line.
A part of what makes Something Nasty in the Woodshed as entertaining as it was for me is the way he does manage to squeeze in a variety of topics in a sufficiently plot-consistent way. EG: He has the defrocked priest who's come to conduct a black mass to scare the hypothetically occultist rapist bring up this:
"'Well, two years ago I read a book by a man called Konstantin Raudive. It's a perfectly respectable book and endorsed by respectable scientists. Raudive claims, indeed proves, that he heard gentle chattering and muttering coming from the unused intervals of tape from his recorder. I had had the same experience but had put it down to the random wirless reception . . . er, radio?'" - p 111
It's amazing to me the ways in wch Raudive's theories crop up now & again in my life - thru my own experimenting w/ them in the '70s (probably thanks to Chas Brohawn); to conversation between myself, Alan Lord, & Istvan Kantor (Monty Cantsin) about them in an igloo in Montréal in February, 1983, as part of the 6th International Neoist Apartment festival; to incorporating Raudive recordings into my movie about Franz Kamin: DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin) in 2010.
I also found it interesting the way the narrator's & the defrocked priest's description of the state of mind necessary for paranormal experiences jives w/ my own personal experiences:
"I could have told him, had he the wit to ask, that the necessary conditions were that we should have been playing a real game for several hours, that I should have ingested perhaps a third of a bottle of brandy, that I should have been slightly ahead of my table-stakes by virtue of the ordinary run of cards and that, in short, I should have been in that sort of drowsy euphoria where I was effectively asleep in all bodily departments except my card-sense.'
"'You couldn't have put it any better!' cried Eric. 'All the conditions were there, you see: mild fatigue, mild euphoria, mild depression from the brandy — I'll bet your alpha-waves were at something very like ten cycles per second.'" - p 114
Furthermore, my own experiences w/ excessively drinking Pernod jive wonderfully w/ the following:
"For years I had believed that these lines:
'Shot? So quick, so clean an ending?
Oh that was right, lad, that was brave;
Yours was not an ill for mending,
'Twas best to take it to the grave'
were about a horrified young Edwardian who had discovered that he was homosexual. I am in a position to correct literary history in this matter. The lines are about a horrified chap in early middle age who has discovered one morning, that he has not head for Pastis. This, you see, was not the common hangover of commerce, it was a Plague of Egypt with a top-dressing of the Black death." - p 119
Ok, my really bad hangovers have been w/ whiskey but my excess of Pernod mixed w/ water is the only instance of my drinking that I know of that resulted in an almost immediate outbreak of herpes 2. I've never drunk it since.
Is it largely peculiar to mysteries that the main character is obsessed w/ food? Or does such obsessiveness constitute a subgenre across all literature?
"How you deal with the tongue of an ox is as follows: you bid the butcher keep it in his pickle-tub for a fortnight, brushing aside his fanciful pleas that it should be taken out after eight days. Then you rinse it lovingly and thrust it into the very smallest casserole that will contain it, packing the interstices with many an onion, carrot and other pot-herb. Cover it with heel-taps of wine, beer, cider and, if your cook will let you, the ripe, rich jelly from the bottom of the dripping-pot. Let it ruminate in the back of your oven until you can bear it no longer; whip it out, transfix it to a chopping-board with a brace of forks and — offer up grateful prayers to Whomever gave tongues to the speechless ox." pp 127-128
All in all, a good read in the category of fun-to-read-distracting-not-very-important. In other words, I was, once again, distracted from the loneliness of daily life. (less)
Notes are private!
Jun 17, 2014
Jun 26, 2014
Apr 30, 2013
Dec 31, 2013
An Amediaite's Mediated Anti-Media
Florian Cramer's Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 6-11, 201...more An Amediaite's Mediated Anti-Media
Florian Cramer's Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 6-11, 2014
Important bks deserve lengthy reviews. The full review of this one is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Ok, I've been friends w/ the author, Florian Cramer, since I rc'vd a friendly letter from him dated August 27, 1990. He was probably living in Berlin, Germany, at the time. We 1st met in person when he came to visit me in BalTimOre in January of 1993. On January 16th, 1993, we made our 1st collaboration together: a movie entitled "What's Your Fucking Problem You Bloody Gash" (you can witness that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXwhu... ). This pretended to address the issue of why there are so few neoist women.
Since then, I've spent time w/ him in Berlin in 1994, 1997, & 2004; in Hungary in 1997; & he's visited me in Pittsburgh in 2003 & 2012. In the fall of 1994, he was probably the 1st person to publish writings of mine online. In September, 1996, he was also responsible for having many or all of these same writings published on the "of(f) the w.w.web" CD-ROM. He currently hosts many of my websites: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/ .
I consider Florian to be one of the world's leading intellectuals. I consider him to be a great scholar. I consider him to be a prominent neoist. I consider him to be one of my best friends. He has a meticulously analytical mind. He's not easily taken in by hype. I think of him as someone who's highly interested in making infrastructures evident, perhaps as a form on 'enlightenment'. He strikes me as always searching for a hidden essence. "What is a hacker?" [..]:
"1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary." - from "the famous self-written Internet dictionary of computer hackers" (p 220)
In Anti-Media, in the article entitled "In Some Respects Reversed: Georg Philipp Harsdörffer's Frauenzimmer Gesprächspiele" (2004) Florian writes: "Contemporary digital artists such as jodi work" [..] "making the formal systems underlying computer games legible." (p 197) "Seeming to go against the understanding of Spiel (game) as an artificial thing, Harsdörffer etymologizes the word as an onomatopoeic term for flowing water. In doing so, both the signified of the word 'game' as well as the word itself become a sort of game. Or, to use the terminology of Schottelius' linguistic theory, which was published at the same time as Harsdörffer's Gesprächspiele, the word becomes a 'stem word' in which the essence of the thing that it expresses is inscribed." (p 197)
In footnote 13 of the section entitled "Poetic Art of Wisdom: Quirinus Kuhlmann's '41st Kiss of Love'" the reader learns that "Together with Schottelius, Harsdörffer pursued his poetic study of language as part of the Fructiferous Society. Kuhlmann dedicated his '41st Kiss of Love' to a patron who is likewise a member of this literary society." (p 254)
The Fructiferous Society, Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft in the original German, "was a German literary society founded in 1617 in Weimar by German scholars and nobility. Its aim was to standardize vernacular German and promote it as both a scholarly and literary language, after the pattern of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence and similar groups already thriving in Italy, followed in later years also in France (1635) and Britain." [..] "It disbanded in 1668." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_... ) Florian revived this society in 1997 or thereabouts & invited me to be one of its only members (despite my essentially not speaking German). I went on to make a movie entitled "Story of a Fructiferous Society". Interested readers can read my article about that movie in OTHERZINE issue 17 (Fall, 2009) here: http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/... .
"A die in the middle of ornamental vines that outline the perimeter of an overturned triangle; above this, the line, 'Auff manche Art verkehrt' (In some respects reversed). This is how the 'Haubtregister' ('index') of the eighth volume of Georg Philipp Harsdörffer's Frauenzimmer Gesprächspielen ends." [..] "Does the emblem represent the Gesprächspiele itself, which appeared in eight volumes between 1641 and 1649, or does it represent the author, Harsdörffer, who as a member of the Fruitbearing Society was given the name of 'The Player'?" - p 193 Florian is "The Forked One" & I'm "The Ballooning One" - both of our names refer to specific plants.
Given my whole-minded endorsement of the fruits of Cramer's labor, I'm nonetheless uncertain about this bk's title: does it really address & define "anti-media"? Are the writings really "ephemera"? Is the subject really "speculative arts"? I reckon I have to write this review in order to answer these questions. Cramer's introductory paragraph holds great promise:
"While this book was in the making, an article in the online arts journal Triple Canopy almost destroyed it. "Speculative" turns out to be one of the most fashionable buzzwords in what authors Alix Rule and David Levine call "International Art English' ('IAE').' Rule and Levine analyze the lingo of 'the art world press release', particularly on the e-flux mailing list, and reconstruct how in the 1970s, French structuralist and German Frankfurt school jargon was imported into the canonical American arts journal October. From there, it mutated into today's globalized, pseudo-scholarly contemporary art English. Rule and Levine predict the 'implosion' of this 'decadent period of IAE' along with art biennials and the globalized 'curatorial' art discourse." - p 7
In my review notes I referred to this as an "hilarious beginning!" Now, after many mnths have elapsed since I started reading the bk, I'm not totally sure why I found it so "hilarious" - perhaps simply b/c Florian seems to be effacing himself from the get-go, perhaps b/c he's immediately acknowledging the pitfalls of language that has the appearance of intellectual substance but that may really be more of a lingo-smokescreen behind wch emptiness hides. University art students are taught to embellish their work w/ the appearance of heavy theory thru the use of jargon known only to elites - but does the mere use of the jargon inevitably signify a parallel degree of specialization in the work itself? Or might the jargon just be the Emperor's New Clothes intended to make anyone who points out the substantial nudity seem like an intellectual child?
Now, I have my very sizable collection of magazines in my personal library organized into 2 areas: read (& that means read as completely as whatever my knowledge of the languages involved enables me) & not-read (meaning not read at all or only partially read). I find that I only have 2 issues of October, #3 (Spring 1977) & #17 (Summer 1981), & that I haven't read either of them (or, perhaps, only an article here & there). Somehow, October (1976-the present) has never appealed to me in the way that, say, Art-Language: The Journal of Conceptual Art (1969-1978), Avalanche (1970-1976), General Idea's FILE (1972-1989), The Fox (1975-1976), High Performance (1978-1997), lightworks (1975-2000), semiotext(e) (1974-1984?-the present?), View (1978-1993), & VILE (1974-1983) did.
semiotext(e), at least, started introducing French philosophy to the US slightly before October came around but their style was so flagrantly radical queer that I was impressed by the sheer audacity of it. I've always imagined that their "Man/Boy Love" issue from Summer, 1980, & their "Polysexuality" issue from 1981 probably put a substantial damper on their academic distribution - no more cash-cow university bookstores. &, indeed, while I still see "Polysexuality" available from The MIT Press, the "Man/Boy Love" issue is nowhere to be found - perhaps this is b/c it was newsprint, perhaps not. October is also distributed by The MIT Press.
It's tempting to slanderously hypothesize that the reason why something like October endures is b/c it's such a dry academic journal that the likelihood of its ever making any significant political difference in the world, despite its possible Marxist orientation, is nil. In other words, my ongoing (&, perhaps, increasingly tedious) contention is that the more IAE people use, the more funding they're likely to get b/c the more obvious it'll be to funders that the blah-blah stays safely in la-la. Alas, that's an oversimplification. October, obviously, thrives b/c it's the most entrenched in academia & academia thrives when it's the least threatening to the status quo.
Moving on: Florian continues in his introduction to say that "Joseph Beuys, a highly problematic figure with his left-nationalist missionary aspirations, summed it up in his formula that everyone was an artist, and accepted — among others — cooks and nurses into his Düsseldorf academy class." (p 10)
This issue of "everyone['s being] an artist" seems to have run thru, at least peripherally, my entire life. At some point, I might've found the notion challenging &/or exciting &/or radical: What if everyone's creativity were encouraged? Wd we have a more playful, a more flexible society? Maybe - but, 'when it comes down to it', not everyone wants to be an artist, not everyone gets the stimulus from it that people that it comes more naturally to do. Furthermore, the more 'art' is promoted as something that everyone can 'do', the more creativity seems to become undervalued.
I remember working in a bkstore in BalTimOre: I was playing the music of Anthony Braxton, a musician of consummate skill. A customer came in & sd: "My grandson could play better than that!" I replied: "You must have a very talented grandson." This imbecile didn't know shit from shinola but she was sure her ignorant opinion was unassailable. I prefer a society where skill is recognized & appreciated.
If "everyone['s] an artist" is everyone also a murderer, a car mechanic, a cook? I find it easy enuf to believe that all of us have some latent potential along any of those lines - but that doesn't mean we shd delude ourselves into thinking we're the 'real thing'. By all means if you want to be an artist & everyone's discouraging you as lacking talent, do it anyway but, please, I hope that you don't perpetuate the notion that critical standards are absolutely disposable.
Florian, like myself, is a neoist. Neoists may be almost entirely 'white' males from 'western' backgrounds (wch is unfortunate) but that doesn't really mean we're all the same.
"A 1985 issue of SMILE — a zine that could be published by anyone, thus anticipating the shared identity of 'Anonymous' — contained an aphorism that is quoted elsewhere in this book:
"Anti-art is art because it has entered into a dialectical dialogue with art, re-exposing contradictions that art has tried to conceal. To think that anti-art raises everything to the level of art is quite wrong. Anti-art exists only within the boundaries of art. Outside these boundaries it exists not as anti-art but as madness, bottle-racks and urinals.
"A book called 'anti-media' can't help being about 'media' for the same reasons. The only difference is that 'media' lack boundaries where 'art' — in the sense of contemporary visual art rather than in the broadest sense — has to draw them out of its own systemic and economic necessity. In both anti-art and anti-media, a love/hate relationship is undeniably at work." - p 14
Some people call me an "artist", some probably call me an "anti-artist". I don't consider myself to be either - much like I don't consider myself to be a Christian or a Satanist. One advantage that I can see to the term "anti-media" is that I'm not likely to be called an "anti-mediaist" or an "anti-medium". How about Amediaite?: a person who tries to avoid the propaganda traps of mediated existence - akin to an Atheist.
"In their research on International Art English, Rule and Levine note that: 'Usage of the word speculative spiked unaccountably in 2009; 2011 saw a sudden rage for rupture; transversal now seems poised to have its best year ever.' It was too late to change the subtitle of this book as it had already been announced by the publisher." - p 15
Yes, in IAE there are fashionable words wch, as in clothing fashion, are meant to make the user seem up-to-date. It doesn't pay to not be on top of the latest art trend. But what about the people who make their own clothes, who coin their own neologisms? The fashionable people are just buying into a system that rewards them in the same way that going to an elite university & getting a degree from there does - but it doesn't make them creative people. The mere fact that Cramer is even willing to criticize the language of his own bk's title rather than to try to further milk a particular word's recent IAE popularity cd be construed to mean that he's abandoning a sinking ship to try to stay fashionable OR that he's maintaining his integrity. I believe the latter is the case.
"One ought to think that it's a waste of time to give 'interactive media' and 'interactive art' any more serious thought, that there's a broad consensus that these were false promises and sunken big budget ships of late 1980s and early 1990s institutional laboratory art founded on such wacky ideas as — in the case of the German ZKM — 'the Bauhaus of Second Modernism'. We should be only a couple of years away from a time where these monstrosities will be turned into pop culture and celebrated as period kitsch, with the installations of Jeffrey Shaw and company representing 1990s retro kitsch next to Star Trek props for the 1960s, flokati rugs for the 1970s and Commodore home computers for the 1980s." - p 20
I get the impression that the above critique is Euro- &/or Internet- centric. IE: that rather than addressing the concept of interactivity in a broader sense, Florian is reacting against specific instances of "'interactive media' and 'interactive art'" in his immediate environment. Herr Stiletto Studios, another neoist based in Berlin, (probably) coined the term "interpassivity" wch pokes fun at the underacknowledged limits of the not-very-active 'interactivity' that Florian critiques. IMO, if the "'interactive media' and 'interactive art'" doesn't live up to its promises that doesn't invalidate the term, it invalidates the execution in its name.
"While there is, in other words, no such thing as 'interactive media' or 'interactive technology' if one doesn't reduce the notion of interaction to machine feedback, interaction technology and interaction design can and do exist — that is, technology and media that enable and constrain particular human interactions. Language might be the first and most important technology to be named here, architecture is a close second: the possibilities opened up and constraints imposed upon human interaction and communication by language, the constraints and options of human interaction created by the architecture of buildings, cities and landscapes. Nowadays, this also includes information protocols and information architectures, such as the famous 1990s example of AOL chat rooms being limited to 12 participants and banning conversations on AOL. In other words, information technology is 'interactive' only to the degree that it defines platforms of interaction — making it, just like architecture, both powerful and limited." - p 21
Ah ha! That strikes me as a great clarification: "that is, technology and media that enable and constrain particular human interactions." Has there ever been a debate where the ways in wch the debaters use their vocabulary aren't subtly at odds w/ each other?
"While 'interactivity' remains the radioactive cadaver and zombie that never seems to die, its rhetoric has been largely replaced by that of 'openness', in notions such as Open Source, Open Content, Open Access, open technology and even open society. 'Openness' is the biggest red herring of the IT industry. Software like OpenVMS, HP OpenCall, Apple OpenFirmware, Novell Open DOS, SCO OpenServer, file formats like Microsoft Office Open XML and websites like OpenBC and OpenID demonstrate how the word 'open' is the standard newspeak for a product not being open. But ultimately, the ideology that equates technological openness with social openness is based on cybernetic thinking just as much as on the ideology of interactivity, since it flatly conflates society and technology." - p 22
What Florian doesn't mention here is the definition of the collective identity, Monty Cantsin (&, perhaps only by implication, its successors), as an Open Pop Star - a notion conceived of by mail artist David Zack in 1978 or thereabouts & then developed thru neoism. One might explain this omission by saying that a name (& its attendant 'naming' subtext(s)) is not a 'technology' but given his statement from p 21 that "Language might be the first and most important technology to be named here" that explanation probably doesn't fly. Given that Monty Cantsin is the foremost collective neoist identity, Anti-Media is salted & peppered w/ references to it:
"The name SMILE is a travesty of FILE, a paper published by Canadian artist group General Idea that originally imitated the graphic design of LIFE magazine. FILE in turn had been parodied by Anna Banana's mail art periodical VILE and Bradley Lastname's fanzine BILE in the early 1980s. SMILE mutated, among other things, into MILES, SLIME, LIMES, LISME, EMILS, C-NILE and iMmortal LIES. As an 'international magazine of multiple origins', it appeared in more than 100 known issues published by different editors in Europe, America and Australia, many of whom adopted the collective pseudonyms Karen Eliot and Monty Cantsin." - p 26(less)
Notes are private!
Jun 06, 2014
Jun 11, 2014
John Brunner's The Avengers of Carrig
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 2, 2014
This is probably the 1st of the many Brunner bks that I'v...more review of
John Brunner's The Avengers of Carrig
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 2, 2014
This is probably the 1st of the many Brunner bks that I've read that I have close to nothing to say about. It's probably also the 1st one that was generic enuf for it not to even seem like it 'had' to be written by Brunner. The back of the title p informs the reader that "A considerably shorter version of this novel appeared in 1962 under the title Secret Agent of Terra" (p 4)
If you're just looking for light reading to breeze thru w/o much caring, this is the Brunner for you. Otherwise, don't bother. The plot was enjoyable enuf, any significant writing about the bk wd have to reference the plot b/c there's so little else there. In other words, there're no remarkable esoteric references, there's no political subtext beyond the obvious good guys & bad guys, etc.. I reckon that for such a short bk it manages to bring in enuf varied environment & characters to be stimulating but, still, this is basically something just written to keep the author's bks rolling out there. It might fare better as a movie, one of those swash-buckling adventure yarns like "Star War[t]s" or "Dune[-Bunny]":
""I think," the young server said, and had to swallow nervously before going on—"I think it's a man. Hanging by some kind of harness under the parradile's body!"" - p 143 (less)
Notes are private!
Jun 02, 2014
Jun 02, 2014
Feb 07, 2012
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Dear fellow reviewer, if you reviewed this in 20,000 charcters or less, I'm...more review of
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Dear fellow reviewer, if you reviewed this in 20,000 charcters or less, I'm not sure I trust you. I didn't, so read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I'd at least skimmed 1 or more review(s) of Gaddis on GoodReads. I'd read that he'd been lambasted by the original critics. Did I read that someone even wrote an entire bk in Gaddis's defense?!
I was expecting this to be brilliant. I was expecting it to be difficult. I was expecting it to be experimental. What I WASN'T EXPECTING is what it was: viz: a total success at what most people (I reckon) expect novels to be: viz: an engaging tale, richly described, w/ interesting characters who're exceptionally well-developed: w/ great dialog, wonderful description, & a thoroughly exciting plot that takes the reader to multiple locations in the 'western' world. So what exactly was the fucking problem w/ the original critics?! Really?!!
William H. Gass has this to say in his introduction:
"Many think that it is reviewing which needs to be reformed, but I believe the culprit is the species, which surrounds itself with lies, and calls the lies culture, the way squirrels build their nests of dead twigs and fallen leaves, then hide inside. In any case, as the German philosopher Lichtenberg observed, when reader's brow and book collide, it isn't always the book that is lacking brains." - p viii
Ok, it's long. But the average attn span in the mid 1950s when it was originally published hadn't been eroded by television yet. Ok, many of the characters are flamboyantly perverse. In that respect, this cd even be sd to be contemporaneous w/ OR, pause for effect, slightly ahead of William S. Burroughs. Gaddis's acerbic humor rivals just about anybody. & he sure as fuck is erudite.
& then there's always what I call "Stereotype Projecting", possibly my biggest nemesis in life. People have limited experience, they encounter something outside that experience, unable to cope & unwilling to take the 'risk' of bothering to try to perceive the encounter freshly, they pigeon-hole it in a panic - in a defensive (& harmful) reflex, they put it in the category of 'the enemy' & leave it there. Just to be safe, just in case. Ergo: new information not assimilated, new information slotted into utterly irrelevant projected stereotype instead. Gass has this to say:
"Interpretation replaces the original with the lamest sort of substitute. It tames, disarms. "Okay, I get it," we say, dusting our hands, "and that takes care of that." "At last I understand Kafka" is a foolish and conceited remark." - p xi
If Gaddis has a central target (& he probably doesn't) it might be ignorance. Gaddis, quite reasonably from my POV, knows alot & sees no good reason why others shdn't too. Some of his characters do, some don't. In the end, they all seem to crack. Perhaps Gaddis has a different central target: the absolute unworkability of it all, of humanity's path(s). & THEN THERE ARE THE WORDS (bless 'em!):
"though some fainaiguing had been necessary at Italian customs" - p 25
"fainaiguing"? According to Wiktionary, it's the "Present participle of fainaigue" wch is an "Unknown Britishism, of uncertain origin" - "Maybe from fain, homonym of feign (“to pretend”) and ague (“acute illness”) or cognate French aigüe (as in maladie aiguë, “acute illness”) – literally “to act sick”", "To evade work or shirk responsibility" - "Derived terms": "fainaiguer", "finagle". If I were to use the word in conversation, I can all too easily imagine the person far-more-illiterate-than-I immediately 'correcting' me w/ "finagle".
Gaddis definitely takes the long view, this is epic - but it's not one of those epics where we just slog thru the family tree, it's epic as if we're living it, not being subjected to a fleshed-out genealogy. We start w/ Reverend Gwyon as the main character & he's as fascinating a one as I've ever read-tell-of:
"Reverend Gwyon took all this in a dim view. As his son lay dying of a disease about which the doctors obviously knew nothing, injecting him with another plague simply because they had it on familiar terms could only be an achievement of a highly calculated level of insanity. Wyatt's arms swelled at each point of injection. The doctors nodded, in conclave, indicating that science had foreseen, even planned, this distraction. From among them came Doctor Fell with a scalpel in his hand and a gleam in his eye seldom permitted at large in civilized society" - p 42
Ah, medicine.. Medicine as "another plague" [..] "on familiar terms". The dr I choose to go to on my rare visits agrees w/ me that "less is more", to quote her. I've only taken antibiotics on a very few occasions - hence my immune system is robust. Then again, I destroy myself w/ bad food & excess alcohol use. & I probably won't live as long as people who take medicines from here to eternity. Oh, well, I'm as unworkable as Gaddis's characters. Gwyon solves his son's health problem in a most unusual way.
Gaddis does have some of his characters be as erudite as their author - probably to serve as a vehicle for himself. Is there self-parody at work? Gwyon's sermons are a tad controversial, he seems to make his congregation a bit uneasy. "It did not seem quite necessary, for instance, to note that Moses had been accused of witchcraft in the Koran; that the hundred thousand converts to Christianity in the first two or three centuries in Rome were "slaves and disreputable people," that in a town on the Nile there were ten thousand "shaggy monks" and twice that number of "god-dedicated virgins"; that Charlemagne mass-baptized Saxons by driving them through a river being blessed upstream by his bishops, while Saint Olaf made his subjects choose between baptism and death. No soberly tolerated feast day came round, but that Reverend Gwyon managed to herald its grim observation by allusion to some pagan ceremony which sounded uncomfortably like having a good time. Still the gray faces kept peace, precarious though it might be. They had never been treated this way from the pulpit. True, many stirred with indignant discomfort after listening to the familiar story of virgin birth on December twenty-fifth, mutilation and resurrection, to find they had been attending, not Christ, but Bacchus, Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, Adonis, Marduk, Balder, Attis, Amphion, or Quetzalcoatl," (p 56) Interested readers are directed to Brian Flemming's 2005 documentary "The God Who Wasn't There".
Gaddis often lets the readers know things only if they already know something else. "Anyone could have seen it was transition she was reading, if any had looked. None did." The place? Paris. The yr? Probably sometime between 1927 & 1932, maybe as late as 1938, maybe even later if the issue being read wasn't hot off the presses. "She was drinking a bilious-colored liquid": Pernod, perhaps? Her interests? Contemporary avant-garde culture, James Joyce's "Work in Progress" (later to be known as Finnegans Wake). Even tho she's only presented as speaking Français, the reader knows that she speaks English if the reader already knows that transition was an English-language journal. For me, that's one of the greatnesses of Gaddis's writing - instead of spelling everything out, every step of the way, he puts the reader in the position of coming in mid-stream w/ whatever swimming agilities they have & lets them experience the whirlpool more for what it is:
"Otto stood, examining his fingernails. Then he looked at his watch, and music burst upon him. —What is it? he asked, approaching the door of the studio.
"—This? Something of Handel's, an oratorio Judas Maccabaeus.
"—Oh. It's . . . it's splendid isn't it, Otto went on, unable to show his appreciation by listening. —Lo the conqueror comes, sang the bass.
"—It always seems too bad when they have to translate these things. I mean, it must sound much more impressive in the original.
"—I mean . . . in German, he said" - p 136
Now, the original is in English but Otto's bluffing, he's trying to say something learn-ed [sic]. If Gaddis had had Wyatt (who Otto's talking w/) correct Otto & if such a correction were to be made by all of the characters every time such a mistake is made then all of the characters wd become homogenized. Instead, Gaddis just has Wyatt disgusted. Many people's lives & livelihoods revolve around Wyatt while he still remains, in many respects, socially dysfunctional. Esther, Wyatt's wife, & Otto are en route to a party & Esther hands Otto a scrap of paper w/ the party's address on it:
"—No. The other side. God knows what that is, something of his.
"—The equation of x [to the power of n] plus y [to the power of n] has no nontrivial solution in integers for n greater than 2." - p 136
At 1st, I thought this was a different way of expressing Fermat's Last Theorem ("In number theory, Fermat's Last Theorem (sometimes called Fermat's conjecture, especially in older texts) states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat... ) wch took 358 yrs for mathematicians to prove. "God knows what that is, something of his" becomes emblematic of Wyatt's isolation from those around him. But I don't really know - & this "not knowing" is what surrounds Wyatt as he becomes more & more introverted & detached from other people.
Then again, maybe I DO know what I'm talking about after all b/c on p 361:
"Now damn it talk to me, let's get all this straight. What's on your mind?
"—The equation of x to the power of n plus y to the power of n has no nontrivial solution in integers for n greater than two.
"—That is Fermat's last theorem."
Notice that "136" & "361" are anagrams of each other. Coincidence?
Wyatt leaves Esther, drifts away, basically, & Otto becomes her lover. Gaddis's depiction of the difference between the 2 is subtle:
"Later, he called from the bathroom, —This handkerchief drying on the mirror, can I take it off and fold it up? It's dry . . . Esther? did you hear me? This handkerchief . . . ?
"—Yes yes, she cried out, suddenly, then caught her voice and controlled it. —Yes, take it down. She picked up Otto's jacket from the couch and went toward the bathroom where she heard the sound of the electric razor.
"—It's all right if I use this isn't it?
"—Why yes. Yes, of course. I'm glad you're using it.
"—There's a straight razor here, he said turning to her where she stood in the doorway with his jacket, the machine whirring in his hand, —but I don't think I could manage it." - p 148
Cf that to this interaction between Esther & Wyatt on p 90:
"—Wyatt, something awful's happened. Where are you? Then she almost screamed, seeing him standing in the door of the studio with blood all over one side of his face and his neck. —What happened?
"—What is it? he asked. —What awful thing?
"—What's happened to you? she cried running up to him.
"—What? He stood there with a straight razor opened in his hand.
"—What are you doing?
"—Shaving . . .
"—Did you do that . . . shaving? What are you doing in there, shaving.
"—Oh, he said running his fingertips over his chin, and looking at the blood on them. —It's a mess, I'm sorry Esther. The mirror, I was using this mirror in here, you have the one in the bathroom covered . . .
"—Covered! she burst out impatiently, twisting the letter in her hand.
"—It has a cloth over it, I thought for some reason you might . . .
"—It's a handkerchief drying, why didn't you just pull it off."
The reader has to remember 2 somewhat minor incidents 58pp apart in order to appreciate this. Indeed, Gaddis tries the memory of even the most ardent reader. A character's name isn't necessarily given in a scene & the reader must remember the character being referred to by name in previous scenes from way-back-when to have a fuller idea of what's going on:
"She hardly spoke, except when he spoke to her and even then, only if he addressed a question, which she would answer very slowly, deliberate and brief. Though once she had burst out with, —Then do Pilgrims need a pass-port too? Or I shall wear a cockleshell, and he will know me and he will know me well . . . Which disarmed Stanley: what could she know of Santiago de Compostela? or when with the same light about to break in her eyes, waiting only his confirmation, she had asked whether it were true, Did the mice eat Saint Gertrude's heart? —For she is a patron saint of them . . ." - p 766
In this case, the lack of solidity of the character, the link to a prior scene at a mental hospital, Stanley's following fate, all add together to make the reader question whether the character 'even exists'.
&, well, let's hope that scenes like the following will be obvious to them by the time you get to them or you might just be hopelessly lost:
"—We even got held up by a highwayman, her husband confirmed.
"—It was on a train.
"—You still call it a highwayman anyway, her husband said patiently, smiling his cheery smile. —And he even talked English.
"—It was broken English. And what do you think he told us? That we're as much to blame, because we're there, that the victim abets the violence just by being there, he said, and he even made a quotation to prove it.
"—From Dante he told us. He took all our money, at gun-point.
"—Every peseeta we had on us.
"—But he didn't take the cameras, the fat man said. —I guess he didn't know how much they were worth.
"—He said he ought to do us a favor and throw them out the window, can you imagine? My . . . don't they keep it cold here, she shivered.
"Her husband got out his billfold and found a scrap of paper. —Here's a souvenir of it. He made me write it down so I'd remember to get this book and read it. Transcendent Speculations on Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual, that's a mouthful isn't it. I wrote this down at gun-point." - p 881
Or how about this?: "—He says they even get food packages from America, like there was this Protestant minister who came here on a visit about thirty years ago and he always sends them these packages of food." - 884 IE: Wyatt's dad Reverend Gwyon.
It's so much fun to write these reviews & to rearrange the order of the author's meticulously worked-out sequence into my own:
"—Why do they get excited about the ruins in Rome here, Berlin is just as good now.
"—You can always see an ancient city better when it's been bombed." - pp 909-910
"They were going to drive up in some nameless person's new Renault, and they were somewhere in the Fremola valley, when it didn't go right, so they opened the hood to look at the engine, and there was nothing in there but an old tire, they must just have dropped the engine right out. So they just left it there, it was the only thing they could do. In the Saint Gotthard Pass, it was the only thing they could do." - pp 941-942
Uh, did they think to check if the engine was in the back?
While Gaddis certainly gets his digs in at the Ugly 'Merican, he spares no-one, including the French: "Over this grandstand disposal of promise the waiters stared with a distance of glazed indulgence which all collected under it admired, as they admired the rudeness, which they called self-respect; the contempt, which they called innate dignity; the avarice, which they called self-reliance; the tasteless ill-made clothes on the men, lauded as indifference, and the far-spaced posturings of haute couture across the Seine, called inimitable or shik according to one's stay." (p 64) "But on most hands the French were still being taken at their own evaluation. They were still regarded as the most sensitive connoisseurs of alcohol. Barbaric Americans, the barbaric English, drank to get drunk; but the French, with cultivated tastes and civilized sensibilities, drank down six billion bottles of wine this year merely to reward their refined palates: so refined, that a vast government subsidy, and a lobby capable of overthrowing cabinets, guaranteed one drink-shop for every ninety inhabitants; so cultivated, that ten per cent of the family budget went on it, the taste initiated before a child could walk, and death at nineteen months of D.T.s (cockeyed on Pernod) incidental; so civilized, that one of every twenty-five dead Frenchmen had made the last leap through alcoholism." (p 943)
Corruption & derangement; encyclopedic knowledge & talent - these factors combine to take Gaddis's characters on a roller coaster ride w/ no safety measures, w/o, even, a roller coaster:
"And the shadow he cast behind him as he turned away fell back seven centuries, to embrace the dissolute youth of Raymond Lully, and infatuation with the beautiful Ambrosia de Castello, which she discouraged; and if she seemed to succumb at last, offering to bare her breasts in return for a poem he had written to their glory, it was to show him, as he approached in that rapture of which only flesh is capable, a bosom eaten away by cancer; he turned away to his conversion, to his death years later stoned in North Africa, and in his celebration as a scholar, a poet, a missionary, a mystic, and one of the foremost figures in the history of alchemy." - p 77(less)
Notes are private!
May 25, 2014
May 29, 2014
Jan 01, 1971
John Brunner's The Traveler in Black
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 20, 2014
I have a paper bag full of John Brunner bks on the floor o...more review of
John Brunner's The Traveler in Black
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 20, 2014
I have a paper bag full of John Brunner bks on the floor of my bedroom, where I do most of my reading. When I need a break from whatever more challenging bks I'm reading (it's been William Gaddis's The Recognitions + others for quite some time now) I dip into the bag & pull one out. Two dips ago I pulled out Now Then, a collection of 3 novellas that include his earliest published story + a bit called "Imprint of Chaos". My review of Now Then is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... . The most recent Brunner dip produced The Traveler in Black. I noticed that a revised "Imprint of Chaos" began this & that 3 more tales developed the initial idea further. I almost put it back in the bag to pick another one b/c, while I liked "Imprint of Chaos" I didn't want to repeat read it & wallow in what I consider to be a somewhat minor Brunner work.
In my review of "Imprint of Chaos" I postulate the Traveler in Black as Entropy Personified & quote the following to substantiate this: "The black-clad man chuckled. 'He to whom the task was given of bringing order out of chaos in the universe,' he replied."
Now, according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... , entropy is:
"2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity"
wch (ignoring the implications of the word "degradation") describes the Traveler in Black's purpose quite well. HOWEVER, the "b" part of the above definition:
"2 b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder"
- in particular the "trend to disorder" is the OPPOSITE of the Traveler in Black's goal. So wch is he? Entropy Personified? Or Anti-Entropy Personified? I think he's Entropy Personified w/ "entropy" meaning the bringing chaos into order:
"["]I am he to whom was entrusted the task of bringing order forth from chaos. Hence the reason why I have but one nature."" - p 26
"["]what is the purpose of your task?""
""Why! When all things have but one nature, they will be subsumed into the Original All. Time will stop. This conclusion is desirable."
Manuus looked sourly at the brazier. "Desirable, perhaps—but appallingly dull.["]" - pp 26-27
I think I wd've asked: 'Why is it "desirable" & to what? Whom?" Also, I'm no sure I don't agree w/ Manuus's position: is order necessarily preferable to chaos? I'm sure many people in my lifetime have been preoccupied w/ that issue upon noticing that the 'order' imposed on them isn't one conducive to the flourishing of their natural strengths. Take the character Jorkas:
"this was not a young man riding a horse, nor was there in fact a horse being ridden, but some sort of confusion of the two, in that the man's legs were not separated at all from his mount. They ended in fleshy stalks, uniting with the belly of that part of the composite animal resembling a horse." - p 33
""Yes, he bears the imprint of chaos, does he not?" said the man in black. "He is left over, so to speak. He is fairly harmless; things have by-passed him, and his power grows small."" - p 35
""He has rather endured from a period of absolute confusion["]" - p 35
Imagine what we now call mythological beings, such as the minotaur (ignoring that as a metaphor), as actual creatures from a time when natural diversity was much larger. The bringing of 'order' seems to all too often carry w/ it the stamping out of unusual. Jorkas, being a Rara Avis, disappears as possibilities become more narrow-minded. Whenever I'm confused, it's probably usually due to an insufficiency of knowledge or a lack of clarity of communication. I generally prefer to solve this problem thru increasing my understanding. Is an age of "absolute confusion" an age of 'insolvable misunderstanding'?
Jorkas's power becomes so reduced that "the eldritch song Jorkas had been used to sing was turned a lullaby with nonsense words to soothe asleep happy babies in wicker cradles." (p 189) I suppose, as fates go, that's not such a nasty one.
The Traveler in Black identifies himself thusly:
""I have many names, but one nature. You may call me Mazda, or anything you please." - p 12
Many readers may recognize "Mazda" as a brand of car (modest, aren't they?) but how many know this?:
"Major Deities and Figures. The driving forces of Persian mythology were two powerful gods, sometimes presented as twin brothers. Ahura Mazda was the creator, a god of light, truth, and goodness. His enemy Ahriman, the spirit of darkness, lies, and evil, created only destructive things such as vermin, disease, and demons. The world was their battlefield. Although they were equally matched during this period of history, Ahura Mazda was fated to win the fight. For this reason, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, was the supreme deity of Persian mythology. The Zoroastrians identified him with purifying fire and tended fires on towers as part of their worship." - http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Pa-Pr...
"The Wager Lost by Winning" (the 3rd of 4 tales here) (almost) begins w/:
"Leaning on his staff, the traveler in black stood in the shade of a chestnut-tree and contemplated them as they filed by. Directly he clapped eyes on them, the banners had told him whence they hailed; no city but Teq employed those three special hues in its flag—gold, and silver, and the red of new-spilled blood. They symbolized the moral of a proverb which the traveler knew well, and held barbarous, to the effect that all treasure must be bought by expending life.
"In accordance with that precept, the Lords of Teq, before they inherited their father's estates, must kill all challengers, and did so by any means to hand, whether cleanly by the sword or subtly by drugs and venom. Consequently some persons had come to rule in Teq who were less than fit—great only in their commitment to greed.
""That," said the traveler to the leaves on the chestnut-tree, "is a highly disturbing spectacle!"" - pp 121-122
If the Traveler in Black is Entropy, he's a moral judge form of entropy so I suppose having him be a religious/mythological figure is more apropos. One of the most entertaining aspects of this bk is the 'poetic justice' he metes out by giving the people he encounters 'what they ask for' in a form w/ highly undesirable results for them.
""This I pledge on my life!" the merchant fumed. "If my daughter carries on the way she's going, I shall never want to speak to her again—nor shall I let her in my house!"
""As you wish, so be it," said the traveler. From that moment forward the merchant uttered never a word; dumb, he stood by to watch the fine procession in which the girl went to claim her bridegroom, and before she returned home apoplexy killed him, so that the house was no longer his." - p 131
""I must have been!" Viola moaned. "Would that hasty wish of mine come undone!"
""The second time a person calls upon me," said the traveler, "I may point out the consequences if I choose. Do you truly wish to find yourself once again on the green at Wantwich—alone?"
"There was an awful silence, which she eventually broke with a sob.
""However," the traveler resumed, when he judged she had suffered long enough to imprint the moral permanently on her memory" - p 164
One way I cd 'justify' rereading "Imprint" was by looking for differences between the earlier version & the one printed here. In this version, an epigraph from Ovid begins it:
"Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum unus erat tota naturae vultus in orbe, quen dixere Chaos: rudis indigestaque moles.
—Ovid: Metamorphoses, I 5" - p 7
Wch Google Translate (slightly edited by yrs truly here) transforms to: "Before the sea and the lands of all things of heaven, [there] was one which cover[ed] the whole face of Nature in the world, whom the men have spoken of [as] Chaos, rude and undeveloped mass."
Another bit not in the original is this part:
"Manuus hesitated. "Who," he resumed at length, "imposed—?"
"And his tongue locked in his mouth, while the traveler looked on him with an expression blending cynicism and sympathy. When at last the enchanter was able to speak again, he muttered, "Your pardon. It was of the nature of a test. I had seen it stated that . . ."
""That there are certain questions which one literally and physically is forbidden to ask?" The traveler chuckled. "Why, then, your test has confirmed the fact. I, even I, could not answer the question I suspect you were intending to frame.["]" - p 26
What I'm reminded of here is the notion of YHWH as the unspeakable name of 'God'. "Yahweh is called the Divine Name and the Tetragrammaton, or four-letter word, because it has four letters in Hebrew. Most Jewish people won’t even say Yahweh. Instead, they say HASHEM—a Hebrew word that means “The Name”, or they say Adonai—the Hebrew word for Lord. Yahweh is also called the Ineffable Name, or the unspeakable Name, but God’s Name is not unspeakable." ( http://www.hisnameisyahweh.org/hisnam... ) Until I decided to look up "the unspeakable name of god" online I didn't realize that there's a Christinane controversy over Yahweh's being actually sayable (apparently contrary to the Jewish position).
When I've given any thought to it at all, wch isn't often, I've imagined the Jewish position as meaning that anything truly profound is, by definition, beyond human understanding. Imagine the full 189, 824 letter word for the chemical Titin as an attempt to logically describe the chemical in detail (you can witness 2 relevant works of mine online here: https://vimeo.com/86542569 & here: https://archive.org/details/Piano_Ill... ). Now imagine trying to describe the universe using the same method & inserting ____ (blanks) for everything encountered that you don't have a word for. The description wd hypothetically be infinite, the amt of _____s wd be infinite, the amt of words wd be finite. One might call that an unsayable name.
W/o getting further into theological points that're ultimately just wanker bullshit to me, what I imagine in Brunner's scenario, & as an alternative to theological takes, is something being 'unaskable' by virtue of its utter existence outside of the state of mind in wch questions are asked. People awaking from dreams or coming down from expanded consciousness trips routinely find their memories of the experiences 'indescribable'. It may be that these people have too limited an ability TO describe &/OR that the experience is, in actuality, Indescribable - IE: outside of the parameters of what description is capable of b/c of the limits of description. If something is indescribable there's the possibility that no words exist to describe it &/OR that words, by their very nature, are in adequate. Cd the same thing that's postulated here for description also be possibly 'true' of questions?
I'm always thankful to writers who expose me to words I don't already know. "Geas" was the main one here: "geas [..] Pronunciation: /geSH [..] (In Irish folklore) an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person." ( http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/... ) The Traveler in Black's rooting in various mythologies reminds me of Brunner's 1968 Bedlam Planet wch is prefaced by this Author's Note: "In writing this novel I have made extensive use of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology" (the interested reader can see my review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... )
Brunner creates some fictional etymology too: ""And do not lament excessively for Ys. For cities, as for men, there comes a Time . . . Besides, there is a prophecy: a prince shall seek a name for his new capital, and he'll be told of Ys, and out of envy for its greatness he will say, 'I name my city Parys, equal to Ys.'"" (p 117) Wch I counter w/ this quote from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
"Paris [,] capital of France, from Gallo-Latin Lutetia Parisorum (in Late Latin also Parisii), name of a fortified town of the Gaulish tribe of the Parisii, who had a capital there; literally "Parisian swamps" (compare Old Irish loth "dirt," Welsh lludedic "muddy, slimy").
"The tribal name is of unknown origin, but traditionally derived from a Celtic par "boat" (perhaps related to Greek baris; see barge (n.)), hence the ship on the city's coat of arms." - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?t...
Of course, Brunner's version of Paris's etymology is one way of setting the story in a mythical past. Another tactic for the same purpose is to occasionally use slightly archaic language: "Garch's trusted counselors were three, as aforesaid." (p 193)
All 4 of the stories begin w/ a conjunction of planets: "Accordingly, on the day after the conjunction of four significant planets in that vicinity, he set forth" (p 9) "this season followed the conjunction of four significant planets hereabout" (p 71) "or perhaps if they were learned in curious arts and aware of the significance of the conjunction of the four planets presently ornamenting the southern sky in a highly ornamented pattern." (p 122) "leaving the shop lit only—through a skylight—by the far-off gleam of four crucial conjunct planets wheeling downward from the zenithal line." (p 183) A conjunction of planets representing a sort of form-out-of-chaos, perhaps? What I think of is the March 9, 1982 Party for People from the Future during a conjunction of the planets - organized by the Krononautic Organism (a project founded by the fertile imagination of Richard Ellsberry in BalTimOre).
In the 2nd part, "Break the Door of Hell", there's this: "Women, too, passed: high-wimpled dames attended by maids and dandling curious unnamable pets; harlots in diaphanous cloaks through which it was not quite possible if they were diseased" (p 80) wch reminds me of this in Jacob Aranza's 1983 Backward Masking Unmasked - Backward Satanic Messages of Rock and Roll Exposed:
"Allen Parsons Project also has an album entitled Eve. The album's front cover reveals two ladies' faces behind veils. If you take a close look you can see that both ladies have sores and warts on their faces.
"One state's venereal disease investigator looked at the warts and sores on the faces in the picture and concluded that the ladies in the picture were suffering from secondary syphilis.
"How many young people listening to Eve realize that the theme of the album is VD?" - p 65
I'll bet Allen Parsons wd be surprised that that's the theme of his record (esp since he spells his name "Alan")!
Not all of the Elementals left over from the time of chaos & defeated by the Traveler are harmful to the more orderly world of the humans: "At one side of this green was a pond of sweet water which the traveler in black had consigned to the charge of the being Horimos, for whom he had conceived a peculiar affection on discovering that this one alone among all the elementals was too lazy to be harmful, desiring mainly to be left in peace." (p 132)
Did you ever wonder about the Beatles song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"?: "authorizing the mansion's master smith to forge the silver hammer-head." (p 195) "that mirror was cracked across, and the traveler knew with what hammer the blow would have been struck: silver-headed, hafted with a portion of his anatomy that some man—albeit briefly—would have lived to regret the loss of." (209)
According to Wikipedia, "Linda McCartney reports that Paul had become interested in avant-garde theatre and had immersed himself in the writings of Alfred Jarry. This influence is reflected in the story and tone of the song, and also explains how Paul came across Jarry's word “pataphysical”, which occurs in the lyrics." Furthermore, "In 1994, McCartney said that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life, being "my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell&... )
Now, I love Jarry's work, so this unexpected reference to it delights me. When I started researching the silver hammer for this review, I expected to find some common mythological reference, not Jarry. However, the only hammer I know of in myth is Thor's & I don't recall it being silver. U still think Brunner took the image from myth but it may just be a variant on familiar imagery.
All in all, for people interested in mythology, Brunner's spin-off will probably be a delight.(less)
Notes are private!
May 09, 2014
May 21, 2014
Feb 12, 1970
John Brunner's The Squares of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 9, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 21001 characters, and th...more review of
John Brunner's The Squares of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 9, 2014
"Review is too long. You entered 21001 characters, and the max is 20000" - In other words, see the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Do you ever think about the urban planning that goes into things like the way traffic lights work? I do - & I'm impressed when such things work so efficiently that traffic keeps flowing w/o my getting too annoyed by delays, w/o accidents.
"I came quickly to the central traffic intersection that lay at the focal point of the flow generated and governed by the four great squares. I stopped there for some time on the sidewalk, watching the vehicles move—and they did move, with no breaks. Ingenious use of precedence lanes and total avoidance of same-level crossing had eliminated the need for stoppages altogether, and there wasn't a traffic signal in sight" - p 25
On the other hand, I think about the way highways can be built that isolate certain communities & cause urban blight. This, of course, can be a type of racism/classism: the people to suffer the blight are considered disposable, unimportant. I remember when I-70 was planned to go thru Baltimore City & the communities to be effected by this protested & actually WON, thank goodness, & prevented the highway from cutting thru, & dividing their neighborhoods. That was probably in the early 1970s.
WELL, once again, Brunner had the foresight to present just such an issue in a highly developed & entertaining way - & he did it in 1965. &, as w/ pretty much everything I like, there's more to it than that, much more. Subliminal Suggestion features prominently. Remember the book by Wilson Bryan Key called Subliminal Seduction (1974) about the way advertisers used subliminal means to convince you to buy things? You can read reviews about that here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... . I think Key wrote a follow-up bk too. I don't have any problem believing Key's premise but I never bothered to read his bk b/c it struck me too much as sensationalism. Yes, unscrupulous people will use whatever techniques they can get away w/ to make themselves richer & the rest of us poorer - that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll succeed enuf for it to be worth it for any of us to become obsessed w/ it. The more insidious propaganda methods used by TV News, eg, are far more successful in framing the worldviews of the people who waste their time 'tuning in' (but never really tuning out). That sd, protecting yr free-thinking is certainly a worthy goal from my POV.
""It is too dangerous to watch television in Aguazul."" - p 87
""Who first saw the possibilities? I cannot say. It was all kept very secret. In most countries use of subliminal perception is banned by law, because its effectiveness—oh, it has been made reliable by testing!—it is inhuman. But in Aguazul there was no law. The single obstacle was that most of our people are, illiterate. Yet that in its way was an advantage; it was soon found that even for persons who could read, pictures worked better than words. A message in words can be argued with, but pictures have the impact of something con los ojos de si."" - p 93
"Western society, biased toward the objective mental mode of experience, tends to be blind not only to the power of images but also to the fact that we are nearly defenseless against their effect. Since we are educated and thoughtful, as we like to think, we believe we can choose among the things that will influence us. We accept fact, we reject lies. We go to movies, we watch television, we see photographs, and as the images pour into us, we believe we can choose among those we wish to absorb and those we don't. We assume that our rational processes protect us from implantation, or brainwashing. What we fail to realize is the difference between fact and image. Our objective processes can help us resist only one kind of implantation. There is no rejection of images." - pages 257-258, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television - Jerry Mander
[See my review of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ]
""There are few places in Vados where it is safe to watch television, señor. This is one of them. I have a device which I think in English is called a 'blinker.' Our name for it means 'sieve.' I have just played you that recording without the blinker."
""A blinker, so far as I'm concerned," I said, "is one of those gadgets that you can set to shit off commercials. You haven't any advertising on that program."
""No?" she said, and gave her wan little smile again. "Did you ever hear of a technique called subliminal perception?"" - p 90
In the Introduction to The Squares of the City, Edward Lasker tells us: "this story in which the two chief protagonists in a South American country attempt to direct the actions of their followers by using the unconscious but powerful influence of "subliminal perception," a technique which may well threaten all out futures." (p 5) In other words, this novel is about CONTROL, a subject dear to my heart, a subject explored deeply by another favorite writer: William S. Burroughs.
"I saw myself—or at any rate a recognizable likeness of myself—dipping my fingers for holy water into the font at the entrance to the cathedral. Another few yards of tape: I was shaking hands with el Presidente, and then in a few more moments I was kneeling before the bishop I had seen coming out of the elevator at the TV studios. Finally, before the sequence began to repeat, I was shown—this was so crude it nearly made me laugh—as an angel in a long white gown, holding a flaming sword over the monorail central, from beneath which figures ran like frightened ants." - p 92
"I frowned. "Well, I know the principle—you project a message on a TV screen or a movie screen for a fraction of a second, and it's alleged to impress the subconscious mind. They tried it out in movie houses with simple words like 'ice cream,'["]" [Strange, my neighbor & I just now made plans to go get ice cream..] "["]and some people said it worked and others said it didn't. I thought it had gone out of fashion, because it proved unreliable or something."" - p 92
"I chose my words carefully. "I have," I said. "In fact, I spoke to Señora Cortés of the television service, and her husband, the professor, admitted at once without my asking that they use this technique. I don't like it msyelf, but according to what Cortés says, they seem to have some justification, at any rate—"
"She seemed to wilt like a flower in an oven. "Yes, Señor Hakluyt. I have no doubt there was also some justification at any rate for Belson. Good day to you."" - p 130
Lasker continues by telling us that "The author has added an ingenious twist to his story which will be particularly intriguing to chess fans. the game in which his characters move as living pieces has not been artificially designed by him to suit the progress of his plot. It had actually been played, move for move, some seventy years ago in a match for the world championship between the title holder, the American master William Steinitz, and the Russian master Mikhail Ivanovich Tchigorin." (p 5) I'm reminded of George Perec's great novel Life: A User's Manual (1978).
In 1997, I was invited to coordinate a small Latin American festival at a local university. I wasn't a Latin American expert by any means so I might not've been the best person for the job - it just sortof fell in my lap. In the long run, I think I did it passably well. A side-effect of this was that I went on a spree of reading Latin American novels (in English translation). I became particularly fond of the authors published by Avon Bard. I ended up reading work by (if I hadn't read them already), but not limited to:
Allende, Isabel (Chilé)
Argueta, Manlio (El Salvador)
Arlt, Roberto (Argentina)
de Assis, Machado (Brazil)
Asturias, Machado (Brazil)
Azuela, Mariano (Mexico)
Bastos, Augusto Roa (Pataguay)
Bioy-Casares, Adolfo (Argentina?)
Borges, Jorge Luis (Argentina)
Brandão, Iganácio de Loyola (Brazil)
Carpentier, Alejo (Cuba)
Cortázar, Julio (Argentina; France)
Donoso, José (Chile)
Fuentes, Carlos (Mexico)
Ibargüengoitia, Jorge (Mexico)
Infante, G. Cabrera (Cuba)
Koster, R. M. (United States of America; Panama)
Llosa, Mario Vargas (Peru)
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia (Columbia; Mexico)
Queiroz, Rachel de (Brazil)
Sánchez, Luis Rafael (Puerto Rico)
Souza, Márcio (Brazil)
Traven, B. (Germany; Mexico)
The Squares of the City is set in a fictitious South American country &, as such, is vaguely open to a reading as Latin American fiction. I think it passed nicely. Sometimes it seems that Latin American countries have horrible reputations as dictatorships in North America (Argentina certainly earned it in the 1960s & 1970s - as did Chile under Pinochet after the US helped put him in power, etc, etc) but, then, there's so much great political fiction from Latin America that there seems to be a substantial liberation going on too (obviously).
"I looked around, and the buildings said proudly, "Progress!" The laughter on the faces of youths and girls said, "Success!" The satisfied look of businessmen said, "Prosperity!"
"But even in that moment, in my first hours in Vados, I found myself wondering what the peasant family would have answered, trudging up the hill toward their shantytown." - p 17
Yep, one person's 'prosperity' might well be codependent on another person's destruction. More about that later.
""But this is a thing you find everywhere in Vados, indeed throughout the country. It is perhaps our national game so much as it is of the Russians, let us say." As though mention of the name had reminded her, she took another draw on her Russian cigarette and tapped the first ash into a tray on the table. It is, of course, a dream of our president that one day such another as the Cuban Capablanca should be found here in Cuidad de Vados. For that reason we play from childhood."" - pp 21-22
Since I'm usually pretty busy w/ a variety of things, when I'm reading a bk I'm also witnessing movies & reading other bks & these multiplicities sometimes coincide in stimulating ways. In this case, I witnessed Andrew van den Houten 2005 Headspace at about this point in reading The Squares of the City & was struck by the chess connection in relation to the last-quoted. In it, a mediocre chess player encounters some much better chess players in the park & gradually becomes enabled to beat the best of them due to an increase of intelligence under mysterious circumstances.
I become more engaged w/ what I read when the author references things that interest me - maybe just a casual passing mention of music that I like.
"I caught on. "Ah, Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. Yes, I know what you mean. Is that the sort of thing you have in the Plaza del Sur?"
""Exactly. Only—our national temperament being what it is—our discussions sometimes grow more heated than among the phlegmatic English."" - p 22
What 1st struck me about this passage was the way the 2nd speaker seems to trivialize a heretofore only hinted at disturbance that seems potentially of more importance. Having now read the whole novel, I'm more just interested in Speakers' Corners anywhere. Yet another bk I've yet to read (even tho it's in my personal library) is The Speakers (1964) by Heathcote Williams. Will I live long enuf to read everything that interests me? People willing to elongate my life shd feel free to apply. My own excursions into Speakers' Corner type public speaking might be best represented by my "Soap Box Opera episode 4": http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk .
Vados seems so 'perfect' BUT "["]The people of the villages and half-pint towns up-country from here saw this prosperous new city on their doorstep, so to speak, and decided they wanted to move in. Why, they argued, shouldn't they get a slice of this cake? Of course, to people like you and me it's obvious why not, but imagine trying to explain the facts to an illiterate Indian peasant.["]" (p 31) The reader won't have much trouble figuring out that the speaker here is from the privileged end of the spectrum. Later, a more compelling reason for this immigration is revealed. It all hints of classism & other imposed inequalities:
"["]The man of mixed blood who was addressing the crowd on his behalf is a certain Sam Francis. He had just assured the crowd—and I, for one, believe him—that he we will not spend a cento on himself until the fine is paid. And yet there are holes in his shoes."
"She swung around and pointed at the speaker under the Citizens of Vados banner. "There you see Andres Lucas, secretary of the Citizens Party. The shoes he is wearing probably cost him fifty dolaros, and he probably has more than twenty pairs. I do not know where Guerrero is, their chairman."
""I do," I said after a pause. "Lunching in the Plaza del Norte."
"She nodded without surprise. "The check there will be as much as a pair of Lucas's shoes.["]. - p 38
Finally, the real reason for the exodus of the peasants is revealed:
""They must have had homes where they came from," said Angers sharply.
""Had, Señor Angers! When they were starving because their water was taken for the city, when their land was dry, where else should they go but to the city?["] - p 50
Think this is unrealistic? Look at the recent history of India: dams are built, farmland is flooded, farmers are displaced, they go to the city as workers. In 2000, I had an Australian friend who was going to India to document rural Indian women who were going to chain themselves to their homes that were about to be flooded for just such a dam. Their purpose? To show that this displacement is MURDER, their plan was to die, if necessary, if the flooding went ahead. As usual, the beneficiaries of 'modern' society are often woefully ignorant of or cynically indifferent to the price that's pd for their luxury. What suffering went into making the computer I'm typing this on? What suffering went into the electrical power that keeps it running? Into the internet infrastructure that'll enable the posting of this review?
""At home"; yes, that was the trouble in Vados. Or a good part of it anyway. Twenty thousand people who couldn't regard the city as their home, although they lived in it—simply because it wasn't their home. They were in a foreign country in their own homeland." - p 54
One of the things that the Black Panthers always sd that impressed me deeply was that the police in their neighborhoods were an occupying army. Indeed.
The narrator, a traffic flow designer whose skills have earned him international acclaim & jobs among the informed, parades his impressive experience before us: "I'd had to allow for the snarls in traffic flow caused by the muezzins in Moslem cities calling the devout to prayer, and the consequent five-times-daily interruption of everything, much to the annoyance of the nonreligious citizens. I'd had to work out a design for an embankment along the Ganges where it was certain that at least a million people would suddenly turn up once a year, but which had to cope with them and with its ordinary traffic without wasting unduly much space on the million-strong crowd which would remain idle the rest of the year. I'd helped develop the signal system in Galveston, Texas, designed to give every fire appliance within twenty miles nonstop to any outbreak without interfering with traffic on any route not used by the engines." (p 61)
"and the total impression left on students like myself—who went through college faced with what seemed like equally appalling alternative futures: nuclear war or a population explosion that would pass the six billion mark by the end of the century" (p 82)
The above prediction of the worldwide human population by 2000 was written about 1965 or thereabouts. Estimates from multiple groups have the human population as less than 3.5 billion at the time - &, yes, those same groups have us at over 6 billion as of 2000. Now we're supposedly at over 7 billion. Scary, eh? NOW, where I live it's not crowded - one cd even say it's 'underpopulated' - so where is this population increase showing up the most? Wherever it is, expect some spill-over.
When I read a bk, I make pencilled jottings on its inner jacket about things that seem noteworthy as I go along. Since I don't know the bk in advance (I rarely reread bks), the notes are made based on whatever I know of the bk so far. THEN, when it's time to write the review, I go thru the notes in order & pick out the ones I want to use (usually almost all of them) & put them in the order they originally appeared unless a different order seems more compelling. I generally avoid following the plotline - both to avoid spoilers & in the interest of exploring subtexts. As I'm writing this, I've rejected a few possibilities as too plot-centered. The next quote is an exception. The structure of the novel is such that, predictably, what seems initially placid, becomes more & more violent as the secrets are revealed to the protagonist:
"Someone had thrown red paint all over Vados's statue.
"Police in the Calle del Sol were bundling young me into trucks; there was blood on the ground, and one of the police held two wet-bladed knives.
"During the lunch-hour meeting in the Plaza del Sur, Arrio had been hanged in effigy from a tree by enraged supporters of Juan Tezol, in protest against his being jailed. Police had had to clear that up, too; the evening edition of Libertad spoke of many arrests.
"My car had had the air let out of its tires.
"And Sam Francis had committed suicide in jail. . . ." - pp 175-176
Now that I've given away entirely too much of the plot, I'll distract you w/ trivia:
""All right, that wasn't an invitation. Go ahead and sing. How about La Cucaracha?"
""That is a bad song, señor. It is all about marijuana.["]" - p 214 (less)
Notes are private!
May 15, 2014
Mass Market Paperback
John Brunner's Now Then
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 28, 2014
"After a lot of discussion we arrived at the conclusion that, were som...more review of
John Brunner's Now Then
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 28, 2014
"After a lot of discussion we arrived at the conclusion that, were someone to make a serious attempt at forecasting the events of the year 2000—political, social, technological—he would have to spend at least two years simply gathering facts before putting a word on paper; then during the 6 months the book would take to write, things would happen to invalidate his careful prophecies." - from Brunner's PREFACE, p vii
I don't know when Brunner wrote the above-quoted preface but I reckon it was 1965, the date of the original publishing of this bk. Brunner goes on to use this statement as a buttress for the novella form used here in the 3 stories in the bk. None of them particularly 'forecasts' its future. That aside, I think Brunner succeeded in prophesizing in the research-backed manner described above in his The Sheep Look Up (1972) so I think he took his own pessimistic statement as a challenge that he rose to.
Back to Now Then: for Brunner enthusiasts, this will be a collection of note if for no other reason than that it has as its last story, Thou Good and Faithful, the 1st story Brunner ever sold to a science-fiction magazine when he was still a teenager. I was 13 when I submitted a story to Analog magazine, my 1st & only submission to a SF mag. It was rejected. My story deserved the rejection (altho I wish I still had a copy of it!), Brunner's definitely deserved its acceptance.
The 1st tale is "Some Lapse of Time".
"The disease which had killed Jimmy was one of the latest to be identified. Max knew the man who had given it its name—had studied under him, in fact. he called it heterochylia, because the poison which jaundiced the skin, discoloured the whites of the eyes and eventually so disturbed the nervous system that death resulted, was found in the chyle—the fluid which transfers ingested fats from the small intestine to the bloodstream. Jimmy's chyle had been typical: thick, discoloured, foul-smelling at the autopsy. A compound had appeared in it which made it biologically useless.
"How such diseases occurred: that too was beginning to be known. They were among the statistically most likely consequences of radiation gene-damage; a mere nudge could disturb the delicate structure responsible for conveying the complex information about normal metabolism." - p 14
I made a feeble attempt to find a definition for "heterochylia" online & got alotof prmises of Arabic-to-English translations that led 'nowhere'. I wanted to know if Brunner invented this disease. I'm none the wiser.
The 2nd tale, "Imprint of Chaos", justifies the bk's cover copy: "science fantasy" - in other words, this is the 2nd thing I've read by Brunner that's sortof Sword & Sorcery. The 1st one being his The Space-Time Juggler. "Imprint of Chaos" begins:
"He had many names, but one nature, and this unique nature made him subject to certain laws not binding upon ordinary persons. In compensatory fashion, he was also free from certain other laws more commonly in force.
"Still, there was nothing to choose as regards rigidly between his particular set of laws and those others. And one rule by which he had very strictly to abide was that at set seasons he should overlook that portion of the All which had been allotted to him as his individual responsibility." - p 60
A 'God'? Do you, dear reader, ever think about what you might be a 'God' in relation to? Everytime I find a stinkbug in my house I scoop it onto a moveable flat surface & take it to an egress, usually a window, & put it outside. I like to imagine the stinkbugs having a myth about a 'God' who delivers them from the world-of-famine (my house) to the world-of-plenty (the outdoors where there's lots of tasty vegetation).
"Laprivan heaved in his underground prison, and the road shook. Cracks wide enough to have swallowed a farm-cart appeared in its surface. From them, a great voice boomed.
"'What do you want of me, today of all days? Have you not had enough even now of tormenting me?'
"'I do not torment you,' was the calm reply. 'It is your memory that torments you.'
"'Leave me be, then,' said the great voice sullenly. 'Let me go on wiping away that memory.'
"'As you wish, so be it,' the traveller answered, and gestured with his staff. The cracks in the road closed again; the dust-devils re-formed, and when he looked back from the crest of the hill his footsteps had already been expunged." - p 61
Mythology as abstraction, as metaphor:
"Once—twice—a third time something burgeoned, which had about it a comforting aura of rationality, of predictability; about this aura, time was created from eternity. Time entails memory, memory entails conscience, conscience entails thought for the future, which is itself implied by the existence of time. Twice the forces of utter chaos raged around this focal point, and swallowed it back into nonexistence; then the will of Tuprid and Caschalanva, of Quorril and Lry, and of an infinite number of elemental beings, reigned once more. But none of them was supreme, because in chaos nothing can endure, nothing can be absolute, nothing sure or certain or reliable." - p 72
Or is it even metaphor? Imagine the stinkbug's perception of me: I doubt that it has the perceptual apparatus to perceive me at the scale I think of myself in - instead of seeing me as a being x-number of times larger than itself w/ a body not so dramatically different from its own (we both have legs, eg), it might, at 'best' see me as a 'hand' holding the piece of paper that it's being transported on. What if there were something comparable in our own lives? We, at least, have developed tools for perceiving on scales not intrinsic to our usual sensory means: our eyes, our ears, our proprioception. The "elemental beings" are anthropomorphisms of forces that are harder to wrap out heads around otherwise. How capable are we, even w/ our tools, of perceiving the weather as a totality that a tornado in our proximity is only a 'limb' of?
2 pp later, Brunner shifts the scale of the tale to something easier for most of us to relate to: "To park a car while one goes for a walk in the woods is not uncommon. To return and find that the care is no longer there is not unprecedented. But to return and find that the road itself, on which the car was parked, has likewise vanished, is a different matter altogether." - p 74
The man who finds himself in this dilemma, who finds himself outside his version of predictability, also finds himself being worshipped as a "God':
"They found Bernard Brown, much worried, to judge by his appearance, seated on a large silver and ebony throne on an enormous altar. Before the altar the townspeople were coming and going with gifts—their most prized possessions were heaped there now, from their inherited silverware to their newest garments. Around the throne itself, on the altar, were piles of luscious fruit and choice cuts of meat, together with bottles of delicious wine. bernard Brown was sucking at one of the fruits and attempting to question the people. But the people would not answer him; they merely listened respectfully and then went and wrote down what he had said, with a view to creating a canon of mystical precepts from it." - pp 85-86
"'I've seen you before,' said Bernard slowly. 'Who are you?'
"The black-clad man chuckled. 'He to whom the task was given of bringing order out of chaos in the universe,' he replied. 'And who are you?'" - p 97
The final tale is Brunner's aforementioned 1st sale, "Thou Good and Faithful". It's from an era that's hard to imagine these days, an era when smoking a pipe on a spaceship is somehow ok: "The Captain nodded, pipe clenched between his teeth". (p 100) Things become garbled so fast in retellings that the idea of a story known to us staying recognizable in a distant future in wch its written form may no longer exist is similarly amusing:
"'It's against all possibility for an Earth-type planet to evolve metallic intelligence.'
"Another bombshell. 'Who said that they evolved?'
"'Frankenstein!' said Deeley in an awed voice.
"'what was that Deeley?'
"'I said Frankenstein, Captain. It's the name of a pre-atomic story dating back to the late Dark Ages on Earth, about a man who built the first robot and it killed its creator.'" - p 123
All in all, these are more juvenile efforts of Brunner's but I enjoyed them nonetheless.(less)
Notes are private!
Apr 23, 2014
Apr 29, 2014
Jan 12, 1980
Jan 12, 1980
John Brunner's The Infinitive of Go
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2014
I'm not exactly cranking out the reviews so far this yr....more review of
John Brunner's The Infinitive of Go
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15, 2014
I'm not exactly cranking out the reviews so far this yr. That's partially b/c I'm in the midst of very slowly reading William Gaddis's The Recognitions AND Florian Cramer's Anti-Media. As such, I squeeze in the relatively easy reading of Brunner bks in the midst of the Gaddis & the Cramer to give myself a rest - wch is NOT to say that the Brunner bks are inferior!
The Infinitive of Go revisits Brunner's Meeting at Infinity (1961) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) insofar as it explores parallel universes AND it revisits Brunner's A Web of Everywhere (1974) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) insofar as it explores teleportation. As such, it didn't strike me as groundbreaking for Brunner but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
The opening epigraph of Chapter One reads:
to travel faster
than a speeding bullet
is not much help
if you and it
are heading straight
towards each other
" - p 1
Ha ha! Technology may solve some problems but, like medical drugs w/ their inevitable side-effects, may just aggravate others.
"Sometimes, he thought bitterly, Chester reminded him more than anybody of the Moslem warlord who burned the great library of Alexandria, on the grounds that if the manuscripts therein agreed with the Koran they were superfluous, and if they disagreed they were heretical." - p 9
& there we have the basis of my argument against religion encapsulated. Just as Christians have proposed the notion of "One Way" (ie: their way & no-one else's) so did a Moslem burn the world's greatest body of knowledge. NOW, I detest religion - esp the 2 main perpetually warring gangs: the Moslems & the Christians. However, in the interest of fairness, I quote the following Wikipedia article as a way to show that the Moslems may've gotten a bad rep in relation to the burning of the Alexandrian library that they may not entirely deserve:
"The famous burning of the Library of Alexandria, including the incalculable loss of ancient works, has become a symbol of the irretrievable loss of public knowledge. Although there is a mythology of "the burning of the Library at Alexandria", the library may have suffered several fires or acts of destruction of varying degrees over many years. Ancient and modern sources identify several possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
"During Caesar's Civil War, Julius Caesar was besieged at Alexandria in 48 BC. Many ancient sources describe Caesar setting fire to his own ships and state that this fire spread to the library, destroying it.
"[W]hen the enemy endeavored to cut off his communication by sea, he was forced to divert that danger by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library.
—Plutarch, Life of Caesar
Bolstering this claim, in the 4th century both the pagan historian Ammianus and the Christian historian Orosius wrote that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina had been destroyed by Caesar's fire. However, Florus and Lucan claim that the flames Caesar set only burned the fleet and some "houses near the sea". Years after Caesar's campaign in Alexandria, the Greek geographer Strabo claimed to have worked in the Alexandrian Library.
"The library seems to have continued in existence to some degree until its contents were largely lost during the taking of the city by the Emperor Aurelian (270–275 AD), who was suppressing a revolt by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. During the course of the fighting, the areas of the city in which the main library was located were damaged. Some sources claim that the smaller library located at the Serapeum survived, though Ammianus Marcellinus wrote of the library in the Serapeum temple as a thing of the past, destroyed when Caesar sacked Alexandria.
"Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391 AD. The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391. The historian Socrates of Constantinople describes that all pagan temples in Alexandria were destroyed, including the Serapeum. Since the Serapeum housed a part of the Great Library, some scholars believe that the remains of the Library of Alexandria were destroyed at this time. However, it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction, and contemporary scholars do not mention the library directly.
"In 642 AD, Alexandria was captured by the Muslim army of Amr ibn al `Aas. Several later Arabic sources describe the library's destruction by the order of Caliph Omar. Bar-Hebraeus, writing in the 13th century, quotes Omar as saying to Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī: "If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them." Later scholars are skeptical of these stories, given the range of time that had passed before they were written down and the political motivations of the various writers." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_...
Tangent over (sortof). Much later in the novel, Brunner has the Christians be the ones stomping on knowledge: "The worst problem came from a handful of Christians who had been invited to join the team; they proved to be fundamentalist to a man, and Landini in their terms was necessarily a tool of Satan. The fact that he admitted to being a non-practicing Catholic aggravated matters . . ." (pp 110-111)
"A fifth channel: a fundamentalist preacher was declaring with enormous fervor that Landini must be a devil because the only intelligent beings the Lord ever created were Adam and Eve, and they were white, and their original sin was to engage in relations with their own children in order to propagate the species, and that was why the Lord made some of their children black, and if anything that stood up on its hind legs and talked to you wasn't precisely like Adam and Eve that was a sure sign that creature was accursed and the blessing of the Lord would rest upon anyone who got it, and the Godless servants of Satan who were trying to foist it on an unenlightened public, in the sights of a rifle and had it skinned and mounted and presented it to a church or a museum where the faithful for ever after might inspect the work of the Evil One . . ." - p 140
"When he sent his one and only published paper on the poster principle to a carefully-selected journal known for its hospitality to avant-garde ideas and its willingness to reprint lengthy computer analyses of the type known jokingly as "yet another four-color problem"—after the classic computer-exhaustive list of solutions to that classic poser in topology—he had been firmly convinced that it would instantly be recognized as a breakthrough. He had dared to hope it might be called a work of genius." - p 11
Ha ha! Seems like the kind of journal that wd print something by me. I wonder if Brunner had any particular journal in mind as an inspiration?
In the world that the main character, Justin, starts out in, Chester gets Dept of Defense funding to develop Justin's teleporter (called a "poster"). "What it amounted to was this: he had become a weapon, and against his will." (p 12) A typical problem of scientists whose work depends on massive funding that only the military or insidious corporate interests are capable of providing.
Brunner is great at depicting social scenes in wch personality quirks are deftly skecthed:
""You haven't met these people before," Levi said, giving Lane a skeletal grin. "They aren't scientists. They're magicians. They invent terms as and when they need to. What's rho-space? It's where the object goes which is being shifted from transmitter to receptor at the speed of light! I was told that something moving that fast would acquire infinite mass. Yes, they say, so it must. So where's the mass? It manifests as energy. Now just a moment, I say! You're using a lot of energy for the transfer, but it isn't infinite! Of course not, they say. The surplus doesn't even show up as heat. Of course not, they say. Where is it? It's in rho-space, they say. Are you any the wiser? I swear I'm not!"" - p 26
Now, I often write these reviews in a way that deliberately avoids plot-spoilers & that deliberately encourages personal tangents. Hence I quote the epigraph at the beginning of Chapter Eleven b/c it reinforces my own reasoning for not taking sleeping pills:
two sleeping-pills as always
bringing guaranteed oblivion
in the night of a whirlwind
by day a cold awakening
in a room full of wreckage
with only the sky for a ceiling
" - p 72
This "guaranteed oblivion" seems like all too poignantly comparable to the way that most people, in the US at least, seem unaware of just how much their personal liberty has been eroded away post-9/11 - & Brunner's novel seems to anticipate this somewhat:
"Instead of treating the situation as though it were the result of enemy action, drafting blanket legislation of a type previously seen only during a war—which, Justin had often sourly thought, was largely intended to ensure that as many citizens as possible could legally be entered in Federal computer-files" - p 72
It's always interesting for me when SF writers imagine future-tech & then try to describe it in a potentially believable way: "["]The device is conventionally termed a 'poster'. It is not"—he recalled Cinnamon's annoyance when Lane said people were being scrambled—"the matter transmitter familiar as a science-fiction prop. There is not direct communication between the dispatching and the receiving ends; the space within them is rendered congruent under the control of advancing computer systems and the location of the object being transferred becomes indefinite, so that it so to say shuttles from one to the other." (p 95) What's particularly interesting here is the side-effect of the process being "under the control of advancing computer systems" & the way Brunner develops that. BUT, I don't want to give too much away.
""The total dimensionality of the universe is of an order of aleph-four and may well be as high as aleph-five—in other words, much more infinite than infinity. Don't ask me for a quick course in Cantorian transfinities, please!["]" - p 127
Well, I looked them up in my own excellent Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory) bk - specifically on page "356 surreal numbers" in the "GLOSSARY: terms" section & all I found was this measly: "transfinite numbers = Georg Cantor's term for infinitely large numbers". That doesn't tell us much now does it? But it DID give me an excuse to reference my unpublished bk that I wrote over 6 yrs ago.
Parallel World history is always fun as either an example of wishful thinking or as dystopian warning or whatever: "This Adolf Hitler of yours: near as I can figure, he corresponds to a pan-Germanic fanatic who acquired a small following during the economic depression but murdered his lover, a guy called Roehm, and spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum writing crazy letters to the government about Jewish money-lenders." / "What about Stalin?" someone demanded. / "He didn't change his name. As Iosip Dzhugashvili he did more than anyone to bring about reform in Russia!" / "The Viet-Nam war!" came another shout. / "You mean when the nationalists took over from the French colonial power?"" (pp 136-137) (less)
Notes are private!
Apr 09, 2014
Apr 15, 2014
Mass Market Paperback
Jan 01, 1969
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2014
[sidenote: the actual edition I read is Ace's paperback versi...more review of
John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2014
[sidenote: the actual edition I read is Ace's paperback version also from 1969 & NOT the hardcover bookclub edition - nonetheless, the cover's almost identical & the publisher & date are the same so it's not worth the trouble to create a new edition here - the paperback page count is 397 (not including the ads in the back).]
ALSO, 'of course', my review is "5727 characters" too long so the full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Whew! Another beaut from Brunner. In his intro to a 2003 edition of Brunner's 1972 The Sheep Look Up, author David Brin calls Sheep a "self-preventing prophes[y]" wch I think is an excellent way of looking at The Jagged Orbit (1969) too. As w/ Sheep, Brunner apparently bases his pessimistic projections on relevant mass media articles - in Jagged's case, ones written about racial unrest in the US in 1968. Brunner interweaves a pessimistic prediction of racism escalated, psychotherapy used as a mass control tool, & arms sales feeding off of carefully cultivated fear.
Regarding the latter, I think of when the G20 was in Pittsburgh in 2009. Some elements of the mass media spread a lurid image of any & all protesters as armed terrorists. (See my parody of this, made jointly w/ Rich Pell, entitled "TV 'News' Commits Suicide" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU-_a... ) One friend of mine told me that people where he worked were gathering their armaments, fortifying their homes (that were nowhere near where the protests were going to be), & even planning to flee to even more distant outskirts in precaution. All of this fear was completely unjustified. W/in a wk after the G20 ended there was a giant arms dealer event at the local convention center. Gee, I wonder if that was just coincidence (I'm dripping w/ sarcasm here in case the reader didn't notice).
An example of Brunner's imagined 2014 weaponry is something that can:
"(a) Energetic: in actual field trials a skilled operator reduced a sample group of 25 Reference Accomodation Blocks (12 stories reinforced concrete) to Unihabitable condition in 3.3 minutes, 12 being demolished and the remainder set ablaze." - p 347
Nice, huh?! During the 2009 G20 the City of Pittsburgh wasted huge amts of money on buying 2 sound cannons for dispelling protesters w/ the threat of inducing deafness. Pittsburgh 'needed' those like a hole in the head. Literally (& figuratively).
REPRINTED FROM THE LONDON OBSERVER OF 10TH MARCH 1968
"Colour—The Age-Old Conflict by Colin Legun
"Having recently spent several months in the United States, I came away sharing the view of those Americans who think that, short of two miracles—and early end to the Vietnam war, and a vast commitment to the public expenditure on the home front—the US is on the point of moving into a period of harsh repression by whites of blacks that could shake its political system to its very foundations."
"Voluntary separation—even separation into different bits of territory—is not always necessarily retrogressive. Although it is suspect to liberal minds—because of the horrors of twentieth-century racialism—liberals were the champions of all the nineteenth-century separatists who wanted independence from the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires and still today react sympathetically to the claims of Scots or of Welsh." - pp 244-245
I find the last-quoted paragraph a little misleading in its comparisons. The Scots & the Welsh (& the unmentioned Irish - who might've been 'too hot to handle' by the OBSERVER at the time), at least as I understand it, were on their own turf when they were colonized by the British. As such, they just wanted the colonialists to release them from their imperialistic hold. 'Black' separatists, on the other hand, were mostly forcibly brought to the US as slaves, they're not even on the land they were kidnapped from - any separatism means creating a new homeland rather than a reversion to an older one. Nonetheless, Black Panther claims that police in their neighborhoods are basically just occupying colonial troops strike me as accurate.
White Supremacists were/are big promoters of separatism. At least one such group proposed making the Northwest coast of the US be for 'whites' only - w/ Florida being for 'blacks' only. Such an idea is a throwback to the 'separate but equal' Jim Crow laws that certainly didn't insure any equality at all. It's all too easy to imagine white supremacists taking advantage of this geographical 'caging' by bombing black-Florida if such a separation were ever to take place.
REPRINTED FROM THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN OF 13TH MARCH 1968
"Seven burned to death
"Mr David Lumsden, aged 26, stood outside his burning home in Toronto and screamed at passing motorists to stop and help as his wife and sex children were burned to death. All the drivers ignored his calls." - p 294
ASSUMPTION CONCERNING THE FOREGOING MADE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS STORY
"It would have been even worse if they'd stopped to watch the fun." - p 295
Coincidentally, as I was reading this, I was installing an exhibit on race for one of my jobs & spending some time w/ a person in the process of having a mental breakdown - both very relevant to this bk. But what made The Jagged Orbit particularly poignant to read now is that it's set in 2014, the actual yr in wch I've read it.
The back cover blurbs are by authors Philip K. Dick, Robert Bloch, & Thomas M. Disch. Dick goes so far as to say that "It is an superb work, plotted with amazing skill, and showing a magnetic artistry much above anything Brunner has previously shown." Disch then ups the ante w/ "Enough new ideas to fill a novel each by Dick, Farmer and Pohl." High praise indeed. It appears that this was a breakthru work for Brunner.
The dedication inside reads:
"—the only person I know who really can fly a jagged orbit." - p 5
I assume/deduce that the "CHIP" in question is the great Samuel R. Delaney - gay, 'black', SF (& otherwise) writer whose work I have profound respect for. Why do I put the word "black" in single quotation marks? B/c I am so damned sick of the destructiveness of the simple-minded divisiveness of humans classified into 'black' & 'white', etc, etc.. Why not African-Americans then? B/c I'm also sick of humans categorized in terms of so-called (ancestral) origin. People ask me: 'Where is your family from? What nationality are they?' & I reply: 'I'm a BalTimOrean.' In other words, I'm from where I was born - not from some nation I may've never even been to. Some people claim that all humans originated in Africa & spread from there - are those who ended up in 'America' all African-Americans then? I prefer to think of people as individuals, not as representatives of some dubiously united 'ethnicity'. I certainly don't represent all so-called 'white' people, why shd I think that any 'black' person wd represent all so-called 'blacks'?!
Chapter ONE, entitled "PUT YOURSELF IN MY PLACE", sets a mildly experimental formal tone by consisting of only "I —" followed by Chapter TWO's "-solationism" on the verso. 1st person singular in isolation: this appears to set the mood for a critique of people living in so much fear of each other that no solidarity is likely or easy.
As w/ most novels about the future (now, for me, the present) there's lingo used extrapolated from the time of writing: "Meanwhile, continuing: something big brewing among the X Patriots. The routine reading carried him straight back to the Gottschalks and the superficial verdict that they were once more fomenting discontent among knee extremists to ensure good sales for their latest product among frightened blanks." (pp 12-13) Think "Malcolm X" in connection w/ "the X Patriots".
&, of course, along w/ the lingo there're the prophesies of technology: "They hadn't had a vuset in the apt before—only an ancient non-holographic TV which offered nothing more interesting than the three surviving 2-D satellite transmissions insisted on by the PCC. Since those were beamed primarily at India, Africa and Latin America, and she and Dan spoke neither Hindi, Swahili, nor more than a smattering of Spanish, they had seldom bothered to switch on unless they were orbiting." (p 16)
"Flamen's ingratiating voice said, "In this world which is so often terrifying, aren't you envious of the security people feel when they've installed Guardian traps at their doors and windows? You can't buy better, and you'd be a fool to buy anything less good."
"He vanished. A tall scowling kneeblank marched forward in his place, and before Lyla had time to react—she was still not awake enough to have convinced herself that the three-dimensional full-color image was going to stay buried in the screen—spiked metal bands had clamped on him at neck-, waist-, and knee-height. Blood began to ooze from the points where the cruel metal prongs had sunk in. He looked briefly bewildered, then sunk unconscious.
""Guardian!" sang an eldritch castrato voice. "Guar—dee—ann!"" - pp 17-18
"She moved to the door and began to strain against the handle of the winch to lift clear the hundred-kilo deadfall block that closed it against intruders overnight.
""Put your yash on," Dan said, stepping into a pair of green breeches and bleting them tight around his waist.
""Hell, I'm only going to the comweb!"
""Put it on, I said. You're insured for a quarter-million tealeaves and it says in the policy that you have to."" - p 19
There we have the technology, the paranoia, & the lingo all neatly rolled in one. My own prediction is that capitalism is aiming toward a society in wch people own as little as possible & rent as much as possible. Streaming is a big step in this direction. That seems to be the case in Brunner's 2014: ""But you're supposed to do duty to the Lar first, aren't you?" / "We only have it on seven-day appro," (p 18) "["]Got anything less revealing?" / "I don't think so. All my February clothes have expired["]." (p 19) "replacing the Lar in its niche, distantly aware that if she had indeed thrown it away there would have been a hell of a fight with Dan. The seven-day appro was up tomorrow and if they couldn't return it they would be billed two thousand tealeaves." (pp 151-152)
Brunner foresees junk mail w/ the greatest imagination. Junk Mail, Spam E-Mails, & Telemarketers have been among the banes of my existence. ""Practically all satches, same as usual. I do hate saturation mail! It clogs the comweb same as garbage does the drains, and I swear ninety percent of it goes straight into the drains without being read. . . .["]" / "She pantomimed tearing them across, but they were reinforced against that; they could only be torn along the line which would liberate the chemicals powering their in-built speakers. Satch mailing campaigns were too expensive to let illiterates escape." (p 27)
"Meantime, Dan had ripped along the sealing strip of the one from Lares & Penates Inc., and at once the room was full of a familiar high thin voice.
""You can't afford to be without a cult tailored to your private needs in this age of the individual. Consult Lares & Penates for the finest specialized—"
"It took him that long to locate the power-capsule driving the speaker and break it between finger and thumb. Promptly, he dropped the envelope with a yelp, shaking his hand.
""It burned me! That's a new one! They must have got wise to people cracking the capsules."" - p 28
For my own modest take on one aspect of our increasing branding as consumer-slaves, witness my "North Deface" movie here: http://youtu.be/r8Dre9tTEyE
& The Jagged Orbit anticipates The Sheep Look Up as self-preventing prophesy in glimpses of environmental concerns: "Humidity index in New York in excess of previous high for the current date, a factor ascribed by officials to the effect of the city's five and a half million air-conditioners. The insurrection probability index slipping ahead of schedule into what is nicknamed "the sweaty season downturn"" (p 31)
One of the main characters is a "spoolpigeon", an exposé TV show host. The network he works for is called Holocosmic: "if you dig into the private lives of the Holocosmic directorate you'd come up with material for another Hundred and Twenty Days without the need to plagiarize" (p 46) That's the Marquis de Sade's One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom being referenced. & this spoolpigeon, hypothetically an investigative reporter watchdog guarding society from corruption & hypocrisy is that to a small extent - but using Manufactured Consent means (to paraphrase Noam Chomsky) to create the damning 'evidence':
""Very well then. Let's find out what stock we have available for Uys. I don't have to ask about Mayor Black; he's vain, and we have tape on him we could lasso the moon with." Flamen moved to a computer on the wall at right angles to the first one.
"More or less what I thought," he muttered when the data were screened in response to his question. "Practically nothing! Black-and-white 2-D material and that's it. Well, we can make do with that. This is a recent one, comparatively speaking." The screen blurred, cleared, showed Uys coming down the steps from a plane door, presumably at home in South Africa, being greeted by his family and gesturing away a group of reporters.
""Let's have color . . . holographic depth . . . yes, that's better . . . good . . . we can abstract from that and blend it with Mayor Black and let's see now . . . American location and b.g., better have some macoots . . . Ah, that's not bad for a start, is it?"" - pp 186-187
"He struck some codes on the keyboard. "Voices—we're bound to have something on tape, I guess, even for Uys, and even if we haven't the machines will fake a South African accent. Characteristic phrase-weighting—let's spice it with a few choice Afrikaner slogans . . . And here we go."" - p 187
Now, apartheid, the racist legally imposed separatism in South Africa was in full force in 1969 when The Jagged Orbit was published. As such, it's no wonder that one of the villains here is an Afrikaner, one of the 'whites' who maintains, enforces, & benefits from South African racism. I'd like to hope that such self-preventing prophesy on the part of creative anti-racists was one of the factors that led to the downfall of apartheid in 1994. Good riddance.
I'm sure that Brunner had fun envisaging the fashion 45 yrs in the future but, alas, such extravagances are few & far in between in the actual 2014: "Conroy hesitated, looking over the array of students and taking especial note of the girls. About a quarter of them were in street yashes, like Alice who had just spoken; the remainder wore a fantastic galaxy of costumes ranging from a height-of-last-year-fashion oversuit with inflated bosom and buttocks to a waist-length orange wig and a pair of shabby Nix." (p 58)
In Brunner's 2014, racism is an undiluted or even more intensified version of what he saw in 1968. 'Black' & 'white' people seen together are at risk just for the association. Racist profiling by the police is the norm. &, alas, racist 'white' cops have far from disappeared in the actual 2014. Look at the case of the police beating the innocent Jordan Miles in Pittsburgh & getting away w/ it. &, of course, similar instances are abundant. Perhaps the main difference between 2014 & 1968 is that at least Miles cd get a civil suit settlement of $119,000 even tho the cops went free on the "excessive force" charges. Anyone who's seen pictures of Miles's face after the cops beat him will know that excessive force was used - beating a person's face until it's swollen almost beyond recognition is hardly 'necessary' force - esp considering that the person being beaten was innocent in the 1st place. On the brighter side, 'blacks' & 'whites' seen together these days is considerably less likely to elicit a massive racist outburst than it was 45 yrs ago.
""What thin partitions sense from thought divide," she murmured as she came abreast of the watchful police at the head of the escalator.
""Talking to yourself, hm?" said one of them with a harsh laugh. "Watch it, darl, or you'll be booked for a one-way ride to the Ginsberg!"
""Here comes a knee," said one of his companions. "Let's work him over, huh? We didn't get anyone yet today, but there's always a chance. You! You kneeblank there!"
"On the firm ground, Lyla turned to look, and yes it was Harry Madison they'd chosen to drag aside and search: five tall policemen so armored and masked that one could not have told whether they themselves were light- or dark-skinned, with helmets and body-shields and pistols and lasers and gas-grenades. But there was no future in arguing. It would only make things worse if she said she and Madison were together." - pp 228-229
Harry Madison, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the novel, is a "kneeblank", a 'black' soldier who was put in the "Ginsberg" mental institution & kept there apparently overlong for unclear reasons. Why did Brunner call it the "Ginsberg"? What doing so evokes for me is Allen Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish" in wch he expresses his responses to his mother's 'schizophrenia' & its broader implications.
"What did they put you in there for, anyway—if you don't mind my asking?"
""For too many questions," Madison said. "That kind of question you just asked. They put a gun in my hand and said go kill that naked savage with a stone spear, he's the enemy, and I said why is he the enemy and they said because he's been got at by communists and I said does he even have a word in his language for 'communism' and they said if you don't kill him you'll be under arrest. So they arrested me. I went on asking questions and I never got an answer, and I didn't feel inclined to stop until I did. So, they discharged me and put me in the Ginsberg["]" - pp 241-242
For the complete review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Mar 29, 2014
Apr 01, 2014
Sep 10, 2007
Sapper's Bulldog Drummond - The Carl Peterson Quartet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 23, 2014
Yes, surprise, surprise, once again I'v...more review of
Sapper's Bulldog Drummond - The Carl Peterson Quartet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 23, 2014
Yes, surprise, surprise, once again I've been verbose. Read my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... 'cause this little bugger is truncated:
If I had any 'guilty pleasures', reading Bulldog Drummond might be one of them.. but I don't, so it isn't. Many yrs ago, but probably w/in the last decade, I read Mickey Spillane's One Lonely Night. I thought I reviewed it on Goodreads. Apparently, I haven't. IF I HAD I'd be directing the reader of this review to my pan of the Spillane bk - but I didn't even bother to pan it. Spillane wrote hard-boiled anti-Communist propaganda crime fiction in the 1940s & 1950s. No doubt they were very popular. The lurid cover of One Lonely Night has a naked 'white' woman hanging from her wrists from a rope hanging from a ceiling. In the story, she's being brutally interrogated by some commies. We all know that commies love torturing pretty 'white' women - I mean it's not like they fought against nazis or anything, they're just low criminals & all that talk of economic justice & fairness & suchlike is just a smokescreen to cover up their natural sordidness. Thank GOD for detective Mike Hammer.
Well, as the reader can no doubt tell, I don't have much respect for Mickey Spillane. I always wondered at John Zorn's choosing him to name an album after. The record's great but why Spillane? Why not Hammett? Why not Chandler? Why not Highsmith? Why not Ellroy? They're all much more interesting writers, more realistic, less politically insidious, even more 'hard-boiled'. It's hard not to conclude that Zorn isn't very literate. And if I didn't already think Spillane was a hack, now that I've read Sapper Spillane strikes me as an unoriginal hack (is it possible to be an original one?) b/c Sapper's Bulldog Drummond is a strong candidate for flagrant precursor to Spillane's Mike Hammer.
I got interested in the Drummond character b/c I picked up 3 DVDs on sale for a buck apiece or thereabouts from a local bkstore. All hail obsolescence, right?! Thanks to it, I can pick up copies of all the stuff that's beneath the purchasing habits of all those people who're being led by the noses to keep up w/ the iJoeses [sic]. I checked out Bulldog Drummond's Revenge (1937, 55 minutes), Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937, 67 minutes), & Bulldog Drummond's Bride (1939, 57 minutes). I found them fast-moving & funny & I was entertained. What I didn't find in them was the anti-Semitism & anti-Communism of the bks.
"Jack Buchanan, the debonair song-and-dance man, played Bulldog Drummond in The Third Round (1925), but he was not the first screen Drummond. This distinction goes to English matinée idol Carlyle Blackwell who played the character in the 1922 movie, Bulldog Drummond. However, it wasn't until the advent of the talking cinema that the screen incarnation of Hugh Bulldog Drummond took off, and for about a decade from 1929 there was a spate of Drummond movies.
"In 1929 Ronald Colman, perhaps the best screen Drummond, took the role in Bulldog Drummond, based on the first novel. Colman returned in 1934 in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.
"During the Thirties old Bulldog was played on screen by Kenneth MacKenna, Ray Milland and John Howard, John Lodge and Ralph Richardson. In general the movies were lighter in tone than the novels and tended to use original plots, although Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937), with Milland, was a reworking of the original novel, and Bulldog Drummond's Peril (1938), with Howard, was based on The Third Round. Arrest Bulldog Drummond (1938), again with Howard, was based on The Final Count." - p XIII
I find 22 Bulldog Drummond movies listed on Wikipedia dating from 1922 to 1969 starring 14 different actors in the lead role. This tendency for the movie studios to make multiple movies based around the same detective character over a period of decades yielded a shitload of Charlie Chan movies & witnessing the Drummond movies led to my revisiting Chan wch, in turn, led to my making a movie called "CHAN(geling)" about actor Warner Oland & yellowface.
SO, yeah, Sapper's Drummond is a 'man's man' - a boxer/ex-soldier who plunges right in & exposes the world-takeover schemes of the fiendish murderer/thief Carl Peterson. Peterson, a man of exquisite taste & no scruples, is a great organizer of both capitalists & commies alike. They work together, hand-in-hand, to bring the Brits to their knees thru sabotage & chaos. To be fair, the anti-Semitism is a side-note in contrast to the full-blown anti-Communism. Ironically, Sapper is a WWI vet whose feelings are strongly anti-"Boche" (a pejorative term for Germans) but whose politics cd've easily paved the way for nazism.
SO, when I was reading David Stuart Davies's intro I was wondering if I cd even get thru the damned thing:
"Drummond is a man's man in an era when that was what a man was supposed to be. He has all the virtues and vices of his class and time. He is scrupulously honest, trustworthy, fearless and loves a good fight; but he is also a casual and good-natured bigot. His attitude to foreigners and Jews would today have the political correctness brigade blowing a collective gasket." - p VIII
"The Bulldog Drummond stories serve not only as entertaining, racy, thud and blunder thrillers but also as an interesting, if not palatable, historical reflection of upper-class attitudes to foreigners and Jews at the time. It is interesting to note that this seam of xenophobia and anti-Semitism fades significantly after the first two books in the series as memories of the war begin to fade." - p IX
'thud and blunder"! Blood and thunder indeed.
"It is in Bulldog Drummond (1920) that our hero first encounters Carl Peterson when the villain is involved in a plot to deliver England into the hands of the evil Communists - purely for financial gain, of course, for Peterson is above politics. The story features the archetypal damsel-in-distress scenario and introduces Drummond to his future wife. / In The Black Gang (1922) the Communist revolutionaries return and receive even harsher treatment from Drummond & Co.". - p XI
Silent weapons must've been all the rage in the 20s & 30s b/c Drummond & Chan & Mr. Moto stories all have their versions:
"He lingered for an instant, peering into the darkness and recovering his breath, when with a vicious phut something buried itself into the tree beside him. Drummond lingered no more; long years of experience left no doubt in his mind as to what that something was. / 'Compressed-air rifle — or electric,' he muttered to himself" - p 42
Bulldog does have a good sense of humor, there's alotof tricksterism here, & that's one of the saving graces of the stories that help counterbalance the aristocratic taking-for-granted-of-privilege & other such socio-political naiveties. He fools arch-criminal Peterson into kidnapping a man disguised as the intended victim & then presents him w/ a bill for the trouble he's gone to. It's wonderful as poetic justice:
"'What's this —— jest?' he howled furiously. 'And this damned bandage all covered with red ink?'
"'You must ask our friend here, Mullings,' said Hugh. 'He's got a peculiar sense of humour. Anyway, he's got the bill in his hand.'
"In silence they watched Peterson open the paper and read the contents, while the girl leant over his shoulder.
"To Mr Peterson, The Elms, Godalming.
"To hire of one demobilised soldier.............................................5...0...0
To making him drunk (in this item present
strength and cost of drink and said soldier's
capacity must be allowed for)................................................5...0...0
To bottle of red ink.................................................0...0...1
To shock to system..............................................10...0...1
"Total..............................................£20...0...1" - p 59
&, of course, Drummond has daring - but then it's easy to have daring when you're a fictional character - the author doesn't necessarily have to have daring in 'real' life. However, it seems to me that the author must have a sense of humor in 'real' life in order for his character to have it.
"In the days when Drummond had been a platoon commander, he had done many dangerous things. The ordinary joys of the infantry subaltern's life — such as going over the top, and carrying out raids — had not proved sufficient for his appetite. He had specialized in peculiar stunts of his own: stunts over which his men formed their own conclusions, and worshipped him accordingly." - p 65
But then we get back to his commie-demonizing:
"'I know not what this young man has done: I care less. In Russia such trifles matter not. He has the appearance of a bourgeois, therefore he must die. Did we not kill thousands — aye, tens of thousands of his kidney, before we obtained the great freedom? Are we not going to do the same in this accursed country?' His voice rose to the shrill, strident note of the typical tub-thumper. 'What is this wretched man,' he continued, waving a hand wildly at Hugh, 'that he should interrupt the great work for one brief second? Kill him now — throw him in a corner, and let us proceed.'
"He sat down again, amidst a further murmur of approval, in which Hugh joined heartily.
"'Splendid,' he murmured. 'A Magnificent peroration. Am I right, sir, in assuming that you are what is vulgarly known as a Bolshevist?'
"The man turned his sunken eyes, glowing with the burning fires of fanaticism, on Drummond.
"'I am one of those who are fighting for the freedom of the world,' he cried harshly,' for the right to live of the proletariat, The workers were the bottom dogs in Russia till they killed the rulers. Now — they rule, and the money they earn goes into their own pockets, not those of incompetent snobs.'" - p 108
Strangely, having "sunken eyes" seems to be some sort of indicator of insanity - &, of course, as a "Bolshevist" the man is a 'fanatic'. What I wonder is: why isn't Drummond also a fanatic? He certainly meets the criteria as much as any of the other characters.
"'Have you ever seen a woman skinned alive?' he howled wildly, thrusting his face forward at Hugh. 'Have you ever seen men killed with the knotted rope; burned almost to death and then set free, charred and mutilated wrecks? but what does it matter provided only freedom comes, as it has in Russia. Tomorrow it will be England; in a week the world . . . Even if we have to wade through rivers of blood up to our throats, nevertheless it will come. And in the end we shall have a new earth.'
"Hugh lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair.
"'It seems a most alluring programme,' he murmured. 'And I shall have much pleasure in recommending you as manager of a babies' crèche. I feel certain the little ones would take to you instinctively.'" - p 109
Let's keep in mind this is fiction. Is there any historical record whatsoever of a Bolshevik speech in wch the sufferings of humans are treated so cavalierly? Perhaps there are, I wdn't know, I'm certainly not enuf of an historian on the subject. &, of course, this is supposedly what Bolsheviks were saying behind-the-scenes, not necessarily for public record. If there is such an historical record, I'd be grateful if any reader were to call my attn to it in a comment here but I want specifics not some vague generalizations that 'we all know is true'. Keep in mind that there is historical record of big business's uncaring attitude for human life: take the famous Ford Pinto "Cost Benefit Analysis" in wch it was decided that it was more cost-effective to leave a dangerous gas tank in the design of the Pinto than it was to fix it:
"One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the delay [in changes to the Pinto gas tank design] was a "cost-benefit analysis" of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford's estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million. However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year. Essentially, Ford argued before the government that it would be cheaper just to let their customers burn!" - http://www.engineering.com/Library/Ar...
That's pretty fucking callous if you ask me.
My inclination is to think that "Sapper", an aristocrat/officer despite the lower-ranking implication of his pen-name, is expressing the anxiety of his class about the 'threat' of the arrival of economic justice in England. Bulldog Drummond is a man of independent means - in other words, he's rich, he can buy & command at a significantly high level in the established hierarchy, he doesn't work for a living, he goes to his club to eat, he has an expensive car (certainly not the equivalent of a Pinto), he has servants who're duly obedient & respectful, etc, etc..
In other words, he's the perfect person to be terrified of a revolution: what if he had to work? What if the work he did was low-paying, health-destroying, demeaning? What if he cdn't support his family, if his wife were an addict & a prostitute, if he were completely criminalized just for trying to survive? These are the niceties that "Sapper" completely ignores - in Drummond-world, there's no reason whatsoever, apparently, for any working class person to be disaffected - being a servant for Drummond, eg, comes natural to people of lesser abilities & intelligence & spunk & anyone rebelling against the status quo that supported the author & his alter-ego the Bulldog is obviously a naive dupe, greedy, a criminal, whatever - anything but a person w/ sincere insights into the destruction wrought in most people's lives by the established order.
The arch-criminal, Carl Peterson, is the only one who's given much respect b/c he manipulates people in much the same way the aristocratic elites do - just as a 'bad guy' instead of as the supposed 'good guys' that the aristocrats are represented as being. &, yet, what examination of British aristocratic wealth (or any other such wealth) isn't going to dig up a history of wealth built on slavery, overthrow of existing social structures, etc, etc?! There's more than a little self-delusion & hypocrisy going on in "Sapper"'s depiction of his hero. &, of course, anarchists get lumped into the enemy camp:
"[']You say he was with a crowd of revolutionaries last night. What do you mean exactly?'
"'Bolshevists, Anarchists, members of the Do-no-work-and-have-all-the-money Brigade,' answered Hugh. 'But excuse me a moment. Waiter.'
"A man who had been hovering round came up promptly." - p 139
This is where the subtext of "Sapper"'s adventures in La-La Land come to the fore for the attentive critical reader: "Anarchists, members of the Do-no-work-and-have-all-the-money Brigade"?!: here we have a 'hero' who certainly does-no-work-and-has-all-the-money but that's completely unacknowledged - & all his cronies are able to drop whatever they're doing to rush off into adventure at a moment's notice. I'm an anarchist & I think I can claim w/ substantial historical accuracy that many, if not most, anarchists are people who work, that in the 40 yrs preceding the writing of these Bulldog stories many or most of these anarchists wd've not only worked but wd've worked in factories from age 6 or so on precisely to support the completely luxurious lifestyles of the Bulldog Drummonds of the world. & if these anarchists wd've taken off work to rush off to adventure they'd know for sure that they'd lose their jobs & have to survive somehow in a way that they wdn't have to resort to if they were being pd a living wage & treated decently by their truly greedy bosses.
Somehow, tho, in the highly delusional world of these stories, the aristocrats aren't capitalists - what this means is that all the dirty work is far behind them in their PR-touched-up histories & that their nasty shit is done by armies that they control ('good) instead of insurrections that they don't ('bad'). A visiting American sums it up nicely for the aristocratic PR POV:
"[']One gigantic syndicalist strike all over your country — that's what Peterson's playing for, I'll stake my bottom dollar. How he's doing it is another matter. But he's in with the big financiers: and he's using the tub-thumping Bolshies as tools. Gad! It's a big scheme' — he puffed twice at his cigar — 'a durned big scheme. Your little old country, Captain, is, saving one, the finest on God's earth; but she's a little bit sicker than a good many people think. But I reckon Peterson's cure won't do any manner of good, excepting to himself and those blamed capitalists who are putting up the dollars.'" - pp 140-141
In Bulldog propaganda a "syndicalist strike" can only happen as a result of the machinations of a criminal mastermind - not as a result of workers actually trying to improve their debased conditions - & if there are any capitalists who stand to benefit by this destabilization they're certainly not the aristocrats AND any 'sickness' of the English socio-political conditions isn't a result of failures & greed on the part of the ruling elites!! 'Heaven' forbid that such an accusing analysis be turned toward Drummond & his ilk. Phrasing things in this way is a strategy for convincing the reader that if they're dissatisfied w/ the capitalists that're suppressing their wages or whatnot that they're actually in league w/ the Blosheviks instead of in opposition to them - as wd make the most sense.
In other words, let the aristocratic superhero, Bulldog Drummond, take care of the problem - don't be joining in solidarity w/ yr fellow workers & trying to take control - after all, Drummond's 'just like you': he speaks like the common man, he's not an intellectual, blah, blah.. This is a message that persists to this day in movies like The East, even tho that's more sympathetic to anarchist critiques, where in the end the anarchists shd leave everything well enuf alone & leave the cleaning up to the rogue superhero law enforcement types (who wdn't actually do shit or even be aware of what's going on w/o the anarchists).(less)
Notes are private!
Mar 12, 2014
Mar 23, 2014
Keith Laumer's The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2014
This is about as low as my reading habi...more review of
Keith Laumer's The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 16, 2014
This is about as low as my reading habits get. It's tempting to write a review of this that just makes excuse about WHY I'd read such crap. That wd actually strike me as pretty funny. SO, I'll incorporate that into the review (but it won't be exclusively that).
The excuses: The 1st Laumer I read was Time Trap, wch I reviewed in mid-June, 2013 ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16... ). His writing impressed me somewhat at the time as 2nd (or 3rd) generation pulp of possible substance. In that 1st review I concluded w/: "Laumer's got humor aplenty & this bk came dangerously close to getting a 4 star rating. I look forward to reading more by him."
I read 8 more bks by him in quick succession, gradually getting more sick of him. The last of these was The Invaders, the predecessor to the novel currently hypothetically under discussion. This is how that review begins:
"This is the 9th, &, maybe, the last for awhile, Laumer bk that I've read (all in a mnth) & reviewed. In my last Laumer review, of Galactic Odyssey ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76... ) I ruminate somewhat haphazardly on the excessive use of fantasy to distract one's self from dealing w/ 'real life'. I've found myself resorting to such escapism b/c my recent attempts to interface w/ 'real life' have been largely pretty unrewarding. Nonetheless, the struggle goes on, eh?
"As a part of my project of reading a slew of Laumer bks & exploring them, I've actually stooped so low as to read a bk "First in a thrilling new series based on the smash ABC-TV hit" as the front cover proclaims: viz: The Invaders. When I bought it, it was cheap, I was still hesitant: did I really want to be so thorough in my exploration of Laumer that I'd read this drek?!
"This bk was published in 1967. I stopped watching TV sometime around 1969 or 1970. SO, this wd've still been when i was watching it. Stopping watching TV was one of the best things I ever did. When I was in my early teens, when this bk was published, I'd spend Friday nites watching things like "Get Smart" & snacking. Now that I have almost no friends & very little social life what do i do almost EVERY nite? Watch movies & drink alcohol. It's not what I do all day, it's my R&R - usually after a long time of working on projects & going out & about in the world. Still, it's a little too much like what i was doing when I was 13. & reading The Invaders makes me feel like I've come full-circle to nowhere." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62...
Shortly after I discovered Laumer I drove from home (PGH) to former home (BalTimOre) to participate in a memorial to my old pal "Blaster" Al Ackerman. As is usually the case when I drive that route, I stopped off at Wonder Books in Frederick, MD, to shop - esp looking thru their HUGE SF section. I was even prepared w/ a list of the Brunner, Korbluth, Laumer, & Pohl bks that I already have so that I cd make sure to not get any repeats (probably did anyway thanks to reprint packaging).
ANYWAY, I was looking at this list a few days ago w/ the intent of updating it w/ the bks that I got there (a shitload of Brunners) & I went into the SF section of my personal library & noticed a stack of 10 Laumer bks I haven't read yet - just waiting to be whipped thru & filed away. EXCUSE: these 'nagged' at me, 'demanding' closure.
EXCUSE: Since I was in the midst of trying to make VHS 'masters' from the 4 DVD-Rs that constitute my recently finished movie "Titin" (you can see the 'trailer' for that here: https://vimeo.com/86542569 ), I wanted something simple to read that wdn't distract me from what little attn I needed to pay to the duping process & vice versa. I'm already reading William Gaddis's great The Recognitions & Florian Cramer's great Anti-Media but I found that I cdn't give them the attn they deserve while I was keeping an eye on the duping process.
So, The Invaders 2: Enemies from Beyond is what I chose. SHEESH! What hack writing it is. No doubt Laumer got pd for it, that made it worth his while, but what about the rest of us? Wd I've even enjoyed this at age 13? Maybe.
The tv series that these Invaders stories were based on was created by Larry Cohen. Cohen made such movies as It's Alive, God Told Me To, Q, & The Stuff - all of wch I've seen & enjoyed at least a little. he's not a favorite filmmaker of mine or anything but he's interesting enuf - in a way he's parallel to Laumer in that respect.
Laumer's language is simple in the way that tv shows are simple: it's aimed at the borderline illiterate: "Late-afternoon sunlight slanting through dusty leaves made a pattern across the tables of the sidewalk café. As David Vincent pulled out a chair, a waiter in a stained apron strolled over." (p 7) Ok, it's not that bad but it still reeks of hack-writer-job to me. & he does actually use the word susurrate TWICE ("the sound of its churning rotors susurrating in the near-stillness" - p 27) so that's a plus.
Ultimately, I don't think reading this is even worth it for the Cold War atmosphere in an invasion from outer space is mistake for the US under attack by the Russians: ""One thing I can't understand," Dwight was saying. "My shipboard seismograph gave me some strange readings down there. Paul studied them; it seems the Russkis had succeeded in drilling a Mohole—a shaft right down through the rock to the fluid inner core of the planet—probably as a power source—something our side isn't capable of accomplishing at the present time." (p 53)
Later, another character hypothesizes: ""I've never seen or heard anything like them," Doria said. "It's as though they were creatures from another planet—but I suppose that's silly." She shook her head. "they must be a mutation from some ordinary creature. We've been dumping radioactive wastes in the ocean for years now; that might cause something like this."" (p 73) Not that this wasn't & isn't worth worrying about (it is) but this type of thing was a total cliché even by 1967 when this was written.
In short, I don't think there's much, or anything, original here:
""If they'd come to us openly, asked for asylum—they'd have gotten help," David said.
""Would they?" Mr. Lal smiled faintly. "Even among our own, we seize on the most subtle differences to persecute our brothers. Indian against Pakistani, Moslem against Hindu—we are all guilty, David. Would we then welcome alien beings, stranger to us than the spider or the squid?"" - p 113
Ok, it's not like I'm not down w/ the message, I'm just saying that this whole bk reads like a series of things-that-must-be-here. ANYANYWAY, I read the whole damned thing (it was quick) & felt like I was wasting my time:
""In the meantime, find that Earthside transmitter!" The general's voice was the crack of a whip. "I don't care who or what you use! Call on the Army, the Air Force, the Navy—whatever you want! But find that transmitter and destroy it!"
"David turned the volume down; his eyes met Lieberman's.
""That means us," the physicist said. "It won't take them long. Every signal I send will bring them closer. All we can do is hope to carry out what we started, before Moore finds us."
""Or the alien machine blasts the crawler," David added. "Either way, chances don't look good."" - p 141
Just b/c I wasted my time reading this doesn't mean that I recommend it to you, I don't! The main 'good' thing about the experience is that if & when I read the remaining 9 Laumer bks I have waiting for me they can only be better than this one was. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 16, 2014
Feb 16, 2014
May 01, 1974
Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2014
Harrison's yet another SF writer whose work I've...more review of
Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2014
Harrison's yet another SF writer whose work I've seen around for decades w/o ever having much interest & w/o ever reading any of it (except, perhaps, for a short story here'n'there if he wrote any). SO, it's time to read something by him! Was I impressed? Not particularly, it was ok, maybe the lack of writerly innovation is motivated by this being a sortof tip-o-the-hat to Verne & /or Wells. That wd fit the plot somewhat. Note that the main submarine in Harrison's story is called Nautilus the same name as Captain Nemo's sub in Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
This is an alternate history novel in wch Britain won the war-for-independence w/ the colonies - resulting in no USA - as of the 1970s (when the novel seems to be roughly set) the Americas are still a colony:
""Because of the revolt and the ill feelings that followed after it in the American colonies, we remain a colony to this day. While others, Canada and Australia, for example, have attained to full independent dominion status within the empire."" - p 23
That last spoken by an American named Washington in conversation w/ a peer of the realm. Washington becomes the man who heads the construction of the train tunnel across the Atlantic Ocean. That, in itself, is a pretty interesting main plot. After all, the English Channel Tunnel was discussed for over 190 yrs before it was finished in 1994 & that's only 31.4 miles. SO, imagine a train tunnel ±3,000 miles long! While, in a sense, the technology for at least attempting such a feat may've existed for a while, the actual ability to do so is still way beyond us. Of course, there's also the issue of WHY? When we have planes & large boats, etc..
Harrison answers this question cleverly enuf w/ his alternate reality plot. Running thru the novel is all the technology that doesn't exist b/c America never got its independence & all those American inventors never got a chance to exist. & that was one of the most fun things about reading this for me.
"It was a hansom cab, two-wheeled, high, black, and sleek, the driver perched above with the reins through his fingers, these same reins leading down to one of the new-fangled conversions that were slowly removing the presence of the horse from central London. Here there was no proud, high-stepping equine frame between the shafts, but instead a squat engine of some sort whose black, metal, bricklike form rested upon three wheels." p 31
Cars exist, but they haven't become common & they've evolved in different ways. There's been no Henry Ford. Gas lamps are still the main public lighting: "A fine rain was falling, darkening even more the black pavement of Kensington Gore so that each yellow gaslight above had its mirror-imaged fellow". (p 32) Apparently there's been no Edison, no Tesla, no Westinghouse. "from his belt there hung the required wire recorder that lectured him day and night on what he was seeing" (p 125) Anyone who knows about the technical problems of a stationary wire recorder will find imagining a portable one particularly hilarious - kindof like a Pinto Space Shuttle.
The notion of alternate time-streams becomes relegated to being something promulgated by a minor psychic character who postulates a possible time-fork on July 16, 1212: ""Suffice to say, Gontran spoke before he died, and revealed the fact that he had planned to lead Christian troops that night by secret and unguarded paths that he knew of, being a shepherd, that would bring them behind Muslim lines. He died and this was not done. Now I ask you to consider what might have happened if he had succeeded in his plan."" (p 34) This possibility, of course, being the one that leads to the world as we (sortof) know it today.
Harrison's pretty thorough in his imagining of what-might-be-if the USA hadn't existed: ""Iris, darling, you can't mean that! You're a girl of the twentieth century, not a Victorian shadow of a woman. You have the vote now, or at least will next year when you are of age; women have a freedom under Elizabeth they never knew before."" (p 37) Apparently, Women's Rights have lagged behind. "No tea this time, as on their last meeting, for Iris had reached her majority in the meanwhile and was one of the new brand of liberated women who drink in public places. She had a Tio Pepe sherry while he perforce had a double brandy." (p 115)
On the other hand, the Britain of this story has sad traces of what's still going on just about everywhere today, a variation on the tropes of human trafficking: "In his release it all came out, the wretched man's history since he had first set foot in England twenty years previously, as well as what his fate had been since. An illegal emigre, helped by his friends to escape the grinding unemployment of Paris, friends who eventually turned out to be less than friends, none other than secret agents of the French crown. It was a simple device, commonly used, and it never failed. A request for aid that could not be refused—or he would be revealed to the English authorities and jailed, deported." (p 53)
& conditions in America (& elsewhere) are different too, of course, as things seem stalled in the 18th or 19th centuries: "The Iroquois, forced by law to check tomahawks and scalping knives at the city limits or to leave them home if they were residents, found a ready substitute in the table knives from the grill. The Irish, equally restricted in the public display of shillelaghs and blackthorn sticks above a certain weight, found bottles and chair legs as a workable substitute and joined the fray. War whoops mixed with the names of saints and the Holy Family as they clashed." (p 55) "Since the original thirteen states attempted to form their own government and failed, this country has grown until now it numbers thirty-one states and the California Territory." (p 60) "Gamblers there were in the crowd, sleek men with dark clothes, neat mustaches and white hands—and ready derringers on their persons to confront any man so rash as to dispute the honesty of a deal or the fall of a pair of dice." (p 121)
"the rendezvous up the Hudson River, below the ruined fortress of West Point, long associated with the heroic General Benedict Arnold" (p 149) For readers unfamiliar w/ the references: West Point, aka the United States Military Academy, is where officers are trained - candidates must be nominated, often by a member of Congress (this probably helps keep the ruling elites in power); Benedict Arnold was an American general during the Revolutionary War who defected to the British Army.
Even J. Edgar Hoover makes an altered appearance: ""Would you care to comment upon the fact that Mr. J. E. Hoover of the Long Island region branch of the Colonial Bureau of Investigation, thinks that sabotage may be involved with the broken cable and that he has a man in custody?"" (p 75)
In one sense, at least, technology has developed more quickly: "There was even more scribbling on pads and quick looks at the Wall Street Journal to see what the condition of steel and concrete stocks were; already some of the men were using their pocket telegraphs to get in touch with their brokers." (p 64) "pocket telegraphs"? Shades of cell-phones.
& computers have their British history: ""They are making wholly electric Babbage engines now, calling them computers as if that made a difference; they are much smaller but still filled with bugs. Give me good solid metal any time" (p 93) Most of the technology is far behind what it wd've been if there'd been more 'Yankee Ingenuity' involved & that seems to be an important subtext of the novel. "the telephone chimed. He took it from the drawer, put the microphone on the table before him and the receiver to his ear, and threw the small switch which activated it." (p 104)
One of the many strengths of Tunnel Through The Deeps is Harrison's imaginings of the technical difficulties of a trans-Atlantic train tunnel: "["]There are, of course, the abyssal plains that form the bottom, lying at an average depth of sixteen thousand feet below the ocean's surface, but other features must be taken into consideration. Down the center of the ocean runs the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a great mountain chain that is in reality a double row of mountains with the gorge of the Rift Valley between them. These mountain ranges and the Rift Valley are crossed at right angles by immense canyons called fracture zones that resemble wrinkles in the Earth's hide. Other features also concern us, the Mid-Ocean Canyon, like an underwater riverbed on the ocean's floor, seamounts, and islands and trenches—that is, extraordinarily deep gulfs—such as this one, on the map here, that is over 5 miles in depth. And there are more factors to consider, underwater earthquakes and vulcanism which are concentrated in specific areas for the most part, the very high temperatures of the sea bottom near the Rift Valley as well as the fact that the sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at the rate of about two inches a year.["]" (p 109)
[An aside is that in my edition of the bk there's a misprint that puts the last line on p 109 at its top instead. If I were to read it as it's printed, the p wd begin: "the rate of about two inches a year. It appears, and the ge-the length of the tunnel with no physical connection".. & "sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at ologists confirm the suspicion, that new matter rises from"..]
All in all, I thought this was a well-developed & entertaining exploration of possibilities. Despite that, it still didn't do much for me. Maybe I'm just getting burnt out on SciFi after having read so much of it in the last yr+. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 13, 2014
Feb 14, 2014
Jan 01, 1985
May 01, 1985
Frederik Pohl's Black Star Rising
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 8, 2014
This was a JOY to read.. or a HOOT.. or something.. Altho...more review of
Frederik Pohl's Black Star Rising
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 8, 2014
This was a JOY to read.. or a HOOT.. or something.. Although.., actually, it sortof petered out by the end & was a bit of a disappointment. Still (moving), all in all (n'at), I had fun reading this. It's in the genre of a-culture-not-currently-dominating a-particular-nation becomes THE-culture-dominating a-particular-nation. Other examples of this genre being Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962) (in wch the Japanese have won WWII & are ruling the US), John Brunner's Times Without Number (1962) (in wch the Spanish Armada defeated the British navy in 1588 instead of the other way around) (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63... ), & Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps (1972) (in wch George Washington failed in the rebellion he led against the British Empire) (I'm reading this one now). In Black Star Rising (1985) the US & the USSR have fought a war that's destroyed most of the people in their respective countries & elsewhere & the Chinese & the Indians have stepped into the vacuum. Specifically, the Chinese now control what was the US. Much of the novel revolves around the resultant tension (but it goes much further):
"Castor's annoyance at her sarcasm exceeded his worry at being involved with the Renmin Police. In faultless Mandarin he answered her. "A high police officer will understand these things better than a peasant, I know."" - pp 4-5
Throughout most of this, Pohl has touches that add entertaining detail. Take, eg, Castor's witnessing the occupying Chinese government's remake of the western "High Noon": "So his mood was sulky. But it improved, as he got caught up in the grand old story of the Renmin marshal of a century earlier, fresh from Home, threatened by a gang of anti-Party elements. The marshal, whose part was sung by the famous Feng Wonfred, was all alone against six armed enemies, but aided by the schoolteacher and other cadres, he struggled against the anti-Party rightists and forced them to criticize themselves." (p 10)
& even tho the Chinese occupation wasn't an invasion (have the Chinese ever invaded anyone?) there's still the prejudice that they bring w/ them to give them an invader-like characteristic: "What Castor had mostly studied was space. Everything about space, theory and practice. It was his dream. Because it was only a dream, it was also a curse. He had discovered bitterly early that only an ethnic Han Chinese had any real prospect of receiving space-going training." (p 12)
As is usually the case w/ any reasonably well-written story, main determining elements are revealed slowly - rather than in an obvious chronological order:
"It was always cool under the water and so much cleaner than the land; the currents that fed the Gulf brought no muck, no industrial wastes, no city sewage—no reminders of the terrible wiped-out world of a century ago. Or not very many, anyway. There was always the death-glass." - p 15
"He wondered what the world had been like, in those days just before the United States and the old Soviet Union had thought about the unthinkable and reached the wrong conclusions. Suppose they hadn't? Suppose they had sometime said to each other, "Look here, there's no sense in stinging each other to death like scorpions in a bottle, let's toss these things away and think of something else to do with our hostilities."" - p 16
Most, if not ALL, of my life, I've felt like the outlaw that society tries to constantly force into a mold that I'm completely opposed to. It hardly matters whether that mold is provided by mainstream culture or some 'alternative' 'politically correct' subculture that I may largely agree w/ but still want to maintain independence from. I want to be a free thinker, I don't want fear of retaliation from people who disagree w/ me to determine either the way I publicly function or the way I privately think. Sometimes I imagine 'friends' of mine chafing at the bit to put me in a 're-education' camp. Hence, this passage 'appeals' to me as a dystopic critique:
"For criticism the platform held a single chair, with all the others arranged in arcs before it and below.
"Castor looked at the hot seat as a condemned felon might view the electric chair of old. To sit there was not an honor. To sit there was to be hopelessly and painfully alone. The man or woman sweating in the hot seat matched three hundred pairs of accusing eyes with his own abashed ones, heard three hundred condemning voices with his solitary pair of shamed ears, spoke in self-criticism or (foolishly, vainly) in defense in his own single stammering voice" - p 21
Castor, the main protagonist, 's hero's-journey-of-errors begins when he discovers a severed human head while farming. The victim turns out to be an enemy of the Chinese occupation:
""He was arrested twice while a university student. Both arrests were for counterrevolutionary activities. The first was for participating in a rightist meeting. The second was for defacing the people's property by spray-painting graffiti. He painted such slogans as 'America for Americans' and 'Chinese Go Home' on the walls of his dormitory. Apprentice Feng was expelled from the university after the second arrest and has since been the subject of observation."" - p 39
The differing perspectives on whether the Chinese are invaders or benefactors remind me of the ongoing nightmare of the US occupations of Afghanistan & Iraq:
""You Yanks! How many of you secretly hate us?"
""It is natural to hate one's conquerors," Castor replied boldly, sucking at the pipe.
""But we are not conquerors! We came here to help, when you and the Russians had stung each other to death—and nearly killed the whole world, too! We brought you doctors and teachers! We helped you rebuild your land!"" - p 43
""Except that you are still here," he said at last." - p 44
Even the Renmin police inspector's relatively privileged life isn't free of the disastrous consequences of the US/USSR war: "It took Castor only a moment to realize this, and to realize that Police Inspector Tsoong's home was built on the heaped-up ruins of what had once been some sort of town. From the reek of petroleum in the air he realized another fact. No matter what Tsoong Delilah had jokingly promised, there would be no tandem skin diving for them this time. There had obviously been an oil surge from the rickety old wells a hundred kilometers out on the Gulf, and swimming would be no pleasure." (p 44)
One of the biggest joys of reading this, for me, was the character of "Manyface" who initially appears to have multiple personalities:
""I am looking for—no, I'm not—PLEASE!—for Bama Repub—shut up—lic citizen, Pettyman Castor—aw, he's not there—PLEASE! LET HIM FIN—of Production Team—I want to watch the opera . . ."" - p 54
The name "Manyface" is a clandestine nickname for a high party functionary. His actual name is: "FUNG-HSANG-DIEN-POTTER-SU-ANGORAK-SHUM TSAI - CORELLI - HONG - GWAI Bohsien - Futsui - Kaichung - Alicia - Wonmu - Aglat - Hengdzhou - Mingwo - Anastasio - Ludzhen - Hunmong." (p 56)
However, the explanation for this complexity is a novel one that I don't want to give away here:
""No, not at all. Split personality—or as Professor Fung's colleagues describe it, 'multiple personality disorder,' is a psychological thing. It is trauma, usually from early childhood damage, that in some way causes a retreat from reality. Manyface is very real. So are all his voices."" - p 71
"an ancient named Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that every society gets invaded by its own barbarians once in each generation—those barbarians it generates itself, the young males from seventeen to twenty-three." (p 148) I like this 'quote'. I tried to look at the Congressional bio for Moynihan online but cdn't connect to it so I went to Wikipedia instead. I found the following tidbit interesting:
"Moynihan was an Assistant Secretary of Labor for policy in the Kennedy Administration and in the early part of the Lyndon Johnson Administration. In that capacity, he did not have operational responsibilities, allowing him to devote all of his time to trying to formulate national policy for what would become the War on Poverty. He had a small staff including Paul Barton, Ellen Broderick, and Ralph Nader (who at 29 years of age, hitchhiked to Washington, D.C., and got a job working for Moynihan in 1963).
"They took inspiration from the book Slavery written by Stanley Elkins. Elkins essentially contended that slavery had made black Americans dependent on the dominant society, and that that dependence still existed a century later. This supported the concept that government must go beyond simply ensuring that members of minority groups have the same rights as the majority but must also "act affirmatively" in order to counter the problem." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_P...
In keeping w/ my previous comment that "main determining elements are revealed slowly":
"What Jupe had been doing was scouting a new nest site. (The detour to hunt inklings was an afterthought.) With a hundred and thirty-one sisters over the age of eight in their nest, it was time to fission. Everybody wanted a new nest when possible. A new nest meant one of the seniors could become a Mother Sister without waiting for Nancy-R to die. It meant even more that another male could be born, without upsetting the established 170-to-1 ration. It meant most of all that America was alive and well on World, and growing!" - p 153
I'm sure Pohl had fun providing this particular fantasy for his heterosexual male readers: 170 women for every man, all eager to fuck whenever possible.
""Oh, my God," said Miranda, when Jupe had finished explaining to her how the Mother Sister took her own ova, fertilized them in vitro with anonymous sperm from the banks, and implanted them in her "wife."" - p 180
Is that possible now? I recently had a boss who was a lesbian who gave birth to twins thru artificial insemination but I doubt that it also involved using the ova from her lover. Still, it's probably possible (or will be soon).
""Just that they are the other races the erks have helped," Jupe explained. "That's what they do, you remember? The erks have never failed to give aid to the oppressed, in all their history. Of course, it hasn't always worked out the way you'd want it, but still—"" - p 189
A touch of parody of the US as World Cop maybe?
"Ah, Hsang-the-psychologist! For him the Yanks were not merely a puzzle. They were a threat to his most basic beliefs.
"It happened that those beliefs were illicit, but that did not make them less strongly felt. As in most Socialist countries, the Han Chinese had early on repudiated the foul-smelling ravings of that degenerate toady of the bosses, Sigmund Freud. The sexual interpretation of dreams was not merely heretical in China. It was punishable by law." - pp 224-225
WELL, it never occurred to me that psychoanalysis might be banned in China. I find this fascinating. So I did a (very) little searching online for "Chinese law + psychoanalysis" (after failing w/ "Sigmund Freud + Chinese law") & opened up the 1st thing I found: Anne-Marie Schlösser's Oedipus in China: Can we Export Psychoanalysis? from wch I extract an opening paragraph:
"A night scene in an overfilled third class train carriage with wooden seats and dim lighting, somewhere in China. This is how the novel of Dai Sijie starts, “Mr. Muo’s travelling couch“. Mr. Muo keeps records of his dreams - his own, during his travels through China, and those of his fellow countrymen. He has just completed his training in analysis in France and now, after returning to China, sets out to apply his acquired insights to cope in a country that seems to him, at least in part, grotesquely altered. He is convinced that nobody, not even the “official representatives of law and order“ can escape the truth of psychoanalysis. It is his intention to bring this truth back to his homeland where for a long period of time psychoanalysis was prohibited. His undertaking evolves into something of a ludicrous adventure. And the question arises: is China ready for psychoanalysis? Do we have anything to offer and do Chinese people need it?" - p 4 of a downloaded PDF (This article is no earlier than 2007 b/c there're references from that time.)
&, yes, there's an implied lesson to be learned from Black Star Rising: "For the erks had never found an undivided civilization. There were always differences of opinion or policy or religion or habits of thought . . . and to the erks a difference meant a struggle." (p 248) SO, if there's no such thing as "an undivided civilization" & that's a problem, what's the solution? Of course, one can say that there's no solution b/c there's no problem. One can also say that these divisions are a form of codependency &/or symbiosis (as Pohl implies in one case). But does that help ease the suffering? Alas, no. (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 07, 2014
Feb 08, 2014
John Brunner's The Atlantic Abomination
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2014
After writing a huge review of OPEN SPACE 15/16 ( h...more review of
John Brunner's The Atlantic Abomination
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 3, 2014
After writing a huge review of OPEN SPACE 15/16 ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) it's a relief to read something that I don't have much to say about. Brunner's been my 'new' favorite SF writer for awhile now so I don't mind considering one of his works to be borderline mediocre since all in all I like his work immensely. THIS is possibly the 'worst' thing I've read by him yet. It's pretty much a generic potboiler: monster-from-outer-space-lurking-in-hibernation discovered-by-scientists-wakes-up-&-threatens-humanity. That sort of thing.
That sd, I'll mostly ignore the plot from now on & concentrate on more ephemeral things that interest me. The Atlantic Abomination has a "Cast of Characters" near the beginning. This was published in 1960 by Ace Books, Brunner's The Rites of Ohe (1963) was also published by Ace & also has a "Cast" list. See my review of that one here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... . I assume the Cast was imposed by Ace on these bks. That's probably of little interest to just about anyone but me but I find such formal devices vaguely important as cultural dating signs.
My "potboiler" accusation is exemplified by this type of prose: "How many times had the weaklings of this world fled cowering before the wrath of Ruagh and others of his kind? It was of no comfort to recall and count such occasions. Now he, Ruagh—the unquestioned master of thousands—was himself in flight, before the terrible and not-to-be-withstood anger of blind nature. . . ." (p 5)
& to get ephemeral again:
""And who," asked Peter of the trees around the little lodge, "gets up early on their honeymoon?"
""Queen Victoria and Prince Albert," said Mary mysteriously, coming out of the door on to the sun porch with a plate of pancakes.
"" 'S fact," she nodded, portioning out maple syrup. "I read somewhere that they got up early on the first morning after their wedding, and the lord chamberlain or some bigwig wrote disapprovingly in his diary that this was no way to ensure an heir to the throne."
"Their eyes met across the table. For a moment they kept straight faces, but at length they burst into helpless laughter.
""Poor Victoria!" Mary said when at last she could speak.
""Poor Albert, don't you mean?" Peter contradicted. "Or maybe not. He always seemed like a straightlaced kind of prig to me. Say, these are delicious."" - pp 57-58
I don't know if Brunner was practicing any tongue-in-cheek humor here but the Victorian Era in England saw substantial population growth & one of the most common penis piercings is called the "Prince Albert" (wch may or may not have anything to do w/ the actual prince & wch may or may not've been known as such at the time of the writing of this bk). At any rate, there was also a London-based underground sex magazine called "The Pearl" (July 1879-December 1880) during the Victorian era that's pretty spicy.
One of the more interesting things about this novel for me is that there's a near future in wch nuclear bombs are tightly controlled by international agreement - something that Brunner, as an anti-war activist, wd've certainly endorsed:
""I'm not going to authorize the construction of a nuclear missile without UN approval," the president said bluntly. "It took us years of squabbling to get rid of the damnable things, and I for one hope there'll never be another made on this planet! How about conventional missiles? Is there any way of pinpointing the exact location of the monster?"" (pp 80-81) ""Yes, I still want UN permission to build that nuclear missile." (p 97)
One of the largely unexplained reasons for this nuclear deproliferation perhaps having something to do w/ this bit of casually thrown in background: "There were no cars or trucks moving in Jacksonville. The wide streets, laid out anew after the great disaster of '65, when a missile from the coastal defense base fell during practice firings and wrecked the heart of town". (p 84) This "great disaster of '65" wd've been set by Brunner a mere 5 yrs after the publication of The Atlantic Abomination - showing Brunner's concern that such a disaster really might be imminent.
The political situation of this future is further hinted at:
""What's the President doing?"
""He's in Minnesota somewhere at an emergency hideout left over from the Cold War. Reports are he will broadcast to the nations this evening."" - pp 94-95
Note that this is post Cold War, more wishful thinking, it seems, on Brunner's part since the Cold War was in full bloom at the time of this bk's writing & the threat of nuclear war between the USA & the USSR was enuf to scare many people into thinking that the full-blown annihilation of most humans as a result of some sort of imbecility on politicians &/or the military was all too possible.
"Men had done this to each other, too. Feeling the habit of marching taking over from his conscious volition, Peter had visions of other armies of history. They had thought men were finished with such cruel stupidity. Perhaps this last time was going to set the seal of guarantee on the hope." - p 95
"They had thought men were finished with such cruel stupidity"!! Now,there's a future I'd like to live to see! I don't expect it, tho. I almost feel nostalgic for the animosity between the USSR & the USA these days where the conflict of State Terrorism vs Religious Terrorism is so horrifying.
As a widely read 60 yr old who was only born 8 yrs after the end of WWII, some aspects of this bk are understandable in ways to me that might not be to a younger reader: "What had made the master single these out? Peter wondered. Perhaps he could not in fact control the whole population of the world. Perhaps he intended to train a corps of collaborators, Quislings, who would make his authority effective." (p 88) "Some of the others he's picked are genuine bastards. There's an old-time prison governor from Alabama who was here on vacation, and a genuine sadist like I never saw before. There's a first-class Quisling-type woman." (p 89)
A "Quisling"? A British reader in 1960 wd've likely known this term given that it was purportedly coined by a British newspaper in 1940 to mean a collaborator w/ a foreign invader. The term refers to the Norwegian WWII era leader who cooperated w/ the invading nazis so that he cd rule the collaborationist Norwegian government. It seems to me that such a term might be dying out.
But what about something like this?:
""That's up to you, general, I'm afraid. Or rather, to the technical experts. By the way, I told Vassiliev about this, out at the Atlantic site, and from what he said I think we can expect something rather special in the way of Soviet electron-amplifiers shortly. That might be the answer to getting usable pictures from a super-fast missile." - p 99
The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) existed from 1922 to 1991. To someone of my age, it was a major force in world politics & the above passage showing the US & the USSR working together reeks of utopian fantasy - but what about to someone born in, say, 1992? The word "Soviet" might already be just a vague referent. How long before it, too, disappears along w/ Quisling as something understandable to the general population?!
"Even the last chance, the sowing of a curtain of blazing napalm across their path, brought such hideous results" (p 107) - "napalm"?: again, anyone of my generation will probably remember napalm vividly, in some way or another, after seeing the famous photograph of a young naked Vietnamese child (purportedly named "Phan Thi Kim Phuc") running screaming down a road, badly burned by napalm, on June 8, 1972. This was another heinous invention brought to the world by Americans (at Harvard, no less).
"Men change their gods, and when they have changed them often enough they cease to fear their power." (less)
Notes are private!
Feb 02, 2014
Feb 04, 2014
Jan 01, 1971
Roland Penrose's Picasso
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 28, 2014
I picked this up at a friend's yard sale, not that that's likely t...more review of
Roland Penrose's Picasso
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 28, 2014
I picked this up at a friend's yard sale, not that that's likely to matter to you, dear reader, much, for probably less than a dollar. I mention that b/c it's astounding how many things a person can acquire in this surplus society w/o having much money. I like Picasso's paintings, mostly the Cubist stuff. He had a period when he was associated w/ Surrealism too - that never really made that much sense to me: I kindof figured Breton adopted him in the same way that, say, Maciunas adopted Ligetti into Fluxus - possibly to attract more fame.
I've been reading William Gaddis's exceptional novel, The Recognitions & there's a part where Wyatt, a main character & an artist, is deeply impressed by a Picasso at a museum: "When I saw it all of a sudden everything was freed into one recognition, really freed into reality that we never see, you never see it." (p 92 of the Dalkey Archive edition) I've been in the mood to look at paintings so that was a good impetus to look at this particular bk - even tho I have other art bks that're more important for me to read.
Another thing that prompted my interest is that it's credited to Roland Penrose. I've got a great bk edited by Herbert read called, simply, Surrealism & that's got B&W repros of at least 3 of Penrose's pieces: "Beauty Prize" (1932), "The Jockey" (1936), & "Captain Cook's Last Voyage" (1936). I like them ok & I've thought of Penrose ever since as one of the few British Surrealists. "Penrose was on the organizing committee of the International Exhibition of Surrealism held in London in 1936, which included several Picasso paintings." (p 5)
Alas, crediting this to Penrose is a bit misleading. The publishers took a pre-existing Penrose text & used it. The rest of the bk, including the notes that accompany the painting repros, is written by David Lomas, who gets 2nd billing - presumably b/c he's not an art star. I wdn't credit either of them w/ being particularly exceptional writers.
"Penrose met Picasso in 1928. When he came to write a biography, Picasso. the Life and Work, Penrose was able to draw upon their lengthy friendship for many of his valuable insights. A humorous instance of this is his revelation that Picasso grafted the snout of his beloved mistress Dora Marr in portraits of her — something one could not discover without the chance to observe both at first hand!" - p 5
This particular Picasso bk is from 1971. I reckon the challenge of putting out yet another bk by a famous artist is in trying to distinguish it somehow - hence the Penrose attribution. By far my favorite Picasso painting, "Guernica", is only reproed small & in B&W - maybe that's another distinction of the bk, maybe the publisher thought "Guernica" had already gotten enuf exposure.
"The turning-point in Picasso's early career came when he was 25. The struggle in which the young artist found himself involved is forcibly illustrated in the great picture, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," [there's a plate of it & it's on the cover] "painted in Paris in the spring of 1907. It came as a shock to his friends that he should abandon a style that they had grown to love and produce a form of art that they could no longer understand. No one, not even Matisse, Braque and Derain, nor his devoted patrons, nor even his close friend and admirer Guillaume Apollinaire could stomach this work, which at first sight seemed to them outrageous. It took many months to digest this insult to their sensibility, but gradually they came not only to accept it but to find that it was exerting a profound influence on them." - p 7
Ha ha! I like this story. The painting probably seemed very grotesque at the time & weirdly 'uneven' stylistically. According to Lomas, it wasn't even exhibited until 9 yrs later in 1916. What if it had NEVER been exhibited? I think of the fall of 1978, I had just turned 25, I decided to make the transition from artist to Mad Scientist. I enacted this by having a gathering at my apartment where I gave away 19 or so art objects that I'd made. I gave a drawing to my mom on a separate occasion. One of the recipients immediately ripped up one of the drawings in honor of my transition. That wasn't really what I had in mind. I repossessed one of the sculptures eventually, I'm glad I did. I don't know whether a single friend kept any of the work. I asked one of them that I'm still in touch w/ recently if he still had the 'self-portrait' sculpture I gave him. It was a piece of plexiglass about 2 ft wide by maybe 5 ft long that had a hole cut in it & other modifications. It was meant to be leaned w/ one end on baseboard & the other on the floor. It was one of my favorite pieces. He didn't know what happened to it. My mom found the drawing I'd given her when she was moving house 29 yrs later. She asked if I wanted it, I did. It was a drawing I'd done of an island in a cemetery stream that I drew a vacuum cleaner on. When it came time to get it she'd lost it, probably thrown it away.
It was good to be reminded of Picassos I'd forgotten about such as the "Manager from New York" costume (1917) he designed for "Parade", the ballet that Satie did the music for. When I got to his "Weeping Woman" (1937) painting I was surprised to be strongly reminded of some of Gary Panter's work, maybe something like the cover to Frank Zappa's "Studio Tan" record (altho maybe that's pushing the comparison too much). Panter seems to have explored a similar over-the-top turf & seems to have been influenced a little by 'primitive' arts like Picasso was. I think particularly of Panter's "Barely Newport" series of acrylic on paper paintings that remind me of African masks. I actually enjoy Panter's work more than Picasso's for what it's worth. At any rate, they both impress me as having an extremely forceful RAWness (it's no wonder that Panter was a prime contributor to the great RAW comics).
"If anything, the effect is intensified in Weeping Woman. the refined palette of the preceding plates reaches a jarring expressionist pitch. Attention falls first on the open crying mouth and on the fingers, framed by the edges of a handkerchief. This section, like a picture within the picture, is filled with zigzag rhythms. These shock waves literally explode the equanimity of an elegant Parisian woman, who gives vent to an ocean of tears; indeed her eyes are like tiny boats tossed on a turbulent sea." - p 108
I really like Lomas's "her eyes are like tiny boats tossed on a turbulent sea": it's a perfect description, I can't look at this painting & find it restful, it's powerfully unsettling.
"In the autumn of 1957 Picasso embarked on a period of exceptional concentration, shutting himself off from friends for more than two months." Big deal. "During this time he painted a series of variations on Las Meninas of Valazquez, a painting that had fascinated Picasso when he first visited Madrid with his father at the age of fourteen. Working rapidly on a greta number of canvasses of all sizes he vigorously transformed Valazquez's handling of this strangely ambiguous version of the old theme, the artist and his model. He respect the principal elements of this dramatic composition, the lighting, the spacing of the figures, their gestures, and even the texture of their dresses, but he became ruthless in the transformations he brought about". - p 22
& what an amazing painting of Picasso's it is! To the right there's a crudely outlined figure that's starkly in contrast to the Cubist clutter of the left. What thing that I kept thinking of while I was looking thru this is the tired critical cliché of Cubism looking at objects from all angles. Ok, there are faces seen in profile & fully frontally. I like that. But can't we just appreciate Picasso's apparent lust for distorting things?! I'll bet he had fun doing that - adding the dog's snout to his mistress's face? That must've been fun - & it's interesting to look at.
"It is a misconception that cubism offers a more objective or complete view of the world by surveying objects from several different angles. Picasso cautioned that the realism of cubist painting is elusive and impalpable, like a perfume. Cubism in fact owes much to the persistence of symbolist attitudes into the first decade of the century. Instead of treating art as a mirror of nature, symbolism stressed the subjective vision of the artist" - p 68
I just think of Picasso as using the visual equivalent of distortion pedals.
I'd never heard of Picasso's friend Casegmas who committed suicide in 1901. Picasso did various works in response to that, including "La Vie", a blue period painting, from 1903. AND I didn't know that Picasso joined the Communist Party after the liberation of Paris, where he lived during the nazi occupation. It's claimed that he was in the French Resistance. Another blue period painting is "Child Holding a Dove" (1901): I've got a print of this one, didn't even know that was the title - &, in fact, uh, the painting shown is NOT the painting described - OOPSIE! Plate 4 has been cut out of my copy. SO, uh, forget that.
Lomas describes "The Old Guitarist": "A beggar playing a guitar tune and hoping thereby to attract the charity of passersby" (p 44) How about this? A guy who writes copy for coffee-table bks tries to attract alms from passersby as he mumbles about Picasso. Does that seem worng somehow?! Why shd this guitarist not just get pd? Why does he have to beg?! Actually, I'm not convinced he's begging anyway - there's no cup or hat in the painting & the scene doesn't even seem that urban.
I love these Cubist paintings: "Nude" (1910):
"Curves and painted highlights are used around the hip and shoulder regions. These points of articulation attract close attention because Picasso has attempted to render the figure in motion. The use of cubist devices to suggest movement was exploited by the Italian futurists, and notably by Marcel Duchamp in his famous Nude Descending a Staircase.
"Attempts have been made to relate the peculiar space and transparency of objects in cubist pictures to such contemporary developments as the invention of X-Rays." - p 70
I like it, I don't recall ever thinking of the X-Ray angle. "Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler": do painters still do portraits of their art dealers? "Still Life with Cards, Glasses and a Bottle of Rum: "Vive la France'": another beaut, rich deep colors, nice variety.
"Still Life on a Table - with a view of the rue de Penthièvre in Paris - contains many of the same elements, only they have been shuffled like pieces of a jigsaw waiting to be solved by the viewer. The round gueridon table appears in many late still lifes by Braque. Upon it is place a compotier (fruit bowl) and a guitar as well as a row of house façades from the background! These objects are framed as if to create a second picture within the picture, adding another twist to the pictorial puzzle." - p 82
Yep, love it, like so many of the ones I like it's like a collage w/o actually being a collage - that makes it more interesting to me. & then there's the "Three Musicians" - a variation on this one adorns the cover of a turnabout VOX record of Schoenberg's "Verklärte Nacht", Op. 4, & "Chamber Symphony", Op. 9 - thusly instantiating deeply into me.
"Seated Bather" & "Figures by the Sea (The Kiss)" are both pretty wacky. Lomas says about the latter: "An amorous embrace turns into a lethal duel between two combatants who seek to devour each other. Their dumb animal heads have no eyes with which to see (love is blind!)." (p 98) Hhmm.. Each of the 2 figures has 2 circles on their faces that are different from what appear to be 2 nostrils & wch look more like eyes than ears to me. Dunno, but I love the way Picasso seems so uninhibited.
"The Sculptor"'s another stunner. The composition's so damned lively. Lomas says that its "stippled dots [..] refer to neo-impressionist painting". (p 100) He might be right, to me it just looks like stippling. I love the way he has one small area of faux marble in the lower right that gives such a different weight in contrast to the other writhings.
"Cat Devouring a Bird" (1939) borders on a dime store painting except that there's nothing cute about it, it's ferocious. Lomas says it "was painted at an ominous juncture in European history: in January 1939 Barcelona surrendered to Franco's forces and in September the German war machine rolled into Poland.
"A fearsome cat disembowels its pathetic victim with teeth an claws (excoriations on the surface of the canvas mime this aggression.) All its terrifying lust for violence is concentrated in the expression of its head which is, as Roland Penrose notes, 'at the same time ferociously animal and disquietingly human.'" - p 110
I quite agree, I have no problem accepting this as allegory & find its emotional directness very affective.
"Woman in a Fish Hat" (1942) shows, yes, a woman wearing a fish w/ a fork & a lemon slice on her head. Captain Beefheart wears a fish mask on the cover of his "Trout Mask Replica" record (surprise, surprise) & I'm sure I've seen Monty Cantsin sporting a fish hat too. You saw it in a Picasso 1st, Ladies & Gentlemen.
&, WHEW!, another amazing painting: "Women on the Banks of the Seine, After Courbet": Lomas has a nice analysis:
"In reworking it he embellishes the Courbet with a rich decorative style first used in a remake of El Greco's Portrait of a Painter. The colour scheme also points to El Greco (his painting was a major influence on Les Demoiselles d'Avignon). If so, two stranger bedfellows could not be imagined:a Spanish court painter of the seventeenth century who painted in a highly stylized manner, and a nineteenth-century radical socialist whose name is synonymous with realism. For Picasso it was possible to encompass both these artistic alternatives. In his lifestyle, too, he lived out this curious alliance: as a member of the Communist Party and a multi-millionaire living in a castle." - p 116 (less)
Notes are private!
Jan 24, 2014
Jan 28, 2014
Aug 01, 2013
[This review is NOT elegant]
OPEN SPACE 15/16
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Practicing Promotextal - January 19-27, 2014
Once upon a time the...more [This review is NOT elegant]
OPEN SPACE 15/16
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Practicing Promotextal - January 19-27, 2014
Once upon a time there was a reviewer who had too much to say. His reviews were inelegant (ie: LONG). This one's no exception, you shd really read the whole thing, really:
In Elaine Barkin's OPEN SPACE 15/16 article "Telling it SLANT or In Search of the Early Years or 'A Sitting on a Gate'", a remembering of her involvement w/ the magazine Perspectives of New Music (reprinted from the same as it appeared in Volume 20, Nos. 1 & 2 (2012)), she describes PNM in a way that cd just as easily be a description of OPEN SPACE:
"In 1980, the Big Fat White issue included complex theoretical-philosophical discourse by Robert Morris, John Clough, David Lewin, and John Rahn, sitting in the same pew with Arthur Margolin's evocative "Mozart's D major String Quartet / k 593 / mm. 53-56" (four measures to die for: ERB), preceded by Wallace Berry's "Symmetrical Interval Sets and Derivative Pitch Materials in Bartók's String Quartet No. 3", my own "A Dedication / Five ADmusementS, & A Digression", all coming after a 250 page riot of texts celebrating Kenneth Gaburo" - pp 350-351
"Ben's stunning "TALK. If I am a Musical Thinker." melding with Naomi's arresting Rohrschachian ink-blobs, its layout created with the assistance of Bruce Huber, beckoning reader-viewer-listener. But many had been crying "foul", hiss-filled air reeked again; several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance; did "IT" belong in The Academy, in Music-Talk? Did they—or whoever they were speaking for—think that they "owned" Perspectives?" - p 351
"For many of us, Perspectives had become a utopian vision, communitas. Why not dream of better ways of doing things?; being inclusive, responsible but not narrowly responsive to any one way" - p 351
"It was more like a Crazy Quilt, each unique patch from a different expressive-investigative corner of the emerging, diversely un-unified multicultural music-analytic-theoreticspeculative-soundscape." - p 351
Now I, alas, don't have any issues of Perspectives of New Music in my otherwise very substantial personal archive/library - probably b/c it was mainly aimed at academia where high prices cd be pd for its sustenance & where the majority, if not the entirety, of its readership & contributors lived anyway. The same observation cd be aimed at OPEN SPACE as well: after all, single issues are priced at $45, double issues (like the one being reviewed here) at $80, & even the student rates price per issue is $38! The "utopian vision, [the] communitas" definitely doesn't include people outside that financially luxurious environ as far as purchase access goes.
Nonetheless, many OPEN SPACE recordings, tapes & CDs, had cheaply wended their way into my collection before I ever made contact w/ OPEN SPACE's editors & I've since found these folks to be generous & exceptionally open-minded. If they weren't, I wd've never been included in 2 issues so far - occupying, as I do, a place in what many wd consider to be a 'lunatic fringe'.
In many ways that are important to me, I IDENTIFY w/ Barkin's statement: consider this seemingly trivial instance: she places commas after quotation marks - something that some people to this day find almost insufferably heretical even tho I, personally, do the same thing & find it quite logical. & there are many things in Barkin's descriptions above that resonate w/ my own experiences in different environments. Take, eg, "several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance": in the mid 1990s I was a participant in a list-serv for improvisors called PhiBa, for Philadelphia-Baltimore, where I had similar experiences to those that Barkin had w/ the Yale students.
In one thread I participated by cutting & pasting other people's comments & reorganizing them into a more experimental text wch I then posted as a continuation of the thread. My logic was that I was playing w/ the list-serv as a way to improvise, using, of course, the musician's common imitation & recontextualization technique, thinking that I was moving the discourse onto a level on a par w/ everyone's purported interest. There was an uproar, a strong voicing of disapproval to the effect that 'I didn't join this list-serv for poetry!!' I didn't get the impression that anyone even noticed that I was quoting from previous postings. Ironically, 2 of the people who protested the most were 2 Pittsburgh-based musicians that I'd encouraged to join the list.
Since I'd been a prime mover in the improvisation community in BalTimOre before moving to Pittsburgh where I once again became involved w/ improvising, it seemed fit to me that the participation of PGH peops justified renaming the list-serv PhiBaPit or some such. I even went so far as to propose that the Washington DC participants be acknowledged in the name as well. My proposal was met w/ stony silence. This was clearly a snobbish closed circle.
I repeatedly submitted info about an upcoming event I was organizing to the PhiBa improvising calendar: the Anonymous Family Reunion to take place at Ringing Rocks State Park & at the Sonambient Theater where Harry Bertoia's sound sculptures are housed. Both locations are in eastern Pennsylvania w/in fairly easy driving distance of Philly & B-More. These locales were chosen for their extraordinary potential as places for site-specific improvising. But, apparently since they weren't 'conventional' improvising events at a club or gallery, my promotion was ignored by the administrator of PhiBa & not posted in the calendar. When I finally complained about this, the moderator acted frostily as if I were just being an asshole. When the Anonymous Family Reunion finally happened in the late summer of 1997, only one participant came from PhiBa. He & I are still friends 16+ yrs later. It probably wasn't much after this that I dropped off the list-serv. W/ the exception of the very few friends & collaborators that I met thru it, it was mostly a waste of time.
OPEN SPACE 15/16 begins w/ a memorial from Benjamin Boretz, the founder of PNM & coeditor (& presumed cofounder) of OPEN SPACE , for composer/teacher Harold Shapero (1920-2013). As Barkin writes about the 1st issue of PNM from the Fall of 1962 it had a "memoriam to Irving Fine who died way too young and also with whom Ben and I had studied at Brandeis" (p 346) &, Lo & Behold!, here's another tribute to a Brandeis music prof that Boretz studied w/ who managed to hang in there until 51 yrs later after the 1st issue of PNM! Long live longevity!
Boretz describes Shapero as a "local young-turk jazzpianist all-music wunderkind, [who] was not yet 35, inconceivably young for an actual official professor." (p 1) To quote Wikipedia: "The Young Turks [..] was a Turkish nationalist reform party in the early 20th century, favoring reformation of the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Empire." "The term "Young Turks" has since come to signify any groups or individuals inside an organization who aggressively pursue liberal or progressive policies, or advocate for reform." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Turks )
I 1st recall encountering the term as, perhaps, the tile of a publication from the late 1970s or early 1980s by artist Stephen Seemayer about artists that he appreciated in LA & its rough urbanity, including himself. More recently, however, in a 2005 record called Totalitarian Sodomy by punk band "World Burns to Death" I encountered a song called "All the Young Turks" about wch they write "This song is inspired by a poem called "The Bride", written by poet Siamanto (real name Atom Yarjanian) who was born in 1878 and died in 1915, one of the first of the 1.5-million people murdered by the Young Turks movement during the Armenian genocide." That puts quite a different spin on things, eh?!
Back to Boretz: "Harold himself wrote about "the musical mind" as a manifestation of subconscious processes". (p 1) while this article is brief, it's still highly welcome to me b/c I only have 2 records w/ Shapero's music on it & don't really know his work at all. One of these is on the Columbia Masterworks series - one of the highest recommendations - & is a playing of his "String Quartet No. 1" (I'm listening to it now). The other is on The Louisville Orchestra's First Edition Records & is his "Credo for Orchestra" (I'll listen to it next). Boretz praises Shapero's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra". Perhaps I'll get to hear that someday.
Perhaps the person whose articles herein excited me the most is James Hullick, or ")-(Ull!c]<" as he (almost) writes it here. In his "Never Mind the Bollocks" he says: "Meditating on sonic art as an act of social conscience can lead to philosophy; and specifically the interabilities agenda. "Interabilities" is a term that denotes the interaction of people of all abilities. As an agenda for sonic practice, it describes people of varying abilities working together toward some sonic outcome. In and of itself, the term "interabilities" does not have anything to do with the quality of a sonic outcome. People of all abilities could be working together to make absolute rubbish and the term "interabilities" would be met. But the ethics behind interabilities activities elevates the activities beyond this broader blanket term. In the case of sound, for example, if people of all abilities work together to produce a truly dreadful concert, then the positive ethic and social benefit of the interabilities agenda can be lost. The audience may have suffered. It lies at the heart of the interabilities agenda that interabilities activities will eventually strive to inspire participants and audiences alike to our greatest vision of humanity — where all people stand equal in society, and where all abilities are considered of equal worth to the wider human mission." (p 6)
Now, I very much like this statement & laud the term "interabilities" wch I've never encountered before & wch )-(Ull!c]< may very well have coined. HOWEVER, I question some of its implications: )-(Ull!c]< being the guider of these interabled activities is in some sense the composer. He's also, presumably, being pd to be an interabilities facilitator. In his ideal interabilities scenario do ALL PARTICIPANTS have equal access to being the guide/facilitator & to equal pay? Also, are ALL PARTICIPANTS going to be in agreement on what a "truly dreadful concert" is & will someone's opinion be more privileged in relation to this? ()-(Ull!c]<'5, eg?) & will they all be in agreement that "if people of all abilities work together to produce a truly dreadful concert, then the positive ethic and social benefit of the interabilities agenda can be lost"? & that "The audience may have suffered"? &/or even that this 'suffering' is a bad thing? I've been told by 'friends' of mine who know close to nothing about what I do that my 'obvious' intention is 'just to irritate people' - this b/c I produce dense & challenging work that people find difficult to process - hence, it 'must' be 'sadistic'. NOT.
Cf this excerpt from my own article in this issue, "30 4 5 + 97.9": "my 1st reel-to-reel recorded audio piece from 1976: dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada A part of the significance of this latter was that it is a piece designed to be easily performable by almost anyone & that what wd distinguish one performance from another cd just as validly be the performers' incompetence or other foibles as well as their skills & strengths. This was an important 1st step for me in stepping outside of the disciplines of classical music into what I usually now refer to as "Low Classical Usic"." (pp 200-201)
The idea being here is that this, too, is an example of an interabilities situation but there is no such thing as a "truly dreadful concert" & whether "The audience [considers itself to] have suffered" or not is irrelevant - unless actual nonconsensual physical pain (psychological pain can be a bit harder to assess) is being induced. &, of course, I am the d composer here &, despite the extreme d liberate simplicity of the score/title, my function as such places me in a unique unequal position in relation to the performers.
)-(Ull!c]< does address possibilities that other more people living in a more insulated world wdn't even think of in their delusional utopian imaginings. That's one of the things that leads to my respecting his article(s) so much. "So while I think an interabilities agenda should be open to the experience of darkness that many people feel, I also think that we can find ways of embracing both the darkness and the light, that don't end in murder." (p 10) "The project responded to the story of Milarepa, a Buddhist saint from the 11th century (c. 1052-1135) who had started life out as a mass-murderer." (p 10) I'm reminded of an interview w/ John Waters from several decades ago. He'd made Pink Flamingos in wch his drag queen star, Divine (named after a Jean Genet character), actually ate dog shit. Waters remarked about changing the direction of his filmmaking b/c 'To be more shocking I would've had to kill somebody and I wasn't going to do that.'
In a promotional email sent out announcing this issue, the OPEN SPACE editors proclaimed:
"As a longtime supporter, you already know something of our guiding aspiration to extend the boundaries and horizons of the community of creative thinkers and artmakers. After fifteen years of publication, we believe our new issue has broken through to a significantly new level toward that goal; we have produced a 364-page panoramic, kaleidoscopic book which is composed in a meaningful way to lead you through a huge diversity of subjects treated with consummate seriousness, personal investment, and creative originality.
"The current issue of The Open Space Magazine includes an introduction to magical practice"
& it's this latter sentence (chopped off in my excerpting of it here) that leads to my next comments. Robert Podgurski provides a "Graphic: First Enochian Call to Spirit" that I find interesting to look at in a similar way to the way I enjoy Visual Poetry or a score. Peteris Cedrins also contributes things occult-relevant. I particularly like his imagistic writing:
"'Twas the night before feminism, & all through the hows ... ... ... the stirrings of rats, & at night there are bats in your hair. The colibri of hope are finally kaput, to be eaten like ortolan. Laima's lord tells of the south wind, wch years ago brought blistering heat to the village. Between two to four hundred prostitutes were deported to northern Kazakhstan as anti-Societ elements. Kiss the doorknob, kids would say, & you'll see Riga. It was an iron doorknob, of course, In the dead of winter. Lick it. Eat the bunting." - p 33
Other Podgurski sigils & a poem close the issue. The PNM logo in White's article quoted above looks very much like a sigil too. I'm reminded of my own fanciful theory that sigils are actually circuit diagrams for controlling energy flow (both metaphorically & directly). Maybe someday I'll actually build circuits somehow based on them & see what happens when electricity is introduced.
As w/ White's recalling that "several Yale graduate music theory students hassled me in 1981 with: "it's just poetry"—as if "poetry" was a dirty word, as if expressive verbal language was an irrelevance" & can easily imagine that happening here in reference to "an introduction to magical practice". But, to me, it's the mindset that I'm interested in. One ex-girlfriend who was a poet was interested in experimental writing but her tastes in relation to music were pop all the way. I've never understood that. Why differentiate so between disciplines? It's the experimentation that does it for me.(less)
Notes are private!
Jan 17, 2014
Jan 27, 2014
John Polidori's The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 15, 2014
When am I ever going to start wr...more review of
John Polidori's The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 15, 2014
When am I ever going to start writing those superficial capsule reviews again?! This one's "too long", see the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The 1st time I remember running across mention of Polidori & his story "The Vampyre" was probably in Ken Russell's 1986 film Gothic. I had a brief phase of reading Gothic lit 40 yrs or so ago when I learned about it thru reading that the Surrealists liked it. As I recall, Polidori is depicted somewhat unsympathetically as an hysterical weak character who attempts suicide. He did, eventually, actually commit suicide.
Gothic luridly depicts the summer of 1816 when the poets Lord Byron & Percy Bysshe Shelley + Byron's physician Polodori + Jane 'Claire' Clairmont & her writer step-sister Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (better known after marriage to Shelley as Mary Shelley) "amused themselves rather strenuously by reading some German ghost stories and [..] then challeng[ing] each other to compose similar tales of supernatural terror." [..] "Polidori began his only novel, Ernestus Berchtold; or, The Modern Oedipus (1819), and Mary Godwin [..] embarked upon the composition of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus". (p ix of the Introduction to The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre)
"Gothic tales and fragments began appearing in the magazines shortly after the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764, and were common after 1790, when the craze for the Gothic in Britain reached its height." - p xv
This collection interests me for several reasons, not restricted to the reading of the Polidori story rounding out my knowledge of Gothic lit somewhat. For one thing, 3 of the tales presented were originally presented as having been written by "Anonymous" & still credited to such in this volume. For another thing: "These fictional possibilities of claustrophobia were exploited to the full in William Mudford's Blackwood's tale 'The Iron Shroud' (1830), in which a prisoner discovers his metallic cell is gradually shrinking and will thus certainly crush him to death. It was upon the basis of these works that Edgar Allan Poe soon developed the hysterical intensity of his most memorable stories, notably 'The Pit and the Pendulum' (1843), which is indebted directly to Mudford's tale." (pp xvi-xvii)
"The Iron Shroud" is not one of the stories herein collected but Charles Lever's "Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer" (1836) cd also be sd to've been a predecessor to Poe's "The Premature Burial" (1844). & in the introductory footnote to Edward Bulwer's "Mono and Daimonos"  it's stated that: "In an 1835 letter to the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe listed 'Monos and Daimonos' as one of those tales that was 'invariably' popular with readers because it displayed 'the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque: the fearful coloured into the horrible: the witty exaggerated into the burlesque: the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical'. A year later Poe cited 'Monos and Daimonos' to support his claim that, in Bulwer's writings, 'all is richly and glowingly intellectual—all is energetic, or astute, or brilliant, or profound'. Poe's 'Silence—A Fable' (1838) is heavily indebted to 'Monos and Daimonos', to the point where, as Mabbot points out, some sentences are taken 'almost verbatim'." (p 262)
I don't think that I share Poe's appreciation of the story. Here're a few samples:
"My father died when I was eighteen; I was transferred to my uncle's protection, and I repaired to London. I arrived there, gaunt and stern, a giant in limbs and strength, and to the tastes of those about me, a savage in bearing and in mood. They would have laughed, but I awed them; they would have altered me, but I changed them; I threw a damp over their enjoyment and a cloud over their meetings. Though I said little, though I sat with them, estranged and silent, and passive, they seemed to wither beneath my presence." - p 54
""I commenced my pilgrimage—I pierced the burning sands—I traversed the vast deserts—I came into the enormous woods of Africa, where human step never trod". - p 54
"Seasons glided on, and my youth ripened into manhood, and manhood grew grey with the first frost of age; and then a vague and restless spirit fell upon me, and I said in my foolish heart, 'I will look upon that countenances of my race once more!' I retraced my steps—I recrossed the wastes—I re-entered the cities—I took again the garb of man; for I had been hitherto naked in the wilderness, and hair had grown over me as a garment." - p 55
Given that I 'grew up on Poe' & have always thought of him as a pioneer (wch he certainly was - but more, perhaps, for things like "X-ing a Paragrab" (published post-mortem in 1850) & "The Gold-Bug" (1843). This latter was renowned for its central cryptoanalytic element. I remember reading in a bk that Poe's code-writing was so substantial that it was still used during the American Civil War 20 yrs after the publication of "The Gold-Bug". However, while there's plenty on Poe in David Kahn's substantial The Code-Breakers I deduce from it that Poe's Civil War encoding influence is not accurate b/c I didn't see it mentioned at all (I just skimmed - cd've missed it). The likelihood for the accuracy is small anyway since the story was so popular that it seems unlikely that the code in it wd've been useful for any truly secret purpose.), I was interested to see such strong precursors to his more macabre works in this bk.
Polidori's story in & of itself is 'worth the price of admission' for the scholarly tidbits surrounding it for anyone interested in this period of English lit. "Better still, this prose tale, entitled The Vampyre, seemed to follow the pattern of Byron's best-known poetical productions—Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18) and Manfred (1817)—by incorporating a strong element of confessional self-portraiture, but this time treating the familiar figure of the accursed outlaw in even more lurid terms as a bloodsucking demon or 'vampyre' with the tell-tale name of Lord Ruthven—clearly an echo of another recent fictional portrayal of Byron as Clarence de Ruthven, Lord Glenarvon in the novel Glenarvon (1816) by Lady Caroline Lamb, Byron's cast-off mistress." (p vii)
Byron as the vampyre strikes me basically as Byron as the 'sexual predator' or Byron as the guy who gets laid b/c of his forceful & talented (& rich) persona while the envious envy. Byron must've been quite the celebrity in his day b/c he features in other stories collected here as well: EG: in Anonymous's "The Curse" Byron is slightly misquoted: "'For never having dream'd of falsehood, we / Had not one word to say of constancy.'" (p 114) from "Don Juan"; & in the "Preliminaries for The Vampyre": "It is said, indeed, that upon paying his [Byron's] first visit at Coppet, following the servant who had announced his name, he was surprised to meet a lady carried out fainting; but before he had been seated many minutes, the same lady, who had been so affected at the sound of his name, returned and conversed with him a considerable time—such is female curiosity and affection!" (p 238) Not to mention, presumably, lust.
"The story had made an indelible impression on the imagination of Europe, and Polidori had succeeded, however inadvertently, in founding the entire modern tradition of vampire fiction. Not only was his tale the first sustained fictional treatment of vampirism in English, it also completely recast the mythology upon which it drew." - p x
"French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, whose Relation d'un Voyage du Levant (1702) was the eighteenth century's first account of vampirism" & "Dom Augustin Calmet was one of the most famous biblical scholars of his day, as well as the leading eighteenth century authority on vampires". - p 278
"As the basis of imaginative literature rather than of sick jokes, however, the folklore of vampires as represented in Calmet's accounts had some serious deficiencies: it was obscure, confused, and above all comically disgusting. According to the villagers of Serbia and Hungary, their vampires were bloated, shaggy, foul-smelling corpses who preyed on their immediate neighbors and relatives, or on nearby cattle (so that vampirism could be acquired by eating contaminated meat). Popular remedies against vampires involved digging them up and smearing oneself with their blood, or pulling out their teeth and sucking their gums,as well as the more conclusive precautions of staking, decapitation, and incineration. Still more unappealing was the fact that the legions of the undead were composed entirely of peasants. Some readers of Calmet's anthology pointed out that there seemed, oddly, never to have been an urban vampire, nor an educated bourgeois vampire, let alone one of noble birth. The historical and mythological importance of Polidori's The Vampyre lies in its drastic correction of the folklore's shortcomings, and especially in his elevation of the nosferatu (undead) to the dignity of high social rank." - p xii
In other words, Lord Ruthven is herein credited as the 1st aristocratic vampire - his folklore predecessors having been, so the Introduction here claims, all hairier peasants. This interests me insofar as there's the implication of class predation - the rich prolonging their lives at the expense of everyone they can sink their fangs into, blood of the virgin n'at. &, of course, there's the 'sexiness' of submissively succumbing to such treatment: what an 'honor' to be sucked dry by the ruling class! Furthermore, as an aside, there's a tiny remote dead-end street in my neighborhood named Ruthven wch'll now be forever associated w/ aristocratic vampirism in my mind.
In Polidori's tale he describes his surrogate self thusly: "About at the same time, there came to London a young gentleman of the name of Aubrey; he was an orphan left with an only sister in the possession of great wealth, by parents who died while he was yet in childhood. Left also to himself by guardians, who thought it their duty merely to take care of his fortune, while they relinquished the more important charge of his mind to the care of mercenary subalterns, he cultivated more his imagination than his judgment. He had, hence, that high romantic feeling of honour and candour, which daily ruins so many milliners' apprentices." (p 4)
Aubrey is tricked into making an oath to not disclose the death of Ruthven who he later learns hasn't actually died (or has been 'reborn'). The stupidity of 'honoring' this oath is an indication of the aforementioned lack of judgment when he learns that his sister is about to marry the vampyre: "He began to speak with all his wonted warmth, and to congratulate her upon her marriage with a person so distinguished for rank and every accomplishment; when he suddenly perceived a locket upon her breast; opening it, what his surprise at beholding the features of the monster who had so long influenced his life. He seized the portrait in a paroxysm of rage, and trampled it under foot. Upon her asking him why he thus destroyed the semblance of her future husband, he looked as if he did not understand her—then seizing her hands, and gazing on her with a frantic expression of countenance, he bade her swear that she would never wed this monster, for he—But he could not advance—it seemed as if that voice again bade him to remember his oath". (p 21) & here we have the formal trick common to so many horror stories: the reader (or viewer in the case of movies) is maddeningly frustrated by the lack of communication that's a matter of life & death.
"The guardians hastened to protect Miss Aubrey; but when they arrived, it was too late. Lord Ruthven had disappeared, and Aubrey's sister had glutted the thirst of a VAMPYRE!" (p 23) Ok, that's a spoiler - but the reader can see this one comin' from a mile away. W/ this in mind, I note that the value of this collection for me wasn't so much the 'thrillingness' of the stories as it was the look into the lurid recontextualization of the history of the time & the language used for this purpose: from Horace Smith's "Sir Guy Eveling's Dream":
"'Now that we be upon this subject of dreams and apparitions, I may forbear to mention that full strange and terrible one of Sir Guy Eveling, and the consequences tragical issuing therefrom, which I do the more willingly pen, forasmuch as the dismal tale was hushed and smothered up at the time by the great families with which he was consanguined, people of worshipful regard and jeopardous power, whereby folks only whispered of the story in corners, and peradventure bruited about many things which were but fond imaginings.[']" - p 25
"[']he was of a haute and orgulus stomach that would not agnize the wisdom of beadsmen, nor even brook the tender counsellings of friends and kinsmen, whereby he waxed wild, and readily fell to mischief and riot, giving up his mornings to dicers, racqueters, and scatterlings, and casting away the night with ribalds, wasselers, and swinge-bucklers[']". - p 25
"[']This was that self tempest which there be many now living may remember, sith it followed hard upon the Proclamation of our late King Edward[']" - p 28
A footnote on p 259 informs the reader that "our late King Edward: presumably Edward VI, who acceded to the throne in 1547 and died six years later at the age of 15." That wd put the story told as having occurred 276 yrs before its publishing. I have no informed opinion about the accuracy of the language used but I assume it to be somewhat affected. Nonetheless, I love it: Take that, you orgulus swinge-bucklers!!
Some of the stories are based on news of the time demonstrating that the popular taste for True Crime stories is hardly an invention of the 20th century. Take, eg, William Carleton's "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman": The name derives from the green ribbon worn as a badge by members. Events leading up to the atrocities described in Carleton's tale began on 10 April 1816, when Michale Tiernan, Patrick Stanley, and Philip Conlon broke into a huntsman's lodge occupied by Edward Lynch. The three men demanded guns and assaulted Lynch and members of his family before being driven off. At the trial Lynch and his son-in-law Thomas Rooney identified the invaders and, in the face of strong public sympathy, all three men were convicted and hanged, most probably on 21 August. In the early hours of 30 October, the Ribbonmen meted out their revenge. Led by Paddy Devaun, a weaver and parish clerk at Stonetown Chapel, they massacred Lynch and seven others, including his daughter and grandchild. In the aftermath, Devaun and seventeen other Ribbonmen were executed." (p 260)
Again, the language & the history are the best part for me. This story has Irish brogue in it: "'Well,' said I, 'I'll just trust to God, and the consequinces, for the could, Paddy, ma bouchal; but a blessed dhrop ov it wo'nt be crossin' my lips, avick; so no more gosther about it—dhrink it yerself, if you like; maybe you want it as much as I do—wherein I've the patthern of a good big-coat upon me, so thick, yer sowl, that if it was rainin' bullocks, a dhrop would'nt get unher the nap ov it.'" (p 37)
The organizer of the massacre tries to get everyone drunk so that they'll commit the atrocity they've sworn to even tho they don't know what it is: "'Well,' said he, smiling, 'I only wanted to thry yees an' by the oath yees tuck, there's not a Captain in the county has as good a right to be proud of his min as I have—well yees won't rue it, may be when the right time comes; and for that same rason every one of yees must have a glass from the jar; thim that won't dhrink it in the chapel can dhrink it widout[']" (p 40)
Now the author is writing from a 1st-person perspective as if he were actually there at the events leading up to the killings & at the murders themselves. Whether that's true or not I don't know but he depicts some of the men as having the guts to resist the peer pressure: "The proceedings, however, had by this time taken too alarming a shape, for even the captain to compel them to a blindfold oath; the first man he called flatly refused to swear, until he should hear the nature of the service that was required. This was echoed by the remainder, who taking courage from the firmness of this person, declared generally, that until they first knew the business they were to execute, none of them should take the oath." (p 42) Really? I wish I cd believe that such people exist but in my own experience most people are just cowards & can be manipulated into performing just about any heinous deed as long as they're not taking responsibility for it.
Paddy Devaun eventually coerces all to follow him where they find that the plan is to set a house full of people on fire & not let anyone escape: "'Its no use now, you know, if one's to hang, all will hang; so our safest way, you persave, is to lave none of them to tell the story: ye may go now if you wish; but it won't save a hair of your heads. You cowardly set! I know if I had told yees the sport, that none of ye except my own boys would come[']" (p 47) I've been the guy to say NO many a time but, thank goodness, never in such a horrific situation. Megalomaniacs need robopaths to enact their genocide - fewer of each wd make the world a safer place for the rest of us.
the full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Jan 11, 2014
Jan 18, 2014
Mar 20, 2012
Mar 20, 2012
Francis Poole & Blaster Al Ackerman's Break Up My Water
(Illustrations by Haddock)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2013
Blas...more review of
Francis Poole & Blaster Al Ackerman's Break Up My Water
(Illustrations by Haddock)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2013
Blaster Al Ackerman died this yr. I got this bk as part of my quest to read everything by him I can find & to try to compile an overview of his work. As such, this review will concentrate largely on Blaster w/o any intention of slighting Poole & Haddock. Blaster 1st came to my attn thru Mail Art. Blaster was one of the great tricksters of MA - rarely interested in using the network as just a way of repetitively spreading his name around, Blaster used the network as a way of maximizing considerably more complex interpersonal relations - often under a slew of aliases - even Blaster Al is an alias. Haddock, or Eerie Billy Haddock, as I'll probably always think of him, was one of Blaster's most cherished correspondents. In Blaster's last missive to me, in the mnths before he died, he was excited that Haddock had gotten a tattoo of one of Blaster's drawings & then quit his job! As for Poole? Well, alas, I know very little about him - I associate him w/ the great, &, alas, now defunct, "Lost & Found Times" - edited by John M. Bennett - another close friend of Blaster's &, probably, his main publisher.
Blaster was a slippery eel, an Eel Leonard, a subtle man whose subtlety may've reached its apotheosis in his writing. Blaster didn't just turn a phrase, he contorted it, he wrung its hairy little neck, he turned it on its back & flung it across the ring & into inner space, he gave it a slobbering kiss despite its Hansen's Disease, he caressed it while it lay melting, he he.. He took a phrase & sought out its fistula w/ robotic insects partial to freon huffing - these insects were introduced to the rectum during crowded bus trips w/o the phrase even turning around, that's how crowded it was.
"This book has not received moral or financial support from any literary awards competition, academic, government, or interplanetary arts agency. In fact this book has been turned away by publishers more times than a leper at a wedding reception." - p 4
This latter being on the verso of the title p where the copyright info n'at is.
Blaster spent at least the last 20+ yrs of his life being the most accomplished couch surfer of any human being I've ever met. So he was supported, indeed, he was SUPPORTED - but by individuals, not by grant-givers. Grant-givers favor people who don't need the money, people who can barely wipe their ass w/o declaring it the latest breakthru in technological primitivism (or whatever today's catchwords are) & expecting $15,000 as a result. Grant-givers prefer the cheap imitations to the originals, originals are too loose, Lautrec, loose cannons, ie. 'Better' to support the exploiters, the parasites off the originators, they know who butters their bread & don't fire off rounds at squares. Blaster was easy to get along w/ & very, VERY difficult to pin down. Bless 'im.
In Poole's Introduction, he writes: "I would send Al a poem, prose fragment, or dream I had written down and if it resonated with him he would "hack" into the piece and add his own images and voice, steering the work in other directions. In turn, I would rewrite some of the things he would send me." (pp 7-8) &, yes, this bk is oneiric - as if the dreams, themselves, are playing (imp)practical jokes on the dreamers.
An epigraph that begins the bk is classic Blaster: "If you ever drop your keys into a pool of lava, forget about them, cuz man, they're gone. --Jack Handley" (p 11) Such 'sage' 'advice' stinks of Blaster's MO - on the one hand, yeah, it's 'sensible': don't try to put yr hand in a lava pool, on the other hand, uh, if you're so close to a lava pool that you've managed to drop yr keys in mightn't you have something more, uh, pressing to care about? It's all so 3rd-hand. Blaster sets up the pins & then makes them levitate:
"Last night I dreamed about a whirling apparatus similar to the thing used to make cotton candy... only in my dream it was filled with millions of mosquitoes. They were spinning around and being pressed together into some kind of mosquito paste or pâté. Such an unappetizing taste it had!" - p 15
Now that's credited to Ackerman & Poole so I may be misattributing that passage by concentrating on Blaster alone. Still, the setting the reader up w/ a vision of something particularly unappetizing to yr average human & then having the dreamer EAT it ANYWAY & then comment on its DREAM TASTE seems like a typical Blaster twist. Blaster was a twister.
Now, in Poole's 'EVERY TENT MUST BE RAISED" we have: "They were going to take me to the hospital but we had to get home first before my curfew and by that time I was feeling a little better. When I went inside the house I was disoriented and crawled into bed. The next day I was feeling a little fuzzy and my head still hurts. Also my ribs and neck. Admittedly I had had a few drinks but wasn't loaded, although I think Dr. Spivey suspects I had gotten into his nurses's bag o' silly pills." (p 17)
Blaster's collaboration produces this: "They were going to take me to the hospital but we had to get home first before my curfew and on the way I dreamed again of the floating pencil in anus light. When I went inside the house I beheld my whole AA group coming toward me waving human torches that were igniting the Kama Sutra for all time." (pp 18-19)
It somehow strikes me as 'perfect' that in Blaster's dream he dreams about somewhat else dreaming. What did I say about "the dreams, themselves, are playing (imp)draculatical jokes on the reamers"? Well, nothing, actually. "In the dream I saw that you were dreaming that you'd been turned into a medium-sized, crablike thing, covered with jet black integument." (p 20) Even the word "integument" seems like classic Blaster. 'I even got into an intense integument w/ him about it.'
Poole's "CALIFORNIA DREAM" features Blaster in a cameo appearance: "We decided to leave and found the car. The driver had left. We got in and I drove down the road which abruptly went up a cliff almost vertically. Just as the car reached the top and the front wheels began to grip where the road flattened out, the car fell backwards, only the rear wheels touching the road surface. I thought it would flip over completely and land on the roof. But it didn't. The car ended up resting on all four wheels. The Blaster was silent and looked stunned." (p 25)
In the collaborative rewrite, Blaster twists an already oneiric story off into a new dimension: "The Blaster and I cautiously approached the giant's body. We didn't see any blood but he wasn't moving. We moved a little closer and we began to see the portion of his skull which had been broken open by his fall. No blood but there was a jagged actinic light and, at this, we couldn't help but sense the auroral energy of near Hilbert space contact. We knew we were peering clear down into the universal "Brane" (short for "membrane")—or so the mathematicians are always trying to tell us." (p 27) Right, as if "the mathematicians are always trying to tell us" anything, eh?! Such word-play as a veering from "brain" to "brane" as an excuse to throw in Hilbert space is what I call Schizophrenic Literalism (well, not really).
In the titular bra, "BREAK UP MY WATER", Blaster does something I've never seen him do before: ACKNOWLEDGE A PSEUDONYM!!: "EEL LEONARD a.k.a. Blaster Al Ackerman". (p 31) One might almost think that Blaster isn't Eel after all, eh?!
"One afternoon I was hanging around in the yellow weedy space out behind the 7-Eleven when I found a kind of sump hole in the ground. It seemed filled with tapioca and I took my shoe off and unwrapped the bandage and as I got my foot down into the oozing wetness I wiggled my toes around and eventually saw that it was a million frog eggs ready to hatch and that they had all coalesced around my foot, as though to kiss and love on the sores" (p 34) Of course, there's a bandage, of course, there're sores. Blaster's 'normal' life really is, sortof, 'normal': people are suffering, people are in & out of 'reality' - to a color 'blind' person the colors are what they see - not what someone 'objectively' tells them they are.
& Poole's atmosphere is similar to Blaster's: "I was standing in the kitchen, slightly ill from the smell of sour milk in the sink filled with dishwater and dirty dishes. Outside there were several kids from the neighborhood who seemed to be playing some kind of game in the dirt. They were pushing and kicking at each other and yelling." (p 38) But Poole's slight decay is realistic, Blaster depicts the meta-realism of the brain-damaged. Poole: "A desert highway where me and my brother were left on the roadside; no water, no money, no hope. Bone-colored sky and desert of bone." (p 45)
"A new flame midget can adorn your feet" (p 40) What's a new flame midget? How can it adorn yr feet? Such images from Blaster are rich, filthy rich. "so that you see nothing pee dropped blooms from my hat there's nothing to do about what pee drops just as there's nothing to do about when a window wobbles in the back of my eye hopefully creeping toward yr blouse but just as likely seeping in the leaves and grabbing your knobby back thrust goodies". (p 40) I'm reminded of the writing of Rupert Wondolowski, another of Blaster's main publishers. A little surreal, a lot grotesque, a fun-house mirror of human fallibility seen from the home for the hopelessly senile. Did Blaster hack Wondolowski like he did his old buddy John M. Bennett?:
"suddenly my hanky floats across the room and tiny yellow hairs watch your aspic and a pants shadow seems to leave your dampness file and tiny yellow hairs shudder on the floor off in the direction of my belt hole while crash rental tests my buttered ham which is like meat mist without tested ham and tiny yellow hairs nag heel sleep, that's way more than back and forth before bobbing skull turns up by that time more tiny yellow hairs have arrived by that time the crust grins like a runny shirt fund for you my french-fries in the jello clasp the rest, so go on admiring my giggling under the bed although it just might be more clocking the floor brought to you by that gush demon of tiny yellow hairs pustules and teeth" - p 55
Another collaboration between our too fine authors yields: "This was meant to be the title of a poem by Blaster Al but before anything materialized I had a dream about a woman named Hatchback Helen. I was back in the Navy, on submarine duty, and had been at sea for many months. Totally out of touch with my wife, the former pride of Needles, California; Miss Uranium U-238." (p 57) Nice veering, nice kerplunk. & how about this simile?: "To begin with I could only envision half the world as solid reality, the other half was like an eggplant in a graduate seminar on people made of clay." (p 58) Right.
"And that's about it—not much more than a series of cloying encounters that in the end can leave you gibbering. But how often do you find pirate women who are ready day and night to tell you the old, old story of How the Snake Lost His Limbs?" (p 69)
This writing is highly imagistic, wch, as far as I can tell, is likable to many people b/c the content can be ignored in favor of going along for the ride - so why isn't it more popular? For one, it isn't mass-marketed - one has to be 'in the know', one has to care; for another, like many great things, it-----doesn't-----quite-----fit: it ain't exactly surrealism, it ain't exactly poetry; it certainly ain't about to be taught in UNIVERSITIES anytime soon (thank the holy ceiling light!) b/c, 'uh, I mean, are these guys serious?!' After all, we wdn't want another Ern Malley on our hands now wd we?
Read this bk.. before IT finds you, snaking thru the weeds around yr domicile, & reads YOU instead. (less)
Notes are private!
Dec 21, 2013
Dec 28, 2013
Dec 13, 1988
Dec 13, 1988
John Brunner's Children of Thunder
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 23, 2013
This might be called Brunner's 'Demon Seed' novel, it c...more review of
John Brunner's Children of Thunder
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 23, 2013
This might be called Brunner's 'Demon Seed' novel, it centers around exceptionally successfully manipulative children. I'm reminded of the grim picture of children in the background of his Players at the Game of People (1980) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) & of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (1962), wch I've read, & of John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) (filmed as Village of the Damned), wch I probably haven't read but wch I might've experienced in movie form.
As is typical of so many of my reviews of Brunner novels, I find it difficult to write about w/o spoiling the plot for interested readers. However, it's 'safe' to quote from the 1st page's promotional excerpt:
"Crystal Knight was thirteen, and she didn't mind saying so to her johns. To the police, of course, she indignantly claimed she was sixteen. She knew there wasn't going to be any argument. For some reason she couldn't fathom, she'd grown very good at persuading people to do as she wanted.
"Not long after she embarked on her career she'd even talked a drunk, sadistic john out of slashing her with a knife . . . and into turning it on himself. For the rest of her life, she would be able to visualize again that squalid room, that rumpled bed, liter after liter of blood spewing out, so red, so red . . ."
This is the 1st post-AIDS Brunner novel I've read, its copyright date is 1988, & AIDS has a substantial presence: "Yet another group of famine-desperate black refugees had penetrated the cordon sanitaire the South Africans maintained along their northern border, and duly been shot down on the grounds they were "biological warfare vectors" . . . There was no doubt who was going to win this particular war of attrition: the Afrikaners, like other wealthy advanced nations, had the AIDS vaccine while their opponents just had AIDS." (p 11) As w/ Brunner's groundbreaking The Sheep Look Up (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ), humans are destroying the planet in short order & the children may be a reaction against this or a major contribution to it.
In Brunner's future, email is here but voice-mail isn't, "he remembered he had checked neither his answering machine nor his email" (p 21), "Maybe email would be more interesting. His modem still being up, he entered his net-code and dumped the contents of his mailbox into local memory." (p 22) "The rest was junk mail. Thank goodness they'd been forced to abandon the idea of billing users for incoming messages!" (p 22) "Some day he was going to buy one of those new gadgets that wiped junk automatically unless countermanded." (p 22)
There's also Minitel, wch I 1st read of in a bk about French artist ORLAN (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ): Admittedly, it would be a lot more fun to log on to Minitel—he understood French pretty well—and spend a while with AMY or AMANDINE or one of the other erotica service, the like of which had never been permitted in Britain although they thrived across the Channel." (p 23)
The dismal presence of the Reagan-era fundamentalism plays a major background role: "At first they related to attempts by fundamentalists to take over major centers of American education, using the vast monetary leverage they had accumulated as the millennium approached and the faithful grew less and less confident that the Rapture would save them seven years before the onset of Armageddon." (pp 58-59) ""The funders moved in with an offer of a million-dollar endowment for a department of 'creation science'"—she made the quote marks audible—"on condition that funding for my sabbatical was withdrawn and my tenure cancelled." / ""Can they do that? I thought once you had tenure—"" (p 105) Can they do that? Ask political conceptual artist Adrian Piper: "For her refusal to return to the United States while listed as a Suspicious Traveler on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Watch List, Wellesley College forcibly terminated her tenured full professorship in philosophy in 2008." ( http://www.adrianpiper.com/biography.... )
The reader is warned against secret police computer censorship:
"And even as he pursed his lips, the lines on the screen wiggled into illegibility for a moment, then reformed as garbage. He jumped to his feet, abruptly furious.
"The bastards! The bastards!
"He recognized the warning. Special Branch (or SIS, or whichever—there wasn't much distinction between the various British police agencies any longer) had been prompt to obey Big Brother at Langley. Here were data the ordinary citizen of the UK was not supposed to access." - p 59
While I certainly found this Brunner to be stimulating & like that it's the longest of his bks that I've read yet (I usually like long as an opportunity for greater detail to develop), it was, alas, entirely too predictable. When I got to "who knew so much about advances in modern science and had suggested that Constanza visit England, where doctors were making amazing new discoveries in the field of infertility. / "The treatment had been like a miracle! Within a month or her return she had come smiling to him to report her pregnancy." (p 92), I wrote a note to myself: "Exactly the explanation I've been waiting for!" In other words, none of the big surprises were a surprise at all.
Since I think some of these 'revelations' are pretty obvious from the get-go, I don't feel like I'm 'spoiling' by quoting another crucial part: ""Not one of them is the natural child of his or her ostensible father. They were all conceived by artinsem. Or, as you may have known it before its initials clashed with a well-known disease, AID."" (p 131) HOWEVER, I stop there. There's one other quote that I cd add that clinched the predictability of it all, & it's very tempting to quote it, but that really wd be spoiling it.
Brunner has the potentially sympathetic characters ultimately compromised in ways that make them unsympathetic - even the investigative reporter comes down quite a few notches b/c of his neglect of his daughter. An Italian farmer who might be initially admirable is shown to be an intolerant & violent despot. "And lately it had emerged that for some reason to do with fertilizers or other chemicals, or some such kind of modern aids to husbandry which Renato had enthusiastically adopted under Fabio's guidance, the buyer from Genoa whose firm had for half a century purchased olive oil from the Tessolari estate at an advantageous price, had this year offered more to the cooperative, on the grounds that theirs could be exported to the health-conscious USA as "organically" grown. / "This was of course an affront not to be tolerated." (p 95)
The construction of the Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel", wd've just started when this bk was written (even tho it was conceived of as early as 1802) & didn't get finished until 1994, 5 yrs after this was published. Here, "more doubt had been cast on the viability of the Chunnel by a psychiatrist who had carried out tests at the Fréjus runnel under the Alps on a group of long-distance lorry-drivers, normally supposed to be a stolid bunch. A third of them had declined to complete the four successive runs that he had asked of them, because they had developed claustrophobia." (p 103)
The success of the manipulation of the children ties in w/ the onset of puberty. In the case of the girls, their menstrual cycle effects it.
"Later, to Matthew and Doreen's horror, the police confiscated the contents of the drawer in Tracy's bedside table, calling them stolen goods. Yet, when the case came to court, it was the other girls who were reprimanded and put on probation, and ordered to return everything to the defiant Tracy, still wearing plaster on her many wounds.
"That, though, was in the middle of her month.
"It was her greatest triumph so far. In between wheedling her parents around to the view that she absolutely must move to a different school—which wasn't hard—she savored the discovery that her "magic" could be made to work on adults, too.
"Provided, of course, the time was right." - p 111
Each chapter begins w/ an italicized TV news report text that sets the mood for the chaos & for the rise to political power of a race-baiting & ultra-militarist figure: "Many claim they were beaten up because they weren't wearing the red-white-and-blue ribbons lately adopted by supporters of General Thrower." (p 121)
Of course, some of the news is faked & one character calls out another for doing this: ""The first time a hoax like that was pulled, as I recall, was during the Spanish-American War." (p 165) That one was William Randolph Hearst's baby.
Much of the dystopia in the novel reflects what were then current events in the US. In 1985, President Reagan visited a cemetery near Bitburg in Germany to honor dead German soldiers as a diplomatic move to indicate that Germany & the US were now allies who had left their enemy past behind. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers thus 'honored' were SS, the elite of the genocidal nazi forces. "Speaking in West Germany at a rally organized by descendants of servicemen who dies in World War II, General Sir Hampton Thrower praised the valiant spirit of the fallen . . ." (p 199)
W/o giving away the page number, there's one quote that I can give wch doesn't exactly spoil anything & wch does sum up nicely a philosophical thread: ""We cannot afford the luxury known as a conscience. The enemy we are up against certainly doesn't have one, so we are obliged to be absolutely rational."" (less)
Notes are private!
Dec 16, 2013
Dec 23, 2013
Mass Market Paperback
Nov 01, 2013
"Meantherthal(s) in Motion (Pictures), the pre-se -quel"
INCITE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MEDIA - ISSUE #4 EXHIBITION GUIDE edited by Brett Kas...more "Meantherthal(s) in Motion (Pictures), the pre-se -quel"
INCITE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MEDIA - ISSUE #4 EXHIBITION GUIDE edited by Brett Kashmere & Walter Forsberg
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 27, 2013
"Review is too long", blah, blah, go here for the full thing: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
It's not often that I have the delight of reviewing something new here that I think will be of substantial historical importance, that I think will constitute a reference work for decades to come. I am very happy to announce that INCITE 4 is a stellar instance of such a delight & that I am very, VERY happy to be one of this publication's contributors. If I cd give it a 10 star rating, instead of the maximum of 5, I'd do so.
This publication, for me personally, is very moving. It's like a 'patanational zeitgeist diary centering around the dedicated lives of many people who've touched my life, & many whose lives I hope to've touched somehow or another. After the Introduction, the 1st article is by Steve Anker & is entitled "Experimental Media Centers Across The USA: A Personal History".
In 1986, when I was attempting to arrange my 1st cross-country tour, Steve Anker was the guy from the San Francisco Cinematheque who was willing to bk me at Craig Baldwin's ATA. At 1st, they thought I was a fictitious character - an imaginary experimental filmmaker - cd such a person exist?! But they eventually learned that I wasn't a hoax, that I really did (& DO) exist & welcomed me to SF. Scott Stark (bless 'im!), a filmmaker whose Flicker website has given such a web-presence to so many obscure media-makers like myself, even went so far as to interview me for the Cinematheque's magazine Cinematograph.
Even tho I'd already been a film & vaudeo maker for 11 yrs by then, this was extraordinary support for me to receive!! In my hometown, BalTimOre, I was widely considered, even by the art world, to be little more than a deranged animal to be tortured & preferably jailed or executed. Contrarily, in SF I cd go so far as to specify that anyone identifying themselves as an anarchist shd be given free admission (as far as I 'know', no-one took advantage of this). Steve was also partially or entirely responsible for me screening films of mine at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC as part of the "Big As Life" series in 1998 & 2001. This latter series even had the audacity to screen my collaboration w/ Dick Hertz entitled "Balling Tim Ore is Best" - a parody peep show movie actually smuggled into a porn district's peep show booth & screened for 2 wks w/o the management's knowledge. Under generally hostile or indifferent circumstances, it's this type of support that makes it possible for people such as myself to not completely crumble from despair. Steve begins his article w/ this:
"Living, or vital, institutions are ones that are open to change and new perspectives, and capable of critically self-evaluating themselves. For more than 40 years I have been involved in two kinds of vital artistic institutions in four parts of the United States, each of which reflect my time and culture: One are artist initiated, modestly budgeted or no-budget screening venues that maintain primary ties with artist communities, and the other are artist initiated and sustained college film production programs. In both kinds of organizations I was interested in building artistic communities, helping experimental film and video artists make and present their work in the best conditions possible and develop an audience that could be in a position to understand their work." - p 17
"When I graduated in 1972 I moved to New York City and, along with friends from Binghamton and other young people moving to the city from recently developed college programs, realized that New York was largely closed to younger filmmakers. Institutions like Anthology Film Archives, the Whitney Museum, and Millennium Film Workshop had canons or circuits of accepted artists, and Jonas Mekas, the major critic writing about this cinema at the time, was almost exclusively focused on established figures. So over the next few years a group of friends, mostly from Binghamton, began an organization called the Collective for Living Cinema (1973-1992) (I was the projectionist for its first two years), and I helped start a modest, self-produced journal called Idiolects". - p 17
Ah ha! "New York was largely closed to younger filmmakers", the canon was already in place by 1972. Keep in mind that Parker Tyler's Underground Film A Critical History had only come out in 1969, Gene Youngblood's Expanded Cinema was published in 1970, Jonas Mekas's Movie Journal The Rise of the New American Cinema 1959-1971 came out in 1972 (maybe after Anker had arrived in NYC), Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art didn't get published until 1974, & P. Adams Sitney's Visionary Film The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978 had its 1st edition out in 1974 (obviously w/ an earlier title) & its 2nd in 1979. These bks were fantastic stimulus & reference works at the same time that they were ironically part of the death knell for any interest in film & vaudeo makers such as myself who started in 1975 or generally after the periods covered.
As for "Idiolects"? I'm fortunate enuf to have double issue No 9-10 from the winter of 1980-81 in my archive. Anker refers to it as "modest" & in some senses I agree: the production values are unremarkable & unimaginative. HOWEVER, it certainly features an interesting group of folks: Yvonne Rainer, Karyn Kay, Gary Indiana, VALIE EXPORT, Andrew Tyndall, Heinz Emigholz, Richard Foreman, Carolee Schneemann, Hannes Hatje, Barbara Kruger, Bette Gordon, David Rattray, Betsy Sussler, Jackie Raynal, Lynne Tillman, & Carla Liss. EXPORT writes about her film Invisible Adversaries, one of my favorite films of all time. For what it's worth, I published an audio cassette in 1982 called PUBLIC LANGUAGE (Widemouth 8616) that has an introduction by Foreman to some Language Poetry readings. For the (almost) complete WIdémoUTH Tapes catalog go here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/WdmUCat... .
In the catalog for "Big As Life - An American History of 8mm Films" Steve's article has this: "The resolutely underground tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE mimics and incorporates porn in Balling Tim Ore Is Best (c, 1985) to confront sexual arousal and its implications as prompted by salacious images." (p 13) It may've been this slight mention (wch doesn't mention that the film was made to be smuggled into a peep show booth - where it actually showed for 2 wks) that was read in China (I'm not clear whether it was available in English or Chinese).
One result of this was that a fellow calling himself "Chin Thom" contacted me by email asking for copies of movies of mine for potential Chinese screenings. I sent him a 2 hr VHS tape that included a masked nudist party 16mm film transfer of mine called "Funny Farm Summit Meeting" (1994). This led to at least 3 screenings of my work in Shanghai, the most public of wch was as part of the "BLOG Night of Experimental Cinema" at the Blue House Art Center, Chengdu Museum of Modern Art (Shanghai, China - Production: Knife Factory - Curator: Chin Thom). If I understand correctly, the projection of my movie was shut off at this event by Chinese government representatives - presumably b/c of the nudity. To see a slightly out-of-date list of my screenings that shows a slightly more international (or 'patanational) look at venues, go here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/tENTScr... .
Even more amazingly, for me, there was then a 4+ pp color article about me in what appears to be a nationally, or internationally, distributed Chinese glossy art magazine called "Art World". That's more than a little ironic considering my usual criticisms of the art world but I was extremely delighted to have my work exposed to a Chinese readership. Thanks to my Chinese expatriate pianist friend, Xiaoxing Geng, I had the article translated into English. Ha ha! In my big exposure to a part of the world I otherwise have very little access to, there's a misunderstanding & I'm revealed as being "Michael Pestel" - the name of a collaborator of mine whose work is very different from my own & who's more of a musician & installation artist than he is a film & vaudeo maker. Oh, well..
Ed Halter's excellent article "Head Space: Notes on the Recent History of a Self-Sustained Exhibition Scene for North American Underground Cinema" appropriately follows:
"In the late-80s, the scholar Tom Gunning theorized the advent of a "minor cinema" — a new state of the American cinematic avant-garde that eschewed lofty notions in favor of submerged narratives told via celluloid tinkering. Unlike the pioneering artists of the 60s and 70s, whose grand (and occasionally self-aggrandizing) revolutionary narratives set forth to alter the experience of vision, topple Hollywood, and reshape the world, "these filmmakers... manifest no desire to supplant dominant cinema. Embracing Super-8 filmmaking long after video dislodged it... [they] proclaim their resistance to the onslaught of technological progress. Certainly economies dictate here, but stern necessity has bred an affection for the limits of their medium rather than frustration."" - p 22
In a sense, this is a 'post-canon' manifesto, an appreciation for doing things on a smaller, more person-to-person scale, on a more tribal scale, rather than on a mass media scale. This is no minor point - even if it does produce a "minor cinema" (a tricky term likely to be misunderstood).
Halter even gets into a touchy area I wdn't necessarily expect writers to dare tread into: "The dot-com boom of late-90s included many filmmakers participating in startup streaming cinema sites in various capacities, though hardly without social friction or suspicions." (p 25) This leads to a footnote that reads, in part: "In the logic of the dot-com moment, this increase in creative expression fairly begs to be monetized. Note how Kenner constructs a passage about Joel Bachar, founder of Blackchair Productions / Independent Exposure. "Not that Bachar opposes making money. His business model involves developing a Web site (www.microcinema.com) that will serve as a road map to the world's underground film forums." (p 32)
In 1998, I made an attempt to get Bachar to sponsor a stopover on the tour I was planning. I rc'vd no reply. If I remember correctly, I did meet a partner of his who was visiting the Andy Warhol Museum sometime soon thereafter. This partner offered to publish &/or distribute some of my work & explained that what he wanted to get out of supporting underground movie-making was "a really good new car". I decided against having anything to do w/ them after that.
I feel an affinity w/ Halter's take on Film Threat magazine & its associated subcultural trends. "Not surprisingly, then, the early underground festivals — particularly New York and Chicago — gravitated towards a neo-exploitation, attention-getting aesthetic evolved from the Cinema of Transgression, in-your-face Gen X film zine Film Threat, and the cult film psychotronics of the video store generation, dutifully playing the media's received ideas about underground film to them, in full force." (p 29)
""This isn't the underground of Hollis Frampton or Maya Deren," the New York Press critic Godfrey Chechire observed of the first New York Underground Film Festival. "It's the Gen-X spawn of Jack Smith, Russ Meyer and John Waters." Such willful naughtiness belied a desire to overturn the then-dominant notion of experimental film as something dry, academic, and essentially do-goody; but in their zeal for making the avant-garde seem sexy again, the underground festivals came dangerously close to making it appear laddishly stupid. After the mid-90s, this now clichéd pose retreated, both due to shifts in the work being produced by experimental filmmakers (the mainstream film industry, following Tarantino and South Park, having taken over the shock, sex and subversion racket) and an increased social greasing among the microcinemas and underground festivals." - pp 29-30
& on p 33 there's this footnote: "This move away from the shock-and-schlock aesthetics was not without its detractors, however. In a 2003 email to the New York Underground Film Festival, Cinema of Transgression mainstay Nick Zedd told organizers that "you are no longer underground" after they declined one of his films. For Zedd's generation, and the few who still ascribed to its ethos, underground film remained largely defined by its supposedly subversive content, a debate too large to cover in this essay."
Whew! "a debate too large to cover in this essay" indeed! When I 1st heard of the Cinema of Transgression, maybe in the early to mid '80s, I expected the NYC punk filmmakers associated w/ it to be kindred spirits. My own flagrantly perverse visceral works like "Seriousness is Death" (1982), "A Double Negative As Not A Positive" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSxla... ) (1982), "Skin Exchange" (1982), "Pee on "Bob"'s Head" (1983), & "Balling Tim Ore is Best" (1985) all seemed in the same spirit as what I understood the Cinema of Transgression to be like. I already knew about Richard Kern from his magazine "Dumbfucker" & I got to know his films, Nick Zedd's, & Beth & Scott B's. I had particular respect for Zedd's "Police State", not b/c I necessarily liked the movie that much, but b/c the title shot was made by actually spraypainting "state" after the word "police" on an actual police car out on the streets. That took courage.
But these days Kern's photography sells as coffee table bks in airports & in an interview w/ Kern I read something to the effect of 'I don't know why I made those movies.' At any rate, so much Cinema of Transgression has seemed like a dead-end to me, trapped in obviousness, that it doesn't much interest me anymore. There are many, MANY ways of being subversive & once a way becomes too predictable then it's time to move onto a different one. In my own screenings I often mix hyper-intellectual work w/ visceral work. People who like one usually hate the other so there's always this tension between people wanting me to just be a one-trick pony & my wanting to be much more diverse. In the long run, when I look back at, say, super-8 NYC films made in 1978, I find John Lurie's "Men in Orbit" & James Nares's "Rome '78" to be more compelling than the Cinema of Transgression films I know of.
That sd, I remember when someone in Film Threat who obviously didn't have any idea of who I am & what I do made some disparaging comment about "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" being a typical art name or something stupid like that &, of course, I knew that if I had a truly cliché name like "Scum Fucker" or "Corpse Eyeball" that they wd've loved it. Dullsville. At 1st I thought Film Threat might be interesting. I have issue 7 of the Film Threat Video Guide from 1993 & it's got stuff in it that I'd read about: Kern, Todd Haynes, & Frank Zappa - but, in the long run, it's too commercial for my tastes & too predictably non-introspective.
In "Small is Beautiful", credited to David Sherman & Rebecca Barten, the founders of Total Mobile Home microCINEMA & the folks generally credited w/ having coined the term "microcinema", there's a paragraph that I find to be particularly meaningful:
"Rather than concerning ourselves with ideological back flipping for phantom grant support, we use our precious time to simply keep our space going. Rather than official support, we have received an influx of personal gifts — an outdated video projector, 16mm equipment, a sound system, a lighting system, a backyard garden, and a goddamn pump organ, all contributed by people happy to see things just put to good use." - p 35
Indeed. & this is a crucial point. In prosperous areas, like parts of the US, pre-planned obsolescence leads to completely useful objects being discarded in vast quantities for the latest update. Filmstrips, eg, & their related hardware, are 'obviously' 'obsolete' &, yet, was the medium really fully explored? I think not. A few of us have spent some time reinventing it: Brian Dewan, eg. Orgone Cinema got me started on this by providing me w/ a found filmstrip to provide a new soundtrack for. This evolved into "The Postman Always Rings the Homunculous of Woody Allen & Hollis Frampton Twice" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovbUq... ). Since then I've made many more, such as "Shuffle Mode" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epWSM... ) & published VHS transfers of many more made by other people.
An "outdated video projector" that stills works is GRAND, & the same goes for everything else listed above that the Total was fortunate enuf to receive. If people cd get out of the mindset of always 'having' to get the latest iJones they might learn how to more fully use whatever available materials there already are. I generally wait to 'upgrade' until it's cheap enuf for me to afford w/o having to sell myself anymore than I already have. VHS is fantastic, one can pick up great movies in that format for $1 these days. Do I really 'need' to see it in Hi-Def?, as a Blu-Ray? I think not. A candle-powered Magic Lantern in the woods might be more fun, a choreographed selection of Thaumatropes.
"Review is too long", blah, blah, go here for the full thing: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...(less)
Notes are private!
Nov 26, 2013
Dec 04, 2013
John Brunner's Meeting at Infinity
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 27, 2013
This is the 25th bk I've read by Brunner (if I count Ac...more review of
John Brunner's Meeting at Infinity
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 27, 2013
This is the 25th bk I've read by Brunner (if I count Ace Doubles as 2 bks) & reading his work still brings me a great deal of pleasure & stimulation. As is often the case w/ SF, the notes I took for this review were minimal since what I mostly wd've written about wd've been plot elements that I often avoid referring to to avoid spoilers.
It's interesting for me to note slight differences between Brunner bks that show his trying out writerly touches. EG: Meeting at Infinity begins w/ a prologue that I found 'poetic'. Here's the very beginning:
"On the stroke of twelve o'clock noon-for-doom of this day and no other: begins destiny. Begins death. Tick away time—heartbeat, clocktick, belltoll.
"THIS WAY OUT." - p 1
Central to the plot, is a thing called the "Tacket Principle" wch allows the exploration of parallel Earths. I found Brunner's explanation of the discovery ingenious:
"The great discovery—that of his celebrated Principle, which changed the world—was the fruit of an examination of pi. It fired his mind; his mind was explosive; the explosion came near to destroying everything.
"Pi, it seemed, was invariant. However, certain deductions from curved-space mathematics indicated conditions under which it would assume values different from the familiar 3.1416. It would remain an irrational number of course. But the physical conditions for altering its value could be described. Tacket's preoccupation with analogues of number did the rest." - p 24
& Brunner, being a writer, rather than just an extrapolator of scientific possibilities, creates slang for the future environment he's describing:
""There was one in the crowd. Brown coverup, average height, automat barberclip, brown hair plain, all like anyone. But he didn't look like a dreg, didn't smell like a dreg, and when shouted out to Lyken he didn't sound like a dreg. In my tapes, that's curio." - p 35
It's fun for me, as the reviewer, to be able to quote a summation of sorts from near the end of a bk w/o having it actually spoil the plot. For the reader of this review, the following quote is too out-of-context to be overly revealing but may be intriguing as it stands:
"Allyn glanced at him. "You have to regard it this way," she said. "Physical and mental are conjoined and interdependent; you cannot have a mind discarnate, but it has to grow within a growing brain. Contrariwise, it appears to me, physical reality is a kind of sum total or common denominator of that which is perceived by consciousness. It is possible to act mentally on this physical reality so as to change not it itself, but the mode in which it is perceived. Do you follow me?" - p 150
Part of what interests me about the above is the idea of acting mentally on the mode in wch physical reality is perceived in order to, effectively, change what constitutes physical reality for ourselves. Beauty is in the mind of the beholder.
My Twitter name is "Psychic Weed" wch is NOT meant to imply that I consider myself a "psychic" (even tho I might be to a teeny extent) or to express an advocacy for pot (by all means make it legal - otherwise, I find pot of little value). Instead, it's a reference to my notion that freedom lies largely in the defiance of geometrical containers (both physical & conceptual) by biomorphic phenomena. Consider this:
"Also true, they made no allowance for the difference between their society—an oligarchy ruling a 'black-boxed' majority—and ours, so they never reckoned on Mr. Hole's yonder boys, or with Director Lanchery's animals and wild men."" - p 151 (less)
Notes are private!
Nov 23, 2013
Nov 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback
Aug 10, 2008
Aug 10, 2008
Magdalena Zurawski's The Bruise
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 17, 2013
Yadda, yadda. This review is too long, yadda, yadda. See t...more review of
Magdalena Zurawski's The Bruise
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 17, 2013
Yadda, yadda. This review is too long, yadda, yadda. See the whole thing here:
I was in Boston, at the beginning of January, 2013, w/ my girlfriend of the time, for what was probably the 128th annual MLA (Modern Language Association) convention. The g-friend had been desperately seeking high paying professorial poetry-related employment for over 2 yrs - almost the entirety of the time we'd been involved w/ each other. To say that this was wearing on our nerves is an understatement. The MLA convention is one of the main places where prospective university employers interview applicants & the g-friend was there for 2 or more such interviews.
We were staying in a hotel. I wanted to go to the hotel bar but g-friend was afraid one of her prospective employers wd see her there w/ me & that her chances for being hired wd be ruined in advance by her obvious association w/ an actual creative person instead of the 'more respectable' university facsimile thereof so she stayed in our rm while I went to the bar alone. Sitting at the bar, I attempted to get the bartender to serve me a beer. Apparently, I was too 'disreputable' looking for him b/c he completely ignored me despite the fact that he was standing directly in front of me, that I was displaying cash, & that there were only something like 2 other people at the bar.
Then Magdalena Zurawski sat down 3 stools away from me & soon thereafter initiated a friendly conversation. She, apparently, looked much straighter than I do so once she started talking to me the bartender began treating me like a customer & filled my order. Does anyone wonder why I support Jack Abbott's murder of the waiter who denied him use of the restaurant's Men's Rm?
It soon came out that Magdalena had written a novel & that it was published by FC2 (Fiction Collective 2) - something that interested me. We talked about the Fiction Collective & I mentioned Raymond Federman to her b/c I've always strongly associated him w/ the original FC. I was surprised she'd never heard of him. I told her that if she'd send me a copy of her novel I'd review it. I was happy that we'd talked b/c the reason why I wanted to go to the bar in the 1st place was to seek out other writers for conversation & Magdalena very pleasantly fit the bill. I liked her.
Several mnths passed & I hadn't rc'vd the bk so I was beginning to think she'd forgotten about me. THEN The Bruise finally arrived w/ an interesting post-card w/ images of "Pluripotent Stem Cells" & "Mouse neurons generated by direct reprogramming of astrocytes" & w/ a note on it that read: "As promised at the MLA. Better Late than Never? - MZ" & I liked her all over again.
I procrastinated on reading her bk for mnths b/c I have so many things to read. I started reading it, put it aside, read it fitfully. I found the beginning somewhat off-putting b/c it's a 1st person narration of a college girl, a world too cloistered & privileged for me. Then, in October, I got an email from a girl purporting to be a student at a local university who'd decided to take a yr off from school b/c she's uncertain whether she wants to continue along the artist's path she'd pursued so far. She claimed that she contacted me b/c 2 professor friends of mine had recommended that she do so to discuss her uncertainty. She proposed that we meet at a coffee shop or a bar & I agreed to either. She chose the bar.
At the bar, she proceeded to tell me a somewhat labyrinthian story about being a assistant to an artist that I'd never heard of & about how she's created a narrative inspired by this experience in wch she created an alternate persona of sorts for herself. The relationship allegedly turned violent & it was ambiguous as to whether she provoked &/or desired &/or enjoyed the violence. The whole time, she was sheathed in a long coat. It wasn't completely clear whether she was a girl, a drag queen, or a trannie - although the claim was that she had a vagina. She identified herself as "queer" but admitted to being in love w/ the male artist she'd had the violent relationship w/. In the midst of all this story-telling I was reminded of The Bruise & mentioned it to her.
Later that evening, I recorded the last hr of our 5 hr conversation. During this, she told me that "there's no persona" - contradicting the previous 4 hrs of story. I found her fascinating but had to wonder what I was getting myself into. She told a story that implied a fear of her being perceived as a schizophrenic. I asked her if she is a schizophrenic or a narcissist & she sd NO to both.
We stayed in somewhat minimal contact after that during wch time we both became annoyed w/ each other. I proposed various collaborations - w/ the 1st & foremost one being that we cooperatively write a review of The Bruise & edit our reviews together. She agreed & immediately bought a copy of the bk. Our friendship in potentia deteriorated & I eventually decided that I didn't want to 'hang' w/ her anymore but that I still wanted to collaboratively write the review. Her half of it has never materialized my way.
As w/ so many of my reviews, this tangent may seem excessively irrelevant but it's possible that any reader of The Bruise will recognize a pattern here. While I was reading The Bruise I felt like I was somewhat interacting w/ a parallel plot in 'real life'. But before I explain that to those of you who haven't read The Bruise, I found the following interesting:
"The paper on which this book is printed meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984". - p 4
"And much gratitude for daily inspiration to Immanuel Kant, Bruce Springsteen, and Eileen Myles." (p 5) & on p 9 there's a quote from Lyn Heijinian's "Elegy" poem & one from Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper" song. I've never read any of the works of the philosopher Kant (altho I've run across mention of him many times), what little I've heard by Springsteen has always been too musically 'normal' for me, & I've criticized what little I've read by Myles (perhaps unfairly). The quote from Hejinian is somewhat predictable for a student since probably very few people read Hejinian w/o having her taught to them 1st in a university context - but the quote from Springsteen seems more 'normal' for a working class teen. Regardless of whether I'm stretching things here or not, the Heijinian quote cd very well've been an inspiration for the majority of the novel. Here're the 1st 3 of the 6 lines given:
Many frantic cruelties occur to the flesh of the imagination
And the imagination does have flesh to destroy
And the flesh has imagination to sever
The 1st 2 pp, while not marked specifically as a "Prologue" or such-like, seem to follow a prologue-ish convention insofar as they're written entirely in italics. I'm reminded, very vaguely, of the 1st 3 pp of Cormac McCarthy's Suttree not b/c the writing style's similar but b/c the italicization sets this beginning text apart as 'setting the mood'. My initial impression is that this 'mood setting' is intended to be tedious, perhaps the tedium of a trapped person, the tedium of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Zurawski begins thusly:
"If I had actually spent any part of that first night asleep, it is difficult for me to know now, though no more difficult than it was for me to know then. I had believed, I think, for a long time, and perhaps I still do, that I had not slept at all that first night of my final year. I had not dozed, or at least believed that I had not dozed, even a tiny bit, but only lay there in my bed, looking out into the darkness inside the four walls." - p 11
I know this feeling well, this insomniac feeling, laying in bed, awake too much of the time, if not all the time, & so tired it's hard to be sure whether one has slept or not b/c, if one has slept, it seems entirely too similar to being awake, to being exhausted, etc.. Whether it's exactly Zurawski's intention to simply set a feel for insomnia or not, it does seem to be to set the mood of a yr spent in borderline alienated, but still mostly functional, delirium.
While I cdn't really identify w/ the 1st-person perspective of the college girl narrator, the 'persona' that's both the stand-in for the author & someone not quite the author (in much the same way that the uncertain sleep of the insomniac is not quite being awake either), I cd identify w/ other aspects: "The closet was deep enough that I could take one step into it and turn right. And it was wide enough for me to still walk three paces to the right" (p 13) reminded me of my own relationship to the smaller closet in the small bedrm that I grew up in but that nonetheless became a whole world unto itself by virtue of my detailed organization of it. Zurawski's descriptions border on OCD (or, perhaps, I 'shd' just say: OC - there's no 'need' to call it a 'disorder' necessarily) but there's a writerly carefulness to this that functions as an organizing principle beyond the OC of the subject:
"The bucket was white so I was careful to purchase only white cakes of soap white washrags a white toothbrush white tubes of toothpaste and shampoo that came in white bottles. Occasionally though my scalp would begin to itch and its skin would flake and for this reason I was forced to purchase a tar shampoo that had an amber color and came in a clear plastic bottle. In order not to disturb the arrangement of white that I kept neatly on top of the dresser which was oak I kept the tar shampoo in my sock drawer the top drawer of my dresser which was a fine decision since most of my socks were dark colored browns or blacks or grays." - p 14
"I ate European style as my mother had taught: with the knife in my right hand and my fork in my left hand. The two worked simultaneously and I never put one implement down without putting down the other. The fork was in my left hand with its bubbled back towards the ceiling. I pushed its teeth into the edge of the ham steak and cut it with my knife so that a piece of meat extended forward from the teeth of the fork. This I used as a ledge onto which I would next push a bit of the mashed potatoes with my knife and on top of the potatoes which now rose in a mound off the back of my fork I would then push a number of peas that would stay on the back of the fork due to the stickiness of the potatoes and the gravy." - pp 25-26
My mom had a rule that if we didn't use a butter knife to put the butter onto the edge of our plates & then use our other knife to move that butter onto the target foodstuff we'd be fined a nickel. I revolted. Regimental OC as enforced by the mother.
This is a literary novel, but b/c the writer is writing as a college student I don't 'know' if the literary references are ones that the author wd've searched out on her own or if they're just the ones force-fed to her. At any rate, Zurawski writes: "I had become very interested in the first stanza of the first poem of Rilke's Duino Elegies the entirety of which I was supposed to read for my German literature course but since my German was fairly poor I could only plod my way through the text by rendering a tedious translation for myself which required much dictionary work." (p 15) The opening line then becomes: "Who if I cried out would hear me among the order of angels? (p 16) The character, or "M—", as she becomes 'known', muses: "I thought about the sound for quite a while and concluded that it could not be a name. It could never be a word of any sort but only a sound. An unplanned unknown sound." (p 16) "And I took my finger and made circles on my stomach dipping just under my navel and staying just inside the ribs. I made these circles slowly. That was the loudest call I could bear to make. / "And when I began to feel the angel pressing on top of me—when I knew she had come I kept calling not with my fingers but only through my breath moving in and out of my mouth beneath her ear." (p 16)
M—'s Rilke-inspired cry, her making of circles on her skin, summons an angel w/ whom she begins to have sex - but this is not idyllic, it quickly becomes oppressive, bestial, like being raped by a pig: "She had grown so heavy that it was impossible to pull away from her. I could feel her hairy swine breasts pricking my skin and her body pushing the breath out of me. Her wings flapped rapidly up and down thrusting her hips hard against mine. I felt the springs of the mattress pressing painfully into me from underneath." (p 17) M— goes to the communal bathrm of the dormitory where she lives & finds the angel in the mirror:
"It's difficult to say how I brought her here or how she had fallen into the mirror because when I turned around to look in the stall she wasn't standing behind me but was just there in front of me in the mirror. She was trapped in the glass though in my bed she had been able to fall on me in sleep. Poems make it easy to dream of angels but the girl she had no wings so she couldn't have been the angel. I thought that I knew that I didn't know her so I thought it best not to move. And even though she was someone very much like me still she was strange and I was scared and I couldn't have been looking at myself and been so scared. And then I moved closer to the mirror because I wanted to make sure she wasn't me. And she followed me to the mirror so I thought for a second I was right. She was me and I didn't have to be scared and I moved my eyes to the right and then to the left and she did the same but then I thought I saw her lip curl about to smile but I was too nervous to smile so I knew she wasn't me." - pp 19-20
M— attacks the angel by swinging at the mirror & falls against the glass & cuts herself & gets the bruise of the title. Now, it's easy enuf to psychoanalyze this & say that M is an insomniac stressed out by her last yr of school & that she injures herself in the midst of delusional behavior. Such an interpretation is all well & good but it doesn't do justice to the care w/ wch Zurawski tries to describe this state. M— sees a friend & "asked her if she thought the bruise was bad and she said No M—. It doesn't look too bad. It will probably go away in a few days. But it didn't." (p 21)
The use of "M—" as the main character's referent & the use of other initials followed by an em dash 'inevitably' reminds me of Kafka's "Joseph K." in The Trial & "K." in The Castle but it seems to me that I've run across the use of an initial followed by an em dash as a semi-anonymizing abbreviation in other, earlier, probably 19th century, novels as well. Be that as it may, my 1st impression of Zurawski's writing is that it's derivative of that of Maurice Blanchot, a writer that I've read a few bks by w/o every growing to appreciate him. Then, 2ndly, I was reminded of Kafka. SO, again, negative 'college girl' associations: derivative rather than original, taught rather than inspired.. &, Lo & Behold!, my initial impressions were confirmed on p 28 by this: ""But I had read that semester in a book by Maurice Blanchot who had written about Franz Kafka that that was the problem with writing. No matter how hard Jozef K tried to be Franz Kafka in the book it was still Jozef K standing at a window with his papers waiting for a clerk and not Franz Kafka sitting at a desk with a pen in his hand."
Wch isn't to say that Zurawski isn't a good writer & that this isn't a good bk. But getting there will take a while. Zurawski gives the reader every opportunity to psychoanalyze her stand-in as having a mental breakdown. As she's finger-fucking an acquaintance, she starts having disturbing & distracting fantasies:
"So every time in my thoughts I thought I was putting my finger in G—'s wound I thought instead that she was Jesus and I was doubting Thomas and that by putting my fingers in her wound I was saving myself and this thought would make me push my fingers deeper inside of her and it would make her groan louder but each time she groaned louder I got scared that I was hurting her and then I began thinking again that I wasn't doubting Thomas and she wasn't Jesus and I was just sticking my finger in the cut in her thigh and I was just hurting her." - p 36
But by p 39, w/ the chapter entitled "The Bridge", the tone changes somewhat. Perhaps Zurawski wrote this at a different time then she'd written the preceding, perhaps the change is a writerly strategy. Whatever the case, the narrator seems more 'sane'. Her description of a cruising spot is poignantly straight-forward: "I would see in many of these cars a man sitting alone at the wheel and I would wonder why so many men were sitting in cars alone along the river but then Nate said possibly if I waited long enough i would see one of the men maybe get out of his car and walk over to another car and get into the car with another man." (p 40) "And the man told the boy that if his wife was only willing to do to him what the boy was willing to do to him along the river he wouldn't have to come and park down by the river." (p 41)
By p 45, I had the impression that Zurawski had moved away from Blanchot & Kafka: "And then we moved onto L— who had written a story about a woman lying in a bathtub dreaming about having a baby. And in the dream the baby was born with a wooden leg and I thought this was a great story because I liked thinking about a baby born with a wooden leg". But, now, as I write this review, that seems precariously close to Kafka's "The Metamorphosis".
What made this ultimately a strong work for me is the intensity w/ wch Zurawski apparently tries to accurately observe the 'unreality' of the way her imagination permeates her 'reality':
"And so for this reason I believe that in some strange way my own ghost was trying to save me by forcing me to ingest these books that it hoped could show me how to live finally through example. The problem my ghost did not foresee was that even though each passage I memorized showed me how something that had a body could also have a spirit inside it in order for the words to teach me this lesson I had to let them fill up the empty space where my own spirit should have lived so that the books and parts of books that lived inside me both taught me what it would be like to live with my spirit inside me and left no room for my spirit itself." - p 53
Is this revealing? Or just fantasy? Sometimes it seems that Zurawski's anguish is all too substantial. Starting w/ "The Bridge" the bk has meandered a bit but it returns to the bruise on p 55: "even though she looked at me while I spoke I knew it wasn't the words I spoke that made her look at me but rather the bruise because the bruise was the only part of me that I knew was real and a person like L— could only bear to look at what was real." Throughout this review, I'm resisting the urge to say: 'Ok, this is paranoid schizophrenia, the bruise is a metaphor for her wounds from alienation", etc, etc.. even tho such an explanation is almost 'screamingly obvious'. I reckon I'm giving Zurawski credit for being both 'screamingly obvious' & more subtle at one & the same time.
To see the entire review go here:
Notes are private!
Nov 05, 2013
Nov 19, 2013
John Brunner's Timescoop
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
The scion of an extremely wealthy family suddenly finds himself at...more review of
John Brunner's Timescoop
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
The scion of an extremely wealthy family suddenly finds himself at the helm of the empire & is eager to make his mark. Scientists in his employ have developed a "Timescoop", a device that can take a slice from something in the past & incarnate it in the present. One of the 1st things I imagined was bringing a version of the Venus di Milo into the present in a form that predates the damage to it. Lo & Behold! that's precisely what's presented as a possibility in the novel shortly after I imagined it:
""Now just a second!" Harold objected. "Think of all the damaged works of art that people would like to have complete—think of the Venus di Milo! Think of the archeological relics which were robbed before scientists could get to investigate them, like the burial treasures of the Pharaohs which were stolen from the Pyramids!["]" - p 17
The basic premise of the story is that Harold Freitas, heir to a vast fortune, uses this phenomenal Timescoop invention to have a family reunion publicity stunt bringing back from the past his most noteworthy ancestors. Brunner's political subtext being that the ancestors of a wealthy family may've been brutal criminals of the 1st order who've been rehistoricized thru the usual "history of the victor" bullshit. ""No, the Freitas reunion is going to be unique, and—and oh boy! Is this ever going to make the Mellons and the Kennedys and the Schatzenheims look sick!"" (p 19) I don't know whether the Mellons & the Kennedys ever had publicity stunt family reunions but they're certainly wealthy families. The "Schatzenheims" are the Freitas's fictional rival family in the story.
All of the Freitas ancestors turn out to be total shits. However, it strikes me as a little deficient of Brunner to have the only woman be a nymphomaniac - cdn't he've come up w/ something less sexually based? The reader gets samples of the lives of the Feitas clan in their original periods:
""That's as may be, sir," Peabody said, growing bolder. "But next after Mistress Coolman she named yourself."
"There was a stony silence in the room for long seconds. Reverend Freitas could say only one thing in the circumstances, though, and they all knew it. At length he uttered the fatal words.
""Then it was not a true confession, but a wile of the devil to sow dissension among those who hunt down and drive out his black angels. Let her be put to the question in the morning."
"Ellen uttered a stifled exclamation. "But, husband dear," she objected—thinking of what the order implied, thinking of the lashings at ankles and neck, thinking of the blood pouring from mouth and nose and near strangulation making the eyes bulge and the little vessels in the white burst until the balls were the color of cherries—"she is barely more than a child! She is only a few months older than our Eliza!"" - p 45
Now, I've been to Salem, Massachusetts where the famous 'witch' trials took place that this is presumably a reference to. In those trials, "spectral evidence" was used to condemn people (a movie of mine that touches on this peripherally is here: http://youtu.be/PFtodKMQpXE ). In other words, people wd testify to dreaming about the accused & being bewitched by them in the dreams. This testimony alone was enuf to condemn people to horrible punishment. Young girls were the accusers who started the whole mess.
When I visited one of the tourist spots where the story was recounted, the woman telling the story discounted the girls's culpability by making them out to be victims of the patriarchy n'at. This strikes me as ridiculous & contemptible. These girls were responsible for getting off on malicious destruction of their fellow humans, female & male, w/o the slightest trace of conscience. They were completely sociopathic. It seems to me that Brunner wd've been better off showing this side of females rather than 'nymphomania'. That sd, the Salem sheriff, a man, of course, was one of the people to benefit the most from this heinous situation given that he got to keep the property of those executed.
These relatives are MONSTROUS - but as anyone knows who studies history, such monstrosity is the basis of many a fortune - again, this strikes me as Brunner's most important subtext here. Treachery, slaughter, & exploitation abound:
""They're all set up," Buffalo Hank told him. "When they discover that the guns we're giving them are worn-out relics of the Civil War and liable to jam after half a dozen shots, they'll go crazy—especially with the firewater we're shipping in. You did make sure it was well spiked with wood alcohol?"
""Fine. That means the railroad should be free of Indian trouble by the end of the year; they'll just be creeping around the depots in dirty blankets whining for a hand-out. And now, how about my pay for this job, hm?"" - p 49
Chester Waley, the main scientist behind the Timescoop, is a black man. he imagines his own selection of people to be incarnated:
"And there would be plenty of chances later to bring in the really great men and women of history: Malcolm X was high on his own list, along with Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Louis Armstrong. The toll call even among his own people was endlessly long." - p 50
Chester knows that Harold's plan will bring major problems but at 1st he's self-searching:
"Maybe that was his trouble. Maybe he was so much a child of the clean, antiseptic twenty-first century that he couldn't face the idea of people from squalid, insanitary days in the distant past. In which case his antipathy to the project was ridiculous and unjustifiable." - p 53
Sometimes when reading Brunner, & other authors too, of course, I imagine what (t)he(y) read before & during the writing of bks. In the case of Brunner's Bedlam Planet (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) he relied heavily on the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (the English version of Larousse Mythologie General). Here, it appears that he was studying history & bringing to the fore aspects of it that mightn't be ordinarily thought of by many people:
"They had talked about books—but what business did a grown man have with books, unless he was a priest? That was why the soft English had caved in before the onslaught of King William's forces: too much book learning had made them forget the martial arts, copying their own King Alfred, who, for all they claimed he had built them a navy, had spent his days in poring over dusty parchments. A king who could not merely read, but even write—it was ridiculous!" - p 68
"There were universal nods. Satisfied, Harold returned to his seat—only to notice with dismay that on his far left the Sieur Bohun de Freitas had picked up his avocado pear and was sniffing at it suspiciously.
""What's this—hog's food?" he roared, his high-speed English lessons having taken to such good effect that everyone for twenty places either side heard him clearly. Panicking, Harold gestured for Helen's attention.
""Blazes, of course—in his day they ate practically no vegetables!" she groaned. "I'd forgotten about that. Never mind, I'll just ask for his main dish to be served at once."" - p 94
"Accordingly, it had occurred to him to track down Joshua, whose—ah—former existence had overlapped the so-called Age of Reason, who had shared a century with, for instance, the philosophers of the Lunatic Society. he might have some data to indicate how those brilliant but informal experimenters got away with it in face of what could not have been much less frustrating obstacles." - p 104
The "Lunatic Society"? of course my interest is sparked!! I found this online (http://ssmag.wordpress.com/category/h... ):
"Science before the twentieth century wasn’t done by “scientists.” There was no such word. There were educated amateurs and self-taught tinkerers, building their own labs in search of discovery or a patent. And so there wasn’t such a distinction between science and culture — the smart set went to “electrical parties” to see demonstrations of the newly discovered force. Ben Franklin wrote,
"A turkey is to be killed for dinner by the electric shock, and roasted by the electric jack, before a fire kindled by the electrified bottle; when the healths of all the famous electricians of England, France, Holland, and Germany are to be drunk in electrified bumpers, under the discharge of guns from the electrified battery.
"The best example of the public nature of science in Enlightenment England was the Lunar Society, a club of industrialists, natural philosophers, and intellectuals that met in Birmingham at the full moon between 1765 and 1813. The port and talk flowed. Joseph Priestley was a regular member: a self-taught chemist, political radical and Unitarian minister, he discovered oxygen and its necessity for animal life, invented seltzer water, and supported the American and French revolutions. Also a “Lunatick” was Josiah Wedgwood, the great ceramics industrialist and founding member of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. James Watt, the inventor of the modern steam engine, attended meetings regularly. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin visited occasionally; Antoine Lavoisier corresponded with Society members; John Smeaton, the father of civil engineering, and Joseph Wright, the painter of the Industrial Revolution, were also regulars."
Adding further to my fascination is that there was also an Alleged Lunatics' Friend Society that was an advocacy group started by former asylum patients and their supporters in 19th century Britain, & that there was a Belgian Old school punk rock band (est. in 1992), & that there's a Lunaticks Society of Newcastle wch is a society of Newcastle digital and social media enthusiasts. I'm tempted to start my own!
Alas, Chester gets an ugly reminder of what such an aristocrat of the 'Age of Reason' might've really been like:
""And what makes you think a gentleman would wish to talk with you?" returned Joshua, obviously drunk but bright-eyed and clear of speech. "You're a black, damn it! You're not for talking to—you're for buying and selling!"" - p 105
Brunner pulls it off again! This story operates at multiple levels. At one level it's an entertaining story about the possibility presented by a new technology, at another it's a critique of the accumulation of power, at another there's hope for the beneficiaries of such power to benefit from taking a realistic look at their past. (less)
Notes are private!
Oct 29, 2013
Oct 31, 2013
Mass Market Paperback
Jan 01, 1974
Feb 07, 1984
John Brunner's Total Eclipse
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
Whenever I read Brunner & I'm reminded of another writer i...more review of
John Brunner's Total Eclipse
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
Whenever I read Brunner & I'm reminded of another writer it's always someone whose work I respect - J. G. Ballard, eg. In this case, I made a note to myself as soon as I started reading this that I was reminded of Arthur C. Clarke & Ursula K. LeGuin - again, 2 writers that I respect - but ones that don't quite fit into my personal canon as much as Ballard does (well, actually, LeGuin is probably in there but Clarke's a little too drily 'hard science' for it - altho it's mainly b/c I haven't read anything by him for 40+ yrs). Why Clarke? I was probably just thinking of the monolith in 2001 in comparison to the giant telescope on a moon in Total Eclipse.
The basic story is that humanity finds traces of a sophisticated civilization that blossomed & died at an unusually quick rate. The explorer's job is to try & figure out what happened to them? Did they really die off? If so, why? How? "He had sometimes mentioned to close friends a dream that haunted him concerning the disappearance of the Draconians: the possibility that they had been less lucky than mankind when they made their first experiments with hyperdrive." (p 9) The "Draconians" are so-called b/c their planet is "Sigma Draconis III". Nonetheless, I still wonder about the oddity of the 'inevitable' association w/ the legal meaning of the word "Draconian" - a harsh punishment.
Complicating this is that the socio-political situation back on Earth, many light yrs away, is getting worse & worse. The scientist astronauts are depending on support from Earth in order to keep their research going. & the problems on Earth & their associated bigotries are a threat to the research. A 1st hint of this is in something like this:
"And because Irene was both female and black, the choice was more likely to fall on Lieutenant Gyorgy Somogyi.
"Who's less well qualified and far less quick-thinking. High on the list of possible explanations for the extinction of the Draconians, so they tell me, is the idea that it was due to some fatal flaw in their nature. All too easily some stupid irrational prejudice could get rid of us, too, couldn't it?" - pp 11-12
As I read more & more by Brunner, this is the 23rd story I've read by him so far, the more respect I have for his various takes on the psychological affects of setting up humanity on another planet. There's Castaway's World ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72... ), Bedlam Planet ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ), & now this.
Brunner, ever the political realist, portrays the problems on Earth:
"There had been famine in half a dozen densely populated countries, all of whose governments were controlled by greedy, short-sighted, thoughtless med whose first reaction when the starving mobs came battering at their gates was to accuse a scapegoat. The Starflight Fund was an obvious target. Rumours took their rise: here's another way the rich are cheating the poor, for if you hadn't had to subsidize the fund, there'd be another million in the treasury to spend on food!
"No mention, of course, of the fact that the Prime Minister had made his fortune by hoarding rice during the previous famine, or that the President's brother owned the nation's largest pharmaceutical factory and was taking a profit of 1700 per cent on every ampul of niacin, ascorbic acid and B12. That news was stale." - p 17
B/c of this situation & paranoias associated w/ it, a general has been sent from Earth to investigate the Sigma Draconis III base "and that was why General Ordoñez-Vico had been given power to order the abandonment of the Draco base, and the abolition of the Starflight Fund, if any hint, clue, trifling suspicion, triggered his all too obvious latent paranoia." (p 18)
Under pressure from the paranoid general, one of the less self-controlled of the scientists has an outburst in an attempt to explain the reality of the scientist's situation:
""There's a landslide somewhere. A concrete wall collapses, opens a whole building to the weather. There's a temblor, and a hundred buildings fall. All that can happen in one hundred years, and it's only the beginning. La Paz after a century, tumbledown, covered with creepers, the home of wild animals and snakes and butterflies and birds—how much could you tell about the way of life of a human family by burrowing into the rubble and rotting leaf mold, hm—if you were from another planet and had never seen a live human being? Ask yourself that! Here's a piano frame—but you have no ears, you never imagined music! Here's a tableknife—but you don't eat, you only drank liquids! Here's a sewing machine—but you have fur and don't wear clothes! After one century, how much sense would you make of what remained? And we're not talking about a hundred years here. We're talking about a hundred thousand! Ignorance? Don't make me laugh! It's taken genius for the people here to find out what they do know, and it's small thanks to the shortsighted fools who picked on you to come and pester them!" - p 63
Short-sightedness is a key idea here. Brunner explores the short-sightedness of polluters brilliantly in his ecological masterpiece The Sheep Look Up ( http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ). People w/o vision of expansive future possibilities inhibit the imagination & the pursuit of knowledge. Brunner explores the possibility of trying to figure out whether the Draconians even had multiple languages, as we wd expect given our own Earthly experience:
""Well, Igor's insight suggested that they may not have had languages, plural, but at worst the equivalent of dialects . . . which would be a logical starting point anywhere in the universe, come to think of it. It's been shown that all human languages have a fundamentally identical structure—"
"["]You surely must have been told that baby talk in every known human language is grammatically consistent?"" - p 86
This is a subject that I will, 'no doubt', return to again & again for the rest of my life. One can read my essay about my relevant feature-length movie entitled Story of a Fructiferous Society here: http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/... . & this justifies my reprinting a relevant part of an interview that I conducted under the name of "Party Teen on Couch #2" w/ someone calling himself "Party Teen on Couch #3":
3: Adamitic language..
2: Adamitic? I think that the idea of an Adamitic language is interesting but I’m wondering, you would know much more about this than I do because I know nothing about it since I know nothing about everything & everything about nothing, etc, etc.. - but, is there any sort of theory amongst linguists, or whatever the appropriate field of study would be, that you know of that tends to trace language back to common roots of any sort?
3: Yeah, there is, um, for example in Chomsky & linguistics you have this idea that you have something like semantics & patterns in a language which are common to all languages.
2: Does he develop this theory in great detail? In other words does he have a technical description of it?
3: Yeah, it’s called [unintelligible] schematic transformational grammar.
2: Could you say that again, please?
3: Generative transformational grammar.
3: But actually I’m not that familiar with this kind of linguistics because linguistics in this century has very much split into various fields. You could say, from something like literary linguistics, which is mainly from the structuralist tradition; from Ferdinand de Saussure over Roman Jakobson to post-structuralism, deconstructionist approach as well as Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco - but, on the other hand, you have this kind of technical linguistics, Chomsky, for example, which is, actually, more the kind of linguistics which you study if you study linguistics properly, which is, for example, also important for computer linguistics if you generate speech recognition or speech systems & then you, mostly [unintelligible] to this kind of scientific linguistics - & then you also have philosophical linguistics like, uh, for example, speech act theory by Austin & Searle..
2: Which is what?
3: Well, uh, this is actually something where you could say that modern linguistics have an approach which is closer to the idea of Adamitic language because, well, the primary assumption of modern linguistics is that language is arbitrary - that a linguistic sign has no absolutely whatever organic relation to the thing which we represent.
2: So no onomatopoiea? or whatever?
3: Yes, that would be, actually this is a different [unintelligible] which has been introduced by Charles Saunders Peirce who differentiated between the iconic, the indexical, & the symbolic sign where you actually have these possibilities of the onomatopetic relationships but, um, no, the question’s rather, to quote Austin, how to do things with words. There is 1 problem - if you have arbitrary language, it just means that, for example, if I say the word "cassette” or if I write it down then it has no relationship whatsoever to a cassette & by saying the word "cassette” I’m not manipulating the matter of the cassette in a way. So, it’s a purely arbitrary relationship..
2: So that’s..
3: Somebody has just decided just to call this piece a cassette.
2: Which is opposite to Adamitic language.
3: Which is opposite to Adamitic language because in Adamitic language you will have an organic relationship between the word & the thing so that by uttering the word you would, for example, invoke or manipulate the thing so like the classical example is of the Genesis where god says, uh "It shall be light” & then it’s light. This is Adamitic language. & the theory, the theory of Adamitic language as it’s notably present in the Kabala & in Jewish mysticism is that in the paradise, before the expulsion from the paradise Adam actually possessed a language which was similar to that of the divine language - where he was capable, for example, of naming animals. & that this original language where you could invoke & manipulate things with was lost when humanity was expelled from the Garden of Eden. So, um, the whole, um, occupation of Kabalism, or also you could say magic in general, is to, sortof, regain command over things by the means of language. & you could say that, in a way you could use it as a critique against modern linguistics because, for example, if Bill Clinton, today, says, uh, "Drop the atom bomb over Moscow” then the atom bomb would actually be dropped because he has the power & the possibility to do so. & just by saying this & by, maybe, having a few codes, or whatever, this would be made to happen today. So you could say that modern linguistics in defining language as arbitrary is actually missing some aspects. It cannot answer the question of how language is actually capable of directly invoking things or making things happen. & this is, for example, a matter which has been discussed by speech act theory - that’s exactly the question of speech act theory, how you..
2: Speech act?
3: Speech act theory, yes, by, notably by Austin & um..
2: Austin’s spelled A,u,s,t,i,n?
3: Exactly, yeah. He was an Oxford linguist, I think in the 1930s.
2: So is the concept of Adamitic language mainly supposedly originating from Kabalists or from who?
3: I would say it’s probably related in all kinds of magical or even metaphysical notions of language. I have thought about, for example, what, how 1 could locate multiple names as they are used in Neoism - in, uh, in either Adamitic or arbitrary language. I think this is extremely interesting because my theory is that they are both - or neither of them, in a way - because, when you say, you have a multiple name, an open situation, everybody can use that name & share this identity there was an extreme case of an arbitrary name - because the name is not naturally given to you - you know, it’s not like somebody’s born & he has, uh, he gets a name & the name is stamped on the passport but, it’s, it’s, it’s a name, say, Monty Cantsin, Luther Blissett, Karen Eliot. &, um, uh, as you wrote, the name is fixed, but the people using it aren’t. So this would be like the classical definition of arbitrary language in a way - the same way as I say, for example, if I take beer, then the notion, the word beer, b, double e, r, is fixed, but, for example, the meaning may change over the centuries - something like this..
2: Let’s make a projection right now. Am I interupting your train of thought too much?
3: A little bit. Ok, so 1 could say, on the 1 hand, the use of multiple names is a use of language as extremely arbitrary - where you’ve got an extremely flexible signifier-and-signified or sign-and-thing relationship. It’s the highest possible flexibilization of the sign-and-thing relation. On the other hand, as soon as you participate in that multiple name, you are immediately, since there is no fixed referent, say there is no fixed referent for Luther Blissett because there is no person Luther Blissett - or, also, Monty Cantsin - it’s a fiction, it’s a fiction created by those using the name. So, you could say that by sharing this identity, by adopting this arbitrary name, you, you get the immediate power to, to change it. Yeah? Which is like Adamitic language. Because you are now able to do something in the name of Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot, Luther Blissett, & so on & actively participate in the shaping of the identity & you can, sortof, directly invoke the character of Monty Cantsin by using the name. So that would be an extreme example of Adamitic language. So, so that, that’s, uh, that multiple names, sortof, a kindof flip-flop thing, you know? where you..
2: What d’ya think about the idea of extending that type of thinking so that, for example, beer, the word beer, would be an open concept that could refer to any object? etc, I mean, this obviously refers back to my interest that anything is anything or anything as anything, etc, etc.. Or just taking all words & making them open contexts which can be used freely by the people who choose to use those words in this manner. So, for example, I might say to you "Pass the beer” but I could mean anything by that & you could respond in whatever way you felt appropriate.
3: Yeah, this would actually be the, exactly match post-structuralist or contemporary linguistics. That you say there is no fixed meaning for any word & the meaning actually.. the, the - this is justified by the use or by the difference - that you say "beer is not wine”, for example. Yeah, that you have a purely relational definition & usage but there is no actual referent to the word.
Ok, that was a long tangent but wasn't it great?! After all, ""There's an old saying: The genius sees what happens, but the plodder sees what he expects to happen.["]" (p 88)
Brunner's political group experience shows: ""Does anybody disagree violently?" Rorschach inquired, and when nobody else spoke up continued, "So resolved, then.["]" (p 126) A theme explored in Bedlam Planet of how astronaut colonists become natives is here too: "Nobody wanted to settle permanently on Sigma Draconis III, because they hadn't come here as colonists, but as investigators." (p 175) In summary, an important political question relevant to the afore-mentioned short-sightedness appears: "How often have human beings acted against their own best interests, and particularly on behalf of some small group rather than in favor of the race as a whole?" (p 186) Indeed. (less)
Notes are private!
Oct 20, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback
John Brunner's Web of Everywhere
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
1st off, this is "A Frederik Pohl Selection" as the front...more review of
John Brunner's Web of Everywhere
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013
1st off, this is "A Frederik Pohl Selection" as the front cover announces. That's immediately promising for me insofar as Pohl is one of the better politically minded SF writers in the US (IMO). As the inside proclaims:
"Frederik Pohl, four-time Hugo Award winner, editor of some thirty science fiction anthologies and author of more than forty books [Web of Everywhere having been published in 1974, the number of Pohl books would now be, of course, much larger.], is an acknowledged master of his field.
"Each book that bears the crest "A Frederik Pohl Selection" reflects the taste, integrity and discrimination that have made his own works so highly respected by critics and enjoyed by millions of readers."
A device called the skelter has been invented wch enables instantaneous traveling. As an unexpected side-effect, Earth's population has been devastated. "Close to two-thirds of the planet's population had been killed by violence or disease within twenty years of the marketing of the first skelters". (p 14) As such, each private location now has an encoded protection against unwanted intrusion. Traveling between locales w/o permission from the destination encoder is a serious crime. Hans, the main character here, is one of these criminals. He & his companion Mustapha have illegally entered a deserted location using the instantaneous travel device. The reader gets hints of why it's deserted:
""There is a smell of death, but it is so faint, it is more likely to issue, I think, from food which has rotted through several summers and been frozen again. Those documents: they say where we have come to. Do they also hint at what became of the people who lived here?"" - p 10
"Recovering almost at once, he said, "No, but we can dismiss fallout, I think. This area must have been well out of range of the big blast at Kiruna and Trondheim." - p 10
""Disease, possibly? So many epidemics were imported here by the skelter . . . " - p11
I'm reminded of Richard Preston's book about Ebola called The Hot Zone. In it, one of the things that I learned that stuck w/ me the most was how this highly infectious & deadly disease spread w/ the assistance of modern transportation. A disease that might've stayed localized in Africa traveled widely thanks to infected persons & monkeys traveling worldwide by airplane.
Hans finds bodies at his illegally accessed destination & sends their bodies to be secretly incinerated: "He didn't bother to rehearse any prayers as he consigned the bodies to the skelter. In Norther Europe these people would presumably have been either atheist—in which case they wouldn't have cared—or Christian. As a moderately devout follower of the Way of Life he regarded Christianity with the same revulsion as black magic." (p 15) Ha ha! My personal experience w/ Christinanity certainly makes it worthy of being considered the true Satanism.
Each chapter begins w/ a poem by the Mustapha character. These poems largely center around the consequences of skelter culture. here's the one that prefaces chapter 4:
"Time was when any lover, seeing his mistress
Was gone from the room, might call for her
And be assured that she would hear his cry.
O my beloved I do not treat you coldly.
rather am I haunted by the knowledge
That one step may have put the world between us." - p 23
""What it comes down to," Mustapha said, "is that mankind from now on must be governed by artists, not by politicians. There is no other conceivable manner in which a survival-prone society can be organized. We must evolve an aesthetic of government, free from ideological trammels; we must commit our fate into the hands of those who derive artistic satisfaction from seeing a well-ordered community, who will crack their skulls into the small hours of the morning over a flaw in their scheme as I may worry myself sleepless over a line in a poem until it suddenly turns head over heels and comes out right." - p 37
Alas, history proves that artists turned to world rulers are just as liable to create disaster as anyone else. Regardless of whether artists want to admit it or not, Hitler was an artist & Mussolini put Italian Futurist Marinetti into a high cultural position. Would you trust Bruce Naumann, a prominent American artist who's against audience participation & who represented the US at La Biennale di Venezia, w/ political power? I wdn't. Not that Naumann's anywhere close to Hitler or Mussolini of course. Remember, famed American poet Ezra Pound supported Fascism & was visited by the leader of the American Nazi Party when he was incarcerated in St Elizabeth's Hospital for being a traitor during WWII. NO-ONE & NO PARTICULAR SUBCULTURE ARE 'FIT' FOR GOVERNING. Not even those lovable cuddly artists.
As usual, Brunner's story is fascinatingly explored & I enjoyed reading it very much. On the other hand, I don't really have much to say about it. I recommend it to every 3rd person on the left - how's that? (less)
Notes are private!
Oct 16, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Nov 12, 1980
John Brunner's Players at the Game of People
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 14, 2013
Yet another Brunner. The most recent one I've r...more review of
John Brunner's Players at the Game of People
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 14, 2013
Yet another Brunner. The most recent one I've read yet. 1980 publishing date. At 1st I thought of just listing all the permutations that the alien animal name goes thru. Tempting, but not enuf.
"Beside the couch, looking as though a four-foot fir cone had been carved out of anthracite, then flattened like a cowering hedgehog, lay Adirondinatarigo." - p 54
""Oh, that's Canaptarosigapatruleeva,"" - p 55
"All the while Potanandrusabalinicta lay immobile except for an occasional ripple of its carapace." - p 55
"Apticaranogapetulami stirred and readjusted the pattern of its scales by a few millimeters here and there." - p 57
"Apitaculabricomulapariti folded its scales and resumed a condition of inertness." - p 58
"Lurabanguliticapulanduri remained as motionless as though it were carved in ebony." - p 59
"But Abutaralingotogulisica lay as unresponsive as a bone." - p 60
"Had Hermann known in advance about Arikapanotulandaba's amazing powers?" - p 97
Brunner being a writerly bloke, he doesn't always directly describe, he writes around, he tantalizes w/o immediately, if ever, spelling it out. "Hugo & Diana": "By this time she was fondling Gorse's clitoris and his prick was standing at attention." (p 63) ""No, no!" exclaimed Hugo & Diana in dismay. "Not at all like this! This is mine!["]" (p 64) ""Well, we don't," Hugo & Diana said, turning her back and pushing off into the empyrean and beginning to caress his clitoris with sighs and moans of pleasure." (p 64) Amorphous. Hermaphrodite? Conjoined twins? ""Hermaphrodite, of course. Maybe one of these days you'll meet the surgeon who performed the transplants. Brilliant man."" (p 67)
This cast of phantasmagorical characters have extraordinary lives imparted to them by unseen puppet masters, they're owned like pets. In exchange for performing tricks they get spectacular treats.
[reviewer's insertion: As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the Piano Music in America Vol. II: 1900-1945 VOXBOX, Roger Fields, pianist - Shields is phenomenal, it's Wallingford Riegger's wonderful "Six Movements from "New and Old"" (1944) right now - liner notes by none other than Lejaren Hiller, one of my favorite composers, whose Piano Sonatas 4 & 5 I've been listening to repeatedly lately]
Godwin's treat is a George Medal given him for heroism performed by him whilst apparently time-traveling or some such. But is it 'real'?:
""September the twentieth," Bill said at last, tapping the paper with a blunt forefinger.
""Yes, of course—during the Blitz!"
""I don't believe it," Bill said with finality, surrendering the paper again.
""Nobody's asking you to!" Godwin snapped, returning it to his pocket. But a sour taste was gathering in his mouth, and he forced himself to add the crucial question: "Why?"
""Weren't no George Medals then, nor George Cross neither. Didn't get introduced until September the twenty-third."" - pp 85-86
'Commonplace' details accumulate & set the atmosphere w/o ever being put into a defined context:
"A moment later Godwin was back in the dingy street under a dismal sky. People seemed to be looking at him more than even they had at Bill in his out-of-date finery. Their faces were cold and pinched with hunger. Some of the children playing in the gutter wore only ragged vests or outgrown dresses and were mechanically masturbating as they gazed at him with dull eyes." - p 86
"Masturbating"? What time is this?!
"But when he arrived at Harry's basement flat, in a narrow street of sleazy gray-brick houses beset—like the whole of London—with abandoned cars, there was no reply to his ring . . . this being one of the few doors which did not automatically open even to his touch.
"The most likely explanation was that Harry had been called, and for that there was no help. There was never any help.
"Perhaps it didn't matter. Harry's forgeries were—naturally—the finest in the world, and Godwin had not actually been warned that he shouldn't use a passport too often; it just seemed like a reasonable precaution, because there were so many countries where the police were forever demanding "Vos papiers!" and "Ihr Ausweis!"—or whatever—and the presence fo a visitor unrecorded at any port or airport might entrain problems . . ." - p 87
"As he trudged toward the nearest street where a cruising taxi could logically be intersecting with him" - p 87
"Abandoned cars"? Forged passports? Taxis everywhere? What time is this? Is it London at the time of the bk's writing w/ some new explanations for the despair? For the deterioration? No, not exactly, but I reckon that's in there somewhere. Instead, Godwin is "enjoying his isolation and his suspension in time as well as space", he's beyond jet-setting, a pampered pet, utterly privileged & totally owned. &, yet, there's still no explanation for the background degradation:
"Oxford Street having been for a long while closed to all traffic but buses and taxis, and in any case being beset by homeless hawkers, peddlers, and prostitutes, Godwin detoured via Wigmore Street and made his eventual way to Holburn and the slums of the City, where squatters swarmed like ants in the abandoned office blocks—some bombed, some burned for the insurance, some simply left to rot when the owning company collapsed. Hordes of ragged and filthy children rushed out to celebrate this rare event, the passage of a car, and when he halted more from force of habit than necessity at a blind junction, they converged on him screaming for money and displaying stump wrists and carefully cultivated sores.
"He scared them off with a roar of his engine and thereafter crossed intersections without slowing, blasting his horn.
"Thinking of Sittingbourne, he turned south to A2. In greenwich an armed fascist patrol had set up a roadblock guarded by stern-faced boys with stolen army guns wearing Union Jack armbands on their black leather motorcycle jackets. Luckily a trio of policemen had paused to pass the time of day with them and someone had cracked a good joke which made them all chuckle. Barely glancing at him except to ensure he was white, they waved him by." - p 95
Another of Godwin's 'treats' seems to be traveling in time to an earlier more aristocratic time.. &.. yet.. it goes awry & he's held captive under brutal conditions.. to be eventually taken before the despot.. where he hears music.. "It was by William Walton. / It was Belshazzar's Feast." (p 102) Twentieth century music in a pre-20th c context. As w/ the George Medal it does not compute. [Coincidentally, I'd just been listening to Walton's "Facade" shortly before I read this passage.] This apparent delusion, this apparent hallucination, this 'treat' transforms from one ill-inspired illusion to another: "Shaw! Androcles who took the thorn out of the lion's pad! The whole setup was so illy". (p 105)
&, yes, Brunner does recycle his material a fair amt: "And there, dead ahead of him, was a nearly naked girl tied to the face of a smooth gray rock." "As it began to crisp around the edges in the blasting-hot breath of a creature waddling toward her on scaly legs with claw-tipped toes like an overgrown cockerel's" (p 108) is reminiscent of his Father of Lies; "Two or three had, on cheekbones or wrists, the long-lasting subcutaneous hemorrhages indicative of scurvy" (p 118) is reminiscent of Bedlam Planet.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this, as I enjoy reading all Brunner.. but I read it as a way of distracting myself from more important things to be read.. & I've reviewed it here as a way of avoiding writing more important things to be written - wch is not to say that Brunner's not a great writer, he is, but this was too much entertainment & too little intellectual rigor for me personally. (less)
Notes are private!
Oct 12, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback
John Brunner's Bedlam Planet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 14, 2013
The bio opposite the title p tells us that Brunner's "interest...more review of
John Brunner's Bedlam Planet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 14, 2013
The bio opposite the title p tells us that Brunner's "interest in science fiction began at the age of six when "someone misguidedly left a copy of the War of the Worlds in the nursery." he sold his first sf paperback at the age of 17 and made his first sales to U.S. magazines before his 18th birthday." Impressive.
The Author's Note on p 4 informs us that: "In writing this novel I have made extensive use of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (the English version of Larousse Mythologie General) and am in consequence indebted to its compilers, editors and translators."
The hints of subtle differences on a new planet are effective: "Relying on the contact of his skin and his mattress, he gained sufficient control to swing his legs to the floor and tried not to realize that the smooth planks on which he placed his soles had been peeled from the layered bulk of a thing more like a vegetable carbuncle than an honest upright tree. It was wood . . . of a sort." (p 6) "Even in the womb-like dark of his room at night, there was still the indefinably wrong smell of Asgard to remind him." (p 19)
Colonists on this new planet have had one of their spaceships destroyed upon arrival & are, therefore, working under worse conditions than their careful planning wd've had otherwise. Nonetheless, the planet is astonishingly habitable. Subconsciously, however, "What armour do I wear against reason? We calculate, we analyze, we deduce, and think we have planned for all eventualities. But what impulses lurk below the surface of the mind, which never could be allowed for in advance because it took the impact of an alien planet to trigger them?" (p 8)
Ancient seafarers w/ inadequate supplies of vitamin C are evoked: "["]Anybody here not know what scurvy is?"" (p 28) ""Remember we had epidemic diarrhoea on our first arrival—a kind of interplanetary turismo? Well, as you know, most of the bacteria here are used to protoplasm in their hosts which is different enough from ours to mean we can't fall sick from them. However, we always carry around with us certain bacteria from which we don't fall ill, but actually derive benefit. And from analyzing and culturing stool-samples we've found that since we got over that diarrhoea epidemic all of us have been carrying around a variety of local bugs which like the hospitable environment of the human bowel. They don't cause any trouble so we needn't bother about them, bar one crucial factor. One of them tends to make ascorbic acid metabolically inaccessible to us. It knocks the molecule about in a way which our bodies aren't accustomed to. So in spite of eating a balanced diet we're developing a deficiency."" (pp 28-29)
It's largely the psychology of adjusting to a new planet that seems to concern Brunner here & his extensive use of mythology relates to that: "We don't know precisely what kind of cultural frame a human being needs to keep his sanity. At best we can make enlightened guesses. That's why we brought as much personal contact with as many areas of Earthly tradition as we could arrange." (p 41)
Section Four's entitled "The Moon's My Mistress" wch makes me think of Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress wch I reckon Heinlein's publisher (or whomever) might've taken from a famous poem or some such. Epigraphs from "Tom o' Bedlam's Song" appear at the beginning of each of the sections. According to Wikipedia,
""Tom O' Bedlam" is the name of a critically acclaimed anonymous poem written circa 1600 (it can be definitely dated back to 1634) about a Bedlamite.
The term "Tom O' Bedlam" was used in Early Modern Britain and later to describe beggars and vagrants who had or feigned mental illness (see also Abraham-men). They claimed, or were assumed, to have been former inmates at the Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam)."
The colonists are careful to avoid direct contact w/ their new environment - they don't swim in the sea, they don't eat the food, etc.. - but the main character recklessly swims in the sea & gets stung by a sea creature. He becomes delirious & hallucinates in terms of traditional mythology from his ethnic group ancestors:
"Therefore the hero mused, and spoke at last of envy poison-deep in his heart, to go among the Blest and match his strength to Nuada Argatlam, to play at chess with Finn the son of Cool and bait Cú Chulainn til he turned around within his skin and the hairs of his head glowed red with fire and blood." (p 69) I was able to recognize this as irish mythology partially b/c a reference to "Manannán's pigs" (p 70) reminded me of Henry Cowell's 1914 tone-cluster piano piece "Tides of Manaunaun".
My new (or, more likely, forgotten) word gleaned from this on p 74: "his left hand being thrust into the burrow of some sand-living creature, to be withdrawn with a moue" - "moue" = a pout, a little grimace (thank you: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... ).
Essentially, Bedlam Planet explores the idea of when does someone stop being a colonist & start being a native? The main character becomes transformed:
"I ought to be hungry.
"He switched off the power and sat shivering as a vivid, revolting memory came clear in his mind. He had vomited, and spewed a great gout of liquid all over himself. What had been in him, that his stomach rejected so violently? And more alarming still: what was in him now, that he did not feel hungry despite not touching his packaged stores for ten mortal days . . . ?" - p 78
To avoid spoiling too much I'll just say that the transformation involves the mythology that Brunner expresses his gratitude for at the beginning of the bk. One bit of slightly off-the-beaten-track (plot-wise) mythology that occurs here also occurs in Brunner's novella Father of Lies: ""Okay, we'll keep these chairs here as a sort of Siege Perilous," (p 117): "In Arthurian legend, a seat at King Arthur's Round Table kept for the knight destined to find the Holy Grail and fatal for any other occupant." ( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sieg... )
Brunner explores the possibility of instinctual attraction to the appropriate nutritive source: "Somewhere in with the rest he had been told about one of the pioneer round-the-world trips by a nuclear submarine, following which the crew came ashore with an inexplicable need to eat cottage cheese. A check showed that they were short of calcium, and their bodies knew what they consciously did not: that this was the quickest way to replenish their supply." (p 135)
This made me think of dogs going after particular plants when they're sick or just out for a walk &, sure enuf, 4 pp later: ""Did you ever keep a dog?" she said after a moment for thought. "Did you ever see one drag itself across country when it was so sick it could barely stand, in search of a special kind of grass which would make its belly reject the poison it had swallowed? We've got to be our own dogs, as it were. Our bodies know things which our minds never can.["]" (p 139) & then: "Your body is wiser than your mind; its been around longer, and it carries memories in its cells which we've barely begun to guess at."" (p 147) Exactly. & it's Brunner's exploration of this notion that made this interesting for me. (less)
Notes are private!
Oct 08, 2013
Oct 29, 2013
Mass Market Paperback