Full disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always containsFull disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always contains elements of the "silly" and over-the-top wackiness. But don't let that fool you. There's downright fine writing in there. Really. And this book's a page-turner too. I made myself late to things because I didn't want to stop reading this book.
The story is many things: a nuclear armageddon sci-fi space opera, a parody of space operas, a satire on the porn industry, a meditation on artificial intelligence, a feminist allegory, and more. The commentary is spot-on, the humor kills, and language is artful, the messages profound. ...more
This is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interestedThis is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interested in computers, hacking, cryptography, and civil liberties. Basically the book is a piece of not-so-subtle propaganda - a word I use simply as description, not as value judgement. Doctorow is trying to spread and instill a way of thinking about politics, the "War on Terror," the Security State, and related issues. He does so with writing that is pretty basic, though it is competent storytelling that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen. There was a lot of (to me) over-obvious, breaking-the-fourth-wall explanation, mostly of stuff I already knew, on topics ranging from ciphers to DNS to San Francisco Mission District burritos. Some of that was fun to recognize and skim over, while other instances of that made me wonder if young readers would get bored or angry with such bald instructional passages and just set the book down. The potential problem is that when you cross over the line from political literature into expository how-to manual thinly disguised as fiction, you run a risk, and you also waste an opportunity to make truly great art. I could argue that David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" occupies the other end of the spectrum, in that it covers a lot of the same ground, politically, that "Little Brother" does, but it does so while also being an amazing work of avant-garde literature that is at many times formally brilliant and challenging, something that "Little Brother" definitely never is. But of course I would be clueless and stupid to think that the average 14-year-old computer nerd might get the same kind of call-to-arms buzz from DFW's mammoth opus as from Doctorow's book, or even finish it. I just think that some middle ground might be the better way to go, because any kid smart and dorky enough to care about jamming arphids or installing linux on Xboxes will most likely also be smart enough to smell literary hamfistedness and benefit from the pleasure of reading a piece of writing that is not just good, but great. Doctorow's book is good-not-great writing, but it is admittedly very good popular education....more
This book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focThis book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focus on the city of Los Angeles and a variety of fictional but very realistic inhabitants. I kept wanting the various little story threads to somehow intersect, which is one thing that drives the book forward. The structure is a neverending alternation between various historical and statistical factoids about the city and various characters, mostly newly arriving in the city and trying to set up a life for themselves. Some of the characters Frey keeps coming back to and building a plot, others you only see once and then never again. It's a bit dizzying and sometimes frustrating but ultimately forms an experience that is gripping and wise. It makes me glad I moved away from L.A. as soon as I did, although the book also makes me kind of want to move there....more
My high rating for this book is for its high concept, and I'm biased since it's a concept (appropriation, plagiarism, recycled culture, there are manyMy high rating for this book is for its high concept, and I'm biased since it's a concept (appropriation, plagiarism, recycled culture, there are many terms one could use) that I've been involved with, both in my own artistic practice and as a subject of study and documentation. [full disclosure: Another source of bias is that a review copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher]
With this slim volume, Schneiderman pushes at an envelope of that concept of artistic appropriation. In it, he reprints excerpts from across the history of literature and philosophy, making the book feel a bit like a freshman Western Civ course or somesuch. However, his twist, his "value add" as they say, is that for each pre-existing work, he changes the byline to his own. It's an open act of "piracy" or, if you're more generous, "creative borrowing," but also an exercise in artistic curation.
The author of the forward mentions that Schneiderman told him that it's not necessary to actually read the book, because of its conceptual nature, and this is true. There's literally nothing new. It's enough to be paging through it and pondering why he may have chosen each selection, enjoying the cognitive buzz of seeing a different author name slapped onto each masterpiece. It's an avant-garde work in the truest sense, because this book is about showing other artists where the extremes are, not actually providing a cultural product for "civilians" to consume. That will come later, when someone else synthesizes Schneiderman's one-liner, perhaps with some related ideas from David Shields' "Reality Hunger" and some hard-won storytelling skills, to write a novel or memoir that is a tapestry of source material but that still somehow entertains and inspires, in a deeper, more personal and more complicated way than this art world gesture. Until then, we have this stepping stone to admire. ...more
This is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutaThis is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutants and demons, the narrator throws around some great wisdom as well as some comedic slacker banality. It's brilliant, and once you pick it up and open it to the first page, you won't need me or anyone else to persuade you that it's worth reading. You'll just keep reading....more
Kind of like a latino Tao Lin, only not as good. That same sort of opaque narrative voice where you don't get any, or very little, inner monologue ofKind of like a latino Tao Lin, only not as good. That same sort of opaque narrative voice where you don't get any, or very little, inner monologue of the characters, just kind of a ghostly relation of events from the outside. Somehow Tao Lin makes this work and often be hilarious and profound, but Zambra can't pull this off as well. ...more