I found myself at the Portland Zine Symposium yesterday, talking with other very fervent, very impassioned, creators and wandering from table to table...moreI found myself at the Portland Zine Symposium yesterday, talking with other very fervent, very impassioned, creators and wandering from table to table, each awash in the fruits of some erstwhile thinker's labor of love. I'd traded away every copy of my own zine by the time I hit the Pioneer Press table and had to break my budget and plunk down actual cash for this tiny little tract. The brilliant cover drew me in, but flipping through it I knew that it needed to come home with me because it features some of the most concise advice I've found for dealing with your brain in those moments when you're teetering on the brink and about to succumb to another round of in the ongoing battle against depression. Adam Gnade has clearly fought many battles with the Big Sad and come out the other side time and again and he dispenses his wisdom in short and easily-digestible snippets like so:
"A Rough Guide to Surviving the Unsurvivable
1) If you live with monsters you'll become monstrous. This can be good and it can be bad. You need to keep your perspective and know when it's time to quit a bad scene.
2) Learn the difference between honesty and being a dick.
3) Once you stop looking for identity, you start to die.
4) Don't sabotage yourself. There are enough people out there who'll do it for you. Don't let the assholes win.
5) Read more than you drink.
6) When you feel the Big Motherfuckin' Sad coming on, scream as loudly as you possibly can. It's good medicine.
7) Remember: If someone is talking shit about someone else to you, they probably talk shit about you, too. If they're doing it on the internet, they're probably someone you don't want to be friends with. Know a vendetta when you see one. Shit-talkers are like black mold: they'll infect you and you might not even know it. You don't need that darkness in your life. Bitterness will jump from them to you."
I foresee the tiny book being pretty handy in those moments when I need a quick dose of perspective in order to avoid diving back down that rabbit hole of resentment, sorrow, and self destruction which has been my home for far too long.(less)
You know those books that you finish and then immediately begin again because they were just that good? That's what happened with Unbearable Lightness...moreYou know those books that you finish and then immediately begin again because they were just that good? That's what happened with Unbearable Lightness and me. After turning the page on the incredibly heart-wrenching last chapter, I needed to begin it anew so that I could savor those doughnuts of wisdom that Kundera tosses out like they were stale day-olds.
After reading the first few chapters of the book, I wrote a note to myself that said "If Love in the Time of Cholera is a representative of Latin passion and willingness to fling oneself off the cliffs of insanity, then The Unbearable Lightness of Being is its Teutonic counterpart. This book is filled with enough neuroses, doubt and angst to keep Freudian analysts busy for thousands of billable hours and make the reader wonder whether love is even worth all of the trouble." I thought that would make a great beginning of a review. Then I kept reading and realized that my first impressions, that this is a book about love and it's fall-out, was a remarkably short-sighted interpretation of this grand epic.
Sure, this book deals with love, but only so far as we can say that life inevitably deals with love at some point along the way. Kundera's greatness is that he attempts to chart the intertwining paths of life that groups of people take and how chance encounters that mean so little to one party can have profound, life-changing ramifications for the other. How one person can be cursed to flit through life living only skin deep, the titular Unbearable Lightness, while another drags their guilt and lust with them like some albatross strung about their neck. How national identity does shape who we are, no matter how far we run from the country itself.
Any review that I could write of this book would do no justice to the book itself. It is beautiful. It is heart-breaking (I could title this review "Animals in Literature and Why They Kill Me Every Fucking Time"). It gives you hope for your own life and then rips it away at the last possible second. This is a book that makes you believe that writing is an art form and the grandmasters of the craft are sorrowfully few and far between. This is a book that I know I will reread again and again as the years go by and experience reshapes me along the way, if only to see how these different iterations of Logan react to Kundera's genius.(less)
While I had pre-ordered this book months before its release in 2008, it took me until this past March to actually blow the dust from my copy and crack...moreWhile I had pre-ordered this book months before its release in 2008, it took me until this past March to actually blow the dust from my copy and crack the heavy spine open. I will admit to more than a little bit of intimidation on my part. After the epic size and scope of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, I knew that Anathem would be a read that I would need to fully dedicate myself to in order to appreciate/understand it as much as my meager mind is capable of. It’s fortunate that I waited as long as I did before reading this because I doubt I would have appreciated this half as much had I not spent the past year or so fleshing out my scant knowledge of science and math to a point where I have at least a nodding acquaintance with the ideas that Stephenson puts together in this, his fictional attempt at explaining his own Unified Field Theory of Everything.
This is the book that Stephenson has been building up to ever since he first put pen to page so many years ago. I would not hesitate to call it his magnum opus were he not still feverishly penning new tales that I am certain will astound me further. Ideas that were first expressed in embryonic stages in his earlier writings (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Diamond Age) have been gestating over the years until springing, like mythical Athena, fully formed from his mind ready to astound. Not that this is all dry science and Platonic dialogues. No, with Stephenson you are guaranteed a wild ride through an intricately imagined universe with your daily dose of metaphysics.
The tale begins within the walls of the Concent of Saunt Edhar (think coed monasteries for thinkers), following the young Fraa Erasmus as he prepares for his first visit outside the walls since he arrived at the concent ten long years earlier. He exists in a world of pure though, utterly isolated from the Secular World outside the walls. His days are spent under the tutelage of older and more experienced Fraas, in Convo with his peers puzzling out logic problems and explaining things like the three dimensional plotting of coordinates to a young autistic initiate. The scenes in the concent remind me of nothing so much as the vivid descriptions of monastic life in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The universal clock which forms the central basis of life in the Math is as detailed as the labyrinthine library at the heart of Name of the Rose and the intrigues between the various sects nearly as convoluted.
The first hundred pages or so are a struggle, but one that is well worth it once the stage has been set and the story begins to reveal itself. Stephenson borrows and adapts a lot of terminology from our world to create his own vocabulary. Normally things like this throw me off and ultimately sour me on a book (I know what a “fork” is, but I’ll be damned if I know “dinglehopper”) but Stephenson puts some explanation into his phrases. For example, because the avout aren’t religious, they have Saunts in the place of Saints- saunts being a new rendering of savant. Confusing? Don’t worry, there’s an index of phrases just before the appendices. Don’t be misled though; this book is not all dry theorizing and descriptions of centuries-old wall carvings. I don’t want to give too much away, because that would be extremely easy to do and most of my pleasure with the book came from being as in the dark to what was occurring as Erasmus was, but suffice to say that the plot is a riveting one that takes Erasmus from the comfortable walls of his concent to a hellish trek across frozen wastes to a free-wheeling zero gravity ballet that culminates in a reality-bending climax that would make even Philip K. Dick smile in bemusement.
The problem with reviewing a book as dense as Anathem is that, invariably, you will never be able to touch on as many of the highlights as you would prefer. I haven’t even begun to talk about the debates between the Halikaarnian and Procian sects of avout that left my mind reeling and wondering whether I even existed at the end, nor the secretive Ita (derived from I.T. Administrators) who maintain the avout’s limited access to technology, nor the Jedi-like duo of Fraa Orolo and Fraa Jad who provide most of the forward momentum in this tale. This book had, quite literally, whole worlds crammed into its few pages and I was astounded that Stephenson brought it to a serviceable conclusion without extending it into a full series as he did with the semi-unwieldy Baroque Cycle. This is a great book to fall into when you want to disconnect from the world at large for a time and simply live through the adventures of a dewy eyed youth, far from the drama of day to day living. I recommend it to all fans of speculative fiction or anyone looking for something new and exciting. (less)