I quite admire and agree with Rupert Dreyfus's spirit and method for creating this collection of stories. I know this is more about the state of moderI quite admire and agree with Rupert Dreyfus's spirit and method for creating this collection of stories. I know this is more about the state of modern Britain, but it most certainly resonates will the same illness we have in America. Fight!
The spirit and tone of these sketches reminds me quite a bit of the American T.V. series IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. Why--well, on this show you get the sense of people made absurd by the world they live in. It forces them to come up with ridiculous schemes to survive the rising waters. On the TV they do things like make their bar into a magnet for underage drinking, blackmail their friends, sleep with each other's rich relatives, smoke crack to get welfare, bet money in underground fight clubs, pretend to be crippled for sympathy---
The dark "sunniness" surrounding these stoog-y antics is Philadelphia itself, which is just a microcosmic stand-in for the larger modern word that twists up the behavior of these characters. Move these characters to other venues, largely in Britain...
The protagonists here are equally demented in their creativity and the source of their rebellion may be a tad more obvious, but it is in the same vein. I can't reveal the details of any of Rupert's plot lines without spoiling his stories--let's just say there is a pervasive anarchy-punk thread moving through this that an old raccoon eyed punk girl can appreciate. No safety pins or romper-stompers necessary.
Thought I'd end with a quote from a band I'm assuming Rupert loves/knows--seems to sum up grandly---
The sun beams down on a brand new day No more welfare tax to pay Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light Jobless millions whisked away At last we have more room to play All systems go to kill the poor tonight
If someone told you the plot of this novel, you might think it would be sort of tragic, a downer--Dread Dude, depressed from a breakup, impulsively splits for Egypt, feels uncomfortable cos he doesn't know where he is, is wary of a LOT of strangers, opts to spend much of his time in disgusting hotels alone smoking dope.
The surprising thing is that Harry manages to make this all ---eh, Fun!! No really! It's a real page turner--I read it in two days!! I could do the whole, it's Holden Caulfield doing a Kerouac road trip with Willie Nelson. Except it's not very accurate. Harry's not quite as neurotic or paranoid as Holden (granted, he is a little paranoid, which could possibly be justified for caution's sake, traveling around a country where he doesn't speak the language), getting bombarded by hustlers--hence the title. He's not quite as Zen or manic as Kerouac, doesn't have a Neal Cassidy-like sidekick to bro down with and shoot apples off of the wives' heads--
Sounds like his hair is longer than Willie's and he has the wrong accent. He doesn't have that vape thing Willie has. And he's kinda lonely, but kinda wants to be, because that's about all he can handle about now.
Also he has a number thing. See, it's totally different from what you expected!...more
Okay, I've read this enough times that I think I can do an actual review. I know people are always arguing over the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL--or at leastOkay, I've read this enough times that I think I can do an actual review. I know people are always arguing over the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL--or at least they used to. So, I would like to submit this story as THE Great American Short Story.
To me, it's plainly, simply, iconic. It doesn't just represent American culture: the ideas go even deeper to the unconscious soul of the human race. It just happens to be set in America, and in its embryonic state---that's what makes it such a great choice as a representation of the uniquely American mindset, capturing all our contradictions at their ancient roots.
I used to hate this story, and all Hawthorne, mostly because it was about the Puritans. Doesn't everyone hate the Puritans? They're so boring and strict in their monotonous black and uniform starched white collar and cuffs. Their sour outlook about life, their busybody interventions into others'. But this story is about the underbelly.
It's almost like a psychedelic Grimm's Fairytale .. it takes place in the dark woods! What's out there? Witches? The Devil? Nudity? Children being corrupted? Dark vows? Yes!!!
What's so amazing about this story is its end. I'll try to do this without a spoiler. It so rightly captures the source of all that is wrong with the world--if you want to call it evil, or sin, fine. But it mostly has to do with perception. That old "Judge not--" axiom from the Bible, which I always thought as parallel words for the Golden Rule.
He never looked at his wife the same way. That's a shame. Koo Koo Ka Choo....more
I have been warned that this is different than Tarkovsy's Stalker. One difference is my translation is full of modern slang: gunslinger adventure guy I have been warned that this is different than Tarkovsy's Stalker. One difference is my translation is full of modern slang: gunslinger adventure guy lingo: "That's the Zone for you. Come back with swag, a miracle; come back alive, success; come back with a bullet in your ass, good luck; and everything else is fate." Same industrial dream landscape as the movie---literally affected my dreams--green nature growing through abandoned metal cracks.
Here's a typical quote: "Fire, toxic gas, and bullets--these are only Earth perils. The Zone doesn't have those---
The noir hero, however, is not telling, in this book, of the parameters of this novel: he is merely the filter. I am not an automatic fan of sci-fi. I tend to stick to the Dystopic classics, or humorous Sci-fi like Douglas Adams. I'm not a reader of goggly-eyed alien monster tales that appear randomly at the foot of your bed, in your soup bowl, in the pit of your stomach. I think subconsciously I am thinking, okay, Mr. Sci-Fi writer-man, what makes you think the aliens view us as the enemy, want to eat us, destroy our lovely (?) culture, breed with us and mutate us into hideous forms?
This is precisely what the Strugatsys seem to be thinking as well. Their alien "pic-nic" Visitation could have merely been a thoughtless event, and there is no insight into any sort of philosophical reasons for it--at the end there is no answer to the question why, that I could see. The religious implications are likewise vague in a way I can respect--given that the universe is rarely thoughtful enough to answer our questions here in the real world. There is a crazy verisimilitude in this novel, both in and out of the Zone--and both places are mainly reflective of, as my partner in crime Leo X. said in his review, ourselves, a mirror. You are very wise, Leo. I will try to write more later....
It seems the Russian scientific mind views science in a less encapsulated way than American scientists are trained to do. America seems to want its scientists to be exclusive--math-minded, logic-oriented, never being silly or vulnerable enough to consider larger issues of life...the philosophical ramifications of a scientific phenomenon , the quality of life, even artistic aspects. I'm not saying individual American scientists avoid art and philosophy--just that it doesn't seem to be promoted in the general ranks, or in academia. There is a certain coldness. I say this as a one time science major. It strikes me as some sort of subtle pressure to always equate scientific objectivism with "progress", which I always found to be a rather narrow point of view.
Again, the Strugaskys escape this. Their contemplation is quite poetic, while still seeming realistic ..in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the events that occur in this book -------to actually happen-----someday. It just seems that close to the truth to me. Even with an obviously noir leading man....more