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Chômu Press Discussion > ***Welcome to the Arms Race*** December 2015-February 2016 Read Forum

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message 1: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod


message 2: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Pre-order it here , will hopefully ship December 15th:

message 5: by James (new)

James | 4 comments I just started reading it last night. Originally I was going to put off reading it until I recovered from the cold/flu hybrid I've been suffering from recently, then decided it might be more fun to read it in a slightly feverish state.

message 6: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
seems appropo, James. please share your fevered thoughts. get well soon though!

has anyone else--not those in the inner circle-- got theirs yet? beginning soon? remember, we have 3 months to rocket this puppy to the top of the bestseller list!

message 7: by Janie (new)

Janie C. From the outer circle: I haven't received mine yet, but am looking forward to getting started!

message 8: by James (new)

James | 4 comments I've read the first two stories so far (I've been trying to do 50 pages a night because I would like to finish it before 2016). I found the title story very imaginative, really loved the idea of the biochurches and religious types growing giant versions of their own bodies so they can explore their own "interior mansions" (to use the phraseology of St. Teresa of Avila). Some interesting portmanteau words: I especially liked "Rhizosigil." I've found that when a lot of writers write about the future they often fall into one of two traps, in that they either set it in a utopia or a dystopia. With the title story here I feel the tone is neutral, in that while there's a lot of darkness in this futuristic world there's also a lot of very interesting stuff going on as well. Essentially "Welcome to the Arms Race" is a good example of information overload, and has more ideas squeezed into its 76 pages than I've seen in some entire novels.

The second story ("Some Notes on the Artwork of Chris Wilhelm") is written in an almost entirely different tone of voice from the first: whereas the first story has kind of a brash experimental cyberpunk-ish vibe, this one has more of a dry academic air which reminds me a bit of Borges (maybe its the use of footnotes that makes me think of it as academic). I liked the premise, the idea of an "artwork that could trigger suicidal ideation," and the overall impression I got of the story was that it could almost function as a sort of Creepypasta article for intellectuals. I'm not entirely sure I "got" it, and the ending went over my head, but I did like this poetic description of a sunset: "a thread of fire stitched between two night-blue eternities."

message 9: by Janie (new)

Janie C. Wow! Very interesting commentary on the two stories, James. Now I really want to read them. I hope you feel better soon.

message 10: by Neil (new)

Neil B (neil77) | 3 comments I received my copy on Christmas Eve. There must be something about the shade of pink in the books cover, because I was drawn to make a start.

Welcome to the Arms Race - I agree with James it is full of invention, both disturbing and fun, full of a neon drenched energy. As a gamer I enjoyed the use of NPCs for marketing. The visual feeds and social media are not that far fetched, which is both cool and depending on your views disturbing as it shows human lives overrun with technology. To the point where we are becoming post-people? At times I wondered if the readers consciousness ever left the squid on the first page.

message 11: by Janie (new)

Janie C. I just got my copy last night. Yes, there's the squid!

message 12: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
I have yet to receive mine--perhaps today?--but I think the horror of our times lies in our adaptation to interests/technologies wholly indifferent to our progression as a species, I think I would prefer it if it adapted to us; not cost effective, though.

message 13: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
another contradiction is the fact that the process seems irreversible. For example, the decadent preference/attraction for/to prosthetics.

message 14: by Janie (new)

Janie C. Axolotl wrote: "I have yet to receive mine--perhaps today?--but I think the horror of our times lies in our adaptation to interests/technologies wholly indifferent to our progression as a species, I think I would ..."

I agree, Axolotl.

message 15: by Quentin (new)

Quentin Crisp | 27 comments Hello. About the delivery of the book: for some reason, Amazon is slower than the Book Depository to stock new books, though once they are stocked they tend to be quicker at delivering. I also find that they (Amazon) routinely overestimate how long they will take to stock and deliver something. I have myself ordered copies of Arms Race for two people, one in the UK and one in the States, through Amazon, to test the Amazon distribution service for this book. I now have a delivery date for the UK one but not for the US one. Having said that, other items I've delivered to myself have arrived before Amazon tells me they will (a record that arrived days ago is still listed on Amazon UK as not delivered to me). I write this to give people hope if they're still waiting, but, we (Chomu) also generally recommend The Book Depository over Amazon.

message 16: by Janie (new)

Janie C. The Book Depository also sends pretty bookmarks.

message 17: by Axolotl (last edited Dec 29, 2015 03:49PM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Yes, it really depends with Book Depository. Sometimes they send surface (which can arrive in as short a time as a week, or take as long as a month) and airmail which can, at its fastest, have an "order to door" time of 2-4 really all depends...I like them better, even if they are still Amazon, b/c of the "no minimum" and it's easy to see the real price in your local currency.

message 18: by James (new)

James | 4 comments I finished reading this book last night, before bed: read the last 4 stories in one sitting.

I think one of my favorite stories in this book was "The Plot," which at only 13 pages is the shortest story in the book. It depicts a futuristic scenario in which most novels are being written by computers (or AI-thors), and how a human writer deals with the idea that he has become obsolete. In this story there are programs in which human beings can feed a plot germ into the computer and the computer in turn will turn it into a full book. I hate to say this but there are times in which I wish I had one of these. It reminds me of something that Ligotti said in an interview once: “To me the actual task of writing is a real pain in the ass. I've fantasized about just imagining the characters and incidents of a story and having it appear in written form before my eyes. I know that there are plenty of writers who genuinely enjoy the nuts and bolts of the literary process. I'm not one of them."

Another interesting story is "The Willow," the title of which instantly evokes in one's mind that of Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows" (well, in my mind, anyway). Fittingly enough, it's the closest thing the collection has to a horror/Weird Fiction story (there's something vaguely Lovecraftian about its presentation as well, in that it's in the form of a letter in which the writer recounts a strange experience from his life). Only in some ways it inverts the classical Weird Fiction formula, in that the source of horror isn't something otherworldly, but instead something that is quite mundane and familiar... to us, at least. Though maybe I'm misinterpreting it!

A few of the other stories I liked were "The Heart of a Man" and "The Portrayed Man." The former is a story done in a kind of social realism style, and it could be classified as historical fiction in that it's set in the Stalin-era Soviet Union (for that reason alone I found it of interest). However, as the story goes on it becomes increasingly strange. The latter story involves a company that lets lazy human beings hire identical twins of themselves (in the story identified as "actors") to deal with the tedious task of living for them. It reminded me of that old Calvin & Hobbes storyline where Calvin used one of his devices to create identical twins of himself so they could go to school for him and he could just stay home and goof off. Oddly enough I felt this story had a kind of Mark Samuels-type vibe in a way I find hard to pinpoint (perhaps because it deals with a sinister corporation).

Two stories that completely went over my head were "The Stars and Yellow Doubt" and "Defence/Prosecution." I really had no idea what Justin was trying to say with those two. The latter I found more rewarding: it starts off in a very bizarre manner involving something to do with lights before turning into a Q&A session in which a mentally disturbed (?) woman is being interviewed, but I don't see how the two sections connect. The former story has me completely baffled, and I'm not even sure how to describe it... even though I only read it two days ago I've already forgotten much of it, mainly because it seems there's almost nothing to latch onto (kind of like how I feel about some of Samuel Beckett's fiction). I'd be very curious as to what other readers of this book would make of these stories, or how they would interpret them.

Finally, I would just like to add that I found the story "M-FUNK VS THA FUTUREGIONS OF INVERSE FUNKATIVITY" was totally hilarious: I especially enjoyed its all-out attack on the status society gives me to so-called "authentic" and "sincere" music, especially of the kind related to that most overrated of instruments, the acoustic guitar (though I'll make exceptions when it comes to Suzanne Vega and Current 93). Though I don't think that M-FUNK would like me: I love 4AD (though I can't say I'm a fan of the Red House Painters) and have an unironic appreciation of Keane (something my British friends always give me grief about). Liked the reference to the old Konami cheat code in this one.

message 19: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
About 3 or 4 years ago I was in the basement club of Nice n Sleazy's bar in Glasgow (planet Scotland), at a night called Hot Club. The club night's remit was rock n roll/garage/exotica/trash and a genre called 'shrew step' which I'm now (with funkative hindsight) guessing must be from the futuregions. Now, what was most curious was my discovery of the fact that many of the locals, upon arriving at the venue, headed straight for the dancefloor to commence immediate and unironic dancing. A behaviour so alien to me from my frequenting local clubs in Manchester.(Punters there generally opting for a loiter with libation pre-dancefloor swerves.) At the time of this surprising observation, I myself was involved in a complicated shambling of trying to dance and Shazam at the same time, hindered largely by both my surprising new observation and my phone's terrible signal (I was in a basement).
What remains to be established is whether inverse-funkativity was definitely not present on planet Scotland, or certainly Glasgow at least, at that time, or was I witnessing an elaborate hoax of completely ironic (therefore not funky) immediate ass banging whilst Samuel Johnson and his crew were deploying the then re-released vinyl editions of the complete back catalogue of Red House Painters in record shops all over planet Scotland?
I'm sure our man Mfunk would have been on the case on that one.
Still, I'm left with the niggling doubt as to whether ironic ass banging *does* supply the funk? What about if I 'do-do-do the Funky Gibbon?'
I'm not sure how the situation panned out in the intervening 3 or 4 years up there since my visit, but what I do know is that the recently reformed Glasgow band De Rosa are set to release their 3rd album on Mogwai's Rock Action label in a few weeks, which may cause some disturbing registrations on the Worrell scale.

message 20: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
The Stars and Yellow Doubt I imagined as an instantaneous, micro boardroom, synaesthesia daydream. A wandering of the mind during a biological presentation, enhanced and augmented by a complete lack of sleep and a particular yellow hue of sunlight jolting through the blinds. The whole imagining gone the instant self-awareness realigns, and all memory of it erased. That one way train of thought, that the minute a query or hesitation is raised, the whole thing dissolves.

message 21: by Karl (new)

Karl | 32 comments -- Just ordered mine today --

message 22: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Just got mine last week. Can't wait to get started but I've been crazily busy lately and was waiting on starting, I want to make sure I can give it my more or less undivided attention.

message 23: by Neil (new)

Neil B (neil77) | 3 comments One of my favourite stories here was The Portrayed Man. Here, rather than technology doing the living for "post people", an actor takes over instead. At one point I thought an actor would take over for an actor who takes over for an actor, but we get a satisfying eliptical finale instead, followed by something more enigmatic.

Overall this I found this to be an excellent and highly thought provoking book.

message 24: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) I've finally reached a point where I thnk I can dive into this. Trying hard not to read the comments here since I dont want to spoil things.

message 25: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Yes, even I've only been skimming them. I want to go in as cold as I can. I can't believe that I now have 2 unread QSC books and 2 unread Justin Isis books sitting on my shelf at the same time...I don't really know how to feel.

message 26: by Janie (new)

Janie C. Axolotl wrote: "Yes, even I've only been skimming them. I want to go in as cold as I can. I can't believe that I now have 2 unread QSC books and 2 unread Justin Isis books sitting on my shelf at the same time...I ..."

Overwhelmed? At least, that's how I feel. I have so much to read...

message 27: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Yeah, I feel like putting all my new friends in a circle and playing "spin the bottle"---to decide which one to read next is all!

message 28: by Janie (new)

Janie C. Axolotl wrote: "Yeah, I feel like putting all my new friends in a circle and playing "spin the bottle"---to decide which one to read next is all!"

Sometimes I just ask my husband to pick one for me. They're all good, so he can't go wrong.

message 29: by Sirensongs (new)

Sirensongs | 4 comments I've just read the first two stories, and so far have been blown away! Oh, how I'd love to visit these strange future worlds, and cross is definitely something I'd like to try, preferably with one of my cats, to start.

If the rest of the book is as insightful and original, I'm looking forward to how much my patterns of thinking and viewing the world will be affected when I am finished with it, or, more accurately, when IT has finished with me!

message 30: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
It's such an incredibly varied collection. Anyone who, at first glance, takes this as just being Justin's sci-fi collection is way, WAY off the mark.

message 31: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Alien-ness & inevitability.

This may be my second Corpse Reviver #2 talking but I don't think it is wrong to make connections with the first story and Ballard's Vermillion Sands---at least tonally. Isis is like so of his time that he's into the year 2081, see you all there if I live to be one hundred. There is a dirty deep-web/occult feel to this that I am totally digging, like Alice fell down the wrong sinkhole and got mixed up with Jon Rafman and some freakazoids who wrote a dirty book--which perversely recalls the film Ordinary People--called The Cutest Girl in Class. You can bet that it won't take until 2081 for corporations to be raping my eyelids and siphoning my wallet while feeding me hot post-singularity/corporeality celebrity gossip through constant barrage visual interface. Flipping I see that the JI actually mentions Rainer Maria emo band, that's when I knew he could read my distant memories and make sense of them in a way I would never possess the tenacity to.

message 32: by Axolotl (last edited Feb 09, 2016 09:29AM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Ok Corpse Revivers have long since worn off and I'm feeling...rerevived.
After a gap, I am now a good way through the first story, "Welcome to the Arms Race", I think someone else mentioned that after finishing these stories you immediately want to go back and begin them again. I'm not even finished the first story but I already feel that way.
My initial comparison to Ballard was premature and superficial--this story makes even Ballard seem old wave.
I think the alienness hammered over the readers head in the earlier part of the story really serves well to disorient and agitate the reader's expectation and, most importantly, sense of connection with the players, Yu Jen in particular.

Attachment, empathy and other social themes alerted me to the fact that I was (somewhat) on the wrong track in my initial impressions/connections.
In "Welcome the the Arms Race", Justin Isis is not merely chronicling what it might be like to be living in the 22nd Century, but is rather seriously considering the implications of the sociological, ideological and spiritual standoff with which our species is currently engaged. This is not a story content to be postmodern purely for the sake of special effects.

Maybe I missed it but did anyone else catch exactly who creates the Alterhumans? Humans? Or is this an example of the singularity in action?

message 33: by John (new)

John Cairns (johnbrucecairns) | 23 comments So far as I recall it was a corporation.

message 34: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Chris Wilhelm's story reminds me of Body Poem in Dadaoism--that's not a criticism as both place fictional artworks in a universe next-door type context. It seems like an anthology--including QsC's "Ynys-y-Plag", Samuels's "Mannequin's in Aspects of Terror" and Ligotti's "The Bungalo House"--could be assembled using these wonderful examples of this popular theme--these are seriously some of my favorite stories. Isis adds flare to this trope by suggesting an artwork that is negatively delineated and may be a state, as opposed to a "thing". The story made me respond the way La Jetee did, or feelings elicited--between the sex and violence--by the certain nostalgic, unaccountably magical, passages in Burroughs (like in Port of Saints or Cobblestone Gardens).

message 35: by John (new)

John Cairns (johnbrucecairns) | 23 comments I like the vibrant fuchsia of the cover with the simply centred, majuscule title, fractured to suit meaning – Welcome to the Arms Race - and the simplicity of title and author – Justin Isis - on the spine. I’m less sure of the pneumatic blonde, reminiscent of a girl I’ve met, in full armature on the back cover with what looks like a plugged-in iron on metallic stilts and another jewelled weapon but I like that the weight of the design’s on the back. Nimit Malavia’s the artist.
The publisher primes us to like the book by two quotations, one by Jeremy Reed on its predecessor, the other by Mark Samuels on the author himself. What I liked about Justin was after my critical analysis of his writing in his last book and beyond I read something else by him that completely undermined it. I laughed in delight at his development. That might qualify him as the genius Mark is not afraid to repeat he is, that is as possessing an exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability or tendency.
The book title’s taken from that of the first story. The spelling’s inconsistent, neither British like the publisher, Chômu, nor American, possibly Australian since the story’s set there but probably from indifference. It’s inventive, imaginative, easy to read and amusing, with junkies licking walls. The characters are pretty well junkies themselves having engineered the drug they’re taking and feeding to a squid they subsequently eat on specious reasoning. The drug-taking involves sex, equating sperm with life as more demonstrably so than a receptive ovum I suspect though a grabbing gesture is made toward the latter. I had to wonder if they were up to engineering this drug but the protagonist is reflective enough to make that he is acceptable. The dialogue’s plausible. I had no idea what the abbreviation VB stood for but settled for vodka bottle and passed on but not out. The protagonist and his companions are skilfully described physically in relation to a meeting with alterpeople, corporate-made synthetics that make him feel inferior. Being superior they are not interested in the drug, already enabled to do what it induces. He’s disappointed when they leave but ‘he didn’t blame them either’, an expression I find interesting, unless all he means is they wouldn’t find him interesting enough to stay, because why think in terms of blame? It’s a past tense narrative but not free indirect style because only the protagonist’s thoughts are indicated and without any separation from the writer’s to let the reader think differently.
The narration becomes increasingly funny as I chortled along, first at his designed T-shirt. He keeps in touch with texts, a whole virtually real world of banality is being created in quotes and lists, which I did read, looking for purpose, coherence over and above etc and, having finally found out who Ryan Gosling is, was interested in why he should be of significance to people but all I got was the word, ‘Ryan’, twice. The Reagan quote made me chuckle.
Now, an alterperson refers to his sculptures I wasn’t aware of, and he says it’s mostly those two, making me think his friends were sculpted, but he goes on that he’s only the technician, so it may mean his friends did the basic sculpting. At any rate, I reverted to taking them as human.
He admits the drug-taking provides experience only, no communication is taking place. He tells a story from his life I found funny to explain how he got the idea though it doesn’t. I’ve no idea what the drug called bud might be but the ritual is enough like chasing the dragon or smoking crack for me simply to accept it’s something such and press on. He naturally has difficulty following what the synthetic’s saying and – I had to exclaim at this, with an ! in the margin – offers her the specifications for making the new drug he’d come up with. He is not of the brightest.
I chuckled at, ‘Well there you go,’ mistakenly taking it as our hero’s line, though subsequently realising it’s not.
Why do heterosexuals adopt the worst from lowlife homos? It’s come! as is evident from the meaning of the word. Cum means with. The vulgarity is, however, excusable in the context.
Our hero is finding the artificial more beautiful and more useless than the natural. It’s pointed out to him he doesn’t want to help humanity and puts effort into doing what’s pointless. On that basis, and to my amusement, a synthetic explains he’s been designed to sharpen hatred among humans by means of built-in empathy, and to my even greater amusement wants to know what our hapless hero thinks. Thinks? This guy is a druggie and even in thoughtful repose has a drink to hand if not already in it. Gets out of bed, sees a bottle of vodka on the table and decides to keep on drinking. He smokes too. A synthetic over the ether taunts the human race there’s nothing it can do to stop him. Our hero’s death obsession is raised lightly and amusingly. He’s disgusted with those in favour of death overcoming civilisation’s morals but not its aesthetic conventions. Isis springs to mind. Also that it applies to him, who’s akin to a lapsed catholic who can’t rid himself of the upbringing.
My own bias must be in favour of life because I took it at first it was his grubby female friend people were taking as real and not the synthetic he was meeting. I was reminded of, as a child, watching a young woman acting as if she were attractive and men being attracted, an illusion I went on to wonder how long sustainable before reality kicked in.
He has a passage on god, presuming there is one and that he’s a creator, that’s well integrated but like the story carries the whiff of being put in because the writer wants it included somehow.
He takes the drug with the synthetic and experiences an encyclopaedic dribble that doesn’t cohere and gives him a headache. She gets more out of it than he does. The deepest part of the writing ensues as if he realises there’s more than consciousness but such is its conceit of self - he goes all Platonic at this point – he can’t get beyond it, unsurprisingly considering his hedonistic proclivities. No wonder despair lurks. If it’s any consolation, without the drugs and drink he’d still get nowhere. Because he can’t, the narrative falters a little. The conclusion is surprising and good, just a little too consciously put on. It doesn’t satisfactorily explain why he’s important to the synths.
The story affected my unconscious. I dreamt a power plant was belching out bleach and ammonia into the air and the authorities were doing nothing about it because only humans would die; it suited the aliens. There was human resistance, personified by a man and a woman, guns slung from the shoulder, who were at odds. I liked her room underground I shouldn’t be in, her clutter piled comfortably against the walls with a clear central passage. Coming out the way I went in, I dropped money I didn’t want to leave behind so was hurriedly picking up when surprised. She was bantering: possession was nine-tenths of the law and since he’d caught her, she’d go along with what he wanted. They’d better hurry up before we all die but, despite the odds, the humans would win, call me a facile optimist if you will.
I’ve read the second story, Some Notes on the Artwork of Chris Wilhelm, before. It’s probably the one put paid to my critical analysis of Justin’s oeuvre based on earlier stories. It has an intrinsic rationale for use of the third person past as a quasi-academic treatment, with scholarly footnotes, of the purported effects of the artefact on people’s lives, a clue given in the sixth footnote, though the effects vary. Although a name was mentioned in a footnote, because not previously in the text, I misinterpreted it initially as that of an investigating detective and not a journalist. The style reminded me of Quentin S Crisp’s.
I have cavils: how the writer came into possession of a doctor’s confidential file on another character and perhaps also of the artist’s journal. Though the latter how is readily deducible, I’m not sure an explanation should be supplied if the writer didn’t give one for the former. The artist’s motive for his work is given towards the end of the story and the assumption has to be he achieved this. I doubt it because that is not how one acquires consciousness of, say, a future time and the acquisition depends on much more than consciousness itself, but I do like the story. Who wouldn’t want to make an artefact that altered people’s lives for good - or ill?
I’ve also read the third story, probably twice, in Dadaoism. I lived by Queen’s Park and Glasgow was lacking in funk, clouds obscuring the sun, a depressed people two shots of whisky below par, the men dancing with one foot nailed to the floorboards while I danced ‘can’t get no satisfaction’ as Betty went off to get what little satisfaction was to be got from Tom Wright who had the shakes. So far, so realistic but no amount of funkiness can excuse the misspelling of ‘descendant’. Not even Americans do that. There was a lot of bowling on greens all over Scotland, not just Glasgow. I appreciate the reference to Christo (de Wet) while puzzled since the relationship didn’t stretch to Queen’s Park, a small error on the part of the author. Bigger is his excoriation of Bulgarian folk music as antifunk. I deny that, on the basis of personal experience. I walked into a vast proletarian restaurant in Sofia to the sound of a band which inspired me to dance ever faster in friendly competition with the accordionist, challenging him to keep up. The audience – I mean eaters – went wild and as I passed through the throng I was pulled by the most beautiful Bulgar, Peter, by being pulled onto his lap. They are not called Bulgars for nothing. I can vouch for their utter funkiness. The author is committing a most calumnious libel of these highly funked people. He is, however, amusing in his definition of anti-funk, which may have affected me: I too have imbibed at the Turk’s Head where Dennis Waterman thought of chancing his ...arm and I thought to him or picked up his self-reflection, ‘You don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for,’ at which he desisted. The author’s postulation of telepathising by machine is quite unrealistic. Think about it: the machine would simply be another and indirect consciousness for the unconscious to slow down to in order to communicate through whereas by bypassing consciousness and communicating one unconscious to another the communication can be infinitely fast and thus slow time to a stop, useful when you want to impress a psychopath for example. Oh, and there’s that vulgar misspelling of ‘come’ again to try me and excuse on the basis of context. This story is another attempt by the author to dominate through art but specious, since the story ends with an order to do what one inevitably would be doing and another to which the only answer has to be no – I don’t take orders, except in sex as I’ve discovered, if I’m able to comply that is – and was about to watch tele.
Another misspelling was so solecistically bad, it couldn’t but be deliberate, part of the 18th century patina of the author’s prose on antifunk as personified by Boswell whose Life I have read but entirely forgotten except for recognising several of this author’s sciolistic allusions to quotations one of which I was impelled to look up in my dictionary of quotations, faster than you can say google, and which was from Edwards, quoted by Boswell in the Life.

message 36: by John (new)

John Cairns (johnbrucecairns) | 23 comments The next story was verbal froth liquefying in my hand and draining through interstices. I grasped nothing but a subliming wetness. The fanciful rationale of the story in the author’s mind was insufficiently disclosed. I pencilled beside this: ‘Msa and Ama moved through each other, their souls and attitudes biting, tasting, resonant in argument,’ as an inkling of what that rationale might be. If they moved through each other, they’re noncorporeal entities if they can demerge. They’re living, which is what the designation ‘soul’ means. And if they also have attitudes as well, it isn’t the attitudes of their souls but of their characters or minds perhaps. Both souls and characteristic or individual mental attitudes figuratively bite and taste, since being non-corporeal they can’t physically. It would have to be souls that resonate, souls considered as entities in themselves like the skin of drums or as a bowl shape of the soul at the back of the mind. The only other passage I pencilled was ‘half-consumed heroine of an endlessly delayed wedding,’ which reminded me of Miss Havisham and her cake.
The Heart of a Man was a relief, a conventional third person past narrative without any rationale, that made me laugh at the ‘innovations in terrible prose’, ‘a bourgeois dog, of course, good with children and all that’, ‘he might have written a heretical tract just to risk being burnt at the stake’ and ‘Kolesnikov remembered that this character had been particularly unconvincing.’ Kolesnikov finds him supremely unpleasant in reality, an encounter which preceded my heart’s sinking – more an ‘oh, oh’ – at the mention of dialectic immaterialism, at which the story turned, from one fiction to another inverted one that involved a room like a tardis.
I liked Brent Beckford vs Writing, about ‘people’ determined by writing. I am myself writing this with Jim Smyllie ever in mind. It reminded me of Denise, a colleague when I was supply teaching and who’d just answered a call confirming a job in Brussels. I waited behind to tell her not to go, she’d die in a fire there. I was expecting disbelief but was surprised by her acceptance of her fate. The word fate isn’t mentioned in Justin’s story. When I came to include the story of Denise in a book I was writing, I stopped and went out, coming across Joan, another colleague back then, on the pavement opposite the top of my street. “Have you heard about Denise?” she asked, “She died in a fire in Brussels.” I went back and finished the story.
I liked The Portrayed Man more. In British English paralysed is never spelt with a z. The last line is less portentous than that of the previous story and horrible.
The Willow is a nice conceit. In the last story sentences didn’t make sense so I went for the sound until I came upon the proclivity of the writer for bad puns if that’s what having two ‘characters’ whose names together make another. There’s nothing inadvertent about this writer’s incorrect use of words. The story is called Defence/Prosecution. The prosecution is of a woman’s treatment for a post-partum psychosis, the defence of which is that it’s an effect of dark matter, if the story isn’t simply two welded together. I stumbled at a disparity in time. When time stops it stops throughout the universe. The story also seems inconclusive. The first story, which affected my unconscious, is the best. That’s the sign of a good writer, one whose unconscious uses the cursor of his consciousness to reach through the cursor of the reader’s to unconscious effect, to engage the whole person with his art.
There’s a publishing history, acknowledgments and the publisher’s recommendations for further reading. The reference to Jim Smyllie was a total irrelevance I don’t want you worrying about.

message 37: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Just finished Arms Race and really felt like I got inside Justin Isis but of course that couldn't be because all fiction writers are liars so I most likely got into nobody's mind. Still an excellent waste of time.

"Ever felt like you've been cheated?" - Johnny Rotten.

message 38: by Randolph (last edited Mar 04, 2016 02:31PM) (new)

Randolph (us227381) Chris Wilhelm

Regine will die on Monday.

Note 48 is strikingly similar to the AI scientist and author Douglas R. Hofstadter conception of a sort of immortality as outlined in I Am a Strange Loop. I believe 1) it's rubbish, just wishful thinking and 2) it is of no consequence anyway since the "immortal" becomes infinitely diluted to nothing as the people that "knew" him/her die and are succeded by future generations.

message 39: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Stuck inside an Ace double...

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