I return to certain authors not because of the stories they tell but because of the way they tell them. Time after time, I'll pick up, yet again, a story I've never completely finished by H.P. Lovecraft simply to revel in his use of words -- words I I return to certain authors not because of the stories they tell but because of the way they tell them. Time after time, I'll pick up, yet again, a story I've never completely finished by H.P. Lovecraft simply to revel in his use of words -- words I would bet never existed before he put them to paper -- to construct fabulous, unrealistic buildings where I eventually become lost, not in his story, but in my own imagination as it begins to build some story inspired by the feeling of Lovecraft's lyrical constructions and I'm forced to, once again, put the story down. Or maybe I'm in the mood for the complete reverse of Lovecraft, and I'll pick up Vonnegut where every word he uses to convey his thoughts are words I use on a daily basis and yet I'm left flabbergasted that I've never used them in such gut punching, scalp peeled back ways. Steinbeck lets me see through the eyes of so many fully fleshed characters which nobody but a genius could have built up from nothing but a couple dozen letters and on old typewriter. And Nabokov -- f'ing Nabakov -- makes dance words which I was sorely convinced were the homeliest of wallflowers.
Twice in my life, I've read authors who caused me to throw out something I was writing because they simply had done it better in storytelling ways I didn't know were possible: Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. I'm not pretending that I was writing those books exactly! But they took major elements and themes that I had been working on and made them stories whereas mine were half-assed, in-your-early-20s intellectual pap. Still, I didn't think, "I want to write like these guys," because it was their stories and not their way of writing with which I fell in love. But Tim Kreider, since the first time I heard him read one of his essays (and not when I first was introduced to his cartoons many years earlier by the Non-Certified Spouse), I truly envied. Kreider eloquently expresses tragically apparent parts of ourselves that have broken and may never be fixed. He does so in ways that leave the reader in tears born of pain and joy and the recognition that we all suffer the same tribulations. Reading a Kreider essay doesn't simply make me think, "This guy has lived!" We've all lived. What Kreider's essays make me think is, "This guy has lived and he's really thought a lot about that." It's impressive because not a lot of us do that.
The two things I'm most envious about Kreider are his humor and his earnestness. He sees things not how they really are but how he sees himself thinking they really are. What I mean to say, in a convoluted and terribly written way, is that he knows he's flawed and he knows he's biased and he points it out right up front and then he gets on with it with a shrug of the shoulders and a tilt of the head that says, "Yeah but what can you do?"
It's the earnestnes of Kreider that I find important. It's the part of my self that I'm missing and I know I'm missing and, well, I just get on with it. If I can't be earnest at least I can be so cynical and full of bullshit that I can at least be honest from my duck blind. You can't tell I'm peppering you with earnestness and truth when it's mixed in with pure unadulterated B.S. and obviously flagrant exaggerations. But Tim Kreider doesn't need the camouflage and I love him for it.
In his introductory essay in We Learn Nothing, "Reprieve," he writes of his near death experience: "Not for one passing moment did it occur to me to imagine that God Must Have Spared My Life for Some Purpose. Even if I'd been the type who was prone to such silly notions, I would've been rudely disabused of it by the heavy-handed coincidence of the Oklahoma City bombing occurring on the same day I spent in a coma. If there is some divine plan that requires my survival and the deaths of all those children in day care, I respectfully decline to participate. Not to turn up my nose at luck; it's better to be lucky than just about anything else in life. And if you're reading this now you're among the lucky too." It's beautiful and powerful not because it's so honest and earnest and sincere and all those other things I cannot seem to be; it's powerful because while he's expressing a personal anecdote and belief, he's belittling and minimizing the argument of miracles and blessings and the narcissism which causes people to believe an almighty omnipotent and eternal being somehow has a plan for little old them. It's the most elegant take-down I've ever seen and I don't watch wrestling.
In his essay, "Escape from Pony Island," (which is the first essay I ever heard him read out loud at the Hawthorne Powell's Books) he says, "Ken often said of himself that he was essentially libertarian in his outlook, but Harold and I suspected that, like many libertarians, he was an authoritarian at heart." See? He just says what we all know is true and he makes it effortless and if you're libertarian, you're not reading this sentence because you already dramatically shut your laptop closed in disgust and then looked off in the distance impersonating Jim from The Office except you don't have a camera crew to capture the moment.
I truly love Tim Kreider and I wish I were his friend. Mostly because he and his friends seem to do a lot of day drinking and people watching and take a lot of trips and don't seem to actually do anything laborious.
In his penultimate essay, Sister World, Tim Kreider looked me deep in the eyes and whispered, "You're missing a critical part of your brain." I don't mind that I'm missing them though because Tim expresses them well enough that I know I'm missing them. I don't know if the essay brought me to tears because it brings everybody to tears or because I was left broken and longing for the ability to dive into messy and potentially uncomfortable situations. Or maybe I was just happy to experience his feelings because there's no way I'd want more family. Ugh! Ptui! Those shows where people meet long lost family members seem like a nightmare to me! Oh! So maybe that's why I was crying! Because Kreider's family reunion was terrifying!
I'll leave you with one more example of Kreider's earnestness: "Once, over beers, I was clumsily trying to tell Amy how grateful I was that she and her sister had been so accepting of me, when they could as easily have been indifferent or jealous or hostile. She said simply, 'You're family.' I felt whatever's the opposite of heartbroken."...more
I don't know what compelled me to read the Xanth books when I was younger. I suppose it was because I was younger. And being in that younger state of being and living in a world without easy access to material that my hormone-infused growing state waI don't know what compelled me to read the Xanth books when I was younger. I suppose it was because I was younger. And being in that younger state of being and living in a world without easy access to material that my hormone-infused growing state was eager to get his hands on, I enjoyed the risque and titillating sequences. If I had one chance to describe what being an early teenage boy was like, I'd just hand somebody a boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons. But if I had a second chance, I'd give them the Xanth books.
I'm sure the same could be said of being a young teenage girl but since I wasn't that, I won't be speaking for them. But I'm still speaking for all teenage boys because why not? What are they going to do?! Make me depressed by having to see them enjoying the seemingly infinite freedom of youth with their whole lives ahead of them, yet to be wasted?! I mean, that's what they're doing to me already which is why I'm going to speak for them.
All that is to say I haven't really been enjoying my rereads of the Xanth books because I've noticed some serious problems with them (note I said serious and not super serious so I won't be discussing Anthony's penchant for sexualizing minors or his really terrible take on reforming justice for rape victims which mostly sounds like the current system that seems to only care about protecting the accused). The biggest non-super serious problem is that most of the books barely have a plot. Maybe that was just a problem with fantasy books of the time which is why I didn't really notice (also I was young and horny so why would I notice structural problems in story telling? As long as there was a scene where Dor ripped off Ivy's top as they splashed around in the moat, I was good). But Piers Anthony still had to fill three hundred pages with story while not having more plot than "Some guy or gal goes to ask Humfrey a question and then gets railroaded into some stupid quest that is actually the answer to the question."
Sure, some of the books had plots and those were the better ones. Man From Mundania is one of those which is why I brought the whole thing up. You didn't think I just brought it up to point out that young me was fiddling with himself while reading Xanth books, did you? Gross! I mean, he wasn't!
Man From Mundania has a well constructed story and some nice solutions to plot problems. That and the fact I enjoyed this book were surprising to me. I wish I'd been on Goodreads while I was rereading the other Xanth books so I'd have a complete recollection of which books were worth the time and effort. Not that I'll ever read them again! Who would make that mistake three times in one short life?! Ha ha! Not me!...more
The cover of this book looks like a record album. Chewbacca probably played the keytar. Han Solo sang and jumped into the crowd and also he sang poorly. Sometimes his pants would rip and you could see his junk pressing against his sheer space underweThe cover of this book looks like a record album. Chewbacca probably played the keytar. Han Solo sang and jumped into the crowd and also he sang poorly. Sometimes his pants would rip and you could see his junk pressing against his sheer space underwear. But this book isn't about Han Solo's new wave space band. It is about Han Solo getting revenge. And even though I finished this book, I don't know if he got it. I'm not even sure who he was getting revenge on. If he was getting revenge on Zlarb the slaver then the book was over in the first few chapters.
That isn't a spoiler because I don't think spoilers count if they're about stuff that happens in the first few chapters. Unless you're the kind of person who thinks the synopsis on the back of the book is also a spoiler. Then fair point, mate. I just spoiled this book.
One chapter is just an entire chapter of Chewbacca acting like MacGyver except more gross. He turns the corpse of a flying lizard into a hang glider with the help of some surveying equipment. The chapter wasn't as exciting as it would have been in the movie of this book; it just made me think, "Brian Daley really knows a lot of hang-glider vocabulary. He must really be into hang-gliding."
I suppose not every chapter has to be completely relevant to the revenge plot (although during the chapter where the entire mystery is explained by the sentient otter, we learn why this chapter was included). Some times when Garfield sits around hating Mondays, I just enjoy the cynical resentment of an arbitrary day of the week and I don't complain that Garfield isn't moving the plot. So I guess that's a good defense for the Chewbacca hang-gliding from a corpse chapter. Although that sentence is also a good defense for that chapter. Why wasn't that scene in the movie "Solo"?...more