Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pynchon, pullon, lovon, squeezon

Bud Parr at Chekhov's Mistress just read his first Thomas Pynchon novel, The Crying of Lot 49.

I know that Pynchon fans are diehards, but I somehow feel like I missed the boat. [...]

Crying moved pretty fast and its farcical surreal story line made me not worry too much whether I was getting the references. I think I did get them, I think I think, but there are several books on this book, so I can only assume that one would have to read it with an eye to uncovering more than what's on the surface to get everything. This is not a book I'm interested in doing that on. Perversely, the book's shortness (along with the issue above) makes me not want to delve in too deep.

My own path through Pynchon has involved mostly false starts. I started with V. which I read a chunk of before I gave up on it. I forget why. I'm pretty sure I had no idea what was going on. Then sometime later I tried reading Gravity's Rainbow before I gave up halfway through. (Well, truth was I gave up after about ten pages. I really loved the first ten pages. But I had to work for them--like, in a pulling out the old English major hat kind of way. When I realized it would take four years for me to read the book that way I decided to coast, thinking I'd get what I'd get and to hell with the rest. What I got was not very much, and then a headache, and then a resounding desire to quit. Which I did. I think maybe the book was about a penis.) Then just last year I read Crying and I read it in a day and I think my reaction was similar to Bud's.

Thing is, I think I like the idea of Pynchon. I recognize and acknowledge that he's a very important writer. I mean, it's not like it's just anyone who can claim to be Thomas Pynchon, right. I can't. You can't. (Unless you are, in fact, Thomas Pynchon, the famous author, in which case, OH MY GOD I LOVE YOUR WORK WILL YOU SIGN MY CHEST?!?!? K THNKZ PLZ BYE!) But my experience with his writing has lead me to suspect that it's all much better in theory, for me. Modernist, post-modernist, Saussurian Seussian, whatever the heck he is, I feel like he's not necessarily out to tell me a good story, which, when which urge it's without, literature doesn't feel all quite right and there to me. It's not that he's going so far as to use a communications medium to explicitly not communicate anything to me, so much as it is that there's a signal-to-noise ratio which is tipped out of balance in a way that doesn't please me so much as the TiVo menu summary suggested it would. ("4 stars. Action/Adventure. A man travels through a war-torn country on a voyage of self discovery.")

Plus there's the fact that I'm not that smart anyway and I miss enough stuff under the best conditions that when missing things becomes part of the actual fabric of the experience of reading the book, well. See, I was going to include this as a humorous little self-deprecating parenthetical, but then I remembered I've really been thinking about this a lot lately, about how it is we strive to become better, more attentive, more attuned and explicative readers (because if you're a lit blogger and you think you've got it all figured out by now you're a huge lying asshole and your blog probably sucks) and just how far behind where I feel like I should be I often think I am, and how the last year and a half of reading has lead me to constantly question not only the literature but more and more my own ability to relate to that literature, and how all that mixing itself up in a boy's mind starts to make the word "discouraging" sound like a pleasant bedtime story, a state to aspire to rise up towards, and, and. It's almost enough to make a lit blogger want to hang up his hat and go start a politics blog; at least there, nobody, least alone the blogger him or herself, expects deep attention to the struggling subtle unspoken. Rock out with your red, white, and blue cock out.

Still, for all that, I'm sometimes tempted to rope some friends into doing a good slow group reading of Gravity's Rainbow, just to see what's to be gotten through teamwork, because 10,000 Pynchon Fans Can't All Be Mark E. Smith, right? And when news arises that there's a new Pynchon novel on the horizon, you can bet I'm going to let you know about it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

To Be Read pile, June 06

To Be Read pile, June 06
Originally uploaded by thegrue76.
"Ambition if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others." - Susan Sontag

Friday, June 16, 2006

Li'l Raskol

So I started my Summer of Dostoevsky this week but through a case of bad schedule management this is also the week of the annual Summer Attempt at Doing Real Exercise Outside in which I've reached the "Oh my god I can't believe I'm still doing this, when can I go back to being a video game playing lazy ass who eats the entire f'n bag" stage, so that by the end of the day, after work and the physical-moving thing and cleaning up and expending the last of my energy for the day on eating something that might have some semblance of nutritional value, when I try to sit down with good ol' Uncle F to tha Y-O-Dor I'm pretty much both baked and fried crispy. In five days I've read seventy pages. I am so weak.

Needless to say, I've also slacked off on blogging, but that's okay, because blog post frequency doesn't matter anymore:

Daily posts are a legacy of a Web 1.0 mindset and early Web 2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity of blogging. Here are 10 reasons why.

Word! Word, I'll go so far as to say, up. So from now on when I disappear on these retarded little excursions of mine into real-world activity--don't worry, the exercise thing will go away soon I'm sure, I'm already like three days past my expected attention span for this sort of thing--don't think of it as me being anti-productive, but actually as me being the saviour of the internet. Oh yes: my will be done. Where my will right now equates to my very soon becoming impossibly comfortable once again with my own lethargy.

(Link, incidentally, via Jim Eastman, who is a far better blogger than me. Exhibit A: his thoughts on coffee science and coffee culture. Exhibit B: pondering his first two hundred and ten minute DJ set. Exhibit C: his recap of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

2005 RTA Bus Card Project

Congrats, Austin! Now, if we only could get the RTA to let Austin do some graphic work for the busses, too...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Well okay then

All this week, Elizabeth Crane has been leading a discussion about George Saunders's In Persuasion Nation. I'm sort of a tool and didn't get my hands on a copy of the book until today; so I'm not shooting my mouth off on her blog (which is for the best anyway), but I do look forward to reading through the chat after I finish the book.

A few weeks ago I read The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and got sort of grumpy and not-so pleased over it. All is forgiven, though, because of "My Flamboyant Grandson", the second story in Nation. And then there's the third story, "Jon", which, well...forgiveness to burn, because fuck, wow. Both stories smack of a painful yet funny Highly Unprobable And Yet Not So Unlikely Truth that works really very well.

So go to the bookstore and read "Jon". You'll forget you're standing there blocking the aisle. It's okay.

Because I am nothing if I am not one who strives to please the ladies, while giving free lessons in the importance of non-ambiguous sentence structure

Go write about sex with Erin O'Brien.


(For more info, click here, search on the resulting page for "sex", and click that link. Or you may click here, if you like your more-information-getting to be a bit more...vanilla.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dead-tree-media-and-possibly-antifeminist-magazine gets it right. Wait, huh? What? Is it the day of the beast or something?

Good advice from the Good Housekeeping "Book Babes":

Q: My daughter is reading chick lit, but it doesn't speak to me. Which books can you recommend about romantic relationships for women of a certain age?

A: ... If you would rather read fiction, you can't go wrong with This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers. Among the contributors are Francine Prose, Jennifer Egan and Aimee Bender. The quality stories avoid commercial pandering. No Prada wearing here!

The book, which is edited by Elizabeth Merrick, comes out in August. The same day, coincidentally, as Jennifer Egan's new novel The Keep. Which fact I'm just going to keep mentioning over and over again, so if you forget it, don't worry, I'll mention it again sometime after I mention again that Mark Z. Danielewski's newest novel, Only Revolutions, is coming out in September, the wait for which said book is pretty much making me metaphorically totally lose my shit.

(And anyway, is Good Housekeeping the anti-feminist one or is it the subversive one? I don't keep good track of my anti-anti-feminist publications. But my hunch tells me anything with Sarah Jessica Parker on it is...not exactly swimming against, or even cross, soci-economic currents.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Three things about Here They Come

I just finished Yannick Murphy's Here They Come. A few quick thoughts:

  1. If they made a movie out of this book, I think the movie would be "written" and directed by Harmony Korine. It would be a very strange, disturbing movie, full of weird gross ickiness and shocking things and it would sort of hurt, in a way different than the book itself hurts. It would mistranslate the moments of beauty that are present in the book but it would also probably affect the viewer in its own also good but unique ways. I have no legs. I have no legs. I have no legs. I have no legs.

  2. It's funny reading this right after The Third Policeman, for two reasons, one of which deals with the endings of either book, so I won't go into that, the other of which is that after reading the books back to back one can't help but wonder if, were one to rub the two books against each other vigorously for an extended period of time, one would wind up with two entirely new books, The Third Come and Here They Policeman. Me, I figure by now I'm 28 percent car.

  3. Here They Come was a recent topic of discussion at the LitBlog Co-Op site. While I haven't read the posts or comments yet, one can safely assume their general quality to not low. Do check it out.

Speaking of Mark Z. Danielewski...

...this quite literally just in via a Google Alert. You'll want to read the first paragraph and the closing paragraph. Which I'll just go ahead and excerpt for you because I'm that nice.

When Mark Z. Danielewski's second novel, "Only Revolutions," is published in September, it will include hundreds of margin notes listing moments in history suggested online by fans of his work. Nearly 60 of his contributors have already received galleys of the experimental book, which they're commenting about in a private forum at Mr. Danielewski's Web site, www.onlyrevolutions.com.


Mr. Danielewski said that the physical book would persist as long as authors figure out ways to stretch the format in new ways. "Only Revolutions," he pointed out, tracks the experiences of two intersecting characters, whose narratives begin at different ends of the book, requiring readers to turn it upside down every eight pages to get both of their stories. "As excited as I am by technology, I'm ultimately creating a book that can't exist online," he said. "The experience of starting at either end of the book and feeling the space close between the characters until you're exactly at the halfway point is not something you could experience online. I think that's the bar that the Internet is driving towards: how to further emphasize what is different and exceptional about books."

Oh, sweet, sweet, sweet anticipation.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Third Policeman

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien, written in 1939 or 1940 but not published until after the author's death in the 1960s, is now better known as that book that showed up for one second in an episode of Lost, and was touted in interviews by folks associated with the show as being a book that would help the reader figure out what was happening on the show; I think the word that was used was it would give the viewer more "ammunition" for the task.

As a fan of the show of sorts--I think it's a great premise that takes too long to accomplish anything, but that when it's on, it's really fuckin' on--I heard of the book, and it's semi-obscure nature, the fact that it sold more copies since it's prime-time appearance than it did in the previous forty years combined. I didn't plan on reading it though, because I don't get into the viral marketing aspect of shows or games. (Not that I have anything against it--I think the alternate reality game type stuff Maureen's been involved with is fascinating. And given a few more hours in the day, I'd probably be on the message boards myself.)

But when the book's sitting on the shelf at the used book store for five bucks? Well, yeah, I'm game. Curiosity and affordability got me into the book. The fact that it's a crazy piece of writing kept me in it.

This book is totally worth reading, even if you're not a fan of Lost. (If you are a fan of the series, it does give you another lens through which to see the book. It is, after all, fun looking for clues as to just why this book is so important to the events on that island.) The book is somehow simultaneously hilarious and terrifying; it's straight-forward but absolutely surreal. At times it feels like Kafka and at times it feels like Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves and at other times it feels like something else entirely I can't even quite identify. Maybe something Nabokov-ish.

Mostly when reading it I possessed the strange feeling that I was reading a book that really had no right to exist in the context that it did. Like somehow there's natural laws against it. Or at least that there ought to be. But that it's to our benefit, of sorts, that there aren't.

Anyway I'm obviously still all of a jumble mentally over it so I'll shut up. At least for a little while. I feel like I'll be coming back to this one soon.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You know you want to play, too

TDAOC visualized through this program. (Click the image for the larger version.)

Two other lit-blog examples.


"Academihottie" is my favorite new word.

I tell you, kids these days

Over on LiveJournal, there's a thread going about books that cause the reader to lose the will to live. And not in the "Wow, The Trick is to Keep Breathing is so depressing, and somehow that is the most awesome thing ever" sort of way, but in the "Oh my god, this romance novel makes me want to shoot nailguns at my eyes" way.

Which is all fine and whatever except my informal review of the comments shows that The Catcher in the Rye is the number one most hated book amongst those who commented. Now, don't let me mislead you into believing that I'm a Salinger fanatic. But isn't it reading the book sometime in your teens and falling in love with it sort of a prerequisite to being truly alive? Or am I totally off base on this one?

Also, the fact that there's votes against On the Road makes me want to beat someone. I mean...really. And just now I was going to go find something I agreed with and saw the vote against Kazuo Ishiguro and I got so mad I exploded my computer with my brain, so, no agreement tonight.

Synchronicity. Or, synergy. Or, pure coincidence

You can't fake this sort of thing:

1. I'm currently reading The Sportswriter by Jeff Ford. It's a book about a sportswriter, who observes a lot of things other than sports.

2. The current guest blogger at the Powell's "Home of the Lit Stars" Bookstore Blog is Chris Ballard, a real life sportswriter who has recently published a non-sportswriting book, The Butterfly Hunter, in which he observes a lot of people doing strange jobs that aren't related to sports.

I haven't read Chris's book but I like his posts and so well I guess we know what that means: one more author I need to check out sometime before I die.