Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And oh yeah, "Scarsdale Vibe" might be one of the greatest character names ever.

Monday, July 28, 2008

He gazed at Reef in almost unconcealed envy, failing completely to recognize the darker thing, the desire, the desperate need to create a radius of annihilation that, if it could not include the ones who deserved it, might as well include himself.

- Against the Day, page 95

I mean, come on. That's great. That's a great sentence. There's moments like this all over the place, these moments I've come to think of as payout moments or payoff moments, sentences and paragraphs and even just phrases that are so self-contained and dynamic that they almost transcend the need to be organized within any kind of narrative arc. Though don't get me wrong--I'm loving the narrative arc. Arcs. It's a ride, and I am on it, and I am thrilled.

This is language chugging in top gear, a language of (if I may) "critical excess;" it's like Pynchon is taking the modern-day writer's maxim of "Use as few words as possible" or "Use only the words that are absolutely necessary" and he's showing how so many words can be so necessary all at once, even in such great quantities. Look in the middle there for an example: "the darker thing, the desire, the desperate need"--you could cut any two of those "d" words out and trim this sentence up in keeping with the aforementioned credo, but then you'd have a sentence with a fraction of the poetry and impact. (Of course, your sentence, if it's anything like my sentence--pick a recent sentence, any recent sentence--would probably suck in comparison anyways, so-o-o-o.)

I've heard-tell this book is messy and the subplots weigh it down and it doesn't "resolve," that it does too much or not enough of the right thing, or whatever, but, here's the thing: true or false, none of that matters in the face of such brilliant, excited language. If he drops a tiny stick of dynamite like the one above every couple pages, I won't care what the final landscape looks like. Blowing it up will have been far too much fun.
I started reading Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day last week.

Love. It.


And well okay I'm only on page 72. But. Still.


I realized this as soon as page 10, which, the two paragraphs on that page? They're good paragraphs. ("As they came in low over the Stockyards...") They're the kind of paragraphs that I read a couple times, and then I closed the book, and I stared at it on my coffee table for a while, and I thought about just bagging the whole thing and going out for coffee and never coming back to this place, this place that contains this book, because, really, seriously, hot damn, but of course I'm a sucker for having a bed to sleep in and not being a wandering bum, so I picked the book back up and kept reading, and I'm glad and all, but damn, for real? I'm not sure I can handle all this awesome.

I'm not the first person on my blog reading list to make my way through the book--there's others out there, of course, but I've lost track of links, in a way not dissimilar to the way in which I've lost track of entire paragraphs of this book mid-stride. At the rate I'm going, it will probably take me a year to finish this book, with the way I keep reading and re-reading paragraphs, which I'm fine with, because it's so good, so far. It is exciting to me. I love it.

Bugger. Please forgive this post. I'm completely out of practice. I've been the suckiest blogger to ever suck lately. This book makes me want to blog better, though, which isn't much consolation to you faithful final five readers who don't give an arse about Pynchon or this book, but. Eh.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Neal Stephenson has got a new book coming out in September. I hope it's less obnoxious than The Baroque Cycle. Of course, having just finished PopCo, I think maybe I've had my fill of nerd-lit for the year anyway, so I can safely wait for the paperback.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

RPG. Role-Playing Game. I think about the worlds in which I lost myself when my grandfather was so ill. I think of brightly coloured landscapes, somewhere beyond the past and the future, in which death was only temporary and in which your virtual friends fought by your side, everyone with different skills. A young kid with a big sword (like Dan's drawings from the other day, but more), a female healer, a female mage, with dark powers. I ache, as I think of it. There's something so comforting about being a hero in a fantasy world, with a big bag of chocolate raisins and lots of tea, still on the sofa at three in the morning.

I hadn't played any videogames at all when I discovered RPGs. I remember a Saturday, rainy and sad; I was standing in the local Woolworth's, trying to choose something to go with the new console which I had bought, literally, to console myself. I remember thinking this, weirdly. Console. Console. As the words sing-songed in my head, and as the rain pounded the dirty south London street outside, I rejected game-concept after game-concept until there was only one game left I could buy. Ideas that would have been three or four years in the making, which had extensive marketing plans and favourable focus group results; I rejected them all in a second. Too American. Too childish. Not childish enough. I thought of Japanese otaku kids in their bedrooms, hiding from the world, and since this was closest to the experience I wanted to emulate, I picked the game that looked most like it would appeal to this kind of alienated, agoraphobic, sociophobic Japanese kid. I picked the game with the most sweetshop colours--rubber-duck yellow, mint green, baby pinks and blues--and spiky-haired heroes and pictures of strange other-world animals on the back. Soon, I was so busy customising weapons and armour and learning to ride around on these strange yellow birds that I couldn't worry anymore. My world was now two-dimensional, fifteen inches squared, and I never wanted to switch it off.

- from PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
[Alice says,] "I read a lot. I helped my grandfather with his various projects. I learnt how to compile crosswords..."

[Dan] shakes his head. "So basically you really were the most boring teenager in the world."

He's joking but I suddenly feel angry.

"So at age fourteen your spare time would have been filled with what? Saving the world? Talking to aliens? Being a spy?"

He doesn't seem to know if I am joking or not. "I don't know. When I was fourteen I think I just watched loads of cool stuff on TV."

"Oh right. TV." Now I really am cross. I can't help it.

"What? What's wrong with TV?"

"TV fools you that you've had a life you haven't had. Don't you know that? At least I had a life, even if it was, as you say, boring."

"God, settle down, Alice."

"No. I hate it. All that retro stuff that's around at the moment. Remember when we all watched that thing on TV in the seventies and it was so ironic? I don't even know what any of it's called because we didn't have a TV. It all just seems to be this stupid nostalgia for something that never existed in the first place. Just shapes on a screen. You were the one talking about everything just being pictures the other day. You must know what I mean."

"I do. But I don't agree." He sips his tea calmly.

"What? You think all that stuff has some sort of point?"

"Yes, I do. I think that there is no difference between a narrative on TV and a narrative in a book. They are both told in pictures, really, it's just that the little pictures on the page--the letters--spell out words, and the pictures on the screen are visual references. But you can't tell me that sitting down and reading something is intrinsically better than watching the same story acted on a screen. That's just snobbery."

"No it isn't. When did you last see a fifteen-hour-long TV drama that had no adverts and wasn't written so a child could understand it?"

"What? I don't..."

"Or a TV drama you could cast yourself? Choose your own locations? Edit your own script? That's what happens when you read a book. You have to actually connect with it. You don't just sit there passively..."

"You are such a snob, Butler!"

"I'm not. Anyway, for the record, I never said that books were always better that anything on a screen. All I know is that on the whole I prefer books, but I have to say that I'd rather watch a classic film than read a trashy novel. And I love some videogames, of course. But that's just my choice. I don't care what anyone else does..."



- from PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
Paul Verhaeghen, who wrote TDAOC-fav Omega Minor, has a blog:

I say: pox on Bolaño's moneygrubbing heirs and pox on his shithead publishers.

Art is free, the artist made his wishes more than clear, and all you care about is the quick buck.

See also: Nabokov's son and Nabokov.

There are of course bigger literary-heir fuck-yous to take care of -- George W. Bush and the Constitution, and Barack Obama and the Fourth Amendment, for starters -- but still: Kindly remind me to never publish with FSG. Or Anagrama.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I really liked The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas, and now I'm really liking PopCo by Scarlett Thomas, either because of or in spite of the fact that if I were to meet the book's narrator in real life I suspect I would want to have sex with her immediately. But more important is the fact that the book hits that sweet spot I sometimes--like, right now--require, the one where the wave patterns rippling off of "compulsive, entertaining readability" and "not talking to me like I'm a gimp-brained retard" meet to engage in some sweet sweet mutual amplification. It's about all that I can do anymore to muster up the will to think at night: it's nice to have the chance to feed the thoughts I do bother having a terrific snack.
Five Chapters is running a new story by Paul LaFarge, translator of TDAOC-fav The Facts of Winter by Paul Poissel. (Thanks to the recently relocated Condalmo for the heads-up.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

At the risk of seeming haughty and/or uncool, I will state that I can think of no good reason for me to join Twitter.

Therefore, I have joined Twitter. It makes me feel a little weird and dirty, but then, so does not washing my hands anymore after I touch anything at all.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Stella vs. Mortarville

The thinking cat's book.
Ed, all I can say, is that once you have yourself a thumb drive and oven clock? You're never the same.
Another list of five books that Jennifer Egan likes. I'm one for five this time--Invisible Man messed me up something fierce. (Previously, as I referenced here.)

Bellows (pdf)

Should you desire "Bellows" in a semi-tidy, hopefully somewhat well-(though certainly not perfectly-)proofread format, you can download it here.

And, just for shits and giggles:

Creative Commons License
Bellows by Darby M. Dixon III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Bellows (final part)

(Click here for part one.)

(Click here for part two.)

(Click here for part three.)

(Click here for part four.)

Of course, the job is never done until it is complete, and though it took GWB Enterprises five long years to recoup the initial round of investments and to establish the waters' readiness, the time came to finish the thing. Call me sentimental, call me a conservative, call me whatever you wish, but you must always call me honest: finishing things has always tweaked my heartstrings. It's hard to explain. Completing projects causes me simultaneous happiness and sadness. It isn't bittersweetness. My heart isn't a dollop of hardened chocolate. Rather, it's both ends of the spectrum, shaking hands. It's hard to explain because it's harder to understand. You can spend your life studying your life only to never know it better than you did when you were a child, watching your father's body be buried in a rat-holed burlap sack.

No law requires the presence of a city builder on the grounds of his creation at any point during the construction or existence of his city. I've known many of the finest minds of my generation who have never once set foot within the borders of their work. Some prefer not to even see photographs or film of their cities; inexplicable superstition runs deep in this industry, and can be one of the most confounding aspects to our youngest architects. Myself, however, I've always felt the need to break through the so-called fifth wall at least once for every project, and it so happened with this project that of the few days my schedule afforded me on which I could visit Bellowsville, one of those days happened to be the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the unrolling of the new Bellowsville River. This, I feel, was one of those little coincidences that make life seem so vibrant and true.

My memories of the proud day are a wash of color, a wash of blues and whites and greens and reds from the time I stepped off the airplane to the time I stepped onto the podium, my skyline rising behind me like a monument and the masses filling the land below me, their eyes all lifted, voices raised. A wash. They, someone said, refused to move. Every opportunity lost. Speeches followed speeches. Oversized shears operated by cranes snicked the oversized ribbon stretched across the border by helicopters. Above the fray, I smiled for the cameras, for all those watching on television; I said something remarkable, pressed the button, and the water began to flow. One charge detonated first, like a firecracker on the horizon; then came the thunder; a trickle created a torrent, and the water stumbled over its feet and thrust itself through the crumbling dam to the north and over the land a southward flow and through the path laid so carefully for it. So much clean water bore down on the slums like unstoppable traffic, pushing bodies into the dirt and the sides of buildings. Families were torn apart as the hands of men were removed from the hands of wives and as babies--why do the poor always insist on having so many babies?--were shaken away like tiny grains of salt while the fireworks exploded in the sky between the waves and my parents, tickling the soles of their feet with the color of success.