Monday, June 22, 2009

This post will self-reference in three...two...

"I will confess that all of this blog-gazing has made me begin to think the lit blogosphere exists in part only to talk about itself and the nature of its existence."

...Only in part?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So I finished The City & The City today and while I liked it and while I liked it a lot and while I think I am comfortable saying it is one of the better books I've read so far this year I am also all sort of mixed-up about the whole thing, which is okay because honestly I think China Miéville himself was sort of mixed-up about the whole thing, himself, like he was never really certain what he was more interested in, the existential conceit or the really-to-my-mind-pretty-standard mystery novel or the act of integrating the two, the act of writing a mystery novel set inside an existential conceit, the act of pushing existential concerns through a mystery novel. The thing's got the same sort of pulled-punch feel that I'd felt he'd pulled at the end of Iron Council; like, not-going-there is the new going-there. Which I think wouldn't bother me much or really even concern me at all if I hadn't fallen in love with him via Perdido Street Station which was seven hundred straight pages of mutha-flippin' going there. Plus, you know, in comparison, this book, The City & The City, it reads pretty dry, but in a way that wants so bad to burst into wet. Moisture seeping through the cracks. It's tough for me to align it against his entire oeuvre, since I've only read the Bas Lag novels and now this one, but I can still sort of see a line leading up to this point, one of terseness coming to take the place of explosiveness. Which is fine but I do catch myself hoping he completely up and up bursts next time out. Like, the strain will be too much. Like, the strain must give way. Or maybe I just need to realize that while I love the guy's work on the whole and while I'll eventually read everything he's ever written it's really more likely that I need to get over everything else and just go re-read Perdido, because, yes, please. And anyway all concerns are pretty secondary to the fact that I really did enjoy the hell out of the damn thing, The City & The City, and that it's got a haunting closing paragraph, and it's been a while since I've felt a book haunt me like that, I think, so: win.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

So I've just started China Miéville's The City & The City (and yes I do feel weird having to capitalize the second "the" there) and is it weird that is has me thinking about William Gibson? Google and e-mail and Web addresses and mobile phones and dial-up connections (and the funniest "dot-com" joke I've seen in ages) (I've seen funny dot-com jokes ever?) (whatever). What's it saying about our society when authors we could reliably turn to to present irrevocably weird visions of the way the world could be (or couldn't be but still could be) kind of throw up their hands and just start tossing back at us what we've gone and tossed back at them (what Slashdot has gone and tossed back at them)? I say this with nothing but resepct, of course; Pattern Recognition was awesome and The City & The City is still plenty weird, in its existentially/metaphysically conceit(ed) way. But, I don't know, isn't there some kind of towel-throwing-in thing at play, at the same time (one time) (two time)? Or is weird the new normal, normal the new boring, boring the new yeah-that's-right-I-went-there? (What(ever)?) But of course I talk too soon, of course, I'm only 60 pages in, and I'm sure there's a posthistoric dragonmoose with World Trade Organization ties or something that is about to come in and start eating fools off the foggy sidewalks like Lucky Charms from bowls made of thought. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Redacting the redactions; or, the triumphant return of Captain Internet Detective and the Case of the Internet Mystery

This just in: despite prior reports, Stephen Dixon really is publishing something through Fantagraphics. It, whatever it is, is currently slated for late next year.

And that's about all I know right now. But knowing is half the battle. (The other half, w/r/t the awesomely awesome/lamentably etcetera book selection options presenting themselves to us over the next year and a half (so far) (to date) (as of this reporting), ought not be considered.)
Dave Eggers has a new book coming out. (Via.)

Right-o, then.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The AV Club's latest Wrapped Up In Books book club selection is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West, a book I'd started sometime last year before putting it back down due to a general case of wrong-place-wrong-time-itis. I'll try again someday and then maybe I'll loop back around to the discussion, which begins today. (Also: Scott Esposito takes on McCarthy's entire oeuvre at The Quarterly Conversation. Which just hit issue 16. When the heck did that happen?)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

In other news, as part of the infinitely expanding list of writers who I like a whole lot who have new books coming out this year or maybe next year (it really doesn't stop), Jacket Copy's got a list of 60 books coming out this summer, from which I learned that in the month of August, the month which is bringing us new work from William Vollmann (which I probably honestly won't read right away though I do kind of sort of want to because it seems like it could actually be really interesting) and Thomas Pynchon (uh, yes), we're also getting a brand new Dan Chaon novel, which is really really exciting because Dan Chaon rocks. But it does make me wonder if there is any writer left who I like who needs to put a new book out in the next 18 months, because I don't think I can handle it anymore. I mean, if like, Jeff Noon decided to drop a new novel on us in October, I think I'd just have it, I guess. Somehow. After I flipped out, or something. (Cue the complete lack of knocking on wood.) (Do it, universe, do it.)
I feel like I have a weird relationship with Haruki Murakami. I really enjoy reading his books, but I seem to enjoy them more for their entertainment value than for their literary value; by which I mean, for as much as there is going on in his books, I don't feel the need to dig down beneath the surfaces, to do real deep critical thinking about them. Not that I'm necessarily doing much real deep critical thinking about the books that I do feel like reading or do try to read in that manner. I guess it's just that the sheer fun of the thing that Murakami does takes precedence for me, and so far, from what I've read of his, that's been plenty enough.

It's this reading-as-an-experience thing that gets me. I've read both The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore over the last several years and I know I really enjoyed reading both books--I remember enjoying them thoroughly--but I'd have a tough time explaining either of those books to you, of recalling what exactly happened in them. It's like I was so in-the-moment with them that I forgot to take the mental snapshots I'd need to refer back to later, after finishing the books. And this is fine, I think. A fine way to read books. If anything, it means I can read those books both again, and enjoy them almost as much as I did the first time, or at least in a way in some ways similar to the first experience I had with them.

And it's fitting, too, this forgetfulness, this sense of connecting everything as it connects, of getting from point A to points wherever; the enigmatic, elusive, ethereal qualities of Murakami's fiction are the source of so much of their pleasure, to me. Like slipping into a waking dream for a while, one in which things are just going to make their own sort of sense, whether or not they really do. And there will be pasta.

So when I say I finished Dance Dance Dance this weekend and that I found it fascinating and fun, I'm saying it the way someone who you might meet at your job might try to tell you about the dream they had the night before, the details already fading, but the mood still coloring their vision and cushioning their feeling of the entire day around you. Something happened, mysteriously, and it meant something, at the time. And there were girls, there.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

On the off-hand chance that my girlfriend is reading my blog before she gets to The A.V. Club: they've got an interview over there with Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. I'm sorry that it confirms that he's about a million times more dreamy than I am. I will try to be dreamier. I promise.
China Miéville, whose new novel The City & The City is now sitting on the passenger seat of my car, waiting for me to clear some time out for it, gives really good interview. (LNG.) He also gives good essay (was I saying something about running smack-dab into the mystery genre lately?).

Recent conversation between myself and the manager of a coffee shop I'd stopped visiting for a spell due to writer's block, and school too, maybe

"Hey there. You must be starting a new book."

"Oh, well, uh, er."


"Well, I seem to be writing more, or trying to write more, about other people's stuff, than doing anything of my own, lately."

"Yeah, but you won't be remembered for what you say about other people's stuff."

I really like the cover of the new Philip Roth novel. Not that I'm judging the book by it, no.


(Lamest post ever, yes. But I built up some momentum the last few days, and didn't want to completely lose it. Forgive me.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

And just because I hate to leave such a sour-puss post at the top of the window like that: you know that moment in a book when you're reading it and you find out what the up-to-that-point-enigmatic title means and you go "Oh!" or "Ah!" or make some other non-verbal signifier of interest? I just hit that point today with Dance Dance Dance (rather early in the book, at that) and unless it changes later (there being quite a few more pages to go, judging by the weight of those additional pages in my right hand versus that of the pages in my left hand) (sorry, sorry) it's one of the best that-moments in that vein I can think of having had recently. Though I have little intention to read everything Murakami has written--he's got like 487 books published, you know--I will say I am enjoying this one so far and am as much as anybody intrigued by the whole 1Q84 thing. (Well, maybe not as intrigued, but certainly quite intrigued.)
I won't lie: I think the Kindle is an overpriced piece of plastic dung that offers no clear advantage over the technology it wants so badly to replace and that I think Amazon is sort of a jerk-face for it. I mean, it's so transparently egotistic and money-grubbing, it makes my skin crawl. (It's like, the next time I buy a toilet, I'm not going to look for one with an electronic flusher just so I can have to limit myself to buying toilet paper compatible with my specific toilet model for the rest of my life.)

I'm not exactly being reasonable or rational here. Thank goodness Sherman Alexie is here to do some actual thinking about the subject:

I consider the Kindle elitist because it’s too expensive. I also consider it elitist because, right now, one company is making all the rules. I am also worried about Jeff Bezos’ comments about wanting to change the way we read books. That’s rather imperial. Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle?

Like Alexie, I love my iPod and can't imagine life without it. At the same time, I can't imagine a life without real books.

(Do check out the rest of the interview--he says lots of really good stuff over there.)

(And, also, let's face it: it's only a matter of time before your e-books are ad supported. Crime and Punishment and BUY BUY BUY.)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So me, being Captain Internet Detective, I thought up this crazy plan of asking Fantagraphics about that rumored Stephen Dixon story collection; word back from them is, nope, they've got nothing listed. And so Captain Internet Detective returns to his thinking chair to mull while awaiting his next brilliant idea.
In other news, I'm now reading Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami.


He's so crazy.
Over the weekend, I read the second story from Nocturnes, that new Kazuo Ishiguro short story collection that you may have heard that I may have heard something about. Maybe. Truth. The story is called "Come Rain or Come Shine" and it might be the funniest thing Ishiguro has ever written. (Reminder: Ishiguro wrote The Remains of the Day, which is hilarious, and which is becoming a musical, which is hilarious, in a way which makes me feel weirder in my stomach.)

I'm still trying hard not to read the whole book five minutes ago. The bitch of it is is that while I'm all like "Book," because I speak to inanimate objects the same way I speak to my cat, who is far more interested in climbing the window screens than he is in the fact that his name is Ezra, "Book, I have to not carry you around with me all the time, because I need to savor each of your stories, I have to enjoy each first reading of each story like my life depends on it, and I can't do that if I'm at work or in any kind of situation that could result in me being made to stop reading each story for even a second, because I am such a dork for you," the book is all like, "Oh, is that so?" from my coffee table, and it's all coy and playing indifferent, because it knows, and I'm like, "Oh, hell," and I'm gritting my teeth down to stumps. Stumps.

What I'm saying is, holy shit, good stories. And: ow, my gums. And: worth it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Now, I'm hardly going to do this one justice, but I've been meaning to blog about it for a while, and so I will, at least a little bit, because the author in question blogs a little bit, himself, and quite intriguingly at times (such as and such as): a while back I received, courtesy of Other Press--publishers of several recent-ish books I've liked (such as and such as)--a copy of The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon, who is related neither to me nor to (to the best of my knowledge) Stephen Dixon (well, at least, not that Stephen Dixon), and I found it enjoyable and fun and weird, to the extent that it actually--despite a personal "one novel at a time" rule--pulled me (forcefully!) away from Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games, which I'd been ass-deep(-and-on-the-whole-liking-it) in at the time, perhaps due in no small part to the excellent and entertaining use of a first-person-plural narrator; I can't say it made Joshua Ferris look like Hooked on Phonics--I think Joshua Ferris made Joshua Ferris look like Hooked on Phonics just fine on his own--but I can say that it did compare wildly favorably in Dixon's (Sean's) favor, at least in terms of narrative devices, there being few other points of comparison between the two books (to the best of my knowledge), Ferris's being a boring novel about being bored, and Dixon's (Sean's) novel being one in which book club members fuck and fall through floors (though not simultaneously) and adventure themselves off to distant lands and get haircuts against their will and "read" The Epic of Gilgamesh and get into e-mail conversations with bloggers and generally make for consistently good reading.
This morning, courtesy of the folks at Knopf, I received a copy of the new Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck. I then promptly fast-forwarded through the morning to my lunch hour so I could read the first story, "Cell One." It is, to say the least, nice to know Adichie remains as emotionally potent in the short form as she does in the long form (see also: my reaction to Half of a Yellow Sun; also see, on an unrelated note, but one I'm reminded of by looking at that post, the newly revealed 2010 release of a Scarlett Thomas novel--what was it I was saying about 2010?) This is one I'll be carrying around with me for a while. Worth considering. (At least, you know, based on one story. I'm assuming she doesn't fill the rest of the book with bad fan fiction or anything.)