I’ve gotten away from posting these, but I shouldn’t have. If you’re in the area, be sure to swing by Half Price Books Humble on Saturdays to check out local authors.
It wasn’t my favorite, but I suppose they can’t all be. It was PKD’s first published novel, and it feels like it. Not because it isn’t good, but because it’s so very typical genre. There was a lack of bravery in it. It’s plot pointed. It’s correct.
I fell in love with PKD’s writing because it wasn’t confined to a formula, because he didn’t seem to care whether or not the plot points occurred when they were supposed to. It is why Clans of the Alphane Moon is my favorite of his work so far.
The same week I read Solar Lottery, I also got a DVD I requested from the library:
It was an interlibrary loan from a college – what I call my “super fancy request” because it has a $3 a day late fee.
It looks like something they’d show in a high school class. I say high school because I always thought showing videos in college courses was a lazy prof’s way out. (You should require students to watch something, then discuss in class.) Also, because by the time I got to college cheesy 90’s videos were being replaced by updated videos.
As I watch the video, I keep thinking how much I’d rather be reading the content in a book than be viewing a documentary. I suffer from a plight the majority of my contemporaries will never understand… watching things on a screen is far more tedious to me than reading them.
Also, as I’m watching, Solar Lottery slips away from my mind as my most recent PKD experience (of slight disappointment) and all the reasons I adore PKD flood back.
There’s a cheesy cartoon of PKD moving his mouth to Phil’s actual audio responses, recorded when he was still living. This would be cool if I didn’t feel like I was watching Southpark. It’s hard to focus on the documentary without closing my eyes because a headache is starting to form behind my eyes, another reason why I don’t watch a lot of tv but can read for days straight.
I’m glad I’m listening, though. There are so many things about him that fascinate me. The break in to his safe, for instance. People relate this tale in direct correlation to his drug use and having an unhealthy level of skepticism for the world around him… then the police thought he orchestrated the explosion himself… to which his supposedly drug addled mind thinks, “Maybe I did…? What would my motivation have been?”
They attribute all of this to a novelist’s mind on drugs.
How is this not just a normal human response to an accusation? I have these spin off thoughts nearly every moment of every day. I’ve written entire novels in my head based on an accusation. My first published novella was born slightly out of a similar strain of thought.
I may not be drug addled. I may not be as prolific or clever. But I do think, had I ever met PKD in person, we may have been friends, at least I think I would have liked him a lot.
I’ve never felt like a bigger idiot than when trying to read Ptolemy’s The Almagest. First of all, I inevitably always pronounce the P when speaking about it. And constantly get corrected, but can’t stop doing it. Secondly, I switch the m and the g of “almagest” in my head so often that in my deepest heart I’m not reading The Almagest, I’m reading The Algamest. Third, it’s a lot of information that I’ll never remember. I hate knowing that what I’m reading is not going to sink in… it’s all just a passing whimsy and I’ll be able to tell you nothing of value about it when I’m done with it.
Nevertheless, I’m enjoying reading it. Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, I think. Also, it’s included in The Great Books, it’s fat (roughly 600 pages), and it’s part of our ancient history – which I’m a huge sucker for.
Reading stuff like this is kind of like watching certain sports for me. I can follow the games, I know what’s going on, and I thoroughly enjoy them – but I don’t have sports lingo dripping from my lips and I rarely will discuss them with people because I know I’ll just sound like a moron. I like the ambiance of the game and the thrill of hard work and athleticism paying off. Just like I love the exertion it takes to read things slightly outside my knowledge base. They are similar experiences for me. Dropping me into a martial arts ring is more like breezing through fiction – I know it so well I can function there with my eyes closed.
It sounds completely absurd, even as I type it – but Ptolemy is like watching The Rockets play. I’m there. I get it. I’m enjoying. I love it. I will devour it – with chips, salsa, and beer. I will not, however, scream and shout with the other fans or talk about it tomorrow; and if you try to talk to me about it, I’ll clam up. Mention apogees in anything other than reciting a chant from Bedknobs and Broomsticks and you’ll see the same blank expression on my face when people shout “Wet!” I read that, I heard that… I internally absorbed it somewhere in my brain. But please, please, don’t quiz me. That’s recipe for an anxiety attack right there.
There are some things in life we should be allowed to simply enjoy without analyzation. Therefore, just like I will never be any good at fantasy leagues, I will also never be able to give an intelligent lecture on Ptolemy and his great work. But I’ll have fun being a half hearted amateur/ closet fan of both.
I got to see B.B. King live in concert once. I realize that millions of people have, that he toured relentlessly until now when he will never tour again. But, despite not being unique in this trait, I consider myself special for having experienced it.
It was 2004, and my friend (who had recently broken up with me) had already purchased tickets. “It’s ok if you take Tim,” I told him. His room mate at the time is just a big of a music geek as any of us, and quite a guitar player. Tim would have loved it. “No,” my ex said, a No I will forever appreciate, “No, I bought them for us to go, we’ll go together. It’ll be fun.”
To be fair, we’re not the awkward exes of dramatic literature and over played movie cliches. We’re friends, always were, and hopefully always will be. I respect him as a human, he is part of what grew me into an adult. Also, to be fair, even if he had been the ex from hell – I wasn’t going to argue too adamantly about whether or not I got to go to the Eric Clapton Crossroads Concert. It was Eric Clapton. It was B.B. King. It was… everyone who made guitar history ever…
It was beautiful.
I drove up from Houston to Dallas to attend. In June, in a car with no AC. I stayed the weekend in dorm rooms that were closed for the summer. It was worth it just to hear that man play.
It was a hot, sunny day – until the end when it wasn’t and ZZ Top got rained out – sweltering even, but it was good. It was several generations of men in the most relaxing and amazing jam session on stage that I’d ever heard. It was Texas in a stadium of fans born and bred in Texas – I’m not great with crowds, but good old country boys listening to the blues is a crowd I can manage. I was laying in the grass while an old hippie with boobs down to her waistline swayed, clapped, and danced, depending on what was most appropriate for whatever song was playing.
I wish I could record my journal entry from that weekend here for you, but that journal is in storage, and I doubt I was very articulate anyway… I imagine it was a lot of: Oh My God, that was AMAZING. I do know that I lamented the fact that my now husband hadn’t been able to get tickets and go himself. It was something I knew he would have enjoyed. My ex is my friend, but my husband has always been my very best friend – especially then. Now, I lament that he missed it completely. Seeing B.B. King together was something I thought we’d get around to eventually. I should have known better, the man was old. But he seemed so epically immortal. Even though he sat through the whole concert, I didn’t see it then as a sign of an older man – I saw it as a sign of a King on his throne.
I remember John Mayer coming out. I remember being so proud of how respectful he was to all the men who had come before him – especially B.B. King. I didn’t like John Mayer until that moment, until I saw him bow with such grace to a man that I adored and would come to adore more and more as I aged, as I married, as I had a baby who would live the first year of her life listening to jazz and R&B in our living room while my husband smoked a cigar on the porch after work with the door open so the music and the smoke could play a wafting dance on the threshold. B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald… my child knows these voices well.
B.B. King, you have shaped so many lives with your talent, you beautiful, beautiful man. Thank you for gracing the world with your presence. Thank you for all the concerts, all the performances, and all the love for music that has always seemed to radiate from your entire being and existence. Bless you. Thank you, and bless you.
Title: Deadly Ruse
Author: E. Michael Helms
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
Length: 237 pages
Retired marine, private eye, sexy girls, whiskey, drugs, diamonds, casinos, the good ol’ South… what more could you ask for in a genre crime novel?
I enjoyed my second adventure with Mac McClennan. Despite the self-depricating B-movie references to its own plot points, closing a Mac McClennan book always leaves me wanting more Mac.
Of course, Mac has women fawning over him and his older gentleman charm. His girlfriend can take care of herself, but still finds it in herself to swoon into a faint in the opening chapters. Our heroes tote guns, our villains are scum. It’s all around good, fast-paced fun set in the sun, with just the right amount of danger.
I look forward to Mac’s next adventure, since he’s on the verge of being an official P.I. now…
After my phone call was declined:
I love you but every single human in my life is asleep right now I am not answering the phone and chancing a mass awakening hahaha.
My internet keeps crapping out and every other message I’m holding my laptop up to the mysterious signal like Rafiki lifting Simba to the sun on Pride Rock.
I am a half a step away from chanting in Afrikans.
My words are worth it.
WORK FOR MY WORDS!
We’ve been spending more and more time at the library than usual. About 2-3 hours A DAY. Before it was every few days, but with this rain – in the tradition of Noah – occurring in the northern Houston area the past few weeks, we’ve been trapped indoors.
So these are our top favorites for the week:
1. Snippet the Early Riser – Bethanie Deeney Murguia (http://amzn.to/1cxqz9Z)
We adore the illustrations in this tail of a snail that wakes up long before his family is ready to start their day. In the book, you’ll meet a ton of different insects, and then finally discover the source of this family’s plight – Snippet just goes to bed way too early. It’s a common hazard in family’s with small children and I think most kids and adults alike will be able to relate.
2. When a Dragon Moves In – Jodi More (http://amzn.to/1cxqsew)
Again, the illustrations are fantastic! Kiddo loves the beach setting and the fact that dragons are actually moving into the kid’s sandcastle. She hasn’t yet caught the nuance that it’s this little dude’s epic imagination at work, but kiddo is – after all – only four.
3. When Rain Falls – Melissa Stewart (http://amzn.to/1bPVhdO)
This is soothing. And completely appropriate for our current household situation. So much rain and so many days when it merely threatens to rain, it was nice to read through how rain effects everyone and everything. We read this right before bed and in the middle of the afternoon several times. Lovely, lovely, book.
4. Freckleface Strawberry – Julianne Moore (http://amzn.to/1cxsknL)
This isn’t just one title, this is a series of which we have read two. Freckleface Strawberry is an adorable little girl with flaming red hair, completely covered in freckles. I relate to these books so well because I was the freckle-faced short kid in my class. Kiddo loves her “because she has so many freckles. And you know what I like best of her? She has a nickname!” Kiddo loves nicknames. Her cousins call her “Fruitcake,” her daddy calls her “Booger,” her tia Danielle calls her “Nugget.” I call her heathen, but that’s besides the point. Not really, I call her “Nugget” a lot too.
Title: Ape and Essence
Author: Aldous Huxley
Genre: Fiction/ Literature/ Allegory
Length: 152 pages
Of the four Aldous Huxley books included on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, is not one of them.
With good reason.
While I was reading I kept thinking, I like the concept, but I am aghast that this is the man famous for a book that millions are required to read for school. Not because there is anything bad about it… it’s just… really? This is the kind of stuff we want to force teenagers to read? It’s disjointed, surly, and… dare I say… a little boring.
The best moment, by far, was when I read:
‘Give back that ring.’
‘Which ring?’ the man falters.
At which point my nerdy self said to my book: “The one that will rule them all, duh!”
To be fair, the book that is typically required reading for students is Brave New World, not Ape and Essence. So, naturally, I had to do a bit of research before considering reading Brave New World, giving Huxley a chance to prove himself in my eyes. If I can’t stomach 152 pages of the man, why would I submit myself to more?
I feel justified in my disappointment, because as my kid sat and worked through a literacy program on the computer at the library, I consulted the Concise Dictionary of Literary Biography: Volume 6: Modern Writers 1914-1945, and read up on Huxley and this piece of drivel I had just plowed through.
There I read, “Aldous strained to pile horror upon cross horror… the book, it always seemed to me, achieves a high degree of unbearableness.”
There I also read, “most the characters and ideas come from a discount Huxley warehouse.”
Deep sigh of exasperated relief. I don’t have to like this book. Thank God.
Mikhaul Bakhtin described Huxley’s work as the “Canivalesque Novel.” Others in this category would be Rabelais’ Gargantua and Cervantes Don Quixote. These novels are known for “emphasizing inclusion rather than selection” and are “structured like a ‘plate of mixed fruit.’” They are known as the anti-novel.
Sheldon Sacks, on the other hand, considered Huxley’s work as apolgoues, like More’s Utopia, Voltaire’s Candide, and Johnson’s Rasselas… fictions structured as persuasive arguments. (For the record, I am basically paraphrasing – and point blank quoting – the CDBLB!)
The title for Ape and Essence was taken from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, when Isabella says:
Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
A sFor every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
Again, I have not read Brave New World, but I come away with the overpowering sense that perhaps it is easier to digest because, like the CDBLB says, Brave New World is about what could happen; Ape and Essence is presented as something that probably will. Ape and Essence leaves you with nothing to hope for, and in a world full of agony – hope is vital. The whole book is about how “faith in progress has led to outright regression,” and the book ends with an egg being cracked over a gravestone.
A society so driven by perfection and stamping out rebellion and evil that they have destroyed everything. They do not have the hope and insight of Steinbeck when he wrote in East of Eden, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Instead, everyone strives for perfection until they’ve essentially destroyed themselves and everything around them. They’ve destroyed the world’s ability to think and grow.
Ape and Essence is the most depressing piece of near-satire I’ve ever encountered.
The man himself, however, had some awesome things to say on the nature of writing. Many people read his novels and were irritated by finding mirror images within some of his characters. After a few lost friends he responded,
“Of course I base my characters partly on people I know – one can’t escape it – but fictional characters are oversimplified; they’re much less complex than the people one knows. There is something of (John Middleton) Murry in several of my characters, but I wouldn’t say I’d put Murry in a book.”
I could not say it better myself. Characters may seem a bit like this person or that, but never, never is any fiction that I write in any way biographical. So even though I did not care for Ape and Essence, I came away from researching Huxley fulfilled – and justified.
What an awesome list!
Originally posted on Interesting Literature:
10 interesting works of dystopian fiction that predate George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) is perhaps the most famous dystopian novel in the world, with the adjective ‘Orwellian’ being listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and the phrases ‘Big Brother’, ‘thoughtcrime’, and ‘newspeak’ being part of the language. But Orwell’s classic novel didn’t arise in isolation, and there were a number of earlier dystopian novels written before Orwell put pen to paper (or finger to typewriter). Here is our pick of the ten best early dystopian novels worth checking out. Okay, so they’re not all novels – there are a couple of short stories in here too. But then variety is the spice of life…
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Author: Tristram D. Wyatt
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Genre: Science / Animal Communication
Length: 391 pages
“[…] one doesn’t realise how much ‘savor’ is smell. You smell people, you smell books, you smell the city, you smell the spring – maybe not consciously, but as rich unconscious background to everything else. My whole world was suddenly radically poorer.” – O. Sacks, The man who mistook his wife for a hat
So completely fascinated with the human scent and sense of smell this month, I picked up a textbook on pheromones at the public library.
What I’ve learned is that I can read up on everything there is to know scientifically about ones sense of smell and how they use it, but I still won’t completely understand all the nuances of how that affects interpersonal communications. Correction – I understand how, but not why it affects us so completely.
Having this knowledge of the how should enable me to shut it off when it does not suit my emotional well being, right? After all, knowledge is power.
No. We, as humans, are too complex for that. (Or simple, depending on how you look at it.) Our emotions can even heighten our perception of these smells, tie that to menstrual cycles and memory and we’re pretty much screwed to always have knee jerk reactions to certain scents whether we like it or not.
Even Wyatt states in the closing chapter of his textbook:
“One of the major challenges to human pheromone research is that of designing rigorous experiments that eliminate other cues and variables. As well as the complexity of odour that being a mammal brings, humans are also complex emotionally. This makes us doubly difficult as experimental subjects.”
I absolutely adore the smell of a well cared for old book. But the effect that beautiful freshly cut grass mixed with vanilla, a tinge of dust, and leather has on me can be overwhelming or something I barely note in passing, depending on the mood I’m already in.
All this sensory awareness just reminds me of a John Oehler book I read awhile back, Aphrodesia – and led me to finally committing to pick up the book Perfume by Suskind (which I haven’t done just yet, but will soon). People have been talking about it for years, I’ve been shelving copies of it at the bookstore in droves for as long as I’ve worked there. It’s even on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, but I don’t read the books on that list merely because they are on it – I try to let those titles come to me organically via other means of gathering more books for my TBR pile. All of these things in Suskind’s favorite, but his work never really moved me until now.