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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Faulkner: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay DyingAs I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Faulker is a strange one. He really is. Honestly, I can see why people don't get him. He's hard and no one wants to read hard things, at least hard things that make no god damn sense.

Here's the thing: Faulkner makes sense. Perfect sense.

First, I think we should talk about this darn "Stream-of-Conscious" term that gets thrown at the old man. Now, you've got people like Joyce that, if you ask me, write whatever the hell comes out of there head and pass it off as meaningful. Of course, when we talk about about stream-of-conscious we are usually going to see talks about "death of the author" being brought up.

Basically, it doesn't matter what the author meant because we each bring our own tools to the table and get whatever out of it. Stream of conscious, then, is the purest way with which we can apply this collegiate term.

But however interesting and fun and right talking about "death of the author" is in relation to "stream of conscious," it's also the easy way out here.

So, anyway, does Faulkner use this stream of conscious thing? A little. He uses it so we can better get into the heads of the characters. But he also writes outside of that, inserting his own narrative voice into the fray.

Of course, his sparse punctuation and his constant switching between the 10 cent word and the 25 cent word can sure make things hard. However, this helps a little. In some ways he is being comical, I mean, things literally could not be worse for this family. The mom dies at the hottest point in summer after a fucking monsoon and then the cheap-ass father decides to walk 40 miles to fulfill her dying wish, all the while she starts to stink.

It's a play on Greek Tragedy.

Anyway, this story is tragic and comic. It has moments where you can really feel the sadness of passing, the pain that comes when a loved one dies. Then there are other times when Faulkner messes with you, black humor style.

Sure, this is a great book, but don't take it so seriously just because it is so well loved. Remember, the best authors have a sense of humor. Even if it is a little off-beat.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Gaiman: Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys (American Gods, #2)Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate Neil Gaiman. I hate him in the way I hate le Guin or Moorcock or Rothfuss or Faulkner or de Maupassant or PKD or Gibson...

The list goes on.

Hell, let's throw Vonnegut in there. Tolkien too. Ovid and Homer, for a little spice.

I hate them all, but Gaiman probably brings out the worst of my depression and envy.

I mean, the guy has his missteps, for sure. Sometimes he plays his hand at the end and lets us know too much, but...I mean, come on.

First of all, he's well read. Really well read. And my God can he play with myths. He's built his career on allusion.

Post-Modernism sure is cool.

He also married Amanda Palmer. So he's smart as hell, right. Good.

And, worst of all, he's the writer I wish I could be.

Joss Whedon too. I hate that guy.

I don't really have a review. I mean, what should I say? Gaiman is a damned genius. Moorcock even thinks so.

This book, like so many of his other books, is amazing. It is witty and beautiful and strange and dark. It has an effervescence to it. It's magical.

The worst is, Anansi Boys is funny. Real funny.

So, Gaiman can do anything. He continues to prove that.

So, go buy this book. Read it. Tell friends to buy it or loan it to them. Then read the rest of Gaiman's work and realize that writing is pointless. There is enough good out there to beat out the bad because the good is so much more powerful.

Peak. Did I mention him? Screw that guy too.

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Finding Inspiration

The other day I thought about houses. The kind you see on the side of the road, the structures turned black by rain and snow and heat and cold. The kind whose story has been eroded slowly, not unlike the way you can erase words on a page but still faintly see them.

I thought about those houses and was inspired to write.

So why am I writing about wanting to write instead of actually writing?

Because lately I have been depressed. I have been useless. I haven't exercised or read or written a single word. The fire is still there, but she is cold. She is tired, like me, but she is returning and with her I feel inspired. Like I've returned from a long trip, invigorated.

I know many writers and painters and musicians and artists feel the same. It's part of the territory I suppose.

But I wanted you all to know that, no matter how you feel, it gets better and when you think you've run out of ideas and that you've got nothing left to say, sometimes you must go out into the world and be of it, or read, or even sleep. Sometimes the workers need a break.

Remember, like punk musician Jay Reatard once said, "We don't have a limited amount of ideas in us, just a limited amount of time to get them out of us."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

Elric of Melniboné (Elric, #1)Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being a fan of genre fiction is not easy. You have expectations that are set against you right from the start and it is easy to understand why. Explaining to people why someone like Moorcock is good not an easy task, especially once you get into the bit about summoning demons and dragons. People turn off around then and it isn't hard to see why.

There is a large culture in the fantasy community of people that argue about who is stronger than who, and what this spell would do in this situation if this other spell was cast at the same time. Basically, people talk shit instead of getting at the themes.

Reading, my friends, is not for pure escape. Never forget that.

In fact, Moorcock shows us this. He does this by combining a few different kinds of philosophies and challenging the readers sensibilities with them.

On one end, the character of Elric is a thoughtful man whose judgements and sense of morals seem rather Kantian. Elric is not concerned with the matter of ethics in a sense that may come off as completely ethical. The instance in which he allows for the torture of an intruder to get information is brutal. However, what makes this effective is that, in this instance, we see that Elric does this because he feels it will better help his people and that it is his duty as emperor to keep his people safe, even if he is, by and large, a different and strange emperor.

This too is Kantian. Elric is not driven by a desire to simply please himself, but by one to do his duty and do it morally. He feels guilt and sympathy and remorse, decidedly negative emotions that keep him from pursuing whatever he fancies.

It is when, later, that Elric decides to act more in favor of personal pleasure than a duty to his people that we see things go amiss. The forces of chaos are summoned, but even they are not exactly what one would expect. The demon Aroich is not fickle or insane only a trickster.

It is interesting to note that there is a struggle against nihilism as well. Elric rages and fights to be his own master, even disobeying powerful forces of chaos in order to demonstrate that he himself is his own master. This struggle against fate, this desire to prove that we are ourselves and masters of our own destiny is at once personal and profound.

Perhaps there is good reason for people to be skeptical of genre fiction, but there is also damn good reason to find it as beautiful and touching and life affirming as anything else.

In the end, it's all about people. All about humans, and what is more important than that struggle to understand ourselves, our world, and then to do something about it?

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