Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Songs Named After Books: How Faithful Are They? Part Two: "Anthem"

Sometimes people suggest I should read Rand, in a know-your-enemy kind of way, but dude, I already know the plots of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which are the ones people always talk about. The Fountainhead: Howard Roark blows up his building 'cause it doesn't conform to the awesomeness of his vision; Atlas Shrugged: Hank Reardon, John Galt, Dagney Taggart, Ragnar Something, and Whocares D'Anconia show that if you try to tax or regulate Captains of Industry, they'll take their magic metals and infinite energy machines and go home, and then let's see your precious fucking trains run on time! In other words, they're infantile gibberish, and although it's terrifying that people with power consider them philosophically serious, I really don't think there's any good reason for me to waste my time with them.

ANYWAY, Anthem at least has the virtue of being shorter, but I'm still not going to read it. It's some sort of dystopian thing where people have no individuality, blah blah. Like most Rush songs, this one is mostly annoying shrieking. But it features swell lyrics like "well, I know they've always told you selfishness was wrong, yet it was for me, not you, I came to write this song," so it's safe to say that at at any rate it cleaves to Rand's vision and is every bit as sensible and coherent At least "The Trees" is funny.

Was this whole entry just a thin excuse to heap abuse on Ayn Rand? Probably.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Songs Named After Books: How Faithful Are They? Part One: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

When we were reading Huckleberry Finn in high school, we read a number of essays alongside it, including one which was all about how Uncle Tom's Cabin sucks compared to Huck Finn. The pedagogical value of this is unclear, given that we didn't read the former, or even excerpts therefrom. Still, I think I just took the essay at face value because it's just fun to hate on things, I guess. Nowadays, though, I must take exception to it. First, it's not even a tiny bit fair to compare them without noting that they were written on opposite sides of the Civil War (um, before and after, that is), with completely different motives. Also, while all the criticisms of Uncle Tom's Cabin you hear are accurate--it's awash in unconscious racism, it gets pretty darned mawkish, it flagrantly misuses archaic grammar in the dialogue of Quaker characters (seriously, Stowe writes things like "Thee knows thee can stay here, as long as thee pleases"--didn't she have editors?)--given that it was massively successful in turning public opinion against slavery and thus did literally the greatest tangible real-world good of any novel ever--maybe perhaps it deserves a tiny bit of credit? What have you done today that's so great? Also, I must maintain, in spite of everything, that it has genuine literary merit. The section on the Legree estate is as compelling a portrait of Hell as any.

Anyway, the Warrant song is about a guy. He has an uncle. The Uncle is named Tom. Uncle Tom has a cabin. The boys of Warrant had definitely heard the phrase "Uncle Tom's Cabin" somewhere, but whether they know what the book's about, or even that it is a book, is impossible to say.

(I'm just funnin'--it's a fun song, in its preposterous eighties-hair-metal way--but it sure has zero to do with the novel.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (1964)

Yes, well. I have claimed in the past to like books that give me entirely new aesthetic experiences, and you certainly cannot fault Brazilian author Clarice Lispector in that regard. The narrator, G.H. (wikipedia sez it's short for gênero humano, meaning "humankind" in Portuguese), is a well-off sculptor who apparently spends most of her time just swanning around, not really engaging. All that changes when she goes into the maid's room and sees a cockroach, which freaks her out. She smashes it between the door and the wall, and the sight of this dying insect precipitates a spiritual crisis in her. She spends the next hundred-odd pages contemplating the roach, the porousness of life and identity, and the divine, until she more or less breaks down altogether. that an okay summary? It's not exactly an easy book to follow.
Read more »

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Videogames are not "art," so stop saying that.

The worst thing is when people talk about how videogames are art, man. I think we can all agree on that. But let's get into it briefly, because I think I have the solution here. First, though, I have to point out that it's pretty weird that people are so fixated on that word. I read a lot of books, and I take literature both seriously and joyously. But boy, I sure never look up from a book and think, oh man! What Great Art this is! I am truly having an Artistic experience! If something particularly strikes me I might think something like, damn. This is a great book, but my mind doesn't immediately go to "ART!" I don't think anyone's does. Well, you say, that's just because book are already considered to be it and so you don't have to say it. Well...maybe? But to me, it looks way more as if you're just super-insecure and you want to believe that your leisure-time activities stand among the pinnacles of human endeavor. I'm just saying.
Read more »

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Josefina Vicens, The False Years (1982)

Might as well read Vicens' other novel, while I'm at it! Though at seventy-four pages, "novel" is pushing it beyond the breaking point. Still, if those irritating Ravicka books count as novels, this must too! Also, there is no activity more interesting and meaningful than obsessing over what does and does not count as a novel! Let's write a WHOLE LOT MORE on that subject!
Read more »

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Renee Gladman, Event Factory/The Ravickians/Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge (2010/2011/2013)

Well, here's a trilogy of very short novels--novellas, really--that I read. They concern a fictive city, Ravicka, seemingly somewhere in eastern Europe, which is facing some sort of undefined crisis where everyone's leaving (Gladman specifically cites Samuel Delany's Dhalgren as an influence). The first book is from the point of view of an unnamed visitor to the city, the second and third from that of native Ravickians.
Read more »

Friday, January 15, 2016

Josefina Vicens, The Empty Book (1958)

And now, something short and sweet, for once. Josefina Vicens was a Mexican writer; according to Wikipedia, although she only wrote two short novels, "she is regarded as a pillar of modern Mexican literature" (she also wrote poetry, journalism, and a bunch of screenplays).  I found this novel via one of amazon's recommendation, presumably on the basis that I'd been reading or browsing a lot of metafiction.  Whether The Empty Book falls in that category is debatable, but it certainly points in its direction and as such must be at least somewhat influential.
Read more »