Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where you gonna run to, all on that day?

Because I am not a crazy person, I had not been keeping up with the doings of Westboro Baptist Church.  But for some reason, I decided to see what they've been up to lately, and WOW are those people ever insane.  "Golly gee," you say, employing heavy-handed sarcasm, "what a shocking revelation!  Tell me more, perfesser!"  Ho ho.  But if I can employ an extremely gross analogy, it's like this: every day, you have to walk past a certain house, and when you do, your nose is assailed by the intense, unrelenting stench of human feces (why you don't find another route is anyone's guess).  It is pretty doggone obvious from this that there is something seriously wrong with the people who live there.  But then, in your capacity as the city's health inspector, you get an order to enter the house and see what's going on (the neighbors are complaining, as you might expect), and when you do, you find that the entire interior is just nothing but floor-to-ceiling shelves, on which are thousands and thousands of carefully labeled mason jars each containing a separate bowel movement, and you realize that you are not dealing with ordinary howlingly insane people here.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Steph Swainston, The Year of Our War (2004)

Well, I'd read and enjoyed all the OTHER writers cited on the New Weird wikipedia page, as well as Felix Gilman, who must surely count.  Truthfully, I don't put much stake in this alleged sub-genre or the vague, bullshit-y definitions that the page gives for it, but it appears that I tend to like the books placed there, so what the hey.
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937)

My dad read The Hobbit to me when I was small (hmm…I'm sensing a theme here).  I must've liked it, because he read it all the way through, but compared to Watership Down, say, my memory was somewhat hazy.  Then, he tried to read me The Lord of the Rings, but I got so bored, you would not believe (I tried again when I was in high school, and got about a third of the way through The Two Towers before I just couldn't go on).  Anyway, spurred on in part by seeing a preview for the second idiotic-looking Hobbit movie, I decided to revisit it, with a possible eye towards seeing if I would appreciate LotR any more these days.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Songs We Hate, Part x+1: R.B. Greaves, "Take a Letter, Maria"


I guess maybe this song is kind of low-hanging fruit, but, even though you can definitely find people who'll acknowledge, if pressed, that yeah, it's kinda creepy, that does not remotely seem to be the consensus opinion.  I hear it semi-regularly on the oldies station I listen to when driving, and the DJ always treats it like it's just a normal song to play--like it's not about a guy who finds his wife having an affair, goes into work, makes his secretary type his break-up letter (which was definitely never in her job description) engages in some drunken, self-pitying maundering about how he was just trying to "build a good life" and about what a great secretary she is, and then, in the exciting denouement, starts hitting on her.  Cause, you know, that is what it's about.  God knows pop music has oft been and continues to be responsible for some pretty dubious messages, but there's just something about this song.  It would be one thing if there were any indication that the guy was meant to be a character; if his creepiness was somehow acknowledged.  But no--there's absolutely no indication that Greaves is aware that the song is problematic in any way.  The ending is meant to be romantic in a totally simple, straightforward way.  "He lost his wife, but oh look, there was new love waiting there for him all the time, right under his nose!  Huzzah!"  Gah.  Makes your skin crawl.

Obviously, I'm not spending time here going over specifically why the power imbalances here make this incipient relationship a Bad Thing--I should hope that would be pretty obvious to any reasonably intelligent audience.  It's not actually inconceivable that she's totally into him and there's no feeling of coercion whatsoever and everything's just duck soup.  But the things are: A) that's impossible to know--that's kinda the whole reason why these things are bad; and B) if so, it ought to be arranged toot sweet that the employer/employee relationship is terminated.  I don't see that here.  And in any case, really now…if you're trying to defend this song on those terms, you have moved faaaaar from what it actually is.

It's too bad, too--it's a catchy song with a nice, melancholy chorus that could be compelling if it were about something less repellent.  Maybe if you don't speak English…

(I had to laugh recently when I was listening to the radio and this song was played back-to-back with "Wonderful Tonight." Someone's clearly got it in for me.)

Friday, October 04, 2013

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)

Another book that I'd never read, but only had read to me as a young'un.  Fixed that!
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Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (2013)

The first question any Pynchon nerd would have about Bleeding Edge: does it continue the tradition of including at least one character from one other Pynchon novel?  All previous Pynchon novels have been connected this way (Mason & Dixon, the chronological outlier, featured an ancestor), so we can say they all take place in the same universe.  Now, keep in mind that, though I've read most of Pynchon multiple times, my memory for the names of the hundreds (thousands, I suppose) of minor characters is far from perfect, and therefore I could be missing something, but as far as I can tell, the answer is an extremely disappointing "no."  Given the novel's politics, it would've been so easy to have one of the radicals from Vineland make a cameo…but alas!  Not all is lost, however: at one point, some characters sing a snatch of a song of Pynchon's invention that was playing on the radio at one point in Inherent Vice (as of right now, even the capacious Pynchonwiki does not make note of this.  Scooped!).  So we can still make a connection, however tenuous.  But the only possibility if we want to continue the "character" streak is for Pynchon to write another novel featuring both someone from Bleeding Edge and from one of the others.  Make it so!
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