Saturday, March 28, 2015

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas

According to people, Assis is known as Brazil's greatest writer. I don't think I'd ever read a Brazillian writer before, so it made good sense to check him out. When you think about it, you realize that pre-twentieth-century Hispanic writers (does Brazillian count as “Hispanic?” I guess not, but I don't have a good word for “Hispanic, plus Brazil”) are basically unknown in the Anglophone world. Twentieth century, sure, Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Cortazar, Borges, &c, but before that? Be honest: you couldn't have named any. Now you can name one. It's interesting that the field is so obscure.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sergio De La Pava, Personae: A Novel (2011)

I don’t know why I feel the need to add that “A Novel” to the title.  Sure, it says that on the cover, but it’s also A Naked Singularity: A Novel, and I didn’t feel so moved there.  I guess it’s just because a one-word title looks kind of lonely.  Same with Cosmos, below.
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Wiltold Gombrowicz, Cosmos: A Novel (1965)

Here’s a Polish author I done stumbled across.  The novel looked interesting and it was short so I read it.  BAM.
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington (1864)

Okay, let’s go.  So there’s the Squire of Allington, who lives in the big house, whereas his brother’s widow and daughters, Lily and Bell, are suffered to live in the small one.  Lily has a romance with one Adolphus Crosbie, and they get engaged.  However, Adolphus, is not as constant as he might be, and ends up breaking off the relationship so he can make what he sees as a more advantageous marriage.  Meanwhile, we have John Eames, a somewhat awkward young man (and if you didn’t know the word “hobbledehoy,” or you weren’t quite sure what it meant, this’ll set you right straight), who is desperately in love with her in spite of not really knowing how to go about courting.
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett

There’s no question that I don’t feel as personally connected to Sir Terry as a lot of people do—round about the turn of the century I more or less stopped reading Discworld novels, for various reasons—but you should’ve seen me for a few years in high school.  I first discovered the series through—true fact—a review of the first Discworld videogame in Dragon magazine (and all these years later, it still amazes how totally impenetrable that game was).  Comic fantasy seemed like it would be my thing, so I sought out the books.  The first one I read was Soul Music, and no doubt for that reason I still consider it my favorite (though I’d have to do an extensive rereading project to really judge).  Naturally, I read as many as I could find, but the thing was, the US publications of Discworld novels back in the mid-nineties and before were really spotty and inconsistent, and this, for me, was a pre-internet age, so that was out.  I bought the ones that were available, found a few in the local library, and I got one from some service which would comb used book stores for out-of-print books people were looking for (that sounds really bizarre in an internet age, but apparently it was a real thing).  But there were a few I just COULDN’T, and you would not BELIEVE how frustrated I was.  I literally had dreams where I walked into used book stores and, wow! here’s the entire series (while other kids were having wet dreams, I suppose…)!  ‘Course, you know how one tends to exaggerate these things in one's head; it probably wasn’t more than a few months until I was indeed able to get the missing books, from a bookstore specializing in genre stuff.  But in any case, it illustrates how fixated I was.  I know the last few books got fairly alarming reviews, but I enjoyed Unseen Academicals, which I read a few years ago, and his back catalogue remains a treasure trove.

Goddamn, man, first Mervyn Peake from Parkinson’s, and now Terry Pratchett from Alzheimers—what needs to happen is, someone needs to find where these degenerative diseases live and fuck their shit up.  

Friday, March 06, 2015

Actually, it's about made-up shit that no one cares about

So the thing about gamergate is that, even if we forget about the fact that the [bowel] movement consists primarily of sociopaths, “ethics in gaming journalism” is a fucking weird thing to care about (let’s for the moment leave aside the odd notion that the coveted five-exploding-heads review in Gamepro constitutes “journalism”).  The argument, I guess, would be this: it’s bad when publishers exert undue influence on reviews of videogames (the question of how this is different from reviews of movies/music/books/&c will remain unanswered).  Okay.  I guess.  In theory.  But, seriously: who cares?  How does this matter?  You’re really telling me this is in your top thousand things to care about?  Occasionally you’ll see some misguided soul saying something like “sure, all this gamergate misogyny is awful, but the underlying point is valid and important!”  That just leaves me completely baffled, because for the gamergate faithful, it’s easy to understand: pretending to care about a nebulously-defined “ethics” in gaming “journalism” is really just an excuse to spew the contents of their diseased psyches all over any woman unfortune enough to be in the way  Got it.  But actually caring about a nebulously-defined “ethics” in gaming “journalism?”  What?  Is it not, in fact, the case that this issue is actually less pressing than ever, given that, with the internet, everyone and their mother can and does make their opinions easily available all over the place?  Who cares what a calficied organ like IGN, that everyone’s already cynical about, has to say?  It is truly strange that anyone would try to make anything of this non-issue.

Sergio De La Pava, A Naked Singularity (2008)

There were two compelling reasons to read A Naked Singularity: one, because it was billed as being in the tradition of the sort of long, maximalist, postmodern novels I always used to read but haven’t much lately, and there was a strong allure to returning to the form; and two, because of its publishing history: initially, unable to find a regular publisher, De La Pava got it printed in a small edition by XLibris, just to have something.  Against many odds, it was noticed, and eventually reprinted by the University of Chicago and won literary prizes and stuff.  Every self-published author’s dream, no doubt.  Anyway, that history was far too intriguing to pass up.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Super Mario Babbling

I’ve been playing some Super Mario Bros on the 3DS virtual console, and I have to say, DAMN but Super Mario Bros is a hard game.  I’d forgotten just HOW hard.  People always talk about the latest New Super Mario Bros game or whatever being challenging, but really, man—I completed NSMB Wii with a friend, including the damn secret world, and sure it was brutal in places, but claims that it’s anywhere near to the NES game, challenge-wise, are laughable.  Probably part of that is down to me not playing it that much in my formative years—I DO have strong nostalgic memories of playing it at friends’ houses, but I never had an NES of my own, so I didn’t get to REALLY sink my teeth into it until Super Mario All Stars, when I was a little bit older.  The first Mario game I  beat was Supermarioland, and I still have no trouble whatsoever finishing it (both first and second quests) when I revisit it every few years or so (though I think it IS objectively a lot easier), but the original SMB—DAMN.  I honestly cannot quite remember if I ever actually beat it, though I definitely beat the so-called flippin’ “Lost Levels” (including Worlds A-D), which ratchets up the difficulty so much that in the later worlds you feel like you’re playing one of those fuck-you rom hacks (admittedly, I was only able to do this because the SNES version has mercy on you by letting you save your progress after every level, instead of every world.  No way in hell I’d’ve ever won if I had to play through four stages straight).  But plain ol’ SMB?  I’m not so sure.  I know I got to World 8, but I think that’s as far as it went.  I think a big part of my problem is that I haven't quite figured out instinctively how to play with Mario's inertia as opposed to trying to fight it, which leads to frequent needless deaths, but whatever the reason--man.

Anyway, this has been so much pointless babbling, but I want to say this: I feel as though all the Mario mainstays have sort of had their impact diluted by the number of later games they appeared in.  But GOOD GOD, you play SMB, and you are forcibly struck by the sheer horror of a lakitu or an inconveniently-placed pair of hammer bros.  They are not cuddly.  They are nothing less than pure, focused generators of human misery.  Aslan Is Not A Tame Lion.  &c.