Friday, August 24, 2018

Amos Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)'s the first and second novels by this Nigerian writer in one volume. He was clearly influenced by Daniel Fagunwa (or else they were both influenced by the same things--or both), but he's better-known, no doubt in large part because he wrote in English. Well, a sort of English. Okay, English. That's clearly what it is. But not what we would think of as idiomatic English. I read somewhere that it's as close to the structure of Yoruba as you can get while staying more or less within the bounds of English. It makes these novels a very different reading experience from Forest of a Thousand Daemons; they're thematically very similar, but that one has been translated into somewhat stylized but basically standard English so that, oddly enough, the English-original novels feel more foreign.
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Monday, August 20, 2018

D.O. Fagunwa, Forest of a Thousand Daemons: A Hunter's Saga (1939)

I didn't read this today after writing about Bartleby (although I could have; it's short). I usually do a write-up for a book a few days after finishing it, having in the meantime started a new one, so...there you go.

Hey. Did you know that I had--as best I can recall--never read a novel by an African author until now? No, not even Things Fall Apart, which many do in high school. Boy, that's a thing, innit? Of course, it's really not entirely inexcusable; it's obviously true that, for various reasons, Africa did not develop with a literary tradition in the way that other places did (obviously, nothing Saul Bellow ever made jackass remarks about). Still, it's a pretty large area of ignorance. So, I read this book. It's the first novel to be written in Yoruba, and per the back cover, it's "one of [Nigeria's] most revered and widely read works." Of course, I have to wonder: if you mentioned it to the average Nigerian on the street, would this person actually be familiar with it? To be clear, this is something I'd apply to any country's "revered" works of literature: most Americans probably know the name of Moby-Dick, but I would bet that the number who can name the author is much lower, and the number who've actually read it? Forget about it.

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Chris Scott, Bartleby (1971)

Who's Chris Scott? Just some guy, really. English-Canadian. He's written some books. Although he appears to have given up that bad habit. And...that's all. I only discovered this one because it was rereleased by Verbivoracious, my favorite small press that may or may not still exist.
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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Songs that, Perhaps Surprisingly, We Don't Hate: Rupert Holmes, "Escape (the piña colada song)"

Don't worry; I'm not going to try to defend this song on the merits. It is bad and dumb. But, while I know there's kind of a cottage industry devoted to hating it, for me to really hate a song it has to somehow outrage my sensibilities. But this doesn't; it just kind of amuses them. I certainly won't, like, go out of my way to hear it or anything, but if it comes on the radio--as it does--I won't change the station. Boom.

So you know the plot of the song, presumably; he's bored of his marriage so he answers a personal ad in the paper, only to find that it was actually his wife trying to cheat on him! Doh! Holmes seems to have a kind of insane idea of how personal ads work, but that is neither here nor there. So, sing along:

If you like piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain,
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain,
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape,
I´m the love that you've looked for, write to me, and escape.

...or don't. Yeah, there's no denying it; these people are pretty insufferable. But I have to say, I always laugh at the "if you're not into yoga" part (and also the "I'm not much into health food" bit in the response), because holy shit this is the most painfully, intensely seventies thing ever (and ALSO ALSO, re "I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne": hmm...are you sure you're not actually into WD-40?  'Cause you sound like some kind of robot).

There's another thing I kind of like about it, too, reading it against itself: all of these things--being into fruity drinks, getting rained on, etc--are clearly meant to be a vision of a genuine alternative; a life removed from the humdrum. And yet, I can't help reading it in terms of this kind of mid-century white male with a petite bourgeois lifestyle that they can see on some level is destroying them, but that they can't remotely conceptualize how to, ahem, escape, so you just get these little signifiers that don't remotely come together into something coherent--like Rabbit Angstrom or someone. We're supposed to read the denouement as the two of them realizing that they all they really need is each other after all? NO. All it does is prove to them with a grim finality that there is no escape; they're stuck in this white-picket-fences hellscape until they die. The song's a lot more tolerable thought of in those terms, I find.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Mario Vargas Llosa, The Green House (1966)

So this is Vargas Llosa's second novel. If you want a li'l look behind the scenes at why I'm reading the specific things I'm reading, I'm actually probably going to be working abroad again as of this Fall, and while I can certainly bring some books along, I'll mostly be reliant on the ol' ereader at that time. So right now, I'm reading as many books as I can that aren't available in that format. And, for whatever reason, of Vargas Llosa's novels, the only ones that aren't thus available are this and Conversation in the Cathedral. The last book I read in ereader format was The War of the End of the World. Look back, and you'll see that all the ones since then have been books without e-versions. And now you know. What a fascinating story this was.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A silent nation hooked on emulation

When I was in high school, more or less, I had one great concern that caused me no end of grief (and this tells you A LOT about the kind of adolescence I had): and THAT was that I'd NEVER EVER be able to play all these classic NES RPGs because I didn't have an NES and the system was receding further and further into the past and IT JUST WOULDN'T HAPPEN WOE IS ME. It's sort of embarrassing when you write it out like that (if I could go back, I'd tell myself: dude. Your priority right now REALLY needs to be getting laid. This other shit will work itself out), but there it is.
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