Monday, September 24, 2018

Evan Dara, Provisional Biography of Mose Eakins (2018)

Boy, this one snuck up on me. After alluding to Dara in my review of Lost Empress, I idly decided to check his website on the off-chance that he'd been up to something lately. And wouldn'tcha know it...?
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Alejo Carpentier, The Harp and the Shadow (1979)

Just in time for Columbus Day! Okay, a few weeks early. Whatevs.

None of us think much of Christopher Columbus in this day and age, but it's kind of surprising how recent that attitude shift is. For a very, very long time, he was uncritically lionized by about everyone. There was an epic poem written about him, popular in its time but--obviously--unread these days. I remember being taught about him in kindergarten, and there really wasn't even a hint that there was anything problematic about him--just banal "Columbus sailed the ocean blue" stuff. But these days, the only people willing to defend Columbus--let alone Columbus Day--don't even give a shit about the man himself; they're just upset by people trying to upend the comfortable, familiar hierarchy where white men are always, uncritically on top. It's not that they're in favor of exploiting and killing indigenous peoples per se (though in some cases, that may be an overly charitable assertion), but how dare you SJW snowflakes with your political correctness try to suggest that white heroes aren't heroes? Really, it's the same dynamic you're seeing right now with the Kavanaugh debacle: it's not that these republicans are in favor of rape per se (though see above parenthetical); it's just that they can't abide the sheer effrontery of suggesting that it should be enough to derail an elite white male. In the "things they care about" category, one of these very obviously ranks much higher than the other. On the surface, it seems wildly irrational for them to stick with him given that a less obviously poisonous candidate who would nonetheless fulfill all their fantasies would sail through confirmation (and maybe they'll bow to this reality in the near future), but it's the symbolism of the thing. Giving up on Kavanaugh would represent a symbolic blow to a world order that is very emotionally important to them.
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Sergio de la Pava, Lost Empress (2018)

You remember Sergio de la Pava: he's the one who, after innumerable rejections, self-published his first novel, A Naked Singularity (a maximalist, somewhat David Foster Wallace-ish thing); improbably, it achieved enough positive buzz that it was reprinted by the University of Chicago, where it went on to win a PEN/Bingham Prize for best first novel. I found it rough but very compelling and really funny in places. He wrote a second novel, Personae, a much shorter, more abstruse thing, but I wasn't sure whether anything else would be forthcoming or not: from interviews, he seemed more concerned with his job as a New York City public defender than his nascent literary career. So I was very excited to see that he had a new one coming out, especially a new one that seemed to be more in line with his first novel than second in terms of scope and ambition.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Nintendo Rap

HERE IT IS, LADEEZ AND JENTS!  We had to write a "rap" at one point in elementary school (I have the exact date pinpointed to "somewhen between 2.10.90 and 5.4.90").  It, uh.  This was written with two friends.  Yes, we apparently didn't know what Bowser was called.  We were actually cognizant of the fact that it would be difficult to play Golden Axe--a Genesis game--on an NES, but we figured, correctly, that no one would notice or care.  Still, you'd think we'd've, I dunno, taken a little more care to be accurate.  It's the principle of the thing, dammit.  Well, enjoy.

Nintendo Rap

Nintendo it is very fun,
You get controllers and a gun.

There’s lots of cool games if you know what I mean,
In a lot of the games, the guys get mean.

There is this cool game; it’s called P.O.W.,
Whenever I win, my brother says “wow!”

There is this game that’s called Stinger,
Whenever I die it’s a real dinger.

I know this game called Golden Ax,
Whenever I play I use the N.E.S. Max.

There is this game Super Mario Bros,
When I get to the Dragon, he steps on my toes.

I like getting’ Power Magazine,
It’s the coolest magazine you’ve ever seen.

Nintendo it is radical and cool,
But I’d like it even better if I could play it in the pool!

Nintendo it is very fun...AND YET.

(HUH.  I realize now that that title is a reference to a bit of juvenilia that I apparently haven't posted here.  Really...?  I would have SWORN I did; I can even kind of remember what I wrote to accompany it.  My mind is getting weird.  Well, very soon.)

So I decided to replay Super Mario Odyssey, and my goodness: I usually shy away from triple-A titles, but I've gotta hand it to Nintendo: this game is SHEER JOY. And what I like is that it's so CONFIDENT about itself: you would think the more "realistic" look for many of the worlds would fail badly, actually works beautifully, in a way that I never would have known if people like me were in charge of making it. Yes, okay, granted, the Broodals are charmless and awful--that was a big swing and a miss--but even that kind of demonstrates Nintendo's confidence. Sure, they screwed up, but it wasn't for lack of ambition. And more often than not--far more often--it's a direct hit. I LOVE THIS GAME. I who never. But man, what I wouldn't give for some DLC worlds: the slew of extra hats is, while not exactly unwelcome, not exactly anything that one can care much about either. People complain that it doesn't "feel" Mario-ish enough--a complaint I'm sympathetic with--so how about worlds based on SMW, SML, Yoshi's Island, etc? GOD THAT WOULD BE SO COOL. OMG. But it's cool anyway; I shouldn't complain. And seriously, "Jump Up, Super Star?" OH MY GOD TEARS OF FUCKING JOY. This is all totally opaque to anyone not familiar with the game. But if you are, you're enthusiastically nodding along. Unless you're some sort of psychopath.

And so: here we have the duality of Nintendo. Because SMO is great. I love Nintendo. But! This Switch online business demonstrates very clearly why I also hate Nintendo. It's just the same goddamn shit they've always been doing: trying to nickel-and-dime people for the same miserly selection of NES games as ever, based entirely on a subscription so you never actually own anything, mucked up with DRM (and as for SNES, Gameboy, N64 games? Some day, if you're lucky, they'll generously let you play a feeble selection of these, too!). All of which wouldn't bother me so much if not for the anti-emulation stuff. Seriously, guys: you don't want anybody to illicitly play your games, and yet THIS is the weakass shit you offer as a substitute? Seriously, Nintendo: fuuuuuuck yooooouuuuu.

MY GOODNESS, I am too old to be going on childish tirades against videogame companies! But you know, sometimes a childish tirade is just what's called for. Je ne regrette rien!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Why is there a Gameboy Color game called "Extreme Sports with the Berenstain Bears?"

Once you are able to answer this question, you will have achieved enlightenment, and truly earned the title of Bodhisattva. First, get a load of the cover:

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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Christine Brooke-Rose, Subscript (1999)

I'd had the idea to read Brooke-Rose's novels chronologically (albeit I was doing so extremely slowly), but when I learned about the premise of this, her penultimate, it was so compelling to me that I had to skip ahead.
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Monday, September 03, 2018

The start of Amos Tutuola's writing career

So this is Tutuola's recollection from the introduction to The Palm-Wine Drinkard from the omnibus I read. It's so astounding I feel the need to share it (I don't know whether the ellipses are the editor's or Tutuola's own; I suspect the former because I get the impression that this is a transcription of an oral interview, but the book provides no source. They're not mine, anyway).

Well, it happened that since I was young and I was in the infant school which we call nowadays primary, each time I went to my village I learnt many tales and I was much interested in it so that later when I could read and write I wrote many of these down. And as much as I had great interest in these, I took myself to be one of the best taletellers in the school for the other children. Later, having left the school, one day I bought one magazine. I was working then. I had joined the army and left the army. I was engaged as a messenger by the Department of Labor. One day I got one magazine published by the Government of Nigeria Information Service. It carried all the festivals, Oya, Ogun everything. It was a quarterly magazine, so I bought the magazine and started to read it. It contained very lovely portraits of the gods. When I bought the magazine I read it to a page where books which were published were advertised. Well . . . I had read some of those books when I was at school. Then I saw that one of the books which were advertised here was about our tales, our Yoruba tales. "But eh! By the way, when I was at school I was a good taleteller! Why, could I not write my own? Ooh, I am very good at this thing." The following day I took up my pen and paper and I started to write The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Well, I wrote the script of Palm-Wine and kept it in the house. I didn't know where to send it to.

Again, the following quarter I bought another magazine of the same type. Fortunately when I read it, I got to where it advertised "Manuscripts Wanted" overseas. Well then! Immediately I sent my story to the advertiser. When my script got to them they wrote me in about two weeks saying that they did not accept manuscripts which were not concerned with religion, Christian religion. But, they would not return my manuscript. They would find a publisher for me because the story was so strange to them that they would not be happy if they returned it to me. By that I should be patient with them to help me find a publisher. Then a year later I got a letter from Faber & Faber that they got my manuscript from Lutheran World Press.  Faber & Faber said that the story . . . uh they were wondering whether I found the story fallen down from somebody because it is very strange to them. They wondered because they were surprised to see such a story . . . they wanted to know whether I had made it up or got it from somebody else . . . and they would be happy if I would leave the story for them to do to it as they want. I reply that I don't know anything about book publishing and so on, so I leave everything for you to do as you see is good. . . . Then after about six months now they publish the book in 1952 and sent a copy to me.  That is how I started to write.

Did he get paid properly for the novel? Who knows. But JEEZ, looking at all this, it seems like a friggin' MIRACLE that he ever got published at all. A lucky break AND HOW.