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"This is that human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined." -Baruch Spinoza

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Tried to read The Boy With the Cuckoo Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu, but could not get on with it at all. It was so badly overwritten. I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and think that perhaps it was a bad translation, or that some things just don't sound quite so silly in French, but what was in the copy I had was not good writing. It was embarrassingly over-written and painfully trying-to-be-quirky. I see that it is already to be made into a film, and I think that perhaps the weird images will work in a film without the over-egged description and bad prose so I won't rule out seeing it, but the book...not for me.

In hindsight, the fact that the cover quote 'the author is a genius' from Eric Cantona should have been warning enough...

there's a frog in my snake oil

The Sirens of Titan

Have given this a slightly unfair rating, partially because it has so obviously influenced other books i love (and that takes away a fair bit of its impact). The most obvious recipient to me is Douglas Adams, who just must have been inspired by the parochial Cyclopedia of space, the 'Universal Will To Become' power source & many other quirky & quixotic tilts at the universe. Adi also pointed out several huge similarities with Watchmen.

It's one genuine failing for me is the anti-religion that arises - it's fairly unconvincing, and what's more, feels almost unnecessary. Vonnegut builds ingenious worlds on the principle of the universe being perverse and uncaring - and he does it with humour, elan and insight. Doing so gets the same message across about arbitary suffering, human gullibility & general godlessness, but in a less shove-it-down-your-throat way. This Church of Indifference feels like a failed trial run for the far more comi-tragic (& believable) Bokononism of Cat's Cradle.

Some sections give you a sense that he's still burnt by war, and actions he saw there, and is still working through the wreckage. It adds an extra visceral bone structure of truth to what is ultimately a fanciful tale. That's where the plus points kick in again, in spades - this mixture of grizzled knowledge & marvellous looping imagination. What surprised me was some wonderfully intertwined writing in the first 3rd too - there were a couple of exceptional passages where the cunning 'compositions' of early meetings and introductions sweep the reader up in an emotional and visual whole. It's clever ****. (I always knew Vonnegut could clown, be the booming preacher or the man on the street, could create curvaceous and cultivated text. I just don't remember him knocking out such impressive and sustained characterisation-&-circumstance in the other books i've read)

To sum up, there's plenty here to enjoy: subverted Flash Gordon matinee hijinks, universal-scale creativity & twists, & amongst it all, some playful takes on a Godless universe that may just make you smile



For some reason this book made me think of A Voyage to Arcturus. They're totally different beasts - Arcturus is a 1920s 'philosophical' space adventure with a mainly linear plot, involving a man whose body morphs and senses mutate as he wonders the lands of a distant planet. What links them is how imaginative & fecund the 'futurism' feels for the time. I may be being slightly patronising to the 50s, but Vonnegut's takes on AI, cyborgs and the like seem ahead of their time. From what i remember, Arcturus's twists on body and mind, if a bit liable to retrace their own steps as the adventure progresses, seem like visionary wanderings for a 1920s man.
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here

A slow start, but gradually becoming interesting.

I haven't read enough of it to have an opinion on it yet. But I'm a huge Philip K. Dick fan so I'm sure this will not let me down

Michael Crichton 1999

After reading so much Crichton I'm beginning to know in advance where the narrative is headed. This isn't the most interesting of his novels either. Still a great story in its own right and someone picking it up for the first time with no prior knowledge will enjoy it. I'd recommend this to teens or anyone interested in adventure rather then science or mystery.

Celluloid Temptation Facilitator
I like time travel ideas. For me the story was therefore more interesting than most of his books. The Crichton formula has gotten tiresome for me to read. I read this one years ago. The movie isn't too terrible compared to most Crichton adaptations either.

the last book i read was the invention of morel and other stories, by adolpho bioy casares.

currently reading tristram shandy, by laurence sterne.

Evolution's End by Lee Beavington
"Hey lady! It's against the rules to be throwing other people's heads!"

"Yeah, you're only allowed to throw your own head!"

All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque 1929

I found this in a second hand store for two dollars and this is one the best novels I've ever read. Intimate. Horrifying. Honest.

the last book i read was the invention of morel and other stories, by adolpho bioy casares.
What did you think?

The Invention of Morel has a pretty curious film legacy. That Last Year at Marienbad and eurotrash by Radley Metzger (
). I know there are others but I can't really think of any of them at the moment.

i liked morel a lot, all of the stories. i didn't know there were films so i just looked them up, and on imdb i see a french tv production from the 60s and a film version from the early 70s. have you seen either?

that trailer for the metzger film is pretty funny.

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Finished Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. It’s basically Pride and Prejudice. With added zombies. I enjoyed it.

Anarchist within reason
I'm currently reading the third book in Steven King's Dark Tower Series 'The Waste Lands'

Also bought Bill Hicks: Love all the People by John Laher which I'm looking forward to reading because Bill Hicks is my hero
If at his council I should turn aside, Into that ominous tract which all agree, Hides the Dark Tower. Yet aquiescingly I did turn as he pointed, neither pride nor hope at the end descried, so much as gladness that some end might be.

Robert Browning 'Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came'

Another week, another Chuck Klosterman book. It's been official for awhile, but it's worth repeating: I'm a Kloster Man.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

The premise is pretty simple: a rock critic drives around the country to places where famous rock stars died. The idea is to just see what happens and muse about music and life and how it all fits together.

The reality of the book is something quite different from its premise, however. Klosterman is known for his digressions (it's part of what people like about him), but he takes it to new heights here, using the trip as a jumping off point to talk about the women he's been in love with. This is a little disappointing, given that I rather liked the book's setup and this clearly isn't something I expected, but I'd be lying if I said what I got in its place wasn't fairly entertaining in its own right. Though he never really manages to tie his personal stories into a larger narrative about death, and has only a handful of scattered insights based on the various locations he visits, Klosterman still excels at elevating base ideas. He has a way of taking something shallow and lifting it inch by inch until it's been transformed into the abstract and -- sometimes -- profound.

A good example of this is a 2-3 page section of the book where he hilariously compares his past loves to members of the band KISS, even explaining why his various flings can represent lesser-known people involved in the band's extended history. He explains that he loves the band because it makes sense of things for him, culminating in this:
"Art and love are the same thing. They are both seeing yourself in something that is not you."
A little reductionist, maybe (and I'm not doing the ramp-up justice), but with Klosterman these types of philosophical ambushes are common. They're all the more surprising because of the shallow pop culture that always leads up to them; Klosterman lulls you to sleep by obsessing over the vapid before hitting you over the head with a 2x4 that no entirely sane person would ever see coming. It's kind of life topical whiplash.

It is somewhat fitting that even this book, which has a more rigid structure than any of Klosterman's other books, is still unable to force the man into a focused narrative. I would've liked to have seen another side to his writing here...or maybe I just think that. Maybe the fact that I can pick up a book like this and know that the synopsis won't tell me a thing about where it might take me is better than what I thought I wanted. We'll never know, because this book proves that Klosterman simply writes the way he writes, and hardly has a choice in the matter.

Related: the only Klosterman book I haven't read is Downtown Owl, which is his only stab at fiction (unless you count 15% of the book above). Can't say I'm terribly excited by it, but I'm sure it'll be worth the time.

What I'm really excited about is Eating the Dinosaur, which comes out on October 20th. It's a collection of all-new essays, and given that his two previous essay collections (Chuck Klosterman IV and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, the latter of which I reviewed in July) were far more enjoyable than his other two non-fiction books, I expect I'll like it quite a bit; essays jibe best with his style.