Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir by Jann S. Wenner

 

Had to put it down not even halfway through. Though the dude knew everybody from the 1960s, his sly and immodest style of claiming to influence almost any important work that took place during his tenure as publisher of Rolling Stone became too annoying for me to take.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro


 Munro's first published book, and a fitting way to kick off my retrospective of her important body of work. She hasn't yet unleashed the "time torquing" technique of her later work, but the stories are wonderfully detailed and the characters deeply engraved.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

 

Revisiting this 1968 YA title after fifty years! Still pretty good, pretty sad, little melodramatic, but basically a strong story. The ending particularly bittersweet -- narrator's rumination on how the whole human race are "baboons" waiting around the monkey house for someone to visit.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Alice Munro RIP

Self-deception seems almost like something that’s a big mistake, that we should learn not to do. But I’m not sure if we can. Everybody's doing their own novel of their own lives. The novel changes -- at first we have a romance, a very satisfying novel that has a rather simple technique, and then we grow out of that and we end up with a very discontinuous, discordant, very contemporary kind of novel. I think that what happens to a lot of us in middle age is that we can't really hang on to our fiction any more.

Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling other people a somewhat different version of our stories. We can hardly manage our lives without a powerful ongoing narrative. And underneath all these edited, inspired, self-serving stories there is, we suppose, some big bulging awful mysterious entity called THE TRUTH, which our fictional stories are supposed to be poking at and grabbing pieces of. What would be more interesting as a life’s occupation? One of the ways we do this, I think, is by trying to look at what memory does (different tricks at different stages of our lives) and at the way people’s different memories deal with the same (shared) experience. The more disconcerting the differences are, the more the writer in me feels an odd exhilaration.

I’m sad that I haven’t written a lot of things, but I’m incredibly happy that I’ve written as much as I have. Because there was a point when I was younger where there was a very good chance that I wouldn’t write anything – I was just too frightened.

I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way – what happens to somebody – but I want that ‘what happens’ to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness. I want the reader to feel something that is astonishing – not the ‘what happens’ but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me.


Monday, May 06, 2024

Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick

 

The Man in the High Castle: Fascinating, weird, psychological alternative history, set in 1962, in the Rockies and in SF, after Germany and Japan won WWII. Dick has quite a beautiful prose style, and several of the characters are obsessed with the I Ching, and the process of casting and reading it are beautifully rendered.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch: Even more gripping. A future (2016!) where the solar system has been colonized and conscripts from Earth are drafted to inhabit the rough and ugly planets, surviving by regular hallucinegenic dosing and fantasizing about life inside a barbie-like game construct of Earth. Dick maneuvers the reader into a labyrinthe of real/unreal/surreal settings - his characters don't know if they're dreaming life or living it.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Renowned as the basis for the film BLADE RUNNER, it actually bears only the slightest resemblance. The movie is all neo-noir and stream-punk moody atmospherics, but the novel is more about relationships between the human and non-human, and conversations about the importance of living animals and.

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