x_los: (Alice)
* Essay on Noncon: decent clarifications/explanations/pondering as to how and why it might work for people! Not really SHOCKING content?
* What publishers really mean in their rejection letters
* Not Pretty: "Edith Wharton was born 150 years ago. Jonathan Franzen’s piece on the occasion in the New Yorker got VICTORIA PATTERSON mad."
* conditioning, specifically, the manner and frequency with which mothers talk to their daughters about math
* Scroogle gone
* Maybe possible review forum: http://www.theedge.abelgratis.co.uk/order.htm
* Some not very useful tips on broadening my paid book reviewer horizons
* Looked through Tor.com to find out what they reviewed, style and length--could do more
* Looked over Guardian: found contact address, tweeted GuardianJobs about remit/specs, could look more at their reviews
* Found LRB sub-guidelines after long search. Obviously not for RIGHT NOW, but you know, eventually.
* Meta-Fandom's Delicious: different from, but related to, the meta-grinder project
* Stuff about Vector/BSFA (does it pay for reviews? Unclear, maybe no): http://www.matrix-online.net/bsfa/website/community/default.aspx?g=posts&t=301
x_los: (Default)
Two Things. Meh.

Via [livejournal.com profile] black_rider: The Right To Be Forgotten: internet privacy law vs. freedom of information

Some painfully stupid reporting about the book "The Lifespan of a Fact" here and here. I was REALLY taken aback by vitriolic whinging regarding the compelling, calculated book. I had to have a long rant to Katy about it. The outrage about the destabilization of objectivity/static truth and the attempts to defend these discourses feel shockingly naive.

Essays are not necessarily journalism, and to treat them as such, especially when they are not explicitly announced and marketed as such, is limiting. Is dangerous. Fact and fictionality are not absolutes, but poles with a lot of space for negotiation in between. The assumption that anything essayistic is Journalism is recent, not necessary or necessarily valuable, and should be troubled. The assumption that Journalism is above factual distortions and tricks is laughable, especially given that D'Agata is preceded by writers like Joan Didion, famous for her unframed inditement, for showing you the truth exactly as she wanted you to know it, expertly, and delivering you to a moral conclusion via her selection and control of facts.

Which reinforces what should be obvious: this is nothing new. Post-modern criticism and gonzo journalism both have critiqued the absolutism and hidden agendas implicit in claims to Pure Truth in writing. When you approach any writing, your critical facility should be engaged, weighing the veracity of what's being said, analyzing source, view-point, methodology and content. It's probably significant that this is Americans freaking out, because that's the country where it hasn't occurred to people that news media outlets, as capitalist institutions with individual business cultures, have inherent institutional biases (and I don't mean that 'left wing bias' bullshit a la Fox). There's no American 'the Guardian is not for Torries' understanding, save for maybe a glint of dawning realization that Fox isn't 'Fair and Balanced'. As someone who's written for papers and news-magazines, even in a slender capacity, I know that there are a million gradations of true, and there's plenty to discuss regarding the role of memory and forgetting in reportage. So do these reporters, and the stench of defensiveness rises from them in thick, awful waves.

The supposedly 'true' write up of the death of a boy that excluded D'Agata's evocation of place and circumstance (socio-politics mixed with, emerging from, quotidian tidbits) is not necessarily the more true reading of these events, despite having fewer factual errors. If poetic delivery helps things resonate for us and helps us think about them, that is not valueless. The distortions are not artistic whore's paint, they are actively carving a path for the reader, through apathy and forgetfulness, to meaning.

You can disagree with D'Agata and say that the formal demands of the truth, like structure in poetry, should be observed as a matter of taste, or that the good faith effort of the writer to give truth is necessary in creating a contract with the reader. You can talk notions of trust. What you can't do is defensively and hysterically go off at the very notion that no worlds--NO WORDS AT ALL, EVER--come from a mythical truth-fountain--that artistry and points of view are always already in our perception of the world, that we live in and through narratives. Indeed, the inclusion of the Fact Checker as writer mandates this discussion.

Further I find it irritating that everyone's taken a book about the permeability of the boundary between the truth and fiction in 'nonfiction' writing at 100% face value, and both conflated the writers with the characters (everyone presented in memoir is a character, can never hope to be the individuals in question, any more than the signifier can BE the signified) and assumed the dialogue and the time-spans are absolutely face-value true.

This is the point where I go from shocked to shaking-pissed.

...really? Really? Did you just /miss/ the entire fucking project of the book? OF COURSE THIS IS PERFORMATIVE, FFS. DID THE ENTIRE NOTION OF THE GREEK PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE AND THAT OF THE HEGELIAN DIALECTIC JUST GO RIGHT OVER YOU IN SCHOOL? DID THEY MAKE A SORT OF 'WHOOSH' SOUND? It never occurred to anyone that these view-points and presentations might have been--gaaaaaaaasp--dramatized?! God, the NYTimes, the NYRB, AND respected bloggers? Fucking sad. God dammit, can no one fucking do lit crit competently? Disgraceful. I am actually shocked and horrified that people are this dumb.

What's most enraging is the Scalzi blog's comments, in which SF people show up to:

a) lick the cock of BS technoscience discourses of pure truth that Derrida is somewhere loling about, as he has been for the past, idk, several decades, and
b) gatekeep standards of factuality and legitimacy which they themselves have every reason to feel suuuuper defensive about/excluded by, like they're 19th century English plebs and Disraeli has just offered them the opportunity to buy into the conservatism that will oppress the living shit out of them, and rather than question the underlying oppressive logistics in play, the genre!plebs are fucking LOVING an opportunity to get in on the ass-bottom of the greasy poll.

Sometimes I hate 'my people'. Kind of a lot.

So yeah: The 'journalistic nonfiction' vision of the essayistic is impoverished compared to D'Agata's project. There's a possibility for real interrogation of that project, but the existing criticisms fail to seriously engage the book and feel like dispatches from sickly world where gonzo journalism/post-modernism/critical theory/intelligent thought never happened.
x_los: (Not My Real Dad)
* What do we think of Pintrest? Is it just tumblr?
* A way to make Old Bay seasoning
* A recipe blog I like the look of
(this, the pork chops, the no bake mint, reeces and oreo truffles, chicken divan, cookie dough brownies, copycat olive garden breadsticks, cookies and cream cookies...)
* Not sure I know enough about GM foods/Monsanto to responsibly sign this. I mean it sounds bad, but do I REALLY grok the situation?
* I don't even LIKE wine much and I want this
12:09 AM
* Have watched the first and most of the second eps (Netflix cuts off mid second ep--weird, will email them about this) of Scarlet Pimpernell. Better than the really trying books, but overall, unimpressed. Turning Blakeney into always a bit of a sexy jackass is cooler, but it diminished the power of his living an elaborate and demeaning lie. In improving the character, it actually takes away from his coolness. On the other hand, more realistic, because for how long WOULD he have had to keep up this pretense? Longer, one supposes, and beginning before the actual revolution that occasions it. People would notice if he suddenly lost 70 IQ points, and comment.

Weirdly while Grant being a dick is fun, his 'oh my god I forgive you/should have trusted you' turn is... really flat and unbelievable. I do not believe this character loves this woman, which is weird because their smoldering love/hate worked well and was compelling. Grant is doing a REALLY different performance from his Doctor (you wouldn't necessarily think it would be), with a much stranger accent (English/period/Bertie Wooster/sneery?), but someone please direct this man. It doesn't work, saying he's capable of immensely affected poise, if that's like, ALL he's capable of--it becomes not a skill, but a somewhat sociopathic personality. Grant's wit and charm is cold and off-putting because other than shouting the name of whoever he intends to rescue more loudly when in danger, he never seems emotionally involved. Where he should be scared, he is, perhaps understandably, placid. Where he should be moved by love or concern, in-script--nothing. He's got civility over disgust and smarmy!civility. Fairly sure he's actually a good actor. Also throughout Ep 1, REG has a terrible nose pimple I just want someone to pop.

Marg. remains as useless as she was in the novel. She cannot go ten min without being captured and is a complete liability. Also at some point Marg's acting goes to hell and she's relegated to looking at him with soupy adoration--Lady Grantham, you're better than this!

Also I see what they were doing with this scarlet coat with gold pimpernels, but um. No fucking wonder people figure out it's Him.
RIGHT THERE.
THAT GUY.
Bad camouflage AND obvious symbolism.

We ended on a crap pun, so I guess that's something. I may watch ep 1 of series 2: Now My Wife is Dead, and see what the fuck they do with that.
x_los: (The Books One)
My review of Valente's Deathless was published earlier this week, and you can read it here (http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2011/07/deathless_by_ca.shtml), if that kind of thing is your bag.

Foe

Aug. 31st, 2010 08:49 pm
x_los: (Brig is just a dubious person.)
(In the above icon, the Brigadier is questioning Sarah Barton's reliability as a narrator, and indeed what Foe gains from the post-modern ambiguity of its structure. (When it comes to mutinies, maimed masts, and more maritime misadventures, the Brigadier is really more of a Hornblower man, himself.))

The shame about winning a Nobel Prize is that it means people are forced to read your novel as a 'Noble Prize Winning Book,' and subsequently harshly interrogate why some not-terribly-interesting published fanfiction stumbled out of the genre-ghetto to receive this honor.

The book's premise--to include (gasp!!) a woman on Crusoe's island, and through her presence to plumb both the original novel's failings and larger questions about speech, signification and authorship--is fundamentally pretty interesting. The writing is fundamentally sound on a prose level. And yet the novel itself, while no where NEAR the slog Crusoe was, is still really unsatisfying and progressively duller--and not in an 'ah, now I'm really Pondering Complex Shit' way.

For one, the Unnecessary Artistic Vagueness got to me. I'm not sure there were good actual creative reasons to be terribly coy about the facts of the novel (more on Reasons for Choices in a little bit) while insisting on the primacy of truth. The book seems at several points to be pretentiously handing you some Truths about the source novel, the act of writing, and how communication interscects with social justice and feminity. These are... nothing you couldn't come up with in a quick and dirty book review and/or Think about Feminists What Like Foucault And Shit? Nothing particularly worth the book's self-conscious sense of it's own Depth? Whatever, you can write a novel about relatively basic conceptual shit that's your prerogative. But it's weird to sell it as a thinkpiece.

I could talk about factual questions--is or isn't the stranger her daughter, is Susan the First mad--but I'm not sure there's anything solid under there to find, after that digging. The author doesn't know, and the answers don't matter.

It's sort of an anti-Inception. I came away from that with the familiar conclusion that Authenticity was less important than Feeling: it doesn't matter if you're living in a dream, you can't ever know for certain, and as such, given that your experience seems real to you, your only option is to live as normal, in the presumption that your world is real. It doesn't matter if the entire emotional arc of the Heir is stage-managed from the beginning. If The Heir creates and instills meaning in the experiences, then the emotional 'truths' he discovers via this highly artificial means (this 'Inception' process) are valid, are meaningful to him. In Foe, the Truth Susan is initially so insistent on is uncertain and ultimately meaningless--I don't care about these formless characters, and Susan's precious details are only as significant as bits of sidewalk debris are when I'm walking somewhere in a hurry.

Characterization in the novel is unimportant compared to the thematic content (which reads as gross as it sounds), and thus unrealistic (what exactly is Susan's background? She's friendless, sourceless, yet incredibly well-educated and articulate? Unbelievably perfect, capable of making all the smug a-periodical remarks we Enlightened Readers want to when reading the original--and composed in speech as no one actually is in life, archaic language and forms or no.). The fact that this may all be in Susan's mind makes it unimportant that everyone in the novel has absolutely identical, ornate speech patterns.

If the book had done more, I probably wouldn't be questioning who this white South African male professional writer is to talk about a female's gender-related devaluation and Friday's race-related devaluation in the context of an in-story male writer who appropriates their experiences and takes their voices, using them as his own.


It feels cheap to say things like 'there are no plot or characters' because I think, thematically, he meant for there to be none. And if that's his artistic aim... fine, but what now? What have the things we've given up bought us?

This is sort of unreliable narrator gone wrong? Last night it was pointed out to me that Bateman didn't glaringly display his untrustworthiness until you the reader were relatively invested. But in Foe, there's nothing like investment, either in the characters or in the purposefully non-existant plot, to drag you along. Dull, tired questions are raised without hope of answer or even interesting new direction, and little else. The ending is a soupy blah. Coetze does turn a pretty phrase, and I could pull pleasant examples, but ultimately it'd be kind of pointless. Much like Foe. I don't even hate it--there's nothing specifically present enough to hate.

Foe

Aug. 31st, 2010 08:49 pm
x_los: (Brig is just a dubious person.)
(In the above icon, the Brigadier is questioning Sarah Barton's reliability as a narrator, and indeed what Foe gains from the post-modern ambiguity of its structure. (When it comes to mutinies, maimed masts, and more maritime misadventures, the Brigadier is really more of a Hornblower man, himself.))

The shame about winning a Nobel Prize is that it means people are forced to read your novel as a 'Noble Prize Winning Book,' and subsequently harshly interrogate why some not-terribly-interesting published fanfiction stumbled out of the genre-ghetto to receive this honor.

The book's premise--to include (gasp!!) a woman on Crusoe's island, and through her presence to plumb both the original novel's failings and larger questions about speech, signification and authorship--is fundamentally pretty interesting. The writing is fundamentally sound on a prose level. And yet the novel itself, while no where NEAR the slog Crusoe was, is still really unsatisfying and progressively duller--and not in an 'ah, now I'm really Pondering Complex Shit' way.

For one, the Unnecessary Artistic Vagueness got to me. I'm not sure there were good actual creative reasons to be terribly coy about the facts of the novel (more on Reasons for Choices in a little bit) while insisting on the primacy of truth. The book seems at several points to be pretentiously handing you some Truths about the source novel, the act of writing, and how communication interscects with social justice and feminity. These are... nothing you couldn't come up with in a quick and dirty book review and/or Think about Feminists What Like Foucault And Shit? Nothing particularly worth the book's self-conscious sense of it's own Depth? Whatever, you can write a novel about relatively basic conceptual shit that's your prerogative. But it's weird to sell it as a thinkpiece.

I could talk about factual questions--is or isn't the stranger her daughter, is Susan the First mad--but I'm not sure there's anything solid under there to find, after that digging. The author doesn't know, and the answers don't matter.

It's sort of an anti-Inception. I came away from that with the familiar conclusion that Authenticity was less important than Feeling: it doesn't matter if you're living in a dream, you can't ever know for certain, and as such, given that your experience seems real to you, your only option is to live as normal, in the presumption that your world is real. It doesn't matter if the entire emotional arc of the Heir is stage-managed from the beginning. If The Heir creates and instills meaning in the experiences, then the emotional 'truths' he discovers via this highly artificial means (this 'Inception' process) are valid, are meaningful to him. In Foe, the Truth Susan is initially so insistent on is uncertain and ultimately meaningless--I don't care about these formless characters, and Susan's precious details are only as significant as bits of sidewalk debris are when I'm walking somewhere in a hurry.

Characterization in the novel is unimportant compared to the thematic content (which reads as gross as it sounds), and thus unrealistic (what exactly is Susan's background? She's friendless, sourceless, yet incredibly well-educated and articulate? Unbelievably perfect, capable of making all the smug a-periodical remarks we Enlightened Readers want to when reading the original--and composed in speech as no one actually is in life, archaic language and forms or no.). The fact that this may all be in Susan's mind makes it unimportant that everyone in the novel has absolutely identical, ornate speech patterns.

If the book had done more, I probably wouldn't be questioning who this white South African male professional writer is to talk about a female's gender-related devaluation and Friday's race-related devaluation in the context of an in-story male writer who appropriates their experiences and takes their voices, using them as his own.


It feels cheap to say things like 'there are no plot or characters' because I think, thematically, he meant for there to be none. And if that's his artistic aim... fine, but what now? What have the things we've given up bought us?

This is sort of unreliable narrator gone wrong? Last night it was pointed out to me that Bateman didn't glaringly display his untrustworthiness until you the reader were relatively invested. But in Foe, there's nothing like investment, either in the characters or in the purposefully non-existant plot, to drag you along. Dull, tired questions are raised without hope of answer or even interesting new direction, and little else. The ending is a soupy blah. Coetze does turn a pretty phrase, and I could pull pleasant examples, but ultimately it'd be kind of pointless. Much like Foe. I don't even hate it--there's nothing specifically present enough to hate.
x_los: (Make a Note.)
God what a miserable slog of a novel. Katy tried to defend it on the basis of it being 'the first novel' (though to be fair, she also despises it), but as there are non-English predecessors that Defoe probably would have had knowledge of, and as he had access to theatrical characterization of a markedly higher standard that which is demonstrated in his novel, I don't want to credit him with having had to invent the wheel--in truth he's just not very good. This novel's enjoying a rotten borough seat in the Western Canon purely on the historical accident of having been the First Novel In English. Even if I granted that it represents an innovation--which I'm not entirely sure of--it's still the least fun you can have with 241 pages.

And what a *slow* 241 pages--it felt as long as War and Peace. You spend most of it waiting for him to get Cast Away, then waiting for another character--ANY other character--to show up. Then settle in for a long winter's wait as Crusoe fails to get off the bloody island. Not that he really even /wants/ to, for a large chunk of his stay there--removing the dramatic question/tension from that part of the book entirely.

I thought there were going to be more 'Inginous contrivances!! Anachronistic radios out of coconuts!!1!' building funtimes, but apparently that's more Swiss Family Robinson--Crusoe's a 'fetching pre-made shit out of the boat' kind of guy. A 'whittling a plank of wood' guy, if you're lucky.

And that's not the only kind of guy he is: Crusoe is an utter bastard. Despite having been enslaved, having hated it and escaped, he goes off on a slaving mission to Africa. Despite having been a cast away, he abandons the Spaniards he's run across and has been making an effort to escape with to continue on, marooned, for a further seven years before he can be bothered to go and check on them. He himself raises the potential of taking the ship he's commandeered over to check on/rescue them, but that never happens, for no stated reason. He never learns, he never displays any empathy.

He thinks his problem is that he lacks sufficient respect for his parents/God, and that he always makes poor choices. The only poor choice I see him consistently make is to be a Tool. He wakes up in the morning, and for a moment--there is potential. This could be it, that glistening day when he isn't totally offensive as a person!! But no, the moment is lost, and it's Tool Time, except Tim Allen isn't there, or Fence Guy Who Isn't Pheeny, and no one's happy. Not even Cheerful NativeStereotype!Friday.

I think Defoe intended his hero to seem a bit hapless, but also essentially clever, sane, and likable. Defoe needed a fucking beta. Crusoe comes off as a severe paranoid schizophrenic. I know it's tawdry to diagnose literary characters with modern diseases, but there you have it. His paranoid, largely useless *obsession* with security pervades the book--he expects every non-white man he encounters to kill him sooner than say hello, and a good deal of the white men as well. There's a sad pathos to hauling around a gun for fifteen years whilst entirely *alone* on a desert island that the book doesn't seem cognizant of.

Crusoe's constant assertions that people loved him, were slavishly grateful to him, would die for him, come off as lies or delusions. His obsession with hierarchy and his god-complex seemed at first just part and parcel of his racism and casual imperialism. As these cultural barriers break down and he lords his status as Local God over Friday the native, then a Catholic Spaniard, and then a full-blown English Captain (who surely outranks him socially), simply because Crusoe did what anyone should be humanely obligated to do and saved the lives of men in distress, it becomes clear that Crusoe really just IS that up himself. There's a curious innocence on Defoe's part as to the working of human nature, here. While I would believe these men were perhaps, very initially, slavishly grateful to Crusoe for their deliverance, the fear of death fades, and with it the gratitude at having been spared. No one would put up with Crusoe's imperiousness long--especially not on a liminal space like a desert island, where people are disconnected from social structures and stripped of rank. Crusoe's very assumption that he is Master and Commander of his fellow castaways is a disgusting presumption--teaching Friday, who doesn't speak English initially, to call him this title as his name is especially creepy.

Hornblower as a series has made me very suspicious of the sort of captain who could incite a mutiny against him, and I couldn't look on the books immediate and unquestioned assumption that the Captain was in the right very favorably. The reasons for the mutiny are never touched upon, which is dodgy.

The book pretty much assumes all native americans of any description are 24/7 cannibals, but waving THAT massive!period!racism:

The one interesting moral dilemma in the book--whether or not it'd be murder to kill the cannibals who occasionally visit the island with their human prey, when culturally they don't consider cannibalism at all wrong, and only do it in war time to their foes--leaves out the most important consideration. By not stopping these men in the act of killing others on the occasions when he could do so, Crusoe is culpable for their murders. And he's sure quick enough to stop them when they have a white prisoner. For all his vague 'Have I that Right?/Prime Directive' protestations that this internecine conflict is not rightfully and business of his, the problem is really that only White Life is worth preserving.

IN SUMMARY:

Things Crusoe Likes To Kill For No Reason:

1. Parrots (to impress Friday with the power of his Boom Stick)
2. Animals he can't eat
3. Baby goats who won't love and cuddle him after he kills their mother
4. Cats/kittens (!!) who hang around his house because they're the children of his rescued ship cat, and are curious and kind of hungry
5. Bears who wanted nothing to do with him--okay this is Friday, but still awkward and pointless, and it's all done to get a laugh out of Crusoe
6. Indians
7. Mutineers
8. 28 years worth of time
9. Your Happiness (retribution for his own squandered years?)
10. Spelling (I know it's not 100% standardized yet, but god /damn/)
x_los: (Make a Note.)
God what a miserable slog of a novel. Katy tried to defend it on the basis of it being 'the first novel' (though to be fair, she also despises it), but as there are non-English predecessors that Defoe probably would have had knowledge of, and as he had access to theatrical characterization of a markedly higher standard that which is demonstrated in his novel, I don't want to credit him with having had to invent the wheel--in truth he's just not very good. This novel's enjoying a rotten borough seat in the Western Canon purely on the historical accident of having been the First Novel In English. Even if I granted that it represents an innovation--which I'm not entirely sure of--it's still the least fun you can have with 241 pages.

And what a *slow* 241 pages--it felt as long as War and Peace. You spend most of it waiting for him to get Cast Away, then waiting for another character--ANY other character--to show up. Then settle in for a long winter's wait as Crusoe fails to get off the bloody island. Not that he really even /wants/ to, for a large chunk of his stay there--removing the dramatic question/tension from that part of the book entirely.

I thought there were going to be more 'Inginous contrivances!! Anachronistic radios out of coconuts!!1!' building funtimes, but apparently that's more Swiss Family Robinson--Crusoe's a 'fetching pre-made shit out of the boat' kind of guy. A 'whittling a plank of wood' guy, if you're lucky.

And that's not the only kind of guy he is: Crusoe is an utter bastard. Despite having been enslaved, having hated it and escaped, he goes off on a slaving mission to Africa. Despite having been a cast away, he abandons the Spaniards he's run across and has been making an effort to escape with to continue on, marooned, for a further seven years before he can be bothered to go and check on them. He himself raises the potential of taking the ship he's commandeered over to check on/rescue them, but that never happens, for no stated reason. He never learns, he never displays any empathy.

He thinks his problem is that he lacks sufficient respect for his parents/God, and that he always makes poor choices. The only poor choice I see him consistently make is to be a Tool. He wakes up in the morning, and for a moment--there is potential. This could be it, that glistening day when he isn't totally offensive as a person!! But no, the moment is lost, and it's Tool Time, except Tim Allen isn't there, or Fence Guy Who Isn't Pheeny, and no one's happy. Not even Cheerful NativeStereotype!Friday.

I think Defoe intended his hero to seem a bit hapless, but also essentially clever, sane, and likable. Defoe needed a fucking beta. Crusoe comes off as a severe paranoid schizophrenic. I know it's tawdry to diagnose literary characters with modern diseases, but there you have it. His paranoid, largely useless *obsession* with security pervades the book--he expects every non-white man he encounters to kill him sooner than say hello, and a good deal of the white men as well. There's a sad pathos to hauling around a gun for fifteen years whilst entirely *alone* on a desert island that the book doesn't seem cognizant of.

Crusoe's constant assertions that people loved him, were slavishly grateful to him, would die for him, come off as lies or delusions. His obsession with hierarchy and his god-complex seemed at first just part and parcel of his racism and casual imperialism. As these cultural barriers break down and he lords his status as Local God over Friday the native, then a Catholic Spaniard, and then a full-blown English Captain (who surely outranks him socially), simply because Crusoe did what anyone should be humanely obligated to do and saved the lives of men in distress, it becomes clear that Crusoe really just IS that up himself. There's a curious innocence on Defoe's part as to the working of human nature, here. While I would believe these men were perhaps, very initially, slavishly grateful to Crusoe for their deliverance, the fear of death fades, and with it the gratitude at having been spared. No one would put up with Crusoe's imperiousness long--especially not on a liminal space like a desert island, where people are disconnected from social structures and stripped of rank. Crusoe's very assumption that he is Master and Commander of his fellow castaways is a disgusting presumption--teaching Friday, who doesn't speak English initially, to call him this title as his name is especially creepy.

Hornblower as a series has made me very suspicious of the sort of captain who could incite a mutiny against him, and I couldn't look on the books immediate and unquestioned assumption that the Captain was in the right very favorably. The reasons for the mutiny are never touched upon, which is dodgy.

The book pretty much assumes all native americans of any description are 24/7 cannibals, but waving THAT massive!period!racism:

The one interesting moral dilemma in the book--whether or not it'd be murder to kill the cannibals who occasionally visit the island with their human prey, when culturally they don't consider cannibalism at all wrong, and only do it in war time to their foes--leaves out the most important consideration. By not stopping these men in the act of killing others on the occasions when he could do so, Crusoe is culpable for their murders. And he's sure quick enough to stop them when they have a white prisoner. For all his vague 'Have I that Right?/Prime Directive' protestations that this internecine conflict is not rightfully and business of his, the problem is really that only White Life is worth preserving.

IN SUMMARY:

Things Crusoe Likes To Kill For No Reason:

1. Parrots (to impress Friday with the power of his Boom Stick)
2. Animals he can't eat
3. Baby goats who won't love and cuddle him after he kills their mother
4. Cats/kittens (!!) who hang around his house because they're the children of his rescued ship cat, and are curious and kind of hungry
5. Bears who wanted nothing to do with him--okay this is Friday, but still awkward and pointless, and it's all done to get a laugh out of Crusoe
6. Indians
7. Mutineers
8. 28 years worth of time
9. Your Happiness (retribution for his own squandered years?)
10. Spelling (I know it's not 100% standardized yet, but god /damn/)
x_los: (Make a Note.)
So I've started on the reading list for my (ahaha bitter irony) course syllabus! Yay!

It includes a lot of terrible or simply dull books, and I feel the masochistic need to read every one of them in preparation for my course, even the stuff I dislike and have read before. Boo.

But I've finished with one and a half of them this week despite VISA MAAAAAAADNESS!! Yay!

One of those I finished was the admittedly slender Heart of Darkness. It was--well. It was. If there had been one more repetition of the words 'light' and 'darkness' I would have fallen prey to the Horror.

It was an odd novel.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about plotting. I was reading something the other day on io9 about how Game of Thrones wasn't really plotted in a way that was consistent with the traditional Novel format. In Crime and Punishment so many things happen that 'plot' is lost in a haze of small events. What could be a tight murder-mystery (well--detective story, we know who murdered who, but tension could be found in the events of the pursuit and captures) spirals out of control, into the realm of literature. The events become difficult to track, and divorced from strict causality, they become irrelevant.

All Creatures Great and Small (TV), for a REALLY DIVERGENT example, is also great for reasons that have nothing to do with its plot. It's a romance of place. Being around for all the small steps of processes, with comparatively little impact on much outside themselves, without larger goals directing the flow of the action, distends time in the show. Even larger events like James marrying Helen seem a-temporal. He is courting and courting and suddenly they are married, but all along the central focus of the episodes is more on the days' veterinary tasks and their complications than it is on the potentially lives-altering events of their courtship. It takes an hour to watch an episode, but without being a burden or a chore to watch, each episode FEELS like it takes three or four hours to watch due to its unusual structure and filming. You don't really begrudge it the time--you like the Dales, and could happily be stuck there for a good long while.

Heart of Darkness is similarly not a novel (novella? awfully short) ABOUT plot. It's about Place, which is interesting because its project is not to make you understand or feel any part of the Africa it creates, but to bewilder you with it. If All Creatures is a romance of place, rendering a setting familiar, Heart of Darkness is a Horror Story or a Mystery of Place, rendering it unheimlich. It's a novel of colonialism, and comes off as a condemnation of it, but it's not ABOUT colonialism--and it has nothing to say about positive solutions to the problems it illustrates. Nor is the novel ABOUT Kurtz, the enigmatic central figure, the narrator, or any other character--characterization is more alluded to than focused on.

I suppose it could be a traditional quest narrative, with Kurtz as the prize, but the focus is off that, and the prize is so unrewarding. This doesn't quite fit. It's like the old 'what do you do when you get to Jerusalem' question--so many older novels have A Trip To Jerusalem as their mystical subject, but no real clear idea of what the characters will actually do when they get there. A novel that attempts to barge in and illustrate that, a la Disraeli's Tancred, comes to pieces under the burden of narrative expectation. What do you do when you find the Messiah/Kurtz? Not a lot, apparently.

It's a squirmy, difficult little thing, this slender novel. The prose is murky and weirdly beautiful and good, but not necessarily effective. The novel is frustrating and unlovable, but I acknowledge that it's well written. I'm rarely this unsure what I've come away from a novel with, which is perhaps in itself interesting, but again, not very useful.
x_los: (Make a Note.)
So I've started on the reading list for my (ahaha bitter irony) course syllabus! Yay!

It includes a lot of terrible or simply dull books, and I feel the masochistic need to read every one of them in preparation for my course, even the stuff I dislike and have read before. Boo.

But I've finished with one and a half of them this week despite VISA MAAAAAAADNESS!! Yay!

One of those I finished was the admittedly slender Heart of Darkness. It was--well. It was. If there had been one more repetition of the words 'light' and 'darkness' I would have fallen prey to the Horror.

It was an odd novel.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about plotting. I was reading something the other day on io9 about how Game of Thrones wasn't really plotted in a way that was consistent with the traditional Novel format. In Crime and Punishment so many things happen that 'plot' is lost in a haze of small events. What could be a tight murder-mystery (well--detective story, we know who murdered who, but tension could be found in the events of the pursuit and captures) spirals out of control, into the realm of literature. The events become difficult to track, and divorced from strict causality, they become irrelevant.

All Creatures Great and Small (TV), for a REALLY DIVERGENT example, is also great for reasons that have nothing to do with its plot. It's a romance of place. Being around for all the small steps of processes, with comparatively little impact on much outside themselves, without larger goals directing the flow of the action, distends time in the show. Even larger events like James marrying Helen seem a-temporal. He is courting and courting and suddenly they are married, but all along the central focus of the episodes is more on the days' veterinary tasks and their complications than it is on the potentially lives-altering events of their courtship. It takes an hour to watch an episode, but without being a burden or a chore to watch, each episode FEELS like it takes three or four hours to watch due to its unusual structure and filming. You don't really begrudge it the time--you like the Dales, and could happily be stuck there for a good long while.

Heart of Darkness is similarly not a novel (novella? awfully short) ABOUT plot. It's about Place, which is interesting because its project is not to make you understand or feel any part of the Africa it creates, but to bewilder you with it. If All Creatures is a romance of place, rendering a setting familiar, Heart of Darkness is a Horror Story or a Mystery of Place, rendering it unheimlich. It's a novel of colonialism, and comes off as a condemnation of it, but it's not ABOUT colonialism--and it has nothing to say about positive solutions to the problems it illustrates. Nor is the novel ABOUT Kurtz, the enigmatic central figure, the narrator, or any other character--characterization is more alluded to than focused on.

I suppose it could be a traditional quest narrative, with Kurtz as the prize, but the focus is off that, and the prize is so unrewarding. This doesn't quite fit. It's like the old 'what do you do when you get to Jerusalem' question--so many older novels have A Trip To Jerusalem as their mystical subject, but no real clear idea of what the characters will actually do when they get there. A novel that attempts to barge in and illustrate that, a la Disraeli's Tancred, comes to pieces under the burden of narrative expectation. What do you do when you find the Messiah/Kurtz? Not a lot, apparently.

It's a squirmy, difficult little thing, this slender novel. The prose is murky and weirdly beautiful and good, but not necessarily effective. The novel is frustrating and unlovable, but I acknowledge that it's well written. I'm rarely this unsure what I've come away from a novel with, which is perhaps in itself interesting, but again, not very useful.
x_los: (Daleks Venerate Shakespeare.)
Next to Normal is as viscerally affecting as it is uncommercial; I have no idea how or why it’s on Broadway proper (which you’re supposed to be able to take your visiting cousins from Kansas who are religious and easily offended to), but here it is, with its dozens of uses of fuck, and it is excellent. And terrible. If you have mental illness/depression issues, I almost /don’t/ recommend seeing it, because as good as it is I straight up went through 10+ tissues and sobbed silently and violently from what must have been the third scene almost straight through.

You've got a feelin'--it's electroshock! Boogie woogie woogie woo woo... )
x_los: (Daleks Venerate Shakespeare.)
Next to Normal is as viscerally affecting as it is uncommercial; I have no idea how or why it’s on Broadway proper (which you’re supposed to be able to take your visiting cousins from Kansas who are religious and easily offended to), but here it is, with its dozens of uses of fuck, and it is excellent. And terrible. If you have mental illness/depression issues, I almost /don’t/ recommend seeing it, because as good as it is I straight up went through 10+ tissues and sobbed silently and violently from what must have been the third scene almost straight through.

You've got a feelin'--it's electroshock! Boogie woogie woogie woo woo... )

Profile

x_los: (Default)
x_los

October 2012

S M T W T F S
 12 3456
78910111213
14 151617181920
21222324 25 2627
2829 3031   

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags