Thursday, September 30, 2004

All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

Well, I was a big Coupland fan in my late teens. “He’s the one that coined the phrase Generation X, you know…” ;)

All Families Are Psychotic was a freebie that someone had left in the library of the Mexican resort. It was either that or a Toni Morrison novel I’d not read… I was looking for something a bit more up-beat, being on vacation and all. Plus, it never seems to good to dwell on racial tensions while staying at a resort where exclusively pale skinned euro types are being served by exclusively dark skinned mayan types.

So I read this one over a blazing hot afternoon, sultry evening and bright squinty morning. I enjoyed it, although it was goofy and contrived in many cases. It gave Coupland a chance to introduce us to a cast of quirky characters who stumbled their way through the ultra-modern consumerized world in which we live. Nasa astronauts having affairs, AIDS mom’s getting drunk with WPO protesters, Florida in general—AFAP is a fun ride which offers little in the way of meaningful succor, but lots of fun quips and observations along the way.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Another update here, this one also briefer that I would like. (should like? would like? neither seem right, though they are in common usage... 'briefer than I like' feels as if it would be gramatically correct--- it is not as long as I currently like--- 'should like' suggests that I am being remiss somehow and that I actually like it. 'Would like' suggests that under different conditions than currently exist, I might not like it. But in the case where under these current conditions I simply do not like the length, I am left to find a different construct altogether. Common usage here is apparently incorrect. If Wm. Saffire didn't spend all his time turning his On Language column into partisan attacks perhaps I would ask him.

In the meantime, here is an update, to be followed by a few more, until I am up-to-date!

The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow

This is another of the novels I read while in Mexico what seems like a lifetime ago. The Professor loaned it to me before the trip. I read through it quickly despite it’s length. It’s a fascinating, frusturating fictional retelling of the life and trial of the Rosenburgs told through the eyes of their adult son during the late sixties. For those of you who don’t remember (like I didn’t), the Rosenburgs were a young couple, New York jews, who fell afoul of the McCarthy Red Witch Hunts in the mid nineteen fourties. The US government tried and executed them on trumped up evidence. It was a pig circus trial, as Bob Dylan would say. Their story, and this novel should represent a VERY TOPICAL reminder to us all that giving up rights and allowing your government to instill fear in the populace by creating a witch hunt atmosphere is very dangerous enterprise. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you.

Doctorow, who wrotethis novel in 1971 could not have possibly predicted the anti-terrorist Witch Hunts that have been ongoing here since (“the tragic events of “) 9/11. But his novel certainly speaks to them. Daniel, the sometime narrator of this schizophrenic novel is a disturbed, deeply unsettled young man existing on the fringe of the late sixties radical movement. He recounts through memory, flashback, and a few other more unusual devices the saga of his (admittedly leftist) parents downfall.

The writing is cerebral, the language precise. While the construction of the novel is mildly challenging, Doctorow keeps his linguistic high-jinx fairly subdued and lets his upsetting tale more or less tell itself. I wish people like my fascist friend Wes could read this book and understand the message here. Alas. This one will likely fade into complete obscurity over the next hundred years.

Post Note to Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Since reading the aforementioned book I’ve spent a little time researching the history of India, curious as to the veracity of Rushdie’s timetable and the events he portrays. While Saleem himself admits that the tale is a chronicle ofevents the way HE remembers them, they still seem to be fairly accurate. In those cases in which magic or the supernatural play a role, the events themselves DO seem to have unfolded in wuch a way, and it looks as if Rushdie simply used the Indian culture’s superstitions as a alternate basis of explanation for cause and effect. In any case, this book should be required reading for any courses on the modern history of India. Rarely has the history of one’s homeland been the receptacle of such passion from so skilled a writer.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

O fantastical novel! O skilled and tremendous writer! O fortunate and blessed reader! There is likely no finer use of time or shelf space than to write, to read, or to own this novel. From Parvati the Witch, to the Monkey, to Jamila Singer, to Taj the Boatman, to the Kolonyos Kid, to Wm. Methwold, to the magicians of the ghetto, to the litereally hundreds of other characters who dance and float through this unique narrative, there is scarcely a wasted word, and seldom a character that I will ever forget.

In case it's unclear, I loved this book. Structurally, it is a novel, written in the last days of a dying man's life, told to an audience whose role becomes more clear throughout the course. It begins, in a sense, where it ends. The book is a masterpiece of framework stories, and a fine work of history tambien.

The superficial narrative recounts the biography of the narrator, Saleem Sanai, a young man born at the stroke of midnight on the date India gained indipendence from Gr. Britan. The makers of Forrest Gump mast assuredly borrowed from this novel, written in 1981. For throughout the book, Saleem's life and fortunes are tied inexorably to the history and those important events which shape his native land.

I could go on for hours about this book, and wish deeply that I had someone with which to discuss it's linguistic playfulness, it's structural elegance, it's wit, it's com- and it's -passion. Salmon Rushdie is a storyteller and a writer of the first order.

I'll be lucky to read another book this good this year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The world turns and times change.

LoneStar got the axe yesterday. Many of us got riffed, which is a fancy way of firing someone without leaving any black mark upon their record. The entire leads team got killed, along with several designers, etc. Since I was one of those leads... I'm starting today by turning over a new leaf! Time to find a new job.

Will it be in Austin? Will it be in games? Not even the Shadow knows... Stay tuned.

The good news is, I have several months in which to determine what to do next. I'm going to try to establish a routine that keeps me productive, healtier, and spending less money, just in case the next thing takes a while, or doesn't offer compensation the way I'd like it to.

The routine, I hope will include: a brisk walk every morning, no drinking, smoking, etc. I'll be trying to write every day, and spending time looking for work. Should be a fun fall.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I'm behind. Not behind on reading, just on catching up the blog... I really want to rememdy it, because I'm afraid I'll forget all the million things I wanted to say about these books, particularly Midnight's Children. But while I can write while I'm doing something else, I can't write WELL while I'm doing something else. (I suppose the quality of this blog makes it obvious that I'm always doing something else, huh?) Right now, I'm enjoying the first quiet night this week at home with The Professor. We are watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I read the book a few years ago and enjoyed it-- the movie looks as it it will be a good one!

I promise to review another work with the word Midnight in it's title tomorrow while I should be working... :)