I Dislike Pynchon So I’m Reading More Pynchon

So I finally finished The Crying of Lot 49, and while I’d like to say the ending defied my expectations, it didn’t. My Goodreads review is as follows:

** spoiler alert ** A series of non-statements and mild suggestions and endless asides which we are supposed to forgive the author because he assigns his characters ridiculous names and makes his protagonist wander about having LSD-style revelations in longish semi-Faulknerian sentences. There’s a conspiracy to do something, and if you want to find out if any of its real, you’re going to have to decide for yourself, as the book merrily refuses to tell you. I guess you could call that a spoiler, but honestly there isn’t anything to spoil, and that’s the point. I want to punch the author for wasting my time.

But. This was an early work, and Pynchon has had a multi-decade career as a novelist. And really, what picqued my interest, as I said, was a viewing of the film for Inherent Vice. So I went to the library this weekend and picked it up.

So far, a chaper and change in, it doesn’t suck. The ridiculousness of the names are toned-down to something approaching verisimilitude, and the loose plot-logic is so far within the bounds of noir. I expect I’ll enjoy this one far more.

And that’s a good thing. It’s fun do damn a book, and even to condescend to an author from a great height, yet it’s also a shame.

Bonus: the Red Letter Media guys review the Inherent Vice movie:

My Pynchon Problem

A recent viewing of the film Inherent Vice led me to try to finish The Crying of Lot 49, which I abandoned out of frustration some time ago. I’ve made a small amount of headway, but am bored again.

Action is not being built. The plot is not going anywhere. The woman with the ridiculous name is having conversations with other people with ridiculous names about random nonsense that’s supposed to be relevatory but is entirely unconnected with what she’s ostensibly doing. I struggle to care.

It’s baffling to me that I can be so close to the end of a book this short and feel no desire to continue. This seems to be a problem I have with literature from this era. The Beats, Burroughs, Joyce, Waiting for Godot, it all seems so enamored of itself for frustrating readers as to form a kind of anti-literature. It’s less like reading a book than joining a Hermetic cult.

Call it the need for status, for differentiation from the semi-literate masses, but the need to set up a hyper-literacy, from the New Criticism on down, strikes me as largely self-defeating. No wonder all our cultural battles are fought over popcorn movies.

John C. Wright Brings Rousseau and Virgil into Conan

Robert E. Howard was, I am coming to understand, a master of his craft.

What is the difference between a real savage and a noble savage? Let us look into the iron shadows of the moonlight for an answer.

This story is well suited to the question, for it just so happens to have a lovely, half-clad and large-eyed  brunette in distress; a highly civilized oriental aristocrat bent on her dishonor; a rough and semi-civilized pirate chief who hates Conan with hot passion (and wants him hanged on a hook); eldritch monuments from a forgotten civilization, haunted perhaps with the ghosts of an accursed peoples; and an apelike monstrosity equally likely to originate from the darkness of prehistory as the darkness of the netherworld.

In other words, we have one antagonist from each season of the rise and fall of cultures from primitive to civilized to decadent to dark ages and back to prehistory again.

As they say, Read the Whole Thing. And I have further contrasts of Conan with more modern fiction here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sample From “The Short Cool Summer”

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing that they like.

A Man With No Business, Killing Time

When my car is in the shop
They tell me “an hour and
A half.”

So I have fish tacos and
Salad and a pint that
Lingers around the temples
Tightening the skin in that
Pleasant way it does.

And I wander about the mall
With nothing to buy but
A record if I felt like dropping
Forty dollars on the latest from
Queens of the Stone Age.

But Instead I slip through
The attractions and lures of
Commerce promising me
Ease and joy and self-expression
At a discounted rate
This week only.

I wander back, as slow as I came,
The heat somewhat stronger on my face
Hoping to walk through
Firestone’s doors with the words
“I was just about to call you,”
Greeting me

But instead I wait though
A commercial break for
American Pickers or a show like that
To be told it isn’t done yet
It isn’t started yet
They’re very busy and very behind.
I knew this as I walked in
Because my car hadn’t moved
Or spawned new tires.

And they tell me
“another forty-five Minutes.”

So I cross the crosswalkless
Boulevard in the other direction
Along a tree-lined sidewalk
Counting my steps on the FitBit
Congratulating myself for activity
Navigating the wide sweep of the
Parking lot between the old
H.H. Gregg and Barnes & Noble.

There are no books I intend
To buy, but I might surprise myself,
With Upanishads or Buddhist Scriptures
Or a lesser C.S. Lewis tome
But instead I wrinkle my nose at
The gaudy covers of modern
Poetry books, with their
Instagram verses and their
Banal politics and their
Dull ironies on the urge
To fornicate.

I read a few stanzas by Frost and say
In my bookstore whisper
“That’s beautiful.”
I do not buy it.

I slip away into the attached
Starbucks and order a
Doppio Espresso in a paper cup
And then my thumbs fall
To recording
The preceding
As I drink and muse
And consider waking back.

6/25/18

scs
 Like it? There’s more here.

New Summer Poetry

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Over the course of that rainy muddy monsoon that was the summer of 2018, I wrote some poems, cheap, messy, quick, and therefore true. I consider it an expression of this idea I call Suburban Zen, which I have not fully defined. It’s closer to Zen that way.

It’s a Kindle-exclusive, and it’s 99 cents. You know what to do.

This is my second such collection. The other one, Stir, was longer and composed over a longer period of time.

I am likely to keep doing this. There’s an ease an a gratification in making such small offerings. They keep the juices flowing.

A good discussion of the most modern of complaints: the University-as-therapy and the concomitant eradication of Free Speech.

Apart from its intellectual content and institutional structure descriptions, The Coddling of the American Mind makes being a contemporary college student in some schools sound like a terrible experience: Life in a call-out culture requires constant vigilance, fear, and self-censorship. Many in the audience may feel sympathy for the person being shamed but are afraid […]

via The Coddling of the American Mind — Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff — The Story’s Story

New Cover Art, Right of Revolution and Little Guerrilla Platoons

Pursuant to Yesterday’s post, here’s new covers for old works. One is a glorified essay, the other a “Long Short Story” (Novellette?). They’ve been published a while, but I’ve never liked their cover art. These are better:

ror I do the philosophical justifications of Rebellion, as understood by The Bible, by Jefferson, by Marx. It’s a pondering.Link Here
tlgp This is fiction, and what you might call Suburban Realism. I like it. Link here.

I’ve also updated my Books Published page to reflect these changes.