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some books I'm reading the last couple weeks

2003-01-15 - 7:34 p.m.

I've been thinking it would be good to include some comments on a few of the books I've been reading. Since I'm a bookworm, I couldn't possibly comment on them all, but it might be worthwhile to record some random thoughts to give a snapshot of how my brain was working at this moment in time. It's Jan. 15 so I'll restrict my comments to books read between the 1st and today.

  • The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, my BF's novel. Main thought: Why didn't I remember that it was this damn good? I used to love the I, Robot novels as a kid. This novel plays with the same concepts, but on an adult level.

  • Kiln People by David Brin. Brin is apparently a nice guy with his heart in the right place. I recently read an essay where he proclaimed himself an environmentalist, which probably doesn't make him real popular with the "damn all, shed the earth like a broken shell" school of space-oriented SF writers. He is also the author of The Postman and Earth. KP is a mystery set in a world where you can make copies of yourself and send them out to clean the toilet and hold down the job. If you're really good at your job, you make a lot of copies and get all the money that would have once gone to multiple people holding multiple jobs. I guess to keep everyone else from rioting, they have welfare, which he calls the "purple wage" (nice nod to Philip Jose' Farmer there). Our hero, the detective, is kind of a snot, and looks down on people who have "hobbies" as opposed to "jobs," and finally I'm getting a handle on why I don't harmonize with Brin even though he has such cool ideas and seems like such a nice guy. I'm just not money-oriented at all. I would much rather have a hobby than a job. I don't get people who need to be paid money to do something to feel that it's valid. And I kinda, sorta have a sneaking suspicion that, in the future he describes, money really just wouldn't be of such great importance. But it's his character and his story, and so it's centered on this really money-oriented, career-oriented guy in a world where those things are a bit anachronistic. Beyond a doubt, the book should be read and discussed.

  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. I've read it before but we were discussing it on a movie forum, where his "interview" with David Lynch on the set of Lost Highways came up. Of course Wallace didn't actually have the nerve to talk to Lynch but he observed him pissing off in the distance or something. Everything by Wallace is great and stands up for repeated readings and re-readings. Now that I've been on three cruises, courtesy of a generous Gulf Coast casino, I can enjoy his title essay even more. I never would have paid to go on a cruise -- and neither would Wallace, who took his cruise courtesy of Harper's. As a reader, I super-harmonize with Wallace's writing style, to the point where when I've been reading him, all sorts of obnoxious footnotes creep in, even in my diary.

  • Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club. A better satirist than Bret Easton Ellis, except that he flinches at the end, and Ellis never blinks. But, despite the fear of a somewhat redemptive and sappy ending coming up ahead, I read Palahniuk's books and I enjoy his books. As I was reading this one, I suddenly came to this and sat up in shock:

    "The grade-schoolers who come here, it's a big deal for them to visit the henhouse and watch the eggs hatch. Still, a regular chicken isn't as interesting as, say, a chicken with only one eye or a chicken with no neck or with a stunted paralyzed leg, so the kids shake the eggs. Shake them hard and put them back to hatch.
    So if what's born is deformed or insane?* It's all for the sake of education."

    I hope kids aren't really like this. I remember how much I loved chickens and baby chicks -- how much I still do. If it weren't for the raccoon threat, I'd have chickens right now. But just as I'm reminding myself that the story is supposed to be exaggerated -- see under the descriptions of how his friend Denny is tortured in the stocks on the job! -- then I read on rotten.com about how some horrible kid put hair spray on his parakeet and torched the bird for New Year's Eve at a party and then posted the pictures of the torture on the internet. Not all kids are like this. Of course not. But some are, and the protagonist of Choke is really hyper-sensitive to the cruelty he sees around him. He wants to give everyone a chance to be a hero -- as long as he can do it without taking credit for it. And that's very real to me.

*A David Foster Wallace-like no doubt unnecessary footnote to remind myself that addled eggs don't actually hatch and create deformed chickens, it just spoils the egg so it can't hatch, so stop worrying about it.

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