New Acquisitions

Finally went to Barnes and Noble for the first time this year. Usually Barnes N Nobles specializes in not having anything that I am looking for. You try and find Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter at Barnes N Noble; it’ll be between the forty copies of The Hobbit and 245 James Patterson books! Just kidding, it won’t be there at all. For that matter, they have no G.K. Chesterton either.

That last should be a crime.

First up is Flannery O’Connor’s THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY.

I have read some of her short stories and I find her to be a treat. Usually dark, usually shocking, always interesting. Her short story Revelation is one of my favorites.

Next is THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV

I read this sometime in the 90’s as a hard drinking Randian atheist. So hard drinking, I lived in three states in the 90’s and cannot tell you which one I read it in. I have a few images of the book that stayed in my mind but that is all. I want to experience this book as a completely different person (as different as I would have thought I would ever be at least).

I also read Crime and Punishment and that I remember much more of. Of course Crime and Punishment is a much more straight forward work than Karamazov. But I also remember where and when I read the former.

There are several books that I will wish to reread now that I probably didn’t appreciate as much when I first read them. First, I read a number of them as duty, as in, “if I want to be a writer, I should read these people.” Such a duty I no longer feel under the presence of, and it is unrealistic anyway the older you get. Just to get the English masters would take forever let alone the poets, and then the non-English speaking world which includes such tales as the Iliad, The Divine Comedy, etc, etc. To say nothing of the Bible which can consume a life of study and reflection in itself. Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Quo Vadis, C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy. These were all books of a religious nature or theme and when I first read them I approached even the subject of religion with a sneer of contempt.

A sneer, yes, however, even with that I never denied the quality of those books – how can one?. Dostoyevsky is simply one of the best writers to have lived – full stop. I hope to appreciate him even more this time.

Well, If Ever There Were a Time…

As many people, I am currently out of work and with no job prospects. I got what they call a permanent lay off, That means you’re fired, but not for being naughty. But it does mean they have pooped you out their butthole and you are no longer a burden to their bottom line – I mean Christmas bonuses. No health insurance, no 401k.

Really, the speed with which my company got rid of us is nothing short of amazing.

As with most platitudes, the current one of “We are all in this together,” causes me to dry heave (no food) into a bucket and flop up and down on my bed like Linda Blair. The empty racks of toilet paper tell me that is not the view of my fellow man, and my company paints a very “not in this together” picture. The new national general, Herr Fauci, tells me he understands the ruination of the economy and our lives is “inconvenient.” Which tells me he will be dining in style while the food lines (will they turn into ration lines?) grow and grow. My phone bill, my utility bill, my mortgage bill, all my bills, came up due as prompt as ever, which tells me they want their money. I wonder how in it together we are when I can’t pay them?

I have made an amateur study of economics over the years. I can say one thing I have learned. What we are doing right now is a great way to totally SCREW the economy. As sure as sending Ned Beatty into the Georgia forests for a canoe ride!

I would love to be wrong.

Now, I am sure someone will say, but we had to do it to save lives! Well, lives are important. But there is more than one way to do something. Is this the only way? Because, really this is probably the worst way, and it is totally an ad hoc way. This wasn’t thought out. Why weren’t we just having the susceptible members of the population quarantined while the rest of us continued working and practicing some safe practices? I would have no problem wearing PPE for a time and restricting my social interactions. Anything but this napalm approach that could very well be worse than the disease. And this they are calling this stage one? Like we are supposed to quit working again in the winter of fall? You cannot do that to an economy, friends.

Onto the topic of the post. Writing. I would say over the years I have blamed everything but Milton Berle for my lock of progress in writing. Not enough time. My work puts me in a non-inspired frame of mind. My back (although a few times that was totally the case) my drinking, this and that and the other thing. I really have none of that now. I have all the time, I don’t drink (a few beers a month) I don’t smoke anymore. About the only impediment is my pug’s constant need to be on me. If that is too much of an impediment, then I may as well junk the whole thing.

So, if ever there were a time, this is it. But really, it has always been time. That is the truth.

One advantage though of procrastinating. If I really started now, I would escape the inevitable down slope that happens to every writer, musician, artist, etc. With very few exceptions, people peak, at whatever their peak is, and then they slide into ever decreasing copies of their peak. Starting at nearly fifty, I could do a simple twenty year stint and burn out rather than fade away!

In other news the RCIA was a train wreck. It is not even a thing now. I’ll finish my online class, but the real live one was called off sometime last month and I’ve heard nothing about it since. And such a torrent of impediments have planted their behemoth feet before my path both in my personal life (in the form of opposition) and the outer world that I am pausing to regroup for next year.

I may have had to drop out of RCIA, but no one else finished either! I didn’t see that coming!

Reading. What am I reading now?

For fiction I am reading

It is alright. I am trying to push through it right now and get back to some other stuff.

In non-fiction:

Always been fascinated with the mafia. This is the type of reading that is fast and easy because I have an automatic enjoyment in the material. It is like reading about the Third Reich or the Manson family.

Anyway, that is enough for today. I have no excuse for leaving this dormant now!

A Few Lafferty Quotes

I do not believe I have posted these before. The first two are from an interview Cranky Old Man From Tulsa, the other is from a talk he gave at DeepSouthCon in 1979 called The Day After The World Ended. The third is from the first book of Lafferty’s The Coscuin Chronicles: The Flame is Green

Q: My experience is that often if a story even touches on such things, the editor will freeze up and think he’s being preached at. You can write about, say, Hindu gods with no problem, but if you touch on Christianity, even if all the characters are doubters, the editor freezes. Have you ever found this to be so?

RAL: Yes, that’s very much so. But you’ve got it backwards. The preachers are really those of a religion that is not called a religion, which is secular liberalism. That’s really the established religion of our country, and of our world. It doesn’t allow too much opposition. Now people who go down the secular liberal line don’t want anything that challenges it. Hinduism doesn’t challenge it because it is too distant. Christianity does, even Born-Again Christianity and the emotional ones. They have something that the secular liberal world is lacking.

Q: What are your religious beliefs? Do you feel that your stories echo your beliefs soundly? Or do you try to keep these views from entering into your stories?

RAL: I am a Roman Catholic of what is considered an old-fashioned sort, as there are a number of modernities flickering over the Church right now, none of them very deep. I do not attempt specifically to put my beliefs into my stories, not to keep them out either. An exception is Past Master, because religion was the subject of that novel. But the belief is part of the person who writes the stories and it will be there naturally.

There’s a double standard in this area though. There is considerable preaching against preaching, and an amazing amount of decrying religion by the people of the most intolerant religions. Belief is religion. The most rampantly righteous religions in the world are the religions of secularism, humanism, liberalism, nihilism, scientism, inhumanism, and diabolism. We have those with hatred as the central commodity, those with perversions as central, those with disorder a s central, those with worthlessness as central. We cheap-shotting as a crusading religion. And it is out of these that militant preachers come. Certainly three quarters of SF is given over to the relentless preaching of those of the anti-religious religions. They are the ones who carry on the biggest feuds and the covert as well as open attacks and who recommend the boycotts. The longest work by an SF practitioner in recent years is a preachment for the worthlessness for the sake of worthlessness, and it will not accept anything but total worthlessness for everyone.

Cranky Old Man From Tulsa 1990

Science Fiction has long been babbling about cosmic destructions and the ending of either physical or civilized worlds, but it has all been displaced babble. SF has been carrying on about near-future or far-future destructions and its mind-set will not allow it to realize that the destruction of our world has already happened in the quite recent past, that today is “The Day After The World Ended”. … I am speaking literally about a real happening, the end of the world in which we lived till fairly recent years. The destruction or unstructuring of that world, which is still sometimes referred to as “Western Civilization” or “Modern Civilization”, happened suddenly, some time in the half century between 1912 and 1962. That world, which was “The World” for a few centuries, is gone. Though it ended quite recently, the amnesia concerning its ending is general. Several historiographers have given the opinion that these amnesias are features common to all “ends of worlds”. Nobody now remembers our late world very clearly, and nobody will ever remember it clearly in the natural order of things. It can’t be recollected because recollection is one of the things it took with it when it went…

The Day After the World Ended: Deep South Con 1979

“Things are set up as contraries that are not even in the same category. Listen to me: the opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive. Thus I will describe myself as a radical conservative liberal; but certain of the tainted red fish will swear that there can be no such fish as that. Beware of those who use words to mean their opposites. At the same time have pity on them, for usually this trick is their only stock in trade.”

The Flame is Green: Chapter 5 Muerte De Boscaje

Some New Reading Material

Haven’t read Vonnegut yet, so I picked this up.

Always like a Dan Simmons book. Song of Kali and the Hyperion Cantos earned him a spot as a go-to writer. I’ll have to tackle his Drood sometime. It has been on my shelf for some time.

When I was a kid, King was the writer all the kids were reading. His Night Shift collection was my favorite. I never got to this one, and with all the Lafferty and theology I’ve been doing, King is a light fun snack.

And right next to that was this. I am not from that generation. The assassination of JFK was not the defining moment of my life (not was Vietnam or Woodstock). However I am not far removed from the residuals of that generation and so King’s concrete insertions of the minutiae of the era will make for another easy read. It was rather well received critically so I will try it even though it is late King. But pre-Trump so he may still be mainly concerned with story.

We’ll see. I’m still slugging away at Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine. I finished a forty page chapter on papal infallibility the other day!

Current Reads

Quick post about current reads.

Prequel to Father Elijah: An Apocalypse that I read last year:

So far at 80% done there is far too much talk and not enough things happening. But I shall wait to the end.

Next is a bit of theology. It is a high school text from the 1930’s, and while simple on that level the questions at the end of each chapter are really antiquated. Meaning, they require that you have digested the material and require you to look further.

And lastly, after I finish up Sophia House, I am getting into this one. I saw it at Mr. K’s Used Books in Asheville last week. I remember it being mentioned by someone somewhere and I had mentally marked it and forgot about it.

Addendum to Prior Post and more IT

Despite my prior post denigrating much of the 20th century literature, I must say that there is much that I did like. This didn’t really occur to me until further into the day after my doses of caffeine started to kick in. But most of what I did like was the second half of the twentieth century, the first half I still regard as pretty sad.

As a lifelong bibliophile who goes through books like Michael Moore goes through buckets of KFC, I simply forget a lot of what I have read. Because even more than the stories themselves, with exceptions, I enjoy reading as an activity.

I dislike intensely the icons of the early and mid twentieth century. Hemingway bores me to tears, as does Steinbeck and Lewis – Sinclair, not C.S. Even Ayn Rand (who I was an ardent fan of for years) is of this strict realism school. Her saving grace from the world of boredom was her attempt to produce the ideal man – indeed The Ideal.

So I did like Rand, and I still think that The Fountainhead was an excellently written book even if full of some heinous ideas (and some good ones). So there is her. And I like Flannery O’Connor. I remember liking Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer quite a lot. That book, however, was not full of your run o’ the mill characters, nor was the plot. There was some Australian author who I liked also from the mid 20th century whose name escapes me at the moment. I liked Margret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I am sure there are others I am failing to drudge up.

But there was little that compared to 19th century literature. Much like painting and art in general, it just wasn’t as good. No one compared to Hugo and Dostoyevsky, nor Dickens or Austen. It is like van Gogh to Caravaggio – I mean, come on.

For the most part. But I am of the opinion that the twentieth century belonged to the genres. That is where the imagination, the speculation, went to live. And I got more reflection out of Frederik Pohl’s The World at the End of Time than in most anything else of the twentieth century literature I read.

That said.

I will sometimes scan reviews of books I am about to read or am in the middle of reading for curiosity at times. And I did that with Stephen King’s IT. Five star reviews I never read, what one loves another can hate. I always go for the one star reviews.

Among the complaints is that it is too long and that King goes into too much detail. It is a 1200 or so page book and at page 133, he is not yet done introducing the cast of characters. Not that there are an overwhelming number of them, nor is the character sketches entirely deep, but King likes to put a lot of concrete detail about one’s youth, family, childhood traumas, and what is in one’s medicine cabinet (not the most telling detail, but it can tell something, no?). It took about twenty pages to get done introducing one character only to have him slit his wrists in the tub upon receiving the phone call. Bye bye.

Now despite this it is Stephen King, people. He is my guilty pleasure read because I like horror and you can slam through one of his books (no matter the size) pretty quickly. After reading some esoteric chapter on ancient Jewish conceptions of the afterlife, or trying to figure out some Lafferty story I just read, King is a relaxation. And he has a way of connecting with a reader that almost never fails. They are usually through common human bonds that only a misanthrope would fail to register. I mean his book Christine (and for that matter, The Tommyknockers) is about friendship not really about some demonically possessed car.

But I cannot believe some people simper that the book is too long and King doesn’t “get to the point.” These kids (and I suppose they must be of the iPhone generation) would never be able to read, for instance, the unabridged Les Miserables. I think, if memory serves, there is even a thirty-some page description on glass manufacturing in it that has no bearing on the story itself. I think there were quite a few asides in there like that that I skipped over after awhile. Or the two and a half page paragraph, or seventeen pages of description (talking of books in general back then) with absolutely no dialogue.

They couldn’t do it. Could they keep reading long enough for Raskolnikov to commit his heinous crime? Or how about all that book that comes after? How boring! Oh shit, How about The Idiot? What the hell is that about when you are on page fifty? Anybody?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace? They would glaze over by page six, “Oh dear God! Will a Transformer please show up or something! I’m so bored right now!”

If Stephen King is too long and plodding for you, put down the book, go watch the movie. Leave the reading to the readers.

New Acquisitions in Fantasy

I found a good source for widening my fantasy reading experience. I hope. I haven’t read very much in fantasy as compared to science fiction. I feel that this is because while science fiction had many influences (including fantasy itself) a lot of fantasy is occupied by derivatives of Tolkein’s works. Current releases probably mirror George RR Martin’s work which is really just a nihilistic, modern take on conventional fantasy. In fact, I was in the science fiction/fantasy isle lat month and saw two such titles by different authors that began like “A Game of…” “A Dance of…”, much like in the late 90’s and early 2000’s you ran across YA books like “Charlie Bone and the….” Derivative.

The source for widening my fantasy experience is Lin Carter’s Ballentine Adult Fantasy series from the 60’s and 70’s (note – many of the works in the series predate the 60’s and 70’s by several or more decades, many being rereleases). Hat tip (yet again) to Mr. John C. Wright for bringing this series to my attention.

Right now I have about 50 pages of Peter S/ Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN left and then Michael Moorcock’s STORMBRINGER. Then I think I may rip through these and then tackle R.A. Lafferty’s PAST MASTER again.

Happy Reading everyone!

GREAT LAFFERTY MOMENT

lafferty-bang-bang_sm

SPOILERS! [Although I will try to make it not so]

I am in Tales of Midnight of the More Than Melchisedech entry of the ARGO series by R.A. Lafferty. There is a moment where they are discussing the death of one of their own, and one of the characters is foretelling of his own demise at the hands of an enemy and the fact that the death will be attributed, falsely, to his liver.

Before I go into the scene. One of the reasons I love this scene so much is it could happen – does happen – at any moment in my own living room (I don’t technically own a banjo, but I do possess a banjolele (also known as a banjo uke)

cf9fe64264459a7432a10acf7083760b

or at the bar, or in the grocery store.

Anyway, here is the scene (most of it, anyway, I won’t give out the entire song)

“I’ll be killed by them myself,” Bagby said, “and yet my death will be attributed to my liver, a gentle organ that never harmed anybody.”

“How is your liver really, Bag?” Duffey asked him.

“Oh tell us how’s your liver, Mr. B.,” Dotty sang.

“I believe that, with a little help from some of my creations, we could make a song out of that,” Duffey proposed. Mary Virginia Schaffer went to the piano (this was in ‘Trashman’s Girl-a-Rama‘) and several of them hammered out the song then. More songs have been born in Trashman’s than in any place in the block. Duffey accompanied them on a house banjo (he hadn’t his own banjo with him) and all of the unofficial members of the Pelican Glee Club sang thus:

“Is it true you have abused it?                                                                                                                Have you battered it and boozed it?                                                                                                       Are you sorry you misused it                                                                                                            Horribly?                                                                                                                                                        Does it need the Great Forgiver?                                                                                                                  Is it feeling sensitiver?                                                                                                                                    Is it shrunken to a sliver?                                                                                                                               Oh tell us how’s your liver,                                                                                                                          Mr. B.”

I love how a deadly serious discussion segues into a number at the drop of a hat. It is loony!  There are dozens of these unexpected turns in any Lafferty story, but some just stand out.

Sometimes he slips you right into an alternate reality where the world has become a comic strip or cartoon.

[I don’t know why the text for the lyrics came out the way they did. I was trying to get the lines to be single spaced which the editor doesn’t let you do. So I spent several minutes hitting the space bar to get the lines single spaced and now it comes up all mish-mashed. It appears normal when I re-open it in the editor so it will have to stay as is. Sorry!]