What? Where Have I Been?

I am having a hard time connecting my life to this blog. I go weeks forgetting about it altogether. I think it is a general disconnect from moving shock. After all, outside of family and friends, there was no continuity with my other moves (Arizona to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Washington). This, my blog, would be a continuity.

I am still adjusting to living in North Carolina. It is a bigger cultural change than I have done before.

Although Asheville, NC is really just a small version of Portland Oregon. They have the drum circles, the unbathed hippies, the homeless, the skanky vegan chicks, the hoity-toity eating and reading establishments. And it is so “woke” in its bullshit progressiveness. Indeed I think this place may be more wretched than the posh districts of the Seattle area and Portland. After all, it was not until I moved here that I encountered bumper-stickeres that read “Vaginatarian” That would be someone that EATS PUSSY. The cars are not owned by men.

It is actually just the downtown area that reeks so. I live in the south end of Asheville. More normal. There are a few things I like about the area. The thing I like most is the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Deacon and Martyr.

Current reads are Bishop Barron’s: To Light a Fire on the Earth. Thomas Ligotti’s: Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. G.K. Chesterton’s: Father Brown Crime Stories: 24 Short Mysteries.

And, lastly, Chris Fox’s Six Figure Author. This last one is interesting and worrisome. It is sort of exciting that one could actually write and steer their own career. but if one reads it closely, one gets the feeling you hit this level of sales by being mediocre. The starving artist inside me rages against the indignity of being a barometer for what other people want. It doesn’t seem to be a formula for success.

That depends, though, on how we define success. If it is measured merely by the means of money, then being the middle of any ground will get you there. And then it will get you out of there as the crowd moves on. And what are you stuck with then? Not a work of soul. Then again, the popular entertainment hasn’t moved in over a decade so maybe the same old shit sells as good today as it did a generation ago. Things appear to be in a hold and repeat pattern. Just look at all the remakes or reboots.

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Current Reading

First, I finished Sophia House. If you haven’t read the excellent Father Elijah then there is no sense in reading this first. Sophia House is a (sort of) prequel to Father Elijah that would not work if read sequentially.

Since this is the day and age where you can find out everything yourself with a click, take my recommendation, read up on it in Amazon, decide for yourself. I thought the payoff way well worth the read. Don’t the long philosophical discussions turn you off, they serve the theme at the end.

Now, onto NOT TO MENTION CAMELS. I have owned this book for four years and, being depressed over missing the third LaffCon, decided to go ahead and jump into what some say is his most bizarre and impenetrable book.

I take that as a challenge, sir. I still can’t say what some of the stuff I’ve read of his is about!

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.

Absence

I’ve been spotty on posting this first month of 2018. I would say I am still reeling from the butt splatter that was Star Wars: The Last Yedi, but I buried that carcass in the backyard and moved on.

This generation cannot write and does not know what a story is. I leave them to their message fiction.

I’ve got several projects in the works  (one really important one) and I am in a reading frenzy at the moment.

I am finishing up Will Durant’s CAESAR AND CHRIST

And Thomas E. Woods HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILT WESTERN CIVILIZATION

I am also doing a reading a St. Luke’s gospel with four different commentary books. That’s about a verse a week.

Also following Jhn C. Wright’s LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT serial from his website.

In the bullpen I have Stanley Jaki’s SCIENCE AND CREATION whose work follows some early 20th century French historian’s work – his name escapes me at the moment.

And followed by A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH TO THE EVE OF THE REFORMATION Volumes 1 – 3 by Philip Hughes (he died before he could go any further – but hey, the reformation, what a cliffhanger!)

And of course when I finish Durant’s Caesar and Christ it is onto his AGE OF FAITH

And through all of that – writing.

And love the dog.

I could comment on current events but… Why?

Count to Infinity

Finished COUNT TO INFINITY the other day. I didn’t think Wright was going to be able to pull off any cathartic ending. But he did! For all the info dumps and the super technicality of the whole thing (the hard science fictional nature of the material) he managed to pull off an emotionally satisfying (albeit too brief, imho) ending.

If you like far out hard science fiction, you can now read this whole series. I read it and it was good!

NaNo – National Novel Writing Month

For the last several years I have flirted with participating in NaNo and every year (especially last year as I was finishing school) I forget until the middle of November (or the third week of February) when it is a little too late to start.

I am sure Stephen King could wait until November 23rd and then start but…

While I have notes and stuff all over the place of ideas and such, I have been sort of in limbo since finishing school so I have nothing mixed to put in the pot. I literally just remembered two hours ago. This is going to be fresh off the flesh of my forebrain.

It could also be terrible! But, hey, let’s play!

I have read a number of “articles” (i.e., blog posts about people I do not know and a few who are admittedly not writers) that try to dissuade people from participating in this event. They say that it is artificial, social media oriented. First it is artificial in that you don’t, in the real world, bust out a 50,000 page novel in a month that is ready for market. Nobody says that either. What the contest is (and it is with yourself, not others) is for you to put down 50,000 words of a novel. It is a writing goal within a month’s timeframe.

That part is not artificial and there is a real world parallel called the deadline. Most writing programs nowadays have little widgets or windows where you can enter daily and project target goals. NaNo merely makes the same thing into a public spectacle. In reality, you are still stuck there, alone, in front of your computer with a goal to achieve. There is nothing artificial about that. It is better to look at NaNo as a public event where you can make a very good headway on your writing project. That’s all. You may have December thru next October (or beyond) to continue writing your project, rewrite it, edit and reedit it, etc.

The social media complaint is just dumb. It is 2017, authors have to promote and their personal means is largely social media.

Another complaint is the high failure rate of participants getting to the goal of 50,000 words in a month. So what? The failure rate for restaurants in the first year is 90-95%. Does that mean you should not open up a restaurant? Maybe a lot of people find out they actually don’t like the process. Maybe a lot of people learn they can’t produce that fast. You know, some authors (and you can look this up, there are a number of them) only write a novel once every several years, some go a lot longer. Maybe November isn’t a good month for them to have started such a project (it is the beginning of the holiday season after all).

The failure rate can be broken down by the expectation of the goal. 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1666 words a day. Let’s say you devote four hours a day during November that works out to a little over 400 words for each of the four hours. Given that there are 60 minutes to an hour, that breaks down to about roughly seven words a minute.

That isn’t too bad and is probably in the ballpark of what the average paid writer does.

The lamest complaint I heard was that it produces a lot of crap (even the NaNo site itself says you’ll likely produce a lot of crap). Most of what I write is crap. But far be it for me to volunteer to be the standard, most writers I’ve read who have discussed their craft say most of what they produce is crap. You just don’t see that in the published work. Or, to be fair, they try not to let that be in their published work.

The familiar scene of the writer sitting at his typewriter in a battlefield of crumpled paper at his feet testifies to that. You know who wrote those scenes? Writers.

Some people talked of it as if it spelled the death of literature (as if we weren’t postmortem already). Does it? Let’s say of the supposed half million people that participate (number from 2015) 99.999% of it is crap written by people who should not write. Let’s remember, Random House has no obligation to publish any of this stuff. Is it perhaps worth it so that some 16 year old kid somewhere finds that, having participated, he has found his calling and produces great work later?

Can’t paint? Don’t go to art class then. Writing is for writers and if you are not already a writer, then don’t bother. I say stuff it elitist snob. It is completely harmless. Even if, and I would suspect there are some, you were only to participate once every year with no expectations of ever publishing something (you just enjoy the activity, the sharing, whatever) what of it?

Some people poo poo anything.

And I should actually start thinking about a project!

IT – Postscript

SPOILERS!

I finally finished IT by Stephen King tonight. Took almost a solid month. But at 1477 pages that is about four regular sized novels in a month so… not bad.

First the bad. I could have done without the chapter with the prepubescent gang bang. I think King must have put a giant rail up his nose that night. The kids lost in the underground sewers after thinking they have defeated IT but they have lost their “magic” upon defeating their foe and cannot find their way out of the maze of tunnels. So Beverly, eleven years old, suggests a different sort of magic. And coaxes her six male friends to take turns fucking her one by one. This serves as the reinvigorated magic that leads them out of the sewer system.

I am not joking. Oh sure, he makes it sound “nicer” than my brief description and uses the word ‘love’ and I suppose they all loved each other in their child-like ways.

But dude, these are eleven year-olds! Six boys taking a ride on single eleven year old girl. One of them is actually mature enough to achieve orgasm. And I had to read how sticky and sore Beverly’s thighs were.

That’s fucked up right there. I could have done without that.

The theme is both in the vein of C.S. Lewis and King’s familiar refrain of the importance of friendship and love (which would have stood perfectly fine without the kiddie orgy I talked about above). The Lewis vein is basically the kids defeated IT as children but did not destroy it. They defeated it as children open to magic. However, twenty-seven years later IT has healed or reawakened and by a promise they made they are sworn to come back to their small Maine town of Derry to try and destroy it once and for all. But now they are of middle-age. Can they destroy it now that their childhood magic has left them?

This plays out as best as one can do I suppose. What really worked for the book is the length, so you really got seeped into the town, the history of the town (all tied, in the crazy King way, with the clown Pennywise) and each of the characters. Also the multiple storylines that converged on the climax and the multiple storyline/time shifts so you were following two or three separate storylines paralleled decades apart. I read on Amazon reviewer complaints about this and that it was confusing and messed up the story. Stick to Green Eggs and Ham, kids. That was easy to follow and added tension.

I also liked the way he made the time shifts flow into one another. So, perhaps a chapter ended by one of the characters in 1958 calling, “Eddie!” and the next chapter, starting with Eddie turning around but in 1985. It was not time-travelling merely shuffling between two different points in time. I liked that.

Along with such books of his like Christine and The Tommyknockers King repeats his thematic accent on the importance of friendship and the pain of its loss. Here the touch was bitter sweet because (SPOILER!!) the loss was through amnesia after the defeat of IT. I also like how the amnesia was so woven through both timelines that when the final forgetting and the loss of the friendships started at the end it seems natural, inevitable, and, therefore, sad.

It was a good, long read. You have to be a reader of faith however because the journey is long. I have faith King would pay me off and he did. Even if he turned my stomach with the kid sex thing.

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.

Still in the Grave and Summer Vacations

I am still reading Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave. It is slow going. One, I really had this amped up in my mind. Two, this is one of his later books which consists mainly of dialogue and some pretty bizarre action. It seems to belong to a family of later Lafferty works like East of Laughter, Aurelia, and Serpent’s Egg. They are, all four of them, very similar in a lot of ways.

They are sort of like carnival philosophical dialogues if Augustine liked to write such things while slightly high on peyote. While the characters and the action are as some distorted, highly stylized cartoon/animation, the subject matter (both overall and in dialogue) center on technical theological and philosophical points. And on a first reading you can only get a flash – hold it – is he actually talking about eternity and the concept of time in relation to resurrection?

This is certainly NOT one of the Lafferty novels to start with. If one starts reading Lafferty from here, they probably won’t get very far. Better to start with the pretty straightforward Past Master.

I’m three weeks into The Elliptical Grave and I’m not sure what I am reading.

No news on the writing front, although daydreaming never stops. I am covering summer vacations at present and only have one day off at a time. And, being too old for the job, it usually takes a significant part of that day to recuperate to functionality!