Reading 2010: vol 6

Sleepless – Charlie Huston

Good shit. One of the most compelling near future slides into awfulness I’ve seen, both in the denseness of its detail, and its humanity. Set in a future where a highly contagious disease stops people sleeping; after months of pain, and roaming around sleepless, they die. Society collapsing into a broken police state, and rumours of a suppressed cure. Excellent characters, particularly Park, the cop, and Jasper, the highly aesthete assassin. And way more emotionally resonant than one might expect.

The Shifting Realities of Philip K Dick

Collection of Dick’s non-fiction writings, from the autobiographical, to the SF related, to flat out philosophical essays, and material related to his exegesis and related experiences. Excellent and necessary for anyone seriously interested in the man. Most of my favourite stuff I had already read, but the essays on schizophrenia and hallucinations were exceptional, and the summary of the insights of the exegesis was pretty interesting, though saddening – the confusion and pain comes through.

The Little Black Box – Philip K Dick

A volume of his collected stories, browsing it made an interesting counterpoint to the above. Faith of our Fathers is an incredible, and disturbing, story.

Nevada – Steve Gerber

6 issue comic about a showgirl, her ostrich, a dude with a lava lamp for a head, and interdimensional ruptures. Not even slightly normal; highly wonderful. Gerber’s weird was his own.

Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Autonomous Materials – Reza Negarestani

This should get its own post at some point, and a detailed review, as my reaction to it is complex. It is a fascinating artifact. However, one that doesn’t live up to its blurbs.

A general description runs along the lines of “the middle east is a sentient entity, and oil is a Lovecraftian Elder God manipulating the world.” Reads like a gaggle of grad students heavily into Deleuze and Guattari spent 6 months smoking dope and reading Babylonian mythology and middle eastern politics while constructing labyrinthine theoretical frameworks linking all sorts of shit, that are simultaneously vast in jokes and an occultural critique of petropolitics. It is certainly very clever, and has moments of yawning understanding as you internalise the deranged systems of relations put forward and realise that it actually has a point sometimes. But mostly it is more work than it is worth. Sort of like if the book within the book of House of Leaves was written in an unreadable french postmodernist philosophical style.

The silk road: two thousand years in the heart of Asia – Frances Wood
Research. Not what I was looking for.

What I did on my holidays: essays on black magic, satanism, devil worship and other niceties – Ramsey Dukes

Collection of essays over a decade; thus less focused than his other books. The same extraordinary mind and insight at play, however. The essays on Spare, and the Book of the Law, are exceptional.

Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi

Afghani writer who just won the Prix Goncourt.

Novella length story of a grandfather, traveling with his grandson, to see his son and tell him that the rest of their family was killed in a Russian bombing raid, and kind of freaking out since he assumes that his son will then, for the sake of honour, have to go off and get himself killed. Simple, beautiful, brutal.

Burma Chronicles – Guy Delisle

Cartoon diary of a dude who spends a year in Burma/Myanmar looking after his baby while his wife is on a doctors without borders mission. Pretty fascinating glimpse into life under a military junta, as well as the whole NGO sphere. Good shit.

Shenzhen – Guy Delisle

Same dude, on a three month contract in Shenzhen, China. He doesn’t have much fun. Alright but easily the least of his books. Read his Pyongyang instead.

The Photographer – Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert

Fairly fascinating narrative mix of comics and photos. Lefevre went along as a photographer to document a doctors without borders mission into Afghanistan in 1986, during the war with the Soviet Union. The account is based on his diaries and photos. The story is pretty mind-blowing and heart-wrenching. Unique and really excellent.

The invention of Morel – Adolfo Bioy Casares

Apparently the film Last Year at Marienbad was based on or inspired by this. (Last Year at Marienbad being pretty fucking strange and wonderful, that was enough reason to track it down.)

Anyway. TIOM is a short latin american science fiction novel from 1940. It is pretty stunning. A fugitive alone on a most unusual island – containing nothing but a “museum” – really more like a hotel – a chapel, and a swimming pool – is inexplicably intruded on by people who seem not to notice him, one of whom he falls in love with. I really enjoyed everything up until the explanation – just a total surreal ride into what seems like madness but is something else, written from a jagged obsessive point of view. (Oddly, in terms of feel, it reminded me of Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue. A fragment from another world of possibility.)

6 Responses to “Reading 2010: vol 6”

  1.   Jez
    October 14th, 2010 | 9:08 am

    Cyclonopedia had a point sometimes? I can’t say I noticed.

  2.   billy
    October 14th, 2010 | 3:20 pm

    The glimmers of meaning I noticed would have been easy to miss… and in fact may not have been present 🙂

  3.   Pearce
    October 14th, 2010 | 3:33 pm

    I couldn’t read Cyclonopedia, but I like the way it looks on my shelf. House of Leaves didn’t seem worth the effort either. Maybe I should just stick to the Flashman books…

  4.   billy
    October 14th, 2010 | 3:50 pm

    Yeah, as an artifact Cyclonopedia is awesome. I only read about half of it, then skimmed the rest.

    House of Leaves was kind of worth it. Except the framing sequence.

  5.   Daryl
    October 15th, 2010 | 2:44 am

    Flashman! Ed gave me the first one for my 31st, and shit it was fun.

  6.   Daryl
    October 15th, 2010 | 2:45 am

    Oh yes, and I will be seeking out Sleepless.