Sunday Status Update: November 18, 2012

This week, a big thank-you to Ruth, who tracked down a status update from our preeminent Rand-man (at least the preeminent one who is not, in fact, Rand), Richard Cypher, the Seeker of Truth.

Bill: This week I read the highly recommended Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru.

Brad: I’m still reading several novels, but I didn’t finish any. I’m still focused on short works. I was particularly excited by the essays I read on the PKD-influenced INCEPTION that I finally saw for the first time this week. I include an * before works I’d recommend. I give comments when I believe they might be interesting even if you haven’t read the work or when think they might lead you to want to read the story, essay, or comic. Once again, I apologize for the length of my status update, but a mere list of what I’ve read is pointless without some comments, since, unlike mentioning novels, my mentioning a short story won’t immediately resonate the way it would if I said I read a specific novel you’ve either read, heard of, or could find a review for.

SHORT STORIES:
*”The Safe Man” by Michael Connelly (a “Kindle Single”)

from Mulholland Dive by Michael Connelly
*”Cahoots”
*”Mulholland Dive”

from The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories edited by Otto Penzler:
“Doors in the Dark” by Frederick Nebel

from Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories by Max Allan Collins:
“Private Consultation”

from The Night and the Music: The Matthew Scudder Stories by Lawrence Block:
“Out the Window”

from Learning To Kill: Stories by Ed McBain:
“The Molested”
*”Carrera’s Woman”
*”Dummy” (A must-read for fans of McBain’s 87th precinct novels which feature a cop’s wife who, because she is deaf and mute, is “the ultimate Woman in Jeopardy,” according to McBain. In putting together this collection of short stories, McBain realized that he published a story about a mute woman in “Dummy” in 1955, the same year he began writing his precinct series. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this series, it, second only to Dragnet, is probably the biggest influence on police procedurals of the Law & Order type. And the woman in jeopardy–Teddy Carella–eventually develops into a “strong and independent woman and no one in his right mind would ever consider her vulnerable.”)

from Black Thorn. White Rose edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling:
*”Stronger Than Time” by Patricia C. Wade

from Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison:
*”Evensong” by Lester del Ray (a funny, short allegory about how man has displaced god and kicked god out of the garden).

from The Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick:
“Introduction” by Jonathan Lethem
*”Beyond Lies The Wub”

ESSAYS:
from Batman & Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul edited by Mark D. White & Robert Arp:
*”Is It Right To Make A Robin?” by James DiGiovanna (very clear explanation of the three major approaches to ethics, with an emphasis on virtue ethics. Deontology and consequentialism come off looking like weak moral philosophies.)

from Inception and Philosophy: Because It’s Never just A Dream (The Blackwell Philosophy & Pop Culture Series) edited by David Kyle Johnson:
*”The Editor’s Totem: An Elegant Solution for Keeping Track of Reality” by David Kyle Johnson (I just read the INCEPTION prequel comic and saw the movie for the first time, so I immediately downloaded this entry in my favorite nonfiction series. This first essay/note does an excellent job of arguing for the possibility that the entire movie is a dream while wisely asserting that it’s impossible to ever know if it’s a dream–this ambiguity is why I like PKD’s work and think the Matrix, while a fun movie, is a failed work in the PKD tradition because reality is so clearly stabilized for the viewer, even if it isn’t stabilized for all the characters.)

“Was It All A Dream?: Why Nolan’s Answer Doesn’t Matter” by Ruth Tallman (incredibly frustrating essay that argues against a view of authorial intention so simplified no art critic I know would defend it: she equates authorial intention with a real person instead of with the authorial presence implied by the rhetoric (implied author). Her alternative to reading for intention looks remarkably similar to the type of intentionality I believe in. Personally, I think we jump to disagreements about meaning in art too quickly and don’t stop to realize that those disagreements are only possible because of how much interpretative agreement we usually share.)

*”Let Me Put My Thoughts In You: It Was All Just A Dream” by Jason Southworth (Solid argument that the ENTIRE movie is a dream. But what I love best is the author’s use of what he calls the AESTHETIC PRINCIPLE OF CHARITY, which requires an art critic to assume that what may first look like artistic flaws or failures are, until proven otherwise, “intentional artistic choices that actually make the work stronger and more interesting” (37). I thought as a group of book reviewers, we’d find this critical principle a useful one.)

COMICS:
Batman and Robin #10-13 by Grant Morrison

Inception: The Cobol Job by Jordan Goldberg (a prequel to the movie)

re-read *Demo #1-4 by Brian Wood (I love this book that I’m teaching yet again. Students usually respond positively to this thought-provoking comic.)

Kelly: I’m still reading Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer. I’m in a weird place with it — I feel like I’ve stalled out and yet I have no urge to give it up. I think what’s throwing me is that what initially appeared to be the main conflict is already resolved at the halfway point, but there are a lot of potentially cool and/or interesting things that could still happen. I’m also feeling the urge to hunt down Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House after reading The Book Smugglers’ spectacular review of it.

Marion: I read Casket of Souls, the latest in Lynn Flewelling’s NIGHTRUNNER series. While I still enjoy the relationship between Seregil and Alec, two spies for the queen of Skala, I thought this book was too long for the plot. I’m also finishing up A.S. Byatt’s novella The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye. It’s a very nice story about story-telling and the dissection of stories, since the main character (who releases a djinn from an antique art-glass bottle) is a “narratologist;” but the character of djinn makes the story especially charming.  This is the title piece of a tiny book, rounded out by four original fairy tales written by Byatt. It makes me think it’s about time to re-read my favorite lush metaphysical love story, Possession.

Richard: I’ve been re-reading the collected works of Ayn Rand. I agree with her mostly, but find her overly terse, while at the same time too soft on the sycophantic parasites that make up most of society. In non-book news, I bought a new dog. Named him Nietzsche.

Steven: This week I was able to get back to a type of reading routine. I’m still re-reading Figures of Earth by James Branch Cabell. Cabell’s droll dryly humorous prose is a delight to read, and I’m savoring this book about the rise of the main character Manuel from pig keeper to ruler of Cabell’s mythical kingdom of Poictesme. I’ve also started Dancing with Bears by Michael Swanwick, a novel of a post apocalyptic future, featuring the con men (well, sort of) Darger and Surplus. Enjoying it so far.

Tim: This week I got comparatively little reading done, but I did finish up with David Gemmell‘s White Wolf (decent, if a little irritating to me for some reason I’ll have to brood about some more), and started on David Mitchell‘s Cloud Atlas (dizzyingly fascinating so far). Otherwise, I’ve been preparing another couple of reviews.


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TIM SCHEIDLER has recently finished a degree in English literature. He currently lives in Canada but will soon be on his way to Trinity College in Dublin for graduate school. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, and Jacqueline Carey. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing the fiddle and bagpipes, writing in any shape or form, and pretending Kung Fu as he does it is a real sport.

View all posts by Tim Scheidler

15 comments

  1. Speaking of Rand, Rand al’Thor needs to write a status update sometime. He’d have to accidentally lapse into Lews Therin somewhere in it, and also complain about the annoyances of having three girlfriends/wives.

  2. Brad Hawley /

    I LOVE Possession by Byatt, Marion!

    I used to like Rand, but as I studied her, I got very disturbed by her comments in her Journals, particularly when she wrote of Roark’s physical encounter with Dominique in this way: “Were it necessary, he could rape her and feel perfectly justified” (96). (Though it’s clear in the book that the encounter is a rape. We don’t really need her journals to justify the use of that word. But the journals make it clear that Rand considered the word rape relevant to the discussion. According to Rand, for this woman to be raped by such a great man, such a great individual, is a positive experience. There’s not much interpretation required to understand her message. )

    Rand says in her intro to The Fountainhead that her goal in writing is “the projection of an ideal man.” Roark as an ideal bothers me greatly. That I liked his character as a young man bothers me more.

    I feel strongly about making clear Rand’s points about this issue. I was so moved by The Fountainhead, and eventually so bothered by it, I wanted to understand how I could swing so wildly from one opinion to another. As a result of that concern,in the first chapter of my dissertation on postmodern fiction, narrative ethics, and architectural theory, I focused solely on The Fountainhead to articulate as clearly as possible Rand’s ethical views in such a way that she would agree with my understanding of her. In doing so, I was able to see what qualities I liked about Roark and what qualities I disliked (which I had overlooked as a young man in my finding Roark’s most dynamic qualities appealing).

    Richard, I hope you enjoy rereading an author whose works bring you pleasure. I certainly do not mean to at all imply that readers and fans of Rand agree with all her views–and I would certainly hope not, at least on the issue of rape.

    I think Rand would not object to what I’ve written here: I don’t believe I have misrepresented her or equated fans of Rand WITH Rand. And certainly her unique personal experience helps us understand her better.

    For those of you who have NOT read Rand, I hope this comment helps explain, in part, why she is such a controversial and frequently polarizing writer.

    • (You may already know this and be playing along, but I’m pretty sure the Richard here is a satire of Terry Goodkind’s character Richard and not a new reviewer. *g*)

      • Brad Hawley /

        I just thought he was a rare reviewer always on the go and whose picture was difficult to track down . . .

        Actually, I really can’t resist talking about Rand when she comes up. I am really troubled by how popular she continues to be. She is even taught in some high schools. Yikes.

  3. I completely forgot to submit my update. My brain has left for Thanksgiving vacation before the rest of me, apparently, though it’s left behind all the books I plan to take with me (a ridiculous number of paper books, despite the fact that there’s enough on my Kindle, which I’m also taking, to last me for a good five years). This past week I found myself not doing legal work in order to read Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which was great fun but not great literature. I’m also reading Kij Johnson‘s At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. The very first story, “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” is brilliant, and will take you along into the book quite nicely. I’ve also been persuaded by Marion to start Laini Taylor‘s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’ve read bits and pieces of this, that and the other as well, particularly including a wonderful essay, “Dragon Slayers” by Jerald Walker from the year’s best essay volume for 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace. There are, as usual, too many books and too little time.

  4. Brad Hawley /

    Also, Richard, why did you not name your dog Roark? Are there particular Randian beliefs with which do NOT agree that have not been made clear in your many adventures? Is your dog’s not being named Roark revealing? I have made new friends, perhaps exactly those parasites to whom you refer, who have warned me away from your tales of adventure. Perhaps they stand revealed in light of your philosophy? Please advise. Once again, I mean no offense to you in your choice if reading material.

    Perhaps, if you are in some undisclosed location, you could get word to me via Ruth.

  5. Grr! I meant to type “meta-fictional” love story for Possession.I typed it wrong twice and I can’t even blame auto-correct.

    I don’t know if The Confessor would approve of Richard’s choice of dog-name.

  6. Total fail two weeks in a row. Can I blame it on the fact that most of what I have been reading are children’s books? My little guy has decided that he wants to figure out this reading thing, so we’ve been doing lots of phonics.

    I did stay up late doing the “one more chapter” game with Renegade by J.A. Sounders. It’s turning into quite the adventure story. I’m thinking it will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.

    • Ruth, you don’t need an excuse, but I do miss your updates because you are often reading the most intriguing books!

  7. Sorry I missed! My son’s Pop Warner football team keeps winning their playoff games and we’ve had to travel the past 2 weekends and, would you believe it, they won last Saturday’s game, so off we go again this Friday. If they win this game, we go to the national championship tournament at Disney World for a week.

  8. Marion and Brad
    Possession is also one of my all-time favorites.

    And Tim, Cloud Atlas is in my top ten or twenty probably, so can’t wait to hear what you thought when you finish

    As for Rand, I was actually one of those who taught her in high school (Anthem), despite loathing her philosophy. If I’d been drinking, Richard’s post would have been a spit-take.

  9. April V. /

    Marion – I just recently read A Casket of Souls as well and found it less enjoyable than the previous books. I think it was mostly due to the fact that the two two MCs seem to be completely ineffectual for the entire book and that we readers got the ‘bad guy’s POV so it was hard to consider the boys clever for finally figuring it all out when we knew what was going on almost from the start. I think if the bad guy’s POV was completely removed, it would have been a much more enjoyable story.

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