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Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals --- the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution --- the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology --- are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.
Leonard Richardson isn't just the author of Constellation Games, one of the best debut novels I ever read and certainly one of the best books I read in 2013; he's also an extremely talented free/open source server-software developer who has been working for the New York Public Library on a software project that liberates every part of the electronic book lending system from any kind of proprietary lock-in, and, in the process, made reading library ebooks one trillion times better. Read the rest
Tonight in Kansas City, MO, at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, the Hugo Awards were presented to a rapt audience in person and online, with voters weighing on a ballot that had been partially sabotaged by a small clique of people who objected to stories about wowen and people who weren't white. Read the rest
In this time of national trauma and political chaos where everyone is being a total shit to each other and the only thing all the sides can agree on is that they can’t agree on anything - we need something to unify us. Something that, as a country, we can shed partisan differences and rally behind. Something like building the railroads, sending a man to the moon. Something that crosses party lines and is pure and perfect, like inside plumbing and laughing at people who call soccer football. Here, our politicians and political parties have failed us.
My friend Morgen and I have an answer.
Turn Oklahoma into a lake. Read the rest
A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham (author) and Yuko Shimizu (illustrator) Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2015, 144 pages, 6.4 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches $16 Buy a copy on Amazon
A few pages into A Wild Swan and Other Tales we’re stopped short by a narrator who is either supremely cynical or just brutally honest: “End of story. ‘Happily ever after’ fell on everyone like a guillotine’s blade.” But that abrupt point of stoppage, it turns out, is the vulnerable moment onto which Michael Cunningham can graft fresh possibilities. In this case, he builds on Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Wild Swans” by imagining a trajectory for the least fortunate swan-brother, the one whose incomplete coat of nettles transformed him back into a man but left him with a “linty, dispiriting” wing where his arm should be.
In this collection of eleven stories, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Hours plucks and tweaks at familiar fairy tales in a variety of ways – through POV changes, time shifts, reimagined elements, and most especially an irresistible voice that’s by turns sardonic, salacious, or brimming with empathy. “Little Man” gives us the motivations behind Rumpelstiltskin’s baby mania. “Jacked” believably paints the beanstalk climber as dumb and lucky. “The Monkey’s Paw” locates another haunting angle on W.W. Jacobs’ tale about the cruel side of wishes.
Based only on its literary merits, A Wild Swan would already be worth your time – but this book is special. Read the rest
British science writer Ed Yong's new book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life is a history of gut flora and bacteria, which first entered our consciousness as a scourge to be eliminated and has lately become something between a cure-all (see the universe of "probiotic" food supplements) and a superfood (think of the fecal transplants that have shown such promise in treating a variety of debilitating and dangerous health conditions). Read the rest
Bonnie Burton (previously) is a favorite around these parts, thanks both to her keen eye for awesomeness, and her next book, Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy (Oct 18), looks like a big ole ball of perfect. (with a foreword by Felicia! Day! (never weird!)) Read the rest
Building Stories by Chris Ware Pantheon 2012, 260 pages, 11.7 x 16.6 x 1.9 inches (hardcover, softcovers, boxed) $31 Buy a copy on Amazon
Chris Ware is renowned as the kind of comic artist who makes you expect more from the genre. For nearly three decades, his unfussy, formalized style has given birth to cult strips such as Rusty Brown and Quimby The MouseM. Despite his style being modeled after the simplicity of Tintin in order to express emotion in as universal a way as possible, his style is a vehicle for the minutiae of human struggle. Building Stories is no different.
Largely comprised of strips previously published in national newspapers, but also featuring unreleased material, Building Stories is Ware's magnum opus – 14 lavishly presented stories in one beautifully designed box, itself adorned with extra strips and illustrations. The separation of the stories into physically distinct objects is intended to allow the reader to acquaint themselves with the characters in any order they choose.
Revolving around the lives of the inhabitants of an apartment block in Chicago, his pet themes of social alienation, excessive rumination and the pervasive feeling of being railroaded by mundanity are all present and correct. A number of archetypes populate the building – the lonely old lady, the bickering couple, the single young woman, but Ware imbues each with its own identity.
Arguably the most prominent character is the young woman who has a prosthetic leg, observed at various unassuming yet pivotal moments in her life, whether she's summer house sitting, lying awake at night thinking of her newborn child, or trying to overcome her anxiety in a writing class. Read the rest
If you don't know who Handsome Jack is, let me get you up to speed. He is perhaps the most famous male model in the world - and has made the time to be a world class magician. Read the rest
Cyberpunk pioneer and games-writing treasure Marc Laidlaw writes, "The latest and for now final addition to my Kindle collection is now live. I've never had a collection; I put this one, 400 Boys and 50 More, together myself. It contains basically all my short stories, novelettes and novellas from the last nearly 40 years (except for the Gorlen series)." Read the rest