Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao. My kid asked me about this book when I was about 50 pages into it. I said, I’m not sure I’ll finish it. He asked me about it again when I was about 100 pages into it. I said, I’m going to finish it now. He asked me why. I said, I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, but the book makes sense to me now, so I’m going to finish it. Sometimes a poet writes a novel and it can be a lot of work. In this case, I think it was worth it. Navigating the loss of children through a kind of mythologizing. The sentences reminded me of John Ashbery’s poetry.
British Ice by Owen D. Pomery. The sins of empire in microcosm. Masterfully done. Set in an arctic wasteland, yet manages to be visually engaging on every page.
Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet. There’s so much charm in these rough and ready drawings plus watercolors (?). There are moments of casual adult cruelty toward children that will stick with me for a long time. Haunted.
Once there was this lemming who convinced a bunch of other lemmings to put on some blindfolds and follow him around. These lemmings hated lemmings with squeaky voices and this one guy, let’s call him Stu, did not have a squeaky voice. A bunch of the squeaky lemmings said, hey, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But all those squeaky-hating lemmings were all, what do you know, squeakers, poo! The squeaky lemmings just sort of rolled their eyes. They weren’t so concerned at first. But then a LOT of lemmings started putting on blindfolds and rushing around after Stu. Including rushing near this massive cliff at the bottom of which were rushing rocks and resounding locks and crashing clocks of coastal turbulence (it was the infamous seacoast, after all, upon which many creatures and mariners had lost their lives). Soon the squeaky lemmings were squeaking as loud as they could, look! for the love of god just take your blindfolds off! You’re all going to die! But those blindfolded lemmings just chortled and pulled their blindfolds on more tightly. It was just so satisfying to irritate those squeaky lemmings, I guess. Stu kept shouting about how great everything was and how everyone could take their blindfolds off as soon as they got where they were going, but they never seemed to get anywhere, just rushing back and forth, getting closer and closer to the edge of that terrifying cliff. Some of the squeaky lemmings just covered their eyes, it was too scary! They also tried to tell the blindfolded lemmings that Stu was blindfolded too, but the blindfolded lemmings just screamed that they were liars, even though they were getting a little dizzy from all the running back and forth. Finally, inevitably, all the blindfolded lemmings ran over the edge of the cliff, tumbled down among the crashing rocks and surf, and died.
Moral: Everyone knows that lemmings don’t really rush off cliffs, in spite of that staged bullshit in a Disney nature documentary and that ancient, popular video game, but it goes way, way back beyond that.
Another moral: Just because you hate someone, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Epic, millenia spanning science fiction. Clearly inspired by David Brin’s Uplift novels (a craft in the novel is explicitly called the Brin). Sentient spiders, crazy AI computer systems, the slow social-breakdown on a generation ship traveling for hundreds of years, and more: this book has so much going on. I very much enjoyed it.
Long ago (at least last Tuesday) a Baron Von Vetteler demanded a large soup be filled with apes. To be clear, the apes weren’t cooked in the soup. They were added later. (It was a very large tureen and its top was shaped like a blowfish riding a unicorn.) The apes weren’t too keen on being in the soup, even though Baron V.V. had thoughtfully added a hint of banana to it and given them all banana-shaped beach balls to play with. It was a soup tureen full of cranky apes and that’s the truth! No one told the Baron any of this was a bad idea, because his money had purchased their silence and tacit approval. Still, pretty much everyone had thought it was a terrible idea from the start. If anyone had asked the apes, they would’ve said so too. Next week: cats in a mulligatawny stew.
Moral: If you’re not mocking the ridiculousness of the wealthy at every turn, you’re doing it wrong.
Additional moral: You have to be a pretty great ape to stoically put up with being put in a soup tureen with banana-shaped beach balls.
Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser. I keep reading detective and spy stories. (And also watching things like True Detective.) I’m not sure what’s driving this, what I find comforting in these fictions about people attempting to conceal and reveal the truth. This novel’s detective, Van Veeteren, is delightfully world-weary. There’s a pretty satisfying courtroom secene, too.
- This Kicks Condor person/entity kindly mentioned my website here. There’s a lot of other cool websites there too!
- I really dug this song by Anangke “I Won’t Wait Forever”. Spooky and intense. (The other track there is worth a listen too.)
- My very very favorite Lord of the Rings covers. (My copies of these look about like this.) I never knew that the artist’s name was Barbara Remington and I also just learned that she passed away a few days ago. RIP.
- This Illimat game (inspired by the music of The Decemberists, one of my favorite bands) looks pretty neat!
- I can get behind a minimalist news site like this Legible News site that appears to generate news from Wikipedia current events.
- I’ve always enjoyed a good rant, like this rant from Sam Kriss about Star Wars and generations and Harry Potter and so many other things. (I assumed he was much older and almost laughed out loud when he revealed his age. I’m still much older and not nearly so grumpy and maybe I never will be?)
- I keep trying to remember to listen to this album Wings by the South Korean boy band BTS. It’s based on Hermann Hesse’s novel, Demian, which I find super intriguing! (Great book, btw.)
- When I was a kid, John Berkey’s art was my favorite science fictional art. Man, I dig those space ships!
- I feel like there’s a lot of valuable insight in this post/essay “The Internet of Beefs” by Venkatesh Rao. (Rao’s writing, generally, I find worth reading.)
- Dig this essay about libraries and forests by Rebecca Solnit.
Death Will Have Your Eyes by James Sallis. What if a poet wrote a spy novel? This is about what you’d get, I think. Not sure why I’ve been reading so many spy and detective novels lately. Perhaps there’s some solace in these archetypal roles. An escape from the tyranny of the real. Perhaps they just suit my current melancholy frame of mind.
Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. One of the reasons I read books is to meet people who are very different from me. It helps me understand the ways I am a stranger. Strongly recommended.