March 13, 2005
Recent Reading
  • Home Land, by Sam Lipsyte. Currently a darling of the lit weblogs, and with good reason: this book is one of the most profanely funny things I've ever read. Framed as a series of letters to a high school alumni newsletter, the main character (nickname: Teabag) confesses to his abject failure to do anything with his life since highschool. Not for the easily offended.
  • A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick. Kind of odd that I am so excited about the movie without having read the book, but that was based on the PKD I have read, as well as my general fondness for Linklater. If the movie captures half of the paranoia and fractured sense of identity of the novel, I'll be happy. As for the title, a brief explanation and then the relevant quote from the text. The main character is a cop undercover who has taken so much of a drug called Substance D that his personality has split and the drug dealer he is pursuing (and has under active surveillance, or scanning) is actually himself:
    What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me - into us - clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.
  • Stump, by Niall Griffiths. I raved about another Griffiths novel, Sheepshagger, but was a bit let down by this one. The narrative is two-pronged: one, a first-person account of the day of an ex-addict/alcoholic living in Wales who lost an arm due to an injection infection; and two, a third-person story of two thugs who have been sent from Liverpool to avenge the addict's theft of some money. It was the third-person sections that didn't work for me, Griffith's use of biblical-style language, which worked well in Sheepshagger, just seemed out of place, alternating as they do with the rather mundane musings of the thugs. E.g.:
    And nomads of quite another order, these two in this car are. Nothing in them or their quest of truth or beauty nor justice morality or law but of some species of warfare of a sort that is played out on the outer peaks or in the roots of the wind-twisted trees bent arthritically earthwards. Gnash in this landscape, slash in this landscape tooth and talon on and in always this hard landscape once soft and gouged by claw or by flesh inured enough to have too been claw. From ravenous rippings in the pocks and pits of the soil too thin here to sustain growth other than that which from these buried feeding became the hacking hand of man and rocks ripped out and shaped and stacked to form a fortress both protection from and site from which to propel still more flesh-render, surrender and submit, to the screeching machines which shred the sky hourly and somewhere within this history unending this small farting automobile spluttering smoke and the faulty flesh-weapons, launched torpedoes of skin and bone inside it.
    --Yeh still narky? Still got thee arse?
    Darren shakes his head.
    --Then why the friggin deadhead, lar? I mean yer've been blankin me since
    --Oh shut yer fuckin gob will yeh, and giz a piecer that fudge.
    This high language/profane language dichotomy happens enough that I'm pretty sure it's deliberate, and perhaps even meant to be funny, but it kept taking me out of the text. An enjoyable (and quick) read, but not a great one. I'll still pick up whatever Griffiths I can find though.
Posted by Bill Stilwell at March 13, 2005 07:56 PM
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