Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Little Otik

Michelle picked a beauty with the Czech film Little Otik. It's about a man an a woman who are totally barren and who are obsessed with having a child. The man digs up a tree root in the backyard and fashions it into a baby boy doll for the woman, who totally and completely and redundantly accepts it as her very own real baby. That's the begining. The cinematography is beautiful, the actors are amazing, the story is pretty good, and on the whole it's really really good.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Dispossessed

Finally finished Ursula LeGuinn's The Dispossessed. Like most of LeGuinn's science fiction, it's an exploration of aspects of human society and relationships. In this case, she presents an entire planet which is a functional anarchy. While it's true that she carefully sets the stage to bring up various aspects of anarchy and avoid others, it's still a beautiful portrayal of what is, after all, the most civilized social structure going. As always, the society and characters LeGuinn creates are exceptionally real and believable, and the story slides easily into your head like a delicious chocolate truffle.

A quick summary. There's a planet in space much like present-day Earth, and an Anarchist revolution erupts. To quell it, the revolutionaries are given the planet's large moon to inhabit. So, many thousand colonists go live on the moon. Our story takes place about two hundred years later and is primarily a portrait of the issues and hardships encountered in building a functional anarchy.

They have no possessive words in their language (altho some get introduced in translation).
No property, of course.
There word for 'work' is the same as the word for 'play'.
She asserts that a person's desire to do good work is at least as much motivation as profit.
Drudge jobs are shared by everyone- once a week or so you peel spuds or recycle shit.

The weak spot in her allegory, in my opinion, is that the planet itself is not very hospitable. It's dry, barely fertile, essentially a desert. It's well known that communities in harsh environments tend to have a higher degree of cooperation and mutual trust. In the words of Lauren re living in a small Arctic town, "People have to watch out for each other here, or everyone would die."
So LeGuinn is really avoiding the problem of anarchy in a surplus.
Nonetheless, i think it's a useful, if limited, exploration.

Along the way there's some beautiful gems of interpersonal relationships, sex, and creativity. She even manages to introduce some future revolutionary science without going into too much detail, which always breaks it in other books.
Anyhow. A good book.

Read a bit more of A Room of One's Own. I have to revise my earlier opinion that it was all poppycock; i think just the first bits are poppycock. After setting the table for a while she finally takes the covers off the dishes and starts doing some man-bashing.

Started We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, by Philip Gourevitch. I'm only about four pages in tho, so nothing much to say. Rwanda is small! It's only about two hundred miles across.

I don't really want to write much about music in here.
So i'm not. But i got some new CDs and have some opinions on them. Just so you know.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Incident at Loch Ness

Even tho i knew Incident At Loch Ness would be good, i was unexpectedly extra happy with it. I laughed a lot. Werner Herzog is a german art-house film maker who's productions are notably esoteric and bizarre. The only Herzog film i've seen is Heart Of Glass, in which Werner, who happens to be a master hypnotist, literally hypnotizes the entire cast before each scene. The movie is acted by the hypnotized, and largely written by them as well, as Werner lets most of the story follow the hypnotized hallucinations of the cast. It's also one of the most visually gorgeous films i've ever seen. So there's that. Apparently he made another film about some people moving a large boat over a mountain with very primitive uh equipment. Logs and horses and such. To make the movie, they actually moved a large boat over a mountain with very primitive equipment. Heart of Glass also features a scene where a medieval glass foundry burns down, for which they actually built a full-scale, working medieval glass foundry and then burnt it down.

So that's Werner Herzog. Art-house.

Incident at Loch Ness presents itself as a documentary crew following Werner Herzog around as he begins a documentary on the Loch Ness Monster. Werner of course, does not believe in the monster, but is interested in the psychological genesis and maintenance of such beasts. For some reason the producer of his film is a big-hollywood movie guy (Zak Penn, writer for X-Men, Elektra, Last Action Hero, etc) who has his own ideas of what film they're making, and high-brow hilarity ensues. I don't want to give stuff away, but it's really, really funny.

Read some more Dylan Thomas, and that's enough of That.

Getting back in to Le Guinn's The Dispossessed.
One example of language sans possessives: they refer to a mother or father figure not as "my mother" but as "the mother". Mykle reports that possessives are not entirely eliminated from the language, which is a bit disappointing, but we'll see.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Ring Two

A more formless and blobby movie would be hard to find.

Friday, March 18, 2005

huck finn

I finished Huck Finn last night. I nearly missed by BART stop doing it.

I find myself slipping 'reckon' and 'waller' into my everyday speech, even tho i don't think those words were used particularly often if at all in the book. Especially not waller. But there you have it.

I'm still puzzled as to what Huck & Jim's plan was. They were heading down the Mississippi (is there any word more of a joy to spell out loud or on keyboard ??) towards New Orleans. I mean, what were they thinking ?

I laughed pretty good in the section where Jim is prisoner in a shack and Tom Sawyer and Huck are scheming to get him out except Tom doesn't want to do it any simple, easy way - he needs to do it as a proper prisoner adventure, and goes about Creating obstacles to overcome. My favorite is how he knows (from reading) that a proper prisoner adventure includes lots of vermin with the prisoner, and seeing as how Jim's shack is basically vermin-free, Huck & Tom go and collect about fifteen rats, twenty or so snakes, and a whole mess of spiders and release them in the shack. that's *funny* !

which i will now pad this blog with.

IN the morning we went up to the village and bought a wire rat-trap and fetched it down, and unstopped the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we had fifteen of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and put it in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But while we was gone for spiders little Thomas Franklin Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there, and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come out, and they did; and Aunt Sally she come in, and when we got back she was a-standing on top of the bed raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to keep off the dull times for her. So she took and dusted us both with the hickry, and we was as much as two hours catching another fifteen or sixteen, drat that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest, nuther, because the first haul was the pick of the flock. I never see a likelier lot of rats than what that first haul was.

We got a splendid stock of sorted spiders, and bugs, and frogs, and caterpillars, and one thing or another; and we like to got a hornet's nest, but we didn't. The family was at home. We didn't give it right up, but stayed with them as long as we could; because we allowed we'd tire them out or they'd got to tire us out, and they done it. Then we got allycumpain and rubbed on the places, and was pretty near all right
again, but couldn't set down convenient. And so we went for the snakes, and grabbed a couple of dozen garters and house-snakes, and put them in a bag, and put it in our room, and by that time it was supper-time, and a rattling good honest day's work: and hungry? -- oh, no, I reckon not! And there warn't a blessed snake up there when we went back -- we didn't half tie the sack, and they worked out somehow, and left. But it didn't matter much, because they was still on the premises somewheres. So we judged we could get some of them again. No, there warn't no real scarcity of snakes about the house for a considerable spell. You'd see them dripping from the rafters and places every now and then; and they generly landed in your plate, or down the back of your neck, and most of the time where you didn't want them. Well, they was handsome and striped, and there warn't no harm in a million of them; but that never made no difference to Aunt Sally; she despised snakes, be the breed what they might, and she couldn't stand them no way you could fix it; and every time one of them flopped down on her, it didn't make no difference what she was doing, she would just lay that work down and light out. I never see such a woman. And you could hear her whoop to Jericho. You couldn't get her to take a-holt of one of them with the tongs. And if she turned over and found one in bed she would scramble out and lift a howl that you would think the house was afire. She disturbed the old man so that he said he could most wish there hadn't ever been no snakes created. Why, after every last snake had been gone clear out of the house for as much as a week Aunt Sally warn't over it yet; she
warn't near over it; when she was setting thinking about something you could touch her on the back of her neck with a feather and she would jump right out of her stockings. It was very curious. But Tom said all women was just so. He said they was made that way for some reason or other.

We got a licking every time one of our snakes come in her way, and she allowed these lickings warn't nothing to what she would do if we ever loaded up the place again with them. I didn't mind the lickings, because they didn't amount to nothing; but I minded the trouble we had to lay in another lot. But we got them laid in, and all the other things; and you never see a cabin as blithesome as Jim's was when they'd all swarm out for music and go for him. Jim didn't like the spiders, and the spiders didn't like Jim; and so they'd lay for him, and make it mighty warm for him. And he said that between the rats and the snakes and the grindstone there warn't no room in bed for him, skasely; and when there was, a body couldn't sleep, it was so lively, and it was always lively, he said, because they never all slept at one time, but took turn about, so when the snakes was asleep the rats was on deck, and when the rats turned in the snakes come on watch, so he always had one gang under him, in his way, and t'other gang having a circus over him, and if he got up to hunt a new place the spiders would take a chance at him as he crossed over. He said if he ever got out this time he wouldn't ever be a prisoner again, not for a salary.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

lookout for fantods

Two of my favorite words of popular parlance turn out to be in Huck Finn: Fantods and Lookout. As in "I know this tie will give your girlfriend the howling fantods, but it's not really my lookout, man."

Howling seems to be DF. Wallace's contribution, but other than that they both occur pleasantly in Huck Finn.

One thing i don't get about the story is what they're dang plan in. Huck and Jim go south on the river, hoping to get to Ohio, is it ? But then they miss the turn-off and end up going deeper and deeper south. This is the second or so time i've read it and knew to be on the lookout for The Plan, but i just don't get it. Well i'm about done, maybe it'll become clear.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Norwegian Wood

I finished Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami a few days ago.
It's pretty good. As i wrote earlier, it really reads like classical music.
It has the wonderful Murakami spareness, which like in Hemingway and Salinger i always feel a bit mistrustful of its soothingness. (More sentences only a mother could love to come, i'm sure) - Because the characters often have a sameness of tone to each other and to the narrator. Altho Murakami does this much less than H or S.
For some reason i began reading it again immediately after finishing it; like the next day or possibly that evening. I think this would be great, i certainly appreciated the early action (so to speak) much more after having been around the characters and narrator for a while. However i've gotten whisked away by Huck Finn.

What's to say about Huckleberry Finn ? Everything you hear is true; it's a supremely excellent book. If you haven't read it in the past 5 or so years you're missing out.

From our bathroom i stole Dylan Thomas - Collected Poems 1934 - 1952.
I'm not much of a poetry lover. I mostly can't stand poetry. (I loved it in high school 'tho.)
My favorite poet is by far William Taylor Jr. I tried to read thru some E. E. Cummings a while ago, as it seemed like he should really be My Sort Of Thing, and while they were excellent, i just stopped reading. So i found Dylan Thomas and read a few and there's a breaking of cadence which i find fascinating, like a hole in the ground, so i'm going to pursue it a bit further.

Sarah has given me We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Enemies, but i haven't started it yet.

I picked up Ursula leGuinn's realist sci-fi novel of a functional anarchist planet, The Dispossessed, and would probably be (re)reading that instead of Huck Finn except Mykle stole it from the bathroom. I wanted to reread it because i remembered the folks on the anarchist planet have removed possessives from their (ha) language, and wanted to see again how she went about it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

a room of one's own

wow, difficult reading. this is like reading poetry- you really have to pay attention. for example you have to sit (or stand and lurch if you're reading on MUNI) and worry out the significance of the courses of a fictional meal. ordinarily i wouldn't spend a second over an author's description of cornish hens and a fabulous pudding, but Woolf goes on for paragraphs and paragraphs about them and even points out that she's doing it explicitely to the reader, so i think it must be some poetical signifigance of poultry. is the significance only that the men's college had fancy food and the women's plain? i can't believe she'd put so much words in if that were all. i don't think it's for me. (a room of one's own, virgina woolf, stolen from michelle)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde

I picked up The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in an awesomely tatty used bookstore in West Portal. Who knew it was by Robert Louis Stevenson ? (Kidnapped, Treasure Island) I have one major complaint about the book: Too Short! It's barely eighty or so smallish pages, which is a shame because the prose is sometimes nothing short of resplendant, such as these lines from the first couple pages:
He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages.


His friends were those of his own blood, or those whom he had known the longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness in the object.

- Hot hot hot!

(These were perhaps the best lines in the book, but the rest is nearly as good)

Anyhow, it's a fine book. If you've read The Portrait of Dorian Grey you'll be very at home with Jekyll & Hyde, it's essentially the same story, written five years earlier (1886). What was up in victorian england with all this obsession over living a double life of moral bankruptcy while sneakily having a seperate copy of yourself pay the piper ?

Am still enjoying Norwegian Wood. It's sort of like classical music.

Read the first couple pages of Huckleberry Finn, and my mouth is *watering*. But i've promised myself to finish norwegian wood before that dessert.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


having forgotten Norwegian Wood at home, i took Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America with me to lunch today.
it has three books in it - TFIA, some poems, and In Watermelon Sugar. I'd already read 45 or so pages of TFIA and felt i (didn't) get the (non) point so i skipped up to Watermelon Sugar and the first thing that struck me was how weird it was to be reading this essentially poetry written in uh 1968 which kept referring to a thing called iDEATH. (I think it's some sort of lodge or cafeteria in the story.) I couldn't stop thinking iPod, iBook, Mac, etc. 'i-' is the new 'e-'. I wonder how many of the macintosh designers thought of iDEATH during their long arduous sessions around the design room table.

in any event, pax Janina, i won't willingly return to Brautigan. it's sort of like eating unsweetened butter for me - there's not much texture and i keep trying to chew it but there's not much to chew either. i keep running the pages between my teeth and around my tongue because it seems like there'll be a lump of saltiness or a bit of saltine in there, but i just can't find it. On the other hand, it's the perfect book for keeping at work, because i know i'll never finish it and so hence it will always be here, but at the same time it's good enough to get me thru those twenty minutes of mexican food on the days when i've forgotten my regular reading at home.

i did quite enjoy The [something] Mine Disaster or whatever. No, not that; i haven't read that. what i did read and quite enjoy was The Hawkline Monster. But i have a suspicion he's low on such linear stories.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

And Furthermore.. analysis sucks

And even when i can't fault the analysis of a beautiful piece of writing, is it even right to perform that analysis ? Yes, it's true that For Esmè with Love and Squalor has some very nice symetries between elements of squalor and elements of love, now that you point it out. So why do i feel cheaper ? I have a suspicion that possibly we'd have better writers in the world if writing and literature programs were outlawed. No. That's not true. But for heaven's sake, just read a story for the story now and then folks. I'm pretty sure most authors write for readers, not for critics.
Okay. Diatribing done.

Salinger Analysis, Pattern Recognition

I finished Gibson's latest, Pattern Recognition with almost as much regret as i've ever finished any book. It's quality stuff. I highly recommend this to anyone who has friends who need to realize that the science fiction genre ain't what it used to be and now quite frequently counts as straight-up literature.

* Pattern Recognition in particular isn't actually sci-fi at all. In fact you'll find it at the book store under Lit, not Cyberpunk. The story is set in the present, not even 'twenty minutes' in the future, and while it does involve technology, the technology is Always off-stage and easy to ignore. Our heroine uses plain old Hotmail and Google, for instance.

* Gibson can Write! If you're one of those people who don't really read for story so much as naked quality of writing (and you know who you are you filthy buggers) then you should really check this one out. Maybe not his previous stuff so much, but Pattern Recognition is just gorgeous.

* The story is good.

At a tiny bookshop in North Portal i picked up Huck Finn, Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde, and The Fiction of JD Salinger, a 1958 monograph by Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, university of pittsburgh press. I think i've never really understood before why authors hate critics. Who do these guys think they are ? They don't seem to be willing to just say "i didn't like it" and so they couch their opinion in all these big (but not really that big, fellas) words. For example they don't like Zooey because it's got too much religion and spirituality in it and not enough literary novelty and thus doesn't qualify as literature apparently. Well, whatever, who cares. It's possibly a story ABOUT religion and spirituality guys. What makes you think authors always care about pushing the envelope of literary structure ? Literary structure is great, i agree, but sometimes there's content. Just because the core concept that everybody in the world is Seymour's Fat Lady and that the Fat Lady is jesus isn't that original doesn't mean it's not worth taking another stab at expressing. That's like saying 'sunsets have already been painted, why pain sunsets?' or.. well etc, you get the point.
On the positive side, i learned that Salinger in fact does have more published stories than the four think books, but they apparently haven't been collected since appearing in Colliers etc. How do i go about finding these ? Gwynn & Blotner say that these other stories pretty much suck, but they also say that Zooey is the worst of Saligner's stories, so who are they to me.

Am back into Norwegian Wood now.
I wonder how much of Marukami's tone is dependant on the translation.