Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Monday, October 24, 2005

trip master monkey (kingston), stagolee shot billy (brown)

A while ago i read Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior(1976) and basically loved it and only wished that it had been about something more relevant to my own life as a white guy. The writing was superb and i wanted to check out more by her. So Michelle kindly picked me up her (Maxine's) 1989 book Tripmaster Monkey: his fake book. Which basically wow what a let-down. I should have known from the antagonistic and opaque title that the book itself would be antagonistic and opaque.

Who's that guy who was the first to write a novel and then throw all the pages in the air and recompose them in random order ? Capote ? Well, let's say it the deserialization of a book. There are certain books which are untransformed by deserialization: that is, each page pretty much can come between any two other pages without changing the overall structure or feel. The last Tom Robbins book i tried to read definitely fell into this category. I think it was Jitterbug Perfume.

Anyhow: Tripmaster Monkey is homomorphic under deserialization. I can't for the life of me tell the difference between any two pages. Granted this is after reading only about 40 pages (Chapter one and a few other pages). But i really tried. I really wanted to have another wonderful Kingston to read, but when i closed in in exasperation for the fourth time, i figured i'd had enough.

Instead, i am stealing Stagolee Shot Billy from our living room. I think it's Kai's. By Cecil Brown, it's a history of the famous eponymous song, and looks to be pretty interesting. Apparently the basic facts of the most common version (Stagolee shot Billy over a five-dollar stetson hat) are pretty much totally rooted in an actual, court-documented event in St. Louis, circa 1895. Brown analyzes how various versions of the song contain elements of race struggle, class struggle, law-enforcement struggle, etc. How white folk coopted the figure of Stagolee (The original Stagolee's name was "Lee Shelton", nicknamed "Stack Lee") into* a white man, not the black man he was. And i'm not sure what else. It looks pretty interesting. 228 pages before the footnotes and such.

* "coopted into" ? is that okay ?

this blog has moved to http://orionreads.elenzil.com

this blog has moved to http://elenzil.com/orionreads

.. which getting the old location (http://orionreads.blogspot.com)
to redirect to the new location was a bit tricky:

1. set the publishing location back to blogspot.
(this did not work for me at first, but i waited a
day or two and tried again and it was fine)

2. edit the template so that the line
looks like
<body onLoad="document.location='http://elenzil.com/orionreads';">
if your <body> line isn't EXACTLY "<body>",
don't follow these directions. find someone helpful.

3. republish the blog
- this will cause the old location to forward to the new,
but you're not done yet.

4. set the blog back to publishing at the new site (http://elenzil.com/orionreads)
- this may trigger a republishing.
if so, the template gets pushed to the new site,
which means the new site forwards to the new site in an infinite loop!
oh no! the space-time thingy is in peril!

5. re-edit the template to back how it was.
that is, change <body onLoad="document.location='http://elenzil.com/orionreads';">
back to just plain old <body>.

6. in blogger control panel thingy under publishing,
specify an archive location!
without this, i wasn't getting any archives.

6. republish one last time.

you heard it here, folks.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Infinite Jest, Black Hole

So i finally finished David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest for the second time.
What can i say. The world is divided into two kinds of people by this book, and as a member of one of them, i think it's impossible to explain the awesomeness of the book to anybody of the other kind. - You (i) end up just seeming obsessed and rabid, and i have a suspicion it's not pretty. Not attracive.

Anyhow. So i'm going to try hard to do the following only once:

This is the best book ever.

Besides just general bestness, it's also primarily one of the funniest things i've ever read. I laugh lots. Wallace's writing style, in addition, makes pretty much all other authors except maybe Amis seem to be unintroduced to anything beyond the power paragraph.

I think a lot of people may be intimidated by the size and uh vocabulary of IJ, but they really shouldn't be. The size is a wonderful thing because it's a wonderful book. And the vocabulary, it's not so bad. One thing *not* to do is keep a dictionary handy, because you'll be referring to it like half the time and as Mike pointed out, end up getting distracted and spending a lot of time reading the dictionary for it's own sake.

Kai spotted the comic book Black Hole by Charles Burns coming thru used at her bookshop, and wonderfully nabbed it for me. Black Hole has been published as seperate comic books over pretty much the last decade, and has finally been released in one big hardcover. It's basically one of the most disturbing comic (and story) i've ever read. It makes me itch and feel uncomfortable. Don't read it before a job interview. I'm a big fan of the Downer-type comics such Ghost World and Optic Nerve, and this is definitely in that category.

It's the story of a group of high-school kids in the early 70s where there's a disease going around a lot like AIDS in that you get it via sex. Except unlike AIDS, it mutates your body in some unpredictable and varyingly horrific way. For example tentacles on your ribs, a mouth on your throat, or possibly a cute tail. The disease carries extreme stigma, and the kids who have it bad all live out in the dark dark woods, living on junk food.

So that's the plot, but the real despair and creepiness is pretty plot-independant, and you can get it from just one page.

Here's a frame from Black Hole which i think sums up the mood fairly well. Except add in mutation.


Friday, October 07, 2005

infinite list of unknown words

so this time thru infinit jest,
i've been keeping in the back a list of words which i don't know but think i should. This is different than just words i don't know, note.
For example, antipyretic or anxiolytic (p. 984) are words i don't know, but i don't really feel like it's my business to know them. but fulvous and erumpant and cathected (p.'s 93, 155, 654) are different stories. i feel like i Should know those words.

So. What follows is the list.

To forestall a possible slew of dictionary.com links,
if you feel like enlightening me on any of these words,
by all means do, excpt that i'm not really interested in what d.com has to say, or wikipedia or any other online source. what i really value in learning the definition of a word is hearsay. first-hand accounts, so to speak. and plus as my friend jennifer informed me, dictionaries are not always right.
(i've gone ahead and linked each one to google images tho)

note a few of these are words i "know" but he used them in ways unfamiliar to me.

also at the bottom is a small list of other lists of unknown words from IJ.


the Infinite Jest list of words from i don't know but should,
in order of discovery:
(i don't know why there's this big gap here)

wenp. 4
kekuleanp. 5
lapidary1p. 7
presbyopticp. 11
espadrillep. 15
martinetp. 15
(hypo)phalangialp. 16
etiologyp. 17
odalisquep. 988
stelliformp. 1058
activallyp. 1058
pedentivep. 91
amaneunsisp. 92
fulvousp. 93
semionp. 101
acutancep. 102
agnatep. 151, 382
praxisp. 155
erumpantp. 155
sub-rosap. 220
caliopsisp. 241
apotropaicp. 243
jonquilp. 258
revenantp. 260
concupisciencep. 992
argotp. 268
sedulouslyp. 271, 287
nictatedp. 272
egregulousp. 272
lordoticp. 1003
strabismicp. 290, 291, 905
ascaparticp. 290
apicalp. 290
attarp. 290
aditp. 291
ephebep. 292
ibidp. 1021
xerophagep. 1006
solecismp. 1006
Anschlussp. 311, 777
bradys-p. 313 (later defined on p. 1022)
nativity2p. 314
codicilp. 315
à-Clefp. 316
grisep. 332
venulatedp. 362
vulgatep. 1026
selvagep. 366
Q.v.p. 985
cunctationp. 368
etiologyp. 370
prolixp. 370
adiposep. 383
jejunep. 385
maffickingp. 429
picricp. 456
morendop. 461
misprisionp. 465
teratoidp. 486
dihedralp. 495
cerisep. 513
ambitp. 1037
psoria-ticp. 582
anomicp. 586
adantep. 586
prandialp. 634
distaffp. 1046
cathectedp. 654
mucoidalp. 657
anacliticp. 1048, 695
aspicp. 1050
furcatedp. 1051
fictilep. 694
catexicp. 707
katexiap. 751
parturientp. 789
cerisep. 790
liebstodp. 863
strabysmicp. 905 (vs strabismic, p. 291)
sinciputp. 950
finialp. 950
seragliop. 952
antigen3p. 965

1. "Director of Composition: 'I made in my assessment [of a paper] deliberate use of lapidary and effete.'"

2. ".. because it was in fact not Mario's real eyelid - that had been sacrificed when [his] fist stuck to his face like a tongue to cold metal had been peeled away, at nativity - but...".
it must somehow mean birth.

3. "A certain number of hysterical pre-competition rumors about the Québec Jr. Team and the severity of the weather circulated and were refuted and shifted antigens and returned."

Other people's lists of unknown words:

Oh look, an index to the whole book - how handy!