Monday, February 29, 2016

Sixteen of my favorite fiction books

    Saul Bellow's Herzog and  Henderson the Rain King lay down perfect anti-heroes: an idea-rich eccentric of a letter writer in one and a bad-English-writing American traveler (a sort of unsatisfied Mick Jagger) in another. Woody Allen and many a comic have taken off from here, but Bellow's third-person anti-heroes are three-dimensional works of art instead of contrived indulgences.

"Humboldt's Gift" by Saul Bellow.    Bellow's Humboldt's Gift, meanwhile, is a great guide to the balance problematic set between commerce and artmaking. Answers and solutions may be found in the book or just starting to form in the reader's head.

    Albert Camus's The Fall. Everything you need to ask, and perhaps refuse to answer well, is here.

Nobel Prize Winner Elias Canetti's Auto-Da-Fe    Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fe. A thick book still worth reading as a black comedy on the possible excesses of a bookworm intelligentsia and, in contrast, the stupidity and corruption of the letter-less masses (and their consequent anger parties). Although, as Salman Rushdie seems to suggest in an edition's blurb quote, the umbrella point may be 'agonising' when read as the same sallow point of each developing chapter.

Buy Dusklands, J. M. Coetzee, 0099268337    J.M. Coetzee's Dusklands. The art of the prose and the novel contrasts with the art of expansionist oppression. Sounds like a metaphor, by itself, for the sweet words of imperialism.

    Imre Kertesz's Fateless. Reads like the literary version of Schindler's List, but---hey---photographed here also are the shame and fear of ethnicity.

Ancient book with a rocker's sensibility    Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat. Although this is poetry (or verse fiction), this old book's 'storyline' could be read as that, a story. And yes, as probably the most ancient reference/prototype for working-class rock music's rebellion or anti-work anarchism against monarchic or middle-class standards for measuring/defining the good life.

James Kelman's Booker Prize-winning How Late It Was, How Late -- at    James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late. A book with an obvious significance for this, our generation, a generation constantly soaked in a sublime "police state" sponge, a generation de-blessed by an equally subtle blindness towards the myriad of our time's tragic elements.

    J.M.G. Le Clezio's Wandering Star and Amos Oz's  Fima. Two books on the relationship between God, ludicrous gods and their soil, and---more importantly---on the futility of proposing solutions constantly refused by soil- or rock- and wall-attached faiths and politics.

    Doris Lessing's Mara and Dann and its sequel book cover of 

The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog 


Doris Lessing Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog. First, watch the DVDs of James Burke's BBC Connections series. Then, read these two books on the planet's ultimate rewriting of history by way of reinventing not just the wheel but everything. Everything! Could be a better read than Cormac McCarthy's The Road, if only because Lessing's doesn't just warn us of the scenes to come but reminds us as well of the waste that will be. Great companion to your Mad Max videos.

1998 Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago's Stone Raft    Jose Saramago's The Stone Raft. A fable with an obvious political, social, and human significance for a geo-politicized generation, from a Portuguese communist who writes beyond the confines of sheer partisanship for the joys of meager existence.

Cancer Ward    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward. The beauty and sadness of political imprisonment, deception, and escape. Naturalism's triumph under duress.

    Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain. Character You dramatizes a carefree escape to a world of loquacious creativity and freedom he finds in nature away from society and mostly inside his individuality. Character I narrates a travelogue into real life quite against the unreal/surreal one misdiagnosed by society on its people.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heinlein, The Master and his Puppets

ONE of the alien invasion novels to react against the trend of helplessness during the time of its serialization and later release as a book in 1951, The Puppet Masters could safely be said to have been the signal for the 1950s emergence (reemergence?) of a new kind of American patriot (self-critical to the point of being a bit uncertain about his own brilliance, a character therefore recurrently reluctant about doing the heroic, but without the author going so far as to create a Saul Bellow type of anti-hero).
     The book also has visions of a more liberal (instead of  conservative) America. In fact, every now and then, author Robert A. Heinlein (often called the "dean of science fiction writers" and one of the most influential [and controversial] authors of the genre of his time) takes a swipe at conservative types in society in some of the pages.
     Set in the year 2007, which was then the future, this classic oeuvre does miss the '07 landscape a bit---in Heinlein's vision of '07 there are yet no communication satellites. Therefore, TV broadcasts are still limited to line-of-sight propagation, and it's a limitation that plays a large part in the novel's plot and development. Heinlein's predictions for '07 not only fall short of the mark, they also overshoot. Rayguns and flying cars are already in fashion, space stations proliferate in Venus, and the author already gives us some heads up on a mission to Titan, the Saturn moon, somewhere in the middle of the narrative. (Need I mention that this book came out during the peak of flying saucer sightings?)
     The story's primary cast completes the Heinlein triumvirate: Elihu Nivens is the classic Heinlein hero and ideal American male symbol---"multi-talented, independent-minded, loyal to friends, implacable as an enemy," says the Wikipedia wiki about him. Mary (born as Allucquere to a religious commune on Venus), is Nivens' counterpart and also a classic Heinlein figure---"tall, a redhead, tough, and brilliant." Third in Heinlein's favorite types present here is the "wise, grumpy old man" simply named The Old Man, Elihu's boss and dad.
     In his "Books" column for F&SF, critic and also sci-fi author Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best SF books of the '50s decade.