by bill | Feb 28, 2019 | Read it in books |
This post is being written in Casablanca, Morocco, which so far is nothing like you see in the movies. It is a weird combination of breezy beach town and bustling modern city on the go. Yesterday’s itinerary included a visit to the local FedEx, where the workers were super helpful and friendly, which is very Morocco, and then the credit card machine was broken – which is also very Morocco. But all was sorted out and the package is, hopefully, winging its way back to the U.S. even now.
But my subject here today is not travelogue, it is literature. My reading for the first part of the trip was Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars, which – despite being written three years after Stranger in a Strange Land – is one of Heinlein’s light entertainments, not one of his philosophical blockbusters. But it is still slyly subversive, not least because it is written from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl (8 in Mars years), over the stenuous objections of Heinlein’s publishers. A female protagonist was unheard of in science fiction in 1953, a good 26 years before Alien. (more…)
by bill | Feb 15, 2019 | Read it in books |
Congratulate me, I finished two books this week: George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo and Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky. And though they are very different books, written by very different people in very different places at very different times, I found some commonality.
For one thing, [spoiler alert, spoiler alert] main characters in both die of typhoid. In the event, this was during the week the wife and I were taking pills to prevent that very thing from happening to during our trip to Morocco (which is why I was reading The Sheltering Sky in the first place). In fact mortality is a main theme of both books, though Saunders manages to be somewhat uplifting in the process, while Bowles is pretty grim — in a refined literary way, of course.
And I’d love to share more of my penetrating analysis, but departure time is at hand. Check two off the list, anyway.
by bill | Feb 4, 2019 | Read it in books |
Recently I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: took an inventory of all the books I’ve acquired but haven’t read. It’s not a pretty picture. The total comes to 60-some titles and thousands upon thousands of pages. But at least now I have an idea of the scope of the problem, and can begin to take steps to address it.
The first one, of course, is to stop the inflow. To that end I am pledging publicly to acquire no more books for the duration of calendar year 2019, except for Chris O’Leary’s giant Bowie book Ashes to Ashes, which I already have on preorder.
The immediate goal is to finish all of the several books I am in the middle of before leaving for Morocco in mid-February. Then after returning home at the beginning of March I’ll start to deal with The Pile.
So why am I telling you this? Partly because writing about something is a way to make it real. And partly because I hope to write some about what I’m reading, as that seems to be the only way I really remember anything anymore. You are excused in advance for not being interested (though I am always looking for fellow-travelers, so do be in touch if anything strikes a chord).
But for now, back to Lincoln in the Bardo.
by bill | May 2, 2017 | R.I.P., HST, Read it in books |
This excerpt from Hunter’s profile of the skier Jean-Claude Killy, circa 1970, is relevant to current events in a slightly different way from some of the other pieces I’ve been posting. See if you can spot it.
I boarded the plane and instantly found myself involved in a game of musical chairs with the couple who were being moved back to the tourist compartment so Jean-Claude and I could have their first-class seats. “I’ve blocked these two off for you,” the man in the blue uniform told me.
The dowdy little stewardess told the victims how sorry she was — over and over again, while the man howled in the aisle. I hunkered down in the seat and stared straight ahead, wishing him well…. “You sons of bitches!” he yelled, shaking his fist at the crewmen who were pushing him back towards the tourist section. I was hoping he would whack one of them or at least refuse to stay on the plane but he caved in, allowing himself to be hustled off like a noisy beggar.
“What was that about?” Killy asked me.
I told him. “Bad scene, eh?” he said. Then he pulled a car racing magazine out of his briefcase and focused on that. I thought of going back and advising the man that he could get a full refund on his ticket if he kept yelling, but the flight was delayed for at least an hour on the runway and I was afraid to leave my seat for fear it might be grabbed by some late-arriving celebrity.
Within moments, a new hassle developed. I asked the stewardess for a drink and was told that it was against the rules to serve booze until the plane was airborne. Thirty minutes later, I got the same answer. There is something in the corporate manner of United Airlines that reminds me of the California Highway Patrol, the exaggerated politeness of people who would be a hell of a lot happier if all their customers were in jail — and especially you, sir.
by bill | Mar 3, 2017 | Bread and circuses, R.I.P., HST, Read it in books |
America has been breeding mass anomie since the end of World War II. It is not a political thing, but the sense of new realities, of urgency, anger and sometimes desperation in a society where even the highest authorities seem to be grasping at straws.
The above was written in reference to the Hell’s Angels, circa 1966, but just imagine how much worse things have gotten 50 years down the line. Well, I guess you don’t really have to…all you have to do is look around.
by bill | Feb 25, 2017 | Bread and circuses, R.I.P., HST, Read it in books |
My call for a visitation from the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson has so far gone unheeded, so I have decided to embark on a rereading of the complete HST oeuvre, starting with Hell’s Angels. When appropriate, I will share a few choice bits.
Parts of HA seem oddly relevant in the current landscape, particularly the portrayal of people whose politics are consistently at odds with their own self-interest. (“The Angels will be among the first to be locked up or croaked if the politicians they think they agree with ever come to power.”) The following could easily refer to a certain subset of Von Clownstick voters, could it not?
Their lack of education has not only rendered them completely useless in a highly technical economy, but it has also given them the leisure to cultivate a powerful resentment…and to translate it into a destructive cult.