Archive for the ‘Gib-Lit’ Category

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Splatterloose Foothouse Five

March 7, 2012

The perpetual, unconquerable list of things that I suddenly develop an interest in and appreciation for decades after everyone else continues apace. This week it is Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five and the Sonic Youth album ‘Goo’.

Such is the way of modern pop culture cross-pollination that I first became aware of Slaughterhouse-Five when it was mentioned in the 1984 film Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon. Vonnegut’s satirical novel is the centrepiece of a subplot wherein the reactionary denizens of a small bumblefuck town in Oklahoma are incensed at the book being included in a high school curriculum and eventually convene a good ole book burning to rectify the problem. Fish-out-of-water, free-wheelin’ rebel kid new to the small town that he is, Bacon’s character Ren shocks and offends some townsfolk who ask his opinion of the book only to have him respond, “It’s a classic!”
Now, at the time, I was barely aware of who Kurt Vonnegut was. I had probably read his seminal short story ‘Harrison Bergeron‘ by that age but I had not retained Vonnegut’s name in my memory. I had never heard of Slaughterhouse-Five before watching Footloose. The word ‘slaughterhouse’, though it should have prompted me to think merely of a common abattoir, instead immediately brought to my mind the original arcade video game Splatterhouse featuring a playable character modeled on Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise (hockey mask and boiler suit) who ventured through a large spooky mansion dismembering ghouls with a meat cleaver. I knew the novel forming the subplot in Footloose was unlikely to have any connection to a video game riffing on famous horror movies of the era but, knowing nothing about the book, and being influenced by mental images of the game, I kept picturing a Jason mask and bloody cleaver and imagining Slaughterhouse Five was some kind of gory horror novel which was nonetheless in possession of sufficient literary merit that liberal-minded Americans considered it as worthy of “classic” status. Needless to say, I was puzzled.

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A Correct Approach

March 7, 2012

I was blown away by Jonathan Franzen’s novel, The Corrections. It was a fantastic and thoroughly engaging read, but I lack the inclination to extrapolate on that sentiment here and attempt to spin it into a five hundred word post. Instead, I’ll merely provide a little anecdotal observation about the author and his novel that is intended as a blogged love letter of sorts.

Not long after it was first published, there was a mild controversy surrounding The Corrections and its being selected by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, which also saw Franzen invited on to the sofa to sit by the empress of daytime chat shows and discuss the novel. Actually, given the relatively harmless context of literary entertainment here, let’s call it a mere brouhaha rather than a controversy. Franzen balked at his book being selected by Oprah, objecting on the grounds that the novel would be seen as having been written for women, primarily for the consumption of a female readership, when he, in fact, wanted to reach adult male readers whom he believed weren’t reading enough. He expressed his misgivings concerning the selection for Oprah’s Book Club in interviews and his invitation to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s chat show was subsequently withdrawn. Commenting on the reasons for his objection Franzen said

So much of reading is sustained in this country, I think, by the fact that women read while men are off golfing or watching football on TV or playing with their flight simulator or whatever.

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A Reading List (of sorts)

January 31, 2012

I’m being hassled, folks. I’m being hustled and harangued.

As anyone with decent taste in television will know, last year saw the broadcast of the HBO series A Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of the first book in George R. R. Martin’s unfinished heptalogy, A Song of Ice and Fire. Like many others, I watched it and fell for it in a big way. It made for fantastic television. Once the first season concluded, sales of Martin’s books predictably shot up as the popularity of the show brought him a shitload of new readers and amongst these new readers were a few friends of mine who had been as hooked as I was on the HBO series. They then went on to tear through the original book and the four other books that Martin has thus far completed of his unfinished heptalogy, whereas as I resolutely did not. I had been content to settle for the story told as a high-end television production and to enthuse about the episodes each week with my equally devoted companions but it seems they opted to join that group of fans of the books, thereafter to know beforehand the content of the upcoming seasons and to say things like “oh, just wait to see what happens, you’ll shit!” to people who were only watching the TV show. And they’ve been urging me to join them. Now, I’m a funny fella when it comes to reading fantasy. I have read and enjoyed a lot of fantasy themed comic books but the last big fantasy novel I read burned me badly with its utter shiteness and I’m generally prejudiced against books with painted dragons, barbarians or buxom princesses on their covers (in flagrant violation of the old dictum regarding the judging of book covers). To add to that, I’m also hostile to the idea of a series of books being longer than a trilogy and, as I’ve emphasized twice now, A Song of Ice and Fire is a heptalogy, seven books, and it is currently unfinished. Frankly, I simply can’t be arsed with that.

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Kavalier Attitude

January 19, 2012

Immediately after finishing Lolita I began reading a book that has doggedly pursued me for several years, practically begging for my attention. I was first told of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon not long after I arrived in Korea in 2005 and then heard from several people in subsequent years thereafter that it was a brilliant book that I would especially enjoy. They were right, obviously.

At the time of this writing, I have not finished reading the novel but I have been moved to comment on the extent to which I feel invested in the fate of one of the fictional characters from the title, Joe Kavalier. Perhaps it is the particular books I’ve read prior to this one, but I don’t recall caring so much about a character in a novel in quite some time. Of course, it helps that Humbert Humbert, as amusing and sophisticated as he was, was ultimately a total fucking dick. Before Lolita there was J.G. Ballard’s The Day of Creation, whose protagonist was laboring under a seething tropical psychosis for almost the entirety of the novel, and I wasted valuable reading time on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy last year, his characterization in particular being so crap as to increase with each passing day my shame at having been suckered by a trilogy of glorified airport novel shite.

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Nymphet in the Bud

January 17, 2012

SCHLUCK! That’s the sound of my puncturing the dreadful hymen of bloggers block that formed around these delicate parts since the beginning of the new year. The tumescent cock of inspiration has risen, dear readers, and it is poised to resume plowing away once again!

Last year I set myself the literary goal of reading Nabokov’s Lolita before the end of 2011. I failed, and not even in a spectacular fashion, but in a quiet and rather dull way when the remaining third of the book wasn’t consumed until around one full week into January. I’m hesitant to say much more here about the classic novel without embarking on a side mission of secondary reading and rigorous contemplation beforehand, however, I did want to throw out a wee note in passing. It is said that Vladimir Nabokov coined the term nymphet to describe the girls that his protagonist Humbert Humbert is attracted to and that both that term, and the name of the title, have entered the lexicon thereafter. Now, whilst I can accept that the meaning of these words is now widely understood, is it actually possible to utter them in everyday usage outside of any discussion of Nabokov’s novel?  How exactly could you use the term nymphet, without referring to the book Lolita, given that the term denotes a girl between nine and fourteen years of age that is considered to be enchantingly seductive? If you describe a girl as a nymphet you’re basically saying, “she’s around a median age of 12 and exceedingly fuckable” and even in this liberal age that’s not quite a sentiment one can express in polite company.

You see, it’s Humbert’s word, and he goes out of his way to explain that he’s a perverse and twisted madman. “Nymphet” functions as a kind of apology for his illicit sexual desire, attempting to introduce fairytale notions of female children as irresistible enchantresses.

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