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Happy (belated) Midsummer/Solstice/Litha to those who celebrate it, and happy first day of summer to those who don't.

I did my usual high-speed catch-up on LJ. Which is why some of you have spammed inboxes today :)

I keep meaning to review books I have in an ever-growing stack on my desk. One that really deserves more than the short shrift it's going to get is Douglas Coupland's Generation A. I believe this to be his best book. In fact it pretty much gathers together the best of his other work in one delicious, richly-written piece, and leaves the dross. So if you only ever read one Coupland, this is it.

It's a short, simple novel of a likely dystopian future - one where "Colony Collapse Disorder" has wiped out the bee population. Most flowers are dead. Most kinds of fruit are rare delicacies. As the novel progresses, the dystopia deepens, and even worse horrors are in the offing.

In the midst of this, five strangers are stung by the supposedly-extinct bee. They're isolated, studied, and strangely become friends. They wind up on Haida Gwaii, where they start to piece together the mystery of what happened to them, to figure out how they got there and where they're going.

After years of mid-quality and poor-quality efforts, Coupland's more than back in form with this one. He restricts his obsession with ripping plotlines from the headlines to just the bee extinction, so it doesn't feel like he's just cribbing Yahoo News to flesh out his books. The iciness and callousness of his later work isn't here. This one is sensitive, intelligent, and the themes and plot and character are all rich and engaging.

More than that I couldn't say without giving too much away. Except that it's highly recommended.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, yeah. Among the books I have on my pile to review is the strangest thing I've ever read - and I speak as a fan of manga, and someone who's read Beautiful Losers, Nightwood, and parts of Finnegan's Wake.

I'm talking about The Malleus Mallificarum, of course - the greatest witch-hunter's manual of the Middle Ages.

Maybe again the Burning Times? Plus, there's no good answer to the question, 'What does a witch do with stolen body parts?' )

So, yeah. A useful historical text, and good for any writers trying to build a realistic Middle Ages. I wouldn't exactly recommend it as pleasure-reading, though.

In infinitely more pleasurable entertainment, I saw the Scott Pilgrim movie last night with good friends. I'll talk more about the series when I get to reviewing the graphic novel, but I will say this - I'm startled by how well they adapted such a potentially hard-to-film work.

I wasn't thrilled with the choice of actors - I was sceptical more for their appearance and voices than their acting talents - but they all interpreted their parts excellently. Kieran Culkin made a (surprisingly) perfect Wallace Wills.

The ending hadn't been written yet when the film was made. The graphic novel ending is much better. But that's a very high bar and the movie was still really, really good. I highly recommend.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Another miscellany, after a long absence.

Same-Sex Marriage Became Law in Canada 5 Years Ago Today

We should've listened to the religious right. Canada now resembles a Mad Max-esque wasteland, a landscape of broken shells of buildings, where horrific mutants scrounge for cans of food in the ruins of supermarkets.

In other words, it's not just Esquimalt anymore.

Oh, we saw the signs. As the zombies crept through the streets of Amsterdam, infecting the last survivors, we should have realized. When that meteor hit Brussels, we ought to have known. In the last days before we got it - just as Spain legalized and every Spanish citizen abruptly married a dog - we should have heeded the signs and turned back.

But we walked that path - the path that has made Sweden, the Netherlands, and Canada synonymous with living hell on the lips of every person in the world. Even when dogs and cats began living together, we didn't heed the warnings. Now it's too late for us.

Trip West

It was a good vacation, if rushed. The miracle of Facebook means that I'm in contact with many friends long-lost.

Also, I'm back on good terms with a friend I posted about some time ago. I meant to post about that - sorry to anyone who was still worried about me there. But I've been 300 posts behind on LJ forever, and I try to read my friends page before posting myself.

I saw him every afternoon. That was wonderful, and we patched things up, but it meant I was juggling mornings and evenings all week to see others, and I couldn't get to Vancouver. It was nice to see old friends. But now I'm very, very tired. I had very little sleep. However, I am still on BC time, so sleep before midnight is so far impossible.

Oryx and Crake: The Video Game

So someone posted a request for people to respond to a short marketing survey. She's developing a concept for an Oryx and Crake video game - I don't know if she really wants to produce it or not, but even as an idea it's interesting.

At first, I wondered how many Margaret Atwood fans are also video gamers, and then I realized that that's half my friends-list. The survey is here.

So what do you think? RPG? Racing game? First-Person Shooter? It better not be a side-scroller, because this has the side-scrollers-based-on-Canadian-fiction category tied up for the year:
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I've been trying to review some of the books that have been sitting on my to-review pile for ages.

review continues for La Nuit Des Princes Charmants by Michel Tremblay )

In short, it's a perfect little poem of a book. There's not a word here that doesn't need to be.

In other news, it's Victoria Day Eve here in Canada. Across the country, little ones are hanging up stockings and putting out cookies for when Queen Victoria glides over in her gilded carriage drawn by pomeranians. After that, we sing the Victoria Day carols, tell the kids about the true nature of Victoria Day, and then send them all out to manufacture snuff and clean chimneys for a night.

Canadian holidays are weird like that.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So in the vein of reviewing books, I don't think I ever talked about The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland - though I finished it months ago.

I liked it. I was told it was his best book in years, and that's true, though it's really two books. The first is an epistolary novel about a washed-up middle-aged man and the daughter of an old high-school friend of his who both work at Staples. The other novel is the one the main character is writing - a story called Glove Pond, about the world's worst dinner party (the name is the first thing he Googled that came up with no real hits).

Review continues )

In other news, there's a lot to look forward to this month - starting with return from [livejournal.com profile] em_fish and [livejournal.com profile] sassysairs from Down Under, crossing both date line and seasonal divide to return home after the better part (or really, the worse part) of a year. I'm looking forward to seeing them again ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I'm finally beginning to feel a little more human this weekend. Since the election in October, I've had the stress of a massive financial report hanging over me, and that stress was really eating into me.

I've been tense, irritable, depressed, stressed, distant, and generally unhappy for months, with recurring writer's block. But the auditor got the report back to us on Friday, [livejournal.com profile] montrealais brought it into my workplace, and I got everything signed, sealed, and delivered on Friday afternoon -- one business day before the deadline.

Then I collapsed, and slept for what felt like only the second time in five months. I was half-asleep at [livejournal.com profile] em_fish's birthday get-together, and I'm only just beginning to feel kind-of awake today.

I finished Payback -- not very coherent, though Massey Lectures rarely are, but I was still surprised to see Margaret Atwood rambling so aimlessly. She's usually so focused.

It was still a really interesting read, though. Her Christmas Carol re-imagined for the 21st century as an Earth Day Carol with its three spirits -- a Pagan earth priestess for past, a hippie for present, and a giant cockroach for Earth-Day-yet-to-come -- was hilarious, though heavy-handed even by Atwood's standards.

I also saw The Watchman, which people kept saying was like the comic panel-for-panel. Sadly exempt were the best panels, those full-page ones near the end. Still worth watching, though.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been gone from cyberspace for the most part for weeks, though occasionally I've been checking up on friends' journals -- skimming mostly. It's been a stressful few weeks, what with a financial report to be prepared through a haze of a flu, and the two contributing to a serious case of writer's block that's held me back to about two pages a day.

I had to mostly sit out a party on Sunday, and Monday after turning in my report I collapsed and slept for eleven hours. Yesterday and today I've been taking it very easy.

Other than that, there's not much to say. Scott Symons just died. He wrote the most influential work of Canadian lit you've never heard of, Combat Journal: Place d'Armes. It was an experimental, very autobiographical novel narrated by a man who's clearly had some sort of break reality because he can't deal with his homosexuality, or with the cultural change around him in the 1960s.

Malcolm Ross, who pretty much invented the study of Canadian literature, once said that every book he'd read after 1967 was influenced by either Place d'Armes or Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Both came out in the same year, and are similar in being experimental, stream-of-consciousness novels by men who've lost touch with reality and which deal heavily and explicitly with sex, but Place d'Armes is far superior and more readable.

But Place d'Armes got forgotten while Beautiful Losers is remembered. Partly that's because of Cohen's fame as a singer, but also because Canada wasn't really ready for a gay novel outside the bohemian set of up-and-coming writers.

(Homosexuality was not only still illegal in Canada in 1967, and not only was the law still enforced, but it was probably the must brutal in the Western world. A man in 1967 was arrested for consensual gay sex, and sentenced to spend his natural life in jail without any chance of parole as a "dangerous offender.")

Symons eventually left the country, and continued to write about his two favourite subjects -- gay sex and antiques. He was largely forgotten, and still not remembered now the literary establishment of the country is eager to make the Canadian canon more diverse.

I'd say rest in peace, but if there's one thing hit home hard in Place d'Armes, it's that the ancestors and the past are always present. So I doubt he'll be far.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a quiet few days. All I've wanted to do is sleep, and I haven't done much besides sleep, read, edit, and see Sean. Yeasterday and today, I've gotten caught up on LJ, which is why half your inboxes are flooded.

I've finished Un Coeur découvert by Michel Tremblay since I got out, and I've nearly finished another novel, Skinny Legs and All.

A review of Un Coeur découvert )

I guess the short of it was that it was a good novel overall, though flawed in many respects -- largely by the narrator's personality defects. I guess its lack of a real plot isn't a bad thing, as long as the reader's prepared for something more episodic than most novels.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I just finished Oryx and Crake. In its first pages, I found it a bit dull. Then I found it so depressing I almost stopped -- a lot of people do.

But I'm glad I kept with it. It's a wonderful novel. Very rich, very beautiful, and so wise that it can change a person's perspective on things.

It's my favourite style -- optimisitc, but not naive. Able to find hope without turning a blind eye to reality.

It opens with a man who calls himself Snowman, but was once named Jimmy. As far as he knows, he's the last ordinary human on earth. Civilization is gone, and besides him the only humanoid species is a lab-created subspecies of human beings, the Children of Crake, who were genetically programmed to be without violence, without strife -- but also without art, without love, and without religion.

I won't say more than that, because part of what's gripping about the story is gradual unravelling of the mystery of how they got there -- and Atwood is at her best here.

But I think I can say without spoiling anything that a lot of it has to do with art.

Jimmy's problem is that the dystopian world that was destroyed, and supposedly-utopian world that comes after have no place for a "word person," as he calls himself -- he's a writer in a world where the only use for writers is in advertising. There is only one painting in the book. There are no plays, no novels, and they only learn science and life in schools. The art school means he failed to do anything in the sciences, and it doubles as marketing school.

Neither world has a place for him. But both need artists vitally -- they need the larger persepctive and exploration that art and religion and history can provide, and which science can't. It's why the first world crumbles, and why the second might be stillborn if nothing changes.

It reminds me Timothy Findlay's Headhunter in that way. Problem is that while it's a message ordinary people in this country can get, it's one that elites don't. Our political, academic, and commercial classes largely see art as a frill, as a sign of luxury, and are desperate to cut all funding to it.

But they're the ones who most need to understand the message of a book like Oryx and Crake.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been getting a lot done -- with my writing and other things. I've got a rough draft of the short story I'm sending out next week already put together, and now begins a rigorous editing process.

It's a good thing real life has been going well, because my entertainment has taken a turn for the disturbing. See, I don't like to switch novels or switch video games when I'm in the middle of one, and I made the mistake of reading Oryx and Crake at the same time as playing the horror game Silent hill 4.

Oryx and Crake really is the most frightening kind of "what if" -- not the "what if the bomb is dropped?" or "what if we opened a portal to another dimension," but just "what if we simply just keep doing what we're doing." At first it seemed pretty lacklustre, but now it's become pure Atwood, and I have to keep stopping to digest the more brutal passages before I move on to the next.

She's brilliant though. I'd like to splice her vision and psychological understanding with Heather O'Neill's style. The resulting writer would be able to re-write all of creation with her words.

And Silent Hill 4 is most disturbing of the series of that series of video games. Not because of walls that bleed angry spirits, or the post-apocalyptic empty urban landscapes, or the undefined fleshy things that slither through those landscapes. It's because the only place of safety in it is a locked, sentient room which gradually becomes more and more hostile to you the more the game progresses -- its air becomes toxic, and the room decays, and the atmosphere itself injures you.

The idea of having no place of safety, and no home to return to, is scarier to me than all the gore-encrusted prisons and hospitals that are a mainstay of the series. I honestly don't know if I can finish this game.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm now reading Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood's weird dystopia, which (like all good dystopias) is about the world we live in now.

I'm almost two-fifths through it, and parts of it are like a train wreck from which no one walked away alive -- horrific, but impossible to turn away from. And all the more horrific because so much of it is true already.

And I think the Blood and Roses video game in the novel is going to haunt my nightmares.

While I try to digest one Atwood dystopia, North America is beginning to look more and more like The Handmaid's Tale.

The Third-Wave, witch-hunting, Pentecostal-breakaway Christians (including sarah Palin) are freaking me out more and more. I read a blog post by one of their number yesterday warning the faithful that Obama's Kenyan relatives are using witchcraft to win him the presidency. Unlikely, but if it's true, I urge them to tell the world so that the 90% of it who prefer Obama can send you whatever supplies you need.

The blog posted went on to urge the faithful to "cover John McCain and Sarah Palin in the blood of Christ" to help them win. I wonder if that watered-down ketchup they used to use in slasher movies would be an acceptable substitute?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So during the election, I finished The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. I had high hopes for it, as I'd heard nothing but good things. I also attended an author's lecture of his, and he seemed like a really interesting person.

I was a bit disappointed. He does some things marvellously well -- character creation, and setting individual scenes, exploring certain themes. I had two serious problems with it, though.

The first is that there's no structure or plot of any kind -- no buildup, no climax, just a series of episodes in the life of a Chinese-Canadian family in the 1920s that don't really reach any final conclusion. The literati might treat plot like it's lower class, but that's why so few people read their books. Plot is engaging -- it keeps interest. And there's none here at all.

My second problem with the novel is that his prose is lacklustre. Maybe I've been spoilt by authors like Heather O'Neill and Margaret Atwood and Douglas Coupland, but there's no remarkable turns of phrase here, no startling metaphors -- but there is plenty of clichéd language.

Still, one of the identifying traits of really good writing is that it's haunting. And there are scenes here that haunt me, and probably always will. There's arrival of the old man who the young daughter is convinced is Sun Wukong/Son Goku from the Journey to the West/Saiyuki story. There's streetfighting in the temple of a Tong Association while the old gods look on. And those scenes make it worth the read.

(Of the three stories, I liked Jung-Sum's story the best, for reasons that'll be obvious to anyone who's read The Jade Peony.)

I also finished a book of Quebec folklore -- Créatures fantastiques du Québec. Most of it was the usual fare you get from European folklore -- werewolves, sea serpents, ape-men, mermaids, angry ghosts.

One that made me laugh out loud was the evil witch Margeurite le Boeuf, who was forever followed by a Satanic cow. According to the author, the cow was "apparently possessed by the forces of darkness," and that you could see "the animal envelop itself in a nimbus of fire the colour of blood before it danced pagan dances in front of the houses of those who had laughed at her mistress." This magic cow-dance would light the trees on fire.

They really needed to bring Gary Larson out of retirement to illustrate that.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished Lullabies for Little Criminals last night. I won't say it's the best book ever written in English in this country -- and it's not the most profound. But in terms of pure craft, pure structure, and skill with words and imagery -- I think it does win the top spot.

Everyone told me it was brutal and bleak. I don't think these people took English classes in Canada. It's nowhere near the level of bleak this country reaches. Plus, she embroiders the bleakness so wonderfully, too, that the beauty distracts you -- it's like looking at ancient ruins.

A small sample from halfway through the book -- the thoughts of the protagonist when she was thirteen, imagining the prospect of a nuclear war )

I also like her description of writing a novel, how it's "kind of like putting together a robot without an instruction manual. Every word is a nut or screw and there are hundreds of thousands of them."

Speaking of which, I finished the most brutal part of my current edit this morning -- where I go over the novel in two-page chunks, tinkering with it and reading it for sound and rhythm, and style. I also revamped the structure, and I think i finally have it right.

Now I'm going to go through and enrich the language and the images a bit more. Then there's one final edit, and a quick read-through. Maybe I'll have this done this year.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I was greatly disappointed by Timothy Findley's Pilgrim. I had high hopes for it -- I mean, how could you go wrong with Findley writing a magic realism piece about Carl Jung? He's a great craftsman, and it's great material.

The first fifty and last hundred pages were excellent -- pity that it's a 520-page book. The middle is a sandwich of Findley's usual obsessions -- bad fathers, bad psychiatrists, bad fathers, bad psychiatry, bad fathers, World War I, bad husbands, and bad fathers.

We've seen it all before. He did it much better in Headhunter, The Wars, and Famous Last Words. This mixes those three books together into a rather unsatisfying glop.

Also, the spirit of Leonardo of Vinci probably prefers his portrayal in the Da Vinci Code to Findley's version of him.

I can't say I'm used to straight authors portraying homosexual men as monstrous rapists of children and adults, or particularly grotesque johns and sugar daddies. But from a gay author like Timothy Findley -- who spent the last 51 years in what was by all accounts a happy marriage and artistic collaboration writer Whitehead -- it'd be nice to have, say, one gay character who didn't read like a propaganda pamphlet from the religious right.

At least his Oscar Wilde wasn't that vile.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Last week, I finished Douglas Coupland's novel about lonely people, Eleanor Rigby. Overall, I liked it, but I thought it could've been much better.

A long time ago, Coupland was my favourite author. Gradually, he's waned on me. I'd read all his English-language novels up to Miss Wyoming, but after that last dull effort, I didn't really feel enthused enough to buy his later novels.

Eleanor Rigby looked interesting, though, and even if I hadn't gotten it as a gift, I'd have read it. Some thoughts (mostly criticism):

Review continues )

So, yeah -- I don't love Coupland as much as I used to, although I think he is gradually becoming a better writer, and I'll probably read more of his stuff in the future -- I already have JPod on my shelf. I'd also recommend Eleanor Rigby, for all its flaws.
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I finished Michael Adams' Fire and Ice this week. Adams is Canada's most prominent private pollster, and the book is the result o a decade's worth of studies that show that Canadians' values are actually becoming more different from those of the Americans, contrary to the usual assumption.

It was an excellent book except for one tragic chapter about our differing histories. I really wish commentators on Canadian society would quit relying on their high school textbooks for their history. They might as well be going to a Magic 8-Ball -- "Was Lord Durham's assessment of the rebellions as 'two nations warring in a single breast' accurate?" Answer: "Outlook Not So Good."

Probably the most interesting chapter, though, was an appendix listing "Values Tracked Only in Canada." These were things that -- during their initial interviews -- many Canadians mentioned that they had strong positive or negative feelings about, but few if any Americans did.

(By "values" they mean everything from "ways of living life" and "things that are important day to day" to the grand theories and paradigms of life. )

Sadly, Adams doesn't often tell us which things Canadians talked about a lot because they liked, and which ones they talked about because they thought they were bad things, though some are probably pretty obvious -- I have a hard time imagining anyone singling out polysensorality (my new favourite word) as a negative.

(Polysensorality is the belief that life should be sensual experience, but that too much emphasis is put on sight and not enough on the other four senses. Polysensorality is probably Adams' word for this hitherto nameless topic, but this was something apparently many Canadians felt passionate about.)

Some of the values that only Canadians mentioned were no surprise -- Canadians talked in large numbers about "Belonging to the Global Village" and "Flexibility of Gender Identity" and "Deconsumption"and "Openness to Others," while Americans didn't.

Much more surprising is that few Americans raised the topic of "Attraction to Physical Beauty" and "Attraction to Violence [in TV and games]" though maybe that's for same reason that the fish doesn't notice the water.

On the whole, it was a brilliant read. I'm now nearly finished Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Margaret Atwood celebrates 100 years of Anne of Green Gables in a Guardian article here:

"In my sourer moments, I confess to having imagined yet another Anne sequel, to be called Anne Goes on the Town. This would be a grim, Zolaesque epic that would chronicle the poor girl's enticement by means of puffed sleeves, then her sexual downfall and her subsequent brutal treatment at the hands of harsh male clients. Then would follow the pilfering of her ill-got though hard-earned gains by an evil madam, her dull despair self-medicated by alcohol and opium-smoking, and her sufferings from the ravages of an incurable STD. The final chapter would contain some Traviata-like coughing, her early and ugly death, and her burial in an unmarked grave, with nothing to mark the passing of this waif with a heart of gold but a volley of coarse jokes from her former customers.

However, the presiding genius of Anne is not the gritty grey Angel of Realism, but the rainbow-coloured, dove-winged Godlet of the Heart's Desire. As Oscar Wilde said about second marriages, Anne is the triumph of hope over experience: it tells us not the truth about life, but the truth about wish fulfilment. And the main truth about wish fulfilment is that most people vastly prefer it to the alternative."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
From bill bisset's "i was on beech avenue in vancouver":

wher th canada gees gathr with a boom
mike intrviewing th canada gees abt
theyr life styles if yu show feer they
hiss n honk you away

i was asking them how they choos to
mate for life n what happns whn n if
tranguls develop dew they have divors
n trial separayshuns
And there you have it folks -- bill bisset, first Canadian poet to write entirely in lolcat. That poem dates to 1974.

Actually, his stuff is really emo, and is largely compromised of hardcore gay sex scenes, so he's also been a LiveJournaler since before Frank was born.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Not much to say, except that I'm more than four-fifths finished the final edit. I wanted to be farther, but I procrastinated too much yesterday.

I'm also really enjoying Place d'Armes, by Scott Symons. It was once considered one of the two most influential English-language Canadian novels of the 1960s, but because of the cowardice among the Canadian literary set, the other influential novel -- Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers -- remained read and in print, while Place d'Armes got forgotten.

That's a shame because so far, Place d'Armes is a much better book -- it's much more restrained with the stream-of-consciousness stuff, so it's much more readable. And unlike Beautiful Losers, it's not just going for shock value.

(Somewhere between the vibrator-that-achieves-sentience and the threesome with Adolph Hitler, Beautiful Losers started to bore me. Nothing can shock you anymore by the time you're halfway through that book, and since its only appeal is shock value, it destroys its own audience.)

Even less than a quarter into the book, I can tell that Place d'Armes really deserves the place Beautiful Losers has in the Canadian canon, but because it's homosexually explicit -- whereas Beautiful Losers is mostly heterosexually so -- it's unlikely to take that place any time soon.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finally finished Moby-Dick, and I have to say it was 120 pages of the best novel 19th-Century America produced. Too bad it was 620 pages long.

Some thoughts:


  • He's really good at creating characters and painting scenes. He's terrible at dialogue, editing, and plotting. The initial scenes of the inn, the church, and Ishmael's first night with Queequeeg are quirky, bizarre, and wonderful -- and the final battle is cool.

  • Unfortunately, between these is 500 pages of dross. This novel could have been greatly improved if they'd encountered Moby-Dick just as they pulled away from the harbour.

  • I'm sure there is someone out there who's said, "What I want is a novel that reads like a highly inaccurate cetology manual, and which spares no detail however excruciating." People are strange creatures, and for every desire conceivable there is at least person who's experienced it. I, however, am not that person.

  • The guy who wrote the introduction noted that while writing the second half of the book, Herman Melville had been reintroduced to Shakespeare. This is likely the inspiration of the atrocious soliloquys that plague the second half. Reading Shakespearean speeches written by Melville is a little like watching Pauly Shore do Hamlet.

  • The book is terribly edited. I mean, at one point, Ahab has both feet. He's frequently running. The ship's architecture changes. And why the hell didn't the editor catch the fact that Ishmael is frequently narrating Ahab's internal monologues? If Ishamel's meant to be an unreliable narrator, it's very clumsily handled.

  • The book manages to both be vague and yet heavyhanded -- all that allegorical imagery gives the impression that you're being browbeaten with some hamfisted point of view, but it's impossible to say what that point of view actually is. Reading Moby-Dick is a little like being beaten by an angry mob who've rallied behind an illegible or blank banner, so you can't even tell why they're beating you up.

  • On that note, Moby-Dick is not so much a whale as a floating Rorshach inkblot. He's been described by literary critics as everything from God to Satan to Nature to Fate to America to Democracy to Racism to Non-white Races to Monarchy to whatever-else-is-being-written-about-him-at-this-moment. The novel is confused enough to support this and any other point.

  • Somewhere out there, there has to be Ishmael/Queequeeg slash, and it is a safe bet that it is better than the novel.


In short, I recommend anything past the first 100 pages only to my enemies. I now move on Place d'Armes, by Scott Symons.

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