Monday, May 8, 2017


I was watching Z, and unlike much of the scholarship hitherto, Zelda was seen as the talented one, and Fitzgerald was obsessed with fame and immortality and feeling sorry for himself and keeping Zelda down.

My thought was, you can't really know about "immortality" and it isn't permanent. The internet has the false air of forever. We need to come to terms with the absolute forgetfulness the universe will have regarding individual humans. When the sun expands and engulfs the earth, we hopefully will be on other planets, but I also can't say that humans were really worth saving. I keep thinking about Battlestar Gallactica and the cylons saying, "they never asked if they should live on." I think humans are too short sighted and violent. Humans are also capable of great things, and if you just look at the highs, maybe they are worth preserving. I suppose we are our lows and highs and everything in between. We try to survive. Except for our collective death instinct. Trump has a death instinct when he wants to deregulate the EPA. Imagine a new car--the polluter--when driving a gas guzzler is not enough, now pollute more. But I digress. There's an article I saw on line, are we depressed or are we reacting to depressing events in our times? That is the eternal question.

I don't think people are one thing, they are many things, have both sides. Schopenhauer hoped to be remembered in the history of philosophy. He is that father of pessimism, but he hoped in various ways, no matter how much he was disappointed by life. He fed into it with his behavior, I think.

I'm reading The Love Artist by Jane Alison. Alison makes Ovid obsessed with fame. I guess it's possible for people to be motivated by that, it's just I don't think that way. Even a great teacher who impacts hundreds of lives, an author with a huge following, in 200 years, it is unlikely anyone knows their name. And if say you hit the literary cannon jackpot and your works survive on, it's only temporary. Another few millennial and the cannon is cut. And cut. When we're traveling into outer space which authors will survive. I have a feeling Carl Hiaasen won't stand the test of time, but he is quite popular and enjoyed in these times. I'd choose appreciation in my lifetime over immortality. I put all my chips in this life.

The female character in The Love Artist is interesting. Their relationship is interesting. I wonder at Alison and who she had experiences to write this novel, or if it was pure imagination. The book has gotten me into Ovid in a way I couldn't have been before. Historical novels are a good entry into the study of things. It has the over arching narrative I need, as a whole to the parts learner.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Christian award?!

One of the scifi novels I recommended yesterday, I read some reviews of it on Goodreads and people read it because it won an award for Christian fiction. What? The Star Curiously Singing was not even very much into Islam, which was the only religion there. Here's what I wrote in my review:

Not sure how this is a Christian novel, the reviewers seem to think it is. The future "what if" society is Muslim. Whether it's a fair or unfair depiction--well it's a future dystopia. You could easily create a similar "Christian" dystopia, change the terminology. Or any religion for that matter.

The idea that "A not A squared" is about the trinity is a bit far fetched because Christianity doesn't state "God is not God".

The idea of freedom and subjugation are ideas not exclusive to Christianity. I found the Islam superficial. I did not see any exclusively Christian themes.

I have not looked to see if Kerry Nietz has discussed the award or his faith. Even if he is a Christian, I'm not sure if I still feel that in this novel is Christian. I am sensitive to the Christian presumption in America as someone who is not Christian. I did not read it as Christian and am surprised to see this book characterized as Christian.

You could maybe argue that the oppressive structure of Islam necessarily lead to an oppressive and freedom restricting society, but honestly, even the Buddhists in Myanmar are persecuting Muslims so every religion can do those things. You can't have a free society if you don't have the freedom to not embrace the dominant culture. Religious freedom in America doesn't just mean Christian sects persecuted in Europe around the founding times of America. It includes all the religions. If everyone spent a year or two in NYC they would see that many religions can co-exist together in harmony. Life in a similar suburban enclave that sees itself as practicing the one true religion and lifestyle is perhaps comforting to those who fear difference. Most people are bored with that already, and know the diversity in the world is more interesting. There are more Christian terrorists than Muslim in America. Trump's ban of countries does not even target the countries where the Muslim terrorist came from. The problem is fundamentalism, literal thinking in the spiritual life, and worldly ambitions cloaked in religion. To the people who are threatened by difference--good luck with that.

I guess if bashing Islam is Christian, maybe this book is Christian... I wouldn't think that that was Christian.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

4 Scifi novels I highly recommend, and 2 others

I'm poor. I used to spend an average of $35 a month on books from Amazon. I have a too many books, I need to get rid of many of them for when we move to a tiny house. It will be hard to have the final winnowing. I have a lot of books I got from other people who I haven't read yet. And I have at least a book case of precious books, college books that rocked my world and my Buddhist texts.

I got a Kindle hoping to use it when I was traveling. One book instead of a big meteor of books. Then I liked it that the Kindle cut down on my hard copies. Now I like it that you can look up a word immediately. You can cut and paste text easily. And there are a zillion free books.

For a while I collected children's books for my baby. Then I collected classics and scifi. Now I have a bunch and don't need to collect any more. But I want to trumpet 4 amazing scifi novels I read.

The first novel is Robinson Crusoe 2244. This is a future dystopia where the son of a ruling elite is escapes into the wild, and survives, and finds many interesting things.

I wanted to read the second one after I read it, but the library doesn't have it. I need to join more libraries to see if they have it. I use OverDrive with the Queens library in New York City. I have read about 15 books that has saved me considerable money, or rather given me access when my poverty would have restricted me. They have seemingly all of Haruki Murakami. There are odd holes in the digital collection. It's a new thing. I end up reading Kindle versions from the Amazon sight. I feel like I'm stealing almost to get free books. The other thing I like about it is that I can take risks, try a book and if I don't like it, just stop reading it.

I've also seen a movie and there are audio books, too. I mostly do Free Audio Book app that streams and downloads books from Librivox. Lately, I've been listening to Ovid, because I'm about to read a historical novel about him. Which I learned about in a course in historical novels on Coursera. I'm going to read the book and then watch a lecture by the author on historical fiction. Amazing.

I got that book through the reserve program. They send the book to my nearest library when it becomes available. Another amazing program. My eyes seem to be going and I prefer Kindle so I can enlarge the text.

But back to amazing scifi. The next one is Prototype D. Another dystopian future where there are insiders and outsiders, and they try to make robots to kill the outsiders. A very interesting novel, and quite prescient for our times when outsiders are demonized and othering is done all the time.

Next novel is The Last Policeman. This is a detective novel at the end of the world. I read all 3 books and the first is good, but reading all 3 isn't bad either. There could even be a 4th one, but all along he doesn't plan for future survival.

The 4th novel I'm reading right now, almost done, and I'm quite enchanted by it. The Star Curiously Singing is still free on Amazon as of 5/3/17 10am!

This novel is a stream of consciousness of a debugger who is tapped into the stream. The debuggers are slaves in a Muslim future. I chose it hoping to learn more about Islam, but aside from learning some terms, I haven't really learned anything about Islam.

Here is what Amazon says about it: "Sandfly is a debugger. He is property, bought and paid for in an Earth under sharia law. All faiths but one have been banned. And the rule of the great Imam is supreme."

I contemplate writing a future Buddhist utopia, that has some dystopian edges. Not sure utopia can exist, but it would be fun to try. I don't think The Star Curiously Singing is pro or con against Islam.

Just to throw in another book I really enjoyed, I really enjoyed The Schopenhauer Cure. I knew Yalom from his textbook on group psychotherapy. He also has a textbook on Existential Psychotherapy I want to read. I read his novel, Lying on the Couch, after reading Love's Executioner and other essays. I really like his essays and fiction, and I read the group book, and I want to read the other textbook. 

Anyway, the book is about a psychotherapy group and it's pretty gripping. The bits about Schopenhauer are as interesting as they can be, though they are the places where the novel drags at points. Learned a lot about S. I have his World As A Will and Representation which I might try reading at some point.

Friday, February 3, 2017

4 to 1

I was reading Reviving Ophelia the other day, because I have a daughter and I want to get a jump on adolescence, because my eldest son is in it and it seems to be an important time. She noted that children's books with male characters outnumber female characters by four to one. I've been noticing that as I sweep up all the free children's books (Including Beatrix Potter's first one) in my poverty, I'm noting this is often true. My beautiful daughter doesn't really like to be read to these days, and has a bit of a destructive and masochistic streak at the moment, but she does like to turn pages, so cardboard books are the best. She really liked a book about baby faces. Nowadays she doesn't have the patience and walks away. There was a stage where she kept handing it to us, and then when we read she took the book away or walked away. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure if there are any females in that book. I need to get the one with girl faces around the world. I thought about my sons who don't pick books with female narrators. What if the gender was switched in the Potter books? A female Potter and Weasley, and a male Hermione.

Eragon became available from the digital library. I'll read it after I finish a book on the five hinderances.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Haruki Murakami + name dropping and the purpose of this blog

I'm on my 5th Haruki Murakami novel I've noticed some patterns. But what I want to say is that one frame of his fiction is to have a modern skeptical Japanese person, having many supernatural things happen to them, and they engage but they still are not so much converted, though accept their experience.

There's always unemployed normal people who aren't salarymen, they follow classical and rock and roll. There's always a young girl. The protagonist does not jump to sexual thoughts easily, though there are times when they are embarassed to, but not with the young girls.

There's an existential aspect to the characters lives, they riff existentially. They search for a self in a world where we have lost the village and religion. There are no convenient answers and often the contingent feeling of life makes one feel empty. And yet the protagonist tends to listen to their inner voice.

There's a kind of undercurrent of Buddhist thoughts, akin to a writer from a Buddhist country, they just percolate from his character's musings at times. (I love the idea of the blog Buddhist Fiction--she doesn't have him among the author list on the right and I couldn't find a way to search her blog), though I do get e-mails of every post.

Finally, even though the characters seem pretty western, Japanese culture seeps through. I've learned a lot about Japan following up google searches, and looking at the geography and maps. History as well.

I'm going to name drop as a sort of way of saying why I want to start this blog.

I've gone on writer binges, my last one was Octavia Butler, and my favorite authors throughout my life went in this order: Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Paul Auster, Milan Kundera, Samuel Beckett, Philip Roth (Octavia Butler, Haruki Murakami). Of the newer writers I like Johnathan Franzen. I've also loved one off novels and not really gotten into authors. I was a philosophy major in college, but I've loved fiction since I grabbed Slaughter House Five out of a box of books that was being thrown away and it blew my mind. Science fiction is fun for me and I often go over the list of Nebula awards and Hugo awards, and I have to admit I've read a lot of Star Trek novels since I've watched and rewatched all the series and wanted more.

Authors I have seen read in public: Paul Auster. I can't remember others, though I've gone to more than one reading. Authors I have have met: John Saul is my stepfather's friend. I took a creative writing class with Renard Allen (who was compared to Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf in his book Rails Under My Back. I hung out with Laurie Colwin, a friend of my deceased uncle. Of course she died too early in her sleep. I went to school with the stepdaughter of Janet Shaw who wrote the adult novel Taking Leave. I've gone on small binges of some writers: John Updike, Carol Maso, Sherman Alexie. I recently read Alexie's young adult novel and quite enjoyed it. I've read books to my sons, and they stopped letting me read to them on the 4th Harry Potter. So I read the next two and I'm going to read the last one next. I loved Chaucer and Irish literature, Samuel Becket. I was named after a James Joyce protagonist, though I've changed my name. I've gone on binges of Hispanic writers, African-American writers. I had a friend who took a class with David Huddle, and I read a book of his short stories, The High Spirits.

I read history, graphic novels, young adult literature, children's books, psychology, psychoanalysis and the history of psychoanalysis. My favorite writers in psychoanalysis is Irving Yalom, Stephen Mitchell and Philip Bromberg (the last whom I saw at a talk). I have a blog that reviews Buddhist books, and charts my spiritual journey. I started a masters of English at Queens College but I think I only got through 2 classes before life swept me in other directions. I took a class with the chairman who edited a book on critical theory, who made fun of my wish to write about an Allen Ginsberg poem. (I saw Allen Ginsberg walking on the street before he died, I lived a block away from him on 12th street for a while) I had a little beat phase. I've gone on a major memoir binge. I know someone, an acquaintance,  who teaches nonfiction writing. I met an author at a party once, but I don't remember her name, I didn't follow up. I had a drink in the bar where O Henry was supposed to have written. I've read a fair amount of poetry and I have a signed copy of Tess Gallager's book of poems, when I went to a reading of her. I love plays, love Shakespeare, haven't gotten into the modern titans besides Arthur Miller and Eugine O'Neil. I saw Waiting for Gadot with John Goodman and another guy I've seen in a lot of movies, who's name escapes me. Had to write a paper in social work school about a play. I was a philosophy major and saw some famous philosophers, read many of them. Richard Rorty is probably the most famous. Read an article recently where, among many others, he predicted the raise of Donald Trump. My parents are into mysteries, and I've tried to read many, but the ones I liked most were Tony Hillerman and Kirk Mitchell.

When I came to NYC I hope to be a writer, but quickly changed tack and gave up. I gave my resume to Knopf at the doorway, but didn't really get an interview. I wrote short stories last in Allen's class at QC. I still fantasize about being a writer. I also sometimes pretend I'm Chuck Klosterman in another blog.

At the risk of starting another blog that vanishes into the void, I wish to make comments on fiction.