What I’m Reading: God is Dead, 1

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Sweet cover design. Neat concept. Not 100% original as a premise.
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This might be the end of the world but at least I’ve got this tube top. Also who wears fishnet arm warmers? This was published in 2013. There’s no reason for fishnet arm warmers. Bonus: Her role is that of armed personal assistant to a bunch of old genius atheists who call themselves The Collective. This is my first hint that I’ve just stumbled across /r/atheism’s clandestine fantasy file: The world is being overrun by religious idiots, and it’s up to us and one poorly dressed sexpot with guns to stop them.
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Women as status symbols … just because.
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And who doesn’t enjoy a little chortle over the machismo of the U.S. military?

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But I do love when the Hindu gods show up.

On the other hand, it’s fiction. I will at least leaf through the second issue in the comic shop.

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What I’m Reading: I Love Trouble, 1

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OK, so I mostly picked it up for the cover design. You know you love that typeface and those colors.
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I don’t know how to take a picture of paper quality, but I really like this paper and the art style.
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The main character, Felicia, is someone I can at least relate to a little bit, what with being female and liking to drink on planes.

I’ll probably buy the second issue when I go to the comic shop again. It’s like $3. Why wouldn’t I?

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what he calls love

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About 2/3 through reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memories of my Melancholy Whores, I was compelled to write about it.

It’s simply written. The sentences are short and clear. The language is vivid, warm and breathing. The old man character is despicable but also oddly loveable. He’s despicable because he’s the product of another time and place. Because he’s stupid. Because he’s never been in love and at the age of 90 fancies himself in love with a 14-year-old child. He cannot bear to see her awake because though he says he loves her, he still thinks of her as a doll. And though he hasn’t had sex with her, he sees her as an object and a symbol — of his aging and the complex beauty and tragedy in the world. He sits and stares at her, embraces her in her sleep, and reads her great works of literature. But he doesn’t want her to open her eyes and ruin the illusion he has created — not an illusion of her, for he knows about her life, her illiteracy, her day job at the shirt factory, but an illusion of himself as gentle professor, loving benefactor, grandfatherly adorer when in reality, he is a very old man who is rather sad and alone, who has paid up front for her virginity and believes this gives him some right to her soul.

Then I took a break from writing and finished reading the book.

In the end, he runs into a “former love for hire” who convinces him to go back to the girl he obviously loves (he has left her due to his own jealous rage), and this occurs to me:

Does it matter if what he calls love is not what I call love? Do I have to get political with what he’s allowed to feel? He doesn’t hurt her. He admires her. He gives everything for her and wants nothing more than to be near her and provide for her — and even though he has nothing left to give, he finds a way to make that happen. Sometimes love is simply not wanting another to suffer. That plus longing to be near her is romance. Anyway, he meets that definition even if he is unable to see her fully yet, even if he doesn’t know her voice or her opinions on anything but the radio station she sets. We don’t have to be enlightened to be in love.

When we are really lucky, love enlightens us.

There’s no telling how we get into these incredible traps, but when we love, we can let go of confused jealous rages and even humble ourselves enough to let them pass. When we feel compassion for this poor creature lying in bed beside us, it may be the first stirring of Namaste.

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being a literary hater turns out to be rather unsatisfying

I’m thinking about deleting all the book reviews from the blog. Not like deleting them into a digital black hole or anything but just … removing them.

I wrote most of those during grad school, which feels like a long time ago, now. And I wrote them with the idea in my head that to be a critic, one should be critical. That is, I thought it needed to be unkind or at least to find flaws (even in a polite academic tone), and I feel now that that’s not really the point. We’re not in a university here, and reading isn’t always about nit-picking the author’s metaphors. Furthermore, I don’t really like being mean to other writers.

I would rather write about books I really enjoyed and why than to rant about something I didn’t like or worse, to look for flaws in a perfectly nice book just so I can feel justified as a critic.

In other words, I don’t wanna be a hater.

Anyone else have opinions on that?

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Snow Crash: A Rant-Rave Review

Ok. So, pretty soon I’m going to develop a reputation for being a real pain in the ass reviewer since I always start with what irritates me about a book. I will try to preempt that by explaining that I really enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but I just finished reading it a few minutes ago, and I truly loved everything about it except the ending.

Well, the ending and one line of dialogue.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead. If you don’t want to know how it ends, go away now.

So, lets just start with a nice orderly list. This seems to be a good way to approach a book when you are enraged by it.

  1. There’s not even a make out scene between Hiro and Juanita (two consenting adults who really have it bad for each other), but there is a full sex scene between Y.T. and Raven (a 15 year old skater girl and a cyber-terrorist of indeterminate age).
  2. Uncle Enzo has a skateboard for Y.T. in the last scene and we don’t find out whether he gets to give it to her. What’s worse, it’s not even clear whether Enzo lives through the scene or if Y.T. knows about what happened to him.
  3. Chapters 56 and 57 are 100% exposition of the sort that is really interesting to linguistics geeks, mythology fetishists and imaginative programmers but does very little to move the plot forward since it’s a synthesis of the information we’ve already gathered in chapters 30 and 33 and a few other spots in the book.
  4. The one line of unforgivable dialogue, page 432, “If we get out of this, will you be my girl?” Two reasons it’s unforgivable: 1) Nobody fucking says that without getting punched. 2) He asks the question, she says yes, and then they never have another proper conversation before the end of the book.
  5. It doesn’t say what happens to Raven after he limps off into the distance. Nor does it say why he was peddling snow crash to begin with or why he was working with Rife. (One of my irc friends, Ravenfish, says I do know the answer to this one. I may have missed a key point somewhere.)
  6. We don’t find out what happens with Y.T.’s mom, but for some reason, she’s totally cool with picking Y.T. up from the airport like nothing happened. (How long has she been on the Raft, anyway? Definitely too long to pretend she was just sleeping at a pal’s house.)
  7. Page 462. A character we don’t know much about and don’t care about shouts, “Al is down. My God, he’s dead!” This is six pages from the end of the book, and I don’t know who Al is. That’s just annoying.

On the other hand, none of these things would bother me if the book hadn’t hooked me hard from the start. I really got into this story and sincerely wanted to know how it would end for all the characters — from Hiro Protagonist all the way down to the Rat Things — and yes, I even liked Raven in a way. That sort of thing is not accomplished through bad writing. I have been known to put down a book half way through just because the plot got too weird or the writing bothered me too much. Those things didn’t happen. I was hooked for the entire ride.

Until the end.

What am I to make of this? Lots of books are truly bad, ok? Tons of them. They get printed, bought and read anyway. A few books are really amazingly good and satisfying in every way. This book had the potential to be one of the latter, and seriously, once I’ve read 468 pages, I will go along for another 100 to get a satisfying ending, but Stephenson didn’t go there. Why? Why Why Why?

This is a problem that could have been solved with the aid of a good editor. Trust me, I know good editors. They spot these problems and help resolve them. They’re lovely like that. Even if not every lose end gets tied up, a good editor could’ve helped smooth out the edges so the jagged drop off of an ending wouldn’t hurt quite so much.

But the true miracle of this book, the part that baffles me the most, is that despite all that, I’m going to recommend it. The concepts in it, the characters, and even the outrageously complex plot are the kind of thing you just can’t miss.

“Home?” Mom says.
“Yeah, home seems about right.”

What? That’s it? Yeah. End.

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