Player One and yet more books added to the shelf

The launch of a new Douglas Coupland book always sends me running in the direction of the nearest bookstore.  And running faster than usual in this case as it happens to be this year’s CBC Massey Lecture.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Massey Lectures, here’s the Wikipedia link.

As you now know (if you clicked the link), this puts him in some rather illustrious company, with writers and thinkers from Margaret Atwood, Martin Luther King Jr. and Claude Levi-Strauss being past presenters.   And, he’s done something entirely new.  For the first time in almost 50 years,  the lecture is in the form of a novel, entitled “Player One“. Which is unorthodox, unusual and (I think) potentially a clever way to present ideas.  Since I have a strong belief in the power of fiction to communicate those “greater truths”, it would be an understatement to say I’m excited to read this.

Naturally, while I was at the bookstore, I picked up several more titles I’ve been meaning to read for some time.  The problem (if indeed it is one), is that my list of “things I really should read” continues to grow more rapidly than my disposable income and available reading time.

So, in addition to PlayerOne, I picked up the following.

  • A Better Angel” – Chris Adrian
  • The Fortress of Solitude” – Jonathan Lethem
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” – Wells Tower

And I am well pleased.  More will be written about all of those books as soon as I get to them.  Meanwhile, since we all like book trailers (don’t you?), here’s the new one from PlayerOne.

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New things on the shelf

An excellent weekend at the cottage provided time to sprawl out and get down to business on “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao“.   I’m almost done the book and so far, still enjoying it, although I’m not looking forward to the end.  Admittedly, this is because I’m feeling pretty sympathetic towards the main character, but the title (as well as everything I’ve read so far) indicates that maybe Oscar doesn’t go on to a long and happy life.  Oh well.  I’ll stick to hoping something wondrous happens to him then.   Onwards.

More books have been purchased recently, so I thought it was time to post about what I’ll be reading in the next little while.  I read fast, absurdly fast, but there is no way to keep up with the volume of books that seem to land on my shelves, which is fine with me.   The pile of “unread” or at least “unfinished” is moderate at the moment, and since there are about 10-15 books on my “must purchase” list, I’ll just have to read faster.  Or stop sleeping.

So, what have we here?  In no particular order, I see before me:

  • Zero History” – William Gibson
  • The Complete Stories” – Flannery O’Connor
  • Cutting for Stone” – Abraham Verghese
  • Man Gone Down” – Michael Thomas
  • McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issues 1-3 ” – Multiple Authors

Kind of a schizophrenic list now that I look at it.   Starting with some dark “sci-fi”, veers off into mid 20th century American short stories, a quick jaunt to Ethiopia and then back to America.   And why not I say?  Nothing wrong with a bit of variety.  Or in this case, a lot.

I started “Zero History” this weekend as I needed a break from “Oscar Wao”.   Thoughtlessly, I neglected to bring along a Spanish dictionary, (which I highly recommend to anyone reading Diaz) which made for a bit of head-scratching and some mild frustration.  So I put it aside and started in on “Zero History“.

I was very pleased to discover (on the first word of page one),  that the interesting characters from “Pattern Recognition” and “Spook Country” have been brought out for another book.  So I know what I’m in for.  Kind of.  Let me explain.

I know I’m going to be baffled for most of this book as to what exactly, constitutes the plot.  There will be action and character development and, likely something completely unexpected near the end prior to a short denouement.  That “something” will almost assuredly tie it all the bits together with a neat bow with the word “zeitgeist” emblazoned on it.  Probably in some shiny colour of the future.  Anyway, the book started rather slowly.  Lots of descriptions of strange boutique hotel rooms and so far, it appears to be about pants.  And jackets.  And (of course) shadowy figures.  Naturally, this isn’t selling any of you on the book.

“Pants?  Really?  That sounds fascinating!”

Bear with me and keep the sarcasm down.  If you liked “Spook Country“, the creepy, menacing tone is there, along with Gibson’s unique descriptive style.  He often sounds like he’s describing the future, but everything in his books is very much of the “right now”.  I especially like the fact that the “locative art” projects from “Spook Country” are now all iPhone apps.   He’s veering more into Steampunk-land than I’ve seen from him before, but it’s not at all twee.  As a friend of mine declared awhile back,

“Steampunk is not a genre, it’s an esthetic.”

Which is true.  And I have clever friends.  Also true is that Gibson (thankfully) is not writing a Steampunk genre book, but the fashion and design sense of the esthetic is all over this book.  Which is fine and good and indeed, makes for some pretty nifty descriptive passages.

Off for more reading, time to finish off “Oscar Wao” (with trusty Spanish dictionary at my side).   But first, the trailer for “Zero History“.   Hat tip to my friend Dana Deathe (joins the war against cliché…) for the idea of including these in posts.  I’ve seen a lot of book trailers lately, and something about the wisdom of using video to do publicity for books appeals greatly to my love of the counterintuitive.

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Hi there! Come on in! Nice hat!

Ok then!  First post.  Please bear with me as I muddle through the process of learning how to properly use WordPress.  If you’ll consider this the “beta” version, it may minimize your disappointment at the current lack of content/features/functionality.  It may also make you excited for future versions of what will certainly be a far more entertaining and profitable website than say,   With those lofty expectations in mind, let’s move on.

Currently reading: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz.  I’m  about a third of the way through and so far, it’s fantastic.   Diaz writes like he’s about to burst into flames right from the introduction.  With a cool and clinical (but profane) prose style, it reads a bit like Beat poetry.   Very angry Beat poetry.

Along with the story, Diaz gives the reader occasional footnotes.  This is getting into tricky territory for “literary” fiction, as this can go quickly (and badly) wrong.  Happily, so far this has not been the case.  The footnotes, which so far deal exclusively with the (frankly horrible) political history of the Dominican Republic, are brilliant asides, providing information critical to the story while lending the book a sardonic, angry tone.

Here’s a quick example:

9. Although not essential to our tale, per se, Balaguer is essential to the Dominican one, so therefore we must mention him, even though I’d rather piss in his face.”

See what I’m saying?  In that same footnote, he goes on to accuse the three-time president of the Dominican Republic of, among other things, child-rape, election theft and murder. He also calls out Mario Vargas Lhosa, for writing Balaguer as a “sympathetic character.”

So, not a lot of pulling punches, which is refreshing.   I’ll post a full review when I finish the book.

Meanwhile,  I’ll continue playing around with WordPress and attempting to bend this site into the shape I’d like.  It’ll only get better and will not hurt at all, I promise.

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