Last month I was introduced to Middens, a game that I have found to be particularly precise in what it wants to be. An RPGMaker game with typical top-down roleplaying game mechanics, Middens uses the ‘game’ as a platform to reveal itself to be something less easily defined. The player explores numerous locations as a faceless nomad, and the majority of interactions with the environment are boiled down to “talk” or “shoot”.
The cool thing to do is to pledge to read 52 books, one a week, and then do it. I enjoy reading and will freely admit that sometimes I just don’t keep at it as steadily as I’d enjoy. I figure this is as good a spot as any to solidify a path for myself, not so much because I want to make a pledge or whatever, but solely to map out what books I’m gonna tear through next. Having gotten a Kindle for Christmas, opening up glorious vistas of public domain works, and more, my choices are almost overwhelming. To keep myself sane, I’ve decided to burn through some of my more recent physical backlog. I own a huge amount of books and I’d like to check off as much as I can in terms of having read all those things on my bookshelf.
So, it’s just about two weeks into the year and I’m already ahead of schedule.
1. Mask of the Other, Greg Stolze
2. Tall Tales of Felony and Failure, Warren Haustrumerda
3. Stories of your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
4. True to Life: Why Truth Matters, Michael P. Lynch
5. God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert
6. An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage
7. A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Tom Standage
8. The Magicians, Lev Grossman
9. Griftopia, Matt Taibbi
10. The Song of Percival Peacock, Russell Edson
11. Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq, Steve Fainaru
12. DEBT: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber
13. Who knows???
That should do for the first three months. A fairly decent mix of scifi, fantasy, food anthropology, smile breaking real world stuff. Some Russell Edson, too. This is just a rough menu for what I plan to read in that time, and it might change. DEBT, in particular, is a huge tome that I just dunno if I’ll have the cohesion of mind to take on so quickly after Griftopia, which is said to be a pretty frustrating and depressing read. As for the 13th book of the quarter, and possible replacements for anything I opt out of, I’ll probably swap some Bertrand Russell or Sam Harris in. If I can continue to maintain my lead, I should be able to claim 52 in a year pretty easily.
Now, because I really should be focusing on writing as much as reading, I’ll probably be doing write ups on some of these after I’ve finished them and had time to contemplate. Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories’, and the rest of his work I’ve read, certainly deserve the proper attention.
Even in the event that I don’t hit my goal here, just putting this all down should help focus my year somewhat. I’ve never been good at that.
Having just read Warren Haustrumerda’s debut book, Tall Tales of Felony and Failure, my mind keeps telling me to sum it up with a single phrase. A complete reversal of the “life is pretty bad sometimes, but you can sometimes find peace” stylings of Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five, one can corrupt an oft repeated phrase from it and capture the essence of Tall Tales perfectly: Nothing is Beautiful and Everything Hurts. Upon finding that particular phrase with which to launch the rest of my thoughts about the book from, everything fell into place quickly.
If you are visiting from Party Dogge’s fantastic LAMEZINE party, I’d like to welcome you to my website. Welcome!
If you are visiting from somewhere else, I would like to suggest at this time that you check out LAMEZINE with an open heart and mind. There are plenty of cool people contributors like myself, including KC Green and J. Chastain, as well as my dumb friend Brandon Kirkman. It’s probably not safe for work or home but I contributed one unit of ‘fiction’ so how bad could it be?
Stories about ‘this dream I had’ are almost universally terrible outside the realm of being casually entertaining with how absurd they are. That specific sort of real-feeling incoherence dreams have is due to the way your brain works while you sleep. I could make an analogy using computers or television, but it’s not important. I had a dream a short time ago. In this dream I was on the top floor of a hotel and I was in a room I’d checked in to. I had just dropped my luggage onto the bed when I realized that this was not luggage I owned in real life. I was then observing that the room had a color scheme that was unfortunate: a burgundy shag carpet, white walls, and a pale green baseboard separating them.
There was a counter that drew my attention because of its paint job, though not because of the color. It was a dark bluish-grey with white speckles, of a type that I only know to come from rattle cans, and something I had not specifically seen since I was maybe five years old. This isn’t an important detail outside of the fact that it shows how deep my dream was pulling memories from at this point. There was an insect on the counter. It was flat, dark, and wide, with a segmented body and oily wings. At that moment, the realization that I was not going to kill it was more sudden than the impulse to do so. I was just on the vaguest cusp of being lucid that I realized this. I was going to continue with the dream hotel room without letting even the most intangible hint of violence interrupt me.
Even in my sleep state, with my brain’s rhythms unspooled like a broken cassette tape, this was a decision I made. If I had woken up then, I might not have remembered that choice. What ended up happening though, was that as I was going to focus my dream on some other aspect of this terrible hotel room, the insect began to shake. It was giving birth. Its cloaca, which had not existed in the dream for me to notice, was opening to reveal a second insect, the exact type and size as the original. I noted that it should have been laying an egg of some sort, just as I was realizing that soon I would have two of these angry looking bugs in my dream. It was then that, without thinking at all, even with whatever neurons my broken-down sleepy brain could manage, I began to attack. The fight or flight aspects of my ancient brain took over, and I was going to crush the insect, while it was giving birth, with a drinking glass I’d found. It was a counter top, it made sense for there to be a drinking glass to smash an insect with.
I woke up, and felt some small amount of shame. Not that I had intended to do dream violence to a dream insect, but merely because in some part of my brain, that violent caveman instinct exists, despite how long I’ve starved it.