july has been a busy month. i worked a lot, and didn’t write as much as i would have liked to. (before yesterday my last journal entry was from the 17th.)
i put together a guide regarding what “weird fiction” could be, if we limited ourselves to lovecraft’s outline of the genre as its laid out in “Notes on Weird Fiction” (printed in the joshi edited “Collected Essays Vol. 2: Literary Criticism” from hippocampus press). check out the PDF of that below. (all “editorial” notes are my own.)
- Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and The Beautiful
- Julian K. Jarboe’s Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel
- Elizabeth Bear’s Machine
- bits of Foreign Affairs Vol. 101 Nº3
- started re-reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum
- (almost all of) Sorry to Bother You
- a bunch of Stargate: SG-1 (Season 8)
- first 2 episodes of Paper Girls
- Cowboy Bebop
i really really really enjoyed Elizabeth Bear’s Machine. at work there has been a lot of (very serious) joking around about who among us enjoys “fun” in their reading material and who does not. i have had to conclude that while i don’t think i have much patience of “fun” in my horror reading (the more esoteric, philosophical, and convoluted the better), in the realm of science fiction a little bit of light-heartedness goes a long way. which isn’t to say that Machine didn’t make me cry, because it did. (not an altogether uncommon result of an enjoyable science fiction experience for me, actually.) but i liked the characters and more than that, there was a degree of real and genuine excitement i felt for the world that Bear has created in the White Space stories. (i first encountered the future within which Machine takes place in the short story “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” by Bear and Sarah Monette which was included in the Dreams From the Witch House anthology edited by Lynne Jamneck—read my review here.)
Nghi Vo has been on my radar for a little while, but i hadn’t gotten my act together to read any of her work just yet. thankfully, i’m getting much better at using the interlibrary loan system from the public libraries and have been able to expand my horizons a bit. The Chosen and The Beautiful is not as light-hearted as one might imagine a magically infused re-telling of The Great Gatsby to be. i was also working through it while everyone on twitter was losing their minds over whether it was necessary or not to have read the original (in some form) of a work if one is to write some kind of meta-fiction of it. Vo’s book is a perfect example of exactly why an intimate familiarity with the original work is a fine requirement to impose upon metafictional projects. i haven’t read The Great Gatsby since high school (2010, junior year, TA’s english class, focus on american literature), and Vo’s book made me want to go back and read it over again and turn it upside down and shake out all the little extra details that i know i either missed or have since forgotten.
The Chosen and The Beautiful is able, specifically, to interact exquisitely with the bizarre shallowness which pervades fitzgerald’s novel. the original novel is composed of set pieces and characters being played by people we never really get a good look at, and Vo digs into that exact element, not merely giving depth to the characters by creating histories for them, whole cloth, but by finding ways to bring a peculiar, mystical life to the shallowness itself. the book as a whole is both a love letter and a careful dissection, affection and fond of the original, but also chiding, demanding a little more. what more could you ask for?
Jarboe’s Everyone on the Moon… took a little while for me to get into. i persisted through the collection out of curiosity (rather than pure stubbornness) and i do feel like i was rewarded for it. (in particular “I Am a Beautiful Bug!” towards the end of the collection is funny, heartbreaking, delightful.) i found myself thinking of what Gretchen Felker-Martin said when i spoke with her for a piece that went up on the LASC website (see here), to take in “queer art made by real queer people.” if, as a queer person, the aesthetic products of other individuals’ personal experiences of queerness make you uncomfortable, it is imperative to sit with that feeling, to work through it, to try to better understand oneself and one another through and despite and within that feeling of discomfort. i’m not sure what i learned about myself just yet from reading Jarboe’s work, but i do know that i think it’s worth reading and thinking about and talking about, so you should do that.
every time i start re-reading Foucault’s Pendulum i think “surely i must have imagined how good this was” and each time it’s perfect and beautiful and majestic and it makes me feel like every thought and feeling and disdain and passion is possible. that’s it. i love it so much.
i’ll be honest with you guys, it’s 9am. i have been up since 7am. i was woken up at 4am this morning because of intense pain in my knee and, as it turned out, in my shoulder (likely the result of lying too long in one position while asleep, in an effort to avoid moving my knee), which necessitated getting out of bed and taking advil and figuring out how to fall back asleep in a hopefully-better position. i’m too tired to have good complex articulate thoughts about the movies and tv that i’ve been watching. so that’ll just have to wait for another day.
good luck out there. (see you, space cowboy…)