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It is clinically proven that men cannot take a dump without something to read.

Doubleplus GC

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It's true! Even if it's just "lather, rinse, repeat," the spincter opens with the book cover.


I have not read anything in a while, not since Tideland (by Mitch Cullin, ~180 pages, a quality-over-quantity read I recommend to all) and a 4th failed attempt at reading The Exile. The Exile is one of those books, you know the kind (or if not, you're lucky and/or illiterate), where the writing is pretty good and the story is interesting, but about halfway through the book you realize that the plot is just not fucking moving anywhere. It's barely even conscious, but you find yourself captivated while you read but thoroughly uninterested in picking it back up again after you've put it down. Kotzwinkle (a fave author of mine, responsible for Dr. Rat and The Fan Man) has eliminated the ever-important question of "what happens next?" All the lovely prose and good ideas and interesting characters and there's just no intrique.


The person who seems to be exempt from this rule is Tom Robbins, because Skinny Legs And All has huge stretches where virtually nothing happens and then everything happens at once (true of many other books of his as well, but most prominent in Skinny Legs).


A summary: "Ellen Cherry went to work and then came home and ate leftovers, then she went to work the next day and came home and ate noodles, and then she went to work the next day and then went out to buy some new shoes and then came home and ate leftovers, and then she went to work the next day and came home and ate leftovers, and then she went to work the next day AND IT EXPLODED!!!!"


Exxageration is deliberate. I think he gets away with it because he casts himself and the ideas he's putting forth as characters themselves, so though Ellen Cherry and Boomer and Reverend Buddy Winkler and Can o' Beans and Dirty Sock and Turn Around Norman are maybe static for 80 pages, Robbins himself and his ideas regarding religion being unholy and psychotropic drugs being humanity's chance for philosophical evolution take hold and run the show for a while. A lesser writer would never pull this off, but Robbins does with bravado.


Skinny Legs is almost Jitterbug Perfume good, and has just about the best climax of any book ever.


So for now, I leaf through Skinny Legs at the apartment and Catch-22 when I'm home and hope I get some Jonathan Carrol books for Christmas because he sounds Robbins wicked cool.


(subtext: what are all you reading and what should I look into?)

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Oh yeah. That Jitterbug thing. Yeah, that was very perfect.


(except for the ending. Shit!)



I saw The Catcher In The Rye in a bookstore a few weeks ago, so I just bought it and read it on a whim. Oh boy, 50s slang! Fun-ness!

It's a cute read, though.



I HAVE GOTTEN!!! Skinny Legs and All and Arcadia and Dr. Rat and The Bear Went Over the Mountain (another Kotzwinkle) and LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!! LULLABY!!!






I've started reading Dr. Rat first, though, and I liked the way it started off but I'm getting a bit bored right now. Anyone wanna explain what the fuck's going on with the cognitive waveband crap?

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Yeah, Kotzwinkle's "cognitive waveband" device in Dr. Rat mirrors his "4th Dimension" device in The Exile. He has this unnerving tendency to choose concepts as backing for the plot that speed things along, porvide short definitions and make his writing easier but are just so ridiculous. I prefer to use the "quirky genius" interprestation over the "pretentious dick with something to say" (though both are pretty defendable).


Didn't like the Jitterbug ending, henh? I can't blame you. Robbins admits that he invents characters and ideas and concepts for his stories and begins writing them, making up the plot as it goes along (though he would be more apt to say "the plot reveals itself to me as it progresses, telling me how it wishes to be told"). Often the endings can never feel satisfactory since they are simply whatever he decides is conclusive after the climax. Jitterbug's ending didn't bug me too much, but the endings to both Skinny Legs and Still Life w/ Woodpecker are abrupt as all shitsticky. Oh well, take the Vonnegut "there's always more" attitude and see it as a place to stop rather than an ending.


Bear Went Over The Mountain is pretty tongue-in-cheek, which is nice, but rarely provides Fan Man style belly laughs. I found it an effort to keep reading at times. Good schnitzel, though.


I really hope mis padres come through with the Jon Carroll, 'cuz he sounds pretty rad.

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I've decided I really want to read Lullaby, so I read the prologue and first two chapters (I'm still commited to reading through Dr. Rat, though I find it increasingly boring. I really wish this stretch of animals are gathering-Dr. Rat complaining-animals are gathering-Dr. Rat whining-animals are gathering chapters will end already) and a few things came to mind:

1. A Palahniuk novel! WHEEE!

2. I really liked Choke.

3. The first time I read a sentence like "Where we are is this room in suchandsuch" I thought, "shit! That's his style! Have I gotten used to it already? That would be endlessly sucky".

But then I read stuff like this Palahniukism and said "yup, that's the guy, and that's his writing, and I can't get enough of that".

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just (finally) got Kotzwinkle's The Fan Man back from Rob and read through the first few chapters again. Damn that book is addictive. Hi-fucking-larious, too.


I have compiled quite a list of books to get in the near future, and have recently recieved some new ones, including:


Jonathan Carroll - White Apples: the writing is good in fits and spurts and the story is really keep-me-reading-it-ish (there's an adjective I'm going for but hell if I'm going to look for it). Carroll apparently gets one idea, a first sentence, and a title for a book and makes the entire thing up as he goes (a much distilled version of Robbins' technique, except delete all the "rewriting every sentence until it's perfect"/"rewriting at all"). It keeps the story surprising but often ceases to make sense. You can tell there's a really great book in there underneath the rest. Most likely I'll suffer through because the guy has a pretty fucky mind for storytelling that is very appealing... kinda like a banana. Fuck, I'm hungry.


Philip Pullman - The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Book 1): My sister loved this trilogy and thus has forced it upon me, but I accept it willingly. I don't much read straight fantasy, preferring fantastical elements in otherwise straight fiction, but I make exceptions when my sister really likes something.


Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates: The only Robbins ever to center the story around a man rather than a female lead (or, in some parts of Skinny Legs, an androgynous Can o' Beans). It's big in page size if not in page depth.


Vonnegut - Mother Night: I went through a spell just before my birthday where I was about 2 months without having read anything and I started hanging out in bookstores just to be around books and I sat by the V's and read the introduction to Wampeters Foma and Granfalloons and suddenly some endorphine went off in my brain, reminding me how much I like, nay, love Vonnegut. Now having a new and unread book, I will devour this book soon.


So, this is 19. Not as showy as I expected. If this year doesn't change drasticallyf rom the last one I hope I make it to 20.

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1. I've finished Dr. Rat and have concluded it is a waste of time.


2. I've started Choke and so far have gotten this feeling I realize I get whenever I read a Palahniuk novel, which is "I'm halfway through the book and this is what's going on? I thought it would be totally different! But wait a second, I say this each time I read a novel of his, and each time I end up loving the book, so okay", but wait a second, I say this each time I read a novel of his, and each time I end up loving the book, so okay.

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It would appear, chris, that you have a love/hate relationship with all my favorite books, which is fine, since you have every right to be wrong.


Whatever, man, read whatcha like. Choke was lame and so was Cat's Cradle!




Snobbery and me being pissing on about stupid piss aside, Mother Night is proving to be very good and White Apples was proving otherwise. Carroll, how did you every get your diploma (or whatever they have in England, your scimitar?) without learnign to refuckingwrite! I don't want to read your first draft, dammit.

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It seems like all I read is philosophy. I just finished two thorough analysis books on Sun Tzu's The Art of War and zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Any other suggestions besides Nietzsche? I'm open to anything.


Maybe I'll just read Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You might try reading the original Zen and the Art of Archery. I don't know how it differs from Motorcycle Management, but we talked about the stuff in Archery in my short story class last semester and it was really pretty interesting. You could look into existentialism if you don't mind getting really depressed.


I've abandoned White Apples altogether (maybe someday in the future when I have more patience...) and I'm reading The Golden Compass. I don't think I've ever read a straight-up fantasy novel before, always seemed like too much work and the writing was always too disinteresting. But even genres I'm not into produce good work, and this is proving to be quite good. It's been a long time since I read someone who doesn't really have a literary voice (so much Vonnegut and Robbins, I forgot what plainer writing sounded like). The story is good enough that I don't mind.


Trying to get this book called Just A Couple of Days because someone on Amazon said that if you really like Jitterbug Perfume you'll probably really like this too, as it is a very original voice and original story but has the same epic nature and the whole "joyous experience of life" blah-di-blah. It sounds good, and I can get it for free if I just tag it's name somewhere and send them a picture.


I wish Danielewski would write another book. chris, did you ever read House of Leaves?

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Dr. Rat and Choke are very different novels. Having read and enjoyed both, I can see how the FOX generation could get a cheap thrill from Choke, it being perfect porn fodder for intellectuals, but the same certainly cannot be said for Dr. Rat, which voices concerns about serious bioethical issues. Both novels are sarcastic, and with central characters you wouldn't normally like, but end up liking because they're the main characters dammit.


Glad to see you humans are reading though.

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I have finally managed to get myself started on Story of B (Quinn's follow-up to Ishmael). It is far less enjoyable, but the ideas are equally sound (which is two-fold; if you say that Ishmael was bunk you'll say the same for this).


chris, I may write you an e-mail soon inquiring about what it was that was allegedly wrong with Ishmael. I'm curious, now that my brain is working on Quinn's thoughts again.

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I'd like to see you try! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!


I dunno, I myself felt sort of "ah, whatever" about Ishmael. I usually just accept stuff I read (I'm kind of dumb that way), but my friend had issues with it.


House of Leaves is sitting snugly in my closet (I put books in my closet. And on my desk. And carpet. Yeah, they're on the carpet a lot).


I enjoyed Lullaby, I think. I shall try and write about it at length-er later.


I'm over halfway through Arcadia and I like it.


AND!! I found a book called The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of essays, interviews and chapters of unfinished novels by Douglas Adams! It's wonderful!

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It happens each and every fucking time. I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again - Chuck Palahniuk novels unfold entirely unlike I expect, and it surprises me every time because I think it wasn't like that the last time. This is strange.

Even Fight Club, whose plot I supposedly knew from the start, was a bit like that.


And Lullaby, which I really expected to be about SIDS, turned out to be the most supernatural-power-loaded of all Palahniuk novels, even edging Survivor.


Now, I liked Lullaby, make no mistake. The relationship with Helen moved along a bit weird for me, and Mona and Oyster (which is normally a man who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish phrases!) seemed a bit lacking to me, but the plot, I think, was tight and satisfying. Two main things bugged me, compared to other Palahniuk novels (which is essentially what Palahniuk novels are judged by, since they rizock on their own):

1. It felt weird.

2. Lackage in the field of catch phrases.

3. It didn't grip me.


Okay, we've addressed weird. Palahniuk novels are always weird to me. They're always weird in general, and I've deduced it's the same feeling I get whenever I read one of his novels, so we can cast that aside.


Catch phrases. Okay, you can't expect every novel to be an Invisible Monsters (slightly underrated, I feel, among all Palahniuks, but has some great catchphrases) or a Fight Club, but Lullaby was unsatisfactory in this department, and it's really something you rely on Chuck to provide. "For whatever reason, catchphrase comes to mind" is really similar to the brilliant "Catchprase isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind". This isn't meant to take anything away from "And maybe you don't go to hell for the things you did. Maybe it's the things you didn't do", which was inserted in very appropriate times.


I had a bit of a problem with the two villain setting (Nash + Oyster), but looking back I see it hadn't bothered me before when the setting was actually quite similar (Manus + Evie, even Adam + The Whole World). Again, as of 2am when I'm writing this I can only attribute it to the general feeling I get when reading these novels.


And I also said it didn't grip me. This isn't accurate - I wolfed the novel down within less than a fortnight.




Ah, fuck it. I dunno. It's a good book.

Godammit, Chuck.

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You talk a lot, chris. You quiet-aphobic.


Chuckster P has a new book coming out in the next few months. It will be released either as Period Revival or Diary.


Chucks preferred title is Period Revival, but the publishers want to release it as Diary (the book, by the way, is written in the form of a diary). Chuck will consent to the name change if-and-only-if they release it in hardcover with a little lock on the side so that it looks exactly like a real diary.


He's following along the same vein as Lullaby in that he's dealing with a more "horror story" premise. Check out The Cult 3.0 (http://www.chuckpalahniuk.net) for more info.


And now, a note about insomnia:


Fight Club quotes aside (okayt just one: "with insomnia, you're never really asleep, and you're never really awake"), ever since Christmas break ended over three weeks ago, I've been unable to sleep in my apartment in the city (The City = San Francisco). Damndest thing. After piling three days on top of each other with no rest found amongst them, I called my dad one night and asked him to bring me home, where I slept in my sister's bed as I had during the break. And where, I'll add, I slept snugly. Over time, I proved less and less able to sleep at home as well, and found myself completely without any form of solid sleep for far too goddamn long.


I've taken advice from many people about it and I've tried reading before going to sleep, taking melatonin and nytol ("red and blue tuinols, lipstick red secinols..."), drinking tea, going to be early, going to bed late, watching TV 'til I pass out, earplugs to shut out the noise on the street and my snoring roommate, ticking clocks. Nothing worked.


On the advice of my sister's roommate, I bought a book the other day that I wouldn't mind reading again, planning to start a sort of "sleep book," a book that I will read before bed most every night that is relaxing, one that I can read a million times, so I can program into my brain "when you read this, you will get sleepy." That book was the first book bought that day. Then I went to Virgin Megastore where there was some kinda sale or somesuch shit and bought two more of my favorite books that I don't own.


The sleepy-time book was Slapstick (Vonnegut). The other two were Jitterbug Perfume and House of Leaves (Robbins, Danielewski). The first two I did not own because I had borrowed them from my sister who had eventually demanded them back. The third I let a friend borrow and he turned out to be a prick and moved to Massachusettes with it. Bastard.


So, I know own my three favorite books again. I never did get around to reading Slaptstick last night, I was too busy rereading Hosue of Leaves (on the couch while sipping tea with valerien, because apparently the Stanford sleep clinic says to do your relaxing rituals somewhere other than your bed, because if you read in bed you program yourself for reading in it rather than sleeping in it).


I went to bed at 10 o'clock. I woke up this morning at 9:30.


"Babies don't sleep this good."


I bought my 3 favorite books and slept 11 hours. Coincidence?

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I've got most of those books you've been talking about in a huge pile by my bed over 25 volumes high which is my 'to read' pile :)


It's quite a sight actually, it's got sprinklings of asimov, conan-doyle, vonnegut, huxley, pratchett, orwell, and (perhaps most perculiarly) homer and voltaire, classy. :D


Unfortuntely I'm a hoarder, I buy book after book which I'm really keen to read and then just let them sit there creating a make-shift 'leaning tower of livres' while i waste away hours on my computer. It really irks me.


While we're on the subject, has anyone tried reading Anne Rice (the vampire chronicals) I rather let myself go after seeing the first film and bought the first 4 books. They're really engaging in parts but i also find them mind-numbingly dull in others where the plot just seems to be slothing along. However, the endings (so far) are always absolute corkers, so no matter how infuriated i was while reading a particular book of hers, i always finish up by thinking it was really good.


...which seems like a bit of a scam to me.

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I saw a big chunk of the Interview With A Vampire movie, and it was such a piss-poor flick I immediately promised myself I'd never read Anne Rice. From what I've heard about her, she's got some of those purely boned-in-the-rectum plot twists that I so often love, but I don't think I can take vampire drama seriously.


Joss Whedon's brand of quirky vampire dramedy is much more my flava.


Rereading House of Leaves. How it is that I can read almost all of the book in a week is beyond me. The first time took 4 months.


So good.

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