Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus county.  San Fransisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

Gordimer, Nadine.  (1982).  Six feet of country. NY: Penguin Books.

Hartwell, David G., ed.  (1989).  The world treasury of science fiction. NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Haug, Frigga.  (1992).  Beyond female masochism. London: Verso Books.

McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade.  (2006).  Seeing and writing 3.  NY: Bedford/St. Martins.

McSherry, Jr., Frank D., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenburg, eds.  (1991).  Great American ghost stories. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press.

I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.  My reading has taken a hit.  I think it’s because I have strayed from the ground I enjoy.  Exploring is great, but there’s a reason why some of the explored territory is so poorly travelled.  Palahniuk did become tiresome, but I think I am ready to return.  Chabon never became tiresome.  Instead he became established.  I am ready to return to the safety of popular opinion.  Chabon’s popularity is no marketing ploy, unlike The Last – sooooo effing bad – Airbender, his stories are just legitimately good.  In any case, I am disappointed with my June readings and to keep things going I will return to established safe ground.  It is July, and I am clamoring for fireworks.  It is, after all, July.

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The rear-view mirror of a Mazda 626. It shows ...
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I was really enjoying this show’s pilot episode until the very last scene, more about that later.  The premise:  one weekday afternoon all people in the world lose consciousness for a little over 2 minutes.  Initially called blackouts, people quickly realize that they all moved forward in time almost 6 months.  These dreams were shared so they were not actually dreams but instead flash forwards in time.  The main characters are a husband/wife.  He is an FBI agent, of course, and she is an ER doctor.

Before turning to some theorizing about the show, a few notes about production.  The show seems to have cut some corners, there is a bit of sloppiness throughout.  It strikes me as unlikely that the carnage would be as complete as the show depicts.  Not to doubt some catastrophes after a 2 minute blackout, but the destruction to downtown LA seems nearly total.  And yet there are signs everywhere of poorly placed props as completely demolished cars and corpses are laid next to cars that show no damage, not even a minor collision.  When looking through the windshield at the main characters the rear view mirror has been removed yet the mounting bracket remains in place.  I cannot help but wish that this was intentional, a statement about the obvious lack of a mirror to track our lives through.  As the world is immediately coming to grips with the event, a manager at the FBI asks, “has the Pope chimed in yet?”  As though that would be entirely preposterous.

I could not help but groan as we learned the professions of the main characters.  The initial premise of the show will eventually be subsumed by the professions and the traditional genres of prime time drama.  Given the global nature of the event it would seem the show would not track such well-hewn lines.  But, alas, that is the state of TV these days.  Of course, there is another reason the show’s producers did choose these occupations: the last scene reveals that instead of an act of divine intervention there is surveillance coverage of some people not losing consciousness like everyone else.  An FBI agent will then be able to uncover the mystery.  I wish this attack of the airwaves had not occurred.  The show, however, helps identify why these genres are so successful: they uncover and also conceal a fundamental anxiety of Americans.  These professions all happen while at work because the work never ends.  These shows are, fundamentally, about labor and how we do not like to labor.  Instead we watch shows about people who have little leisure and yet they love their jobs because it gives them a sense of purpose.

A little bit about the event.  It is global.  It is a flash forward.  It is therefore not technological, it is not the result of a human manipulation.  It would instead be the one true miracle.  All other supposed miracles are events of interpretation and hence disputable.  This event, however, has shared affects.  But not only does it represent a true transcendent intervention but it also is an event of representation.  During the event people are forward in time looking back upon the event.  The remembrance of the backward looking flash forward is then used to propel some people forward into that very leap.  The intervention acts back upon itself as not only a signified but also as a signifier.  What then do we call a transcendent signifier and signified?  I would contend that is the very definition of God.

The main question I am vexed with is about the direction of the show.  Will the show remain one of sci-fi/fantasy or will it turn instead into a tale of government conspiracies and become a mystery?  I am hoping for a fantasy setting.  I want to see people not obsessively grapple with “what happened?” but instead “how do I deal with knowing my future?”.  I will give it at least two more episodes.

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The Plot Against America
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I had not been to the local used bookstore in a while and since I leave for my first tournament of the season to-morrow I decided it was a good time to hit up the clearance section (no title was more than $2).

Scott Turow, editor.  The Best American Mystery Stories, 2006.

I am a sucker for this series.  I am also a Scott Turow fan.  Most law school graduates that write turn to legal writing, but he didn’t.  Of those, he is easily the best.  I am not a huge mystery fan, so much so that when my beloved Cold War fictions are placed in the mystery section I tend to find employees and lecture them as though I am an old man and they have some ability to care.  If it had not been in clearance then I would have never seen it and never have paid the money for it.

Iain Pears.  An Instance of the Fingerpost.

I remember this book being hot hot hot when I was working at Barnes & Noble.  A mystery (sigh) set in Victorian England (I think) and yet not a mystery but more a tour of theory and the history and thought.  Or so I remember one of my managers telling me as a reason why she thought I’d be perfect to read it.  Looking back, she wanted me to read it and review it for the Staff Recommendations section.  Maybe if it was free.  But, alas, modern businesses require their employees to spend their wages for their own marketing.

Ursula K. Le Guin.  The Eye of the Heron.

I have never read any Le Guin, but I am constantly coming across her name as an important literary figure.  And not just in science fiction circles.  I had never even heard of this book, but: 1. the author is important,  2. it is a tiny thing, I can get through something this size in less than a week, and 3. I have been on a science fiction kick lately.

Speaking of which, I am currently working on season 1 of Mad Men so I can see what all the hype is about.  Episode 4 and Draper is revealed to have been someone else before the war.  Now I am really intrigued as the story turns to be more inline with sci-fi circles than just a cultural criticism.  A TIRED cultural criticism, at that.

Duncan Heath & Judy Boreham.  Introducing Romanticism.

I am also a sucker for the precise genre.  Complex ideas simplified and then put into comic book form.  How can it not be worth a few bucks?

David Zane Mairowitz & Alain Korkos.  Introducing Camus.

I probably would not have bought this book had I not turned to the Camus chapter in the Sturrock book earlier to-day.  I am still not too sure that I care about him, but I am curious enough to drop a few bucks to find out.  And, it is also a precise book.  One of these days I will get some scratch together and commission my friends to write a precise pour moi.  Ursa can do some Spinoza.  I am not too sure what Nate would do, but I do not doubt I would learn something.

Philip Roth.  The Plot Against America.

Philip Roth.  Alternate history.  Philip Roth.  I almost bought this book several times when it was a hardcover on the bestseller list.  How this ever made it to the clearance rack I will never know.  I know Minnesotans read the wrong stuff, but this is ridiculous.

Phil Hellmuth, Jr.  Play Poker Like the Pros.

This is his serious book.  It was not on clearance, but I am curious to see what he has to say.  Poker writing fascinates me because the players are often engaging in some rather sophisticated communications theory without even knowing it.  The pain of reading these books is seeing them skate around methodologies and terminology.  They are almost quite there but I suspect there are editors or publishers delimiting the thought so the book remains available to the masses.  To the future poker writers out there: be brave, the audience will come along and appreciate it if the writing is good!

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