The Stranger is a slim read, but I found it confusing. Supposedly, Sartre thought it a profoundly silly book, the equivalent of reporting on a soccer match with the words “I saw adults in shorts fighting and throwing themselves on the ground in order to send a leather ball between two wooden posts.” I feel similarly, and I would go a step further: I’m not certain that the verdict is wrong. Meursault does come off as a bit of a sociopath, not because he doesn’t cry for his mother, but because he doesn’t cry, and seems incapable of crying, for anything. He does not care about anything or anyone. The crime committed seems to have no purpose, but it occurs anyway, because Meursault doesn’t care enough to understand how to avert it. Which doesn’t mean I can’t see the absurdity of the “evidence” thrown against him, but I cannot escape the impression that I have wandered, not inside the head of a fellow human, but in some other kind of being who knew how to ape some human behaviors. Crimes of passion committed this dispassionately beggar verisimilitude.
It’s time to deal with some unpleasant truths, Song of Ice and Fire fans.
- The Shows are going to Lap the Books. This is going to happen. We are going to get spoiled by a show in which there is no Lady Stoneheart, no Brave Companions, in which the Greyjoys except Theon hardly exist and have the wrong names. Nothing can be done about it. This was built into the cake when the show started and the books were half-finished.
And sure, you can say, “Then she shouldn’t have started the show!” But be honest. You’ve busted your butt your whole life to create a literary work that is both popular and significant. And the premium of premium cable channels offers to turn it into a massive television series. You’re supposed to say, “No, I’d hate to see my story visualized by creative people and performed by awesome actors. Please spend your money on something else.” Please.
Accept that this is happening. Enjoy it as best you can, and when the books finally come out, take solace in the fact that it will be better than what you’ve just watched. The book always is.
- George is gonna give us the books when he can give us the books. Yep, we’re four years past A Dance With Dragons and no end in sight. That’s the reality. And the madder we get about it, the more nothing happens, because our nerd-rage has no bearing on how fast we get The Winds of Winter. No. Bearing. Whatsoever.
So don’t be this guy, whining to Martin on Martin’s own livejournal, accusing him of “betraying” his fans. Display some awareness of cause-and-effect. Do you honestly think this sort of moaning inspires the man to write faster? That he says to himself “Gosh, I’d better not disappoint them any more”? Because it it was me, I’d start wondering how hard I really wanted to work to please the same group of malcontents who took a crap all over my artistic process when I was fighting my way through A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not helping him, you’re not helping yourself. So knock it off.
- It’s All Gonna Work Itself Out. If George delivers the books, and they complete the story in a satisfying way, then all of the wait will be forgotten, and we can go back to the books or the series whenever we want and enjoy them. If we don’t like the books’ ending, maybe we’ll like the show’s ending. If George should die with ASOIAF uncompleted, someone else will finish it. That won’t be as good, but it will still be better than Wheel of Time (and the chatter I’ve picked up from those that slogged all the way through WoT is that the books that Jordan didn’t write were at least an improvement over the tedium that the series was stuck in. So who knows what can happen?). We’re going to get our books, one way or another. If we stop complaining, we might even like them.
This is what I had to say in 2011, around ADWD‘s release:
The length of the wait caused no small amount of reader acrimony, and I can see why. The Internet breeds contempt. When authors were faraway geniuses who you might meet at a signing if you paid attention, you had no choice but to wait like a cat left home alone for the weekend. But when an author has a livejournal of his own, and regulary updates it, it’s hard to avoid thinking “Yeah, that’s nice George. Now is Dance of Dragons gonna write itself, or…? And while we’re at it, a few miles on the NordicTrac wouldn’t kill you.”
For myself, I got tired of reading Martin’s dull football commentary, his middlebrow center-left political statements, his self-congratulatory merchandising for his less-interesting books (Fevre Dream: there’s $16 I’m never getting back). So I stopped reading them. I left his site alone until a wikipedia blurb suggested some chatter from his publishers that he might get around to being done soon.
Understand that I’m one of you. I’ve been reading the books since 2003 or thereabouts. I feel frustrated, like my fandom has been abused. But abusing Martin in return won’t save that. In fact, I kind of regret the mean things I said above (why would he not use his success to say “Hey, if you like this book, check out these others”? Honestly…).
So if the current ridiculous state of ASOIAF is just too much for you, then consider leaving it alone until it resolves itself. You’ll only diminish the wait thereby.
I’ve had Joel Kotkin’s The New Class Conflict on my Kindle Wish List for some time. It’s dovetails with what I have long thought about the actual class structure of America for some time. I was rather pretentiously calling myself a “rebel against my class” back in college.
But I hadn’t yet found that need to hit the 1-Click button until I read the Foreword by Fred Siegel:
From roughly 1916 to 1932 the journalist-intellectual H. L. Mencken set the tone for much of American reporting by way of his thumb-sucking pieces on the American scene, collected in six volumes of his Prejudices. Most of the pieces were written from Mencken’s hometown of Baltimore, and on the unusual occasion when he traveled to observe the scene, as in his “coverage” of the famous Scopes trial, what he wrote was more a reflection of his prejudices than the events observed. Joel Kotkin is the anti-Mencken…
I must confess that I have never enjoyed the so-called Sage of Baltimore as much I have wanted to. If Mencken were not a wit, no one would read him. As it stands, few read him now; they only quote him, out of context, as a capstone to an uncharitable argument. Mencken made charity seem a dastardly, pitiably weak emotion. It is why he ultimately has nothing to say that does not smack of a schoolyard taunt.
Really, a collegiate playwright, but that doesn’t make the same stale pop-cultural reference.
In any case, one of the ways I spent my days in university instead of exercising or learning how to talk to girls was writing one-act plays. Some of them were bedroom-type farces, some had theological and/or philosophical pretenses. All were silly. But when I come back to them, I have the same enjoyment as when I first typed them out. They still have a cheeky charm.
Two of them are out on Amazon.com, and the rest should be by the end of the month or so.
Click the images for the Amazon link.
This struck me:
Brian Aldiss believes that if you look at the life of any novelist, you’ll find an early traumatic break, and mine seems no exception.
Because I think everyone can examine their childhood and find moments of sublime clarity, when reality takes its mask off and murders the idyll in front of you. So I don’t know that such is restricted only to novelists. Perhaps novelists access it fastest.
This amused me:
Google me and you can learn that I do it all on a manual typewriter, something that hasn’t been true since 1985, but which makes such an easy hook for a lazy journalist that I expect to be reading it for the rest of my life.
Journalists are the laziest bastards on the planet. They find a hook, and then stuff everything else through that hook like it was a funnel. A plague on their houses.
Read the whole thing, if you’re a Gibson fan and you’ve never hit up his web site before. It has an archaic, Geocities-ish design that’s almost charming.
I have a lingering love of the genre, and one of these days may yet pour out the Western novel that’s been a-brewin’ in me since I was a tad. For the nonce, I’ve created a Medium Collection devoted to Western-ness, and a fine fellow has contributed a story to it: High Moon – Westwood. I invite you to check it out.
Way before I’d ever read 1984, I’d heard of it. I don’t know if I had heard of it during the year 1984, as I turned eight that autumn, but somewhere along the way I heard that particular year spoken of in that way that conveyed symbolic significance. When I did read it,that significance finally took shape.
In between the realization that 1984 was a book, and reading that book, I also somehow digested the notion that someone had written a response to it, and that someone was not George Orwell (if I knew who Orwell was at the time, which seems unlikely). I was aware, at some point, that there was also a book called 1985.
Today, in a lonely impulse of delight while pursuing Goodreads, I confirmed that reality.
Anthony Burgess. Of course.
As a sidebar, The International Anthony Burgess Foundation has a nice historical summary of the dystopian genre. I never would have realized that Brave New World was written before 1984.
The term ‘utopia’, literally meaning ‘no place’, was coined by Thomas More in his book of the same title. Utopia (1516) describes a fictional island in the Atlantic ocean and is a satire on the state of England. The English philosopher John Stuart Mill coined ‘Dystopia’, meaning ‘bad place’, in 1868 as he was denouncing the government’s Irish land policy. He was inspired by More’s writing on utopia.
Something fitting about “Utopia” being about England and “Dystopia” being about Ireland. Always thus, I suppose.
In any case, I look forward to reading it.