Tuesday, May 16, 2017


     The only way I really know what I'm going to be reading next is by starting in on a several books at once and seeing which one holds my interest. I started Phantom of the Opera and while it seems like it might be a pleasant diversion, I'm not really in the mood for something quite this frivolous. On top of it, the writing is pedestrian. Reading it felt like a waste of time.
     I'm in the middle of the first book of Ian Toll's Pacific War trilogy, but had to pull out due to an over-saturation of anguish. I stopped somewhere before the Bataan Death March. I just can't deal with it right now. It makes me angry and depressed. I should just skip ahead to Doolittle's Raid or the Jap repulse at Port Moresby or Midway. But I decided I would just come back to it when I'm feeling stronger. I'm getting pissed off now just thinking about it. I only hope these Japs and the Soviet NKVD types got their just desserts. That's all I'm sayin'...

     In contrast to Phantom, the writing in MacKinlay Kantor's Spirit Lake was its saving grace. Despite the vacuity of the novel, I enjoyed the journey for the writing style. The theme was strictly a bankrupt product of the 20th century, however -- bleak, hopeless, meaningless. The Indians were portrayed as two distinct types: The good Indians who had the morals and sensibilities of 1950's-era Iowans; and bad Indians who were of the massacring variety. Eye-rolling stuff.


      Worse were the settlers. Not a likable one among them. The only one who came close was the doctor character but even he became overwhelmed by a repulsive, animal, demeaning lust in the end. I also had hope for the Frenchman, but he was given an atypical backstory (to say the least -- it was actually quite absurd) and then faded into the background after a couple hundred pages of buildup.
     But none were worse than the only overtly Christian character in the book, who, naturally, was depicted as a buffoon. As I said, this book says so much more about the 20th century than the 19th it's a little embarrassing for Kantor. You have to remember Kantor made his living in Hollywood. In the end, his story is of a sad waste of talent. But at least he had talent, I guess. How many of his ilk didn't even have that.
     Which brings me to my YouTube viewing recently. I've been watching some Jordan Peterson videos. A college professor and a very smart guy, no doubt about it. (Brilliant, in fact, since much of what he says I've been saying around the kitchen table for years.) But what's with the weird emphasis on Dostoevsky and Nietsche, et al? Isn't it about time we focused on something else? You know, something that didn't result in the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century? For all Peterson's intelligence, he presents these things as works of genius (he especially gushes about Nietsche, who died of syphilis, remember) to impressionable kids, many of whom will fancy themselves existentialists or anarchists or atheists (or libertarians, snicker) and do themselves incalculable damage by the time they discover they've been duped. Everybody's got to make a living, I guess.

     The book that has captured my attention this week is E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Devil's Elixir. So far, so good. It's funny, I have a million cool things to do, but I really look forward to bedtime, as that's when I do all my reading. Bedtime can come pretty early sometimes.
     Hoffmann, you may recall, is a German writer from the early 1800s who wrote "The Sand-man" (the tale which provided me the characters of Coppelius and Olimpia for use in My Clockwork Muse) and "The Nutcracker". His stories tend toward the phantasmagorical --  which means they tend toward awesome. Poe was a fan of Hoffmann. Me, too.

     I'll leave with this bit of wisdom, from Little Feat (my new favorite band) and their song "Time Loves a Hero." Now, the Feats are no Nietsche, but in this little snippet of lyric, they offer something worth thinking about.

Well they say that time loves a hero
But only time will tell
If he's real he's a legend from heaven
If he ain't he was sent here from hell

Hear me well
Seeing ain't always believing
Just make sure it's the truth that you're seeing
Eyes sometimes lie, eyes sometimes lie
They can be real deceiving

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