Archive for the ‘ bookish ’ Category

Dan Brown’s Inferno

The Matrix Syndrome. I propose that as both the name for Dan Brown’s next Robert Langdon thriller and as the condition he now writes under. Or with. Or is expressing symptoms of. Not that it’s hurting his sales or his celebrity, of course. Or, as many would have it, his infamy. Remember how the first Matrix so wowed us to such a degree that the second and third paled in comparison? That’s how it is for Brown now, I think: everything he does falls under the long shadow of (the success of) The Da Vinci Code, which, much like Foucault’s Pendulum, trod and retrod that fun old Holy Blood, Holy Grail territory. However, unlike the Eco, Dan Brown’s novel was actually engaging. And it took over the world every bit as much as Harry Potter, as Fifty Shades. Maybe even more, in that it became a point for people to argue, and take ideological sides over. And that it was built like a hybrid of a crossword and chutes & ladders definitely didn’t hurt, as that allowed it to showcase the frenetic pacing Brown does as well anybody, and had already been doing for a few books. All his work, it’s got that same pacing, those same sudden reversals, the betrayals, the twists and turns and little hidden lectures, the showing-off of obscure, kind of intrinsically cool facts, but none of those other books have sparked our imagination as much as Da Vinci Code, right? Neither did Matrix 2 or 3 reel in the same  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Cage Match II: Fiction & Non-fiction

Just went to the most excellent lecture-discussion led by David Ulin, with Matthew Zapruder and Rob Roberge and Elizabeth Crane Brandt and Mark Haskell Smith and Tod Godberg chiming in—more people as well, but, you know, you lose track. Not of the talk, though. It was about John D’Agata’s About a Mountain, and the kind-of follow-up/undercut The Lifespan of a Fact, neither of which I’ve hit (so lost in Song of Ice and Fire). But I’m going to now. And, to ramp right off of the actual discussion into where and how it hit me: that other post, where I was talking about why I wrote Growing Up Dead in Texas? None of those were lies. But I realized, during this panel, that that wasn’t quite complete, either. To back up, I’ve had a lot of students and various unsorted people kind of shuffle up to me, and lead in their question or request or whatever with some version of “I know you hate non-fiction, but . . . ” Which is fair. I mean, I wouldn’t say I hate non-fiction, but it’s not what I do, and, starting about ten years ago, I got all highly sensitized to and more than slightly defensive about how non-fiction was encroaching on fiction. But, at the same time, I’ve read some really good non-fiction, and know there’s some great stuff out there waiting to change my life, and, yeah, I’m finally coming around to agree with David Ulin, that calling one thing ‘fiction’ and another ‘non-fiction’ is  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

The Edge of Dark Water

  • March 5th, 2012
  • Posted in bookish

Way the Baptists saw it, that dunk in the river made it sure you was going to heaven, even if before or later you knew a cow in the biblical sense and set fire to a crib with the baby in it — Lansdale, this book When I’m pushing Joe R. Lansdale’s The Bottoms on somebody, I’ll usually tell them that it’s in the same vein as To Kill a Mockingbird, kind of. Except it’s exciting, and has blood, and scary stuff. And those people, they usually come back and tell me, yep, that’s about the sum of it. And: where can I read the rest? Which means they’re ready for A Fine Dark Line, Sunset & Sawdust, that line of books — they evoke the region better than anybody else writing, and they’re also snapshots of a particular time, but they’re never that kind of nostalgic that whitewashes the era or gets all syrupy with sentimentality. And, though Lansdale does tend to stick to the East Texas he knows, that’s not at all to limit him to being a ‘regional’ writer. Even (just) a ‘Texas’ or ‘southern’ writer. No, the issues he’s dealing with, always, they’re big, they’re human, they concern us all. What he’s always dealing with is how to be a good person in this world. And, sure, there’s blood, there’s killing — the imagery in Leather Maiden‘s far from pretty — but there’s always a kind of ethical boundary in his work, too. It doesn’t make you feel safe — that would be an insult (to Lansdale)  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Z is for Xombie

  • February 6th, 2012
  • Posted in bookish

Don’t get me wrong, I love Demon Theory, I’m forever lost in it. But still, I always wondered what a novel written with that kind of syntax might look like if somebody took out the footnotes. And then what if they also took out the screenplay language stuff? What would be left? Just straight-up story? Zombie Bake-Off, pretty much. To back up again, though: the big hurdle for me and graduate school, at the MA level anyway, it was that I had this big prejudice against dialogue. I felt certain you could tell and novel and tell it wonderfully by simply paraphrasing all the dialogue. Yet there are conventions, there are norms, there was, evidently, stuff to be hammered sidewise into my head, whether I wanted it to be there or not. And, no, Lord of the Barnyard hadn’t been published at the time. Had it have been, I’d have held it up as my standard, my proof, my defense: 402 beautiful pages, and never a quoted line of dialogue (no unquoted, either—all paraphrased, indirect). But, as things went, I reluctantly started letting my characters actually speak on the page. Complete revolution for me. Then, a year or two later, I even started using actual real quotation marks. I was a complete sell-out of/to the person I’d been trying to be. But that’s growing up, too, I kind of suspect. If you don’t have any regret, any secret fondness for the way things might have been, maybe even should have been, then you’re still lucky enough to  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]