Reading list

I am reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Murakami writes a kind of
magical realism that is quite languid and rambling. I never have any
idea of where his stories will end up. This one is 2 separate story
lines in alternating chapters that don’t seem to have any point of
convergence. At least not yet, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through
the book.

I recently finished a trilogy of Elmore Leonard novellas. I’m a fan.
He tended to write write grey characters. Rarely all good or all
bad; at the very least, flawed. Get Shorty was almost verbatim
the movie. (I think he generally wrote books that were easily adapted
to screenplays.) Tishomingo Blues had a happier ending that I
tend to expect from Leonard. Killshot had me nervous the whole
time I was reading it, waiting for something awful to happen to the
main characters because the bad guys were absolute psychopaths.

Wheel of Time

I just finished listening to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The series is 14 volumes and they are all over 20 hours long; some over 40. I had started them when they first came out, but got frustrated by the need to reread them when the new ones were released in order to remember all the characters and decided to wait until it was finished.

It’s a sword and sorcery fantasy series. I like the story. I, generally, like the characters. However, Jordan’s writing style is Dickensian. He describes what everyone is wearing EVERY TIME YOU ENCOUNTER THEM. All the horses get names. And descriptions. I tend to skip over battle descriptions when I read a book. You can’t really do that with audio.  Also, the raging sexism is tiresome.

Am I sorry I spent the time listening to them? No. I was going to be listening to something, anyway.

Do I regret giving time to this story. No. I was satisfied with the finished product. Although, I did get frustrated with the slow pace caused by the excessive descriptions, sometimes.

Will I listen to it again? Hard to say. I might decide to revisit it in a decade.

Do I wish I had paid $28 per hardback to read it sooner? HELL NO. I really do feel like half the paper was wasted.

Excerpts from ‘The Last Viridian Note by Bruce Sterling

You will need to divide your current possessions into four major categories.

1. Beautiful things.
2. Emotionally important things.
3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
4. Everything else.

“Everything else” will be by far the largest category. Anything you have not touched, or seen, or thought about in a year — this very likely belongs in “everything else.”

You should document these things. Take their pictures, their identifying makers’ marks, barcodes, whatever, so that you can get them off eBay or Amazon if, for some weird reason, you ever need them again. Store those digital pictures somewhere safe — along with all your other increasingly valuable, life-central digital data. Back them up both onsite and offsite.

Then remove them from your time and space. “Everything else” should not be in your immediate environment, sucking up your energy and reducing your opportunities. It should become a fond memory, or become reduced to data.

It may belong *to* you, but it does not belong *with* you. You weren’t born with it. You won’t be buried with it. It needs to be out of the space-time vicinity. You are not its archivist or quartermaster. Stop serving that unpaid role.

Beautiful things are important. If they’re truly beautiful, they should be so beautiful that you are showing them to people. They should be on display: you should be sharing their beauty with others. Your pride in these things should enhance your life, your sense of taste and perhaps your social standing.

They’re not really *that* beautiful? Then they’re not really beautiful. Take a picture of them, tag them, remove them elsewhere.

All of us have sentimental keepsakes that we can’t bear to part with. We also have many other objects which simply provoke a panicky sense of potential loss — they don’t help us to establish who we are, or to become the person we want to be. They subject us to emotional blackmail.

Is this keepsake so very important that you would want to share its story with your friends, your children, your grandchildren? Or are you just using this clutter as emotional insulation, so as to protect yourself from knowing yourself better?

Think about that. Take a picture. You might want to write the story down.
Then — yes — away with it.

You are not “losing things” by these acts of material hygiene. You are gaining time, health, light and space. Also, the basic quality of your daily life will certainly soar. Because the benefits of good design will accrue to you where they matter — in the everyday.

Now for category three, tools and appliances. They’re not beautiful and you are not emotionally attached to them. So they should be held to keen technical standards.

Is your home a museum? Do you have curatorial skills? If not, then entropy is attacking everything in there. Stuff breaks, ages, rusts, wears out, decays. Entropy is an inherent property of time and space. Understand this fact. Expect this. The laws of physics are all right, they should not provoke anguished spasms of denial.

You will be told that you should “make do” with broken or semi-broken tools, devices and appliances. Unless you are in prison or genuinely crushed by poverty, do not do this. This advice is wicked.

Get excellent tools and appliances. Not a hundred bad, cheap, easy ones. Get the genuinely good ones. Work at it. Pay some attention here, do not neglect the issue by imagining yourself to be serenely “non-materialistic.” There is nothing more “materialistic” than doing the same household job five times because your tools suck. Do not allow yourself to be trapped in time-sucking black holes of mechanical dysfunction. That is not civilized.

That smile

Yesterday, I was listening to Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  It’s incredibly grizzly and completely over the top.  (It’s about Pinhead, of Hellraiser fame; so, that’s to be expected.)

One of the characters was described as having a “Gioconda smile.”

The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)

The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)

I like Barker’s use of language as much as I enjoy the stories he tells.

Paste magazine’s list of 30 of the Best Horror Books

Yes.  I realize there are 31 books on the list.  Not my fault Paste is a little tweaked.

This is the list from the article found here: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/04/required-reading-40-of-the-best-horror-novels.html

Bold means I’ve read it.  Italics means I only saw the movie.  Both means I read it AND saw the movie.

  1. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  2. The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
  3. Books of Blood, Vol. 1-3 – Clive Barker
  4. Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes
  5. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
  6. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
  7. The Damnation Game – Clive Barker
  8. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  9. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
  10. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus – Mary Shelley
  11. Ghost Story – Peter Straub
  12. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
  13. Haunted – Chuck Palaniuk
  14. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  15. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  16. Horns – Joe Hill
  17. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  18. I have No Mouth, And I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison
  19. It – Stephen King
  20. John Dies @ the End – David Wong
  21. Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  22. Little Star – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  23. The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft – Howard Phillips Lovecraft
  24. Lunar Park – Bret Easton Ellis
  25. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
  26. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  27. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz
  28. Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  29. The Shining – Stephen King
  30. The Tune of the Screw – Henry James
  31. World War Z – Max Brooks

I’m saving this for the times when I can’t decide what to read next.