Dark Curricula: June 2016
The alien, the stranger. The badly made up guy from central casting who is trying to be otherworldly in an ill-fitting custom surrounded by styrofoam boulders. More than a bit forced. Bordering on hilarious, maybe a bit sad. Somehow still enjoyable in its own kitschy soup. Like that, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, it rides a fine line, as do these books.
City of Illusions
Ursula K. Le Guin
In the series only "Left Hand of Darkness" and "The Telling" remain for me to read. Given that I disliked "Rocannon's World" but loved a couple of the others, I start each of these nervously. Where's it gonna go? This one landed somewhere in the middle. An alien "Falk" has come to Earth, but his memory has been completely erased, he has to start as a new person, has to learn everything over again. The human community he's taken in by is, basically, Eugene Oregon. He stays there for many years, but eventually reconciles himself to the fact he must go find out who he is and where he came from. So, he catches a train to NYC, gets a small studio apartment on Christopher Street and a job waiting tables... No, no, I'm kidding. He travels to the capital city of Earth, which is run by a hated race called the "Shing". Many travel-like travels entail. Things are seen. Hardships. Hunting. Tribes. Etc. And page count is increased. He arrives in the capital and others try to convince him the "Shing" are kindly protectors. Surprise, he learns they actually are an invading race and he's got to get back to his home world, pronto, to warn them about the fuzzy idea of a long standing galactic war. Then there's some psychic doodle-dinging, minds fighting in mind world, egos and barriers and other personalities and such, and he gets away in a ship. Huzzah. End of scene.
The Strange Library
"This Murakami could hardly get more Murakami." ― Daniel Handler, The New York Times Book Review
I have enjoyed many Murakami books, "A Wild Sheep Chase" and "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" being my favorites. This one is very short. While I was reading it I got the funny feeling I was reading something written by a Murakami Computer. A machine learning sequence, a simulated Murakami. Perhaps he's died and the publisher is using ghost writers. So... There's a sheep man. There's a strange woman. There's a cat or a bird (there's a bird). There's a strange library. And there's a bittersweet ending. If I'd never read any Murakami before, I would say to myself "gosh, very creative". However, given that these same ingredients have been combined before, in similar fashion by him, I came away feeling the opposite. It is not very creative, it is lazy. And while it's fine to be lazy, it is less great to be lazy when you're a professional writer asking for money for your laziness. Skip this one, the library is not, in fact, very strange.
Albina And The Dog-Men
To contrast Jodorowsky with Murakami, first, the similiarities — you know what you’re getting into. They’re each distinct creators, not likely to be confused with anyone else. If you’ve seen El Topo or Holy Mountain, you’re damn sure this won’t be a traditional narrative about the quiet desperation of suburban life or a rom-com.
Jodorowsky also has written comics, successfully. He sued Luc Besson for “The Fifth Element” — I believe it, I think Besson was indeed at least “inspired” by Jodorowsky’s comics. Jodorowsky’s brain is a big world of disparate surreality, of primalism and tarot decks, of dog-men and fucking, always evaporating social conventions, bits of excavation and imagination.
So, regardless, you know what you’re getting into. And, unlike the Murakami book, there is no sense here that Jodorowsky is just phoning it in.
In fact, the opposite. The authenticity of this is exhausting. Rich, inventive, and visual and disturbing. Since it lacks clear sinews, and feels like a fever dream, I’m not really sure if I missed anything, or if there parts of the plot I just zoned out on. I mean, there really isn’t a plot so-to-speak.
And this brings up a question, that while this was undoubtedly a fully formed work of art, and quite adept, I can’t say I found it enjoyable. Not that it is the purpose of art to be enjoyable. But, saying again, maybe warning, you gotta know what you’re in for here.