2016-11-30 10:00 dark-curricula

Dark Curricula: November 2016

This may come as a surprise, but November wasn't so great. Something... distracting. I kept looking at a page, then the anger or desperation would set in, and I wouldn't really be looking at the words on the page anymore. So these books were not read with the care, love, and interest that I would give most books. In this sense, I consider the month a wash for reading. I apologize to these authors. However, there are now far bigger problems. So, my reading discomfort here is fairly meaningless. There is no clear theme to extract this month, only dictatorship and nausea and wondering which books are going to be banned in the future.

As Vonnegut has said with horrible accuracy, "So it goes".

The Lottery And Other Stories

Shirley Jackson

I wanted to read some respected American stories. I don't think I understand American fiction very well, past the early 20th century anyway, and this collection sits near the center of canonical US lit. And I don't want the derivatives, I want these, I want the originals that inspired decades of writing. I was not disappointed, or surprised. Having read "We Have Always Lived In The Castle" last year... I couldn't put it down. And I vaguely remember reading "The Lottery" in school, and wanted some more Shirley Jackson short pieces. For me the short story is an absolute and unforgiving form, and she has written some perfect short stories. Not all of them, but even a few, that perfect, is amazing. Yet, my "not being surprised" -- as much as I love them, the technique, and the voice, the subversion, in this month of November 2016 I am frighteningly aware of how little has changed from the period she wrote them. And this, again, is why I apologize to the dead author. I don't want these to be relevant any more. I don't want to feel weariness by reading about white suburban racism and feel defeat. My lack of surprise isn't cynical, but placed and verified now by reality. It is unfortunate that these are still as powerful as they are. It would be better if we could look at them as relics of the past struggle against closed mindedness, tribalism and prejudice. We cannot.

Pirate Utopia

Bruce Sterling

A cast of characters. An alt history. I will use "alt" so haltingly from now on. There's an appreciation Sterling has for specifics. He's going to tell you the model of the car, or gun or tank. He's going to mention specifics about the city or play upon the particulars of the historical event. I appreciate him following his bliss, mostly. However, there wasn't anything there that engaged me (see disclaimer above), it was fun, if I was in the right mindset. I was not. This seemed like a fairy tale powered by the first world war, dirty, and sprawling, and I think an excellent endeavor. But I'd be hard pressed to recite anything particular in retrospect.