Tom Towers Reads in March
Puritanism not paganism? Also, elsewhere black militanism, racism, whato to call it?/???
Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure: Odo Hirsch
Great genre writing sometimes requires greater skill than great literary writing. Literature can rely on inherent talent and stark vision: genre writing is often bereft of both; in which case: practiced skills must overtly take their places: full stops and meter-less momentum are musts. Luckily Odo Hirsch is writing literature; is talented; is vaguely visionary. Following in the footsteps of what some might describe as postmodern, Odo Hirsch employs many various genre-specific techniques; here one can separate talent from skill: Odo Hirsch is not a skilled writer. Momentum supplied by his skill instead of talent relies on his unrobust punctuation; and with no poetic meter, then the momentum drowns in the rich, Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut of the prose that made Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure so unpleasant to read thefirst time; the second time (complemented by the warm, glowing Christmas lights; cold to the touch of the tongue; to the gums; to the roof of the mouth: a syrupy Rose Water; fragrant and strong, yet such a tender, gluttonous language upon the palette—illustrated upon the lightless stage) such sensuous pleasures could be wholly enjoyed. Statistics once failed—senses once afraid.
When talent, vision and skill intersect: momentum overtakes; flimsy, papery short sentences on the fingertips grow robust enough in the inherent, natural momentum that any lacklustre skill cannot hope to stifle—and the mechanical, Australian prosaic descriptions of individual actions render simple movements as majestic, yet never ostentatious dances. The English townscape of English journalist and English politicians never truly escapes the Australian traffic.
Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita, Lolita; what a lovely bone eater—not even growing into a Mercedes-related pun: vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity; aimed at the Phil Foggs of the world too inhibited and frightened to accept Lolita as their misinterpreted bible and anarchistic guide to their lives.
Although one might consider it hypocritical given the above euphemistic vulgarity, I cannot help but wonder why writers are so afraid of the world penis: certainly, it does supply the writer with some awkward aesthetic qualities: the sharp p, and the smooth enis make it a hard word to place; but what of serpents and staves? Easier, but still containing obviously similar qualities. The stucco ennui with which Nabokov treats the word penis is at least humorous; though not entirely suitable coevals are ever found to genuinely replace it: a vocabulary so interested in fact should have easily found a place for such phallic vulgarity; however beside the point
Research was what first led me to read Lolita (Statistics failing me so utterly, and literacy more than not): research was what induced the literary panic attack the second time (presently read out of curiosity); not because of the awkward sensation of reading the dalliance of such similar aesthetic and structural preoccupations, but due to the utter pointlessness: what did it offer to my ****’s work? If it offered nothing, then why was I reading it? Foolishly: evolving practice was consciously manipulated into ungainly; incorrect shapes as vulgar as the rhyme above—but without the bubbling plastic black, and smoke-like red lights of all the rhyming compressions.
Whereas fiction allowed Nabokov to ramble sans New Yorker; his fiction contorted my life briefly into syllables of the world: words, structures, paragraphs, sentences reduced to verbal imitations of visual language; punctuation marks reduced to mathematical entities: counted on the very fingers that typed them; but not considered beyond their symmetry and shape. The most complex of rectangular textures reduced to smooth plastic or metallic squares.
Crisis averted, and two blemishes: half-hearted obsessiveness genuinely awkward instead of magically; and how? When James Joyce might be seamlessly parodied and punned, then one should consider the obligatory afterword the confirmation of a genuine art: devoid of moral, paedophilia and lust; contrasting passive, abusive adult relationships with those of children that, if it had been, no one would have raised an eyebrow and wondered aloud: why James Joyce?
Do Android Dream of Electronic Sheep?: Philip K. Dick
Tom Towers has long dreamed of reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Not since seeing Blade Runner; not since playing the infinitely superior videogame adaptation of Blade Runner, but ever since first reading the fascinating title. It was therefore—more than a little bit—disappointing when the meaning of the title was revealed so early on. Yet—although so very disappointing—it was also a relief: how the writer could reduce such an amusing, tragic concept into such an absurd, physically attractive title is astounding. Perhaps it is the greatest achievement of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; at least: the greatest achievement of the first sixth of the comic book. Featuring the full text; the prose and all, but still a comic book.
Dream on, Tom...
The comic itself: a beautiful; kitsch cover of calligraphy, circuit boards, and sheep. Cheaply transcendent; crisp; electronic inner covers—and a spastic level of draughtsmanship. The art of replication ironically absent from the artwork, and faces and bodies smeared and broken; contorted in entirely unscientific fictions of perspective and depth. Worse still: the staid, awkward, invasively and oddly charming prose, is inaccurately illustrated: a woman with high, small breasts has high, small breasts only by comic book standards; well, it is a comic book. But a woman with canonical breast has the roundest, chickenest breasts since the invention of bra padding, and one of the synthetically attractive television pornographers has breasts almost as small as the Asian’s ones; and smaller breasts than the woman with the breasts specifically described as being small. Black eyes and black hair may be excused as The White Man’s Preference when illustrated as brown, but even He is accustomed to the actualities of the many and varied mammary glands where canonical means at least bra-shaped.
A STRANGE PHENOMENON IN ADAPTION: IF PROSE IS WRITTEN ALL CAPITALS AS COMIC BOOKS DICTATE, THEN DOES IT CEASE TO BE PROSE? CERTAINLY ONE CAN GLEAM LITTLE SENSE OF THE WRITING WHEN IT IS THUS ILLUSTRATED. BUT A NOVELTY SHOULD BE APPRECIATED FOR BEING JUST THAT.
If Beale Street Could Talk: James Baldwin
Even homosexuals are frightened of the word penis. Here, sex acceptably takes its place; except when prick does—and when does: it is a rare literary achievement: an anatomical euphemism making aesthetic and narrative sense. But its combination with balls and more accurate anatomical terms in the same scene makes one wonder if sex was simply chosen at random*, and its positive effect pure chance. After all, when a sex moves against an opening, rational thought has clearly not been applied to the aesthetic qualities of the prose. One might hasten to blame American prudery and paganism, but this phenomenon unfortunately pollutes all the world’s literary [in]continents.
Indeed, the consistency of the prose is poor; other more aggressive euphemisms expressed in dialogue as every day vulgarity never merge with the language of the prose; even if such vulgarity is, at times, part of the prose. The style changes depending upon the chronology and the emotional tone of the scene, and sometimes it changes with such intense detail and care that the times when it changes abruptly (with no justification), or the robust prosaic textures fade away to nothing are inexplicable. The lazy editing is further emphasised by the similarly impressive changes in dialogue style: characters speak to one another in different tones and rhythms; with different language, depending on whom it is they are speaking to. Some people do not speak to their mothers using the same voice as they do to their force-fed family in-law.
This is another demonstration of the exquisite detail in James Baldwin’s writing; and yet--f like his prose, sometimes the dialogue is anything but detailed: shallow; aesthetically ugly, and: completely devoid of any natural rhythm or redemption. Just as intrusive are the militant blacktavism asides, shoved into the writing disguised as inner monologue; absurd thoughts in the droll literary style of the dumb, low class narrator who is secretly a romanticised author; analogues to the author; and observing the world through the lens of the worst sort of awful, offensive postmodern literary advertising. And yet, these interjections of militant blacktavism are at other times powerful expressions of the rage and racism bubbling beneath the surface: simultaneously empowering and destroying the black characters—the mistrust of a genuine white lawyer born from racism only increasing a father’s suffering; while at other times it gives other characters the strength to cope with their own suffering; or a useful tool to try and manipulate others with—no matter the cost to the victim. A complex consideration—tarred.
But the real stars are the colons. This beautiful punctuation mark is used liberally here: often applied to the word and in a rare, endearing expression. Colons follow colons: follow colons, and: so on and so forth; never quite so awkwardly as this hastily hobbled together imitation.
*Naturally the scene grows from hopeless masturbation to transporting orgasm, but do the changes in anatomical description accurately follow those in the rest of the prose? Not nearly.
The Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger
In this prequel to American Psycho, Patrick Bateman goes by Holden Caulfield. Holden is a physically and existentially ill teenager who does not yet have the intestinal fortitude to rebel against the cultureless, crushing void of postmodern America. It tastes very much like a fresh lemonade spider; a flavour which does begin to drag, and is broken up structure-wise like so:
Prologue-body of work-prelude to the epilogue (a structural failure; taking the otherwise successful repetition and redefining it as pointless)-epilogue. The repetition in the prose is always amusing, and a deliberately stark contrast to the elegant repetition of James Baldwin’s simple, imperceptible repeats. Statistics failed me utterly; Memory: total recall—repetition?
Here the New Yorker’s editors show that perhaps they may be of some use after all when applied to a less skilled; less talented; less original writer than Nabokov. But how much of their moulding turned that prelude to the epilogue into the redundancy it was? Redundancy tangibly reminiscent of some of Speak, Memory’s most egregious faili