Yet with a condition so encompassing and of such long standing, could he ever strip the “real” him from his disease? From the beginning, fear and Stossel were born twins. One wonders if he would ache for that phantom creature if, somehow, it were excised.
High genre is fiction that allows you to investigate an individual text, because it is full of its own traits and merits, whether in its characterizations, its plot, or its prose. Regular genre, I suppose, is something you can only talk about as a family — tracing the themes shared collectively among its members. High genre will always be vulnerable to the taint of its lower peers, because it shares the equipment, the same beats. This is why people are drawn to True Detective, and yet can accept assertions that it is just another dead naked lady show. I mentioned the praxis of electronic dance music. Detractors would have it that this music is derivative noise, the artless patching together of beats at just the right frequency to make the ladies tear off their cardigans in the middle of the dance hall. These are the same kinds of things that people say about genre novels. But DJs (like medieval Islamic poets, in fact), demonstrate their mastery through use of the material of their peers and predecessors. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to be really good at spinning it.
Ultimately,Ugrešić‘s most dire forecast is for the writer: “As a specific human species, the majority of writers are facing extinction. Whether writers fall into the critically endangered group like Sumatran orangutans, the endangered group like Malaysian tigers, the vulnerable group like African elephants, the near threatened group together with the jaguar, or in the least concern group with the giraffe — let’s leave that to the experts.” At least the writers might take solace that they’re not alone?
Most people would assume that the biologist volunteered for the expedition because she wanted to find out what happened to her husband in Area X. And perhaps she does, but what becomes increasingly clear as ANNIHILATION progresses is that Vandermeer has immersed us in a mind that is almost as unusual as the environment it’s studying. This is a woman who has enjoyed life most keenly while crouching alone near some tiny ecosystem — a tide pool, a backyard pond, a vacant lot — watching its residents go about their business for hours on end. She ‘could tell one sea anemone from another in an instant, could have picked out any denizen of those tidal pools from a lineup if it had committed a crime.’
I suspect there may be two essential audiences for this type of book. The first are the Sebald enthusiasts, who have gobbled down everything he has written; and the second are those who are genuinely interested in the artists Sebald explores. While the book may have some revelations for the latter group, it seems more likely the Sebald devotees will find more to like.
A chef knows how to stiffen the egg whites so that the soufflé stands; a fiction writer develops a sense of how to craft sentences and paragraphs to support the narrative and its central characters. There are prescriptive recipes for many types of writing just as there are for all kinds of dishes, and yet the ability to follow directions is more skill than art. It’s only after the procedures are internalized and diverged from that both cook and writer can pull off an original concoction. Perhaps in this way, writing a novel is similar to planning a feast.
For couples seeking a Valentine’s Day more astringent than saccharine, I suggest the following: settle down after dinner, light some candles, and read Dan Rhodes’s Marry Me aloud to each other. Start with “Fate,” the entirety of which runs as follows:
When it comes to matters of romance, my fiancée is a firm believer in destiny. “If fate has decreed that I end up married to you,” she’ll sigh, “then there’s not much I can do about it, is there?”
If there is some uncomfortable fidgeting, take a slug of red wine, perhaps something stronger. Then flip to “Worst” and read the opening line in your sultriest voice: “My wife told me that she and her friends had voted me the worst at sex out of all their husbands.”
The day I bought Raw, I also wrote my own fiction, got my eyebrows waxed, started a contemporary literary novel by a writer who lives in Brooklyn, read a few book blogs, purchased a cappuccino made by a man in polka dotted Oxford shirt, posted a photo of my son to Tumblr, read some Dr. Seuss to that same son, and watched an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker (which, by the way, has totally gone downhill since assistants Destin and Rachel left the show). Such a rich cornucopia of experience, if I do say so myself! If your days even remotely resemble my own (and if you’re reading this, well, I bet they do), then you will find great pleasure in Mark Haskell Smith’s depiction of our contemporary diversions and obsessions, both the high and the low.
We already knew that Haruki Murakami was a writer and runner but a former jazz club owner, too? Aaron Gilbreath visited Murakami’s 1970s jazz club, Peter Cat, and found “a drab three-story cement building. Outside, a first-floor, a restaurant had set up a sampuru display of plastic foods.” For more Murakami, read our review of 1Q84.
We thought we had a better chance of seeing Odin than Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on TV, but after the HBO deal fell through, the novel is finally being adapted for the small screen by FremantleMedia. Bonus: Gaiman’s Anansi Boys is also being adapted into a BBC miniseries by RED. To brush up on Gaiman’s interest in mythology, read our review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.