hey mint, whatcha readin?
So uh, I came into work today not realizing that everyone is taking today off, too. I checked the holiday calendar and the 26th is labeled as "Christmas (observed)". I thought that's what Friday was, but I guess that was just an added bonus. I technically didn't get permission to work today, but when I've asked my supervisor if I could work on a holiday, the answer's never been no.
I'm happy I get another relaxing solo day at the office, but I wish I knew, because I would've brought my kindle. Thanksgiving was an excellent time to get some reading done.
the crying of lot 49
I saw a post from internet man-about-town Darius Kazemi comparing the fediverse to the W.A.S.T.E. network from The Crying of Lot 49, which prompted me to reread it. I enjoyed it when I read it about a decade ago, but this time I think I got a lot more out of it. It's a bit of a complicated read, and the first time I read it, I wasn't yet treated for ADHD. The only reason I didn't feel intimidated trying to tackle it is its relatively short length, for a Pynchon novel. I liked it, but there was a lot I think my brain glossed over.
This time I found the whole thing eminently readable, and I'm glad I revisited it. The most infamous section of the book is the very long scene where Oedipa watches The Courier's Tragedy --- a third-hand exposition dump of a character watching a play isn't what we would normally consider traditionally engaging, but this time I was all-in. It's a weird narrative choice, but I think it works because Oedipa is going in just as blind as the rest of us. She's watching intently, looking for any clues that would connect the play to the larger W.A.S.T.E. mystery, and we as the audience are joining in the mystery with her.
The first time I read the book, I felt a little bit lost at the end, like there was something I missed, some point that flew over my head, but I didn't feel that way this time. The ending (and a lot of the book, frankly) is ambiguous, but I think I was able to appreciate it for what it is, and it's become one of my favorite novels.
failing to read more pynchon
When I finished it, I thought "wow, I need to read more Pynchon!" so I opened the other of his books I had on my Kindle, the one I usually heard brought up as An Important Book, Gravity's Rainbow. I read several dozen pages of what seemed like an endless chapter 1, and, uh, it is a very different kind of book. I'm all for postmodernism, but I'm the kind of reader who still at least needs some sort of narrative. I don't go in for that Naked Lunch, Finnegan's Wake style of cut-up nonsense where you're supposed to absorb little pieces of a narrative and just, I dunno, vibe. I need at least one character to care about, and ideally I'd like to read about some things that are happening to them. It can be weird, it can be full of symbolism and metaphor and magical realism, but I at least want a story. I'm sure a story coalesces out of Gravity's Rainbow at some point, but I bounced hard off the beginning hard. Maybe I should try something else.
the last war in albion
When that didn't pan out, I looked for other books I had placed on my kindle that I thought I might find interesting, and I settled on The Last War In Albion by Elizabeth Sandifer. It's about the respective careers of and rivalry between the two most important British comic creators, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. This subject isn't particularly in my wheelhouse --- I like Alan Moore as a person, he's the cool curmudgeonly anarchist wizard uncle of comics, but I haven't read much of his work. After the movie, I read V for Vendetta and didn't get much out of it, but that might've been a time and place thing.1 He wrote a short series of alternate universe/parody silver age comics I really liked called "1963", but people don't seem to talk about them much. I've never read his two most seminal works, Swamp Thing or Watchmen. Before reading LWiA, I'd've rolled my eyes at the suggestion that a comic called Swamp Thing could be any good.
Grant Morrison I don't know anything about. To the extent that I've heard his name at all, it's in connection with traditional Marvel/DC-style superhero comics, so I wouldn't have encountered any of it. I had a vague sense that he was in the same grimdark edgelord sphere as dudes like Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane, but that's a gut-level characterization based on no actual knowledge.
So why would I start reading it? Well, I really liked Elizabeth Sandifer's Neoreaction a Basilisk, and I thought her writing style might be enough to carry me through a topic I don't have any intrinsic interest in. After all, if I can watch a 3-hour video essay about a failed theme park, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to enjoy the same sort of experience in book form, as long as it goes into enough depth.
And depth it has. LWiA doesn't exist on paper,2 but if it did, the book would be about 800 pages long, and this is just part 1. That's why I still don't know anything about Grant Morrison --- chronologically, it's only covered the very beginning of his career, before any of the works he's well-known for. Most of the book has been about Alan Moore, because he had already written his most seminal books before Grant Morrison got a foothold with mainstream publishers.
I've been enjoying it. I haven't finished it yet; I got through most of it over Thanksgiving, and have been reading it in fits and starts since then. If I brought my Kindle, I'd surely finish it today. It goes into incredible depth about the history of comics, the fascinating differences between the US and UK comic markets, all of the wonky UK sci-fi that influenced AM & GM, the weird personal mythology of William Blake (maybe the world's first graphic novelist) and the parallels between his work and Alan Moore's psychedelic sorcery: i.e., more than enough to sink my teeth into. And as I mentioned, this is just part 1. Parts 2 and 3 currently only exist in blog form (the ebook is "just" a compilation of blog posts, but don't let that scare you off, it's as well-written as any pop nonfiction book I've ever read.) And once I finish it I guess I'll have to pick up where it leaves off over at Eruditorum Press. I just loaded up the most recent entries, and lo and behold, there's an image of the Sonic The Hedgehog box cover. Auspicious! What connection could Sonic the Hedgehog possibly have to any of the previous subject matter? I'll probably find out some time in 2025, at this rate. But I'll continue to enjoy the journey 🦝
no, now that I've thought about it a bit, I'd probably like it even less than I did then. I didn't care for the movie, although there were elements I liked, and I thought the graphic novel might be better. But at the end of the day, I don't care how antifascist your hero is, I just can't make myself care after what V did to Evey. There's no justification for it, not that it would be any less grotesque if there was, and the narrative implication that it somehow made Evey stronger instead of giving her a lifetime of debilitating PTSD is nauseating. Maybe Alan Moore was one of the grimdark edgelords too 🤦♀️↩
oh, I just looked it up, and I guess it does exist on paper. You can order a paperback copy on Amazon for $23. It's a chonker↩