Derik Badman's Journal

2022-06-11 11:05

My ongoing "read giant novels" plan got a little interrupted lately. After Little, Big I ended up reading Doris Lessing's Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta the first in her "Canopus in Argos: Archives" series. It's not an overly large book, but I was waiting for books from the library and in the mail. It's an unusual and not altogether satisfactory novel, that is perhaps lessened by being the first in a (loose, as I understand it) series of five. The conceit of it involves an alien race that watches over Earth (called Shikasta by them, but it is quickly obvious it is Earth). The early parts are clearly playing with a version of early Bible history, with a race of giants introduced by the aliens to assist the early humans, serving as perhaps the nephilim, and the Shikastan emissary seemingly later seen as an angel or perhaps even god. A lot of the book is written as official reports and documents, but the more interesting parts are written as a journal of a human. The main alien somehow comes down to earth as a human boy (I guess like his soul is transferred or something, the mechanics and world building are very under-explained), and the journal is written by the boy's sister. It takes place across a near future dystopia, that is mostly alluded to rather than directly shown. In the end it felt very much like part of a larger whole. Not sure I will read more.

I read about a hundred pages of Lessing The Golden Notebook but gave up as I found the whole thing kind of annoying. It was a lot of people talking in ways I just found uninteresting.

Read/skimmed a few sections of Steven Moore's The Novel, An Alternative History: 1600–1800, though I don't think I have yet found any new discoveries that I feel inclined to read.

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by Cesar Aira was an extremely short novel (at less than 100 pages, it might better be called a novella) about a 19th century German landscape painter travelling in Argentina. He and his friend (another painter) travel and paint and... then he gets struck by lightning which really messes him up and dragged by his horse (which ruins his face) and he ends up hooked on morphine (or something similar) and... he keeps painting and then they sketch an attack of natives on the town they are in... and then he follows the natives and draws them... I don't know I got much out of this one. Maybe I read it too fast to get it, or maybe it is trying to be deep and failing.

Jessica Au's Cold Enough for Snow is another very short novel I read one day. Maybe I shouldn't read books when I am on medicine. I hurt my back last week so was on some pills for that. I don't remember a lot about this book, a woman and her older mother on vacation in Japan. Not much happens, the daughter seems to always be disappointed in her mother, the mother seems reluctant to engage with anything. At one point I started thinking the mother wasn't there at all, like I'd found out she was really dead, but that never panned out.

Read Jonathan Rosenbaum's short BFI book on Dead Man and then rewatched the movie. Not sure the book gave me much new to appreciate, but I still really like the movie.

Back to giant novels, I read about 200 pages of Infinite Jest before giving up on it. It was a slog. That far in (about... 1/5th of it, I guess) I still wasn't sure what the book was about and Wallace was really overusing long monologues written in voices that just annoyed the hell out of me.

So instead I picked up Alan Moore's Jerusalem to reread, which 100+ pages in I am enjoying a lot more. Moore also writes in different characters voices, but for some reason it is not annoying me as much as Wallace's, like Moore isn't overdoing it as much. Maybe it's because I've read it already, but it's easier to see a larger sense of Jerusalem since it's varying chapters and character share a geography (Northampton) and a slowly growing intersection of events.

I had been playing Elden Ring a lot still, but since hurting my back not at all. At first just sitting at my desk was too hard (especially the getting up), but also I've taken to sitting out on the porch after work and reading or working on a crossword puzzle. The weather has been so nice, and I love to sit out and hear the birds and occasionally see some that stop by the porch looking for seed, not right away realizing I am sitting there. Haven't been working on any of my coding projects either, though I have some issues and comments from last month from people that I haven't really addressed. I haven't been using the apps, so working on them loses some interest.