Archive for November, 2015

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Style and the Twenty-First Century

November 26, 2015

I am sorry to drag political writing into this, but it happens to be where the example arises. In truth, you can ignore the politics, inasmuch as that is possible. Writing for Salon, Heather Digby Parton notes:

Huh?The CNN story goes on to interview various scholars who all say that to one degree or another Trump is, indeed, fascistic if not what we used to call “a total fascist.” Historian Rick Perlstein was the first to venture there when he wrote this piece some months back.

It’s hard to understand why this has been so difficult to see. On the day he announced his campaign, Trump openly said ....

As long as I have been aware of Digby, it has been through electronic media. And in the question of the ever-growing online world, I have tended to compare the reading experience to paper; this might well be the wrong context in the twenty-first century. She is good at what she does, but this is a quirk of the new era that continues to defy me.

That truncated second paragraph is not a quote; it is the next paragraph of her narrative. As one raised on paper, the last sentence of that first paragraph just reads strangely to me; without the embedded hyperlink, it makes no sense.

Historian Rick Perlstein was the first to venture there when he wrote this piece some months back.

Or … am I being pedantic?

Maybe I’m just too accustomed to the idea of the Martian eye, or alien anthropologists. Even as we find the internet today, hyperlinks can break. Imagine trying to put the record together sometime in the future.

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Digby Parton, Heather. “The unprecedented nightmare of Donald Trump’s campaign: We’ve openly begun using the F-word in American politics”. Salon. 25 November 2015.

Perlstein, Rick. “Donald Trump and the ‘F-Word'”. The Washington Spectator. 30 September 2015.

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Happiness, Recalled

November 23, 2015

Ray BradburyIt occurred today that an associate recalled a particular thought experiment, which in turn sent me searching for a Ray Bradbury story. The Saturday Evening Post has been so kind as to offer an electronic copy of their 1957 presentation of the maestro’s story, “The Happiness Machine”, from Dandelion Wine.

Read. Enjoy. Be well.

―bd

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The Shadow Over Lovecraft

November 23, 2015

It is true I hold a soft spot for H. P. Lovecraft; his stories are among those that made me want to write. It is an unfortunate history, then, fraught with caveats; this is the problem:

First, Lovecraft―who wrote “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour Out of Space” and other influential tales of madness and “sentient blob[s] of self-shaping gelatinous flesh”―is one of weird fiction’s most celebrated authors. He is enshrined in the Library of America.H. P. Lovecraft Stephen King calls him “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” The author of the novel “Psycho,” Robert Bloch, once wrote, “Poe and Lovecraft are our two American geniuses of fantasy, comparable each to the other, but incomparably superior to all the rest who follow.”

Second, as Lovecraft’s letters―and, to a lesser extent, his stories―reveal, the guy harbored a fierce loathing for almost all non-WASPs. Blacks were “greasy chimpanzees,” in Lovecraft’s words. French-Canadians were a “clamorous plague.” New York’s Chinatown was “a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh.” And so on.

Phillip Eil’s explanation, for Salon, of the final distribution of Howards for the World Fantasy Award does, indeed, follow the gravity of the tale. It only goes downhill from there.

We can try making what excuses we want; he was a misanthrope, he was crazy, he was an extreme product of something whatnot whonow … er … right. It’s possible to do the five stages; I recommend skipping tracks to acceptance. Then again, neither do I know how many of the generation that comes after me even bothered with Lovecraft, so maybe my own years of reflecting on the question really are as useless as they have always felt.

Still, though. Sigh.

No, no, I’m not fretting for the trophies. It’s just, you know, it’s just one of those, This is why we can’t have nice things! feeling. Lovecraft, Koestler, Cosby. Sometimes it just hurts to face up to what all goes into the art we love, y’know?

But it’s true, he was a miserable, sickly, repulsive sort of genius.

―bd

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Image note: H. P. Lovecraft in undated photo via Wikimedia.

Eil, Phillip. “The ghost that haunts American literature: The genius & the repugnance of H.P. Lovecraft”. Salon. 21 November 2015.