this past week: i've read a couple chapters of Justina Robson's Living Next-Door to the God of Love, about half of China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, a few pages of Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song; spending more time than i should in various bookshops, i read bits of Geling Yan's The Uninvited, John Connely's The Book of Lost Things, Ryu Murakami's Piercings, David Mitchell's Ghostwritten and Black Swan Green, a sizable serving (yet barely a chunk) of Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. i enjoyed some of these more than others; either way, i willingly subjected myself to their diversion, but was diverted only for as long as each book was in my hands.

i scrabbled from book to book, churning with a kind of placid desperation.

i'm no longer the voracious reader i used to be; i suppose i do still read for a sort of escape after all, but i no longer find it as satisfying to be so passive. i find it more and more difficult to be drawn into worlds painted for me, constructed entirely from another's imagination.

reading about magic and literal wonders has become, for me, wearisome: words are symbols, Alan Moore reminds us, and are thus themselves magical; the use of words to describe magic and literal wonders in the direct terms of comfortable fantasy and science fiction seems to me not only trite, but disinheriting, even unnecessary, as though one cannot help but undercut the power of the other.

and yet i cannot do without that strangeness...the weirdness of some of the more estranged books in the 'modern lit' shelves just isn't the same thing.

so what can i do? Elizabeth Hand, M. John Harrison; they seem to be the only ones in my library capable of making that translation, of successfully transcribing real wonders with as little entropy as possible.

i'm afraid they're the only ones who really do it for me these days.


banzai cat said...

Oooh, such lovely books. Are those books you bought there?

On the other hand, is your lack of joy in reading due to a study of literary criticism or something? My gf once said that LC ruined any chance for her to enjoy books afterwards.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

nope. just plain disinterest.

banzai cat said...

Alas, can't help you there. But given that you've picked up Elizabeth Hand (one of my fave writers also), maybe I offer some suggestions? Have you tried reading Lucius Shepard, Graham Joyce, Jonathan Carroll (and even Jonathan Lethem) and Sean Stewart?

JP said...

I have these dry spells too, and I think they do attack from tme to time.

I'm reading MJH's ANIMA, subsequent to deciding to read more of his work after our discussions at Banzai's place. I'd read a short story which evolved into The Course Of The Heart in a horror antho (PRIME EVIL, I think), but the finished work is truly a thing of magic and beauty. I'm now reading Signs Of LIfe, so I'll be checking in on your comments thereof soon.

I can see wht MJH is a perennial for you. I certainly would love to explore his work in a concerted manner, but availability is rather dicey.

Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance and Philip K Dick have long been writers I can always fall back on, although I realise one of them has a far more primitive style than the rest! I'd add Delany to the list, but some of his earliest SF doesn't really work for me (his first two novels, mainly). Certainly Fritz Leiber, often Tim Powers and Adam Roberts, and HP Lovecraft is always a fall back, oddly comforting reading when I'm at my most jaded and pessimistic.

I've never read Elizabeth Hand. I don't even think I've seen any of her books in the stores yet.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

JP: i confess, i do have one complaint about MJH: he's spoiled me for just about anything else.

(just about. i still regret not taking The Weight of Numbers with me.)

this, i hope, is not an effect you can expect from MJH yourself. i do tend to obsess over the things i like.

as for the story that evolved into The Course...i suppose you must mean The Great God Pan? (if i remember correctly, one or two other stories also went into Course) i read that story after i'd read Course, and it is, for me, amazingly illuminating.

so is this post; it explains quite a bit about what the hell MJH is talking about:

i'd been meaning to post that link, but never got around to it. now that i've done that here, i might do it again on the contents section.

particularly after i'd started reading the Things That Never Happen again...