Drive

What if there is no one at the wheel.

What do you mean.

I mean we wonder so much about intent in this novel, about Kohler’s intentions versus Gass’s intentions and whose are primary and how we are meant to conflate or separate the two, but what if neither writer nor narrator is driving this book. What if the whole thing, the bloated bundle of pages, the complete collection of words, the entire enchilada, what if it is all simply symptom, cause’s effect, history’s inevitable utter vomit.

What must of necessity come back out when you stuff the world full to bursting with violence and optimism.

Of course then the question is: what next.

Loss in life

Quote

Loss in life: that’s what I mourn for; that’s what we all mourn for, all of us who have been touched by the fascism of the heart. It’s not having held what was in our hands to hold; not having felt the feelings we were promised by out parents, friends, and lovers; not having got the simple goods we were assured we had honestly earned and rightfully had coming.

— from The Tunnel by William Gass

You can read pages and pages of this book without connecting with a word of it, or without seeing the connections that might (or might not) be forming between the words, between them and you. It can feel very much like trying to see the entirety of the horizon from a single black jigsaw puzzle piece, plucked at random from a jar of thick sludge. Who is this guy, what is his story, what is he trying to tell me? Why do I sort of detest him even when I sometimes sort of think he’s maddeningly brilliant in the way he spins his words into meaningful prose?

For all its dispensing of plot and deconstruction of character, though, The Tunnel is still, at heart, a confessional, a book (weirdly) within the confessional tradition. And therefore begs us to allow ourselves to see ourselves in the narrator’s shoes, or, in this book, in his chair. Now and then, recognition glimmers. However murky. However much it sits uncomfortably in our laps.

It’s a perfect book for today, in its way. In our social media culture, how much of each other do we actually ever get to know? Whither the connections?

And breaking, and breaking

I’ve been reading The Tunnel by William H. Gass for the latest Big Read at Conversational Reading. In large part because it’s one of those many books I’ve bought along the way with great intentions only to watch them slowly collect years’ worth of dust and dammit if I’m not going to read at least a few of them before I die.

“Reading” might be the wrong word though. The wrong term. It’s more like, more like drifting through it, like a photo of a vacation taken before the trip actually takes place. You see it but you don’t really get it. You don’t taste the ice cream. You don’t sweat the sun. You’re not at all there.

It really is a constant, claustrophobic reminder of human morality, of limitations on experience. A single trip is almost wasted on trying to grab it as it happens. While a return trip is only going to cost you.

Dearly.

I’ve been breaking

I finished school in May.

Since then, I’ve been on break, which mostly means I’ve been going to my day job and then trying very hard to do not a thing at night, and failing, a lot. Turns out when you’re used to going 80 miles an hour for about that many hours a week, when you suddenly have buckets of free time, and a desire to quote-unquote relax, it’s real easy to wind up staring at the walls, locked in the embrace of indecision. That is, when you’re not getting sucked into pretty much whatever you can justify as a way of breaking out of your “break” in order to not, you know, waste the entire night staring at the walls.

Reading, in particular, has been a casualty of this war against time, lately. I’ve started and stopped more books in the last few weeks than I have in probably the last ten years combined. It’s a little silly.

The last book I actually finished was a doozy, though. Heliopolis by James Scudamore is a pretty fantastic little book about economic disparity of the most extreme sort. It’s one of those books that’s pretty great throughout and then the last few pages just pick the whole book up and slam it through the hoop it’s created for itself. Killer stuff. Recommended.

So maybe it’s a case of having a hard time finding the book that’s meant to follow that. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve tried too soon to break out of my YA rock block. School got intense and it was about all I could handle this last semester. Of course, even then, I was reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, so, like, yeah. Brain, pummeled. And now I’m two-thirds through the Hunger Games trilogy, with the third book finally on the shelf across from me. I suspect I’ll have better luck with that than, say, DeLillo. I mean, Libra started fine and all, but. DeLillo and burn-out do not go well together.

The timing sucks. A bunch of large-scale group reads have started up across the Internet this week, such as #OccupyGaddis, a read of William Gaddis’s J R, and the Conversational Reading Big Read of A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava, both of which sound awesome fun to the version of Darby that has the extra free time and the desire to use some of it contemplating and writing about tough literature much more often than he’s been able to the last few years, less awesome to the version of Darby that is dealing with the brain-cycle hiccup train crash that is that free time.

I’ve got things I should be doing, too, anyway, I guess. But.

In other news I’ve got a book review coming out in August that I somehow wrote during this last semester of school—I look forward to finding out what I actually wrote when the review comes out.

And I’m getting ready to self-publish a chapter of the graphic novel I started as a school project. Because it is 2012. And I can. So I will. (My imaginary Kickstarter campaign has already netted me an imaginary quajilliontry dollars so I ought to be able to handle the expense of posting the PDF and saying, “Fly.”)

Recent readings, and some bold claims

I’ve read almost as many books in the first two months of 2012 as I did in all of 2011. That statement? Not literally true. Give me another two months. Then the numbers will add up.

Granted, I don’t think I’ve picked up a single book with more than 300 pages in it since I finished A Clash of Kings shortly after the new year began. So. There’s that.

It’s been a weird mixed bag; some stuff I might have expected to like and didn’t like too much, some stuff I’ve gotten really excited about. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was delightfully entertaining; one of those fun books with some good solid brains in it that really deserves to make the rounds. (And when Tina Fey picks up a British accent and nabs the lead role in the movie version, the one I’ve cast and shot in my head, I will be at the midnight showing.) I’m having a lot of fun with the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I look forward to wrapping up this week. There’s a book I’m going to be reviewing elsewhere in a couple months that I kind of want everyone to read.

And then there’s Steve Erickson’s newest novel, These Dreams of You.

I try not to use the phrase “have to,” as in, “you have to read this book,” because at the end of the day, it’s usually a lie. You don’t have to. You won’t die.

Still, you really probably ought to read this one.

I’m coming back around to it to say more, and I plan to spend some portion of the back half of 2012 rereading Erickson’s collected works, because it’s time for that to happen and I want to find what threads of his new book I can in his old work, but in the here and now I wanted to reiterate that These Dreams of You is the book people should pick up and start reading every time they consider complaining about how Jonathan Franzen shit in their Cyber-O’s that morning, or whatever. Which is pretty much all people do anymore on Twitter, I’m convinced.

Because, let me cut through the (slightly forced comparison) crap and lay it out: Franzen, at the end of the day, tried to do some mighty zeitgeist-capturing in Freedom, which he didn’t do so well, but also not so horribly. And then he’s said other stuff. Whatever. He’s human. It’s cool. Erickson, on the other hand, is a god, and in a godly fashion, he took the last 50 years of America and rolled it up into a 300 page story, completely resetting the bar for what Modern American Fiction ought to look like, and basically showing us our soul, and it is a confused one.

I tell you: he nailed it.

New video

I Am In Here from Darby Dixon III on Vimeo.

Kinetic type interpretation of the opening paragraphs of the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

For the tech interested: all the stop-motion marker-y and cut-out-y stuff was shot using Dragonframe; that footage was combined, sliced, and diced with the rest of the type in After Effects. The audio was originally created in GarageBand, mucked up a bit in Audacity, and then the final bits of crunch were added in Audition (once I discovered that Audition was a thing that existed that I had, like, right there on my hard drive; awesome).

This video was originally conceived and created for an independent study project in the graphic design program at Cleveland State University, in an effort to explore the intersection of design and literature. Which is a fancy way of saying I like books and I like design and I like finding ways the two play off and interpret each other.