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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
Neuropath - R. Scott Bakker Dear brain:

I was just nibbling away at my nails, and stopped to wonder why. I suppose, as addictions go, it's unbecoming but minimally destructive. But what the fuck, brain? I am a reasonably smart man of 42, and when I catch some colleague staring at me as I gnaw in public with a nervous, crooked-tooth detachment on my left pinky, and see someone looking disgustedly at me, I get pretty pissed.

Meanwhile, I got all excited today at a movie trailer for "Kick-Ass." I display an unbecoming, but minimally destructive, joy at saying "Kick-Ass." I'm not 13, brain. Even the 13-year-olds I might say it to would find the whole exercise wearisome.

But I could accept, brain, all this bullshit nibbling and beavisy yuk-yukking and reading of rather tedious conspiratorial thrillers if I just relished the small, visceral pleasures they bring. If instinctively wired to seek out a novel where people think in exclamation points, at least let me pump my fist unironically in joyous affirmative empathy. Give me a "hell yeah," brain. Why get me reading and then simultaneously have me noodle ceaselessly about why oh why I put myself through it? Inquiring minds want to know.

inquiring mind

ps Maybe I should blame Peter Watts. His Blindsight remains a nasty lovely bit of genre implosion, taking the old tropes of alien contact and lacing them with so many razor-blade asides about human nature and the myth of consciousness. He gave this novel a shout, perhaps just appreciating its simpatico deconstruction of the idealized, agentive I. But Bakker's novel is so much less acidic in its wit, so much more flatfooted in its genre play, so much duller (and maybe dumber) in its deployment of ye olde anti-humanist materialism. (I frankly think the debunking of free will is not some fancy new futuristic cog-sci challenge--bash Freud all you want, but the Id remains a neat kick to the groin of the Enlightened Subject, and even tricked out with fancy new lingo about anterior lobes and evolutionary psych, the gasp-factor of "I-am-not-in-charge-of-my-own-mind" isn't really a huge surprise, is it? More meh than malevolent. And so reductive, in the worst sense--to say we are motivated by electric pulses through gray meat is not, I think, to say we are not complex and richly chaotic systems capable of all kinds of indeterminate behaviors. Even if we don't affirm ye olde Cartesian I, we don't fit neatly into automaton boxes, either.)

pps When does "Kick-Ass" come out? That's gonna rock, for sure. It's called "Kick-Ass."