Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Notes and Notions (November, Part 1)

I've had my nose buried in a book.  And not just any book, but the late Roberto Bolano's epic masterpiece, 2666.  I wish I had blogged about my reading experience, as 2666 was one of those books that, because of its length, takes a significant amount of time to complete. It took me six weeks to make it through the five separate "books" that make up the whole of 2666 and it would have been useful to note the various connections I noticed as I read and also to comment on how I thought the various pieces the larger work were going to connect.  Ah, well, a missed opportunity.  Of course I recommend 2666 without reservations, but be warned, this is a demanding book.  If you've read (and liked) other works by Bolano (especially The Savage Detectives) then make sure you carve out some time for 2666.  (By the way, there is a major Twin Peaks reference in the book--deliberate and direct--that comes at the half-way point in the story.  For days I thought Twin Peaks might have been a significant influence on 2666 and while I do think Bolano was attempting (in the third book) to emulate a Lynchian mood through his writing, I think the nod to Twin Peaks was just Bolano's way of acknowledging the genius of Lynch.)

Before reading 2666, I read Kim Stanley Robinson's Galileo's Dream.  This is Robinson's best book since his "Mars trilogy" of the 1990's and the best science fiction book I've read this year (so far).  Robinson seems to be channeling Gene Wolfe in the telling of his story as he reveals a surprise narrator well into tale.  This narrator also undermines a basic assumption I (as a reader) had made about the mechanics of Robinson's well-developed time-travel tale.  If it sounds like I'm being coy, I'm really trying to avoid spoiling the details. Galileo's Dream was great "hard" science fiction, an eye-opening historical account, and a poetic blending of science and spirituality.  Galileo's Dream shows why Kim Stanley Robinson is one of SF's most important voices.

I am rapidly growing weary of Flashforward which has put the soap-opera aspect of its story well ahead of its mystery.  I don't care about the melodrama! The most exciting thing about last week's episode was ABC's teaser for the new season of LOST. (You know what would be great?  If the characters who have seen the future realize said future is immutable and so, because they have a guaranteed six months to live, lead fearless lives.  Imagine jumping off a building and knowing--somehow--you'll survive?  Or that you can walk through traffic and not be harmed?  At the very least I'd like to see the characters get bolder with their actions, see them willing to take more chances as their certainty about an unchangeable future grows.  This week's episode supposedly deals with suicides and we can only hope the writers will touch upon these ideas.  But I'm not holding my breath.)

Fox will burn off the remaining episodes of Dollhouse in December and January.  Say good-bye to the most challenging SF show on TV.  (Whedon promises closure.  So there's that.)

Cartoon Network's Clone Wars is fun to watch and more exciting than the three Star Wars prequel films (I'm not the first to say that).  But the problem is, we can't forget the prequel films!  We know that Anakin is doomed, that he will betray the Jedi, and that all his battles in this series are for naught.  And why does the show insist on making the clone troopers unique individuals with sympathetic personalities?  We know they, too, will be re-programmed and lose their individuality.  I love the show but I always have a sour taste in my mouth after each episode. Does George Lucas even care that viewers might contemplate the larger narrative of Clone Wars?  Probably not.

Twin Peaks:
It's pretty rare to have Twin Peaks news these days.  But, as the twentieth anniversary of the show approaches, we may be seeing more.  Anyway, the big news right now is the upcoming book of photos by Paula K. Shimatsu-U.  According to the press release (which you can read here), the book, Northwest Passages: "contains a treasure trove of rare and unpublished photos from Paula's personal archive. It's all here, from deleted scenes, intimate portraits, photos that ended up as key props within the show to official publicity shots and cast and crew having fun on the set."  I looked up Shimatsu-U on IMDB and see that she was credited as "unit publicist" on Twin Peaks as well as assistant to Mark Frost.  My hopes are up for this book!

Ok, that's all I have for now.  More notes and possibly a few notions to come.


  1. I cannot wait for the Twin Peaks book!!!

  2. Twin Peaks book sounds good - anything Twin Peaks sounds good to me though!

  3. I have had 2666 on my "to read" list for a while, and with the Twin Peaks connection, it may just move up the queue! Galileo's Dream sounds interesting too. Thanks for the recommendations.

  4. Jason,

    Hope you enjoy the books. I don't want to overplay the TP connection in 2666. It is there, for sure, but not until 400 pages in. The reference seems particularly connected to the latter events in book 3 of 2666, "The Part about Fate." Bolano describes a strange Lynchian evening in which one of the protagonists ventures into the home of some threatening but inscrutable mobsters. Everything seems slightly off, dreamlike, and odd. It reminded me of many Lynch scenes.

  5. I LOVE Twin Peaks but I'm kind of sick of it at this point. It's never coming back like I always thought it would. Anybody interested in purchasing some TP Laser Discs? (Japanese and US)

  6. I've been travelling this month and finally got a chance to check in only to notice that you just finished 2666, a book I just started about the time of this post. I finished the first section (the part about the critics) and am hooked on the way everything seems to be coming together in fragments of told stories. I started it now because I know that it'll take me a while to conquer it, and the infinite summer people start a 75 page a week discussion of it in January (a big jump on it was necessary on my part).

  7. Oh, and also I suggest the book Yellow Blue Tibia, an alternate history metatextual SF thing that might be right up your alley. No less than Kim Stanley Robinson said it was the best SF book of the year.

  8. Todd,

    Yes, Yellow Blue Tibia keeps popping up on my radar. I've had it in my Amazon cart for weeks. Guess I gotta buy it and read it!