Friday, August 1, 2008

Future meet-and-greets will include a Sidebar introducing my Attention Span

Ah, l'enui. En la Vulgate, tu es "inodiare," "aborrir." Dans des supermarchés, tu es un bon ami.

I just don't want to cook anymore. Black beans, chicken breast, cheese, and mushroom soup layered into tortillas:boring. Tuna, tomatoes, celery, and spinach bound by mayo: a chore. This is a shitty realization to have in a grocery store. I bought a lot of soup (4 big cans of condensed campbell's chicken noodle, 4 cans condensed campbell's Italian wedding) and rosen's Jewish rye and kroeger's 3 cheese cheese slices because I couldn't just by a 2 lb bag of whole bean Colombian coffee, (eight o'clock) a big bottle of red stripe, and 12 rolls of charmin toilet paper.

I also went to HPB (not HP:HBP) and bought some more books.

Consider the Lobster (David Foster Wallace)- 9.75*
En bonne forme (Seventh Edition) - 5.98
Project on the City 2 (Harvard[!] School of Design) -30.95**
The Lemon Table (Julian Barnes) -9.25

Books I have started but didn't finish:
World War Z
The Third Policeman
White Teeth
Life of Pi
Pride & Prejudice
The Golden Compass****
Tropic of Cancer
So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*****

There are three primary reasons behind my inability to finish a novel:
1.Craft: The burden of the Author. I am reluctant to point to any novel and say "this is typefaced shit." So instead, here is a broad generalization about poorly-crafted novels: the story is so tightly written I am positive that I'm not using my imagination at all, but transcribing someone else's words into my Wernicke's area which just starts reading everything as "do something else or your brain will leave you" after a while.
****Alternatively, I am sometimes amazed that an Author can find a single character interesting, and so interesting as to ignore the plot and focus on a character I find miracuously dull and repugnant at the same time. Which should be impossible, and perhaps that warranted the writing of the story in the first place and it's just not for me, you may like it, watch the pretty movie instead.
2.Time: Completely on me. I am "easily distracted." Not like, "oh a shiney object" easily distracted, but I do get a lot of recommendations and when coupled with an "active imagination" a recommendation is kinda deadly for a book. Especially considering the waning effect of illusions, which fade as Time wears on. And I think some Authors compensate for this well. The page ninety or page sixty challenge is smart. Also, World War Z is really accessible. I pick it up when I want to. I'll finish it eventually. The only concern is, for me, that the three recommendations I got for it basically said: I was unable to put it down. Not "it's new storytelling and the presence, and yet complete removal of the narrator is incredible." or "Oral History, right on, I bought the book-on-tape." or "hey, we should record this ourselves, like, dramatically."
Just "I couldn't put it down."
3.Breaking of Trust- I'd like to read a utopian novel where everything looked distopian for a minute, but turned out that everything was hunky dory. What would that say for the reader's expectations? What does that say for the human condition? And fuck you if you start to show me that and then write some dystopian teenage angst-fest. Also refers to page sixty challenge, think it's smart, don't want to reread books again unless they're funny/quotable. Transparency, not just for governments, etc.

So this is a major concern for me. I mean, the novel is the major mental wank fest of the twentieth century, and what does that say about me if I can't masturbate, especially mentally, with everyone else? I don't mean to say I haven't been reading.
I'm about halfway through High Fidelity, which I borrowed from the love of my life yesterday.****** I've read a pair of DFW essays and I actually have opinions about them. I've read poetry, romantic poetry, mind you, and had my opinions shot down and then briefly entertained in class.*******
But the novel. That's the big thing. I'm trying to turn a short story into a novel and I'm stuck between knowing that 8,000 words is not enough space and 18,000 words will leave readers with the impression that the story has been lengthened as a vanity project/for my own amusement. All I can really think to do right now do about it is "Stop." At this point, it's stopped me from writing anything else. And that, as Zadie Smith will tell you, is no good.

*I'm really happy, for the most part, with my DFW experience. Enough so that I bought a book. I may buy Infinite Jest. I borrow it not long ago, still have time to read it. I read his first essay in "A supposedly fun thing i'll never do again"and I just wasn't so into it. As far as breaking of trust goes, it's fine, there's definitely an improvement, but the mathematical referencing mixed into long lines has an impossible sort of start and stop pacing. No effort in the way of context.

**I love and hate this book. It's thesis is that shopping is the last social activity in American cities. The data section is covers the amount of retail space in the world, and just what that means. At times it's effective, and for me that means graphs and relations. Walmart owns 3.6% of the retail area in the United States. U.S. Shopping Malls cover 29% of the Earth's retail area. If Walmart's annual revenue was compared with the gross domestic product of the 100 richest countries, it would come in at 24, (165.0 billion) between Denmark and Hong Kong. It's closest competitor is the Carrefour Group, at 49, (52.2 billion) between New Zealand and Hungary.

Not-so-impressive is the relationship between retail area to the land area of Manhattan. (12.7 Manhattans= Total retail area, US. 12.1 Manhattans= Total retail area, Asia. 1.2 Manhattans= Total retail area, Wal-mart (1/3 that of TRA of Europe) There are satelite pictures of Manhattan to communicate this. Strangely enough, this seems more abstract to me than the countless combinations of digits they've filled this section with. There's just the same picture of Manhattan. And for as inherently meaningless as they are, numbers are very accepting of meaning. 2 comes after 1, 3 after 2,...,9 after 8, then you start over. That's all you need to know about them. Something I need to know about Manhattan is that it is 178,305 sq. ft. (33.7 sq. mi x 5280)

That helps me get my head around it. It makes it mundane.

Which isn't to say (a) there's anything wrong with pictures and (b) there aren't a lot of pictures, floor plans, and diagrams here that are explaining things the text doesn't. Also, there are arrows connecting points to other point later in the text or in pictures, hands pointing to tangents in other articles, and highlighted sections. Those bastards. As far as formatting, this is everything I've wanted to do since the second workshop I've sat through. If only they'd include a gloss in red ink I'd be totally defunct. Which isn't to say, there aren't problems. The highlighted sections are obviously highlighted in much the same way Word would highligt something. It looks mechanical and not lived in. Very much a finished product. Nevertheless, very neat. I've learned that (a) air conditioning is important to shopping and (b) the guy who thought it up is, like, literally a racist ("the indisposition to, and, indeed, incapacity for, continuous muscular exertion, in the white race, during the existence of tropical heat, is one of the best established truths in human physiology. It is equally well known, that the other races of the human family, who are endowed with the faculty of resisting solar heat with impunity, have not the intelligence requisite to enable them to complete successfully...with the natives of more temperate climates")

***I just wasn't interested in anything about how he did his research.

*****I ran out of steam on the Douglas Adams Anthology here. Conversly, I finished Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in a day.

****** Oh Library, I will love you always. Also, High Fidelity was a one day read. Further Also, some reviewer once said you could watch "The Bridges of Madison Square County" or spend two more hours reading it. This is bullshit, no one will ever read a book, and really read a book, in four hours.

******* I feel unfairly challenged by this teacher. I wish he would either stop, or stop encouraging us to participate. And as far as the ongoing theme of performance anxiety goes here, we were talking about Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (with it's stupid fucking gloss notes) and it's opening, and I mentioned it seems to introduced some sort of skepticism (WHICH IT DOES) and he was like "oh, skepticism you think?" and like a fool I said, "oh well maybe I missed something" when I should have said "oh come on, the guy clearly thinks if there's any spirit-type things we can't know anything about them other than what they do to us and this makes total sense to include with the poem. So yes, I think skepticism." So who knows, maybe it'll be good for me, maybe I'll start forming several sentences in my head before I speak.

Update: The Devil Waiting Outside you Door.

I slept on the floor last night and it was awesome. Modifications: Layed a blanket down because this carpet itches. So awesome. I slept better last night than I have in weeks. Better part of a bottle of Lapic Winery of New Brighton, PA's White Table Wine may have made this report slightly inaccurate/biased.

Book stacks suck! Maybe if all you own is hardback books and hardwood floors and taxidermied cats you're golden, paperbacks develop a mean lean that Indy, I guess, thought was cool. Anyhow, I have a bookcase now.


I guess the most natural follow-up is cat-torture. Indy destroyed her collar. I have a harness for her. She hates, hates, hates it. I love it. It is the first step towards battle cat. I just need one of those spring-loaded launchers they used to sell with action figures and another cat with a blinking light harness. Otherwise, the only torture going on is not feeding her enough. Indy's idea of a regular meal is 4 times a day. I counter with twice a day. She counters with "meow!" which sounds a lot like "now!"

Grillin' with the roommates next week. Talked to bean twice. Going to a wedding (old neighbors) on the 24th. Exciting.


Kirsi said...

i have books stacked everywhere in my room. i move to NC tomorrow and don't have the monies to buy furniture, so i am going to sleep on the floor and have paperback books stacked everywhere.

i feel so bad about not finishing books...

popquizkid said...

Well, novels are my thing. I love novels. I estimate I've loved about 65% of the novels I've read in my life, and liked another 25%. Just a guess. Now that I'm in graduate school I tend to stick to my self-chosen "area" (Victorian), so that's probably padded my percentages a bit. To compare, I've probably loved about 5% of the poetry I've read, and liked another 2% (not including song lyrics, which qualify in certain circumstances). I could probably count on one hand the novels I've started and not finished, but that probably has something to do with my tendency to "see things through" - I'm hesitant to give up if there's any chance of a turn-around.

Your #1 reminds me of the way I feel about classical music. I feel like I *should* like it. I've had friends explain to me why *they* like it: "When you listen to classical music, you can make up your own stories to go along with the music. It guides your thoughts and gives you an opportunity to be creative." All it does for me is make me fidget.

Meh. You like what you like.

misanthropic bastard said...

Kirsi, Haphazard or filed stacks? Also, g-luck with seminary.

pq1000, top 5 novels?

popquizkid said...

Top-Five Novels of All Time (the 8/5/08 version, because it fluctuates frequently, which I guess negates the whole "Top Five" distinction, although the novels in the "Top Five-worthy" pool are relatively limited)

(in no particular order)

1 (!). Possession: A Romance, A. S. Byatt

2. Persuasion, Jane Austen

3. Watt, Samuel Beckett

4. The Eustace Diamonds, Anthony Trollope

5. Middlemarch, George Eliot