samuel x. brase likes to write

Reading Diary 6 September 2012

Posted in reading diary by Sam X. on 7 September 2012

Today I read:

Short article about 40,000-year-old ivory figurines of a woman. Interesting to consider this in light of Africa as I continue to read it. Humans in their contemporary sense have only existed for about 150,000 years, and we were clearly making art almost a third of that ago. Again, the book Africa makes an important distinction that our capacity for imagination is one of the key defining traits of modern humans, and this would serve as historical evidence.

Another short article about the lies and liars in American politics and those in Dutch politics. The upshot is that Holland has neutral space in its politics due to its 4 to 6 relevant political parties whereas in America neutral space doesn’t exist because you’re either with us or against us you terrible communist. I agree, more political parties in America would be great. Because realistically neither party can represent most of person’s political views. A lot of people fall somewhere between–socially liberal and economically conservative seems to be the popular choice. But even us progressive democrats don’t feel well represented by the current Democratic party. Of course, to have more than two parties, we would need electoral reform….

The conspiracy which draws in Simonini is fleshed out a lot in these pages. In addition, we get a brief (and warped) accounting of French history between the years 1869-71, pretty much the fall of the Second French Empire and the rise of the Paris Commune. Like most Eco books, intrepid readers are required to do additional research if they want to have a full understanding of what’s going on. (The characters talk about real life figures in a very cursory way–oh that Napoleon the Third, what an idiot–which is realistic but uninformative.)

Although truthfully, I’m not sure I want to clarify events. The main character is a liar through and through and relying on his descriptions brings the reader closer to him as a persona: let us experience his fabrications. This reminds me starkly of the Economist article above, with the Dutch headline “The results count, not the truth”. That could be the motto for Lost. The article also makes reference to the “fashionable, world-weary ‘ah, but what is truth?’ pique”–and indeed, with the political fudging in present day and the lies of Simonini in this book, I do wonder what is truth. Truth is of course a human construct, there are no immutable facts really, but what I regret is that we no longer even accept the grounds for debate.

This is a tangent that I refuse to get into in the first entry of my reading diary. I find Simonini’s lies entertaining, I find modern politician’s lies annoying, and I can’t help but recognize that they’re two sides of the same coin. There’s 150 pages left of this book, this isn’t the end of this topic.

  • Left Behind” by Todd Gitlin in Foreign Policy, 5 September 2012. [Essay]

In which the author bemoans the lack of an energized, cohesive leftist opposition to middle-conservative President Barack Obama. In sum, he notes that progressives have no real options left after being stranded at the alter by Obama. If we forsake him, we risk a Romney presidency and all the neocons that might imply. So we’ve made a “cold peace” with Obama. What a sorry state for progressives like me. We could bang the drum of electoral reform: if enacted, those of us further left on the spectrum could formalize a Green or Democratic Socialist party or the like. (And the Tea Party could form their own!) Until then, we’re stuck in this deafening debate between moderates and conservatives.

Review of a book by David Priestland that paints a history of the world as a battle between soldiers, wise men, merchants, and workers. You can guess the ending: Merchants have currently won, and the author is sad we’re trying to repair the system rather than come up with a new one. He doesn’t have much advice beyond restoring technocrats to power.

Sadly no Africa last night; instead I spent six hours doing a final read-through of my e-book. Just released! Wowza. I suppose that counts as reading too, but I have nothing to say about it now because my brain is tired.

The Second Weekend

Posted in novel planning, second novel by Sam X. on 23 March 2010

At the moment when language, as spoken and scattered words, becomes an object of know­ledge, we see it reappearing in a strictly opposite modality: a silent, cautious deposition of the word upon the whiteness of a piece of paper, where it can possess neither sound nor interlocutor, where it has nothing to say but itself, nothing to do but shine in the brightness of its being. — Michel Foucault, The Order of Things

I have sworn to myself that I will finish editing EE by March 28–this Sunday. I must finish it now because, well, I am very close to finishing it. I am excited to query agents. And ideas for novel two bubble within me, ready to leap out. I had a frantic brainstorming session last night, as various theories and plot ideas coalesced. I must finished editing EE because I am ready to move on.

Long have I wanted to write a story in the vein of The Bourne Identity, XIII, and Paycheck: a story about a man on the run, suffering from amnesia. I’m not sure why, but that set up attracts me. A lot. The problem with that kind of a story is that the character is not a character–they have no backstory. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana deals with this kind of person, but the character isn’t on the run, he’s struggling to understand his life. Through cultural cues and familial anecdotes. Queen Loana is the story of a person being imbued with character. Bourne Identity and XIII also imbue their protagonists with character, as they study spies struggling to learn why they were almost killed. Their status as ‘spy’ is affirmed through this struggle.

Thus, the struggle is to write a story about an amnesiac, yet somehow make that character interesting for the reader, to keep them reading. Bourne and XIII are interesting because they are forceful–they are trained spies, some of the fittest and most intelligent men on the planet. They are, of course, products of their situation. A writer like myself won’t find himself with four bullets in his back, memory-less, off the coast of Italy (or will I? Story idea! Story idea!).

The character in Paycheck, Jennings, is interesting because only a couple of years have been wiped–beyond that, he has a personality. Plus he’s caught up in action, and thus story. The man in Queen Loana, Yambo, is interesting if you like Umberto Eco. Eco constructs this man through books and receipts and memories and it’s fascinating if you dig that sort of thing, but most won’t. But, like the spies and the scientist, his identity is constructed by his past profession. He was a librarian, thus he learns about himself through the books he possesses, the notes he took.

So I want to kind of merge Bourne and Paycheck; someone on the run from nefarious agencies, set in the future, not a spy. My main concern in this novel is the impact of technology on society, and thus, perhaps the obvious choice of employment for my character is that of technician. The four stories I am drawing on for inspiration construct their characters through a previously chosen profession–a profession they chose before the amnesia, when their sense of self was intact.

These characters, including mine perhaps, fly too close to the ‘truth’ and are rewarded with a memory-wipe. Thus, they have to return to the truth, fly close once again–but this time, maybe not quite as close. Or simply keep themselves safe. I will have to think on this more….

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