Continuing with the theme of Irish fiction, I have finished the above (below?) quoted book by Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman, and found it superb. The book follows the unimaginable misadventures of an unfortunate Irishman in a small section of the fantasy-realism countryside, and beyond that it really is hard to say more. Strange occurrences erupt from a visit to the local police station, following the rather dubious acquisition of a small black box by our main character. You never really know what’s going on, but the vocabulary is absolutely delightful and the trip is astounding. Also, a hell of a lot about velocipeding and various bicycle accessories. It is a quick read, and you really end up liking many (if not all) of the characters, despite being absolutely lost the entire 200 ish pages. This book would not being wrongfully compared to The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s book by Norton Juster. Well… The adult version of said book, with a little more crazed destruction and mishap. An amazing read for an inquisitive mind who doesn’t mind some exciting words, and being totally banjaxed. Interestingly (and kind of hilariously) O’Brien set out to write what could be a “crazy play” out of this book. I’d love to see it.
Joyce; to the world
James Joyce (1882-1941) is renowned as one of the greatest authors of the modern era. This Irishman put together such classics as Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Dubliners (a collection of short stoies), which changed the face of literature today. While there is little doubt of Joyce’s qualifications as an old master, two points come quickly to mind whilst perusing this genius. Firstly, Portrait is really quite slow, and precariously dry. I know I’m wrong to say it, but this book was a struggle at best, and really the life of this boy growing up Irish in the 1800s is glacial. Not to say that David Copperfield (Dickens) is a literary version of Transformers II, but the Dickensian style of writing is full of amazing character development and an alarmingly addictive vocabulary. Neither work is what you’d call “exciting” for the 2012 audience, but there is so much more to gain from Dickens. Joyce writes very sparingly, and leaves the reader to infer. He does not over-write, and does allow for serious interpretation. This leads to my next point, largely having to do with Dubliners, the collection of shorts about life in (you guessed it) Dublin. Because of Joyce’s influential and sparse writing style, many scholars have dug really far into secret meanings within the text; alluding to strange depth of character and plot that may connect the books, and Joyce’s very soul! I don’t know how much of this has to do with Joyce being named as such a fantastic writer, as all great masters are the subject of interrogation and study, and how much has to do with the simplicity of his writing. In either case, the shallow writing of the short stories and the differences in characters and plot make this collection incredibly enjoyable: short, quick, and not too deep. How much of the imagined depth only exists because of scholarly interrogation, and how much Joyce actually meant to place within his pages, we’ll never know. Regardless, my point is that this writing style lends itself quite acceptably to short stories because of the rapid change in scenery, plot, and characters; when applying this framework to a longer title (such as in Portrait), the book becomes dry and slow. Again, I know I’m wrong about this, but to an avid 23 year-old reader, if I can’t enjoy the works of this master, it’s unlikely that Joyce will have a huge readership among the iPad 2 audience.
Mary Renault is serious business. She wrote well ahead of her time, and came up with masterpieces that can still be enjoyed today. Many of her books follow a relatively simple idea: Greek myths explained. Now, don’t take this to mean a boring play-by-play of the backstory of these classics. Far from it. Let’s use the 1958 The King Must Die.
The story of Theseus, told from his point of view. As the legend goes, he has to find his real dad (Though he may have been begot by Poseidon), and along the way becomes a king twice and butchers a Minotaur. Great story, lotsa laughs and excitement. In Renault’s version, it is told “realistically”. So, the vast majority of the characters believe in polytheistic deities ruling their shit and causing earthquakes every now and again, but there aren’t magical creatures or inexplicable divine interferences. The fact that we the readers know that Renault is going to keep gods out of the story (along with minotaurs) is perfectly placed beside the characters’ strong beliefs in the gods and their works, causing a really cool explanation of what may actually have happened to start the myth. Lots of war and deceit, many a figurehead and a really amazing way to leave a minotaur out of a minotaur-heavy story.
New spin on old myth is a classic idea, and without getting into too much detail, if you can make it through the first 40 pages you’re in for a superbly enjoyable adventure story. She also did this “classics revamped sans magic” idea with The Mask of Apollo, and The Last of the Wine. I am just amazed at the newness this book seems to have, being written over 50 years ago, about something thousands of years ago. There’s a solid part in the middle of the bullring when Theseus meets slaves from around the world in Crete, and learns briefly about Monotheism. Everyone hates the monotheist and he dies quickly. Tough breaks, great read.
Data Entry (Amirite?)
I know I don’t write much, but now I have an excuse. Data entry has put me in a state of constant boredom and self-loathing. However, if the hours weren’t so shabby I could do a lot more creation. Making pants, a comic book, 2 short stories and a series of drawings. I’ll letcha know
I have been told over and over that Zelda, the Ocarina of Time, is perhaps the best videogame known to man, beast, or machine. Indeed, the only Tumblr I presently follow shows more than fifty individuals with badass Zelda-oriented tattoos, so I couldn’t really say the game sucked. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed the sequel, but had never actually got around to playing the God-hand itself. Until now.
Technology is a funny thing. I used to download emulators for SNES games as a lad, and enjoyed them thoroughly, but recently I wondered if, with the drastic improvement in technology, there had been any successful Nintendo 64 emulators. Lo and behold, thirty seconds after I had come up with this groundbreaking idea, I had downloaded and set up the emulator AND Ocarina. The game itself is phenomenal, and I needn’t go into just why that is. What I am in awe of is the quality of the emulator. N64 has become my computer’s bitch, and if I really wanted to I could play any other game the system came out with (though I got too good at Conker’s Bad Fur Day in my youth, so I’ll have to cancel my order on that one). But what a strange thing. The site from which I downloaded the ROM (game) mentioned that it would require a computer with serious processing power to handle the “high graphic quotient” of the N64. Today’s laptops, however, are simply phenomenal. This isn’t a gaming laptop either, this is my younger sister’s hand-me-down (up?). I thoroughly recommend the acquisition of high quality emulators to anyone who is looking for time to kill or procrastination, because it is by far the most fun you can have on your computer without the internet. Computer’s simply aren’t that fun without the internet, or so I thought. But I wonder where this trek ends? If I had the world’s gamiest computer, could I obtain an emulator for PS3 games? If not, when would that be possible, and would there be an online option to these games? I like the direction that this is headed. Ocarina of time is a great way to delay doing essays, so is Tumblr.
With the recent (past 5 years) extreme rise in social media (this is not to say that social media hasn’t been on the rise previously), there have been repercussions in many areas of life, including that of the previously anti-social RPG, or role-playing game. I’m not going to go into what an MMO is, because that would take a while, but while they existed prior this large scale uptake in ease-of-connectedness, MMO’s are taking up the chalice of connecting their players on new levels. Where games like Everquest and Ultima Online were solely focused on killing monsters and leveling up, we see a change in the way players interact in new games. Granted, killing monsters is always a crucial element, but in games like Maplestory, a free-to-play MMO by Nexon, there is much more of an emphasis on social interaction to the point where an online cash shop (real money for in-game items) functions to make your player look better and more interesting without any stats boost. Similarly, players congregate in towns and chat for hours on end, sitting on purchased furniture, and entering into virtual romances that sometimes end in in-game marriages. The game does have monsters, but killing these douchers can be exceptionally boring, and when a character enters a town, one can easily strike up a conversation with another player about anything, that could last for hours. The friends list of the game similarly functions to connect individuals across the vast landscapes of Maplestory. The next step I suppose is a “game” like Second Life, a virtual world where you can be whoever you’d like, and pay real money for in-game amenities that improve your social standing. I am cautious to call it a game because Second Life is used as a teaching tool for online classrooms (University of Indonesia has something like 80% of its campus in Second Life), a dating tool, and a way to recreate yourself in the image you’d prefer. I have no problem with such social interactions, and I think this tool can be exceptionally useful to people looking for new friends who share in their interests and wouldn’t mind having some virtual fun. Personally, if I had a second life, and my options were one very much like my own, albeit more dazzling and expensive and exciting, or one in which I got to slay dragons and/or the undead, I might be tempted to go for the more violent option. But it is hard to deny that MMO’s of this generation are swinging in a more social-media friendly way, and leading to meaningful and interesting relationships between people, no longer focused on a need to enter a dungeon, but more on a need to talk about one’s day. It will be fun to see what happens to these games over the next few years.
On war injuries
Hemingway is a different kind of classic writer, but I suppose it’s obvious to say he’s earned his keep among the greats. While the main character/narrator of his books are largely similar (bad-ass, potential ladykiller, drunk, injured in a random war), they are all accessible and fairly likable. There tends not to be a villain of the Coen brothers variety (vile, remorseless, and rarely named), more a struggle of self and friends, under dangerous war-torn circumstances. What sets Hemingway apart from his literary brethren is his ability to be concise with his sentences, writing short sweet lines that get the point across with almost painful speed. You the reader immediately become aware of what was said and how some characters feel about it. Easy to read, flows quickly, and there’s plenty of booze. I recommend starting with either A Farewell to Arms, or The Sun Also Rises. Fantastic reads.