Saturday, October 01, 2016

Recent Books

This is not the first time travel novel I've read. It's not even the first time travel novel I've read which takes place in and around Vienna (at least for a while). This IS the first John Wray novel I've read, and I will likely read others based on its strengths.

The Lost Time Accidents puts Wray into the current crop of male writers of a "certain age" (meaning about my age) who rely on deep and sophisticated knowledge of  4 decades of American pop culture and esoteric nerdy references to Lovecraft and Dungeons and Dragons type fantasy and sci-fi shit. In Wray's case, the novels of Orson Scott Card, L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, Asimov's universe, Relativity; these are blended with deep knowledge of history and literature and we get a references to Fascism, Dickens, Einstein and Bohr--I could go on. If you've read Lethem or Diaz or Chabon or one of those other cats in a similar vein you know what I'm talking about.

The book pegs these things to larger questions about the nature of Time and reincarnation and destiny and cycles of justice and injustice and propaganda. But its sophistication and geeky intellectualism don't ruin the fun of a simple sci-fi romance story. Boy meets girl, gets manipulated by girl, fails to see her for what she is and pursues girl through Time and Space only to get his heart broken. With Nazis and evil religious cults thrown in for fun!


Lorrie Moore cracks me up. I mean just out of the blue one of her sentences will make me guffaw. And at the same time she is precise and acerbic and insightful about the Human Condition suffering the rampages of Late-Model Exploitative Capitalism and its associated environmental degradations.

One gets the delicious sense that all her characters are complicit in awful things about which they remain wholly ignorant, or perhaps they are fully aware of these crimes but the desire for convenience and self-medication allow them to justify their many disgusting behaviors.

I like these first sentences from the story "Paper Losses":

Although Kit and Rafe had met in the peace movement, marching, organizing,
making no nukes signs, now they wanted to kill each other. They had become, also,
a little pro-nuke.

These stories are high-quality, like perhaps the highest quality. The story "Wings" is a modern retelling of James's Wings of the Dove. James was another master of the short story, with an eye for repressed guilt and the callous manipulations of "good" civilized people whose entire existence was predicated on awful institutions like slavery and colonialism and patriarchy and classicism. This story is a nod to The Master from a master who learned good lessons about craft at his knee. But Moore likes to have more fun with her readers.