“The Lathe of Heaven” (Post 2/2)

lathe-of-heaven-02

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1


 

[22] Le Guin is best when she speaks directly to us; no quotations, no Messages, just style:

At 2:10 P.M. on March 30, Heather Lelache was seen leaving Dave’s Fine Foods on Akeny Street and proceeding southward on Fourth Avenue, carrying a large black handbag with brass catch, wearing a red vinyl raincloak. Look out for this woman. She is dangerous.

(p.89)

[23]

[She] found the house, rang the bell: one of six infinitely thumbed bell pushes in a grubby little row on the peeling frame of the cut-glass-paneled door of a house that had been somebody’s pride and joy in 1905 or 1892, and that had come on hard times since but was proceeding toward ruin with composure and a certain dirty magnificence.

(p.91)

[24]

Heather left him leaning morose against the peeling frame of the front door, he and the old house lending each other mutual support.

(p.92)

[25] Vocabulary:

She had a sneaky, sly, squamous personality.

(p.92)

adjective – covered with or characterized by scales.

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5 Songs for Beatles Skeptics

beatles

(my credentials)

Do you believe The Beatles are:

Overrated.

Nothing special.

Not influential anymore.

Stupid/boring pop (they did “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’s Garden” and “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”, right?).

I respect your right to retain that opinion. But if you’re wondering what makes them dear and special to a prog/post-rock-loving heart, I present five songs off the beaten path:

1. The Ballad of John and Yoko

This could have been a Plastic Ono Band number; stripped down, functional, focused on the lyrics and not the music. Instead, it’s the best example of what McCartney brought to Lennon. The two performed the entire track themselves and McCartney’s bass, drums, and vocals create a dynamic energy. It hums with life.

2. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Dark, moody and, well… heavy. The guitar/bass line in the chorus kills.

3. You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) (or Anthology version)

One thing often overlooked when talking about The Beatles is how weird they could be. Not LSD/psychedelia weird, but kids messing-around-with-toys weird. “You Know My Name” is bizarre and wonderful and I can listen to it endlessly. (And for anyone who assumes all the musical avant-gardism was Lennon’s, please, please, please listen to McCartney II.)

4. Revolution 9

A messy, juvenile sound collage on first listen. And fourth and fifth. But then it stops becoming a gimmick and creates its own strangely compelling narrative.

5. Her Majesty

A fully realized, wonderful song – start, middle, finish – achieved in twenty-three seconds.

To the already-Beatles fans: What five songs would you use to explain your love to someone who’s written them off?

“The Lathe of Heaven” (Post 1/2)

lathe-of-heaven-01

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 2


 

Ursula Le Guin’s 1971 science fiction/dystopian novel. I read the library‘s 2003 First Perennial Classics edition (which has a depressing number of typos). If you plan to read it, try to find a different edition.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

George Orr has a power he doesn’t want: He can change reality through his dreams. When assigned to involuntary psychiatric therapy, Orr is used as a tool by the ambitious Doctor Haber. Haber thinks he knows how to make the world better using Orr’s powers. But what does “better” mean? And for who?

Great concept, great author. What could go wrong?

(I don’t know, but I didn’t like The Lathe of Heaven very much.)

The problem could be mine: I suspect I read this at the wrong time in my life. But I’m going to stick with my rating, possibly to recant in future years.

The ideas are solid, the prose fantastic, but I never connected with the story. It didn’t trigger anything in my imagination – and a set-up like this should have kept my mind whirling whenever I put the book down. But I was never curious about what was going to happen. I wasn’t invested in the characters. I was a passive bystander, continuing because it was a short book and I knew I could finish it in a couple of days.


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“The Dark Country”

dark-country

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Fantasy and horror writer Dennis Etchison’s first collection of short stories, published in 1982. I read the 1984 Berkeley edition (which is out of print and often pricey). A reasonably-priced Kindle edition is available.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Dark Country contains sixteen horror stories originally published between 1972 and 1981. I sought it out because of Stephen King’s glowing remarks in Danse Macabre:

[Etchison] is also one hell of a fiction writer, and if you have not read his volume of short stories, The Dark Country, you have missed one of the great volumes in our peculiar field (…). The stories are not just good; they are without exception exciting, and in some cases genuinely great.

(Danse Macabre; Forenote to the Paperback Edition, p.xx)

I’ll agree on one point: Etchison is a good writer. Every story has a least one moment of beautiful writing (an apt metaphor, a piece of deft dialogue) but the tales largely fail to make an impact. Their ideas are too large for a short format.

Mythologies are suggested but we don’t get enough pieces to even speculate their details. The information we are given is often held back until very late in the story, leaving us unsure of our footing. And this isn’t information essential to the hook or the twist; it’s basic scaffolding: Where are we, when are we, what world are we in? I often felt like I had walked into the middle of a movie while suffering a low-grade fever. Etchison’s logic is a dream-logic that I just can’t access. (I had a very similar problem with Joan Aiken’s collection The Monkey’s Wedding and I have to wonder if this says something about my imaginative muscles…)


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“Watership Down” (Post 3/3)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 2/3


 

[49]

“There’s another place – another country, isn’t there? We go there when we sleep; at other times, too; and when we die.”

(p.221)

[50] Vocabulary:

The insects hummed around the dense white cymes hanging low above the grass.

(p.223-224)

A flower cluster with a central stem bearing a single terminal flower that develops first, the other flowers in the cluster developing as terminal buds of lateral stems.

[51] References:

The rabbits (…) peered round spotted hairy-stemmed clumps of viper’s bugloss, blooming red and blue above their heads; pushed between towering stalks of yellow mullein.

(p.236)

Echium vulgare (known as viper’s bugloss and blueweed) is a species of flowering plant. The flowers start pink and turn vivid blue. They grow in a branched spike, with all the stamens protruding.

Verbascum, common name mullein (also known as velvet plant) is a genus of about 360 species of flowering plants in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae. The five-petal flowers are most commonly yellow but can be orange, red-brown, purple, blue, or white.

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