The Sky Is Yours and genre bending

The “big five” debut novel by Chandler Klang Smith has finally been released! This is a strange, surprising book, and I am confident that it will leave a lasting mark.

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My disclaimer is that Chandler is my partner, so obviously I’m rooting for her. But I am also genuinely excited by this book, and have been since its inception many years ago. Reading The Sky Is Yours is like eating an exquisite fifteen course meal, and every page pulls you deeper into its challenging and unique imaginative universe. (For a handhold, though, think of something between A Confederacy of Dunces and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil). No matter my connection with the author, I know I would want to see it get recognized. A more relevant point for this blog: I think I can offer an interesting perspective on it in this strange semi-private public place. One of the main things I have noticed about the book, and what this post will be about, is that it takes major aesthetic risks in the increasingly fearful world of commercial book publishing. (For a summary, the link above has the jacket copy.)

Continue reading “The Sky Is Yours and genre bending”

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Looking again at Harman’s Dante book

Many months ago I had a three-part look at Dante’s Broken Hammer by Graham Harman. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) In this post I’ll reconsider certain points that I keep mulling over. There may be more, but here are five that I thought to list right away.

Continue reading “Looking again at Harman’s Dante book”

Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman

I just read through Eric Salem’s contribution to the new book Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics, a chapter titled “Object and Οὐσία: Harman and Aristotle on the Being of Things.” The book has a lot of Deleuze stuff going on, including a new translation of a Deleuze essay from the early ‘60s about Lucretius. While I mainly concentrated on Eric Salem’s chapter, I would certainly recommend Adriel M. Trott’s chapter, “Does It Matter?” She asks whether the difference between form and matter in Aristotle is itself to be conceived in material or formal terms, and links this problem to sexual difference. Trott arrives at the strange conclusion that material in Aristotle is “inscribed with form” insofar as it is capable of leading to distinctions such as sexual difference. It’s an interesting reading of a work by Aristotle that I’ve never read before, and seems to have a vital materialist aspect.

The Salem essay examines the connection between Aristotle and Graham Harman from the perspective of an ancient Greek scholar. In a brief aside, Salem mentions that the problem of how to distinguish arbitrary aggregates from genuine objects is a sticking point for him about Harman’s philosophy. This actually relates to what I consider a genuine blind spot in Salem’s understanding of Harman, explained in bullet points below. Overall, though, I find the essay refreshing and vividly executed. Within the context of speculative realism commentary, it’s like coming in from an unending Edge of Tomorrow war zone to play a game of chess and drink a smoothie. Continue reading “Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman”

Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?

Most of us can agree on certain vaguely defined elements of fiction like character, plot, setting, and style. Other storytelling aspects happily enter discussions with more or less neutral, conventional meanings, like theme, narrative viewpoint, scene structure, symbolism, and so forth. These categories exist to make meaningful communication possible. You want folks to understand you when you complain about how a confusing setting and nonspecific narrative POV soften a scene’s dramatic punch.

What about worldbuilding? Lincoln Michel over at Electric Lit believes the concept of worldbuilding in fiction is counterproductive.* Continue reading “Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?”

Fear of the Dark; X’ed Out

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a shout-out to a wonderful short film by the comics maker Charles Burns (probably most famous for Black Hole). It’s part of the anthology movie Fears of the Dark.

A sentient mantis-like insect has been secretly living with a socially awkward guy since childhood (puberty?). After the guy goes out on a rare date and hooks up with a woman, the critter joins itself to her by burrowing into her arm. Things go downhill from there in the couple’s incipient relationship. Continue reading “Fear of the Dark; X’ed Out”