I’ve actually had Angelmaker around for a while now, and had started reading it at least twice, only to set it down. It took me a few runs at it to really get into it, and I’m very glad I did. It’s strange, to be honest, because, if memory serves, I devoured Harkaway’s previous, The Gone-Away World, in one sitting, two at most.
Angelmaker is a similar book in some ways. There are themes of duality here (though not as blatant as the previous), in the use of the protagonist’s double name, Joshua Joseph Spork. It’s interesting how, in scenes of the character early in the book, it’s always Joe or Joseph, but in flashing back, the dual name is used, or even the shortened Josh. The chosen name acts as a marker for the aspect of Spork which developed. As the book progresses, we see more of the Joshua that could have been, until Spork becomes his own balanced combination of the two, his Crazy Joe persona.
There’s also a sense of constructivism at work, an unease with the machined and the mass-produced. Very much what Marx was railing against in noting the theft of the soul of the worker, the distancing of the hands and the heart from the end product. It rings especially loudly in that England was the place Marx most felt the dehumanization of mass production and most felt his Communism could take root.
That same dehumanization is taken literally in the path of the Ruskinites, whose adherence to the hand and the soul in their work is evidenced early on, yet is perverted in their search for meaning and existence in a mechanized world. They turn into that which they railed against, mass-produced, mechanized simulacra of their creator.
There is a sense that there are references I miss, as one who is Angliphilic, but who is not a full fledged Anglophile, let alone an Angle. I’m sure there are jokes and jabs and plays on words one would get were they immersed in English culture, but I never found myself at a stunning loss.
Finally, Angelmaker is a prime example of one of my favorite types of stories, those about fathers and sons. I find a depth to stories about the expectations of and for children and the ways these expectations emerge, both overtly and covertly.
Harkaway has a way with words that seeps into you, alters your thought patterns. A highly recommended experience.
(As I read through my book list, I’m going to pay special attention to new words I’m learning. Harkaway has some choice ones I particularly enjoyed. Partially because they’re chiefly used in British English, but also because they, in the manner of Twain, are the right words.)
lissom - adjective
(of a person or their body) thin, supple, and graceful.
barbican - noun
the outer defense of a castle or walled city, especially a double tower above a gate or drawbridge.
houri - noun
a beautiful young woman, especially one of the virgin companions of the faithful in the Muslim Paradise.
actinic - adjective [ attrib. ]
(of light or lighting) able to cause photochemical reactions, as in photography, through having a significant short wavelength or ultraviolet component.
amanuensis - noun (pl. amanuenses |-ˌsēz| )
a literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.
seraglio - noun (pl. seraglios) historical
the women's apartments (harem) in an Ottoman palace.
doughty - adjective (doughtier, doughtiest) archaic, humorous
brave and persistent
In Greek mythology the Graeae, also called the Grey Sisters, were three sisters in Greek mythology who shared one eye and one tooth among them. Their names were Deino, Enyo, and Pemphredo.
Tricoteuses - noun (pl. same)
a woman who sits and knits (used especially in reference to a number of women who did this, during the French Revolution, while attending public executions).
And finally, some favorite passages, among so damned many:
“There’s a pause while the chairman considers the possibility that he may have revealed rather more of himself than he had intended.”
“He thinks everything that happens anywhere on Earth is in some way his fault,” she replies. “My brother says it’s some sort of inverted egotism.”
“This is a wicked world. There are islands of joy, but they are small and the tide is rising, and even on dry land there are those who would embrace the tide.”
“His grandfather was scathing about ‘speculative faith’, which is the kind you get from worrying about the possibility that God exists and may be cross with you. Daniel Spork observed that God, if there is one, is well aware of the interior dialogue, and most likely unimpressed by it. Much better, he said, to get on with being the man you are, and hope like buggery that God thinks you did as well as could be expected.”
Two items jumped out at me today while sifting my RSS feeds (though a more apt descriptor should really be applied, in that it is an addictive behavior) (injecting? scarfing? smoking?) today.
Item the first: From the NY Times blog Freakonomics (in turn from the writers (and others) of the wildly successful book of the same name), this article, with the soul stomping headline: "The Burden of Incarceration: 1 in 28 Kids Have a Parent Behind Bars". You don't even need to click before it hurts. One in twenty-eight?
Imagine your high-school English class. Pick one of those cherubic faces from the crowd. The frail blond boy in the back, scribbling on the cover of his Mead notebook, adding shadows and depth to his daydream doodling. Or the pretty girl sat up perky in the front row, her tight knot of auburn hair held firm under a plastic claw, or pinned in place with a pair of chopsticks, eyes darting from her notes to the board to the teacher, trying so desperately to take it all in. Imagine them waking up every morning, coming home every afternoon, going to bed every night, aware of and aching over a mom or dad-sized absence in their lives. One less pair of arms to hold them in their sorrow, to smooth away the pain, to embrace them in their triumphs. One in twenty-eight.
Item the second: From the Christian Science Monitor, this gem: "'Feds Radiating Americans'? Mobile X-ray vans hit US streets". Now, aside from the admittedly fearmongery headline, I'd like to know just who decided that this passed the Fourth Amendment sniff test and went ahead with the roll out of these vehicles. Which bureatchnick thought this was OK? And does anyone know where one buys feathers or tar in quantity?
I'm sorry for ruining your day. When the spouse asks who got you all riled up, you can tell 'em it was Josh's fault. And then send them on over to see for themselves.
Less than a week in and I nearly blew the whole operation! I wrote nearly 1000 words of a draft, but they aren't the right ones yet, so that got shelved. Instead you get this status report-y filler post.
I managed to finish the home page background image today, as well as learn the code I'll need to implement it. Now I just need the header image and a few stylistic pieces and we're in business. Also, once I settle on the header I can take a crack at a color scheme that's more exciting than the current B & W. In the process I also retaught myself Photoshop, which was...interesting.
Hopefully by midweek everything will be coded and moved server-side. Until then, it's back to the grind.
With a short break, that is, to see if I can make something palatable out of this:
Well, I got a bunch of pictures taken today. Meaning I hauled around lights and props and cameras and stands and set it all up. And then I set both cameras' delay timers, slid into position, tried to look presentable, and hoped for the best.
Self-sufficiency is a mofo. Just ask that guy who tried to replicate a $5 Walmart toaster from scratch. There are some serious benefits to social interaction and large-scale economies.
With any luck, at least one of the photos will give me enough to work with. And with just a bit more luck, this place will start to feel lived in.
It's a question pulled into the fray by the evolving nature of our times and our culture. What is Art? And has there ever been a definitive definition agreed upon by all? Sure, maybe there have been majority opinions on just what art is, but unless the opinion is unanimous, it cannot be considered definitive. And why unanimous? Because of what art is for.
Ostensibly, art has no other reason for creation but its own need for existence. When it is created, there may be motive behind or influence towards its creation, a sort of impetus, whether from without or within, at work behind art's genesis. But ultimately, art is the result of expression, the end result of framing thought and emotion and the raw negentropy at work within the human mind. It is the end product of our human impulse, an impulse that also leads to conspiracy theories and optical illusions, to create order out of a disordered universe. Art is a form of order. It is a way for expression to be made whole, whether through words, read or recited, images or objects, in any number of dimensions, actions, whether bounded or not, sounds, of any source, style, or arrangement, or experiences, of the physical or mental nature. Even this extremely open ended definition of artistic creation surely excludes an array of differing ways in which art is made. The key, however, to all artistic expression, is order and not, at least in my opinion, appreciation.
The appreciation of art is merely a byproduct of its observation. By interacting with art (and all art, as inviting or repellant as it aims to be, is in some manner interactive) we are able to have our own personal entropy ordered, if only for the briefest of moments, in the manner of another's conception. We look at a Picasso and share his struggle with what it means to see. We listen to jazz, experiencing the distillation and synthesis of the beat and the tremor and the timbre, raw and immediate. We read the poetry of a Baudelaire and experience what Stephen King so accurately relayed in his On Writing as the magic of time-delayed telepathy, smelling the grit and smoke and musk of Paris in another age, though all we have are words. Art is, from the creator and to the observer, a way of conveying order upon a disordered world. What appreciation of art is, is our judgment, whether personal or societal, of whether the effect art has on us is correct, in any manner of "rightness," at a moment in time. We can turn up our noses at a urine-submerged crucifix or gasp in wonder at a painting made of a woman rallying atop a pile of fresh corpses. The important point is that this appreciation is a value inherent in the observer, but that the observation comes after the creation of art. Whether one likes it or not, art is still art. The question of appreciation is that which is argued over and over again. Art is still art, whether you like it or not.
So, being as this is the dirty beginning of my blog (as well as my writing career) it feels a little like I'm sitting at the mouth of a cave, shouting into the dark, vast, hollowness. The only words that I hear are those in return, a caucophony of echoes in familiar timbres.
And I'm alright with that. For a long time I've been living a socially hermetic existence. My only real connections to any but my family are through social frameworks: school, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I'm living in these artificial networks, trying to cull from them a human experience in quips and asides. It works, kinda.
I applied to grad school seeking the same sort of thing, a community to belong to, of the like-minded and driven. And then I got shut down by all ten schools. So now what?
Now I turn around. Rather than face the cave, I face the world. Instead of being greeted by my own voice, I am empowered by it, its self-same echoes only adding strength to the message. If I'm real lucky, other voices will build in the cavern behind me, tuning and toning the message, the voice. If not, I know I'm capable of solo performances. This time, however, it will be a sole voice to a sole end, made outward, into the open air.
So, yeah, that's how I feel.