Unchangeables, Notions, and Actualities

A snippet:

All around the world, but particularly in our great Republic, inventors and professors set about applying the universal intrinsic principle. Some worked with formless Unchangeables in their seance lounges,  others with religious Notions, and a rare few, such as our Mr. Edison, with bulldog Actualities. The way he looked at it, if your calculations showed you couldn’t do something, then you went ahead and did it without the calculations. Here was one for whom the forces of electricity had been waiting!
–from You Bright and Risen Angels, by William T. Vollmann

A huge book, left behind by a friend who gave up on it; his marginal notes stopped somewhere around page 30, understandably. At page 50, things are a little clearer. Not an easy book. But weird, as the jacket copy basically advertises:

In the jungles of South America, on the ice fields of Alaska, the plains of the Midwest, and the streets of San Francisco, a fearsome battle rages. The insects are vying for world domination; the inventors of electricity stand in evil opposition. Bug , a young man, rebels against his own kind and joins forces with the insects. Wayne, a thug, allies himself with the malevolent forces of electricity and vows to assassinate the preying mantis who tends bar in Oregon. A brusque La Pasionara with the sprightly name of Millie leads an intrepid band of revolutionaries.
You Bright and Risen Angels is the work of an extraordinary imagination. In this free-wheeling novel of epic proportions, William T. Vollmann has crafted a biting, hilarious satire of history, technology, politics, and misguided love.

If you’re thinking, “Huh?” then this book may not be for you. If you’re thinking, “Heh, the insects are the good guys…” then you should check it out. I’m only on page 50, though, and it’s a long, weird, and tangly sort of book.

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