Recent Reads

It’s been awhile since I said anything about what I’ve read lately—I don’t think I’ve written a review post since this one I shared in September, in fact!

One reason is that I haven’t managed to read as much as I’d like. Writing, a toddler, overtime at work… they all converge on me having less time to read, and even less to post about what I’m reading. Still, I have been reading, to be sure. I have also written a few specific posts on individual books, which got stalled out because of what a challenge it is to really do the subject justice. There’s a very long post about Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming sitting in my drafts—it was a high point of my reading last year—but while it’s mostly written, I’m not quite ready to dig into that again, and anyway, I want to talk about some books I’ve read in the past month or two, while they’re fresh in my mind. 

Finally, a certain amount of what I’ve been reading is RPG books, for a special series I intend to publish to coincide with the rebooting of a long-lamented dead game line (Wraith: The Oblivion). It’s eaten up a lot of my reading and blogging time. It should go live soon, I think—I’m timing it carefully to line up with the reboot of the game.  

But I figure for now, I should post about what I’ve read lately. So here we go:

Brother One Cell: An American Coming of Age in South Korea’s Prisons by Cullen Thomas

I clearly remember when this memoir of prison life in Korea was published. Someone mentioned it on the (now-defunct) expat blog Marmot’s Last Hole, and several of the commenters sniped about how, and I’m paraphrasing lightly, they didn’t feel sorry for anyone stupid enough to be caught smuggling drugs into Korea.

The assumption, of course, was that the book would amount to nothing more than a self-pitying rant about how bad and awful and awfully bad South Korean prisons are—of course, based on nothing but the commenters’ snarky expectations, since they clearly hadn’t read the book. 1   

Well, thsoe commenters had it all wrong. I have read Brother One Cell, and I actually liked it. The author manages to describe relatively horrifying circumstances—no heat during a Korean winter seems, to me, is pretty unimaginably inhumane—but he does it with so much humility and generosity that makes it impossible to accuse him of feeling sorry for himself. I mean, he does depict those moments when he felt sorry for himself, and describes how universal that reaction is among the imprisoned. But the book is really about overcoming that kind of self-serving pitifulness. Thomas’ writing clearly aims high, and doesn’t always manage to hit the mark, but the aspiration itself is refreshing, as his his honesty. That said, I found myself wondering, occasionally, whether there was a touch of Stockholm Syndrome when he excuses some of the worse excesses, and expresses nothing but gratitude for experiences that are clearly unconscionable. There were times in the book where I found myself horrified at what he described with a sense of stoic resignation.  

I also think expats in Korea reading this book will find more than a little about what Thomas describes rings a bell: not because living in Korea as an expat is prison-like, of course. (At least not for most of us: I do, however, have a friend whose first employer in Korea did seize her passport and attempt to imprison her in a basement during her off-hours. No kidding. That’s too weird for fiction, honestly.) I actually think expats will find resonances because, as Thomas suggests, prison amplifies the kind of social dynamics one observes out in the general population. Everything from how one’s native English speaker status confers a weird kind of beholden privilege, to the kind of clownishly officious and doctrinaire ridiculousness one sees from anyone invested with bureaucratic power, to the Potemkin-styled response to any and all quality assurance and standards enforcement programs. All of a society’s social ills seem to be exacerbated in prisons, from what I hear, so that’s not surprising. What is surprising is that Thomas finds some of Korean society’s better traits also ending up amplified in its prisons… well, and that he manages to spin his own prison experience into a mostly-engaging redemption story. (The book also refrains from the Standard Expat Problems rant I mentioned years ago, while reviewing another expat-in-Asia book I’d read at the time: in fact, it’s one of the better Korea memoirs I’ve managed to read over the years.) 

I also have to admit that I’m relieved that more people out in the general public in Korea don’t know his story. Going by what he describes, I get the feeling it’d be reaaaaally easy to frame a foreigner as a drug trafficker if you had a score you wanted to settle—whether he or she dated your ex, gave you an F on an exam, or just rubbed you the wrong way. For that matter, the number of scumbag expats I’ve met makes me wonder if they wouldn’t use this to settle person grudges, if they could.2 Of course, we’re talking about the mid-90s, and Thomas likely skips a certain amount of whatever due process he received: we don’t know how fair the evidentiary process was once he was in court. But, well… I get the feeling at that time, framing any foreigner by posting her or him a box containing a bag of marijuana would likely have been enough to “eliminate” them without too much chance of things going wrong. And that in itself is unsettling.    

Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller

Emshwiller’s a writer I’ve read before, and admired (with occasional reservations), though it seems like this is the first time I’ve posted about her work. My copy of this novel is the Small Beer Press edition, from their Peapod classics line. According to the back cover copy, this is the book that inspired Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler to create the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award, which, well, if that’s not high praise, what is?

Carmen Dog is a short, weird novel in which women start transforming into animals, and (female) animals conversely begin transforming into women. Emshwiller uses this conceit to explore gender roles, the social construction of  motherhood, sexism in science and in culture alike (or, rather, how cultural sexism spills over into science), and even how gender skews the way we define what is human. 

Feminist satire can be discomfiting to read if you’re a man, because the tables are turned: often you find that suddenly, it’s men who all are flat characters, and usually—as in this book—there’s something seedy and off-putting about every single one of them. If a character’s male and you find him relatable, you’d better watch your step: at some point he’s sure to do or say something stereotypically awful (and awful in terms of the book’s overt ethical framework), and your sympathy may end up feeling oddly like a kind of political self-indictment… though, if your consciousness has been sufficiently raised, you’ll just end up wondering where all the not-horrible men are. (You know, the way women and girls used to wonder where all the women and girls are in SF books?)

Which is to say that while slight discomfort for a male reader probably isn’t an overt objective, it also isn’t aside from the point or accidental either. After all, as a reader, being able to endure a little discomfort goes a long way: for one thing, you can experience firsthand a taste of what everyone who wasn’t a white guy felt when reading SF novels up until the 1960s or 1970s. I still prefer satire that mocks everyone within its confines, sympathetic narrator included, but I think that gets harder when you’re writing satire with an aspirational ideology (like feminism) in mind: indeed, I think the growing politicization of fiction probably is part of the reason that satire of the classic kind has died out so drastically. This book predates the #noteveryman #yeseverywoman explosion on Twitter by decades, but there’s a dynamic like that in the book, nonetheless.

Personally, I think that’s fine: while I wouldn’t want all the fiction I read to present a universally negative or dehumanizing view of any group of people (women or men), a certain amount of discomfort is inevitable if you’re going to read widely (and grow as a person).

The narrative is episodic in the way satire almost always is, but mainly concerns the misadventures of a golden setter named Pooch who becomes a kind of canine hominid named Pooch (or, as she momentarily styles it, Pucci). As she transforms, Pooch’s life becomes subject to the bewildering bombardment of awfulness to which most women are already accustomed: being hit on by perverts, threatened by men who claim to be looking out for her best interests, struggling with how to negotiate the language used against her (such as thoughts about how “bitch” goes from being accurate in one sense—after all, she remains a female dog on some level—and insulting in another, simultaneous sense) and being corralled against her will for the sake of that important institution, motherhood. The contrast here is her interior life: the sexual desires she struggles to articulate to herself, sometimes overshadowed by those imposed upon her by others; the baby she desperately longs to keep safe (and the human master with whom she longs to be reunited), and a growing desire to sing the opera Carmen

The book didn’t hit me as hard—or make me laugh as hard—as the other feminist satire that immediately came to mind, Joanna Russ’ The Female Man. That’s fine: it’s a different kind of book, with a single core protagonist who I sense is supposed to be highly sympathetic, and to be a sort of narrative moral compass in a way I think Russ dispensed with… though it’s been more than a decade since I read the Russ, and I might see it differently now. It’s an odd, interesting book, and as a first novel, it’s impressive. It also certainly forecasts a number of the themes that would form a spine running through Emshwiller’s literary career. 

The Thieves’ Opera: The Remarkable Lives and Deaths of Jonathan Wild, Thief-taker and Jack Sheppard, House-breaker by Lucy Moore

How’s that for a long title? As you might have guessed, I’m gearing up to return to work on my novel set in early Georgian London, and figured I’d read the remainder of my research books about the period. 

So, obviously, The Thieves’ Opera is nonfiction: it’s a history book that examines early Georgian London through a close examination of its criminal underground, and specifically through a discussion of the lives of two prominent criminals of the time. As the subtitle suggests, it tackles this subject through an examination of the lives of two famous individuals tied to the criminal underworld in the period. 

Jonathan Wild was basically the early Georgian equivalent of the Harvey Keitel character in The Bad Policeman, but in a world where there were no policemen. Essentially, he was a fence and high-level thieves’ guild organizer, who also worked publicly as a thief-taker, turning in crooks to the government to be hanged. Woe betide any thief who double-crossed him or got on his bad side: he’d turn in employees and associates when it suited him, and because he often knew who’d stolen what (because he served as a fence for so many) he also ran a side business as a retriever of stolen goods. As you can imagine, ultimately things don’t end well for him, though maybe not for the reasons you might guess.   

Jack Sheppard, on the other hand, was just a young carpenter’s apprentice who, cast out from his trade, ended up becoming a burglar and a major celebrity in London. He was famous for his daring escapes from prison and his clever burglaries, which he pulled off by using his knowledge of carpentry and construction. Adored by the masses, the had a run of only two years as a celebrity thief before they finally managed to lock him up tight enough that he couldn’t escape, and hanged him. 

Both of these men were major public figures of the day, and played a major part in how the public thought about and talked about crime, law, justice, and power in London… but they also, by their lives and their mannerisms, reveal a lot about the kinds of social and cultural transitions that were going on in London at the time, and really, however interesting the individuals discussed were, it’s the big picture that what one reads this kind of book for. On this count, Moore does not let us down: her discussions of Londoners and their world are eye-opening, as in this passage:

The English aristocracy lived at this period in a strange mixture of intense formality and almost barbaric crudity and perverse eccentricity. Their clothes, houses, art, and manners seemed perfect on the outside; but the metaphorical petticoats under their delicate silk gowns were stained. Dining rooms with pale panelled walls, edged in finely carved gilt detailing, held chamber pots so that conversation wouldn’t be broken up if anyone needed to relieve themselves during dinner. Ladies’ shoes were not only used as champagne glasses, but on one occasion in 1747 a party ate a pair of shoes, sliced and fried in butter, ‘to testify to their affection for the lady [Fanny Murray, the most beautiful courtesan of her generation]’. Female sexuality was frowned on as unladylike, yet ladies’ lapdogs—shock dogs—were trained to sit under their skirts licking their mistresses’ ‘love grottoes’.

The urban middle classes reinforced the aristocracy’s cultural hegemony by emulating their lifestyle. Merchant’s wives stopped working behind the counter, and instead sat in a parlour reading magazines or novels; children were sent away to boarding-school to improve their manners; men and women of all classes dressed up to walk around London, window-shopping, strolling through the parks, just showing off. Fashionable urban recreations were linked not to the seasons, as they were in the country, but centred on what the city had to offer: shopping, going to Bedlam to look at the lunatics, walking ‘in whole shoals’ through the pleasure gardens of Vauxhall or Greenwich…. 

While some of the excesses of London society were alien to me, and don’t apply, nonetheless (and as I’ve commented before) I still found a fair bit that parallels the kinds of social transitions going on in Korea in the past few decades:  the shift in entertainments away from annual seasonal events towards things like screen golf and cinema, the tendency of the lower classes to “dress up” and “put on airs” of the upper classes whom they simultaneously resented, and the explosion of conspicuous consumption all seem strangely to echo through the streets of Seoul today. The complaints of foreigners visiting London—and the perverse pride in their vices that Londoners took at the time, too—also seem strangely familiar to me. Still, Moore helps paint a picture of how, even when one sees modern-day reflections of this past, the world of early Georgian London was in important ways quite thoroughly alien to how anyone lives today.

I’ll admit that I did skim parts of the book, and that it took me a very long time to actually finish, but this was mainly just because, while Moore covers the ground admirably, I’d already been over that terrain a few times in the past few years… well, and because I’ve been so busy in recent months. Even so, it was an enjoyable read. 

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

This novel by Han Kang is about a woman who, well, to steal a line from Melville, “would prefer not to.” It’s not just meat: her renunciation extends beyond diet into a wide range of areas of her life, though the shape of it becomes a little vague out on the edges. This means there’s a lot of different ways to read the book, especially across a cultural difference: is it about the rampant sexism of Korean society? On one level, it seems obvious to me that it is, yes, though I’d swear I’ve seen the author disclaim that in interviews. What to make of that, I’m not sure, thoguh I imagine part of it is that she wants people to recognize the book is about many things at once, such as people’s willingness to justify their own actions, or the way suppression and love seem intertwined in how a lot of Koreans think of marriage and family, or about attitudes towards mental illness in Korean society. I mean, it’s a novel: it’s about a lot of things all at once. 

But I think, deeper than that, The Vegetarian is about renunciation and refusal of all kinds, as a coping mechanism for a highly coercive society. Korean women I know who leave their houses without makeup are constantly confronted about it—not always aggressively, but people bring it up relentlessly, to the point where many women just capitulate, never leaving the house without “putting on their faces.” (Yes, even for a trip to the corner store.) Men who don’t drink get shit about it unless they plead religious strictures—which is one reason I think teetotal is so popular among Korean Protestants: it may not be integral to Christianity, but it’s the only way to “get away with” not drinking to excess (and all the other stuff that can go with it) in their professional lives. Renunciation is hard in any culture, but in a society like Korea’s, where the pressure to conform is explicit, overt, and directly phrased at one many times during the day, it seems almost like an act of herculean strength. Coercion is as much a fundamental building block of Korean social life as boundaries are a building block of North America’s. 

Now, everyone in this book is awful; it’s a painful, unpleasant story overall. That comment a friend of mine made about the film Barfly comes to mind: after you read it, you want to take a shower and wash away all the horribleness. And yet I think it’s interesting in its way, an in some sense it’s kind of a hammerblow to the norms that are enforced within Korean society. I’m told by a friend that in Korean-language discussions of the novel, most of the focus is on the “beauty” of the prose, which is simultaneously odd and not at all surprising: that just makes me think of Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing. (It’s been almost two decades since I read it, but I’m pretty sure there was something about reducing all discussions of the book to aesthetics, instead of confronting what the woman writer was actually talking about. Or, if there wasn’t, there ought to have been.) I mean, when the public discourse about parental wisdom is that Parent Knows Best—and in most family narratives, it is, to the point where despicable behavior gets hastily justified away—it’s stunning and kind of counter-cultural to see a parent almost immediately resort to coercion because his daughter’s dietary choices alarm him. In a society where brothers-in-law are usually squeaky clean guys in suits with handsome smiles, the weird, kink-obsessed, essentially rapey brother-in-law we get is almost a relief: maybe it’s more lurid that you’d expect on average, but after the sanitization of mainstream narratives, it feels like honesty.  

Because of that, I feel like focusing the discussion on the quality of the prose seems a bit like looking at Hogarth and wanting to talk about his use of line and contrast, and totally avoid talking about his critique of class difference, corruption, and cruelty. Both Hogarth and The Vegetarian so overtly and self-consciously call out so much that I can’t help but think many people are, when reading it, gripped by an anxiety not completely unlike the one I mentioned above having felt when reading Carmen Dog. (Or, you know, unconsciously engaging in exactly the same kind of justifications that Han Kang both depicts and savages in the book.) When confronted with an unstinting indictment of their world and your values, I guess it’s natural for at least some people to seek refuge by willfully focusing their reading something else—the prose, the relatability of the characters, the cover art. It’s a really strategic way of missing the obvious and unavoidable point (or points) of the book. 

There was also some kind of furor about this novel being “mistranslated” which… well, I’ll get to that in a separate post at some point, I think, since I think it warrants a longer discussion. 

Building Shanghai: The Story of China’s Gateway by Edward Denison and Guang Yu Ren

This is a coffee table book that I actually picked up in Shanghai many years ago (a decade ago, in fact), intending to use it for research on a project I was working on, set aside, but will probably return to soon. However, it was instead the fact that Shanghai was the setting of an RPG game I play in weekly—Trail of Cthulhu—that got me to finally haul the book off the shelf and give it a look. 

Overall, Building Shanghai is good at doing what coffee table books do: lots of pretty pictures, some maps, and enough information that you have some idea what you’d want to look into more deeply, if you were doing research and starting from zero (or, you know, even just a little more than zero). It’s not a phenomenal read by any means, but it gives an overview of how Shanghai developed that’s rendered in decent, clear prose accompanied by pretty photos. In all, it does what it says on the tin. 

Scenes from the Enlightenment: A Novel of Manners by Kim Namcheon, translated by Charles La Shure 

I won’t say too much about this novel by Kim Namcheon, and translated by Charles La Shure, since I’ve said most of what what I have to sayin the a review I’ve submitted to Kyoto Journal. I will note, though, that if you’re interested in a more recent example of the kinds of social transitions I described above in the context of early Georgian London, you’ll be fascinated by this fictional treatment of the dawn of modern Korea as seen from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.

Scenes from the Enlightenment is a quiet, slow book on the outset, mind you—and for me, it took a while for me to really get interested, because frankly I was put off by the men who are the focal characters at the very beginning of the novel. Still, I persevered and was glad I did. In my review, I noted that the clearest comparison that comes to mind is Canadian author Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, though it’s less lightly humorous and more haunting, given that Kim’s characters are in the middle of a slow social shift that’s about to erupt into a massive and overwhelming social upheaval… and it’s clear how unaware of that most of them are, or the horrors that lurk off in the near future.

This book is definitely worth a look if you’re curious about the ways a Korean author writing at the end of the 1930s would go about depicting that. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this book proto-SF, but I will say it’s part of the literature of change, and is worth a look for anyone interested in that. 

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

This is a weird little fairytale of a book. Someone acquired it for the kids’ books collection at the Sejong City Library, and since I’d never gotten the chance to read it, I borrowed it. I was surprised to discover such a stark, weird little tale. It’s a funny reminder of how, by the 1960s, the Fabian-Singularity plots of H.G. Wells—where humankind is uplifted by some force outside of itself and goes from being idiotic and ignorant to being humanity-as-it-ought-to-be, as with (for example) In the Days of the Comet—kind of permeated into the mainstream culture, albeit refracted through the prisms of New age hippiedom on the one hand, and progressive politics on the other.  

I also really dig the idea of futuristic fairytales: updating the genre for a technoscientific age. Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad does wonderful things with this idea, but I can’t think of many other authors who’ve tackled the task, and that makes The Iron Giant stand out, too. I’m not sure I have more to say about it than that, except that I haven’t seen the cartoon adaptation of the book, and cannot imagine how in the world they could have done it, beyond changing it into something quite unrecognizable.  

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut

When I picked this up, the first thing I thought was, “Is Donald F. Glut a real person?” It was among the kids’ books in a shop that was selling off that section by the box, so I shrugged and tossed it into my own box, right under the Judy Bloom and Beverly Cleary chapter books I picked up next.

As a kid, I owned (but only occasionally skimmed, if I’m being honest) the Alan Dean Foster novelization of Star Wars—you know, the one that came out before the film, so I wondered if maybe George Lucas might’ve insisted on a penname for the second novelization… but nope, Glut turns out to be a real person, a lifelong freelance writer (mostly in comics and film) and a genre film nut to boot.

But he was a real person writing in the late 1970s—so, well, a lot of interactions with Leia leave Han and Luke musing on the incomprehensibility of women—and he was working off a Lucas script… all of which means the book isn’t really great. (If you don’t want to take my word for it, there’s quotes from the novelization at Tor.com…) We can’t shift all the blame away from Glut’s skills, mind you: the prose isn’t particularly good, either, though Glut apparently did wonderful work in comics, and I bet a lot of kids in the 8-12 set liked the book just the same, back when it was new, despite the weird departures from the Star Wars they knew. (Like, Yoda being blue.) Still, it wasn’t for me, and after skimming the first half of the book in the bath, I put it down, ne’er to return. 

The ‘Geisters by David Nickle

What a wonderfully creepy book! Nickle’s game here is so smart and nasty that I hesitate to even spill the beans, except to say that it’s a pretty logical extrapolation of Rule 34—the observation that if a thing exists, porn of it exists… because if a thing exists, it’s bound to be some weirdo’s kink.3 Inject that insight into a classic horror scenario, and it’s suddenly transformed into something much, much more horrifying. The writing’s solid, the story rolls along with nasty reveals and twists, and the protagonist at the perilous center of the story is tough and smart and deserves better—or so it seems early on—and you can’t help but root for her as her life goes from okay to bad to worse and then just keeps falling apart and and getting more and more wrong and horrible… and even so, you can’t wait to see what happens next. 

None of that surprised me, of course, having read and enjoyed big chunks of Nickel’s collection Monstrous Affections, but it was still a treat. It was also kind of an object lesson in subverting genre tropes as a means of revivifying them with amplified effect. He takes one familiar little trope common to horror narratives, rotates it carefully behind the curtain, violently unveils it, and boom, everything’s an order of magnitude more creepy and awful than you expected. And then he does that with another trope, and another…. All of which means that The ‘Geisters is a wonderfully disturbing (and creepily intimate) novel that’ll make you pause when long awaited help finally shows up in a story, just to hope someone thinks to check their references and credentials. 

Also, it was nice to see genre fiction that’s unabashedly Canadian. Nickle writes about Toronto quite naturally, in a way I find few genre writers seem to do about places that aren’t the UK or the States. (Then again, maybe I’m just not reading enough of my fellow Canadian genre writers.)

The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers

Having run across references to Carcosa and its monarch in countless places—from Lovecraftian fiction and games, to a popular TV series and several RPGs, including the King in Yellow RPG Kickstarter I backed last year—I figured it was time to sit down and actually get up to speed on this collection of short stories.

I got a copy off Project Gutenberg (here), because, hey, it’s free and convenient. After a brief false start that was no fault of Chambers’ book, I dug in and was initially impressed: The first few stories, which are explicitly related to Carcosa and the King in Yellow, are the most interesting of the book. The next few are still weird and creepy and worthwhile. Then there’s a chunk of what seems to be poetry—the formatting’s not great for that sort of thing on a Kindle—and I lost interest a bit. (I like and actually do read poetry, but Chambers seems partial to a certain kind of Victorian style of verse and structure that isn’t my thing.) After the poetry, there’s one more creepy story (“The Street of the Four Winds”) which is low-key but cool, and then the book ends off with a series of three stories that are only vaguely linked to the rest of the book in a loose thematic sense: love and war stories about artsy students in Paris, the longest of which (“The Street of Our Lady of the Fields”) kind of bored me. 

I was a bit perplexed by the shift in the last third of the book: it seemed as if Chambers could easily have shaped those final three stories to have a Weird twist, and they almost cry out for one, given that they’re bundled with such sublimely weird tales as “The Repairer of Reputations,” “The Mask,” “In the Court of the Dragon,” and “The Yellow Sign.” Perhaps Chambers was attempting to signal the range of which he was capable, or maybe he (and his publisher, and contemporaneous audience) just felt the thematic link was strong enough… or maybe the looming horror hinted at repeatedly but never manifested in “The Street of Our Lady of the Fields” (related to one character’s forcefully withheld personal secrets) just carried a lot more weight at the time, potentially enough to trigger a sense of dread in some readers. But then, Chambers shifted gears to write this sort of romance narrative for much of his career. Probably sales were a factor, since he was making his living from his writing, but the inclusion of the last three tales in the collection suggests it probably wasn’t just that. He seems to have been genuinely interested in stories about relationships and love, something we don’t necessarily see in other Weird writers of the time, so it’s interesting… at a distance, at least. (The last few pieces in the book didn’t fill me with a burning desire to read his romance novels, I’ll put it that way.

Actually, I found myself feeling an urge to tweak the last three stories of the collection to amplify the dread, and maybe tie them back to the Yellow King meta-narrative somehow: recontextualizing “The Street of the First Shell” as a war between Carcosa and our own world, say, or making Valentine’s secret (in “The Street of Our Lady of the Fields”) something much darker than what Chambers implies (which is that she’s been bohemian not just in dress and manner, but also in her sexual life). I feel like an “unexpurgated” version of the book, with more quotations from the King in Yellow—especially Act II of the play—would be a fun conceit for a book. (A little like a literary version of the “unexpurgated” version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that was produced for the Night’s Black Agents RPG.)

I wonder if anyone would find that heretical. I wonder if I’d care. Chambers’s work is, after all, in the public domain now. 

Maybe it’d make a fun summer project…


  1. The blog was fun and interesting, especially in its early years, but the endless snark and trolling and crassness that came to dominate in the comment sections was why I eventually stopped following the blog, and turned down the generous invitation to blog there. I feared drowning in tankloads of bile, to be honest, and I’ve continued to think of the comment section there as an early warning sign of what unmoderated internet fora eventually and inexorably end of looking like.

  2. In fact, there was an incident at a place I once worked at, not long after I left, of a professor receiving a parcel at work. He was told, “Sign for it, sign for it,” and as soon as he did so, the police appeared to apprehend him. He claimed not to have known what was in the parcel, and that an ex-girlfriend must have posted it to him in revenge for the breakup. I never did hear how that played out, but going by Thomas’ story, it sounds like he could easily have ended up in jail.

  3. Okay, Rule 34  is that there’s porn about everything, but if this is true, it’s because everything that exists is some weirdo’s fetish.

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