A Dark Chest of Wonders

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Category: On Reading


Today, in my English class, we were given a prompt for which we will write an essay on tomorrow. We’re about to start 1984, a book that has been on my to-read list for some time now, and I think that this is the perfect setting to do it in. To be sure, I have always taken the books we read–anything in English–quite seriously, because above math, above science, English teaches you to be human, truly. For this matter, every essay where we only had to answer the prompt accordingly, I took it as an opportunity to really take a look at the literature that we were reading, and this is mostly because I believe one day, people are going to want to read my little High School essays. Not to mention, I’m allergic to mediocrity, therefore, to only do the bare-minimum doesn’t sit well in my gut. Why use only one color paint, or only a small part of the canvas, if you have the whole canvas to do whatever you want? Why would I only do what is required when I can do what is required plus one in order to satiate my questions, my considerations. The point of it is, not many people English–school for that matter–as seriously as I do, but English mostly. Anyways, the prompt we’re given asks us to create an argument based on a critics views of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, which is that, Huxley’s dream of the world to come is more relevant.

Considering that which was given to us, one finds that Huxley is obviously the true Nostradamus.  Orwell’s vision of the future is one that is construed with paranoia and simple lecturing; Orwell feared the day that the world turned over to Communism. In a patriotic kind of way, as an American, I can root for Orwell and say, yeah, down with big government and secrecy, but that’s as far as I can take it. Orwell’s prose is very archaic, or maybe it’s simply that I find it to be non-literary. Huxley’s very first two paragraphs are littered with language that anyone could admire, while Orwell has the kind of addictive quality you get out of the cheesy and redundant YA novels of the era, and I suppose that’s where they get their cliche from. This is not to say that Orwell was not a convincing nor a non-compelling author, rather, he was just not very effective with his language in the way that he could have been with a novel like 1984, especially with a predecessor like Brave New World. All this is to say, though, that Huxley is more alike to a professor, a scientist, or a philosopher; Orwell reminds me of the guy who rants in front of your college, on his soapbox, as he pounds his fist in the air crying out his favorite phrase, “DOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHER”, Orwell’s vision is archaic and only, truly, good from a historical stand point. While Orwell manages to create compelling arguments on the idea of government spying and secrecy on its people in order to keep them in check, which is certainly relevant in the modern age, it’s but a stepping stone of what Huxley envisioned. Huxley looks at the whole of the picture, not only a small part of the canvas as Orwell does. In this way, we find that Huxley’s vision might be the correct one, in the long run. Brave New World addresses the problem of community and society today: teenagers–my pupils–are consumed by themselves, we are consumers are consumed by ourselves, we are as much a product as the products we buy on late night infomercials and the ads on the sides of your screen catered just for you by AdSense. We are not ourselves!

Chuck Palahniuk tells us that we are not our car, our job, our wallet, yet we are! People would rather know that they have everything that they want, that they are comfortable before they are uncomfortable, rather than knowing that the world is not centered around them. Many people take a stance against my generation, when we are only a product of the world for which the previous generation helped to create. We are self centered because the technology that we used is centered around us. Siri asks us what we would like to be called, we can choose what we want Siri to sound like; we are told that our parents took up a second job for our benefit, we are told that we are being forced to do this and this for our benefit. Do you understand? We are constantly told that this is the ME generation, and thus we have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Self. This is our great transgression, our great demise: the things we love, what we believe to be “us”, is what’s killing us, as Huxley feared. We’ve all be diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with our captors, our iPhones. In these ways, one can only agree with Huxley.

YET! As I listen to a podcast–Ear Biscuits with Rhett and Link, Good Mythical Morning–the guest being the co-creator of reddit, Alexis Ohanian, they’ve started talking about how the internet, social media, is a reflection of society as a whole. While there is a large group of people who would try and misuse sites like reddit, Vine, Instagram, and Facebook for porn, there is an even larger group of people who would oppose it, and an even larger group still who are decent human beings. We find that, overall, as a society, we really do only want to advance, and the way that we advocate this is through social media. By cultivating virtual communities where we congregate to talk about cheese melts, Doctor Who, and suicide, we are creating a society where we are not captive at all: we are our governors, we are our own masters, we are, in a sense, the vision of communism realized. The Internet is in fact the utopia for which writers such as Orwell and Huxley have been searching for. There are those who may try to thwart it–that is the issue of net neutrality–but you simply cannot. In this way, I agree neither with Huxley or Orwell, or more aptly, the critic who contrasted the two to begin with, since that is what the prompt ask.

This is learning. This is what I think the purpose of school is: to make you truly think about the subjects for which you are being compelled to write about, not for a grade, but for the thrill of exploring such topics and how they will effect you. This is how we are created. Some of my pupils only come to make true those things for which Huxley predicted: they have become the captives of their iPhones, they have become the captives of their own filtered reflection. This is my confliction, but, I have never been more pleased to be conflicted.

We only have forty minute to write the essay, by hand, and I wrote this in something like 10 minutes. Let’s hope I can come to some stance by tomorrow.


Growing Up: When you Shed a Genre

Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.

I recently sold off one of the last pieces of my old YA collection–and I had no remorse whatsoever. In fact, a couple of months ago, I sold the Divergent Trilogy, including a signed copy of the final book Allegiant; before that, I sold my entire Cassandra Clare collection (that one was asking for it, what an awful waste of paper and space). Before even that, I sold a shit ton of others–and I’ve never looked back. Somehow, I was able to let go of that whole world I’d thrown my self into years ago when I first began reading seriously. I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy the ride, but I wish I would have ridden another coaster in that time; I guess a remembrance of things past does no good against the persistence of time. This may sound like I’m mourning, but I’m not, there’s just no pleasure in either rehashing those old memories, nor scolding those memories since they helped to build me up to where I am today. For this matter, I think there comes a time in everyone’s life where you shed a genre.

Suddenly, you stop watching romantic comedies and you’re really in on dramas; suddenly you stop watching dramas and trade your couch for sitcoms; suddenly, you stop reading YA and move into serious literature, and you begin to get a feel for what you actually like.

In short, when you shed a genre, or you stop doing something in exchange for something else, you’ve been born again. Eventually, we all grow up and grow out of our old shoes, so we have to get new ones, and this is not a bad thing at all: isn’t it always fun to go to some store, maybe a very expensive store, and look around. Now that you’ve sold all your old shoes, you have plenty of money to invest in better shoes–shoes that will make you stand up a little taller, shoes that will give a little bounce to your walk, make people turn and say, “Christ, what is he wearing?” But you just keep on walking. You’ve never been more comfortable in your life.

While I am now quite against the whole genre, I can’t say, totally, that it did not shape my taste for what I do and do not like to read and write today. I don’t like overtly supernatural stories, but I love high octane social commentaries like Fight Club, A Clockwork Orange, American Psycho, and other books all of the like. Times change, so do you, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Just know that if you stand for something, stand for it; if you stand against it, be prepared and brace for the tidal wave that will come against you.

Why Fight Club 2 was inevitable

Chuck Palahniuk, last year at Comic Con, revealed that there would be a Fight Club 2, the sequel to the original novel (obviously). Some fans were estatic, others were not so enthusiastic about the announcement, per Chuck Palahniuk’s most recent track record of books: Damned, Doomed, Snuff, Tell-All, Pygmy, Haunted and others. They fear that Palahniuk is going to ruin what many consider to be his magnum opus in terms of books, since Fight Club not only propelled his career, but was a precursor to many ideas that he would present in his subsequent works. It was the foundation for the Cult. For this matter, to know that an aging (the man just turned 53, but some feel that might be old enough to start going senile) Chuck Palahniuk will be revisiting the book is deflating. But here’s the thing: Palahniuk had a sequel in mind this whole time

If you’ve ever read the original Fight Club before you saw the movie, you’d know that there’s actually something that happens after the credits roll in the film: a 30th chapter, in which Joe (Jack in the film) is institutionalized, but Fight Club and Project Mayhem isn’t quite dead yet, with one of the male nurses saying to him, “We miss you, Mr. Durden. Everything is going according to plan…we look forward to bringing you back.” When the synopsis of Fight Club 2 hit, you will remember that it goes something like:

The sequel will be told from the– at first– submerged perspective of Tyler Durden as he observes the day-to-day tedium of the narrator’s life.  Because 20th Century-Fox created the convention of calling the protagonist Jack, I’m calling him [Sebastian].  He’s living a compromised life with a failing marriage, unsure about his passion for his wife.  The typical midlife bullshit.  Likewise, Marla is unsatisfied and dreams of accessing the wild man she’d once fallen in love with.  She tampers with the small pharmacy of drugs that her husband needs to suppress Tyler, and– go figure– Tyler reemerges to terrorize their lives.

And those are the words right out of Palahniuk’s mouth. Therefore, Chuck seems to be right on track with what he might have planned. Suddenly, Project Mayhem is back on after 10 years, and everything is going according to plan. Anyone who objects to Fight Club 2 seems to have missed that whole last chapter of Fight Club. Palahniuk left the ending open because he had the intention of possibly one day revisiting it and writing the second part to the story that never was. If at all, this should be incredible news–track record or not–for anyone who enjoyed Fight Club, since we will likely finally see Tyler’s grand design for a new world truly realized. I’m geared up and plan to buy each of the 10 issues, maybe even 2 copies of them no matter how much they cost, in the same way that I intend to purchase 2 copies of Go Set a Watchmen in July.

Will you be reading Fight Club 2? Or any other “surprise” sequel this year?

2015 New Workout Plan: For Reading

So, I really should have posted this a little bit earlier, but I still think it’s appropriate to post it even now. So, this year, I set a goal for myself: read 120 books. That means at least 10 books a month. Last year I barely managed at least 2 a month, and even then. So far, I’ve read 4 books this month, so only 6 more to reach my goal, and it’s only the 11th at the writing of this post, I’m currently working on my 5th (Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk), so I think I’m doing well. Another part of my challenge is that, each month I will read at least one book outside of a genre that I normally read: for me, I rarely read romance, never have read erotica, rarely read crime, science fiction, or fantasy. So, here’s the workout plan guys:

  • At least 5 books a month, but I suggest 10
    -This means, if you decide to read 10 books per month, depending on the sizes of these books, you’d be reading about 3 books a week: to keep up this pace, I’d say read books less or at least 300 pages a piece. Some authors who write very short and enthralling books are Chuck Palahniuk (all his books are just around 300 pages at least check), Bret Easton Ellis (the book of his that I’m reading at the moment, Less than Zero isn’t even 200 pages), Earnest Hemingway, Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and other great writers from the past. You don’t have to go extreme and read something like War and Peace, but if you do, then you get a pass for lifting big time. If you were to read 5 book, you’d only be on a book a week (one week you’d read 2). You may read multiple books at once, I’m doing it. This keeps everything varied and keeps you from being dragged down by one book you may not really like at a particular moment.
  • Each month, read at least one author that you’ve never read before
    -This month, I finally read Chuck Palahniuk, and I’ve fallen in love.
  • Each month, read at least one book in a genre you’ve never read before
    -For me, this has been transgressive fiction, I really do like it; I “hope” to finally read an erotica novel, I mean a straight one, this year as well. It will likely be in February, just in time for the Fifty Shades of Gray premiere.
  • Reread a book a month (this does count towards that 5/10 book goal)
    -This can be a book you’ve read before or it can be one that you read that month; I’m rereading Pygmy, the book I recently finished this month.
  • Fall in love with at least one book a month, this means tearing this book apart and understanding what makes it tick. I’ll be doing this with Chuck Palahniuk’s Pygmy, which I just finished reading, at the end of the month, so be on the look out for that.

But, even if you don’t follow the workout plan, at least read more than you did last year and get out of your comfort zone. Learn to sweat a little. You don’t get stronger sitting.