Stumbling out of the Traps
It’s the 23rd of January and I haven’t finished a book yet this year. I need to get my ass moving, because I normally end up sandbagging December (because December every year is an unparalleled psychodrama). I can’t afford to sandbag January too.
I shouldn’t worry. I have done some reading this month, and I have gotten some work done. Just not as much as I’d like. But I never do as much as I want of what I want to do, so.
I’ve been slowly making my way through Philip K. Dick’s The Simulacra. As you probably already know, I really love PKD, and this means I have already read most of his major works. This leaves me with some of the weaker, lesser-known stuff. The Simulacra is still unmistakably PKD. It’s set in an SF future where the president is an automaton and the real ruler is the first lady (who doesn’t age???), and psychoanalysis has been outlawed to force people to take medications for their mental illnesses, and time travel is a thing. Oh, and people are buying one-shot one-way rockets so they can emigrate to Mars. And there are mind controlling robots. And there’s a Neo-Nazi movement in the USA? Well, this scattering of SF concepts and lack of focus is what typifies this novel as weaker PKD, but he scatters so many ideas that some of them are bound to take off in the imagination, and some of them are bound to have happened (see; Neo-Nazi movement). The criss-crossing narrative taking in struggling working people and the very highest echelons of power, and how they are affected by that mish-mash of weird ideas, is what typifies this as a PKD novel despite its weakness. It still has that human focus. Unfortunately, none of these people have really grabbed me this time around, and the mish-mash of ideas is confusing me a bit. I will finish it, and I will say I enjoyed it, but I dunno how long it will take me.
I’ve also been trudging along with Bleak House. I’ve never done very well with fuck-off big Victorian novels and this is no different. Unfortunately for me I’d still like to try get a grasp of the classics, and that includes reading more Dickens. I am sure when I get through some more of it and the plot threads start coming together it will pick up pace and interest me more. I did finish Great Expectations last year and I enjoyed that (and it was a damn sight thinner).
Speaking of Victoria, I’ve been reading Lytton Strachey’s biography of her to my girlfriend to help her sleep. It’s been working and I am enjoying it, besides. Strachey is so even handed in his outlook and so clear and cool with his prose that I can’t help but find myself pleasantly interested in much the same way as I was when I read Eminent Victorians last year. I am not greatly interested in any of the subjects he’s interested in, but as always, I’d like a greater knowledge of the classics. I’ve certainly had worse experiences getting through something because I felt like I ought to.
(I have 15% left of Northanger Abbey and I doubt I will ever finish it. It is just so fucking boring. It’s fine for nothing to happen if you have the style to make up for it. If you’re not going to have a style, then things better happen. I think it’s considered her weakest “major” novel, so maybe I should just forgive it. I did like Pride and Prejudice.)
As a last note, I just received a copy of The Honourable Schoolboy as a belated birthday gift from my sister. Last year I got in to le Carré in a big way, and I blew through Tinker Tailor in a couple of sittings. I found a copy of Smiley’s People shortly after that but haven’t ever come across a used copy of The Honourable Schoolboy, and I didn’t want to read the Karla trilogy out of order, so I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I am sure I will let you know what I think of it.