Terminal Boredom – 4/5 Stars
A small collection of stories from the science fiction writer Izumi Suzuki. It’s important to note that these stories are selected from a decades long career. This seems to be a first foray into a larger translation project of more of Suzuki’s writing, especially her novels. The stories are mostly subtle, intimate explorations of stories that are running through various science fiction tropes and ideas. These are ideas that are usually fully established in the story before we begin, and we’re seeing an attempt at a meaningful life within these parameters. I just read a small collection of Robert Heinlein’s stories, and this felt similar to that, but more than anything else, the collection felt parallel to some contemporaneous writers to Suzuki, especially Anna Kavan or the filmmaker Chris Marker. There’s a more clear experimental feel to the stories than other more familiar work.
All you Zombies – 3/5 Stars
A small collection of short stories by Robert A Heinlein. Most notable in terms of readership outside of this collection would be that the title story is the inspiration for the movie “Predestination” starring Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The other stories in this collection more or less follow fashion of this opening story. Often this means two more or less disembodied voices talking their way through an interesting topic of science fiction one way or the other. The story “They” which is a kind of classic structure of a character trying to determine whether or not the objectivity they observe is actual a subjectivity they’re experiencing. I think everyone’s written a story like that at some point, especially given it’s a common developmental part of being human.
“But what did they appear to be doing? ‘They went to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to get the strength to buy the food to earn the money to go to—’ until they fell over dead.”
The Great Crash – 5/5 Stars
This book explores the 1929 financial crash of the New York Stock Exchange (and other markets) from the viewpoint of both the mid-1950s, and then again from the crash of the markets in 1987. The book was revised in this latter date to look how new market trends could play out. Obviously in the last 15 years, we’ve had new understandings of all this in various way. Even today, thinking about cryptocurrency and things like Gamespot have shifted the landscape puts a lot of these lessons in jeopardy.
The book itself is mostly a solid, straight history of the months leading up to the collapse of the stock exchange, a setting straight of misunderstandings, misreading, and myths, and then a clear straightforward reckoning of cause and effect.
Not being a money guy myself, some stray thoughts.
~~Bad actors and idiots will always try to corrupt a system in order to make money fast, screw things up on purpose, or cheat.
~~ Some of that is baked into the system.
~~ Speculation is legalized gambling.
~~Loopholes are usually on purpose.
~~It’s “hilarious” that one person’s right to get rich can cause huge suffering for many others!
“In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in — or more precisely not in — the country’s businesses and banks. This inventory — it should perhaps be called the bezzle — amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.”
Scary Stories – 5/5 Stories
I wasn’t allowed to read these books as a kid (although I WAS allowed to read Stephen King books) mostly because of the pictures in them. They were a hot hot hot item for bookfairs. So although I’ve read them all at some point, I don’t think I was a kid when I did. And because of this two main things stick out to me as funny about them. In part, they’re little anthropologies/oral histories and in some parts, they’re how-to guides.
“Telling scary stories is something people have done for thousands of years, for most of us like being scared in that way. Since there isn’t any danger, we think it is fun.”
“Most scary stories are, of course, meant to be told. They are more scary that way. But how you tell them is important.”
Somebody’s Darling 3/5 Stars
Technically the fourth book in the loose confederation of Larry McMurty’s Houston novels — which also include Moving On, All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers, The Evening Star, and Some Can Whistle. In all these books the large group of characters interact with each other in differing combinations. In this novel, we get three distinct sections narrated by Joe Percy, Owen, and Jill Peel in turn as we follow Jill Peel’s forays into Hollywood filmmaking, after her stint as an Oscar winning short film filmmaker.
In section one, Joe Percy, old horndog novelist cum screenwriter, watches his friend Jill get selected from a list of women in film (writers, thinkers, directors) that include possibles like Susan Sontag and Joan Didion be excluded in exchange for Jill. Jill is right for the moment because of her freshness and success. In Joe’s cynical framing, some woman has to become famous to help fend off attacks from feminist. Joe, who loves women–in his way, is no feminist.
In the second section we get Owen’s narration as bored on-set boyfriend for Jill, and in Jill’s we get her own views.
The novel wears thin, especially in the middle section, and by the end, I was ready for it to be over. I liked the cynical reads on Hollywood, but the novel parts of the novel were not as good as the others. The tri-partite structure probably weakened the impact of the novel as a whole.
After the Quake – 4/5 Stars
This small collection of stories is centered around the 1995 Kobe earthquake in which about 6000 or so people died. I had thought the stories might end up being a little like Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, but more so the earthquake a part of the stories, but not even really a tying together element of them. This makes them feel both more and also less significant in a variety of ways. In reviewing Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, I found it difficult to think much about any given story singularly, since there were 24 in the story, and this collection allows for more specific thinking about each or most of the stories.
The first story involves a man whose wife has recently left him. He feels listless and alone, and meets up with an old friend from school, and there’s a broken attempt at sex. The earthquake serves as backdrop and pretext for the wife’s leaving.
The second story is a ruminative story about life and art, taking place mostly on a beach with a fire going.
The third story is the most involved story and so anchors the middle section of the book, where a young man whose mother belongs to a pseudo cult tells him about his father, who she can only mention via oblique clues. He goes off looking for him.
The fourth story involves a medical researcher going off to Thailand for a conference and being at the behest of her local Thai guide, who makes money now working for foreigners, while having up until recently worked for much richer clients.
The fifth story comes a little out of nowhere and involves a man who is approached by a very large frog in warrior garb who enlists his help to fight an angry Worm, who plans of destroying Tokyo with another large quake. Whether this happens or is a dream comes into question.
The last story is also one of the stronger and involves a trio of friends from college, two who are now married, and a third who deeply loves the woman, and is friends with the man as they navigate life, marriage, divorce, and second loves in their late 30s.
You can guess from the brief description that in very few of the stories, and I DID like this collection, does the earthquake come much into question.