What happens when a group of intelligent, but ruthless men (because women merely exist here to show off cleavage for the men to gaze into) decide to take over the US government and establish an ideal state following Plato’s Πολιτεία?
By creating several germ crises the group of eccentric intellectuals around Paxton Superstoe cause nationwide terror, so the population is frightened enough to cry for a „strong leader“ and elect the candidate supported by Superstoe and his entourage as the new president. After a couple of „accidents“ opposition is silenced and they hold power completely in their hands. Now they can start to shape the USA according to their ideal and force the rest of the world to roll with it.
Superstoe is a political satire mainly about manipulating and taking advantage of the masses and about the things that humans are capable of doing – no matter if they are ordinary or highly intelligent men. Often the laughter gets stuck in your throat though, because some things Borden imagined in 1967 actually became true or are at least very realistic by now.
The author touches on many interesting questions like: is it justified to terrorise your own population to get elected, because you know, that you are the better candidate and you honestly want to work for the greater good of everyone? Are certain strategic attacks, killings or even wars justified to be able to achieve a worldwide disarmament and world peace? Is it in general justified to kill a few for the greater good of the world? And what happens, when the ideal state is finally realised? What happens, if the ordinary men and women are extinguished through planned breeding with only the best of the best remaining? What happens in a state where everyone has the same education and equal possibilities? Is such a state really going to be better or is it just going to be the same (if only on a different intellectual level), because of some basic inherent human characteristics and/or needs?
Unfortunately only very few of these questions are actually followed through, I think because Borden focuses too much on portraying the eccentricity of his characters instead of the story and those underlying questions. Also, I honestly was a bit confused about who is who, and I could not always distinguish them, because although 10 protagonists are not that many (considering I somehow managed to distinguish most of Tolstoi’s characters in War and Peace), but the fact, that they sometimes addressed each other with their first names, last names, nicknames or code names made it hard to follow.
Just a side note – if you want to google this book, don’t get confused about the title, because in 9 out of 10 cases, you will probably find it under the name of Superstore (I have no idea why no one bothers to list the correct title).
I know this is a politcal satire, written in 1967, but it is kind of creepy, because quite some things became true and on top of that, there are some really unfortunate choices of names, especially from today’s perpective.
…for example the name of the Inspection Service:
Furth remarked, "Paxton looks as if he’s had an orgasm."
"An idea," said Adams.
"It’s the same thing," said Furth.
Superstoe waved his fork in the air. "We're going to take over the world!"
…I like where this is going!
What do you expect from the autobiography of a man who called himself the Brown Buffalo? A man who ate the hottest hot sauce in the world for breakfast and chose A Whiter Shade of Pale as the theme song of his life? Regardless of what you might expect, you will be surprised, but not disappointed.
This is the most unapologetic account of one’s life I can imagine. Acosta is not afraid of giving honest descriptions of his childhood, his acid trips, his genitals, his fears, feelings, actions or anything else – because he didn’t give a shit about how other people perceived him. Neither his ulcers nor any amount of blood in his puke could stop him. As the true artist he believed himself to be, he took everything he could get his hands on and transformed it into art – even the contents of his stomach.
In his autobiography he takes you on a wild journey to the centre of his mind – quite literally beyond the seas of thought, beyond the realm of what, across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not. And for an attorney, Acosta really knew how to tell a story!
One can only imagine what this incredible Buffalo must have been like in real life, but if I were to picture him on his quest in discovering his own identity, I see a fierce, but peaceloving beast, stomping along his path with the Amboy Dukes singing in the background.
But please realise
You’ll probably be surprised
For it’s the land unknown to man
Where fantasy is fact
So if can, please understand
You might not come back.
You probably have to be on acid to write such dialogues, but you definitely can appreciate them nevertheless.
“Oh, fuck! We’d better take him out to King’s. Mike told me Gerri turned him on to peyote for the first time two days ago.”
“Is Gerri back in town?” I asked.
“So you do know Gerri, you rotten prick!”
“I used to know a Gerri. She worked in a Mexican restaurant.”
“No, he’s talking about Michael’s Gerri, from Ketchum,” Bobbi said.
“My Gerri belongs to no one. She’s part Samoan.”
For some reason Herman Melville intrigues me and I cannot seem to part with him. I was fascinated by the story of Moby-Dick since I was a kid, when I would look at the illustrations in my older brothers edition and I was thrilled when I saw the movie adaption in 1998. But ever since early this year, when I wrote a paper on the comparison of different translations of Moby-Dick and therefore was really diving into Melvilles writing, I cannot let go of him.
I wanted to know how Melville lived through the process of writing this incredibly leviathan of a book – and what better way to find out, than to read his correspondence. But I got way more out of his letters than that.
This was a journey through Melvilles life, beginning with the earliest (surviving) letter to his Grandmother at the age of 9 and ending with the last (again, surviving) letter in the year before he died. And in between those two you get to follow him through his whole life – you experience the beginning of his career, when he writes like a humble young man who is very happy, that his work gets published at all, then you reach a somewhat mean and cocky phase in his life, when he believed himself to be a world class author until you get to a point when he is settling down and becomes a content family man who likes good company and never refuses a drink or two. That nice, happy fellow is the Herman Melville we know and love today.
My personal favourites were his letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne – what a dream-team! Melville expresses such a deep understanding of Hawthorne and their friendship, I cannot explain it any differently than they being soul-mates. Those letters are much more intimate and tender than any of the letters I found, which he wrote to the members his family.
A few words to the „genre“ of letters. In general, I always feel a bit weird when I read someone else’s letters or diaries, because this is an extremely personal form of writing. Basically, these letters were never intended for anyone else to read than the addressee. There is a sort of intimacy in a letter, which I think we have lost completely in our writings nowadays.
But, me feeling weird about it aside, it was fantastic to experience a time, when there was no haste in communication. Melville knew, that it would take a letter to his publisher in London approximately one month to get there and because the same goes for the answer, you could probably expect an answer after two to three months.
By the way, this is a very nice edition, you immediately see, that the scholars put a lot of effort in it. And now, ending with Melvilles own words:
Much more might be said, but enough.
I don’t think I have ever read anything more beautiful and touching than Melvilles letter to Nathaniel Hawthorn in June 1851:
"If ever, my dear Hawthorne, in the eternal times that are to come, you and I shall sit down in Paradise, in some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means be able to smuggle a basket of champagne there (I won’t believe in a Temperance Heaven), and if we shall then cross our celestial legs in the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and strike our glasses and our heads together, till both musically ring in concert, – then, O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us, – when all the earth shall be but a reminiscence, yea, its final dissolution an antiquity."
What does Melville say?
"I don’t know how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping."
With this and the fitting picture by Matt Kish, I wish you a good night!
Such a tedious beginning! Way too many secondary characters, way too many unimportant names and way to many descriptions of clothing, uniforms, buildings and architectural details. Not to mention the following excessive descriptions of the city structure of Paris. This was so confusing and the more I read, the less I was able to imagine what Paris looked like and additionally, you are completely pulled out of the plot. Not helping, Victor, not helping. You know, Čechov used to criticise the young Gorkij for using way too many adjectives in his writings. Its a good thing, Čechov never saw Victor Hugo’s mess. Man, that writing is not only overloaded with details, but also really patronising.
The overall theme of the book is perhaps best described with the word love, while also featuring a lot of racism, sexism, violence, poverty, class struggles and cruelty. What bugged me though is, that in the beginning Hugo touches on many crucial subjects like civil disturbances, power struggles, the beginning of printing and hence the churches’ loss of power over the written word, but unfortunately, he does not pursue them any further.
Character-wise, I fell in love with Pierre Gringoire, the constantly twaddling philosopher, who is the personification of the principle of comic relief. He is sweet, funny and loveable, especially in his love for Djali the goat! I absolutely agree with his attitude – save Djali, forget about Esmeralda. I wish there was more of him in the book.
Oddly enough, I kind of also liked Frollo, even though I was shocked when I found out, that he is only 35 years old and Esmeralda is just 16 (I imagined him around 50 and her somewhere in her late twenties or early thirties). But still, up to a certain degree I can understand him, I guess this is what happens if a hardcore Catholic gets a boner. He tried to fight it, but well, the (pedophiliac) urge was stronger.
Esmeralda. According to my former knowledge of the story (thanks, Disney) I expected a strong, smart, confident woman who fights for equality. But all I got from Hugo was a naive, stupid, superficial and ignorant child, madly in love with playboy Captain Phoebus. But hey, at least she has some principles. Cheers to that! I guess…
To be fair, she is also kindhearted when she saves Gringoire (which I am thankful for) and of course, a victim of getting stalked.
And Quasimodo. First of all, for a 600-page book that is called The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, there is not much of our hunchback Quasimodo in it.
I might get a lot of shit for my opinion on him, but I think, that he really is a beast. Even though he is misunderstood, gets mistreated (basically more by the Parisians and Esmeralda than by Frollo I might add) and therefore probably does not understand the basic concepts of human behaviour, he still does unspeakable things. Kind of like Frankenstein’s monster which I also deeply disliked. Do you remember all the heroic stuff the Disney version of Quasimodo did when defending the church and Esmeralda? He does most of it in the book too, but only much more violently and against the good guys (unknowingly though). Deaf or not, if you act like a beast that went apeshit crazy, you get treated like one. So it goes.
Hmm. I am still hanging on, but for a book called The Hunchback of Notre Dame, there is not much going on Quaismodo-wise. Stuff is happening, though.
Damn, I am confused now.
For the last hours I was reading excessive descriptions of what felt like every single building in 15th century Paris. The more I read, the less I could imagine, what the city looked like. I feel like I should take a break and play some AC Unity for a while to get a feeling for the town, because thanks to Hugo, I am completly lost now.
Resuming The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. There is Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo, Phoebus and Gringoire. Now we’re talking.
I was curious about Beckett and I was especially curious about his play Waiting for Godot. This is because whenever I have heard about it, people were either really enthusiastic or really bitchy about it. So I just did, what everyone should do in this situation – I made up my own mind.
Waiting for Godot
I like this play.
Although there is not much action going on, a lot is actually happening in this play. It is amazingly sad, funny, beautiful, depressing, cruel and touching at the same time. The relationship between Estragon and Wladimir is just incredible. And Godot? I have no idea, who or what Godot is and neither had Beckett. But is this really important? For all it’s worth, I do not think that it matters at all.
I also like this play.
Again, it is sad and beautiful at the same time. If I had to establish a central theme, it would be the power of human relationships. Beckett shows, that no matter how sick you are of someone else and how much you may despise one another, sometimes you are so dependent on each other, that – for good or worse – you simply cannot leave.
I do not like (to read) this play.
There are two types of plays - plays written to be read and plays written to be staged. Happy Days is definitely the latter. Although it is quite short, it is extremely exhausting to read due to the fact that it is basically an ongoing monologue, constantly interrupted by stage directions (which you can skip, but then it is even weirder or which you cannot skip, but then they are just annoying and interrupting the non-existent flow of the text).
I salute to every actress to take on this roll, I imagine, this is incredibly hard to play, but, honestly, reading it is a sheer nightmare.
HS Thompson. What can I say? I think he is one of the most fascinating writers and the best fucking journalist who ever lived.
Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone contains what the cover calls "The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson“ - well, I mean, that is debatable, for sure, but there are amazing pieces in here. As I have read nearly all of his novels, it was super refreshing to read some of his journalistic writings as well.
Although I personally can only bring myself to follow politics on a pretty superficial, absolute need-to-know basis, what fascinated and scared me the most in here, was his writing on the presidential election campaigns. If you just swap the names of Nixon and McGovern, this could be a report on last years election or every other one before that. Shit, this could probably even be a report for an election in 20 or 30 years! Two generations later and nothing has changed. Nothing. Not even a bit. That’s probably one reason why I stopped bothering to remember names of politicians a long time ago – because it simply doesn’t matter. They are absolutely interchangeable. And Thompson is the only journalist I know of, who has the balls to actually openly admit it.
A very touching and partly even tender piece was the obituary for Oscar Zeta Acosta, a good friend of HST and the real life model for his 300 pound Samoan attorney, who disappeared in 1974. There is no question about this – the picture Thompson draws of this incredible brown buffalo is way bigger and heavier than the man in real life. But it is not Thompsons goal to describe the man in real life, but to describe the real man. The man behind the everyday mask – the one we all wear. His unique talent was not to simply look behind this mask, but the ability to break and shatter it once and for all with his exaggeration, so he could glimpse at the person behind it. And most amazingly, he chose to share these glimpses with all of us who are willing to buy our ticket and take the ride on the HST train.