If all goes according to plan there will be a huge self-important blog entry about theater and horror next week, so you can forgive me for being a bit skimpy here. In the meantime, I have some random thoughts and comments about things I’ve seen/done.
First off, I read Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, which was his first novel and boy can you tell. Still, Simmons is probably one of my favorite writers working today, so when I found the book used in an Oxfam I grabbed it. My understanding of postcolonial theory made me cringe at the premise, even if I tried not to, but in the end it wasn’t that bad; Simmons just basically rewrites Heart of Darkness, and that’s tired ground. What’s more disappointing is how the novel itself seems kind of half-assed. It has a first person narrator, for instance, and the very first page of the book is him talking about how much he hates the city of Calcutta and how much he wants to see it destroyed by atom bombs and all of the people living there to die horribly. By the end of the book, we’ve seen what brought him to feel this way, except Simmons then turns around and has him tell us that life’s not that bad and he can soldier on no matter how horrible the world and/or Calcutta is. Never mind that it’s ridiculous having a character tell you up front, first thing, that he wants to obliterate an entire city and its people, having him backpedal at the very end is even worse. So in the end, not a great book, though a handful of Simmons’s later books are fucking gold in my eyes.
Speaking of writers, Joe “Spawn of King” Hill blew through London today on the tour for his new book Horns, which I have not yet read but of which I now own an autographed copy. Hill is a good writer, smart and sensitive and, sometimes, a lot like his dad was in the 70s and 80s in terms of tone. This is a good thing. I’m not going to say I think he’s the best horror writer in the market today, because he’s not and I think he’d reject that label anyway, but he’s still leagues ahead of 80% of his contemporaries. The comic series he writes for IDW, Locke & Key, is probably my favorite thing by him at the moment.
Also, you’ll remember a few weeks back I got an old used book by a dude named Ignacio Muez Ajedra. I wasn’t impressed with it then, and I’m not impressed with it now, but I finally made it through the whole thing. The title story, “The Chameleon,” was some weird urban postapocalyptic thing that was simultaneously dated and ahead of its time (sort of like The Machine Stops by EM Forster). It was plotless, like almost everything else in the book, but the setting made it interesting; it was basically two dudes on a street in London outside some flats, and it was implied that some horrible thing had happened/was happening, and these guys were using it as an opportunity to rob the flats. There was also a bum wrapped in rags who was nearby, and the guys thought he was sick (one was worried it was a spy; the other kept telling him that the bum had “the pest” which I believe is the name of some sort of new plague, cf. pestilence). At the end the bum stood up because I guess he wasn’t sick or he was a spy or something, I don’t know. The story literally ends with that sentence, and given the time the book was published I’m guessing the whole thing is supposed to be a socialist polemic.
This is further supported by the poem that ends the book, a sort of “oh look at me look how tortured I, the representative of the common mass of people, am” thing, like Carl Sandburg from Hell. I typed it up below because 1) it sounds kind of cool regardless; 2) the book has the Spanish and English text, supporting the idea that IMA was an immigrant; and 3) a substantial portion of the job I have actually consists of typing up old poems for digital transcription, so I’m kind of in the habit.
Anyway, here’s the poem, which is untitled. I remember enough of my Spanish to know that there’s a tense change in the translation to English, but hell if I know why.
Sueño que tengo un millón de bocas
Y todas están gritando
Sueño que tengo un millón de ojos
Y todos están llorando
Sueño que tengo un millón de heridas
Y todas están sangrando
Sueño que tengo un millón de mentes
Y todas están soñando
I dreamt I had a million mouths
And all of them were screaming
I dreamt I had a million eyes
And all of them were weeping
I dreamt I had a million wounds
And all of them were bleeding
I dreamt I had a million minds
And all of them were dreaming