The Future As Past and Winter as Boring

We here at Blogagaard Inc. continue to chuck books into our faces and shove words into our brains, perhaps in opposition to mid-February and general pal of boredom that has settled over our land. Our Loft class was canceled for the spring, due to lack of enrollment (though the Loft has picked it up again for the summer, so hope springs infernal). Our job is fine, but when your job entails making sure nothing happens all day, every day, you don't exactly come home invigorated. You come home calm and silent and ready for a nap and to wake again in the darkness of six o'clock, hungry for dinner and to experience something that means a goddamn thing.

Thus we read! And what have we been reading, now that War & Peace is behind us?

Well, there's the short story collection Things We Didn't See Coming by Steve Amsterdam. A collection of tales following the life of man who comes of age as the world falls apart and goes all-apocalyptic, we delve into a world decidedly more literary than fantastical. A fine effort, with some shimmering moments, but it's hard to pull off a work that feels like a novel in scope and comes up, well, short story. I still haven't read a short story collection with intertwined stories that was completely fulfilling-perhaps that's simply the nature of such a strange beast?

And how about Memories of the Space Age by J.G. Ballard? Another intertwined short story collection, though this one is more a thematic connection: "This collection brings together Ballard's 'Cape Canaveral stories,' eight in all, written between 1962 and 1985, and set in a future when the space program has ceased and civilization itself seems on the wane." I enjoyed the first story in this collection, "The Cage of Sand", but around the middle of the second story my mind started to wander and I started to realize each additional story was basically the same story told again in a different way and I pretty much skimmed the rest. Yet, you have to give some kind of hubris props to a writer who uses three epigraphs at the beginning of a story collection, one in Greek (from Homer), one in German (from Kant? Or some famous, smarty pants German, anyway), and one in English (from...himself!).

And then there's my current read, Oryx and Crake by Margret Atwood. While The Handmaid's Tale is a classic, I think we can all agree it's a rather dry story, well-crafted but not always super exciting. Oryx and Crake, however, is much zippier and punchier, as if the Atwood I'd read long ago and had now been merged with the mega-zippy George Saunders. More speculative fiction than science fiction, we follow Snowman/Jimmy as he forages in a strange, post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by genetic mutations, flooding, and other bad stuff. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, where we slowly learn how things got so bad, and while so many flashbacks often drag, overall it's been a pretty fun read so far (I'm at around page 200, if you're keeping score at home-and if so, are you on drugs?).

Yeah. So...reading!


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