Hell

images-1.jpgYou may have noticed that I read a lot of literature from Asia, especially Japanese literature. I still have a lot of classic and well thought of titles to go but sometimes I simply select a title solely based on the perceived nationality of the author, whether I know the author or not. Luckily I have seldom been disappointed. So if the author is Japanese, I read the book. One hitch to this technique is that too often nowadays a unfamiliar title turns out to be a Manga and although I have several digital versions of Manga, I’m just not into following a graphic story: Watchman was bad enough.

One type of Japanese literature I do find exciting is the sometimes weird and often scary Japanese mysteries and thrillers. I suppose when you add to a spooky story the elements of a strong tradition of Japanese ghost stories and the somewhat unfamiliar background of Japan and Japanese customs, you get a little magnifying effect and the thrill becomes a real tingler.

There have been a number of classic and contemporary treatments of Hell: Dante is obvious, Barbusse, Palahniuk, and my recent read Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui.

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A Comment on Bizarro

imgres.jpgA few years back I discovered the new genre advertised as Bizarro Fiction. It was very uneven but showed brief glimpses of true originality and exuberant fun. I suppose the ratio of good to bad writing in Bizarro are about the same as any other form of fiction so it’s really not fair to judge the entire genre by the amount of tedium it generates: after all, people still read Science Fiction (for whatever reason).

At one time there was a small enough base that I actually began to create an academic bibliography of Bizarro authors and Bizarro works. One of the things I ran into, however, was an inkling of doubt that Bizarro was really sufficiently different in its definition from other types of writing. For instance, could Tristram Shandy be considered Bizarro literature? The best “definition” of Bizarro I ran across was when Carlton Mellick III (Bizarro’s Optimus Prime) stated that no one was writing the stories he wanted to read so he decided to write them himself: the result … Bizarro fiction.

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Late Again At XFX

images-5.jpgThe new year rolled around and I successfully updated all the parts of A Celebration of Reading (ACOR) to start the new reading list and catalog the books I read during the year. I even contemplated removing or radically modifying my Bookshelves entries since I will be donating most of the books as I move to much smaller quarters in Florida and since I have replaced so many of those books with digital versions to read on my iPad.

So I’m sitting here sipping tea and noting the imaginative, experimental books I have already read this month and contemplating a few upcoming titles that have my own bodily fluids gurgling when I realized that I had forgotten to update and extend the reading list for the embedded Experimental Fiction reading group (XFX).

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Venus On the Half-Shell

VenusImagine a planet dominated by a life form that maintains the soul of all past generations, allowing one day for each past life to control both body and mind. Then since thousands of generations have lived on this planet, each would only regain control—sentient life—for a single day in hundreds and thousands of years. Now imagine a dominant life-form that arose, not from apes, but from cats. Oh, they look basically human but with strange eyes and in perpetual heat. Also, unlike cats who only have nine lives, these civilized felines have thousands of lives.

Let’s make it tougher. Imagine a world dominated by a species where the male and the female forms are very different. The females are shaped like large pyramids with many short legs and move around all day eating the grass through their underside mouths and awaiting the return of the shiftless males each night. The males are shaped like huge dirigibles (zeppelins) and spend the day floating and cavorting in the air, propelled by powerful flatulence. At night the males moor themselves to the top of the pyramid-like females where they find not only a convenient mooring post but also a feeding tube (what! cud again tonight?) and even the appropriate female organ to enjoy some sexy-time with as they eat and recuperate from a tough day chasing clouds.

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