XFX: Bleeding Edge

IBM 360When I went to college nothing was computerized. I had a friend who regularly went out to Cal Tech and would sit at his kitchen table for hours pouring over thick stacks of printer paper. Computers were at Cal Tech and Shakespeare was at the UC. By the early 1970s I was working with computers, mostly for data communications and data analysis. A little more than five years my technological experiences went from my first electric typewriter to programming the then mighty IBM 360. What a combination: steeped in poetry and drama yet being paid to conduct traffic studies and coordinate message switching activities in the telecommunications industry.

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XFX: First Quarter 2013 Reading List

The selections for reading during the First Quarter of 2013 have been posted for the Experimental Fiction group (XFX). They are:

  • The Fan-Maker’s Inquisition: A Novel of the Marquis de Sade
    — Rikki Ducornet (o1-16)
  • V — Thomas Pynchon (02-01)
  • The Death of Artimeo Cruz — Carlos Fuentes (02-16)
  • Parallel Stories: A Novel — Péter Nádas (03-01)
  • Titus Groan — Mervyn Peake (03-16)

Note that the Mervyn Peake selection is the first volume of the Gormenghast Trilogy. It is available in a single volume to facilitate subsequent reading of the remaining two volumes (Gormenghast, Titus Alone). A fourth volume, cobbled together from notes after the author’s death, was written by the author’s wife (no comment).

For more information on the Experimental Fiction group, the links are in the menu under ACTIVE.


I read that Inherent Vice was Thomas Pynchon’s sequel to Vineland and cringed. Inherent Vice was a silly, weak-assed fictionalization involving the sub-cultures surviving in the Los Angeles area, including the surfer crowd and lots of drugs. Vineland was about the survivors of sixties subculture in California but there the comparison, stretched as it is, ends. Vineland is a well structured novel with a narrative that is varied by character, loops back regularly on critical events, and involves just enough otherness to leave the reader with some concern for the generally realistic elements of the narrative.

Like so many novels, Vineland is enhanced if you have some experience with the events and locations that it presents. If you have no experience with Hippies or the lure of Northern California communes (now very newsworthy for the quality of the bud grown on the foggy mountainsides), then parts of Vineland are going to be less immediate than they would be to a Wavy Gravy (for instance).

But Vineland isn’t a novel of the sixties with the Merry Pranksters and love beads; it’s a novel covering the start of the Reagan era of greed and mendacity involving overly zealous government types and aging hippies. The cover writeup from the Penguin edition gives a good summary:

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