Tuesday, February 07, 2006

one harsh miss.

There's this live Mountain Goats song where he introduces it by saying that he sometimes wonders if he's a bad person for doing such things to the characters he creates. With this in mind, I'm left to wonder what personal struggles Ms. Flannery O'Connor may have gone through.
I've always wanted to read Flannery O'Connor, but have somehow managed to never actually do so until now. About all I knew about her was that she wrote the short story "A Good Man is Hard To Find," which is just a good title, not to mention a damn fine Bessy Smith song. I also had heard that she was Christian, but hadn't remembered that until now. So, with my limited knowledge, I picked up A Good Man is Hard To Find and Other Stories. Now, I guess I didn't realize how, well, hardcore, Ms. O'Connor is. The title story made my stomach turn and from there it is an amoral playground of perfectly unlikable characters. The book is fantastic. She creates some pretty amazingly awful situations where, if the characters aren't inherently bad people, they are either obnoxious or ignorant to the point of being unlikable or violent. I will admit this I might be generalizing/exagerating, probably not every character in this book fits this description, but, for the most part, the world of Flannery O'Connor is dark and ugly and completely entrancing. Very hard to shake off.

mark kurlansky is a jerkface.

The current trend in non-fiction seems to be histories of one broad subject: Ice, Hunger, The Pencil, Collapse, Water, Peace, Clay, Rubble, these are all completely seperate books, most of which have come out in the last six months.
At first I thought this was just odd, but, as more and more came out, I've grown more and more pissed off that all these people think they can cover any kind of history of these subjects in 300 pages. Now, I will say that I haven't read any of these. I've checked out a little of Collapse and it seems really good, but it's also the only one where the size of the book fits the subject. So I will say that possibly some of these books might do a good job with the subject they tackle, you never know, it's possible.
But the trend itself just reminds me of the foolishness of humans, thinking we can know more than we can, attempting to rationally understand everything. I want to say history will prove us meek and small, but that's sort of undermining my own existance, so I won't.
It's like all these authors went to the same workshop, where the leader of the workshop was like "try to write a whole book on one really large, really general topic." I realized the other day that, if there was such a workshop, it was probably lead by Mark Kurlansky. Kurlansky is the author of such popular books as Salt, Cod, and 1968. Now, again, I've never read these books, and from what I hear, he's a good writer, but I'm not a fan, simply because he seems to be the one who popularized this pseudo-genre and proved a successful career could be made out of such attempts at omnipotence.
I wonder if this will just continue until every last thing has a whole book about it. Is everybody just running out of ideas? Are writers just like, "I need a new book, but what shall it be about? I have no ideas. What's something I like...Oh, ribbons! Ribbons: The Social and Cultural History, this'll be great!"
The future doesn't look bright. Or, at least it looks really boring.