Gift Guide 2016 – Book Picks from Steve, the Blog Husband

by Steve

I admit it, for the past few years I’ve been slacking with this whole book-gift-giving-recommendation thing.  It’s not that I haven’t been reading anything, heavens no.  This year I read “Riddley Walker,” “The Road,” “Underground Airlines,”  “Cloud Atlas,  “A Canticle for Leibowitz” (which I really enjoyed).  And a bunch of other stuff.

From the above you can see that this year I became obsessed with good ole’ fashioned apocalyptic dystopian fantasies.  End times stuff, it must have been in the air.  Lord, I could have just looked out the window.   Anyway, reader beware, for beyond this paragraph here be monsters.

 J.G. Ballard.  “High-Rise” and “Concrete Island”.  This summer I went on a Ballard bender.  Whoo boy.  Thought it important to better understand the influences behind the Punk and New Wave movements; those guys and gals have a thing for technology, isolation, and violence.  Clockwork Orange with fast cars.  One book, notoriously famous, was absolutely unreadable. I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was so appalling.  I was embarrassed to hand it back to the librarian.  Another famous book was disappointing.

But there are two worth looking at.  “Concrete Island” is a modern Robinson Crusoe tale of a man trapped on a traffic island under a highway overpass. After some initial struggles he decides to remain on the island, becoming the lord and master of his tiny kingdom.  Great idea, could do with a little more work.  “High-Rise” is the better of the two.  The inhabitants of a 40-story apartment building slowly descend into savagery when the power goes spotty and routine maintenance is forgotten.  The symbolism, of course, is obvious.  No subtlety here.  And now it’s a motion picture starring all of your favorites:  Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, and Elizabeth Moss.  Sorry honey, I know you are quite fond of these actors, but this movie will certainly make you squirm.  Nevertheless, in the queue!

Michel Houllebecq.  “Submission”.  One of the best things I read this year.  An indifferent and disillusioned French academic.  A quirky French election.  An Islamic regime in power.  With a Gallic shrug the academic adapts and carries on, realizing that all he really cares about are his bourgeois pleasures.  An intriguing piece of work.  Could be worth a second read.

Victor Klemperer.  “I Will Bear Witness”.  I don’t know why I went back to these two books.  I haven’t read anything Nazi-related in years.  After all, as a famously handsome man once said, “Nazis.  I hate these guys.”  And they are loathsome.  So, at a subconscious level may there is a reason why I returned to Klemperer.  This is his diary chronicling increasing degradation as his life as a thoroughly unreligious Jewish German is slowly circumscribed under the Nazi regime.  Each day, each week brings another indignity to Klemperer, and as the months progress the screw tightens.  At which point does a person say “enough”?  At which point is it too late?  What is tolerable?  Like the frog in the pot of water gradually coming to a boil, can any of us recognize when it’s time to hop out?

Ugh, sorry to be such a downer, but I feel that mentally we have to steel ourselves against some sort of unpredictable future unpleasantness.  Be prepared, so to speak.  But who cares?!  Here’s a bourgeois pug in a top hat!

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LOL, but as Jonah says:  “Real Talk”.  I don’t mean to be flippant because one could argue that a lack of seriousness got us into our present predicament.  Keep your eyes open.  Happy Holidays.

5 thoughts on “Gift Guide 2016 – Book Picks from Steve, the Blog Husband

  1. I’m on page 102 of “A Canticle for Leibowitz” and have been since about 2012 or so. I really should finish it, but I developed a hatred for that young monk.

  2. On the politics front, I’m cheering myself that if Marx is right about history repeating itself as farce, the Night of the Long Knives 2.0 ought to be fun to watch.

  3. A general “yes” to the frog in boiling water. The secular, assimilated German Jews thought that they were safe but they ended up on the trains alongside everyone else. A good warning to any of us who may imagine that we can escape any negative impact of the new regime. This isn’t Nazi Germany but then it probably didn’t look so bad to them either at the beginning.

    And if we have enough privilege to avoid the personal cost of this presidency, I believe that we have a duty to help out those who cannot.

    That photo of Trump at dinner with Romney at Jean-Georges is creepy. He will pay a high price for whatever he is hoping to get in return.

  4. My reaction to what’s going on outside the window is to turn to predictable good versus evil fantasy, in which evil is clearly defined, good battles evil, and predictable wins (though hard times may come along the way our core characters survive).

    “With a Gallic shrug the academic adapts and carries on, realizing that all he really cares about are his bourgeois pleasures.”

    MIchael Kelly, columnist, died in the Iraq war, wrote a column, in 2000, “The Importance Of Being Earnest”, in which he celebrated that America is the “unironic nation”:

    “God bless our unironic nation. We are, this birthday week, still earnest after all these years. Nothing so marks America, and Americans, as the quality of unironic earnestness, and for nothing else are we so mocked. Must we be so serious? Why, yes
    . . .

    France is the exemplary ironic nation. France has been ironic for nearly the entire modern age, which is why it has been impotent for nearly the entire modern age. No nation provides so clear an illustration of the dangers of irony as France: You sit in a cafe long enough, wearing black and muttering ironic observations on the passing scene, and one day the passing scene is the German army, again. Isn’t that ironic?”

    I think one of the proofs of the reaction of the Hillary supporters in the light of the electoral college loss is that we are emphatically unironic (even the hipsters, in spite of their public image). When I read the article, now almost 17 years ago, I remember thinking that one reason America remains relentlessly unironic is the continued influx of immigrant strivers.

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