Category Archives: Novel

Trailer for William S. Burroughs Documentary

Human faces tentative flicker in and out of focus. We waded into the warm mud-water. Hair and ape flesh off in screaming strips. Stood naked human bodies covered with phosphorescent green jelly. Soft tentative flesh cut with ape wounds. Peeling other genitals. Fingers and tongues rubbing off the jelly-cover. Body melting pleasure-sounds in the warm mud. Till the sun went and a blue wind of silence touched human faces and hair. When we came out of the mud we had names…

…Larval people whispering flesh. Eyes ejaculated spine mud. Black gum in member. Old junky coughing limestone in the obsidian morning: the sale mirror to red sky. Manipulated spasms puppets vestigial meat. Pulsing pink shell. Red pagodas and crystal accounts. Wet dream eyes hanging in lust of dead flesh patios. Boy chrysalis in streets of postcard. Eating birds patrol black lichen. Catatonic sports sear lungs of dream clay. Lust of mud bubble coal gas the insect street. Flesh ejaculation. Penis in the broken mirror rocks of Marwan. Serving the crystal dawn photo of sex. On the Brass and Copper Street…

An evil old character with sugary eyes that stuck to you…They were ripe for the plucking forgot way back yonder in the corn hole—Lost in little scraps of delight and burning scrolls…The man opposite me didn’t look like much—A thin gray man in a long coat that flickered like old film…in these times when practically anybody is subject to wander in from the desert with a quit claim deed and snatch a girl’s snatch right out from under her assets…When the boy peeled off the dry goods he gives off a slow stink like a thawing mummy…Crab men peer out of abandoned quarries and shag heaps some sort of vestigial eye growing cheek bone and a look about them as if they could take root and grow on anybody…

William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine, 1963.

William S. Burroughs is one of those authors that people either love or hate, but that’s the objective, the purpose of his work – to be a human lightning rod of gesticulating and mercurial passion. Like yours truly, in other words.

Always wanted to see a good movie about this maniac, who has always been one of my favorite writers.

I gave out Naked Lunch to a few of my friends, and they would bring it back warily with shaking hands convinced that I was obviously gay. Well, Burroughs’ writing is full of gay sex, but that’s not a reason to read it. The sex is boring and repetitive anyway, but the descriptions of it like all his writing are often beautiful. Gay sex scenes usually disgust me, and I end up throwing the book at the wall. This often breaks the spine and pages fall out, but it’s just as well. That book deserved that wall for the audacious travesty of daring to put that awfulness in there. But Burroughs, that I can read.

Anyway, 90% of the people who read Burroughs aren’t gay. Burroughs is so much more than a gay writer. For a while there, he may well have been the greatest writer in America.

I read almost all of his writing. Most people thought I was a freak for liking the guy in the first place. But Burroughs is not only a Beat but the original avant-garde writer and the forerunner to punk rock. More than that: Burroughs actually was a punk, decades before his team. He’s been loved by hipsters, artists, and cutting edge freaks and psychos for decades. He’s very much worth reading.

His writing is a lot of things, but it’s often also beautiful, which is strange given its often ugly subject matter. But to find beauty in the awfulness of life, the sublime amidst the squalor, is one of the purposes of life.

Viewed one way, half of life is glorious and the other half is sad. Half of life wonderful and the other half is horrible. And that’s if you are lucky. I have counseling clients who are sad. I tell them that sadness is a natural part of life and that half of life is sadness, even if the other half is radiant happiness.

“When you feel sad,” I tell them. “Say to yourself, ‘Thank God for that feeling! Sit back somewhere alone and just immerse yourself in the sadness of life. Don’t kill yourself or do anything drastic. Just be part of the reality of life’s essential sadness.”

If half of life is sad (and that’s being generous – Jack Kerouac often said that that Buddhists said, ‘All of life is sadness’ – and in way he was correct), then it only makes sense to make yourself aware of that fact and even bask or immerse yourself in it if you dare. If you do that, you may find that there is even an a transcendent beauty in sadness, something the great artists and mystics have taken about forever. Ever seen a great sad movie that moved you to tears. It was awful and beautiful at the same time, right?

Burroughs led a very interesting life. He lived in Mexico City for a while with some other Beats. One night he was playing “William Tell” at a drunken party with his wife Joan (yes he was married for a bit and even fathered a child named Billy), trying to shoot a drink glass off her head. He missed and shot her in the head instead. Police interviewed and determined it was an accident and let him off. Talking about this with a friend who liked Kerouac a lot more than Burroughts, my friend shook his head, “He definitely went crazy after that,” he said. Maybe so. But Burroughs was always pretty crazy, even as a boy. The great writers and artists often are after all.

Your task: Identify the following famous Beats and hipsters in this short film:

  1. Allen Ginsberg
  2. Lucien Carr
  3. Patti Smith
  4. Herbert Huncke
  5. John Giorno
  6. James Grauerholz (twice)

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Filed under Cinema, Literature, Music, Novel, Philosophy, Punk, Rock

From Alchemy to Chemistry, with Rainbows

The name Chemistry is said to be derived from the Arabic word Kimia, something hidden or concealed, and from this to have been converted into Xyueia*, a word first used by the Greeks about the eleventh century and meaning the art of making gold and silver. Between the fifth century and the taking of Constantinople in the fifteenth century, says Dr. Thomson, in his History of Chemistry, the Greeks believed in the possibility of making gold and silver artificially; and the art which professed to teach the processes was called by them Chemistry. This idea, however, has long since been thoroughly discarded, and is now no longer heard of.

Revered Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Introduction to Chemical Physics, 1881

My what a fine bit of trivia/pedantry I found here. The famous modern author, Thomas Pynchon, also has the name Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, but he is Thomas Ruggles Pynchon 5th to be precise. The 19th Century Thomas Ruggles Pynchon became president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he taught chemistry and math.

We see here that the root of the word chemistry derives from alchemy, the process by which men for centuries tried to create gold and silver out of other metals via chemical means. The chemical process by which the alchemy was done was then called chemistry.  The original root is Arabic Kimia, hidden or concealed, as it was thought that the gold or silver was hidden somehow in ordinary metals and could be brought to the surface via chemical transformation.

When you open a copy of Introduction to Chemical Physics, the first thing you see, before the text even begins, are rainbows created via a chemical spectrometer.


An illustration of rainbows in Principles of Chemical Physics, which appears before the text even starts.

When a material is heated to incandescence, it emits light that is characteristic of the atomic makeup of the material. Particular light frequencies give rise to sharply defined bands on the scale which can be thought of as fingerprints. For example, the element sodium has a very characteristic double yellow band known as the Sodium D-lines at 588.9950 and 589.5924 nanometers, the color of which will be familiar to anyone who has seen a low pressure sodium vapor lamp.

His descendant, the author Thomas Pynchon, is the author of one of the greatest works of modern English literature, Gravity’s Rainbow* (1973). Hence the descendant is foreshadowed by the ancestor, a man perhaps born a century too soon. And there is indeed a lot of science in Gravity’s Rainbow, much of which concerns the commercial applications of chemistry. So here the descendant offers a flashback to the ancestor and takes reverent bow at his gravestone.

* You know,  if you haven’t read it yet, you really need to read this book if you are into literature at all. It’s not easy reading at all. It’s on a par with James Joyce’s Ulysses and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and in fact, all three would be a good choice for the best English novels written since 1850. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what’s going on. Believe it or not, it doesn’t even matter if you understand what’s happening. It’s a magical mystery tour all the same. Just buckle your seatbelt, open the pages and sit back for the ride.


Filed under Arabic, English language, Linguistics, Literature, Novel, Science

Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”

Some truly great music from the truly great Bob Dylan off the truly great album Blood on the Tracks (1974), one of the greatest rock albums ever made. This is where Dylan really made his comeback. I think he had just turned Christian, but no matter really. I doubt if the Jews will ever forgive him for that ultimate transgression.

Actually this take and these alternate lyrics are from something called the New York Sessions which preceded the album. I know little about these sessions. There are a number of different versions of this song and the others on the album that were recorded in these sessions. The version on the album has very different lyrics and is the one people know best. The lyrics below are from this alternate take, which is actually nothing but an outtake!

There is a lot of discussion about which lyrics are better. I think that the final version on the album after he had rewritten the lyrics a number of times is better, but people go back and forth. The album version is acoustic, nothing but Bob, an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. This one has a bass and an organ. Some like it better and some don’t. I think the two new instruments add a great effect that actually makes this haunting version better than the one on the album. There is a bootleg version, perhaps on The Basement Tapes, that is said to be the best one of them all. Nonetheless, this session take is interesting and of course it’s important for Dylan completists.

I think there is a backstory to this. He’s obviously ranting at his enemies for some reason or another. It’s a great song if you’re feeling paranoid (I do not recommend this) or if you are in a mood for hating your enemies (I recommend this, but not all the time please – heart attacks are forever). It’s also good if you are in one of those rare moods where you hate the world and just want to go back to bed and hope it all goes away like a bad dream whenever you wake up many hours later. Thankfully, these moods are rare. Or is that how too many of us feel most every day? I don’t even know anymore. Life is so confusing. I feel like I am living in a Samuel Beckett novel:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

– Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 1962.

Then again, I’ve been feeling that way most of my life even before I read Molloy, had a life-changing experience, and saw God radiating through a marijuana haze in my college apartment in 1980.

I must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

– Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable, 1949

If you ever read that and think, “Story of my life!” I think we were probably separated at birth.

See you all at the re-runs, the sequels, the encores. After that, one for the road, the farewell tour, the curtain call, the taps, the wake.

The good ones. The best ones. Bob Dylan forever and ever the best. Never one better ever. Bobby Dylan, always.

Take a bow, Robert Zimmerman!

Someone’s got it in for me
They’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out
But when they will I can only guess
They say I shot a man named Gray
And took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks
And when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky

People see me all the time
And they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas
Images and distorted facts
Even you yesterday
You had to ask me where it was at
I couldn’t believe after all these years
You didn’t know me better than that
Sweet lady

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

I threw the I Ching yesterday
It said there might be some thunder at the well
Peace and quiet’s been avoiding me
For so long it seems like living Hell
There’s a lone soldier on the hill
Watching falling pouring raindrops pour
You didn’t know it to look at him
That in the final shot he won the war
After losin’ every battle

I woke up on the roadside
Daydreamin’ about the way things sometimes are
Hoofbeats pounding in my head
At breakneck speed and makin’ me see stars.
You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch
Flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle

Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

It was gravity which pulled us in
And destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage
But it just wasn’t enough to change my heart
Now everything’s a little upside down
As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good
You’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom

I noticed at the ceremony
That you left all your bags behind
The driver came in after you left
He gave them all to me and then he resigned
The priest wore black on the seventh day
Waltzed around while the building burned
You didn’t trust me for a minute babe
I’ve never know the spring to turn
So quickly into autumn

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your jaw
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

We pushed each other a little too far
And one day it just jumped into a raging storm
A hound dog bayed behind your trees
As I was packing up my uniform
I figure I’d lost you anyway
Why go on? What’s the use?
In order to get a word with you
I’d have had to come up with some excuse
And it just struck me kind of funny

I been doublecrossed too much
I think I’ve almost lost my mind
Ladykillers load dice on me
Behind my back while imitators steal me blind
You close your eyes and part your lips
And slip your fingers from your gloves
You can have the best there is
But you it’s gonna cost you all you love
You won’t get it for money

Idiot wind
Blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind
Blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves


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A Motto of the Alt Left, Via Liberation Theology

La gente, unida! Jamas sera vencido!

The people, united! Will never be defeated!

– An old Castroite Marxist revolutionary chant from Central America and South America, with roots back especially to the great Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador (who I used to buy guns for), the URNG in Guatemala, probably the ELN in Colombia, and probably the great FARC in Colombia.

All of these movements except the FARC were “Christian Communists” or “Catholic Communists.” Most of the rank and file guerrillas all the way up to the leadership were Catholics. In Nicaragua, leader Daniel Ortega was and still is a practicing Catholic and one of the top leaders of the Sandinistas was Tomas Borge, a Catholic priest. The ELN was led by a former Catholic priest named Camilo Torres, who traded his frock for an AK-47 and led a guerrilla group in the mountains of northwestern Colombia. He was killed soon after he started the ELN in 1964. The ELN has never renounced its Catholic roots and is a de facto “Catholic Marxist” organization.


The Eastern Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox have been much more progressive than the  Catholic hierarchy, but that was not so at the  beginning of the century when the Cheka executed over 12,000 top ranking Orthodox officials in first several years of the Revolution. The Russian Orthodox Church or at least many believers are quite leftwing these days. They often hobnob with Communists, Leftists and even monarchists. Even the monarchists are pretty leftwing in Russia today.  Russia is a place where everyone is leftwing. There is no Right in Russia. Well actually there is,  but the Right has only 10-15% support. Putin’s party is defined as “Russian conservatism” but Putin says he still believes in the  ideals of Communism and socialism which he regards as very similar to the Biblical values of the Russian Orthodox Church. This marriage is not unusual and high ranking Church officials even today regularly make pro-socialist and pro-Communist remarks. Sort of ” Jesus as a Bolshevik” if you will. Stalin himself was studying to be a priest in a sen\minary of the Georgian Orthodox Church when he gave it up to be a full-time bank robber/revolutionary.  The thing is that you cannot understand Stalin at all until you understand his deep background in the Orthodox religion. Although Stalin called himself an atheist, he remained deeply Orthodox in  his mindset until he died. He ever revived the Church during and after the war for patriotic reasons. Stalin was very much a social conservative and his social conservatism was deeply inflected by his Georgian Orthodox seminarian roots, which he never renounced.

The Orthodox Christian churches of the Arab World have always been leftwing, along with the Church in Iran and Turkey. George Habash, founder of the Marxist PFLP in Palestine, was a Greek Orthodox. Many of the rank and file even of the PFLP armed guerrilla have always been Orthodox Christians. The Greek Orthodox SSNP in Lebanon and Syria are practically Communists. Interestingly, this was the first group to widely use suicide bombings early in 1982 and 1983 in the first years of the Lebanese Civil War. Most of the first suicide bombings, up to scores or hundreds in first few years, were by Communists, often Christian Orthodox Communists. Many of these suicide bombers were even women. It was only later that the Shia adopted the technique.

The man who created the Baath Party, the Iraqi Michel Aflaq, was an Orthodox Christian. The party had Leftist roots as an officially socialist party. Tariq Aziz, high-ranking member of Saddam’s Baath party, was an Orthodox Christian and a Leftist. Assad’s party in Syria is a Leftist party. Most Syrian Orthodox Christians are strong supporters of Assad, the Baath Party and Leftism. Recently the Syrian Defense Minister was a Christian.

The few Orthodox Christians left in Turkey are typically Leftists.

Many Greek Orthodox are Leftists. Serbian Orthodox laypeople and hierarchy long supported Milosevic, who was a Communist.

The Russians who violently split away from Ukraine in the Donbass were so Leftist that they called their new states “people’s republics.” Most of the leadership and the armed forces are Orthodox Christians. The armed groups had priests serving alongside in most cases. They often led battlefield burials for the troops.

There are deep roots of this sort of thing in Russia. Tolstoy is very Christian in an Orthodox sense, but he is also often seen as a socialist. Dostoevsky’s work is uber-Christian from an Orthodox point of view and he is not very friendly to radicals. However, before he started writing, he was arrested for Leftist revolutionary activities and sentenced to prison in Siberia. Most of his colleagues were hanged and Dostoevsky only barely escaped by the tip of his nose. Dostoevsky was not very nice to the rich either. No Russian writer of that time was, not even Turgenev. The rich destroyed 19th Century Russia. Anyone with eyes can see that. It would have been hard for any artistic heart above room temperature to not hate the Russian rich and feel sympathy for the peasantry. Turgenev’s first books were paeans to the Russian peasantry, and he was raised on an estate!








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Filed under Catholicism, Central America, Christianity, Colombia, Economics, El Salvador, Eurasia, Europe, Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Latin America, Lebanon, Left, Literature, Marxism, Middle East, Nicaragua, Novel, Orthodox, Palestine, Politics, Regional, Religion, Revolution, Russia, Serbia, Socialism, South America, Syria, Turkey, USSR

Theological Question

Is redemption possible in Hell?

Standard Christian doctrine would say no. When you’re in Hell,  there’s no hope. The Catholics devised Purgatory, but that was for people like me who were not quite bad enough for Hell but were definitely not Heaven-bound. In Purgatory, it’s like an exercise regimen for that roll of flab around your belly – you’ve got to work it off. Sure, the tortures are horrible, but if you survive then, you get the Manna. Plus as awful as Purgatory is, it pales compared to the never-ending horror movie you will be starring in in Hell.

How about some radical Christian thinkers?

If you read enough Dostoevsky, he believes redemption is possible in Hell, and that’s just one of the great things about him. For instance, see Grushenka’s tale to Aloysha in The Brothers Karamazov (p. 340) when she tells the story of the woman in Hell who was offered an onion by her Guardian Angel as a ticket out of Hell. This is similar to Ivan’s tale of Mary’s visit to Hell, where Hell can abide both mercy and punishment.

In a conversation between Ivan and Aloysha (p. 259), the two discuss whether there is forgiveness for the worst of men, the torturer. Both agree that if there is universal harmony, then there will be forgiveness for the worst of men. However, Ivan says that there shall be no forgiveness for the torturer and therefore this is no universal harmony. Instead of agreeing with him, Aloysha says that “Christ can forgive everything, all and for all, for he gave his universal blood for all and everything.” In other words, the Kingdom of God is not complete until there is forgiveness for all, including torturers. Aloysha believes that no one is outside of redemption. Obviously, this must include people in Hell.

This doctrine is clearly absent from the OT and NT, but if you make your way through the wondrous Apocrypha, you will stumble upon. The little known Gospel of Peter is quite clear that there can be redemption in Hell. It’s a lot clearer about it than Dostoevsky. That’s what I love about the Apocrypha. Such wild and near-fantastic tales and even doctrine in there. The Apocrypha seem to be stretching Christian theology to its very limits or even beyond, but that’s part of why they are great. It’s almost as if they are applying a nascent scientific method to the Bible, to figure out what’s really lurking back there behind it all. It’s Fringe Theology, but the fringe is OK. Many of the finest discoveries in science came from Fringe Science and were derided as pseudoscientific at the time.

In any process of discovery of knowledge, from the prosaic to the sublime, the best results are found by pushing your inquiry to the absolute limits or beyond. The only real limit in any exploratory inquiry is the limit of your own imagination.

Why be rigid? Rocks are rigid. If you are rigid, you are basically a rock. And once you decide to go rigid, you are locked in ore forever more, and for what purpose? Peace of mind? How weak. That’s no way to be an ubermensch. Go up and beyond. Rise above. Transcend. The sky’s the limit.


Connolly, Julian W. 2013. Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Gibson, Andrew Boyce. 2016. The Religion of Dostoevsky. Wipf and Stock Publishers.


Filed under Catholicism, Christianity, Literature, Novel, Philosophy, Religion, Science

Pio Baroja

Where’s this guy been all my life? The name sounds familiar, but I didn’t really know anything about him. Another Generation of ’98 writer who barely made it through the Spanish Civil War.

Federico Garcia Lorca, the doomed gay poet, one of the finest poets of the 20th Century, of course was assassinated in this war, but he was from the next generation of Spanish writers, the Generation of ’27. They were much more avant garde than the ’98’ers.

The Generation of ’98 were a whole new crop of Spanish writers who popped up at the turn of the century in Spain. Spain was still a monarchy back then and these were times of fervent. The monarchy was trying to balance between the desire of the people to modernize the humanize their country and the desires of the Church conservatives to keep things as static as they were.

At the same time, in 1898, Spain was reeling from its defeat in several wars around the globe. Thousands of Spaniards were dead, and Spain lost all of its colonies. This was a time of great upheaval in Spain. The ’98’ers attacked traditional culture and the monarchy which they say as conformist and undemocratic. In this sense, they were like the liberal protest movements that arose in Germany after World War 1 who attacked German culture and ways of thinking in the light of their painful defeat in the war.

These liberal movements were met with a conservative backlash or mostly demobbed soldiers who formed gangs called the Brownshirts who fought socialists and communists in the streets of Germany. These conservatives felt that the liberals had “stabbed the country in the back” and been traitorous during the war, leading to the nation’s defeat. One of these demobbed soldiers was an angry, wounded soldier named Adolf Hitler and it was from this Right vs Left firestorm in the streets that the Nazi God of Destruction arose a decade later. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, the regeneration of the illustrious nation of blood and soul, which is fascism in a nutshell. Fascism can best be seen as palingetic revolution of the Right. The word palingetic brings to mind the Phoenix rises to glory from the ashes of defeat.

Baroja was a liberal like most of that generation. He grew up in the Basque Country. He wrote a number of trilogies, including The Sea, The Cities, The Struggle for Life, The Basque Country and a few others. The Struggle for Life is a gritty, harsh trilogy about life in the slums of Madrid. John Dos Passos was very fond of this series. Probably his most famous book is The Tree of Knowledge. Baroja was a pessimist and a nihilist who soured on life at a young age.

I do not mind reading downbeat authors though, even if I am an optimist. Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid.

Baroja was influenced by Nietzsche, but below almost looks like Heidegger. I like the elaborate, ornate, very descriptive prose of the 19th Century. I love the long, fancy sentences where the tail of the sentence almost seems to be the head. I don’t mind getting to the end of a Henry James sentence, commas and all, and then wondering what the start of the sentence was about. It’s fun to decipher fancy writing. People don’t write like this much anymore as it is considered to be too elaborate and difficult for its own sake. I believe some of the finest writing in English was done in the 19th Century though. I can’t get enough of those $64,000 sentences. They’re so good you could almost take them to the bank.

Most of Baroja has not yet been translated into English, though he has been famous in Spain for a century.  Hemingway was heavily influenced by Baroja, although this fact is little known.

Isn’t that some fine writing?

The individual is the only real thing in nature and in life. Neither the species, the genus, nor the race, actually exists; they are abstractions, terminologies, scientific devices, useful as syntheses but not entirely exact. By means of these devices we can discuss and compare; they constitute a measure for our minds to use, but have no external reality. Only the individual exists through himself and for himself. I am, I live, is the sole thing a man can affirm.

The categories and divisions arranged for classification are like the series of squares an artist places over a drawing to copy it by. The lines of the squares may cut the lines of the sketch; but they will cut them, not in reality but only in the artist’s eye. In humanity, as in all of nature, the individual is the one thing. Only individuality exists in the realm of life and in the realm of spirit.

Pio Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, 1903

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Filed under Art, Catholicism, Christianity, Conservatism, Culture, Europe, European, Fascism, Germany, History, Liberalism, Literature, National Socialism, Nazism, Novel, Philosophy, Poetry, Political Science, Regional, Religion, Spain, War, World War 1

Reading List (Anyone Else Read Like This)?

I am a voracious reader, and lately at least, I am often reading between 20-40 books all at once. I pick up one, read 20 pages or so, and put it down. Then I pick up another one, read another 20 pages or so, and put it down too. It’s not really a problem for most nonfiction books and it works fine for books of essays and short stories. The poetry I read is often long narrative poetry where you have a single poem that goes on for an entire book of 200-300 pages. This method works well for these poetry books.

It is a bit of a problem with novels. I will admit it. You do tend to lose your place a bit and sometimes I just have to go back and start all the way over again. I think I am going to need to restart War and Peace and the Brothers Karamazov because I forgot what I read.

I do not know if this way of reading is stupid and sensible. It’s just the way I do it. It’s actually rather fun to read this way.

The list:


  1. 33 books


  1. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  2. Feodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  3. Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise
  4. Joyce Carol Oates, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart
  5. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  6. Tom Robbins, Still Live with Woodpecker
  7. John Rechy, Bodies and Souls
  8. John Updike, Until the End of Time
  9. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
  10. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  11.  Chuck Pahalunik, Invisible Monsters
  12.  Franz Kafka, The Trial
  13. John Irving, Son of the Circus
  14. James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Short Stories

  1.  Joyce Carol Oates, Night-Side
  2.  Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
  3.  Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  4. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  5. Daniel Francis Howard, The Western Tradition: An Anthology of Short Stories


  1. John Milton, Paradise Lost
  2. Steven St. Vincent Benet, Western Star


  1. Loren Eisley, Night Country (science)
  2. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (nature)
  3. Edward Abbey, Down the River (nature)
  4. Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
  5. Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon
  6. Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years (nature)
  7. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink (cognitive science)

Unclassified Nonfiction

  1. Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (philosophy)
  2. Showan Khurshid, Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics (political science)
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (philosophy)
  4. John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (gender studies)
  5. John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (science)


Filed under Literature, Novel, Poetry

Books All White Men Own

Books all White men own.

I read 29 of 79, which 38%, or more than a third of them. If you include the ones where I saw the movie or read another book of the author’s, it’s up to 44 or 57%, more than half. All told I have read 89 books by the 78 authors below.

See how many of these you have read. 

If you are a white man and you think you do not own one of these books, try looking under your bed, it’s probably there.

1. Shogun, James Clavell NO, but saw the movie

2. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut YES, and also read Player Piano; The Sirens of Titan; Mother Night; Cat’s Cradle; Breakfast of Champions; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Slapstick; Welcome to the Monkey House; Happy Birthday, Wanda June; and Wampeters, Foma and Grandfalloons.

3. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole YES

4. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace NO

5. A collection of John Lennon’s drawings. NO

6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway YES, and also read The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories, The Green Hills of Africa, In Our Time, Men without Women, A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not, Across the River and into the Trees, The Old Man and the Sea, and Death in the Afternoon.

7. The first two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin NO

8. God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens NO

9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller YES, and also read Something Happened.

10. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Tucker Max NO

11. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand NO, and never will!

12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks YES

13. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger YES, and also read Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

14. The Godfather, Mario Puzo YES

15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald YES

16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov YES, and also read Bend Sinister

17. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk NO, but read another one, Invisible Monsters.

18. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov NO

19. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown NO, and never will.

20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck YES, and also read Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.

21. The Stand, Stephen King NO

22. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson NO

23. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer NO, but read An American Dream, The Armies of the Night, Of a Fire on the Moon, and The White Negro.

24. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom NO

25. It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong (definitely under the bed) NO

26. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson NO

27. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth YES, and also read Goodbye Colombus.

28. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand NO

29. John Adams, David McCullough NO

30. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow YES

31. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis YES

32. America: The Book, Jon Stewart NO

33. The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman NO, and never will! But read From Beirut to Jerusalem.

34. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell YES

35. The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, Mark Haddon NO

36. Exodus, Leon Uris (if Jewish) NO

37. Trinity, Leon Uris (if Irish-American) NO

38. The Road, Cormac McCarthy NO, but own All the Pretty Horses.

39. Marley & Me, John Grogan NO

40. Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt YES

41. The Rainmaker, John Grisham NO

42. Patriot Games, Tom Clancy NO, and never will.

43. Dragon, Clive Cussler NO, never will.

44. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond NO

45. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone NO

46. The 9/11 Commission Report NO

47. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carre NO, but read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

48. Rising Sun, Michael Crichton NO, but saw Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain.

49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson NO, but read Made in America.

50. Airport, Arthur Hailey NO

51. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki NO, but saw the movie.

52. Burr, Gore Vidal NO

53. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt NO

54. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan NO

55. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer NO

56. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer NO

57. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson NO, and never will!

58. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter NO

59. The World According to Garp, John Irving YES, and also read Setting Free the Bears and A Son of the Circus.

60. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking NO

61. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass No, but saw the movie and read Dog Soldiers.

62. On the Road, Jack Kerouac YES, and also read Visions of Gerard.

63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding YES

64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien YES

65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe NO, but read The Hells Angels, The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Painted Word, The Right Stuff, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Candy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.

66. Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation NO

67. Rabbit, Run, John Updike NO, but read Toward the End of Time and Hugging the Shore.

68. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie YES

69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle NO

70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler NO, but read The Maltese Falcon.

71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey NO, but saw the movie, and read The Demon Box.

72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess YES

73. House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski NO

74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London NO

75. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon YES, and also read The Crying of Lot 49, V., Vineland, and Slow Learner.

76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves NO

77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote NO

78. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis NO

79. Life, Keith Richards NO


Filed under Humor, Literature, Novel, Race/Ethnicity, Whites

Please Don’t Be an Insufferable Ass

Are you insufferable, Bob ?

Santoculto perfectly fit this definition.

I agree that Santoculto could definitely be an insufferable ass. But he also had some nice, concise and brilliant views on a lot of things, particularly human psychology.

Recall that he is gay. Gay Politics won’t let us talk about this, but many gay men are narcissistic. That is one of the reasons they used to think it is a mental illness. No one quite knows why they are like that. If you think about the very shallow gay male scene in the US with its emphasis like good looks, youth, polymorphous perversion, out of control promiscuity, endless brief, near anonymous and loveless relationships, you can see how it would create a lot of narcissists. Of course it’s horribly homophobic to bring this up,  so I guess I will be a big fat homophobe and share this with you all right now.

The gay novelist John Rechy is profoundly narcissistic.

Novelists Jerzy Kozhinski and Philip Roth are notoriously narcissistic. Kozhinski actually made a vast phony history for himself full of many things that never happened. He didn’t get called out on it for a long time, and when he finally was, he simply denied it. His books are good, but he is a bit of a literary fraud as he plagiarized and made up lies about his life. In fact, his entire life could be accurately described as a gigantic fraud.

VS Naipaul in a recent biography comes across extremely narcissistic and it is generally agreed that he was a perfectly awful person.

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons is one of the most insufferable narcissistic asses in all rock and roll, and he has a lot of competition. He is probably one of the most hated people in rock music and for very good reason. Salvador Dali was extremely narcissistic, but he was so weird that it never bothered anyone. Pablo Picasso was a huge asshole, whether he was a narcissist I am not sure, but he probably was. He had a massive ego and treated a lot of his female models like crap. He had a habit of screwing his young female models, making babies with them and abandoning the girl. He did this over and over. He was a great painter, but a lot of people who knew him well said he was an awful human being.

Many actors are narcissistic. If you think about it all of the performing arts, especially film, lend themselves to narcissism. They attract narcissists and then the nature of being a performer on a stage of some sort in and of itself drives a lot more narcissism. If they get famous, that drives even more narcissism. At some point it is probably an endless feedback loop. My mother said all actors are narcissists and she said you have to be narcissistic to be an actor. There is an old joke where the journalist has been interviewing the actor. It has gone on for 45 minutes of the actor going and on about himself enjoying the sound of his own voice. At some point, he realizes his violation and tries to rectify it.

After 45 minutes:

“But anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about you now. What did you think of my latest movie?”

Get it?

Am I insufferable? God no! I am not an NPD! I don’t even think I am all that narcissistic. I cannot stand pathological narcissists. The idea that I might be one of these people I hate so much pisses me off. I have a not of problems, but that ain’t one of them. Nobody calls me that. I used to get called arrogant, but I have been working on that one really hard. I have to work on that a part of the time when I am around people, but I cannot manage it pretty well by faking it and getting underneath people.

I do not have a lot of disdain for the people I meet in day to day stuff. Most of them seem like decent enough people even if I do not wish to make personal friends of them. There are some lowlife ghetto types around here who I dislike, but they deserve to be hated, and I do not waste time thinking about them anyway.

I have been called a lot of things, but insufferable is not one of them. However, people do remark that I have a big ego, that I have have some egotism, etc. I have had some complaints that I am vain, conceited, self-impressed, etc., but that is just a vibe you will get from my mind. You will not find me talking like that because I am not a braggart and a showoff and I hate people like that. If I do have some impressive accomplishment I wish to divulge, I have the art of false modesty down to a T, so I can relate things that would normally seem like bragging, but nobody gets upset because it seems like I am embarrassed or ashamed of this accomplishment of mine. It’s an act, but so what?

I do not care if people dislike the vain, conceited, self-impressed vibes I give off. As far as I am concerned, they should feel that way too! Everyone should think they’re great! Start being great today! What are you waiting for?

I hate insufferable people. They are often quite impressed with the sound of their own voices too and they can be downright soporific when they go on one of their endless narcissistic monologues. It’s all just too much, the whole thing. It’s way over the top and typically even offensive. You often want to leave the room when they are going on and on. Of course they cannot see anything wrong with their behavior and they will barely even notice if you walk out. You’re not part of the Me Show anyway. You’re the audience. Some of the audience is leaving before the performance is over. No big, this happens all the time. They have for all intents and purposes little to no insight into their behavior.

I think narcissism is a tendency a lot of us have to watch out for. Just go look at some pathological narcissists, figure out why you can’t stand them and use that as a model for how not to be. Watch yourself on a regular basis to make sure you are not falling into that lousy mindset. Narcissists suck, and a lot of people hate them for good reason. Do you want to suck? Do you want to be widely hated for being an insufferable ass? That’s terrible! I would be ashamed and embarrassed if I acted like that.


Filed under Art, Celebrities, Cinema, Homosexuality, Literature, Music, Narcissism, Novel, Personality, Psychology, Rock, Sex

Love and Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy of course is the great Victorian novelist, short story writer and lately appreciated poet. Many of his works deal with men and women and their love affairs. If you have never checked him out, I urge you to do so. He is well worth it. He was admired by writers like D. H. Lawrence (who wrote a book about it), the great John Cowper Powys, W.Somerset Maugham, and the great misanthropic poet Philip Larkin. He was a follower of the Naturalist School made famous by Emile Zola.

The Naturalists were a follow-on to the Realists such as Gustave Flaubert (proto-realist) and Anthony Trollope (classic realist). It was supposed to be an improvement upon realism, but I am not sure how. Both of these were reactions against the overly florid, unrealistic and overwrought stories of the time. Zola in particular sought to be almost scientific in his descriptions of the people in his books. Both sought to simply portray characters, humans and scenes as they actually are and let readers draw their own didactic or moralistic conclusions if they so wished.

As far as Hardy himself in love, he was famously married a couple of times. He was described as an unhappy husband. When his second wife died in 1912 after they were estranged for over 20 years, nevertheless, Hardy become a distraught widower and produced some of his finest poetry in Satires of Circumstance published two years later. These are considered to be some of the saddest, most powerful and finest poems about death ever written in English.

And so we have Thomas Hardy:

  • Unhappy husband, and then
  • Distraught widower

He was miserable while he was married to her, but he was even more miserable when she was dead. There is a lesson in here somewhere, maybe:

  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or simply
  • People are never happy

I prefer the latter.


Filed under Literature, Novel, Poetry, Psychology, Romantic Relationships