The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

sirensI don’t know how to describe this book other than to say that it’s very, uh… Vonnegut-y. If you’ve read Slaughterhouse 5 or Cat’s Cradle or ”Harrison Bergeron”, you’re familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s unique combination of satire, pacifism, and accidental time travel. The Sirens of Titan, one of his earliest novels, features the seeds of ideas that become more fleshed out in Slaughterhouse 5 and “Harrison Bergeron”.

The beginning of the tale is a little slow, but Vonnegut does a great job of increasing the stakes and upping the danger as the book progresses. Sirens of Titan doesn’t really have a central character; it dips into the heads of each of various characters, but the narrative voice takes a cosmic view of events. I think this is a good choice for the subject matter, for reasons you’ll see later. Continue reading

Is Lolita a Failure of Empathy?

Can you identify with a character who’s barely there, based only on a common gender? This is the question that sprang to mind when I read Rebecca Solnit’s piece, “Men Explain Lolita to Me”. In the article, she talks about how men reacted to her saying that she identified with Lolita when she read Lolita. One commenter told her that none of the characters in Lolita are meant to be “identified” with.

Some of my favorite novels are disparaged in a fairly shallow way. To read Lolita and ‘identify’ with one of the characters is to entirely misunderstand Nabokov.

I disagree with that premise. I don’t think anyone would write a book, especially one that goes so deeply into the main character’s head as Nabokov does with Humbert Humbert, with the intention that the reader shouldn’t identify with any of the characters. When I read Lolita, I identified mostly with Humbert Humbert. I felt bad for Lolita, but I couldn’t pretend to be able to get inside her head when Nabokov gives her little space to express her own perspective. I took a class on Animal Theory once and in that class we talked about the difference between sympathy and empathy. What I felt for Lolita was sympathy, not empathy. Continue reading

Ars longa, Vita Brevis: NaNoWriMo 2016

I did NaNoWriMo this year!

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Well, I participated, at least… I didn’t get to the 50,000 word mark but I did get 10,000 words down. I started off really strong the first day, slowed down on day 2, and then got bogged down for two weeks with Comp Sci homework (and then dropped that class) and the shitstorm that was the 2016 election (spent the 8th working the polls). Realized about halfway through the month I should get back to work and wrote a bit more… then every couple of days I wrote a bit and then made a break for 10,000 at the very end. Well, now I know exactly how bad my work habits are…

Even though my totals weren’t that impressive I’m proud of myself for not giving up. I tried to do NaNoWriMo a couple of times in high school, but I never got very far. There were a couple of things I kept in my metaphorical “backback” this year to help me get through the NaNo journey: Continue reading