back on a reading streak

Today there was supposed to be a post on Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things, but I’m not in the mood to write it. There’s also still a draft about Ekaterina Sedia’s A Secret History of Moscow lurking, but it (the post, not the book) kinda sucks.

However, buy a copy of Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey. (Or there’s Amazon.) I only read scraps of the book, even though it’s online, but with an actual copy of the book in my hands, and now having finished a good portion of it last night, i’m blown away.

That degenerate Bill got his copy after me, but already finished it, and showering praise. Hopefully he’ll post on it as well.

melting Iraqi gold to make cowboy boots

The claim has not been independently verified… yet. This is KBR that we’re talking about though. Their employees were raping their fellow coworkers. Why wouldn’t they commit petty theft while they are at it?

This is pure speculation on my part, but it would be obscenely fitting if this stolen Iraqi gold, melted into ornaments for American cowboy boots, turned out to be some of the treasures looted from the Iraqi National Museum.

Wittgenstein’s Mistress

Sheesh. This post has been stuck forgotten in draft for awhile.

It was silly of me to approach the book as a a bit of a sci-fi mystery. I was looking for clues as to how all of humanity disappeared in Kate’s sentences. They are not in there. I did my best not to skim, even fixating on specific sentences, only to have her modify or negate its meaning in a later sentence. This might seem like a typical challenge of an unreliable narrator, but with the book’s structure, it was walking a razor’s edge. It seems that it would have been worthwhile to read with a notebook to jot down the evolution of her assertions, as juggling all of the tangles of her thoughts became a little tough for me. I’m not as well versed in art history, and philosophy as i should be, so when Kate confused biographical details of various people, I missed some of the connections that Markson was making.

A couple of you might remember that a few years ago, i tackled Gaddis’ The Recognitions. I never finished it. Wittgenstein’s Mistress mentions Gaddis and The Recognitions a number of times. It seems that i’ll be reading it before i tackle Wittgenstein’s Mistress again.

Not so oddly, it was easy to identify with Kate. My memory is just as idiosyncratically human as her own (which might not be a good thing, as some reviews insist that she is insane,) and my body of knowledge is under constant revision. As the conscious mind plunges along into the future, it strains to map out of the past, discerning repeating patterns or inventing them. Again, it sucks that my familiarity with art history is as weak as it is, as a lot of the weight of the statements were lost. Having her wander through the emptied cities of Europe (and North America,) looting bookstores and museums, being the last person to curate the accumulation of wealth of Western civilization, struggling to make it mean something for her, yet it is no more than the message that she scrawls out in the beaches to no one.

Yep. Good fun.

pipeline work in Sakhalin reveals artifacts

Here’s the story:

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, April 18 (RIA Novosti) – Excavations along the route of a pipeline being built for a vast oil and gas project on Russia’s Far East island of Sakhalin have unearthed around 200 historic objects, a local historian said on Friday.

The head of the Sakhalin Region museum’s cultural heritage department, Igor Samarin, said the findings dated from the Lower Paleolithic period up to World War II, and include ancient settlements, military camps, battle sites, and artifacts of Russian and Japanese origin.

“Archaeology on Sakhalin has never seen field work on such a scale,” he said.

Between 2004 and 2007 archaeologists carried out excavation works on the 3,500 square meter area of the pipeline route, and made around 30,000 discoveries.

The pipeline is being built for the Sakhalin II project, controlled by Russia’s state natural gas giant Gazprom.

The findings included a Japanese fireproof pavilion used to keep a portrait of the emperor and his decrees. Archaeologists also discovered items belonging to the Soviet soldiers who fought in World War II.

The Soviet Union annexed the southern part of Sakhalin from Japan after WWII.

The sad thing is that it feels like a rush job, with so much material coming up so quickly that they don’t know what they are looking at. Lumping WW2 era artifacts in with Lower Paleolithic cannot be a good sign. Why would this even matter?

Sakhalin seems like a good site to find evidence of the Pacific coastal migration to the Americas. The Nivkh people seem like close cousins to the natives of the Pacific Northwest of North America. If there are microlithic tools being unearthed, they seem that they would require a more scrupulous investigation.

Göbleki Tepe revisited (and sphinxes)

There is a nice little overview of Göbleki Tepe over on the Guardian. It would be fruitful to raise its profile in the consciousness of the public. Stonehenge is a wondrous site, but in pop culture, it and the Egyptian Pyramids dominate the landscape of great antiquity, leading to the false assumption that there are mysteries about early man that are no quite the mysteries that they seem. Civilization and culture have been around a long time, and there were a lot of false dawns through the ages.

There is piece in there that i need to follow up on:

Vecihi Ozkaya, the director of a dig at Kortiktepe, 120 miles east of Urfa, doubts the thousands of stone pots he has found since 2001 in hundreds of 11,500-year-old graves quite qualify as that. But his excitement fills his austere office at Dicle University in Diyarbakir.

“Look at this”, he said, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. “It’s a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. South-eastern Turkey, northern Syria – this region saw the wedding night of our civilisation.”

I wish that i knew exactly how old the sculpture that he is describing is. (11,500 years? Or is that just the oldest grave of the site?) Looking up sphinx on Wikipedia was no help, as they date the image of the sphinx to the fourth dynasty of Egypt (2723 BC to 2563 BC.) That just seems wrong. However, my old Dungeons & Dragons background points to shedu and lama. Somewhere out there, someone has to have created a convenient timeline of the human-animal hybrid imagery used in art in that area. Now i gotta track it down.

earliest known oil paintings discovered in Afghanistan

Remember where the Buddhas of Bamyan once stood in Afghanistan? In the caves behind where the statues once stood, oil paintings dating from the fifth to ninth century have been discovered, with Buddhist imagery. It will be cool if it can one day be proven that the oil painting techniques used in the Renaissance were introduced to Europe via trade from the Silk Road.

some books picked up in Austin

This is a little backwards, as there is another post stockpiled somewhere of books that i bought myself for my birthday, except that i got embarrassed by how much money i blew on books while i’m still jobless.

Nonetheless, i bought books in Austin, this time at the Half Price bookstore out on Lamar. Here we go:

  • Adolfo Bioy Casares. Asleep in the Sun. Yep. It’s the same book that i recently checked out from SLU, yet wasn’t in the mood for reading. That’s not going to stop me from acquiring all of Bioy Casares’ stuff eventually.
  • John Crowley. Dæmonomania. Have you noticed that i can now use nonstandard characters? Up until this new version of WordPress, which i formerly cursed, i’d managed to work around it by searching the word on Google, then copying and pasting the ñ, é, or whatever. Groovy. So, um…. Crowley. No, this book shall not be ready any time soon. Little, Big is still unfinished and this new purchase is allegedly the third in a trilogy anyway. The cashier saw this Crowley book and burst out with the confession that he hasn’t finished Little, Big, nor has his friend that he made a deal to read it with. He had the same problem, admiring the quality of writing, finding bits of it intriguingly creepy, and then wandering off to a more compelling book. I came clean with my Little, Big problem too.
  • Italo Calvino. The Watcher & Other Stories. It’s Calvino that i have not read, and this time i’m sure of it. (Difficult Loves is one that it seems that i have indeed read before.)
  • Witold Gombrowicz. Ferdyduke, Pornografia, & Cosmos. Three novels in one, published by Grove Press. This is the first book that i laid eyes upon when i walked into the fiction section, and i’m still giddy about it. Gombrowicz’s Bacacay didn’t wow me as much as i wished it could have, but it left a deep impression. Bill has written a few emails about his reading of it, as has followed up by reading A Kind of Testament, which has piqued my interest again. However, there is no way that i was going to seek his work actively at the moment. It was one of those odd moments in which a book almost leaps from the shelf to your hand without any effort on your part. The spine is not exceptionally distinctive. I just reached out, and it was in my hand. I had nothing to do with the action. Usually these are books that only appear in dreams, that turn to vapor in the conscious mind. Now i have one in my hands, that happens to be a real book (three whole novels really) by a real author, and i’m a little scared to read them, as the disappointment might be too much.

I also grabbed a paperback copy of Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners for Kat, as i’m weird about her reading my first edition, as it feels like the pages would be covered in spaghetti sauce, not that she’s one to sit around reading books slobbering spaghetti. That’s more something that i would do. However, i’ve bee n pushing this book on her for at least a year, but keep handing it  to her as if it’s made of snowflakes and spiderwebs.