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Poetry

The Closet

(...after my Mother’s death)

Here not long enough after the hospital happened
 I find her closet lying empty and stop my play
 And go in and crane up at three blackwire hangers
 Which quiver, airy, released. They appear to enjoy

Their new distance, cognizance born of the absence
 Of anything else. The closet has been cleaned out
 Full-flush as surgeries where the hangers could be
 Amiable scalpels though they just as well would be

Themselves, in basements, glovelessly scraping uteri
 But, here, pure, transfigured heavenward, they’re
Birds, whose wingspans expand by excluding me. Their
 Range is enlarged by loss. They’d leave buzzards

Measly as moths: and the hatshelf is even higher!— 
As the sky over a prairie, an undotted desert where
 Nothing can swoop sudden, crumple in secret. I’ve fled
 At ambush, tag, age: six, must I face this, can

I have my hide-and-seek hole back now please, the
 Clothes, the thicket of shoes, where is it? Only
 The hangers are at home here. Come heir to this
 Rare element, fluent, their skeletal grace sings

Of the ease with which they let go the dress, slip, 
 Housecoat or blouse, so absolvingly. Free, they fly
Trim, triangular, augurs leapt ahead from some geometric
 God who soars stripped (of flesh, it is said): catnip

To a brat placated by model airplane kits kids
My size lack motorskills for, I wind up glue-scabbed, 
 Pawing goo-goo fingernails, glaze skins fun to peer in as
Frost-i-glass doors ... But the closet has no windows,

Opaque or sheer: I must shut my eyes, shrink within
 To peep into this wall. Soliciting sleep I’ll dream
 Mother spilled and cold, unpillowed, the operating- 
Table cracked to goad delivery: its stirrups slack,

Its forceps closed: by it I’ll see mobs of obstetrical
 Personnel kneel proud, congratulatory, cooing
And oohing and hold the dead infant up to the dead
 Woman’s face as if for approval, the prompted

Beholding, tears, a zoomshot kiss. White-masked
 Doctors and nurses patting each other on the back, 
 Which is how in the Old West a hangman, if
He was good, could gauge the heft of his intended ...

Awake, the hangers are sharper, knife-’n’-slice, I jump
 Helplessly to catch them to twist them clear, 
 Mis-shape them whole, sail them across the small air
 Space of the closet. I shall find room enough here

By excluding myself; by excluding myself, I’ll grow.

Bill Knott

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Review #5 Shada The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams

I love Douglas Adams. I devoured everything he wrote when I was a teenager. This one, however, evaded my grasp and I can't wait to give it a read. Enjoy this review from our ever wonderful guest reviewer and maybe seek it out for yourself.

Stare not into the abyss, but let the abyss stare into you.

 

Doctor Who: Shada The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams.

(Roberts, Gareth)

(BBC Books)

“Life would be tragic, if it weren't funny.”

~ Stephen Hawking

 

When one mentions the name Douglas Adams, there are, usually, three things which come to mind. Hitchhiker’s Guilde to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently and Last Chance to See. This artefact, for it is not just a book, brings much of Douglas Adams’ work together in a strangely familiar, yet new and fresh story brought forth by Gareth Roberts, from the forgotten annals of the BBC script vaults.

 

Roberts task is a daunting one, not only is he trying to find the voice of one of the most loved British Sci-Fi writers of his generation, but to do so through a story told inside a franchise and one which Adams eventually crafted into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But much like the eponymous Shada, Roberts appears to have noticed the position of deity in his universe vacant.
 

Roberts’ voice is clear and distinct throughout the work, this is no mere retelling of Dirk Gently, despite characters and settings in common, but Adams’ echo can be felt at almost every turn. With certain passages feeling as though they may have been ripped straight from the cortex of Adams himself, or less generously from the original script itself. One could be forgiven for initially feeling that this is the work of a master, finished by an apprentice or a mimic.

 

But Roberts is more than merely Adams’ surrogate voice, in fact, once one becomes accustomed to the echoes of Adams, one finds the duality of voices becomes a conversation of entities.

 

For Shada, gives us visions of a world where Doctor Who, Dirk Gently and the Hitchhiker’s Guide are all one and of a piece. Weaving the strings of three beloved sci-fi comedy franchises is no mean feat, and it will not please everyone.

 

But even as a stand-alone Doctor Who novel, the work clips along at a good pace, is full of wit and humour, while also standing out from the majority of more modern incarnations by surrounding the Doctor with equals, rather than companions he must guide and educate. Romana and Professor Chronotis provide grounding for a Doctor who in recent years has become more unbound. Shada provides a perfect foil and mirror for the Doctor, asking if perhaps, the Doctor is any less unhinged, or just grounded by company. Even small characters such as Wilkin are a seeming match for the Doctor’s usual perturbing eccentricities.

 

For anyone who likes Doctor Who, Douglas Adams or just well written sci-fi comedy, Shada is an enjoyable curiosity, but it is also something more, it is a confluence of influences which show us the malleability of story and process. How from almost the same beginnings, different stories can be crafted and spun. And while one could consider Dirk Gently Adams’ more distilled vision for the story, perhaps this is Dirk’s natural home, as a Time Lord.

 

Mr. E. Ruth

(@Generic_Dave)

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Spring Poetry.

On World Poetry Day it's always a joy to share some wonderful words with the world. 

Variations on the word Sleep

Margaret Atwood, 1939

I would like to watch you sleeping, 
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you, 
sleeping. I would like to sleep 
with you, to enter 
your sleep as its smooth dark wave 
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent 
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves 
with its watery sun & three moons 
towards the cave where you must descend, 
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver 
branch, the small white flower, the one 
word that will protect you 
from the grief at the center 
of your dream, from the grief 
at the center. I would like to follow 
you up the long stairway 
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands 
to where your body lies 
beside me, and you enter 
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

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Review #4: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The latest installment of our review series from Generic Dave. Just what your Monday needs. We live as we dream. 

King Leopold II never saw a drop of blood spilled in anger. He never set foot in the Congo…never hears screams or sees shattered homes or torn flesh.

Heart of Darkness

(Conrad, Joseph)
(Penguin, 2007)

“Every man is a moon and has a side which he turns toward nobody: you have to slip around behind if you want to see it.”

~ Mark Twain – The Refuge of the Derelicts


The seminal 19th Century classic, Heart of Darkness, explores a sinister chapter in a deeply troubling period of human history. The work presents a fictionalised account of Joseph Conrad’s journey through the depredations of colonisation in the verdant jungle of Belgian Congo.

Set during the tail-end of Europe’s Scramble for Africa, Heart of Darkness follows Marlow as he seeks the ivory trader Kurtz. Part pseudonym, part literary tribute, Marlow is a functionary of empire assigned to a river steamer ferrying men and goods to and from the coast.  

Wrapped in the usual excuses of empire, Marlow seeks adventure and the unknown, while acknowledging that many enforcers of empire are sent abroad as they are of little use or too much disruption at home.

Marlow’s journey brings him face to face with the malign influence of the rapaciousness caused by the “White Man’s Burden”. Travelling the Congo River, in search of Kurtz, he sees the conflation of the imposition of European thought with the civilised advancement of native peoples. While an industrialising, yet distant Europe, is shown to have no cause to question the methods used to keep its shelves heaving with ivory and rubber products.

Marlow’s initial stop fills him with grim foreboding as he is greeted at the company Outer Station by scenes of devastation and local deprivation. His journey in-land descends further into darkness, coming upon a region where the local populace has either been enslaved or fled, a ghoulish trail leads to Kurtz.

Years before the novella opens Kurtz arrived as a liberal Renaissance man, but by the time Marlow reaches him, he has become a grim caricature, using technology and ruthlessness, he ensconced himself as a mythic ruler. The man Marlow stumbles upon has left all sign of his mission far behind.

In Heart of Darkness, Conrad gives us a searing indictment, not only of the colonial ventures of the day, but of any mission where the ends of civilisation obscure the trauma of the people supposedly aided. Though at the end one is left to wonder, does Conrad see Kurtz as an evil man who broke the Congo, or a good man broken by the colony?

Mr. E. Ruth
(@Generic_Dave)

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Review #3 Chaos by Jame Gleick

Next in our review series is Chaos: The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable. Thanks again to our guest reviewer. This is fun.  

 

For want of a nail…

 

Chaos: The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable

(Gleick, James)
(Vintage, 1998)

 

“I'm now sitting by myself, uh, er, talking to myself. That's, that’s Chaos Theory.”

~Dr. Ian Malcom – Jurassic Park

 

Perhaps best known to the general public from the character Ian Malcom in the Jurassic Park movies, as well as the Butterfly Effect film series, Chaos Theory is much more subtle and complicated than this common perception would have us believe. James Gleick’s Chaos: The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable, begins with what we think we all know, the Butterfly Effect, from here he uses the basic concept of Chaos Theory, nonlinearity in systems and science, to delve more deeply into the fascinating exploration of what appear to be random points of data to make a beautiful line of order.

The work utilises this line of narrative to build from simple, and widely (mis)understood, areas through Geometry of Nature, Universality, Dynamical Systems Collective and the Inner Rhythms to build an easy to follow, yet difficult to comprehend view of a world where similar patterns occur everywhere from the microscopic to the cosmological.

The work almost defies the reader to bask in the grandeur of concepts such as Fractal Geometry and Emergence, where the aforementioned patterns occur and recur over different scales, interacting differently at each level and thus allowing complex systems to emerge from simple interactions.  A handshake, leads to a conversation to an emergent friendship. Random encounters alter systems

Whether applied to coast-lines, sponges, flock and herd behaviour or human interactions, the idea that a subtle and simple set of interactions can have huge and long-lasting implications that could not be accounted from the sum of their parts. While seemingly small events multiply, with unknown outcomes the possibility of unexpected events increases to the point where the same process and inputs can lead to a blizzard of beautiful, distinct and unique snowflakes.  

Though challenging, Gleick’s work allows us to appreciate the impact of the thousands of tiny actions can have on a system, whether these actions feed stability or instability is a complex unknown, what we do know however, is you may never look at that proffered hand the same way again.

 

Mr. E. Ruth

(@Generic_Dave)

 

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Book Review #2 The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart

Welcome to the second book review installment! What did you think of the first one? Are you not amused?

All the titles in the review series are available in the shop or can be shipped anywhere in the world through the 'Book Request' button?

Without further ado....

Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out til too late that he's been playing with two queens all along.

The Diceman

(Rhineheart, Luke)
(Flamingo, 2003)

"God does not play dice with the universe."

~Albert Einstein

 

The notorious Diceman, originally published in 1971, is a curious torch-passing of generations. Exemplifying the attempt to bridge the cultural gap between free-love laced drug use of the 1960’s to the narcissistic drug use of the 1970s. The work coalesces into a curious blend of satire, wish-fulfilment and the horrifying.

Authored by George Cockcroft’s semi-autobiographical pseudonym, Luke Rhineheart, the book explores ideas from his own research in psychology and the use of random decision making in therapy.

Following Dr. Luke Rhineheart, the work explores his uses and abuses of psychoanalytical practices. Most particularly using dice to explore the ever-controversial themes such as divinity, sexual experimentation, murder and rape.

Reflecting on feelings inadequacy in life, Rhineheart begins, quite shockingly, with the chance interaction of a playing card and a proverbially loaded die at a neighbour’s poker night. From this initial experiment his methods evolve so that not only are his actions random, but the possible results of each roll. His experiments evolve from a practicable lifestyle alteration, to one which intercedes in every facet his life.

As he falls to the addiction of the die, his family falls apart, his university position becomes untenable and the government becomes embroiled in his mad dash to escape the mundane.

In a thrilling conclusion, the reader is left unsure of the reality of many aspects of the story. Though the work’s true dynamism flows from the book’s attempts to grapple with the zeitgeist of the time.

Ideas of consent, sexuality, morality and spirituality mix and meld into a malleable morass. Rhineheart, is hero and villain, sinner and saint, icon and idol. To some the die is a fresh approach to the human condition showing the value of our self by bending action to self-reflection. While others view his methods as anathema to morality and society, a threat to every institution it confronts.

The Diceman, is not just compelling, but also challenging reading, making us question not only our decisions and beliefs, but also the very sense of self and other. To paraphrase the jacket of the book itself: “Many books can change your life, this one will, if you let it”.

Mr. E. Ruth

(@Generic_Dave)

 

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Book Review #1: 1984 George Orwell

 

 

With the rise of 'Alternative Fact' and recent events in America it seems only fitting to share this, the first of a series of reviews from our guest writer, Mr E. Ruth. Arm yourself with knowledge.

They're saying it's a falsehood, we gave alternative facts to that.

1984

(Orwell, George)
(Penguin, 1949)

“You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common? They don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”

~ Tom Baker – Doctor Who: The Face of Evil Part Four

 

From the grim morass of the late-1940’s, George Orwell’s seminal classic 1984 brings a terrifying vision of a future of unbridled totalitarianism, inspired by the recently defeated Fascist Nazi Germany, the now dominant shadow of Communist Soviet Union and the fear of a similar entity emerging from the victorious wreckage of the Capitalist West.

Imagining a future where three, constantly warring, totalitarian states have carved up the globe, Orwell shows a grim world bereft of truth, personal interactions and smothered in a constant surveillance state.

Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith begins as a willing cog in the machinery. Clearly aware, through his work, of the transitory nature of fact and truth in his nation.

In Winston, we have a perfectly ordinary functionary, who without malice following the regimented structure of the state he lives in. He is not an evil man, but he is guilty of enabling heinous atrocity.

His world is shattered when chance brings emotions and ideas never broached before to the surface. A torrid love-affair ensues, a tense, confining cat-and-mouse game, an unsatisfying yet grimly unavoidable conclusion.

Orwell’s masterstroke, and perhaps the main reasons for 1984’s staying power, is certainly his realisation that regimes do not stand on violence and coercion, but by the thousand tiny actions forced on a person each day, precluding empathy and community.

The enforced self-censorship of family informants moves dissent from the home to the mind, and sometimes beyond with the heinous ideas of “thought-crime” and “doublespeak” reinforcing the reluctance not only to voice dissent, but to think it.

While written in a very different age, technology has seemed to keep pace with the horrid future he envisioned. As we become more and more surrounded by self-selected intellectual bubbles, replacement of fact with opinion and the elevation of emotional grievance over rationale, it is a timely reminder that we must be most careful that the boot stomping on the face of humanity is not our own.

Mr. E. Ruth

(@Generic_Dave)

 

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Sometimes it takes a while to grow.

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Sometimes it takes a while to grow.

I'm much better at updating Facebook and I always manage to leave this beautiful site quiet and neglected. Sometimes it just takes time to get around to these things though. 

Busy stacking shelves and ordering stock for our current sale this week and getting the windows cleared for my favorite job of the year - Halloween window dressing! Scary books and pumpkins galore. If there is anything you'd like to order please feel free to click the 'Book Request' button on the site and I will do my best to find you a copy of whatever it is your dark little halloween heart desires. 

Thanks for reading. 

Ruth

 

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