Category Archives: Fiction

Included in this are things related to the fiction of others.

Review of George Orwell’s “1984”

This is one of those books that is hard to do justice with a review. The copy that I read, borrowed from my best friend, has a preface by Walter Cronkite written in 1983, and an afterword by Eric Fromm in 1961. I’ll share a little bit of each of these before I write my own review. I’m only not sharing the full preface or afterword to at least try to preserve a little of their copyright.

Here’s various passages from Cronkite’s preface:

“‘Big Brother’ has become a common term for ubiquitous or overreaching authority, and ‘Newspeak’ is a word we apply to the dehumanizing babble of bureaucracies and computer programs.”

“Seldom has a book provided a greater wealth of symbols for its age and for the generations to follow, and seldom have literary symbols been invested with such power. How is that? Because they were so useful, and because the features of the world he drew, outlandish as they were, also were familiar.”

“What Orwell had done was not to foresee the future but to see the implications of the present – his present and ours – and he touched a common chord. He had given words and shapes to common but unarticulated fears running deep through all industrial societies.”

1984 is an anguished lament and a warning that we may not be strong enough nor wise enough nor moral enough to cope with the kind of power we have learned to amass. That warning vibrates powerfully when we allow ourselves to sit still and think carefully about orbiting satellites that can read the license plates in a parking lot and computers that can tap into thousands of telephone calls and telex transmissions at once and other computers that can do our banking and purchasing, can watch the house and tell a monitoring station what television program we are watching and how many people there are in the room. We think of Orwell when we read of scientists who believe they have located in the human brain the seats of behavioral emotions like aggression, or learn more about the vast potential of genetic engineering.”

“Critics and scholars may argue quite legitimately about the particular literary merits of 1984. But none can deny its power, its hold on the imaginations of whole generations, nor the power of its admonitions . . . a power that seems to grow rather than lessen with the passage of time. It has been said that 1984 fails as a prophecy because it succeeded as a warning – Orwell’s terrible vision has been averted. Well, that kind of self-congratulation is, to say the least, premature. 1984 may not arrive on time, but there’s always 1985.

Still, the warning has been effective; and every time we use one of those catch phrases . . . recognize Big Brother in someone, see a 1984 in our future . . . notice something Orwellian . . . we are listening to that warning again.”

Here’s some highlights from Fromm’s afterword.

“The Christian thinkers of the late Middle Ages emphasized that although the ‘Kingdom of God’ was not within historical time, the social order must correspond to and realize the spiritual principles of Christianity. The Christian sects before and after the Reformation emphasized these demands in more urgent, more active and revolutionary ways. With the breakup of the medieval world, man’s sense of strength, and his hope, not only for individual but for social perfection, assumed new strength and took new ways.

One of the most important ones is a new form of writing which developed since the Renaissance, the first expression of which was Thomas More’s Utopia (literally: ‘Nowhere’), a name which was then generically applied to all other similar works. Thomas More’s Utopia combined a most penetrating criticism of his own society, its irrationality and its injustice, with the picture of a society which, though perhaps not perfect, had solved most of the human problems which sounded insoluble to his own contemporaries. What characterizes Thomas More’s Utopia, and all the others, is that they do not speak in general terms of principles, but give an imaginative picture of the concrete details of a society which corresponds to the deepest longings of man. In contrast to prophetic thought, these perfect societies are not at ‘the end of the days’ but exist already – though in a geographic distance rather than in the distance of time.”

“This hope for man’s individual and social perfectibility, which in philosophical and anthropological terms was clearly expressed in the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century and of the socialist thinkers of the nineteenth, remained unchanged until after the First World War. This war, in which millions died for the territorial ambitions of the European powers, although under the illusion of fighting for peace and democracy, was the beginning of that development which tended in a relatively short time to destroy a two-thousand-year-old Western tradition of hope and to transform it into a mood of despair. The moral callousness of the First World War was only the beginning. Other events followed: the betrayal of the socialist hopes by Stalin’s reactionary state capitalism; the severe economic crisis at the end of the twenties; the victory of barbarism in one of the oldest centers of culture in the world – Germany; the insanity of Stalinist terror during the thirties; the Second World War, in which all the fighting nations lost some of the moral considerations which had still existed in the First World War; the unlimited destruction of civilian populations, started by Hitler and continued by the even more complete destruction of cities such as Hamburg and Dresden and Tokyo, and eventually by the use of atomic bombs against Japan. Since then the human race has been confronted with an even greater danger – that of the destruction of our civilization, if not of all mankind, by thermonuclear weapons as they exist today and as they are being developed in increasingly frightful proportions.

Most people, however, are not consciously aware of this threat and of their own hopelessness. Some believe that just because modern warfare is so destructive, war is impossible; others declare that even if sixty or seventy million Americans were killed in the first one or two days of a nuclear war, there is no reason to believe that life would not go on as before after the first shock has been overcome. It is precisely the significance of Orwell’s book that it expresses the new mood of hopelessness which pervades our age before this mood has become manifest and taken hold of the consciousness of people.

Orwell is not alone in this endeavor. Two other writers, the Russian Zamyatin in his book We, and Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World, have expressed the mood of the present, a warning for the future, in ways very similar to Orwell’s. This new trilogy of what may be called the “negative utopias” of the middle of the twentieth century is the counterpoint to the trilogy of the positive utopias mentioned before, written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.1 The negative utopias express the mood of powerlessness and hopelessness of modern man just as the early utopias expressed the mood of self-confidence and hope of post-medieval man. There could be nothing more paradoxical in historical terms than this change: man, at the beginning of the industrial age, when it reality he did not possess the means for a world in which the table was set for all who wanted to eat, when he lived in a world in which there were economic reasons for slavery, war, and exploitation, in which man only sensed the possibilities of his new science and of its application to technique and to production – nevertheless man at the beginning of modern development was full of hope. Four hundred years later, when all these hopes are realizable, when man can produce enough for everybody, when war has become unnecessary because technical progress can give any country more wealth than can territorial conquest, when this globe is in the process of becoming as unified as a continent was four hundred years ago, at the very moment when man is on the verge of realizing his hope, he begins to lose it. It is the essential point of all three negative utopias not only to describe the future toward which we are moving, but also explain the historical paradox.”

(Here was a footnote in the book. 1. It should be added that Jack London’s The Iron Heel, the prediction of fascism in America, is the earliest of the modern negative utopias.)

“…can human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love – that is to say, can man forget that he is human? Or does human nature have a dynamism which will react to the violation of these basic human needs by attempting to change an inhuman society into a human one? It must be noted that the three authors do not take the simple position of psychological relativism which is common to so many social scientists today; they do not start out with the assumption that there is no such thing as human nature; that there is no such thing as qualities essential to man; and that man is born as nothing but a blank sheet of paper on which any given society writes its text. They do assume that man has an intense striving for love, for justice, for truth, for solidarity, and in this respect they are quite different from the relativists. In fact, they affirm the strength and intensity of these human strivings by the description of the very means they present as being necessary to destroy them. In Zamyatin’s We a brain operation similar to a lobotomy is necessary to get rid of the human demands of human nature. In Huxley’s Brave New World artificial biological selection and drugs are necessary, and in Orwell’s 1984 it is the completely unlimited use of torture and brainwashing. None of the three authors can be accused of the thought that the destruction of the humanity within man is easy. Yet all three arrive at the same conclusion: that it is possible, with means and techniques which are common knowledge today.”

“The importance of Orwell’s concept of war lies in a number of very keen observations.

First of all, he shows the economic significance of continuous arms production, without which the economic system cannot function. Furthermore, he gives an impressive picture of how a society must develop which is constantly preparing for war, constantly afraid of being attacked, and preparing to find the means of complete annihilation of its opponents [emphasis mine]. Orwell’s picture is so pertinent because it offers a telling argument against the popular idea that we can save freedom and democracy by continuing the arms race and finding a ‘stable’ deterrent. This soothing picture ignores the fact that with increasing technical ‘progress’ (which creates entirely new weapons about every 5 years, and will soon permit the development of 100 or 1000 instead of 10 megaton bombs), the whole society will be forced to live underground, but that the destructive strength of thermonuclear bombs will always remain greater than the depth of the caves, that the military will become dominant (in fact, if not in law), that fright and hatred of a possible aggressor will destroy the basic attitudes of a democratic, humanistic society [emphasis mine]. In other words, the continued arms race, even if it would not lead to the outbreak of a thermonuclear war, would lead to the destruction of any of those qualities of our society which can be called ‘democratic,’ ‘free,’ or ‘in the American tradition.’ Orwell demonstrates the illusion of the assumption that democracy can continue to exist in a world preparing for nuclear war, and he does so imaginatively and brilliantly.

Another important aspect is Orwell’s description of the nature of truth, which on the surface is a picture of Stalin’s treatment of truth, especially in the thirties. But anyone who sees in Orwell’s description only another denunciation of Stalinism is missing an essential element of Orwell’s analysis. He is actually talking about a development which is taking place in the Western industrial countries also, only at a slower pace than it is taking place in Russia and China. The basic question which Orwell raises is whether there is any such thing as ‘truth.’ ‘Reality,’ so the ruling party holds, ‘is not external. Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else . . . whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.’ If this is so, then by controlling men’s minds the Party controls truth.”

“An American writer, Alan Harrington, who in Life in the Crystal Palace gives a subtle and penetrating picture of life in a big American corporation, has coined an excellent expression for the contemporary concept of truth: ‘mobile truth.’ If I work for a big corporation which claims that its product is better than that of all competitors, the question whether this claim is justified or not in terms of ascertainable reality becomes irrelevant. What matters is that as long as I serve this particular corporation, this claim becomes ‘my’ truth, and I decline to examine whether it is an objectively valid truth. In fact, if I change my job and move over to the corporation which was until now ‘my’ competitor, I shall accept the new truth, that its product is the best, and subjectively speaking, this new truth will be as true as the old one.”

“Truth is proven by the consensus of millions; to the slogan ‘how can millions be wrong’ is added ‘and how can a minority of one be right.’ Orwell shows quite clearly that in a system in which the concept of truth as an objective judgment concerning reality is abolished, anyone who is a minority of one must be convinced that he is insane.”

“Related to this is another example of ‘doublethink,’ namely that few writers, discussing atomic strategy, stumble over the fact that killing, from a Christian standpoint, is as evil or more evil than being killed.”

“Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.”

Reviews such as these are enough to destroy a young man’s confidence, and make him wonder why he’s writing a review at all. But the point, I suppose, isn’t to write a “better” review, but, merely, to write a personal one. I think that’s worthwhile.

The first time that I read any of this book was in high school. It was an assigned reading. Which means that I didn’t read it.

I tried to read parts of it, but I was quite stupid back then, and didn’t understand what the “Party” was. I didn’t understand “political” parties. Yes, I had almost graduated high school without realizing that. That was really my first experience with the book. That’s it. Depressing, I know.

I came to get an idea of what the book was about by frequently hearing terms like “Orwellian”, or even phrases like “straight out of 1984”, mixed with varying contexts. I didn’t need the book “1984” to realize that politicians were crooked and liars. So, through context clues, I came to understand a little of the general theme of the book. Nowhere near enough, but a minor taste. Funnily enough, I tried to fill in the gaps, and, after reading the book, realized that I failed. I knew of the word “doublethink”, but never thought of the phrase that often. Instead, I thought of something called “doublespeak”, which I interpreted to mean as just plain old lying. I’m glad I read the book, however, because it’s a much deeper story than just “lying”. Over and over and over, things felt eerily similar to today. Today, where Americans are “thankful for their freedoms” while they keep getting trampled upon. Celebrating American nationalism while ignoring domestic tyrannies. Yes, “doublethink” is alive and well in America today. Internet “meme” culture makes these instances of “doublethink” all too aware; particularly among libertarian “social circles” online.

I’ll start with a couple of critiques, then, attempt to give it at least a miniscule of the praise that it deserves. I know that the book is “dystopian”, but I enjoy poetic ways of saying things. I hope, as a writer myself, to be able to express poetically. I also eagerly await finding other “poets” (I know I can read poems, but I want poetic ways of saying things within prose as well). But the book is dystopian, and I guess it’s a little much to expect poetry in a dystopian novel. And it is only a minor critique, anyway. But I also get the sense that Orwell, like Cronkite, is a little “anti-technology”. I think it is evident that Orwell didn’t like television (as all of the “telescreens” in the book were used for spying and for barking out orders), while all of the books were rewritten to fit an agenda.

I also am not a fan of television. At all. I don’t pay for cable, nor satellite. Just “the internet”. I grew very tired of television, particularly advertisements, over the years. Also, it is very easy to get frustrated with “news-watchers” or “TV gorgers”, but, in my opinion, there’s too much focus on attacks of the technology itself. As I said, I do find television to be deplorable, particularly the way advertisements occur on them. And it does deserve critique. But let’s not become so blind by hatred of technology that we attack technological progress itself, and forget all of the good things that technology does for us. There’s a temptation to do just that; particularly among Conservatives, but I’ll get into that in a second. But focus more on the deplorability of the “proles”, not so much the technologies with which they entertain themselves.

Sure, it is one thing to bash atomic weapons, and some of the torture devices that exist in the book. It’s acceptable to bash technologies which exist solely to destroy, especially in particularly inhumane ways or at particular scales of destruction. But television isn’t an atomic weapon. I suppose that I don’t read enough to warrant giving a defense of “moving pictures”, but I’ve studied economics for a little while now, and I’ve started to really appreciate the technology that we have today. It certainly makes sense to me how one would praise books over television. I wouldn’t be able to successfully argue against that, and I’d agree with that. TV just does things in front of your eyes, including brain-deadening advertisement after advertisement after advertisement (although, thanks to technologies such as TiVo and DVR, people aren’t subjected to them as often as they used to be). Whereas books are far more engaging of the brain. So I can understand defending books against “telescreens” (in the realistic way screens are today, even though, increasingly, our devices are spying upon us, with “Big Business” and “Big Government” teaming up against us all. There’s that word again: “Orwellian”).

But I have also spent basically all of my life around old Conservative grumps who complain about “kids these days” and the technology that they have. These old people enjoy the fact that they have smartphones, but hate the fact that children do. They’ll say “Technology is corrupting our youth”, or whatever. In truth, it is really envy on the part of these old people. Many of these old people really did have difficult childhoods, and they are envious that children today don’t have it as badly as they did. That’s not a satisfactory indictment against technology. One has to wonder if many Conservatives, who claim that guns are “just a tool”, feel that way about video games, or smartphones, or what have you. Of course they don’t. They can’t apply their “tool” logic universally. That’s a major problem with Conservatives. I know that Cronkite and Orwell had deeper meanings than that when they criticized technology in the way that they did, but that has to be in one’s mind: How much of their critique is just old grumpiness?

However, even though, one one side, there are Conservatives who unfairly bash “technology” simply because it is “new”, or whatever their justification ultimately is, there is an opposite, although still negative, side of that coin. And that is “scientism”. “Scientism” is the belief that humans can be subjected to the scientific method such as a pool stick is to a cue ball. I’m not talking about, say, the effects of medicines on cells, or whatever. I’m talking about “social engineering”. I think Orwell discussed this brilliantly. Some people have a fallacious belief that we are better than we’ve ever been, as in morally superior to those in the past. I can understand that belief to a certain extent (as, for instance, slavery is more universally regarded as repugnant today than it has ever been), but these people go way too far with that idea. They’re the exact opposite of Conservatives, but they are still dangerous, if not more so than Conservatives. They treat the passage of time, and technological progress, as ipso facto improvements upon man’s ethics. This isn’t really “new”: it’s been around for a long time now. “If it is scientific, it can’t be immoral.” Ignoring, say, inhumane, unethical scientific testing which has been done historically, or attempts in the early 20th century to replace God with “science” (more specifically, the State’s application of “science”), leading to the deaths of countless millions. Science doesn’t eliminate man’s natural inclination towards hubris. “Science”, in fact, seems to ignore “man’s nature” constantly. It basically comes right out and says “There is no such thing as human nature”. And this was even before the “sexual Progressives” of today had taken over as they have now. Science-minded people seem to have an aversion to the concept of “human nature”. Unless, of course, they’re talking about how scientifically stupid most people are. But the pride of “science-minded” people is still alive and well today. Trying to push us more and more into statism, while, ironically enough, the “traditional, old-fashioned” Conservatives are their “biggest enemy”. It just makes one wonder why so many people think similarly. Interesting. It also makes you wonder how any ever thinks differently.

For more discussion on “human nature” and “apriorism”, check out some Austrian-school thinkers such as Murray Rothbard and David Gordon.

Of course, I didn’t even go into detail of how else “science” has replaced “God” with how it is fearfully preached by people who don’t even understand what it is that they are preaching. They are afraid of being “heretics”; afraid of not being accepted by their peers. So they scream “science” constantly, not understanding it themselves, but putting the utmost faith in anyone who calls himself a “scientist” (legitimate or not), much like faith was put into the clergy before the Reformation.

But, to continue with “1984”: The main character, Winston Smith, is old enough to remember a time before “the Party” took over. This also made me think of Conservatives lamenting a “bygone” era. Now, within the context of the book, I was fine with this lamentation. But in “the real world”, it’s annoying. Old Conservatives seem to think that the ’50s were the holiest generation on God’s green earth. With each passing day, they complain about how much more lost the world is becoming. Never mind the fact that in the very book that they claim to “believe” in, the Bible, one of the very first siblings ever created here on earth killed the other one. No, still yet, there’s some bygone era that was holier than today. No, the truth is that these Conservatives are full of shit. This, of course, is not to say that there aren’t legitimate lamentations of a bygone era. Of course, as tyranny increases, it is perfectly understandable and acceptable to think of a past time more free than currently. But that’s not all that Conservatives do. They have rose-tinted glasses for the past, regardless of how horrible the past really was. But, then again, don’t Conservatives complain about the past as well? Conservatives complain about today, and the technology that exists. Which, I suppose, is a complaint that the technology didn’t exist back then. But they are supposed to be “authorities”: they can’t admit to the young ones that they are jealous of them. Let’s just spank them and condemn them for playing video games. You know, the “responsible” thing to do. In fairness, once again, I don’t believe this was the gist of Cronkite’s discussion of technology. I think Cronkite was mainly concerned with how government (or cronies in connection with government) could use the growing technology for nefarious purposes. Also, he has some legitimate concerns about privacy. Google Earth is kind of frightening. Most of the time, when I use it, I’m just interested to see how accurate things are where I live. But it doesn’t bother me that much. Who cares if satellites can see my neighborhood? I can see my neighborhood when I go outside. I can see my neighborhood online if I take pictures of it and post them. The only concern that I have with it, in truth, is the fact that Google and the government are in each others’ pockets. I think that is a legitimate concern with technology, and I know both Cronkite and Orwell thought about technology in that same way.

But, “Conservative” analysis of technology aside: What did I think of the core message of the book, about Statism taking over the world? The book is excellent. I greatly envy Orwell. “1984” is a book that I wish that I had written. The book is obviously transcendent. While reading the book, I felt a combination of dread and hope. I really think it would be hard for anyone to view the book any other way. The dread is obvious. It is obvious to anyone who isn’t a “prole”; to anyone who isn’t a “knave” or “dupe”. People have spent, and continue to spend, their whole lives making careers out of warning about tyranny (and countless other “screamers” who aren’t doing it professionally). Fromm did an excellent job of contrasting pre-WWI writing with post-WWI writing. Most certainly, people continue to warn against tyranny today. Crediting Orwell the whole way through. Praising “1984” seems futile, because it really speaks for itself. It spoke, and the world continues to carry it on. It is a libertarian torch. The only differences between the passings of the torch are the specific words used, but the praise is universal among people who value freedom. The dread runs parallel to conclusions drawn to today from the book. If one looks hard enough, one can see that every day is a step towards 1984. And it is very easy to see 1984 when one takes account of how many of his fellow citizens don’t see 1984.

So 1984 is very clearly a tale of the human condition. About the conflict that exists within us. The desire for freedom, and the desire for control. It is a ceaseless ping-pong game with no winners, and where everyone dies at the end of it. Control is futile, and control is Hell. There’s very little solace for a man who has a gun pointed to his head, and there will always be someone in the future who faces a barrel, just the same. There will always be someone ignorant of the barrel, someone staring down the barrel, someone holding the barrel, someone trying to wrestle away the barrel, someone trying to destroy the barrel. There’s no end to evil on Earth. Not ultimately. There’s only fighting it, or perpetuating it. You can’t “ignore” it away. It will consume you.

But the ultimate takeaway that I’ve drawn from “1984” is a reinforcement for a developing belief of mine that I’ve had for a little while now. And that belief is to enjoy freedom when you have it. I spend a lot of time listening and talking about liberty and tyranny. I get something from it. Despite the similarities between America today and “1984”, there are significant differences. America is freer than “Oceania”, “Eurasia”, and “Eastasia”; the three “countries” in “1984” (I think it is fair to say that this holds true, even though the story only takes place in “Eurasia”, specifically, in what used to be London). Appreciate it. Don’t be so foolish as to believe tyranny an impossibility, but enjoy your freedoms while you have them. It isn’t 1984 quite yet. And don’t let it get there. Who knows how to alert the proles, if it is even possible to do so. But regardless of who is listening, scream out. If the heart desires freedom, scream out about it. It doesn’t matter who finds you odd when you’re screaming freedom. Do it while you can. As much as you can stand it. Express yourself, as much as you want to, while you are able. Make it whatever you want to make it; as serious, or as silly. Just do it. Despite trends toward it, there still isn’t a Ministry of Truth just yet. I’m sure there’s aspects of the Ministry of Love that the public doesn’t know about. And the Ministry of Peace remains in full effect, as always.

Overall, my takeaway is simple. Yes, 1984 can happen anywhere, anytime, including “here”. Don’t be so naive as to believe that your “country” is different. But take full advantage of any freedoms that you have. Exercise your humanity while you are still human. Enjoy your freedoms. And just read the book for yourself, if you haven’t already. And if you have, well, maybe read it again.

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Review of “Gerald’s Game” by Stephen King

At first, it might seem odd why a young man, with a critical penchant, would decide to subject himself to a story in which, no doubt, the subject matter would be ripe for critique. Why does a man subject himself to something he hates, only to complain about it? It must be that he actually enjoys the complaints. But that’s not the full story here.

No, this story has some personal history with me. I first started to read “Gerald’s Game” as a kid. I forget the specific age, but it was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 14. My father was a frequent reader on the pot (the shitty kind), and, one day, while on the pot myself, I discovered this book. I don’t even think I realized that there were handcuffs on the cover. In fact, I don’t even think I realized what they were until I had already started reading the book for the second time, this year. I’m an odd combination of attention to detail, yet a lack of contextual awareness.

At any rate, I first began to read this book at a young age. I think that was a very significant act which has, believe it or not, gone a long way to shape my philosophy today. That might seem like an exaggeration, but I do not believe it is. For I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, that it was this book, that I first began to read as a child, which made me realize that one can make a conscious decision to put “controversial” things into writing. This was the first “adulterated” book that I had ever attempted to read. I do not recall how far into the book I got back then, but I know I didn’t finish it. But I remembered reading about a woman handcuffed to a bed, and a man, with an erection, getting kicked by said woman, and dying. And I recall reading about a dog eating said dead man. From when I was a child. And I was hooked. It was so graphic that I was hooked. I wasn’t scared of it, but I had this weird fondness for it. There was a bravery to writing something like that. I greatly admired it, even back then. I wasn’t disgusted, but impressed.

Fast-forward several years later, when my desire to write for myself grows, and so does my desire to read more often. My history with reading is a pretty complicated mess, but suffice it to say that I have recently desired to go back and reread some stuff that I had either completely read or partially read from my youth. And this was one of the books. Here is the official “review”.

I was hooked by the concept. As I reread, I recalled what I had read before. Was it more captivating back then than it was now? That’s hard to say. My youthful inexperience may have made it more captivating back then, but I still enjoyed the concept this time around. I really loved the concept. As I was reading, I was fascinated by thinking of how he could keep this storyline going for so many pages. I don’t like the way Stephen King writes. I don’t like how he writes. I don’t like his “voice”, I guess you could say. His “ebb and flow” is very clunky. But I liked the overall message. I liked the “impression”. A woman is handcuffed to a bed. How does she get out? I like that idea. I like the fact that it goes on and on and on and on. What in the Hell is going to happen to her? I was hooked, despite the writing that made me want to grit my teeth from time to time. I enjoy what happened in the book, just not how they were told. Her struggle to get a glass of water. Her flashbacks to her childhood. There was a theme to the book that I found quite humorous.

To the dedication of the book: “This book is dedicated, with love and admiration, to six good women: Margaret Spruce Morehouse, Catherine Spruce Graves, Stephanie Spruce Leonard, Anne Spruce Labree, Tabitha Spruce King, Marcella Spruce”. The following page provides a quote, as King is one to do in the few books of his that I’ve read: “[Sadie] gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer. ‘You men! You filthy dirty pigs! You’re all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!’ – W. Somerset Maugham, ‘Rain'”. I suppose this is “sexist” of me, but my first instinct to realizing that this was going to be a major theme in the book was laughter. I couldn’t help but think of modern feminism. The book credits King’s copyright to 1992. Being born in that year, and being raised in the 90s (but mainly in the early 2000s), I believe that I can say that the current feministic trend is stronger than ever, but was growing even during my childhood. Words are annoying, and tricky. They can mean different things, and unraveling them is annoying. Truthful words are only valuable to those who value truth. But modern-day feminism is a disaster. And I couldn’t help but think of this as I started to realize what a major theme of this book was going to be.

However, I also understand that a man can dedicate something to influential women in his life without being a “cuck”. I’m cynical, but not that cynical. King wanted to dedicate something to the women in his life. Ok, I’m fine with that. Let’s continue with the story.

There’s an interesting reference which runs through the book of a certain “smell”. The main character of the book, Gerald Burlingame’s wife, Jessie (before any feminists get their cum-stained panties in a bunch, “Gerald’s” name came first because his name is actually in the title of the book), gets emotionally uncomfortable around a certain smell. Gerald and Jessie are in a lakehouse, spending time alone together. Jessie associates lakehouses with this certain “smell”. The damp smell of the lake. But it also brings to her mind the smell of semen.

For, you see, when Jessie was a little girl, her family spent the summer at a lakehouse as well. The family (Jessie, her brother, and mom and dad) were going to meet up with some other people to witness the eclipse that was going to happen, but her father wanted alone time with Jessie. The mother was reluctant, but, ultimately, it happened.

The father tells Jessie to put on this tight dress because it makes her look pretty. Jessie, being young, feels good that her father compliments her because she loves her father like children do. He tells her to sit on his lap, he gets an erection, and ends up cumming on her butt. He then tells her to go clean up.

She, obviously, is confused. She goes to remove her clothes and take a shower, and her distress grows as she realizes something smelly on her underwear. As she’s changing clothes, her father comes into the room. Jessie doesn’t want to tell her mother about what happened, and her father manipulates her by making sure that Jessie doesn’t want to tell her mother.

Jessie has these flashbacks as she remains handcuffed to the bed. The majority of the book is her talking to herself. A great concept. She goes through ebbs and flows. A dog comes in and starts eating Gerald. She starts battling thirst, and tries to get a glass of water that is left on the bed to drink. And that’s about it. She’s handcuffed, the door to the house is banging open and shut by the wind, she’s thirsty, and there’s a dog. And flashbacks, and her own thoughts. I liked the concept. She keeps talking to herself and talking to herself. But she talks to herself as other people that have existed in her life. There’s a feminist that she went to college with who was her “strong” side, who motivated her to try to figure out ways to get unhandcuffed. Her mother. That was the main point of the book: just her voices in her head, and what was going to happen to her. It was “ok”. I cared more about her situation than the voices in her head. I like the idea of one talking to oneself the whole time while in a situation like this, but it just felt forced to me. It felt like forced, annoying feministic crap. Perhaps I’m too cynical, partly because of the time in which I live. But it felt forced. “I love you, women in my life! You’re powerful!” Eh. I might be able to tolerate that a little more if King was a better writer. But my thoughts on King’s writing style is “Eh. Clunky.” Felt that way about “It” as well. But, as I said, as I was reading this, I realized that I’m a little jaded. It’s fine for King to dedicate something to the women in his life. And, I’m sure, he was influenced by stories they have told him throughout the years. They probably had strong feminist friends in college, and that influenced him. But it was just annoying to me, especially considering today’s climate. And the way King Tweets.

Just as an aside, at one point, more than halfway through the book, the passage of fictional time is about 21 hours. And the book is 445 pages. Yeah. I won’t say “typical King”, however. After reading the 1,000+ pages of “It”, this was a relief.

There’s this strange thing that comes into the room at night and Jessie isn’t sure if it’s her imagination or if there is something there. It’s got unnaturally long arms and big hands, and it opens up this bag to her and has golden rings and fingers in it and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting, like nipples. She isn’t sure if it’s real or her imagination but she decides, after a few nights, that she isn’t going to wait around anymore to find out. She breaks the glass after she’s drank all of the water, and uses a giant shard of it to cut her hand so that her blood can provide lubrication so she can slip out of her cuff. Nice. I liked that. I like fictional gore. There’s some drama, and eventually, she gets out of the house. The long-armed thing is chasing her and she’s still not sure if it’s completely real or not but she assumes it’s real, gets into the car and has trouble starting it (of course). But it finally starts, and she’s driving away. Slowly. Something whispers in her ear and she looks in the rearview and sees the creature in the backseat (I might have that order swapped) and she ends up crashing into a tree.

Turns out the “creature” was real, and it was this guy who dug up corpses and fucked them and took rings off of their fingers and kept body parts as well. Anyway, he gets caught, and she goes to his trial in secret, as people in town know about her story. Can’t remember if it was from the cops talking to the paper or if she wrote about it herself. Maybe both. I don’t really care. She sits right behind him, gets his attention, and spits in his goofy, aloof face. Then, she documents what happened to her. And that’s it.

This story really strikes me as “difference between the sexes”. I could see women liking this book more than men. But it’s written by a man (King, no less), so how much women are actually going to be able to relate to it is uncertain, to say the least. Once again, I can appreciate that King loves the women in his life, and wanted to really write something for them to show them he cares about them and appreciates them. But, it’s King. The writing style leaves a lot to be desired, and it came across to me with a significant amount of feminist crap. I suppose I’m contributing to rape culture, as I’m not emotionally invested and siding with a woman who gave in to her husband’s fetish against her better judgment, but this story isn’t very good. King’s writing still annoys me, the “feminist” twinge, for lack of a better term, annoyed me, even though I could also simultaneously appreciate it, but I liked the idea. I like the idea of someone being trapped in a helpless situation for a long time. That’s a good idea for fiction, and I can definitely see myself being inspired by this in something I may write down the road.

Basically, I guess what I’m saying is that this is very obviously a book about women written by a nerd. And that, like many things in life, makes me laugh.

A Message From A Shitty Writer

A young man gets bored, and decides to write a story. He decides to write a story about the most exciting thing he can imagine. Along the way, he discovers that he isn’t very good at it. He’s created the literary equivalent of a McDonald’s hamburger: it’s food, but not very sustenary; full of shitty preservatives and filler that only the most careless would consume, let alone enjoy.

As time goes by, he realizes that the health-nuts were right. It’s shit. And anyone who likes it is a deadly idiot.

More time passes, and yet, the shit remains. Undissolved, in the pit of his stomach. Making him sick. More and more, he realizes how important it is to take care of his health. To take care of his mind. And to take care of his stories.

But man has to fight against his own nature when he diets and exercises. All the truth in the world won’t change a stubborn man into action. At least, not necessarily.

The voices tell him that he himself needs to speak. Their triumphs arouse in him his desire to succeed himself. A best friend’s favorite author, and one of the most heralded pieces of political fiction ever written, call out within him the desire to scream. The exhaustion and dissatisfaction comes rapidly. It isn’t that the words aren’t good. But it’s that his heart screams out to speak. He can’t take it anymore. He screams out loud, to only a few. His words will fade into obscurity. Can’t the young man focus on these resonating words? For some reason, only a little. And that reason, it appears to be, is the desire to scream himself.

The youth are cursed with ignorance. But, strangely enough, the young man is smart enough to realize this. But, as an old country song used to sing, “still too young to care“. Besides, the confidence in youth can lead to contentment in old age. There will be no shortage of sages making you aware of their own failures. But why they assume that their shortcomings will be your own remain a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, I don’t care how good of a writer John D. MacDonald is, I’m not a big fan of them.

The main thing that is going to get me to read is going to be my desire to improve as a writer. I suppose there will be moments when I am bored enough to read rather compulsively. But as I read, I realize that I am dissatisfied with my own abilities as a storyteller. It matters not to me that these writers are better than I. What matters is that my heart is dissatisfied with my inability to communicate as often, and as effectively, as I wish.

I can hear many old sayings about how those who wish to speak the most often, and the loudest, are the dumbest. My goal is to be a bright exception to that rule. Despite the fact that, by almost every standard, my words are abjectly elementary and juvenile, the beast within my heart waits to be awakened. Bilbo and Smaug both want the gold. And my goal is to make sure they both get it.

Of course, it’s a long journey. But journeys are best when they aren’t directed by an outsider. When they are directed by the self. When the reason for them is clear within the mind of the one taking the journey. That is part of my journey. Being able to say things beautifully, and creatively, and witfully. Beautiful, well-written stories of tragedy, horror, adventure, and heartbreak. Isn’t it ironic how that is what the heart wants? Heartbreak?

I mean no disrespect to any author that has come before me, or will come after me. But you’re all tools. I’m going to use you. Your existence is for my selfishness. Your words are going to become mine. I can appreciate the fact that, sometime throughout your life, you felt just as compelled to scream as me. But beyond that, I wish, myself, to scream. Maybe I’ll catch a faint holler in the distance, of the message you wished for me to absorb. But that whisper is saying to me “Scream, dammit. Scream. Learn how to scream for yourself. And use us to do it.”

The only trouble is screaming coherency, or even better still, charm, and wit, instead of nonsense.

Sometimes, the hardest part of screaming is the screaming. Other times, the hardest part of screaming is the message. But I think as long as I’m able to scream, I’m going to relish that gift, that right, right along with other screamers. I appreciate your screams, and I long to join in on the hauntingly beautiful chorus…

Long live the written word, and may we chant this from the sulphury pits of Hell if we must.

Message.

Review of Stephen King’s “It”

It’s too damn long. Part of the problem is seeing the movie before reading the book. I knew there was going to be a spider, so I wanted to get to that part. That probably diminished some of my enjoyment of the story. Not entirely, however. I like King’s horror and gruesomeness, but I didn’t like many of his similes and metaphors in this book. They made me cringe throughout.

You can tell Stephen King grew up in the ’60s. “Far out, man”, and whatnot. Didn’t really have a problem with it, per se. Just chuckled. It was fine. It always stood out to me like when I witnessed it.

There’s a lot of themes in the book. Friendship. The romantic situation was very interesting. Not clear-cut at all. Everyone thinks Bev is pretty but Ritchie never really makes any moves on her and Ben loves her but she’s more into Bill but Bill is more consumed by getting revenge for Georgie even though he likes Bev as well. At first, I didn’t like it. But, thinking it over, childhood (hell, even adulthood) is confusing like that, isn’t it? The complicated love triangle was a nice touch. Very funny to contrast that with all of the gruesomeness throughout.

Interesting how they all leave each other after the horror of their childhood and Bill ends up with a woman that looks like Bev. Then he cheats on her with Bev? Ok. Then, at the end, he ends back up with her, and they live happily ever after? Is he ever gonna tell Audra or not? Ok.

Why is Mike the one that stayed in Derry? Why didn’t “It” ever get him? What’s the significance of the fact that Mike stayed in Derry? Does it have to do with the fact that he’s black? Serious question. He’s used to seeing horror so he can stay? It bothered me that I couldn’t figure that out.

The tragedy in the book is terrific. I’m thinking of Bev’s father and Henry’s father in particular. So tragic. Children being raised horribly. I really enjoyed those parts of the book. Particularly Bev’s. Incredibly powerful.

I had a problem with the way King talked about their friendship, to paraphrase, “coming together”, “they felt the final cog click into place”. Please. You’re being way too obvious. Stop beating me over the head with it. Why did they need those “cogs” if one of them killed himself before the final confrontation? Was Stan really necessary? And what did I miss about the birds? What relevance did the birds have besides making an appearance? Stan’s character existed simply for one of them to commit suicide. I guess that’s fine. But that has to be the stated reason for his existence. Stop telling me that all seven of them are needed when they clearly aren’t. I did not feel as if he existed for any other reason than to create drama about their “unit” being weakened, and to really drive home the point that what they witnessed as children was so horrible that one of them killed himself because of it. I think I enjoyed the way I just explained it more than the way King explained it in the book. It was just annoying, because Stan just tagged along (he’s an introvert, I get it). But Stan really annoyed me. I guess his suicide was the best part.

I liked Ritchie as a character. Mike as a character. Ben, and Bev. Eddie was annoying. “He sucks on his inhaler. He sucks on his inhaler. He sucks on his inhaler.” I FUCKING GET IT. GIVE SOMEONE ELSE MORE PAGE TIME. Swap Stan and Eddie, or something. Sure, it’s great when you learn the inhaler was a placebo. But for fuck’s sake, I got tired of reading about Eddie’s goddamned asthma. Bill’s character was interesting. He grew on me. At first, I thought he was stale. But he grew on me. He kind of made me wonder why some of the other kids were really necessary. I know groups have “leaders”, but a lot of time was given to Bill. And I couldn’t figure him out as a character. Obviously, he was motivated by justice. But how much of his character would’ve been “serious” if Georgie hadn’t died? How much of it was his natural personality and how much of it was revenge for Georgie? It bothered me that I couldn’t figure that out. Not really a problem with King, I guess. Just something personal.

I get that Henry was the antagonist that needed the most page time. It makes sense. He’s a loudmouth. I didn’t have any problem with Henry Bowers. I liked his storylines. But man, was I disappointed when Patrick Hottstetter’s story was over as quickly as it was. That was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. Patrick’s killing animals and has them in a refrigerator? Holy fuck! That’s great! Slugs that jab into your eyes? Awesome! I’m not saying that Patrick should’ve been the main villain over “It”, nor did I have a problem with how much time Henry was given. But I was disappointed that his beautiful depravity was over with so soon. Henry being the leader of this fucked up kid, who was probably entirely capable of killing Henry. What an interesting character, Patrick Hottstetter was. Shame I didn’t get to see more of him. I’m glad he died, though. In the sewers. Apropos.

And everyone ends up fucking Bev in the sewer? Really? I mean, ALL of them? Stan, Mike, Ritchie, everyone? That part was hilarious. I loved it. I guess, looking back, it’s really tragic. What was Bev thinking? Did she become a whore because of an abusive father? Or was there truly something deeper that she did, in fact, share with all of them? I’m leaning more towards whore because of her father, personally. Women don’t just go around fucking all of their friends. That’s the only way she really knew how to show her love, because that’s how her father showed her love. Sweet, because she loves them. Heartbreaking, because she’s fucking them because of her own sexual abuse (I’m sure), and hilarious and disgusting because they are all down in a sewer when they fuck. King can’t be preaching about ANYTHING “in real life”, political, because of that. Well, it depends. King virtue-signalling about Trump is pathetic. But I’m not going to get into that here.

But the main themes of the book, about childhood and growing up, were terrific. The final couple of pages made me tear up. I loved it. Fascinating how the kids fought “It” by accepting that “It” was an illusion. Kids conquering their fear of the dark. That was very nice. But why did any kid ever die then? How can kids die from giving in to an “illusion”? At what point does the illusion become real? I really like all of the parts were King drives home that horrible things in one’s childhood fucks one up for life. All of them repressing what happened to them in the sewer as kids. Stan killing himself, Henry and Bev that I already mentioned, etc. What happened with the Hottstetter kid that made him how he was? Who knows. Enjoyable. The town ignoring the problems of the kids? Also nice. But I’m confused: why did only some kids die, and not all of the kids? Why was anyone allowed to grow up to become an adult? Why did “It” choose who it chose? That also bothered me. Maybe I’m a bad reader and all of this just flew over my head.

And what’s the deal with Pennywise? There’s something old. It manifests itself to what children fear. It’s an illusion. What is its “final” form? I guess I missed that, too. I wish that Pennywise wasn’t just some prop or tool, the “bait” form of It, I guess. I’m fine with a clown turning into a spider. But I was disappointed that the clown just goes around talking in people’s heads. I guess he doesn’t have to kill anyone. But it’s kind of a let down to me when Pennywise is around for the whole story but he’s (or that form of “It” is) kind of meaningless in the end.

And why Derry? Why nowhere else? What was it about Derry which made “It” reside in the sewers for so long? No big city at all? I thought “It” was going to be a metaphor for evil as a whole. But it only resides in Derry? News crews from major cities come to Derry afterwards? Why did “It” choose Derry? I get it. That’s the “mystery”, I guess. But it annoys me. I liked the parts that talked about Derry. The small town life, the people around. It was funny to read about people going down to fix the sewers when they overflowed. Interesting. But why does “It” live in a sewer in a small town? Sewer, fine. But why Derry? “That’s the whole point, that’s the mystery”, blah blah blah. It annoys me, personally. I like shit to make sense. I get that entertainment doesn’t have to make sense, but in times like these, it is going to bother me, and I am going to say so, because that is how I am. Lol (And I’m not just saying that it has to be in “bigger” towns and not “smaller” towns, but why only one small town? Why no other “small town” but Derry, Maine?)

And I’m fucking glad I’m probably never going to see the word “Kenduskeag” ever-a-fucking-gain.

I’d definitely recommend “It”. But, in my opinion, it is overrated. People love it for the gruesomeness. Which I agree with. But I have a lot of problems with this story. There’s way too many problems and not enough good gruesomeness in this one for my taste.

And I think I would enjoy it more if it was cut in about half.

Review of 2017’s “It”.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall Parody

I don’t need no education
I don’t need no self-control
The dark sarcasm in the writing
Teacher: “Read your books at home”
“Hey!” Teacher: “What’d you read at home?”
All in all you’re just another shitty author
All in all you’re just another shitty author

If you don’t write your words, how can you be a writer? How an you be a writer if you don’t write your words?

Parodies.

Creative Confidence

I entered this world as an introvert. As I got older, comedy became my way of communicating with other people. Whenever I allowed my brain to develop a completely independent thought that wasn’t “comedy”-related, and shared that thought with others, I often found that they thought I was crazy. I started to believe this as well. And this kept me from sharing serious thoughts with others. Comedy has always been easier for me than writing something “serious”.

I have not yet determined if they were right, or if I was, and am, right. I can tell that this uncertainty hinders me creatively. But I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. If I completely express myself, completely and honestly, am I actually an insane person? Am I a danger to others? Are my honest thoughts dangerous to others? To many, that’s a weird question to ask. But to me, it’s normal. I’m learning the importance of independence. And I’m learning how I can improve as a writer. But I still have my doubts. I begin to write something, and feel as if I’ve already written it before. Then, those children of my past come back, and ask “Why do you repeat yourself so often?” And then, there’s doubts. I start to “look up” why I repeat myself so often. Ope, looks like it’s OCD. So then, I obsess over my “self-diagnosed” OCD, until I finally just say “I can’t do this anymore.” Even if I do only repeat myself with everything I write, if that’s what I feel like I should write, then that’s what I’m going to write. If I’m truly a mental patient, then as long as I feel honest with myself, I’ll have to accept that I’m more “disordered” than the general population.

I’m tired of adopting ideas about myself that come directly from others. This is partly why I have developed my “vulgar” stage: as a way to rebel from being told how I should think. What do I think? What do I honestly think and believe? It is crucial to the soul for one to develop his own thoughts and convictions. Something is always missing if one doesn’t.

It is fun to take what people believe about me and exaggerate it. I really enjoy that. I really enjoy “scaring” ignorant people. It’s dangerous, because there are some people out there crazier than I who wouldn’t hesitate to end my life. But if freedom of expression is so important, why should death be enough to scare one into silence?

I don’t want to be told how I should bring my creative visions to life. I don’t want to be afraid of being “crazy” and “repetitive”. I’ve always believed that I know what I’m talking about. If you disagree, say so. You have every right to say nasty things about me, or whatever you want. I’m not going to stop you. In fact, I encourage it. I may delete a comment, but start your own blog. I have learned that good people will always get their names smeared by bad people, so I welcome that. I welcome the miscreants to destroy my name. I fucking love it. Bring it on.

I always envision an assassination attempt against me, much like Larry Flynt. “Why don’t you just keep your mouth shut? Is it really worth it?”, you may ask. I believe so. I have always been willing to stand up for what I believe to be right. I’ve never had a gun pointed at me, or anything severe, but I’ve been attacked (when I was a kid) for standing up for justice. Been stabbed with a pencil, and had my face slammed into a desk, because I took back a seat that was stolen from me. I realize that’s a minor example. But it proves the principle. Even though I’m not perfect, and I’ve done some bad things, I think I can safely say that justice motivates me.

I have very deep convictions regarding comedy and writing. I have big goals. I will not stop pursuing them. It’s a very slow process, as I have said. But practice will make me better. I’ll develop my voice with practice and experience. I will be able to handle justified and unjustified criticism as I get older. It’s going to be a while before those voices of doubt go away. It’s exhausting to read and try to get better. Entering into the literature world is a huge endeavor. But I want to write, and I want to see where it takes me. I want to learn from my mistakes as a writer. I don’t want to let criticism silence or censor me. And all of this is going to be very hard to do. The thing that gives me hope is the fact that writers write over a very long period of time, so I know I’ll get better at this as I go along. I’ll just have to feel like I’m spinning my wheels until I finally, somehow, get out of the mud.

I’m not able to completely make up my mind yet, and that bugs me. I want all of my writing philosophies to be fully developed now, but they aren’t, and can’t be. There will be growing pains. That’s a part of it. But I look forward to seeing where it all ultimately goes. For whatever reason, I am confident in my abilities to write. I didn’t say I was good yet, but I’m confident that I can do some good things over time. It’s just a matter of learning how to do it, and that is hard; especially, if you’re as thin-skinned as I am. Even that callousness takes practice, and I’m impatient. But I look forward to seeing where it all goes, and I’m looking forward to how I’m going to feel about it all. I generally feel confident until I get negative feedback, but I think that’s just natural for a lot of people. I may be an engine without oil, but I’ll learn to lubricate eventually. I truly believe that I am the little engine that could, and now, it’s just a matter of proving it over a period of time. That, of course, is the hard part.

Literature and Me

Devin Stevens Presents Literature

When I was a child, I read only a small number of books. The occasional children’s tale and scholastic bestseller, such as R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, those attempts (successful I suppose) at introducing the horror genre to kids, or Dav Pilkey’s hilarious The Adventures of Captain Underpants, those mixes of funny narrative with even funnier pictures. In the fifth and sixth grades, I managed to read the seven Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, though the hidden religious meanings didn’t cross my mind. I just wasn’t smart. But for the most part, books didn’t reach me too often. I was immersed in the video game world of Mario, Sonic, and the first person shooter. Because my eyes were glued to the screen, I didn’t have time to glue them to the page. One of my first deep regrets as a human being.

When I was in elementary school, J.K. Rowling’s first…

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