3.7.07

Army[at]Love, &c. (I can't make the [at] sign?)

"Perkodhuskurunbarggruauyagokgorlayorgromgremmitghundhur-
thrumathunaradidillifaititillibumullunukkunun"
(23:5-7)

And just as I had bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronn-
tuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk
memorized.

I found some interesting commentary on the so-called thunderwords (apparently 100 letters apiece--you can count 'em) here:

"There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, 'What did he say that time?', as automatically as we say 'Gesundheit.'" -- Marshall McLuhan

"It took months of concentrated effort to begin to winkle out the thousands of words in the thunders; now, several of them have yielded thirty or more pages of words, each word denoting or alluding to a theme in the episode or an associated technology. Prior to our discovery of the thunders and their significance, Marshall McLuhan looked up to Joyce as a writer and artist of encyclopedic wisdom and eloquence unparalleled in our time.... After, he recognized in Joyce the prescient explorer, one who used patterns of linguistic energy to discern the patterns of culture and society and technology." -- Eric McLuhan

I thought it was neat. Each of em's a chaotic confluence of thunder-words from foreign languages the world over, which are then processed into Joyce's native Hiberno-English, then punched in the face and kicked in the mud by a poetic genius who I'm more and more convinced knew exactly what he was up to. The link has each of the thunderwords, there for the taking. Don't lift too hard--you'll hurt yourself.

So I read a bunch of things in the last few days. One of em was good, one was bad, one was okay, and one I'm pretty sure defeated me. The good one and the okay one (hah!) is Rick Veitch's new series, Army[at]Love. I bought the first issue after hearing the premise, which I immediately discounted as too crazy to make work, which is really the thing Veitch lives to do, bless his soul. The premise, which is so above and beyond the kind of absurd Swift was going for in "A Modest Proposal" that I'm still not sure it'll work, even after being proved wrong (wrong, mind you) in his American road-trip-slash-9/11 homage-slash-dialogueless graphic poem Can't Get No (readitreaditreaditdammit) and his "let's write a story about the evolution of American cultural and technological identity in the first half of the 20th century and write a story explaining the history of the cold-blooded comics industry in the first half of the 20th century and let's blame it on...a satirical Supermanesque alien who isn't really an alien and let's make it the same fucking story" The Maximortal. No kidding.

Army[at]Love
is a commentary about the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The story takes place 5 years hence in Afbaghistan. After years of increasing mortality rates and decreasing morale, the government creates a Morale and Motivation branch to research ways to increase progress and overall good faith among soldiers on the battlefield. So the story opens up with US soldiers under fire: a woman soldier is on a cell phone with her husband in the States, telling him where his belt might be hidden. The tech guru of the squadron is a mentally retarded boy. By page 10, two soldiers are seeing if they can reach the ultimate orgasm by doing it while under heavy fire. Veitch is incredibly excited about the series--he said someting along the lines of he's going to have a chance to develop these characters in more intricate and, uh, good ways than in any story he's done before. After the first issue I can't say I'm too excited with the characters BUT! I can't impress on anyone enough how Veitch can pull oranges out of a Mac if he put his mind to it, so I'm gonna keep reading the series as I collect precious income. Assuming, of course, I find an English comic shop in Ibaraki Prefecture. Otherwise, I'll download the torrent and send Rick the money.

The second thing was Yoggoth Cultures and Other Growths. It's a two-fer-one of Alan Moore Lovecraftianesque goodness: the first story being inspired by him, the second being produced by him and Bryan Talbot. The first story is illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp--a fucking phenomenal artist in the hemisphere of Geoff Darrow--apparently from an aborted novel Moore started called Yuggoth Cultures. Never heard that, but he writes enough, so I believe it.

The second story is by Moore and Talbot. It's a wee intro to a would-have-been series that never took off for whatever reason, about a girl whose sorcerer father, the King of All Birds (of all sorcerer-folk, like) was murdered by seven usurper sorcerers. The rule is one usurper kills one Lord--not seven--so the daughter goes to seek revenge. Kill Bill with a creepy, necropolyptic theme about it. I didn't like it, and I can count the Moore stories on my thumb that I didn't like, so that's saying something. Still, the series never took off, and it was the first issue, so that's indicative of my disinterest. Apparently Yuggoth Cultures is coming out with some more issues, but since Avatar Press is the publisher, it just might be a variant cover, or typeface. Not sure.

The last thing I read--or tried to--was Iain Sinclair's novel Slow Chocolate Autopsy. I never heard of him either, except that's more than likely due to my being American, and him being pretty exclusively English. I got into him because Alan Moore said "Iain Sinclair, I think – yeah, let's go out on a limb – the finest writer currently working in the English language". I forgot the part where he said "Pure signal is like [See Spot Run] – yes, you can understand everything on the page, but there's nothing much there worth understanding. Noise – or something approaching noise – is like a page of James Joyce, a page of Ian Sinclair – where there is such a density of information that it almost becomes incoherent, but it is full of information." Reading Sinclair is nothing like reading Joyce insofar as with the Wake, I know I'm supposed to skim (unless I'm nutty) because it's supposed that I just want to get the general idea. Sinclair, however, writes in very short, very real sentences. With real words. That mean real things. Like these. But more poetic, like. So I can understand everything I'm reading (even though the guy's vocabulary is ef'ing uncanny), but after a while I'm not sure I know I'm reading. Compounding this, Slow Chocolate Autopsy centers on a character who is stuck in London, but he's not stuck in time. And he's not the narrator--at least some of the time. So I'm on chapter 4 and the only thing I can say for sure is that this guy, this Norton, accidentally killed Christopher Marlowe when the latter fell on a sharpened stick he meant to terrorize some other bloke with. And in another chapter, he might be a speed freak who's very good or very bad at soccer. Heckifayekno.

Nonetheless, I think I see why Moore says Sinclair is as good as he is: Moore's prose is a delightfully mysterious mix between simple and complex. NOT in the way Hemingway fleshes out complex stories with simple prose, NEITHER/NOR in the way Falkner writes really convoluted prose to show off to someone or other. (Haven't read H. in years; never read Falkner; opinions based on schoolmates'.) Moore writes simple prose and complex prose about simple ideas and complex ideas. At the same time. (Is anyone still reading?) Sinclair does the same thing with his prose, as near as I can tell. I'm not smart enough yet--or patient enough, regrettably--to vouch for his mastery of the simple/complex story juggling thingy. But I bet Moore thinks he does, and that's good enough for me, for now.

But damn do I wish I could read that book.

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