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May 30, 2009

Consider this highly recommended: Matt Ruff's "Bad Monkeys"

I just finished Matt Ruff's book "Bad MOnkeys" and I'm reeling from the energy and spectacle of it. It feels like Fight Club and Philip K Dick and The Usual Suspects squished through a filter of post-9/11 paranoia. Two thirds through the book I couldn't decide if the narrator was telling the truth or had had a psychotic break with reality. And I couldn't decide which I'd prefer. The book is dangerously clever.

Here is what the good people at Powells.com have to say about it:

. . .

Bad Monkeys inhabits the same literary space as the drug-fueled paranoia of Philip K. Dick, owing a particular debt to Minority Report. In that story, the protagonist is a detective in a division of the police department that investigates what are called "pre-cog" crimes, arresting perpetrators before they have a chance to act on their impulses. In Ruff's universe, it's not a matter of seeing the future as much as handicapping it, singling out bad seeds and eradicating them. It's not about justice; it's about, as one the Bad Monkeys operatives puts it, "fighting evil in all its forms." Bad Monkeys is an intriguing exploration of moral relativism set in a plot so labyrinthine that it could have sprung from the mind of Borges if he wrote screenplays for Michael Bay. Often the lines between heroes and villains are blurred, and the organization, which is ostensibly fighting for good, engages in surveillance so ubiquitous and undetectable that Alberto Gonzales would be green with envy. And, there is never any explanation as to who charges the Bad Monkeys with their tasks or gave them a license to kill. It's a shadow organization whose umbra gets murkier the longer Jane works for them.

May 29, 2009

Recommended Reading: "Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky" by Ken Scholes

Clarkesworld Magazine: "Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky" by...

May 26, 2009

Second Oxford Poetry Professor Resigns in Disgrace

Bookninja -- Oxford Poetry Professor resigns over smear allegations

Wow. You thought things were ugly and complicated before? Well, now Ruth Padel, Oxford Professor of Poetry for less than a week, has resigned since it came to light that the emails seemingly intended to cripple the campaign of her main competitor Derek Walcott were written by none other than herself. I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this, and a good deal of it seems to hover around the divide at the feminism v. patriarchy watercooler. And with good reason. There are questions that need to be asked. Some of them can be answered somewhat definitively, but some can only create more questions, or spark arguments based on worldview.

The main problem is this: we were prepared to overlook the failings (in fact, possibly criminal behaviour) of Walcott because of his massive genius, yet Padel, also a genius, is being crucified for forwarding on a few notes by email—is this a case of misogyny? Historically and sociologically speaking, I’d normally say Yes. And given the sputtering and glee of her critics, it seems rather likely.

. . .

But something to keep in mind here is that both poets resigned because of APPEARANCES of impropriety. No one actually forced them to. We can debate endlessly whether what they did was wrong or worthy of discussion in the context of the election, but THEY knew the appearances were likely to damage the OxProPo position itself. They realized that their own critical errors in judgement from the past (recent or relatively distant) had precluded them from holding a position that can’t sustain the scabs and scars that would come with their election.

May 22, 2009

Illinois passes bill to block Blagojevich from getting payday

New Bill Blocks Rod Blagojevich Book Deal Payday - mediabistro.com: GalleyCat

The Illinois Senate unanimously passed a bill that would block former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich from using his six figure book deal with Phoenix Books--if he is convicted for misconduct. The bill has passed both houses of the state legislature, and is headed to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to sign.

The Elected Officials Misconduct Forfeiture Act would prevent the former governor from collecting his advance, the Chicago Sun Times reports. If the governor is convicted, he must "forfeit any monetary rights derived from any book, movie, television, radio program, or Internet depiction or detailing of the crime for which he or she was convicted."