Friday, January 11, 2008

"Cult Fiction"

Another book off the shelf for the LITGM book club... in this case it is "The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction" which has the subtitle genre benders, beats, gurus, drunks, junkies, sinners and surrealists. This book isn't a coffee table book, more like a book you might keep in the bathroom amongst the magazines since you can turn to almost any page, read a brief & biased bio (all the more fun), and then get up and leave.

The other fun part of this book is that you can get the same feeling you'd get from reading a cult novel without the hours of tedium (and potential flash of insight) that this generally implies. The little blurbs are kind of a cross between a biography of the oft whacked-out authors along with their best works, those they influenced, and those that influenced them.

A typical blurb about an author I know well is on p165 for H.P. Lovecraft with the tag line "altogether ooky" (no, I don't know what it means, either).

"His decided British style... has a ponderous hypnotic rhythm of unavoidable evil about it." Now that is a good summary line. I remember being in high school and showing a passage of his work to a teacher and her telling me it was absolute crap, and then pretending to be joking about it, when of course she was probably (mostly) right. For a bit more on H.P. check out this post and here is an hilarious t shirt (it is much funnier if you switch to the baby model).

Another good summary is on p76 for Philip K Dick "who, by embracing drugs as an aid to imagination, wrenched science fiction from the hands of little green men and chisel jawed heroes". This is a good summary because old science fiction is a lot like old westerns... hoary plots with rocket ships and aliens blasted into little pieces. The drugs did NOT do him a lot of good, however - "Dick had what sounds like a psychotic episode, triggered... by an amulet worn by a pharmaceutical delivery clerk." Dick is a giant; Blade Runner is based on his novel along with a host of other movies; his visions of paranoia and alternate reality couldn't contrast more with the linear plot lines of Asimov or "traditional" sci-fi.

I recommend the book because it is fun, and you might find a book here or there that you may be inspired to purchase. Worst case, it only takes up a small portion of you coffee table, because it is pocket-sized.

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