[Paleopsych] Meme 036: Frank Is Abandoning Reality

W. Troy Tucker wtroytucker at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 28 22:58:55 UTC 2004

Hi Frank,

We've seldom interacted as I'm a lurker on most lists.
 I've read most of your posts over the last five or
six years and appreciate the service you provide.  You
caught my attention with the On the Road quote because
I just read it for the first time a few weeks ago.
Like you, I read non-fiction voluminously, however I
never gave up the fiction habit.  Because I have an
incomplete (or more accurately, perhaps, "false")
sense of who you are from reading your posts for so
long, I have two immediate suggestions for your
reading list.  On the Road would be well followed by
Samuel R. Delany's "Dahlgren", which is, perhaps, the
next generation's version of the Kerouac odyssey.  I
read it when I was 19 and have returned to it every
ten years or so.  More importantly, I intuit that you
should read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.  It
is erudite, insightful, ambitious, and daring in
tackling pretty much the entire range of issues I've
seen you struggling with.  I don't know if I agree
with him (or even entirely understand) but it's well
worth the slog.  On occasion I've wondered if, in
fact, you might be Kim Stanley Robinson. 

Best wishes,


--- Premise Checker <checker at panix.com> wrote:

> Meme 036: Frank Is Abandoning Reality
> sent 4.10.28, 4:59 am Central War Time, the minute
> of his 60th birthday in 
> Kansas City, Mo.
> "I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split
> up. I had just gotten 
> over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk
> about, except that it 
> had something to do with the miserably weary
> split-up and my feeling that 
> everything was dead. With the coming of Dean
> Moriarty began the part of my 
> life you could call my life on the road...."
> ----------
> I am abandoning reality for fiction and will stop
> reading non-fiction 
> books. I think I know pretty much, at least in
> outline form, what is 
> actually known about human nature from the
> biological and social sciences. 
> Novelists have a way of getting at the complexities
> of the human condition 
> that scientists have not. So not having read much
> fiction since I read all 
> twelve volumes of Dostoyevsky in the 1970s, I am
> returning to deepen my 
> understanding. What aspects of our humanity may we
> be giving up as we take 
> control of human nature through manipulating the
> genome, through 
> nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial
> intelligence, man-machine 
> hookups? Will we become the emotionally flat robots
> depicted in science 
> fiction novels and movies? Could our selves and our
> lives, instead, become 
> deeper, even deeper than Beethoven in his last
> decade?
> I also want to know how human nature varies. Is the
> world converging to 
> one system of thinking? Or has there been enough
> gene-culture coevolution 
> of human populations--it's still taboo to say races,
> owing to lingering 
> 20th century egalitarianism--that there will be
> significant *internal* 
> barriers to Western hegemony? As I said in my last
> meme, there has been a 
> major reorientation of the dominant left-right
> polarity, from central 
> planning vs. free market in the earlier twentieth
> century and equality vs. 
> inequality in the later part to pluralism vs.
> universalism in this 
> century.
> I'm asking for lists of your favorite novels,
> stressing non-Western 
> literature, those that have depth of
> characterization and are worth 
> rereading. (But are novels all alike, the medium
> being the message?) I've 
> read all of the (University of Chicago) Great Books
> (except that I could 
> only get through a quarter of War and Peace) but
> have read only one 
> non-Western novel, Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima. I
> need to broaden my 
> learning. So please send your lists. (I do NOT read
> poetry.) Books that 
> appear on many lists are most likely to get read. I
> shall assume your 
> permission to forward your lists, unless you tell me
> otherwise.
> (Having last had an English class in 1964--yes, I am
> that old--my memory 
> of what happened in those classes is completely
> vague. How is a 40 or 50 
> minute class, that is in neither a lecture nor a
> seminar format, get 
> filled up? Can anyone point me toward webpages of
> transcripts of typical 
> literature classes?)
> I have four categories in my project:
> I.   Western novels
> II.  Non-Western novels
> III. Science fiction novels
> IV . Religion, books of or about.
> Here's the list of what I've accumulated so far:
> 1.  Kerouac, Jack, On the Road. America. This will
> be the first book. I
>      read.
> 2.  Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. England.
> Never read anything by
>      her.
> 3.  Balzac, Honoré. The Bureaucrats. France. Since
> I've lived among the
>      bureaucrats far longer than Margaret Mead lived
> among the
>      Samoans, this novel is probably the one for me
> to get
>      introduced to Balzac.
> 4.  Colman, Hila. Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister.
> America. Teen-age: I
>      should know something about this genre.
> 5.  Goethe, Johann von. Elective Affinities.
> Germany. Sarah's very
>      favorite.
> 6.  Gover, Robert. One Hundred Dollar
> Misunderstanding. America. One of
>      Charles Sletten's favorites.
> 7.  Huysmans, Joris-Karl. Against Nature and La-Bas.
> Germany. Two of
>      Sarah's other favorites.
> 8.  Jelinek, Elfriede. Wonderful, Wonderful Times.
> Austria. Just won the
>      Nobel Prize for Literature.
> 9.  Jünger, Ernst. On the Marble Cliffs. Germany.
> Another of Sarah's
>      favorites.
> 10. Kleist, Heinrich von. The Marquise of O- and
> Other Stories.
>      Germany. Given to me by George. Kleist never
> wrote a novel and
>      committed suicide at age 34.
> 11. O'Connor, Flannery. America. Three by Flannery
> O'Connor.
> 12. Schaefer, Jack. Shane. America. A casebook. I
> love casebooks, for the
>      give me background! Love Cliff Notes, too,
> since I have great difficulty
>      following lots of characters.
> 13. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. England. A
> Casebook. I have read
>      the play but need to really study it.
> 14. Trevor, William. The Story of Lucy Gault.
> Ireland. One of Marcia's
>      favorites.
> 15. Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.
> America. A classic
>      work from the 1950s protesting the conformity
> of the era. Others include
>      Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged; David Reisman, The
> Lonely Crowd; Robert
>      Lindner, Prescription for Rebellion; C. Wright
> Mills, The Power
>      Elite; William Whyte, The Organization Man. All
> non-fiction here,
>      except Atlas Shrugged, but I don't know fiction
> very well.
> 16. Wolfe, Thomas. You Can't Go Home Again. America.
> 17. Zola, Emile. Earth. France. Given to me by
> Denise, but I'll probably
>      read the much more famous Nana instead.
> 18. The Dedalus Book of Decadence (Moral Ruins). A
> sampler. France. We
>      have a division of labor in our house: I read
> the books on cynicism
>      and nihilism, while Sarah reads the books on
> decadence and
>      degeneration. But this is fiction, so I shall
> read it.
> 19. Goethe, Tieck, Fouqué, Brentano. Romantic Fairy
> Tales. German.
> 1.  García Márques, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of
> Solitude. Colombia. This
>      will be my first non-Western novel. Almost
> everyone recommends it. I'll be
>      getting a case book and the Cliff Notes. I've
> downloaded everything
>      on it from http://www.oprah.com.
> 2.  Allende, Isabel. Chile. Several lying around the
> apartment, I don't
>      know which to read first.
> 3.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions.
> Argentina. He never wrote a
>      novel. Another non-Western author nearly
> everyone recommends.
> 4.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Selected Non-Fiction. This
> is literature, really.
> 5.  Jin, Ha. Waiting. China.
> 6.  Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The Buru Quartet. Java.
> Given to me by
>      Denise. Will read one volume initially.
> 7.  Mahfouz, Naguib. The Thief and the Dogs. Egypt.
> Winner of the Nobel
>      Prize for Literature in 1988.
> 8.  Murasaki Shikibu [Lady Muraski]. The Tale of
> Genji. Japan. My copy is
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