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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
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Love in the Time of Cholera
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Vineland - Thomas Pynchon A dystopian presentation, but with zombies and ninja magic, of Reagan's United States.

Follows a group of '60s new leftists and their antagonists, through use of translucent digressions, elliptical flashbacks, and abrupt changes of perspective, back and forth through several decades.

It might read as a mess at first, and therefore likely requires labor-intensive rereadings. That said, there're plenty of brilliant turns of phrase, descriptions, and scenes. Much comedy, satire, parody. Likely in the same genre as Mieville's [b:Iron Council|68495|Iron Council (New Crobuzon, #3)|China Miéville|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320419476s/68495.jpg|66379], even though it's not obvious if there's any direct influence.

The novel opens with a plot-related distinction between defenestration and transfenestration (15). For my second reading, I will assume that this is the basic structure of the presentation and be on the lookout accordingly.

Some interesting incidentals, illustrative rather than exhaustive, as it is pregnant writing:

We are told that a mobster's library included a copy of Delueze & Guatarri's Italian Wedding Cake Book (97), which is a slick little joke.

Ninja magic, should sound familiar: "She learned how to give people heart attacks without even touching them, how to get them to fall from high places, how through the Clouds of Guilt technique to make them commit seppuku and think it was their idea - plus a grab bag of strategies excluded from the Kumi-Uchi, or official ninja combat system, such as the Enraged Sparrow, the Hidden Foot, the Nosepicking of Death, and the truly unspeakable Gojira no Chimpira" (127). In learning a "system of heresies about the human body" (128), our communist ninja also learns "the Vibrating Palm or Ninja Death Touch" (131). So, yeah, it's kickass. (There's also a way to undo the vibrating palm, as it happens.)

Engaged gender politics, such as the presentation of Sedgewick's homosociality thesis, as when the novel's obscure object of desire is told by her fascist lover that she is "the medium [leftist lover] and [fascist lover] use to communicate, that's all, this set of holes, pleasantly framed, this little femme scampering back and forth with scented messages tucked in her little secret places" (214). There's quite a bit of feminist erudition on display in this one.

We are reminded on numerous occasions, implicitly, of the "metaphor of movie camera as weapon" (197).

Nifty correspondence of cause with Zizek's [b:Sublime Object of Ideology|18912|The Sublime Object of Ideology|Slavoj Žižek|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1167146940s/18912.jpg|758270], wherein stalinism requires that "the Communists are 'men of iron will,' somehow excluded from the everyday cycle of ordinary human passions and weakness. It is as if they are 'the living dead', still alive but already excluded from the ordinary cycle of natural forces - as if, that is, they possess another body, the sublime body beyond the ordinary physical body" (Zizek 162-63). Similarly, Pynchon presents a leftist involved with "progressive abstinence, in which you began by giving up acid and pot, then tobacco, alcohol, sweets - you kept cutting down on sleep, doing with less, you broke up with lovers, avoided sex, after a while even gave up masturbating - as the enemy's attention grew more concetrated, you gave up your privacy, freedom of movement, access to money, with the looming promise always of jail and the final forms of abstinence from any life at all free of pain" (230). Add in the zombies, which are weird, possibly superfluous, and genuinely very polite, and it all comes together (or maybe not quite together, but rather not completely disentangled) as a riff on Slovene marxism.

Recommended for those who wish to at least appear more clitorally ladylike, male motorcyclists who for tax purposes reconstitute themselves as a group of nuns, and nomads in the sky's desert.