Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 Reading List Monthly Update: September

Books completed in September of 2013:

"A Storm of Swords" (George R.R. Martin) 9/3/13
"Girl With Curious Hair" (David Foster Wallace) 9/5/13
"Project for a Revolution in New York" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 9/8/13
"At Fear's Altar" (Richard Gavin) 9/13/13
"Dorian" (Will Self) 9/14/13
"My Loose Thread" (Dennis Cooper) 9/15/13 *
"Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories" (Craig Laurance Gidney) 9/18/13
"A Certain Kind of Light" (Thomas Moore) 9/25/13
"Bleeding Edge" (Thomas Pynchon) 9/28/13
"Mira Corpora" (Jeff Jackson) 9/29/13

2013 Reading List total:

1. "Omensetter's Luck" (William H. Gass) 1/5/13
2. "My Crazy Beautiful Life" (Ke$ha) 1/6/13
3. "Nightwood" (Djuna Barnes) 1/10/13
4. "A Lady of a Certain Rage" (AJ McKenna) 1/11/13
5. "Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal" (Chris Colfer) 1/12/13
6. "Infinite Jest" (David Foster Wallace) 1/22/13
7. "Snow Country" (Yasunari Kawabata) 1/26/13
8. "Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde" (Oscar Wilde) 2/1/13
9. "Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace" (D.T. Max) 2/2/13
10. "The Crying of Lot 49" (Thomas Pynchon) 2/18/13 *
11. "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (Joan Didion) 2/27/13
12. "Ancient Images" (Ramsey Campbell) 3/3/13
13. "The Brothers Karamazov" (Fyodor Dostoevsky) 3/6/13
14. "The White Album" (Joan Didion) 3/9/13
15. "The Catholic Imagination" (Andrew Greeley) 3/15/13
16. "Cat's Cradle" (Kurt Vonnegut) 3/20/13
17. "The Broom of the System" (David Foster Wallace) 3/26/13
18. "Midnight Sun" (Ramsey Campbell) 3/28/13
19. "Slaughterhouse-Five" (Kurt Vonnegut) 3/29/13
20. "Naughty Cherie!" (Joyce Carol Oates) 3/30/13
21. "Dark Reflections" (Samuel R. Delany) 4/2/13
22. "Bright Lights, Big City" (Jay McInerney) 4/5/13
23. "My Only One" (Tom Champagne) 4/5/13
24. "The Gun is Loaded" (Lydia Lunch) 4/8/13
25. "Moju: The Blind Beast" (Edogawa Rampo) 4/11/13
26. "Kappa" (Ryunosuke Akutagawa) 4/13/13
27. "No Longer Human" (Osamu Dazai) 4/19/13
28. "The Woman in the Dunes" (Kobo Abe) 4/19/13
29. "The Sound of Waves" (Yukio Mishima) 4/20/13
30. "Mawrdew Czgowchwz" (James McCourt) 4/25/13
31. "Four Quartets" (T.S. Eliot) 5/1/13
32. "Illuminations" (Arthur Rimbaud, Ashbery translation) 5/4/13
33. "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" (Carson McCullers) 5/7/13
34. "The Wasteland and Other Poems" (T.S. Eliot) 5/8/13
35. "Psychology & Alchemy" (C.G. Jung) 5/9/13
36. "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (Carson McCullers) 5/9/13
37. "The Vatard Sisters" (J.K. Huysmans) 5/16/13
38. "Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust" (Nathanael West) 5/16/13
39. "The Member of the Wedding" (Carson McCullers) 5/21/13
40. "The Trial" (Franz Kafka) 5/28/13
41. "Parisian Sketches" (J.K. Huysmans) 5/31/13
42. "Other Voices, Other Rooms" (Truman Capote) 6/3/13
43. "Cocaine Nights" (J.G. Ballard) 6/11/13
44. "A Game of Thrones" (George R.R. Martin) 6/19/13
45. "Demian" (Herman Hesse) 6/23/13
46. "Victory" (Joseph Conrad) 6/25/13
47. "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons of the Dead" (Stephan A. Hoeller) 6/28/13
48. "Foam of the Daze" (Boris Vian) 7/16/13
49. "Death Poems" (Thomas Ligotti) 7/16/13
50. "Counting With Calico" (Phyllis Limbacher Tildes) 7/16/13 *
51. "Answer to Job" (C.G. Jung) 7/21/13
52. "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" (H.P. Lovecraft) 7/22/13 *
53. "The Dream Police" (Dennis Cooper) 7/22/13
54. "The Last Revelation of Gla'aki" (Ramsey Campbell) 7/28/13
55. "A Clash of Kings" (George R.R. Martin) 7/31/13
56. "Dubliners" (James Joyce) 8/7/13
57. "Wise Blood" (Flannery O'Connor) 8/12/13
58. "Dragon Age: The World of Thedas: Volume 1" (Various) 8/20/13
59. "Following an Angel" (Tom Champagne) 8/27/13
60. "L'Amour" (Marguerite Duras) 8/29/13
61. "Betrayal" (Harold Pinter) 8/30/13
62. "A Storm of Swords" (George R.R. Martin) 9/3/13
63. "Girl With Curious Hair" (David Foster Wallace) 9/5/13
64. "Project for a Revolution in New York" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 9/8/13
65. "At Fear's Altar" (Richard Gavin) 9/13/13
66. "Dorian" (Will Self) 9/14/13
67. "My Loose Thread" (Dennis Cooper) 9/15/13 *
68. "Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories" (Craig Laurance Gidney) 9/18/13
69. "A Certain Kind of Light" (Thomas Moore) 9/25/13
70. "Bleeding Edge" (Thomas Pynchon) 9/28/13
71. "Mira Corpora" (Jeff Jackson) 9/29/13

*= book I have read at least once in the past

Currently Reading:

"A Feast For Crows" (George R.R. Martin)
"The Grimscribe's Puppets" (Various)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fragments and Outtakes #1: The Beta Sequence

The following fragment was to serve as the prologue of a novel that was to have been entitled The Beta Sequence. A number of years ago, one of my younger brothers was a casual fan of the work of Jon Land, a Rhode Island-based local author and Robert Ludlum wannabe whose spy novels all had ridiculous titles such as The Omega Command and The Alpha Deception. I began to amuse my brothers by coming up with the freestyle plot of an utterly preposterous spy thriller novel named The Beta Sequence, which I eventually decided to try writing under the pseudonym "Jason Chase." The book was meant to be a spoof not only of Jon Land's style but also all of the Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy books that I had read in high school. However, I was never able to get any further than the prologue. In true Robert Ludlum fashion, the prologue takes place in the past, where a dying man utters a cryptic phrase, one that will have terrible consequences in the present day. Or something. The British "slang" employed by the characters was taken from the 2010 book FUBAR : Soldier Slang of World War II by Gordon L. Rottman, which I flipped through one day during a break at work. Despite the fact the project was intended to be nothing more than a postmodern joke, I quickly became exhausted by all the research I had to undertake in regards to World War 2 weaponry (among other things), and I quickly abandoned it. I kept the prologue, though, as I think it's pretty amusing, and somewhat Pynchonesque in tone. So here it is:

January 7th, 1946

Captain Alistair Dagobert stood at the bow of his ship, the HMS Lightbringer, which was a Ruler-class escort carrier that had been built in the United States by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation and lend-leased to England’s Royal Navy. It was a big ship, being 492 feet and 3 inches long and complemented by a crew of 646 men. With a maximum speed of 17 knots (around 20 mph), the ship also boasted a 260 feet by 62 feet hangar (located below the flight deck), two large aircraft lifts, an aircraft catapult and nine arrestor wires. In terms of weaponry, there were two 4 inch Dual Purpose guns in single mounts, twenty 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons in single mounts, and 16 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in twin mounts. All in all, 24 aircraft were located aboard the ship, primarily Vought F4U Corsairs and Hawker Sea Hurricane fighters, along with a few Fairey Swordfishes. It was a ship that was ready for battle, but now that World War II had ended it was serving a far different purpose: it was conducting an escort mission in the Southern Pacific Ocean.
The name of the mission was Operation Deadlight, which was the codename for the scuttling of the U-boats that had been surrendered to the Allies following the surrender of Germany on May 7th, 1945. Operation Deadlight was being carried out by the Royal Navy, who were currently using assorted ships from their fleet to tow the captured U-boats to an area 100 miles to northwest of Ireland, an area that had been designated with the codename XX. There, the U-boats were sunk. The first scuttling had taken place in November of 1945, with a second scheduled for Feb. 11th, 1946. Recent top secret documents discovered by the Allies upon raiding Hitler’s bunker in Berlin had led some to suspect that the Germans had an experimental U-boat somewhere in the South Pacific: at the coordinates 47°9′S 126°43′W, to be precise.  / -47.15; -126.717 (R'lyeh fictional location (Lovecraft))Because Captain Dagobert’s ship had been the closest to those coordinates, he had received orders from Andrew Cunningham, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, to investigate the rumor. If they did manage to discover such a U-boat, their orders were to salvage any experimental technology that might be found in the sub, then tow it back to area XX so that it could be included in the next scuttling.
Captain Dagobert, who was 48 years of age, rested his callused hands on the railing that circled the bow of the HMS Lightbringer, gazing out at the horizon with a languid expression on his weather-beaten, mustachioed face. Not that there was all that much to see out there that mild afternoon: just the light blue of the cloudless sky divided in a straight horizontal line by the dark blue of the ocean. They were scheduled to arrive at their destination sometime quite soon. Captain Dagobert was aware that they were approaching the Pacific Pole of Inaccessibility (also known as Point Nemo), which was the place in the ocean that was farthest away from land. If they kept heading south past that point, Captain Dagobert knew that they would reach the shores of Antarctica, the South Pole. He doubted it would have to come to that though, although Captain Dagobert was kind of curious to see what the South Pole was like: staring out at the unchanging water world before him, he daydreamed about what it would be like to get his hands on a penguin. He could take the penguin back home to his son Avery, which would no doubt delight the 11 year-old boy, whose favorite book of all-time was Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which had been published in 1938.
A moment later Captain Dagobert heard footsteps coming from behind him. He turned to see Lt. Martin Snodgrass approaching him. “Good afternoon, Captain,” Lt. Snodgrass said. He was a younger man, with a handsome face and somewhat delicate features, with just a wisp of a mustache above his upper lip. “Got some news to report.”
“Afternoon, Lt. Snodgrass,” Captain Dagobert said as he took out his pipe and began to fill it with tobacco. “What’s the sitrep?"
“Just wanted to let you know that sonar has picked up on that U-boat we’ve been looking for,” Lt. Snodgrass said. “We should be on top of it in a few minutes. What are your orders?”
“Come now, Lt. Snodgrass, you know the drill: form a boarding party and take a raft out there to investigate,” Captain Dagobert said as he lit up his pipe. “Look for survivors, secure any charts or codebooks you come across, disarm the detonation charges. Should be a doddle.” 
 “Permission to speak bluntly, Captain Dagobert?” Lt. Snodgrass asked, his feet shifting.
 “Go ahead,” Captain Dagobert nodded as he puffed away on his pipe, which had been a gift from his father, who had fought the Germans in the first World War.
 “Why in bloody hell are we on this mission, anyway?” Lt. Snodgrass griped as he took out a yellow box of V cigarettes (which had been manufactured in India). “The squareheads got their arses handed to ‘em, the Yanks nuked Tojoland a few months back… I guess what I’m trying to say, Captain, is that the war’s over yet here we are in the middle of soddin’ nowhere, when we should be back in Merry Old England getting well poogled.”
“It’s just bad luck, nothing more than that,” Captain Dagobert shrugged. “When the orders came down from Lord Cunningham it just so happened that we were closest to the sub’s last known coordinates. But no one said life was fair.”
“What’s so important about this bloody sub anyway?” Lt. Snodgrass asked.
“The Allies didn’t even know it existed until they found some documents in the Führer’s bunker,” Captain Dagobert said. “I guess it’s supposed to be some sort of experimental sub, like the U-25II: a Type XXI U-boat, it would seem. We’re supposed to check it out, see if there’s any technology on it worth salvaging, then tow it to the scuttling site. That’s literally all I’ve been told, Lieutenant.”
“Sounds like a load of guff if you ask me,” Lt. Snodgrass said glumly as he took a long drag on his cigarette.
“Pecker up, Lt. Snodgrass!’ Captain Dagobert explained. “This sub probably isn’t worth a crumpet, but it’ll at least get you off this glorified tin can for a few hours.”
“Maybe we’ll be able to salvage some decent rations,” Lt. Snodgrass mused as he flicked his cigarette over the side of the ship. He watched the cigarette land into the water, where a pufferfish promptly wrapped its mouth around the tip and began smoking it himself. “See if those krauts have any japper grog that we can liberate. Ah, to be back home in London in front of a roaring fire, enjoying a big plate of airships and clouds. I’m sick of Cookie Dewhurst’s spoiled goldfish and demon vino. SFA, let’s just get this bloody done with.”
“Now you’re using your loaf, Lieutenant! The sooner we can get this U-boat situation cleared up, the quicker we can get back home,” Captain Dagobert said. “Now get cracking!”
“Aye aye, Captain,” Lt. Snodgrass said, giving him a fey salute before walking off. As Captain Dagobert watched him go, he thought to himself, Lt. Snodgrass is a decent bloke, but a bit of a soft number. Didn’t I catch him reading a collection of Oscar Wilde fairy tales last month?
Thirty minutes later, Lt. Snodgrass and the other seven members of the boarding party were aboard an inflatable assault boat that was headed in the direction of the U-boat, which was not submerged but surfaced. As they got closer to it, Lt. Snodgrass could see that it didn’t look all that much different from some of the other U-boats he had seen during the war, being cigar-shaped in dimensions and gunmetal-gray in color. The hull of the U-boat looked a little scuffed up, but other than that it still seemed seaworthy. The boarding party’s boat pulled up to the side of the U-boat and, one by one, they climbed onto the ship’s deck. The eight Brits scaled to the top of the conning tower and gathered around the hatch that led into the ship’s control room.
“Right, let’s get this over with,” Lt. Snodgrass said, pulling out his handgun, an Enfield No. 2 Mk I 38/200 calibre revolver. He opened the hatch and peered down the ladder. To his surprise, the inside of the U-boat appeared to be illuminated, so the ship’s electricity was obviously still working. “Oi!” he called down into the ship’s control room. “This is Lt. Snodgrass of the Royal Navy! We’ve boarded your vessel! If anyone’s down there, I want to see you with your hands above your heads!”
No answer. After a few minutes of silence, Lt. Snodgrass nodded his head and said, “Right, they had their chance to surrender. Let’s go, men.”
The boarding party began climbing down the ladder, and a minute later they all stood in the U-boats control room. It was a bit larger than most of the other submarine control rooms that Lt. Snodgrass had been in, though in some ways it looked no different: he saw the ship’s controls, the valves used to control the flooding and venting of the tubes, the navigator’s chart table, the bilge pumps, the two periscope shafts (these were located in the center of the room), and other assorted mechanical devices. But the boarding party didn’t pay any attention to all of this.
Instead, they gazed at the five corpses resting on the metal floor of the control room. The corpses were all German, four men and one woman, and each of them was wearing a robe, with each robe being a different color: the five colors were black, red, blue, yellow, and white. The corpses had been laid in the center of a symbol that had been drawn onto the floor of the control room with red chalk, the symbol being a giant upside-down pentagram.
“What the bloody hell is this?” Lt. Snodgrass said, gazing down at the dead bodies. “Some kind of necromancer pajama party?"
“Lt. Snodgrass, their eyes!” cried out one member of the boarding party, a burly bald fellow named Eugene, and he quickly did the Sign of the Cross. Lt. Snodgrass stooped down to get a better look at the faces of the dead bodies, and to his shock and horror, he saw that their eyes were… gone. In their place there were instead small pools of utter darkness, but a bubbling and seething darkness: little black bubbles were floating out from their eye sockets, which seemed to have become tiny witch cauldrons.
Meanwhile, one of the other boarding party members, Willy Dickson, was examining a book that rested on the floor next to one of the corpses. He picked the book up and began to flip through it. The book was very old, and although Willy was fluent in many languages (including German, which was the main reason why Lt. Snodgrass had selected him as one of the members of the boarding party), the book appeared to be written in a language he had never seen before.
“Lt. Snodgrass! This kraut’s still alive!” called out another member of the boarding party, who was kneeling next to the man dressed in the white robe.
Lt. Snodgrass walked over to the man and crouched down as well. It was true: the German in the white robe was still alive, though barely, and he was whispering words in German, the same phrase over and over again: “Hüte dich vor dem Beta-Sequenz! Hüte dich vor dem Beta-Sequenz!”
“Willy! Get your arse over here! Help me translate what this squarehead’s saying!” Lt. Snodgrass called out.
Willy placed the book down on the navigator’s chart table and walked over to the dying German. He bent down and listened carefully to what the Nazi was gasping out. Then he frowned, faced Lt. Snodgrass, and said, “Lt. Snodgrass, it sounds like what he’s saying is, ‘Beware the Beta Sequence!’”
“What the hell is the Beta Sequence?” Lt. Snodgrass asked.
A second later the Nazi died.