Enough Bickering, Let’s Read Something

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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54 Responses

  1. Well, hell. This obviates the need for a post I was going to write later this week, when (presumably) I will have finished “Invisible Cities” and will be looking for guidance on what to read next. I was going to ask if I should try to dive back into Proust or start “The Pale King.” But instead I’ll just vote for “The Pale King” and hope everyone else thinks that’s a good idea.Report

    • Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      I think we should read more Calvino and talk about it, but he’s one of my favorite authors, so I always think we should read more Calvino and talk about it.Report

      • Russell Saunders in reply to Chris says:

        This is the first book of his that I’ve read. You’d think it would be a short read, but I keep going back and reading each story over and over again because they’re all so incredibly beautiful.

        So, um… I would be all in favor of reading more Calvino, who is well on his way to becoming one of my favorite authors.Report

        • Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

          Awesome, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. My favorite is probably The Baron in the Trees, which I highly recommend next.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

            I’ve only read Invisible Cities and Numbers in the Dark, but I greatly enjoyed them both.Report

          • Russell Saunders in reply to Chris says:

            Hoo, boy. I have no idea how I am going to explain to the Better Half why I am spending yet more money on books. (I am not so great about visiting bookstores sans purchase.) Part of the reason I’m rooting for “The Pale King” is that I already own it. (I also already have “The Diamond Age,” so that one would work, too.)Report

            • Libraries are a Better Half’s best friend.Report

            • Chris in reply to Russell Saunders says:

              As Ryan suggests, get thee to a library, or at the very least a used book store, particularly since after you’ve finished The Baron in the Trees, you’re going to need to read The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount (usually sold in one volume in English), and then If on a winter’s night a traveler.

              The great thing about Calvino is that his books are always a great pleasure to read, and you can read them really quickly (really, If on a winter’s night a traveler is best read in one sitting).Report

  2. Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    I would vote for Ubik, but they are all interesting books.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    Ubik might be fun. I also wouldn’t mind rereading Illuminatus! which I remember being pretty funny when I was in college, but I can’t guarantee it’ll hold up now.Report

  4. Kazzy says:


    You think asking this crew to agree on a book will STOP the bickering? HA!

    I’m not familiar with any of these titles and thus, if I am involved, will simply go with whatever the group decides.Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    I finished Pale King about a month ago. Rather like eating pound cake, delicious stuff but jeebus it’s filling. Three or four pages at a time it was for me. Kafka, but a whole lot funnier.Report

  6. Mike Schilling says:

    I vote for The Pale King or Diamond Age because either gives me a reason to read something new. Either of the Dicks is fine (though if you’re taking suggestions, I’d offer his The Transmigration of Timothy Archer instead). I’m with Rufus in not being at all sure Illuminatus! is worth re-reading.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I’d love to read Transmigration again. My favorite Phillip K. Dick book of all times.Report

      • MikeSchilling in reply to Michelle says:

        It’s a beautifully written book. Also, it’s fascinating how much of Archbishop James Pike’s life Dick uses for Tim Archer, including the interest in spirituality that followed the death of his son and his tragic death in the Judean desert.Report

  7. Plinko says:

    I’m reading The Diamond Age right now, so I’d happily tag along with that. I’m interested in Illuminatus! but I don’t know much about it.

    I’ve read both Dick books and love them, I think Ubik might make for a better discussion throughout but it was a long time ago that I read it.

    I’m afraid I’d read The Pale King at the same 3-4 page per day pace Blaise mentioned, my head gets full quickly.Report

  8. E.C. Gach says:

    All of these are great. I’ll be happy with whatever everyone else chooses.Report

  9. BlaiseP says:

    I’d go with Diamond Age, though I’ve read the book. Neal Stephenson is constantly pushing himself into strange corners.Report

  10. Maribou says:

    You should buy all of those, though the only one I’m likely to make time to read is Man in the High Castle. (I’m behind after a year of mostly reading textbooks and comics!) I think it’d be my third reading? Maybe fourth? I love that book.

    Otherwise I look forward to reading what y’all have to say about the others.Report

  11. Anne says:

    I vote for Man in the High Castle or Ubik (been on my list to get to for awhile now)

    Next, in order, would be Diamond Age, Pale King, and IlluminatusReport

  12. Ryan Noonan says:

    I may or may not participate (I have a lot of reading commitments right now), but Pale King in a month seems like it might be ambitious.Report

  13. Miss Mary says:

    Both Dick books sound good. Well, they all sound good, but if I had to pick one, it would be those two.Report

  14. Ryan Noonan says:

    Does anyone else here use Goodreads? It might be fun to have a League group.Report

  15. Kimmi says:

    I’d pick Illuminatus!, because i’m curious to know what everyone else thinks about that mindfuck.Report

  16. Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

    Pick something Jason, so we can all get back to bickering!Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

      I’m picking Ubik. It’s at least a defensible choice given the comments.Report

      • MikeSchilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        OK, professor. When’s the test, so I can stay up and read it the night before?Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to MikeSchilling says:

          Let’s aim for July 5th, ish. I’m still waiting for my books to arrive.

          To answer some of the others on the thread, I’ve read The Transmigration of Timothy Archer as well as the other three VAILS-related books. They do interesting things with the lines between fact and fiction. David Bowie and Brian Eno are there, disguised, among others. I really need to read the volume of exegesis that was recently published from PKD’s apparently voluminous leftover writings. Among some of them, there are some frankly lousy novels, but every time I dip into the Exegesis proper, I’m more intrigued.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            The Divine Invasion is a huge mess, but I love the scene where the main character tries to explain his situation to the cop who’s pulled him over.

            “You’re saying you’re God’s father?”

            “Legal father. And my business partner is Elijah the prophet.”Report

          • I read probably twenty or thirty PKD novels in high school plus three short story anthologies. I prefer his short works because PKD’s writing has always been about finding vehicles for his ideas, and the short story medium is more efficient for this.

            Of his novels, my favorites are DADoES, Confessions of a Crap Artist (which is totally different from his other works), and Time Out Of Joint (possibly my sole favorite). I was fairly unimpressed with both MitHC and Dr. Bloodmoney.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Confessions of a Crap Artist (which is totally different from his other works)

              I’d say it’s fairly typical of his mainstream (i.e. non-SF) novels, most of which weren’t published until after his death.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I haven’t read any, but I haven’t heard good things either. Could you recommend one for me?Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                Well, they’re mostly not very good, which is why they remained unpublished during his lifetime. CoaCA is typical in

                * being disjointed with somewhat clunky plots
                * following many odd characters rather than having a single narrative thread
                * being set in northern California, mostly Marin and the East Bay

                As you might have noticed, that describes Dr. Bloodmoney too.

                I recently read The Broken Bubble and pretty much enjoyed it.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to MikeSchilling says:


            • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I prefer his short works because PKD’s writing has always been about finding vehicles for his ideas

              PK Dick couples genuinely brilliant, original ideas with some of the most prosaic prose style to be found among “major authors.”Report

              • I always felt that that sort of helped him. His later (crazy) stuff always had the effect of making me feel like I had some sort of psychotic break for about 20 minutes after finishing it. I don’t know that a more romantic style would have done that.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Also, his protagonists tend to be normal, practical people that weird stuff happens too. Even if they live in a world where the dead come back to life, they’re the ones who have jobs cleaning and refurbishing the used coffins.Report

              • Plinko in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Further, PKD’s prose just throws you into their lives and worlds as if it were perfectly normal, he never spends time talking about how the technology or social structures work or digress for a chapter on how they evolved.

                I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of his writing – it’s not all ‘look at the wondrous things I can imagine and explain to you’ it’s more of a future shock situation where the the reader and the protagonist are tossed around in a world they don’t fully comprehend. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that nearly every book concerns a character or characters that get out of a familiar life and start having to cope with how little of their world they know or understand.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Plinko says:

                that’s just standard writer trickery. don’t sit and blather at the reader, let someone blather at the protagonist. or have the protagonist discover things piecemeal.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Plinko says:

                On the other hand, Michael Crichton’s books are 90% technology explanation and 10% plot.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

                The shere boring-ness of the prose sort of works. The ideas are so completely insane, they lend themselves to being presented in a matter-of-fact, even tedious, style. Most ghost stories seem to follow a similar pattern.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Simon K says:

                I think the simplicity of the prose is what makes Philip K. Dick Philip K. Dick. It’s also what makes PKD’s works seem like pulp despite their depth. Compare PKD to Jorge Luis Borges, stylistically crème brûlée to PKD’s M&M® McFlurry and just as wild in terms of themes and content. Both authors succeed on their own terms.Report

            • Plinko in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I’ve read twenty or so PKD novels but none of the VALIS-related ones (I have read Confessions of a Crap Artist though), I actually prefer the novels to the short fiction, but they’re often such weird dreams of plot that I end up barely remembering most of what I’ve read. I distinctly remember enjoying several but I couldn’t recall the major plot points of half of them.Report

      • Right-o. Ordering tomorrow.Report

  17. dhex says:

    illuminatus is rather dated in terms of language and far more than a bit of the california anarcho hippie hashhead mindset – and it helps if you know RAW had a serious love affair with joyce’s work, as there’s a lot of extra jokes in there if you’re up on your ulysses – but i think it mostly holds up.Report