Mike’s Prattle


Archive for October, 2007

Joe R. Lansdale – The Magic Wagon, Fritz Leiber – Gather, Darkness!, David Pybus – Kodo The Way of Incense

Posted by Mike on October 17, 2007

I finished two of these three books several months ago. Lately life doesn’t allow for many of the conditions it takes to find reading time. Despite this post, most of my time has been taken up reading through Fulcanelli’s Le Mystere des Cathedrales and, especially, Alastair Reynolds – Revelation Space which has been really gathering steam and appears to be one of the most fascinating universes in all of science fiction. But more on those later…

Lansdale’s The Magic Wagon was the last of a mini burst of reading his novels and it’s not that I’m worn out that I went onto other things, more that I didn’t want to finish most of his books all at once. The Magic Wagon is early Lansdale and from interviews it seems he’s particularly fond of it. Like many of his books, The Magic Wagon deals with racism, although how he does so is tied up in the book’s finish. It’s funny reading this book as it deals with Wild Bill Hickok and even a short trip over to Deadwood, all of which are informed in my head by the TV series. It’s a neat little fantastic western (the wagon is made from a unique source of wood) and besides racism it also deals with the fine line between the real and the myth. Writing this just makes me want to go onto the next Lansdale.

Fritz Leiber’s Gather Darkness! was a little bit tougher to get through, despite the fact that it deals with a subject pretty close to my heart, the divide between science and religion. Gather, Darkness! takes place in a future society where the dominant society, clerical and oppressive, is being attacked by a secret underground who are not only treated as satanists but use it as a front for psychological warfare. I’m not sure it makes any huge insights on the interplay between the societies and it was a bit tough to read in spots (which is usually not at all true for me and Leiber). But Leiber seems to be prescient with the subject matter. And I can’t be the only one with an alternate spirituality/psychological viewpoint that would be quickly rolled into satanism by the most legalistic and conservative members of society. Who knows maybe it’s time to throw on some horns and go terrify people. And not just on the 31st…

Given that so much incense culture belongs to the east, it’s difficult to find good information on it, not only for the language barrier, but also due to the secrecy surrounding incense formulas and kodo. A lot of what can be found in David Pybus’ book is available on the internet, however not much of it comes in such an easy to use format as this. It basically introduces incense, then kodo and ends with a mini encyclopedia of incense ingredients. With so many illustrations it’s a quick read and what pulled me along were various anecdotes I didn’t know about, as well as the history of incense and the Asian trade routes. It’s likely this would be a good introduction to the new incense appreciator and some versions of this book also come in a box set with two incense holders and two small bundles of incense, neither of which really adds much to the experience (it really felt like one of the bundles had totally lost its aromatic efficacy). I can’t wait for the day a solid book on the subject from Japan, translated into English shows up, otherwise it’s unlikely a book like this will be superseded.


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TV (would have been Premiere Week (2))

Posted by Mike on October 11, 2007

Am I the only one a little disappointed with the new television season? And I do mean that mildly because a series that fails for me does open up time in another direction. I wanted to write about what I liked and didn’t like the first week, but for the most part it’s week 2 or 3 for most opening series. So I’m starting again from Monday…. Read the rest of this entry »

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