Miss Selaine-ious
Mr. Mercedes Stephen King PDF Print E-mail
Written by Selaine Henriksen   
Monday, 16 June 2014 23:27

If you're looking for a classic Stephen King horror story this ain't it. This is more of a Harlan Coben thriller, in the style of Stephen King.  True horror in this world is usually at the hands of other people. Stephen King aims to get at what drives a person to go on a murderous rampage. In this story the killer has a messed up home life/childhood that has warped him. Perhaps, in the interest of story, it helps to give a personal, individualized reason. In fact, many people have horrible childhoods/home lives and develop into fine people (at least not killers) and the opposite seems to be what is playing out in these recent mass shootings; that is, people who seem to have every advantage.  It's time to look at the cultural, rather than the individual, motivations of the killers.

Traditionally it has been the American mantra that if you work hard enough you'll achieve the American Dream of middle-class prosperity, if not out and out riches. Every day the rich and beautiful are paraded before us with the implication that "this could be you". And, now, no one believes it any more. People are working hard, two, three, jobs and going under. After the banks imploding everyone knows the deck is stacked against them. It's not about what you can or can't do; you are supposed to strive in order to feed the richest. Regardless of differing opinions on what the underlying cause is, people have lost hope. And, maybe the ones who had the greatest expectations (middle-class white males), are the ones who feel the loss of hope the most. Maybe, the ones from broken, horrible homes never had any great expectations anyway.

I liked this book but, Mr King, please return to writing horror stories that will distract me from the true horrors going on in the world around us.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle Shirley Jackson PDF Print E-mail
Written by Selaine Henriksen   
Monday, 09 June 2014 15:36

What impressed me about this story, besides the final truly horrifying image, is how perfectly paced it is. The timing of every character info bomb or story reveal is exquisite. The story unravels like clock-work.  Or, an even better metaphor, it's like an intricately woven web that holds at the center, at the end, an image that sticks with you and only grows in its horrifying impact long after you've digested the book and had time for it to be absorbed. Shirley Jackson taking us to school!

Winter's Tale Mark Helprin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Selaine Henriksen   
Tuesday, 27 May 2014 14:40

I read this book years ago and raved about it. On a re-read I'm still raving. I think I understand it better this time. I re-read it because a movie has been released. I haven't seen it yet but am very curious to see what they chose to focus on. Probably the love story, although that's not exactly what it's about. Some stories are told best with words. The word pictures here are beautiful, evocative, soaring and lift you out of the mundane. I'm not sure actual pictures on screen can achieve the same effect.

It's interesting to have read "Winter's Tale" after reading "How Forests Think" by Eduardo Kohn. One is a heavy academic essay, the other an epic fictional fantasy and yet both seem to speak to the same idea; that there is a realm beyond the living wherein death is a transformation and all that has existed, still exists simultaneously.

To quote Kohn: ". . . the emergent real that comes into being thanks to the particular ways these two kinds of generals - the living one beyond the human and the one that is distinctively human - come to be held together in the forest's ecology of selves."

And: "It is a real that lies beyond the forest in ways that also catch up the life of the forest at the same time that it entangles that life with the all-too-human histories of the many dead that continue to haunt this forest that houses the masters."  Is that not a perfect description of 'Winter's Tale" (substituting "city" for "forest")?

Another parallel that caught my eye: Kohn" "Entities that exhibit self-organization, such as crystals, snowflakes or whirlpools, are not alive. . . . That is, a world characterized by self-organization need not include life, and a living world need not include symbolic semiosis. But a living world must also be a self-organizing one, and a symbolic world must be nested within the semiosis of life."

Helprin: "It is true," he said, "that they live in a machine - the city itself. But if the machine can emerge from nature, then, surely, nature can emerge from the machine."

So both an academic treatise and an epic fantasy can arrive at similar ideas. Neat. I also had the impression Helprin enjoyed writing this novel; it's full of joy. I highly recommend it and it's definitely worth more than one reading.

No Name Selaine Henriksen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Selaine Henriksen   
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 17:44

A short story of mine placed third in Legendary Women's contest. Link: https://medium.com/legendary-women/f2f63bf587c0

How Forests Think Eduardo Kohn PDF Print E-mail
Written by Selaine Henriksen   
Saturday, 03 May 2014 23:22

I'm having a hard time processing this book into 'regular' language. I suppose that means I haven't understood it so well, which is likely true. The language is so densely academic that I understand while I'm reading (or think I do) but have a difficult time relaying what I've understood.

The author lived with the Runa in the Amazon but, although an anthropological study, this is not a study of how they see the world. Or how 'we' see them. It tries to go beyond to how all living creatures have to think to solve their problems. And if we understand how they think we can move past our ways of speaking about the world which tends to divide us into us (people) and it (the natural world) or them (animals). As humans, with language, we turn images into words. Animals understand images. A crude representation of a hawk with its defining characteristics emphasized can be used as a scarecrow to frighten parakeets away from crops; they recognize the image as dangerous and humans can use this knowledge for their own purposes. We would have a greater understanding of our world if we could understand the relevant images of the non-human beings around us.

An ambitious book, the author tries to show how the forest itself is alive, a living entity that also thinks in images. Here, from what I understood, he's speaking of the genetic algorithm. Much can be learned of the shape of an anthill by looking at the shape of an anteater's snout. More than that, the anteater's snout today and now, is haunted by all the anteater's snouts before it that weren't perfectly constructed to fit the anthill and therefore are no longer represented; they're dead. In this way the past informs the present. Beyond that a living entity, in order to survive, must also be able to 'see' into the future, to predict where the prey is likely to be at a given moment, for example.

Trying to re-phrase how the author describes the forest itself as a living entity is where I get a bit lost. I have to quote: "...a world characterized by self-organization need not include life, and a living world need not include symbolic semiosis. But a living world must also be a self-organizing one, and a symbolic world must be nested within the semiosos of life."

This isn't a great summary. There are a lot of big ideas here that i can't address properly. It's truly fascinating. And for all the density of language it's a compelling, extremely original book.


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