For Peter Watts, life can be stranger than science fiction.
Watts – who has written six such books – was on his way back to Toronto last Tuesday after helping a friend move to the U.S. Before crossing the Blue Water Bridge into Sarnia, American customs officers pulled him over. He says when they began rifling through his car and luggage, he got out. They ordered him back in the car; he asked what was going on.
What happened next has become the talk of the blogosphere: Watts too has waded in on it, posting that he was assaulted, punched in the face, pepper-sprayed and thrown in jail for the night, only to find that he was the one charged – with assaulting a customs officer.
After the incident, Watts’ friend was arrested and interrogated, but not charged.
Watts, however, spent the night in jail, in the standard orange jumpsuit, and was released the next day on $5,000 bail. He was dropped off across the border at Canadian customs, without his coat – it was in the car, which was impounded – during a winter storm.
Apparently my country is exponentially factual:
The book returned to the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts this week wasn’t overdue by a week, a month or even a year. It was nearly a century overdue, and the fine came to $361.35.
“Facts I Ought to Know about the Government of My Country” was supposed to have been returned by May 10, 1910.
Or, why e-books are so “popular”. Random House shrieks “all mine”:
On Friday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company’s older agreements gave it “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”
Backlist titles, which continue to be reprinted long after their initial release, are crucial to publishing houses because of their promise of lucrative revenue year after year. But authors and agents are particularly concerned that traditional publishers are not offering sufficient royalties on e-book editions, which they point out are cheaper for publishers to produce. Some are considering taking their digital rights elsewhere, which could deal a financial blow to the hobbled publishing industry.
It would seem that e-books are the literary equivalent to reality TV shows: cheap to produce, and therefore generating higher stream of revenues to distribute. But for whom is the question worth asking. Never mind if the reader prefers the physical book. This is why amazon and such are promoting the hell out of their devices.
Will Self’s story cycle “Liver” is definitely anything but a celebration of such a crucially important component of the body. Rather, his surface anatomy of four lobes is a dissection of the extent to which the organ is neglected, abused and in a permanent state of decay. Nay, Liver is not necessarily about the liver at all, but instead a survey of the bilious, fetid human condition; the organ itself is the link that connects the lobules of each character into one stinking gestalt of unpleasantness that, Self stresses, is born completely voluntarily.
Excruciating detail is the rule for this story cycle. The epicenter concerns particular emphasis upon the Plantation Club, a highly distinguished fellowship devoted to the gavage of willfully force-drinking their on-coming death. Secondly, the sojourn of a cold, cancerous woman to Switzerland and her assisted deathbed, though ever unsure whether she will be cured either of her ailment or pestilential daughter. Third, a revisit to the tale of Prometheus, where his daily grind as a highly ambitious advertising agent necessitates the acceptance of a large bird of prey. Though not to be outperformed, finally, by the surprisingly cogent narration of unlikeliest protagonists, observing and deliberating upon an evening soiree of intermingling junkies.
Self doesn’t as much tell stories as he unleashes a highly colorful stream of consciousness, or unconsciousness if you prefer, among his characters and setting, which predominantly consists of the alleys of unkempt London. His rich vocabulary is a gavage unto itself, deliciously force-feeding the reader with “the chronic, the progressive, and the degenerative – a bit like civilization” as he will emphasize. Everyone experiences their own personal sepsis in this work, as Self most intellectually spares no expense describing all manner of bodily fluids and open sores. The reader may take caution, however, as the author’s immense vocabulary and wit make this a slow and sinuous digestion.