Ktismatics

31 July 2011

New Book by Patrick Mullins

Filed under: Fiction, Ktismata, Reflections — ktismatics @ 10:46 am

I’d like to draw readers’ attention to the sui generis, romantically solipsistic, oddly compelling prose-poetic art book that is Patrick Mullins’ newly-published Illegal Dances of New York City. It’s his third, following Deep Tropical Ciné-Musique, which I wrote about here and here, and Day of Ciné-Musique, which I reviewed here.

In issuing this announcement I’m reminded that five years ago I launched Ktismatics as a “platform” for promoting a book that I had just finished writing. It was my third, a non-fiction, the first two being novels. Somewhere I’d read that it’s easier to get nonfiction published than fiction, especially if you’ve already built up an audience. So I went ahead and wrote a nonfiction in order to draw attention to the fiction, which is where my real writing passion lay. I hoped that six months of blogging would generate a groundswell of enthusiasm for the ideas behind my nonfiction book. Once I had established this online platform of potential buyers, I would be able to secure the attention of an agent and a publisher for the book. And once that book got published, then the fictions would get published too.

So: I began writing a blog in order to get my nonfiction book published, which I wrote in order to get my fiction books published. Interspersed with other related material I posted excerpts from the book and elaborations on its themes. I offered to send an electronic version of the nonfiction book, free of charge of course, to anyone who asked. I was astounded that no one ever did. After six months of blogging I sent packets of inquiry, including a detailed summary and excerpt, to six agents, all of whom represented authors of recently-published books addressing topics similar to my own. Within a week all six agents had sent me boilerplate rejection letters.

I’ve found other reasons to keep writing the blog even after it no longer served its original purpose. Eventually I rewrote the book I’d originally pitched: shortened it a lot, expanded its scope, turned it into a fiction. Though the original version was good, I’m even more pleased with the rewrite. A year and a half ago I announced its completion on the blog, featuring some Youtube clips of me reading aloud from the beginning of the text. Again I offered free e-copies of the book to anyone who asked, though this time I would have been surprised had anyone taken me up on the offer. I wasn’t surprised.

I’m pleased that over the past five years a few Ktismatics readers have asked to read my other books. There were three for the first novel, all of whom said they liked it. I sent my second novel to someone who tossed it aside as a piece of crap after reading maybe a quarter of it. One blog reader has asked for my fourth book, which I finished a few months back. I’ve not forgotten: I will send it to you eventually.

I don’t know whether my prior write-ups of Patrick’s earlier titles generated a spurt of customer demand, but then again Patrick never put up his own self-promoting blog before. Since I’ve been writing Ktismatics I’ve witnessed the publication of a number of books written by other bloggers. As far as I’m aware only a few of these bloggers’ online associates have written reviews of their books. I wonder if those reviews, or other forms of blogging recommendation, generated many sales.

I have found that I’m a more credible salesman of other people’s books than of my own. There’s this friend of mine: he’s read my latest novel, and I’ve also discussed with him the psycholinguistic works of Michael Tomasello. This friend has recommended Tomasello to several of his other friends and associates, but as far as I know he’s not recommended my book to anyone.

So: follow the link, buy Patrick’s book, and enjoy. I might resent you if you do, but only if I find out about it (winky smiley).

27 July 2011

Some Hope by St. Aubyn, 2003

Filed under: Fiction — ktismatics @ 9:40 am

“Do you have any politics?” Princess Margaret asked Sonny.

“Conservative, ma’am,” said Sonny proudly.

“So I assumed. But are you involved in politics? For myself I don’t mind who’s in government so long as they’re good at governing. What we must avoid at all cost is these windscreen wipers: left, right, left, right.”

Sonny laughed immoderately at the thought of political windscreen wipers.

“I’m afraid I’m only involved at a very local level, ma’am,” he replied. “The Little Soddington bypass, that sort of thing. Trying to make sure that footpaths don’t spring up all over the place. People seem to think that the countryside is just an enormous park for factory workers to drop their sweet papers on. Well, those of us who live here feel rather differently about it.”

“One needs someone responsible keeping an eye on things at a local level,” said Prince Margaret reassuringly. “So many of the things that get ruined are little out-of-the-way places that one only notices once they’ve already been ruined. One drives past thinking how nice they must have been once.”

“You’re absolutely right, ma’am,” agreed Sonny.

“Is it venison?” asked the Princess. “It’s hard to tell under this murky sauce.”

“Yes, it is venison,” said Sonny nervously. “I’m awfully sorry about the sauce. As you say, it’s perfectly disgusting.” He could remember checking with her private secretary that the princess liked venison.

She pushed her plate away and picked up her cigarette lighter. “I get sent fallow deer from Richmond Park,” she said smugly. “You have to be on the list. The queen said to me, ‘Put yourself on the list,’ so I did.”

“How very sensible, ma’am,” simpered Sonny.

“Venison is the one meat I rr-eally don’t like,” Jacques d’Alantour admitted to Caroline Porlock, “but I don’t want to create a diplomatic incident, and so…” He popped a piece of meat into his mouth, wearing a theatrically martyred expression which Caroline later described as being “a bit much.”

“Do you like it? It’s venison,” said Princess Margaret leaning over slightly toward Monsieur d’Alantour, who was sitting on her right.

“Really, it is something absolutely mar-velous, ma’am,” said the ambassador. “I did not know one could find such cooking in your country. The sauce is extremely subtle.” He narrowed his eyes to give an impression of subtlety.

The princess allowed her views about the sauce to be eclipsed by the gratification of hearing England described as “your country,” which she took to be an acknowledgement of her own feeling that it belonged, if not legally, then in some much more profound sense, to her own family.

In his anxiety to show his love for the venison of merry old England, the ambassador raised his fork with such an extravagant gesture of appreciation that he flicked glistening brown globules over the front of the princess’s blue tulle dress.

“I am prostrated with horr-rror!” he exclaimed, feeling he was on the verge of a diplomatic incident.

The princess compressed her lips and turned down the corners of her mouth, but said nothing. Putting down the cigarette holder into which she had been screwing a cigarette, she pinched her napkin between her fingers and handed it to Monsieur d’Alantour.

“Wipe!” she said with terrifying simplicity.

23 July 2011

Me & You & Everybody We Know

Filed under: Psychology, Reflections — ktismatics @ 10:58 am

From The Analysis of Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders (1971) by Heinz Kohut, Chapter 1:

The patient will describe subtly experienced, yet pervasive feelings of emptiness and depression… [H]e has the impression that he is not fully real, or at least that his emotions are dulled; and he may add that he is doing his work without zest, that he seeks routines to carry him along since he appears to be lacking in initiative…

[U]pward swings are generally short-lived. They tend to become the cause of uncomfortable excitement; they arouse anxiety and are then soon again followed by a chronic sense of dullness and passivity, either experienced openly or disguised by long hours of mechanically performed activities… A rebuff, the absence of expected approval, the environment’s lack of interest in the patient, and the like, will soon again bring about the former state of depletion…

It must be stressed again that the overt manifestations presented by the narcissistic personality disorders are not a reliable guide toward the answer to the crucial diagnostic question: whether or not to treat the patient psychoanalytically. Yet, having expressed the warning, I shall… enumerate some of the syndromes encountered in those cases where the psychopathology of the narcissistic personality is expressed in more circumscribed and colorful syndromes. In such instances the patient may voice the following complaints and present the following pathological features:

(1) in the sexual sphere: perverse fantasies, lack of interest in sex;

(2) in the social sphere: work inhibitions, inability to form and maintain significant relationships, delinquent activities;

(3) in his manifest personality features: lack of humor, lack of empathy for other people’s needs and feelings, lack of a sense of proportion, tendency toward attacks of uncontrolled rage, pathological lying; and

(4) in the psychosomatic sphere: hypochondriacal preoccupations with physical and mental health, vegetative disturbances in various organ systems.

20 July 2011

Enabling Homelessness?

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 9:17 am

I previously wrote a post about the homeless people who live in my town. Here’s a policy question: in providing overnight shelter for homeless people, is the city government establishing a codependency relationship that enables the homeless to continue whatever lifestyle choices they’re making that keep them homeless? In order to minimize codependency, is it good policy to insist that no individual or family can stay more than 90 nights in the overnight shelter over the course of the year? Is it good policy to close the overnight shelter during the summer in order to encourage the homeless to use their initiative to fend for themselves? Is this still a good policy even though the empty shelter remains fully staffed all summer, and even though the city has made it illegal to sleep outdoors on public property? To limit codependency still further, is it best practice to close the shelter during the daytime in order to force the homeless people to get off their asses and out the door, looking for jobs and houses or even something to eat rather than just hanging around at the shelter all day — even if these people have to haul all of their worldly possessions around with them wherever they go? Is it good policy to extend longer-term shelter only to those homeless people who are demonstrably on the path to having their own private homes; i.e., who have a job or other source of income to pay the rent, who are not substance dependent, who are not too impaired (cognitively, emotionally, or physically) to take care of their own home?

I didn’t think so.

On the face of it, the codependency argument seems fatuous. As far as I know, neither the city government nor the homeless shelter can offer any tangible empirical evidence supporting their position. Isn’t it far more likely that the city government, acting on behalf of local businesses and homeowners, intends to make it as hard as possible for homeless people to stay in this town? I guess it’s no longer cool to have the police rough them up a little, then give them one-way bus tickets out of town.

17 July 2011

Flotilla Dream

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 9:54 am

I was standing by the ocean. Through dense fog I could see the vague contours of something big just offshore, moving rapidly across the water from right to left. I looked harder: it was a destroyer, flat grey, its gun turrets pointed obliquely toward the land. Following the destroyer came another boat, moving at the same speed and on the same trajectory, carrying on its flat deck a helicopter. Third and last in this procession came another helicopter, this one flying about twenty feet above the surface of the water. The helicopter was towing a vast network of fibers, linked together at nodes that looked like white marbles. I estimated that there were at least ten thousand nodes in this loose structure, which extended for perhaps a hundred yards behind the helicopter. The fibers holding it together must have been more rigid than they looked, because the array retained a complex three-dimensional shape as it was being pulled through the air instead of collapsing on itself into a long clumpy strand. I understood that this thing was a piece of scientific apparatus, to be launched into space as part of a zero-G experiment on neural networks.

5 July 2011

Here Be Plague

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 5:32 pm

You can imagine my chagrin when, on my afternoon run, I saw a sign just like this one posted at the trailhead:

The suspected culprits are these guys:

It’s been my understanding that the local prairie dog population has been riddled with plague for as long as we’ve lived here. I don’t know what’s happened to warrant the new scare tactics — maybe somebody’s pet cat ate a prairie dog and got sick. I went ahead and ran the trail anyway. One of the little critters was lying prone right in the middle of the trail as I approached, but he managed to get himself out of the way before I had to take evasive action.

3 July 2011

The Illusionist by Burger, 2006

Filed under: Movies, Psychology — ktismatics @ 10:01 am

By coincidence, Anne brought this DVD home from the library the day after I experienced the optical illusion I described in my last post. She thought she had reserved the 2010 animated feature by Chomet, but this earlier film with the same title was delivered instead. It’s a pretty good movie, but it could have been a better one. The issue that was set up by the story, but that the writer-director failed to explore adequately, was this:

The unbridgeable gap between upper and lower classes, and between ruler and ruled, is grounded in illusion. What is the most effective strategy for bridging the illusory gap? Should the reality behind the illusion be revealed, as well as the techniques used by  those in power to conceal that reality? Or should an even more powerful illusion be constructed so as to overwhelm the original illusion?

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