Archives for Books – Non-Fiction

Re-reading “Foucault’s Pendulum” in the Age of Q-Anon: Pt. 2 – Ur-Fascism and the Russia-Ukraine Connection

Apologies, but work on my little blog series on Re-reading Foucault’s Pendulum in the Age of QAnon has been delayed by a family emergency and the all-absorbing news of the barbaric Russian invasion of Ukraine. Like many of you, I have been glued to CNN and the various print media this last week, in a quest to wrap my head around what is happening, why, and what it means for a suddenly changed and (on the heels of Covid and January 6) increasingly dangerous world. But the dreadful situation has also induced me to take a moment for a relevant
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Archive81 and Cosmic Horror

Archive81 proved a surprise Netflix hit, a slowburn horror series that wears a number of influences on its sleeve: Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Ring, The Twilight Zone, Alex Garland, David Lynch and Mike Flanagan. Never less than engaging (thanks primarily to superb lead performances and polished production values) the cumulative effect over eight episodes is like playing a game of genre Bingo: witches, haunted houses, cult rituals, cursed recordings, spooky corridors, snuff films, evil tomes, seances and sacrifices, possibly mad and unreliable narrators, and ancient evil deities. The last ingredient, readers may recognize, marks the series’ most conspicuous influence:
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Re-reading “Foucault’s Pendulum” in the Age of QAnon – Pt. 1, The Plan

I just finished my third or fourth reading of Umberto Eco‘s classic esoteric suspense thriller and sublimely wacko-satirical thought experiment, Foucault’s Pendulum. The Premise First published in 1988 in Italian, Foucault’s Pendulum tells the story of three editors at the fictional Garamond Press in Milan (and its aptly named vanity press twin, Manutius Press), who are brought an esoteric manuscript purporting to include a secret coded Message regarding the fabled Knights Templar and their alleged centuries-spanning occult Plan. (Here be potential but necessary Spoilers – Caveat Lector!) The Message is highly ambiguous—imagine a purposefully vague Nostradamus quatrain written in a
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Worldbuilding with Specialists, Polymaths, and Dilettantes

The pace at which scientists are breaking down their foci of expertise into increasingly narrower fields is breathtaking. Kinda like the way fictional genres become increasingly niche-ified. (Can you say "Cat Mysteries," boys and girls?) It's all quite wonderful, but I hope all these specialists are still talking to specialists in other fields, else the forest will be missed for the trees. Nay, the leaves.
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Remembering Roger Rees, and his Nicholas Nickleby

“Is this a theatre?” whispered Smike, in amazement; “I thought it was a blaze of light and finery.” “Why, so it is,” replied Nicholas, hardly less surprised; “but not by day, Smike—not by day.”  ~Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby by Sydney Wren Originally published at All the (Dickensian) Year Round It begins so innocuously with those quirky, slightly dated-sounding notes (now forever beloved) of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1981 filmed stage production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Who knew that this brainchild of Trevor Nunn, in collaboration with John Caird and adapted for the stage by David Edgar,
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Current Delights and Distractions in Genre Fiction

Well, I have promised the start of a long Dickens reading marathon, beginning with his earliest published serial novel, but I confess that my current novel-in-progress, and a couple in gestation, have led me down the rabbit hole of genre reading. (But I almost always have some Dickens reading or listening in the works anyway, and I have indeed restarted Pickwick, which always “illumines the gloom” of daily life!)
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Down the Nazi Occult Rabbit Hole

Have you ever noticed how fascinated Speculative, SciFi/Fantasy, and Thriller writers are about Nazis? From Marvel's Hydra to PKD's The Man in the High Castle, from Indiana Jones to Wolfenstein, from The Boys from Brazil to Arrowverse's Earth X to...you get the idea. You could spend years working through that reading list. And to be honest, I have.
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The Impact of Dickens: An International Conference

It was a joy to drop in this morning on the opening of the Zoom-based international conference on The Impact of Dickens, which will continue today and tomorrow, and to hear the introduction by the delightful Pete Orford, and that of Ian Dickens, the great-great-grandson of the great man. Before getting ready for work, I was able to view a good portion of the first panel, including Katie Bell‘s presentation on the impact of Dickens on the southern gothic novelist and short story writer, Flannery O’Connor. She pointed out that the dark humor of both Dickens and O’Connor depends on
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Fulfilling Little Nell’s Wish During Quarantine

Our state, Oregon, went into full lockdown in the middle of March this year (2020), and has been in the gradual reopening process over the past months. As I’m among those who was never able to work remotely, working as I do with superheroic adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (or, different-abilities!) in a group home setting, I’ve not been able to focus as much time and energy on writing and on research as I’d like. However, I have been delving into a big Dickens readathon ~ or, perhaps more appropriately, re-readathon. I’ve recently started the renowned Dickens biography by
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A Victober for John Henry Newman

“The heart is a secret with its Maker; no one on earth can hope to get at it or to touch it.” John Henry Newman Reading challenges have not often been on my to-do list, even though I can see how they could be great opportunities to find inspiration from others doing something similar. It’s entertaining and inspiring to see the different takes and offshoots from each challenge, and perhaps–just perhaps–one will find the Holy Grail: a real gem of a book that you otherwise might never have found. While doing my own prep for NaNoWriMo this year–or was I
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