Tag Archives: Facebook

WOOL, by Hugh Howey

I found out about WOOL from a Facebook friend, who recommended it highly. And boy am I glad she did! Post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature doesn’t come much better than Hugh Howey’s five novel series(with more to follow, as well as the prequels FIRST/SECOND SHIFT).

From WOOL’s ominous beginning – a recently widowed sheriff volunteers for “cleaning” – to its revealing conclusion, the author fills each page with characters that grow from accepting the status quo to questioning everything they’ve been led to believe about how and why they live the way they do. Even the ‘villain’ of the piece is motivated by what he thinks is right – and a part of me understood why he acted the way he did.

Mr. Howey’s writing is superb; his descriptions of life underground are both real and affecting, and his action scenes gripped me with their authenticity and pace. In WOOL, mankind’s future is as bleak as Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, but the hope Hugh Howey offers at the end makes following Juliette’s journey a sign that maybe, just maybe, we can make amends for our mistakes.

Read WOOL. Please.

David Foster Wallace: The Infinite Jester.

I have just finished reading Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, D.T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, an author I’ve heard about but never read. I doubt I’m the only one in the latter category. He’s mentioned in the same breath as Dave Eggars, Thomas Pyncheon, Jonathon Franzen and Dom DeLillo. Of these authors, I’ve only read DeLillo’s Point Omega – and that’s only because it’s a short novel. I still didn’t get it – if there was anything in there to “get” that is.

Wallace achieved fame after the publication of his second novel, Infinite Jest. There is a copy of this 1,079 page monster beside me right now, looking at me, daring me to open it up and read it. It’s a scary proposition. All the more so because the author himself felt he couldn’t top it. No matter how hard he worked (and he came up with some great excuses when he couldn’t quite find the inspiration), Wallace’s anxieties and ongoing struggle with depression and addiction – as well as a succession of failed relationships – ripped his undoubted talents as a fiction writer to shreds. His non-fiction, particularly his journalism, kept him alive – but only to a point.

Wallace committed suicide at the age of 46. He left behind his wife of four years, and an unfinished manuscript for what would eventually become The Pale King, a novel about boredom and the I.R.S.

So why would I be interested in a writer I’ve never read, especially one I’d probably never read? * Because he (and I’m sorry if this sounds clichéd) suffered for his art. When he faced long bouts of writer’s block, he wrote to DeLillo and Franzen to complain about his lot. Nowadays we writers moan about our lack of creativity on Facebook or Twitter. Both actions are cries for help, but Wallace had a bit more class about him. He was also a deep thinker; there wasn’t a subject he didn’t want to know about. He studied philosophy, mathematics, tax accounting (for The Pale King), and was a clever, funny, but insightful critic on modern-day consumerism and mass entertainment. Infinite Jest is Wallace’s commentary on a society brought up to worship television, a society that has become addicted to addictions, become increasingly disconnected, and mourning for a loss of community. Wallace gives us no answers because that would be the easy way out. We have to find these for ourselves.

And this is why I am drawn to this man. He echoes my thoughts right now. The world he wrote about in 1996 is still very much the world of 2012. We’re still searching for answers, looking for meaning in an ultimately meaningless society. Will we find them? Wallace didn’t stay around long enough to find out.

* (I will clarify my above statement. I have read Wallace: it was an article he wrote about Roger Federer – Wallace played tennis to a high level when he was younger – and it’s an exquisite piece of writing.)

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 99. On Unfriending.

Yesterday morning, to my horror, I lost two friends. But I don’t know who they are; not yet, anyway. My Facebook friends list was reduced from a total of 284 people to 282. I scanned down the list to see if there were any notable exceptions (I don’t keep a written record, by the way), but I was unable to work out who dumped me (or dumped Facebook).
A while ago this would have bothered me, causing me to think of how I might have offended these people. But to each their own reasons. Maybe they just grew tired of social networking…or me.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 78. On Letting Go.

A little while ago, after almost a year of deliberation, I ‘deleted’ an ex-girlfriend from my Facebook friends list. There was no malice involved in the decision. I simply woke up that morning, logged on to my account, brought up the lady’s profile, then (as they say in Facebookese) ‘unfriended’ her.

It was a year to the weekend that we broke up. I probably pushed the decision and do not regret it for a minute. But as there had been little or no interaction during this time, I figured it was time to let it go. Live and let live.

 

 

 

The Five Stages of Facebook Grief.

Anger: For the love of all that is good and holy, why, Facebook, why have you changed things again? Just as I was getting used to how my feed worked, you go and screw around again. That’s it, Zuckerberg, I’m heading over to Google+. Put that in your hashpipe and smoke it.

Denial: It can’t be happening to me – not again. Not after the last time. It took me four months to have my feed feeding the way I want it to feed. I know what to do: I’ll come back later and maybe someone will have fixed it.

Bargaining: Look, if I quit the whole Farmville thing and unhide my hidden friends and pages, will you give me back my old feed? I’ll be a good Facebooker, honest I will.

Depression: Oh no…now I have to go back to Myspace. How will I be able to look my forgotten friends in the eye again. I’m doomed. Someone kill me now 😦

Acceptance: Oh well, it could be worse, I suppose. At least I know I’m not alone. 500,000,000 other users are in the same boat as me. I had better get used to it.

Life changes, people. So does social networking. You may not like it, but you had better get used to it.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 57. On Economics.

What I know about economics wouldn’t even fill the back of a very small postage stamp. I can’t tell the difference between hedge funds, trust funds, endowment mortgages and debenture schemes. The only thing I know about defaulting is when the time comes to lay the blame.

Default always lies at someone else’s door (if you pardon the pun). Someone with a bit more knowledge than I suggests that there’s a 98% certainty that Greece will not make its loan repayments within five years.

Default lies with those who gave it to them in the first place. Default was never theirs.

 

 

100 Days, 100 Words: Day 31. On Facebook Friends.

I love my Facebook friends. They understand me better, I think. As most of them are writers, bloggers, artists, and experts in their own fields, I get a sense of community that far outweighs the one I have at home. This in no way demeans the one-to-one relationships I cherish in the so-called real world; these are as vital to me as food and water. It’s just that the world of Facebook offers me a place where I can truly be myself, without recrimination. If you understand what I’m saying then it’s possible you feel the same way. Or not.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 2. I Love My iPhone4.

I love my iPhone4, I love the feel of it. What did I do before I got a hold of it? My life was pretty dull until I saw its face, but now I’m running ’round, shouting all o’er the place.

Oh how my life has changed, my world has rearranged. My old phones now, they all seem so strange. I turn my Facebook on, and I play Angry Birds. I’m peaceful in my heart.

Now I got Google+, with very little fuss, and I got iTunes stored and  now I’m never bored.

But every iPhone has an app that fails.

(With apologies to Chris Martin and the boys from Coldplay.)

Welcome to Allie’s World: Aardvarkian Origins.

I will be returning shortly to the world of Allie the Aardvark. To massive public clamor, as well as a petition signed by such notables as Barack Obama, Salman Rushdie and the bloke who runs the local chipper, Allie fans will wait no longer.

Tomorrow I shall post the Halloween special; but for now, read and enjoy Allie’s first appearance in my life.


WELCOME TO ALLIE’S WORLD.

The top prize of my local pub’s lottery draw sat in my armchair, eating chocolate peanuts through its snout, and flicking through the channels of the TV with my remote. It looked very much at home.

“When’s Judge Judy on?” it wondered.

“You know who Judge Judy is?” I asked, very much amazed that it could talk.

“She’s must-see-TV.”

I looked at my watch. “It’s five after midnight. It’s too late for Judge Judy.”

“It’s never too late for Judge Judy. You got any pretzels?”

“No.”

“You can sit down, you know. I don’t bite.”

“You suck.”

“I hope that’s not an insult.”

“I mean, you’re sucking up those peanuts.”

“That’s what we aardvarks do. We suck.”

“But I thought you ate ants?”

“Among other things, yes. Please, sit down. You’re making this aardvark uncomfortable.”

I sat down, not taking my eyes from this strange creature. It put down the sweets and extended its hand, paw, whatever, to me.

“My name is Alistair Reginald Boothroyd lV, but you can call me Allie.”

I shook its..whatever it was. “I’m James, but you can call me Jimbo.I didn’t know aardvarks could talk.”

“We don’t.”

“But I can hear you.”

“That’s because you’re supposed to.”

“Huh?”

“Jimbo, come on. You arrive into work this evening to find that the top prize in your bar’s lottery draw is an aardvark. Stuff like that doesn’t happen every day.”

He was right, it didn’t. Usually the top prize was cash, but ticket sales have been down since the economy went pear-shaped. So we rang up suppliers, asking them to sponsor the draw. Only one came through for us. Hence the aardvark.

The winning numbers were 2, 3, and 5, and there were three “lucky” winners of the top prize. All of them took one look at Allie and passed, taking instead the consolation prize of five free drinks. This left me, as stand-in organiser of the draw (the boss was on holiday), stuck with an aardvark. So I put him into an empty cardboard box and brought him home with me. I considered myself fortunate that I didn’t meet anyone I knew on the way back to my apartment.

“So why is it that only I can hear you?”

“The powers that be have decreed it so.”

“The who?”

“I don’t know. I may have made that part up. You got anything else to eat except chocolate peanuts?”

“I have cheese.”

“I can’t suck cheese.”

I looked in my fridge and found some yogurt. “Will this do?” I asked, showing Allie the carton.

“What flavour?”

I checked. “Blackcurrant.”

“Nice. I like blackcurrant yogurt.” I gave him — it was a “he” now, seeing that we’d been introduced — the yogurt. He tore off the foil cover and sucked up the contents. The sound was like that of a vacuum cleaner, sucking up clotted cream.

“I have to go to bed soon. Are you all right down here?”

“I’m fine,” he replied. “Leave your laptop open, if you wouldn’t mind. I want to check my Facebook.”

“You have a Facebook?”

“Doesn’t everybody?”

“But you’re an —

“–aardvark, I know, I know. So you keep reminding me.”

I started up the stairs to my bedroom. I was dazed.

“You got any good books?” Allie called.

I stopped and looked down. “What do you read?”

“Any King?”

“Just Cell and Lisey’s Story.

“No Dark Tower?”

“Not yet.”

“Man,” Allie replied. “You’ve got to read the Dark Tower series.”

I sighed. “So people keep telling me.”

Ten minutes later, when I was about ready to put his whole episode down as some sort of elaborate hoax, I could hear the sound of jewels exploding, followed by hoots of joy.

“122,500 points. Jimbo, when I’m good, I’m very, very good.”

I pulled my pillow from under my head and buried my face in it. Tomorrow, I thought. I’ll sort this out tomorrow.

Choose Or Die: Join In The Fun

Yours truly, as supplied by novakillustration.com

I’m honoured to take part in Season 2 of Choose Or Die, a “choose your own adventure” style story which allows the reader to choose where the story goes from a given point.

It is the brainchild of Steven Novak, a talented writer and artist and author of the FORTS series of children’s books. Steven got some writers from Facebook together and between them they came up with Red Planet Stowaway.

Last season’s story-line of Choose Or Die was a manic and hilarious chase around Mars, with a protagonist who didn’t know who or what he was. You can read the entire story here.

For Season 2 there is a small change in personnel – and that’s where I come in. I join Steven, MJ Heiser, Richard James, Cathleen Holst, Mandy Ward, John Elrod, Yasamin Alisha, Tomara Armstrong, Leah Crichton, Lael Gardner-Stalnaker and Ryan O’Neil, and together we’ll create a story that will make your brains zing.

The story chosen by our readers is called Welcome To Hellywood. The premise is simple: You’re an aging A-list celebrity (by Tinseltown’s standards) who begins losing roles to younger celebs. You make a drastic decision to go under the knife, but are not prepared for the results.

What happens is this: one of the team will write a chapter and then leave the reader with three possible choices, who then vote for their favourite. The winning choice is written by another member of the team for the following week. The other two choices get their own chapter and usually end with the protagonist meeting a grisly end. Hence, choose or die.

This story can go anywhere…and it probably will. Check out the official trailer.