Thursday, July 1, 2010


For some reason, my current employer put me on the cover of their alumni magazine (fortunately, NOT shaking my litle tush on the catwalk.)
I dare bet this is the first time anybody reading Gravity's Rainbow made the cover of ANY magazine.
(Loved the shoot, not just because the photographer was quick and good, but also because diving at random into GR is quite the thrilling experience. Never met a TRP sentence I didn't like.)

UPDATE: In response to c's comment below, here's what I, uh, wrote by way of recommendation:
(Also, I opine that everyone who is able to do so, should go see a Foxy Shazam live show. There, I said it.)

Sometimes engineers make darn good writers. One of my current underexposed favorites is George Saunders, once a mining engineer, but now a learned professor and certified-by-the-MacArthur-Foundation genius. Saunders – imagine him, if you will, as the tragic lovechild of Twain and Vonnegut (ha! another writer-scientist!) -- is our most deeply satirical and most disturbingly funny writer. But what to recommend? There’s his first short-story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, but might stories about a Civl-War-themed theme park hit a bit too close to home for comfort, Atlanta? Then there’s the novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, about a country so small it can contain only one of its inhabitants; the other six live in a transit zone within the neighboring country. What ensues is hilarity, war, and genocide. Hm. Perhaps better skip Saunders for this audience.

What about the prince of writer engineers – Thomas Pynchon? Gravity’s Rainbow is my all-time favorite. What is not to love? WWII, banana breakfasts, prescient erections in Blitz’ed London, a long trek to Peenemunde (lit. the end of the world) where the launch of a secret Schwarzgeraet (‘black engine’, serial number 00000) is being prepared, and along the way we meet Byron the Lightbulb, Katje (rhymes with ‘Gotcha’) Borgesius the sultry spy, Grigori, the well-trained octopus, and the apple-cheeked frau Gnabh, among many others. Silly songs, I mean, really silly. Three-page sentences. No way to even being to comprehend this mess. Goes on for, like, elevenhundred pages. I love it. But you might hate it. The nice thing: it’s easy to find out which way you’ll swing – read the first two pages and if they make you go WTF? (in a good way) ’tis the book for you.

Otherwise, oh, go read Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works.


c said...

What are the 101 recommended books??? I sincerely hope Gravity's Rainbow (and Omega Minor!) is in there . . .

Paul Verhaeghen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey, P., this is a really nice photo -- and a smart choice of your employer.
@c.: why do you want to know what the 101 recommended books are? [I'm really interested in]
Because I wonder, whether this question is the 'right' question?
…To argue against - let's quote the following comments from an earlier post*, because there are some problems with recommending books (I think at least). These problems are:
"[…]who keeps the gates and how and perhaps even why they do it […]" (sorry, for dismember your comment, P.)
Do you like gatekeepers, c.?
Perhaps the question is WHY you should have read the recommended books before you lay dying – if you are a Georgia Tech alumni…(is this group thinking?).
Again (to quote myself from the earlier post*): "But still another question: what for do we need gatekeepers?"
(and don't tell me, recommendations helps to save time by avoiding the wrong books – are there wrong books?..Are there bad books? hm, seemingly. Should they be burned, then? Burned by words? Burned by defiance?
The right book will find you at the right time, c. All the best and try to be your own gatekeeper.
Possibly, I'm just a dreamer – and if you have to know the 101 books – perhaps you could get a copy of the Georgia Tech Alumni magazine…I admit that recommendations can be helpful - if they come without a wagging finger and if they just serve to tease us on a specific book – or on a specific author.
*("the unibrow of book reviewing")

Gratz said...

Good evening Sir.
First time reader of your book: Omega Minor
Did not finihed it yet but love the conversaton you have with the readers; bit by bit, everyday, I enjoy few pages at the time. Thanks, Gratz