30 May 2012

If You Objected To That You Objected To His Total Existence

In case you don’t remember, this week’s book is Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner.  As much as I was concerned about my reading requirements this week, it hasn’t been that bad.  The book actually reads pretty quickly and the extra day helped a little.  The book has been all over the place and has been racking up great quotes left and right.  Here’s a couple for ya.


He encountered Arthur on the first-story landing: a scruffy coloured man in his late thirties, wearing shorts and a pair of loafers.  His beard blended without detectable margin into the mat of hair on his chest.  Gerry wished the hair continued further down than his solar plexus; he was developing a wobbly pot-belly that could have done with some concealment.  However, his display of it was of a piece with his rejection of conformity, and if you objected to that you objected to his total existence.
Page 110

You may know by now that the first impression a character makes is important to me.  This one was a particularly good impression.  Brunner tells us so much in one short paragraph.  Arthur’s character is almost a trope of sociological/cultural criticism of the 60 and maybe that’s why he is so easy to recognize so quickly, but hey, I still had fun.  It’s just too bad he only exists for a handful of pages.


      The others exchanged glances.  Elihu said, “I didn’t realize you’d carried your policy of opting out quite that far.”
      “Opting out?  There’s only one way to do that, the same as throughout history: you kill yourself.  I thought I could resign from society.  The hole I could!  Man’s a gregarious animal-not very social, but damnably gregarious-and the mass simply won’t let the individual cut loose, even if the bonds are no more than police permits for sleeping rough.”
Page 203

So, here are some more familiar topics.  We’ve got the “drop out” attitude of the sixties combined with the absurdist view of Camus.  The result…well, I’m not so sure yet, but you can rest assured I’ll make a point to bring it up in my review ;-)  The cover of this book calls it “a novel of the future” but clearly it is a novel of the here and now.  It certainly takes place in the future, but it is only thinly veiled cultural criticism.

And finally, you have to check this chapter title.  It’s the Ph.D. thesis title of chapter titles…if that thesis were written by Ken Kesey.

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