Implicit and Explicit Boundaries

We now live, as some of the snarkier pundits would have it, it a post-truth world. Given the sorting of world views which led to the recent election results I can’t find a specific argument to counter that statement. However, I would call it incomplete. The world isn’t so much post-truth as post-narrative, or even post-objectivity.

All of the dominant narratives are collapsing under the weight of the democratization of information. No new visions of the future have yet sprung up. Or rather, too many visions of the future have sprung up, and no one or few of these has asserted itself sufficiently to allow the random disconnected threads of attention coalesce.

This is an oversimplified view of an extremely complex process which has been ongoing since the mobile phone – which is in reality a pocket computer – became the dominant means by which humans access information and communicate with each other. Free access to information untethers people from the narratives into which they were born and allows a new kind of tribalism based on common beliefs or aesthetics. A tribe need lo longer be bound to proximity in a three-dimensional or even a four-dimensional space. Family roles need no longer be predicated on blood relations.

What we are seeing now, and have been seeing for the past two decades, is the exploration of boundaries which we did not even know existed at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And we are discovering exactly how arbitrary were the tacit boundaries which have guided and constrained the evolution of civilizations and societies over the past ten thousand years.

Implicit and Explicit Boundaries

On Narrative, and the Threading Thereof

Many years ago I read Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George. It was a decent techno-thriller, most notable for being written in part by Neal Stephenson. In it was a brief passage explaining how the substrate of American politics had evolved over the years:

In the 1700s, politics was all about ideas. But Jefferson came up with all the good ideas. In the 1800s, it was all about character. But no one will ever have as much character as Lincoln and Lee. For much of the 1900s it was about charisma. But we no longer trust charisma because Hitler used it to kill Jews and JFK used it to get laid and send us to Vietnam…We are in the Age of Scrutiny. A public figure must withstand the scrutiny of the media…The President is the ultimate public figure and must stand up under ultimate scrutiny; he is like a man stretched out on a rack in the public square in some medieval shithole of a town, undergoing the rigors of the Inquisition. Like the medieval trial by ordeal, the Age of Scrutiny sneers at rational inquiry and debate, and presumes that mere oaths and protestations are deceptions and lies. The only way to discover the real truth is by the rite of the ordeal, which exposes the subject to such inhuman strain that any defect in his character will cause him to crack wide open, like a flawed diamond.

A few years after reading the book I had the good fortune to attend a signing event for Stephenson’s book Anathem. At that signing I attempted to ask him about this quote, and what he felt would be the next Age after Scrutiny. Of course I was struck dumb by fanboy nerves and couldn’t get the question out, so I never got my answer.

But, in the process of exploration and research and simply living my life here in modern America, I think I am sneaking up on an answer.

We are now in the Age of Narrative. Scrutiny became fractured fractal panopticon empowered by the extreme density of global information systems. The signal has become so ubiquitous and strong that the structure of stories breaks down under the weight of ten million self-referential and cross-connected media sources. Within this undifferentiated mass swim the billion threads of narratives, no one of any intrinsically greater value than any other. We are no longer bound to the stories into which we are born. We can choose to align ourselves to any narrative, or invent new narratives out of the pseudo-random bits of information in which we are immersed in every waking moment of our lives.

We are in the age of narrative because there is no objective overriding story by which we are compelled to live our lives. Both prediction and reminiscence have become democratized and made subjective, and if one story line proves inadequate we can easily align ourselves with another.

But thanks to the proliferation of both signal and noise, we are already nearing the end of the Age of Narrative and are seeing the first glimpses of a new tribalism, where the non-physical borders and boundaries of the last five thousand years become increasingly tenuous, and all allegiances will be by consent instead of by tradition.

And won’t that be an interesting time to be alive?

 

On Narrative, and the Threading Thereof

2016 Reading List

The 2015 reading list was so much fun that I have decided to do it again! I am making a couple of minor changes to the criteria here. First, this list will include books I have read, books I have purchased but not read, and literary journals which I purchase and/or read, all in the 2016 calendar year. With any luck I will have an even dozen from Caffeinated Press at the end of the year. Since 2016 is a leap year this may give me just enough time to reach that goal. Why not only list books I actually read? Because feck is over-rated.

Helping to fill this list are the subscriptions I have to the catalogs of independent publishers Open Letter Books, Restless Books, And Other Stories, Deep Vellum and Horse Less Press, as well as subscriptions to The Paris Review, Granta and Zyzzyva. These should get me, at minimum, 35 things to read this year. Just shy of three a month. So without further ado, here is the list.

January

  1. Zyzzyva, issue 31.3
  2. The Paris Review, issue 215
  3. Rodoreda, Mercè – War, So Much War (Open Letter Books)
  4. Anderson, Benedict – Imagined Communities
  5. Rattle, issue 50
  6. Piketty, Thomas – Capital in the Twenty-First Century
  7. Clark, PatriciaSunday Rising
  8. Harrison, JimDead Man’s Float
  9. Mecklenburg, Virginia – Modern Masters: American Abstraction at Midcentury
  10. n+1, issue 24
  11. Labbé, CarlosLoquela (Open Letter Books)
  12. Comola, Jessica – Everything We Met Changed Form & Followed the Rest (Horse Less Press)
  13. Bettis, Christine – Burnout Paradise (Horse Less Press)
  14. Burns, Megan – Sleepwalk With Me (Horse Less Press)
  15. Midwestern Gothic, issue 20
  16. Dunes Review, issue 19.2
  17. Mieville, ChinaThree Moments of an Explosion (Subterranean Press, signed, number 268/400)
  18. Michigan’s Voices, issue 3.2, Spring 1963
  19. The Noble Savage, issue 1, February 1960
  20. Gulf Coast, issue 20.2, Fall 2008
  21. Bamber, LindaMetropolitan Tang
  22. Wakoski, DianeArgonaut Rose (Black Sparrow Press)
  23. Meltzer, DavidNo Eyes: Lester Young (Black Sparrow Press)
  24. Kashin, OlegFardwor, Russia! (Restless Books)
  25. Velázquez, CarlosThe Cowboy Bible and Other Stories (Restless Books)
  26. Clark, Anna (ed) – A Detroit Anthology (Rust Belt Chic Press)
  27. The Tishman Review, issue 1.4
  28. Michigan Quarterly Review, issue 54.4
  29. Taylor, Jonathan Jay and Neill, FosterThe Michigan Poet
  30. O’Brien, Colleen – Spool in the Maze (New Michigan Press)
  31. Krieg, BrandonInvasives (New Rivers Press)
  32. El-Mohtar, AmalThe Honey Month (Papaveria Press, signed)
  33. Klaver, ChristianThe Adventure of the Lustrous Pearl (signed)
  34. Klaver, ChristianThe Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (signed)
  35. Kalver, ChristianThe Adventure of the Solitary Grave (signed)
  36. Klaver, ChristianShadows Over London (signed)
  37. McClellan, BrianServant of the Crown (signed)
  38. McClellan, BrianForsworn (signed)
  39. McClellan, BrianMurder a the Kinnen Hotel (signed)
  40. McClellan, BrianIn the Field Marshal’s Shadow (signed)
  41. Steinmetz, FerretFlex (signed)
  42. Steinmets, FerretThe Flux (signed)
  43. O’Keefe, MeganSteal the Sky (signed)
  44. Underwood, Michael R. – Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution (signed)
  45. Underwood, Michael R. – Genrenauts: The Absconded Ambassador (signed)
  46. Collins, Brigid – The Southern Dragon (signed)
  47. Bennett, Robert Jackson – City of Blades (signed)
  48. Olson, Melissa – Boundary Crossed (signed)
  49. Toyama, Kentaro – Geek Heresy (signed)
  50. Duncan, Andy and Klages, Ellen – Wakulla Springs
  51. Wilson, Kai Ashante – The Devil in America
  52. Smale, Alan – Clash of Eagles
  53. Swanson, JayInto the Nanten (signed)
  54. Kloos, Marko – Terms of Enlistment (signed)
  55. Brown, Pierce – Red Rising
  56. Hurley, Kameron – Mirror Empire (signed)
  57. Hurley, Kameron – God’s War (signed)
  58. Gnarr, Jon – The Pirate (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  59. The Gateway Review Issue 2.1
  60. Eastern Iowa Review, Spring/Summer 2015
  61. Tenev, GeorgiParty Headquarters (Open Letters Books)
  62. Rajaniemi, HannuCollected Fiction
  63. Dickinson, SethThe Traitor Baru Cormorant
  64. Wojtaszek, KristinaOpal (World Weaver Press, signed)
  65. Parrish, Rhonda (ed) – Scarecrow (World Weaver Press, signed)

February

  1. River Styx issue 95
  2. Granta issue 132
  3. Farooqi, Musharraf AliBetween Clay and Dust (Restless Books)
  4. Harrison, JimThe Ancient Minstrel (signed)
  5. How Do I Begin? A Hmong-American Literary Anthology (Heyday Books)
  6. Barr, TerryDon’t Date Baptists: and Other Warnings from My Alabama Mother (Red Dirt Press)
  7. Sternin, Grigori and Kirillina, Jelena – Ilya Repin
  8. Rucker, Rudy and Sterling, BruceTransreal Cyberpunk (Transreal Books)
  9. Bell, Cristalyne (ed.) Rebel Reporting: John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists
  10. Meruane, LinaSeeing Red (Deep Vellum)
  11. Eco, UmbertoSix Walks in the Fictional Woods
  12. Granta issue 134
  13. Estes, PhilHigh Life (Horse Less Press)
  14. Olszewska, DanielaAnswering Machine (Horse Less Press)
  15. Eco, UmbertoHow to Travel with a Salmon
  16. Eco, UmbertoTravels in Hyperreality
  17. Eco, UmbertoKant and the Platypus
  18. Eco, UmbertoMisreadings
  19. Eco, UmbertoSerendipities
  20. Eco, UmbertoThe Search for the Perfect Language
  21. Leckie, AnnAncillary Justice
  22. Tomaszewski, Z.G.All Things Dusk
  23. Dillard, AnnieThe Annie Dillard Reader
  24. Hawthorne, NathanielShort Stories
  25. Melville, HermanGreat Short Works of Herman Melville
  26. Tolstoy, LeoThe Death of Ivan Illych & Other Stories
  27. Campbell, JamesThe Ghost Mountain Boys
  28. Least Heat-Moon, WilliamPrairyErth
  29. Eco, UmbertoThe Prague Cemetery
  30. Eco, UmbertoArt and Beauty in the Middle Ages

March

  1. Abani, Chris – The Face: Cartography of the Void (Restless Books)
  2. Aw, Tash – The Face: Strangers ona a Pier (Restless Books)
  3. Ozeki, Ruth – The Face: A Time Code (Restless Books)
  4. Lynch, Sean – The City of Your Mind (Whirlwind Press)
  5. Whirlwind, issue 5
  6. Whirlwind, issue 6
  7. Whirlwind, issue 7
  8. Sinister, BuckyBlack Hole: A Novel (Soft Skull Press)
  9. Ali, Taha MuhammadSo What (Copper Canyon Press)
  10. Hô Xuân Huong – Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hô Xuân Huong (Copper Canyon Press)
  11. The Paris Review #216
  12. Pfeijffer, Ilja Leonard – La Superba (Deep Vellum)
  13. VanderMeer, Ann (ed.) The Bestiary (Centipede Press)
  14. Chambers, James – The Engines of Sacrifice (Dark Regions Press)
  15. Meikle, William – The Plasm (Dark Regions Press)
  16. Pugmire, W.H. & Thomas, Jeffrey – Encounters with Enoch Coffin (Dark Regions Press)
  17. Sammons, Brian M & Barrass, Glynn Owen (eds.) – World War Cthulhu (Dark Regions Press)
  18. Jamneck, Lynne (ed.) – Dreams from the Witch House (Dark Regions Press)
  19. Accola, Rosie – So That Tonight I Might See (chapbook)
  20. Lake, Brandon – Something Lacking, vol. 1 (Split Filter Press, chapbook)
  21. Brace, Kristen – The Farthest Dreaming Hill (chapbook)
  22. Austin, Melissa B. – Keys (chapbook)
  23. The Bandit Zine – Issue 3, Alt Fashion and D.I.Y.
  24. The Bandit Zine – Love + Heart Break issue
  25. de Alba, Cassanda – Habitats (Horse Less Press)
  26. Schapira, Kate – Handbook for Hands That Alter as We Hold Them Out (Horse Less Press)
  27. Porter, Bill (Red Pine)Finding Them Gone (Copper Canyon Press)

April

  1. Fanning, Robert – Sheet Music (Three Bee Press, chapbook)
  2. Fanning, Robert – American Prophet (Marick Press)
  3. Zyzzyva 32.1
  4. Volodine, Antoine – Bardo or Not Bardo (Open Letter Books)
  5. Hirsch, Edward – A Poet’s Glossary
  6. Rich, Adrienne – Later Poems
  7. Pederson, Miriam – This Brief Light (Finishing Line Press, chapbook)
  8. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence – Writing Across the Landscape
  9. Custer, Nic (La©luster) – Nothing Works, Everyone Labors
  10. Secret Bully, issue 1 (chapbook)
  11. Stairs in the Middle of the Street – Creative Youth Center of Grand Rapids
  12. Under the Sun – Creative Youth Center of Grand Rapids
  13. Green a Table, Green an Elephant – Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center
  14. Pratchett, Terry and Baxter, Stephen – The Long Utopia
  15. Bat-Ami, Miriam – Two Suns in the Sky
  16. Pushcart Prize VIII (1983-1984)
  17. Stoppard, Tom – The Invention of Love
  18. Startling Sci-Fi (New Lit Salon Press)
  19. Haight, Ian – Magnolia and Lotus (White Pine Press)
  20. Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (Vine Leaves Press)
  21. Topology Magazine (Spring 2016 issue)
  22. Hariharan, Githa – Almost Home (Restless Books)
  23. Tin House issue 61
  24. Rastalli, Janeen, et al – Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications)
  25. Magoon, Mark – The Upper Peninsula Misses You (ELJ Publications)
  26. Hamilton, Carol – Umberto Eco Lost His Gun (Pudding House Publications)
  27. Winn, Howard – Four-Picture Sequence of Desire and Love (Front Street Publishers)
  28. Bridges: Poets of Dutchess and Ulster Counties (Springtown Press)
  29. Hamilton, Carol – Such Deaths (Purple Flag)
  30. Cope, David – Turn the Wheel (The Humana Press)
  31. Big Scream, issue 51
  32. Big Scream, issue 54
  33. Hinrichsen, Dennis – Skin Music (Southern Indiana Review Press)
  34. Rappleye, Greg – Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press)
  35. Arkins, Priscilla – The Cafe of Our Departure (Sibling Rivalry Press)
  36. Granta issue 135

May

  1. Villoro, Juan – God is Round (Restless Books)
  2. Zhadan, Serhiy – Voroshilovgrad (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  3. Audin, Michèle – One Hundred Twenty-one Days (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  4. Neruda, Pablo – Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems (Copper Canyon Press)
  5. Gross, Terry – All I Did Was Ask
  6. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia – Collected Novellas
  7. Barker, Clive – The Scarlet Gospels
  8. Martin, George and Dozois, Gardner – Rogues
  9. Pratchett, Terry – Raising Steam
  10. Saer, Juan Jose – The Clouds (Open Letter Books)

June

  1. Gablik, Suzi – Conversations Before the End of Time
  2. Pavlov, Konstantin – Cry of a Former Dog
  3. Burrows, E.G. – Man Fishing
  4. Kooser, Ted – Local Wonders
  5. Tvedten, Brother Benet – The View From a Monastery
  6. Duras, Marguerite – Abahn Sabana David (Open Letter Books)
  7. Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry (Shambhala Press)
  8. Conversations with Henry Miller (University Press of Mississippi)
  9. Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges (University Press of Mississippi)
  10. The Paris Review, issue 217
  11. Jodorowsky, Alejandro – Albinia and the Dog-Men (Restless Books)
  12. Enjoy! (826michigan)
  13. Vigus, Rebecka – Rivers Edge (Lilac Publishing)
  14. Edwards, Zev Lawson – The New Punk
  15. Glaysher, Frederick – The Parliament of Poets (Earthrise Press)
  16. Clay, Anissa – The God Conception (Red Engine Press)
  17. Third Wednesday, Vol. IX, No. 2
  18. Reynolds, Alastair – Beyond the Aquila Rift (Subterranean Press)
  19. Moon, Jung Young – Vaseline Buddha (Deep Vellum)
  20. Laroui, Fouad – The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers (Deep Vellum)

July

  1. Klongart, Josephine – One of Us Is Sleeping (Open Letter Books)
  2. Chu, Wesley – Time Siege
  3. Yoss (Gomez, Jose MIguel Sanchez) – Super Extra Grande (Restless Books)
  4. Colasacco, John – Two Teenagers (Horse Less Press)
  5. Jordan, Ahmunet Jessica – Black and Blue Prints
  6. Granta 136
  7. Boullosa, Carmen – Before (Open Letter Books)
  8. Devi, Ananda – Eve Out of Her Ruins (Open Letter Books)
  9. Lawrence, Stephon – Nerves (Horse Less Press)
  10. Miller, Frank – 300
  11. McGuane, Thomas – Gallatin Canyon
  12. Salter, James – All That Is

August

  1. Saccomanno, Guillermo – Gesell Dome (Open Letter Books)
  2. Poetry (July/August 2016)
  3. Gaiman, Neil – The View From the Cheap Seats
  4. Year’s Best Science Fiction #32
  5. New American Writing #34
  6. Amezcua, Eloisa – On Not Screaming (Horse Less Press)
  7. De Rojas, Agustin – The Year 200 (Restless Books)
  8. Volksmode 2014 (Issue Press)
  9. Campbell, Anna – Ever Your Friend (Issue Press)
  10. Curry, Erin – Poems to the Sea (Issue Press)
  11. Johnson, Cathy G – Thank God, I Am In Love (Issue Press)
  12. Wietor, George – Past Lives (Issue Press)
  13. Batt, J. Daniel – Keaghan in the Tales of Dreamside (Story Jitsu)
  14. Genius Loci – Tales of the Spirit of Place (Ragnarok Publications)
  15. Eastern Iowa Review issue 2
  16. Night Sky with Exit Wounds
  17. Zyzzyva #107

September

  1. Neuman, Andres – How to Travel Without Seeing (Restless Books)
  2. Stephenson, Neal – The Diamond Age (Subterranean Press; signed – 292 of 500)
  3. Benford, Gregory – The Best of Gregory Benford (Subterranean Press)
  4. McCammon, Robert – Blue World (Subterranean Press)
  5. Chu, Wesley – The Days of Tao (Subterranean Press; signed – 321 of 1000)
  6. Kuznia, Yanni (ed.) – A Fantasy Medley II (Subterranean Press)
  7. Powers, Tim – Down and Out In Purgatory (Subterranean Press)
  8. Lansdale, Joe and Lansdale, Kasey – The Case of the Bleeding Wall (Subterranean Press; signed – 278 of 500)
  9. Armstrong, Kelley – Driven (Subterranean Press; signed – 502 of 1000)
  10. Armstrong, Kelley – Forsaken (Subterranean Press; signed – 372 of 1000)
  11. Achebe, Chinua – Things Fall Apart
  12. Levy, Ariel (ed.) – The Best American Essays 2015
  13. N+1 #26
  14. Pagano, Emmanuelle – Trysting (&  Other Stories)
  15. Raud, Rein – The Brother (Open Letter Books)
  16. The Paris Review #218
  17. Browne, Colin – I Had an Interesting French Artist to Visit Me This Summer (Figure 1 Publishing)
  18. Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll – Red – A Haida Manga
  19. Scott, Walter – Wendy (Koyama Press)
  20. Bell, Marc – Stroppy (Drawn & Quarterly Press)
  21. Bernard, Bruce (ed.) – Vincent by Himself

October

  1. Hines, Jim – Libriomancer
  2. Allfrey, Ellah Wakatama – Africa 39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara
  3. Passages: Africa (PEN America)
  4. Glossolalia Issue 2 (PEN America)
  5. Suah, Bae – A Greater Music (Open Letter Books)
  6. Montes, Lara Mimosa – The Somnambulist (Horse Less Press)
  7. Powell, AJ – Grayson Rising (Caffeinated Press)
  8. Brewed Awakenings II (Caffeinated Press)
  9. Joshi, S.T. (ed) – Dark Wings V (PS Publishing)

November

  1. Fonseca, Carlos – Colonel Lagrimas (Restless Books)
  2. Sanchez-Andrade, Christina – The Winterlings (Restless Books)
  3. Spencer, Cynthia – Girl Tramp (Horse Less Press)
  4. Danos, Stephen – Missing Slides (Horse Less Press)
  5. Okorafor, Nnedi – The Book of Phoenix
  6. Geiger, Arno – The Old King In His Exile (& Other Stories)
  7. Loeb, Paul Rogat – The Impossible Will Take a Little While
  8. Byatt, A.S. – Babel Tower
  9. Early, Tim – Linthead Stomp (Horse Less Press)
  10. Jimenez, Claudia Salazar – Blood of the Dawn (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  11. Jaffe, Noemi – What are the Blind Men Dreaming? (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  12. Rabasa, Eduardo – A Zero-Sum Game (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  13. Poetry magazine CCIX:2 November 2016
  14. Lehman, David (ed.) – Best American Poetry 2016
  15. Burton, Richard Francis (trans.) – Tales from the Arabian Nights
  16. Millidge, Gary Spencer – Alan Moore: Storyteller
  17. Campbell, Hayley – The Art of Neil Gaiman
  18. Zaleski, Philip and Carol – The Fellowship
  19. Crowley, John – The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencruetz (Small Beer Press)
  20. Crowley, John – Lord Byron’s Novel
  21. Mondrup, Iben – Justine (Open Letter Books)
  22. Davis, Jean – Sahmara
  23. Kaag, John – American Philosophy
  24. Pushkin, Alexander – Novels, Tales, Journeys: The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin

December

  1. Ellis, Warren – Transmetropolitan 1: Back on the Street
  2. Ellis, Warren – Transmetropolitan 2: Lust for Life
  3. Ellis, Warren – Transmetropolitan 3: Year of the Bastard
  4. Pratchett, Terry – Discworld Companion
  5. Zyzzyva #108
2016 Reading List

Subscribing to Book Publishers

A list of 50 book publishers who offer subscriptions to their catalogs. This list may or may not be updated regularly. I have subscriptions to Open Letter Books, Restless Books, And Other Stories, Deep Vellum and Horse Less Press, and I love every one of them!

Subscribing to Book Publishers