A story for the book nerds

pN6xPI like to pretend I’m smart.  I suppose at some point I’ve probably actually fooled some people into thinking that about me.  Do not believe it.  I am an idiot and I do dumb things all the time, I’m just apparently a convincing liar about my lack of intellect.

I am currently reading Dhalgren, by Samuel Delany.  I’m not quite 2/3 of the way through it; I could finish it in a day if I wanted to, but it’ll probably take a few more evenings of reading to finish.  Now, I purchased the book in February, more or less on a whim, and from Amazon– and fell prey to the Amazon curse where once I physically had the book in my hands I think “Oh, I might not have made a good decision here.”  It literally sat on my to-be-read shelf for ten months before I got to it.  (It wasn’t even the oldest book on the shelf; I have at least one present from last Christmas that I haven’t gotten to yet.)

I recently asked my wife to pick my next book and she grabbed Dhalgren.  The book is well known for being complicated, and I need to be in a very particular frame of mind to read complicated fiction– and for the last couple of years the mental space necessary to achieve that frame of mind simply hasn’t been available very much.  So I sort of mentally groaned when she handed it to me but started it anyway, hoping beyond hope that I’d like it.  Miraculously, so far, I have– but from what I understand I’m only just about to hit the place where the narrative goes off the rails and the whole thing turns into a James Joyce novel.

Anyway.  Here’s the thing– I was actually happy to be finally reading it, to some extent, because even if it was too difficult to read and I didn’t finish it, I’d at least have removed a three-inch-thick, 800-page book that had become a bit of an albatross from my To Be Read shelf, and it would stop staring at me, and I could presumably move on to, like, a Star Wars book or something with zombies in it next with no compunctions.

I got two Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas.  We went to Barnes and Noble this afternoon.

I came home with God damned Anathem.

Just shoot me.

23 thoughts on “A story for the book nerds

  1. Rosslyn_Glasses

    I went into Barnes and Noble with one gift card, aiming to find ONE mystery book.

    I come out with that mystery novel, along with a fantasy fiction novel called “Map of Everywhere”, the second novel in the Creature Department series, and the fourth book in the Doll People series. The amount of money spent was twice the amount on the gift card.

    Moral of the story: when you go to Barnes and Noble, TRY to go prepared

    Liked by 3 people

          1. One of my very few regrets about college is that I never took a basic philosophy class. I know I can read Plato, Socrates, etc on my own, but they’re better with someone who knows them deeply to explain the trickier parts.


            1. Then we should talk once you start with Anathem. There are a lot of allusions to Plato there. It might be basic enough for you to catch on, though, without reading Plato. I can’t really say since I haven’t finished reading it (I’ve only just begun, actually). I don’t have much, but hopefully this will help:

              Cnoon: the Platonic forms
              Ethras: Athens
              Thelenes: Socrates
              Protas: Plato
              Protism: Platonism. Not to be confused with “Procian”…which is what I did for a long time until I got thoroughly confused and finally looked it up. “Procian” is the opposite of Platonism, nominalism.
              Arbre: this means “tree” in French and I suspect this reflects a “tree of knowledge”
              Apert: sounds like “ouvert” which mean “open” in French…this is when the doors of the “math” open up to allow the “secular” world in. (And the math geeks out).
              Cartasian: sounds like “Cartesian”
              Saunt: sounds like “saint” but is supposed to be a shortening of “savant”. Very clever.
              Periklyne: sounds like “Pericles” but refers to the agora of ancient Athens…which is weird. I would think this would refer to the Acropolis instead, since Pericles built the Parthenon, but whatever.

              And the cake-cutting thing at the end comes from Plato’s Meno, in which Plato tries to show that mathematical knowledge is “recollected” by showing that even an uneducated slave boy can be directed to such knowledge.

              You might want to check out Stephenson’s website at some point:



  2. This comment editor (!!!!!) doesn’t like the mathematical sign for “is not equal to”, originally placed between “intelligent” and “smart”.
    I am idly wondering what else is ignored, so here goes:
    All the symbols from the top row of my keyboard : !@#$%^&*()_+ (12 of them.


  3. Oh we have to talk about Anathem when you get done. Don’t think about that as a time limit. It’s been sitting there on my nightstand for a while now, because it does require a bit more effort than I’m willing to give in my twilight hours. Nevertheless, I’ve cracked some of the code, and I hope to post something about it sometime in the future, with some kind of explanation of the dictionary at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Har. Anathem. I have not read it. But the Wiki page says it all.

    “Major themes include the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the philosophical debate between Platonic realism and nominalism.”

    Who has that kind of time? Is my question. I also have not read Dhalgren, but i love that Tommy Lee Jones art. It is just perfect for this.

    And I think you are plenty smart. Though you may have just put one over on me, hee hee 😉


    1. Mine has been especially out of control over the past year or so, as reading has taken a bit of a backseat in my preferred leisure activities. Unfortunately, my buying hasn’t slowed down to compensate. :-0


      1. For me the issue is that reading non-fantasy/sci-fi books has taken a back seat to reading fantasy/sci-fi books. I try to mix it up with historical fiction, or even plain history, but I tend to get sucked into alternate universes. My To Be Read shelf includes a six-volume biographical series about Thomas Jefferson. I have only gotten through the first 50 pages of book one in the last year.


  5. The Chaos Realm

    HA HA HA HA HA HA (re: coming home with “godammed Anathem”). And, yes, I can relate…this was my big laugh for the day! Thanks for sharing…!


  6. Funny, I just finished Dhalgren. It’s a trip, but not a regrettable one. Does your copy have the introduction by William Gibson? I found his words a comfort after so much struggle.

    Bookstores are dangerous. So is Amazon. I have enough trouble with the library – walk in for two, walk out with 12 – but at least I’m not spending money. :-/


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