always falling out of the same cars
|Joanne McNeil||Jul 24, 2019|
Jeff Noon’s Falling Out of Cars was the perfect book to read this week. Nothing cynical to it, just suspense and beauty and estrangement. It is the perfect anecdote to all the grotesque horror in the world—surreal rather than absurd, and gorgeous on the sentence level. It's dreamlike but vivid and earthbound, and there's a lot of emotion, but nothing treacly. It is the first book I read this season that fit my mood, which is: yes, it’s summer but I’ve been feeling kind of sad.
Noon is the writer all your favorite sci-fi writers adore, but is somewhat on the periphery these days. I went and ordered a bunch of his other books (also some books by Matthew De Abaitua, who has a similar style.) I had this one on the shelf a while just waiting for the perfect moment, and since it is out of print, I would recommend snatching up a copy so you can do the same.
My column in the summer issue of Filmmaker Magazine is out from under the paywall. This one was fascinating to research and I got to talk to Alan Warburton. His 2017 video essay Goodbye Uncanny Valley is extraordinary but just the tip of the iceberg of the ideas he is tackling in his work. From my piece: "There is a paradox to the trade—all that work, at best, appears as if it never happened at all...Now 'we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software,' and ‘the battle for photoreal CGI has been won,’ Warburton argues in Goodbye Uncanny Valley, so there are new goals for productions. If you are making a Hollywood blockbuster, that goal is about scale. If you are an independent artist, like Warburton, it means using computer graphics to get super weird…"
I also read Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing, which is as good as you have heard. It does what the best nonfiction will, which is that it weaved together a lot of events and names I vaguely knew about into a coherent narrative and went deeper. The author's interview on Chris Hayes' podcast is also worth listening to, for zooming out on the subject of Northern Ireland and The Troubles into a broader themes of radicalization and polarization. This book won the Orwell prize along with Milkman, which seems incredibly well-deserved. I loved Milkman, of course, but I'm glad I didn't follow up too quickly with Say Nothing, because I felt much of the power of the novel came from its dance between specifics and lack of specificity. Either way, if you read and loved either of those books, you will get a lot from reading the other.
And it was a good week to finally watch Knock Down the House, the documentary about four progressive women in primary races; one of which happened to be AOC, but all four have compelling stories. I really hope that Paula Jean Swearengin makes it to Washington, someday.
Thanks for reading.