What I'm Reading...
The Man in the High Castle- Phillip K. Dick: This is my first foray into the writings of PKD, though I'm more than familiar with the films which utilize his novels and short stories as source material (Blade Runner, Total Recall). This novel manages to take a blockbuster premise (Nazi Germany and Japan defeated the allies in World War II and now occupy the United States) and turn it into a sparse existential tale about the amorphous nature of history, time, and perception. Once you get over the initial disappointment that this novel bears little resemblance to its television adaption the reader is able to appreciate more subtle observations about the nature of oppression, even when benign, and its ability to crush the spirit and obfuscate simple interpersonal interactions. We observe many fascinating scenes of white Americans humbled in the presence of their Japanese or German superiors. There are obviously many more interesting themes emanating from the novels fascination with cultural objects and obsession with the true meaning of history but my plan is to keep these entries short. This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to exploring more of Dick's books.
Preacher- Garth Ennis & Steve Dillion: I was absolutely blown away by this comic. I remember having seen it prominently displayed on comic book store shelves as a young kid and being overtly frightened by the grim imagery on the cover, saying nothing of Steve Dillion's straightforward and grisly artistry that does for comic what what Hemingway did for prose, the guy is a master draftsman, not so much in his ability to craft art that is striking or stylized but simply from a storytelling perspective. This stuff is tight, legible and it flows wonderfully. (Read Bendis and Yu's Secret Invasion for an example of poorly paced comic art.) Initially it took me a moment to adjust myself to Ennis' bleak world view and hectic first few issues (There's a lot of information coming your way and plot points that seem annoyingly convenient until they are later fleshed out) but after issue 4 it was off to the races and I couldn't put it down. This book is gory and takes no prisoners. Ennis is able to imagine the most dastardly of villains like nobody else in comics. I can't wait to pick up volume 2.
The Atlantic, Can North Korea be Stopped?- Mark Bowden: While it's tempting to look at the failed state of North Korea with its sodden, ghoulish leader and be tempted to mock or dismiss this article does a fantastic job of articulating the true threat that the unstable nation poses to its neighbors and to the United States. Bowden does a terrific job of framing his article by focusing on the four detailed plans the Pentagon has in place for dealing with North Korea. Bowden dismantles them all and by the end of the article a little seed of doom is planted in the mind of the reader as it becomes more an more apparent that neither all out attack or appeasement will contain the North Korean threat safely. The regime is combustable in a multitude of ways that many readers, including myself never imaged. Reading this article with it's articulation of possible military scenarios is what I would imagine the secret board room of Hollywood directors and fiction writers tasked with prognosticating all possible doomsdays is like. A must read for engaging with polite company about the North Korean threat.