Monday, May 9, 2016


1. One of the Anglosphere's best living writers, Don Delillo, has produced some of the finest novels of the post-war era. From his more traditionally Modernist early works, such as End Zone and Ratner's Star, to his mid-career "apex" masterpieces White Noise, Libra, and Underworld, to his later, shorter, Postmodernist novels, such as Cosmopolis and Point Omega, Delillo has never stopped growing, both as a cultural observer and as a prose stylist. Now, he's got a new novel coming out. It's called Zero K, and if Joshua Ferris' review for the New York Times is to be trusted, it's gonna be a freakin' doozy. Check it out:
In “Zero K,” DeLillo’s 16th and latest novel, Jeffrey Lockhart arrives in the middle of the desert at a remote compound called the Convergence. Variously described as an “endeavor,” a “faith-based technology” and “the first split second of the first cosmic year,” the Convergence is a cross between a think tank and a state-of-the-art hospice: the Santa Fe Institute meets Sloan Kettering, with a dollop of Heaven’s Gate, all of it given over to Christo for interior decorating. Whatever it is, the Convergence coolly ignites the imagination. Jeff hopes to get his bearings, at least geographically, when he asks his father, the billionaire Ross Lockhart, where they are. “The nearest city of any size is across the border, called Bishkek,” Ross answers from deep within blastproof walls. He continues: “Once you know the local names and how to spell them, you’ll feel less detached.” 
We are, in other words, far from the neocolonial world described so tendentiously by Charles Maitland. We are in a vision of the future, a postracial, post-postcolonial world where Westerners like Ross and Jeff are but one contingent of a technocratic cult with a single aim: to rid the world of that absolute, all-­defining force, that ultimate despotic colonizer, death. For the Convergence, as it turns out, is a cryonic suspension facility where the dead are frozen in anticipation of that day when resuscitation is medically feasible. Jeff has arrived there to say a temporary goodbye to his stepmother, the archaeologist ­Artis Martineau, who is dying of several disabling diseases. 
... This is fiction in touch with the starker parables, with Kafka and Beckett, with the austerity of bare rooms and declarative, uninflected sentences. I was uncertain as I read these early pages. Had DeLillo created a world of pure abstraction where the reader would be left to float in the ­zero-gravity chamber of the death fable, everything to think about and nothing to latch on to? But this is only one of several canny feints in the book, which continually shape-shifts and reimagines itself. In the end, it all adds up to one of the most mysterious, emotionally moving and formally rewarding books of DeLillo’s long career.
If that doesn't sound as amazing to you as it does to me, I don't know what to tell you. Read the rest of this review at the NYT site. I'll have my own review once I've bought and read the book, which shouldn't be too long from now.

2. For today's second "must read" article, I bring you Amanda Gefter's The Case Against Reality, her compelling profile of a scientist who claims that our senses aren't just imperfect, they're downright deceptive. And I'm talking, like, on the most fundamental ontological level, here, folks. Her story begins:
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like. 
Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.
Believe it or not, it only gets trippier from there on out. You can read the rest of this disturbing, mind-bending essay at The Atlantic's website. It's a long one, but it's well worth the effort. You'll feel smarter for having read it (which isn't always the case with the writing one finds in The Atlantic these days).

3. And finally for today, I'm delighted to report that [adult swim] has begun producing more of those late-night freak-out videos we all love so much. The most impressive of the bunch this time around (so far) is the third offering by Alan Resnick and friends, who have previously given us the horrific Unedited Footage of a Bear, and the more traditional, but still disturbing, Live Forever As You Are Now (both of which have been featured in past editions of DDD's Suggested Reading List). With This House Has People In It, this talented team has given us their most unsettling creation yet, jam-packed with surreal goings on, sinister subliminals, and multiple avenues for obsessives to explore, revealing literally hours of extra, related content that helps to unravel the video's central mystery. Watch it here, below, then check out Night Mind's detailed analysis of the video... if you don't mind potentially losing a substantial chunk of your sanity, that is. Enjoy?


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