A Head Full of Ghosts

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A Head Full of Ghosts

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Oct 29, 2015 11:23 pm

Pretty good. Very clever and self-aware. It's not viscerally terrifying or anything but it is deeply unsettling, in a way that really worms into your brain and makes you keep thinking about for a long time after you finish it. It's creepy.

7/10

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #1

Postby Cassius Clay » Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:12 pm

Where'd you hear about this book, and what made you wanna read it?
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #2

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:59 pm

A friend recommended it, and some review sites I like said it was scary.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #3

Postby Cassius Clay » Sun Nov 01, 2015 2:29 am

I don't think I've ever read a horror novel. Unless reading 'Goosebumps' when I was a kid counts.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #4

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sun Nov 01, 2015 3:36 am

They can be just as effective as movies if they're done right. Sometimes even more effective.

Some people make fun of the idea of someone being scared by a book. Those people are idiots. Movies startle you and make you jump. Books dig down in your mind and frighten you on a really elemental level.

I remember liking some Goosebumps a long time ago... I would probably think they're shitty now.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #5

Postby Cassius Clay » Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:56 pm

Yeah...as cheesy as Goosebumps was I can remember much more eerie the stories were when read from the books as opposed to watching the tv versions...'cause you're forced to fill in the blanks.

Nothing can frighten me as much as my own imagination.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #6

Postby Dr_Liszt » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:30 pm

Derived Absurdity wrote:Pretty good. Very clever and self-aware. It's not viscerally terrifying or anything but it is deeply unsettling, in a way that really worms into your brain and makes you keep thinking about for a long time after you finish it. It's creepy.

7/10

What is it about?

You tend to have a weird taste. [none]

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #7

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:58 pm

Demons.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #8

Postby Faustus5 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:33 am

So I just started reading this and I was thinking to myself that I couldn't believe the praise it was getting considering that it was just The Exorcist in modern times. . .then I get to the chapter where the horror blogger warns her audience to be suspicious of the story because its just a rip off of The Exorcist. Okay, suddenly I'm not bored.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #9

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:35 pm

Yeah, it's pretty meta.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #10

Postby Faustus5 » Thu Jun 09, 2016 11:09 am

Derived Absurdity wrote:Yeah, it's pretty meta.


Well, I wish it had turned out to be as meta as i was thinking it would be. Except for the unreliable narrator (who I assume--SPOILERS!--is implied at the end to have been possessed all along) and a few pop culture references, it was a pretty standard demonic possession story.

Every read "House of Leaves"? That was SERIOUSLY meta, but more inventive and better generally.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #11

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Jun 09, 2016 3:33 pm

I think there was some subtle and non-standard stuff about the unreliability of childhood memory and our perceptions/perspective, about extreme ambiguity (it was never really answered whether she was possessed, was it?), about unreliable points-of-view, etc. There was a lot of stuff in there. It didn't have much of an impression on me while I was reading it but it's really grown on me since. I bet I would like it more a second time.

I really need to read more scary books. I haven't read House of Leaves.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #12

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:38 pm

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons - I put it down about halfway through. I expected horror and what I got was an action thriller. The characters are fine but thin and not good enough to keep my attention. It seems roughly twice as long as it needs to be. Reviews say it's not going to be scary. I'm not going to read a seven-hundred-page horror book without any promises of getting scared. This is supposed to be the cream of the crop of horror novels. Whatever.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #13

Postby Derived Absurdity » Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:02 pm

Bazaar of Bad Dreams - Stephen King's latest collection of short stories. It mostly sucks. Out of about twenty stories only three or four are actually worth reading, and only maybe one or two are worth reading twice. "Morality" and "Under the Weather" are my favorites, with "Obits" and "A Death" sort of good. His weakest collection by far.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #14

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:34 am

Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton - I mentioned I was going to review this book a while ago, but with Hillary's loss I put it on the back burner. It's a poorly written far left screed, made more disappointing as it was sold as basically the definitive takedown of Hillary. I assumed this was written for those who were still "on the fence", or moderates who had a basically neutral or mildly positive view of her, in an attempt to change their mind, but instead it was written exclusively for the far left, or at least those who wouldn't be turned off by far left tribalist signaling. Aggressive denunciations of American imperialism and bipartisan war-mongering abound in it, with little necessary contextual background and with no attempts to make these points of view palatable to someone not already on board with these far left positions. It was preaching to the choir, and since her choir would already be completely on board with the main thesis of the book (seriously, who on the left doesn't recognize Hillary as a hawk by now?) before they opened it, what the hell is the point?

The chapters are basically broken up by country and her "misandventures" with each one - there's one on Yugoslavia, there's one on Iraq, there's one on Honduras, there's one on Syria, there's one on Russia, and so on. They were all written in a way that they somehow provided too much detail for an uninformed person to really get or understand most of it, and yet at the same time too little for anyone already familiar with the basic strokes to really get anything new. For example, I'm familiar with the Honduran coup, and she didn't explain anything about it I didn't already know, yet I could tell that someone who wasn't familiar with it (i.e. most everyone) would be 100% lost as they read the chapter. A spectacular writing failure. Who was this book is even written for?

And it wasn't even comprehensive. Haiti was barely mentioned, even though her role in it should have gotten at least two chapters. Mexico, South Sudan, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and multiple other countries which she negatively influenced were never mentioned. Even the one about her role in the destruction of Libya wasn't nearly as detailed as it should have been. It was really disappointing; it almost felt like a whitewash.

And she displays the really annoying tendency of portraying everyone who doesn't like America or who is opposed to it in any way in a really good light. So, Putin is basically good. Milošević was good. Qaddafi was actually amazing. Pussy Riot is bad. And so on. She actually denied the Rwandan genocide. Like, blatantly. Explicitly. She said it basically never happened. I got the impression that she didn't like how Paul Kagame is allied with the United States and just worked backward from there. Nevertheless, any ounce of credibility she had before that was shot, along with anyone who praised this shitty travesty of a book. Seriously, how is that not in her bio? "Diana Johnstone - Rwandan genocide denier, dismiss completely."

She also had a sneering, condescending attitude toward what she described as "identity politics" in general, adopting an extremely tone-deaf and offensive attitude towards the struggle for LGBT rights in particular, going on pointless and tangential rants about how the acronym doesn't make any sense and how it somehow distracts everyone from the actually important work of stopping imperialism, which... just fucking no. And of course women who want to see a female President are just silly and "women are creating many new ways to lead fruitful, useful and rewarding lives", so who cares about having a female President. And she actually downplayed/justified/apologized for the virulent homophobia in Russia, saying it's all just a response to the West or something. Whatever. Fuck her. (But of course she supports LGBT rights! In the abstract.)

What gets me is that this terrible book got glowing reviews from so many people on the left. Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges, Doug Henwood, Edward Herman, William Blum, and so on. It's pathetic. These people suck. It's like they think there's so few good modern leftist books that we need to defend all the ones that get written, even if they're awful.

Anyway, it's awful and it has almost no good qualities. Skip.

That was a lot longer than I thought it would be.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #15

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:43 am

Wake (Elizabeth Knox) - This was a GOOD scary book. I was starting to think those didn't exist. It's about zombies. Sort of like Under the Dome, in that everyone is trapped... under a dome. It goes in unexpected directions. A bit long and it was hard to keep track of some of the characters. 6.5/10

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #16

Postby Chuckles_Otoole » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:24 am

Derived Absurdity wrote:Bazaar of Bad Dreams - Stephen King's latest collection of short stories. It mostly sucks. Out of about twenty stories only three or four are actually worth reading, and only maybe one or two are worth reading twice. "Morality" and "Under the Weather" are my favorites, with "Obits" and "A Death" sort of good. His weakest collection by far.


"Blockade Billy" was fucking awesome. My favorite story of King's in recent years.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #17

Postby Chuckles_Otoole » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:27 am

For those of you into scary nonfiction, "The Devil In The White City" is fucking *terrifying.* The true story of turn-of-the-century serial killer H.H. Holmes, as reconstructed by Erik Larson from newspaper accounts, police and court records, and correspondence from the principals in the story. I found parts of it absolutely nauseating, and some of it gave me nightmares for weeks.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #18

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:49 am

The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government - meh. There's nothing much here that one can't get out of the author's essay, "Anatomy of the Deep State". In fact it pretty much seems he just took the essay and added a bunch of filler to expand it into book form. I've been curious about this book for a few years now, long before Trump's election threw the concept into the mainstream and the term became just another talking point on the right, because I liked the author's essay and the subject is worth a deep look. There's not much of substance here - just standard critiques of the D.C. bubble, how corporate money buys votes, how the military budget is bloated, how our foreign policy failures in the Middle East are bad, how Presidents serve Wall Street, how austerity is bad, and other garden-variety observations you can find pretty much anywhere. The only times it got interesting was when he was talking about economic warfare and Silicon Valley (and how it's implicated in the deep state). There was never anything particularly radical or subversive - there wasn't much mention of the ruling class, how capitalism/imperalism fits into all this, or how the media functions as an indispensable node of it. Chomsky the author is not. Just read his essay, or read National Security and Double Government by Michael Glennon instead, a book which has basically the same subject but is a lot more concise and informative.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #19

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Nov 18, 2017 2:45 am

Revival (Stephen King) - it was okay. I definitely liked the ending. The ending was extremely horrific. The rest of the book was rambling and boring. King made some weird choices about which things in the protagonist's life he focused on and which ones he skipped over. Lots of boring pointless descriptions of his life in the music business, but a lot of emotional episodes like the death of his niece (or aunt? Cousin? I can't remember) which would have been more interesting and which would have given the ending a lot more emotional heft were pretty much entirely skipped over. Not good. Definitely would have worked far better as a novella.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #20

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:28 pm

The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature (Geoffrey Miller) - a book about, uh, what it says. Its thesis is that the theory of sexual selection until recently has been unfairly maligned compared to natural selection as an evolutionary force, and that many major aspects of human nature that are completely inexplicable in terms of pure survival value can be explained by positing that they're essentially fitness indicators instead. It speculates that everything about us from our artistic creativity to our intelligence to morality to the development of language evolved as sexual ornamentation in exactly the same way the peacock's tail or the nightingale's song did. Emphasis on speculates. He convinced me that sexual selection is the most plausible hypothesis for the evolution of the human brain, but there's not much in the way of actual scientific evidence for it, or at least not when this book was published in 2000. It did go over a lot of interesting concepts like Fisherian runaway and sensory bias, so I learned some new stuff. It was pretty persuasive for the most part, but it did note at the end that it was just a provisional theory and that the basics of sexual selection theory itself are undergoing constant revision and reconstruction, so don't take it as gospel. I don't know how well the book holds up almost nineteen years later, but it was still somewhat interesting and educational at points. I do know that the author is an anti-SJW shithead on Twitter, but that's probably not relevant.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #21

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Oct 17, 2018 4:26 pm

The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (David Buss) - don't judge me. I'm not ashamed of finding evo psych fascinating. But for a book on sex and desire this was pretty boring. It didn't even live up to its title; it was basically all about mating, not desire. I mean, the subtitle was accurate, I guess, but the title wasn't. This was book was basically "men are promiscuous, women are choosy" and "men like young hotties, women like rich successful dudes" repeated every single chapter. Backed up by endless surveys and studies and ad hoc evo psych explanations. It basically explained how women and men have different sexual strategies due to different adaptive pressures, how they're fundamentally at odds with each other, how men are more risky, women are more choosy, men like casual sex, women want more commitment, we compete with each other for mates, and other things which I already kind of knew. Like, you don't really need someone to explain some of this stuff to you, you should already know most of it through common sense and just kind of being aware of the world. I barely learned anything here. I guess for someone who has no understanding of evolution at all or the world around them and has never bothered to wonder about the sexual choices people sometimes make this could be enlightening. I mean, he explains that men get sexually jealous when their girlfriends/wives cheat because they want to protect their paternity. I mean, no shit. He presents this like it's news. Of course, even then a lot of it was just speculation. He says women like casual sex because it provides them resources and helps to evaluate potential marriage partners. Which, yeah, that makes sense, but this is a science book, you're supposed to provide evidence, not state things just because they sound like they make sense.

I guess it wasn't that bad. Some of the info presented was valuable. It could have been better, though.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #22

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:18 am

The Darkest Part of the Woods, Alone With the Horrors (Ramsey Campbell) - These are the first two Campbell books I've read, the latter one being a collection of short stories. I didn't like them particularly much. His style of writing is very dry and unemotional. A lot of the short stories were borderline incoherent, but most of them were simply flat and uninteresting. They got somewhat better as they went along. The former book was completely tedious. It's good on a purely technical level, the story plodded along nicely and the prose is intricate and sophisticated, sort of, but it still felt completely unengaging, so much that I put it down about halfway through. He is most certainly not an emotive writer. So far Stephen King is still the best contemporary horror writer I've read.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #23

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sun Nov 11, 2018 5:39 pm

Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It) - Elizabeth Anderson.

This book was a lot shorter and drier than I expected, but that's very good. It's concise and un-hyperbolic. Actually, it's just an edited transcript of two lectures, followed by some objections and her rebuttal. They are very good, in my opinion. Basically it explains that before the eighteenth century the world was characterized by unaccountable and arbitrary domination of one group of people over another in every single area of life (landlords and tenants, masters and servants, masters and journeymen and apprentices, kings and subjects, husbands and wives, the church, state monopolies, the landed aristocracy, and on and on and on). Nearly everyone was subordinate to someone else. New market relations were supposed to reduce these unjust hierarchies and promote egalitarianism, independence, and self-sufficiency, because if you enter into a market relationship with someone, you're supposed to be equals. A potential free market economy à la Adam Smith and John Locke, where everyone is self-employed as a farmer, artisan, or merchant, where everything is perfectly competitive, where profits would remain low, and where material inequality would be limited to individual differences, was basically the communism of the time - a radical leftist utopian egalitarian ideal that people could only dream of. But then the Industrial Revolution came and ruined everything. Opportunities for self-employment dramatically shrank and practically disappeared to be replaced by mass wage labor. Wage labor existed before, mostly in apprenticeships, but the gulf between the master and apprentice was relatively small - they both worked side-by-side, performing the same work, in the same environment, in a relationship that was mostly friendly, and the latter could set up a shop for himself at some point if he worked hard enough. The Industrial Revoluion ruined all that - workers and employers were separated, working conditions were severely degraded, conditions were horrible, hours were long, wages were low, and prospects for advancements became minimal. The hierarchical gulf between boss and worker became almost as intense as any of the ones that came before or since, including chattel slavery (which is why people called it wage slavery). But despite this new and radically different social context, old-school egalitarians blithely kept up their advocacy for liberating market relations, even though they were now bringing about the exact opposite of the effects that their predecessors celebrated. Labor was seen as just another market, and if workers entered and exited the labor market freely, well, that obviously meant they were free! This blithe disregard for the actual material conditions of the new labor market is what characterized liberals and differentiated them from the socialists and labor radicals, who realized that the radically changing environment caused the very mechanism which reduced subordination in previous generations to create even more spectacular forms of subordination.

(Also, the idea that the most respectable form of labor is independent self-employed labor, the ideology of market advocates, led to a way of thinking that held that those who worked for wages were in some sense inferior, which ironically bolstered the new hierarchy by placing private capitalists on a higher status level than wage workers. It's funny to read quotes by Abraham Lincoln saying that people who work for wages their entire lives must be defective in character. The debasing and degrading nature of wage labor was clear to most people not very long ago.)

What this resulted in is a modern workplace that is highly authoritarian, anti-democratic, and tyrannical. It's a form of private government, a government where almost everyone is assigned a superior who can give arbitrary orders and whose authority is often unaccountable, who is also neither elected by their inferiors nor removable by them. The government has multiple ranks with considerable differences in status and freedom. Those on the lowest rank, who are the majority, have almost no input in their day-to-day experiences, they have no democratic rights, they are not entitled to know the decisions their superiors make or standing to insist they take their decisions into account when making them (despite the gargantuan power they have over their lives), and they have no right to hold them accountable in any way (except in narrowly defined cases). For these people, the government does not recognize any personal sphere free from sanction. It can prescribe a dress code, forbid hairstyles, subject you to random drug testing and suspicionless searches, restrict your freedom of speech, and punish you for your recreational activities or political and social views. It can't execute you for breaking its laws, but it can demote you or exile you, which can have severe consequences, and your only real option then is to move to another dictatorship. The dictator of this government is the CEO, who holds virtually absolute power within it. And because the government holds all the assets, and because it organizes production by means of central planning, not only is the workplace a private tyranny, it's a private communist tyranny. Anderson means "private" (as opposed to public) government in relation to the citizens it governs; a private government treats its authority and legitimacy as none of its citizens' business, they're not entitled to know about it or have any effect on it, and their interests have no standing in decisions regarding it. Under this definition the workplace is quite literally a private government. Under the employment-at-will contract, employees cede literally all their rights to their employers except the ones specifically protected by law. Economies of scale might explain the hierarchical model of large corporations, but it can't explain the sweeping unaccountable scope of that hierarchy.

And this is even before we get into the stealing of surplus value, which she doesn't touch on.

There were four response chapters after this. The first two basically made the point that the market was having corrosive effects on peoples' well-being even before the Industrial Revolution, which Anderson acknowledges but says is not the point. The early pro-market ideologues like Locke, Lincoln, Paine, and Smith did not envision anything remotely close to the horrific monstrous religion free market ideology would morph into in the centuries hence: they didn't support the commodification of labor, they wanted acknowledgment of externalities, they didn't think the economy should be measured as a system of self-regulating isolated markets, they didn't believe that individual self-interest would somehow produce benign outcomes for society, and they didn't even think all the income from capital should accrue to private property owners (instead making the point that anyone who claims to "own" natural communal resources like land owes compensation to the larger society). They wanted a world of self-employed independent laborers to eliminate traditional modes of domination like primogeniture, state-backed monopolies, debtor's peonage, feudalism, the patriarchal family structure, the landed aristocracy, chattel slavery, and so on. Their predictions turned out to be mistaken, but it's easy to criticize an idea in hindsight. The third criticism is meaningless and the fourth criticism is from some idiot economist blogger saying that modern work isn't actually all that bad. Lol.

It's a good book. My only major criticism of it is that it didn't touch on the "why we don't talk about it". Why is this not considered a huge issue anymore? It used to be, but it stopped by the forties or fifties or so. Nowadays only marginalized academics and labor historians and activists even talk about it. She doesn't explain why it dropped off the radar over the last several decades. She also doesn't go into much detail about possible solutions. At the end she limply suggests giving workers a "voice". Well, sure, okay. The actual solution, of course, is to kill all the bosses in a violent uprising establish workplace democracy.

All in all, it was good. Made some things more clear.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #24

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Nov 24, 2018 3:41 pm

The Democrats: A Critical History (by Lance Selfa)

A left-wing critique of the Democratic Party. It sort of gives the game away at the very beginning by frankly stating that it's coming from a Marxist viewpoint. Not sure that was particularly wise. Of course Marxists realize the Dem Party serves capital above all; do we need this book to tell us that? And would anyone who's not a Marxist care very much about what a Marxist thinks about the Dem party anyway? Of course anyone not delusional would know we don't like it. So again, as with the Hillary Clinton book above, it seems like a lot of left-wing discourse is just us talking to each other.

It's much better than that book, though. The first few chapters are all about how the Democrats' major claim to progressive fame stem from the New Deal, and yet 1) it was forced by labor uprisings from below, not passed willingly, 2) its explicit purpose was to stabilize capital's power over labor by means of state intervention, not to look out for the working class, and 3) it wasn't even a very big deal anyway compared to other industrial capitalist countries at the time. It only gave a small portion of what the working class demanded, and even after its full effect, the U.S. still ranked dead last in the industrialized world in social welfare expenditure. Furthermore, the Democrats dominated the government for decades afterward, and it neither attempted to build on the New Deal in any way during that time nor repeal the slew of overtly anti-worker acts that passed shortly after it. They also have the Great Society programs and civil rights accomplishments to their name, but again, these were due more to social pressure from below and changing cultural beliefs than them taking any initiative themselves. The disparity between the two parties on progressive issues has often been exaggerated anyway. More Republicans supported the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts than Democrats, and Roe v. Wade was passed by conservative Justices under a conservative President. Social change such as this happens through the ruling class bowing to popular pressure, not the ballot box. To the extent that the Democratic Party has ever been a progressive force, it was through channeling and reflecting (and more often neutering and co-opting) wider progressive tides that were already in force.

The next few chapters zero in on Clinton and Obama and detail how much they sucked. I swear, I am just consistently blown away by how spectacularly awful a person Bill Clinton is. Just the list of horrific shit he he did and helped abet is absolutely un-ending. He is one of the most evil people to ever walk the face of the earth. His administration was one of the most damaging ones in history and stands by itself as a refutation of the idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a lesser evil to anything. It was almost as bad as Reagan's, Bush II's, and Trump's (so far) combined. Obama's awfulness is already well-known, and this book shows that none of the excuses his supporters give for it hold any water. He was a terrible president who betrayed his base over and over and over again because he actively and willfully chose to be one, not because he was forced to.

Also, literally every single major war America got involved in in the twentieth century was under a Democratic president. The First World War (Wilson), WWII (Roosevelt), the Korean War (Truman), and the Vietnam War (Kennedy) were all Democratic wars. The only use of atomic bombs was by a Democrat. The closest we ever got to nuclear annihilation, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was by a Democrat. The Cold War and the policy of "containment", which led to all the dozens of coups and overthrows of popular democratic governments around the world, was initiated by a Democrat. The CIA, the FBI, and the NSA were all created by a Democrat. So... yeah, there's all that. The idea that the Democrats could be seen as the "peace" party or "weak on national security" just blows me away. Even John Kerry didn't oppose the Iraq War in 2004, ffs. The Democrats chose to escalate the war when they took back Congress in 2006, even though they were elected precisely to not do that. Imperialism/war is the primary area where the "lesser evil" idea is most obviously false and literally just made up.

Every left-wing attempt so far to transform the Democratic Party from the inside has failed, and has merely resulted in the latter swallowing up the former like the Borg. Any progressive or socialist organization that has ever tried to infiltrate or or even simply work alongside it was merely assimilated by it, and the end result is always that a large organized and disciplined group of left-wingers who might have actually accomplished something concrete just give their tacit support for voting for the lesser evil and thus contribute to the strengthening of capital and empire. The hard left is always pulled to the right and assimilated; the Democratic Party is never pulled left. The only way to make progressive change in this country is to recognize the Party for what it is and make a clean break with it.

Unfortunately that's easier said than done, because virtually all "progressive" "grassroots" activist organizations and NGOs in the entire country function as appendages of the Party, and you have to play by its rules if you want to get anywhere in them. And unfortunately you have to go through them if you want to make any progressive change, in any direction. This is the true function of the Party and all its functionaries - they exist to swallow up and destroy any true threats to capital and empire that might arise from the ground, to co-opt them and channel them into areas safe for the ruling class, and of course on the national level to present the facade that we actually have a choice in how we're governed and that we're not actually ruled by oligarchic overlords. They haven't been doing a good job of the latter recently, but they've doing an excellent job of the former.

The book doesn't go into detail about how we can fix this problem besides, predictably, building a movement/organization "outside" the Party, however that's supposed to happen. But people should try.

It was okay. It didn't have anything I or most other Marxists didn't already know. I guess it might be informative to some people, but it was very dry and boring in parts. I could see how it left some holes for people who are really invested in the Dem Party's image as a lesser evil to attack, and it probably would have been more compelling and convincing if it was more concise and exciting. But it's good that it was written.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #25

Postby Cassius Clay » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:03 pm

Lol I honestly didn't notice you had been posting stuff here

1) As you're aware, Geoffrey Miller is an anti-trans bigoted piece of shit. And bigotry certainly plays a role in how scientific data is interprered(specifically regarding gender dynamics)...and what narratives you cling to. Check out Richard Prum. Heard him express some interesting ideas about evolution that are pretty progressive...about the evolution of beauty and it's connection to female choice. Scientists tend to assume that evolutionary successful traits have some practical purpose that aids survival, but Prum - as a proponent of aesthetic evolution - suggests that a lot of these "successful" traits are just arbitrary beauty choices that have absolutely nothing to do with usefulness. You might say this is already called "sexual selection", but even those theories tie extravagant appearance to "usefulness" in some way. Like "pretty" feathers mean healthy, and therefore healthy offspring. ..but really it's more like "I like your pretty feathers and I wanna fuck". Basically, that animals don't make mating decisions as practically as scientists tend to assume...and that arbitrary choice is a bigger driver of evolution than conventionally believed.

2) Dem establishment is horrible and it's shitty that they protect capital by taking advantage of the fact that they're a better option than literal Nazis(Hillary literally wanted Trump to win the nomination so she'd look good by comparison). And a huge chunk of dem voters are pretty progressive...and would vote for a more progressive party if that was available. The thing is that there is no perfect strategy for getting out of this situation. Voting for the 'lesser evil" has major cons...abstaining has it's obvious cons. But I support either option as long as we're all acting as one. As long as we have a movement acting as one, I'll be confident we're on the right path. What's the gameplan? Are we voting for Hillary? Fine, let's do that. If we're committed to this movement, we can keep power in check a little better. Are we gonna say fuck it and let whoever win? Fine. If the Nazis win, at least we have an army. But all the unnecessary, poorly-timed splitting and infighting is fucking ridiculous. My motto is to do whatever most of the most-marginalized are doing. To follow. And that's been a major issue I've had with a lot of white leftists...they are too tribalist, arrogant, and overconfident to follow. They think they have all the answers and that their way is the only way. Or that it's ok to just not vote because you weren't "feeling it". No one can be an island right now. Figure out what strategy your fellow citizens are going with and fucking play along.

3) The Elizabeth Anderson book sounds good. I'll check it out.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #26

Postby Cassius Clay » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:42 pm

Prum was also where I first heard that ducks evolved corkscrew vaginas to prevent rape...giving them better chances to breed with the ducks they find aesthetically pleasing...meaning their offspring will likely have those traits and will likely be chosen to be bred with...and so on. I like the way the theory centers and respects animal choice/autonomy.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #27

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:11 pm

1) I am? I know him entirely from his fat-shaming (which was idiotic beyond belief) and his anti-SJW Twitter posturing. He also wrote a book with Tucker Max, so, obviously, he sucks. I don't know any anti-trans stuff; I don't follow him closely. I'll check Prum out.

2) Lot to think about.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #28

Postby Cassius Clay » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:17 pm

Also, if we don't have a cohesive movement or strategy, I lean towards just voting lesser evil as default...until we figure out what the fuck we're doing. But then the argument is that lesser evil voting historically destroys movements....so I don't fucking know.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #29

Postby Cassius Clay » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:27 pm

Looked at Miller's twitter and saw some recent anti-trans whining. Seems like you're more familiar with him than I am, so I assumed you must know about that. Unless that's the first time he's publicly expressed his transphobia.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #30

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:45 pm

Well, at least you admit uncertainty. The situation is far too complex to be absolutely confident about any one strategy. I'll vote for Bernie if he's the nom but I'm uncertain if it's gonna be Biden or Harris.

The argument is also that lesser evil voting makes the country... y'know... worse. By continuously voting for evil people to stop even eviler people just makes the people in charge more and more evil, and makes them think they can get away with more and more shit because they won't be held electorally accountable (which they won't), which makes the "greater" evil we're supposed to be voting against even eviler, making the "lesser" evil even eviler too because they can get away with it. Hillary Clinton would have been seen as the apotheosis of this if it wasn't for Trump coming along and making her look actually good. It makes sense to try to put the brakes on this by promising to not vote for someone unless they're actually... y'know... kind of good. Non-voting can be a legitimate political strategy, but as you said only if there's a disciplined organized mass force behind it. What we need is a chunk of the Dem Party flat-out saying we're not going to vote for anyone unless we can be *absolutely confident* they'll meet some minimum standards of basic decency. I thought that would happen after Trump's election but it didn't. So I don't know what to do.

But yeah LEV also destroys progressive movements, as well as making the world worse. I have no hope in politics. This stuff is why I give up on politics because it's too complicated and just put all my faith in transhumanism. Literally politics to me is just a drug now. Rationally I know transhumanism is more important and politics is just depressing and headache-inducing but I can't help it.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #31

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:47 pm

Cassius Clay wrote:Looked at Miller's twitter and saw some recent anti-trans whining. Seems like you're more familiar with him than I am, so I assumed you must know about that. Unless that's the first time he's publicly expressed his transphobia.


Oh yeah I only know his Twitter from screenshots other people took of it to make fun of him. Lol

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #32

Postby Cassius Clay » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:30 pm

I get the arguments for abstaining and demanding better. But sometimes a situation is so dire that we don't really have the luxury to "play chicken" with people who are in way better position to survive these dire consequences. And the only time I think it's reasonable to play that game is if we have a supportive/cohesive movement. I'm exhausted by politics/news but can't look away. There's so much information overload...too many crazy things happening back-to-back to keep up.
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #33

Postby Derived Absurdity » Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:11 pm

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Ibram X. Kendi):

This book wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't great, either. It wasn't nearly as analytical and comprehensive as I was expecting; I was expecting something like a historical and (maybe) materialist analysis of American racism, why it formed in the first place, what caused it to have such ferocious strength and staying power over the centuries, what caused it to wax and wane, and so on. It didn't provide any particularly deep or incisive understanding of racism as a sociocultural or psychosocial phenomenon; instead it merely took as its starting point "racism exists" and simply listed some ways throughout history that manifested. We learn some not-particularly-surprising facts about how virtually every single European-American in history was racist to some degree, including the Founding Fathers, including the most radical abolitionists and liberal egalitarians you can find. Even such people as W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harper Lee held some racist attitudes (which, of course, weren't viewed by anyone as racist at the time). But yeah, basically everyone before, like, 1970 was pretty much racist.

The book takes all the racial ideas throughout American history and divides them into three major categories. There's the segregationists, the straightforward "overt" type of white supremacists; there's the anti-racists, the type who, correctly, pointed firmly to white discrimination and prejudice as the only true causes for the racial disparities everyone saw; and there's the "assimilationists" who tried to have it both ways by explaining the racial disparities away as both the fault of white bigotry and black malfunction or misbehavior (whether stemming from innate predisposition or culture). Any theory which attempts to put any blame whatsoever for racial disparities on black people presupposes racial inferiority, even if that inferiority was hypothesized to stem from white cruelty/discrimination, which therefore makes it racist, which is true even for the assimilationists who thought they were just trying to help. Anti-racism, as you might expect, has historically been an extreme minority viewpoint compared to the two others.

The defining tactic of assimilationists, historically, to get rid of white bigotry was "uplift suasion", which was basically respectability politics. If black people just stopped misbehaving and went to good colleges and became laywers and doctors, white people would respect them and racism would go away! This idea dominated for like two hundred years, despite the fact that it never worked. When individual black people did become successful that only made white people angrier. Uplift suasion was always doomed because it was predicated on the idea that white racism was based on something logical and empirical, when it wasn't. It was a well-intentioned yet self-defeating and victim-blaming enterprise that completely missed the point of racism in the first place.

This book explains in detail that many high-profile individuals were racist, but it didn't go into much detail as to why racism has been such a hugely powerful force in America, nor did it go into much detail about how it manifested on a systemic, holistic, or institutional level. I mean, I learned basically nothing from this book. It just skipped over some hugely significant events, like the discriminatory aspects of the New Deal to the rise and power of the KKK to lynchings (never even mentioned) to the Tulsa bombings (again, never mentioned) to the formation of ghettos to the Republicans' Southern Strategy (got one paragraph) to Reagan flooding black communities with drugs (again, never mentioned). This book is almost six hundred pages documenting the history of racism in America and these things were never mentioned? Instead we spend an inordinate amount of focus on the writings of a few specific high-profile individuals.

I don't know, it wasn't very good.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #34

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Jan 17, 2019 4:45 pm

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve (Steve Stewart Williams):

Probably the weakest of all of the evo psych books I've read recently, but it wasn't bad. It taught some basic concepts like sexual selection, the difference between adaptations and evolutionary byproducts, sexual dimorphism, evolutionary mismatch, the Westermarck hypothesis (which was interesting), kin selection theory, and even how group selection theory might not be all that implausible. The focus of the book was all about memes and how memes evolved to shape our culture, which in turn co-evolved(s) with genes to shape human nature. I used to think the whole idea of memes (the scientific meaning, not the Internet one) and "memetics" was kind of silly and self-evident; it just seemed like another way of saying "good ideas and behaviors spread faster than bad ideas and behaviors", but that's apparently not what it means. Memes are like genes in that they only replicate for their own benefit, not for the benefit of their hosts or the cultures they shape. So if we apply the memetics idea to religion, for example, it would argue that religious ideas spread sort of mindlessly and blindly in society purely for their own benefit, not because they're good for social cohesion or personal well-being or social control or anything like that. I don't think memetics is taken very seriously in science, but this book did a good job defending it.

Back to horror fiction now.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #35

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:38 pm

The Dead Zone (Stephen King):

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh this was fucking boring. Nothing that happened ever led up to anything halfway interesting. The biggest moral of the book, I guess, is that you should probably kill Hitler if you get the chance. Also life might be predestined, or it might not be predestined, who knows. I like how we the readers were asked to sympathize with an attempted political assassin, although that's not a particularly hard sell for me. The title of the book is only peripherally related to the story, which is too bad, because it'd be a lot more interesting if it wasn't.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #36

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:45 am

Experimental Film (Gemma Files):

It was good. Whatever. I had a whole thing planned but I don't even care. I'm too lazy. It was good.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #37

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:16 pm

Disappearance at Devil's Rock (Paul Tremblay):

Well that was just dumb. That book was by the same guy who wrote the book that made me start this whole thread in the first place (A Head Full of Ghosts) like three years ago. We've come full circle. I guess it's his follow-up to that, but, uh, it sucked. It's a ghost story, but it's almost the blandest, most uninspired, most simplistic ghost story possible, written blandly and simplistically as well. For some bizarre reason all the dialogue was written like it was a script, not a book. Instead of writing "Alice said, [X]", it would instead simply be, "Alice: [X]". There was always a colon instead of a declarative word whenever someone said something. It was a stylistic choice but it made the book seem even blander than it was already. It wasn't scary, needless to say, or really anything else. I don't know what happened. I have a hard time imagining anyone being genuinely impressed with this book after A Head Full of Ghosts, but apparently some people were. At least it was short.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #38

Postby Faustus5 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:00 pm

Derived Absurdity wrote:Disappearance at Devil's Rock (Paul Tremblay):

Well that was just dumb. That book was by the same guy who wrote the book that made me start this whole thread in the first place (A Head Full of Ghosts) like three years ago.


What does it say about that book (Head Full of Ghosts) that I know I read the thing, but can't remember a single damn thing about it?

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #39

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:54 am

Probably not a whole lot tbh. I don't remember anything about the vast majority of fiction books I've read.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #40

Postby Raxivace » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:22 am

The takeaway here should be that reading is for suckas.

Just burn all books IMO. That way you'll never be disappointed in them.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #41

Postby Derived Absurdity » Fri May 03, 2019 11:55 pm

Agreed, books are terrible.

The Loney (Andrew Michael Hurley):

It was good. I guess? Whatever. This is "literary horror", I guess, emphasis on the "literary", which basically means there's no actual story but lots of descriptions of crumbling buildings and bleak marshlands and evocative writing about nothing. The ending was both disappointingly simplistic and confusing at the same time, which is an accomplishment. It was written well and all, and it was "haunting" in the sense that you keep thinking about it after you're done, but I think that's mostly because it's just sort of confusing and feels unfinished. Whatever. It was fine.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #42

Postby Derived Absurdity » Mon May 13, 2019 6:40 pm

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury):

Well, that was different. This book was right up my alley. Creepy haunted carnival? Childhood nostalgia? Damn straight. I liked the ideas, not the execution so much, but that was probably more a failure on my part than the book's. The prose was incredibly unnatural and weird and hard to follow. It's basically more like poetry than prose. It's charming and pretty and all, but it was off-putting and made it hard for my brain to actually follow what the hell was going on. I had to re-read a bunch of stuff and sometimes just kind of skipped whole paragraphs 'cuz my brain was just overloading on a bunch of flowery nonsense. And needless to stay it put a distance between me and the story. Hard to immerse myself in in it. The dialogue was also stilted and unnatural.

I mean, look at this:

“Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it. Why speak of time when you are Time, and shape the universal moments, as they pass, into warmth and action? How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever.”


This random paragraph is pure nonsense to me, just absolute gibberish, and it's pretty representative of the rest of the book. This is why, for a simple three-hundred-page story about an evil carnival coming to town, it took me forever to finish it. I'm sorry, book. I know millions of people presumably enjoyed you, but I couldn't. The themes are classic and pretty much eternal - evil is defeated by purity of heart, fear is in the mind, be happy with who you are, etc. Very Disney.

Was this book the genesis of the whole "creepy haunted carnival comes to town" trope? I know people have been scared of clowns forever, but I don't know if that extended to whole carnivals or not. If this book birthed the whole evil carnival thing then I have to give it thanks for one of my favorite storytelling tropes.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #43

Postby Faustus5 » Wed May 15, 2019 4:37 pm

I remember trying to read that book as a teen during my Bradbury fandom phase and couldn't make it, so kudos to you for slogging through the thing.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #44

Postby Derived Absurdity » Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:41 am

As hard as it was to slog through that one, that was absolutely nothing compared to this one.

The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum

I have never had more trouble getting through a book than this one. This was one of the darkest, bleakest, most horrific, most crushing and deadening reading experiences I have ever had. It took me almost a month to finish it. Now I just feel... nothing but complete emptiness.

Many years ago when I was a teenager I watched, out of sheer morbid curiosity, the film version of this book, and I came away sickened and distinctly unimpressed with it. It seemed to me basically just sloppy, exploitative, deeply morally repellent shlock, and I felt bad for having watched it. Both it and the book were adaptations of something that happened in real life, an incident where a teenage girl was held captive and tortured and murdered by her caregiver, helped along by her children and several other neighborhood kids. I found myself wondering how it was morally acceptable to depict or dramatize something like that for the sake of entertainment. Of course, I was young and I didn't question myself for wanting to watch it in the first place, or think that maybe I was part of the problem. I knew what it was going to be about, after all; I was sickened by the bare thought of it and the fact that it was made; I knew there was something wrong with depicting as (technically) entertainment/art a real life person's torture; and yet I wanted to watch it anyway. I understood the irony in that, but I couldn't help myself.

This book is not that. I picked it up for the exact same reason I watched the film version years ago, proving, I guess, that deep down people simply don't fundamentally change. I figured it would be morally repulsive exploitative trash, so by my own standards what possible moral justification could I have for picking it up? But it's not. It's not "torture porn" like I was anticipating. Not even close. There's nothing exploitative about it. It's one of the most sensitive and humane books I've ever read, written in a way that extremely harshly interrogates the reader for expecting (or hoping) for anything else. As its title implies, we're not put in the head of the girl, Meg, herself, but of a boy, David, who lives next door to her. Meg's parents died in a car crash, leaving her and her physically disabled sister Susan to live with their aunt, Ruth, and their three cousins. David and Meg even have a sort of cliched trope-y "meet cute" thing by the brook at the very beginning of the book. Meg's story starts off as severe emotional neglect/abuse, then escalates to physical abuse, before culminating in severe physical and sexual torture, with our hero David as a passive observer almost every single step of the way. David, who we read about from the first-person perspective, keeps continuously visiting next door to witness what's happening, driven by sick fascination, by hormonal, voyeuristic excitement, by the exact same dark impulse which caused me, and presumably most other readers of this book, to pick up this book in the first place. We're sickened by David, by his desires, by his voyeuristic curiosity, and yet he's the reader, isn't he? The book never lets you escape from that; it never lets you forget it. I put it down more times than I could count, but I still finished it, and it knew perfectly well that I would. There is something seriously, seriously diseased in the human soul, and in my opinion no piece of art I've ever encountered illuminated it as well, and attacked it as ferociously and effectively, as this book did.

The sentences in it are short and simple. The prose is minimalist. The writing never calls attention to itself. Nothing about it is flashy. Nothing about either the writing or how the story is told is, for lack of a better word, "cinematic". Nothing is exaggerated. Nothing felt emotionally cloying or manipulative. Nothing felt forced. Nothing, absolutely nothing, felt, for even a moment, inauthentic. What resulted was a book more powerful and emotionally devastating than any I can remember reading. The story was presented so mundanely and unostentatiously, in such a low key and natural fashion, everything just kept naturally escalating, every single stage just kept leading inevitably to the next, and you knew perfectly well at every point where it was going and that it was never going to stop, that it was never going to tilt sideways, nothing unexpected, no shocking twists would come. All the characters were drawn beautifully, if vaguely, but that's all that was needed. We knew all we needed to know about them. We knew about Meg and Susan, we knew about Ruth, we knew about David and the other boys, we knew enough about them by the beginning to know, even if we knew nothing about the real life inspiration, that there would never come a point that anything was going to get better.

This book is horror at its most elemental, its most fundamental. It is horror that knows what it's supposed to do: not "scare" you, but horrify you. Damage your soul. It succeeded.

The most horrific aspect of the book is not Ruth, even though she's the catalyst for everything. She's quite obviously sick, and even though the book spends just enough time to tell us what's driving her and what she's motivated by, it doesn't spend much time trying to figure her out. Because she's not the point. The kids do most of the torturing. Her sons do it, David passively accepts it, eventually some of the neighborhood kids do it. Girls and boys. Eventually it becomes an open secret on their block, that there's this girl, Meg, whom they know, in some lady's basement who they can do anything they want to. It's all built up gradually; Ruth manipulates them all splendidly, but the scariest thing is is that she doesn't even have to try that hard most of the time. The kids are perfectly happy to do quite a lot of the heavy lifting themselves. The escalation is told so naturally that every single escalation is 100% authentic and realistic. Jack Ketchum, for better or worse, has a really good grasp on human psychology. I kept expecting some heightened moment, something that would ring false that would take me out of the story. But no. I was never given that.

There's a subgenre, I don't know if it has a name or not, of art that's all about trying to illuminate the darkness the lies underneath the rosy surface of American suburbia. That underneath the Leave-It-To-Beaver facade of middle class Americana, there's a disturbing underlying core. That's a favorite theme of Stephen King. David Lynch does that often. Many others. I think this book does that theme so well it blows all other attempts I've seen out of the water, and it does it without seemingly even trying or drawing attention to itself, or coming across as hokey. That sickness that lies inside so many people was opened up by Ruth and Meg, and it came flooding out. Even the sickness in David, our hero, who never actually did anything but still kept coming back.

A big theme of the book I appreciated is the complete, absolute, all-encompassing domination adults have over children, how children are subject to such a sense of powerlessness and dependence on them, and how adults present themselves as having unlimited authority and legitimacy towards them. The kids abuse Meg because they sense they have "permission" to. Ruth, an adult, gave them that permission. Meg didn't have permission to fight back, so she was punished for it. The laws of the universe and morality are dictated by adults, kids feel, especially when those laws line up with what they wanted to do anyway. Kids are supposed to endure humiliation. Kids are supposed to endure physical violence and trauma. Adults are supposed to control every aspect of their lives, and if they don't like it, like Meg doesn't, well, that doesn't really matter much, does it? This feeling is strengthened when Meg tries to tell the cops early on, and when they don't help her, their contempt for her grows, and their anger. She just illustrated as starkly as possible to them that adults truly, simply don't give a shit, and they took their feelings of powerlessness out on the only person they could.

Another obvious theme it touches on is, well, toxic masculinity, and how boys and girl perceive each other in general. The boys had some truly shitty attitudes towards Meg, who was older and pretty, even before Ruth entered the picture and entertained their notions that she should be their plaything. They felt entitled to her on a subtle yet primal level, which is another reason they didn't question it much when Ruth made her, in a sense, more available to them. David wasn't immune to this by any stretch. It's fascinating and nauseating to read how his perceptions of her change over the story. She starts off to him as an object of affection and yearning, somewhat intimidating, and then descends quickly as the abuse starts into an object of titillation, contempt, disgust, hatred, pure disdain for her personhood, an object of voyeuristic spectacle. A part of him realizes how unimaginably strong she must be to endure all she's going through, but it's easy enough to cast that feeling aside when he actually looks at her, and pretend she's contemptible to ease his insane guilt. David is in constant emotional turmoil, and it's extremely realistic, and it's why the book works: because this is really, genuinely, how people think.

This is easily one of the most well-written and effective books I've ever read. It's unbelievably, corrosively bleak, and I don't say that lightly. I'm not going to be able to stop thinking about it for a long time.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #45

Postby Faustus5 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 7:27 pm

That was a great and thoughtful review, DA. Don't think I have the fortitude you do to read it myself, but maybe I'll give it a try down the road. Thank you for this.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #46

Postby Derived Absurdity » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:56 pm

Thanks, Faustus. I thought the book deserved it.

I don't know if it actually has flaws. If it does, and it might, I didn't catch them. When a book gets this much of an emotional grip on me, which is pretty rare, I always read it again a bit more analytically to make sure I'm not misperceiving its quality, but... I'm not going to do that here. That was enough.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #47

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:08 am

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

For a book said to lay the groundwork for all haunted house stories that came after, it did some pretty unique and peculiar things that other haunted house stories rarely do. Like, for instance, not ever having a single ghost show up. Not even once! And also for having all the characters happy and not even really scared of anything that happens to them. Like, they hate the house at first, but they get more comfortable with it over time, and none of the spooky stuff even fazes them for long. The plot is also kickstarted by a researcher who is perfectly open to the possibility of encountering supernatural phenomenon, the exact inversion of the modern cliche of the strawman skeptic who keeps refusing to believe in the supernatural even as evidence for it piles up in front of him. Like, for a book which is supposedly the template for modern ghost stories, they all seem to have run in the exact opposite direction.

As everyone knows, the primary horror of the book lies in the psychological and emotional, not in anything external. The house is scary, mostly, in that it's a physical manifestation of the horrors in the human mind, or at least the protagonist's mind, how it represents and then magnifies her frailties and weaknesses and insecurities, shown by the fact that we're not given to know whether all the spooky stuff is actually happening, or whether it's just in her head, or a bit of both, or whether the divide is even real or matters. With the horror of the story stemming mostly from its female protagonist's fractured headspace, with extremely unreliable narration and our uncertainly about what's actually happening or how we should interpret it, there's a lot of obvious similarities between this and The Innocents, and presumably The Turn of the Screw, which I'm probably not the first person to point out. The big difference is that while I got strong vibes of sexual repression from The Innocents, this book featured a more generalized insecurity and anxiety in its protagonist, nothing particularly sexual, despite the fact that she's a lonely virgin in her thirties. Not to say there isn't a strongly gendered element to it, I think - the intense claustrophobia, the isolation, the restriction the house imposes, is probably reflective of Shirley Jackson's experiences as a dependent 50s housewife, which I guess makes the ending her worst fear come to life. Now that I've read it a second time I can appreciate more how offensive the ending of the show is, how perfectly it bastardizes the book's whole point, at least how I saw it. Though the book is so confusing and ambiguous I could be completely mistaken about it.

Oh well. That's all I have to say about it. There's probably a lot to it that just flew right over my head and a lot of potential interpretations that I never thought of.

Faustus5
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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #48

Postby Faustus5 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:14 pm

Derived Absurdity wrote:Now that I've read it a second time I can appreciate more how offensive the ending of the show is, how perfectly it bastardizes the book's whole point, at least how I saw it. Though the book is so confusing and ambiguous I could be completely mistaken about it.


How did the book end and what did you think the point was?

The only thing I didn't like about the show was the ending, but I don't care if it was faithful to the book in any way. My sole objection was that it was too easy and happy, which didn't seem to fit with the prior tone. I mean, I liked the characters and wanted a happy resolution from them, but it didn't seem consistent with the other episodes.

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Re: A Head Full of Ghosts   Reply #49

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:35 pm

It ends with Eleanor falling in love with the house and becoming more of a part of it. The house basically latches itself onto her, as she's the most vulnerable. The book starts with her calling it vile and diseased and ends with her creepily singing its praises. Then the others try to send her away, sensing that she's losing her mind, and it ends with her purposefully crashing her car into a tree before she even crosses the gate, killing herself. But it seems that for a split second right before impact, the house breaks its hold on her, as she suddenly questions wtf she's doing, but it's too late.

The house was always pure evil. The fact that Eleanor comes to love it and perceives it as warm and accommodating, while at the same time she's quite clearly going insane, is meant to be seen as unnerving and horrifying, not good. The last line of the book is "whatever walked there walked alone", which the show amends to "whatever walked there walked together" (or something). Basically the book's ending is bleak and scary and the show's ending is warm and treacly. The book's house is evil to the core and no one can be at peace with it, the show's house can be tamed and everyone ends up in peace with it.


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