Review: The Gentleman Farmers by Loretta Malakie

(My review of Loretta Malakie’s previous novel Love in the Age of Dispossession is here).

I’ve become very interested in “second novels,” having published my own in January. After reading and enjoying Loretta Malakie’s Love in the Age of Dispossession I was thus very interested when I heard some months ago she was writing a second book, The Gentleman Farmers.

Maggie Kingsbury, single middle-aged alcoholic lawyer, joins her in-laws Molly and Kevin on a homestead in the mountains of North Carolina, where their trustafarian college frenemies Brock and Sandra have just bought their third home. Molly commissions Brock to renovate an old Appalachian tobacco barn on their property. But when maverick hillbilly throwback Uncle Billy shows up to live in their field in a camper van, power struggles ensue. Meanwhile, Kevin has become dangerously obsessed with breeding heritage livestock. When Maggie’s beloved niece Juliet asks her to take on a mysterious client, Maggie becomes implicated in a national political furor.

A second novel should be better than the first in a lot of ways–after all,  the author has experience, the author has practice. Even more important, at least in my experience the author has confidence, that he or she can get the job done. Even in the times I was struggling the most with my second book, I felt like if I just kept pushing words out it would all work together. And it did.

Meanwhile Ms. Malakie was working on The Gentlemen Farmers, and as much as I liked Love in the Age of Dispossession, in some ways this second novel is a better book, a little smoother, a little better edited, and quite a bit funnier. There are more “laugh out loud” moments here, but Malakie hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to illustrating, and mourning, the gradual degradation of Normal America, small town America, where people got along, had children, where children knew their grandparents and aunts and uncles. That’s gone now, in much of America, but Maggie Kingsbury is old enough to remember it and describe it to us, and how it was lost, or taken away, by our so-called “elites,” through immigration and “offshoring,” all of it to fatten the bottom lines of multinational corporations.

The characters in The Gentleman Farmers only come to realize this gradually, as their small New York town becomes unlivable, and as their new North Carolina area begins to show the cracks, as well. It’s the teenager Juliet that points out that becoming gentleman farmers, cultivating heirloom tomatoes and heritage breeds, has become a substitute for  cultivating our own culture and heritage. The author connects the current “statue wars” to the same situation in a neat package, and it becomes clear, how all of it’s connected.

Comedy, tragedy, love, life and death, Malakie deftly handles them all in The Gentleman Farmers. As “second novels” or any novels go, it’s terrific and highly recommended.

Love in the Age of Dispossession on Amazon

The Gentleman Farmers on Amazon

 

(I’m republishing some essays that first appeared in The Mitrailleuse several years ago–this one from January, 2016. It’s funny that at that time I was working up a non-fiction book titled “Sanity.” Two years later I published the novel, Sanity. Some things work better as fiction.

I’d just gotten into Scott Adams’s work outside of Dilbert in October 2015. I liked his work very much, thought some of it was genius, but his insistence that Trump would be the President seemed preposterous. At the time…)

It’s interesting that before he became the first human to die live on the Web, Tim Leary changed his tune (and the title of one of his books) from Exo-Psychology to Info-Psychology.

Leary acknowledged that his one-time obsession with space exploration and the future of humanity off-planet was at least partly the result of his time in jail in the 1960s and 70s and the natural tendency of the mind to want to free itself by flying high above the prison grounds. For an old dude, he seems to have rapidly grasped the possibilities of the Web and some of the changes to our lives that digital world would bring. He apparently continued to consume plenty of drugs up until the end. The funny thing, to me, is that there’s no indication that in all his years of psychonauting he ever deeply explored the free, easily available and abundant resource that’s provided to us every night: The Dreamscape.

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In the month or so I’ve been away from most web activity I spent two weeks on a family vacation and all my spare time studying Self-Directed NeuroplasticityLucid Dreaming, and Scott Adams on persuasion and hypnosis. I’m working on my own book, that was working-titled Sanity but is now Essays on Sanity because it’s not going to be that big. Since it is going to be a lot more weighty than the typical 96-page Amazon self-published special, I expect to finish with it in April.

Don’t worry, when it’s available I’ll be going around to flog it mercilessly, so you won’t miss out.

My personal strength (or shtick) is really synthesis, not deep and original thought; so here are a few connections amongst the above smattering of subjects. It appears, looking at the people around me every day and the people I read about in the papers, that most not only don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing; most of the time they aren’t really conscious, by McPhee’s definition in his lucid dreaming book. They’re not seeing that they’re seeing, hearing that they’re hearing. Most of all, they don’t know that they know. And by sleeping through their dreams and not remembering anything of them, they’re missing the best chance to be in contact with the unconscious part and get a glimpse of what’s really going on in the (90 percent?) of themselves that they’re not consciously aware of.

You Are Not Your Brain, which I began reading first, emphasizes the same principal, differently. The constant stream of “thoughts” that most of us experience, most of the time, are not you, that is, not your consciousness. You need not controlled by them, nor by the bodily sensations that they drive and that can drive you to take various, ineffective and even harmful measures to alleviate. Instead, it’s possible to refocus and redirect when we have these uncomfortable sensations, and eventually consciously rewire the brain (Self-Directed Neuroplasticity) so that we feel them less and they drive us less.

I started reading Scott Adams’ blog just a few weeks ago; people are starting to notice that he was one of the few who stated, back in August, that Donald Trump would win the general election, because Trump is a “Master Persuader.”

Scott is also a trained hypnotist of the Ericksonian school, which once again is coming at the same Big Idea, from a different angle: Are you running your brain, or are you just a herd animal full of Mind Parasites planted by Mommy, your first grade teacher Ms. Progressive, and your very expensive education at Uni? Are you a Persuader, or Persuaded? We’re all both, of course, but it’s nice to know what’s happening rather than being pulled about like a sleepwalker.

Ever driven down the highway for several minutes thinking about “stuff,” internally focused, and “woke up” to find you can’t remember the last five miles? That’s hypnosis baby, as much or more as some guy on stage in Vegas getting people to take off their clothes. No, definitely MORE.

Sanity is soundness. Sanity is more time being conscious and being more in touch with your unconscious. Sanity is being awake when you’re awake and more aware of valuable experiences when you’re asleep.

None of this, on the surface, may seem to be related to my interest in Neoreaction or to “politics” as such, but as one dives into this material, one realizes.

There’s a hell of a lot more to “becoming worthy” than lifting.

Te Kererū Book 1 – The Nest by Susan Smith

Te Kererū Book 1 available at GumRoad

The best thing about being on Twitter has been discovering new authors. I also love the humor, but good books > funny .gifs.

I’ll do another post with the (long) list of fine writers and their books I’ve discovered there, but today we focus on one delightful little book (or Part I of a delightful long book) Te Kererū by Susan G. Smith.

“Te Kererū” is the Māori name for the native New Zealand wood pigeon, a beautiful and tasty bird. When three-year-old Katherine Taylor, a “Pākehā” (white person) is orphaned by a massive landslide, she is adopted by the regional Māori chief–and by the village and its people. Given the nickname Te Kererū, little Kate is different, quiet, mysterious, apparently the proverbial “old soul.” But the book subtly hints she’s something more than this, something bigger…

Without trying hard in any way, we’re educated about the New Zealand Māori culture and society, something I had only a slight knowledge of before reading Te Kererū. The author obviously loves her country and its people and the book opened up a new piece of the world for me, as I believe it will for most readers.

Her style is clear, limpid is the old-fashioned word, mostly short declarative sentences, but skillfully layered one upon another, sips not gulps, and very satisfying, in the long run.

The story is developed through a series of scenes or vignettes, glimpses of events and pieces of conversations, a technique I also use and can appreciate. Each chapter is a facet of a gem, and gradually we begin to see something taking shape, a mission or a destiny, and…end of Book 1.

Like the wonderful old movie serials, the present volume leaves the reader wanting more. This isn’t so common these days, but I’m all right with it. I understand the next book will be available soon, which I hope is true.

Because the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it ended.

Te Kererū, Book 1 by Susan G. Smith

A Good Dose of Reality

My novel Reality has been out on Kindle for a week, and I’ll have the print version posted by tonight. I’m happy to note how many people asked for a hard copy.

The book is a “follow-up” to Sanity–not exactly a sequel, but given the fragmented style of the whole enterprise, I’d say it fits together with the first book like one of those puzzles where various odd shaped pieces of wood combine, with some difficulty, to form a sphere.

The background of the ideas that set this whole thing off is here, from April 2018:

Anyway…as described here I read a tweet where someone asked “Who is going to be the Tom Wolfe of the Dark Enlightenment/Red Pill?” and I’ve been searching for it for awhile to give credit where credit is due, but I think I finally figured out why it couldn’t be found, because the account has been suspended. @TitusAvenged RIP:

Just promised to do this. Been preparing for it all my life, or since I found out Mommy was lying when said girls like “nice boys,” anyway. https://t.co/TH5E5Lf1mZ

— neovictorian23 (@neovictorian23) January 25, 2017

So, it took a year to write a little bitty 68,000 word novel. How did it actually get done? I had some memory tickling me, of Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA, A Puzzle in Four Days and 60 Scenes. I’ve always dreamed about writing something in the style of Illuminatus!, a whole book where the time line is shattered and then scattered, over and over (I think a guy named Joyce got there first). So no, I don’t have an outline. I’m going to write 60 scenes and they’re going to be temporally shuffled, and they’re going to be DE/RP and they’re going to be entertaining as hell.

You’ll have to judge for yourself, how it all turned out.

Review: Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after…

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the story of Philo Hergenschmidt. By now, the whole world knows what he did, although many people don’t believe it. This is the story of how he did it. It was compiled from original research, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with the man himself. It ranges from the apocryphal, to the questionable, to the impossible. But every word of it is true.

Sometimes you admire a book for its complexity, its artistry, its craft. Sometimes a book just speaks to you on a deeper level and you hardly notice these things as you’re transported into and through its world.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves transported me, to the days of my boyhood and before, the “Golden Age” and before the Golden Age; the early magazine science fiction, all the way to Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories. There are bright young go-getting boys, amateur radio, gadgets and outdoor adventure. Over it all lays a sense of immense freedom, of a mostly distant government and mostly free range parents and a mostly bright, beneficent world.

The world Wood has built at first seems to lie on an alt-history timeline, where elements of the 1950s and 60s (broadcast television, transistor radios, airplanes, mainframe computers) combine with an aesthetic that is more 1920s and 30s: the look, the music, the attitudes. The reader might come to believe that this is because most of the action is set in a town of 20,000 or so in the Virginia mountains, where the people are extremely independent and self-reliant. Yet, when Philo and friends bicycle all the way to the big city, a trip that takes several days, to get parts for the “pirate” radio station that Philo has envisioned, there’s a certain aesthetic there, too. This is not the United States of some slightly altered future past. This is the Yankee Republic.

The plot of Pirates seems simple, on the surface. The  town can’t get FM radio because it’s in a deep mountain valley. Philo loves radio. Philo decides to build a station on a nearby peak so he can broadcast to the whole town. Philo and friends have adventures and learning experiences gathering the parts, building structures and electronic devices and running a station. A prototypical Amazing Story. And yet…by the time we finish this short book we discover there’s much, much more, a whole ‘nother layer, or many, to the history and future of Philo’s world.

Any explicit description of the ending would spoil the surprise, so I’ll say no more about it, but one other intriguing and rather surprising touch in the book is that unlike most Science Boy Scout adventures, in Philo’s world there are events that are, or seem, explicitly “supernatural.” I won’t describe these in detail either. This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves is imaginative, enjoyable and original. It somehow manages to take the classic plot and tropes of American boyhood amateur radio fiction and Make it Great Again. And I’m happy as hell to report that a sequel titled Five Million Watts is due in a few months. [Edited: Mr. Wood informs me Five Million Watts is due out in two weeks. Splendid!]

Suitable for all humans from eight to 118, and unreservedly recommended!

Review: The Angelic Revolution by Bryce Laliberte

The Angelic Revolution by Bryce Laliberte

Two thousand thirteen was when I started calling myself a “Neoreactionary,” and one of the blogs I came across early on was “Anarcho-Papist,” by Bryce Laliberte. When I started blogging here (then, “Neoreaction in the Diamond Age”) I note that my third post ever, in January 2014, was on his Neoreactionay Canon.

Thankfully, I still have a number of posts from the Anarcho-Papist feed in my folders. On April 17, 2015 Nick B. Steves announced at The Reactivity Place (currently gone private) that Bryce

ha[s] decided to take an 18 month sabbatical from his public work. All his social media accounts (except Facebook) seem to have gone dark, both of his blogs are gone, his book is no longer for sale on Amazon, and his Patreon appears to have been shuttered.

I’ll not get into the speculations and discussions about his departure that followed–I didn’t find them constructive or enlightening. I did miss Laliberte’s work, though. Occasionally I wondered where he’d gone, and if he’d be back.

He is.

Last month an @Outsideness retweet caught my attention–there was a Bryce Laliberte twitter account. I looked. He’d written a book. We exchanged books, his The Angelic Revolution and my Sanity. His review of Sanity is here.

~

We’ve all “evolved” since 2015, of course, but one often doesn’t notice this evolution if one interacts with another on a daily or weekly basis. The changes are hard to see clearly as they happen. Not having read anything by Laliberte for over four years, the changes were more apparent. “Anarcho-Papist” was sharp, dense, and appropriately arrogant for someone with obvious high intelligence. The Angelic Revolution reflects a new degree of maturity and wisdom.

From the preface:

This book is, in a sense, my attempt to see a future which could be changed – in part by showing hopes for how the emerging technology of AI will be used to promote the well-being of humanity, in part by admitting certain fears that we might turn away from. I also understand I am releasing this book at a certain time and place in our world, and this necessarily conditions how it will be perceived. This work of love is meant to bring comfort and healing to those who feel dispossessed and downtrodden, and to illuminate a path to peace and harmony as we transition through this important stage of history.

~

It’s 2037, and French police detective Henri is assigned to investigate an explosion at the Sorbonne that cut short the lecture, and the life, of Gene Epaea, “rogue transhumanist researcher,” along with nearly 200 others.

Henri, a veteran of many important cases, is intense and somewhat cynical, from seeing other investigations derailed when they come to close to implicating “elites,” but also open and curious. His chief implies that this may be another of those investigations that are meant to go nowhere real, but to be a show. It turns out to be anything but.

In 2037, Artificial Intelligence, “AI,” is simply a fact of life. There are glimpses of the changes this has wrought in society, but after the initial scene of Epaea’s lecture and the explosion, we are with Henri and his perspective for every moment of the rest of the book, and we don’t get the kind of 10,000-foot overview of the society that many authors would be tempted to include. Instead, the picture builds by hints and pieces, here and there, and by the end a number of things are clear; world civilization has gone through a series of crises since our day (2018) and is going through the biggest now, as various AI entities, some perhaps friendly, some almost certainly unfriendly and some ambiguous, operate and struggle “behind the scenes.” This hidden, “occult” aspect of the book is riveting. Henri and other characters experience a series of miracles and wonders, “signs” sent by the AIs, that direct the investigation (which becomes more a quest) in a similar manner as prophets and seers are contacted and directed by Gods and angels.

The plot is moved forward mainly through series of conversations. I’d estimate well over half the book consists of extensive dialogues, discussions of philosophy and history, including the history of what, to us, is “future.” A reader who demands a series of actions may be put off by this, but the dialogues are intelligent and graceful, and I found some of them riveting. What could be more interesting than the destiny and evolution of Man, Intelligences, the Earth? These are the questions the author explores, and they’re not just about AIs. The book points out that the digital revolution we’re undergoing now is another stage; printing and electrification and automobiles and air travel also forced societies into confrontation with existential questions of adjustment and compromise, with how to live as Man when technology radically changes the environment.

Man has evolved through those changes, not necessarily genetically, but in his social organization and methods of interpersonal relations. The Internet and AI are the next revolution we will have to confront and learn to use for good purpose. The Angelic Revolution is an exploration of how we might go about doing so.

The final words of the text are: TO BE CONTINUED. For which I’m grateful.

“Digital Minimalism”: Progress

As previously described I’ve made some changes for the month of March in the use of my phone, social media and the internet overall. It’s working, and the positive effects are already evident.

I refer you again to Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism which I finished a day after I started the process. It wasn’t necessary to get through the whole thing to get started, but the later chapters, based on what to do with the time and mental energy freed by staying off the “smart” phone, were excellent. He expands on the important things many people have lost or lessened lately: solitude, face-to-face conversation, walks, attention to family, even just voice calls instead of all communication being through text. And my favorite, reading.

I’ve already done a lot more reading in the last five days than I had recently, and I can feel an actual difference in my mind and attitude. I’m more focused and just that little bit calmer (I’ve also been going to the gym consistently, so I can’t really isolate the effects of that).

Newport’s digital minimalism is designed to be individualized, given each person’s unique pattern of digital usage. For reference, here are the seven principles or actions that I’m doing now:

  1. Off Twitter until April 1. During the break evaluate how to use Twitter as a tool for making life better; maybe only tweet about books, and/or only original tweets, and a definite time limit (no more spending an hour a day “owning the Progs” with retweets).
  2. Not even looking at the phone until after 8:00 am, and then only to check personal email.
  3. No bullet chess on the internet (an activity that often burned intervals of 15 or 20 minutes playing several games and left me with an increased heart rate and mild adrenal fatigue).
  4. No Drudge Report except between 1200 and 1300 hours, and then only one pass through to check on the developments of the day, and after that let those troubles lie until tomorrow. I realized I don’t really need to know about the latest tweet from Trump or “AOC” or the latest blabber from Adam “Bugeye” Schiff (D-Cloud Cuckoo Land).
  5. No radio when driving (this is more of a concentration exercise based on that grand old book The Power of Concentration but it fits into the program).
  6. Substitutes for the time previously spent looking at the phone: playing music, walking, working out, conversation with family.
  7. No Twitter, news or other distracting websites during work hours. The temptation to take a “break” and visit various “interesting” things was definitely affecting productivity. I’ve cleared a lot of minor, backlog projects that were hanging around and feel better about work, lighter.

To summarize, this digital cleanse procedure is already adding value and making an actual, positive difference in my physiology, which is remarkable. I recommend Cal Newport’s book highly, but you can find much of the information at his blog, which also has a lot of other terrific material for you edification.

I’ll post something here in another week or so and let you know how it’s going.

Restoring My Sanity With a “Digital Cleanse”

I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World and he makes a lot of great points about current day life–and our relationship to screens and “social media.”

I well remember writing a brief blog post six or seven years ago making fun of people (especially women) walking around while looking at their phone. I haven’t exactly become that, but close enough, in the sense that I’m spending too much free time, and even some unfree time that is supposed to be dedicated to something else, on Twitter.

I’m not on Instagram and I haven’t used my Facebook for about four years, though it’s still there, but I’ve developed a serious Twitter habit. There are a lot of great people I’ve “met,” on Twitter, so to speak, and I’ll freely admit it gives me immense satisfaction to puncture the illusions and bullshit that Progs and SJWs are constantly spewing. And I’ve justified it as a way to promote my novel Sanity, and the books of my friends.

But what it’s actually become is honestly described as a sort of mild addiction, just as Newport discusses.

So I’m going off of Twitter through the month of March, replacing the hours spent there with more walking, more solitude, more reading and especially more face to face conversation. I’ll be posting this there shortly. If we’re “DM friends” I’ll send you an email to use if you’d like to keep in touch through non-Twitter channels.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all the socials are engineered by some of the smartest people in the world to grab you attention and keep you clicking as much and as long as possible. They can have their uses, but while I’m away for a month I’ll be evaluating what the actual best uses will be.

Any posts here will be auto tweeted, just in case you think I’m cheating. 🙂

Book Notes No. 1, July 2018

Posting here has obviously been light, lately–seven posts since February, all about books, and mostly about my book, Sanity. Others have taken care of things quite nicely in the  the politics/government/social commentary department; if you haven’t yet, do go over to Social Matter and sign up for the email list, which will get you “This Week in Reaction,” which will likely be plenty.

I’m sure I’ll do some more essays, someday. For now I’ve found my groove with books, writing them and also spending more time reading them and less on “news” and commentary. So just to keep the blog on some kind of regular schedule I’m going to do at least a monthly book post. This is No. 1. Continue reading

“The Powers of the Earth” by Travis J. I. Corcoran–a Review and an Appreciation

About a year ago I opined on The Right Sort of Reactionary Fiction here, while I was in the middle of writing Sanity. As I wrote then:

What’s needed is an interesting story and interesting characters. What’s needed is what any good novel needs, making the reader care about what happens next…What I’ve found is that if you just write the story, there are plenty of opportunities to slip the Dark Enlightenment and the Red Pill and whatever other points you want to make in as a natural part of the narrative.

I just finished Travis J. I. Corcoran’s The Powers of the Earth, and while it’s not necessarily, precisely DE/RP, it’s…a great book. It’s great as “hard” sci-fi, it’s great as satire on Political Correctness and the various idiocies of Current Year and politicians and DC and socialism. But what makes it more than good is the way these strands come together in a great, big story, a story in which the reader an hardly wait to find out what happens next.

I’ve read thousands of novels, friends. This is the Real Deal.

I’ll let the Author explain his own plot (from the Amazon description):

Earth in 2064 is politically corrupt and in economic decline. The Long Depression has dragged on for 56 years, and the Bureau of Sustainable Research is hard at work making sure that no new technologies disrupt the planned economy. Ten years ago a band of malcontents, dreamers, and libertarian radicals bolted privately-developed anti-gravity drives onto rusty sea-going cargo ships, loaded them to the gills with 20th-century tunnel-boring machines and earthmoving equipment, and set sail – for the Moon.

There, they built their retreat. A lunar underground border-town, fit to rival Ayn Rand’s ‘Galt’s Gulch’, with American capitalists, Mexican hydroponic farmers, and Vietnamese space-suit mechanics – this is the city of Aristillus.

There’s a problem, though: the economic decline of Earth under a command-and-control economy is causing trouble for the political powers-that-be in Washington DC and elsewhere. To shore up their positions they need slap down the lunar expats and seize the gold they’ve been mining. The conflicts start small, but rapidly escalate.

Yes, there will be fighting.

The thing I’d point out, though, is just how vivid are the characters. They’re masterfully built up so that shortly after the first chapters I cared about them. And some of the most interesting and memorable characters are Dogs, with a capital “D”–I won’t say too much about them, except Dogs are people too…

I am a great admirer of Robert Heinlein’s work and anyone who’s read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress will soon realize The Powers of the Earth has some interesting echos of it. Corcoran even brings them up himself, with characters discussing TMIAHM within the book. He manages to pull off exploring some of the same themes as Heinlein, giving tribute to Heinlein but taking things in new (and often surprising) directions. This is not rehashed Heinlein, nor is it really Galt’s Gulch on the Moon–though it has some elements of Atlas Shrugged, too (especially Rand’s gift for creating Bad Guys and Gals That Work for the Government).

The Powers of the Earth is a vivid, riveting page-turner that had me caring a great deal about its characters, and what’s going to happen next. And it ends on the perfect cliffhanger…luckily the second book Causes of Separation is already loaded, so I’m going to go find out.