My Mind Ain't So Open

The B-side to Magazine's "Shot By Both Sides" single was a song by Howard Devoto called "My Mind Ain't So Open". Like a lot of songs, especially early punk/new wave songs, the titles were better than the lyrics. So when Devoto writes, "My mind/It ain't so open/That anything could crawl right in," it's great. Except then he followed it with this:

Oh my lover
We are opening
Windows we see
All that we've seen

A vivid room
Is it such a dumb thing to do?

Huh? Are the lyrics on the internet wrong or something? What exactly is he saying?

By my count we've read four or five sci-fi/fantasy books for book club, including Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (October 2007), The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (June 2008), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (May/June 2009), City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer (October 2009) and, if you count it in the genre of sci-fi, the sci-fi-esque Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (May 2006).

I think the stuff we've read runs the gamut in the genre — "soft" or "social" science fiction, cyberpunk, alternate history, fantasy. And I have to say — I don't totally see the appeal of it. I liked aspects of some of these books — Snow Crash, for example, seemed to correctly predict Wikipedia, yet it also included a frankly bizarre sex scene involving its 15-year-old protagonist that seemed like it crossed a line.

I am one of those people who is happy not to have to think about techno music anymore — or if I do, it's usually because it's background music at a restaurant or on a commercial or when the Mets are threatening to score a run. For a while there though I kept wondering if there was something wrong with me. Why didn't I "get" it? Wasn't I supposed to get it? Isn't one of the characteristics of a fully formed human being that he or she is able to converse about — and maybe even be legitimately interested in — anything that the Arts section covers?

Instead I read stuff like this and knew it was hopeless:

And instead of the mourning that peeked through his early techno music, there was a broad-shouldered, mechanized jubilation, the certainty that a good time is its own reward.

Jon Pareles gets it — why can't I?

Thankfully, that era is long, long gone.

I kind of hate feeling like I don't like entire genres of art, but the more time I spend consuming stuff the more I think that life is too short to force yourself to like certain things, even if that thing is as brilliant as Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400 (Sports Remix)".

Which is to say, I'm not sure I'll ever be into sci-fi/fantasy, though I'll acknowledge that maybe I'm still missing better examples of the genre. Maybe it's the retsina or grappa of literature — I think I can go the rest of my life fully comfortable with the fact that I just don't think grappa is that good.

The last book we read was Philip Pullman's Northern Lights/The Golden Compass. (I was going to write "Human Compass," but that was actually what we called a high school math teacher who had an astonishing ability to form a perfect circle on the chalkboard without the aid of any circle-making device.)

The Golden Compass is not only fantasy but it's young adult fantasy, which as far as I can tell does not necessarily mean that the author relies on simplistic plot devices and facile twists but does maybe necessarily involve a child estranged from her parents who is smarter than most adults. (Adults must think kids want to believe that they're smarter than adults, and orphans, too.) The hero here is a talking polar bear. It's the first book in a trilogy. I don't know what to say beyond that.

So it didn't take long for book club to devolve into a heated exchange about whether it was democratically responsible to allow legislative committee chairs to pick what bills will be heard in committees. No, for reals, I swear to god that's what we spent perhaps a good hour arguing about. Which is to say, Albany may be in need of fixing, and it is also not a talking polar bear. And "My Mind Ain't So Open" ain't no "Orgasm Addict," either.

I don't remember why we started debating this or why it matters now. Senate MC believes that all bills should get a hearing while I maintained that I was totally comfortable with the idea that the party in power gets to choose which bills it will hear — for better or worse, that's the two-party system. If you don't like it, move to Nebraska. Or read this Brennan Center report.

I have six tabs open on my browser with evidence that I think buttresses my point that legislative bodies need some manner of gatekeeping to move forward legislative priorities, but sometimes arguments turn to mush when you sit down to write about them. They can be like dreams in this respect. And then we move on to something else.

Posted: January 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Books Are The SUVs Of Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

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