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An end to mysticism: plowshares into swords!
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BOOK OF THE MONTH
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"Everyone knows that dragons don't exist. But while this simplistic formulation may satisfy the layman, it does not suffice for the scientific mind. The School of Higher Neantical Nillity is in fact wholly unconcerned with what does exist. Indeed, the banality of existence has been so amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each nonexisted in an entirely different way."
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad
VioPac's Book of the Month Club,
where we club you until you read it :: 2010 :: - * November * - The Good German is a passable approximation of the issues brought up by Graham Greene's The Quiet American, but cheerier and more "American" in character. In fact, the American protagonist of the Good German is something of an answer to the quiet American of Graham's novel. It's a decent book all told, but it reads rather like a text adventure game: GET LAMP. OPEN DRAWER. GET ALL. GO EAST. BRIBE COP. In short, I admired it technically and, though I prefere Greene's more melancholy realism and subtlety, it wasn't a complete waste of time like, say, the Bible would be. -- irb - * October * - Sarah Palin exists. Our minds finally accepted the evidence of our senses and we were unable to read because of it. You people are fucked up; it almost makes me want to believe in an immortal invisible friend just so I can have something to blame for ever letting her out of Alaska and into a book publisher's office. -- irb - * September * - Dante's power reaches forth into 19th century post-war Boston as murder mystery meets historical fiction in Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club. As Dante's Inferno is translated from Italian into American English by Longfellow and the boys, mysterious murders re-create the torments one by one. The story unfolds to reveal the acute trauma soldiers face after the Civil War. If this story doesn't get you, the blowflies we send you in the mail will. -- Alice - * August * - It's almost a writing cliché to say that one writes better and more productively during periods of intense sadness or misery than when one is happy. I myself was writing furiously around this time a couple years ago and, though I didn't know it at the time, I was writing a modernization of Theodore Sturgeon's Some Of Your Blood. The style and subject matter are very similar and, if the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying, so was the end of my last attempt at a novel: so read it, because it's good. -- irb - * July * - Edgar Rice Burroghs is widely known for the Tarzan series and John Carter of Mars. VioPac is a big fan of the latter, but our favorite book by him has got to be Beyond Thirty. Set in the tone of a cliché period adventure story this brief tale shows a remarkable insight into the brutality of human nature and the irony of our continuing to survive it. It even sports a number of predictions made during the Great War that have seemingly come true--the ascendancy of China among them. Intended as a broadside against American isolationism the book is still as relevant now as then. Go. Buy it, and thank us later. We thank Alice Priest for the suggestion --irb. - * June * - Is it a coincidence that cultures that produce lousy soldiers seem to be made up of people who live longer, healthier and happier lives? I'm looking at you, Italy and France. Along those lines, and taking a break from the Rah Rah Rah Democracy trend we've been hammering you with of late, VioPac's extensive Reading Corps took it upon themselves to work through Sebastien Japrisot's A Very Long Engagement, translated from the Freedom-hating French by Linda Coverdale into Liberty-loving God-fearing Flag-waving English. With that bit of jingoism out of the way, you'll read this book because it's not simply a dime-store story of true love and perseverence, but a remarkable exploration of the idea that sometimes, making our mark on this world is goddamn hard work. That sometimes you lose everything in the attempt, and when you do, when it seems that there is incontrovertible evidence that your enterprise has failed, that moment is when certain people of a certain genius manage somehow to stubbornly refuse to yield. You'll also read it because we'll kick you in the face if you don't. - * May * - Ah, David Weber. We're re-reading the Honor Harrington series this month, so ah, don't expect much in the way of highbrow reviews. It's commies blowing up in deep space and the unkillable Captain boldly fighting off the Forces of Evil[tm] for God, Queen and Country. Stiff upper lip, old chap. Tally-ho. - * April * - The view from the other side of the hill, to shamelessly plagiarize Lidell Hart, is often one to shift our perspectives, and the memoirs of Generalmajor F. W. von Mellenthin are no exception. Called Panzer Battles they purport to be a recollection of the tank battles of World War II, from the German side, and with the exception of some broadly-described actions at the outset, it is actually far more interesting as a diary of sorts. It is eerie to read his thoughts on German occupation ("German administration, while not always popular, was at least efficient.") but the pride he has in his men and the performance of their duty is freshly startling. It might not be a bad introduction to mechanized infantry and armored warfare, and is required reading for anyone looking to fully understand the period. - * March * - Hmm... We don't have any reccomendations for March because everything our Board of Indoctrination read wasn't worth this space. So the lot of you can go soak your heads for all we care. - * February * - This month we bring you Thomas Sowell's The Vision of the Annointed: Self-Congratulation as Social Policy. Sowell articulates very well that sense of distrustful unease we've always felt when confronted with zOMG WORLD CATASTROPHE statistics or the usual claptrap coming out of the left about this or that crisis--Health Care, Global Warm^W^WClimate Change, etc. Remember the Population Bomb? We were all supposed to be starving to death with 10 billion people in 2010. Oh, and we were also supposed to run out of petrol, and paper, and all be painfully dead now. Sowell attacks the fundamental assumptions of the American Left and, while we don't always agree with him (it would be nice if, for instance, he would apply his talents for logic and reason to Religion, but he's firmly in the "Space Daddy is disappointed with you" camp), he does nicely and calmly explain their playbook. It's something you need to familiarize yourself with because we'll bludgeon you if you don't. - * January * - We've all seen that big ol' Ike book at the bookstore. Well, apart from being an escellent induction path for blunt force trauma, it serves as a pretty decent exploration of what made General (and later President) Eisenhower such a great man. Although it seems, at times, to feel like it's heaping praise on a desk-bound bureaucrat, and at other times is lacking a certain amount of detail, it is something you damn well read, if for no other reason than to fully understand the brilliance of his military-industrial complex speech. :: 2009 :: - * December * - A narrative of some of the adventures, dangers, and sufferings of a Revolutionary soldier (also published under the stupid title Private Yankee Doodle) is a witty and important memoir written by a private serving in the Continental Army in the American Revolution. You'll read it because the preening and fickle trollop he fought to defend against foreign and domestic tyranny still lives today, as ungrateful and narcissistic as ever. - * November * - Dashiell Hammett wrote with a sparse and direct prose that conveyed only the bare facts, with little ornamentation; and yet his writing contained a wealth of depth and character insight that makes him a joy to read. He will tell you what a character says, and does--but never what he or she thinks or feels. This month's directive from VioPac's Ministry of Voluntary Self-Enlightenment is Hammett's The Glass Key. Read it or we'll pummel you.
You haven't been to Mesa Book Gallery lately, have you? For shame. They've got a sale on.
It is often worthwhile to suffer the proximity of hippies at Bookmans. Most of them bathe with some regularity and their Café usually doesn't try to kill you. Usually.
We routinely harass the waitstaff at Il Vinaio on Main St. They serve a damn good breakfast and throw a classy, fun and often jazz-powered dinner. Ask for the secret Hugh Jass Burger!
At the Mesa Tinder Box, you can find some of the best tobbacco and conversation in the Valley. They've a new owner now and while it's not as comfortably informal as it once was, it remains an RKBA-friendly place and they actually try to, you know, order stuff people like.
Trace's Road Trip Bikers is a trip. On a road. For bikers.
The best coffee on Main St. can be had at Gotham City Comics ("it's a graphic novel!"). They even have comics and card games, and once they find someone who can alphabetize properly I'll be able to tell you more about them.
Looking for a lower receiver here in the Valley? Try Quentin Defense in Gilbert or Sun Devil Manufacturing here in Mesa.