The opening of Jack Womack’s _Going Going Gone_, injects us into an unpredictable world that wobbles between an alternate hipster-scene of New York City in the 1960s and the seemingly hallucinatory ramblings of a drug-addled protagonist, Walter Bullitt. The story begins in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, where the first person jive talk kicks in: “Soon as I spiked I turned my eyes inside. Setting old snakehead on cruise control always pleases, no matter how quick the trip.” Sprinkled through almost every sentence are hokey metaphors. The phone doesn’t ring, “those jingle bells“ do. And on the other end of the line is a Federal agent of some kind, who is so square that he can’t understand a word of the hipster-narrator. But the narrator is more like one of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers than a secret agent, and he himself was so startled by the phone that he almost made for the john to “drown his bagged cat.” To flush his pot down the toilet, get it?
Pleasantly surprised to discover Indoctrinaire, the first novel by Christopher Priest, a tale of strange foreboding and paranoia, wrapped up in altered states of consciousness and alternate realities. The protagonist, Dr. Wentik, finds himself forcibly recruited from his scientific research post beneath the South Pole, and whisked away to the Planalto District of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Both of these places are so far off the beaten track and outside of the ordinary world of human affairs that the novel begins with an eerie sense of dislocation, which is only accelerated into total disorientation as soon as Wentik begins to trek into the strangely deforested zone of Planalto. His guide, a tight-lipped man named Musgrove, shows signs of mental illness as the story progresses and Wentik finds himself an occupant of “the jail,” under interrogation by an equally opaque antagonist named Astourde.
Ran over to Mass Art Paine Gallery (how apropos!) to see the R. Crumb Underground exhibit, which was written up recently in the Phoenix and the Globe. This exhibit kicked off two years ago at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, and has been making the rounds from city to city, and finally seems to have drifted into Boston on a Greyhound bus, clutching an old leather bag of 78s and sinsemilla buds.
Haven’t you sometimes said to yourself, I’ll bet other people can see me! And you’re puzzled as to what to do about this serious, baffling problem of being conspicuous… At once overly self-conscious, and at the same time paranoid and internalized, it is no wonder that the previous statement was written by our favorite paranoid schizo SF writer, Philip K. Dick. However, it is worth taking a closer look at the tendency for humans to worry about their own self-consciousness and appearance, since it is obvious that our right to privacy is under serious attack. Although the government is wrestling with the issue, it is by no means certain that the harsh surveillance tactics brought to us in recent years are coming to an end. Indeed, the inquisitorial big-brother milieu extends beyond the concept of mere observation…as Dick implies, there is an active attempt to instigate our own self-doubts and keep us trapped in a spiral of confusion. Everywhere we go, we are bombarded now by advertisements for drugs. These often take the form of overt manipulation. For those who are having a bad day, or have low self-esteem, these could trigger a whole chain of thoughts, a sort of self-reinforcing trap for which, SURPRISE! Drug companies have an ANSWER! And with the relaxation of restrictions on Direct to Consumer Drug advertising, this predatory form of brainwashing is reaching epidemic proportions.