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Lexias: Lexia, by Matthew Cheney (5/14/12)
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This is my final Lexias column, the last in a series that began some fifty columns ago with my first, "Walls," on February 7, 2005.
Lexias: The Fact of a Fiction of a Fact, by Matthew Cheney (4/2/12)
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If you've encountered any mention of The Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, you've probably heard that it's about one guy (D'Agata) who wrote an essay about a teenager who killed himself in Las Vegas, and another guy (Fingal) who was hired to fact-check that essay and discovered that a lot of it was made up.
Lexias: Kipple, by Matthew Cheney (1/2/12)
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In a recent essay in The New York Times, Jonathan Ames wrote about kipple. I was thrilled. Not just because itís nice to see other people writing about the messes of their lives, but also because kipple has been a favorite term of mine ever since I encountered it in Philip K. Dickís Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Lexias: Reading Systems, by Matthew Cheney (10/31/11)
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As with so many other things, my devotion to Gustave Flaubertís A Sentimental Education can be blamed on Samuel R. Delany.
Lexias: World on a Wire, by Matthew Cheney (9/5/11)
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Welcome to the future—which is also Paris in the winter of 1973.
Lexias: Old, Weird, by Matthew Cheney (7/11/11)
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One of my favorite descriptions of just about anything is Greil Marcus's description of Bob Dylan's bootleg "basement tapes" as harking back to "the old, weird America" of the songs collected on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music records. Marcus, in fact, titled his book about the basement tapes The Old, Weird America. Within the science fiction community, there's been lots of discussion of The New Weird over the last decade, but listening to Smith's Anthology provides a more profoundly weird experience than any I've ever had with fiction.
Lexias: Joanna Russ, by Matthew Cheney (5/16/11)
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Joanna Russ died a week ago as I write this. Or, to be more accurate: Joanna Russ died a week ago as I struggle to write this. I thought I might collect some of her sentences and frame them with my own as a memorial, but once I started rereading her works, I got stuck. It'll be easy, I told myself. Just find some good passages and proclaim their wonders and note what we've lost in losing Russ and— And easier thought than done.
Lexias: A Century of Leiber, by Matthew Cheney (3/21/11)
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On December 24, 2010, Fritz Leiber turned 100. Having died in 1992, he wasn't around to blow out the candles, but here and there cognoscenti raised a toast to his memory.
Ten Years of Sexing the Body, by Matthew Cheney (1/10/11)
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My tendency to be my own Devil's Advocate came out with a vengeance recently as I tried, and failed, to write a tenth anniversary appreciation of a book I love: Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto-Sterling.
The Failure of Masculinity, by Matthew Cheney (10/11/10)
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I had something else ready for this column, but then I read a story in the New York Times with this opening paragraph: "It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: 'Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.'"
Real Action, by Matthew Cheney (8/16/10)
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Seeing Christopher Nolan's movie Inception got me reflecting on his previous summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight, a film I vehemently disliked when I first saw it in the theatre . . .
Narrative Realities: A Symphony in Four Books, by Matthew Cheney (6/21/10)
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Reading multiple books at once inevitably causes words, phrases, entire paragraphs to pose and juxtapose and interpose and superimpose, to dance and breed, until the reader's mind is either a cacophony of a symphony, and the closed covers of books resting on a table or the floor cannot silence all the notes they've got to share.
Patriarchy Studies, by Matthew Cheney (4/26/10)
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Guns and feminism have been a common element of my life for a long time. I owe my openness to feminism to Isaac Asimov, who wrote in one of his books (or in an editorial for Asimov's, maybe) that he was a proud supporter of the feminist cause and was even willing to call himself a feminist. When I was twelve years old, that was good enough for me, and it kept me from associating the word "feminism" with anything negative—I worshipped Isaac Asimov, and if he said the word was a good one, I believed him.
Revisiting Hitchcock, by Matthew Cheney (2/15/10)
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Sometime last year, I decided to watch some Alfred Hitchcock movies I hadn't seen in a while, and also to fill in a few gaps in my viewing.
On the Eating of Corpses, by Matthew Cheney (12/14/09)
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A friend of mine and his sister came over to visit one night. His sister was in her early twenties and enthusiastic about various political causes. Many things she had become aware of disgusted and horrified her about American society, business, and government. She was a vegetarian and had decided on this lifestyle for moral reasons rather than reasons of health.
A Story About Plot, by Matthew Cheney (9/28/09)
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Grisham posed his idea of plot-driven fiction as a distinction from "literature", but he might be surprised to learn that his idea has precedents among the highest of brows: in what is generally considered the first work of literary criticism, The Poetics, Aristotle argued that plot (mythos) is superior to every other element of tragedy, which he considered the highest form of literary art. To Aristotle, action is most important, and the writer's arrangement of incidents leads to the most vital effects of tragedy.
Bookshelf Worlds, by Matthew Cheney (6/15/09)
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I am a bookshelf voyeur; any time I go into a room with books, I spy and pry. A new room—whether a waiting room, an office, a basement used for storage—always contains excitement for me if it has books, because, until I have thoroughly pored over them, there is the potential for surprise, and the potential is often as electrifying as the reality.
Blasted Horrors, by Matthew Cheney (4/27/09)
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For a few years, I did not want to admit an attraction to horror stories. It's an odd thing to have done, since if any type of stories has consistently attracted me as a reader, they are horror stories, but nonetheless, when I started coming to terms with the fact that yes, my life as a reader had been and was going to continue to be the life of someone profoundly affected by and attracted to genre fiction, I didn't want to admit that the effect and the attraction included horror fiction.
Phil and Jack, by Matthew Cheney (3/23/09)
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Learning to Write, by Matthew Cheney (9/15/08)
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There is something off about them, something twanging in my ears, the tone of an arrogant man trying to pass himself off as humble or simple. Perhaps I am in the wrong mood.
Ordinary Zhang, by Matthew Cheney (8/4/08)
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A couple years ago, I picked up another copy of China Mountain Zhang at a used bookstore, but I didn't dare read it. Much of the science fiction I had loved as a teen had turned out, when read as an adult, to feel simplistic, clunky, shallow. I preferred my memories.
The Antidote to Dystopia, by Matthew Cheney (5/26/08)
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Two stories of technology and society, one true and one speculative. For Alice Ramsay, technology became a liberation; for Forster's Vashti, technology created a prison.
The Hero, Pulped, by Matthew Cheney (4/14/08)
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One huge girder catapulted twenty blocks, pierced the roof of a subway tunnel and jackknifed the leading car of an eight-car train. Passengers were pulped. There had been sixty persons in that first car. There was nothing that could be called human in the wreckage.
An Ocean Going Back to the Skies, by Matthew Cheney (3/3/08)
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The fright causes some of the screaming, but it would be better if fewer people stuck stakes into their little bits of land and instead joined in the joy of a new cartography.
Of Muses and Ghosts, by Matthew Cheney (1/21/08)
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The last conversation I had with my father was about a movie.
The Discerning Reader of Fantastic Literature's Guide to Literary Journals, by Matthew Cheney (11/5/07)
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I'm astounded at the quality and creativity in so many different magazines that don't get marketed to what seems to me a natural audience—readers who like their fiction to be at least a little bit odd, a little bit out of the ordinary.
Lost Dolls and Lost Dreams, by Matthew Cheney (9/24/07)
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Herr Doktor Kafka offers Lizaveta the comfort of a story, saying that Belinda met a little boy who asked her to travel around the world with him, and so she has gone off to do so, but has promised to send postcards chronicling her adventures.
Pol Pot's Fantasized Daughter, by Matthew Cheney (8/13/07)
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When I first encountered "Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)", I read a few pages and stopped. The idea of a story about Pol Pot written in what felt like the diction of a fairy tale was too much for me.
All Those Books, by Matthew Cheney (6/25/07)
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I could somehow find a few hundred boxes, put the books in them, load the boxes into a big truck, and drive the truck to my new home, where I would then pile the books up to the ceiling in each little room.
How to Write a Paragraph, by Matthew Cheney (5/7/07)
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Vonnegut approached paragraphs the way good poets approach line and stanza breaks, and in that sense he was the Robert Creeley of prose, someone whose writing at its best seems perfect in its rhythm and shape
And the Mome Raths Outgrabe, by Matthew Cheney (3/26/07)
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Thus, we know that women were not invisible to Bradbury when he wrote the introduction, only wives who wrote stories with their husbands.
Flight of the Useful Books, by Matthew Cheney (1/1/07)
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Some people who know me might assume the sorts of books I would find engrossing for a plane ride would be things like the complete works of Proust, or at least Faulkner.
The Absence of Animals, by Matthew Cheney (11/6/06)
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While watching an episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, a television show I've recently become addicted to, my mind wandered to an idle thought: Where, I wondered, are the animals?
The Length of the Sentence, by Matthew Cheney (9/25/06)
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I am a lover of long sentences, of sentences that wind their way through various clauses and complements...
Loving Words, by Matthew Cheney (8/14/06)
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Some you love for superficial reasons, for their shape and color, for the texture of their pages and the scent of their history.
Great Ideas, by Matthew Cheney (6/19/06)
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"How," someone will ask me, "can such a large topic be contained in such a small book?" Thankfully, I can read the quote on the cover to my interlocutor.
A Conversation With a Puppeteer, by Matthew Cheney (5/8/06)
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As we sat drinking our coffee in the warm night, I inquired as to how long D. had been with the puppet company and if it was his ambition to become a master puppeteer.
Do Matchmakers Dream of Estrogen Sheep?, by Matthew Cheney (3/27/06)
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Depending on my mood I think the description of a person dominated by testosterone fits me pretty well, too, although I know I only think that because, being made of estrogen, I'm flexible and imaginative.
My Window Is Your Mirror, My Mirror Is Your Wall, My Wall Is Your Window, by Matthew Cheney (2/13/06)
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I am at this particular moment working from the assumption that you understand the majority of what I am writing here. I am, then, assuming that most of these sentences are accessible. To do that, I have to make some assumptions about my audience.
The Art of Entertainment, by Matthew Cheney (1/2/06)
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I've worked as a writer, director, and actor in plays for most of my life, and so three things can make me suffer while watching a show: the writing, directing, and acting.
In Borderlands Between the Clans, by Matthew Cheney (11/21/05)
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The worlds of popular fiction and literary fiction often look with jealousy and annoyance at each other.
Fantastic Reality, by Matthew Cheney (10/17/05)
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A genre that must make room for Kafka and Beckett and Dostoevsky is perhaps no longer a genre but merely a definition of writing successfully.
Provocateurs of Sense, by Matthew Cheney (9/12/05)
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But the wonder of Seligman's book is that he is able to think about the two writers together, to discover their commonalities without ignoring their differences, to celebrate their achievements without blinding himself to their faults.
Truth In Labelling, by Matthew Cheney (8/8/05)
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Is this pursuit of truth the result of anxiety over our inability to live inside another person's mind?
The Collector, by Matthew Cheney (7/4/05)
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The cards depicted bizarre creatures such as Mushy Marsha and Wormy Shermy.
Make It New!, by Matthew Cheney (6/6/05)
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It would be a shame for 2005 to be known as the Year of No Movements.
Just Tell Me How It Ends, by Matthew Cheney (5/2/05)
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It's a sobering thought that thoughout history, violence has only been considered immoral by fanatics and crackpots.
The Stories That Predict Us, by Matthew Cheney (4/4/05)
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I just knew that the story was illustrated with a picture of a soldier and, at eleven years old, I liked soldiers.
The Old Equations, by Matthew Cheney (3/7/05)
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Don't tell anybody, but science fiction no longer exists.
Walls, by Matthew Cheney (2/7/05)
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There are, it seems to me, two worlds of fiction. There is the world within the walls of a specific type of fiction, and there is the world outside the walls.