the mortal enemy of videogames

I think of fiction/poems as aesthetic objects first and foremost so for me there’s a distinction between an object that can be challenging in terms of complexity and scale but is rich and faceted enough to bear close attention vs those that require a kind of academic, forensic sub-close reading to be legible. Idk if this is a good/bad issue so much as rewarding vs annoying. Imo nabakov is an often over-busy and annoying writer. Pale Fire for example is such a pain in the ass lol. On the other hand, when he just wrote lyrically like in Pnin or in the road trip americana parts of Lolita when the over-worked, annoying Humbert Humbert narrative voice fades, he can me really good. Let’s stay away from DFW on this topic for sake of peace and harmony hehe


I admire your fortitude on reading Clarel. It’s just too tin-eared for me to stand. It seems like there’s at least one end line/enjambment/rhyme per page that feels like stepping on a lego when you read it

The Saragossa Manuscript movie is good too fyi well worth seeing


I’ve read a lot of philosophy but I continue to find the 20th century French guys completely incomprehensible. Sartre’s Being and TIme was inexplicably one of the first books of philosophy I read, and I liked it back then because I enjoyed the fact that I had no idea what was going on, but later attempts to read Delueze and/or Guattari left me completely cold. I constantly feel like they’re more interested in constructing witty/cutting turns-of-phrases than they are in telling me what the heck they’re talking about.

I can appreciate Baudrillard only because he is the most upfront about this fact. I like his book about the US where he concocts a bunch of pretty-sounding epigrams based on random things he saw during a two-week road trip he took. It’s quite funny, but I didn’t feel like it had anything to do with America really.

Agreed. I found the book very annoying and tedious. However, I quite enjoyed Ada, which has a similar quality but I feel retains more “real” ambiguity as opposed to what I felt was a bit of a one-note trick in Pale Fire.


This is definitely true. I can appreciate that it’s not great poetry but the story and characters still interest me, and the rhythm is generally sound enough that I can skim by the clumsiness.

I was surprised to read earlier that they made a movie of Saragossa. Definitely never would’ve expected it, but I’ll have to check it out.


Not a lot of developed thoughts on this point but wanted to say I am also rereading a philosophical text, Spinoza’s Ethics, which I read a number of years ago as presented in this volume in college, and am finding it both rewarding and challenging for the reasons you describe: rereading proofs five times while flipping back and forth between them and the list of definitions and axioms laid out at the beginning of the text. “Substance,” “attributes,” and “affections” are loaded words now


Sartre’s Being and Time was inexplicably one of the first books of philosophy I read, and I liked it back then because I enjoyed the fact that I had no idea what was going on, but later attempts to read Delueze and/or Guattari left me completely cold.

Being and Nothingness is a staple of every Barnes and Noble philosophy section I’ve ever seen, no matter how big or small the section is. Maybe that has something to do with why someone would pick it up, despite it being incredibly hard to get into. I’ve only read a couple of pages on it, and it was a guided reading with a professor who also had us read Heidegger beforehand, which if i remember correctly Sartre was responding to at the time. I greatly sympathize re: Delezue & Guattari as I sincerely tried to read capitalism and schizophrenia and was like yea maybe this ain’t for me. I think if one were to read in a group/ with someone a bit more versed in it it would be much more rewarding than a solo read.

Re: Nabokov I’ve only read Pale Fire a long time ago and have been meaning to get back into his works. Not gonna lie I didn’t like him before reading him because he was very vocal about how much Dostoevsky sucks and he was my favorite author at the time.

My issue sometimes is that some kinds of annoying just seem like the price to pay for the reward. Sometimes I find myself being like okay this is tedious, others I feel fine spending entire reading sessions on just a few pages. Excuse my mention of the mortal enemy of literature, but this dichotomy is exactly how i feel about Void Stranger (tedious) v. Pathologic 2 (rewarding). Or if i had to give book examples, Pynchon’s V. (which I loved) and … Infinite Jest (pardon me)

edited because I think I confused Being and Time with Being and Nothingness

That’s because I typed the wrong thing, lol. It’s been a while.

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I think the distinction may be between things with thematic depth and detail and compelling aesthetic power, vs things that are virtuostic, prodigious, or arch. I’m much less invested in the latter, and when I come across works that have both (Vollman for example) I really wish it was all the former instead

Then again, I’m not too confident in being able taxonomize this and maybe it’s more down to taste and I’m just rationalizing my own biases. But I think that’s the line of demarcation between Void Stranger and Pathologic 2 as well as I can articulate it. (speaking of which, the Pathologic 2 spoiler discussion thread goes into detail about this subject, so be sure to head over when you’re through with the game)

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then about Deleuze - we did Difference and Repetition in a seminar course at my small Catholic college and iirc everyone managed OK. Don’t know if that’s regarded as a point of entry into his work, but I think his literary criticism my be more accessible to people like (I assume) us itt who are more familiar with lit than philosophy. Easier when Borges and Shakespeare are the reference points than Hegel at least to me

I wonder why western civilization lost all ability to produce long, narrative poetry after about 1800. It’s kind of strange


nabokov slander? in my forum?

regarding difficult and/or overstuffed texts….idk i feel like this is something i had stronger opinions about when i was younger. generally i finish the books i start, but sometimes i skim, sometimes i stop. i do think critique is a wonderful thing and for that reason it’s important to engage with things beyond pure enjoyment, but also life is short and i kinda have a sense of when i’m done with something. tho i do miss the younger and more zealous version of me.

i think yeso said it best when comparing more intentional texts with the “hey look at me variety!”, but that’s something i’m more tolerant about. maybe because i “grew up” when the latter category was en vogue, but also because i think there are sensations only that type of expression can achieve, just as i think the same of its counterpart. the “desire to impress” we see in dfw vollmann et al can be grating, but the more targeted texts can seem equally affectated. idk, i went through a “whiplash” in how i viewed that mode of fiction—i loved it then thought it was super whack and now i’m back down to earth a bit and can see where it succeeds and where it fails.

nabokov is really good imo and lives up to his reputation as one of the greatest prose stylists ever. his autobiography speak, memory is maybe my favorite memoir. i can understand the criticisms about pale fire, but his other book attempting something similar (the real life of sebastian knight) has more staying power. and of course, what more can be said about pnin. he’s good!


It’s not a question of enjoyability for me either, it’s impatience with any text that’s overbearing to the point that I’m not experiencing the experience but instead being lead around by the author. That’s different than a text being “difficult”. I made the distinction in response to @Bonsai 's question about when a reading struggle is worth it. eden eden eden is worth it’s extreme difficulty in terms of legibility and subject matter imo because Guyotat just kind of gives you the stuff - that is yes definitely stylized in a sense - but without the kinds of academic overbearing that Nabokov is prone to in his works that alight on the same broad themes (political violence and cruelty visited on the vulnerable). Why those themes need to be routed through puns, university jokes, relentlessly affected unreliable narrators and beheld from that comfortable distance, I don’t know and don’t understand. If it’s because Nabokov was a nutty professor type and that was his only method of approach then sure, no moral judgement from me, I’m just saying the works themselves (specifically Pale Fire and Lolita) don’t really go anywhere and don’t really get at anything meaningful in relation to their self-selected subject matters imo. And to be clear, I think it’s lazy and cheap to sneer at Nabokov, DFW, and other examples as honor student class projects that got way out of hand, so I do agree that there’s not much to be gained by being dismissive. That’s why I’m trying to be specific and focus on the effects of specific books. However, it is kind of hard to avoid the class/social milieu element here and related resentments. FWIW, I know I harp on about Los siete locos/Los lanzallamas so apologies again but there’s a novel(s) with some footnote trickery, late narrator all along drop, etc but from 1929 and by a guy who got kicked out of school for being bad when he was 10. And I think it shows (in a good way)!

heavy hitter did the soundtrack too


I never quite realised how much this thread owns. I didn’t even click on it once for the longest time. But it’s books. Books. For some reason I’d thought it was some cryptic enemy of video games, a subject I’d not understand. But now that I see it. Yeah.

I recently finished Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Pretty interesting read. I loved how it made me feel young. As the reader, I was frequently left in the dark purposefully and thoughtfully. Nothing feels quite as young as not knowing what is happening.

Any of y’all read that one?


wait would more people participate in this thread if I hadn’t given it a weird name?


This could be a me problem.

sorry, i wasn’t trying to imply this was your position. i was kinda just riffin.

as for nabokov–i haven’t read guyotat but i wonder if you’re making a false equivalency. one of the pleasures of nabokov in my mind is his disdain (or perhaps better worded as ambivalence) for theme and meaning beyond what he called “aesthetic bliss.” it’s possible you had this in mind when making your critique, but if not, that would be my answer for the puns and affectations. they exist in his novels because they’re pleasurable. i am not saying that all literature should strive for those same goals, but i do appreciate nabokov for that reason. i’ll again point to speak, memory as a wonderful piece of art for anyone interested.

what do you mean by this?


I had to do a double take as well at first and wondered what the mortal enemy would be, so it 's not just you. I dare say yeso was intentional in making the title clickbait. See also: Shigesato Itoi 1950-2022

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look that was a long time ago


the comparison to eden eden eden was meant to speak to the main question about when is a difficult text rewarding to wrestle with, and if there’s a “better” mode of writing. I guess my opinion on the first question boils down to: if the subject matter is urgent and then maybe if the aesthetic interest is great enough. As to the “better,” I should have addressed this directly and I see now that I elided it. I think eden eden eden is “better” as an object formed in response to the topic of political/social violence brought down on the innocent because it’s an unleavened portrayal, even though it’s language is exotic. The comparison to Nabokov is aimed at those two books because I objected to the way he makes use of the subject, compartmentalizes and intellectualizes it, and makes novels with gustatory enjoyment features around them. With Pale Fire, for example, I get that one central irony is that Shade is writing an anguished poem about his child’s death and Kinbote is just running through the 3rd base coach stop sign doing his zembla shit. But the book is all that dumb zembla junk. Sure it’s sophisticated and clever, but in the final accounting - which maybe is reductive and I ought to resist the impulse to do - the satisfaction is the same kind of low-calorie satisfaction any middling genre novel would give you, it’s just the genre is books for people habituated to “literary fiction.” So the comparison I was trying to make was between a novel that presents challenges in intensity of vision and disturbing explicitness and experimental prose method being more “worth the trouble” than novels that have sophistication, complex self-reference, and adroit use of technique as the challenges being posed to the reader

I mean I have low tolerance for fiction that needs greenhouse conditions to be created and appreciated

no it’s me. But welcome, pleased you made it despite the obfuscation


sorry if I’m coming on too strong I did mention I’ve been reading Soviet fiction, right?


i see your point and agree with the general spirit of it, though i don’t view nabokov or any other writer of his ilk particularly challenging as long as someone is able to stomach the conceit. (edit: by challenging i mean the barrier to appreciation is actually quite low) their worst crimes are being a bit too floraly. in fact, to this point:

i would probably position a nabokov (or dfw etc) book over eden eden eden for appreciation. for creation? well, that’s hard to say. it can be argued that any art needs some level of greenhouse condition to be created, but as for when that becomes a factor in how i approach it depends on many things, like how i’m feeling that day.

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