Camp Concentration by Thomas M. I was wrong — this is a book that is subversive, to a certain extent, but it is definitely not all that odd. Availability: You can get the Vintage Books edition here: Comments: It has been a while since I read a book that filled me with such visceral dislike. I can only hope that I can explain my distaste for this book without descending into insult, but it speaks volumes to me that even though I am a pretty mild person most of the time, I genuinely worry that I may not be able to discuss this book without a lot of invective. Part of the reason is that this book was initially published in and has not aged well. Though some of the ideas expressed in this book may still resonate today, I have to say, though I know it is brutal to say so, the overall terrible writing style as well as the completely unlikeable protagonist kills any societal message that may shine through to modern times.
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Camp Concentration by Thomas M. I was wrong — this is a book that is subversive, to a certain extent, but it is definitely not all that odd. Availability: You can get the Vintage Books edition here: Comments: It has been a while since I read a book that filled me with such visceral dislike.
I can only hope that I can explain my distaste for this book without descending into insult, but it speaks volumes to me that even though I am a pretty mild person most of the time, I genuinely worry that I may not be able to discuss this book without a lot of invective.
Part of the reason is that this book was initially published in and has not aged well. Though some of the ideas expressed in this book may still resonate today, I have to say, though I know it is brutal to say so, the overall terrible writing style as well as the completely unlikeable protagonist kills any societal message that may shine through to modern times.
He is treated reasonably well in prison but one day is transferred to a different prison. One underground, a sinister prison where the government is testing a drug on unwilling prisoners. This drug makes the prisoners super intelligent, which actually has far fewer applications in the real world than one might think, but the drug also kills them eventually.
Louis finds he has been infected and he was such an arrogant, self-impressed bastard that the reader has a hard time telling the before Louis from the end Louis. All the geniuses try to commit a God-defying act of alchemy that ends about as well as you think it might.
Louis was asked to document his time in the prison, typing it out in a typewriter that fed to different people who read his reports and he documents until he dies. The end.
Okay, I am being a complete bitch and I know it, but let me support my utter dislike for this book with text that shows that I have concrete reasons for hating it, though as always, your mileage may vary. After musing pointlessly and somewhat fatly on the sexual antics of the men he shares space with back at prison one, Louis finds himself in the corridors of the second prison. First, Disch has a mentally ill man quoting Rilke. Louis is a writer though, and as a result, he thinks very writerly things.
He expounds. He is a hammy stage actor on paper and it hurts reading his thoughts and then thinking about the implications of those thoughts. He meets a black prisoner named Mordecai. As did all black men in , one assumes.
Evidently Mordecai is ugly too, and mispronounces words a lot because he has only ever read them and never heard them before because as a black man, of course, he never had a deep, substantive conversation before he was given the drug to make him super-smart. His mispronunciations give Louis an even more unearned sense of superiority, for you see, Louis is not just a writer, but a poet, and he knows words, man does he know.
Also, if this is what Disch thinks it sounds like when people made into intellectual giants talk about metaphysics, all I can say is that every drunken freshman at Clark Hall at UNT must have been fucking geniuses. And while I am not one for temporal relevance, the fact remains that in the s, there were plenty of people who did not think that VD and promiscuity ran rampant among homosexuals any more than they thought all blacks had mammies. I give some passages to show that no one in this book speaks differently from anyone else, despite the large disparities in cultural and professional backgrounds.
I know any number if psychiatrists who could, in good conscience, have accepted Finnegan Wakes sic as the very imprimatur of madness and had its author hospitalized on its evidence alone. A genius? Oh yes. But all we common people have the common sense to realize that genius, like the clap, is a social disease, and we take action accordingly.
We put all out geniuses in one kind or another of isolation ward, to escape being infected. And this trait is not due to Disch deliberately creating a shitheel.
No, Disch likes Louis, you can tell, because Louis is a man for whom we are supposed to feel some sort of fond feeling or kinship as he discovers dark secrets and suffers himself.
I assert that Disch no more realized what a tiresome didact Louis is than Louis does. This is Louis himself, and note the high level language that descends into street talk, just like Dr. Also note he is talking to himself about his own poem, addressing himself as Louis I as it is a different part of the whole complexity that is Louis sigh… There is no God, there never was, and never will be, world without end, amen.
Would you deny it, old Adamite, Louie I? Then let me recommend you to your own poem, the poem you claimed not to be able to understand. I understand it: The idol is empty; his speech an imposture. There is no Baal, my friend, only the whisperer within, putting your words in His mouth. A farrago of anthropomorphism. Deny it! Not all your piety nor wit, my boy. And O! Well I will give credit where credit is due in the next quote—at least Disch mixes up the formula a little.
This is Mordecai speaking. Or the first cause that no other cause causes. I wanted to think that perhaps all the similar dialogue occurs because Louis is recording all of this and the speech of others gets filtered through his brain. But Louis makes it clear several times he is recording things exactly as they happen or are spoken. He is not filtering. Everyone just talks the same way in this book, high level conversation with words even the most well-versed of readers will have to look up combined with an earthy tang of street language and slang.
Okay, get yourself past the fact that the style in this book is terrible and everyone talks the same. Even if Louis is a poet, even if he is a genius driven mad, there is a desperate sense in all he says that he wants us, the unseen reader, to know how amazing his intellect is, and it gets tiresome, each sentence struggling to be more erudite than the one before it, each turn of phrase straining in verbal calisthenics.
This passage comes after Louis is finished writing a play called Auschwitz: A Comedy. He stumbled into the hypogeal daedal? I hate it when that happens but have been told some soda water will get the stain out. Sorry about that but when I am forced to read words this haughty, I get sarcastic. Always have been.
I appreciate an author who does not insult my intelligence and uses words one may not commonly encounter.
Kiernan is an erudite writer whose erudition does not alienate me. But this is too much. And this is where I take my gloves off.
This quote is everything that is wrong with this book — big words that evoke nothing and when they do manage to evoke something, the image is meaningless.
A flatworm is not chaste. It reproduces asexually. So, Dr. Busk is dressed like a prudish gray worm, without eyelids or eyebrows, yet ready for battle.
Worms and those without eyelids are not notoriously good in battle. And why would a woman in a chaste, worm-gray suit sans eyebrows need to be mounted on anything? None of this makes an ounce of visual or metaphorical sense and all those five cent words were written to be impressive, not to convey an image or an idea.
And again, let me say that the narrator telling us all this is Louis and we are meant to have some sort of sympathy for him. Initially I wondered if perhaps I was meant to loathe Louis, but at the end of the book, there was a scene that gave Louis some humanity, a pitiful scene that would have emphasized a gain of humility for a pompous man, but Louis is beyond pompous.
He is despicably obtuse and when he falls, I felt nothing. I have no idea what Disch was going for here. The only way for the ending to have strength, we needed a protagonist whom at the very least did not alienate us. Because of who Louis is, the ending, which should have been a saddening, horrible look at a smart man on his knees, physically and mentally spent, is rendered powerless.
The only point that gets driven home over and over is how useless genius so often can be and I knew this before I read this book.
In the event that anyone is left wondering if I recommend this book, the answer is no. Are you good with riddles? Why did the hyperdulia pray to the Pia Mater? Disch seems to have had a dedicated following and I perused his LiveJournal , especially the entries before he died at his own hand, and saw little of the preening one sees in this book. Was this book a juvenile offering, the sort of book an intelligent young man writes before he takes his intellect in hand and creates art instead of impressive words?
I am unsure but I always give writers two chances before I declare them off my reading list. But if you are unfamiliar with Disch, I suggest you give this book a miss, despite the admiration this book seems to have in the sci-fi community. Posted on.
It declared war on the world. Scientists work on creating and perfecting the latest in weapons and germ warfare. When Louis Sacchetti, a poet and war protestor, is moved from his prison to a secret underground camp called Camp Archimedes, he is at first bemused and impressed by the good food yet wary. The director of the camp, General Humphrey Haast - or "HH" as Sacchetti calls him - has had Louis brought there in order for him to keep a detailed record of the project.