Random Book Note: “The Fourteenth Voyage”

Way back when I was sixteen or so and first found out who Stanisław Lem was, I should have made a lifelong resolution then to read the account in The Star Diaries of Ijon Tichy’s trip to Enteropia at least once a year, so that by now I would have read it about 400 times or so, which would’ve been a good amount, if not enough. Instead, like usual, I not only didn’t resolve to do such a thing, but I also sort of halfway forgot about the story in the midst of a whole bunch of other things that kept happening over and over again just like how things repeat in the Cycle of Time in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. (On the old one, the main things that repeated were just plot points and haircuts and stock Viper footage showing pretty much the same dogfight every time there was a dogfight.) Anyway, I think I’ve only reread “The Fourteenth Voyage” maybe five times total since the 2oth century, so that I’m way behind, as with everything else. And so, I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a damn fine story, one of my most favorite ones ever, and from now on I’m going to make sure that, one way or another, I read it a lot more frequently, which I actually pretty strongly recommend you do, as well.

If you need or want to know more actual details about the actual story, here are two: “The Fourteenth Voyage” contains several excellent running jokes about the frustrations of researching obscure subjects (like when you read ninety pages of dense and opaque text about whatever arcane thing only to end up a lot more ignorant than before); and the story depicts a society that shrugs off death as a minor inconvenience and not as some sort of awful extinction of the self, even if several individuals definitely get extinctified during the course of Tichy’s visit. I mean, there’s a reason the natives of Enteropia are so indifferent to danger, a reason you’ll find out about if you read the story. But, anyway, it’s just funny how true it is that people get used to all sorts of upsets and calamities if they’re comfortably embedded in a technological system that serves to help them deny reality (even if the system might look pretty crazy to an outsider). Not that I have a point or even know exactly what I’m talking about.

The other thing was: I just now saw some of my artwork in an iPad-only version of a fairly well-known periodical. And seeing it made my day. And sold me once and for all on the gadget that ate such a gigantic hole in our budget that the hole probably won’t get filled back in for several dozen years. Which is painful as hell. But, dang, what a nice thing to have happen after such a long and totally Sisyphean struggle up the steep, greased slope of the art world.

Also: I finally at long last, after a summer full of studying how to do it, took a simple ebook file from InDesign through Calibre and put it on both the Kindle and the iPad. So, yeah, that’s going to be one of the main things I’m going to do with XYZPDQ Press. Eventually. But hopefully the sooner kind of “eventually” rather than the later kind, which is not a kind I like at all. I mean, the file doesn’t look great or anything, but that’s not the point right now, although it’ll be a huge goal later. Right now, I just wanted to see how it works. Which it does. Without making my brain explode. Which is an amazing surprise.

Oh, and as much as I love Mr. Lem, I wonder how much I also love Michael Kandel without really realizing it. Except, I guess I sort of do realize it. Because, clearly, translators are completely not a dime a dozen and they vary a lot in quality besides. In any case, all of Mr. Kandel’s Lem translations are my favorite ones, on account of how well they flow and how inventive and witty they are. Like, it must be extra-difficult to capture the spirit of wild parody and satire and to carry that spirit over from one language to another. I for sure couldn’t do it, and not just because I can’t read Polish…although I suppose that’s a fairly significant hindrance.

Anyhow, back to work, which has piled up to a height well above my head.

Hey, though, it turns out it’s 100% easy on an iPad to grab research-related PDFs from JSTOR and stick them in iBooks. Which is good, since buying this thing got justified as an education expense. If only I ever can carve out some time to read any of the hundreds of things I’m supposed to be reading.

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