The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 13 review

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. This is pretty great reading material if you want to start writing fantasy novels. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the craft of writing just by obsessively pouring over these chapters.

Look forward to my own upcoming novel tentatively titled Sword Swords of the Order of the Sabre, Falchion.

Chapter 13 is another Boston chapter. It starts off strong.

Corderoy had already masturbated twice today–much needed head clearing breaks between the three chapters of Ulysses he’d read–and now, too drained for a third go at it, he found himself browsing through girls on MySpace.

I mean, I know the novel can’t overtly convince us to like Corderoy, but it seems really intent on actively doing the opposite.

I wonder what chapters those were. The wikipedia entry is broken down by chapter, it’d be interesting to see what chapters would drive a man to masturbation or MySpace.

There was an unreality to the social world of MySpace–a profile was, by its nature, a continually curated representation of the self.

This ties into a thing I’m noticing a lot in the book, reality and unreality. MySpace represents an unreality generated to create yourself.

Things aren’t going well for Corderoy, obviously.

In Seattle, he’d felt like the one guy outside of Plato’s cave, seeing things for what they were rather than looking at shadows on the wall.

Luckily, I’ve seen The Matrix. So that would make Corderoy probably Neo in his own estimation. That makes sense, I feel like it’s pretty natural to think you’re the only one who really gets it.

And after his humiliation at First Fridays, after realizing how hard it would be to rebuild that kind of status, he had buried his head in schoolwork; he’d even gotten caught up in presidential politics

It sounds like he’s smoothly transitioned from alcohol to a quasi-productive means of distracting himself.

The week before Corderoy had come across a guy trying to get people to register to vote, which turns Corderoy’s mind to Bush.

Corderoy thought Bush was an idiot

Remember what Corderoy dressed up as for the Encyclopaedist party? Bush. Weird, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if Corderoy thought he, himself, was an idiot.

Corderoy goes political. We’re talking reading blogs, arguing with relatives, mailing lists, basically everything that goes with politics. But apparently investing in politics doesn’t help enough because he wants to date someone, but not someone that would take work.

Enter Sylvie.

Sylvie is a 19 year old girl, according to her profile, who Corderoy can immediately feel superior to.

Her taste in movies isn’t too bad.

“Disney! TenthingsIhateaboutyou, anything with Edward Norton! Indiana Jones omgNightmare before Christmas.”

I do like to imagine two men trying to replicate a 19 year-girl’s MySpace profile.

There’s a scene, in Lucy with Scarlett Johansson, where Lucy’s roommate, a girl around 19 to 20, enters their apartment and starts speaking about cute boys.

Luc Besson, a 56 year old Frenchman, had to have written that scene. I find that really interesting.

Corderoy initiates the MySpace ritual dating dance. He composes a message I assume masterfully put together as only a grad student in literature or something could do. Unfortunately, it’s lost to history for us. Once he’s assembled his seduction text missile he pauses.

Choosing not to message ninteeen-year-old Silvie because it was creepy (and would thereby make him a creep) would mean coming to terms with the state of his life: single, friendless, unshowered, wearing cum-stained underwear, and trolling for immature girls on MySpace.

Like, two of those things can be changed relatively easily. Again, it’s hard to side with him. It’s also pretty much the opposite of the whole Only Man Outside Socrate’s Cave paradigm that he once thought of himself.

Corderoy’s sense of superiority compels him onward, seduced by the idea of manipulating a girl with his superior intellect, despite inferior state of underwear.

The mating dance begins. Sylvie comments on his MySpace pictures, and he returns the favor, though stooping to the alternate spelling I can only assume he detests. But, love, or lust, respects no grammar.

that’s hawt, you’re so effing cute!, et cetera

The complex, almost bee-like, dance continues. Corderoy reveals his long-hidden love for Disney music, which extends his love for things to Star Wars, The Stranger, and Disney Music.

Flirting intensifies.

Then Sylvia drops of the MySpace Earth and there’s no further contact. Naturally, Corderoy goes into withdrawal.

As the week dragged on, he found himself obsessively alternating between two thoughts: Where did Sylvie go, she is so hot; and why the fuck am I wasting my time thinking about this disgustingly conventional child. It was a phrase he’d lifted from Lolita.

Man, I miss Professor Irish McJamesJoyceReference and his class about Star Wars.

Corderoy was just looking for a special friend after all.

someone he could manipulate and anticipate with ease, offering up just the right phrase to make her twitter or swoon, the recognition that she made his dick hard not in spite of her cloying idiocy but because of it–it made him feel ugly, monstrous.

Two things we know turn on Corderoy: James Joyce’s Ulysses and Idiocy.

So Corderoy resorts to what he really probably should be focusing on anyway, rewriting reality (or his personal history) and so rewrite his current reality. The key to this would be to keep himself distracted.

Well, that should be easy. But instead of drinking like I thought he would do, he plunges still further into political activism.

Fortunately, a distraction had just entered his peripheral vision: there was a criminal to oust from the White House. So when Tricia invited him to canvass with her in Ohio the weekend before the election, he found himself readily agreeing.

Surely this won’t end badly.

John Kerry lost.

Well, at least we know our characters can take it well.

And oddly, it was not Tricia who was staring at the post-election coverage on MSNBC, shocked in disbelief, glugging another tumbler of whiskey

Back to alcohol, which is much preferable to a MySpace addiction.

The usual stuff comes up.

Corderoy who had felt, as he pulled the lever…, that he was part of something larger, that he mattered, if only a little.

The constant recurring theme about mattering and not mattering.

Tricia’s retreat takes a different form, she pushes ahead for that internship in Baghdad. Luc, the Belgian guy, says he’d think about it, and then he goes silent, leaving Tricia to deal with a MySpace-like anxiety.

Tricia’s Montauk Roommate-Equivalents take the news hard, but Tricia pities Corderoy because he’s kind of an empty sadsack.

She tries to console the Sadsack.

“Not the end of the world,” she said.

“I know But still. Sucks.”

“It’s the whole system. Even if we didn’t vote, Massachusett would have gone blue.”

“That supposed to make me feel better?”

And nothing really matters.

Then all of a sudden:

Thinking about Montauk inevitably meant thinking about Mani, which was the last thing he wanted to do. Where the hell was Sylvie when he needed her.

Thinking of Montauk makes you think of Mani? Where is another imaginary girl to distract me?

Then Tricia drinks whiskey.

Then Tricia calls Luc.

Then Luc is noncommital about giving her an internship.

Then Trica 9/11 flashbacks on us.

This time, she wasn’t late to arrive, a willing but unneeded blood donor, a bystander watching the medics at work. This time, she’d be the medic, and the patient had died.

Nothing. Matters. Got it.


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