necrology-jacket-02-100dpiIn 2012, a book came out that changed everything. It rose from the dreck like a dark grimoire of power, incipient and wrathful, ready to turn doubters into believers and believers into zealots. A book that shattered your expectations, remade them, and shattered them again. You finished the book a broken and humbled man, with one thought resounding in your skull. “So that’s why my knitted cardigans weren’t up to scratch.”

This, however, is not a review of Knitting from the Center Out: An Introduction to Revolutionary Knitting. It’s about another book altogether, Necrology.

Half of the book is written by Creation Books darling Kenji Siratori. My first exposure to this overrated fuck was Nonexistence, a clown car pileup of nonsensical words pretending to be an cyberpunk novel. I thought Siratori was a troll then, and I think he’s a troll now. You can search online for samples of his prose, but suffice to say he’s heavily inspired by William S Burroughs and other experimental authors. He seems to have reduced some of his worst excesses, but he is still not a readable writer by any sane standard. I hope to forget about him soon and often.

The other half is by Gary J Shipley, a man I hadn’t heard of. He turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and he actually ends up carrying the book. His prose style is similar to James Havoc (another Burroughs-inspired author), with vividly described and frequently incongruent imagery designed to stick in your imagination. You don’t need to do much except get carried along by the slipstream of his writing. To mangle Robert Christgau, you don’t know what he’s doing, but you can definitely see that he’s doing it.

So what’s this book about? Siratori’s portions of the book are lexical white noise, but Shipley’s seems to articulate a theme of life being another name for death. Lots of his metaphors speak to that: babies dropping dead out of wombs, middle age being equated to decomposition, etc. Portions of the book resemble a narrative (although you’d be an idiot to expect a story in this sort of book), with some dystopian, transhumanistic themes being riffed on. Necrology is all over the place and doesn’t fit well into a genre category.

To muddle the book’s purpose still more, there’s a third author. Reza Negarestani contributes an afterword, in which we learn of a barbaric Etruscan punishment (victim sewed body to body and mouth to mouth with a corpse), that manages to be disgusting but also thought provoking due to Negarestani’s metaphorical conclusions.

The idea of being sewed to a corpse seems unpleasant, but that’s the reality of believing in a soul…that we are all spirits tied to meat anchors. That when you kiss a woman it’s her soul that reciprocates the gesture, and you are locking lips with a corpse. It’s very interesting, although Negarestani’s writing is academic and not really a model of clarity.

Siratori is a waste of everyone’s time, but the book is worth getting for the Shipley and Negarestani portions. It will certainly be of interest to lots of people who like weird writing, and if it doesn’t impress there’s always the knitting book.

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stainedglassHave you ever read something and felt as if you’ve wandered into someone’s game of Broken Telephone? Have you read opinions or polemics that, though they may have made sense at one point, have been copied and memefied so many times by so many people that they have become distorted parodies?

Atheism on the internet feels like that.

What happens is that two factors start working in confluence:

1. People can’t think for themselves and can only repeat the arguments of other people
2. A “hive mind” that doesn’t tolerate dissent

The Marquis de Sade wrote a story while incarcerated called Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond, an interesting and concise manifesto of atheism framed as conversation between a priest and his dying charge. It’s been downhill since then. These days, you can read things like Why there is no god: Quick responses to some common theist arguments. They are very quick responses. It is recommended that you shout them at religious people out the window of a passing car because then they won’t have enough time to call you stupid.

1. “The Bible God is real.” He doesn’t discuss that at all, he just talks about mistakes and contradictions in the Bible. Clearly if a Jeremy Clarkson biography has logical errors then Clarkson himself vanishes from history. He talks about “selective interpretation”, as though the way we interpret the Bible has anything to do with the existence of God.

2. He argues that Jesus didn’t exist, and to back up his point links to a page that says Jesus existed. Safe to say that you’re not meant to click any of the links in this article. They often don’t back up what he’s saying at all. You’re meant to look at all those blue links and marvel at the author’s intelligence and rigour.

3. “The moment you disagree with a single instruction of the Bible…” No, thanks. There’s lots of ways to interpret the Bible. There are Christians who don’t believe everything in it comes from God, that it was influenced by the earthly politics of its time, or that various things in it have symbolic or metaphoric value.

5. In which we marvel at the shocking revelation that wealthy countries with lots of atheists are more peaceful than impoverished third world shitholes.

10. He uses George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one”…only it’s not presented as a quote. It’s included in the text without attribution or even quotation marks, as if he was the one who thought of it. I think this is generally his thought process. He doesn’t think for himself. Who needs to, when you can repeat memes and quotes and sound-bytes? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but doesn’t it get depressing spending your whole life regurgitating other peoples’ lines?

11. He could have just said “what does beauty have to do with God?” and left it there. He argues about something completely off the point, and misses an easy and obvious response.

It goes on like that for a while. There’s stuff about Christianity being a responsible for every bad thing in the past million years, and a reminder that the bad things done by atheists are not connected to their beliefs in any way. Heads we win, tails they lose. Everything he writes is…wonky. Unpersuasive. It gives every impression being bolted together from various pieces of intellectual detritus from an atheist forum where nobody ever disagrees with anyone. And it continues.

“Copay [sic] every fact on this page you wrote. Make website. Paste. Then. the sheer amount of fact in one internet place will explode, spreading logic throughout the land.
Genius.” — zinc55

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Marilyn-Manson--Born-VillainOnce, Marilyn Manson was something. That something may or may not have been good, but it was. He was interesting. He was a spectacle.

“Was” is past tense.

Has anyone even listened to this album right the way through? Can anybody muster even the slightest interest in any of the songs? Does anybody know or care when one track ends and the next begins?

This album is so featureless and uneventful that sometimes I forget that it exists. I start absently wondering whether there will be a new Manson album soon, and then I remember that one did, in fact, come out, and this is it. Then I listen to part of a song or so on Youtube. I never finish it. Marilyn Manson’s music from the past ten years has the positive trait of making things in your environment seem unnervingly interesting, such as a sleeping cat, a bit of fluff on the floor, etc.

Born Villain is the musical equivalent of pushing a broken shopping trolley. It is slow, tedious, and unrewarding. Where are we going here, Brian? “Hey, Cruel World” is an effort at bringing back the gritty hate punk of “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”, but it sounds laboured and lethargic, like someone set the metronome thirty clicks too slow. “Slo-Mo-Tion” is offensively worthless dribble with no reason to exist. Nice drumming, too. Sounds like a GarageBand drum loop.

“The Gardener” has Big Bri spruiking his stupid beat poetry to the backdrop of bass guitar and more drumming c/o GarageBand. Calling this boring is an insult to honest God-fearing boring things everywhere. There’s no energy or inspiration on either side of the speakers. Brian just doesn’t care. You can almost see the studio execs holding up a “YOU CAN STOP PLAYING NOW” sign.

It’s Twiggy’s second album back in the band – remarkable, as virtually nobody lasts for two consecutive albums in Marilyn Manson. Chris Vrenna is credited for about a million things. I don’t know much about that guy, except that he made some remixes of Rob Zombie songs back in the day. Otherwise it’s Brian’s show. I assume his midlife crisis is in full swing by now, with publicity quotes like “Sometimes you don’t know how the fuck to be yourself, because you’re too confused by the circumstances you’re in.” Don’t hope that the old Manson magic is coming back any time soon. Manson himself has forgotten it.

The desperation becomes very tangible on track 14, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” a guileless attempt at creating a crossover hit like “Sweet Things (Are Made of This)”. This was my favourite song as a kid and he makes into a non-event just like the others. Johnny Depp is on the song. I shouldn’t have mentioned him because now I’m thinking about The Onion’s Johnny Depp Now Completely Made Of Scarves And Bracelets instead of Born Villain.

It is not as terrible as Eat Me, Drink Me. That’s another tick in the boredom column, as it fails even to be entertainingly bad. I won’t call Born Villain music because that might trigger Pavlovian reactions towards much better things. I won’t call it “noise” because even noise is sometimes more interesting than this. Maybe it should be classified as an “alternative to silence”.

“Hey, have you heard Marilyn Manson’s new alternative to silence? I haven’t, either. No-one has.”

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