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In which the author discusses five books he read, were he not distracted by Wikipedia entries in re: the Lost universe.

1. Arshile Gorky: Works, Writings, Interviews, by Robert Mattison and Arshile Gorky.
How to make good art: First, find an all-encompassing ideology (capitalism, communism, fascism, fundamentalism). Then, add conflict (cold war, hot war, guerrilla war, genocide) and privation (famine, death camps, existential angst). Don’t stir too quickly – let the misery set in. Expect new aesthetics within five to 10 years, usually impenetrably abstract or eye-rollingly ironic. Serve chilled, and, please, clean up after the suicides.

2. Model Home: A Novel, by Eric Puchner.
Sometimes, in Southern California, things go wrong. Maybe’s it’s the meth or over-prescribed sleeping pills. Maybe it’s the lack of potable water. Maybe it’s brash, alienating, Didionesque Western new-ness, or the brash, alienating, unadulterated Brett Easton Ellisonian simulacra-ness. Or it could be Hollywood, or the hot, over-irrigated Valley, or illegals, or the post-1960s, post-Manson cultural fallout, or pop-punk, or suburbia, or Suburbia, or films with ensemble casts that try really, really hard to explain why we’re all connected. I guess I’m just trying to say that no one really knows what’s wrong with Southern California, so we should all get busy writing novels about it until someone strikes a resonant aesthetic chord and that lucky person, whoever he or she is, will have done “It,” and, when I say “It,” I mean “written that great novel about everything that’s wrong with southern Calfornia.”

3. Blind Obedience: The Structure and Content of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy, Meredith Williams.
Wittengenstein. Wittengenstein. Now, there’s a name that’s familiar. Wasn’t he a great Russian filmmaker? No, I guess that was Eisenstein. Wittgenstein was German or, at least, sure sounds like he was. Wait—-didn’t Wittgenstein have some sort of important position on the Superman, or on dialectics, or on empiricism, or on ontology, or on hermeneutics? Hmm. Maybe that was St. Thomas Aquinas, or Nietzsche, or Hannah Arendt. It’s important to keep the Great Thinkers straight, because the unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates said that. Or Plato. But what if the examined life isn’t worth living either?

4. A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement, by Wesley J. Smith.
I guess there are ethical arguments to be made—-positive normative, empirical, causal, logical, ends vs. means, reasonable, quantifiable, provable arguments—-that show the animal rights movement is a huge waste of time, resources, and human lives. But none of those will make me feel any better about eating little baby piggies.

5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Camille Rose Garcia and Lewis Carroll.
What’s the difference between Lewis Carroll and Metallica? Maybe not much—-both have a dark side, both make art with creepy, Goth-y narratives, both “get small,” both speak the King’s English, both had bassists that died in bus crashes and reformed after hiring overpriced therapists while making documentaries. Hold on a second…Lewis Carroll never reformed after hiring an overpriced therapist while making a documentary!