Saturday, January 17, 2009

From Lake Baikal, With Love

There are degrees of insomnia, as any who've brushed with sleep deprivation well know. Sometimes sleep won't come because it (quite rightly) does not wish to inhabit a head full of stress and anxiety. Sometimes it won't come because you ate too much sugar during the day. Sometimes it won't come because you're not done thinking yet. Sometimes it won't come because you're not done crying yet. Sometimes it won't come because you (stupidly) read a scary book in bed and gave yourself the willies. Sometimes it just won't come, end of story.

For those cases in which the root of insomnia is purely thought related, I keep a well-stocked pile of munitions, each used with the sole purpose of distracting me long enough to calm the fuck down and get my unconscious on.

A movie generally does the trick, but occasionally I'm so worn out even the act of watching is asking too much effort of me. In those instances I fire off set of podcasts. They're not on my iPod. They live only on the laptop. No headphones, no visualizer, nothing to do with me. They read to me, and I do nothing.

Reading, in these instances, doesn't work. Ever. I spend a lot of my energy keeping other people's voices out of my head, for my own sanity. I suppose occasionally I go too far, and stagnate without external input, and the only cure is to have some outside voice feeding words in my ears that I couldn't have strung together myself, that have no source in my life. The differing presence of self lying in active reading requiring my mind's voice overlaying the prose and passive listening in which the narrative overlays my mind.

As a result, I've come to associate Jeff VanderMeer's story Logorrhea, as read by Jason Erik Jundberg, with extremes. It only comes out when I'm too far gone, and never fails to reel me back in. I hate and fear being in such a state, but if that means I'm granted permission to listen to the story, well then I kinda don't mind it. It wouldn't work as insomnia salvation if it wasn't an exceptional piece of work.

These are the things the masses do with your stories.

As of yeserday, Jeff VanderMeer's novelette Errata has been posted on, as both eyes-only and podcast.

Given my irrational apprehensions, I opted for the podcast.

There's another form of insomnia, which I forgot to mention as usually I'm smart enough to avoid it: getting sucked into a story you love too much to voluntarily break free of.

I'm tired. Fuck you.

That was just fucking brilliant. It hops gaily between the absurd and the surreal, and I want to use the word 'subversive', yet I don't believe it is so tricksy and sneaky and fixated on revenge as to subvert. Why would it, when it can take off and do its own thing? Which is what it has done, and without apology.

There's also a penguin in it.

I ask Juliette for advice sometimes. “Juliette,” I say. “Is Ed for real? Is the Book for real? Is James for real? Is this really going to work? Or is it a form of madness?”

“I dunno,” Juliette says. “I’m just a penguin. But I can bring you some fish, if you’d like.”

This is why he's been my favourite author for years, and I stalk his publications like a stalking thing. I'll never fear of reading the same thing twice under different titles. I hope there's a dead tree version of this, as I don't particularly want to condemn it to 4am visits.

In some weird synchronicity, the two stories podcast revolve around Lake Baikal, the largest fresh-water body on Earth. I fear now that I can no longer dream of travelling to Syberia to visit the lake, as with every listen its character solidifies, and this fictional lake cannot exist if I stand on the shores of its reality.

And throughout it all, a question on the cellular level rising slowly in the communal, generational penguin mind: Why?

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