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Bennett Sims

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Værker af Bennett Sims

A Questionable Shape (2014) 88 eksemplarer
White Dialogues [short story] (2012) 39 eksemplarer
Other Minds and Other Stories (2023) 7 eksemplarer
Confucius (1971) 2 eksemplarer
A Questionable Shape [excerpt] — Forfatter — 1 eksemplar

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As another reviewer has pointed out, the big problem with this book is clear: how much distance is there between our narrator and our author? If there's plenty of distance, this is a pretty good satire of intellectualism, particularly that of contemporary academic philosophy. If there's no distance, this is awful, turgid self-congratulation.

But it's impossible to tell where Simms meant the book to fall on this spectrum. Towards the end there's a faint glimmer of hope that it's just been satire the whole way through. Our narrator's girlfriend suggests that he's spent so much time thinking about zombies; that he so wants to know, Nagel-style, what it's like to be a zombie, that he actually wants to become one. Allegory alert! Thinking too much about stuff makes it hard for you to step away from the subject matter.

But for most of the book, I felt that I was meant to take the narrator's ramblings quite straight-forwardly, either as "beautiful" Proustian investigations of memory when he's talking about the qualities of light and his girlfriend's hands etc...; or as "deep," Heideggerian investigations of everyday phenomena; or as "clear and precise" analytical animadversions on the epistemology of zombies. And since I've read Proust, and this is substandard by comparison, and I've read Heidegger, and know that Heidegger moved on from phenomenology towards a more transcendentalist understanding of his own project, and I know of the existence of analytic philosophy's 'zombie' discourse and the way it's used to investigate consciousness, I was left wondering why I wasn't just re-reading Proust, or Heidegger, or looking zombie philosophy up on wikipedia.

This could have been very interesting, I admit. Zombies are human beings who appear to be human but do not have any interiority, any intentionality, any conscious perceptions. They just drift hither and thither. In this book, they're propelled by memory. Nice little trick: are we just propelled by memory, too? Do we have anything that zombies lack? The conclusion to the book suggests that we do, inasmuch as the narrator makes a very conscious choice. He refuses to tell his friend about his father. They've been searching for Dad, who is a zombie. The narrator sees him, and doesn't report that sighting. Choice made. Not a zombie. He's ascended to humanity, even though his choice might look inhumane. How could you keep such a secret from your best friend?

That's a good short story.

This is not a short story, this is a novel. Did you dislike my use of the word 'animadversions' above? Did you wonder why I didn't just say 'conversations'? Because if you disliked that, boy, has this book got some pointlessly arcane vocabulary for you, that it refuses to put in any context that might actually help you learn the words. In fact, the only thing the book does not explain at great length is the meaning of these arcane words. It explains everything else over pages and pages and pages, like a champion mansplaining analytic philosopher, making sure you're *perfectly* clear on the point that one man's search for his father is paralleled by the other man's search for memory/humanity/etc... Pages.

The only thing here that I actually enjoyed thinking about is the relation between its content (described above) and its form, a horrible first person present tense narration that makes even less sense than present tense normally does. It's ugly to read. On the other hand, the present tense is also the zombie tense: no memory, no context, no telos (as our author would say); just aimless rambling. There might be something in that, but I will never know, because I'll never re-read this book.

I give two extra stars for the design. Very well done to Two Dollar Radio publishing. Then take away one of those stars for the ridiculous deckled edges.
… (mere)
stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |


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