Showing posts from 2023

20 Years of The Mumpsimus

  On August 18, 2003, I clicked "publish" on the first post of The Mumpsimus blog. That very first post was a simple definition of the word of the title. The next day, I wrote a statement of purpose . And then kept going. (Thanks to the Web Archive, you can see what the original version of the The Mumpsimus looked like.) All together, it's 2,074 posts and who knows how many millions of words. In 2013, I wrote a series of posts looking back year by year at the blog's first decade. That's as thorough a chronicle of the origins as I can make, and since it was ten years closer to 2003 than we are now, it's probably more reliable than my ever-less-reliable memory. Looking back at those lookings back, I'm pleased that in the post about 2003 , I highlighted my friendship with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. Jeff and Ann were up here for Readercon last month (Jeff was Guest of Honor) and we hung out together with Eric Schaller for a few days in Boston afterward. (It

Conquest by Nina Allan

I happened to read a brief review of Nina Allan's new novel Conquest by Ian Mond, wherein he calls it "a story about alternative truth, misinformation and art" that "features essays on the work of Shane Carruth and Hans Werner Henze, a 1958 science fiction novella that proves central to Frank’s ideology, and an obsession with J.S. Bach" — and I immediately ordered it from Blackwell's , where it was available for a good price and free shipping to the US. (It seems only to be available in the UK edition so far.) You had me at conspiracy theories and Bach. What Conquest turns out to be is one of the most quietly devilish explorations of narrative uncertainty that I know, a book where the hermeneutical fireworks burst at such distance that it takes a while for the soundwaves to thunder toward us after the sky has blown up. It is quite an easy book to read, rarely feeling dense or leaden even when discussing obscure material, yet it enacts some of the insights


  When music gets you, it goes deep. Schopenhauer believed it's the only art that goes past the illusions of life and expresses — even exists at — the base level of reality itself. Anyone with a sensitivity to music knows that there is nothing else that so quickly mingles with emotions and memory. Which perhaps is why we experience such a wrenching ache at the death of any artist behind the music that remains most entangled with our emotions and memories. I was surprised by the force of feeling that struck me when I heard the news of Sinéad O'Connor's death. I hadn't been playing her music all that often these days. I'd revisited it pretty significantly after watching the (excellent) documentary Nothing Compares a year or so ago, but that was only for about a week. Not like when I was in high school and I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got lived in my CD player. Today, the hearse carrying the body of Shuhada' Sadaqat made its way through the seaside town of

Hilma af Klint: The Spirit of Abstraction

  "To paint in earth's dull colours the forms clothed in the living light of other worlds is a hard and thankless task; so much the more gratitude is due to those who have attempted it. They needed coloured fire, and had only ground earths." —Annie Besant, "Foreword", Thought-Forms by Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater  Julia Voss's recent biography of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) is a revelatory study of a woman whose work was mostly unseen until the 1980s and not especially well known even fifteen years ago.  In 2013, Sweden's Moderna Museet put together a large exhibition which toured Europe. And then the Guggenheim Museum in New York opened a massive exhibit devoted to af Klint ( Paintings for the Future ) — it became their most popular show in history, with reports of visitors waiting in line for hours for the chance to see the work of an artist few had likely heard of before. In 2019, Halina Dyrschka directed an excellent docum