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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:The Winograd Matrix, August 20, 2022
Richard Holeton, John Barth of the Eastgate Systems era, is known for Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, one of those pioneering twentieth century elits which elicit as much effort even understanding what it is you’re reading as understanding what it is you’re reading.
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richardholeton, November 12, 2022 (updated November 13, 2022) - Reply
I really appreciate this very witty and learned review. Any writer would,
or should, be grateful for the extended time and attention of a smart reader
like Kaemi Velatet, author of the dense interactive novels Queenlash
(2021) and Manifest No (2022) and prolific IF reviewer. So I'm thankful
for such a thoughtful reading, even if disappointed in the extent to which
"The Winograd Matrix" failed to exhilarate this reviewer.
I also appreciate the mention of my hypertext novel Figurski at Findhorn on Acid—described as both "pioneering" and difficult to understand—and I especially relish being named, surely for the first time, the "John Barth of the Eastgate Systems era"! For those interested, Figurski is now available on the web, reimagined for contemporary readers, along with a 2022 radio play adaptation. Ironically, Velatet's assertion that "academic facing elit" can be guilty of "more effort spent on conceptual innovation posturing than on the actual content," which is lodged as an objection to "Winograd" in the review, is a notion I fully agree with, and in fact was a driving motivator for me to create Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, which other critics have found full of entertaining and humorous content, along with parodies of academic discourse.
Anyway, the review. One first of all marvels at Velatet's prose, poetic and erudite and peppered with zingers. As Mike Russo puts it so well in "Babel and everything after," a review of Manifest No, Velatet's prose is "thick with neologistic portmanteaus, second-order homophones, and alliterative tricks that aren’t just naïve flourishes but carry a payload of meaning in their playful sporting, so you can read each sentence two or three times and take away a different set of valences each time." Thus as the author of the subject of Velatet's review, I went about trying to find positive valences, flickers of praise, or compliments, even if left-handed, such as: "perfect pomo playground" (which I first misread as "porno"; my eyes must be going!) and "formalistic cunning" (love that) that is "certain to fill out some pleasant peer-reviewed riffery" (sarcastic but still . . .); a "semihopeful ethos of resistance" (yes! alas, the hope is dashed); and "chapter and verse DeLilloan" (I'm a fan of both Barth and DeLillo, though Velatet evidently is not).
On the other hand, Velatet is basically, obviously, not amused. Formalistic cunning cannot overcome "the clack of trivium trivially pursued" (wonderful phrase!) and "dulls us into a twittery anhedonia" (such lively, inventive, challenging prose—with a dictionary close at hand). The "mundane" content of "The Winograd Matrix" is reduced to this summary: "moving in with a partner can be unglamorous." At the same time, "most of what [the story] actually is is a series of super dated dick jokes." Ouch!
The review is clear enough in its overall assessment; I respect that, along with the forthright manner and stylistic flair of the analysis, and I don't wish to make the argument here that "The Winograd Matrix" has more to it than domestic tedium and "dick jokes" (one of those zingers punctuating the otherwise highbrow diction). Other readers will hopefully check it out and make their own determination.
And really, Velatet's review is just plain fun. In that same spirit, one can't resist asking, since the topic has been broached (not to say raised): Can dick jokes be funny? Perhaps to some, in the right context, like in a comedy club, from a raunchy female standup artist, after a couple drinks? "Super dated" dick jokes are unfunny to the reviewer, but what about fresh new dick jokes? Haha. I might find the latter amusing, but I don't really think that a medical condition like penis vitiligo (or its role in alleged child molestation by Michael Jackson)—even if the characters in "The Winograd Matrix" uncomfortably make fun of it—is a laughing matter.
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kaemi, November 13, 2022 - Reply
Hey Richard! Thanks for the comment. Rereading this review, I feel it comes across more catty than I intended, for which I apologize. I hope it is clear from the review that I do value your work, and I continue to be excited to see future work from you. I appreciate you!
richardholeton, November 13, 2022 - Reply
Hi Kaemi! No worries and thank you. I love the review
and look forward to delving more into your novels. I
posted a link to your review on my website, hope that's
OK. BTW I just edited my comment because I realize I
had totally misread "pomo" as "porno"! Which might be
applicable as well :) .