Book Review

Frederik Pohl

read some terrible books that failed to distract me from anything

cw: mental illness, body image, depression

What am I doing to myself?

When was the last time I let myself read something good, something serious, something real?

On some subconscious level have I convinced myself – did I convince myself? – that my heavy engagement with non-fiction about colonialism, genocide and continued iniquities between settlers and north American First Nations peoples manifested into the news cycle in the beginning – and continued – unearthing of mass graves of dead fucking children?

I just don’t understand how anyone here is talking about anything else if they’re talking about what they’re thinking about.

How are people distracting themselves from the “mass graves of children”?

///

I mean, I know I “us[e] literature as an emotional crutch” (to quote myself from my almost decade-old rap and forthcoming second book with Broken Sleep, hip-hop-o-crit), I know I dissociate and I medicate (unless you count my much more sensible drinking as “self-medicating” none of it’s self-medicating any more) and I do all I can to not be paying attention to my own thoughts, feelings, ambitions, needs, because… well, y’know; so maybe me struggling to not think about this is just another grim, but self-involved distraction? Maybe I’m getting emotional about the genocidal mass killing of vulnerable children and about the aggressive evictions of homeless people living in parks because I’m still failing to confront or consider my own self and the problems involved therein.

I don’t do things I want. I do things I don’t want to do. I don’t necessarily do things because they are easy, but I do things because I’m told to and it’s what I’ve always done. It’s why I’m 32 and – other than being highly commended in the forward prizes for poetry almost three years ago and having a brief good run of getting articles published around the same time – I have nothing, y’know, nothing very real.

I haven’t written anything I’m excited by since hip-hop-o-crit, which was completed about 12 months ago and hasn’t been revised since – maybe that’s an achievement, writing my first book that I set out to write as a standalone piece, one that I didn’t have to revise and revise and revise until I felt ready to share it. But also, it makes a series of stark and concrete assertions about myself that I’ve done nothing to follow up on or build on in the year since.

The “life pause” for me didn’t begin with COVID and end when things started reopening, the “life pause” for me began when I left literally everyone I knew bar one person and my dog on the other side of the ocean in the hope that I’d be able to feel like a whole person without the baggage of my own past: but the problem wasn’t the places and the people I wanted to be far away from, though, was it, is it? The problem is me, and has been for a long time.

It’s why I can’t… feel compassion… for people evicted from the shelter they’ve desperately had to construct in a park in lieu of a real home, or for the indigenous communities decimated by colonial capitalist greed without questioning “is this feeling just another coping thing?” “Is this just me dissociating?”

Because the thing is, it probably is.

Am I doing anything to help those homeless people? Am I giving money or meaningful media exposure to Canada’s crimes against humanity? No, I’m not.

Does it assuage any guilt I feel? No, I don’t feel any guilt.

I feel nothing.

Nothing at all, just this blank fucking blah blah blah sense of dull fucking stasis and when I stop and lean into this I just start crying and hyperventilating and needing to scream.

But I do none of those things – I instead go and watch prestige TV drama while doing cardio and I do other things that allow me to forget that I don’t think it’s ok for me to not be writing, that I don’t think it’s ok for me to have no friends, that I don’t think it’s ok to have no family, no realistic plans for the future, no idea of where I will be in a year, no right to vote in the city I’ve lived in for over two and a half years, no community, no forward motion, no hair, no children, no assets. I have some savings now and my debts are unburdensome, and my weight is creeping down now I can cardio-watch again, but the savings aren’t big (yet?) but the belly still is.

And instead of spending my free time this past week reading transcendental literature, I instead read three sub-mediocre bullshit sci-fi books by some unknown loser called Frederik Pohl because I thought it might be fun froth to keep me distracted.

It wasn’t. Don’t read trash.

For me, it’s like how weird people talk about junk food – “it tastes good but you feel bad afterwards” – I never feel bad after eating greasy food, but it doesn’t have any nutrients, right? And that’s what this trash genre crap is like: no nutrients, nothing sustaining, nothing sustainable.

I don’t want to have to read to escape, but there’s nothing else I know how to do. Maybe I’ll download the switch game that’s like GTA but you play as a shark and wallow in that fictional ocean for the afternoon.

I tell you what I know I won’t do: anything that matters either to myself or other people.

Don’t waste your time reading Pohl’s vapid, pointless books like I, yet again, have.

Give it a couple of weeks and I’m sure I’ll be reading bullshit like this again.

1 comment on “Frederik Pohl

  1. Pingback: WAR #1: Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy – Triumph Of The Now

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