Nature Studies: A Novel Paperback – Nov 30 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
With affinities to the 1980s phenomenon of appropriation art, journalist and critic Ryskamp puts himself into his novel, much as Cindy Sherman poses in her own photography. Layered upon musings of hunting patterns of eagles and the geographical makeup of the Midwest are metatextual reflections on Crime and Punishment and Jane Eyre, among other books. The text proceeds at blender speed, dizzily mixing together famous names and quotes, such as those by Einstein, Ryskamp's "grandfather" and Bartok, who both in turn quote Wittgenstein and Nietzsche. Ryskamp leavens his pastiche with numerous reflections about his own role in the dawning of modernism (one favorite method is to relate his "dreams," in which he encounters Freud, Picasso and others), though the best sections are tongue-in-cheek descriptions of how the novel happens to be created from additions made to two essays, one on AZT and one on the New Bill of Rights. Overall, the book resembles the sort of nightmare one imagines having after reading too many issues of Art Forum successively. One suspects that the novel's audience will be limited to critics who will recognize obscure references to avant-garde esoterica.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author tries really hard to render readers insignificant in really pompous ways. The haughty manner the book comes accross is not aimed at something else, it's aimed at you- the reader. It seems to say: "see, I'm so good I can throw around French, classic Latin, & Greek expressions at will!" Whether justified or not. If this novel is so great then why can't it do the same thing without isolating the reader- a good 95% of us don't speak a word of French, Classic Latin & Greek! Do you?! This book has these phrases throughout it almost 10 times per page!! How would you like it if you had to read somethng, Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, whoever, and after every 3 sentences they threw in Latin, Greek or French verses and phrases from 3 to 30 words long?!!! Huh?!! How would you like that?!!
Now for a moment lets assume that the author planned it all that way- that parts of his work should not be comprehensible. That still doesn't explain all the self praise & worship and just how chatty, gossip-like, & tabloidesque it makes the whole 'novel.'
Nature Studies arrogantly assumes people have a phd of sorts in disciplines ranging from physics & mathematics, to foreign languages mentioned above. And none of it holds together to any perceptible degree in it's own context!! There is zero contribution to science or mathematics. What's the point? I'm thinking is this the only way to get the message accross? A reader can scarcely keep up with the exotic verbal & scientific references flung around 10 times per page. I don't know if it's a novel. I think it's a piece of literature which begs the question amongst the readers: "Are You Impressed?"
I've never seen any such text whose author assumes all the exotic words and expressions he's flinging around are digestible to even 'average intellectuals' much less more modest readers who might chance pick up the book! I mean can you imagine being at an art exhibit, but being told you must possess proof of holding a doctorate degree before going in the room which contains the Van Gogh paintings- okay, 95% of us can't go there, right?!!
This book is over the top in rendering what is supposedly a work of art. If you're a normal person you'll be totally lost! You may as well pick up a clay stone tablet containing heiroglyphics. When reading this impenetrable text make sure you have several translators present- French on your left, Latin on your right, and a Greek translator next to one of them. You're gonna need them!
I honestly couldn't figure if the author was trying harder to impress the audience with his 'wit' or the quality of the novel itself. The piece was replete with self praise throughout (his own name), and French, latin, greek, phraseology!! Unbelieveable!
First of all, John Ryskamp is not well versed in any of the topics he is touching upon within the context of this pseudo-novel. His so called disproof of relativity does not contain a tinge of intellectual contribution. I would like to see him discussing his view in a paper published at Arxiv database or some noteworthy journal like Physical Review Letters other than the customer reviews of amazon. If you would like to see a serious discussion of special relativity, you start with Anajibidan Das's work 'The Special Theory of Relativity : A Mathematical Exposition'. Moreover there is Misner-Thorne and Wheeler's seminal work which is incredibly cogent in delineating what the space-time fabric is all about.
With that said, if a person who is apparently unable to define what a point in space means, embarks upon disproving relativity, he does not prove to be ridiculous only; he becomes pathetic. Making things worse, a recent experiment at MIT by David Pritchard et al. showed with extreme precision that E=mc^2 is accurate. This equation is a direct result of the theory of special relativity.
Finally, there is only one American author who has accomplished something so that his name is worthy of mentioning along with Joyce, and he is Thomas Pynchon. But even he is very far away from reaching the literary genius of Joyce. American culture is still immature to produce another James Joyce. Moreover, being a competent author does not allow one to trascend his name to someone like Joyce automatically. For that, a pure genius accompanied with immense cultural sophistication is required with a commensurate output. Both of these traits, however, as you can construe when you read the text, something this author heavily lacks. Dont waste your money on this pseudo-novel.
P.S.: I have no affiliation with the author and I am generally generous with my ratings. My lowest rating is 2 stars since I respect the honest work/creation of an author even if I have a real dislike for him/her. But this work stinks, there is nothing to appreciate in it.