20 July 2011

I Like To Break A Mental Sweat, Too: Short Stories You Need To Read

I've read more short stories than I can actually recall, but the ones I've listed here had a profound impact upon me in one way or another.  That's not to say that they're necessarily life-changing, but these definitely left an impact on my psyche and kept me thinking long after I'd finished them.  The first two stories I've listed are without question two of the best pieces of writing I've thus encountered, and respectively echo my anti-egalitarian, anti-materialism, transhumanist sentiments.  Taken as a whole, they all have exactly fuckall to do with lifting, but I get a remarkable number of requests by people for both fiction and non-fiction suggestions, so I figured I'd knock out more suggestions as a batch.  For those of you who are interested in my other suggestions, check out my strength training and nutrition suggestions here, and my fiction novel suggestions here.  As I read for pleasure constantly and love discussing books, I thoroughly enjoy getting asked for book suggestions and am happy to pass them along.  For those of you who don't give a shit, feel free to go fuck yourselves after you enjoy this pic.

"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.  If there is a single story that will make you stand up and punch an Obama supporter dead in the fucking mouth, this is it.  That's not to say I really have anything against the man himself, but his vocal supporters are a pack of jackasses who seem to think that we are all equal in every way, no man is above another, and everyone's life should suck equally.  Fuck all that.  Socialism is an intellectually bankrupt philosophy predicated upon the patently offensive idea that all men are created equal, and I'm not fucking having any of that.  Here's a story of a man who knows he's better than everyone else, and despite the state's best efforts to prevent him from doing so, he proves it.
In Harrison Bergeron, everyone who's strong or attractive must wear a mask or weights to prevent them from looking better or out-performing anyone else, and the intelligent must wear hearing aids that emit loud screeches to inhibit deep thought and prevent them from out-thinking their dull-witted peers.

"The Subliminal Man" by JG Ballard.  This story's fairly prophetic, and I mentioned it numerous times in marketing classes an an example of what advertising should not become.  I, of course, was ridiculed for making that claim, as this is what advertisers see as heaven, apparently.  A pox on their children.  Essentially, the story's about a man who, try as he might, cannot evade the constant one-upsmanship between neighbors, and essentially lives in a world where everyone worlds three jobs they hate, just so they can buy a bunch of shit they don't need.  Throw on top of that a dystopic nightmare of planned obsolescence and a massive plot to brainwash the populace and you've got a vision of what the future could someday be- a giant bag of bullshit.
Much of Ballard's dystopic nightmare has already begun to take place.

"Sales Pitch" by Philip K. Dick.  I first read this story in homeroom in 7th grade, in an anthology with Harrison Bergeron, and both have stuck with me over the years.  I've reread each, inadvertantly, at different times and both have remained just as poignant to me as they were when I first read them.  In any event, this story points to the evil that lawyers and corporations have wrought and will continue to visit upon humanity until the end of time.  Terribly elucidative, right?  Essentially, the protagonist of the story is confronted by a robot salesman who will never leave him alone, as he's the product that he's tasked to sell.  It's a crazy fucking story, and I'm surprised no one's devised a way to make this happen in real life yet.
"Pump Six" by Paolo Bacigulpi.  Bacigulpi's got an interesting take on what will come after the collapse of the petroleum reserves, but this story's actually got nothing to do with that.  Instead, Pump Six details the gradual erosion of society and devolution of humanity into a weird, hypersexual, hermaphroditic simian creature as humanity becomes pointedly dumber.  I'm not sure if it's necessarily prophetic, but it definitely increased my desire to punch out the bitches buying OK magazine in line at the grocery store.  Many of you will draw a parallel between this story and Idiocracy, which is apt, though Pump Six is far more intelligently constructed.
"Do any of you even know what electrolytes are?"

"Chronopolis" by JG Ballard.  For those of you out there who claim you're OCD, here's a take on what horrors your kind could visit upon the rest of us if left to run the world.  In this post-apocalyptic story, Londoners in the future live in a nation wherein possessing any kind of timekeeping device is a capital crime, and chronicles a violator of their laws' efforts to track time as he awaits execution.  This story is usually bundled in with a number of other awesome Ballard stories, and is definitely worth checking out in an anthology.
I figure this pic's appropriate, because any time is a good time to check out Jaime Koeppe's ass.

"Quitters, Inc" (from Night Shift), and "Survivor Type", "The Mist", "The Raft" (from Skeleton Crew) by Stephen King.  Frankly, I think Stephen King is highly overrated, but those stories are some that have really stuck with me over the years.  Frankly, I've never read too much into them, though I'm certain high school English teachers have made great claims about the social allegories provided therein.  It's probably all bullshit though- they teach the stories because they're fucking amazing.  If you only own one short story horror anthology, you really could do no better than Skeleton Crew, which is one of my all time faves, and boasts the short story "The Mist" that was the inspiration for the movie of the same name.  Darabont definitely did that story justice, but nothing will top the original.

There are, of course, dozens of other stories I'd recommend, but those are the best of the bunch and serve as a decent jumping off point for those of you who've asked for recommendations.  This weekend I'll get back to the business of lifting the "heavy ass weights" of which Ronnie Coleman loves to yell incoherently and ungrammatically.


  1. You've got some formatting issues.

  2. Philip K. Dick is the man. You read any of his full length stuff?

  3. If Obama supporters need to be punched in the mouth, so do people who equate Obama with socialism.

  4. I first read Harrison Bergeron in the late 60s and it had a profound influence on shaping my young mind and forming the Libertarian ideas that have guided me through much of my adulthood.

    Barney Shannon
    Everything Strength

  5. Have you read anything by Pentti Linkola or Vijay Prozak?

    They seem like they'd be right up your alley.


  6. What the fuck is this article going to do to help my abs pop, br0?

  7. It's ironic that Vonnegut wrote Bergeron considering he was an avowed socialist his entire life and his biggest hero was Eugene Debs.

    I suppose he was trying to point out the evils of 'excess' socialism, and he was such a contrarian he couldn't help writing about the flaws in his own belief system.

  8. I can't decide which is the best, Spongebob, Simpsons or Family Guy. I'm thinking probably Simpsons.

  9. I was dipping into your archives the other day and checking out some of your previous "Mental Sweat" blogs on recommended books, and low an behold....Law of attraction at work ;)

    Great list Jamie. I'll add them to my 'to read pile'.

  10. To clarify, I agree that Obama's not a socialist. That, however, hasn't stopped either his supporters or his detractors from claiming he's one. This is why I suggested it's his supporters that need a beating. Frankly, anyone who's planning on not voting for Ron Paul falls into that category.

    Eugene Debs, amusingly, was the President in one of Harry Turtledove's series, as I recall. He was definitely an interesting guy, and about as far from an Eastern Bloc Red as could be, so he wasn't all that bad. For a socialist.

    @Buffalo- Never heard of either, to my knowledge. I'll check them out. Thanks for the suggestions.

    @Peter- I'm a huge fan of all he stuff. He definitely got more interesting as he went more and more insane.

    Incidentally, I relinked the old blogs, so you guys can find them easily.

  11. American presidential elections are little more than elaborate reality TV shows anyway. They're as scripted and fixed as wrestling too.

  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk7QzVrfT-U&NR=1 Threat Signal. New band I thought you might like. They take some queues from Meshuggah and are on the same youtube channel. Im gonna go read the subliminal man now and ill tell you what i think.

  13. Glen, politics and power is like that all over the planet. Powerful people don't design contests that help their enemies become stronger.


  14. Read the subliminal man on the can there. Enjoyed it thoroughly. The read that is, not the shit. It was awful.

    Dismal ending!

  15. Jamie FYI if you google "huge traps" you shop up on the first page of images.

  16. No comments on that ass? I am heartily disappointed.

  17. It's hard to type a comment with one hand.

  18. Really enjoyed Slaughterhouse Number 5 by Vonnegut.

    And socialism has been dead the second it was claimed by upper-class, loft-living assholes who had too much time on their hands, because daddy payed for everything they needed (including their skinny jeans, copious amounts of beer, ray ban glasses and now fixies). Instead of discussing the finer points of Marx or Rosa Luxembourg, they should help the outcasts of society. Arrogant snobs who wouldn't be able to recognize true socialism when it crossed their paths on the street (because they are to busy twittering about how bad the governement is). They should spend some more money/time on community work and food not bombs instead of buying ipads. Assholes.

    Jammie has a nice ass, looks kinda like my wife's behind.

  19. http://www.american-buddha.com/dick.phildickreader.14.htm

    Sales Pitch

  20. Thanos said...
    because they are to busy twittering


    Jammie has a nice ass, looks kinda like my wife's behind.

    -YOU WISH.

  21. What was the Stephen King short story where some guy digs a hole to trap a mobster in his car to get back at him? I think it was the first story in Nightmares and Dreamscapes but I might even be wrong about that title for all I know.
    I don't think Stephen King is overrated, he's just very mainstream. I haven't read anything by him since the 90s so he might have gone downhill since then and just remained on top because of his marketability. Cujo was excellent. So was The Stand.
    Gerard Houarner is a relatively unknown author who I really like. I recommend The Beast That Was Max and its sequel Road To Hell. Kind of like Clive Barker if Clive Barker was batshit insane.
    Shadowtwin by Dale Hoover was a book I remember liking a lot. Unexpectedly too. The narrator in that story is despicable. You've never hated a written character more.
    I also liked The Narrowback by Micheal Ledwidge.
    I can't always remember authors and titles. Otherwise there would be a bunch more I'd recommend as well.

  22. I might have anything important to say about literature if 90% of my books weren't on the other side of the country. Anybody up for a full-length read would do well to pick up an epic poem like the Odyssey or the Epic of Gilgamesh, though.

    But that's not the point of the comment. Has anyone else ever noticed that Clarence Bass has a bizarre tendency to accept any and all research or evidence to prove anything?

    And Glen, since I love Clive Barker, I'm going to have to read those in the next few days.

  23. If you like Harrison Begeron, you would probably like "unaccompanied sonata" by Orson Scott Card. It was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula for best story of the year when it came out, but sadly it didn't win. Nevertheless it's just a brilliant story of a man with great talent living in an oppressive society- and losing everything- kinda. Its more complex than Bergeron. Admittedly, it is a classically romantic theme, but it is so beautifully told that it has haunted me ever since I first read it in 1979. I have revisited it several times since and each time, found new depth and meaning in it. You can read it in the collected stories of Card, other than that, it's hard to find, but well worth it.

    On another note? How the cthuloid t-shirts coming along?

  24. @excyclist- Slowly. I've got a couple of projects I'm juggling, and those that might actually put a couple of bucks in my pocket always get postponed. For some reason, I'm far more motivated by what interests me, rather than those things from which I will profit. My bank account is accordingly pissed at me.

  25. Oh man, I distinctly remember my first time reading Harrison Bergeron in my 7th grade English class's "Junior Great Books." I hadn't thought much of it since then, but I'm glad you brought it up.

    I've finally succeeded in reading the entirety of C&P from the beginning, after discovering this blog recently, and I just wanted to thank you for all your research and insights and for motivating me to refrain from slipping into societal norms, which I've always tried to avoid.

    Have you read Wikipedia's article on Common Misconceptions? You speak a lot about ones having to do with diet and training styles, but this covers a whole spectrum of them and should be required reading for anyone who plans on ever communicating information to another person. At the very least it would make it less necessary for us fact corrector folks to look like know-it-all douches to every misinformed soul we try to set straight.


  26. I never have, but I will now. I love me some Wiki.