Familiar alien anthropology expeditions
I moved to the USA from Scotland having grown up, like everybody else everywhere else, watching American movies and television, reading the country’s books, and listening to its sonic output. When I arrived in Chicago I realised even more than before that, of course, the view I had gotten of the country was a very flat and deceiving and refracted one, American Dream entertainment propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl waxing lyrical about Disneyland, so I set about reading books about the country to try and understand, in part, just what the living hell I had gotten myself into.
This is, of course, somewhat fatuous, like reading a book about sex to learn about it instead of just diving and (and out and in and…) practicing. Of course, I learned a lot American life by simply living it. But my random-trajectory readings, about the multitude of subjects (religion, guns, insane money obsession, ad infinitum) so different from my old home country that caught my eye and mind at any given time, did bear some stimulating cogitation-fruit. It was in this spirit I got Mark Dery’s new book of collected essays, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts. I had read some of the writer’s work on J.G. Ballard (a huge inspiration to me) and was interested to read Dery’s new collection because his approach to things sounded somewhat the same as mine: just research what obsesses you (a familiar Ballardian trope) and (de)form your thoughts accordingly.