Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday and Thursday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.
There are a lot of mashups in the world: The Grey Album, Good Omens, white wine and reality television. But author Dawson Preethi looked at this great legacy and decided that what the world really needs is a mashup of Neil Breen and Deepak Chopra. The Basis: String Theory and Buddhist Cosmology merged with revolutionary mathematics (the change in capitalization is not mine) is a philosophical treatise about fiction writing, the nature of the universe, Marxism, and Nirvana.
“So far as I am going to interpret Buddhist cosmology concepts in my own method of reassembling to create a set of rules connected with metaphysical activity, which could span with the assistance of physical laws, having a problem of placing them in the same backdrop of ‘reality’ is the challenge.”
I’m going to walk you through the first part of the book as best I can. Please bear in mind that while it may not make much sense to you, I am accurately representing what I experienced. Most of these reviews read like Kanzi the Bonobo’s book report on Infinite Jest, but this time it’s not my fault I swear. Our story begins when our protagonist Gananatha is held at gunpoint by a mysterious woman, known for now simply as X, who insists that he has stolen and revealed the details of her life through his work. He insists that this is impossible, as his stories are purely works of fiction. Then we cut to a different perspective character, Sirimanna, who is approached with a writing job. The shadowy revolutionary Konstantin asks him to ghost write a story about a violent revolutionary act. How this will manifest a real revolution remains unclear.
Gananatha listens to the mystery woman as she spills her life story. She wanted to be a writer and failed. She wanted to be a revolutionary, but fell into the ranks of fake activists exploiting the suffering of the real proletariat. One day she discovered that the stories in her own journal were appearing in literary magazines under the name of a man who works at a glove factory. Meanwhile Sirimanna calculates that he will need to write around two thousand words an hour all day to complete his latest gig on time, meaning he will need to approach the typing speed of Dawson Preethi. He creates seven characters, Alfa, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta and ponders what sort of psychology each will have. Looking to brush up on his Fukuyama, he visits the local library and accidentally swaps his bag for someone else’s.
“Lankathilaka Sirimanna began to cast a grandiose stare at Konstantin, imbuing his filthy face with a dramatic intellectual aspect and a profound contemplative expression.”
Lady X and Gananatha bond over their Buddhist faith. It turns out they have other ideas in common, as they discuss the nature of science, language, and planes of existence. Our protagonist insists that the work she is concerned about, the story of Walimuni, is fictitious, but a few details jump out at me during this conversation. First, he mentions in passing his friend Konstantin in a rare bit of foreshadowing. Second, the woman accuses him of parricide for astrologically predicting his father’s death. Sirimanna explains how the plot to blow up the Parliament of Tarantinoland will play out, complete with tunneling schedules. Then we are treated to a lengthy conversation between Alfa and Beta in the story within the story.
The argument starts, as all things do, with Hegel. Beta levels some tough questions about Hegel at Alfa, who admits that he has only ever skimmed the relevant works, and indeed it is quite likely that subsequent commentaries and Marxists have only skimmed them as well. Nevertheless, he is confident in his understanding of the text, and I gotta give a little credit to that kind of commitment. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to skim Hegel. This was an era when you just kind of said things, and if they felt thruthy to you, then you moved on to the next thing. And in fine nineteenth century German tradition, everything is written in a parenthetical within a clause within a sentence that is four pages long. After establishing that only betas read, the conversation moves on to revolution versus democratic reform. Point is, these guys are Very Smart, and probably explain to their date at Red Lobster what she should have done in her previous relationships.
“She straightens her armed arm in a straight line.”
It may sound like I’ve covered half the plot, but that’s barely a fifth of the way into the book. There is a whole chapter in which a man referred to exclusively as Ron Champ has a special code red and two cats dressed as people. I think. We get a chart of the various planes of existence and how many dimensions of time each one has (poor Neraya somehow has negative three?). At some point the narrative style shifts to a lecture, abandoning the dueling monologues of the earlier chapters.
I’ve been shielding you so far from Dawson Preethi’s writing style. I can’t say it’s bad, because it’s clearly hitting exactly the tone it’s going for. You know when you go to an art museum, and there’s a giant bronze sculpture of a non-Euclidian horse vagina, and you’re like “Wow, it took someone a long time to make this. They had to plan it, get funding, work hard on its realization. And maybe they ruffled a few feathers in the art world along the way.” And you’re glad that this thing has been added to art history. But then you look left and right at the other people in the room and realize you’re all staring at a horse vagina, and all you can think about it scrubbing this entire experience from your mind. Dawson Preethi is committed to taking forever to make a point and using words in ways I’m pretty sure he invented. Even Hegel would skim this. It got to the point where I started doubting myself and my own understanding of the English language. I would find my finger hovering over my dictionary app, the many voices in my head arguing over whether or not I have gone crazy (the small Frenchman won: I am perfectly sane). Then there are the references. They’re rarely integrated into the narrative, instead being laid over top as in “It was like Alice in Wonderland or Das Kapital.”
But this is a book that you can’t let go; your brain will not give up until it has made some kind of sense of it, like a sudoku that uses flavors instead of numbers. Besides the cliché pseudo-science about the Big Bang, string theory, and repackaged Indian mysticism, and mind-blowing nuggets of teen wisdom like “no living thing tells the truth” and “medical science comes from words,” there is a lot to sink your teeth into here. Preethi is obviously very well read. He is not only fascinated by big philosophical questions, but actually thinks about them and is eager to share what he has discovered. Just when the references get stale he’ll bring up Kung Fu Panda or the Muppet Show, and pull me back in. For four dollars, you can experience this unsolvable puzzle for yourself, and honestly I think some people might enjoy that. Just be prepared to read each sentence about three times to make sure you did it right.
I sat through another one of Madeline’s dumb reviews, so now you do too.Tweet