Tuesday, May 16, 2006



Picture actually shows the back cover rather than the front cover.

Above is the back cover of my latest book, a collection of various pieces with the title THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD.

The table of contents is given below.

The book was uploaded on Sunday 14 May 2006, is immediately available for purchase via lulu.com/hughcook, and, all going to plan, will be available via amazon.com within the next two months.

What is this book?

This is a book designed to be dipped into at random rather than read as a coherent unit. It is an eclectic collection of writings with no organizing principle, a random sampler of a mind at play. Poems, stories, blog entries, journal excerpts, essays and experiences. A randomized mish-mash designed to be dipped into rather than read as a unit. The plan for building this book was very simple: if I've got it, let's throw it in.

Table of Contents

Page 20 — Part One — ISLAM
Page 43 — Part Two — CANCER BLOG
Page 207 — Part Three — HOW TO WRITE
Page 259 — Part Four — STORIES
Page 312 — Part Five — POEMS
Page 353 — Part Six — DEATH POEMS
Page 383 — Part Seven —.WRAPPING UP MY LIFE

Item by Item

Page 20 — ISLAM. Part One of this Hugh Cook reader. While this is billed as a book for dipping into at random, the pieces are thematically grouped, and the theme of the first section is , broadly speaking, Islam.
Page 21 — Item One — THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD. Cam we have a war between cultures, please? And could we have it right now? You go get the guns, I'll start hunting around for the ammunition. First published online February 2006. Note that any item listed as first published online first appeared when posted on the site zenvirus.com.
Page 24 — Item Two — WAR BETWEEN RELIGIONS. Wasn't that why we had the Middle Ages, so we could get this stuff out of our system?
Page 29 — Item Three — HUGH MEETS MOHAMMAD. This Islamic hospitality you may have heard about? Okay, this was my experience.
Page 33 — Item Four — WAR OF CHOICE. George W. Bush exercises his free will and opts for an entirely unnecessary war. From time to time, from certain quarters, the chant of "Death to America!" is heard. The average American has, it seems, absolutely no thesis as to why this should be so.
Page 35 — Item Five — JIHAD. So what is this "jihad" business? An Islamic correspondent puts me in the picture. The context, of course, is that it was not the jihadists who started the war in Iraq but the Crusaders.
Page 38 — Item Six — WAR CRIMINAL NATIONS. British and American war crimes in Iraq: the use of radiation weapons against the civilian population. Technically, the civilians are not the target; in practice, they are the victims. A brief introduction to uranium weapons. The victors will, of course, write the history on this one. There will be no justice on this issue anywhere on planet Earth but, in a fair court — one imagines one run by space aliens — both the United Kingdom and the United States would stand condemned as war criminal nations.
Page 43 — CANCER BLOG. Part two of this Hugh Cook reader is a series of blog entries starting in January 2006 which, for the most part, relate to my brain cancer, first looking back at neurosurgery then confronting the possibility that the cancer may have returned. Daily life and non-cancerous things such as Edward Lear and my print-on-demand program also get touched on, in the unstructured manner of blogging.
Page 44 — Item Seven — MOCKING THE DEAD. Children at a primary school (that is, an elementary school) in New Zealand are taught to mock the desecrated bodies of the dead. Nobody seems to question the appropriacy of this behavior, presumably because the culture which is being mocked is currently in no position to throw bombs.
Page 47 — Item Eight — NEUROSURGERY DETAILS. Brain cancer has arrived so it is goodbye to politics, goodbye to war, goodbye to the fate of the whale and the future of the world. The self closes down, the wider world vaporizing, replaces by the narrow arena of brain cancer and its complications. One's personal death, possibly right on the doorstep, outweighing the deaths of the many millions. Here, insights into what happened to me when I was under the knife: the details of my neurosurgery.
Page 51 — Item Nine — DOOR TO AN ALTERNATIVE REALITY. There exists (this is my thesis) a door that I can step through to access an alternative reality. In this alternative reality, I am no longer the cancer patient. Instead, I am a married man with wife and daughter, living in a house in a tolerably prosperous city, going off to work in the morning and pursing my career. I have no idea whatsoever that this is the stuff of dreams and fiction. For me, the door is real, and so, too, is the promised world which lies just beyond it.
Page 57 — Item Ten — THE CANCELLATION OF MY LIFE. My life, the life I had planned for myself, has been canceled. On a temporary basis, perhaps. Or perhaps forever.
Page 62 — Item Eleven — A JUNKIE AGAIN. Back on my familiar drug, dexamethasone.
Page 69 — Item Twelve — THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING CANCER. So what is the immediate impact of this disease which is possibly back again? (Possibly, possibly not.)
Page 77 — Item Thirteen — FLYING HIGH ON DRUGS. The first lyrical honeymoon days of a good drug trip. Yes, this is not your quick ten-minute hike outside the boundaries of reality. This is a trip which is running for days.
Page 87 — Item Fourteen — UNDER SURVEILLANCE. Yeah, and everyone knows that I'm doing these drugs, and they're watching. Watching for my mental lapses, too.
Page 96 — Item Fifteen — BETRAYING MY DAUGHTER. My feeling is that, in large measure, my circumstances are out of my control. Even so, I feel bad about betraying my daughter.
Page 104 — Item Sixteen — HOLDING PATTERN. The system will deliver a diagnosis in its own good time. In the meantime, my life is in a holding pattern.
Page 111 — Item Seventeen — TWO SCRIPTS: LIFE OR DEATH. Two scripts have been prepared for the movie of my life, one a kind of family comedy, the other a black-and-white movie about death and dying. I have no idea, at this stage, which script I am going to be handed. Whichever script I get, it gets played out for real in real time.
Page 117 — Item Eighteen — QUESTIONS ABOUT MY DEATH. Premature, because I don't yet know that I am dying. However, I have a window of opportunity, and questions I want to discuss, including, if it comes to that, the mechanism of my death.
Page 121 — Item Nineteen — SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE DEATH. If the cancer has returned, it seems that there is just one drug on planet Earth which may (possibly, perhaps) be the answer. An introduction to the pharmaceutical industry and its marketing strategies: life is a beach.
Page 123 — Item Twenty — INFORMED CONSENT PROCEDURES ARE BROKEN. Why informed consent procedures are broken. What is broken, why it is broken, how it could be fixed, why it will not be fixed.
Page 133 — Item Twenty-One — INFORMED CONSENT PROCEDURE FOR DEATH. And now let's take a look at an actual informed consent procedure ...
Page 135 — Item Twenty-Two — BRAIN DAMAGE. As the brain cancer patient I have suffered brain damage from the cancer itself, from chemotherapy and from radiation therapy. The state of play, as far as I can make it.
Page 142 — Item Twenty-Three — MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING SCAN. What it is like to be slid into the tunnel of the big magnet. This is as near as I can get to the experience: you lie flat for however long it takes (in my case about thirty minutes) and listen to the weirdest electronic music in the world.
Page 146 — Item Twenty-Four — SPECIAL LANGUAGE FOR TALKING TO BABIES. Meantime, life moves forward. An alphabet book by Edward Lear, A WAS ONCE AND APPLE PIE, is encountered and reviewed.
Page 149 — Item Twenty-Five — ME AND RAY BRADBURY. Nominally the cancer patient, I am, in practice, in Total Writer mode, at least for the moment. Working, right now, on preparing a book for publication. As I do so, a story keeps coming back to me, a story by Ray Bradbury, the American science fiction writer who is the author of, amongst other works, FAHRENHEIT 451. This piece deals with the emotions of craftsmanship, of being the builder, the maker, of creating and sustaining a world.
Page 153 — Item Twenty-Six — THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER. I, the author of this book, become the publisher of its second edition. A blurb of the book plus some final words. May be a little early for final words, but it does not hurt to have them on the record.
Page 157 — Item Twenty-Seven — THE SUCCUBUS AND OTHER STORIES. And, in February 2006, I publish another boo, this one a fairly solid short story collection, THE SUCCUBUS AND OTHER STORIES, over 600 pages of SF, fantasy, horror, weirdness and strangeness. The TABLE OF CONTENTS is given, showing an item-by-item breakdown of the book.
Page 168 — Item Twenty-Eight — HARRIET'S ARMPIT. And here, to give a sample of the flavor of THE SUCCUBUS AND OTHER STORIES, is one of the items from the collection.
Page 174 — Item Twenty-Nine — MRI RESULT IS READY. But I get it not now but in a week. My crisis, if I can call it that, moves at the speed of global warming.
Page 175 — Item Thirty — WEST OF HEAVEN. Meantime, the productivity machine grinds on. Having published the three books in the OCEANS OF LIGHT trilogy, I supply to the world a front cover of the first book in the trilogy, WEST OF HEAVEN, plus a blurb for the same book.
Page 193 — Item Thirty-Two — MY FUTURE REVEALED: LIVE WITH EYE DAMAGE OR DIE OF CANCER. The answer is whatever the answer is. One way or another, today I am going to get closure. Right?
Page 200 — Item Thirty-Three — THE SAGA OF MY ILLNESS. How things worked out for me on the medical front during the days in which this book was under construction.
Page 207 — HOW TO WRITE. Part Three of this Hugh Cook reader. A selection of pieces constituting a concise guide to writing fiction, with special emphasis on the plot, and with a fairly elaborate look at the editing and proofreading as carried out on the final draft of the novel TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER. What I know about writing and can usefully communicate on the subject is compressed into this fairly compact section. There is, please note, a traditional recipe for learning how to write, and it goes like this: write a million words and throw them away.
Page 208 — Item Thirty-Four. A FICTION TEMPLATE. Simple instructions for constructing a plot. A recipe, like a recipe for baking cookies. Some assembly required. Life experience is helpful: getting married, working on fishing trawlers, going to war, joining an organized crime gang, entering politics, living in a cardboard box for a couple of years, whatever. That said, this lean passage pretty much communicates what is teachable regarding plot construction. Read it and believe it. An expert writes.
Page 219 — Item Thirty-Five — BOY HAS ALREADY MET GIRL. A simple solution to handling the boy meets girl business.
Page 221 — Item Thirty-Six — PRACTICAL WRITING MECHANICS. Work habits, keeping track of work done, plot and promise. how many characters should there be? Managing transitions. Being satisfied with a simple straightforward workable sentence.
Page 230 — Item Thirty-Seven — THE PLANET OR THE SHOE. A set of writing exercise. If you have total facility then you will learn nothing from this. If some things turn out to be easier than others then you may be able to extract a lesson from the experiment. If you cannot, then you cannot: the experiment is offered, but is not explained. Hint: to the extent that there is a message, the message can be extracted from the title, “The Planet or the Shoe”.
Page 234 — Item Thirty-Eight — PROOFREADING AND EDITING. A long and deeply serious look at proofreading and editing, over seven thousand words going into details of how to hunt for typos, how to edit so things make sense and how to tweak the text for style. Warning: your sense of good style is, ultimately, your own, and my stylistic notions may not be yours.
Page 259 — Part Four — STORIES. Some fiction stories.
Page 260 — Item Thirty-Nine — GLORIA GETS MONEY. Gloria gets a very simple grant of powers.
Page 262 — Item Forty — HILDA SELLS HER BODY.
Page 263 — Item Forty-One — IMELDA BRINGS HAPPINESS.
Page 265 — Item Forty-Two — JANE RECYCLES EVERYTHING.
Page 266 — Item Forty-Three — KYLIE WINS COMPETITIONS.
Page 267 — Item Forty-Four — GALADRIEL SMITH AND THE MASSACRE OF THE ORCS. First published in LEGEND in 2000. 3,835 words. Fantasy.
Page 280 — Item Forty-Five — UPGRADE. Science fiction story , 9,173 words.
Page 312 — Part Five — POEMS. Assorted poems, otherwise uncollected.
Page 313 — Item Forty-Six — STILL LIFE. First published in CRACCUM in 1978.
Page 314 — Item Forty-Seven — CONSTIPATION. First published online 2006
Page 316 — Item Forty-Eight — TROY. The opening of a projected epic about the Trojan War. First published 1986.
Page 345 — Item Forty-Nine — CICADA SUN. A high school poem written under the influence of THE WASTELAND. First published in the New Zealand literary journal LANDFALL in 1976.
Page 353 — Part Six — DEATH POEMS. A selection of poems about death and dying, originally intended to be the core of a book of death poems, to be called THE DEATH OF BIRDS. Two additional poems were written for this series, item the poem, SADDAM IS GUILTY which is part of item thirteen, FLYING HIGH ON DRUGS, and item twenty-one, INFORMED CONSENT PROCEDURE FOR DEATH.
Page 354 — Item Fifty — BEING DEAD. A breakdown of the basic deal. Maybe you were misinformed.
Page 355 — Item Fifty-One — THE DEATH OF BIRDS. Never read their obituaries, but birds do die. This is a look at the process.
Page 356 — Item Fifty-Two — THE CHEATED DAUGHTER. A father betrays his daughter. He has his reasons, of course. Men always do. Naturally, there is another woman involved. A number of other women, in fact.
Page 358 — Item Fifty-Three — RECIDIVISM. As a deterrent, the death penalty fails.
Page 360 — Item Fifty-Four — NINE MONTH PARACHUTE DROP. And what if the sentence is to be death, death guaranteed, no treatment on offer? I need a script for this, and, really, I need it now. So I can prepare for my death sentence. If that is what, in fact, is coming down the pipeline.
Page 361 — Item Fifty-Five — THE HAPPY PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES. Meantime, the world rolls on as usual, with the standard tragedies within it.
Page 362 — Item Fifty-Six — DYING WE CAN DO TOMORROW. Not if you are in the middle of a heart attack, obviously. Then your death becomes immediate. But one of the privileges of cancer is leisure. Time to sit around and drink red wine and eat chocolate. This, then, is a live life now poem, a seize the day poem.
Page 363 — Item Fifty-Seven — RED HOT TEARS.. And there are moments ...
Page 364 — Item Fifty-Eight — WALKING AROUND MY CITY. The familiar experienced as defamiliarization.
Page 365 — Item Fifty-Nine — ICE CREAM BRAIN. A brain damage poem. If not death, then a siege, and ice cream city, quite possibly, no match at all for the besieging sun. The radiation has already made its impact. The enemy is already within the gate.
Page 366 — Item Sixty — THE BIG DOOR. Annihilation conceptualized: death as a big door.
Page 367 — Item Sixty-One — ON HIS BLINDNESS. Visually impaired and, quite possibly, destined to go blind within the year. Blindness, if blindness, as a prelude to death.
Page 369 — Item Sixty-Two — MYTHOLOGIES. A product not, as far as I've noticed, to be found on the supermarket shelves.
Page 370 — Item Sixty-Three — THE EGOTIST DYING. The self-obsession of a dying man: death conceived of as an act of selfishness.
Page 371 — Item Sixty-Four — BLIND MEN CAN STILL EAT MARZIPAN. All is not lost.
Page 372 — Item Sixty-Five — KITES. Nostalgia, sorrow, loss.
Page 373 — Item Sixty-Six — IN THE LAND OF BIG BROCCOLI. In the land of big broccoli, in New Zealand, far from the winter in Japan, there is, amongst other things, broccoli.
Page 375 — Item Sixty-Seven — THE ACTIVE CHILD. Someone's daughter, not yet quite two years of age. Miss Energy Bundle, Miss Total Personality, death refuted by the instant.
Page 377 — Item Sixty-Eight — PROGERIA. Accelerated aging, a problem which is not ours. But there is a problem, my love.
Page 379 — Item Sixty-Nine — CORNFLAKES. The routine demands, and must be catered for.
Page 380 — Item Seventy — THIS WAR IN IRAQ. And all this other stuff, history, public events, the ongoing life of the world, given and to come, the future and the past — what exactly is that to me, right now?
Page 381 — Item Seventy-One — MY CONCEPTUAL SIEVE. Before death, dissolution. Working with a partial brain.
Page 383 — Part Seven — WRAPPING UP MY LIFE. A few tag ends wrapping up some of the broken pieces at the end of my life.
Page 384 — Item Seventy-Two — RETURN TO JAPAN. After having cancer and having advanced well down the path to total blindness, I return to Japan, having departed in December 2004 for what had been planned as a short holiday, and finally getting on a plane back to Japan in April 2006.
Page 387 — Item Seventy-Three — REMEMBERING AND FORGETTING. Returning to Japan after a long absence, I explore the archeology of my life.
Page 389 — Item Seventy-Four — MEDICAL TREATMENT JAPAN. My medical issues are addressed swiftly and professionally in Japan.
Page 391 — Item Seventy-Five — SURVIVING JAPAN. Easy enough to do.


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