Monday, November 22, 2021

The Partnership-Dominator Fall

Tank Magazine
published a ~6400-word essay by me on human history. It's titled "Partnership Before Sexism and War.

Referencing Riane Eisler, Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, and others, the essay covers the past million years, with a focus on 12,000 to 6,000 years ago. I argue that mainstream human culture across Eurasia lived in peaceful, class-and-gender egalitarian partnership societies, worshipping nature as a female deity, until around 6,500 years ago, when dominator culture began to gain control through armed invasions, leading to what we have today. 

Near the "worst" end of the spectrum of possibilities for "what we have today": multiple, secret, once-governmental-but-now-only-partly-or-non-governmental, ever-shifting, mob-like groups violently maintaining a monopoly on antigravity, free energy, psychotronics, and other advanced technologies, while, among other illegal activities, using the stock market as a near-unlimited source of money by manipulating it through Earthquakes and other market-affecting disasters—a method described in Covert Wars and Breakaway Civilizations by Joseph P. Farrell.

The topic of my essay—the partnership-dominator fall—was also in my books Trip and Leave Society. But I only included some of my research in those books, since they were also about other things. The first draft of Trip had a ~8,000-word chapter titled "The Goddess" that was deleted and then absorbed in ~2000-word form into the final draft of the chapter "Why Are Psychedelics Illegal?"

References for my essay:

Amaro, Ana Maria. “The Cult of Fertility in the Neolithic Period in China.” Review of Culture. 1997.
Anderson, David C. Hongshan Jade Treasures. 2012.
Bayliss, Alex, et al. "A Bayesian Approach to Dating the Start of Çatalhöyük. Journal of World Prehistory. 2015.
Bertell, Rosalie. Planet Earth: The Latest Weapon of War. 2000.
Bo, Wang. “Lao Zi and the Xia Culture.” Chinese Studies in Philosophy. 1990. 
Carey, Donna. “The Myth of Nu Gua Chinese Snake Goddess.” Oriental Medical Journal. 2013.
Chen, Ellen Marie. “Tao as the Great Mother and the Influence of Motherly Love in the Shaping of Chinese Philosophy.” History of Religions. 1974.
——. Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary. 1998.
——. In Praise of Nothing: An Exploration of Daoist Fundamental Ontology. 2011.
Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. “Matriarchy at the Edge.” Triennial Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association. 2004.
Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. 1987.
——. The Real Wealth of Natures: Creating a Caring Economy. 2007.
——. “Veteran Feminists of America.” 2011.
——. “Breaking out of the Dominator Trance.” 2018.
—— and Douglas P. Fry. Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future. 2019.
Evans, Arthur. Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. 1978.
Hodder, Ian. The Leopard’s Tale: Revealing the Mysteries of Çatalhoyük. 2006.
hooks, bell. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. 1981.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. 1989.
——. “The World of the Goddess.” 1990.
——. “Voice of the Goddess: Marija Gimbutas.” 1991.
——. The Civilization of the Goddess. 1991.
——. The Living Goddesses. 1999.
Jiayin, Min. The Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture. 1995.
Marler, Joan. From the Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas. 1997.
——. “The Life and Work of Marija Gimbutas.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 1996.
Mellaart, James. The Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. 1978.
——. Çatal Huyük: A Neolithic Town In Anatolia. 1967.
Nelson, Sarah Milledge. The Archaeology of Northeast China. 1995.
Roberts, N, et al. “Chronology and stratigraphy of Late Quaternary sediments in the Konya Basin.” Quaternary Science Reviews. 1999.
Watson, Burton. The Complete Works of Zhuangzi. 2013.

Update: I discussed this essay on a podcast and read it in a video.

Thursday, August 19, 2021


I first noticed microfireflies on June 10, 2016, in Washington Square Park. I ended up writing about them in Leave Society, and they're depicted on the cover, though in real life they seem to be colorless or white. Below are all the mentions of them in my book. These passages are in third-person, about a character named Li, but they were written as nonfiction, based on my experiences.

cover by Linda Huang

From page 144:

Supine in Washington Square Park one day, Li saw flitting, ephemeral, glowing dots that seemed not in the air, the sky, his mind, or his eyes. They weren’t the wormy question-mark shapes he suspected were microbes, or the tadpole-like shadows, drifting past in tugs of movement belying their inter-eyeball nearness; the semi-translucent dots seemed to be in every area of empty space but were only visible against sky. They appeared, squiggled rapidly, and vanished, like densely packed fireflies in fast-forward.

Li could see two to four microfireflies, as he termed them, into their world, as if looking into murky water. He saw them focusing five feet above himself, on a cloud, and on nothing. Blowing air at them and waving his hand through them didn’t seem to affect them. He searched “glowing dots in air” and other phrases online but found nothing. He observed them daily in the park. 

Maybe microfireflies were the other-dimensional flickerings of a personal, specieal, or global emergent property. Had humans achieved a sufficient density of interconnection for an overmind to emerge? Individual minds couldn’t exist in the imagination except vaguely and fleetingly, as visitors or observers, but maybe eight billion minds on one planet couldn’t not be volitional and participatory there. 

Maybe an infant overmind, made of minds as animals were made of cells, was self-preservationally downloading partnership ideas into society, in part by sprinkling them over urban parks. 

Page 150:

He fell asleep [supine in Washington Square Park], became a moxic red energy, rising and fast. When he woke, he kept his lids down and saw dark microfireflies, pinpricks of shadow that seemed slower and sparser than when backdropped by sky.

Page 161:

As he walked to a bodega for mineral water, falling snow reminded him of microfireflies. 

Supine in the park the next day, he couldn’t see them at first. After he blurred his vision a little and stopped thinking, translucent, vibrating, meshed hexagons appeared and changed into a teeming layer of curlicuing, light-trailing specks. 

Maybe microfireflies would coalesce into a holographic overlay cognizable into 3D meaning. Already immersed in layered visuals, people would integrate visual language quickly. It could be a transitional ability, something to practice on Earth and take into the imagination.

Page 179:

He walked away and stood in place [on Carp Mountain in Taiwan], flapping for five minutes. He couldn’t see microfireflies, or they weren’t there. The sky seemed empty, lucid, uncharged. 

Maybe the swarming dots of light were an urban phenomenon. One cubic centimeter of urban air contained probably hundreds to millions of molecules of glyphosate, Earth’s most used pesticide, because gasoline, as per the 1990 Clean Air Act, was partly made from glyphosate-filled corn or sugarcane, Li had read. Maybe microfireflies were pesticides, flashing as they got buffeted and interpenetrated by municipal intensities of synthetic electromagnetic radiation—electrosmog—or maybe the overmind was helpfully disassembling toxins into atoms and light.

Page 185:

He lay staring out the window [in his parents' apartment in Taipei], past an elevated train track, at the placid sky, seeing no microfireflies. The clouds seemed feeling-shaped, amorphously morphing.

Page 238:

In late April [2017], after finishing the third, 4.5 percent pruned draft of his book, Li remembered microfireflies. In Washington Square Park, he saw the tiny, lumine orbs, which hadn’t been in Taiwan. Maybe the new property would start in the States, where consciousness had been moiled by decades of larger witting and unwitting doses and mixtures of pesticides, psychedelics, and pharmaceuticals than in any other country. 

Page 295:

Lying on his back [in a park in Taipei], he read a printed draft of Rainbow’s poetry book, which she’d retitled But Did U Die? He underlined “Would u rather be crucified or waterboarded.” He underlined “When I die I will become everything,” put down the paper, and saw microfireflies in Taiwan for the first time. They seemed denser, quicker, and more transient than in New York. 

Maybe the abrupt relocation of metal from the crust to the sky as cities, electronics, militaries, and satellites was visiblizing cosmic rays. Maybe one day the new electromagnetic configuration would chain-reactively destroy everything from the ground to the ionosphere—an instantaneous reset to microbes, plants, insects, subterranean animals, and fish.

Page 342:

[Lying on a beach with Kay in Oahu,] Li saw microfireflies, which he hadn’t thought of yet in Hawaii, and which he hadn’t told anyone about. He described them to Kay, calling them “like tiny tadpoles.” She saw black threads, gray spots, and squiggly shapes that seemed to be in her eyes. Li said he saw those too—question-mark worms and other things—but the dots, which he’d first seen in Washington Square Park in the second half of the Year of Pain, when wonder had flowed as pain ebbed, didn’t seem to be in his eyes. 

Kay saw them. Li said maybe no one could see them unless someone else described them. Kay said Li had seen them. They discussed starting a religion around them. Li would write instructions on how to see them. He’d write what had happened minutes earlier. Gazing at the ocean horizon, he saw the lucent dots for the first time as a static, screen-covering “twinkling,” as Kay was describing them. 

Li said the dots might be the first noticeable evidence of a new emergent property. Maybe the whole solar system, starting with subatomic particles, was immaterializing and would soon vanish in a halved twinkle, then reappear elsewhere and casually perish, like most gametes, or survive to reach millions of dimensions. 

Leaving the beach, Li asked Kay what she’d name the dots. She said “dustwinkling” or “microstars.” Li said he’d called them microfireflies in his notes but liked her names more. “Microstars” reminded him that stars could seem and be minuscule from higher dimensions. “Dustwinkling” sounded calm and friendly.

Out of the 20-40 people I know who've read my book and said things about it to me, only three, I think, have mentioned microfireflies. Sam Pink said he'd seen them since he was a kid, and had only met one other person, in high school, who'd seen them. Tommy Orange and Deb Olin Unferth, during our events, both mentioned them, but didn't say if they'd seen them. I asked Deb if she'd seen them, and she seemed to not have tried. Later, in an email, she said, "I think I saw a microfirefly today. Just one."

Besides my girlfriend, whom the character Kay is based on, and besides Deb, I've only directly asked one other person, I think, about microfireflies. I asked my mom, and she said she'd try to see them, then said, "I have read page 145 for microfireflies many times and go look out of the window to the sky, but all I see is building, is it easier to see in the park or outside with trees and must be very concentrated?"

Three reviews have mentioned them. A Goodreads review said, "I felt happy reading about microfireflies, too, since I think I've seen them as a child, but I've never had any words to describe them, and they've always felt too weird or I've always been too forgetful (since I haven't seen them since I was a childhood) to ever try to write down what they're like." 

Christine Smallwood's review said, "He theorizes that the tiny dots he sees in his field of vision might be proof of an alien overmind settling on Earth." Dean Kissick wrote that he'd tried a "couple times" to see microfireflies, but hadn't seen them, but that one night he saw "a tingling around the leaves on the branches" outside his window. He wrote, "I suspect Lin’s probably just seeing fireflies because of his regular weed and acid consumption, or his long tail of other psychedelic experiences, or the many esoteric practices he details in the book." (An update.)

In a DM on Twitter, someone told me, “I first noticed the microfireflies about 20 years ago. I assume that what we're seeing is the blood flowing in our eyes.” Not counting myself, I see one mention of each when I searching Twitter for microfireflies and dustwinkling. Scott Burton, who interviewed me, said in an email, "I think I also see microfireflies."

A funny thing about microfireflies/dustwinkling is that people who see them can't prove to other people that they see them, and if someone lies that they see them, no one can prove that they're lying. People who don't see them might assume that people who do see them are lying. 

My girlfriend Yuka and I have discussed them for years, and we aren't sure what they are. Have you seen them? What do you think they are? I encourage people to share in the comments section. Thank you for participating in this.

Update: They seem to be "the blue field entoptic phenomenon," caused by the motion of white blood cells in capillaries in front of the retina. Red blood cells—erythrocytes—build up behind white blood cells—leukocytes—because leukocytes (which are larger and rarer than erythrocytes) stretch and slow down when they enter capillaries. The backed-up erythrocytes absorb blue light from the sky or other blue backgrounds, while more light gets through in the space ahead of the leukocytes (where there's a lack of erythrocytes) and also through the leukocytes, so that one sees bright, motioned dots. It's explained more in this paper, which calls leukocytes "water-clear blood cells," this video, and this video.

Backed-up red blood cells block blue light

Seems amazing that we can see the motion of something as tiny as a leukocyte (~1/10th the width of a human hair), and that we can easily discern our leukocyte count, as explained in the first video I linked. 

leukocyte levels (1954 study by Ursula Schmidt-Gross)

I wonder what people throughout history—from before leukocytes were known—have theorized about this phenomenon. I'm open to the possibility that the above isn't the full explanation.

Update 2: Discussed this in a podcast.

Update 3 (October 31): Noticed that when I breathe in and hold my breath, the microfireflies slow down and then mostly disappear. 

Update 4 (December 13): A flaw of the capillary theory seems to be that I see the microfireflies even in the center of my vision. There's no empty area in the center—where there are no capillaries—as would be expected.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"Nothing is as it appears to be. This is not glib."

Leave Society's epigraph—"Nothing is as it appears to be. This is not glib."—is by Kathleen Harrison, whom I wrote about visiting in Trip

It's my first epigraph. It was easy to choose. I didn't consider any other quotes. 

I considered using just "Nothing is as it appears to be" but decided, after consideration, to include "This is not glib" because it seems true and because I feel like some-to-many people will think or feel something like "That seems glib" after reading "Nothing is as it appears to be." Glib means "showing little forethought or preparation" and "lacking depth and substance." 

I like how "This is not glib" allows the epigraph to engage with the reader and to comment on itself. "This is not glib" can also refer to itself—it is not glib to say "This is not glib" about "Nothing is as it appears to be," I feel.

I've noticed two times in Kathleen's work where she says "Nothing is as it appears to be." 

In a 2015 talk, she said, 

Nothing is what it appears to be. Nothing at all is what it appears to be. And I have learned that in my many years not only of taking psychedelics but working with native peoples who seem to understand that much better than our materially oriented cultures do—that “everything is an illusion and everything may change from what it appears to be now to something else at any moment” is kind of a rule to live by.

In an essay in the 2019 anthology Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine, she shared two lessons she'd learned. The first was the Ram Dass quote "Be here now." 

The second helpful tip, a profound tip at that, although harder yet to decipher, is that “Nothing is as it appears to be.” This is not glib. I have learned this truth, not only by examining this concept while on psychedelics but also by living and working with native peoples—peoples whose belief systems have evolved and been sustained for many centuries. These are people who seem to understand and negotiate with the very nature of illusion. These are cultures that have sustained active and continuing animistic beliefs, cultures that practice shamanism and educate their children through stories and hands-on experience with nature. Some of them use psychedelic species of plants or mushrooms, some don’t. They all seem to grasp the reality of illusions much better than our “Western,” materially oriented cultures do. In the deeply grounded awareness that everything is an illusion, one understands that everything may change from what it appears to be now to something else, at any moment. Everything. It’s actually a fine rule to live by. It is one version of the principle of uncertainty.

Kathleen was recently attacked in her home. A GoFundMe was started, and it's still open for donations. Donations will go toward helping her recover and will also give her time and resources to focus on writing. Some of her writing can be read here (on Salvia divinorum) and here (on the Mazatec).

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Books I read in 2020

I read 73 books this year. 31 nonfiction books, 18 novels, 8 poetry collections, 7 story collections, 2 graphic novels, 2 literary magazines, 1 anthology. I read 2 books twice. I read 8 books I'd already read, 9 translations, and 10 unpublished books.


Chilly Scenes of Winter (1976) by Ann Beattie. I read this when I was 20 or 21 and again later in my twenties and a third time this year. It was like I remembered—funny, tender, bleak, vivid. 

Concrete (1982) by Thomas Bernhard. Around 60-70 percent through this, I remembered I'd already it when I was 23 or so. My favorite Bernhard that I've read is Woodcutters.

Childhood's End (1953) by Arthur C. Clarke. I've been thinking about writing a "retelling" of this, which I've read four times now. It's about aliens who arrive on Earth and steward the human species into a higher dimension, which the aliens themselves—who work for a higher-dimensional entity called the Overmind—can't access.

Problems (2016) by Jade Sharma. I liked this a lot. From what I remember, it was about a depressed woman on heroin who, after the end of a relationship, supports herself through sex work while living in an apartment she bought with inheritance money. I want to try using the form of this book—different-length sections with space breaks between them—in something I write. An excerpt:

Mountain Road, Late at Night (2020) by Alan Rossi. This was in four parts, with each part from the perspective of a different character. One character has moved to a rural area in the mountains. One character is on a vow of silence that made me want to go on a vow of silence. In the last part, a character is dying after a car accident, and I cried a little. Sample sentence: 

It was impossible to tell, he thought, what was real and what wasn't, and he thought that his problem was that he thought some moments were real and some weren't, that some moments appeared to be real and some appeared to be a dream that needed to be woken from.

Territory of Light (2019) by Yuko Tsushima

Sachie, A Daughter of Hawai'i (1977) by Patsy Sumie Saiki.

Empathy (1992) by Sarah Schulman.

The Town (2020) by Shaun Prescott. My literary agent, Bill Clegg, sent me this. It's about a town in Australia where holes start appearing for no reason. My favorite scene was in a bar/club where people start fighting and many people fall into a hole and disappear and people seem okay/fine with it. The tone was deadpan and gently comical. 

Vagablonde (2020) by Anna Dorn. This was about a 30-year-old attorney ("The same way kids think they're invisible when they cover their eyes, I assume everyone is inside my brain. Maybe that's why I hate everyone.") who becomes a rapper. It was fast-paced, at times very funny, and had moving scenes with parents and partners. It reminded me a little of my life around 2009-2011. I'm excited for Anna's next book, a memoir titled Bad Lawyer

Sad Janet (2020) by Lucie Britsch. This was about a woman who works at a dog shelter and is surrounded by people on antidepressants and then seemingly starts taking a pill that is like an antidepressant that just works for Christmas. It was originally titled Happy Fucking Christmas Janet, according to a tweet by Lucie. Sample sentence-pair: 

We all spend our lives pushing and pulling in a million directions, until we're too tired to push another inch. Whatever's left is the life we all share.

Something Gross by Big Bruiser Dope Boy. This was an intense, moving novel featuring varied and complex relationships, heavy drug-use, and extremely long text messages. It was told in a concise and wide-ranging and sort of "no-nonsense" manner that wasn't afraid to make jokes or be emotional or say things that would be alienating to certain readers. Events conveyed were both funny and painful. Big Bruiser Dope Boy is looking for a publisher for it I think. I published the second chapter of it here.

Soft Damage by Kristen Iskandrian. I traded my forthcoming novel to Kristen for her novel, which I think doesn't have a publisher yet. It was calming and stimulating and fun to read. It was focused on a character named Nadine, covering her life from ages 12 to 60, set in and around Philadelphia and then in Georgia. Some favorite phrases/lines: "unseemly verging on obscene", "she felt sapped and weird, her day having consisted of nothing at all but feelings", "Nadine rubbed her ear with her shoulder," "What was to stop her from making ten bad decisions in a row, from disappearing?" 

Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi. I traded with Brad too. I think Brad's novel is being submitted now to publishers. It read like nonfiction. The title didn't disappoint. I enjoyed hearing Brad's voice in my mind reading his book as I read his book, which I found funny and very readable but also serious and contemplative. Favorite parts include when the narrator quits Twitter; tells stories about his podcast (talking to Lynne Tillman, Tim O'Brien, others); discusses his kids, including one with a disability; and uses mushrooms in a careful, planned way, staying in one place home alone with covered eyes.

Our Last Year by Alan Rossi. Traded with Alan too. Our Last Year is focused—autobiographically, Alan told me—on the relationship of a married couple with two kids. Like Alan's first novel, it's in four parts. In "Fall," the wife reveals she wants to see other people. In "Winter," she sees another person and feels dissatisfied. In "Spring," the couple see an elder psychotherapist together. In "Summer," they've stopped seeing the psychotherapist and seem to be doing better. Interspersed between paragraphs on the people and their thoughts and feelings are wider-view paragraphs describing nature—the sun flying through the galaxy, a storm crossing a continent, a mountain lion moving around near a ski resort. Characters experience intense doubt and frustration on various time-scales, from seconds to days, yet it was uplifting to read. I felt myself gaining more perspective on my own relationship and life while reading it.

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti. Traded with Sheila too. I think this is coming out in early 2022. It's about a character named Mira whose dad dies. At one point, Mira turns into a leaf, and both she and her dad exist in the leaf. The way Sheila wrote about death, not viewing it as a terrible thing but as a mysterious and unique thing which can have the effect of peacefulness and even joy in the loved ones of the person who has died, was surprising and heartening and also realistic-seeming to me. I felt very moved by the passages on Mira and her dad, and by sentences and passages that gave consolatory views on death, like "She knew that one day, death would find her, in the same way it had found him. But that this was nothing to fear, or feel sad about, for there would be something vaster that would hold you in its arms, something vaster even than your own daughter." I liked the mix of playful, fantastical elements and grief. It seemed like a combination of Sheila's story collection and her book Motherhood.

How I Met Funko Werpy and Saved the World (Sort of) by Liam Temple and Sheila Heti. A zany and imaginative novel that Sheila and her young friend, who is 11 I think, wrote together. It reminded me of Terry Pratchett, who I'd forgotten I'd read a long time ago.

Ketchup by Sam Pink. Traded with Sam too. Enjoyed this a lot. The narrator of Ketchup works at a restaurant/bar called Pop's that is run by Mary and her mom Vicky, who are 66 and 91. Other characters include Mack (a former Marine who talks about starting his own army) and Denny (a forty-something man who works at a gas station and has a sword collection in the trunk of his car). After reading Ketchup, I had lines and ideas from it going through my head in a calming, life-improving (I felt) way, like "Lifeboat policy from here on out," "A cell of something larger," "To commit to the neverending," and "The only escape: straight forward." 


Imaginary Museums (2020) by Nicolette Polek. I reread this while working on my interview with Nicolette. I published earlier drafts of two stories from this here.

Break It Down (1986) by Lydia Davis. Davis's first story-collection, published when she was 38 or 39, is my favorite collection by her. I first read it when I was 20 or so. Favorite stories include "Therapy," "The Fish," and "Five Signs of Disturbance." The first story, "Story," was expanded, it seems, into the novel The End of the Story (1995), which I've also read multiple times.
Like a Champion (2018) by Vincent Chu. Moving, calming, tender stories about relatively meek, calm people. I read this after reading an article where Vincent said he was inspired by Taipei. I published the first story from this here

Cosmogony (2021) by Lucy Ives. I blurbed this: "I recommend Lucy Ives’ inventive collection of complex, deadpan, analytical, interrelated, controlledly wandering stories about divorce, lies, fear, parents, memes, the internet, art, artists, information, and literature." It's coming out in March.

The Dominant Animal (2020) by Kathryn Scanlan. 41 strange, short short stories. My favorites include "Design for a Carpet" and "Mother's Teeth," in which a woman accompanies her mom, who seems to have treated her daughter terribly in the past, to chemotherapy, and which ends: 

But now she is dead and I am rich because everything she owned is mine, which—in my understanding—is the best possible outcome for this story.

Where the Wild Ladies Are (2020) by Aoko Matsuda. Stories inspired by traditional Japanese ghost stories. My favorite was a story in second-person titled "The Jealous Type" that says "The moment you sense something the slightest bit off in your husband's behavior, jealousy takes hold of you," and "Your go-to strategy when seized by the feeling is to throw things," and "When it's all over, you stand there like Moses, a lone figure parting a sea of curtain. Your husband, who is cowering in the corner of the room, looks at you in astonishment."

Her Lesser Work (2021) by Elizabeth Ellen. This is coming out this year from Short Flight/Long Drive. I like Elizabeth's stories a lot. I've previously enjoyed her story-collection Saul Stories, which was focused on an adult hanging out with her teenage daughter's friends. Her Lesser Work is focused more on adults experiencing a variety of relationships with other adults. There seemed to be a theme of divorce, of it being difficult to gain the strength to divorce a husband. My favorite stories include "Signs," "Lucky Woman," which is forthcoming in Harper's, and one titled "The Last Time I Saw My Father" that I'm publishing soon on Muumuu House.


but did you die? by Precious Okoyomon. This is one of the two books that I read twice this year. I think it's coming out soon from Birds, LLC. I blurbed it: "I recommend but did you die?—a dark, deep, weird, emotional, eschatological book of poems on love, death, time, rain, the sky, the sun, bodies, blackness, suffering, leakage, confusion, worlds, souls, dreams, birds, and being stoned that I've read four times."

The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems (2011) by Qu Yuan and Other Poets. I read this while researching Nüwa—the oldest known Chinese deity, creator in Chinese mythology of both the universe and humans—for my novel. She is mentioned briefly, in one poem by Qu Yuan, who was born in 340 BC. The introduction of this book calls Qu Yuan "China's first poet," and notes that "Li Sao" ("On Encountering Trouble"), the first and longest poem in the book, "is the only work that can with certainty be attributed to him." Qu Yuan wrote in a style called, by the author of the introduction, "Plaint-poetry" which had a tone of "slightly subversive disgruntlement." Favorite lines from "Li Sao": 

I will no longer care that no one understands me, 
As long as I can keep the sweet fragrance of my mind. 

beautiful mugwort
There were two unexplained attacks in "Li Sao" against mugwort—which I've enjoyed eating in honey and drying and smoking—that seemed funny to me, including:

Why have all the fragrant flowers of days gone by 
Now all transformed themselves into worthless mugwort?

Raking Leaves (2019) by Joseph Grantham. Concise, playful poems with interesting non sequiturs and a focus on people and daily life. "Pharmacy Poem #7": 

it's hard to write a poem
at the pharmacy
the pharmacist is behind me
and he puts medicines
on the counter
and he can see
over my shoulder

After Denver (2020) by Big Bruiser Dope Boy. I blurbed this: "I highly enjoyed After Denver, a moving and intriguing book about mystery, secrets, writing, and people that made me laugh and think." I nominated this and Vagablonde and Mountain Road, Late At Night for the Rathbones Folio Prize, who emailed me in September asking me to nominate three books.

The Sky Contains the Plans (2020) by Matthew Rohrer. The twelfth book, counting "from The Ideograms," that I've read by Matthew, who got the first lines for each of the 100 poems in it while falling asleep. Read an interview about this here.

Black Glitter (2018) by Bree Jo'ann. Emotional, readable poems with many declarative sentences. Favorite lines: "Poor social skills made me bad at art school." "Loneliness becomes a stagnant legend." "Others are giddy, but I am scientific."

Chainsaw Poems and Other Poems (2020) by Giacomo Pope. Off-kilter, mostly short poems with a focus on chainsaws and emotions. Favorite titles of poems in here include "Feelings of Alienation After the New Year" and "I Am Going to be Incredibly Famous." Enjoyed this poem titled Haiku:

Near the window
a light flashes
and I am very sad

50 Barn Poems (2019) by Zac Smith. I emailed Zac: "I like the strategy of showing someone's verbal reactions to an undescribed scene, making me imagine the scene, and of writing the poem in seemingly real time and having that be the poem, like in the first 3 lines of 18." The first three lines: "barn full of gold bars / why not? // fuck it." Another example of what I described is in Barn Poem 8:

tornado boy's coming 
touch down! touch down!

oh shit oh no
there goes the barn!

look at that
that's insane

holy shit
holy fucking shit 


The Big Bang Never Happened (1991) by Eric J. Lerner. This is the other book I read twice this year. I wrote about it here and reference it in Leave Society. I'll be absorbing this book for many years.

The Twenty-Four Hour Mind (2010) by Rosalind Cartwright. Informative, helpful, optimistic book arguing that sleep is "a built-in physician" and that dreams are "an internal psychotherapist." Cartwright has researched sleep and dreams since the sixties. I reference this in Leave Society. I read it in 2015 and again in January 2020, but I didn't realize I'd already read it in 2015 until months after rereading it, while reading a list of things I'd read in 2015, which to me shows how weak memory can be.

Slugs and Snails (2016) by Robert Cameron.

Sun and Steel (1968) by Yukio Mishima. Jordan Castro recommended this to me. I enjoyed it. It's my first Mishima. He writes about how many intellectuals seem to ignore their bodies. Favorite sentence: 

It is a rather risky matter to discuss a happiness that has no need of words.

The Civilization of the Goddess (1991) by Marija Gimbutas. I reference Gimbutas' work in Leave Society. She was an archaeologist and professor at Harvard and UCLA who argued that, in the earliest human religion, going back before Homo sapiens to the Acheulean culture of Homo erectus, people worshipped nature in the form of a supreme female deity, which she called the Goddess. “It is a gross misunderstanding to imagine warfare as endemic to the human condition," she wrote in The Civilization of the Goddess, whose title refers to Old Europe—a culture, existing in southeast Europe from 8,500 to 5,500 years ago, that she uncovered and, in 1968, named.

Hawaiian Reptiles and Amphibians (1978) by Sean McKeown.

Dreamland (2019) by Bob Lazar. Lazar writes about being hired by a secret government program to reverse-engineer alien technology. Dreamland seemed highly believable to me due to the complexity of Lazar's psychology and the seeming lack of agenda except to share what happened to him. His experience aligns with other books I read in 2020 on aliens, secret programs, and UFOs—books mentioned later in this post.

The Hutchison File (1996) by The Planetary Association For Clean Energy. A brief book collecting writings on and by John Hutchison, the electromagnetic radiation expert who discovered the Hutchison Effect. Available as PDF here. Mainstream sources, like Wikipedia, view Hutchison as a fraud, which to me and many other people seems inaccurate. I first heard of him from Judy Wood, author of Where Did the Towers Go? (2010), which I wrote about here. Here is an excerpt of Leave Society that references Hutchison:

Starlight, Starbright: Are Stars Conscious? (2015) by Greg Matloff and C Bangs. This was informative—the sun is around halfway through its life expectancy of 10 billion years; the sun and most nearby stars "circle the galaxy's center at about 220 kilometers per second and require about 225 million years to complete one galactic revolution—but it was informed by the mainstream view of the sun as a thermonuclear fusion reactor. According to Electric Universe theory, which I encountered this year and now seems more compelling to me, the sun is "fundamentally electric in nature." 

Why We Sleep (2017) by Matthew Walker. Empowering and compelling book on the importance of sleep. People are sleeping less now than ever, and it's making them function much less well, leading to car accidents, ruined relationships, surgical mistakes, errors generally in life, and other undesirable outcomes. Get this info in podcast form here.

Atom, Man, and the Universe (1969) by Hannes Alfvén. Alfvén is referenced in The Big Bang Never Happened as the most known proponent of "plasma cosmology," also known as Electric Universe theory, which says that the Big Bang theory is wrong, dark matter and dark energy can't be found because they don't exist, black holes also don't exist, and the structure of the universe is mostly determined not by gravity but by electromagnetic forces, which mainstream cosmologists have so far ignored and/or not looked into. This book isn't about that. It's about, among other things, emergence—how, for example, in atoms and other multipart objects, "A combination of simple component parts has produced a new part with innumerable new properties."

Hagakure: The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai (2014) by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. This was zany sometimes due to how extreme samurai seemed to have been in terms of their view of their jobs—working for their bosses or "lords"—and their view of death. An example of this zaniness is a part that discusses how five samurai were ordered to kill themselves due to disobedience. An elder of the clan told the lord, "Please pardon these men," which angered the lord, who asked why he should pardon the men. The elder replied, "There is no reason." The lord "chided him for insolently making such a request for 'no reason,'" and the elder retreated. The elder then repeated the process six times. Finally, the lord said, "With no plausible reason, you insist on making this supplication seven times. Because of your persistence, I somehow feel obliged to grant your request." The author of Hagakure, a samurai born in 1659, wrote, "I have witnessed many such incidents."

The Tao of Zen (1994) by Ray Grigg. Alan Rossi recommended this to me after reading a tweet I made and deleted that compared Buddhism and Daoism. It's about how Zen Buddhism and Taoism seem to be the same thing, which I found convincing. Its first sentence is "Zen is Taoism disguised as Buddhism." It had this traditional Zen story in it that moved me:

A young monk who was respected and loved in the monastery died suddenly. At the funeral the roshi was crying with the other mourners. One of the disciples saw the roshi's grief and asked, "But master, why are you crying? We thought you understood?" 

"Yes, yes," said the roshi impatiently, as if his meditation were being interrupted. "I do, I do. But when else do I get a chance to cry."

Games Zen Masters Play (1976) by R.H. Blyth. This was quoted in The Tao of Zen. I liked the introduction the most, which said, "Zen teaches, not by words, but by direct pointing, by engaging us in a game or contest with ourselves in which the only answer is a new level of consciousness." The rest of the book, which was in part supposed to do what that quote said, seemed underwhelming. There were lines I liked though, like "Zen means doing ordinary things willingly and cheerfully."

The Sacred Depths of Nature (2000) by Ursula Goodenough.

Lieh-Tzu (1995) translated by Eva Wong. According to Wong, Lieh-Tzu is one of the three main Daoist texts (the other two are Zhuangzi and Daodejing). Instead of doing "a straight translation of the semantics of the text," she retold it as if Lieh-Tzu were alive and wrote in English.

$2.295 million pig-dragon
Hongshan Jade Treasures (2012) by David C. Anderson. Hongshan was the most advanced culture of the Chinese Neolithic, according to current knowledge. Archaeologist Guo Dashun, who excavated Niuheliang, the most known Hongshan site, called Hongshan “the dawn of Chinese civilization.” Hongshan existed from 6,700 to 4,900 years ago in an Arizona-sized area west of North Korea. Hongshanners lived in river valleys, grew millet, raised pigs, worshipped female deities, and carved art from nephrite jade, including owls, cicadas, silkworms, turtles, clouds, cat-headed falcons, and pig-dragons. 

David C. Anderson's book seems to be the only book in English that is entirely focused on Hongshan. David seems to know more about Hongshan jade art than anyone else. According to his book, Hongshan and other Neolithic sites get looted by grave robbers long before official excavators, like Guo Dashun, get there and find the pieces that the robbers left. The looted pieces end up in markets or on eBay for very cheap. In the official world, the looted pieces are viewed as forgeries; only the ones found by official archaeologists—the scraps left by the robbers—are viewed as real. A pig-dragon sold for $2.295 million recently, while the so-called forgeries cost only tens to hundreds of dollars. Museums don't recognize the "forgeries," and most-to-all researchers also don't acknowledge the "forgeries" (which outnumber the "real" pieces by a lot) in their study of the Hongshan.

When I ordered Hongshan Jade Treasures from David, he also sent me his autobiography, which has a chapter in which he goes to China and meets Guo Dashun, who calls the pieces that David got in markets and on eBay "fake," but didn't seem to have a convincing argument for why. I recommend watching a lecture by David on Hongshan here or reading about his book here.

Taoist Teachings: The Book Of Lieh Tzu (1912) translated by Lionel Giles. From the introduction: "Condensed into a single phrase, the injunction of Lao Tzu"—author of the Daodejing—"to mankind is, 'Follow Nature.'" From the text: 

The ancients spoke of the dead as kuei-jên (men who have returned). But if the dead are men who have returned, the living are men on a journey. Those who are on a journey and think not of returning have cut themselves off from their home.

Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami (2020) by David Karashima. Detailed, investigative book on the editors and translators and other people who helped Haruki Murakami become famous in the U.S. I read 5-7 Murakami books from ages 17-22.

Cold Times (2017) by Anita Bailey. Bailey thinks there will be a "mini ice age" soon. She recommends preparing by living between 30 degrees latitude north and 30 degrees latitude south, having 5 acres of land per person, learning to grow food and raise animals, and becoming skilled in using a gun.

Breath (2020) by James Nestor. Revelatory book on breathing. After reading Breath, I started taping my mouth shut before going to sleep—a strategy I'd previously encountered in 2017 in Breathe to Heal, which I also found revelatory. From Breath, I learned of "mewing"—a technique popularized by Mike Mew in which one pushes one's tongue on the roof of one's mouth so that the upper jaw is gradually widened to a more natural size, giving one a larger airway, among other benefits. Mike Mew's dad, John Mew, is the founder of orthotropics, an evolution-informed alternative to orthodontics in which, instead of extracting teeth and destructively prising the rest into alignment in undersized jaws, the jaw is expanded toward its undegenerate, aborignal size.

The Sirius Mystery (1998) by Robert Temple. Citing anthropological work from the 1930s to the 1960s, among other sources, Temple argues that aliens from Sirius—the brightest star from Earth—visited the Dogon tribe of Mali in West Africa 5000 years ago, and that the visit is preserved in Dogon myths. Evidence for this includes that the Dogon seem to have known that Sirius was a binary system, even though the other star is not visible to the naked eye. Temple argues that the Dogon seeded the Ancient Egyptian civilization, who, like the Dogon, believe that one goes to Sirius when one dies. In the 1998 edition of The Sirius Mystery, Temple writes that after his book was published in 1976, he was targeted by CIA, NASA, and other government agencies. An example of this:

[A NASA employee's] activities were revealed to me by Arthur [C.] Clarke who telephoned me from Sri Lanka telling me that the man, whom he did not previously know, had contacted him in order to criticize me very stridently. Arthur said he thought I ought to know this because he had the impression that the man was contacting quite a lot of other people in the same way, one of whom was Isaac Asimov (whom I knew only slightly). He believed there were half a dozen other people "of equal importance and stature" to whom this man was maligning me.

The Secret of Scent (2006) by Luca Turin.

Prehistory Decoded (2019) by Martin Sweatman. This book builds on work by various other people, including Graham Hancock, who argue that two major cataclysms 12,800 and 11,600 years ago destroyed one or more advanced civilizations. The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, which seems widely accepted by this point, resolves, among other mysteries, the extinction of thirty-some New World megafauna around 12,000 years ago, including saber-toothed tigers, giant sloths, and giant beavers—extinctions which have previously been blamed, egregiously and typically, on aborigines.

Hidden Truth, Forbidden Knowledge (2006) by Steven Greer. Amazing book by the founder of The Disclosure Project. I wrote about this here. Sample passage:

There is so much spy-versus-spy going on within the Shadow Government, and there are so many factions, and shifting alliances: It's an extremely dynamic situation. People have a tendency to view this covert control group as monolithic and fixed, but it isn't. It's very dynamic, even fractured.

Regenerate (2020) by Sayer Ji. Informative and empowering and fascinating book on natural health by the founder of GreenMedinfo. Has interesting info on how mitochondria are overunity systems, producing more energy than they consume. Discusses evolutionary mismatch—"the collective deficiency of ancestral influences in the modern, industrialized landscape," including "reduced opportunities for privacy and solitude," "decreased tactile contact with a variety of natural vegetation," and "reduced exposure to birdsong, daylight, and phytoncides."

Ancient Aliens and JFK (2018) by Mike Bara. Bara theorizes JFK was assassinated not just because he was "about to reveal to the public that aliens were visiting the Earth," and not just because he was "trying to bypass the Federal Reserve banking system," but also—and mainly—because he'd convinced Soviet Russia to jointly go to the moon, where he anticipated, based on classified information he'd gotten from James Forrestal, finding alien technology which he could then reverse-engineer. JFK was "murdered to keep the good guys in the legitimate government from getting the same advanced and alien technology that the Deep State secret government already had," wrote Bara. This aligns with what else I've read on this topic from Greer and others.

How to Do Nothing (2019) by Jenny Odell.

Acknowledged: A Perspective on the Matters of UFOs, Aliens and Crop Circles (2019) by Andrew Johnson. This is the seventh book by Andrew Johnson that I've read. I recommend all his books. I reviewed the sixth here. In Acknowledged, Johnson shares his research on a wide range of stories relevant to the subtitle. He argues that Steven Greer is not all that he seems to be:

What a shame that so many people follow Greer and think that what he says is all true—when only some of it is, and the rest of what he says is deceptive or misleading—in a way which has been carefully planned by the very interests he is claiming to expose. That is to say, that what he says about the Military-Industrial Complex is true and what he says about contacting "good ET's" is also true. [...] However, what he (and many others) aren't telling the truth about is that some of the aliens are working with some humans to deceive us and keep us in a state of general fear and ignorance, so that they can maintain both physical and spiritual power over us. 

Schoolyard UFO Encounters: 100 True Accounts (2019) by Preston Dennett. I bought this after reading online about the 1994 UFO/alien encounter at an elementary school in Ruwa, Zimbabwe (which I've heard is covered in the documentary The Phenomenon that I haven't seen yet). Citing newspapers articles and firsthand accounts, Dennett shares 100+ stories of UFO encounters in and around schools, most of which occurred at elementary schools. 

While reading this, I realized how difficult it is for aliens to interact with humans because (1) humans seem generally terrified of aliens (2) humans are busy with their own lives (3) various parts of various militaries, as well as various governmental agencies, arrive almost immediately after any encounter, chasing away and/or attacking the aliens while also preventing civilians from interacting with, or even discussing, the aliens. Dennett theorizes this difficulty is partly why so many aliens visit schools—kids, especially young kids, are the least likely to be scared by aliens and are often instead curious and excited or at least receptive and able to have interactions. 

The Phoenix Protocol (2020) by August Dunning. A book promoting dry fasting. Discusses the Hayflick Limit ("that a normal cell can only divide 40 to 60 times"), deuterium, and muse cells.


Qualification (2019) by David Heatley. Autobiography about getting addicted to 12-step programs. I "tore through" this, and cried at one point. Heatley continually struggles with various problems, and his relationship with his wife suffers, but he reaches a better place by the end of this book.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (2020) by Adrian Tomine. Autobiography about embarrassing events in Tomine's career, written as a chronological series of short stories. 


Pets (2020) edited by Jordan Castro. I blogged about this here.


Logue [yellow] (2019) edited by David Fishkind. I have a poem in this. I think copies are available here. My favorite pieces from this include Zoe Dubno's "Gymnopédies," David Fishkind's "A note on the text," and Nicolette Polek's "Summer Notebook," which I republished here.

NOON (2020) edited by Diane Williams. I had a story in this that was an excerpt of Leave Society. My favorite piece from this was Clancy Martin's "I Feel Like My Own Life Would Be Better and All of Their Lives Would Also Be Better," about his wife and kids. 

NOON (2021) edited by Diane Williams. My favorite piece from this was a novel excerpt by Zach Davidson. Also contains excerpts of Lydia Davis' journal from March 1999 to August 2000. An excerpt of her excerpts:

To write another novel, called "The End of the Sotry." "The End of the Sotry" by Lydia Davis.


I read an above-average number of books this year, in terms of the past six years, during which I've read an average of 62 books/year—70 in 2019, 66 in 2018, 84 in 2017, 48 in 2016, 60 in 2015, 44 in 2014. The books I've read since 2014 can be viewed here

This post is ~5,600 words. The last time I wrote about all the books I read was five years ago. It was ~17,000 words and can be read here.

It seems like one can read relatively very little in one life. This makes me feel like a single person can barely figure anything out. There are probably book-writing lifeforms on other planets that live 1000 or 2000 years and can process language faster than humans and can read 200-300 books/year.