August 10, 2004

Indelicately titled "Books that will induce a mindf**k" (idea). Sad to say, I haven't read the vast majority of them. Any titles or authors you would add? Any titles listed you particularly recommend? Any you disagree with?
  • Most of the ones on there that I have read were ones I read as part of a class, like Lord of the Flies. Glad to see Catch-22 was included.
  • HUZZAH: Go read Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress. It's like being yanked by the neck for 100 pages. Most offsetting book I've ever read. Also read his Peace on Earth and Solaris. SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED: The Planiverse by AK Dewdney. It's just been re-released. Go read. Now. Understanding higher dimensions via a 2D world. I'd say Heck No to "Foucault's Pendulum;" but to be honest, I gave up after wading through 150 pages of the history of the Masons. I just didn't care that much.
  • I would add "The Screwtape Letters" to the CS Lewis list, definitely, along with "The Dragons of Eden" with the Sagan's and "Mother Night" amongst the Vonneguts. And I think to only include Hamlet in the Shakespeare list is a sop to popularity (like, it was the only Shakespeare work he could think of off the top of his head); Titus Andronicus and Midsummer Night's Dream are both more deserving of inclusion (the rigid nightmarish violence and treachery of the former, the fantastic elements of the latter), and I might be tempted to add Othello and Merchant of Venice (both early workings on the themes of race and betrayal). The Shakespearean canon is like that :) Iain Banks' Culture novels deserve honorable ention, at least. And that horrible, meandering brick Infinite Jest? Every page should be stamped "I Am The Product Of A Graduate School Creative Writing Seminar." The only mindfuck I got off it was the sad realization that I'd bought a $18.95 doorstop.
  • And *nothing* from Norman Spinrad?? "The Captain's Tale" ought be there. This thread will go on forever, I predict.
  • That's "The Void Captain's Tale." Whups.
  • here's one along those lines i keep meaning to read. when it first came out everyone was talking about it... Chin Music, a novel by James McManus. [1985.] 199p. Raymond Zajak, star pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, is in the hospital recovering from a head injury when missiles are launched that mark the nuclear destruction of the city and the beginning of World War III. As Chicago goes mad with panic, Zajak awakens from his coma and wanders into the streets on his way home, although home is only a vague concept in his muddled brain. Wandering into the Loop Area of Chicago, where panic has precipitated looting, murder, rape, and destruction, Zajak is guided by a personal Guardian Angel who sees him safely home to wife and son, who have themselves had to deal with crisis. Classic references are interspersed with 1980s pop culture and baseball lingo in a stream of consciousness novel that is true to its locale, but shows the city in less-than-perfect light.
  • McManus is good. I read "Positively Fifth Street" not long ago, about his playing in the World Series of Poker. Both insightful and entertaining.
  • I'd add Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test". Otherwise the list is cool (what I've read of it, anyway).
  • so many things...too many books to comment on but Nice to see at least a smattering of international books on the list. Curious about how "mindfuck" is defined; I mean, Andy Rooney? Or am I selling him short? A question: does the mind-fuck-ness lessen, or is it discounted, based on biographical information about the author (I have trouble with Orson Scott Card, e.g.; others have the same problem knowing about Lewis Caroll or Carlos Castenada) And I agree with Fez on Shakespeare, except for the Othello bit - well kept off the list, I think.
  • Nice list, but they've left off Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos. And I'd say a book should stand (or sink) on its own merits: a critic may care about relating it to its author, but why should a reader?
  • Leaving off John Brunner was a mistake - the Shockwave Rider should have been on that list. I don't know what Dan Simmons is doing there, to be honest. The two Hyperion novels were good, but not exactly consciousness altering. I'd put Roger Zelazny down ahead of him.
  • Too much SF. Try philosophy and physics to really give you pause for thought.
  • Good point, Skrik. In that vein I'd suggest "The Tao of Physics", by Fritjof Capra.
  • I've read quite a few of these, though I wish there was a way I could put that without sounding like I'm boasting. Most of them are pretty wierd, it's true.
    Any of these by Satre or Camus or Genet (I'd add Our Lady of the Flowers to this) offer skewed psychological visions of reality that could well mess with your head. Others - like The Castle, 1984 and, well, loads of the others - create a new reality (though obviously a reflection on our own) with which to get jiggy on your neurons.
    It's been a long, long time since I read it, but I don't remember Asimov's Foundation series as being particularly a mindf**k. I'm open to being corrected on this one however.
    I'd add a few to this list:
    The Last World - Christopher Ransmayr
    Fish Boy - Mark Richard
    Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman
    The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass
    You Bright and Risen Angels - Willam Vollman
    Civilwarland in Bad Decline and Pastoralia - George Saunders
    Also, the wonderfully named:
    The Palm Wine Drinkard and his Dead Palm Wine Tapster in the Deads' Town - Amos Tutuola
    And loads more that I'll remember as soon as I click Post New Comment. Ho hum.
  • I know it may be somewhat overplayed, but Life of Pi by Yann Martel fit the bill for me.
  • Got to agree with Skrik that there's too much sci fi. An author who I would definitely include is Victor Pelevin. I'm thinking of 'Babylon' in particular; the part where the main character is on hallucinogenic drugs actually made me feel queasy and off centre while, and indeed after, reading it.
  • Oddly enough, I was just producing a list of people who I've fucked whose minds were very easy to read.
  • From an Americocentric lit/history/nature perspective, these stood out for me: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison The Color Purple by Alice Walker The Sewing Circles of Herat by Christina Lamb Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins Silent Spring by Rachel Carson Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by himself Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier Guns Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner Rising Tide by John Barry The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey Iron Coffins by Herbert A. Werner All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard Mountain Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins Journey to the Ants by Wilson & Holldobler I could go on and on... but I won't.
  • I'm very surprised I don't see anything by Tom Robbins on that list.
  • Or Marge Piercy.
  • Or Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • I have read a number of these and while they are almost all very good, I would have to say "induce a mindfuck" is an overstatement. The best are the nonfiction ones, as they have something to say about the real world; Richard Dawkins is a good example. Stephen Jay Gould should have been included, as well as Darwin (one of the biggest mindfucks ever, and one that large segments of the population are still trying to resist). In the same vein, I think that SF is appropriately represented on the list, as it often deals with difficult questions raised by man's advancing technology and knowledge. Harlan Ellison would be a good addition for that reason. Others on my personal list would be John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Books are good.
  • i'd add E.O. Wilson to that, tedw. but also, how about ken kesey, or the gonzo himself, hunter s. thompson, or the venerable robert anton wilson. i'm glad they included terrance mckenna's works, a true mindfuck. words are cool.
  • ^pre-caffenine post. didn't see the gonzo or raw books added. word!
  • I don't understand what the criteria for this list were, if there were any. A Tale of Two Cities?? Bah. You want your mind fucked, see the quidnunc kid.
  • Hmm. Very odd list. One thing that stands out like a sore thumb is the inclusion of nearly every William Gibson novel. I mean, sure, if your mind is a slut ... Neuromancer was great (in context) but the other books, irrespective of quality, were pretty much variations on a theme IMHO, and as such, don't really stand alone as mind f*cks.
  • You want your mind fucked, see the quidnunc kid. Lube 'em up fer me, l.h.! Right in the ear-hole!
  • Dead Babies - Martin Amis The Glass Bead Game - Herman Hesse Weaveworld - Clive Barker The Hot Zone - Richard Preston
  • A MoFi reading list - what an excellent thing! Now I'm a huge HHTTG fan and can't wait till Sept 21 when the new series starts on Radio 4 - but mindfuck? not sure ... Also not a mindfuck but well worth reading as a brilliant rite of passage novel is Iain Banks The Crow Road ... The Wasp Factory scared the shit outa me and in a similar vein are Ian McEwan's First Love, Last Rites and especially The Cement Garden
  • Taking it on a more literal level: 120 Days of Sodom - The Marquis De Sade Venus in Furs - Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch These two books are often paired thanks to the fact that they make up the "sado-masochism" duo, but they're really very different (yes, I've read both :) ). The Marquis' deservedly notorious book is about as disgusting and horrifying as you would expect, with a group of aristocrats forcing their perversions on a legion of kidnapped commoners, from old men and women to children. Everything from basic sex to coprophagy to necrophilia to fiendish mental cruelty represented here, either fully described or in note form (as the Marquis didn't live to finish the entire book). If you don't think Justine lives up to the hype, this book surpasses all hype and gives the Marquis his deserved reputation--regardless of whether it's fiction or fictionalized autobiography (there's some debate, apparently). Triumph of vice over virtue and all that--the commoners die, the aristocrats get away scot free. Venus in Furs, on the otherhand, came as quite a surprise, as I found it to be less about sex than about the power struggles between men and women, and the romantic idea that true love means totally sublimating yourself to your loved one's desires, be they never so cruel. It's really a romantic book in its way, less shocking than you'd expect, and although the narrator reaches conclusions about women that I don't think are supported by the narrative, it's an informative and thought provoking read. It's ultimate question, it seems, is "what, really, is love?" Both books, it seems to me, fuck the mind in different ways. Oh, and hi, first post.
  • 'Chuang Chou' by Chuang Tzu? Chaps, chaps, those are just different versions of the same name - the book is named after the author, OK? A bit weird to put him in without including Lao Tzu (Lao Chou?) anyway - like including St Paul but leaving out Jesus. Perhaps they only included authors whose existence is uncontroversial - hence no Homer? In many cases I think it's the right author but not all the right books. For Nabokov, 'Lolita', certainly, but no 'Pale Fire'? For Flann O'Brien, 'The Third Policeman', OK, but without 'At Swim-Two-Birds'? 'Microserfs' is alright, I suppose, but it's too evident that the ending was changed for legal reasons. Instead of the irrelevant dying mommy episode, the original text ended with a passage in which they discover that while they've been coding away, Bill Gates has ripped off their idea, brought out a version which requires five times as much memory, is full of irrelevant bells and whistles and crashes regularly. But he's giving it away free, and has built it into the next version of Windows, which he will refuse to supply to any retailer who carries our heroes' product. Just my little joke, Mr Gates, Sir :)
  • kimdog - "the life of pi" is the bane of my web server. we have a grad student in the department with the last name "patel", and "pi patel" is always one of the top 10 search phrases that turn up our server as the result, even though it's a totally irrelevant match. i sort of want to read the book to see why so many people are searching for the character's name, but haven't gotten around to it yet. spackle - "still life with woodpecker"? hum. my sister keeps telling me i should read that. might have to borrow her copy.
  • Hmm, yeah, I like a lot of the books on here, and there's a lot more that are on my 'to-read' list, but I guess I define "mindfuck" as something deeper than simply a moving/involving read--which seems to sum up some of these admittedly good books. Yes, quidnunc kid, I know you're about to say, "But BearGuy, that's mindsex or mindmakinglove." But bear(guy) with me for a moment. *winks. I suppose I would define mindfuck in literary terms as some piece of writing that shakes your worldview substantially down to the foundation. Therefore, while I love Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and would highly recommend it, it wasn't so much a shaking of my worldview as a writer finally showing that kids could be both intelligent and cruel while still being children--which I always knew growing up. Now contrast this with Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man which traces the development of human thought and understanding of the universe--showing how art, science, emotion, and intellect are intertwined and cross-pollinating each other throughout human history. Now that shook up my understanding of the world fed by the grade school's arguably necessary compartmentalisation of topics. Fiction can do that to, and you can't use the term mindfuck without mentioning Philip K. "Could I seem like I'm on more drugs?" Dick, but I feel that the list could use a few more non-fiction tomes, and related tomes: The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski (a companion book for an old TV series) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn (You'll never look at science and 'experts' on TV in the same way again). Flatland by Edwin Abbot (You can pick this up for a buck or less. It's fiction, but basically a light exploration of understanding our three-dimensional space. Read with a big grain of Victorian salt). The Universe in A Nutshell by Stephen Hawking (Picks up where Brief History of Time left off but designed to be more palatable--even as it exposes you to the notion of multi-dimensional space-time quite unlike our observed reality). Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould (Readers who make their way through Gould's detailed account of the Burgess Shale come out the other end with a new appreciation and fascination with the nature of least everyone I've talked to has). The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exup
  • Wow, had no idea that my mind had been fucked this regularly (at least some part of me is getting lucky). What a good but strange list. Fahrenheit 451, sure, but Dandelion Wine? Ok if you're a writer, but a mindfuck? Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! but not Demolished Man? Sorely missing (and serious mindfucks): Steven Brust -- Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille Spider Robinson -- Time Pressure John Le Carre -- The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (nothing after this compares) Nods to the above-recommended Glass Bead Game, Guns Germs and Steel, and Poisonwood Bible (Oprah notwithstanding). Myself, I was extremely fond of Microserfs, and certainly not for the MS satire (those characters worship Bill Gates!!) I do have a copy of Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" suitable for burning. Worst. Book. Ever.
  • BearGuy - how about Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (I always get a Labyrinth/David Bowie flashback when I read that name. Anyway...)
  • Still Life With Woodpecker reveals the secret extraterrestrial origin of redheads, who, you may not be aware, also built the pyramids. Shhhh. Don't tell the others. I second the Confederacy of Dunces and how could I forget Origin of Species? Also the Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn. If Douglas Adams qualifies as a mindfuck, where's Tolkien? And yeah, Andy Rooney?! Whuh?
  • Had the same thought about Tolkien, spackle. And, at the risk of... doing I'm not sure what, to this book list, I'd like to add, yes, a "graphic novel" (IANACF incidentally): Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
  • Gotta say Sade royally fucked my mind. Had to put the book down and run to the bathroom several times reading. Did not actually puke, though, if you're wondering. Didn't finish it either.
  • Ook Ook to Still Life with Woodpecker and Confederacy of Dunces. Also London Fields by Martin Amis.
  • I'm reading Flatland now. It was written so long ago that the copyright has long expired, thus it is available all over the web. Here for example.
  • I liked Flatland and I agree with the previous comment about The Wasp Factory. Seriously disturbing. Should be a mention of Celine or The Story of O, in my opinion. And who can forget Johnathan Livingston Seagull? Changed my life!
  • Who came up with that list? Maybe I'm too jaded or grew up reading those but mostly everything on it doesn't qualify as mindfucking for me. Not Asimov, not Cervantes, not Lewis Carrol, not Bradbury, not Rudy Rucker, not Coartazar, not Gibson (chezz), not Hesse, not Eco (difficult read doesn't equal mindfuck). From that list that I know, Greg Egan (my favorite SF author), Borges and Kafka are real examples of midfucking.
  • the list does seem rather random. i like finnegans wake as one of the true mind-fucks on this list. [above] my personal tom robbins favorite is jitterbug perfume. if you like his work you'll love haruki murakami. i recently finished hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world. fun stuff.
  • about Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond... Ooh, Polychrome, good point, my anthropologist brethren would harangue me for that omission. (-: A whirlwind and a delightful book at the same time--put's the "Holy Sheep Feces, that's enlightening" into "holistic."
  • One person's mindfuck is a boring tract to another, or a candy-coated joke. So, It's very difficult to get anywhere near an agreement, I guess. I.e., I'm partial to William Gibson, but 'mindfuck'? Neuromancer, sure, and his short story 'The Winter Market'... maybe his latest (not included on the list), Pattern Recognition, but I guess it's too 'localized', too specific to elicit the same reaction on most people, even those that like his work. I'd say the only one that would qualify as a true can't get up for I feel dizzy, gosh I see things differently, crap, so maybe I'm not crazy after all mindfuck for me would be Burroughs' 'The Job'. I was an impressionable young thing back then, and as they say, you never forget you first time...
  • Anything by Italo Calvino. The Cloven Vicount or Cosmicomics. Short stories but true mindfucks.
  • Straw Dogs by John Gray seriously fucked my mind. I often wish I had never read it.
  • hi tenacious, quite the first commentary there! yowsa!
  • Gotta say Sade royally fucked my mind. Had to put the book down and run to the bathroom several times reading. Did not actually puke, though, if you're wondering. Didn't finish it either. But didja come?
  • Damn! I always get to these book threads too late! Our wide varieties of reactions are fascinating. I loved Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum', it had me laughing out loud, but if you're not a medieval history dork, you'll be bored, and will miss out on the glorious mindfuck contained within. The recommendation of Zinn's 'Peoples History' is spot on. It should be required reading for anyone wishing to counteract the nonsensical history taught in school.
  • Gotta say Sade royally fucked my mind. That was his intention, of course. You could always just skip the sex and read the political/philosophical bits. That's where the good stuff is; the sex is just there to loosen you up.
  • I heart Fritjof Capra. Suzuki's good too, if you're into that sort of thing. Not mindf**ks, I don't think, but super writing. Lindsay Clarke's Chymical Wedding was in the same vein as Capra and Suzuki. Naked Lunch was definitely a mindf**k, as was Beneath the Empire of the Birds, by Carl Watson (the story Flies was pretty much the one that gave me pause).
  • scartol: ...The Planiverse by AK Dewdney Is Flatland a prereq? Planiverse sounds like an interesting contemporary treatment of the same idea. I think I'll have to check it out.
  • Flatland inspired many other treatments. (Some might say "sequels"). "Flatterland" by Ian Stewart is one such. Stewart also wrote The Annotated Flatland, which is the version I am reading. A review of Flatterland and its place in realm of Flatland derivatives is here.
  • Also Sphereland (I have the double back-to-back edition).
  • Glad to see the list included 3 of Philip K. Dick's trippiest books, but I'd also have to add: Flow My Tears The Policeman Said Ubik Martian Time-slip The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Radio Free Albemuth ...the list goes on and on...
  • I'm sorry, but I think Ubik is pretty clearly mindhead.
  • these are far too tame, for really thought inducing reading try: "Imaginary Muslims..." which is a beautiful description of a religion led by imaginary persons with whom one may worship in telepathic communion
  • Eh. Some of these are more like "lie back and think of England" kind of books. (Go Flatland!)
  • I read quite a bit, and have completed most of the books on this list. I'd say that most of them don't approach the level of 'mindfucking', but there are some particularly foolish choices about which I'd like to complain. Nick Bantock: a one-trick pony, repeated over and over and over again. If you honestly like Griffin and Sabine, never read anything else by him unless you're the type of person who browses the local Hallmark store weekly. Ray Bradbury: Dandelion Wine is just plainly a weak read. Almost anything else by him is better. William S. Burroughs: Junky's Christmas, but not Queer? That's absurd. Orson Scott Card: A hack with the absolute minimum of talent required to get published. The absolute nadir of speculative fiction, other than Tor novels. Carlos Castaneda: Every generation gets its faux shaman. I'll not critique the mystical mumbo jumbo, but looking upon his books as 'literature' is like calling cheez-wiz a dairy product. Don DeLillo: They don't offer up any works in particular, but I don't think any of them qualify as 'mindfucking' anyway. Greg Egan: Yes to Diaspora, no to Distress. It's a fun read, but shouldn't make the list. Bret Easton Ellis: The man cannot write. Absolute drivel for people who need something to read on the bus. William Gibson: Some of the books listed aren't worthy. I like his writing, but adding this many titles smacks of hero worship, not honest assessment. Jack Kerouac: As Truman Capote said, "that's not writing, that's typing." Stephen King: Disposable, teen-boy fantasies that frighten and entwertain only fools and other teen boys. I honestly cannot understand the appeal of this hack. Chuck Palahniuk: see Jack Kerouac comment. I think Capote would agree. Ayn Rand: The libertarians only goddess should have been ignored, not deified. Utterly soulless prose which the reader only desires to have extracted from his head, much like a long-rotted tooth. Andy Rooney: This clinches the fact that the reviewer apparently thinks 'mindfuck' means 'dull beyond belief'. Amy Tan: My son had to read this in University and I picked it up after he'd finished. It's easily the least enjoyable book I've ever read on cultural and family issues. Missing from the list: Nicholas Mosley's Catastrophe Practice, Noam Chomsky's Radical Priorities, Buckminster Fuller's Nine Chains to the Moon, Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, Marguerite Duras' War, Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, Bertrand Russel's Why I Am Not a Christian, Brian Fawcett's Cambodia, and more John Barth, Alasdair Gray and Jean Genet. Surprises: Neither David Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius nor Studs Terkel's Working made the list.
  • Katherine Dunn's Geek Love Yeah, I got plenty of yucks out of this one. Also, I *never* miss a chance to plug Patrick S
  • (It appears I got a bit engrossinged there.)
  • I don't know about their nomination of A Tale of Two Cities but I'm reading Great Expectations right now and it's a lot more strange, funny, surreal, scary, and generally twisted than I expected.
  • I'm kind of surprised that nobody has mentioned any of Will Self's works. Great Apes, and to a greater extent My Idea of Fun both boggled me pretty well.
  • I'm surprised nobody has mentioned REAL ULTIMATE POWER, The Official Ninja Book That book is literal mindfucking.
  • To agree with ufez about Will Self, except would have to say it was Quantity Theory of Insanity that did it for me. Just lingers with you.