How to Grow Your Own Light Bulbs


112 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55128-029-9
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by James Deahl

James Deahl is a partner in Mekler & Deahl, Publishers, and the author
of Under the Watchful Eye: Poetry and Discourse, Poetry Markets for
Canadians, and Mix Six.


John Riddell’s latest work not only develops ideas and concerns
evident in his four previous titles, it also breaks fresh ground. As
such, it is an important contribution to Canadian pataphysics. Not only
do readers learn how to grow light bulbs—a most useful talent—but
they are treated to an explanation and demonstration of Jacques
Lacan’s work on signifier/signified, a theory that has baffled most
literary people for the past four decades.

In addition to being playful and at times downright bemusing, the book
has bite. The section entitled Nightmare Hotel combines elements of the
song “Hotel California”—no one checks out of here—and Henry
Miller’s The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. In his indictment of the
culture of late capitalism. Riddell notes that everything from
biological necessities, such as food, clothing, and sex, to
discretionary items, such as cameras, TVs, and foreign vacations, has
become commodified and thus dehumanized. Nonetheless, real people who
are trapped within modernity must still attempt to live their lives as
people, not commodities.

Other topics covered include Michael Dean’s observations on
Onto-Genetics, Hegel’s phenomenology, and darts (the pub game).
Readers who enjoy pataphysics and fringe research will find Riddell’s
work rewarding; those who demand more traditional texts had best stick
with Henry Miller.


Riddell, John., “How to Grow Your Own Light Bulbs,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,