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December 6, 2004

Open thread 10. By popular demand.

And what are you currently reading that’s ink on paper, not phosphors on screen? [01:54 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Open thread 10.:

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Now reading "A Drinking Life," by Pete Hammill. Very evocative of an immigrant community in New York around the time of World War II. I'm always interested in reading about that culture and period, since it's where and when my parents, aunts and uncles grew up. I think of myself as being "from New York" in the way that other people think of their immigrant heritage. I mean, yeah, my ancestors came from Poland and Lithuania, but I have no bonds to those countries; my ancestors were driven from those countries, why should I give them any kind of loyalty?

I just finished reading "Quicksilver," by Neal Stephenson. It was the most challenging book I've read in many a year.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Currently reading a free book I picked up at WFC 2004: Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son, by Martin Booth. At the moment I would describe it as worth every penny I paid for it. At best. I'm only halfway through, tho'. We'll see.

Just before that, Deserted Cities of the Heart, by Lewis Shiner.

mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, Society's Betrayal of the Child, by Alice Miller.

Too sad, too real.

Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn. The topic is what you'd expect given the title.

Oh, and I just finished slogging through an old copy of The Cat who Walks Through Walls, and have come to appreciate how much I dislike Heinlein. Truly, some books should just be left to rot when you pass by them in the "25 cents a book" yard sale box.

Aaron Bergman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Just finished all of the Vlad Taltos book on a reread.

Currently reading abstruse mathematics.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Good timing--I just checked the new link colors on my rotten, glare-shielded work monitor and even there they're distinguishable.

I'm currently not reading anything--angsting over my failure to read more of Stephen King's Dark Tower series (more information than you wanted on that). I had been mindlessly re-reading J.D. Robb novels while sick this weekend.

Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:29 PM:

At this very moment, a paper by the head of the lab I work part-time in so I can see how well the OCR software I'm experimenting with (ReadIRIS Pro 9) works...other than that, I was recently gifted with a copy of Marvel 1602, I have about thirty pages of detail about Remote Procedure Calls and the rpcgen function to read so I can do my homework due Thursday; I have a crapload of cases to read for a Legal Studies exam on Thursday, and I have more to read about the FAT filesystem so I can have my version ready by Friday. Though that last is mostly phosphors (or LCD's) on a screen..

Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Just finished Going Postal, the first Discworld I've ever read, and not the last. As a survivor of two failed dot.coms, it hit home.

2/3rd of the way through through Charlie Stross' new fantasy.

Cynthia found a copy of Bridge of Birds at a used book store in Maui where I had stopped to borrow a cup of Internet. That's next in the queue.

Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:33 PM:

I'm currently reading an engineering book on statics and strength of materials, which is utterly dull. I've recently completed House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski, picked up based on a discussion of it some months ago on ML. I'm still trying to decide whether I want to even bother with The Whalestoe Letters, because I felt it got a bit heavy-handed on me. On queue as soon as I feel I am solid on statics are a series of books on architectural model building, which is, oddly, something that they don't actually teach you in architecture school.

Oh, and Stitch and Bitch Nation, by Debbie Stoller, purchased in a moment of desire last week. Taking the bus is bad for my book budget, because I have a transfer right next three decent book stores.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:33 PM:

I just finished Family Tree by SHerri Tepper and it was a really fun romp -- the first book of hers I ever read that could be described that way. In the same grocery bag of reading material from my parents was Sweet Dream Baby and I don't know why I finished it and I wish I could unread it. It was a nasty squicky Southern gothic with extra murder and incest.
And for food porn -- Clifford A. Wright's Mediterranean Vegetables lives on my bedstead because I am, I think, a Mediterranean vegetable myself.

Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:34 PM:

J. Rifkin's The European Dream: alternately interesting and tedious; I promise not to snicker too loudly if he should end up talking about European advantages in biotechnology.

S. Zielinski's Bad Magic: recommended on this site, lives up to it...going over the beginning again to catch things I didn't, laugh at at least one bad joke involving a skirt.

A J2EE architect's exam study-guide, P. Allen & J.Bambara, in the probably-vain hope that this will help me get work. (I have experience with Dynamo Application Server, and these days it's like knowing Dutch in a world that demands German---close, but not really there.)

Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:35 PM:

Jason diParle's "American Dream," which I'm finding fascinating - both as an account of welfare reform, and of how completely disconnected abstract policy debates are from real people's lives. A good corrective for ivory towers types like meself. Will be posting something on Crooked Timber soon-ish if anyone's interested.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:36 PM:

Currently: Sock, by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame. A cop is trying to track down the man who murdered his ex-girlfriend. The story is narrated by the cop's sock monkey. Funny and angry just like you'd expect of Penn, and full of brilliant insights into human behavior. Some of which are wrong, but still brilliant. One slightly annoying stylistic twitch: Almost every paragraph ends with a pop music quote.

Previously: Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. I now feel like I've got a slightly better grasp in early 20th-century European leftist politics. And which kinds of restaurants to avoid in Paris in the 1920s.

Suzanne M ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:39 PM:

I'm reading J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, by Andrew Birkin. And to balance out the increasing melancholy in that book, I'm also reading one I got for my birthday. It's called Making Book, written by... oh, some woman or other.

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:39 PM:

I've put a number of political books on hold and am doing an ungodly amount of comfort reading. I just got done with rereading Diana Wynne Jones' Charmed Life and am now galloping through The Lives of Christopher Chant. I think this is the first time I've ever read them back-to-back like this, and I'm seeing ways in which the two books relate which are never stated explicitly in either one. This is the first time I think I've realized that The Goddess in Lives must be Millie, Chrestomanci's wife, in Charmed Life. Also, Christopher's childhood disgust of shop talk at the dinner table in the prequel nicely meshes with the way that table talk in Charmed Life is determinedly free of discussions of magic.

In parallel, and much more slowly, I'm working through Image and Reality of the Israel: The Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman G. Finkelstein. It's interesting reading, but it's the sort of book I can only take in little nibbles before I have to stop and think. I got interested in it while browsing Amazon reviews of From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters, which the Finkelstein was held up by some as debunking. You can read the updated introduction to Image and Reality at Finkelstein's website.

PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:40 PM:

Just finished: Elizabeth George's A Place of Hiding

Meaning to get: Zen and the Brain by James H. Austin

Saw this morning: In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot by Graham Roumieu

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:42 PM:

A Storm Of Swords by George R.R. Martin. Also, some old Planescape books by the folks who used to be TSR.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Recently finished The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose, concerning the extinction of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Just started The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, & the Search for Lost Species by Scott Weidensaul.

Glen Engel-Cox ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I saw too much about this one to be able to ignore it any more. I'm only a couple of chapters in, and so far it has lived up to the hype.

Before that, Graham Joyce's Partial Eclipse and other stories. I think Joyce is better at the longer form, although none of the stories was a clunker.

JoshD ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Currently reading The Transformation of War, by Martin van Creveld, a.k.a., the book that everyone in the Bush Administration should be strapped down and forced to read, Clockwork Orange style.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:00 PM:

Jane Eyre, in preparation for reading The Eyre Affair.

Before that: The Algebraist. Quite good, but either I'm getting hip to Banks' tricks, or he coasts from time to time.

kellan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:06 PM:

Ghostwritten, though I'm not liking it as much as Cloud Atlas, Don't think of an Elephant, which starts strong but gets repetitive half way through its 120 pages, Pixel Juice which is an excellent collection of short stories by Jeff Noon, and Multitude which is Negri&Hardt's new book, and is slow going.

gwenda ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:10 PM:

Like a Hole in the Head by Jen Banbury... after which I'll probably break down and reread London's Cruise of the Snark.

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:14 PM:

I recently finished The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore (which has one of the best dog scenes ever-- he really captures the psychology of the Labrador Retriever), which was good, but shouldn't be the first Moore you read (Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story is his best, but if you want to understand the Christmas book, you need to read The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove first).

Since then, I've mostly been reading reviews of other books in Locus, because I've been too brain-fried to contemplate resuming The System of the World.

Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:15 PM:

Black Projects, White Knights, by Kage Baker. I'd read about half of the stories before, having bought electronic versions from Fictionwise, but it's nice to have them all together in some kind of order that presumably makes sense.

theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:18 PM:

Just finished Gene Wolfe's The Knight; just started The Wizard. The man's a Living National Treasure.

I'm also about three-quarters of the way through Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude; it's quite wonderful. And I've made about the same progress on China Miéville's Iron Council; as always, I'm charmed, mystified, and disgusted in about equal proportions (this is not a criticism).

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:18 PM:

I'm half-way through Nicholas Mosley's biography of his father RULES OF THE GAME, which is giving me nightmares. I suppose I could classify it as post-research for FARTHING.

In search of comfort reading, I've just picked up Cherryh's Atevi books for a re-read. I'll finish the Mosley, but I think I'll let last night's dream fade a bit first.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Since this is an open thread, let me just say that that sidelight link about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher makes me want to wash out my mind with soap: ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK!

Zack ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:23 PM:

The Map that Changed the World, somewhat of a disappointment; I expected better of the author of The Professor and the Madman, but he was too busy squee-ing over the Vast Historic Importance of the map, and deploring the Horrid Mistreatment of the Genius what Drew it, to do a very good job of either biography or pedagogy.

Sorcery and Cecilia, back in print again, yay! (Does anyone know the status of a reprint of Pam Dean's Tam Lin? I have a friend who must read it, but she lives too far away to come over and read my copy, and it doesn't leave the house.)

Big stack of Lee and Miller chapbooks.

Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Just finished "Mischief in Fez," a children's book mentioned on Making Light. Just started "Carnage of the Realm," by Charles Goodrum, a library mystery. On my desk at work, a 1999 issue of "Mythlore," Tolkien's "The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays," and a rather daunting book on bibliometrics that I don't really want to read. And a manuscript on electronic reserves I'm supposed to review. Yes, my at-home reading is generally very light, why do you ask?

Zed ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:41 PM:

Currently rereading The Forever War, first time reading Haldeman's preferred text. Still a good book. Recently finished Timescape, which was good on several levels, and which made me think James Hogan was ripping it off with Thrice Upon a Time... until I looked up that that came out in 1980, too.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:43 PM:

River Horse by William Least Heat Moon. Traveling by river and lake from NY Harbor to the mouth of the Columbia by boat, with minimal portages.

Good Omens by Pratchett & Gaiman. Entertaining fluff of the sort I don't read a lot of but that I need right now.

Wigu, Volume 2 by Jeff Rowland. Printed, color edition of the charming and strange web comic.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum, the comic book edition. A nice adaption, but the art is a trifle bit elaborate given the size of the panels, and the lettering is ugly and hard to read.

I just recently read a small pile of Daniel Pinkwater books, before wrapping them up for my nieces. Similarly, I hope to start and finish reading a collection of Dick Tracy comics before wrapping it up for my father.

Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:44 PM:

The three books I've got in my queue at the moment:

- Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver.

I kept getting distracted by schoolwork and the kids when I originally purchased it--and now that I have the whole trilogy on hand, I figured I'd take the chance to restart from the beginning.

- Mark Lutz/David Ascher, Learning Python and C.V. Jakowatz et al., Spotlight Mode Synthetic Aperture Radar: A Signal Processing Approach.

I figure the best way to really become one with a new programming language--- try and write non-trivial programs in it.... and SAR is the least trivial application I can think of at the moment.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:45 PM:

Oh, isn't Mischief in Fez lovely?

I love the "watcha reading " question! *rubs hands gleefully*
I spent all of November recovering from my post-election funk by reading good thick escapist novels. In random order: read the latest 3 books by Juliet Marillier, the latest Anita Blake, Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Thief Lord, Ghosts in the Snow, Midnight Rain.
Just finished Neverwhere.
Right now I'm mid-way through The Golden Key.
The good news is that I still have two unread novels waiting for me: Sunshine and Banewreaker.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:47 PM:

Theodore Rex, by Edmund Morris. The second volume of his biography, it covers the presidential years. There is at least one interesting parallel between TR and Bush; they both valued personal loyalty over competence in their advisers, at least from my reading of the book and my observations during the past four years.

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:54 PM:

The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, Amnon Ben Tor, ed.

On the Surface: Catalhoyuk 1993-95, Ian Hodder, ed.

Catal Huyuk, James Melaart

Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:54 PM:

I just finished Charlie Stross's _The Family Trade_, and now I once again remember why I swore *never* to buy series books until the series was completed and the author had moved on to other things...

At the top of the pile right now are Muller, _Adam Smith in His Time and Ours_; Bordo, Taylor, and Williamson, eds., _Globalization in Historical Perspective_; Andy Kessler, _Wall Street Meat_; and amazon has just delivered _Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_...

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Just finished: A Matter of Risk, by Roy Varner and Wayne Collier -- very out-of-print book about the Glomar Explorer and the CIA plan to recover a sunken Soviet Hotel class SBN. (Badly written; only persisted because it's research for The Jennifer Morgue.) Also: The Man Who Shocked the World, by Thomas Blass -- a fascinating, insightful and sympathetic biography of Professor Stanley Milgram. (Belated background reading for Glasshouse, the re-write of which is currently in progress.)

Currently reading, in parallel: The Confusion by Neal Stephenson (that damn trilogy is going to take me a year to finish! I'd give up if it wasn't so brilliantly funny ....), The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson (Non-fiction. Cover blurb: "This story is about what happened when a small group of men -- highly placed within the United States military, the government, and the intelligence serviecs -- began believing in very strange things." Even funnier, and stranger, than the Neal Stephenson novels ...), and Molvania: A land untouched by modern dentistry, a JetLag Travel guide. (I want to go there!)

shsilver ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Currently reading:
A.R.R.R. Roberts's The Sellamillion
W. Warren Wagar's H.G. Wells: Traversing Time
Maxine MacArthur & Donna Maree Hanson Encounters
Spider Robinson's Very Bad Deaths.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:02 PM:

Brad: email me as charlie(at) antipope.org if you're still grinding your teeth over what happened next.

I forgot, one other recently-finished book: Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. It's an excursion into more traditionally SFnal fiction for Jon, but still has many of his usual Middle Eastern obsessions and would serve as a good introduction to his work for SF fans who don't want to start with a trilogy (like the Arabesk books). Highly recommended.

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:10 PM:

Started two books yesterday:
Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling, already got the feeling I will go through it fast. Never read him before, but if the first 40 pages are an indication, I am going to kick myself for taking so long.
Medicine for the Earth by Sandra Ingerman. Instructional on the shamanic practice of transmutation.

Recent reads:
The Little Earth Book by James Bruges. Anyone with interest/concern over the state of the environment NEEDS to pick this up.
The Disposssessed by Ursula Le Guin. Going to reread it in the spring, not something you can take in with just one reading. But I like that.
England's Hidden Reverse by David Keenan. Narrative "history" of three British bands that get lumped as Industrial, but so aren't: Coil (RIP Jhonn Balance), Nurse With Wound, Current 93. Excellent excellent book.

Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:10 PM:

The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog, by Elizabeth Peters. Very funny.

Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:15 PM:

A bunch of '70s thrillers, by which I mean alternating Le Carré (I'm up to Honorable Schoolboy) with Trevanian, with a side dash into Lawrence Sanders' The Tomorrow File. All of which is making me dizzy and paranoid in strange and unexpected ways. Plus ça change all over my déjà vu.

But also: Vince Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard.

Camilo ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:16 PM:

Rereading "The Years of Salt and Rice", Kim Stanley Robinson, and trying to get to Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant". Carrying also "Getting Things Done", but do not have time to read it.
What else? Abstruse math is sitting on my shelf, the aptly named "Coping with Chaos", and soon to read "Ecotourism". That is all.

Dick Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Mercedes Lackey's The Black Swan. I like the way she takes a sappy traditional story (here, whatever text Swan Lake is based on) and sharpens it up with accurate period detail and real sounding people. Otherwise, several phosphor-texts on physics and Jensen's The g-Factor.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Ink on paper:

Tides of War: Steven Pressman

A bunch of Nero Wolfe: Rex Stout

Nikon Manual for the DH2


Trent Goulding ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Currently half way through Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, which, it must be noted, was first brought to my attention in this very space. It was immediately preceded by The System of the World, so I'm feeling a bit beleaguered by horse-chokers right about now....

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:47 PM:

Well, cheating and citing books recently read, I recommend Bob Dylan's Chronicles, v. 1 ( reviewed here by Paul Williams. It's not as ego-driven as you might think, but more a "Jazz Country" artist's diary that wakes me up to the love of creation and composition. (Lots of anecdotal information about people and places in the '60s East Village folk scene.)

Also recommended, Will Eisner's A Family Matter, Dropsie Avenue, and the most recent Fagin the Jew.

I'm currently reading Charlie's Iron Sunrise, since I liked Singularity Sky; waiting for a library copy of Strange & Norrell -- but everybody's reading those.

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 04:56 PM:
Oh, and I just finished slogging through an old copy of The Cat who Walks Through Walls, and have come to appreciate how much I dislike Heinlein.

While I haven't read Cat myself, I'd venture to say, based on what I've heard, that it isn't Heinlein's best work, nor yet his 20th-best.

I'm not currently in the middle of a book myself. Most recently I've re-read some of my standard comfort reads (Bujold, Dave Duncan, etc.), plus the first two volumes of The Complete Peanuts. On deck are Wolfe's Innocents Aboard and The Knight (and The Wizard, once I get a copy).

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 05:02 PM:

Soli notes, on discovering Sterling:

"I am going to kick myself for taking so long..."

Good thing you didn't start with Holy Fire, or you might have felt compelled to do something really painful to yourself.

Heavy Weather was OK, but Holy Fire and some of the stories in bruce's collections are astonishing.

Nick Brooke ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 05:09 PM:

Lurulu, by Jack Vance (AKA "the bit that fell off the end of Ports of Call"). It's good fun so far, but it'll be a quick read. Then on to Iain M Banks' The Algebraist. (I'm saving Stephenson's Quicksilver for my next bout of jetlag insomnia; Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell worked a treat on the last one, and lived up to all the hype).

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 05:52 PM:

"No Boundaries" by Ken Wilbur

This after taking a year to get through his book A Brief History of Everything which was a lot of work and a lot of good stuff.

Both are non-fiction.

polltroll ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:04 PM:



HELPING THE TROOPS: Reader Ron Ford sends this very comprehensive list of support-the-troops websites...

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:05 PM:

In my knapsack: Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s by Ann Douglas, and Burr by Gore Vidal, which I got bogged down about 40% in some weeks ago and am still determined to finish RSN. It's my fault, not his.

Outside my knapsack, I'm concentrating on opera books. To those who care: Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades is the shit. Love at first listen.

Also, I am tremendously pleased to confirm that any resemblance between the intro to "Rapper's Delight" (I said a hip, hop, the hip, the hippie to the hip hip hop you don't stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogety beat) and the chorus to "The Ketchup Song" (Aserejé, ja deje dejebe tudejebe de sebiunouva majabi an de bugui an de buididipí) is entirely deliberate. I still have not determined how the coda to Earth Wind & Fire's "Fantasy" (the one whose chorus goes "and we will live together/until the twelfth of never/our voices will ring forever/as oooooooooooone") ties into all this, but I'm on the case.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:13 PM:

I'll finish Delany's The Einstein Intersection tonight and then read the Oct/Nov Asimov's (I've been behind on Asimov's for years, but I think I'll catch up next month). Saturday I need to start the discussion group books: The Complete Fuzzy.

I posted over on ML about reading "Weyr Search" last night.

One of the most enjoyable books I've read recently is something I might not have read if the SFBC didn't make it sound like good fantasy: Goldstein's Dark Cities Underground. The level of metafiction and children's books connectedness really delighted me.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Just finished THE EYRE AFFAIR, which is energetic and fun. I'm not sure I'd want to read the sequels--what is at first clever and inventive could turn to arch awfully fast.

Now: BANEWREAKER by Jacqueline Carey, mixed in with OLD SWORD DAYS, OLD SWORD WAYS (research) and SCAR, by China Mieville. Makes for really interesting dreams.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:25 PM:

Hardback/"daytime reading": Just finished Henry Petroski's Pushing the Limits, next up is Pratchett's Going Postal.

Small-format paperback/"bedtime reading": Just finished a re-read of John Varley's Millennium, currently re-reading Starship Troopers. Most recent new read in this category: the Christopher Anvil collection Interstellar Patrol.

The Baroque Cycle is queued up on my Palm, so by the strictest sense of Patrick's question would be disallowed...but I do a lot of e-book reading on the Palm. Especially of books that are big and heavy in their dead-tree format.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 06:59 PM:

Terry Karney, it's nice to see there's another Nero Wolfe fan here. I've got them all in an honored place on the shelves, along with McAleer's bio of Stout.

Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:05 PM:

Currently I am:

re-reading Pratchett & Gaiman, Good Omens, aloud with my husband before sleep;

re-reading (for me) Eddings, the whole Belgariad thingy, aloud with my husband and son, before son's sleep;

reading Gaiman, (the author's preferred version of) American Gods;

And on the 'sitting there, staring at me and making me feel guilty because I really wish I had just a bit more free time' list--Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture.

I'm also sometimes found reading Reclaiming the Game, by William G. Bowen and Sarah A. Levin, and College Football, by John Sayle Watterson.

Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:07 PM:

Currently in a re-reading phase. Joel Rosenberg's _D'Shai_, and before that
_Howl's Moving Castle_, since there's a movie which may get to America
at some point. And the two Galen Sword books by J+G Reeves-Stevens;
remember those? They predate Anita Blake by three years -- I wonder
why they didn't catch on.

Before that, _Parasite Pig_ -- Sleator wrote a sequel to _Interstellar
Pig_, although it's merely passable. And Philip Reeve's sequel to
_Mortal Engines_, which I liked a lot (astonishingly grim series for
YA adventure fantasy).

Mel ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:09 PM:

Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond. I wish it were mandatory reading in high school, although I'd personally like it to be a bit more in-depth on the science.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:29 PM:

You mean besides work? Well, most recently, The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, a biography of eccentric 1950s children's book author Dare Wright. Very odd indeed.

That and the installation manual for the new external hard drive I just got.

Agreed: The Cat Who Walks Through Walls wouldn't make Heinlein's Top 20. Try The Puppet Masters, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Double Star, The Door Into Summer....

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:29 PM:

Just recently read The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth's Antiquity by Jack Repcheck. It's slim and bit thin with it. It has some misprisions and mistakes: the 'English' army won at Culloden, and the Jacobite victory at Prestonpanns outside Edinburgh is given as having happened at 'Preston'. I would have liked more geology - he wastes a chapter on how Biblical chronology developed, from Eusebius to Ussher. But the geology he does give is as far as I know sound. He understands the significance of the defeat of the Jacobites (the Scottish Revolution thesis, i.e. that the lead-up to and aftermath of the '45 laid the political, legal and social foundations of rapid capitalist development in Scotland) and gives a fascinating picture of Enlightenment Edinburgh. Smith, Hume, Hutton and all the other famous figures all knew each other and met frequently, often in pubs. Our very own Steven Baxter has also written about Hutton, but I haven't read his book yet.

Currently, and slowly, reading Winwood Reade's The Martyrdom of Man, a famous 'good bad book' from the Victorian era. Orwell said of it that as soon as you read his sentence about the typical ancient Hebrew prophet: 'As soon as he received his mission, he ceased to wash' you knew the author was on your side. As far as I know, it's the first book to predict that 'mankind will migrate into space'.

Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 07:55 PM:

Like several here, I'm also dutifully slogging my way through the Stephenson trilogy.

Right now I seem to be bogged down halfway through The Confusion, probably because I seem to be spending most of my free time reading comment threads.

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 08:41 PM:

and back to Stefan Jones:

Yes, I am kicking myself. I'd imagine, based on your comment, I'd likely be kicking myself with cleats. Every five minutes. ^_^

Iain J Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 08:43 PM:

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. Some interesting ways of analysing story - and great to see a critic really standing up for story these days - but hampered by some terrible mistakes in application. Booker completely misreads LotR, failing to spot that the quest fails and Sam is revealed as the hero, never mind his hilarious minor howlers, and he just doesn't get the tensions in Shakespeare's late plays (Auden has a much better take on The Tempest, to name but one). Booker goes on a lot about how many modern stories fail because the writer doesn't fumbles the underlying archetypes, or because the classic form of story is being used without substance, but doesn't appreciate that sometimes the "proper" story for is being deliberately subverted to artistic effect.

Also, Malory's complete works. Horrifically bloody violence, powerful and haunting fairy stories, and an unexpected degree of political realism (Arthur: "I puled the sword out of the stone! I'm King" Assorted kings and noblemen: "No you're bloody not!")

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Regarding Bruce Sterling, as my workshop students may remember, my favorite of his recent books is Distraction, a novel that solves the expository problems of SF set in the future by the application of sheer force and charm.

In fairness, I should post my own answers to the thread question:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. About halfway through. Loving it so far; fell away from it through lack of sustained time. Been missing it. Time to resume.

Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. First of a series of mystery novels starring a middle-aged lady detective in Bostwana. Gravely solemn and deeply funny. Via Lucy Huntzinger.

A Kipling Pageant. 1935 Literary Guild volume (wow, real cloth, sewn binding, good luck finding that in a modern book-club book) rescued in the process of helping Jim Macdonald clean out his late mother's house in Westchester. Wrong sometimes, right sometimes, man this guy was good. "The Mark of the Beast" is still chilling, and not because of the monster part.

Ken MacLeod, Learning the World. Ahahaha.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:11 PM:

Patrick: I should probably reread Distraction, since about all I remember about it is deciding that Green Huey was the real protagonist. Oh, and that great opening scene with the bake sale.

My fave Sterling novel is Zeitgeist, which is set in the past (1999, written in 2000). I've thought for a while that the closer he gets to the present, the better he writes.

Crap, Zenith Angle's not due out in paper till April.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:14 PM:

I am currently stuck around page 500 of Jonathan Strange. It isn't that I don't like it, I do; it's marvelous. And it reads quite fast really, but it seems to require a sort of focus I have in short supply lately. Coming up I have a passel of mysteries including the latest Marcia Muller (who is probably may favorite contemporary crime writer), a YA book to review for Mythprint and for non-fiction I'm eyeing Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age


Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:16 PM:

TNH: Since this is an open thread, let me just say that that sidelight link about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher makes me want to wash out my mind with soap: ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK!

Yes, and at the same time, it's THE MOST CRACKTASTIC THING EVAR.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:26 PM:

I'm yet another who's in the midst of the Baroque Cycle, currently paused between books 2 and 3. Instead of pushing on, I've taken a detour and started reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

On the non-fic front, I'm reading Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible which is a collection of short essays, each reflecting on a book of the Bible. I'm reading it stroboscopically, a page here, a page there, and enjoying the result.

Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:36 PM:

I just finished (as in, about 20 minutes ago) Ursula Le Guin's Gifts, which Harcourt is billing as a YA (it's labeled "ages 12 and up"). Good fantasy, whose characters as well as author care about magic for what it can do, and what it can do to its users, not just as a convenient device to drive a plot.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 09:50 PM:

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Clarke)

The Great Book of Amber (Zelazny) In the course of doing some research on spiritual/magickal properties of labyrinths, I got seduced. Other labyrinthine reading: Walking a Sacred Path (Lauren Artress) and The Labyrinth: Symbol of Fear, Rebirth, and Liberation (Helmut Jaskolski)

The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC) A treatise on so-called "fourth-generation warfare".

The Dreambody Toolkit (Joe Goodbread) Psych text for one of my classes.

Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion (Simon Sheppard) Ask me about Romanian dentists....

In the queue to be read:

The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner's Guide (Bernard Mayer) Another book to read for class.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Paulo Friere) more class reading.

Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 10:18 PM:

Hrm. I bought Going Postal on my last trip to the UK in early November and read it a day or two getting back. Definitely one of the better DW books, but still not as good (in my personal opinion) as Feet of Clay or Small Gods. As for more recent reading, I just finished the latest Rosemary Kirstein book, Words of Power (at least, I think that's the title). I've also been rereading Susan Cooper, having just finished The Greenwitch, I'm a chapter or so into The Grey King.

Most of my current leisure reading time, however, is taken up by the Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 10:32 PM:

Jonathan Strange is on The Stack. Currently estimated pop-off time: Spring, 2005.

Recently popped off The Stack: nine or twelve non-memorable, but highly addictively fun while being read, jockey thrillers from Dick Francis.

Currently popping off with abandon: Aubrey/Maturin. Up to Treason's Harbour.

Alexander McCall Smith's stories are deeply satisfying on so many levels, not least of which is the affirmation that good people can make things work out by the force of their goodness, and by holding others to their standard.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 11:11 PM:

For reasons which make no sense at all I've avoided the No 1 Detective stories. I can see I'll have to remedy that. Oh, just what I need. Another mystery series...

chris bond ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Currently re-reading Winning the Oil Endgame by Lovins et al. (in paper this time.)

From which I discovered this quote:
"One reason we use energy so lavishly today is that the price of energy does not include all the social costs of producing it. The costs incurred in protecting the environment and the health and safety of workers, for example, are part of the real costs of producing energy—but they are not now all included in the price of the product."
R. M. Nixon to Congress, June 1971

Last fiction I read was re-reading The Dragon Society by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2004, 11:39 PM:

Chris: damn. That's exactly what I keep saying. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I agree with one thing that Nixon said.

Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Watership Down, Richard Adams. Saw the cartoon when I was a kid and loved it. Not sure why it's taken me this long to get around to reading the novel.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:17 AM:

What pulled me into Alexander McCall Smith might just as easily have put me off - the title "Morality for Beautiful Girls" - but it wasn't at all what I was expecting, whatever that was, and I've read all of them since. He's very satisfying to read.

I also really enjoyed Burr.

I'm reading a bunch of out of print mystery paperbacks I bought at the library second hand book store up by my mother's house, mostly series books I hadn't read by Ellis Peters, Margaret Maron, Ngaio Marsh and Miss Seeton books by the original author.

I also have the first Charlie Bone book and Garth Nix' The Keys to the Kingdom to look forward to, courtesy of Her Majesty's birthday present BN gift card and the advice I got over at Making Light.

Harry, the early Amelia Peabodys still make me laugh. After Ramses and Nefret got married, not so much.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:38 AM:

Julia, I was bringing the first Jeff Smith BONE book back east with me. For keeps, no strings. If that's what you meant by Charlie Bone, don't order it if you haven't already.

Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:44 AM:

Uh, hopping between books as usual, but...

_The Years of Rice and Salt_ by Kim Stanley Robinson

_The Wilding_ by C.S. Friedman

_The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society_, 3rd ed., by Donald Stone Macdonald

_Differential Equations_ by J.E. Powell and C.P. Wells

_Swan's Wing_ by Ursula Synge

Booksbooksbooksbooksbooks...and I have military geography, linguistics, sf/f, engineering history, and God knows what else on hold...*bliss*

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:59 AM:

Nope, not the same, I don't think. BONE is a graphic novel, yes? This is a YA book.


You're doing the Reillys'?

Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:10 AM:


Guns Germs and Steel - My at lunch at work book, becuase that's where I usually plod my way through non-fiction. Probably wouldn't need to in ths case - it's supremely well written, if, as someone above said, thin on the science. But then, it's an overview book.

Five Hundred Years after - rereading a chapter or two at a time each Friday, to get into the right mood to play a swashbuckler character who's supposed to be much more charming than I actually am. It actually helps.

Gail Bowen's Murder at the Mendel. She's very good at jumping right into the plot, but I think the msot fun is that it's set in real north prairie landscape. So many bits sound ever so much like home.

Just finished Connie Willis' Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, and a Janet Evanovich Christmas novella that's actually technically a gift for my mother. It's also technically as much a fantasy as a comic mystery, which I wasn't expecting.

Next on my to-read are Jo Walton's A Prize in the Game and Naomi Kritzer's Freedom's Gate. Oddly, considering one of the comments above, I've also been considering rereading Watership Down, though it hasn't made it past considering yet.

Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:22 AM:

I have just finished Henry James's Washington Square, the first of his novels I've ever read in its entirety (I am conversant with a handful of short stories and novellas, including 'The Turn of the Screw', one of my all-time favourite stories). Admittedly, I was obliged to read this for class, but in fact I have been quite overwhelmed by the sheer craftsmanship of the story, I guess ... a novel I can read on many different levels. I'm looking forward to reading more, but at the same time I am yearning to read something for fun. I have Le Guin's Gifts cued up, ready for the moment I finish the last essay of term.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:38 AM:

Lenora - did you like the Evanovich book? A lot of people I know who enjoyed her until about book five are starting to be bothered by the way all the books are increasingly fantastic - Stephanie seems to do things pretty much so the plot can get moving.

There used to be a nice twisted logic to those books that I enjoyed, but the last few seem to be very slapstick. I'm much more interested in her grandmother than I am in elves.

Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 02:00 AM:

Just finished reading "Stan and Ollie", Simon Louvish's 2002 biography of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the movie comedy team. As in his biography of W.C. Fields, Louvish overwrites a bit, and under-researches (citations of other people's books crop up in the text at least as much and perhaps more than primary-source research). But I'm very fond of the Laurel and Hardy films, and Louvish seems to do an honest job of trying to outline the lives of the two comedians, and the nature of their comedy. I also respect his efforts at trying to make judgements on the reliability of sketchy information, such as the fading memories of people interviewed about events that took place decades ago. Plus, he closes the book by comparing Laurel and Hardy to Vladimir and Estragon in "Waiting for Godot", and gets away with it --- at least he gets away with it for me.

Amy Yost ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 02:05 AM:

Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft, by Robin Briggs. If anyone's curious about medieval witch trials (about 500 pages worth of curious), this is surprisingly readable.

Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 03:59 AM:

Just read:

PERDIDO STREET STATION and IRON COUNCIL, China Mieville. I loved Perdido, but thought Iron council came up kind of short, probably because China has no sympathy whatsoever for the Militia, and in IC they're just too close to the center of the plot.

THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR DEATH AND OTHER STORIES AND OTHER STORIES by Gene Wolfe. All of 'em. Don't quite know what I think about them all - "The Death of Dr. Island" was very very good, though.

currently reading:


which I skipped ahead in and saw it ends on a ridiculous cliffhanger. I may have to try and convince my brother to haul the 20-ton hardcovers of the next 2 over Christmas.

Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 04:21 AM:

I just finished Kage Baker's The Life of the World to Come, for which I'd been waiting almost a year; as enjoyable as expected, but nearly as many new questions added as answered.

Eventually, she'll have to answer the questions, surely.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 05:05 AM:

Starlight 3.

No, honestly, I am. I read Senator Bilbo in bed last night.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 05:16 AM:

Speaking of sidelights, I'm surprised to learn that China Miéville is named China because rather than despite the fact that it is rhyming slang for "mate" [in the sense of "pal", not "sexual partner"].

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 05:21 AM:

Like some others, I'm reading The Eyre Affair. And like some others, I prepared for it by reading Jane Eyre, albeit on phosphor not paper. Somewhat to my own surprise, I ended up enjoying Jane Eyre for its own sake; at this stage, in fact, I would agree that you should read Jane before Affair -- but not because you need to know Jane's plot (there's plenty of exposition), rather to avoid Affair's big honking spoilers!

I also just finished reading RealLivePreacher.com. Reading it all at once, as words on paper, is rather different from getting spread across time on a screen, but I'm finding it hard to articulate exactly how.

ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 05:55 AM:

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes (re-reading). (DHS please note: purely academic interest.) Read it first after seeing Michael Frayn's Copenhagen. Terrific writing - not just about the Manhattan Project but the revolution in physics leading up to it. There are some scenes that are very vivid, almost cinematic: Fermi looking down on Manhattan from his office window, squinting into the sun, cupping his hands together and saying "One little bomb this size, and it would all disappear." Bohr in his office, spraying chalk shrapnel in all directions and not daring to speak for fear of breaking his train of thought as he works out the reason for the uranium neutron capture curve. Sam Goudsmit with the Alsos intelligence team, up on the battle lines on the Western Front, chasing down the remains of the Nazi bomb project. Great stuff.

Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 06:22 AM:

I just finished Going Postal, which I thought was a romp and a half (having been peripherally involved in the software/computer biz) and then dragged down Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, an illuminating non-fiction book about the first "on-line" communications system. As I had half-remembered, the first "telegraphe" lines were actually semaphore towers which worked much the same way that Pratchett depicts on the Discworld. Really a book worth tracking down.

Wendy M. Grossman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 06:31 AM:

Thomas Lynch, Bodies at Rest and In Motion. Came across a mention of same on the WELL by others who liked the first season or two of Six Feet Under. Lynch is a writer, poet, and essayist of some thoughtfulness and is based in Michigan, where he is an undertaker, like his father was.


Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 06:43 AM:

It's a heavy critique week for me -- I'm not part of any formal writing group but do critiques for friends on an as-needed basis, and apparently everybody needs them this week. But in the "published stuff" category, I'm reading Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise.

Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 06:49 AM:

Just finished Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller (I was curious as to how one of my favorite actors would write). As 'tis the Season, I'm on to Pratchett's Hogfather. Also on the pile from the library are a couple of Stephen Fry's (The Liar and The Hippopotamus). I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell a while back and started it on its journey to various interested friends.

MKK, IMHO the #1 Ladies books are different from the standard mystery-reader's fare. There is little peril and no murder. I would actually highly recommend the recorded books if you ever lean in that direction. The reader (Lisette LeCat) is absolutely marvelous - each character's voice is distinct and unique, without being over-the-top or distracting. If you want a sample, go to www.audible.com and have a listen.

Julia, I agree re: the Evanovich books. Unfortunately, I tried the latest on recorded books and on top of the author's increasing cartooniness, the reader was adding her own cartooniness (Grandma Mazur sounded like a chicken being strangled). I got about five minutes into it before the headache started. Ick.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 07:25 AM:

Oh yeah, while I'm vaguely on-topic ...

This isn't current reading, because I'm up to date on his books and he only writes about one every 18 months, but I'd like to really really recommend Christopher Brookmyre to anyone who hasn't already discovered him.

Brookmyre is a Scottish crime novelist, in about the same way that Iain Banks is a Scottish literary novelist. Brookmyre's got a viciously sharp eye for the absurdities of everyday life, especially with reference to Scottish culture, and his plots tend towards the surreal while remaining believable and side-splittingly funny (if you have the sort of black sense of humour that finds Iain Banks funny, too). Characterisation is also pretty good. All in all, if you imagine Iain Banks turning to a life of crime, Brookmyre's your man.

As particular starting points I'd recommend A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away (rock'n'roll heroes, terrorists, what's the difference?), Quite Ugly One Morning (first novel, introduces investigative journalist Jack Parlabane and some spectacularly seedy goings-on centred on Edinburgh hospitals), and Not the end of the World (Brookmyre tackles televangelists in LA, and the porn movie industry).

cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 07:34 AM:

Will read over the coming month: a bunch of books on Chernobyl, due to a course at Uni.

On-the-bus braincandy: Thomas Harlan's Oath Of Empire Series (The Shadow Of Ararat, The Gate Of Fire, The Storm Of Heaven and The Dark Lord, just starting on The Storm Of Heaven).

On-and-off reading when I find a litte time: Martel and Savage, Strategic Nuclear War: What The Superpowers Target And Why, John Keegan, A History Of Warfare, Kaku and Axelrod, To Win A Nuclear War, and Brian Fagan's The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization.

Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 07:43 AM:

"Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia" by Jean Bottero (in translation from the French), specifically the section on trial by ordeal. Also "Our Dreaming Mind" and "A Writer's Time"

I usually have some fiction going, but finished what I had on hand. Time to visit Uncle Hugo.

Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 09:00 AM:

Stefan, you're going to be back on Long Island? (Of course, I'll be in the UK 'twixt Christmas and New Year...)

I'm making a note of Iron Council; I liked Perdido Street Station quite a bit, but was less thrilled with The Scar.

Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 09:02 AM:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a chapter or two every night before bed.

A History of Reading,/I> by Alberto Manguel, when I have the time, which is rare right now, since I'm in the midst of finals.

And various books on Library Technical Services, for my final exam. these are no where neer as fun as the previous two, or even chewing broken glass.

Matt Budner ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 09:29 AM:

Just finished reading Robert Silverberg's Legend's II. Quite enjoyed a few of the stories in that.

Currently reading Expiration Date by Tim Powers. Just started it, and I'm definitely intrigued.

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 09:42 AM:

I'm chain-reading, which is typical for me when I don't have any long bus or train trips to carve out natural reading time.

Just recently finished Red Thunder by John Varley, which I recommend as a cure for the they-don't-write-em-like-they-used-to blues. "Romp" seems to be the word of the moment, and this one is a homebuilt spaceship romp in the style of Rocket Ship Galileo. You can play Spot the Heinlein Homages, and some other literary salutes make their way into the story as well (much of the plot takes place in Florida, so keep your eyes open for fictional Floridians).

Also joining the crowd of readers of Quicksilver. Like Mary Kay with Jonathan Strange, I feel that it requires a certain level of concentration, or at least lack of distractions. When I'm at home, I can only manage a chapter or two per day, but while at my parents' house for Thanksgiving, I devoured about 500 pages in two days.

For those evenings when I want to kill some time reading but not be challenged, I've recently re-read the Foundation Trilogy. Just like a favorite movie where you know all the best scenes by heart and can quote all the good lines.

Also parallel-reading my way through The Fresco by Sheri Tepper and Quin's Shanghai Circus by Edward Whittemore.

On the gotta-read-soon list: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, on the recommendation of darned near everyone, and John Adams by David McCullough, recommended by my father, whose reading rate has surpassed mine since he retired.

Northland ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 10:42 AM:

The Ghost Stories of M.R. James, a lovely edition illustrated with sketches by Rosalind Caldecott. Comfort reading in a perverse sort of way.

I need more uninterrupted time to really sink into The Making of the English Landscape, but the photographs alone are amazing. Also just started The Healing Hand (could tell it was my kind of book from the prologue's diagram of wound infection processes).

Ask me about Romanian dentists....
Okay, I'll bite (har). What about Romanian dentists?

Mary Tabasko ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 11:17 AM:

Charlie Stross: I'd like to really really recommend Christopher Brookmyre to anyone who hasn't already discovered him.

Seconded. Several years ago, I was in London looking for a book to occupy me on the flight back to the States. A stack of Brookmyres caught my eye, so I picked up the earliest. (I wasn't sure if they were a series or not (not), and "earliest" was a handy metric since I'd never heard of the guy.) I devoured it, and when I got home, I promptly ordered everything else from Amazon UK. I've been singing his praises since.

He's become more available in the US, at least via Amazon, though I've never seen him in a US bookshop (at least not in Pittsburgh).

All in all, if you imagine Iain Banks turning to a life of crime, Brookmyre's your man.

Or if you wish Carl Hiaasen were born a Scot, Brookmyre's your man. I've foisted Not the End of the World on several Hiaasen fans, and the reaction has been positive (although they're sometimes baffled by the slang).

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 11:19 AM:

I'm rereading a tacky-but-fun mystery/thriller/romance called He Shall Thunder In The Sky, by Elizabeth Peters. The title is from an Egyptian manuscript: "Then Re-Herekhte said: Let Set be given unto me, to live with me and be my son. He shall thunder in the sky and be feared." I like the book, but that quote raised the hair on the back of my head (um, figuratively speaking), and has led to my studying Middle Egyptian so I can try reading some of that in the original.

MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:24 PM:

Right now:
Slowly drowning in Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid , just finished Dave Mckean's Cages and Mallarmé's Divagations, re-reading Akutagawa Ryunosuke's Rashomon. Desperatly waiting for my copy of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire, which may well turn into the case that will convert me to net shopping: almost 2 months waiting and the shop still havn't received it !

On another notice: with all the recommendations I've seen for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I'm now more than eager to read the book, but remembering Neil Gaiman's comment on its Englishness, I'm wondering if it would be fit for a tonal death self-taught english reader ?
Or should I just wait for a (hopefully) good translation to come ?

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Update: This morning I was given WILL IN THE WORLD for my birthday (along with hand lotion and a set of paperweights) and put everything else aside to read the first fifty pages over my breakfast.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Madeleine -- if your birthday is indeed today, you have the same birthday as my sis-in-law. Reminds me, I should call her.

London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 12:53 PM:

Down Here by Andrew Vachss. This guy writes street crime better than anyone. Always very real extended family group involved and the author fights child abuse in his day job as a child advocate attorney. Can not be missed!

Nathan L ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:12 PM:

The current issue of the Believer. The Wizard, although I should have reread The Knight first. Exley's A Fan's Notes, which is good, but not that good. You'd think he was the second coming from reading his resume.

And, God help me, a reread of Donaldson's Gap books. I really do like them. Am I a bad person?

Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:15 PM:

Sure, I'll join in:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. I've had books speak to me before, books I liked more, books I thought were better written, but never a book that slapped me so hard and said "hey, you! Yeah, you! I was written just for you! So enjoy!"

The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, by Peter S. Beagle, who has never yet failed to delight me.

Japan Under Construction, by Brian Woodall. It's non-fiction about public works corruption in contemporary Japan. Good for research, but not if you're not already interested in the topic.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Julia asks:

"You're doing the Reillys'?"

If by that you mean 'going to the family get-together on the 24th,' yes indeedy. I'll be arriving all jet lagged and maybe unemployed the night before.

"Stefan, you're going to be back on Long Island?"

Unfortunately, on a day twixt Christmas and New Year's.

OTOH, I have lots of frequent flyer miles and may soon have lots of time to use them.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 02:21 PM:

Nathan: I liked Donaldson's Gap series too, though I haven't dared re-read it for fear that I wouldn't like them now.

(Speaking of hurt/comfort . . . )

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 02:45 PM:

Evelyn Waugh, by Selina Hastings. Fascinating loathsome man.

Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 03:05 PM:

Anything I can get my hands on by Fredric Brown.
Plus The Anarchist in the Library, dealing with the clash between control and anarchy in the information technology field, and how it's spreading from the digital to the "real" world. Professional reading, but well worth it for anyone, IMO.

Tom Womack ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 03:08 PM:

Just finished Iron Council, which I thought pretty fantastic; the best thing Mieville has written, Wolfeian vocabularies but with enough incluing not to lose the reader entirely.

Before then ... The Algebraist, welcome return to form for Banks; Sabriel, hitting just the right point between necromancy and the respect of ancestors; Pompeii by Richard Harris as a quick Roman entertainment; Ghostwritten, about which I can do little save enthuse. The Family Trade, fun, but the loudest clang I've had in months as I ran full-tilt and streamlined for progress into the back cover.

Currently half-way through Jane Jacobs Death and Life of Great American Cities, picked up in Toronto, which I'm convinced is pretty much a type specimen of Great American City. The Duke of Uranium trilogy cued up when I want relaxation. Gaskell's Mothers and Daughters, reading in 30,000-word chunks during the more tedious musical numbers in Sweeney Todd. World Fantasy Award Winner Tooth and Claw on the way from Amazon, now they believe in my credit card again.

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 03:35 PM:

Patrick, I have Distraction and A Good Old-Fashioned Future in my bookshelf of sf/fantasy to-be-reads. Nice to finally be getting to them. Decided that since I might be in intense grad school program next fall I am going to do as much "fun" reading as I can now.

katster ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 03:48 PM:

Well, I'm currently reading Harry Turtledove's Great War and American Empire books. I'm on the last one I have in my possession, which means that I'm going to have to do some digging to come up with the last two that are out that I haven't read yet.

Sitting there waiting for me to finish those is Stephen Baxter's Evolution, but since Baxter is never an easy read, I'm sorta waiting for a less complicated time to start.

And of course, I'm poking my way through my shiny new GURPS 4e books. :)

(Long time lurker, but I figured I'd add my two cents to what I'm reading.)


John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 04:30 PM:

I'm about halfway through David G. Hartwell's updated Age of Wonders, which I'm enjoying immensely. However, he does strike me as just a tad defensive here and there about the virtues of SF against mainstream fiction. He admits that a lot of classic SF stories are not well written, but that this isn't a mark against them because, after all, it's the sense of wonder that counts, derived from the central idea of the story, not the writing.

Which is fine by me...but, er, wouldn't that sense of wonder be heightened if the writing (i.e. prose style) were better, by any standard?

Anyway, that left me a little puzzled. Wondering if other readers of the book thought so.

(I categorize myself as what Mr. Hartwell defines as a "chronic".)

Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 05:58 PM:

Delurking to say Jonathan Strange because it was recommended here along with Freedom and Necessity, which I adored. There's no character in Clarke to match James, Susan or Engels; Arabella and Stephen are lovely but passive. I like my heroes armed and on horseback, or at least arguing fiercely. Just hugely enjoyed Robin McKinley's Sunshine for the same reason.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 06:16 PM:

Xopher: it is indeed today, a date that will live in infamy. Tell your sis-in-law I said HB.

Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 08:29 PM:

T: Since this is an open thread, let me just say that that sidelight link about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher makes me want to wash out my mind with soap: ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK! ICK!

Allow me to offer you a Brain Bleach cocktail. Very useful for the aftermath of such thoughts.

What I'm reading: printed on paper, The Persian Boy. For work, other things on screen.

robert west ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 08:39 PM:

I'm bouncing back and forth between books, as I often do. Currently on the alternating-list:

Theodore Rex, mentioned above, by Edmund Morris. It's a good presidential biography. My one major ciriticism is that it's a bit thin in the second half.

Britain in Revolution, by Austin Woolrych; a great survey history of the civil war. It has a fair amount of detail about the situation in Ireland and Scotland. The discussion of the protectorate itself seems thin, but the handling of the events preceding the dissolution of the Rump was fantastic.

The Reformation, by Diarmaid McCullough. I've been struggling with this one; it suffers at times from excessive specificity which obscures the general picture, and it seems to assume the presence of a body of knowledge that I don't have.

The Confusion, by Stephenson. I got about halfway through and put it down, and have been unable to muster the concentration to pick it up again.

All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles and Jay Lake. I was particularly entranced by the story about wild zeppelins in the great plains.

Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 08:55 PM:


Oh! I have been meaning to pick up The Anarchist In The Library for a long time. I had it on a list for my spouse to get me for Yule, and quite forgot. So thanks!

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2004, 10:19 PM:

The Hermetic President is now available for public viewing...

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 12:45 AM:

Connie H: I picked up The Victorian Internet from the used section of the Harvard Book Store some time ago, and promptly lost it in the house's book swarm. I'm sure I'll find it, eventually.

It's always fun to spot things that you're absolutely certain that Pratchett made up, and find out that, well, he didn't....

Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:04 AM:

Let me thank Charlie Stross for help with my little "problem". He is a gentleman and an author...

And I am very glad that I wrote "I once again remember why I swore *never* to buy series books until the series was completed..." rather than "I once again remember why I swore *never* to buy series books until after the author was beheaded and staked..."

Jax ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:56 AM:

Bookhopping, too:

--Understanding Nanotechnology, from Scientific American
--Underground Bases and Tunnels, by Richard Sauder, Ph.D.
--Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition, by Ed Regis (a fun, fun read )

First two are for book research, last two are pleasure reads.

Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:57 AM:

Just read the wonderful Set This House in Order, by Matt Ruff, which squeezed in between Pratchett comfort reads (immediately prior was Men at Arms, immediately post is Moving Pictures, after I tried Soul Music and failed to enjoy even Susan.)

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:07 AM:

I hust started America's First Cuisines by Sophie D. Coe, which I bought to give away, and I'm having a wonderful time. It has many of the best things in the world. Politics, culture, language, evolution, geography, and of course, food. I just finished reading about the origin of green beans, but I think I have to reread it.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 04:53 AM:

MD² aked above if Messrs. Strange and Norrell is a difficult read since it is so very English, and I would say not. If you can read, say, Jane Austen, you can read JS&Mr.N.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 06:09 AM:

Just arrived today from Amazon: The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore, Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the 20th Century by Lauren Slater ... and the DVD set of the BBC production of Gormenghast. Currently unable to read more than 20 pages of The Men Who Stare at Goats at a time due to hysterical laughter, so alternating with Molvania: a land untouched by modern dentistry.

Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 06:51 AM:

>It's always fun to spot things that you're absolutely certain that Pratchett made up, and find out that, well, he didn't....

Isn't it, though? When he's on his game, the stories function on so many levels -- literary homage, economic fable, scientific/technological extrapolation, political/religious/philosophical argument, character portrait... and of course, devastatingly funny.

Immediately after reading Pratchett, I often feel like cutting my hands off at the wrist because I'm never going to be able to write that well. The thought that it would make reading future books has mostly stopped me.

MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 07:33 AM:

Thanks to Niall McAulley. I'll give it a try then.

Since it's an open thread, I can't resist sharing that totally unrelated piece of info

Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 07:53 AM:

Charlie - please read the Lauren Slater book with a house-sized grain of salt. I'm just saying.

Here's my list:

Just finished a re-read of Bujold's Diplomatic Immunity, and was pleased to discover that I only remembered the vague outline of the plot. Now I've started re-reading Falling Free, which I think I've only ever read once. I don't remember what happens.

I'm also in the middle of Melissa Scott & Lisa Barrett's Point of Dreams. It might've been easier if I had read Point of Hope, but I'm enjoying the book anyway.

For comfort reading in odd moments, on my Palm Pilot: Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, zillionth re-read.

And, last but not least, New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because it's really not too early to be thinking about it - yikes!

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 08:24 AM:

Rivka: yes, I've seen the, ahem, interesting criticisms of the Slater book. I figured I'd take a look to see for myself. Bullshit detector set to "high".

Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 08:44 AM:

After finishing Charlie Stross's The Atrocity Archives I realised I really needed to re-read some Len Deighton. Having just read the game, set and match trilogy, I'd like to say thanks, Charlie, for reminding me how good they are.

Steven Sherril's The Minotaur takes a Cigarette Break is a beautiful melancholy tale of a millennia-old monster working as a short-order cook in the American South. Some may find it pretenious - I loved it.

The Confusion was a hilarious geek shaggy-dog story; now I just need to bum The System of the World off one of my mates.

Current fiction: Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation.

Current non-fiction: Richard Hallion's Taking Flight, a history of aviation from antiquity until the present.

Like most people here, I have far too many books on the stack, and I'm afraid reading this thread will only exacerbate the problem...

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 12:15 PM:

Now in circulation in my Currently-Reading pile are Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom, DWJ's Deep Secret, Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels, and K.J. Bishop's The Etched City. I'm also (slowly) going through one of my rereads of Imajica, a reliable nightstand fixture (though heaven only knows what it's doing to my dreams).

I started Jonathan Strange back in October, but it seems to be on hold for a while until I can really give it some attention. What I've read so far is a delight, though.

Soli - How is England's Hidden Reverse? I'm still waiting for Amazon to decide whether or not the paperback version exists yet so they can send me one, but I've been looking forward to it. It's going to be very weird reading with John Balance so recently dead.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 12:38 PM:


On the subject of breastfeeding, may I also recommend Fiona Giles's Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts, a scattered, digressive book -- part survey, part anthology of essays, part collection of essays by Giles -- which tries to take on the deeper issues involved with breastfeeding which mostly don't come up in the usual books on the subject; recipes at the end.

Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 12:46 PM:

And on the subject of books (and since it's an open thread), for those of you who haven't seen this yet...

The film of Phillip Pulman's "His Dark Materials" will have no reference to God or the Church.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 12:47 PM:

There's a film????

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:02 PM:


thanks for the link about Sophia Stewart.
I had never heard about the case.
I couldn't quite understand what the article
was saying when it said "Monday ended the dispute"
and then later said Sophia's "allegations,
involving copyright infringement and
racketeering, were received and acknowledged "
by the court.

I'm not a lawyer, so maybe "recieved and
acknowledged" means something in a court, but to
me it doesn't mean they ruled in her favor or

further down it says:
"Sophia will recover damages from the films,
The Matrix and The Terminator. She will soon
receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history
of Hollywood"

I assume that was what "recieved/acknowledged"
means, but it just seems odd language to me.
I'm too much a literalist sometimes, I suppose.

It is interesting that the case has been going on
for 6 years and I'd never heard about it on the
news or anything. Given the size of the award,
you'd think it would have gotten mentioned
somewhere. I wonder if there was a memo passed
down from WB's bosses to its news divisions to
keep it hushed up.

Corporate news hard at work...

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:13 PM:

Chirelstein on Federal Taxation (can't remember the exact title)
Federal Rules of Evidence + Selected State Statutes
Park, Leonard & Goldberg: Evidence.

Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:33 PM:

I'm currently reading Jo's Tooth and Claw (and enjoying it muchly), and Jordan's New Spring (which I finally found used).

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:40 PM:

Greg, the article has been corrected (page 2, at the bottom).

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 01:47 PM:

Dick's Zap Gun

Wow, the first thing by Dick I ever picked up, and the last for about 30 years. Really terrible, or maybe it was the fact that I was like 12 and totally didn't get it.

I have a wild talent for picking up an author's worst, or just least accessible, work first and being turned off. An example of the latter was Russ's And Chaos Died, which while arguably a tour de force is not exactly subway reading...

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:01 PM:

Thanks. just checked out the addition.
Apparently I'm not the only literalist. ;)

While I was googling to find more info,
it was interesting to see there are a bunch
of people who have already deemed this a
frivolous lawsuit by someone looking for
deep pockets to pick.

Maines ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:12 PM:

Just finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Decided I can't have any more books (waaahhh!) until I read some of the many, many books I own but haven't quite gotten to. Hence, currently reading Motherless Brooklyn and John Adams (the David McCullough one). Next up: Les Miserables in French.

Magenta ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:21 PM:

I'm re-reading the books of Charles Fort in one volume. I first read them in high school, and not since. Damon Knight wrote the introduction to this edition. I'd forgotten what a lyrical writer Fort was - and how lacking in footnotes the books are. No way to check on anything.

I am doing this partly because I am on the program committee for Minicon Fortean (Minicon 40) and we want a few program items linked with Fort. One obvious possibilty is SF stories inspired by Fort's books. All I can think of so far is Heinlein's "Goldfish Bowl", but I just started this project.
(Don't worry, most of Minicon will have NOTHING to do with Fort.)

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:22 PM:

"There's no character in Clarke to match James, Susan or Engels". Arguably, one. But he never exactly appears onstage.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Thanks. just checked out the addition.
Um -- can someone give the gist of it? I can't get to page 2 without registering.

Tim Pratt ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Just finished re-reading Peter Straub's The Hellfire Club, and just started The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks for the first time.

Jvstin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Ruled Britannia, by Harry Turtledove.

(I'm sure Patrick is familiar with it, for the rest, its an Alternate History set in a 16th Century England where the Spanish Armada successfully invaded England, setting up Spanish rule. Will Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and other historical characters populate the novel, but it focuses on Shakespeare)

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 03:04 PM:

Dan, about England's Hidden Reverse...

Personally, I loved it. I've heard some C93 fans didn't like it for some reason, though. I thought it was fair and didn't focus too much on any one band. Was amusing for me to read the section on Love's Secret Domain, as that's the Coil "era" where I found the band. Plus it has Freya Aswynn, who I got to meet this summer, and it was hillarious to read her parts. If you do read it, yes she really is like that in person.

Also, for Lucy, since you read America's First Cuisines, DEFINITELY check out The True History of Chocolate. I read it earlier this year and loved it! Interestingly, I pass the Coe home on my way to and from work every day.

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 03:26 PM:


the addendum clarifies that Stewart hasn't won her lawsuit. Warner had attempted to have the case dismissed. And the article was saying that the court decided her case has enough merit to proceed with the lawsuit.

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 03:41 PM:
I am doing this partly because I am on the program committee for Minicon Fortean (Minicon 40) and we want a few program items linked with Fort. One obvious possibilty is SF stories inspired by Fort's books. All I can think of so far is Heinlein's "Goldfish Bowl", but I just started this project.

Dave Langford has a review of two Eric Frank Russell novels which fit the bill, and he mentions a few other Fortean works in passing.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 03:45 PM:

Quoth Soli: I've heard some C93 fans didn't like it for some reason, though.

Yeah, but it's astonishingly easy to piss off C93 fans; being a Current fan myself, I was rather dismayed to learn this. I mean, some of those guys are still torqued that the new albums don't sound like Dog's Blood Rising any more.

I'm not sure what it is that makes this particular fandom take themselves so deadly seriously; I don't get the impression David Tibet does. I suspect it's the elitism that comes with a niche interest.

Anyway, very nice to meet a fellow Apocalyptic Folk fan in these parts. My own point of entry (heh) for Coil was Horse Rotorvator, by way of C93's "The Seven Seals..." and the many references there. If nothing else, I'm looking forward to EHR to see how all that artistic cross-pollination worked behind the scenes as well.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Thanks Greg. Very bad title on that article, in that case.

Rivka: I agree, it's never too early to learn about breastfeeding. I didn't have that book back when I was learning, but I think I did ok with the LLL's Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and the various William and Martha Sears baby books. One book I would have liked to have had was McHale's book about medications in breastmilk (forget the exact title) but luckily I had an online friend with a copy who was always willing to look things up.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 04:03 PM:

The problem with The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding -- unless it has been revised heavily in the last 26 years, which may be the case -- is that it is so black-and-white about establishing nursing. The book said you mustn't let them give your baby even a bottle of water in the first couple of days or your milk wouldn't come in! which was a worry I didn't need to have when the nurses gave the nice fellow a bottle of formula to give the kid when I was still too ill to hold him.

Oh, and the chocolate book -- I'll try to find it.

Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 05:11 PM:

Mayakda: Not yet, but there will be.

However, the URL that didn't show up when I did it before is:


Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 06:51 PM:

Magenta, surely we'll have rains of frogs!?

Buzz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 08:21 PM:

Wow, the first thing by Dick I ever picked up, and the last for about 30 years. Really terrible, or maybe it was the fact that I was like 12 and totally didn't get it.

It is terrible. You were a very canny young man.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 08:35 PM:

Latest: Simon Brett, A Hanging in the Hotel (interesting twist on the usual order-restored ending of most mysteries); Richard L. Grant, Kaspian Lost (no ending at all, but an interesting journey).
On the table for when I don't have time for a novel: Red Shift (the Sarrantonio anthology).
Can you tell I'm a couple of years behind? -- except for library books (one of my choruses rehearses directly across from the main branch of the Boston Public Library) such as the Brett and (previously) Wilhelm's latest Barbara Holloway (not her best IMO), and indulgences: recent lighter reading (for the flights to/from WFC) included Brenchley's "Outremer" books and Turtledove's Ruled Britannia (IMO better than his average).

Chad: I'd pick Coyote Blue as the best Moore; it has some ... interesting ... explanations.

pericat: another Francis fan! I like the way he worked characters through life changes; pity he was so dependent on his late wife's research that he's given up writing.

And I'm baffled at all you multi-thread readers; I've gotten resigned to not finishing a book at one sitting, and I do some nonfiction in pieces, but I'd get completely lost if I tried to read multiple novels in parallel.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 10:10 PM:

Another Dick Francis fan here. The only time I've ever wanted to go to the races was in England; and I picked up my fondness for Single Malt scotch after reading PROOF...

Magenta ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 11:17 PM:

Dan Blum - thanks for the link!

Marilee, Minicon 40 is in March - it would be much more likely for the sky to be snowing frogs, or something else. The variety of weird weather in Fort is freaking me out; he has records of everything but Oobleck!

Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2004, 11:41 PM:

I'm currently reading "The Prince" by Machiavelli. I'm beginning to understand that in the world of realpolitik, Bush is as much of a piker as he is in the world of real politics.

I'm planning on taking a third stab at "A Distant Mirror," by Tuchman because even though it's a bit of a slog for me, I find myself referring to things I've read in that book every few months.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 02:21 AM:

Is that why Francis stopped writing? His wife did the research? I thought he'd just gotten a little elderly to continue. For 15 years I could count on a birthday book he'd written, since he seemed to publish in October.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 05:19 AM:

I used to love Dick Francis's books, but his best were the jockey and pilot ones, things he knew from his own experience.

When he wrote about computers in Twice Shy, something I knew a bit about even in 1981, it was obviously researched but not understood. I wondered how many of the other non-jockey ones read that way to people who know a bit about wine, banking or whatever the subject is.

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 07:30 AM:


So that would explain it. I don't own much C93, just a compilation of which the name escapes me. I never got into NWW though, but one of my friends is a fan so I know bits about them through him.

The world needs more a-folk fans. As well as more a-folk bands which don't take themselves seriously. Tibet does not come off at all like Mr. Ego, but Stapleton seems to be another story. The best part of the book? The reminiscence of the early Industrial scene and how easy it seemed to be to connect with bands then.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 10:12 AM:

Taking advantage of Open Thread to bring this Good News from Ghent to Aix, or Wellington to The World <g> (Follow-up to some issues mentioned, for instance, at Electrolite: If this be error. August 13, 2004, or Electrolite: Constituency politics at work. February 19, 2004)

New Zealand Herald story - Civil Unions Bill passed
UPDATE - The Civil Unions Bill has been passed by Parliament. From April 26 next year couples can commit themselves to the new civil union.
Parliament voted 65-55 to pass the controversial legislation which has polarised opinion and split political parties ... The bill also applies to heterosexual couples, but it does not change the Marriage Act which still applies only to men and women ...
The minister in charge of the bill, David Benson-Pope, said the legislation took nothing away from marriage. "Once this bill is passed, and the sky doesn't fall in, the opposition to it will very quickly evaporate," he said.
"It gives the simplest of things -- the formal recognition and respect by our laws for the individual choices of New Zealanders."

New Zealand Passes Law Giving Marriage Rights to Gay Couples
Text of the Civil Union Bill

New Zealand government press release
Hon David Benson-Pope
09 December 2004
Passing of Civil Union Bill shows growing maturity of our nation
(BTW 'the official Website of the New Zealand Government' is called www.beehive.govt.nz )

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 11:22 AM:

I enjoy Francis - he's unspectacular, but he's reliable - but it never occurred to me that he researched anything. I thought all his stuff was based on his own experience as the Queen's jockey.

PinkDreamPoppies ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 12:25 PM:

Currently on the nightstand:

  • Faust, Parts One and Two by Goethe, Trans. Walter Kaufmann

  • LB Brief by Jane E. Aaron

In queue:

  • Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker. The first was so beautiful that I'm not entirely certain that I have the courage to read this one in case the world is ruined for me. I've not yet been able to forgive Philip Pullman for turning into a wanker in the third part of both His Dark Materials and Sally Lockheart; it's made me wary of series whose first books are adored.

  • Kokin Wakashu: The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry by Various Authors, Trans. Helen Craig McCoullough. I came across her translations of some of the poems in this volume (also known as the Kokinshu) in a Norton Anthology. They were, far and away, the most beautiful poems I have ever read.

  • Iliad and Odyssey by Homer, Trans. Alexander Pope. I'm a Pope fan and felt that, having suffered through the Fitzgerald and Fagles translations, it was time to read Homer as rendered (however non-literally) by someone with a poetic ear as opposed to an academic one.

Just finished:

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. As with most other things by James Joyce, I was more impressed by his sentence-level technical abilities than by anything else. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the story more had Stephen Dedalus not been a worthless human being, but I'm not sure. Perhaps I'm too old for this one.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus. An interesting read that becomes a sermon in the last ten pages. I feel that most readers would have grasped Camus' existential angsting without having Meursault spell it out in excruciating detail. This is, however, possibly the best examination of a sociopath I've ever encountered, even if Camus didn't mean for the story to go that way.

  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. This won the Pulitzer? "The Third Continent" was published in the New Yorker? While one or two of the stories were beautiful, the majority of the book was of the style and at the level one would expect from a particularly talented creative writing class.

  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides. I'm not sure I can summarize my thoughts about this one quite yet.

Waiting on...

  • A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. The first book was clunky, but enjoyable. The second one still stumbled, but A Storm of Swords was brilliant.

I find it interesting that I've been unimpressed and uninspired by much of the "literature" that I've read lately, but have found staggering amounts of brilliance in "pulp." I suppose that I'm simply more interested in narrative, story, and character than I am in theme, symbolism, and craft. [shrug]

Scott Spiegelberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 12:46 PM:

For work/research I'm reading Generative Processes in Music edited by John Sloboda
The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music edited by Peretz and Zatorre
Music and emotion edited by Juslin and Sloboda.

For pleasure I'm reading Cities of the Plain, the final book of Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Lucy, I don't know if they've revised Womanly Art. I think my copy probably had the same thing. It didn't occur to me as an issue because the midwives at the Birth Center didn't offer the babies anything either time. I'm a very selfish with teeny babies though -- I love breastfeeding time. I made up by being extra generous with sharing diaper-changing time. :)

Dave: On the Golden Compass movie, on the one hand I'm horrified. The whole church/dust/original sin thing seems so central to the story. But if they're working with Pullman on the specifics, it may turn out ok. Or even good, if they manage to tweak Authority into a reference to the BoyKingGWB. But I guess that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Sean: I remember reading The Prince in my early teens but I forget the substance of it. It would be interesting to read it again with some historic context (what exactly was going on with the Borgias then, who was NM's intended audience, etc).

Waiting on... A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

PinkDreamPoppies: Welcome to the waiting place.

I forgot to list another book I'm reading - The Complete Kama Sutra translated by Alain Danielou. I think I'm in chapter three and still no naughty bits yet. Heh. It's perfect actually, for my research on my wip.

Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 03:01 PM:

Anthony Bourdain's "Brasserie Les Halles Cookbook"---still out of work, but can still afford the ingredients for seven-hour leg-of-lamb, and have the time for it....

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 03:19 PM:

all, wrt Francis: there certainly was research in his books; the connection to his wife was IIRC something I heard rather than read, but seems plausible. I assume most of the horse-talk came from his experience and later contacts (e.g., women finally show up as stable hands in a late work) but he covered a lot of other fields. The computer talk in Twice Shy also struck me as off -- but how much of that could be the difference between US and UK usage? (Aside from not seeing any change in technology in much too long.) I can't speak to most of his professional talk, but Reflex fitted the bits I know of the chemistry of photography&printing, and the one in which the lead was a small-plane charter pilot matched what I learned while earning a private pilot's license and instrument rating.

PinkDreamPoppies ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 03:27 PM:

PinkDreamPoppies: Welcome to the waiting place.

As a fantasy geek, I'm pretty used to the waiting place. I've found that the trick is to temporarily forget that the series in question ever existed in the first place. The only problem with this is that, occaisionally, you'll genuinely forget that the series exists and/or will have time to evaluate what you don't like about it. This happened with to me with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time; at one time I was obsessed, but now I find the books to be virtually unreadable. At some point in time while waiting for book nine---Was it nine? Was Winter's Heart volume nine?---I lost interest and never really got it back.

But, yes, the Land of Wait for Honey isn't a fun place to be, is it?

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 03:55 PM:

Taking my cue from Brad De Long— "I once again remember why I swore *never* to buy series books until the series was completed..."

I just sprang for the complete paperback set of volumes 1 through 9 of Robert Jordan's series, which I found, of all places, in a tiny book shop off Route 18 in Abington, MA (just bordering on Weymouth). Called Aleigh's Book Shop. She has a great SF section squeezed between Regency Romance and Mystery.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 04:50 PM:

Dick Francis was a pilot in WW II, so I'd say his piloting stories are first hand experience, and the flying business stuff is close second-hand.

Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 05:20 PM:

No wonder I liked Bad Magic so much; it turns out that I've had occult sinusitis for the past few weeks.

Now, to get my Third Nostril opened....

Wendy Bradley ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 06:27 PM:

I'm with Teresa on the Thatcher/Regan sidelight. But (in pedant mode) I'm also disappointed in you, Patrick - Thatcher and Regan wouldn't be *slash* but *ship*. Blair and Bush would be slash... and I wish I hadn't thought of that one, either.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 06:35 PM:

Would somebody mind pointing me at the Thatcher/Reagan sidelight directly? I'll swear I've poked around in search of it, but I can't figure out where it is.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 07:24 PM:

Magenta, I go to Minicon and I have both had too light clothing and too heavy clothing. Mpls is unpredictable at Easter.

vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 08:20 PM:

Recent past: Elsewhere and Nevernever by Will Shetterly. I hadn't managed to get hold of them any earlier. One of my friends ordered them online and I borrowed her copies.

Just finished: Dear John, by Richard Berry. He lived in England for four years, and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister back home every week until he returned to Australia. Until I summarised it just then, it didn't occur to me to compare it to The Odyssey. Penelope and her weaving make an interesting metaphor for government, though.

In the middle of: Birds of Prey: Old Friends, New Enemies, by Chuck Dixon, Greg Land, Dick Giordano et al. Comics TPB. I like some fierce, smart, strong Barbara Gordon in my comics.

Next in the to-read pile: Partnership, by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball, because I need some mush in my literary diet, and it's been a long time between rereads.

Temperance ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 08:22 PM:

Have been re-reading Tolkien since the day after the election. My husband knew how depressed I was when he came home and found me curled up with Fellowship of the Ring. Since finishing LOTR I've also gone thru Hobbit, Silmarillion, Letters of JRRT, Lays of Beleriand, and am currently in Lost Tales II. Next though I'm going to read Rabbi Paul which I just got from the History Book Club. I keep trying to understand and appreciate Paul even when I hate his misogyny and general attitudes about sex.

JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 08:32 PM:

I am currently reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams. Which is to say that I am re-reading (and in some cases disovering for the first time which is just incomprehensible to me) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, The Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Young Zaphoid Plays it Safe, and Mostly Harmless.

The book before that was: Minion by L.A. Banks.
Which followed only a few hours after setting down Vittorio by Anne Rice.

Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 09:06 PM:

I just read all of The Amazing Dr. Darwin by Charles Sheffield on a road trip a week or so ago and was amazed and admiring, once I got over the fact that it's more of a vignette booh rather than a novel. There is not much on the cover blurbs that indicate what it actually is. Well worth a read, it's like Sherlock Holmes, only about 100 years earlier.

With great trepidation and fear, bought a copy of the Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett on said road trip because I finished Dr. Darwin before we got to St. Louis ( we went to Bloomington, IL). I'm about a third of the way in (I'd be in further, but I'm working like a maniac at the job that pays my salary AND we've had a visitation/funeral that Jim had to officiate at mid-week -- totally unexpected and very sad.)

I think I'm gonna be buying a lot more books. (with no 'dammit' factor involved.) I am enjoying it.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 09:54 PM:

Thatcher and Regan wouldn't be *slash* but *ship*.

I'm not as convinced of that as you are.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2004, 11:16 PM:

I've read most of Bad Magic this week and I'm torn. While there's really cool ideas and some great lines the writing style drives me insane. I can see where short telegraphic writing has its place, particularly in action sequences, but a paragraph that starts out, "Morning. Breakfast," before describing the action jerks me straight out of the book and makes me grind my teeth. It feels like an outline for a scene rather than a scene. And it's written in present tense. Once again, I can see the uses of present tense in various circumstances but this particular implementation is driving me insane. This is all a taste thing of course and I certainly wouldn't call it a bad book, I mean, I'm still reading it, but for the particular type of reader I am, it could have been a lot better.


David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 01:27 AM:

I've just finished, as readers of RASFW will already know, Jacqueline Carey's _Banewreaker_ (yay, Tor!), Alastair Reynold's _Century Rain_, and Jon Courtenay Grimwood's _Stamping Butterflies_. Now I'm busy complaining again about the paper used in British hardcovers after shelving the Grimwood and Reynolds and seeing exactly how much farther the pages in my 4 year old British books have yellowed. Next up: getting crumbly.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 07:46 AM:

Just finished "An Equal Music" by Vikram Seth.

A wonderful book--read it, read it!

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 09:16 AM:

"Morning. Breakfast," I agree, Mary Kay. In my opinion, this is an unfortunate influence from the ever growing popularity of screenplays and teleplays.

Here follows a description of the action in present tense, with occasional UPPERCASE to denote characters and the INTENSITY of their deeds as the action unfolds, etc. etc. Please avoid specifying camera directions or pointers to how characters should deliver their dialogue, as this is considered insulting to both director and cast.....

Nick Brooke ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Charlie: Thatcher/Reagan. (And thanks for writing such great books!)

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 11:35 AM:

So I finished The Golden Key (by Jennifer Roberson, Melanie Rawn, Kate Elliott). The Roberson and Elliott sections (1st and 3rd) were excellent. I think I'm going to be too hungover from it to read anything else for a few days.

Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Seconding from above, Sterling's Zeitgeist and Heaney's Beowulf. Currently reading Aubrey/Maturin, up to The Surgeon's Mate.

Also reading a bunch of things in German, from the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's list of 50 great novels of the 20th century. Some thoughts on the list here and here.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 12:56 PM:

I almost read The Golden Key . It was almost fascinating. But it was too damned long, and I was drowning before I got past the middle. I snuck ahead, because I was really caught up in the story, but finally the drowning was too much and I didn't finish it.

I usually disapprove of abridgement for a general audience, but an abridged version of that, I'd read.

I only wish that one guy hadn't turned out to be a nasty piece of work (is that vague enough to avoid spoilers?)

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 01:20 PM:

I only wish that one guy hadn't turned out to be a nasty piece of work (is that vague enough to avoid spoilers?)

He is the most interesting character, and I read it as an almost-greek tragedy. His ultimate fate was truly scary, from my pov.
The middle of the book certainly was plodigous :).

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 02:09 PM:


(Now I'm sorry I asked the question.)

Alison ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 03:22 PM:

This is awful. I have all sorts of interesting things on my bedside table, among them Charles Vess's Ballads, a book of essays by Ursula Le Guin and Big Fish, the book that inspired the movie with Ewan MacGregor (so far the movie is better). But what I'm actually reading is the most recent Harry Potter, which I had put off because the fourth one was so dumb and trying so hard to be dark that it was terribly artificial. Fortunately, this one doesn't seem to be trying so hard to be Lemony Snicket.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 04:52 PM:

I guess when it comes to Greek Tragedy figures, I want an explosive catharsis like a Greek play, and not an immense generation saga. I think the reason the middle of the book was plodigious (what a great word) was that its task was impossible. Certainly, as I remember it, every single sentence, paragraph, and epsiode was at least competently written, and often very fine. I kept at it for a long time before I gave up, because of that. The world is very nicely imagined, and the people are interesting and complex. But I think the book was too long for the story -- and now I think that the reason is that you're right about wossname being a Greek Tragedy figure and not a villain or psychological study, and I'm right about Greek Tragedy needing to have a sudden, explosive shape, done within twelve hours.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 04:54 PM:

Good lord. That Thatcher/Reagan thing belongs over at the Squick and Squee thread at Making Light.


Simbaud ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 05:34 PM:

P.D. Poppies,

If you're looking for a poet's take on Homer, check out Christopher Logue, who has been "rewriting" the Iliad a chunk at a time. The first three chunks, War Music, Kings, and The Husbands, were collected in an omnibus volume under the title War Music. The latest is All Day Permanent Red.

There is no chance you'll find Logue's renditions too academic: he doesn't read Greek.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 07:34 PM:

Finished The Algebraist a couple of weeks ago. Don't usually buy hard-backs, since they take up more room than paperbacks, and their weight can be quite a strain when reading in the bath -- but I make an exception for Iain M Banks.

Read Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel Endless Nights last week, read Alan Moore's & Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol II last night, and I'm waiting for Adam Warren's Dirty Pair graphic novel Run From the Future to arrive from Amazon. I put off getting the Adam Warren for a while, since I didn't find his new drawing style as attractive as his previous style, but I figure his writing won't have changed so radically, so it was time to give RFTF a fair shake.

Re-reading Guardians of Order's Big Eyes, Small Mouth, an anime genre role-playing game, writing up some house rules (shows I'm serious about it this time). Also their Demon City Shinjuku sourcebook, and Big Mecha, Cool Starships.

What I'm actively reading now is Mark Eberhart's Why Things Break: [awfully long subtitle] which is finally answering one of those questions I asked in school that no-one could ever answer without handwaving.

Since this is an even-numbered month, I shall be reading the next Patrick O'Brian Aubrey-Maturin novel on my list, The Reverse of the Medal, probably over the Christmas break. I'm pacing myself on O'Brian; I don't want to gobble him up too quickly. I will probably squeeze in a Flashman novel as well.

I've started Quicksilver but I'm afraid I haven't made much progress so far; it's a heavy book, inconvenient to read in the bath. I've also got Anna Funder's Stasiland on my to read pile.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 10:35 PM:

Paula: With great trepidation and fear, bought a copy of the Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

Don't let this put you off Pratchett; this and The Light Fantastic were before he hit his stride as a humorist. (IMO, Strata and even The Dark Side of the Sun ((c)1976, just read) are better.) His books keep getting better.

Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 11:11 PM:

Golden Key, eh? I just looked it up on Amazon, hadn't heard of it before now. Back in the days of my youth I read quite a bit of Rawn, and was always torn: while reading them I was perfectly content, but when I finished one I had to force myself to read the next. I've never been so reluctant to read a book. But again, once I had begun the next, I liked it fine. Quite inexplicable.

P.S. To the Nielsen Haydens: learning to spell your last name has destroyed my ability to spell Mr. Gaiman's first. Tragedy!

Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2004, 11:23 PM:

And about Quicksilver, I was personally somewhat disappointed. While I enjoy the setting and topic (I always forget how nationalistic early scientists were!), the characters seem lifted wholesale from Cryptonomicon (which I loved, but that's no excuse), and Stephenson's always masculine writing style teeters on the edge of misogyny in parts. I still hold out hope for the trilogy as a whole (I haven't read any of the others yet), but on its own, Quicksilver is my least favorite Stephenson book. Even including The Big U.

PinkDreamPoppies ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 01:21 AM:

I've commented at length about this in other places at other times, but I've never been able to read anything by Neal Stephenson because I was so let down by Snow Crash. That, and I don't usually like sci-fi and, frankly, think that the man comes across as something of a jerk in both his stories (the aforementioned "masculine" writing) and in interviews. That normally wouldn't bother me (I don't believe in judging a book by its author) but for Snow Crash.

Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 01:42 AM:

Re reading Angels in America, after finally getting around to seeing the HBO miniseries. Basically trying to memorize it.

I'd read it before, and really liked it, but now I'm obsessed--there is absolutely nothing like seeing a play performed.

One of the things I'd missed before was how Jewish the play is. Not just culturally (that's pretty obvious); also religiously. Since I first read the play, I'd married a Jewish man and begun starting to think seriously about converting, attending services, etc. Last time I remembered thinking "Aramaic? What's that?"--this time I knew the Kaddish slightly better than Louis, have seen it recited at two funerals, and recognized the Kiddush and the Sh'ma too. But beyond that superficial stuff--while the theology of the play is unconventional, its ethics* and its priorities are not:

Maybe God exists, maybe he has absconded, maybe it was a fever dream. Never mind all that--the mitzvot remain. You care for the sick (you visit your grandma, and you do not leave your dying partner, ever). You mourn the dead (you say the Kaddish over Roy Cohn, though the God you are glorifying may not exist, though Cohn he stands for everything you hate and this would horrify your parents in Schenecdaty, even though he got you electrocuted--but there is no need to forget he was a sonafabitch.) You don't blindly obey angels--you think about what they said, and if the more you think about it, the more they sound like confused or even malignant reactionaries, you reject it. And above all, more life.

I could hear this at either of the two synagogues I've been to, or at the Passover seder from my husband's grandfather. Heck, I have heard it at synagogue and at the seder.

*Obvious exception: Orthodox Judaism is not so cool with the gay thing, and Conservative Judaism is ambivalent--I, on the other hand, go to a synagogue where they perform gay marriages and occasionally use the word "heterosexist" in sermons.

Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 11:23 AM:

Entered an online contest where first prize was a trip to some singer's concert in New York. Entry by saying in 25 words or less what would be the first thing you'd do in New York.

Put down a visit to the zeppelin mast on & viewing of Times Square from the roof of the Flatiron Building. I wonder if they'll understand?

Just in case you get some puzzled/ing phone calls from a somewhat unusual source. It seems unlikely, but you never know, it may have hit someone's curiosity bone.

Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 06:38 PM:

What I've got open right now:

Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King
Year's Best Fantasy #4, ed. by David G. Harwell and Kathryn Cramer
It Takes One To Know One by Joey Adams
and the latest BUST magazine.

I'm glad this is a literary open thread, because I came with the hidden agenda of helping a mailing-list acquaintance answer the following question:

"Name the story:

A man of Romany descent is cursed with galloping psoriasis for turning his back on tradition. His devoted secretary (AI) manages to get the curse transferred from him to herself, and in turn rapidly infects all the computers that keep the world running.

The story's final scene is of an old woman riding in her horse-drawn cart past the wrecked vehicles of those 'who had had somewhere to go, on the day when John Blank was cured.'

Possibly by Roger Zelazny."

Any thoughts?

Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 09:51 PM:

Current books: The Scar,by China Mieville. Samurai Cat Goes To Hell, by Mark Rogers.

Yep, I'm one of those people who tend to jump from book to book.

Graham Joyce, at World Fantasy Con, turned out to be another. During one panel, he told about reading, as a young teenager, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and DIARY OF A HOLLYWOOD MADAM near-simultaneously; unfortunately, this now means that when he tries to re-read WUTHER, he keeps envisioning Cathy dipped in chocolate.

(This is an amusing story even when I re-tell it here. If you'd been there, though, you'd have been close to falling out of your chair laughing. Best deadpan humorist I've seen since Roger Zelazny.)

Related question: What's the book that's sat in your TBR stack the longest, unread? My own is HUMANITY PRIME, by Bruce McAllister, which I packed along to read during any spare time I might have (yeh, right) after reporting for Army basic training... in *koff* January, 1972. (And it just occurred to me that some of the people posting here weren't even born then!)

Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 02:10 AM:

Julia: Re Janet Evanovich: It was a piece of fluff, fun for the holidays - definitely novella rather than novel length, even by the shorter than sf/f standards of mystery fiction. And short story weight. Having not read anything by her before, and with my mom enthusing about the 3 or so (All over the series) she's read so far, I'm inclined to read more, hopefully full length this time. I'll definitely remember your (And Jill Smith's) comments about the later books, though, just in case.

CHip: "And I'm baffled at all you multi-thread readers; I've gotten resigned to not finishing a book at one sitting, and I do some nonfiction in pieces, but I'd get completely lost if I tried to read multiple novels in parallel."

Well, as a writer, one needs to keep one's own characters and plot threads separate and distinct in mind. If others are like me, and working or thinking about multiple projects, or even if they just have some ideas for a book after the one they're working on (isn't rule # 1 to start the next book right after you finish the current one?), it's no longer a handy reading device, but a raw survival mechanism to be able to keep track of multiple stories and which characters belong where.

Of course, I probably learned the skill from reading rather than from writing, but it's hard to prove. I started reading at four, and writing at seven or eight. My memories back then are very fuzzy.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 03:04 AM:


"Name the story:

A man of Romany descent is cursed with galloping psoriasis for turning his back on tradition. His devoted secretary (AI) manages to get the curse transferred from him to herself, and in turn rapidly infects all the computers that keep the world running.

The story's final scene is of an old woman riding in her horse-drawn cart past the wrecked vehicles of those 'who had had somewhere to go, on the day when John Blank was cured.'

Possibly by Roger Zelazny."

The story is by Joe Haldeman. I forget the title. I'll ask.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 04:15 AM:

Ha! I didn't have to ask! I did a little web-sleuthing and discovered the title for myself: "Armaja Das."

I'm just so darn smart.

cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 05:29 AM:

NelC: I enjoyed Run From The Future (as well as the rest of Warren's Dirty Pair books) - there's some really wild SF underneath the cheesecake. Plus, hey, cheesecake.

Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 01:01 AM:

Mitch, thanks! I'll pass the information on.

Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Re: the amusing little sidebar link about the bizarre discussions on the Senate floor.

It's going to get even more amusing.

Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 08:58 PM:

I had a small book fit at B&N this weekend (having just finished my finals, it felt justified) and came back with _Tooth and Claw_ and Judith Tarr's _The Mountain's Call_ (under the name of Caitlin Brennan). Enjoyed both immoderately, albeit for different reasons.

Igor Volsky ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 09:45 PM:

Pinochet is now under house arrest and will stand trial soon. Lets remember that in the 1973 underground Allende coup in Chile, the CIA armed the military, tried to cause economic chaos and then the military took control.

The White House and the CIA pursued a two-track policy. The hard line called for a military coup, which was finally achieved. The soft line -- which included a White House directive to "make the economy scream" -- was explained by U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry, a Kennedy liberal, who stated: "not a nut or bolt will be allowed to reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty, a policy designed for a long time to come to accelerate the hard features of a Communist society in Chile."

more: www.politicalthought.net

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 10:43 PM:

Open thread non sequitor:

Bush-Monkey portrait sparks protest, shuts down art display.

bush monkey

Apparently, the monkeys were extremely upset.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 10:54 PM:

Igor Volsky speaks truth. Let the Peter Bienarts choke on it.

Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2004, 11:13 PM:

I just remember the furor that erupted when a plastic model manufacturer came out with their version of a "stealth fighter". People outside the loop were furious as to how a supposedly secret program got compromised by a toy manufacturer..... and then, when things eventually became declassified, it became apparently how utterly wrong the first "leaks" really were.

All this speculation about these programs is amusing, if only because I can't wait until several years down the road to find out who's wrong, and by how much.

Sarah Avery ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 12:49 AM:

I'm a little ways into Steph Swainston's Year of Our War. The world is intriguing, but I'm finding it difficult to care what happens to a drug-injecting junkie protagonist, even if he does have real, working wings.

Meanwhile, I'm seducing the minds of the young with SF/F, assiging Jules Verne, C.S. Lewis, and Ursula LeGuin to my 14-and-younger tutoring clients. Then one of the mothers decided it was time for Shakespeare, so... 1 Henry IV. These nice suburban boys are really into a hero who, although born to rule England, spends his youth as a gangsta wannabe with a posse of fellow pseudo-thugs, and they're way into Falstaff. Our paraphrase of Act V:

FALSTAFF: Dude! I, like, totally killed that guy!

PRINCE HAL: No way, dude! I, like, totally killed that guy!

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 03:40 AM:

Igor Volsky speaks truth. Let the Peter Bienarts choke on it.

That may very well be, but as his page will not render properly in any of my 3 browsers (Mozilla, Safari, Explorer) I can't tell what it is he's saying. Well, I could figure it out I suppose if I cared to. But since the way it's set up anywhere from 3 to 6 letters are missing off the left end of each line, I don't care to.


Jonas A ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 05:19 AM:

Presently reading Neal Stephenson: "System of the World", lucky me!

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 11:16 AM:

Great buzz on:
Old Man's War
by John Scalzi
Not yet released.

Tor, acquired by Patrick, I believe.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.
"Though a lot of SF writers are more or less efficiently continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Scalzi's astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master. Seventy-five-year-old John Perry joins the Colonial Defense Force because he has nothing to keep him on Earth. Suddenly installed in a better-than-new young body, he begins developing loyalty toward his comrades in arms as they battle aliens for habitable planets in a crowded galaxy. As bloody combat experiences pile up, Perry begins wondering whether the slaughter is justified; in short, is being a warrior really a good thing, let alone being human? The definition of "human" keeps expanding as Perry is pushed through a series of mind-stretching revelations. The story obviously resembles such novels as Starship Trooper and Time Enough for Love, but Scalzi is not just recycling classic Heinlein. He's working out new twists, variations that startle even as they satisfy. The novel's tone is right on target, too—sentimentality balanced by hardheaded calculation, know-it-all smugness moderated by innocent wonder. This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF's past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they're approached with ingenuity."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Until I get a copy of the above (Patrick: remember that I review books on my 15,000,000 hits/year web domain], I'm currently reading:

Umberto Eco, BAUDOLINO: A NOVEL [Tr. William Weaver, Harcourt, 2002]

J. D. Bernal, THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF SCIENCE, Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1939; MIT Press, 1967]

Nancy Kress, THE PRINCE OF MORNING BELLS [Timescape, 1981]

Louisa May Alcott, A MODERN MEPHISTOPHELES [1877; Bantam, 1987]

Julie E. Czerneda & Isaac Szpindel, ed., ReVISIONS [Daw, 2004]

Seamus Heaney, BEOWULF [Bilingual Edition, a.k.a. New Verse Translation, Norton, 2001]

Hugh Kenner, ed., SEVENTEENTH CENTURY POETRY: The Schools of Donne and Jonson [Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964]


Brank Grunbaum, CONVEX POLYTOPES [2nd Edn., Graduate Texts in Mathematics, Springer, 2003]

That's just the stack immediately next to my bed. There are other stacks in the bathroom, dining room, living room, etcetera, and only the part of the first stack of which I'm actually in the middle. But you get the idea...

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 01:15 AM:

Just finished Iron Sunrise. I now realize that Singularity Sky was the expository lump. I enjoyed it too, but really, when powers get involved essentially to stop the bad guys from speeding, it's not the most compelling plot ever. By comparison, Iron Sunrise was much more of a menace to my sleep budget and my social obligations. It was not quite as scary as "A Colder War", but that is only because nothing is scary as Colonel North.

Recently finished:

Fall of the Kings took me a while to read because the situations in it were so intense, and I haven't been in the right mood very much. I'm glad I kept coming back to it, though, because the ending is a masterpiece of the art of storytelling. This is a book I will reread.

David McCullough's biography John Adams was interesting, but left me feeling that too much of the controversy had been glossed over. But it was well worth the $4.95 that it cost me.

To Conquer the Air by James Tobin is extraordinary biography of the Wright brothers. One of the things I really liked about it was the effort Tobin put into giving a sympathetic and understanding portrait of Langley. The ways in which Langley failed will be very familiar to anyone who has lived through the recent dot bust debacle -- he was brilliant, had massive funding and official support, and built the most powerful airplane engines of his time. I think you really have to understand Langley's failure in order to fully appreciate the greatness of the Wright brothers' accomplishments. Tobin also does a great job of showing the humanity of the Wright brothers, and the obsessive diligence that was required for them to solve the mystery of flight.

Golden Fool and Fool's Fate bring Robin Hobb's trilogy of trilogies to a conclusion. (I read Fool's Errand much earlier, when it came out.) The last trilogy is very different than the Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies. Not that it is lacking in magic or in danger, but that the little problems of life and love won't go away, and keep pushing themselves to the front. It works. I think this is the truest fantasy that Hobb has written.

I took the plunge and read the first two books in Martha Wells' new series, in the hope that I won't have to wait too long before the next book comes out. They are The Wizard Hunters and The Ships of the Air. If you haven't read her, I would recommend starting with Death of the Necromancer, which takes place a generation before her current series. It's the sort of over-the-top romantic adventure novel that Dumas would have written, if he had gone into horrific fantasy. This goes in the guilty pleasure category, but I think I can eliminate much of the guilt by getting everyone else addicted.

Colossus, by Niall Ferguson, is an interesting book. The arguments are intelligent and provocative, but the conclusions are wrong, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. I'm still trying to figure out all the places where his assertions are unsubstantiated and where he overlooked the counterarguments to his positions. However, I think it is safe to say that our flirtation with colonialism on the cheap in Iraq is not working out. Also, I have yet to see how Social Security and Medicare will destroy the American economy, especially now when the risk seems to be the other way around.

I am now reading The Knight. I could tell right away that this is going to be one of the Wolfe books that I love, although I am not expecting it to match Soldier of the Mist; nothing can.

Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 10:08 AM:

A brief diversion, but hey, it is an open thread:

Colossus is an artfully constructed pack of lies, which should be read only by those interested in detecting the lies and admiring the art with which they're concealed. The nastiest, to my mind, is how Ferguson argues that third world countries need an American takeover because they haven't been able to manage their economies properly -- never mind that the economic policies of many third-world governments have been effectively dictated, over the past several decades, by Washington institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. (And when he's discussing sub-Saharan Africa, he cites only two countries that have managed their affairs properly -- and neglects to mention that these two have been noted with interest in other circles for having the very rare moxie to ignore the IMF's "advice"). I've got more on that here; there's also a scathing review of the book in a recent Harper's which may be of interest.

IIRC, Ferguson has also been criticized for arguing that British imperial rule over India was an economic boon, even though the British failed to raise economic output, and deliberately strangled many preexisting industries there...

As to what I've been reading: I'm currently taking another go at Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, having recently finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and I'm also going through the recent Joseph Ellis biography of Washington...

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 06:36 PM:

Excuse me, late to the party.

But I just finished reading something that... well, requires me to start by explaining why I hadn't read it ages ago, though everyone else has. What can I say? I wasn't born when it was serialized, wasn't old enough and then didn't have an allowance to buy books when it was first being book-published, and was snottily superior when the paperback reissue was done.

But at a library sale, I recently found a complete set of E.E "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, and I've just read all seven at one go -- read them for the very first time.

It worked surprisingly well. I think immersing myself, as I did, was wise, because the series does require making allowances if you're not re-living golden moments from your own youth. A little allowance for technology (to be expected), a lot for language (QX! Clear ether, chum!), and even more for social relationships (all women, even the strongest, are required to be bubbly). But that kind of mental adjustment is only harder than that needed for, say, Jane Eyre, because we're not sufficiently removed from the 1930's - 40's culture yet.

And when you get past that, there's a lot that stands up. The sheer exuberance of invention, for instance. I must say, while reading the many space battle scenes, I was irresistibly drawn to compare them to current mil-sf like David Weber... much to Weber's disadvantage.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 09:22 PM:

Sylvia, I bought the two Lensmen omnibuses from SFBC and only got partway through the first book. However, they sold well on eBay.

It was just too dull.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 11:50 PM:

Smith is the ultimate "YMMV" author.

Enjoying him requires you suspend your disbelief that anyone could write that sort of thing with a straight face. I managed to, last time I tackled Lensman. I'm not sure when I'll be up to trying again.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2004, 03:03 AM:

Sylvia Li:

Can you compare your better-late-than-never encounter with "Doc" Smith to your experience in watching the Anime of it?

Stefan Jones:

Times change. He helped create the sfnal world in which you can so blithely dismiss his imaginative depth, through the lens of modern stylistics. It is possible to love High Literature and Serious Stuff (see my current reading list on this thread, supra) and still enjoy Doc Smith. He may not have been a Shakespeare, but he shared a sense of space-time scale with H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon.

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2004, 02:27 PM:

Doc Smith created the literary equivalent of a raised donut with lots of frosting. Verne and Wells provided fabulous wonders, but their products were laden with social criticism and intellectual roughage that was good for you, but not so easy to digest. Doc Smith's writing is an ultimate sugar rush of gosh-wow excitement. Sure, it is loaded with white flour and white sugar. Sure, if you ate nothing but donuts, you wouldn't live long. But a donut every once in a while is a treat. Don't mind the people who say that only a properly made traditional scone or an almond croissant is good enough for them. There are plenty of scones and croissants, and seventeen-grain whole seed vegan rhubarb muffins for the ultra-virtuous. We can appreciate them all, and still sneak a donut now and then. Bite into it, and a wave of sugar rushes over your tongue and the roof of your mouth, making your teeth vibrate with the intensity. Mmmmm.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 12:50 AM:


Well said! I'll let someone less longwinded than myself explain the irony of Doc Smith's day-job, in the context of your posting. And also suggest googling "poppyseed bagel theorem."

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:42 AM:

Marilee: When you say you gave up partway through the first book, do you mean Triplanetary? Because Triplanetary is dull...but the others are much less so. (At least IMAO.) You might consider trying again with Galactic Patrol. (Leave First Lensman for later.)

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 11:24 AM:

About the Micah 6:8 Sidelight, I think there's an organization called the Micah 6 Coalition, or something...can't remember now. Anyone?

Marilee sees if not spam, someone as long-winded and irrelevant as JVP ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Yes, Triplanetary, but I skimmed through the others and they really weren't interesting. I'm still in 1999 in my to-read piles, so I don't have time for things that aren't interesting.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 08:05 PM:

Oops, forgot to change who I am!

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 08:48 PM:

My inner 12-year old is still fascinated by the central conceit of E.E. Smith's Lensman books in this well-known and cleverly-repackaged modern adaptation.

If Kimball Kinnison had a team of writers exploring the theoretical limits of his Lens, throwing Faust's bargain at him, redeeming him from Hell, and otherwise exploring the heights and depths of his career, I might be willing to read what they wrote.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:43 AM:

Speaking of space opera ...

I've just gotten round to (and devoured) "Old Man's War" by John Scalzi (coincidentally edited by, um, Patrick). John's done something relatively unusual in that instead of being the usual Heinlein juvenile pastiche he's gone for mid-period (pre Stranger in a Strange Land) Heinlein ... and got the tone perfect. It's entertaining bubblegum (with, I think, a tug of the forelock to "The Forever War" as well as "Starship Troopers") but there are buried landmines of insight scattered through it, so if you're feeling guilty about bubblegum reading you can at least assuage your guilty conscious by reminding yourself that it says something about the human condition, age, regrets, and so on. And besides, he kicks alien butt!

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:39 PM:

Charlie: Scalzi's book is on my "to read when I get it" queue (I have a hold on for the first available copy across the Minuteman Library network...currently five are either "on order" or "being processed").

My current reads are Steven Gould's Reflex (the hardcover/"new read"), L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach (the paperback "re-read"), and David Weber/Steve White's In Death Ground (Palm, saving the Baroque Cycle for a long flight when I will have uninterrupted reading time).

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 07:41 AM:

You're saving "The Baroque Cycle" for a long flight? Boggle ... I've been reading it for about four or five months now and I'm just short of halfway through; it's just too big for my attention span. Given my paltry reading speed of about one page/minute, I figure it would take me close to two weeks of full-time work if I just sat down and had at them for eight to ten hours a day.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 10:11 AM:

TomB: the problem with your metaphor is that I \still/ eat an occasional Krispy Kreme -- but Smith is so overloaded I just choke on him. Similarly to JvP: aside from the fact that Smith is hardly the only source of big-noise pulp adventures (what about Williamson?), being the source still doesn't get him a free pass; the many-times ancestors of Bach or Mozart have to stand on their own merits, and often they don't. One of the strengths of modern writers is the \breadth/ of their ancestry; I'm not sure Smith contributes anything, even as a many-times-removed ancestor, to what I like now. (I'm \not/ an Honor Harrington fan -- and I wonder if Smith's contemporaries could see analogies in him as blatant as Weber's ]royalists[ and ]Communists[.)

To be fair, Smith was trying (consciously or not) to do things that words just aren't adequate for, any more than they can represent the Grand Canyon or the aspects of music that get you in the gut. Smith's truest descendant may be not a writer but George Lucas -- or whoever on his team proposed the opening shot of the original Star Wars; the sense of scale that gives doesn't fit in words. (I tried to once, taking a blind SF-reading friend to see the movie; I suspect she got more from the six-channel sound than from my description.)

(talk about Cave, pulp ancestry generally)

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 10:14 AM:

Small screen, long post, insufficient scrolling/previewing -- doh! The last line was an abandoned thread about the explicitly commercial practices (-"Rule 1: get the heroine's dress off by page 2"- (Hugh Cave, quoted in his obit)) of writers revered by many World Fantasy Convention attendees, and whether they had any connection to what is now praised by those attendees.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 03:46 PM:

Charlie Stross:

You're saving "The Baroque Cycle" for a long flight? Boggle ... I've been reading it for about four or five months now and I'm just short of halfway through....

You must have a brain the size of a planet compared with mine---it took me six months to get through "Quicksilver" alone.

Currently reading "The Black House," by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It's a sequel to "The Talisman." I liked "The Talisman" just fine, but what really drew me to the novel was I was intrigued by the idea of writers writing about a 10-year-old boy, and then coming back to the same character 20 years later and writing about him as a 30-year-old man.

Tough beginning, but it's picking up. I'm kind of obsessive-compulsive---when I sit down to dinner, I like to finish one course before starting on the next. Protein first, then starch, then vegetables. (If I did it in a different order---veg, then protein, THEN starch, I'd be a healthier man today.) Likewise, when I read a novel, I like it to start with interesting characters in an interesting situation. I like a little hooptedoodle about scenery later on, but I like the novel to start with those interesting characters in interesting situations. "The Black House" starts with pages long descriptions of scenery, but I stuck with it and now it's starting to pay off.

"Old Man's War" is definitely next on the list, though, and I may just start it before I finish "The Black House." From what I'm hearing about it, it's a fast read, and I might be able to finish it in a couple of days and then come back to "The Black House."

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 03:57 PM:

I also read a thought-provoking and troubling article in an 18-month-old issue of "Atlantic Monthly," about interrogating prisoners. The article was in the context of Iraq and terrorism, of course.

Much of the article dealt with the question of torture: Is it wrong? Does it work? Until reading the article, I would have said, flat out, "Yes," and "No." My attitude was that we should NEVER torture anyone, and it doesn't work anyway.

The article argues convincingly that torture is necessary, and it does work sometimes. It's more effective as a threat than when it's actually used, but for it to be an effective threat, it has to be used occasionally.

Torture is part of a whole spectrum of techniques used to make the prisoner feel powerless, uncomfortable (much of the time), confused and---paradoxically---friendly to his captors.

The article argues convincingly that the status quo---or, perhaps, the status quo prior to the Bush administration---is the right way. Officially, torture is illegal in the U.S., and a serious felony. Officially, anyone caught torturing a prisoner will face dishonor, the end of their career, public humiliation and possible felony penalties. Torture is strongly protested by organizations like Amnesty International. The net effect is that torture is driven underground. It still happens, but it's used only rarely, and when absolutely necessary, by people who know that they risk their lives, their careers, and the respect of their communities if they're caught.

It seems to me that this model, of having tough laws on the books that are lightly enforced, is a model that's used frequently in the real world, in drug laws and copyright, to name two examples.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 06:28 PM:

Katherine who was reading _Angels in America_, if you're still here: what do you think about the play's treatment of Joe, and to a lesser extent Louis?

(Feel free to put big spoiler warnings on it if you think appropriate.)

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 12:55 AM:

Charlie: I should clarify a bit. I don't expect to finish the thing during a long flight; heck, I don't even expect to finish Quicksilver, even though I do read pretty quickly.

Instead, I hope to get a running start, sufficient to give me the momentum to keep going even when I don't have several hours at a time to read it. It's a technique that I've found works for me on books that require more immersion than the average, whether for stylistic reasons (Brust's Khaavren books, for example) or sheer density (Stephenson).

I finished Reflex last night, late, because I was in "can't put this down" mode. Recommended if you liked Jumper.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 09:05 AM:

I remember reading and loving the first three Lensman books as a kid. I've been wondering if I dare re-read -- I'm guessing I shouldn't.

But I just read two lovely books -- American Gods and Sunshine. After I stayed up too late finishing Sunshine I thought, oh, it's a series, then I googled the author's website and found out that she hasn't any plans of making a sequel. Aaargghhhh!!!!

Tenino ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 08:49 PM:

Timeliner by Charles Eric Maine. Interesting dimensional quadrature -- uh, time travel -- novel from 1955, mildly British/miserablist play on the tropes. Author explores ethical considerations of tt-induced involuntary murder. Best part is where the protagonist is upset by prospect of survival.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 06:45 PM:

I've just started reading Gould's Reflex, which arrived last week, but I reread Jumper first and that went better than the first time. I still had to put the book down and cry several times, but I got back to the book in minutes instead of days. Now that I was prepared for what was going to happen in the beginning, I got more out of the ending. I don't know how Steven can know so much of my childhood, but of course, he knows because too many kids have that childhood.

Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 10:27 AM:

And one hopes that one of Patrick's New Year Resolutions is to post more often on Electrolite.

jamie ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Bel Canto....Ann Padgett...

Terrorists, Japanese, and Opera lovers all meet in a hostage crisis in South America...much fun...really...

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 09:35 PM:

Sidebar: How Racist Ideology Works

But surprise-- the Mau Mau savagery is a myth. As the Economist details in a review of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of the End of Empire in Kenya, the number of British settlers killed? Emphasis added quoting the side bar reference.

At the time, westerners became aware of Mau Mau from reading grisly newspaper articles about the murder of white farmers. In fact, although thousands of Africans died in the conflict, only 32 white settlers were killed by Mau Mau in eight years. Sidebar reference quoting the Economist

To stop short after saying thousands of Africans died in the conflict might carry an implication that those deaths resulted entirely from British or Colonial actions and certainly there is an implication here that only the 32 white settler deaths ought to to be counted against the Mau Mau. Some consideration might be given to the reported 2,000 collaborator Africans murdered by the Mau Mau according to official Colonial Government figures as of 1956. Some say the conflict was also a civil war. As the Great Lorenzo observed - when one party has the right idea it will dominate then split -

In March 1960, KAU split into two parties, KANU (Kenya African National Union) and KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union). The former, supported mainly by Kikuyus and Luos, defended a central government in Nairobi, whilst the latter, preferred by the minority ethnic groups and by Great Britain, proposed a federal political system to avoid concentrating power in Kikuyus' hands.

I'd say some history is glossed over here in the interests of making a point. It's not obvious to me that glossing over history is the best way to make a point as opposed to scoring one.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 10:38 AM:

Hmm, "official Colonial Government figures as of 1956"! Would could possibly question such an authoritative source?

Anyway, the point isn't to portray the Mau Mau as nice guys; they were violent insurgents. The point is that a lot of trouble has been taken to build them up as extraordinarily violent, supernaturally fearsome--scary to orders of magnitude beyond other such groups.

It's hard to believe you actually read the Economist piece that was the occasion of Nathan Newman's post. I recommend you do so before deciding too firmly exactly which "history is glossed over here in the interests of making a point."

Jon Mann ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 10:45 PM:

My holiday reading is done, but I'm still inching my way through:

Daemonomania, by John Crowley. I'm starting to think Crowley is best read in small doses.

The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James. Fascinating, intelligent stuff.

And just started dipping into
Innocents Aboard, by Gene Wolfe. Only read the first one so far, but 'The Tree is My Hat' gave me the willies.

I must admit that I read The Eyre Affair and didn't think much of the writing (though the concept is fun). Am I the only one?

[Just realised this thread is long dead. Oh well]

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 01:11 AM:

I must admit that I read The Eyre Affair and didn't think much of the writing (though the concept is fun). Am I the only one?

Nope. It got me to read Jane Eyre, though, so it was worth it.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 04:46 PM:

Further discussion from secondary sources as reviewed in the NYT (usual registration required and articles expire and go pay)

'Imperial Reckoning' and 'Histories of the Hanged': White Man's Bungle

where it is reported

Not only are the colonists barbaric in their treatment of the Kikuyu, but, as she [Elkins] has it, they are basically barbarous in private as well, maintaining ''an absolutely hedonistic lifestyle, filled with sex, drugs, drink and dance.'' Or to me sounds like a lot of fans at one time or another.

I should say that an argument for genocide based on a possible reduction in the natural rate of increase - but a period of increasing population all the same - is to abuse the language. To call the dominant population of the country, before, during and after victims of genocide is to trivialize the term at least as much as denying genocide during ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

I repeat my own view that some facts are here ignored in the interests of making a point and in lieu of claiming the lurkers agree with me I'll quote from the netoriously right wing American medium:

Unfortunately, Elkins's prosecutorial zeal in a sense precludes a true ''imperial reckoning.'' For British rule brought crucial benefits that persist -- among them modern education and a degree of infrastructure -- as well as violent oppression to its subjects. A thorough reckoning would provide, by way of paradox, not only a more deeply insightful but a more deeply wrenching work of imperial history. Daniel Bergner

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 01:03 AM:

Tim - It's been a long time since I read Jane Eyre, so maybe my opinion is colored by the mists of time, but I find it hard to find any value of "worth it" to make having read that book a good experience.

But, of course, your mileage did vary.

FWIW, I hated Henry James's Washington Square too, but lots of people love it.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Thanks for posting that about the birds. I've always wondered about corvids. It was fascinating reading and I enjoyed it.


David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 12:36 AM:

I read Jane Eyre as preparation for The Eyre Affair and didn't really expect to like it much, but somewhat to my own surprise I actually did. Sure, it's got plenty of flaws, but it has a quality of narrative drive that all too many books lack. Am I right in thinking that you read it because you had to for a class? You might try it again, unforced.

I am actually of the opinion now that The Eyre Affair stands on its own, but you should read Jane Eyre first so that Affair will not utterly spoil it.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 11:41 AM:

Indeed, all those Google narratives are kind of striking.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 07:56 PM:

That Google we really need link made me laugh out loud. Thanks!


Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 03:43 PM:

re Alan Keyes' disowning of his own daughter:

A friend who acknowledged his sexual orientation in the mid-80's, then moved down to Tucson (more active gay community there), came back up to Phoenix and stopped by his parent's home.

They had moved away, and not told their gay son about it.

He managed to track them down through a sister. But I'm not sure why.

I spoke with him a few months ago, for the first time in several years, and he mentioned that his mother had told him, "I'm voting for President Bush. If he's reelected, he'll keep gay people from marrying each other."

When he told me this, I couldn't help replying, "Curt, somewhere out there--" [waving towards the horizon] "--are your REAL parents. You just haven't found them yet."

"You may have a point," he said, shaking his head.