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books - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-01-13 00:15
Subject: books
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:kaiser chiefs
Over the past couple of years, while I've been lurking on LJ and then declaiming to anyone who's listening in the villages, I've been keeping an eye on something called the 50 Book Challenge, where people list the books they've read during the year. And I thought, fifty seems an awfully low number. And then it occurred to me that I never kept track of the books I've read, so over this year I'm going to try to.
So, first up, started on January 1, is Ralph Steadman's The Joke's Over, his memoir of his time working with Hunter S Thompson. I knew most of the stories already from Thompson's work, but it was interesting to get Steadman's perspective on them. He seems as deranged as Thompson was. Good book. I enjoyed that.
Next up is Dan Simmons's The Terror, which is his take on the catastrophic Franklin Expedition of 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage. I have a take-it-or-leave-it relationship with Simmons. I really enjoyed Summer Of Night and Carrion Comfort but I couldn't get on with Hyperion at all. But I enjoyed this one. Although Simmons is maybe a little too fond of the word `serac.'
No Country For Old Men. Yeah, I know, because of the movie. I have a similar relationship with McCarthy as I do with Simmons. I read Blood Meridian years ago and thought it was a miracle, but then I tried to read Suttree and couldn't finish it. But No Country is one of his more accessible novels, and a grim old thing it is, too. Good stuff, though. His ear for language is extraordinary.
I don't know whether this counts, but I also reread Neal Stephenson's Zodiac, which I think is a lovely novel and I recommend wholeheartedly.
I also started The God Delusion, but that's not going well at all. Though I agree with Dawkins all the way down the line, I find the tone of the book rather offputting and I think I may put him aside until later.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-01-13 18:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I have a take-it-or-leave-it relationship with Simmons."

Same here. I read a couple of his early novels and enjoyed them very much -- though not Carrion Comfort or Hyperion, which I just couldn't get on with. A story collection of his a few years ago left me cold (beautifully written, but seemingly a bit empty), as did one of his hard-boiled thrillers when I read it last Fall sometime. I keep wishing I'd come across another Simmons book that might grab me by the throat the way those early ones did.

Dawkins's The God Delusion is a treat I'm savouring. I read his Unweaving the Rainbow (if I have that title correct) a year or eighteen months ago and enjoyed the auctorial tone as a part of it all.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-01-13 22:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, well, I'm not getting on with The God Delusion at all right now. Part of the problem, I guess, is that he's preaching to the converted. But the real problem is that I'm finding it crashingly dull and faintly smug. I'm going to put it down and maybe try again another time. It's not like he's saying anything I don't already know, anyway.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-01-13 23:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There may also be a little cultural relativism at work here.

You're lucky enough to live in a country -- indeed, on a continent -- where Dawkins's views aren't regarded as outre: he is indeed, so far as most of his readers are concerned, preaching to the choir.

Here, though, in a land where fewer than half the populace accept evolution and only about 7% are prepared to "confess" to atheism/agnosticism, it's a somewhat different story. While I'm sure I'll find little that I don't know in The God Delusion, the mere act of reading it will bring me rewards of its own: in part it'll be an affirmation, in another part it'll be a reassurance. I'll almost certainly read the book this year -- when is the lifeline it offers to throw me ever likely to be more needed than during our election year, when all these campaigning candidates, most of whom are complete sleazebags[*] but a couple of whom are perfectly decent people, are swanning around talking about the depth and meaning of their chronic irrationalism.

[* The entirety of the Repugnican slate, just for starters. The archest arch-Evangelical of the lot of them, Huckabee, actually has about 50% good and sensible policies, but is a lunatic (he thinks the earth was created in 4004BC) and corruptly self-serving (when Governor of Arkansas he apparently accepted every backhander on offer, and he's lied about his partisanly inspired pardon for a rapist who promptly raped and murdered again). The Libertarian-in-all-but-name candidate, Ron Paul, likewise has a few good policies, such as wanting us to get out of Iraq Real Soon Now, and as far as I know is not corrupt, but he too has plenty of nutterdom in his baggage -- and, I gather, has a less than perfect history on race. The other Repug candidates are, to give a fair an accurate political analysis, just the pits.

[The Dems, by contrast, are by and large pretty okay. If I were next Prez I'd find a place in my government for all of them, even Gravel: he's like the jester in a Shakespeare play, talking nonsense that is, on reflection, wise. Kucinich wants us to have a National Health Service -- to which you might say, "Well, duh, only a moron would want otherwise," but which is an idea widely smeared here as "socialized medicine". (Yes, the average Joe Six-Pack and frontrunning Republican politician does not know the difference between "socialized" and "socialist" . . . and is inane enough to regard the latter as inevitably A Bad Thing.) Clinton (the woman I used to love) and Obama both have their very considerable strengths, but both of them belong, I think, just on the "sleazebag" side of the balance: neither is as pure as s/he'd like you to think. But, by recent standards -- even those of Clinton's husband -- they're entirely bad: you'd have to go back to Carter to find a Prez who's a better (and in his case much better) human being than they are. That statement does say something about the average moral fibre of US Presidents, doesn't it?]

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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-01-13 23:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You also live in a country where a healthy percentage of people believe they've been abducted by aliens.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-01-13 23:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was starting to reply to that when you deleted it. It was rather good, I thought. Your post, not my reply.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-01-13 23:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Revised here and there.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-01-13 23:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Strewth. Once an editor, always an editor...
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-01-13 23:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I thought I'd better correct things like typing "through" when I meant "throw". What a fuckin perfectionist I am, eh?
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-01-14 22:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You see, I actually like McCarthy; I think his use of language is a wonderful thing. It's just that a lot of his books are just too opaque for me to get into. No Country... is, as I said, very accessible...for McCarthy. BTW, I understand Ridley Scott's filming Blood Meridian.

I'm glad The God Delusion is selling well, even though I find it tedious. I am, as I said, in the curious position of agreeing with everything Dawkins says, but finding his book more or less impossible to read.
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