14 December 2007

three books on the way to a hermitage

I was going to blog on: 'Killer app' for the misanthropic--a discussion of how instead of facebook or twitter we should have an on-line app for those of us (me) who are not big fans of, er, people. Hermitbook. Goawaybook. MyCave. I still think this a good idea. perhaps someone out there (not me) will run with this so that I don't have to interact with anyone.

But then I had to go interact with people at a conference, which was lovely (it's always fine once you're interacting. it's the prospect of doing so that's so dread-ful.) and there was no interwebs. how could this be? I don't know. but no interwebs. very calming not to have the ol' interface constantly, I will say. More time for reading.

I read Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide a few weeks back, to coincide (coincidentally) with the cyclone hitting precisely the region the book is set in--the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. It is excellent, as usual. Several things recommend it: it is realistic without ignoring the supernatural. It is not entirely depressing despite being a novel written about India. It has lovely science-y bits about river dolphins without being preachy. It does the 'each chapter a different POV' thing which doesn't quite meld the way you want it to--my one critique. But y'all know how I dislike conceits. That said, it comes together. it makes sense. it is about the past, the present, the otherworldly, generations, modernity, tradition, colonialism, socialism, and all that good stuff. plus did I mention dolphins?

I finished Spook Country a week or so ago, which was good--nothing can top Neuromancer for Gibson, and the best part about Spook Country is its short-story quality. Not that it's short. But that it has the flavour of a tight, small story carefully, expertly fleshed out. I liked it. Had Gibson's aesthetic of the future is now, but didn't have the draw of the female protagonist in his Pattern Recognition--she was an amazing, insightful, full character, and the lead in Spook Country isn't quite there. So, if you haven't read Gibson, shame. shame. shamies. Read Neuromancer, and Pattern Recognition, and Spook Country.

I also finished Richard Powers' Operation Wandering Soul which is about narrative. Well, what isn't really. (obviously.) but it's about children's stories, fables, history, crusades, telling stories to understand the (horrible) world. it opens with an amazingly accurate and beautiful--nay, sublime (er, goes without saying as it's Powers) description of driving in LA. I'm not sure Powers 'gets' LA in the same way he completely and utterly embodies the Midwest, but the opener is brilliant. And the re-telling of the Pied Piper in the middle of the book is nothing less than genius. It's Powers. Say no more. say no more.

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