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Oct. 20th, 2014

Review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat

Expect language difficulties. Oliver Sacks uses more medical terminology than you and a good dictionary will want to define. Your tolerance for the politically incorrect will be tested.

But persevere, as Sacks does with his patients, and the book entrusts you with a renewed sense of soul, courtesy of science.

Oct. 12th, 2014

Sex and Religion

Overheard: "Why is religion so concerned about what people do with their genitals? Response - "Because sex is spiritual."

Sex is ecstatic, and ecstasy gets confused with spirituality. Spirituality requires work -- otherwise we could all become saints by popping pills. Relationships are spiritual, and religions would get more respect if they set their indignation against bad relationships.

Sep. 12th, 2014

What is Love?

Novelists: love isn't created by a single event, not even a big event like having your life saved.

Depression is similar. One event may trigger it, but a trigger only works in a loaded gun. Build up that load, that groundwork of small things, genetic and environmental, that make the character vulnerable, open to strong reaction.

Sep. 2nd, 2014

The Luminaries - Finis

Last hundred pages: think of running downhill with small, frantic steps to try and keep your balance.

Last words: "The rain." Did it hark back to weather on Page One? Or refer to a drought? Neither.

Peculiar, precociously clever book. Reminded me of Jonathan Safran Foer, except that "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" had the heart of a boy beating through it. Catton sets us among the stars, where there is energy aplenty, but no blood or brain or breath.

Aug. 31st, 2014

Reading The Luminaries III

Unless I'm much mistaken (Eleanor Catton would probably want me to go back and check, and I'll probably give in) Walter Moody has prepared a brilliant case for his defendants, including the coaching of numerous witnesses, in a matter of hours -- a day at the most.

This fits his planetary role as Mercury the Magician, mastermind of communication. As a human being, it stretches credulity about as far as it can go.

Aug. 30th, 2014

How I'd Sell #Shen to Myself

Shen isn’t science fiction. It can only apologize for the space ships and extra terrestrials that appear in the book, because these are simply conceived, even childish. Shen is not trying to impress readers with tecnological or biological invention. Shen is a myth.

It's a greedy myth, admittedly, one that sprawls across several worlds, several universes. All that's missing are the gods and goddesses. There are characters with exceptional abilities who, when taken together, might remind the reader of deity...almost.

Aug. 25th, 2014

Former Selves and What To Do About Them

Confession - have greatly hurt an old friend. He remembers a teenage girl who believed in a particular variant of Christianity (she didn't know all the flavours before she chose, much less anything else).

I cannot bring back this version of me. The current incarnation threatens his unchanged state, and so he has been denied Facebook and email access. He will not view this as kindness.

Aug. 21st, 2014

Reading The Luminaries II

At page 360, and the astrology is entertaining. Catton says she would not sacrifice plot for this zodiacal structure, but in novels you can never have your cake and eat it. One reviewer on Goodreads said she felt the book had no heart, and this rings true. Character has been sacrificed.

By character I mean the story belongs to nobody. The viewpoint is not first or third person but omniscient, as if the reader is meant to identify with the distant, celestial forces shuffling fortunes. I'm reading on, hoping to understand why.

Aug. 16th, 2014

Reading The Luminaries

Catton dissects her characters as they walk, lays out the pieces, zooms in for closer inspection. They couldn't know themselves as well as she does.

She makes each man appear the same, or nearly so, by the time she's done with him. All the different faces, physiques, backgrounds and abilities become dull in the light of their insecurities and weaknesses.

Reader applause.

Jul. 22nd, 2014

Do You Struggle to Read?

Nicholas Carr, and anecdotally his professional aquaintances, think the internet has undermined their ability to read books or long articles. See "The Shallows" http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shallows-internet-changing-think-remember-ebook/dp/B00556G7LU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406010335&sr=8-1&keywords=the+shallows+nicholas+carr

I know people for whom this might also be true. And others not. Speculation: is the Internet like an addictive substance? Are some more prone to have their brains changed than others?

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