Sep. 15th, 2008 02:52 pm
perlmonger: (anarchism)
What's the effective impedance of a week? Can you split it with a t-piece?

Saturday morning, we went to CostCo, to swap out the faulty 20kg bag of basmati that I'd discovered a couple of days before when emptying it into its storage box - blueish green lumps of compacted mouldy rice isn't something I wanted to eat. They were happy to refund, once they'd found the original transaction in their database though, as [livejournal.com profile] ramtops found, they are a lot less efficient at crediting refunds than debiting for purchases (they had both beurre d'Isigny and kabanos, which were out of stock last time we went, and we bought a fair wodge of other stuff too as well as replacing the rice).

Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Jeremy ScahillThat's Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, Bernstein SycamoreIn the afternoon I went veg shopping on my bike, to the Sweet Mart as we needed coriander and that's as good a place as any to be guaranteed lots of good, fresh green stuff. I bought a 5 litre can of Spanish EV olive oil and sundry other bits as well; that left my pack pretty much full up. Cycling back toward St Werberghs, I was reminded of the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair that I had managed to forget all about (there was a particularly fine red and black banner on the cycle bridge across the M32). So, to the community centre, which was pretty much invisible under its encrustation of overlapped and interlocking bicycles. I added mine to the only clear bit of railing I could find (thought I might have to lock it to the centre's eyeball for a bit) and joined the throng inside. And outside. Lots of folks, and a lovely positive friendly atmosphere, but (and probably just as well) my already loaded backpack could only accommodate a couple of books - Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill and That's Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, by Bernstein Sycamore.

Thence to the wholefood shop for muesli which, bizarrely, they had run out of in the combination: loose innatub, worth eating. So, on to Wild Oats up the top end of Whiteladies Road and I was feeling that oil+books by the time I got up there, and even more so on the (thankfully mostly flat or downhill) way home. FWIW, the pack weighed 30lb (slightly less if our scales weighed right; slightly more if they're still 4lb under as they used to be when I used to compare them with the gym).

Later, there was fine food and too much alcohol+chocolate raisins, but I managed to start the process of baking a loaf - starter dough left overnight. Sunday, I finished the loaf and we watched huge quantities of B5 (interspersed with cutting the it's-mostly-green-so-I-might-as-well-call-it-a-lawn): from about half way though S3, we finally bugged out 2 eps into S4, though the temptation to continue was only barely resisted.

But now it's Monday, way after lunch, and I suppose I'd best get back to coding…
perlmonger: (books)

Via [livejournal.com profile] nmg:

"The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. Well let's see )

perlmonger: (books)
I’ve just finished rereading Titus Groan (last time was maybe ten years ago), and I’m struck at how small Gormenghast feels this time round. To me now, and explicitly in Peake’s descriptive writing of outside the castle. Outside is vital: I don’t think I registered before how important Keda was, how Flay is transformed and opened by his exile, and I’m looking forward to re-cognizing Keda’s daughter in Gormenghast with a wider perspective.

The end of Titus Alone really is foreshadowed in this first book; I suspect I’ll be confirmed in feeling the last to be the best of the three when I finally get to its end.

ETA that the central theme of the first book, if there were but a single one, is the definition of, the overture to, Fuchsia’s tragedy. And its inevitability.


Jan. 7th, 2008 10:04 pm
perlmonger: (books)
Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I’m in the midst of reading Sound Mind and my mind turned to Queen of the States, as it would, only to find that not only isn’t it on the shelves, it’s not even in the database. So, it’s been missing for a couple of years at least. I’ve not read it for a fair while longer than that, but that’s not the point: I want to read it next.

Arse, I say.

My copies of The Travails of Jane Saint and Jane Saint and the Backlash are still about, so all is not lost, but WTF happened to the one I actually want?

[ wanders off to bed muttering ]


Dec. 7th, 2007 08:32 pm
perlmonger: (kumu)
My last post applies to music too: listening to Show of Hands’ treatment of Widecombe Fair made me want to read Margaret Elphinstone’s The Incomer.

ETA that the online post editor really is a heap of shite, isn’t it?


Dec. 7th, 2007 04:46 pm
perlmonger: (books)
Do you ever feel an almost overwhelming urge to read another book, like right now, prompted by the one you’re currently reading? It’s happened to me twice in as many days, rereading The Name of the Rose.

The first hit was for The Book of the Night, which makes some sense with Church and Abbey, and with its temporal split between the end of the 10th Century and the end of the 20th nicely bracketing the setting of the Eco. The second, last night, was for Rats and Gargoyles. So I guess I’m on a heading either for Magick, or for general Gothick. Or both.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my second outing with the Eco, BTW; picking up a whole lot more of the Mediæval Church politics that I didn’t really take in first time round. Not enough spare hours in the day for reading, damnit.
perlmonger: (books)
From [livejournal.com profile] peake, These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn’t finish, and strike through what you couldn’t stand. I’ve also underlined a few that I haven’t read, but that are on my current to-read list.

The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book.

the list )

Seems odd that so many people are apparently unable to finish Neil Gaiman’s books - I’ll grant they they may not be to everyone’s taste, but I would have thought that anyone who made the attempt would be into fantasy of some sort, and could hardly fail to be captivated by his writing.
perlmonger: (pete)
Hogwarts Expressnot a lot to say really )

But I read no explanation of why (in the UK children’s edition at least) there appears to be a Constitution class starship somewhere behind one of the Hogwarts towers. I think we should be told.
perlmonger: (books)
# strip group: syntax (not inside angle brackets!) and trailing semicolon
R$*			$: $1 <@>			mark addresses
R$* < $* > $* <@>	$: $1 < $2 > $3			unmark 
R@ $* <@>		$: @ $1				unmark @host:...
R$* [ IPv6 : $+ ] <@>	$: $1 [ IPv6 : $2 ]		unmark IPv6 addr
R$* :: $* <@>		$: $1 :: $2			unmark node::addr
R:include: $* <@>	$: :include: $1			unmark :include:...
R$* : $* [ $* ]		$: $1 : $2 [ $3 ] <@>		remark if leading colon
R$* : $* <@>		$: $2				strip colon if marked
R$* <@>			$: $1				unmark
R$* ;			   $1				strip trailing semi
R$* < $+ :; > $*	$@ $2 :; <@>			catch <list:;>
R$* < $* ; >		   $1 < $2 >			bogus bracketed semi

[ blame [livejournal.com profile] brisingamen for pointing me at this madness; I’d quite like to read “Voicing, Empowering, Transforming: Affliction in Washburn & Evans and the Colonialist Corporeality of Xenophobia in TCP/IP” too, if anyone felt like writing it ]
perlmonger: (books)
Prompted by [livejournal.com profile] loveandgarbage (and again, in passing, by [livejournal.com profile] blue_condition while I was still writing mine down), in honour of World Book Day on Thursday, here are eight essential works of fiction, limited to but one per author. Most of these are not going to shift; a few may get swapped with books I list lower down, or others, without notice.

Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie. A wonderful, complex tapestry of a book, linked across time and geography, across the psyches of a group of people born at the moment of India’s independence. Writing that it’s the history of the first fifty years of India as a post-colonial nation is a truth, but pretty much everything else in in there too and without worthyness either; it’s a wonderful read too.

Honourable mention: Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a fairy story, if you like, a book that makes me smile every time I read it.

Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Is this a novel? It’s future anthropology; it’s an exploration of humanity in a post-disaster Northern California that resonates with our present world on every level; it’s the story of Stone Telling that threads through the rest of the book, and provides a context and a challenge to any simplicites of interpretation and value that readers might otherwise be tempted to apply. Extraordinary.

Honourable mention: too many to choose from (and where would Dave Langford be without the ansible?) but Four Ways to Forgiveness is a particular favourite; four novellas that, only linked exoterically in the most tentative of ways, make together a whole that both clarifies and transcends each.

Mother London, Michael MoorcockMother London, by Michael Moorcock. First time I picked this up, I nearly gave up in the first section (without any sort of context, it didn’t seem promising), but then I got sucked in to discover what is, I think, the best novel I’ve ever read about London or about anything else. It’s difficult, nay, impossible to describe adequately in brief: the history of London, of three people, of those around them, since the blitz? That says nothing; it says nothing about the humanity, the humour, the tragedy or the anger; the enclosure of communities by gentrification, the police riot at Carnival, Cod Pieces and the Palm House at Kew. All life is there...

Honourable mention: Blood, I think, if only for its wonderful evocation of a Deep South fractured by dimensional rifts.

Ingathering: The Complete People Stories, Zenna HendersonIngathering: The Complete People Stories, by Zenna Henderson. I grew up with the People; their stories as they appeared in various short sf collections I found in Worthing Library helped keep me (relatively) sane through adolescence. Blessings, indeed, to the NESFA for republishing the lot in a definitive collection, and blessings to Zenna Henderson for writing of hope and sharing and joy in the face of despair and adversity in a way that helped me then and, still, now, is as fresh as when first read.

The Book of the Night, by Rhoda Lerman. The end of the first millenium CE and the end of the second, the Church of Rome and the Celtic church, collide on Iona in one of the most extraordinary books I possess. Language dances and forms lists of connection across pain and meaning; a moment of inattention and you too might be transformed into a cow.

Boy Peace, by Jay Gilbert. This is a story of healing, of a woman who’s a war photographer in a time (not very long ago) when it was considered extraordinary that a woman might do such a thing. Jagged and hurt, physically and spiritually, she joins her brother in the community he lives in, in a country house and smallholding in Herefordshire. The book is a beautifully observed gem that deserves far wider knowledge than it has (I only discovered it because my first partner’s best friend at school is the author’s daughter :)

More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon. The original and best account of the birth of a gestalt organism and the interactions between its parts and with mundane humanity. One of the most beautiful books ever written; not just an essential part of sf 101, but a book that anyone, sfnal or no, with an ounce of sensitivity could surely not fail to love.

Mother Night, Kurt VonnegutMother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. In my opinion (and who else’s counts, eh? :) Vonnegut’s best novel. A dark exploration of the contradictions of meaning and motivation that are, it seems, an inseperable part of the politics of conflict; an American who broadcast Axis secrets from Germany under the cover of Nazi propaganda tells his life as he, having finally been captured in his NYC apartment, awaits his fate in an Israeli jail. This book, I suppose, sits in tandem with Slaughterhouse 5 but, IMO, is far better: the latter is an essential read for its description of the Dresden firebombing, but lacks the inner cohesion of Mother Night.

bubbling under

The City, Not Long After, by Pat Murphy

Permanence, by Karl Schroeder

The Sorceress and the Cygnet, by Patricia McKillip

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, by Samuel R. Delany

Report on Probability A, by Brian Aldiss

The Incomer, by Margaret Elphinstone

Kleinzeit, by Russell Hoban

Rats and Gargoyles, by Mary Gentle

Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire, by Doris Lessing

Fourth Mansions, by R.A. Lafferty

River of Gods, by Ian McDonald

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

The Secret of Life, by Paul McAuley

A Spectre is Haunting Texas, by Fritz Leiber
perlmonger: (books)
Here are the rest of the books I finished in the first half of last year, after January, February and March.
April )
May )
June )
Maybe I’ll get books 17 to 35 written up before this year’s backlog gets too long...
perlmonger: (books)
[livejournal.com profile] tamaranth pointed me at LibraryThing‘s UnSuggester, which is an amusing way to spend a few slightly-hung-over minutes of a morning.

What struck me, though, in my off-the-top-of-my-head randomish entries:

Shikasta (1, 4)
sed & awk (2)
Mother London (11, 25)
Always Coming Home (1, 49)
The Many-coloured Land (1, 3)

was the recurrence of The Devil Wears Prada in all my tests and The case for Christ : a journalist’s personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus in all but one.

I’m sure this means something, though I’m unclear exactly what.


Nov. 9th, 2006 02:16 pm
perlmonger: (books)
via [livejournal.com profile] lpetrazickis

SFBC’s Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002 )

as odd as these lists always are: eg. no Ballard or Aldiss at all, but the Mists of fucking Avalon is there. But hey!

ETA the loved */hated thang everyone else seems to be doing, with [livejournal.com profile] melusinehr‘s friend’s suggestion of a # for a couple I loved first time round but, for one reason or another, have lost enthusiasm for.
perlmonger: (books censorship)
I’ve been too stressed and busy to write anything this month, which isn’t good. It’s feeling like May could be a mite easier, though I probably shouldn’t write that...

Anyhow, belatedly, here are the two books I managed to finish in March:

Paradox by John Meaney Paradox, by John Meaney
I’ve put off reading this for years, purely on the spectacularly rational grounds that I loved To Hold Infinity so much; I wanted to read more in that ‘verse. A chance encounter with a copy in the used book stall in Bath’s arcade finally put my avoidance to rest. So was it worth the wait?

I’ll have to give it a conditional “maybe”. It certainly gripped me as a narrative, and has some nifty ideas, but ultimately it didn’t cohere as a novel for me. Part of this is because it’s so obviously the first book in a sequence; the loose ends are presumably addressed in the later volumes, but the overall kid-from-the-underclass-makes-good-and-bucks-the-system storyline was, well, a little too obvious from the off.

I do want to know the missing story between the first Pilots and the situation on Nulapeiron; I do want to know where Oracles originated; I do want to know what the significance of Kilware Associates is. However, I haven’t, after over a month, felt enough impetus to order a copy of Context (the next in the sequence), so I guess I’ve not been left that curious.

River of Gods by Ian McDonald River of Gods, by Ian McDonald
What can I say? This book is extraordinary: multi-layered and complex, yet endlessly fascinating and readable; I came away from it stunned, with an urge to re-read Midnight’s Children again (this is a good thing).

The evocations of place, the social, political and environmental extrapolations, the characterisation... The whole thing exceeds even the high standards I’ve come to expect from McDonald and I recommend it without reservation. My only quibble (and it’s a tiny one) is that the final parts of the narrative are perhaps a little too dense, but I suspect that (along with my need to keep referring back to remind myself who everyone in the massive cast of players was) will go on a second reading.
perlmonger: (books censorship)
I’ve not posted anything for a while - lacking time, energy, brainpower at the moment - but I will at least carry on listing my books read. Also (¬G)IP: I’ve been meaning to give myself a book-related icon for a while, and this turned up on the first page of a most interesting “library” tag search on flickr. I’ll quote the creator‘s text here as he requests:
Book Banning is such an awful thing,... parents who want to care for their kids challenge books and then... they perhaps ar banned... Banned Book week is a great celebration... celebrate freedom of speech and press is what they want to say... and these parents who “care” for their kids i cant understand them... they let them watch tvtvtv and play violent videogames but books shall be difficult? weird ^^

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” --- Benjamin Franklin

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” --- Benjamin Franklin

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” --- Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Anyhow. To my books...

» The Zero Stone - Andre Norton

An old friend, re-read after [mumble] years. It’s not one of her best, certainly not her best writing, but it still contains the elements that helped form my thoughts as an adolescent and, indeed, helped me keep a tentative hold on functional sanity. That Murdoc Jern ends the book as alone and alienated from authority as at the start, that neither the legitimate (the Patrol) nor the extralegal (Thieves’ Guild) organisations portrayed in the book are benign or trustworthy in other than very specific circumstances and on their terms, helped validate my own distrust of authority as a child and helped me accept my own isolation.

» Margrave of the Marshes - John Peel, Sheila Ravenscroft

An account of John Peel’s life that is almost as eclectic and disorganised as his programmes were wont to be. I could criticise the book for it’s frequent anachronisms and diversions, for the massive dislocation in writing style where Sheila takes over from John (and the initially dodgy quality of her writing too), for the bits missed out and those skimmed over... But to do so would be boorish and unfair: this isn’t a conventional (auto)biography, it’s ultimately a celebration of the single most important figure in 20th Century popular music. It’s fascinating, deeply personal and if you haven’t got a copy yet, why not?

» The Marzipan Pig - Russell Hoban

I’ve yet to read anything by Hoban that I don’t love. This slim volume is a replacement for the copy that I read to Rhiannon when she was quite small, between picture books and venturing into wordier realms like The Mouse and His Child or The Hobbit, and that stayed with her when the last channels of communication between her mum and me finally closed; I must ask her if she still has it.

It’s an enchanting little book that exhibits the joy in language and the surreal that informs so much of Hoban’s work - parts of it feel almost like a prefigurement of Kleinzeit. It’s OOP (it’s good: of course it’s OOP), but it’s well worth seeking out a copy, and for Quentin Blake’s illustrations quite as much as for the words.

» Looking for Jake and Other Stories - China Miéville

A dark and fascinating collection of stories. China is uncategorisable; there’s fantasy, horror, sf here, all mixed up and with a tasty inclusion of social and political commentary. There’s not a single piece of writing in the book I don’t like, though a couple left me a little frustrated: I want to know What Happened Next in Looking for Jake; what the underlying realities in Familiar are. I guess that’s up to me to create from the meeting between the text and my own reality, my own imagination.

It’s good to finally have Dead Tree copies of An End To Hunger and ‘Tis the Season (I’ve lost the URL to that one) too. They articulate my own anger about the cynicism of corporate greed, and the continuing enclosure of what was once the Commons respectively far better than I am able to. Unfashionable as it may be, the man cares, and that he combines that caring with political and social analysis and still ends up with hugely readable and enjoyable work is something to celebrate. Thank you China.
perlmonger: (pete)
» I Am Alive and You Are Dead, Emmanuel Carrere

A fascinating read, if a bit ragged around the edges (but, hey, so was PKD’s life). Why no index? Why no references? I’ve no real reason to doubt the truth of what’s there, but I’d feel more confident of it all with something I could follow up after the event...

» Accelerando, [livejournal.com profile] autopope

I need to re-read this; I was left feeling unsatisfied at the end, after reading passages that were amongst the best I’ve read anywhere. This could be because Charlie couldn’t quite hold the whole thing together, but I think it’s more likely I haven’t yet absorbed enough from the frenetic density of the energy and process of the book. Judgment reserved :)

» American Gods (the Directors Cut), Neil Gaiman

No reservations here at all: this really is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve yet read - and [livejournal.com profile] ramtops, currently about half way though would, I think, concur: there really aren’t many books around that leave both of us so moved. My only question (not having read the originally published version) is: what the gods did they cut? I really can’t think of anything that could have been excised without damaging the whole.
perlmonger: (plugh)
I’m currently reading River of Gods; no comments yet, as I’m only just into chapter 3, but something struck me on page 10:
After the train has passed, they scramble up on to the track and look for paisa coins they have wedged into the rail joints. The fast trains smear them flat into the rail.

I spent quite some time trying to remember where else I had read of people doing that - a book somewhere, but where? - before I finally realised, remembered, that my memory was of Real Life™. Yes, some years ago, I once went out at lunchtime with my workmates at Virgin Mobile (or v.omit, as it was fondly known to us) in Trowbridge to put coins on the railway line in front of trains and, later, peel the squished remnants off.

What struck me is that I assumed that my memory was of fiction, of something I’d read, not of your actual, personally experienced, meatspace reality.

So it goes.


perlmonger: (Default)

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