More Time for Reading

I’ve had a little extra time for reading, but haven’t felt much like writing. I thought I’d remedy that.

Fortress in the Eye of Time by C.J. Cherryh. This very much felt like Forrest Gump, but in a medieval, fantasy world. There’s a protagonist who is simple and foolish, at least from the perspectives of all around him, but whose goodhearted nature and positive intentions generally work to the good. A charming, quiet book that spends a lot of time ruminating about life and what it’s all about.

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire (v. 10) by Brian Clevinger. This might be my kid’s favorite comic series and I like to have stuff to chat about with him. I certainly wouldn’t start with this one because it builds so heavily on what came before, but if you like giant robots fighting giant monsters, you’ll probably dig this.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. I didn’t read this book for its advice, such as it is, but I did find that I met a kindred spirit. Jacobs enumerated what I get out of reading books more than just about anyone else I’ve read. His inclination to read at whim is one well worth modeling, in my view. I’ll definitely look for other books by him to read.

Batman: The Fall and the Fallen (v. 11) by Tom King. As with most comic books, I barely remember the plot of this. My impression was of rising up from bleak desperation, as is true of many of the best Batman stories, implacability in the face of impossibility.

Black Widow: Welcome to the Game by Richard K. Morgan. A pretty decent spy story. I picked it up for the art by Bill Sienkiewicz, who doesn’t disappoint here, but only did a couple of issues in this collection as far as I could tell.

Agency by William Gibson. I had this feeling of wanting to start over again with this as soon as I finished it. A bit more of a sequel than some of his others. From his most recent books especially, I get this visceral sense of the strangeness of the time we’re living through. High recommended, of course.

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof. There are some painful similarities in 1919 to our present moment it turns out. A flood of criminals and scoundrels skirling around trying to make a buck with no compunctions for legality or decency. The elevation of the wealthiest to a place of preeminence which they don’t deserve. The fools and saps and patsies who let themselves be led around by everyone else. The legal system that only seems to come down hard on the lowliest and least informed, while ignoring the career criminals who snub their nose with impunity. Also, there’s a lot about baseball too. Not a lot has changed in a 100 years, it seems, or there are just certain cycles that repeat themselves.

Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin. I definitely felt like I was crashing a party when I read this one. A lot of food for thought, but the book wasn’t written for me. Not at all. As it should be, probably. Jessa Crispin’s podcast, Public Intellectual, is well-worth listening to, by the way.

Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao. My kid asked me about this book when I was about 50 pages into it. I said, I’m not sure I’ll finish it. He asked me about it again when I was about 100 pages into it. I said, I’m going to finish it now. He asked me why. I said, I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, but the book makes sense to me now, so I’m going to finish it. Sometimes a poet writes a novel and it can be a lot of work. In this case, I think it was worth it. Navigating the loss of children through a kind of mythologizing. The sentences reminded me of John Ashbery’s poetry.

The Blind(folded) Lemmings Meet Their Doom

Once there was this lemming who convinced a bunch of other lemmings to put on some blindfolds and follow him around. These lemmings hated lemmings with squeaky voices and this one guy, let’s call him Stu, did not have a squeaky voice. A bunch of the squeaky lemmings said, hey, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But all those squeaky-hating lemmings were all, what do you know, squeakers, poo! The squeaky lemmings just sort of rolled their eyes. They weren’t so concerned at first. But then a LOT of lemmings started putting on blindfolds and rushing around after Stu. Including rushing near this massive cliff at the bottom of which were rushing rocks and resounding locks and crashing clocks of coastal turbulence (it was the infamous seacoast, after all, upon which many creatures and mariners had lost their lives). Soon the squeaky lemmings were squeaking as loud as they could, look! for the love of god just take your blindfolds off! You’re all going to die! But those blindfolded lemmings just chortled and pulled their blindfolds on more tightly. It was just so satisfying to irritate those squeaky lemmings, I guess. Stu kept shouting about how great everything was and how everyone could take their blindfolds off as soon as they got where they were going, but they never seemed to get anywhere, just rushing back and forth, getting closer and closer to the edge of that terrifying cliff. Some of the squeaky lemmings just covered their eyes, it was too scary! They also tried to tell the blindfolded lemmings that Stu was blindfolded too, but the blindfolded lemmings just screamed that they were liars, even though they were getting a little dizzy from all the running back and forth. Finally, inevitably, all the blindfolded lemmings ran over the edge of the cliff, tumbled down among the crashing rocks and surf, and died.

Moral: Everyone knows that lemmings don’t really rush off cliffs, in spite of that staged bullshit in a Disney nature documentary and that ancient, popular video game, but it goes way, way back beyond that.

Another moral: Just because you hate someone, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Epic, millenia spanning science fiction. Clearly inspired by David Brin’s Uplift novels (a craft in the novel is explicitly called the Brin). Sentient spiders, crazy AI computer systems, the slow social-breakdown on a generation ship traveling for hundreds of years, and more: this book has so much going on. I very much enjoyed it.

A Soup Tureen Full of Apes

Long ago (at least last Tuesday) a Baron Von Vetteler demanded a large soup be filled with apes. To be clear, the apes weren’t cooked in the soup. They were added later. (It was a very large tureen and its top was shaped like a blowfish riding a unicorn.) The apes weren’t too keen on being in the soup, even though Baron V.V. had thoughtfully added a hint of banana to it and given them all banana-shaped beach balls to play with. It was a soup tureen full of cranky apes and that’s the truth! No one told the Baron any of this was a bad idea, because his money had purchased their silence and tacit approval. Still, pretty much everyone had thought it was a terrible idea from the start. If anyone had asked the apes, they would’ve said so too. Next week: cats in a mulligatawny stew.

Moral: If you’re not mocking the ridiculousness of the wealthy at every turn, you’re doing it wrong.

Additional moral: You have to be a pretty great ape to stoically put up with being put in a soup tureen with banana-shaped beach balls.

Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser. I keep reading detective and spy stories. (And also watching things like True Detective.) I’m not sure what’s driving this, what I find comforting in these fictions about people attempting to conceal and reveal the truth. This novel’s detective, Van Veeteren, is delightfully world-weary. There’s a pretty satisfying courtroom secene, too.