Zunshine describes the way that fiction can be written and read in ways that exercise the mind-reading skills of the reader. Mind-reading in the senseZunshine describes the way that fiction can be written and read in ways that exercise the mind-reading skills of the reader. Mind-reading in the sense of: what is this character thinking? what does character A know about what B knows about C? what does A want B to think he knows about C? what is the narrator lying to us about? or lying to himself about?
Yes, that is a big part of what makes reading some novels fun for some people, including me. But she presents it here as the one and only reason we read fiction. I don't buy that. There are many kinds of novels and many kinds of readers. There are, for example, stories of adventure where reader's enjoyment comes more from projecting themselves into the story and experiencing the action. And there are novels which could appeal to some readers for the way it makes them think about engineering problems of space travel or surviving alone on the open sea. And there are those that can be enjoyed for the way they bring a historical period to life, or explore what it is like to live in a society with rules and customs different from the ones we are used to.
My ability to "mind-read" was poorly developed for a long time and I did not begin to enjoy (or often even notice) the mind-reading aspect of novels (and films, etc.) until I was around 25. But I was still a voracious reader and got a great deal of enjoyment out of it. When those skills began to develop, I found a new and richer way to enjoy (some) novels, but I haven't stopped enjoying other aspects of them as well.
So, I agree with Zunshine that this aspect of novel reading exists and is a part of the pleasure for many people. I greatly enjoyed her analyses of several works. I was already a great fan of Nabokov, but she has almost convinced me that I would also enjoy reading "Clarissa".
The text is a bit dry and "academic". I would have enjoyed parts of it more if she'd left the mentions of other researchers for the footnotes rather than slowing-down the main text. But the biggest pain in reading this was seeing the words "metarepresentation", "metarepresentational", "metarepresentationally" over and over. If she can use the abbreviation "ToM" to avoid repeating the 4-syllable "Theory of Mind", then surely there must be a word shorter than 9-syllables she could use to refer to "metarepresentation". ...more
I loved the sections on Heddy Lamar and Rosalind Franklin. I thought I already knew these stories, but I learned a good bit more here. I like the factI loved the sections on Heddy Lamar and Rosalind Franklin. I thought I already knew these stories, but I learned a good bit more here. I like the fact that the stories were not reduced to some simplistic variant on "This woman was smart but the man was keeping her down." Instead, they are shown as real, complicated people with their own issues to deal with.
They made the wise decision not to focus too much on Marie Curie, because her story is relatively well-known.
I'd love to see more work like this. There are plenty more scientists, male and female, whose stories are worth telling.
26 sets of two chapters, one set per letter. The first in each set is a short history of a letter: how it got it's shape, how its shape and use have c26 sets of two chapters, one set per letter. The first in each set is a short history of a letter: how it got it's shape, how its shape and use have changed over the years. Unlike 99% of the people in the world, I find that subject fascinating, but these chapters were tediously boring in this book. But the second set of chapters, which were free-roaming essays on topics in language, often loosely connected to the letter in question, were quite interesting and informative.
The book could definitely have benefited from more pictures for the evolution of letter shapes, and more use of a variety of fonts. For example, when talking about the primary two different forms of the lower-case 'g' in common use, couldn't they show a picture of the two? or print it in two fonts to show the difference. Same thing for the two forms of lower case 'a', and the long form of the 's', and so many other topics that would be easier to understand with pictures.
I recommend skipping the chapters on the letter shapes - go to wikipedia instead, then just read the essays.
There are occasional bits of information that are incomplete, misleading, or just plain wrong. (E.g., the Y chromosome does not have 3 arms! Stick to writing about what you know!) Yet the essays are entertaining enough for a language nerd to make up for the shortcomings. ...more
Despite some interesting ideas, and an ever-important theme, I just didn't enjoy this. I think it was mostly the complicated and confusing structure oDespite some interesting ideas, and an ever-important theme, I just didn't enjoy this. I think it was mostly the complicated and confusing structure of the story that put me off. Since I had already read and loved Russ's novella "Souls" Souls/Houston, Houston, Do You Read? before this one, I won't be writing her off. ...more
I picked this up because I'm interested in all things "Alice in Wonderland" related and it is co-written by a guy (Disch) known for dark science fictiI picked this up because I'm interested in all things "Alice in Wonderland" related and it is co-written by a guy (Disch) known for dark science fiction. But this is not Sci/Fi and, apart from a few obvious references, has very little to do with "Alice in Wonderland". And yet, I'm so glad I found this. I devoured it from cover to cover with no stops to go read something else. (Many people read books that way, but I rarely do.)
The basics of the story is that a privileged little white girl gets kidnapped and gets to find out what it feels like for people to think she is black, and learns that not everyone is who they seem. She has to contend with being held prisoner in a very seedy brothel, and a confrontation with the KKK. Despite being put in an absurd and dangerous situation, she is never very scared and uses her wits to escape. (Just like the other Alice.) It is really a thrilling tale.
Two strangely coincidental big stories in the news just after I finished this book were about a white woman pretending to be black; and a mass murder in a black church by a white guy.
(The original book cover is off-putting, but I doubt the authors had much to do with that.)...more
While I love SF in which the aliens are truly alien as well as those that put questions of language front and center, this one didn't fully work for mWhile I love SF in which the aliens are truly alien as well as those that put questions of language front and center, this one didn't fully work for me. I was never able to accept the basic premises: that the aliens speak Language, with a capital L, in which it is impossible to lie or to speak of something that does not exist; the aliens cannot understand Language spoken by machines or AIs (yet can understand recordings); humans can only speak it in pairs of identical twins; ... and it gets stranger from there. Very interesting, but I just couldn't suspend disbelief that much....more