A re-read, I got the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste as a library discard a few years ago.
As you'd probably guess from the title, this book has short articlA re-read, I got the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste as a library discard a few years ago.
As you'd probably guess from the title, this book has short articles (1-3 pages) about kitsch, tackiness and faux pas. Art, cuisine, music, fashion & celebrities are all represented. There could be more pictures for my taste, but the articles are relatively well-written and concise. Written in 1990, it focuses on 1950's- 1980's, with a strong emphasis (IMHO) on the 60's & 70's.
You may not agree with their evaluation of everything in here, but it's a fun read. It's an oversized book & therefore somewhat cumbersome to read....more
I picked up Snow Crash some time ago & wanted to continue my new tradition of Sand, Sun & Stephenson, so I took it along on my visit to the faI picked up Snow Crash some time ago & wanted to continue my new tradition of Sand, Sun & Stephenson, so I took it along on my visit to the family cottage.
In a world fragmented into a myriad of governments (most commercial/industrial in nature), Hiro Protagonist (how's that for a metaphoric name?), pizza deliveryperson and hacker extraordinaire, becomes involved in an bizarre plot to spread thought-viruses through a new religion, drugs and visual stimulation. A seemingly coincidental meeting with Y.T. (Kourier and skatepunk) becomes an alliance that serves them both well, through their various scrapes and desperate encounters with the Mafia, denizens of The Raft, and Raven, a large, scary man with his own nuke.
In reading this book, I learned more about Sumerian history than I'd ever planned to, and found myself amazed by Stephenson's foresightedness in the development of the Metaverse. A dozen years later, virtual reality still isn't commonplace, but the underlying structure (and culture) is already here. I found this to be a bit easier of a read than Cryptonomicon, but Stephenson still expects his readers to be pretty smart.
Recommended to those looking for an exciting read through a twisted future, both virtual and real.
The main character -- a slacker with a biochem degree who works with a NPO to expose companies who poison the environment -- gets a little out of hisThe main character -- a slacker with a biochem degree who works with a NPO to expose companies who poison the environment -- gets a little out of his depth in Boston harbor. Carl Hiassen fans should enjoy & it's not quite as complicated as later Stephenson novels. ...more
I bought a used copy of The Diamond Age : Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer in March, after having read & very much enjoyed Cryptonomicon andI bought a used copy of The Diamond Age : Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer in March, after having read & very much enjoyed Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. Oddly enough, Stephenson's books seem to be summer reading for me, or at least that's how it works out.
As usual, Stephenson drops us into the middle of the story, with little explicit explanation of what's going on. John Percival Hackworth, neo-Victorian nano-engineer (makes perfect sense in the novel!) is putting the finishing touches on the primer of the title; a wholly remarkable supercomputer designed to teach through stories *. It was commissioned by one of the Equity Lords of the region for his granddaughter; however, John decides to make a copy for his own daughter. Things get complicated when Dr. X, a grey market entrepreneur who John enlists to make the copy, decides that the book will assist in a project of his own. Along the way, the original copy ends up in the hands of Nell, a child from a dysfunctional, low class family with very little hope for the future... at least other than what the book provides. She becomes the main character of the story, with her adventures, both real & fictional providing the impetus for the plot.
The parallel stories of Nell, John and Dr. X, and the book itself (telling stories that tie nicely into the current events, at times) weave around and through one another, spanning a period of about a decade. The clave environment will look familiar to readers of Snow Crash - and the concept of the neo-Victorians is explored to a satisfying depth. Stephenson has put a great deal of thought into this environment, and it shows; however, he rarely fails to provide enough detail for new readers to catch on quickly. The technology could easily overwhelm the plot, but Stephenson manages to keep it under control throughout the threads of the story, whose pace speeds up considerably at the end, almost as if he realized he had a lot of plot points to wrap up; this seems to be a minor flaw of his work, IMHO.
Recommended to fans of more positive uses of nanotech & those intrigued by the ideas of culturally based (vs geographical) nations.
It's been a while since I've had to work so hard on a book, but Cryptonomicon was well worth it.
--------------- Previously read Aug 2003
It's been a while since I've had to work so hard on a book, but Cryptonomicon was well worth it.
Randy Waterhouse, a computer whiz and all around nebbish, is the grandson of Lawrence Waterhouse, a math whiz and all around nebbish; the book follows their semi-separate stories. Lawrence is recruited by the US Armed Forces to break various crypto codes during WWII, while Randy works for a company that is developing a secure data storage facility in the South Seas.
Their lives intersect at various points with members of the Shaftoe family - Bobby, the WWII marine who is either very good or damn lucky (or both!), and Amy, a marine recovery diver - as well as other characters, one of whom I'm slightly embarrassed I didn't see coming. I also wish I knew more about the activities in the Pacific theater during WWII - although I didn't feel it was required.
The two storylines are rollercoasters - looping, curving and soaring through somewhat parallel timelines, and somehow ending in more or less the same place. This book expects you to be smart, and rewards you accordingly. There is history, humour, horror and even a couple of love stories along the way. A definite recommendation to anyone who is looking for a challenging read and is willing to get lost in its 900+ pages for a while. I'll be putting this on my ReReads shelf.......more
Re-read this novel via the local library's Kindle copy - some typos, but not as bad as The Eyes of the Dragon!
It's been many, many moons since I'd reaRe-read this novel via the local library's Kindle copy - some typos, but not as bad as The Eyes of the Dragon!
It's been many, many moons since I'd read it or seen the movie (still haven't seen the TV version) and I'd forgotten all but the bare bones of the story.
It was interesting to see basically the same question/issue from 11/22/63 posed here - would you kill someone to prevent further evil? The difference being that Jake Epping *knows* what Oswald will do, while Johnny Smith isn't quite so sure.
I really enjoyed revisiting this novel & would recommend it to those who aren't into King's horror works, but are still looking for a compelling story with believable characters. And of course King has a way with words: (the Kindle makes highlighting & retrieving those highlights SO much easier!)
".. a Dixie cup filled with greasy french fries that tasted the way french fries hardly ever do once you’ve gotten past your fifteenth year.
"Being on hold was a totally different proposition. The line was darkly, smoothly blank. You were nowhere. Why didn’t they just say, “Will you hold on while I bury you alive for a little while?”"
"Worry was swept under the faces like dirt under a rug."
"He is a mechanic of the brain. He has cut it to pieces with his scalpel and found no soul. Therefore there is none. Like the Russian astronauts who circled the earth and did not see God. It is the empiricism of the mechanic, and a mechanic is only a child with superior motor control."
"For him, time had been crudely folded, stapled, and mutilated. In the progression of his own interior time, she had been his girl only six months ago."
"For the first time in his life he was reading for pleasure. And like a boy who has just been initiated into the pleasures of sex by an older woman, he was wallowing in it. " :^D
Steingarten is a food critic for Vogue; however, in this collection, he focuses more on the history of certain dishes and foodstuffs, as opposed to reviewing the producers of the dishes. He travels to Italy, France and Mexico in search of traditional breads, cheeses, and tortillas; participates (kind of) in the slaughter of a pig and visits some of the best steakhouses in the country. Most of the essays are accompanied by a recipe which is the result of many hours of hard work in his own kitchen, as Steingarten is as much of an artiste as a critic.
The writing is engaging, with bits of sly humour interspersed with vignettes describing his adventures; even though probably I'll never visit the places he talks about or eat the dishes about which he raves, I still enjoyed his discussion of them. This book is probably better savored in bits and pieces, rather than read through gluttonously.
Recommended to those who like engaging essays, regardless of the topic....more
More of an autobiography than the philosophical musings one might expect from the title - this slim book brought many a smile to my face (and the occasional tear to my eyes) as Spinney recalled his 30+ years working in the world of puppetry and with Sesame Street and Jim Henson. Spinney's interest in puppetry began as a child; he started his career working for the Boston version of The Bozo Show, doing both hand and costume puppetry. He met Henson at a puppeteer convention, and the rest is Sesame Street history. The occasional line drawings are an extra treat.
Spinney talks a little (not quite enough, in my opinion) about the development of Big Bird - originally "the village idiot" instead of the childlike character we've come to know and love. And Oscar was based on a New York cabbie - no big surprise. I don't recall the first season, orange version of him, though! I found it interesting that Spinney had difficulties with any dance choreography for Big Bird, until he determined that Big Bird loved to dance and knew he was good at it... then the steps came much more easily!
One small critique is the lack of a concrete timeline - when was Big Bird in China produced, for instance? And I would have liked to read more about the relationship Big Bird had with Snuffy... and Spinney's perspective on why Snuffy became "real" (after my time).
Recommended to any Sesame Street and/or Jim Henson fan. ...more
I Capture the Castle was a 50BC challenge recommendation from last year. I picked it up used, then loaned it to my mom for several months & finallI Capture the Castle was a 50BC challenge recommendation from last year. I picked it up used, then loaned it to my mom for several months & finally got it back.
Written in the form of a journal, this novel documents approximately a year in the life of 17-year old Cassandra and her family: her older sister Rose, father Mortmain, stepmother Topaz, and brother Thomas, as well as Stephen, a "hired hand" of sorts. They are living in not-so-genteel poverty in a leased, drafty & dank castle in the English countryside. Their father, who wrote a brilliant novel some years ago, has sunk into an eccentric inertia, and the only money coming to them is what Stephen earns doing odd jobs in the community.
As spring arrives, so do their new neighbors, the Cottons. Simon and Neil are brothers from America, who meet the family in a rather odd manner. Rose decides "to go after" Simon, as he has inherited the castle, as well as the local manor. Cassandra doesn't quite warm up to them at first, but eventually develops a relationship. Simon is familiar with Mortmain's novel and tries to cajole him into writing another story. Cassandra realizes that Stephen is in love with her, but wants to discourage him. Other various romantic hijinks occur along the way, with a relatively happy-ever-after ending.
Not having looked at the publishing date (1948), I was a little confused at first as to the timeframe of the story. It's a very English novel - reading it and Pride and Prejudice at the same time makes that even more obvious. I also found myself thinking of Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp, for some reason. The writing sounds very much like a self-conscious teenager, with the waves of emotion ebbing and flowing with the seasons. I wish I'd read it when I was Cassandra's age, as I might have had a bit more tolerance for her at times.
Recommended to fans of English coming-of-age novels....more
crankyasanoldman recommended this book sometime last year & so when I saw it as a used book store a few weeks ago I picked it up. My reading was icrankyasanoldman recommended this book sometime last year & so when I saw it as a used book store a few weeks ago I picked it up. My reading was interrupted by vacation (forgot to tuck it into my carryon) so I just now wrapped it up.
The novel follows the lives of about a dozen characters associated with Moo U - an agricultural university somewhere in the Corn Belt. Nils and Ivar Harstad, bachelor twins, are involved in the administration aspect (with a secretary who really runs the show), while Bob Carlson, Mary Jackson and Gary Olson represent the student body. Timothy Monahan, Cecilia Sanchez, Dr. Lionel Gift and Chairman X are members of the eccentric (and romantically involved) faculty. A couple of "townies" make it into the book as well. Their interactions, set against an atmosphere of bitter winter, budget cuts and shady corporate dealings represent a darkly humourous slice of life.
I enjoyed Smiley's style of writing, though I was distracted by the previous owner's incessant highlighting; character names & vocabulary words in particular. It was descriptive, but not overly flowery. The conversations seemed believable, especially between the professors and the administration. I imagine anyone with a background in academia, especially in the Heartland, will appreciate the attention to detail Smiley provides. The large cast of characters and occasionally interwoven subplots can be a little difficult to follow, especially if you set the book aside for any length of time.
This is the first novel of Smiley's I've read, and may look for more once I've whittled down Mount To Be Read a little. Recommended to those in the education field with roots in the Midwest.
I received The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide for my birthday, off my Amazon Wish List. It seemed only fair to make this my forty-second book ofI received The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide for my birthday, off my Amazon Wish List. It seemed only fair to make this my forty-second book of the year, even if it meant setting my current reading aside for a bit.
Alternatively titled A Completely and Utterly Unauthorised Guide to Hitchhiker's Guide - this book discusses the various & sundry incarnations of the increasingly-inaccurately-named trilogy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as other works by Douglas Adams. Originally published in early 2001, it was revised & updated after Adams' death.
A slim volume, this pamphlet/book has been made mostly redundant by the re-release of Don't Panic: Douglas Adams the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman. However, it does a succinct job of presenting & discussing the variations of Adams' seminal work, including those hardly anyone had heard of (a Finnish Radio production of So Long Thanks For the Fish?). The style of writing is mainly factual, with the author's voice only appearing in the comments.
Recommended to Douglas Adams completists, but probably not to anyone else. ...more