Meatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concernedMeatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concerned with appearances. Vanity, perception and presentation of self. Celebrity and reputation in the main mystery plot, yes, but also in more insidious, more prosaic ways in the background subplots that I actually found myself enjoying more by the end. Strike is terribly perceptive about people, about the way they like to show themselves, but he seems almost an unreliable narrator when it comes to himself.
He stands out, effortlessly cool, masculine, authentic compared to the suburban, social climbing mileu he spends so much being contemptous of. But the text itself has just a little more sympathy for these characters - his fussy, well-meaning sister and self-awarely spoiled brother, Robin's jealous fiancee, the p3ublisher he takes up with and dumps - and the gap gets interesting.
Strike makes more sense to me here, with that context. He's proudly aloof of his famous father, but there's a jealousy there too. His willingness to use people and throw them out of his life when he's done. The shade of longing for his old army life - discipline and his own authority, rather than cameraderie or sense of purpose of whatever. His ex - who seemed like a bit of a drama queen in the first book, but basically ok - is revealed here as an utter piece of work, thoroughly selfish, gratuitously cruel and snobby to boot. It rather raises the question - what kind of man would have that as the grand, torrid love afair of his life? ...more
Meh, with a side helping of unsatisfactory and boring. I have no idea what this is even meant to be. It's not a history book, it isn't travel writing,Meh, with a side helping of unsatisfactory and boring. I have no idea what this is even meant to be. It's not a history book, it isn't travel writing, it isn't a cultural overview in any meaningful way...it's just snippets of stuff with an overarching theme. Seriously, it's like a couple dozen of those little essays you get in English exams to test your reading comprehension - both in the level of interest and in the level of writing. Three pages about the Romans in North Africa. Three pages about the Dakar Rally, three about WW1 poetry, etc, etc. And it's still almost entirely a westerners-abroad collection. Artists, explorers, tourists, etc. The ancient history gets a broad overview, but the contemporary nations have less space dedicated to their history and politics than there is given over to Michael Palin. The only even marginally good bits - and this is a low bar here - are a very few touches of more straightforward travel writing that describe a few lesser known desert cities and oases - not Timbuktu or Siwa, but dusty mining towns of little interest to anyone but, persumbly, the people who live there. I might read a book about the history of those places, and the countries and civilizations they're a part of, but this isn't it....more
I had a lot of fun with this. The final essay is slightly impenetrable but awfully tantalizing, and the collection of analytic viginettes are insghtfuI had a lot of fun with this. The final essay is slightly impenetrable but awfully tantalizing, and the collection of analytic viginettes are insghtful and often downright hilarious. Some of them have dated - though often in illuminating ways that don't suggest much progress, really - and others remain totally spot-on for today. Barthes doesn't exactly take apart the world around him, rather he tries to understand what its actually communicating, what the moral of the message is, and how this normalizes a (bourgeouise) status quo. ...more
This is really good, I guess, if you happen to be extremely interested in its very particular subject matter. Which I am (I wish I knew why.) I apprecThis is really good, I guess, if you happen to be extremely interested in its very particular subject matter. Which I am (I wish I knew why.) I appreciated the thorough overview of the historical evolution of the genre, going back to medieval legends, Barbary corsairs and (of course) Byron. ...more
This was fun. I don't know if it adds up to anything much, but it is fun. The weaving together of little details and anecdotes of the lives of artistsThis was fun. I don't know if it adds up to anything much, but it is fun. The weaving together of little details and anecdotes of the lives of artists (and Stalin) scattered across central Europe, month by month, adds up to something that feels almost novelistic itself. Wry, semi-sympathetic, semi-condescending, and not very pretentious, I think it does manage to give something of a sense of the place, at least for this particular class of people. Better than the other 1913, though not as good as Philip Blom's The Vertigo Years for a cultural history of the first bit of the 20th century. ...more
I was surprised by how sophisticated this was, in some ways. It feels much later than 1962. The way Dick constructs the different characters inner narI was surprised by how sophisticated this was, in some ways. It feels much later than 1962. The way Dick constructs the different characters inner narratives, as products of their history and society, is the best bit. The struggles of culture, identity and self-esteem read as perfectly contemporary - or maybe our politics just haven't moved as much from 1962, actually. ...more
This was much more strangely interesting (and interestingly strange) than expected, for an academic study, and mostly in ways only tangentially relateThis was much more strangely interesting (and interestingly strange) than expected, for an academic study, and mostly in ways only tangentially related (but no unrelated either) to Victorian Honeymoons.
Michie analyzes dozens of diaries and letters from the period, trying to suss out what the hell actually went on during a Victorian Honeymoon, but the whole thing soon gets tangled up in layers and layers of context and interpretation and historiography. I actually quite appreciated the way she drew attention to the primary sources as written works, and tried to take into account 'genre', as it were. It made conclusions - ie, what happened more difficult (impossible) to draw, but also kind of made the historical personages come alive a bit - we might not really know what they're saying, but we know they thought about the way they said it in ways that are immediate and familiar. Who would read it? What would that reader understand? What could they say outright and what had to stay between the lines? (I pity the researcher of centuries hence who tries to figure out the nuances of some attitude of ours from the subtleties and ommisions of the way we use our Goodreads reviews and Facebook statuse and Twitter feeds...etc)
Theres a bit of geography stuff too, trying to understand how people would have experienced those landscapes as honeymooners and what they would have meant to them, as well as some looking into pamphlets, guides, encyclopedias, etc to try and work through their available sexual knowledge, (conclusion: who knows?) There's also actual literary analysis of Victorian novels that feature honeymoons. I think the assumption is that those novels might have been one of the sources of information and general cultural sense of what was supposed to happen (no, not just that) about honeymoons for the honeymooners (the conclusion is the all literary honeymoons are awful and everyone would have been filled with a terrible sense of foreboding. And death. Because gothic and victorians, yeah.) It's kind of interesting, but at some point loses the plot, so to speak, imo.
And then theres the weird creative writing bit and, well, the author. Basically, Mitchie forms a particular attachment to one particularly meticulous diarist - but one who for all her prolixity is still a frustratingly incomplete and mysterious figure. What drives her emotions during her honeymoon remains resolutely unknowable. So Michie succumbs to temptation and writes her, piecing together clues and making assumptions and guesses to create a bit of narrative fiction - which she cheerfully acknowledges is now victim to it's own problems of being text, and subject to it's own genre limitations.
Anyway, it's just impossible for me not to slather on that extra layer (on the fourteen or so there are already) of reading the researcher. The whole book is concerned with the difficulty and trickery of trying to read primary sources and stripping away our own view, and then the base of this whole thing is honeymoons, which Michie emphasizes must have been all about - especially for the Victorians - getting to know another person and probably failing, negotiating the place they give another person in their conception of themselves, tearing down and rebuilding their definitions of privacy. So, what the hell, I thought - let's join in. Inevitably, Michie became the unreliable narrator of the books she wrote that I read.
It's all ends up being a truly strange, multilayered metafictional thing about trying to know people, about trying to know history, about reading. To top it all off, for me, Michie's favorite diarist was a prolific reader who made snarky comments about the books she read (Dickens - yay, Bulwer-Lytton - not so much) and could have been on Goodreads. I recognize the way she read.(it's impossible to ignore myself as yet another reader here, of course.) It's like reading goddamned Borges with a headache, only having to deal with it as reality. Sort of. Somehow.
But I now know less about what Victorians were like than I did 250 and pages ago, so I guess that's a good thing, overall. ...more
Do I need a tag for Satanism, or can I just file that safely under Christianity? *Ponders.*
So, ok, this didn't really work for me. It really should haDo I need a tag for Satanism, or can I just file that safely under Christianity? *Ponders.*
So, ok, this didn't really work for me. It really should have, it's got so much of the stuff I like - bizarre, multi layered frame story, twisty plot, farce, history, politics and an incredibly unreliable, doomed, obsessed narrator. And yet I was basically bored throughout. I don't know if it was the writing, or the need to keep track of the characters who I honestly couldn't tell apart or the way it takes on history I don't know enough about (Italian unification, for example) to see what he's trying to say there, but I struggled to finish it. The ending too was a particular letdown, since I did want to know the resolution to one central mystery and turned out as a bit of a cop-out, to my tastes. Theres was also a sudden flip into an expectation that we slightly pity the incredibly odious narrator - which i'm fine with, really, only why did it come at the very end? I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the preceeding four hundred pages had been written with the same eye, instead of him just being repetitively slimy.
And, oh, yeah - everything is about the holocaust again. ...more
Modernity, or post-modernity, or the difference, or whatever that thing we're in now is. Very precisely, very elegantly, theres an evocation of a stylModernity, or post-modernity, or the difference, or whatever that thing we're in now is. Very precisely, very elegantly, theres an evocation of a stylized, graceful past, though the setting is nominally the present. A world of phone booths and opium dens, fedoras, travel agents, zippo lighters, Parisian cafes and London pubs populated by beautiful, sad eyed prostitutes where smoking indoors is always allowed. Cons where people still read mimeographed fanzines. Our world intrudes as a crude, pointless, painful, violent place, above all unbearably stupid. It's terrorism and the war thereon, but it's also seemingly ipods, porn and reality tv. The ambience is pre war, interwar, something, a distilled ambience of a place that still bears some dignity in the western collective imagination of the past, finally explicitely made so much fiction. Noir, detective stories, Casablanca. Fever dreams of trauma. Nice. ...more
Awesome! May everyone who never returned books to me be devoured by killer pigs of the Rhine!
It does give a sense both of how inacessible informationAwesome! May everyone who never returned books to me be devoured by killer pigs of the Rhine!
It does give a sense both of how inacessible information was then, (a library might consists of...two volumes) but also of the way society did tick along, with systems in place for copying and borrowing books, complete with etiquette, convention, humor, frustration, etc. ...more
Difficult for me not to compare with Ready Player One, though I suppose neither book really deserves it.
Predictably, I like Among Others much more. PDifficult for me not to compare with Ready Player One, though I suppose neither book really deserves it.
Predictably, I like Among Others much more. Part is that it's more relevant to my experience - books and libraries rather than games and arcades, British rather than American - but part is the attitude towards all that stuff that you read and see as an adolescent geek. In RPO, its an escape, a retreat, a thing to hide from the world in. AO has that too, but it also about how reading - and reading genre, at that - is an engagement with the world. How books shape your intellectual landscape and become a tool for a more complex understanding of the real world.
So that was...interesting if eventually tedious. Great effect with the endless layered - and, well, duh, ultimately 4th wall - analysis of life recordSo that was...interesting if eventually tedious. Great effect with the endless layered - and, well, duh, ultimately 4th wall - analysis of life recorded as text, devolving to the attempt to live life as text. I am displeased by the book's ultimate forgiveness of the...inadequacy of it's male characters. All that torment skimmed away into neat endings. ...more