This book deals with dark material, in a compassionate way, without sensationalism or stereotyped evil, or sentimentality for that matter.
In the earlThis book deals with dark material, in a compassionate way, without sensationalism or stereotyped evil, or sentimentality for that matter.
In the early stretches I was worried at how ordinary Haakon’s story is, but that changes when he is called upon to nurse his first boyfriend through AIDS. Exacerbated by family situations: they have scarcely come out to their parents yet, and parents – along with hospitals who insist on parental presence – may only cause an extra psychological hardship at this time. I found these early parts heavy with death, as Haakon’s next question is, when’s my turn?
Haakon escapes ordinary life in travel, but his ignorance and naivety find him involved with those who travel the world in order to exploit and abuse underprivileged children. Things get worse before they get better. In these parts I appreciated that he doesn’t paint people solid black, but writes about monstrosity more than about monsters.
For me, the travel narrative wasn’t a draw in itself, and the other thing I didn’t take to in particular is the writing. Mostly, I respected this book for what it looks at. I recognised in it aspects of the 80s and 90s – the early ‘gay plague’ scare days, but also, how blurrily we thought about sexual abuse issues. We are today hyper-conscious of certain things that passed unnoticed then, or were accepted as commonplace, or were understood as freedoms.
To pigeonhole this, I’d call it rather a novel of gay life than a romance; sex is non-explicit.
### Won through First Reads. (From Australia, I appreciate the worldwide giveaway. Still waiting for Goodreads to encourage global inclusion with a one-click world option -- instead of a click per country, which takes commitment)....more
I can’t weigh this against other books on the subject; I came to it as a classic case studThe title says it.
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.
I can’t weigh this against other books on the subject; I came to it as a classic case study that accepts the ordinary person in the perpetrator of historical atrocities, whom we tend to distance, essentialise, and see as inherently ‘unlike us’ by one stratagem or other. ...more
Elephant-people, misunderstood as beasts by the human empire; homages to colonialist fiction – Kipling & Conrad; an ex-oppressor’s journey out ofElephant-people, misunderstood as beasts by the human empire; homages to colonialist fiction – Kipling & Conrad; an ex-oppressor’s journey out of darkness, into a slightly psychedelic light and the breakdown of species-barriers or perhaps the notion of species. Silverberg has an ear for music in his conjunction of words. Exactly why I read SF. ...more
Chingiz meets the Taoist adept Everlasting Spring. Follows Everlasting Spring until his demise, in the same month as that of Chingiz. Written by his dChingiz meets the Taoist adept Everlasting Spring. Follows Everlasting Spring until his demise, in the same month as that of Chingiz. Written by his disciple. He is lionised by most whose paths he crosses in these pages -- not least the khan -- and it's an interesting look at the religious climate while the Mongol-Jin war is as yet unconcluded. "At no subsequent period in Chinese history did this religion [Taoism] ever regain the dominating position it held in the first half of the thirteenth century." In part due to privileges granted by Chingiz, but also, you get a feel in this primary source for the popularity of these eccentric saints, in troubled times.
Translated by Arthur Waley in 1931, so intro is well out of date. ...more
Cavafy described himself as a ‘poet-historian’; he primarily wrote poems on history – a historical poet, which is unusual I think?
His settings rangeCavafy described himself as a ‘poet-historian’; he primarily wrote poems on history – a historical poet, which is unusual I think?
His settings range through the wide Greek world, ancient to medieval – from Troy to Byzantium – with a focus on his own city of Alexandria. The people he gives voices to can be famous names like Antony and Julian or obscure petty kinglets from Syria. Among his common themes are the uneasiness of satellites of Rome in the eastern Mediterranean, and the encroachments of Christianity, seen from either side. He is often ironic, a bit acid in his observations, whether he deals with politicians or with sophists. His style is simple and direct (everybody says that) and most of the poems are short snatches of history, a dashed-off situation, a voice, a perspective pulled out of the past – frequently an ordinary voice, an unexpected perspective.
I think anybody with an interest in the Hellenic world might get into these poems, as an alternate kind of historical fiction. I found them easy and quick to read, like snapshots one after the other.
Interspersed with the historical poems are present-day verses on being gay in Alexandria, late 19th—early 20th. These also are strikingly simple and direct, and I suspect in the past they have been better known. At least I met the love poems in anthology years ago, and admired them, and glanced into his historical poems and thought… interesting… but I’ve never heard of these people. They didn’t look easy of entry. Perhaps if you know who Demetrius Soter is?
I still don’t know who Demetrius Soter is, but I like his poem and understand his situation: ambivalence of a Syrian king in Rome. I have read the Rae Dalven translations, which I find eminently simple and direct, smooth, effective. Out of an interest in his historical poetry, I’ve ordered the new, heavily annotated translations by classics scholar Daniel Mendelsohn; but before I even lay eyes on it, I want to say that I found the skimpily-noted Rae Dalven perfectly adequate. I didn’t look at the notes; I didn’t want to, I believe the poems speak for themselves, whether or not you’ve heard of whoever’s talking.
My own iconic poem remains ‘Expecting the Barbarians’; and I like the Rae Dalven of this one, out of five or so versions I’ve seen on the web. ...more
Dark for a Star Trek story and above-average writing. I keep a stash of Trek novels for comfort food but this was more than cookies. With grungy spaceDark for a Star Trek story and above-average writing. I keep a stash of Trek novels for comfort food but this was more than cookies. With grungy spaceships. ...more
"After [Liddell Hart's Great Captains Unveiled] came a series of articles on Chingis Khan contributed to the Canadian Defence Quarterly during the years 1932 and 1933, by Squadron Leader [Royal Canadian Air Force] C.C. Walker. Six years later these appeared revised in a book called Jenghiz Khan. Although that part of the work dealing with China suffers from the inadequate authorities on the subject available to Walker, the chapters covering the invasion of Transoxiana, Khurasan and Afghanistan are of great value."
He finds Walker's explication of Jenghiz Khan's strategy in Turkestan quite brilliant. One soldier to another. Strong on the geographic fight, and he's certainly among the Mongols' biggest military fans. Even in North China he claims that a certain Samuka, known only for two raids and not heard from again, stamped himself as "one of the great cavalry leaders of history."
However, the Desmond Martin (very thorough on North China) quotes extensively from Walker in an appendix on this campaign, so you can more or less have two for the price of one. ...more
First off, this is a novel, or half novel, and half a prose telling of the Gesar legend.
I gather that Alai in his fiction (Red Poppies, Tibetan Soul)First off, this is a novel, or half novel, and half a prose telling of the Gesar legend.
I gather that Alai in his fiction (Red Poppies, Tibetan Soul) doesn’t romanticise Tibet, new or old. The present-day portions of this work aren’t idyllic, aren’t bitter, but a little of both. Jigmed is a simple shepherd who is seized by the song, in the traditional spiritual way where the song is thrust upon you in dreams – and can be snatched back by the spirits, too, if you serve the song ill, or run out of energy to host it. So Jigmed, who has become a transient in service to his song, intersects with an aged woman singer who has taken the government’s comfortable deal – singing into tape recorders, to conserve the cultural treasure – yet in result her inspiration has failed her.
Here I am talking about the present-day portions, and in truth I was often more interested in them – than in a prose Gesar, which had its touches, but was unavoidably prosaic. They are interspersed under headings of The Storyteller and The Story. In the latter stages these start to entwine and interact… not only, now, is it Gesar visiting the singer in his dreams, but the ancient king dreams too, to start up a two-way conversation, and Gesar wants to know what’s become of his song in Jigmed’s time.
I have a large complaint, not against the novel but the publisher. There’s no introduction to the Gesar legend, or preface/afterword to acquaint you with Alai’s project, and there are no notes whatsoever for the unfamiliar audience whom I think this book was meant to woo. That’s no way to send this book out into the English-language world. It needs notes, and I for one wanted to begin with an idea of what Alai is doing with the old story. My four stars are for Alai’s novel, but the novel is ill-served in this edition. ...more
Dropped. I must have tried three times, and forgotten in between that I’ve tried before. Of course I have: it has an anarchist planet. But the anarchisDropped. I must have tried three times, and forgotten in between that I’ve tried before. Of course I have: it has an anarchist planet. But the anarchist planet is so stifling, to mind and spirit, I am dispirited or worse, and I haven’t made it far enough along to see much of the capitalist planet, except through the gross spectacles of the anarchists. Once I was young and earnest and subscribed to socialist newspapers (but didn’t read them much – there are better things to read than newspapers). Then, I found this book drab and unreadable, and so I do today. It put me off Ursula Le Guin, which may have been a misfortune, since a few reviews suggest she is at her most heavy-handed here....more
The Russian nineteenth century I have had down as the most interesting century that ever was. These memoirs are extremely readable. Highlights includeThe Russian nineteenth century I have had down as the most interesting century that ever was. These memoirs are extremely readable. Highlights include his moving pages on the abolition of serfdom; his rather exciting escape from prison; his unstinting admiration for revolutionary women; and a crowd of incidents, tragedies, idealism, bravery in suffering, that might be told in a paragraph each, but that strike home the more truly for not being overdrawn. Amazing times. Warmly recommended. ...more
I'd only heard of him as an anarchist until I began to read about emotion & the beginnings of ethics in animals -- in such authors as Frans de WaaI'd only heard of him as an anarchist until I began to read about emotion & the beginnings of ethics in animals -- in such authors as Frans de Waal -- where he was always mentioned as a forerunner. One of those books sent me to Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought... which was totally interesting, as a lesson in how scientific understandings differ in different environments. Kropotkin wasn't on his own, but part of a Russian trend. I wish evolutionary theory had continued on its Russian path, or perhaps, that I lived there.
At last I read the man himself. At this stage he's preaching to the converted, but he has great examples/anecdotes, about animal cooperation. From the sociability of animals he moves to human sociability, in 'savages', 'barbarians' and onto medieval & later. I was most interested in savage and barbarian society, where again, he's preaching to the choir, but that makes this book a feel-good read for me and in fact an escape from other lines of thought. I didn't read the later history. But community efforts in European medieval cities was a feature section. I've been struck elsewhere in the world by the independence of cities, community leadership in place of what we call government... this sheds light thereon. ...more
Stranger was pervasive when I was a kid and I knew it by heart along with the crowd. Had I read this then, who knows? I’m almost to sorry to have visiStranger was pervasive when I was a kid and I knew it by heart along with the crowd. Had I read this then, who knows? I’m almost to sorry to have visited Heinlein again now, as I’ve thought ‘grok’ the greatest of invented words, and I owe him an introduction to Rodin’s sculpture (his descriptions of which I nearly know, still, by heart). As for the gist of the story, strictly I’ve forgotten, but I was in the spirit at the time.
I remember I ‘read around’ the women, ignored their presence… I kind of pretended they were pets. That must have been the habit of the day, to cope with such as Heinlein: I’ve lost that trick these days, and have to slap on this book a warning label for Graphic Sexist Content. My God. But let’s move on.
Maybe, against any sense or sanity, I’ll go back and find out what that other Mike was about (this book has Mike the Computer, everybody’s favourite character). My very bones rebel in me against what this book was about. But my bones are inarticulate, and I probably should have known better than to read a Heinlein at my age. I was tempted in by ‘prison moon throws off its shackles’ but this was a strangely unimpassioned revolution whose cause was material self-interest and whose slogan, of course, you know. I might have been into his polyamorous families, except that his emphasis is on family values (familiar ones), the single life is despised as usual, and snippets like the information that no male in this ongoing group family has ever washed the dishes, undercut the project for me.
I enjoyed the yarn. Rattling along with dialogue; one scene of dialogue straddled three chapters, I swear; I think he even dispensed with stage directions. I’ll happily listen to people talk and interact, for whatsoever page count you like; on the other hand, the equal page count of communications technology was for another audience than me. Living in a convict colony myself, I note the Aussie slang. I did want to see more of Mike. ...more