Making my way through Batchelor’s Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica, which I was highly recommended about six years back. Although when I went back to remind myself who, it amuses me that they tried to temper their recommendation. I can totally see why. Batchelor (and his publisher) thought he was writing the great '60s counterculture answer to 1984, Brave New World. I think he falls soundly off the mark. But I’ll continue reading.
Finished. Now reading The Hobbit and A Linguistic Geography of Africa
I Normally don’t post my Religious learning here, but tonight I will start learning Kisvei Arizal, the teachings of the Arizal (Acronym for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak Zichrono L’brachah- The Godly Rabbi Issac of Blessed Memory) as edited and organized by his student Rabbi Chaim Vital. His system of Kabbalah, his system of understanding the Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah (his surname was “Luria”), has become the standard in Orthodox circles. There is a bit of a paradox here, as you need to understand his system to understand the Zohar, but learning the Zohar with a commentary based on his works, reading a secondary source summary of Lurianic Kabbalah beforehand is considered more basic- I actually tried to understand a part of the Kisvei Arizal, but I couldn’t, because I started in the 5th “Gate” of the “Eight Gates”, but after learning the Idra Rabbah section of the Zohar, I think I could understand it. The main difference is that the Kisvei Ari are arranged by topic, while the Zohar is a commentary on the Pentateuch, followed by the Tikunnei Zohar, a book that presents a little over a hundred of ways of understanding Genesis 1:1, and the Zohar Chadash, which is a collection of teachings that we believe to be from the 2nd Century School of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, where we believe the main body of the Zohar comes from, that Moses De Leon did not include in the Main Body (secular scholars consider De Leon as the author, we see him as the redactor/editor), that are arranged in the same way as the Zohar, plus Commentaries on Ecclesiastes, Ruth, and Lamentations. The Arizal say himself as the Reincarnation of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and his students as reincarnations of Rabbi Shimon’s students, and the town the Arizal’s school was based in, Safed, is the Holiest city in Judaism that everybody who admits to Israel’s statehood admits is Israeli territory.
In Byron’s Wake by Miranda Seymour, which is a kind of double-biography of both Annabella Milbanke (Byron’s wife) and Ada Byron (their daughter; later Ada Lovelace).
The first section of the book is a slightly tedious soap opera which mainly serves to show what a bastard Byron was. Once he’s safely divorced (and then quickly killed, off camera) it all gets a lot more interesting, as both of the woman in question were quite remarkable in different ways (one as a social and educational reformer and the other as… well, you probably know).
Really interesting book overall, and worth reading if you have any interest in the period or generally in Diversity in ModernVictorian Society
Studies in Yüe Dialects: Phonology of Cantonese
Linguistic Structures of Native America
Finished Batchelor’s Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica, which as it turns out really was sheer nonsense.
The Oceanic Languages
Having read Kavalier & Clay some years ago and liked it, I finally got round to reading this last week.
I really enjoyed it. A constantly amusing screwball comedy that keeps things light but also chucks in some interesting ideas about the nature of writing and authors (and is self-effacing enough that it never feels overly indulgent) while also regularly showing off Chabon’s knack for a smart turn of phrase or pithy observation.
Plus, I love that as a comics fan he chucks in all sorts of references into his novels. This book has explicit shout-outs to Superman, Swamp Thing and Betty & Veronica, as well as slightly subtler stuff like this:
Just read Hemingway again, A Farewell to Arms. Good stuff.
Never read it, but I liked the movie adaptation.
I also liked Chabon’s debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a lot.
I never saw the movie (although I’d be interested in checking it out). All I knew before reading it was that Michael Douglas was the lead - which meant my mind did that annoying thing when it ‘cast’ him in the book as I read it.
Looking up the details of the movie after I read it, it’s an impressive cast, but RDJ, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn and Frances McDormand are totally not how I imagined those characters.
I might give this one a try next, thanks.
Just finished Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 novel, the best thing I’ve read by him to date. This one, I think, comes closest to belonging on a shelf next to his father’s best work.
Now reading a collection of Ray Bradbury stories, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS.
I still rank Heartshaped Box as his best. NOS4A2 definitely did feel the most like a King novel but was just a touch too bloated for me. His recent collection of novella is fantastic though, and has a story in it connected to to Locke & Key that also feels just like one of his dads shorter works.
NOS4A2 and Locke & Key do siphon off a lot of the same ideas and themes. A character having the shining and the trashcan man etc. So that’s no coincidence.
I rank Heartshaped Box the best too. I enjoyed the aforementioned two more - but they also share some of his father’s weakness. And honestly, if I wanted to re-experience that I’d read King proper. Still great reads.
PBS are doing The Greatest American Read, their version of the BBC’s The Big Read from 15 years ago. I only just saw the list, and there’s some awful stuff on there (along with a bunch of good books):
The UK list isn’t perfect, and the rules were slightly different as the US list is one book per author, but at least it doesn’t have Atlas Shrugged or Left Behind.
I’m also not sure how Looking for Alaska was the John Green book that made it in.
I’d assumed it would be only American authors, but the first book on the list disproves this
In fact, scanning the list (without doing an actual count), American authors seem to be in the minority. That seems weird to me. I think American authors might be the majority on my shelves, though a lot of that is down to golden-age SF which this list (inevitably) ignores.
I was encouraged when I saw A Prayer For Owen Meany on the list; however, I’ve come to the decision that any “greatest” book list that does not include John Williams’ Stoner is not a list worth following.
I made it as far as the Alchemist on that list and had to bounce. That book is absolutely dire.