The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a treat. Becky Chambers is a bright light!
I picked this one up at a used book sale because I’m a former game developer – but a bit skeptical of the premise, since I’ve had had a belly ful of the dark side of gamer culture (not just in recent years) and the book predates GamerGate. Perhaps later in the book some issues of gatekeeping and toxic masculinity are addressed, but I’m guessing not.
Anyway – it’s a good read so far. The book argues that “play” is voluntary work to overcome artificial obstacles at a personally engaging level of challenge; it discusses intrinsic vs. extrinsic pleasure seeking, and other concepts.
I think a lot of it is applicable to creative pursuits, particularly music, which we also “play”
This pairs nicely with a soundtrack of
I had to take a break from The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Gordon. However, I just finished:
On Violence by Hannah Arendt. As with all of her writings, there are some problematic sections, and in particular her views of some of the political unrest following the passage of the Civil Rights Act and subsequent assassinations of prominent figures in the movement are dismissive and patronizing. However, Ms. Arendt has this uncanny ability in her writing to seemingly view all of human history at once and comment on features that are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago. There is just something so universal in her observations of the creep of the language of violence and war into the normal political discourse and the way that it has a way of creating the space for real violence as a political means without effort. Moreover, it hurt to read the optimism that she had about the student led cultural movement in the late 1960’s because it seems like we stand in a similar moment, and one then wonders which way things will break for us.
A Generation of Sociopaths by Bruce Gibney. Another in a line of woefully written, underperforming books given the space for its topic to run. The core thesis is that the post-war generation cohort of 194(7)-196(4) – the end points of the interval are flexible +/- 1 year – entered into a unique period of American history in terms of economic opportunity and social mobility, came of age in a world where there were few challengers to their projected hegemony, and cashed out all of the previous investments made in the social, political, and economic systems over the preceding 70 years. There isn’t much new in the thesis, but the argumentation is weirdly moralizing. Gibney blames lax parenting following the uptake of Dr. Spock’s Common Sense[…] child rearing manuals into the zeitgeist for not instilling virtue and discipline in the cohort, which leads to the usual vice-shaming “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll”, and leads the author through some arm-chair psychology (seriously, quoting the DSM-V at the start of chapters) to conclude that the whole cohort behaved in ways that are diagnostic of some narcissistic psychopathy. While I agree that there has been an unusually naked generational heist, the causal chain that the author builds is weak, and at the end, he throws his hands up and goes limp at any attempted solution [e.g. Piketty’s universal wealth tax or even modest proposals like making income or capital gains taxes more progressive, cranking up inheritance taxes, or eliminating mortgage interest deductions]. The end point of the argument is almost literally the fatalistic sentiment “to some generations much is give/from some generations much is asked”; putting every cohort in the wake of the Baby Boomers in the latter bucket. Thanks for nothing.
In progress, The Storm Before The Storm by Mike Duncan. I’m a sucker for analyses of the Late Republic era of Rome, and Mr. Duncan’s voice on the subject comes from a place of real joy about the project. It is enjoyable and elucidating thus far.
this is a totally fair criticism and it’s not entirely unique to If On a Winter’s Night…, but I think it’s by far the most pronounced in that book (of the Calvino I’ve read).
@sellanraa, what did you think of Cosmicomics?
Definitely. I really enjoyed that book. Especially the almost episodic format.
Anyone read the follow up, A Closed and Common Orbit?
I’ve got it from the library. At the moment, it’s vying with
and a distant third
Super curious if anyone has read A Closed and Common Orbit. I’m still savoring the first one!
Things have been slow for me. Busy times in my life in a number of ways and I just haven’t had the energy and time to read. I’m 4 or 5 stories in though and I’m enjoying it. I find he writes in a way that takes me some time to adjust too. I’ve not been able to express how, but I’ve never read someone’s work that requires so much time to adjust mentally to their writing style.
I’m back to reading a lot lately. Things are much better when you’re consistently reading and making music.
Annihilation - This made me deeply uncomfortable for almost its entire length. Everything is just out of grasp from the reader, yet it all makes a vague amount of sense in nightmare logic.
Fire and Fury - See my review for Annihilation above.
Childhood’s End - This is an immediate all-timer for me. I didn’t know anything about the plot going into it, and that paid off. Highly recommended for sci-fi fans.
The Lathe of Heaven - I really enjoyed this. I ended up reading the opening few paragraphs three times in a row before handing it to my wife and saying “You have to read this”. The last section has been rattling around in my brain for the past few weeks.
Gravity’s Rainbow - I made my every-few-years attempt at this, and made it much farther than usual. When it’s on, it’s brilliant. There are bi-lingual puns next to toilet humor next to incredible prose. However, it turns into a slog whenever one of the characters goes into a dream state (without spoiling anything). I might continue, as the most recent fifteen page dream slog turned into a hilarious punchline about five pages later.
Keep going!! Gravity’s Rainbow was my favorite read of last year and definitely an all-time fave (although, like, I love Pynchon). Definitely not a book for everyone, but I think it gets more page-turny as the plot unfurls.
Yeah, having the GR Wiki has helped explain a lot of the more obscure references. It’s also given me an exercise in remembering all of the German that I learned in high school and college.
His writing really is amazing when it’s focused. One of my favorites is the opening of one of the chapters of Inherent Vice where he starts describing the comings and goings of various cars on the Southern California highways.
Recently finished László Krasznahorkai’s newest collection of ???*, The World Goes On, which definitely felt like throwing myself into an abyss. Though his work engages with collapse on all levels (especially in regards to language), there’s nonetheless an exhilarating feeling in subjecting oneself to his ceaseless experimentation. Once you’re in his flow, it’s hard to get out.
Maybe not quite as awe-inspiring as his last major work, Seiobo There Below, but definitely worth it.
*short stories? philosophical riddles? experimental novel? who cares!
I really enjoyed The Last Wolf & Herman by Krasznahorkai (The Last Wolf is mindblowing) and have had a copy of War Is War on my shelf for a while, but I feel like I can only read one of his books every couple years.
Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays by Chelsea Hodson. first collection, out next month (very happy to have won an advanced copy). was blown away by her chapbook Pity the Animal (included here), and while the rest of the essays aren’t as structurally rigorous, they are still some of the best contemporary essays I’ve read.
High Lonesome by Barry Hannah. love his way with words and the damaged southern characters he brings to life.
and since those two books were left at work, I finally started on Miami Blues by Willeford this morning.
You feel bad??? I feel bad that you seem to be accusing me of something. Geez, I was just describing what happened in our book club…
This may have been recommended by somebody here? Or maybe another forum.
It’s a bit dry but there’s some good material in it so far. Rhythm is really interesting to me and any new perspective on it is welcome
have this one from my uni library!
I had the same feeling with ‘2666’, after finishing it, two summers ago.
I only felt the severe psychic damage from finishing 2666! Yet, for some reason I kind of feel like it deserves another reading someday.