December 31, 2011
Barely read on the road. What I did read was
Babylon Babies – Maurice Dantec
Dense, complex, harsh, hilarious, fascinating, hallucinatory, bugfuck. One of the few fictions I have read which grapples with the complex interconnectedness and brutality of the contemporary world. Reading it feels like the closest thing I can think of to what reading Neuromancer when it was first released must have been like. Recommended. Bizarrely was adapted into a movie starring Vin Diesel, which is such a staggering piece of miscasting that I am kind of fascinated to see it.
Phantastes – George MacDonald
Published in 1857; a gorgeous dream of fantasy and myth, one of the founding books of modern fantasy. What inspired a whole generation, once, that then inspired the next… A real treasure. Beautiful and mysterious and extremely inventive; also a bit overwrought stylistically.
Autobiography of Babur, the founder of the 15th Century Mughal Dynasty. Apparently the earliest example of autobiographical writing? And generally bizarre, as he moves from discussing the finer points of poetry to stacking heads in pillars without blinking. Idiosyncratic, evocative, otherworldy.
RUR – Karel Capek
Just remembered I read this on the bus on the way to Scotland. Play by the Czech writer, in which the word “robot” is coined. Bleak parable about automatism and the essence of humanity. (Title stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots – I wonder if Rossum corporation in Dollhouse was a tenuous shout-out to that?)
And since returning:
Pitch Yourself – Faust & Faust
Basically a process to deconstruct your life, find your actual skills, and how to present them with evidence. Useful.
The Personal MBA – Josh Kaufmann
Basic pitch is you are better off learn business fundamentals and doing stuff than doing an MBA. Solid, useful coverage of what goes into making a business work. A couple of the financial things are beyond its scope.
a bunch of Ramit Sethi‘s stuff on business and finance
Dude seems on to it.
Schrodingers Cat Trilogy (The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, The Homing Pigeons) – Robert Anton Wilson
Entertaining and mindbending extrapolation of quantum physics, more or less demonstrating multiple worlds theory in the novel’s structure, as well as teaching the other main interpretations of quantum physics. Some characters act like particles, too. Along with the usual RAW stuff on consciousness, history, and what is going on, though in an early formulation. So the kind of book I read with a pencil handy to make notes.
My edition was published in 1979. Thing is, I am familiar with most of his schtick, and his interests, and generally prefer his more mature non fiction renderings; so lots of this was like a light refresher, with him feeling freer to show certain applications in fiction than he does in non-fiction. But man, this book was still a total crazy weirdout. And must have been a total mindfuck in the late 70s. Also, he explains fractional reserve lending in under a page, not calling it that, in explaining the process by which money is created out of nothing. Just tucked in there. Picked it up unexpectedly, really enjoyed plowing through it.
Currently pecking away at:
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age – Andre Gunder Frank
Legendary analysis of the global economy as a world system over the past 500 years, arguing that a global economy has existed for longer than that, it has always been centered on Asia, and the last couple of hundred years are an aberrant bubble that is being corrected. Amazing book, also for its meta-historical commentary and method. Have only scratched the surface, after meaning to read it pretty much since it came out in ’98.
and Lilith by George MacDonald, which is so far lovely, magical, and deeply weird. Fast becoming one my favourite authors. Unique.
Have read less this year than in many many years. Did a lot of stuff though.