Reading 2012: Vol 2


Now I am caught up and paying more attention, here goes a second volume. Quite a few of these were not finished, but well worth noting nonetheless.

Voice of the Fire – Alan Moore

Extraordinary. Set in one geographical location across many thousands of years, a fevered shamanic songline forcing us to question what is human, what remains in the subjectivity of history, and who and what we are. Savage, strange, and achingly beautiful. Moore’s first novel is perhaps his best claim to visionary genius; in the context of his remarkable body of work, that is a statement. Essential for fans. First chapter is indeed hard going.

Bone – Jeff Smith

Finally caught up with the concluding volumes of this lovely series. Partly due to the lag of years, and age, and the requirements of narrative, it seemed to lose some of its charm as it worked to the conclusion. Still totally worthy as a series though.

A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein – Palle Yourgrau

More or less the two smartest guys of the century, Albert Einstein (father of relativity) and Kurt Godel (father of the incompleteness theorem), were best friends for the last decade of Einstein’s life. What did they talk about? It seems Godel extended relativity. His mathematical proofs, never refuted, indicate two things: a) time travel is possible, and b) time does not exist. This has been basically shuffled into the too hard basket and ignored since by physics.

If that paragraph didn’t leave you thinking “Holy shit!”, then you didn’t understand it.

Need to finish this. Figure I will end up buying it. (Apparently Yourgrau also wrote another, more technical, book on this aimed at philosophers and physicists.)

My Teaching – Jacques Lacan

Grabbed on a whim. I have read a lot of “hard” or “difficult” stuff in all sorts of intellectual fields, and generally felt like I followed it, if not understood it. However, this short collection of lectures given by Lacan at the height of his fame, allegedly to general audiences, made no sense to me. They were quite funny, but other than a general sense that you can’t actually say anything about psychoanalysis, I have no idea what the fuck he was on about. Like, zero.

It makes sense that Zizek is really into him.

Pallet on the Floor – Ronald Hugh Morrieson

Small town NZ really well captured. Remarkable in that it really could be nowhere else in the world. Simple story, simply told, perhaps lacking technical grace by today’s standards, but enjoyable.

Munitions of the Mind – Taylor

History of propaganda from ancient times to present day. Excellent. Probably essential reading to understand the world we live in. Barely scratched the surface of it; another I suspect I will end up owning.

The Daylight and the Dust – Janet Frame

Somehow had never read any Janet Frame. This selection of stories is taken from across her career. Given how stunning, original, and brilliant her stories are, I have to ask: if this has been held up all along as our pinnacle, then why the hell is mainstream NZ literature so tame and boring?

Gothic High Tech – Bruce Sterling

Despite having paid attention to Sterling via blog and lectures over the years, in his capacity as an on-to-it guy tracking diverse and interesting things, I had never read any of his prose. At worst, his short stories often convey the same sense of sneering and whining as his lectures. At best they are cynical fun.

My Work Is Not Yet Done – Thomas Ligotti

Only read one story in this. Horror maestro but not something that will hold my attention.

Magical Knowledge Vol 2 – Josephine McCarthy

The deep end, spoken of with experience. Still in progress.

Light – M John Harrison

Harrison occupies the literary end of SF which gets massive kudos from other writers who sell more. His prose is first-rate. An excellent and bizarre space opera set in contemporary earth and a far future, thematically dealing with the limits of knowledge and understanding. It is a little disturbing how good he is at writing really messed up people and relationships. Pretty darn good, but I enjoyed this less than Signs of Life.

The Believing Brain – Michael Shermer

In terms of how beliefs are created, operate in us, and their power and influence over us, his coverage is pretty excellent. In terms of applying his data to his own faith in science, and casting a skeptical eye on the history and philosophy of science, and what is evidence and why, not so good. An interesting and challenging read, regardless what your sacred cows are.

Youth Without Youth – Mircea Eliade

Extraordinary short novel.

An aging man is hit by lightning and rejuvenated mentally and physically. Each chapter leaps time and place as we trace episodes from the rest of his life. Eliade’s interests in religion, language and scholarship come to the fore, as we take a surreal, fantastical exploration of these themes, and more. Loved it, probably need to re-read it.

Eliade is a scholar’s scholar. I had read a couple of his non-fictions at vital times, but didn’t know he wrote fiction. Discovered this by chance, in the movie tie in edition to the Francis Ford Coppola film; which is a bold move given how totally unfilmable it is in any conventional sense.

General System Theory – Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Pretty interesting, and very intellectually sharp, explication of the field from the founder of General System Theory. System theory seems to have emerged as a means to answer many questions I find interesting. Would be curious to catch up with the state of the art in GS.



4 Responses to “Reading 2012: Vol 2”

  1.   Bruce
    August 17th, 2012 | 10:52 pm

    >At worst, his short stories often convey the same sense of sneering and whining as his lecture

    OUCH! I agree Sterling in person is as you say. And I find his novels variable (tho ranging up to awesome). But I just love his short stories to pieces. i would not call them cynical at all. Paulo Bacigalupi, cynical. Sterling I find actually hopeful in a plausible realistic sense, wise about the ways of human hearts and social structures, and just plain awesome in the short form. Maybe Gothic High Tech does have a bit of what you say in it, OK the Italian businessman in hell… but Kiosk? OMFG. And even White Fungus, so hopeful and beautiful while being plausible about the end of life as we know it, which of course is what the future will be like, one way or another.

  2.   billy
    August 18th, 2012 | 12:21 am

    Yeah, that was a harsh line ­čśë
    I didn’t read the whole book, either, so it is based on a smattering of stories rather than the while. Did read the italian businessman in hell one (meh), and white fungus (decent), didn’t read kiosk…

  3.   Bruce
    August 20th, 2012 | 4:52 pm


  4.   Bruce
    October 3rd, 2012 | 1:19 pm

    OK just finished Gothic High Tech, which I have been slow on both to savor and because it’s a reread of many of the stories. I agree with you more now that it’s done. Not Sterling’s best work. Try earlier short story collections… But yeah, Kiosk worth the price of admission alone (to me).