reading October 2013

 

The Ocean at the End of the Road – Neil Gaiman

Hadn’t felt moved to read any Gaiman since American Gods, which felt like his masterwork in prose, possibly because he went very YA. Ocean is the first aimed at adults in quite a while. It isĀ  really nice, subtle, supple and warm. Ageless and satisfying, a grown up fairytale. Somehow comfortable and unchallenging though.

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit – Storm Constantine

Somehow Constantine had never really came on my radar despite having written lots of books. Read this fairly randomly; it is the first of the Wraeththu books. Wraeththu are post-human, post-gender androgyne hermaphrodites (though seemingly exclusively evolved from males), who are very into their fairly different sexuality, as well as having weird magical type powers. The books explores their society as it expands and develops while humanity falls away. Really surprising how transgressive and challenging this was – and must have been more so in the 80’s – and that it is not more famous than it is. Lavishly sensual prose, all about the decor, not the story. Not literary greatness but certainly visionary, inventive and deeply weird.

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – Lee Kuan Yew

Biography of a nation as much as of the man. Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore for 35 years – during which time they went essentially from being a third world country to a first world country – and still retains a great deal of influence. He relates the nuts and bolts of what they did, how and why, and how it panned out. It is a veritable masterclass in power, politics and pragmatism. He also tells you what he thinks of more or less every major world leader and what they were like to deal with. All up an extraordinary story, fascinating on many levels, and (along with his interview based book The Grand Master Speaks) highly recommended to anyone interested in politics and power.

This Book Is Full Of Spiders – David Wong

Sequel to John Dies At The End, which I haven’t read, but which is still pretty much the most entertaining movie I have seen all year and you should see it. In this sequel, which rockets along, our hallucinating smartass munter heroes go up against a not-quite-zombie apocalypse that may be mostly their own fault. Retarded, hilarious, occasionally quite demented, and easily the most incisive and worthwhile commentary on zombie-culture.

If you are or ever were a hallucinating smartass munter, you will love this.

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Now most of the way through The God Problem – Howard Bloom, which is likely the most dazzling history of ideas and thought and science I have ever read, while remaining totally gripping and entertaining reading, and you should buy it and read it now.

Been reading a whole bunch of books about Wellington and NZ history as research.

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In other media, seem to have run out of steam on Battlestar Galactica midway through the second season. Just don’t seem much to care what happens to anyone.

And watched the magnificent delirious wonderfulness that is John From Cincinnati, which has become one of my all time favourite TV shows ever, naturally canned after one season. Ten episodes of unique hilarious mindfuck bliss, rather difficult to describe. Find this and see it. You will be delighted you did.

 

reading September 2013

Stealing Fire From the Gods – James Bonnet

Very much in the Jungian side of archetypal story analysis, building from Joseph Campbell et al but generating a quite remarkably comprehensive model of the nature of story. A hell of a lot in it, perhaps my favourite of these kinds of books* (though hi recency bias), along with The Seven Basic Plots; though I suspect this one is a great deal more practical. Something I will return to. Though also, he crams a lot of high concept stuff into not many pages, and if you don’t already have a solid grounding in Jung/Campbell etc it may be a bit much.

* On the whole I get more out of ones focused on story as a whole rather than script-focused story-structure books, as I don’t think film really matters per se, and the modern era of film introduces many artificial limitations into the nature of stories told; whereas stories themselves, and why we tell them, do matter; story is an essence which pours itself into many forms.

Shoninki: the secret teachings of the ninja: the 17th century manual on the art of concealment – Natori Masazumi

Comes across as strangely humorous several centuries later. I guess if you were raised as a cold-war kid the levels of paranoia and subterfuge around spying that seem normal are high. This ninja manual is oddly genteel, though has its moments of insight.

Magic For Beginners – Kelly Link

Joyously wonderful fresh and weird short stories. Deliriously delightful. The title story in particular is extraordinary. Her voice is idiosyncratic and lively and her stories are very weird, and not always successful, but those that are win so hard it is frightening.

Brain Magick – Philip Farber

NLP, neuropsychology and magick rolled into one, with a particular focus on invocation, by one of the most lucid explorers of these realms. Found it a fun and easy read, but I am primed for these areas.

Stranger Things Happen – Kelly Link

Earlier short story collection from Link. Still enjoying them. Which is an achievement, since short fiction is not my medium, and for me to read two books by anyone in a row is pretty rare. A real and definite original.

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In other media, watched Season One of Battlestar Galactica. Really enjoyed the pilot and first episode. Descended into episodic malarkey and hokey-ness a wee bit, but still pretty solid. A curious blend of SF and fantasy/metaphysical elements, saddled with some heavy handed commentary on the war on terror which plays more absurdly now than it would have at the time it came out. Will probably keep going with it, since the finale made a right mess of things. And yes, Tamsyn, the music is amazing.