Category: Books

Anyway I’m getting the book when I get a chance

It has on occasion scandalized my Democrat friends, but I’ve been a Condoleezza Rice fan since I learned who she was in early 2001. (Actually, I was a fan of both Bush’s Secretaries of State, at least for a time.) So it was interesting to see her interviewed on the Daily Show a month ago, and to read the Racialicious take on her book. Both did the difficult, valuable work of exploring what it took for a black woman to rise to her position, and why race and gender politics can’t always be neatly divided between red and blue.

The review is what convinced me that I need to read the book, but the interview revived a lot of what I felt about politics in college: that neither nobility nor corruption is bounded by party lines, that tribalism can blind you to either, and that if someone says “it’s more complicated than that” they might be right. (They might also be wrong.) I was politically naive in a number of ways, sure, and I ended up as a registered Democrat a few years later, but I’m glad my naivete pointed toward ambivalence rather than polarization. For one thing, it helped cement my friendship with centrists like IGR and Dr. Weston, who are noticeably smarter than me and who help me remember to check my impulses at the gate of intellect.

It’s not like I’m going to suddenly start voting for the party of the Southern strategy. Still, Condoleezza Rice learned her political loyalties in a milieu dominated by Dixiecrats, and I can’t blame her for staying put when the racist masses started drifting to the right. I hope I never get entrenched too deeply to notice if something similar happens to the leaders I follow now.

I hate Lev Grossman

What’s that? Lev Grossman wrote a vacuous cover article for Time? I am taken aback! The Stranger (and its sister publication here, the Mercury) grate on me with their preciousness from time to time, but I admire the execution of Noah Kalina’s mirror-parody. It would have fit right into Modern Humor Authority, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before about something that actually showed up in print.

If none of the preceding makes sense to you, you can pretty much reduce this entire post to its title.

Tasha Robinson is great and you should read everything she writes

But just to be clear, the above statements are not causally connected:

“Separating artist and art can just plain be difficult. More than a decade ago, I talked over this issue with a prominent, veteran science-fiction author who’s won every major award in the field. He came down firmly on the side of the importance of the art over the artist. And then he paused, thought about it for a minute, and added something to the effect of ‘Except when it comes to Harlan Ellison. Ever since I met him, I can’t read anything he’s written without hearing it all in that high-pitched, angry little voice of his.'”

After seeing it on LJ a couple times, I put some stuff from my blogs into the I Write Like tool. Different NFD entries came back as Stephen King, Douglas Adams and (oh God) Dan Brown. Anacrusis consistently gets tagged as Margaret Atwood.

I was prepared to disclaim this whole post, but I cannot argue with that at all. “The world’s longest-running Atwood microhomage” is a painfully accurate description of Anacrusis. You win, Mémoires.

I liked it this much despite the fact that it takes place in Kentucky

Recommended: Underground, by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber. Those of us who are always demanding clever, tough ladies in lead roles will enjoy meeting cave geek Wesley Fischer, and those of you who want exciting comics without superheroes and lasersharking will be equally happy. (I could have stood a little more lasersharking, but my weaknesses are common knowledge.) There’s a hint of a sequel in the afterword, which is an idea I heartily endorse!

I have, as expected, read more Maureen McHugh–specifically Nekropolis. I liked it more than China Mountain Zhang, in that it had a much defter way of pulling my heart out and stomping on it. The problem with writers who deal in compassion is that they are mean.

McHugh has a prose style which I believe I am required to call “unadorned” and which I don’t typically go for–despite all my protestations about clarity and Strunk and White, I am easily seduced by linguistic fireworks (Douglas Adams, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Kushner, et al). She makes me understand why people get so lathered about Hemingway.

Still playing catchup on my 2009 material

On the plane to Kentucky for Christmas last year, I read Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang. For the first half of this reading, I was under the vague impression that it had been published in 2008. I found it tremendously enjoyable, and contemporary–a gay protagonist of color and strong female characters, China as the sole world superpower, a mundane and difficult life on a lunar colony–but with some irksome anachronisms, like the way the characters used their wrist-implant cyberjacks to make calls from pay phones.

Eventually I flipped back to check the copyright page. It came out in 1992.

Jesus Christ, Maureen McHugh, you were on top of this shit while the rest of the field was just starting to get boners for steampunk? I will be reading more of your books.

This is an easy test for determining premillennial science fiction from the postmillennial, by the way: the ubiquity of cell phones (and how big a deal the author makes about them).

I am not a fast reader

Time it took me to read A Deepness in the Sky: about a year.

Time it took me to realize that the plot is an endorsement of free-market capitalism to an almost Randian degree (minus the class issues): about six months more.

Time it took me to grasp that the localizers in the book are a pretty clear metaphor for the actors in an idealized anarcho-capitalist society: eight months after that.

At this rate, I should be really catching on to some of the subtler symbolism ten years after I’m dead.

On Reading

I’m reading my first Stephen King book, On Writing. I’m paying perhaps more attention than usual to its prose style as I go, since I am trying to concurrently parse his advice and decide whether he is a writer from whom advice is to be solicited. So far its defining quality is that it’s straightforward: there’s none of the sidelong poetry you get from Atwood and Wolfe or the little inline games you get from Adams and Pratchett. He just writes what he writes, albeit (in blessed concordance with Orwell) free of tired figures of speech.

I determined all this last night in bed. I had intended to knock out a chapter or two, until my eyes got sleepy; when I finally closed the book, I noticed that I had read a hundred pages.

I’m starting to get it, Stephen King fans.