Wednesday 27 May 2009

you need a different curse word

Actually I don't get why 'cunt' is a curse word at all. So you just called someone a vagina. Chances are, you're a bloke in the first place if you use 'cunt' as a curse word. Assuming you're straight, you just called that person the one thing that is guaranteed to always bring you down on your knees, slavering and pleading for more. How is that a pejorative, again?

You dick.

study religion no more

What is it good for? Mayhem and bloodshed.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Thinking it over, Fables is a great example of what M John Harrison meant when he said 'Half the problem with contemporary commercial fantasy is its sophistication of everything but the central imaginative act.'

Reducing the fantastic to purely mundane and soap operatic norms hardly seems worth the effort to me. On the contrary, there's something like the book I just read, The Beast by Sharman MacDonald, which takes the mundane and soap operatic - two couples out on a picnic in the park - and lifts it to a dreamlike, mythic level.

Friday 22 May 2009

bibliophiliac back pages

Pal Ravi and me going nuts in Darya Ganj sometime in 2006.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Darwinius masillae

This is a wonderfully well-preserved fossil, and one that may have a few new things to teach us about primate evolution.

But please, stop calling it the missing link.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Finished Rubicon, the 7th book in Steven Saylor's Rom Sub Rosa series. These are detective novels featuring a Roman private eye called Gordianus the finder and set against the always compelling backdrop of the last years of the Roman Republic and the ascension of Caesar. I've read a few of the short stories before, but this was the first full-length novel I've read. It's quite a ride. A relative of Pompey is found murdered in Gordianus' garden. Pompey entrusts Gordianus with the task of finding out whodunnit, taking Gordianus' son in law along with his as a bit of leverage to make sure he complies. Caesar has crossed the Rubicon and is marching on Rome; Pompey flees Rome. A major clash between their forces is expected any day. Against this tense background, and in company with a spy who works for the famous orator Cicero, Gordianus has to unravel the mystery and make his way across war-torn Italy to, as the blurb-writers would put it, cross his own private Rubicon. Well-written stuff, competent and at times quite awesome. Engaging characters, convicing period detail and a certain world-weary perspective, via the aging protagonist, that somehow goes well with the background action, which bursts spectacularly into the foreground at time. I like this variety of historical fiction that's written closely betweeen the lines of the official record, a bit like Tim Powers' secret histories, and the cameos by famous people of the day are handled extremely well.

Monday 18 May 2009

Finished Adam Roberts' Gradisil. Roberts is that rare thing, a SF writer who doesn't think that sophistication means copping the storytelling techniques of the mainstream thriller or soap opera. His stories are genuinely complex, challenging and compelling on the human level, while being sufficiently mindblowing as SF too. I find it ridiculous when hard SF nuts who swallow Niven's grotesque structures without a qualm suddenly pick nits with things like the electromagnetic craft of this novel when what they're really unhappy with is that this isn't a simple rugged-individualists vs. monolithic-evil narrative and there are no sexy redheads for the hero to bed, and indeed, no hero in sight.

Saturday 16 May 2009

'Half the problem with contemporary commercial fantasy is its sophistication of everything but the central imaginative act.'

- M John Harrison

Thursday 14 May 2009

be afraid. be very afraid.

Sometimes, the only appropriate response to Walt Whitman is to roll one's eyes in the air and wish he'd kept that to himself.

Case in point:


As Adam, early in the morning,
Walking forth from the bower, refresh'd with sleep?
Behold me where I pass—hear my voice—approach,
Touch me—touch the palm of your hand to my Body
as I pass;
Be not afraid of my Body.

Last night I dreamed that I was sifting through an acquaintance's personal effects for some reason, and found manuscripts, in his hand, of a story called 'The Citadel'. It was one of my own stories, re-written from a pro-intelligent design perspective.

Thursday 7 May 2009

by the late 80s, “edgy” had become the publishing synonym for “young adult”. Later, even in publishing, it came to have the same meaning as “bland”.

- M John Harrison

Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method.
-- Walter Benjamin


Tuesday 5 May 2009

As far as I can tell, these are the books I've read so far this year, with rough ratings:

1. Madam Crowl's Ghost And Other Ghost Stories: J. Sheridan Le Fanu 5/5
2. The Collected Ghost Stories Of M.R. James 5/5
3. Meet Mr. Mulliner: PG Wodehouse 5/5
4. Words From The Myths: Isaac Asimov 4/5
5. Camp Concentration: Thomas M. Disch 3/5
6. The World Of Odysseus: MI Finley 5/5
7. The Virgin In The Ice: Ellis Peters 3/5
8. The Island Of The Colourblind And Cycad Island: Oliver Sacks 3/5
9. Turtle Diary: Russell Hoban 4/5
10. The Savage Detectives: Roberto Bolano 1/5
11. The Stories Of Tobias Wolff 5/5
12. Terra Amata: JMG Le Clezio 3/5
13. The Witches Of Chiswick: Robert Rankin 4/5
14. The Pledge: Friedrich Durrenmatt 5/5
15. In A Glass Darkly: J Sheridan Le Fanu 3/5
16. The Land Of The Headless: Adam Roberts 4/5
17. Plain Pleasures: Jane Bowles 5/5
18. Fata Morgana: William Kotzwinkle 4/5
19. The Sound Of The Mountain: Yasunari Kawabata 5/5

Monday 4 May 2009

Fata Morgana by William Kotzwinkle: An 18th-century policeman chases the trail of a mysterious occult conman (or is he?) across Europe. Along the way, there is much danger, deception, magic and mystification and a good deal of sex as well. There are some brilliant set-pieces, lots of picturesque minor characters, and a fascinating ride as the magician catches the policeman in his web, in a most unexpected manner. I actually re-read this book for the first time since high school, and liked it as much as I did then, and now remember where my minor obsession with Cagliostro came from.

Plain Pleasures by Jane Bowles:
Economical, somewhat ambiguous stories about desperation, chaos and insanity bubbling beneath the surface of apparently ordinary lives. The best thing in the book is the story Hard Green Candy. It does something I haven't seen achieved this well anywhere else - captures the exact moment when a child's imagination starts to die.I haven't read her novel, 'Two Serious Ladies', but now I certainly intend to.