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Dizzying Intellect » Reading

Category: Reading

Public Service Announcement

When all of your dog’s favorite toys are made of hard, white plastic…

Or rawhide…

This is almost certainly a dog toy (especially when it’s in a leather cover).

That is all.

Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow

I don’t really consider myself a huge science fiction fan — even though I’m reading more and more of it lately, since general fiction seems to be regressing toward nothing but chick lit geared toward making the reader cry. (Just what we need in these cheerful times!) But I especially get a kick out of science fiction that was written before the space age.

When I bought my Kindle, I downloaded “A Princess of Mars,” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the guy who wrote Tarzan, for the non-nerds in the audience) and I really liked it. I read a few light books in between, but then went back and got the second book in the series, “The Gods of Mars.”

They were written almost 100 years ago (1917 and 1918, respectively), so they’re really nostalgic and the old classic “martian” flavor is all there. The green-skinned natives and the martian canals and all of that. But there’s a surprising amount of sensible science in there, like dealing with the decreased gravity; complex machinery to create an earth-like atmosphere; and the two moons, moving at different speeds, which is a really nice touch to me, personally.

But the lack of science — trying to write about space ships when airplanes and cars had barely been realized — is the really intriguing part. The ships are all like, well, ships. They have anchors and rudders and flat tops with bridges just like a sailing ship. Even though they’re flying 1000 feet above the ground. The crew stands on top, and they can look over the edge at other ships flying below, or be shoved overboard, and they board each others’ ships with grappling hooks and rope. And they fight almost exclusively with swords.

And they have this advanced technological equipment, but no phones (or the second book would be half as long as it is). But as hilarious as it sounds, it doesn’t really distract from the story or the action. They’re beautifully written and exciting to read. It’s just an added quirk factor. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Kindling

So, I bought a Kindle 2. Not so much because I thought I’d use it, but because I just like gadgets. I’m pretty hit-and-miss on whether they actually get used (Palm, iPod) or not (video games), but I hadn’t bought myself anything fun since my Wii in 2007, and I decided it was time.

It arrived last Wednesday (hooray for Super Saver shipping when it’s also super fast) and I have to admit, I really like it. I’m not really “used to it” yet — I’m not quite sure where to put my hands — but I’ve used it every day.

I was concerned because I have really bad insomnia, and it’s almost impossible for me to fall asleep unless I read myself to sleep. And I almost never buy hardcover books, because they’re so hard to read while lying down, see? So it was either going to be a double-win or a double-loss, because either the Kindle would be workable while lying down, and I’d also get to start reading hardcovers again, or it wouldn’t and I wouldn’t.

So I downloaded A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and gave it a shot. At first I was thrown out of the story every time I had to “turn” the page, but that goes away surprisingly fast. Which is a good thing, because even with the smaller fonts, a page doesn’t hold many words. It’s also a little more awkward than just having a book fall out of your hands when you nod off, because it’s more vertical and so it falls a lot more aggressively, but that didn’t really bother me beyond the first startling time, either.

With that dealbreaker out of the way, I started getting attached to it. It’s really light and shockingly thin. When I see it on the dresser, I’m always surprised by how flat it is. And the graphics are really unusual. I hadn’t seen one, obviously, but I’d heard that the e-Ink is just like a book. How much can that be true, though, since it’s electronic? But it really is. The font doesn’t get pixelly, even at the largest setting, and because there’s no backlighting, it’s very easy on the eyes. The images are what really surprised me, though. When it goes to sleep, it pops up random black and white paintings of classical authors (Poe, Austen, etc) and they’re remarkably clear and attractive. I really just like it.

You can get books from Amazon, of course, which is the idea — but there are also several websites that offer public domain novels, and you can easily download those too. And I’ve heard that there are torrents of books that haven’t been released, but I haven’t checked that out yet. (Not sure if it’s worth potentially damaging my new toy for an illegal book, but maybe I’d consider it for Harry Potter…)

I want to read Fool, but I need to re-read King Lear first (not one of my favorites) so I’m not totally lost — I know I could just watch Ran again, but it’s not really an exact match. So I’ll get King Lear from manybooks.net and Fool from amazon. Also, I ordered one of these covers because I’m a klutz, and I’ll update when it arrives.

So anyway, I recommend Kindle 2. There you go.

Over It? (Guess Not.)

When I was in high school, I read Stephen King like he was going out of style. I know it’s not exactly canon, but it was entertaining, which is just as important, really. I stopped when he switched from horror to psychological thrillers — around Rose Madder, I guess — and haven’t been back.

So I’ve been re-reading a lot of books, because I freecycled about half of my library and re-shuffled the rest, so I’m seeing old titles that intrigue me. And I just re-read Firestarter, which I hadn’t read since I was in my teens. (I actually wasn’t sure I had read it, until I got to the term “Catherine wheel” in one scene, and randomly recalled with perfect clarity that this is where I first read that term.)

Anyway. I know King’s a liberal, but I was horrified at his treatment of military people in this book. Not the people running the government agency that’s testing on the girl, but unrelated soldiers. The first is a “tough-looking young man in an army uniform” in a phone booth who’s trying to convince his girlfriend that he’s not sleeping around, and I thought it was a coincidence.

But then later, one of the characters thinks about his time in Vietnam: “There was no need to confuse her by pointing out that they had all been stoned, most of the grunts smoked up well on Cambodian red and their West Point lieutenant, who was only one step away from the checkpoint between sanity and madness, on the peyote buttons that he chewed whenever they were out on patrol. Rainbird had once seen this looey shoot a pregnant woman with a semiautomatic rifle, had seen the woman’s six month fetus ripped from her body in disintegrating pieces; that, the looey told them later, was what you call a West Point Abortion.”

Ok, first of all, that’s some “semiautomatic rifle” that can explode an entire adult torso. Second, a whole platoon stoned and tripping while on patrol would have a very short shelf life, I should think. But more importantly — every single military person in the book is either a drug addict, a murderer, or a lying womanizer. Is this what he really thinks of our soldiers? Or is this some aberration? Since I didn’t notice it when I read it as a kid, I may have missed it in his other works, too.

And, of course, I google him now and find this:

I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is, if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got, the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s, it’s not as bright. So, that’s my little commercial for that.

So. Uh. Nevermind.

[Anyway, I'm on to Morris West now. Much better.]

Tim & Anne & Johnny & Alice

The Daily Mail has the first picture of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

[girlie scream]

I’m not a rabid Johnny Depp fan or anything, but this sounds really good. And I am a rabid Alice In Wonderland fan. I have popup books, and an old facsimile of the original “Alice’s Adventures Underground” in Carroll’s own handwriting. And those Guinness ads, framed, and antique cigarette cards (are there non-antique cigarette cards?). Et cetera. No kidding.

Very cool. Burton and Depp make beautiful things together.

With No Reference To Current Events

I’m reading Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. I’d just finished something really heavy, and stumbled on an old, tattered copy on my bookshelf, while looking for something light. (I recently freecycled almost all of my Agatha Christie, which formerly filled this niche.)

I read it as a kid, which I think most people probably did — there was a movie, of course — and then again in college. I’d recommend re-reading it as an adult. There’s a lot more to it than I recalled.

The story itself is still spooky and dark, and Bradbury’s semi-stream-of-consciousness writing style has always appealed to me. (He also uses “so?” in the same way that Heinlein does — I don’t recall ever seeing another author use it.)

But there’s a whole ‘nother level, about the relationship between kids and parents, specifically kids and their fathers, and how your perspective on your father changes as you get older. I miss my dad right now, because though he wasn’t vocally political, politics interested him, and I think he would’ve been intrigued by this election. He’s one person that I think I could talk to about it without tearing my hair out. So it’s “poignant” for me, I guess, whatever that means. But I think it’d also be a good read for fathers. Because you forget that transition, and it’s important.

Horrible.

No. No no.

Author Michael Crichton Dead at 66

One of my favorite writers. I’ve read Jurassic Park literally at least twenty times, and Timeline, no matter how bad the movie was, is one of my all-time favorite books. Who else could have combined Richard Feynman, archaeology, and 14th century history — hand-picking three of my personal obsessions — and made it work?

The novelist passed away in Los Angeles after a private battle with cancer. His family said the death was unexpected.

This is awful. Just awful.

The tears that I couldn’t be bothered with last night are creeping up on me now.

Meow

Fellow junkies, the third book in the Wicked series, by Gregory Maguire, comes out next Tuesday.

It’s called ‘A Lion Among Men’. Three guesses who it’s about, and the first two don’t count.

Yippee!

That is all.

Insert Girlie Shriek Here

Gregory Maguire, one of my very favoritest authors ever, has a new book out!! What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy. I just got a 25% off coupon from Borders, and I now know where it’s going.

p.s. If you liked/loved Wicked, try Mirror Mirror. It’s gorgeous.

p.p.s. Not advertising Borders, per se, they just happen to be next door to where I work. And I have a coupon.

Deathly Hallows

I’m a little bit pissed that I had to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so fast, instead of savoring it — reading just a few pages a day to make it last, like I was able to do with the earlier books. But I knew I wouldn’t make it past the spoilers today.

Anyway, it was worth it. I finished it last night. It’s absolutely perfect, and I can’t think of a single loose end that wasn’t wrapped up. Loved it.

If you haven’t read it, what the hell are you doing at work? Call in sick and go read it. GO! If you have and you’re done already, what’d ya think?

(Comments may contain spoilers later, be advised — I won’t put anything up here.)