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Let's Do the Time Warp Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

Yes, my friends, remember how indignant you once felt when the Turks massacred more than the ordinary quota of Armenians, how you thanked God that you lived in a Protestant, progressive country, where such things simply couldn't happen – couldn't happen because men wore bowler hats and travelled daily to town by the eight-twenty-three. And then reflect for a moment on a few of the horrors you now take for granted; the outrages against the most rudimentary human decencies that have been perpetrated on your behalf (or perhaps by your own hands); the atrocities you take your little girl to see, twice a week, on the news reel – and she finds them commonplace and boring. Twenty years hence, at this rate, your grandchildren will be turning on their television sets for a look at the gladiatorial games; and when those begin to pall, there will be the Army's mass crucifixion of Conscientious Objectors, or the skinning alive, in full colour, of the seventy thousand persons suspected, at Tegucigalpa, of un-Honduranean activities.

Oh, Huxley! You got me! Only if I'd wanted to be lectured, I would have bought a book of lectures, wouldn't I?

Ape and Essence is a heartfelt howl against the mechanized evils of the twentieth century, and I couldn't care less. Which means I've gone and made Huxley's point for him, but what can you do? I'm not going to pretend I liked a book just because it correctly predicted my blasé reaction to its horrors.

I can scarcely bid you good bye even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow.

I am left with, as we sometimes say, “a lot of feelings” about John Keats, which I am not going to be able to express right now except in a lot of annoying hyperbole and/or weeping emoticons, so I will leave it for another time. Greater minds than mine, and so on. I took Selected Poems and Letters back to the bookstore because I am trying to reduce shelf space before I have to move apartments, but may buy myself a new edition in the fall.

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
Forever panting, and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Dude uses the word "happy" seven times in one stanza and somehow it's my favorite thing; that is all you know on earth etc..

The Man in the High Castle was engaging enough while I was reading it, but left almost no permanent impression at all -- except for one scene where a character (in this alt-history setting where the Axis won World War II and divided up the United States) finds himself briefly caught up in an eddy of "our" time, where he is confused by the freeway overpass and can't find a decent pedicab. I don't mean that it was a bad book, just that I didn't understand it, and the ending evaporated suddenly just as I reached it, like the illusion of water on pavement. Which I'm told is the usual way for a P. K. Dick novel to end.

I think it's a credit to Dick's skill as a writer that there are passages of this book where the fabric of the narrative is coming to pieces and it's unclear what details, if any, can be trusted -- but not only was I not "thrown out" by them, I didn't even realize how bad it had gotten until a moment later. I'm not going to run out and read the rest of his bibliography anytime soon, but that's just a matter of taste.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman -- I'd read "The Yellow Wallpaper" in high school, and it was just the same, but I was surprised by the other short stories, which were nothing like it. They nearly all dealt with some kind of 19th-century feminist wish fulfillment (a widow inherits a lot of money, decides to travel the world; an unwed mother has the support of her community and tells the father to shove off) but they were simple and satisfying. Herland is a lot less likable: all dreary hygiene and pedantry. There's some good clean didactic fun to be had from watching the travellers struggle to deal rationally with women who have no sense of what is expected of them "as women," but utopias are hard to love and Herland is no exception.

What I've Abandoned with Dizzying Alacrity

Julie, or the New Heloise. I got about sixty pages in and found that I just couldn't face the road ahead. Normally I'd say that epistolary form covers a multitude of sins, but you can't make up for boring letters with more boring letters. Sorry, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, you are not the asshole philosopher for me.

What I'm Reading Now

No Highway by Nevil Shute.

He said the Reindeer tails would come to bits in 1,440 hours, but he didn't know what an electric water-heater looked like. Could that possibly make sense? Did he know enough about real life to speak with confidence on anything?

Mr. Honey is an aircraft engineer who believes he's found a fatal flaw in the tail of a currently-flying commercial aircraft. He also believes that Joseph of Arimathea took Little Jesus to England for a holiday and that the world is ending in 1994, which you can figure out from the pyramids somehow. This, and his poor hygiene and difficulty thinking about the practical side of his theory, makes it harder than it ought to be for him to convince his bosses that the issue is serious. He's just been sent to Canada to investigate a plane crash that may corroborate his theory about the flawed tail. Now, in the middle of the Atlantic, he's learned that the plane he is traveling on is a Reindeer that has logged over 1400 hours -- meaning if his theory is right, it could fall apart any minute now.

Mr. Honey is not a complex character, but he has a strong appeal. I sympathize with him, but I can't help sharing his boss' opinion that if he would just comb his hair before the more important meetings and leave his theories about the Lost Tribe of Israel at home, it would be better for everyone. He has a young daughter and is equally charming and annoying as a father -- hapless in an inescapably gendered way, somehow unable to figure out the washing-up for four years straight now that his wife is dead (she seems to have been an equally simple soul, but with basic domestic competence, go figure). I'm worried about him, and everyone involved with this airplane company.

What I Plan to Read Next
Next in 99: The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen, the 99 Novels' very first female author! And some things from my bookshelf, and We for the sci-fi book club.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2016 05:09 am (UTC)
OMG, if I want to be lectured, I will take a class and go out of my way to fail it or go to a church and tell them I'm a pagan! Arrgghh. Preachy novels. No thank you.

Aww!! Keats is so adorable!! Eeee!!

Ohh, that sounds interesting! Wish fulfillment indeed!!

Sorry you couldn't make it though the philosophy book. Though it sounds like I really can't blame you for that one. Oi.

Have fun with your next set of reads!

Mar. 30th, 2016 05:18 pm (UTC)
I mean, I understand why one would want to be preachy about atom bombs and whatnot, but Huxley's dystopian visions always manage to rub me the wrong way somehow.

Gilman's short stories are surprisingly pleasant! It's nice to read a story sometimes that's just, "Despite the best efforts of society, this ordinary person is doing just fine, and I bet the next decade will be even better!"
Mar. 31st, 2016 12:46 am (UTC)
"Despite the best efforts of society, this ordinary person is doing just fine, and I bet the next decade will be even better!"

I also read "The Yellow Wallpaper" young and never wanted to read any more Gilman, but that summary is enticing. The one about the unwed mother who tells the father to shove off sounds especially; what's the title of that one?

And does your anthology include the story's publication history? I'm fascinated to hear who published it, if anyone.
Mar. 31st, 2016 01:03 am (UTC)
I don't have it with me, but can check on Friday!
Apr. 6th, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
The story is called "An Honest Woman," but unfortunately the anthology is USELESS about publication specifics. It's implied that Gilman published it in her own paper, The Forerunner, sometime in 1911, but apparently citations are for losers and not to be found in this volume. Should be reasonably easy to find, though.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 30th, 2016 04:32 pm (UTC)

It's so charming and suspenseful, like a 1940s version of Apollo 13, only with bonus hapless eccentricity. I feel like I should be mad at all the "women are for cleaning up after geniuses" business but I'm actually just happy that so many people are suddenly looking out for Elspeth. I love when she gets a Swallows and Amazons book and is just OVERWHELMED WITH DELIGHT at the existence of stories written especially for people her age! Poor Elspeth. And Mr. Honey having no idea what twelve-year-old girls wear, and wondering if he should get a subscription to Vogue or something? Would that help? :|

The little mop is useful and beautiful, just like a well-designed aircraft. <3

Edited at 2016-03-30 04:32 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you gave up on Rousseau, Stone quotes him in 'The Family, Sex and Marriage in England'. I think he's probably shocked by companionate marriages or something. They usually are;)
Mar. 30th, 2016 04:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, now I feel bad! I think this week's been an unusually impatient one, because of work + headaches + residual stress from the last couple of weeks. And the eighteenth century might just be more of a foreign country than I'm used to. I'll give it another try in a week or two when my head is less of a cloud.
Mar. 31st, 2016 02:52 pm (UTC)
Don't feel bad, I just want you to do the hard work so I don't have to and read books about dragons.

Stone did a chapter on Boswell. Boswell liked Rousseau a lot but his concept of spiritual sexuality didn't help him.

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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