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Showing posts from July, 2018

Why paper will last longer than digital data ever will

This is not one of those Luddite pieces that advocates writing with goose quills and shuns electronic and digital technologies. I wouldn’t be writing a blog or publishing my books for e-readers if I felt that way.
The reason why I think believe that paper will last longer than digital data is pretty simple. Paper (and I’m including papyrus and velum) has been with us for about 3,000 years. Computers have been in popular use for less than 40, depending where you choose to count from.
Those of us who are old enough to remember and participate in the early days of personal computing used to think 5.25 inch floppy disks were pretty cool. Double-density disks could store 160KB of data. Having one or two built-in disk drives was seriously cutting edge. By the time they were replaced by the 3.5-inch floppy – which to us looked like those neat data squares in Star Trek – we thought they held more data than we’d ever need. My first computer with a hard drive (named after some flower or fruit) co…

Currently reading - 2

I finished Neverworld Wake and enjoyed it very much. Marisha Pessl has a wonderfully dark and twisted mind (for fiction, not sure about her personal life, but she seems normal on the videos) and created a satisfying creepiness in this YA story.

It's had mixed reviews, but I thought it was an good story and well-told. As noted elsewhere, time travel is fraught with problems, and if most of the fiction about it is to believed, it's about as reliable as normal travel.

It was in the same vein as Carlos Ruiz Zafon's YA stories, which I heartily recommend. (Marina, The Prince of Mist, The Midnight Palace, &c.)

I am now reading Andrew Martin's Soot, an 18th century mystery set in York. 

Andrew Martin is one of those writers who seems to be able to write about anything, fiction or non-fiction. I liked his The Yellow Diamond (a novel), and his fascinating Night Trains (non-fiction)that relates the history of European sleeper services, and follows him on some of the last journey…

Reflections – Brideshead Revisited

The thing to remember about Evelyn Waugh is that he is often writing about things that people don’t recognise he is writing about; readers are focused on something else, often somethingmore attractive, facile and easier to understand. An example of this could be heard no long ago on a BBC Radio 4 book programme where Mariella Frostrup led a discussion of Waugh’s Decline and Fall. Throughout the half hour discussion, the comment was about the comedy, the upper-class, and the superficiality of the characters. What was wholly missed – by Miss Frostrup and the audience – was the biting social satire that showed corruption in every major British institution from Oxford (“Oh, please God, make them attack the Chapel!”), public schools, the class system, the Home Office and prison system, and the – even then noticeable – disregard for Britain’s heritage by those who should know better (the demolition of King’s Thursday). D H Lawrence wrote to Waugh saying that if peopleknew what you were really…

Currrently reading - July 2018

I don't know if it's age, but I now tend to have several books on the go at once.

Here's what I'm reading now:

1. Repeat - A J Kohler's time-shift love story but, oh, so much more. Carefully thought-out, logically plotted and readily readable, is Kohler's longest novel so far, and his subject well suits the larger canvas. See the homepage for links.

2. Neverworld Wake - Marisha Pessl. Pessl's third book is, she says, aimed at the teen market, but, like similar titles by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, adult readers will enjoy this, too. This is also a time-slip story, and like Special Projects in Calamity Physics and Night Film, a dark tale that explores personal fears and relationships in extraordinary circumstances.

Re-reads

3. Jacob Have I Loved - Katherine Patterson. I read this when I was teaching in Maryland. It was one of the books that students seemed to like. It's a coming of age story about a girl who lives on an island in Chesapeake Bay with a popular older si…

Reflections - Moby Dick

Has anyone read all of Moby Dick?

Congratulations if you have. I hope you enjoyed it. I've started it half a dozen times; it was required reading for at least three courses I took over the years, but I never finished it.
Each time I began, I felt that this was a wonderful book, to be read at the pace that a whaling ship travelled. If you read it carefully and let it go at its own speed, you can feel the roll and pitch of the Pequod, and catch the fresh scent of the sea, and the stale smell of Ishmael, Queequeeg, and the crew.
Forget the interpretations people have told you about the symbol of the whale; of Ahab's vision of a malevolent God. Let the whale and Ahab explain themselves. Try to listen to Ishmael, and put your own urgencies and the 21st century world out of your head, and slow to that pitch and roll.
The detail about whales and whaling is almost overwhelming. Melville is like the best of hunters: he knows - and one suspects, loves - his prey. Ahab is th…