programming musings

Posts tagged "books":

07 Oct 2020

the simulacra

the-simulacra.jpg

Philip K. Dick is always deeply original, in a very curious kind of off-hand way. Every year i pick at random one or two of his short novels (he was really prolific), and i always find food for thought and, at the same time, uncomplicated fun. It's a peculiar combination, but one i unreservedly recommend (although of course if you haven't read yet masterpieces such as Ubik or The Man in the High Castle, i'd start there).

Tags: books
31 Aug 2020

exhalation

exhalation.jpg

Ted Chiang is up there with Greg Egan as my favourite hard SF living author, and his Exhalation was just as good as his previous books. While the first story about time travel didn't look exceptional (even though it's easily one of the best in that micro subgenre i've read), it's immediately followed by a charming entropy metaphor, an insightful mini-essay on free will, and on and on he goes, in a deluge of originality and, often, insight.

In Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian, Joyce Carol Oates writes a much better review, but just reading the book is your best option!

Tags: books
09 Jul 2020

this is shakespeare

this-is-shakespeare.jpg

This Is Shakespeare: How to Read the World’s Greatest Playwright by Emma Smith

Emma Smith's tour through some of Shakespeare plays was a really interesting read. Her main thesis is that Shakespeare rarely provides answers, he just asks questions and plagues his plays with ambiguity: that's why every age finds works so modern, the key to their eternal relevance. We pick the interpretation that suits our times best, the genious being, of course, in writing something so malleable and covering so many facets of human experience.

One of the ways of being this wide is by a paucity of stage directions. For instance, in the final monologue of The taming of the shrew, there's no indication about the attitude and body language of Kate while she delivers her surrender, so one can imagine her kneeling and make it the misoginistic piece, or standing with a sneer, a stalwart of feminism (when i am feeling cynic, i suspect that Shakespeare was just being lazy, and the meaning was so obvious to everyone at the time, that no directions were needed).

Another funny example is discovering how A midsummer's night dream, our children and Christmas favourite, can very easily be read in a rather more lewd way.

I was also a bit surprised by how often Shakespeare reused and adapted plays and histories by other authors, most of them now forgotten. His genious here was of course writting them better and twisting their plots almost invariably to improve them; but it's funny to imagine what would have become of him in modern times, where the social media crowd would have immediatedly cried wolf, pointing their fingers to the plagiarist (and god knows what else) and asking to #CancelShakespeare.

Anyway, a very entertaining and highly recommended book!

Tags: books
01 May 2020

dancers at the end of time

dancers-at-the-end-of-time.jpg

Just finished my first Michael Moorcock, the Dancers at the End of Time trilogy. Thoroughly enjoyable, with characters and situations that reminded me of the wit and humour of Eduardo Mendoza's Sin noticias de Gurb, a pretty lucid and refreshing underlying analysis and critique of our moral systems, and a non-obnoxious theory of time. All of that taking place in a version of Carroll's wonderland, extending over the ages, past and to come.

I just learned in this SF Site review that these are just part of a 15-books saga known as The Eternal Champion Cycle, and Book Series In Order informs me that i've just read three out of six End of Time novels, so i might be in for a bigger treat!

Recommended.

Tags: books
28 May 2006

the third policeman

the-third-policeman.png

I've just finished The Third Policeman, my discovery of Flann O'Brien's hilarious and extremely witty work. I've enjoyed so much this novel that i had to find an alibi for posting it here. But that was easy. Let me introduce to you the prolific and sadly forgotten Irish physicist and philosopher de Selby, whose highly original theories constitute a reference frame of sorts in The Third Policeman's plot. We learn in there, for instance, how de Selby foretold modern ideas about the problem of time:

Human existence de Selby has defined as 'a succession of static experiences each infinitely brief' […] From this premise he discounts the reality or truth of any progression or serialism in life, denies that time can pass as such in the accepted sense and attributes to hallucinations the commonly experienced sensation of progression as, for instance, in journeying from one place to another or even 'living'.

Granted, other ideas of his were much more debatable, as his theory about night being caused by black air accumulation, but to err is the mark of genious. Other characters are also prone to philosophical digressions. For instance, one would say that policeman MacCruiskeen is well acquainted with some of our modern theories of quantum gravity:

That is the real point, said MacCruiskeen, but it is so thin that it could go into your hand and out in the other extremity externally and you would not feel a bit of it and you would not see nothing and hear nothing. It is so thin that maybe it does not exist at all and you could spend half an hour trying to think about it and you could put no thought around it in the end. The beginning part of the inch is thicker than the last part and is nearly there for a fact but i don't think it is if it is my private opinion that you are anxious to enlist.

And there's more, including a theory of everything based on a single, possibly relational, entity: the omnium. But i won't spoil the fun by giving up the plot, which, to tell the truth, has nothing to do with physics, but rather with the Carollian travels of an unnamed murderer through a surrealist, almost quantum world. (In case you're not yet convinced, here you have yet another excerpt from the novel; or see here for more about O'Brien.)

Tags: books physics
Other posts
Creative Commons License
jao.io by jao is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.