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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Jun 09, 2006 at 09:36:43 PM EST) Reading, OBLF, Me (all tags)
Me. Reading: Ulysses, The Sparrow, Someone Like Me. OBLF.


Me
For the second time in my life have been sunburned. The other time was in India: didn't think the puny UKian sun could penetrate my tough hide. Strangely, even though I was mostly lying down it seems to have only affected my shoulders. Annoying the way it takes so long to come on: on Sunday and Monday thought I'd got away with slight reddening: Tuesday and Wednesday it started burning, and by Thursday morning it was peeling. Gah, dunno how you light-skinned freaks cope with this.

What I'm Listening To
Finally finished the Ulysses audiobook. The last few CDs have been a struggle: I think Joyce knows that having come this far we're not going to give up now, so he saves up the most tedious stuff for last: a giant going-to-bed scene all done as a question-and-answer session; and Molly Bloom's insomniac mutterings. Gah again.

Overall, not too bad though. Seems strikingly contemporary still, and does give you an impressively detailed glance at the inner lives of the male characters. The female characters didn't seem so realistically depicted to me, but apparently that's deliberate as some of them are just Bloom's imagination.

Wouldn't particularly recommend it though: it's great in sections like the journey through Dublin (ch10), the language experiments (ch14) and the conflict with the soldier (ch15); but has just such huge stretches of absolute tedium and repetition, that it's somewhat gruelling to get through. It's much harder to read than action-packed joyrides like War and Peace, Moby Dick, Middlemarch and so on. It's still intellectually rewarding to read, but you'd need a lot of additional knowledge to understand most of the references. I got some of the references to Malory and the classics, but missed most

There are good guides to what it's about here and here; a very short overview here and a hyperlinked concordance of all the words. If you're reading it for the first time I'd recommend reading these guides after every chapter, or even in advance. I usually like to avoid reviews and come to things fresh; but in this case there are just too many obscure points, and it's too long to really go back to. For instance, I can understand once it`s explained to me that Stephen Dedelus represents Telemachus; but Telemachus only turns up right at the end of the Odyssey, and starts Ulysses; so it`s pretty tough to expect me to work that out from the start.

Have had a look at the printed version and I think it's pretty much equally hard to the audiobook. The audiobook helps clarify the punctuation and who's speaking, but you lose the flexibility of re-reading and slowing down.

What I'm Reading
Finished SF novel The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which has gotten some good reviews. Seems rather old-fashioned though it was only written in the late 1990s. It's a book in the alien-ambassador subgenre, which I find it hard to read without thinking of Bob Shaw's dismissal of it which went something like this. "I can't write alien ambassador books: they always have the guy wandering around for 400 pages not getting anywhere, and at the end you find out it's because when they have sex they stick it in their ears so every time he says 'lend me your ear' he's been committing a horrible faux pas".

Even so, this is a rather well done example of the genre: very strong on the relationships and the angst of a Jesuit space mission gone horribly wrong; and I didn't spot the ear-sex gimmick until it was revealed at the end. Main downside was that it's hard to believe in some of the older tropes these days: the motley and unprofessional crew of explorers, the compatibility with alien life forms including eating the same food, the rather awkward science and tech stuff. What`s the power source that gets this asteroid up to near light speed? Does she have any idea of the energy involved? Do they really think special relativity is uncertain? How can two (even badly-trained) pilots both just forget to think about whether they`ve enough fuel for the return trip?

Anyway, worth a look if you want something that's fairly entertaining, fairly intelligent, and don't mind that it's not a barrel of laughs. Doesn't seem to be particularly aimed at SF readers: though it follows the genre templates rigidly, it carefully explains even very familiar tropes like time dilation and moving asteroids. This seems to have given it quite a lot of crossover success.

Oddly, while it's very reminiscent of James Blish's "A Case of Conscience", Russell claims not to have read that, despite being familiar with SF. John Clute review, review, interview.

What I'm Reading 2
Also read the very short volume: Someone Like Me by Tom Holt. Taut, Beowulf-based novella about a hunter's conflict with a monster: gripping, realistic, bleak and cynically humorous. Well worth a look if you see it, would make a good introduction to his non-crappy-comedy books.

What I'm Reading 3
Got through another comic: Superman / Batman / Supergirl. Another lightweight action-based one, apparently bringing back Supergirl after an absence. Krypto the Superdog is already there: why don't DC just have everyone wake up, yawn, stretch and realise that Crisis on Infinite Earths was just a bad dream? Dumb but moderately entertaining. Artwork definitely objectifies the female characters in a salacious manner, with some distorted poses and anatomy. Which apparently bothers some people.

Operation Become Less Fat
CW: 11st 8
SW: 14st 4
Loss: 38 pounds
Weeks: 27
Loss per week: 1.4 pounds

Saturday 3 June 2006
Breakfast: Sausage roll, 1.5 slices bread, slice tongue, 2 olives.
Supper: 350g potatoes, ratatouille, M&S "special reserve" dry-aged steak (400kcal). M&S "Count on Us" chocolate overload
Second supper: 3 slices bread, 1.5 slices ham, 3 olives
Booze: 1 beer, 1.5 whisky
Snacks: 1 Feast ice cream (290kcal)
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+.

Sunday 4 June 2006
Breakfast: 2 huge slices bread, potato and leek soup, 1 slice tongue, half slice ham
Supper: Steak (400kcal), 350 potatoes, 1 parsnip, 1 carrot, mangetout peas. Orange.
Second supper: 2 slices bread, 1 slice ham, 3 olives
Snacks: Strawberry cornetto (196 kcal). Hot choc with splash whisky
Booze: 1 whisky
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. Dumb-bells: light 5kg 3x10, medium 10kg 3x10, heavy 14kg 3x10. 3.5 miles walking

Monday 5 June 2006
Breakfast: 2 slices toast, slice ham, 3 olives
Lunch: Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel
Supper: Chicken Jalfrezi, rice. "Count on Us" Choc and black cherry dessert
Snacks: 1 apple, 1 orange, hot choc
Booze: 2 whisky
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. 3.5 miles walking

Tuesday 6 June 2006
Breakfast: Coco Pops Crunchers with skimmed milk.
Brunch: Small egg, sausage, bacon sandwich.
Lunch: Lentil and vegetable soup
Supper: 2 Waitrose beefburgers, 380g potatoes, half Swede, mangetout peas. Milky Way.
Second supper: 1 slice toast, half tin sardines, 2 olives
Booze: 1 beer, 1 whisky, half Bailey's
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. Dumb-bells: light 6.5kg 3x10, medium 10kg 3x10, heavy 14kg 3x10. 3.5 miles walking

Wednesday 7 June 2006
Breakfast: 2 coffee, 1 grapefruit juice
Brunch: Small bacon sandwich
Lunch: Chicken and sweetcorn soup
Supper: Chicken breast, 420g potatoes, half swede and one carrot mashed. Milky bar.
Snacks: 3 Ryvita, half tin sardines, 2 olives. Hot choc splash whisky
Booze: 1 beer, 1 whisky
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. 3.5 miles walking

Thursday 8 June 2006
Breakfast: 1 coffee
Brunch: small chicken caesar sandwich
Supper: 200g spaghetti, meatballs, 35g cheese
Second supper: 2 Ryvita, piece Brie, mango
Booze: 2 whisky.
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. Dumb-bells: light 6.5kg 3x10, medium 10kg 3x10, heavy 14kg 3x10. 3.5 miles walking

Friday 9 June 2006
Breakfast: 1 coffee
Brunch: Small egg, sausage, bacon sandwich
Lunch: Duck breast, noodles.
Supper: 4 slices bread, Beef Broth soup, small piece camembert, 2 tomatoes
Booze: 2 beer, 1 whisky
Snacks: 1 orange
Exercise: 5BX Chart 4 Level A+. 3.5 miles walking

Londoner in Paris
Haven't forgotten: just can't be bothered typing it up. It's not really the weather for it, and I can't transcribe my handwritten notes at work without getting attention.

< Graves' disease | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Monster, monster | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Sunburn by priestess (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 01:25:07 AM EST
Yeah, we're what, a week away from solstice so if you're out at noon that's about as much UV as the sun's ever gonna give you, about as dangerous as it ever gets.

Us light skinned freaks mostly cope by staying in the shade frankly. It's dangerous out there.

Pre.........
---------
Chat to the virtual me...

Heh by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 01:35:26 AM EST
was most amused by my very dark afro-carribean mate acually got sunburned in Cuba when we were on a lads holiday a few years ago. Believe this was the first time he had such an experience.

I go red then tan eventually so typical northern european then :)

Dance by johnny (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 02:27:19 AM EST
Have you read Athony Powell's "A Dance to the Music Of Time"?  I read it last year, so obviously I liked it. (One does not finish reading a 12-volume, 3600- page novel that one does not enjoy.)

You read it for the characters, and for Powell's wry observations, and of course for that legendary dry acerbic English prose.

But I also read it to try to figure out what he was up to novelistically.  That is one very, very sly writer. ("Anthony Powell: Wry, dry and sly"). His novels present themselves as old-fashioned, 19th-century style straight-ahead narrative.  But if you look more closely, there are all kinds of modernistic (Joycean, etc) things going on.

Anyway, inasmuch as you are Theophile, "He Who Reads All", I wonder if you have a comment.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

Haven't read it by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:04:58 AM EST
I don't read that much mainstream fiction... about 40% non-fiction, 40% SF and 20% non-SF fiction, but that includes murder mysteries and such.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
The Sparrow by ana (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 04:19:19 AM EST
Hm. I guess I should sit down with my old solution to the relativistic rocket problem and figure out if she got it right or not, and whether a (presumably fusion) reactor has enough oomph. I'm pretty sure the momentum's no problem, and accelerating constantly at one g will get you places in a hurry.

As you say, I liked the characters a lot, and the twist at the end is quite unexpected. The sequel, Children of God is merely ho-hum.

Can you introspect out loud? --CRwM

I may be misremembering by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:15:58 AM EST
But I thought that to get fast enough that time dilation turns decades to years, you need kinetic energy that's several times the rest-mass of the ship.

If it's a fusion reactor in a mobile asteroid, where's that energy coming from? Fusion only converts a fraction of the mass-energy of the hydrogen. Could be a Bussard ramjet using interstellar hydrogen I suppose. Otherwise I think you'd need something like an anti-matter fuel supply several times the mass of the payload.

It's not really a plot hole since she never specifies what drive or energy source they're using. Just stretches credibility for me that the Jesuits do it with such ease, but no-one else has bothered before. Still, it's pretty good and bold of her to avoid faster-than-light magic in a book aimed at non-SF readers.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Not completely unbelievable by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 06:02:08 AM EST
I've read tons of SF and I've never gotten around to reading "A Case of Conscience".
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Hmm by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #12 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:24:37 AM EST
Another thing is that the book has a strong religious theme, Russell's obviously strongly interested in religion and SF... seems odd that's she's never read that book. Just wondering if her publishers or lawyers or publisher's lawyers have warned her not to admit any influence.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
The blond with the scandinavian genes answers by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #6 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 08:35:24 AM EST
Gah, dunno how you light-skinned freaks cope with this

Sunscreen.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Looked at that stuff today by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #11 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:18:45 AM EST
But it seems pretty expensive, and the burned bits seem to have browned over a bit, so decided to risk it today.

Will probably look like Freddy Kreuger tomorrow...
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Bah! by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #7 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 09:49:18 AM EST
I find that women write excreble science fiction. Good luck on your quest.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Bah! by ana (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:02:10 AM EST
I find people on their 2nd and 3rd husinicks can't find the spellcheck button. It's exEcrable, dude.

Can you introspect out loud? --CRwM

[ Parent ]
Spellcheck? by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #17 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 07:04:53 PM EST
I'm not a Premium Subscriber yet.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
s/excreble/execrable by calla (4.00 / 2) #15 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 12:22:14 PM EST
Even though you are a trolly troller, I can't let your insolence go.

Here are a few women in SciFi:
Ursula K. Le Guin, C. J. Cherryh, Sheri S. Tepper, Octavia Butler, Tanith Lee, Joan D. Vinge, Vonda McIntyre, (Jade would have a fit if I didn't include) Anne McCaffrey, Kate Wilhelm, and of course James Tiptree, Jr.

I've only mentioned those female authors that I have read and loved. There's plenty more.

FYI - many female scifi writers had to pose as men to get published. Of those on my list: Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Sheri S. Tepper, and of course James Tiptree, Jr. wrote as men.

"Are Linux chicks worth it?" fencepost

[ Parent ]
To my eternal shame by Rogerborg (4.00 / 1) #16 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 02:38:06 PM EST
I read half a dozen Vorkosigan novels before realising there's no "u" in Lo"u"is McMaster Bujold.

-
Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
[ Parent ]
I'm sure there's some graphic by calla (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 07:08:31 PM EST
artist out there that typeset her name so you wouldn't notice that there wasn't a 'u'.

Wow - she's won 4 Hugos and 2 Nebulas.

So the books are good? Should I pick them up?

"Are Linux chicks worth it?" fencepost

[ Parent ]
Well, if you really must by Rogerborg (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 10:19:16 PM EST
They're not proper SF though; they've got actual characters in them.

-
Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
[ Parent ]
You know better. by calla (2.00 / 0) #20 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 07:19:07 AM EST
The best SciFi takes on all sorts of issues: political, social, environmental, etc, and even character development, disguises it with rockets and aliens - PRESTO! You've got a great SciFi story.

'borgey, you are a Star Trek fan. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

As for me, I was drawn to SciFi because of the subterfuge.

"Are Linux chicks worth it?" fencepost

[ Parent ]
Heh by webwench (2.00 / 0) #21 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 02:24:29 PM EST
I was all excited because I was reading a new sci-fibook that was actually good, that appeared to be written by a woman. Imagine my surprise when I flipped to the inside back cover and discovered that China Mieville is some bald dude.


Getting more attention than you since 1998.

[ Parent ]
Ursula K. Le Guin by motty (2.00 / 0) #22 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 03:25:46 PM EST
Also Angela Carter - who may have been too snooty to admit that it was science fiction, but fuck off Angela, we all know what 'magic realism' is a euphemism for by now, and you were bloody good at it, that lady who wrote the 'Alyx' book whose name I forget (ok I looked it up and her name is Joanna Russ), but which was quite good as I recall, and the other one, whatshername. Oh yes, Doris Lessing. But never mind. Le Guin is second after Dick in my book. She is the business.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T
[ Parent ]
I've read a lot of le Guin by webwench (4.00 / 1) #23 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 06:55:45 PM EST
and enjoyed it. But, let's face it, 90% of science fictio, whether written by men or women, suck badly.


Getting more attention than you since 1998.

[ Parent ]
Yes by motty (2.00 / 0) #24 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 11:07:54 PM EST
That's why I prefer it to straight fictio, where the ratio is more like 95%.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T
[ Parent ]
Not sure it varies that much by R Mutt (4.00 / 1) #25 Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 11:46:09 PM EST
If you judge by appropriate standards for each genre.

I think getting SF published professionally tends to be brutally competitive: you have to put in a lot of effort and pass a certain amount of scrutiny from agents and publishers.

UK literary fiction seems much more network based: if you're a Groucho club member or went to the right college it's a lot easier to get at least a tiny-scale publishing deal. Dire fiction written by MPs seems to be the worst example. Apart from them though, the prose quality tends to be better as they've had the right education.

[ Parent ]
Not the right college... by motty (2.00 / 0) #26 Mon Jun 12, 2006 at 05:37:20 AM EST
The right school.

College has nothing to do with it. Sometimes I kind of wish it did. But it doesn't.

It doesn't seem to, anyway.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T

[ Parent ]
Not sure by R Mutt (2.00 / 0) #27 Mon Jun 12, 2006 at 05:54:37 AM EST
There used to be quite a cabal around the University of East Anglia creative writing course: David Lodge and so on. And if you went to the right Oxbridge college and met the right people, maybe joined the magazine staff, you could certainly get an in that way; though you'd need to consciously network.

But even in SF you have the Clarion workshop's cabal, though that's Clarion is a short and relatively accessible course. There's a strong element of "it's not what you know it's who you know" in pretty much every field.

[ Parent ]
Ah... by motty (4.00 / 1) #28 Mon Jun 12, 2006 at 07:39:02 AM EST
Consciously network...

I see now where I have gone wrong in life.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T

[ Parent ]
I should look it up by ana (4.00 / 1) #13 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:51:43 AM EST
but if course I won't... The mass of the asteroid was used as reaction mass for the rocket. Presumably also as fuel for the fusion reactor. I think she gives actual speeds. You're right that time dilates by the same factor as mass increases, so you'd need a significant amount of energy.

Can you introspect out loud? --CRwM

Damn. by ana (2.00 / 0) #14 Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 11:53:51 AM EST
This was in answer to #10.

Can you introspect out loud? --CRwM

[ Parent ]
Monster, monster | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback