Finished London's Docks by John Pudney. Short, illustrated 1970s book about the history of London's docks. Interesting stuff, touching on a lot of big issues. Starts off with the chaotic and corrupt associations of rivermen and docks before the 18th century, with massive levels of theft. Moves on to the creation of limited monopoly docks, which eventually became competitive. Also goes into some detail on the union struggles of the docks. Talks a bit about the damage and deaths suffered in WW2. Ends up with the docks in decline due to containerisation and the inability of large ships to navigate the Thames.
Seems to encapsulate the history of capitalism in some ways. I found it interesting if a little melancholia-inducing. Suspect most people wouldn't be interested at all.
What I'm Reading 2
Finished the second "Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" book: Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. Excellent read. The first book, which I re-read before this, was very low-key by Donaldson's standards. I think John Clute has summed up Donaldson's unique genius pretty well: "The essence of Donaldson's artistry--and the key to his success--is his ability to construct narrative crescendos that build and build and keep on building, unremittingly, until they have reached a pitch which no composer of texts has ever attained before." By that standard, "The Runes of the Earth" was just a gentle reintroduction to the world of the Land.
"Fatal Revenant" though starts of with a classic Donaldson scenario of someone forced into an agonizing circumstance. as Linden Avery is forced to travel with an embittered Covenant whose love for her seems to have died in his eternity as part of the Arch of Time. The perennial theme of the paradox of power returns, as even with the power she's been granted, she cannot exert it without inflicting collateral damage.
With his characters sufficiently burnt out, in the second half of the book sets up a complex interplay of forces, as a variety of powers seek their own ends for their own purposes. There's a magnificently complicated battle between Staff of Law-wielding Linden Avery, four Haruchai, Ramen and Ranyhyn, a wedge of ur-Viles, sandgorgons, Raver-driven Kresh, Cavewrights, Roger Covenant, the Elohim Esmer and the mysterious Harrow, With the laws of Life and Death broken, the whole of the chronicles seems up for grabs.
The only annoyance is that as expected, the book ends on an intriguing cliffhanger. Apparently the third book "Against All Things Ending" is expected in 2010 and the final book "The Last Dark" in 2013. Hellfire and damnation: not sure if I can wait that long.
Words I looked up while reading: "Fatal Revenant":
- fane (n.)
From an interview Donaldson says:
I compile word lists when I read; then I look those words up and try to become familiar with them. Recently Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" has been a rich source.
I find the ethics of this case quite interesting. According to the prosecution "his actions did not contribute to her death". Since she was unconscious, she could not have experienced any feelings of humiliation. So while it's shocking, no actual harm was inflicted. So, why has he been sentenced to three years in prison?
The charge of "outraging public decency" seems to be a rather ill-defined common-law offence, used as an umbrella for cruelty to animals, indecent exposure, kerb-crawling and up-skirt photography. Wouldn't be surprised to see the sentence reduced on appeal.
YouTube: Barbershop version of the Ewok Song.
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