The Gone-away World by Nick Harkaway. Someone on Shelfari recommended this to me. Was a bit dubious about it at first. It starts off with a great first chapter set in a post-apocalyptic world, but then goes off into a giant flashback, taking up two-thirds of the book. The pre-apocalyptic world is somewhat vaguely described, with lots of satirical exaggeration, but in a kind of transatlantic blur where people use British slang in what seems more like a USian small town.
However, it's wittily written, fast-paced, and decently plotted, though a couple of the surprises are a bit predictable. Definitely found it captivating by the end.
Also, any book featuring a mime artist collective and sinister ninjas is certainly worth a look.
So, well worth reading. Just be prepared to overlook a couple of first-novel flaws.
What I'm Reading 2
Mary Seacole by Jane Robinson is a biography of the woman generally known as the Black Florence Nightingale.
Seacole was a curious character: a mixed-race Jamaican who both ran a hotel and had a career as a "doctress", a kind of nurse practitioner using folk remedies that were probably about as effective as the medicine of the mid-nineteenth century.
When the Crimean War broke out, she headed off to establish a British Hotel and dish out medicine and comfort.
Unlike the stern and puritanical Nightingale, Seacole was more emotional and affectionate, and operated more informally: Nightingale disapproved of her dishing out of alcohol, though maintained an official neutrality.
The biography is professionally done, though not written with much particular verve: the author seems to specialize in female historical traveller. The primary sources are a bit then apart from Seacole's own (probably ghostwritten) autobiography, leaving quite a lot of room for "she must have seen..." padding.
Saw Roaring Trade at the Soho theatre. Excellent play set on a bond trading floor, as a new hire disrupts affairs. Liked it a lot. It's fast-paced with lots of short scenes, and juggles several different plot threads. Energetic performances and a neat script with clever reversals and a couple of great set-pieces.
Not totally grim: has a lot of funny moments. Maybe errs a little towards the sentimental. Rather than being aggressively anti-capitalistic, if anything it's a little sentimental. Wonder if the playwright Steve Thompson has heard a few too many self-serving sob-stories about "oh I don't want to a greed-crazed materialist but my wife is so demanding".
Seemed reasonably accurate, handles the exposition well.
So, nice little play. It seems to have been a hit: wouldn't be surprised to see it cross the Atlantic, maybe even become movified like Frost/Nixon.
Saw the Babylon: Myth and Reality exhibition at the British Museum. Pretty poor. There's only a handful of actual Babylonian artefacts, some of which seem to have just been carted upstairs so a few quid can be charged. Only the beautiful ceramic lions, on a turquoise background, have any real aesthetic impact. It's quite busy and you get jostled by crowds of snuffling tourists, all of whom seem to stare intently at tiny cuneiform-inscribed tables for minutes at a time.
It's padded out by tenuously related artwork: some relating to Babylon like a Whore Of... watercolour by William Blake, and several representations of the Tower of Babel. You know they're stretching a bit though when you come across a CD-sized reproduction of the cover of "Rivers of Babylon" by Boney M.
Recommendation: give this one a miss.
My computer finally died, though fortunately I managed to back stuff up to an external hard-drive first. However I can't post much: don't like posting from work especially with no HTTPS, the library blocks HuSi (under "Profanity" and "Dating"), so I've just got the phone... and my flat's in a bit of a mobile dead zone.
If you're reading this, it means I've got cut'n'paste working from one of the text editors, and have managed to avoid making HTML errors for once.
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