Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Booker prize winning novel about a group of ghosts in a cemetary on the night that Abraham Lincoln visits the body of his dead son.
Really liked this. It's wildly creative, with great characters, fascinating world-building, and some social commentary as well. It's a compelling story that I found very easy to get through Though it's written in an unusual way with a mixture of fake and real book extracts with dialogue and narrative, it's a compelling story that carries it along.
Well worth reading.
What I'm Reading 2
Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey. Autobiographical book where the author described his upbringing in a dysfunctional family in a rough area of Glasgow. He also discusses poverty, how it affects people, what outside agents get wrong and why they're not trusted.
Quite an interesting book, though it doesn't include any quick fixes.
What I'm Reading 3
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. First in the series of Barsoom adventure novels. I don't remember reading them before. Pretty much what I expected: rollicking adventure, with a few gaping plot holes and coincidences. There's a bit of period racism but not as bad as I expected. Not bad overall.
What I'm Reading 4
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. Post-apocalyptic science fiction with a desexualised elite in a space station orbiting a depopulated world devastated by catastrophe.
Has some interesting ideas but I found it hard to get into. There's some rather over-the-top Cliver Barker-ish gore and some implausiblities. We're also told rather than shown a lot. It might be that I was just missing the clever references: I'd never heard of Christine de Pizan who one of the characters is based on.
Other people seem to like it a lot though.
What I'm Reading 5
1666: Plague, War and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal. Short, light history book about the year 1666 which included an Anglo-Dutch naval war, a plague outbreak and the Great Fire of London. Not terrible but not amazingly informative, a lot of the content is pretty familiar if you know a bit of history: Pepys' diary for instance. I found the account of the naval warfare most interesting as I didn't know much about it. A decent read but but not particularly worth seeking out.
What I'm Reading 6
Amateur by Thomas Page McBee is an account by a trans man about learning to box and training for an amateur fight, with some musings on what he learned about masculinity. Has some interesting sections, like the awkward interaction between working-class boxing coaches and the well-heeled New Yorkers who want to train. However the content on masculinity doesn't seem particularly original or insightful.
I found "Self-Made Man" by Norah Vincent more thought-provoking, though maybe that's just because I read it a while ago. It seemed though that as a lesbian woman who was just impersonating rather than transforming she was more positioned to be objective.
What I'm Reading 7
Listened to the audiobook of Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, author of "The Three Body Problem". This book is less cosmic in scope: near future science fiction about scientists first investigating the phenomenon of ball lightning, then attemping to use their discoveries technology.
Works very well as hard SF, rigorously but creatively exploring the ideas that it generates. The characters are fairly well depicted, though a little bit clichéd, especially with the eccentric professor. It's surprisingly gripping although there isn't so much a plot as a succession of dramatic incidents: there are very memorable scenes within it.
A good read if you like hard SF, but not as mindblowing as his earlier series.
What I'm Watching
Saw Rocky for the first time, never got around to it before. Not quite what I expected: it's more focussed on the downtrodden life of the hero who is more of an underdog than I expected. Quite slow moving. The big training montage makes more sense than I thought as he is supposed to be pretty out of shape at the start.
Signed up for a 10km race in central London on the May bank holiday. Should be fun. Not sure if I'll be able to beat my previous time: this course is a bit flatter but I think by accident I managed to pace the last one almost perfectly. I'm planning to wear normal running clothes though.
Those on lowest incomes in society have the highest marginal propensities to consume i.e. they spend a greater part of their income on consumption than anyone else. This means that almost all carbon taxes, however superficially constructed, will be regressive in nature: there is almost no way round this.
There is another issue: if the demand for the products that will carry the carbon tax is very inelastic - partly because of consumer preference and partly because of the lack of viable alternatives - then imposing a tax may only raise revenues and not change behaviour at all.
Politics. Anarchist press sets up Big Issue-style free newspaper for sale by homeless people. Europe and the class cleavage. The mainstream media is exploiting "veganism" for clicks in an article about serious child neglect.
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