lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Pinhoe Egg (Chronicles of Chrestomanci Book 6)

3/5. Another Chrestomanci book, this time about an egg hidden in an attic and an old witch clan feud.

Yeah yeah, I'm reading these out of order, whatever.

This is . . . interesting. The weird underpinnings of this world show through more here: part of the point of this book, for one, is Chrestomanci paternalisming all the fuck over everyone, deciding who's been naughty and nice, and handing out "justice" with all the integrity of Dumbledore awarding the house cup to Gryffindor.

DWJ almost knows this. The book is about parenting of many sorts, and family loyalty in a larger sense. It's familial pairs from start to finish: one of our main characters hatches and raises a griffin, the other has complex parental and grandparental relations, etc. And DWJ is almost pushing at the weird edges of the world she created by talking about the power inherent in these relationships, and showing us many occasions where it is abused. And then she just . . . stops.

So it's cute, and there's a whole sequence early on with a rogue magicked table running away down the street that is clearly intended to be rendered in animation. But there isn't the right there here.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
My Name Is Legion

2/5. In a computerized future where everyone is publicly databased (and by future I mean 2005), one of the programmers writes himself out and becomes a hired gun.

That deeply awkward thing where an author thinks he's writing an intriguing and philosophical work about a sexy, interestingly sad lone wolf … and he's actually writing about a mass-murdering terrorist.

Man, I have just been picking wrong with Zelazny lately. My one solace through this painful, wanky, fridgey slog was deconstructing Zelazny's notion of future. It's always fun reading old scifi whose "future" is our now; it's not about the ways they projected technology incorrectly, it's about the many things you can learn about a person by the social projections they make into the unknown. Like, in Zelazny's future, everyone is still a smoker, and more importantly, smoking is still sexy. Remember that? And more interestingly, the world is entirely digitized and largely transparent; our protagonist has some vague misgivings about this, but nowhere in this entire book does a single person ever make an argument based in privacy rights.

Any old hack can be all, "we'll have undersea domed cities in 50 years!" and make it plausible. It's the rare talent who can dislocate his sense of social place into the unknown. In Zelazny's defense, that was really not the project of the majority of his milieu. I'm being spoiled by rainbow SF, which has as a central premise de-centering social assumptions – what is attractive and what is not, what is polite and what is not, what is violence and what is not.

But still. Everybody smoked, and that's sexy.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)

3/5. Cheerful little boarding school story set in a world where witches are still burned alive as a matter of national security. One class receives a note saying that one among them is a witch: shenanigans ensue.

I entertained myself greatly playing the [insert queerness here] game with this book. You know, where you take the shameful, dangerous secret everyone suspects of each other and replace every use of the word "magic" with the word "queer." It generally works eerily well, as it does here. It's fun in this iteration, where the author was not deliberately coding the text this way. It's way, way less fun in the case of, say, X-Men, where certain authors are deliberately attempting to use mutation as a metaphor for queerness, which is all well and good until you start wondering . . . um . . . if they're so interested in talking about queerness . . . why don't they put in any queer characters or, gosh I don't know, actually talk about queerness without the metaphor.

But DWJ wasn't playing that metaphor game. Other metaphor games, yeah, but not that one. So it's fun to read 'secret frightening exhilarating power' as queerness because, well, it's actually a bit more interesting than what DWJ was doing with this book: things out of balance, trying to do it right and getting it wrong every time anyway, kids being kids. Nothing wrong with it, I mean, just not as interesting as the story of secretly queer kids and their teachers.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel

3/5. Fictional memoir focusing on a stretch of time in college for our narrator, whose sister is gone and whose brother is in the wind.

Okay, I tend to be moderate on the spoiler question as a general rule, but in this case I strongly recommend against reading the jacket copy. Because it will tell you the sorta science-fictional "twist" to this book, whereas when the book tells you – about a quarter of the way through, IIRC – is so artfully precise and well-calculated, and you should not let an idiot publisher fuck that up for you. That space before you know the score is incredibly important for what this book is doing with families and kin and self.

Because damn kids, Karen Joy Fowler is good. I'd gotten that vague impression from people, but no one told me she can do funny and bitter in the same sentence, or that she can control such a complicated narrative and make it look effortless.

This is a titch more literary than I tend to bother with, and noticeably less spec fic. And it upset me in places. Exactly, I should note, the places intended to upset me. And I kind of don't ever want to read it again. But. It is very, very good at what it is doing.

Here's the thing I really admire about this book though. Could be spoilery, vaguely ) So yeah. I admire that.

Content note: Animal harm. Like….a lot. There isn't actually a lot on screen, with a few exceptions, but animal harm permeates the book. See above re how this is really good but I don't want to read it again.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Royal We

4/5. The Fug Girls do 'American exchange student falls in love with a British prince.'

I assumed, going in, that this would be a bubbly, young adult romp full of fashion porn and one-in-a-million romance. It is, in fact, a thoughtful adult novel containing very little fashion (our protagonist does not really care about clothes) which is perhaps more concerned with the relationship of two sisters than with all the boy-girl nonsense. It is also deft and pointed regarding the cost of fame. Not in the oh woe is me, it's so haaaard being rich and famous way, but of the sympathetic and awful, So now we find out which people we love are actually just using us way. I think the Fug Girls are peculiarly well-situated – and sufficiently thoughtful and self-aware – to get at that sort of thing.

I am supremely uninterested in talking about whether this book is Will/Kate RPF or not, and which incidents are true to life and which aren't. I just am so so so over having a version of that conversation, the exact same way I'm over talking about which young adult novels are fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. Like, for real, it is 2015. And yet we are all supposed to still be gatekeeping and classifying and arguing over how much transformative workness is good and how much is bad? Really? Color me un-fucking-interested.

It's a lovely book about family and England and love and friends and being young-and-fabulous and young-and-afraid and doing hard things and screwing up with everyone watching. It made some . . . choices . . . regarding mental illness that I'm still thinking about because I'm not sure I'm down with them, and you can still see some of the places where the authors apparently cut large amounts of material, but. It is what it is. And I liked it.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Dreaming Spies: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes

3/5. Another Russell/Holmes book of the usual formula – going back in to fill in a previous gap in the timeline with an international adventure which, in the middle of the book, catches up to narrator-standard-time in England.

Eh, you know, the charm is wearing off here.

Things I am in this series for: (1) the picture of a marriage of two very smart, very independent people who love each other, but do not need each other and they both know it; (2) Holmes's disguises; (3) partnership; (4) cleverness.

Things Laurie R. King is in this series for, these days: (1) Cultural tourism (Japan, this time); (2) set pieces.

This was competent, and I am bored. More clever sleuths loving each other but living their own lives, less travelog, please.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Girl With All the Gifts

4/5. So the National Library Service description of this book is all, "blah blah post zombie apocalypse, gifted young girl is infected and held in military custody, emergency cross-country road trip through zombie-infested England while her humanity is debated."

And I went siiiiiiiigh, because can we – with the debating of humanity – can we just fucking stop. This is a thing that a certain subset of vampire/zombie/creature fiction is really interested in: who is human and, more importantly it seems, who is not? And I hate these narratives. Hate them. The authors appear to think they are probing at something important and meaningful, whereas from my perspective – well. Let's put it this way: slavery didn't exist in the United States because no one had thought of the concept of human rights. Far from it. Slavery was maintainable because it was decided, collectively and systematically, that Africans were not human beings. That's what this boundary drawing is always for, ultimately: deciding whether someone is human or not is a proxy way of deciding whether they are an object or a person. Objects can't be raped because they don't have consent. Objects can't be assaulted; they can be damaged, as property, but that damage is done to the owner. And let's not fool ourselves that these decisions come down to sentience or intelligence; history begs to differ.

So for me, a lot of supernatural fiction is participating in one of the oldest acts of social aggression there is: deciding who counts and who doesn't. And I think the entire endeavor is corrupt from start to finish. It's not interesting. It's not deep. It's not philosophical. It doesn't reflect on the true nature of humanity. It's just a tool of violence being co-opted for fiction.

Um. Anyway. Now that I've gotten that off my chest. This book isn't that, and it's great!

Things this book doesn't care about: (1) who is human and who is not; (2) Endless – or really any -- authorial wanking about the contours of this dystopic society.

Fuck yes.

Things this book does care about: (1) A very smart little girl; (2) giving me the cold horrors as a person who can barely stand to touch mushroom flesh (this will not likely apply to other readers, but ugh, zombies through fungus infection AAAAUGH); (3) the last thing to come out of Pandora's box.

It is grim as fuck and difficult to read in places, and mesmerizingly good. And it's kind of obvious, looking back on it, and yet I was so busy being wrapped up in it that I didn't bother clocking the overarching narrative. And that overarching narrative – it's not just that it isn't concerned with who's human and who's not, it's that it actively rejects the question.

So really good, then.

P.s. M.R. Carey is a not-really-pseud for Mike Carey, the Hellblazer guy and urban fantasy guy.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Welcome to Temptation (Dempsey Book 1)

3/5. A rather slapdash romance about two women coming to a small town to film what turns out to be porn (sort of) and the straight-laced mayor who may not want to win his next election and etc. Giving it good....ish marks only because it got me through the second major dog surgery/hospitalization in under eight weeks, so okay.

Not her best by far, but I don't really want to talk about that. I want to talk about sex.

This book is . . . confused about sex, let us say. Nonconsensually bringing a third party in to watch a couple having sex in order to fulfill a discovery fantasy that the dude never even stopped to ascertain whether his partner even has? That's apparently fine. Filming two consenting adults having sex? Disgusting and reprehensible, apparently.

This book is so confused, I can't even put my finger on what issues Crusie is putting out on the laundry line here. But boy, they sure are out there. This is one of those books that is sex positive right up until the point when it snaps back to incredibly shaming and sex negative, and I just have no.freakin'.clue.why.

Well, I know why. We all know why. Just, y'know. Confused.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
3/5. A history of money by way of a history of debt. Which actually means it's about everything.

Oh man this is so great! And so infuriating!

The great part: The central project of this book is to demonstrate that debt is a political tool whose moral valence points the direction that sustains hierarchies. I.e. there are occasions when we feel as a moral issue that one ought to "pay one's debts," and we feel equally strongly in other situations that the moral burden is on the lender to forgive. Interrogating the difference is incredibly interesting, and gets us into the history of monetary systems, some semi-radical politics, and a lot of deconstructive social thinking. I dig it. I've recently really gotten into finance and investing; reading this book predates that, but it speaks to the same interest. When you start talking about money – I mean talking about money as a tool rather than as a personal finance topic – you by definition start talking about a lot of deeply personal questions of valuation, measurement, and self.

The infuriating: This book is mostly anthropology, and, well. Anthropology. Christ. There's a field that puts the anecdote in anecdata. I swear sometimes what they teach in anthropology grad schools goes like this: "Okay, first you come up with your conclusion. Make it something really big and sweeping about the nature of society. Got it? Okay, then go find an obscure tribe from the Australian bush that no one has ever heard of. One of those villages of two hundred isolated people. Then explain how one aspect of that tribe's society demonstrates your conclusion. Voila! It's proved!"

The number of times I snapped, "Citation, please," while reading this book . .

It's worth reading, because it's interesting and wide-reaching, and like I said, you can't talk about this stuff without getting pretty fundamental. And he throws out great thoughts on every page, with hardly the time to complete them. There was this particularly excellent drop-in he made towards the end about how we're told that money/development will always corrupt. You know, like how discovering a diamond mine is the worst thing that can happen to a poor village. And he's like, "Well, yes, but then again, who does that story serve? Because if you think about it, saying that humans will always behave badly when given enough money is a great story if you want to excuse the bad behavior you have just committed."

And I was like, "Huh!" And then he was off on some other dubiously sourced and occasionally flat-out wrong tangent that was nonetheless great.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Small Gods: Discworld Novel, A

3/5. One of the Discworld standalones. A god is turned into a tortoise, and only one monk out of his entire religious order can hear him, because only that one still believes.

Read for the obvious sentimental reasons. Which was a good choice because this is Pratchetty and charming. And also a bad choice because it is Pratchetty and, uh, full of quick flashes of his particular brand of racism. You know, the cheerful kind of racism where a white guy goes "ha ha ha aren't racist stereotypes so stupid they're funny?" And you're like, "uh okay dude, but pretty sure that's a thing you get to think when they aren't about you, and also you apparently believe in a number of them yourself, so…"

But what I meant to talk about was Pratchett and religion. Because I don't think he is very good at it? Like, he seems very clear on the idea of religion as a system of order, and he seems extremely clear on it as a tool of political aggression. Both of which it totally is. But then, for him, it stops. Which – and I'm saying this as an atheist – doesn't seem right to me. The main character here is a man of faith. One of the very few in the novel. And I'll grant you faith is a different concept when your god won't stop talking to you, but. But there's no . . . the people I know who believe don't do it with their politics. Or their heads. They do it with their limbic systems, you know?

Like, I'm pretty sure Pratchett wrote Sam Vimes having much more complex, intense, personal feelings about city cobblestones than the protagonist of this book has about his god. Vimes's feelings are pretty strong, mind you.

Anyway, whatever. I'm just saying, if you're going to go mucking about in theocracies, you've got to put some actual religion in. And this book ain't got religion. It's got, like, a secular pragmatist talking about religion.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

2/5. Historical about two teenagers – one blind French girl, one German underaged soldier – who intersect briefly in 1944.

So for background, my father-in-law is a darling man who knows I'm a reader and, because he is a darling man, likes to buy me books from Audible. He, however, is not a reader. What he does read is The New Yorker. You can see where this is going.

Sigh. It's not just that World War II stories are easy to find; it's more that good World War II stories have been told and told and told. This one – about radios and cursed diamonds and children sent to war – is aggressively well-written, I'll give it that. But it's also one of those war stories that is supposed to elevate the suffering of the commonplace or whatever, and instead just ends up 95% suffering porn.

The other 5% being a lot of lit fiction symbolism bullshit where a diamond is supposed to metaphorically speak to the sweep of human history or whatever, and it's all just so meaningful, and you can totally see the author daydreaming about the landscape shots in the movie after its optioned for seven figures.

That's lit fiction for you. Set out with the goal of illuminating the suffering of the commonplace, but totally fail to resist trying to make it about OMG the humanity, and in the process lose authenticity and grip on real people, so in the end it's just suffering-suffering-suffering-thematic moment-suffering-suffering.

I swear one day I'm just going to decide that I will henceforth never again read a book subtitled "A Novel," and my life will be instantly improved.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
3/5. Later written but chronologically long ago prequel to the Old Kingdom books. So the usual – a teenager flung into magic and court politics.

This book fooled me nearly to the end. I assumed I had it figured out from page 1. Our protagonist was immature and self-centered, willfully disinterested in the justice or injustice of the struggle she is dropped into. But she'd grow up quick enough and take up the responsibilities thrust upon her, and blah blah blah, I thought. And then I was kind of bored, because she wasn't doing that, and she wasn't doing that, and the whole book was sort of shallow and blinkered and angry, and not what I've come to expect from Nix. Did he lose his form, I wondered?

And then around the 85% mark I sat up and said oh quite loudly, because I'd suddenly realized what book I was actually reading. And that book uses its shallowness to fool you – under the surface, it is sad and frightening. And – not compassionate. But kind, in a clinical 'this, too, shall be told' kind of way.

Not the story I thought it was at all. Did I enjoy it? Sort of. But I wasn't supposed to, not exactly. Or my unthinking enjoyment was supposed to have the rug yanked out from under it in favor of something much more complicated.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
All In with the Duke (Gambling on Love Book 1)

2/5. M/M historical inexplicably titled with reference to gambling when it's actually about a duke and a prostitute.

This is competently written, and appears to have pleased people who like the duke/prostitute thing, but. There is just something intensely claustrophobic about this book. It contains two main characters, who spend most of the book shut up together alone in the country, and roughly 0.75 other characters. I started developing suspicions halfway through, checked, and yup: the only other two characters in the book with more than a couple of speaking lines are product placement main characters for the rest of her series.

And I just, look. Publishing is a business, and the business is selling books. But for real, if you can only ever be bothered to create a character for the purpose of selling a book he headlines, you have a problem.

And you also write shallow stories, with no depth or texture.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Get in Trouble: Stories

4/5. Specfic short stories. The first time I read Kelly Link years ago, I found her fuckin' weird to the point of incomprehensibility, and I liked it. Now I read her and I find her fuckin' weird just barely to the point of comprehensibility, and it's still great. I don't know if she changed her style or I became a more complex reader – both, probably – but it's still working for me.

One of the stories in this collection, "I Can See Right Through You," is available to read online. It's not my favorite from the collection, but it gives an entirely accurate sense of what she does and how: pop cultural commentary that almost fools you by pretending to be obvious, until you think about it a little bit and go wait . . . what the fuck? You can also read the opening story "The Summer People" online. I kept trying to reduce this story to a class metaphor, because yeah, it's totally doing that, but let's be real, that's the least of what it's doing.

My favorite story in this collection isn't available online, unfortunately. That would be "Secret Identity," the story of a teenaged girl at a hotel where a superhero convention and a dentist convention are taking place. She's there to meet her internet boyfriend, who thinks she's in her thirties. I'm making this sound tiresome, but it's actually about refrigerators and sidekicks and users and dentists and it's freakin amazing, okay.

And then there's "Origin Story," the one about the woman meeting her superhero boyfriend in an old theme park, and "Light," about the woman with a twin born out of her shadow and pocket universes and mystery sleepers and hurricanes, and and and.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister Book 2)

Note: I discovered in the process of linking this that it's currently $0.99 on Kindle, if that's of interest to anybody.

3/5. Historical. Heiress makes herself deliberately repellant to suitors for her own reasons; she and a blossoming politician fall in love, much to their mutual irritation.

Sweet, with a core of genuine complexity, because it really is an actualfacts bad idea for this couple to get together, in ways that aren't just silly authorial manufacturing.

But here's something I've just figured out about Courtney Milan. A bunch of reviewers have complained about the historical anachronism in the fact that she writes about social justice. Her characters are involved in labor movements, women's rights, economic justice, etc. I find it quite problematic to call that anachronistic – doing that is to suggest that social justice is itself an anachronism, which is obviously incorrect. Laborers and women fought for their rights in the nineteenth century, and fought and fought and fought, and wrote about it, and thought very hard and complexly about it. Saying its anachronistic for characters in a historical romance to be concerned with these things is to erase that struggle and those people, and also to participate in the myth of progress, the idea that the past was a land of injustice and that the arc of justice bends solidly to now. Injustice having been defeated, don't you know.

So I don't agree with that critique at all. But there is something . . . comfy wish-fulfillment about Milan's social justice writing. And I've finally figured out what it is.

Her characters are all conscious of oppression. They all understand what it is, they all can perceive its dimensions as it comes down upon them, they all recognize it in the moment. I realized this when reading the POV of a minor character who is an Indian gentleman, subject to overt and covert racism at every turn, and who has a pithy observation or a pointed comment for each micro and macro aggression, no matter how blatant or subtle, with an ability to put things immediately in context.

And that's the fantasy of these books. Not that historical people resisted oppression, but that they all, on a person-to-person level, could spot it in the wild. Because that is one of the most insidious things about oppression – it can have its foot on your throat, you can have spent your life resisting it, and sometimes, often, you won't know. I have spent over a decade and a half thinking and writing about the various sorts of intersectional oppression I have experienced, and still, on a regular basis I don't recognize it until long after the fact. I'm sure I miss aspects of it all the time. Several times a week I will walk away from an encounter with a slow, creeping feeling down my back, and then days later it will occur to me out of nowhere that, oh, huh, that guy was absolutely trying to put me in my place for daring to be younger and more successful than him; that medical professional was attempting to make me straight by sheer force of will; that cab driver was fundamentally offended that I refused his help to the door because I didn't match his notions of what disability looks like and it made him angry.

You live in the ocean; you don't see the ocean.

Courtney Milan's characters see the ocean. All the time, in every situation. That's the wish-fulfillment fantasy, being able to name oppression and label it, and see it coming and see it going. That's the part I don't believe.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

1/5. DNF. I've had this biography of Oppenheimer for years, and I've been looking forward to it. Shame it comes with the biographers.

You know how sometimes biographers spend years and years on a project, and it renders them erudite and clear-eyed and compassionate and surgical upon their subject? And then you know how other times biographers spend years and years on a project and it renders them defensive and untrustworthy and over-invested? …Yeah. A small sample of the many reasons finishing this book was not worth my time:

  • Bird and Sherwin relate the multiple documented accounts we have of Oppenheimer's expulsion from graduate school in England after he – these sources agree – attempted to poison one of his professors. This can't actually be true, they conclude, and if it is true he was just trying to hurt the guy a little bit, okay, because if it was a real poisoning, there would have been more consequences.

    …Yeeeeeah. Yes, definitely, when the very wealthy child of privilege does something bad at school, the good old boys will absolutely react appropriately, yep.

  • They recount Oppenheimer's own story of assaulting a girl (sexually and later physically, though the exact dimensions of the sexual assault are unclear) and then conclude, with no reasoning, that this is a fabrication of some sort. The reasoning, by the way, is entirely clear – they just can't cope with the notion that they're writing a biography of a guy who would do that. Even though they quoted his juvenile rape fantasy poetry at length.

  • They can't talk about the bomb. It's fucking amazing, they're all 'loving discussion of the first test in the desert, feels feels feels – oh yeah Hiroshima happened anyway let's talk about how the scientists felt afterward also politics shh don't look over there lots of people died but we really don't want to talk about that at all at all at all.'

And then there's the part where they take the suicide of the woman he nearly married before he met his wife – a really interesting, complicated, improbably well-educated, professional queer woman – and they decide the suicide was all about Oppenheimer. It's revisionist fridging! It's fucking amazing!

And then there's –

Nope, I've spent enough time on this already.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius Book 3)

3/5. Volume three of the novelization of the Girl Genius webcomic.

Cute! This story is almost being really clever about *gestures* historicity and the gravitational force of intelligence upon the trajectories of civilizations and stuff, but mostly it just wants to make bad puns. And I'm really down with that. I suspect the comic is better than the book, but the book really does capture a lot of frenetic energy and visual humor very well, so.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
3/5. Urban fantasy London cops sequel to the well-received London Falling.

People I follow almost entirely enjoyed the first book, and then diverge sharply on the second. I avoided all reviews, so I didn't know why. Now I do, and it's . . . awkward.

So like Neil Gaiman is a character? And not just an in-jokey walk-on, but a recurring character? With, like, a plot line and motivations?

And if I take several steps back from this, I can go yeah, okay, that's doing something. Cornell talked about the space Gaiman is filling in this story in re magical underground London and access to its spaces, and if you think about the landscape of these books – this genre niche, I mean, as it has grown over the past fifteen years or so –incorporating RPF for the author of Neverwhere makes a certain amount of sense.

But the truth is I'm not taking a few steps back from this and viewing it from that vantage. Because close up, within the pages of this book? The Neil Gaiman RPF was super fucking awkward and super fucking weird, and it made me so uncomfortable for nebulous, inarticulate reasons that it nearly ruined this otherwise entertaining book. I don't care whether he got permission (he did) or how good of friends they were (not that close, as far as I can tell). It's . . . sort of about how Cornell thinks he's doing something groundbreaking and interesting when he's, uh, really not. And sort of about a man profiting off of RPF while so many women push boundaries in much more interesting RPF as part of a maligned subculture. And sort of about how secondhand embarrassing it all came off, particularly in light of Cornell's self-confessed celebrity crush. And sort of about the role Gaiman is playing and what Cornell thinks he is saying about access to magical spaces and fannish spaces via Gaiman when I am one of that apparently rare clique of people who don't like Gaiman's stuff and don't think it represents us and our fannish experience.

And just . . . nope.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Bogleheads' Guide to Retirement Planning

4/5. Excellent and comprehensive. This book won't tell you everything you need to know about taxes or health insurance or estate planning, but by God it will make sure you can have an intelligent enough conversation to be asking the right questions. The chapters on investment focus – unsurprisingly, if you know who Bogle is – on passive index investing. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as the first investing book to read in your entire life, but if you have been plugging dutifully away at your 401K and want to think about the bigger picture of long-term planning, you really can't do better than this. Docking a star just because it lacked that "putting it all together" chapter that could have elevated this from very helpful to truly remarkable. But this book holds up well for being more than five years old (most finance books have a very short shelf life) with the glaring exception that it doesn't get into the Affordable Care Act, for obvious reasons.

Why am I reading this now? Well, because when you aren't already a millionaire, time is your greatest asset, and I've got that. Plus, I'm in the extremely weird position of being thirty and making more money in the next couple years than I likely will for the rest of my life (weird career trajectories can do that) so this is the time I need to get my shit together. More finance books to follow.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

4/5. Very belated review – I was still several weeks from giving birth when I finished this -- and thus somewhat shallow. But, completeness!

Excellent collection of essays from a surgeon. Standouts for me were from his section on doctor fallibility. He has a particular piece that speaks candidly about physician learning curves and the necessity of learning new techniques sometimes at the expense of patients. You don't see people admitting that often, but it obviously must be the case. The whole section on fallibility is great. I was baffled to discover that my girlfriend wife (…whoa….) trusts doctors as, like, a baseline state of being. I assumed cancer treatment would cure that, but nope! It's amazing. She goes to see someone and she just assumes they are well-trained, up-to-date, engaged that day, etc. To be fair, her cancer was initially suspected by a nurse practitioner who was seriously on the ball, and I have had my share of amazing doctors myself. But as a general rule, I go in assuming 85% of them are overworked, uninterested, or simply incompetent. I mean, in my experience, 85% of the people in most professions fall into one of those categories, and to assume doctors don't is an obvious fallacy. So it's great that this collection dug into that.

But the real highlight for me is his essay on autonomy, particularly speaking to it as an ethic of care, not the ethic of care. It's important, challenging material I wish I'd read back when I was writing about medical ethics in law school.



lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)

May 2015

3 456789
1011121314 1516
171819202122 23


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated May. 25th, 2015 05:16 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios