Monday, April 03, 2006

Reading Again

I've finished the revision of book four of the SF trilogy (I know, I know...I think it's going to have five books, this trilogy, actually, now -- a quintet? Do we do those?) and am taking a bit of space before I begin revising book three or start serious work on book five (I've already started messing with it a bit).

Meanwhile I am doing some serious reading. Amazing how much time you have to read when you are not writing nine hours a day. Right now I'm reading Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which I found through a postover there on Crooked Timber's book site --

a good source for reading material if you don't know about it yet, and Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, which I just happened across at my local library, and Jodi Picoult's new one, The Tenth Circle, and more of C. S. Lewis -- his Four Loves.

Smith's On Beauty I'm liking a lot. It's a retelling (a loose retelling) of Howard's End. Apparently she's causing some fuss because she's writing about Americans without being one, or about American Academics without having been an American Academic, or whatnot. How could she possibly and so on. It's true I've found a few spots where she's got the idiom not quite right, or the small details of American University life wrong -- but, hell, American writers who aren't in the Academy get American University life wrong too. A lot more wrong that she has, I might add. "Goes to credibility!" mr. delagar says, in his English Professor Prosecutor mode, when I mention the few mistakes Smith has made.

Which I suppose is true. But the rest of the book is so interesting and so involving that I can't manage to care. Doesn't hurt that I really like E. M. Forster and so am enjoying all her in-jokes.

Bury the Chains is also good. It's a look at the folks who got rid of the slave trade in England -- well, a look at the folks in England who ran the slave trade, and then the ones who orchestrated its overthrow. Full of appalling information about the English mind of that era. Well, the civilized mind of any era. Hochschild does a good job of showing us just how good Christian men could be good Christian men and still sell fellow men, women and children like sides of pork. One of these guys, for instance, as Hochschild points out, in making a list of his top ten sins, lists blasphemy and lust and various other evils -- he never, not once, comes close to listing "Selling slaves," or "dealing in slaves." Nope. Taking God's name in vain? Very bad. Selling a twelve year old girl for thirty pieces of silver? Just fine.

Picoult's The Tenth Circle is also interesting, mainly for how she mixes in that graphic novel bit. The plot itself is confusing and a touch reactionary -- Picoult tends too much in this direction for my taste. Not always, but often. Also, the ending is annoying. Picoult likes this kind of ending, where the evil working mommy/woman gets hers. Well.

As for Lewis. It's not as bad as it could be.

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