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Continued on Next Rock
There's an excellent new Lafferty blog around called Continued on Next Rock
. A while ago the entire Lafferty estate was bought up by the Locus Foundation and it appears the blog's writer Andrew Ferguson is the guy going through all the works. He's systematically going through every Lafferty story and provides insightful comments.
Ah, such fine words: "Here it becomes necessary to recount to you the history of the world up to this point." Have any finer words been written?
"'Atrox Fabulinus, the Roman Rabelais, once broke off the account of his hero Raphaelus in the act of opening a giant goose egg to fry it in an iron skillet of six yards' span. Fabulinus interrupted the action with these words: "Here it becomes necessary to recount to you the history of the world up to this point."
"'After Fabulinus had given the history of the world up to that point, he took up the action of Raphaelus once more. It happened that the giant goose egg contained a nubile young girl. This revelation would have been startling to a reader who had not just read the history of the world up to that point: which history, being Fabulinian in its treatment, prepared him for the event.'
THE FALL OF ROME, Auctore."
From R.A. Lafferty - East of Laughter.
R. A. Lafferty: Effective Arcanum
contains some insight into the great man's methods, including the above quote which means I didn't have to retype it, for which I'm grateful.
I just ordered a second hand copy of Lafferty's The Fall of Rome, the reviews I've read are glowing and compare it to Okla Hannali, which is one of the best works the man has ever produced. It should arrive sometime next month, depending on whether transport is by camel or by dromedary (I'm not sure which system the USPS uses).
In other Lafferty news news has it that Locus will acquire the rights for all of Lafferty's works
. I hope they can do a nice series of paperback collections of the short stories. It did wonders for Philip K. Dick.
Meanwhile The Six Fingers of Time has gone up on Project Gutenberg
. It's not Lafferty's best short story but it's hard to argue with free.
Of all the things you'd expect to see on the Amazon wishlist of a correctional facility surely Eclipse (The Twilight Saga) by Stephenie Meyer isn't one of them.
The NYPL's Amazon wishlist for their incarcerated readers.
It's rather sad that people behind bars have to rely on charity to be able to better themselves (not all books are by Stephenie Meyer and even if they were surely reading that would be better than learning new "skills" from the other inmates).
Still, the service seems to be popular.
I had a quick look and it appears that Dutch correctional facilities are all part of the overall public library system so no need for private charity, the state provides and in fact offers a wide variety of materials in a lot of different languages
(link in dutch).
Which is as it should be of course, every book its reader, every reader his or her book
Terry Pratchett's latest novel Nation is a good read. In fact I would go further and say it is an excellent read. While this book is not set in the Discworld universe it did remind me a lot of one of the Discworld novels: Small Gods. Like Small Gods the central idea in this book is an exploration of religion. Specifically the need for religion in people. Why do people believe the things they do. Does believing in some invisible sky fairies help you our in any way?
When tragedy strikes the southern pelagic islands a young man (or a boy on the way to becoming a man, only there's no one left alive to do.. something.. with a sharp knife and the need not to scream) called Mau starts to question the things he's always taken for granted. The gods he's believed in seem to have forsaken him and ripped all those dear to him away. Faced with the need to survive Mau does what he has to to survive. Gods are irrelevant and do not catch and cook fish. Nor do they bury the dead.
In a way it's a classic "my God why hast thou forsaken me" story. Mau has lost everything and so starts to question the old rituals and habits he'd been brought up with.
Joining Mau after a devastating tsunami are other survivors washed ashore. Mau must build a new nation but the people around him seem to crave the certainty of the old ways, their comfortable gods and customs.
So Mau struggles with his new-found atheism, wondering why people cling so desperately to the gods that have let everyone they cared about die. Why do people believe in gods? Do the gods actually exist? But if they do why don't they seem to care? If the gods do not seem to care is there any harm in acting like they in fact do not exist? Why not live your life based on logic and reason instead.
Of course, this is a Terry Pratchett story, so while the gods are indifferent they are still there, or at least their voices are heard in people's heads. There's Locaha, the god of death, who sometimes talks to Mau. This is not the kind Discworld Death though, the one who speaks in ALL CAPS and has compassion even if he must witness horrors. Locaha doesn't have that, this is a cold hearted death who revels in suffering, he's likable in his own way though, because, like Death, he's there to do a job and he doesn't particularly care which way it's done. And there's the Grandfathers, the souls of long-dead tribal warriors, that command and demand things from a befuddled boy who's never been taught the things a man needs to know to appease the gods. The Grandfathers who demand sacrifice and a return to order.
Joining Mau is a trouser-man girl, a white ghost girl, called Daphne. Well actually that's not her name but she likes it better than her real one. She too struggles with the way she's been brought up and the fact that none of her upbringing is really relevant when you're shipwrecked on a tropical island. She struggles with what she's been told and how the way the world actually works, the way science explains things and can lead to new insights.
Both Mau and Daphne live in the world as they see it. Though coming from very different backgrounds their struggle is essentially the same: what makes the world tick is not some uncaring or even non-existant god. The trauma you've suffered is not some punishment from the gods, it's just something you have to deal with. It's happenstance that determines the environment you're in and it's up to you to live your life as you see fit.
Of course the novel has lots of Pratchett witticisms, for example the part where Mau tries to explain why the Grandfathers get offered beer every day, which is then drunk by birds:
'Er, the way it works is that the birds drink the beer but the spirit of the beer flies to the Grandfathers. That's what the priests used to say.'
Daphne nodded. 'We have bread and wine at home,' she said, and thought, Oops, I won't try to explain that one. They have cannibals down here. It could get ... confusing.
'I don't think it's true though,' said Mau.
Daphne nodded, and then thought a bit more. 'Perhaps things can be true in special ways?' she suggested.
'No, people say that when they want to believe lies,' Mau said flatly. 'And they usually do.'
Of course there are people who've come to the island who want to convince Mau of the existence of the gods, like when they find some statues in the cave of the Grandfathers.
'Behold the gods, demon boy!' says an old priest.
'Yes, I see them, gods of stone' replies Mau.
'Why should they be of flesh? And what stone shines like that? I am right, demon boy, in my faith I am right! You can't deny it!'
'I can't deny what I see, but I can question what it is' says Mau.
And to me that makes him the one of the most likable heros in any of Pratchett's novels.
The library problem
describes a couples' efforts to create a database of their books and categorise their books on shelves for easy access.
I've read a few of the first comments (no way can I find the time to read them all) but this one is very wise if you ever find yourself looking at your bookshelves: "you've got to plan for expansion!" I am running out of room myself and so far the solution has been to trash/recycle some books but I'm running out of options there too. (In the end every book that's worthy of a space will be something I wouldn't mind re-reading at some point. Books that haven't been read at all and that have been with me for about 5 years tend to get dumped, if I couldn't find the time and interest to read them in those 5 years the likelihood of me ever reading them is approaching zero.) I might have to clean up the work room and expand into that at some point.
My cataloging solution is to categorise books in 2 main sections: 1. fiction and literature, 2. science, computer and misc. Books in the first category are sorted alphabetically by author's last name on the shelves, they are also entered into a very simple Filemaker Pro database* that lists author, title, date of purchase and date of first publication (even if it's a reprint of 15 years later). The date fields are really only there because at some point I thought it might be interesting to look at these for some analysis but so far I haven't had the inclination. The database has been with me for about 15 years now. I have almost 1000 books in this category.
Books in science (etc) aren't indexed and placed as much as possible next to books on the same subject. I have approx 2 meters of this stuff which is about 200 books, although it's a tad more if you count the comics.
*) It's really very simplistic, I keep thinking that it might be nice to rework this but the sheer amount of work puts me off. In contrast the Filemaker Pro database I have of my video and dvd collection is a lot nicer to look at. It lists title, director, principal actors, genre, imdb url, medium and an id number. It also contains a picture of the cover from Amazon or imdb which livens up the display a lot.
I was going to write a scathing review of the latest Anita Blake book: Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton. Luckily I remembered that there were already some reviews on Amazon.
Please read the Spotlight Review titled "This. Book. Blows."
It's such an excellent summary of what is wrong with this book that I'm not even going to attempt to outdo this. Avoid this book at all costs, especially if you liked the previous novels.
I love reading old science fiction books. Books that have been written some time ago and make predictions on what the future will be like always have amusing things that seem horribly outdated now.
I just finished Cities in Flight by James Blish. A collection of novellas written in the late 60s, early 70s, chapter 1 contains this amusing sentence on the discovery of a tenth planet (called Proserpine in the book) and the fact that no one wants to go there despite excellent conditions for astronomy:
[T]here's no sun in the sky out there to louse up photograpic plates.
It also has computers built around 3000 AD and still in use 1000 years later. You have to love things like that.
Diseases of the mindsess
some medical students have analysed Gollum's mental state
He shows no evidence of any cognitive impairment. He has poor insight into his condition but he is aware of the Gollum-Sméagol dissociation. [...] On initial consideration schizophrenia seems a reasonable diagnosis. However, in the context of the culture at the time it is unlikely. Delusions are false, unshakeable beliefs, not in keeping with the patient's culture. In Middle Earth, the power of the ring is a reality.
Be sure to check out the comments at the end of the article too by the way. Funny stuff:
However, given the poor quality of Gollum's diet, he needs to see a dietitian in addition to a pyschiatrist.
Via: Librarian in Black.
Yummy factoids about books
/Worldcat has released a pretty amazing list of the top 1.000 books owned by libraries around the world.
Truth be told though: not every libraries holdings are represented in Worldcat, but the number of libraries is pretty big. The list has a heavy english-language/western slant as can be expected.
Before you look take the time to think about the top 10 and see how many you guess right. I'll give you one: the bible is in there, but it's not where you expect.
Ready? Top 1000.
For added fun check the factoids section as well. Cool stuff.
Filemaker loves Discworld
Here's the dialog you get if you search for an invalid date in Filemaker Pro 7.
The Little Book of Calm
I just got my most recent order from Amazon (via the neighbour who took the delivery while I was at work). It includes The Little Book of Calm, which I bought because of the reference in the first episode of Black Books
It's the end of the educational year and loads and loads of stuff has to be done just before the holidays start. This is not unusual. However this year is exceptionally busy because we are implementing a new library catalogue and things aren't running smoothly. At all.
To top this all of a co-worker is in the final year of her part-time art studies and has been neglecting her work so all kinds of stuff is getting late and people have to step in to save the day.
So the point of The Little Book of Calm is that you open it up at random and read a small bit of advice. Here's the first that came up.
Play a calm role
Pretend you are calm: adopt the characteristics of a calm person, pretend that others see you as a calm person, and in no time you'll be a calm person.
I could have used this advice today.
That Darn Squid God
Any author that tries to sell his latest book by posting giant squid god recipies
is ok by me. Certainly ok enough to check out.
My copy of "That Darn Squid God" arrived today and I'm happy as the mollusc of your choice.
The first three chapters are quite funny. Not laughing out loud, rolling on the floor funny, but certainly entertaining.
The book is a fine hardcover edition and a breath of fresh air compared to other Wildside press issues, like the print-on-demand Lafferty books that are plagued by speling errors. [Insert obligatory geek reference to mod_speling
here.] It looks like someone actually took the time to proofread this, which almost always makes a book more readable.
I'm re-reading Terry Pratchett's Soul Music
. For those that don't know it, Soul Music is set on the Discworld, a pancake-like planet where magic takes the place of the laws of phyics and earthly common sense *.
In Soul Music the Discworld discovers Music With Rocks In and this book is perhaps one of the best in the entire series. I'll share a paragraph or two to corrupt your mind and get you all to buy the book (or at least visit a library and check it out).
In Soul Music Death (who is a real "person" and speaks IN ALL CAPS) takes a break to forget, well, everything really. Traditionally this is often done by consuming large amounts of alcohol and/or joining the Klatchian Foreign Legion. We join Death at the gates:
IS THIS THE KLATCHIAN FOREIGN LEGION?
The face of the little man on the other side of the door went blank.
Ah, he said,
you've got me there. Hang on a moment. The hatch shut. There was a whispered discussion on the other side of the door. The hatch opened.
Yes, it appears we are the... the...
what was that again? Right, got it... the Klatchian Foreign Legion. Yes. What was it you were wanting?
I WISH TO JOIN.
Join? Join what.
THE KLATCHIAN FOREIGN LEGION.
There was some more whispering.
Oh. Right. Sorry. Yes. That's us.
The doors swung open.The visitor strode in.
What's your name, soldier?
You don't have to say, actually. That's what the... the...
KLATCHIAN FOREIGN LEGION?
... what's it all about. People join to... to... with your mind, you know, when you can't... things that happened...
Right, he said.
Er. It's a twenty-year tour, legionary. I hope you're man enough for it.
I LIKE IT ALREADY, said Death.
Some time later when The Band With Rocks In (the drums are rocks, before you ask) gets more famous they get a roadie, called Asphalt:
How come, said Cliff,
he's so short?
N'elephant sat on me, said Asphalt, sulkily.
An elephant sat on you? said Buddy, as they crossed the square.
Yup. At the circus, said Asphalt.
I used to muck 'em arth.
That's how you got like that?
Nope. Didn't get like this 'til elephants had sat on me t'ree, fo' times, said the small fat troll.
Dunno why. I'd be cleanin' up after 'em, next minute it'd all be dark.
I'd have quit after the first time, me, said Glod.
Nah, said Asphalt, with a contented smile.
Couldn't do that. Show business is in me soul.
Great stuff. Now if you'll excuse me I'll listen to some music with rocks in, possibly containing tolls.
*) Sidenote: the Librarian of Unseen University (who also features in this book) is an orang-utan (due to an unspecified magical incident), who communicates in levels of "oook". It is from this that the name OOOk Default: stems, the collective that has brought you the amazing Virtual Pet Rock™.
R.A. Lafferty's The Transcendent Tigers
's short story The Transcendent Tigers
has been put online by scifi.com.
She put on the cap, saying that it had been sent by her Genie as a symbol of her authority. In fact none of them knew who had sent her the red cap. The cap is important. If it weren't important, it wouldn't be mentioned.
Carnadine quickly worked the wire puzzle, and then unworked it again. Then she did something with the hollow, white rubber ball that made her mother's eyes pop out. Nor did they pop all the way in again when Carnadine undid it and made it as it was before.
Geraldine Thompson had been looking pop-eyed for a long time. Her husband had commented on it, and she had been to the doctor for it. No medical reason was found, but the actual reason was some of the antics of her daughter, Carnadine.
Need I say more. Go there and marvel at the words of the man.
Take a look at the archives too, there's more goodies there:
Land of the Great Horses
Nine Hundred Grandmothers
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