Books Read – June 10

Right, that’s it – I’m going to end June early. I’m fed up with the books I’m reading: I’m fed up with Harry Mulisch and Tarjei Vesaas and Régis Jauffret and Ernst Weiss and Andreï Makine. I don’t want to read their books. I don’t want to read them right now. I want to read Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance and Wyndham Lewis’ The Revenge for Love, even though there’s not a chance I’ll finish them by the end of the month. (I’m even going to take them off Currently Reading, I have so little intention of reading them at any time that might be considered current).

Here’s my reviews, as usual.


2 thoughts on “Books Read – June 10

  1. I notice you’ve given Bester’s The Stars, My Destination 1 measly star. I haven’t read it in years (my edition was called Tyger, Tyger; not sure which was Bester’s original title) but I still remember quite a lot of it. You’re right about the narrative drive but I’m curious about your conclusion that that was all there was.

    If you have the time and/or inclination, I wonder if you’d elaborate a bit. I thought it was a terrific book, filled with interesting ideas (the corporate clans of the future; ‘jumping’ etc) and I thought Gully Foyle was a compelling character. Mind you, it must be 20 years since I read it.

    I agree with you on Bely’s Petersburg: an astonishing book. Glad to see that you like Stevenson, a great favourite of mine. Did you read his ‘American’ books? The Amateur Emigrant and The Silverado Squatters? And his first book, An Inland Voyage which is delightful. In it, he speculates that there is no reason why canal-barge captains shouldn’t live forever, given their placid, agreeable and completely stress-free lives. A career to consider, then.

    About 15 years ago, I followed in the footsteps of Stevenson and Modestine. It was surprising how little had changed. So much of the journey–the villages, buildings, landscape etc–is still exactly as RLS described it (or was 15 years ago).

    Obviously, I had the book with me as a guide (the red-cloth covered pocket hardback from Everyman’s). At least once a day, someone–a villager, a bar-owner, a priest–would smile at the sight of me and enquire: “Following Stevenson?” It was, apparently, a popular idea.

  2. Ah, I see: you want me to justify the sheer prejudice which goes to inform my star system! – OK, I’ll give it a go – so long as you understand it’s just that, a justification of prejudice, and as such is possibly even not true but merely what I’ve decided to tell myself.

    The first few points could be made of all SF.

    a) It’s badly written.
    b) The dialogue in it is at times terrible, laughable.
    c) He appears to have no understanding of human relationships: how people interact, the feelings they might have towards one another
    d) As an increasingly hard-SF person, his SF ideas exist only as a backdrop to what is basically a thriller – a revenge tragedy, if you like
    e) The “jaunting”, to which you refer, i) is too similar to an idea I had when I was fifteen (specifically, undeveloped powers of the human brain) for me to credit (if a fifteen-year old could come up with the same, then … ), and ii) remains a largely unexplored concept, like all his other concepts, since (as d) he’s only really concerned with plot
    f) One sequence is quite clearly stolen from the Arabian Nights
    g) I find his understanding of corporations laughable – he seems to have a very c19th view of how capitalism operates. An example from The Demolished Man perhaps shows this clearer: – a corporate baron, in order to overcome a rival corporation, simply murders its chief executive. (If this ploy worked, I think we’d see a whole lot more corporate murder).
    h) I know it’s the cold war atmosphere in which it’s written, but there’s two large blocs at war with one another – really, in a science fiction novel! that’s unusual!!

    It would make a good film though. I’d probably enjoy it a lot.

    – Yes, I do like Stevenson – or some of it, at least. I got bored with Kidnapped and gave up on it. I’ve never read any of the travel writing though. – These days, I’m guess canal-barge captains are likely to be a bit more troubled by profits than in Stevenson’s day.

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