Sunday, 1 July 2018

twenty-seven words about lawns, putin, the lake district, computronium etc

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. Amazed me twenty years back. Would this Jesuit adventure story stand a re-read? Yes: so much I missed first time around. Sex, spirit, language, calling, redemption, jokes.

Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano. Read opinion piece (forget whose) suggesting literary league tables down-rank intentionally comic writers (“yeah? try also being female,” you interject). This rise-of-robots novel outclasses Asimov and 1984.

Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus. It’s about the past and future of humanity; inter alia, lawns, pigs, the Black Death, animism etc. The relaxed, conversational style belies this book’s depth, breadth, originality.

Max Tegmark's Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. AI futures. Same-but-different teleology as readable climate-"sceptic", peer Matt Ridley.  This tour-de-force talks about turning all the universe’s matter into computronium like that'd be a good thing.

Peter Pomerantsev's Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia. How Putinism operates, propagandises; not your grandparents’ Soviet propaganda (as today’s Republican moment isn’t William Buckley’s). Prostitution (overt, covert, metaphorical); gangster sentimentality, bad faith. Funny, horrible, sinister.

Cyril Connolly's Enemies of Promise. Author remembered, if remembered for writing about what does/ doesn’t last (paradox); cites contemporaries we still read (Orwell, Woolf), others. Lucid investigation of mandarin versus demotic prose. [See also.]

Petruska Clarkson's Gestalt Counselling in Action (updated by Simon Cavicchia). Thought I had her on Fritjof Capra- then, aha, intellectualisation= modification to contact (“lose your mind and…” – Perls). Reading= gestalt process; more/ less than; professional recap, recalibration.

William Wordsworth's The Prelude. Milton looks over Wordsworth’s shoulder, I overlook my own, re-engaging with canonical text I failed to read properly at uni (because older then than now). Multivalent; fluid; illuminative.

John Betjeman's Summoned By Bells. ‘Anxiety of Influence’ again; verse autobiography inevitably recalls Wordsworth, though Betjeman explicitly disdains thought, commitment, preferring sensibility, music (bathos-music of suburban placenames). Betjeman is ‘catchy’ (ambiguous praise).

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