cybermule: (books)
Been putting this one off for ages. Shame, really, as it started as an intelligent page turner and turned into an interesting and thought-provoking read. Obviously there's all the stuff about being gay, female, and living in Victorian Britain, but putting that aside, there's a lot about love, learning to love and learning to love yourself in there that was quite soothing on a personal level.
cybermule: (books)
My aunt lent me this. She's 70 and funky and thought it was really good. I enjoyed it for about a third of the book, mostly because I have a child about the age of the narrator, plus it was an interesting story, then someone told me it was written based on the Fritzl case. I should have realised this, but I don't really analyse things too much as I like to read / listen / watch without pre-conceptions and I just didn't really grasp this. To be honest, it made me feel a bit sick. If all the profits had gone to some home for battered women I'd have been ok, but they weren't.

I got about 3/4 of the way through and started reading about where the mum describes her first still-born birth and how the baby was strangled by it's own umbilical cord. My sprog was born tangled in the cord, and this was just too personal a slant and made me feel that the whole thing was vaguely pornographic. Emotions were being manipulated for schlock and money - that's porn, basically. So I instantly quit on it.

It's not a bad book, it just didn't work for me on an ethical level.
cybermule: (books)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deathless-Catherynne-M-Valente/dp/0765326302

This was good. A fairytale. But a feminist fairytale. With Soviet history.

See ehat it does - Russian folklore, Russian history. More Russian than Borscht + Blinis + vodka for supper.

I guess more than anything it reminded me of Angela Carter in that it was a rich and sensual fairytale. Took a couple of goes to really get started, then I couldn't stop. And that reminds me that my only criticism is that it's a bit like Christmas cake or rich drak chocolate - occasionally I'd feel like I had one of those binge-fuelled rich-food headaches.
cybermule: (books)
Cool book. Won't review it in too much detail as it's on the Bibgoths long list. It was a kind of engrossing world for me - loved the biotech stuff, and watching humans being just as frail and crappy even when they've achieved a semblance of immortality. Good ending as well - mostly sci-fi books jsut seem to collapse into a finale that makes me think the author's bored or reached his word count already, but this was better than average.
cybermule: (books)
Hahaha. This was awesome. It was recommended to me as a good Neal Stephenson book to read, so it was likely to be enjoyable, but I wasn't prepared to enjoy it as much as I did. Basically a reasonably good novel involving a really interesting part of history and some delicious nerdy maths stuff to rub thighs over. Again, it was nerd-stuff that was actually funny, rather than toe-curling. The dinner-party conversation Randy ends up having with his girlfriend's academic buddies is just wonderfully affirmingly word-perfect to every time I try to talk to humanities graduates, and the division of Randy's grandmother's goods up by his nerdy family manages to convey the absolute emotional dysfunctionality of oven the most apparently rational family when it comes to chattel-grabbing. I guess a lot of the observations just appealed to my predominately male and geeky brain.

Anyhoo, if the South Gloucestershire library system every release my other two Neal Stephenson reservations from the limbo of non-collected books, hopefully they'll be as good as this.
cybermule: (books)
Another random grab off the library shelf, mostly because t was non-fiction and also beecause I luvz waves, I do. Then when I got it home, I was prepared to be disappointed as it seemed to be a whistle-stop tour of everything wave related, and I was already pretty sure I knew everything it was likely to tell me about waves. Theoretical chemist here, thanks!

And it is a whistle-stop tour of everything wave-related, from sea waves through biochemistry to traffic related phenomena. But it's done in a good way – explained well for those who don't know it already, explained interestingly for those who do. And with an overly of wry and sarcastic humour that really did it for me. Mostly when science things try to be humorous, it's just about as painful as dad-dancing. But this made me laugh. It also reminded me of the best of Alain de Botton. Yes, there is such a thing IMO, shoot me if you like.

Anyway, recommended. I'll probably put the cloudspotting one on my library list.
cybermule: (books)
Been meaning to read this for *ages* but had overdosed on the Dark Mountain thing a bit recently. Sometimes a girl likes to kick back, think of the now, and not steep herself in Post-Modernism collapsist theory. Nail polish is also fun, you know?

Anyway, it was good. A humorous and relatively gentle ride through a comparison of collapse in the US and SU and how it's better in Mother Russia. Again, the sort of thing I'd be ranting about with too much sudafed running through my system for a while, always nice to see someone less sweary and more credible got there first. There's some practical advice on collapse-proofing yourself too, which I'd mostly done. Toying with the idea of turning the loft into a survivalist stash, cos, you know, tools n stuff. Yum.

If anyone wants to borrow it, let me know.
cybermule: (books)
Random grab time. This book's selling point is that it is *very* newly published, as in post-Coalition, and obviously I'm interested to see how the bastards screw me personally over their policy effects on women and mothers.

It was good. It actually voiced some of the concerns and issues that even as a well-off mother in a modern family set-up, still pissed me off. And were difficult to voice without feeling like a bitch because, well, we are all equal now and everything. I'd get a copy of this for first-time mums. Far better than the Contented Little Baby Book, which is just a fascistic patronising piece of drivel.

Hopefully the Tory Bastards will remove all my cash before Gina Ford sues me...
cybermule: (books)
This was lovely. I'm actually going to read and review it again, because it's one of those books that you climb into like a wonderful clear sparkling river and feel like there is some much connectedness happening that you're missing out on. Lots of apparently disparate tales all linked together by subtle threads of interaction. Beautifully written in many different but non-jarring styles. Parts of it reminded me of Gould's Book of Fish, which is also a good read.

Really lovely. Try it if you haven't already.
cybermule: (books)
Another semi-random grab off the library shelf - I recognised the author's name and that I've been meaning to read some of his stuff for a while. Then I read the back and it was basically a trip out into the Mojave Desert to find a female Hells Angels chapter, so I was pretty much hooked. I've been to the Mojave Desert, it is awesome, and one day I will go back.

Nagdammit - keep trying to upload a picture of the Mojave but LJ is having a fail session. Never mind - my camera was crap back then.

Anyway, yeah. The book was interesting and engaging, even though I didn't particularly like the direction it steered towards at the end. Sort of reminiscent of Carlos Castaneda, in that it made me think, but dominated more by the story than by the spirituality, which isn't a bad thing ;) You got a great feeling for the space and alien-ness of the desert, which is what always utterly fascinates me about them. If you grow up in green and pleasant valleys, large open expanses of inhospitable rock are either your worst nightmare or pretty damn entrancing. It's also what gives me a grudging admiration for the US at times - they are descended from the sort of people who would look at a vast featureless expanse of inhospitable rock, and think, "hmm, what's on the other side".

I'm gonna track down more Paulo Coelho.
cybermule: (Default)
Yeah, it was William Gibson and it was good. Can't really add much more to it than that, I kind of thought it was a far better book than Neuromancer, but then possibly less interesting. To be honest, I always find it hard to keep track in William Gibson books, but am not inclined to read this one again for a bit. Would probably go back to Neuromancer though.
cybermule: (books)
Some time ago, I finally got round to following up all the mentions that kept throwing themselves at me and checked out the Dark Mountain Manifesto. I say some months ago because it was kind of like reading the thoughts that had been going through your head, but written on paper by someone else who isn't you. Initially, it's kind of disappointing when that happens, as it's nice to be first. But thinking seriously about it, the cutting edge is kind of wasted on me. I'm not a joiner, I'm rubbish at rhetorical debate because I like a nice long think before I articulate, and I've pretty much gravitated towards ploughing my own furrow in life. So rationally speaking, reading someone else having your thoughts is kind of reassuring in that it lessons the chance that you might be completely barking fucking mad.

Anyway, fast-forward a few months to last Wednesday and I'm sat next to one of the Dark Mountain guys in the Natural History Museum cafe having my own personal OMG-squee fangirl session :) That was fun. Doubly so in that I managed to actually have conversations with him on Arts and Crafts architecture, path of least resistance synchronicity and shooting for the impossible and I didn't feel like a complete retard. Which is progress on a number of levels.

Personal development achievements aside, Dark Mountain 1 is an anthology of interviews, essays, poems and books all on the theme of Uncivilisation. Occasionally one jars as being a bit too lit-crit, but on the whole it's an excellent read and one I can wholeheartedly recommend if you're remotely into any of the sort of things I wave my arms around about when I've had a beer or two. Hell, I'll even lend it to you.

I've moved on slightly from the unadulterated hero worship of the manifesto. It's aimed at a literature movement, and I'm not literary. I just enjoy committing my thoughts to words in what I consider to be a pleasing fashion. And the way they state their aims twinks a bit at my feminist critic, in that the phraseology makes a space that I think women might often find it hard to step up to and occupy. And hey, I'm just a practical person with the whole furrow-ploughing furore. And I'm not a joiner. I said all this before, but that doesn't stop me embracing the philosophy behind it and using it in my life.

Everyone's got to have a star to plough their furrow by if they want a remotely straight drill.
cybermule: (Default)
Another random library top-shelf pick-up. I think I grabbed it to brush up on my quantum physics which I realised had disappeared out of my ears after 15 years of hard life stuff. It's been sitting next to my bed for weeks and weeks though, so I thought I'd grab it, read it, and take the poor thing back to fly free among the interested non-hoarders.

It's a good and engaging read. I find it hard to judge science books objectively - cos I did biology, chemistry and physics at degree level to some extent, it's hard to guess how other people would read it. I think it's a good primer. On a personal level, it used Feynman as a reference quite a lot, which has to be win, and namechecks Hugh Everett III who's my own personal Tesla in that he was before his time and once you see his name, it starts cropping up everywhere.

Favourite quotelet is the possibility that there is in fact only one electron in the universe, which weaves backwards and forwards like thread going through a tapestry. We see a multitude of places where the thread comes through the fabric and mistakenly attribute each to a separate electron.
cybermule: (Default)
I've read this book before, and probably reviewed it here, but it was in the dark and dirty pre-tag days so god knows if I'd ever be able to find it. Not even going to bother to try. The thing I probably like most, on the surface, about this book is that normally I would avoid sitting next to someone on the bus reading the Daily Mail, but if I had this in my pocket, I would go for it on principle.

I remember getting a lot more out of it the first time round. Practical stuff, like changing my method of sanitary protection to give less to The Man, and ideological stuff like having a personal manifesto, taking care of and supporting other women, protecting myself. I'd just come out of a relationship that had become very bad for me as a female, not because the guy I was with was some sort of chauvinist asshole, but just because it was a long relationship which I'd started when I was young and unformed and had just become riddled with bad habits. Plus the guy was a bit of a twat in that he was extremely resistant to change, and if you resist my change too long, then, well, bad things happen.

I got less out of it this time. Partly because the lessons outlined above are just a normal part of my psyche. Partly because I no longer particularly feel that my being a woman is a significant part of my issues with the world right at this point in time. It's honestly got so bad, that as the strange little girl in Resident Evil gnomically pointed out (as they are wont to do), you're all going to die down here. To paraphrase Crowley in Good Omens, there's nothing going on that we're not doing to ourselves, and that transcends the genital divide. And after that tiny Monday morning pearl of optimism, it's also written in a slightly irritating right-on talking-to-your-grrlfriends way that always grates on my intellectually androgynous tendencies.

Saying that, there are three well thought out sections re the etymological, the gynaecological (*), and the ideological that give plenty of ideas. If I knew any young ladies in a remotely influential way, I'd probably buy them a copy for their 18th birthday :)

* need a new word for this that doesn't remind me of the film Dead Ringers</I
cybermule: (books)
I read this on the electronic book reader on my Android phone, which is awesome and absolutely stuffed to the gunwhales with free books to read on the bus and so on. One of those books I'd always meant to read, but never got around to, and then it was namechecked by the Dark Mountain crew and seemed to fit with the things I'm interested in at the moment, so...

It was actually a really good read - just the style of fairly sparse yet rich and intense writing that I get on well with. The theme of man's inhumanity to man, as played out in African colonialism, is interesting to me personally, but I think it's one of those books that could move that theme from intellectual appreciation to emotional appreciation. If it hasn't already happened for you, obviously. I'm one of those people that it sometimes takes a while for things to move from my head to my heart. And probably vice versa

Actually, somehow in that theme it seemed to remind me of two of my favourite films - The Proposition and Dead Man. The former in its exploration of how badly we can treat people in the name of our own version of what we call civilisation, and the latter in the feeling of a man being pushed to the frontiers both of general and personal humanity, and the psychedelic epic through that journey. Maybe just me. They're both subjectively awesome films if you've not seen them yet.

Like I said, the book pushed into a lot of the stuff that I've been pondering recently. I liked the concept that I might be "becoming scientifically interesting" or having the "delicious sensation of having come across something unmistakeably real". Lovely resonant chunks :) On a more global scale, the description of the wage system cracked me up:

Besides that, they had given them every week three pieces of brass wire, each about nine inches long; and the theory was they were to buy their provisions with that currency in riverside villages. You can see how that worked. There were either no villages, or the people were hostile, or the director, who like the rest of us fed out of tins, with an occasional old he-goat thrown in, didn't want to stop the steamer for some more or less recondite reason. So, unless they swallowed the wire itself, or made loops of it to snare the fishes with, I don't see what good their extravagant salary could be to them. I must say it was paid with a regularity worthy of a large and honourable trading company.

And the forces of unsatisfied basic needs on the higher human functions:

Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear--or some kind of primitive honour? No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. Don't you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It's really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one's soul--than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad, but true.

Those are mostly just for my own interest ;)
cybermule: (Default)
I read this ages ago and retained the essential gist, rather than the details. I also read Mrs Dalloway's Hat for English A-level and was pleased to have misremembered the prose style of this one as being as dense and tedious as that A-level text. Do not like heavy, symbolic multi-layered streams of consciousness. This is much lighter and more refreshing in style, and is the interesting and engaging Feminist text that it is supposed to be. Got a lot out if it in scribbly notes that I'll regurgitate elsewhere.
cybermule: (books)
Can't remember where I saw this book namechecked, but I remember it appealed to my surly bastard nature, so I put it on my library list. And it did vindicate my need to have periods of being a miserable sod, as it provide an argument against the current trend of promoting healthy relationships as a form of maintaining mental health, plus the guy's a psychiatrist so has more weight than the average self-help blathermouth.

Several chapters deal with eminent creative people who thrived on solitude, and also how their childhoods may have contributed to this. There's also a chapter drawing together different personality type theories and how they explain peoples' need for solitude, and some treatment of how your need for relationships may change as you get older, or how it develops as a child. Interestingly, it flagged the capacity to be alone as an important part of mature psychological development.

All in all, vindication aside, a very interesting read.
cybermule: (books)
This was on the shelves in my holiday cottage, and I picked it up because my parents always used to say how great it was and that I should read it. Fuck knows why - I'm pretty liberal, but it seems kind of inappropriate for an 8 year old I would say. That's hippy parents for you, though. Anyhoo, if I think about the premise of a drunken, promiscuous woman-beater I would probably have gone out on a kneejerk limb and said it's not for me. But the main protagonist actually turned out to be nonetheless engaging, and the writing style was to my taste enough that I'm probably gonna grab some more JP Donleavy next time I'm at the library.

The other book from the shelf that I leafed through was a modern guide to gardening. I mostly just read the chapters on the explicit instructions one should give one's gardening man on how to properly dig borders, maintain tools and scythe lawns. There were some black and white photos of a prime example of one's man, complete with bowler hat.

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