Archive - Dec 2017

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Baffler NO. 33 Virtue Cartel

Baffler NO. 33 Virtue Cartel

author: Chris Lemann

name: Steev

average rating: 4.23

book published:

rating: 5

read at: 2017/04/11

date added: 2017/04/11

shelves: fun, own-it, politics

review:

Remake

Remake

author: Connie Willis

name: Steev

average rating: 3.34

book published: 1994

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2017/04/14

shelves: art, novels, to-re-read, wishlist

review:

Zodiac

Zodiac

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.69

book published: 1988

rating: 4

read at: 1993/04/22

date added: 2017/04/22

shelves: novels, fun

review:

Interface

Interface

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.65

book published: 1994

rating: 0

read at: 2000/04/22

date added: 2017/04/22

shelves: novels, fun, politics

review:

Reamde

Reamde

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2011

rating: 5

read at: 2017/05/13

date added: 2017/05/13

shelves: fun, own-it, novels

review:
I have mixed feelings about this book. It gets 5 stars because it's fastest I've ever read 1000 pages of anything, and general craft and technique of the writing is excellent, gripping, and thought-provoking. However, there are certain problems I have with it.

First, the book is sooo long pretty much because it's insanely packed with a variety of ephemera, mostly minute details about certain types of guns, but also all sorts of other trivia on such topics as private jet travel, geology, and more details about firearms. It's a testament to Stephenson's writing skill that somehow wading through all this stuff is still interesting and fast reading.

Second, from a feminist standpoint the story has some problems. It's not as bad as some science fiction predecessors of the author, such as Heinlein, but here's the thing: although there are some very strong and inspiring female characters in the novel, they fail a sort of corollary of the Bechdel Test that I've just invented: are there any major female characters that are still single by the end of the book? No. Every one of them miraculously (along with all the other coincidences/miracles the book is packed with) gets partnered up with a dude, with said partnering getting explicitly set up and targeted toward at least a couple hundred pages prior. But this happy romance trend does not also benefit all main male characters. It's as if Stephenson thinks a woman can't have an intense adventure without shacking up with some guy to complete her.

Which brings me to a third, and more general, problem with many of the characters in the book, or rather, how the omniscient POV of the book handles the inner thoughts of the many characters that the reader gets to "eavesdrop" on. The issue is that every main character is basically the same person. They all basically think the same way, other than a little unique personality frosting slathered over the top, but always in this super over-rational, perfectly aware and calculating way, and yet with a variety of 'involuntary thoughts' that always get caught and questioned and analyzed (e.g. "she was surprised she was thinking of that at a time like now", etc). Does Stephenson really think every human is so gifted with such a meticulous, self-aware, chess-player's brain for all life situations?

Anyway. I guess the book is really just a potboiler, but I have had in my head ever since "Snowcrash" this idea that Stephenson does more than potboilers. Maybe I just notice it more now.


The baffler snare of preperation no34

The baffler snare of preperation no34

author: Chris Lehmann

name: Steev

average rating: 4.00

book published: 2017

rating: 5

read at: 2017/06/11

date added: 2017/06/11

shelves: politics, own-it, fun

review:

The Circle

The Circle

author: Dave Eggers

name: Steev

average rating: 3.43

book published: 2013

rating: 4

read at: 2017/07/02

date added: 2017/07/03

shelves: fun, novels, own-it, politics

review:
This is a super scary and topical book.
It's mostly quite good, as all of Eggers' stuff usually is.
I have a slight problem with the portrayal of the main, first-person character, Mae Holland. She seems almost pathologically un-self-aware or at least self-stupid. It seems at least somewhat unrealistic, probably very unrealistic, the ease with which she gets swayed and brainwashed into the cult that is this kind of Google/Facebook/Amazon conglomerate corporation. She's a 20-something, smart woman, and yet somehow she just blithely goes along with all these bizarre and creepy things her new employer is doing. There doesn't seem to be any character development, she goes from being a clueless noob to being a clueless high-level PR flack, with, to be honest, no real reason to identify with or care about her. She just is this kind of pawn for the higher-ups who never puts up even a modicum of resistance; [spoilers removed]So the effect is of this lengthy morality parable with none of the satisfaction of a good narrative. As such, the message is important, but it could have been a short op-ed essay in Harper's to equal effect. Although then I guess he couldn't have sold movie rights...

The Baffler No. 35 (The Bad Society)

The Baffler No. 35 (The Bad Society)

author: Chris Lehmann

name: Steev

average rating: 4.27

book published:

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2017/09/09

shelves: art, fun, own-it, politics

review:

The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present

The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present

author: Douglas Coupland

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2017/10/02

date added: 2017/10/02

shelves: art, fun, own-it, politics

review:
Super excellent. A modern "The Medium is the Massage". Funny, brilliant, silly, profound.

Girl in a Band

Girl in a Band

author: Kim Gordon

name: Steev

average rating: 3.57

book published: 2015

rating: 4

read at: 2017/10/30

date added: 2017/10/30

shelves: memoir, wishlist, spirit-self

review: