Friday, July 02, 2010

Books finished, June 2010

Got all caught up in work and real life this past month, hence the lack of blogging. But I did get through some books.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve is superb: a thrilling adventure in a rich and vivid world, packed full of wild ideas, brilliant characters and eye-popping surprises. Just wow.

I'd read a lot of Lance Parkin's fanzine material in the original fanzines, so a lot of this collected edition felt like revisiting my years as a student in Preston. Lance has often been keen and forthright in his views and there are all kinds of nuggets of insight here, along with stuff where perhaps his enthusiasm goes a bit far.
"1974, then, was perhaps the year when the Copernican revolution came for Doctor Who - the year when Doctor Who stopped revolving around the TV series."
Lance Parkin, 'A forty-year adventure in time and space', in Time Unincorporated - The Doctor Who Fanzine Archives Volume 1: Lance Parkin, p. 29.
I wonder what fans who've come to the show since 2005 will make of this insight into those dark days when there was No Doctor Who On Telly, and we clung to books and audios as keepers of the flame. There's some wild-eyed True Belief here, that the show will come back and be brilliant and prove all the Heretics wrong. How brilliant that he's been proven right.

You can still read Lance's blog about the writing of his Doctor Who book "The Eyeless", on which I commented back in November 2008.

The Gift by Lewis Hyde was a present from m'colleague Ben, and I made pages and pages of notes on it while on holiday in Malta. I'll endeavour to write those up some day properly. The book comes in two halves: first we're shown the difference between a market economy for products and a gift economy for ideas. I read-up on gift economies when I wrote The Judgement of Isskar and had the Doctor explain them this way:
    Oh. Well, you send Christmas cards out to everyone, and then it’s on their honour to send you a Christmas card back.
It doesn't quite work like that: a gift economy isn't about two people sending stuff back and forth between them; you pass the gift onwards. So really the Doctor should have said:
    Oh. Well, you send Christmas cards out to everyone, and then it’s on their honour to send out Christmas cards themselves.
Ideas and artworks, Hyde argues, have always flourished in gift economies, and he cites all sorts examples. In the second half, he focuses on the lives of two poets - Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound - to explore the problems of being an artist and at the same time getting paid.

I'm not going to attempt a fully fledged reply now, but the book really prickled my brain, challenging me on what I do for a living and how. I squawked with horror at the snobbishness about getting a day job to pay your way, and Hyde's sense that any kind of compromise or patronage is selling out. And Whitman and Pound, whose lives both went so awry, are hardly people we should aspire to emulate. More on this as soon as life allows...

The Three Incestuous Sisters is a picture book by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved The Time Traveller's Wife and have her next one on my pile of imminent reads. This is a twisted, gothy story that reminded me a bit of Tim Burton's melancholy tales and also Edward Gorey. Strange and broken and haunting, it echoes with some of my Real Life. And also, there are goth girls without any clothes on.


Anonymous said...

Just about to read Philip Reeve's Larklight. Never read any of his stuff before but looking forward to it.


Le Mc said...

I enjoyed "Time Unincorporated," I just finished it this month as well. Weaved some of it into the intervie with Cornell donchaknow.