Sunday, November 27, 2016

and then Sir Pterry got reality all over my comfort escapist reading

But that would be interfering with the course of history. Horrible things could happen. The Librarian knew all about this sort of thing, it was part of what you had to know before you were allowed into L-space. He'd seen pictures in ancient books. Time could bifurcate, like a pair of trousers. You could end up in the wrong leg, living a life that was actually happening in the other leg, talking to people who weren't in your leg, walking into walls that weren't there any more. Life could be horrible in the wrong trouser of Time.

 - Guards! Guards!

Monday, November 14, 2016

But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible.

- Junot Diaz

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Then the war was just two valleys over, but still they didn’t worry, and then it was in the very next valley, but even so, no one could imagine its actually intruding into their quiet lives. But one day a car suddenly careered into the village’s central square, four young men in militia uniforms leaping out, purposefully crossing the square, seeming to single out a particular house and cornering its occupant, whereupon the leader of the militiamen calmly leveled a gun at the young man and blew him away. The militiamen hustled back off to their car and sped off. As van Cleef subsequently recounted the incident for me, "They left behind them a village almost evenly divided. Those under fifty years of age had been horrified by the seeming randomness of the act, while those over fifty realized, with perhaps even greater horror, that the young man who’d just been killed was the son of a man who, back during the partisan struggles of the Second World War, happened to have killed the uncle of the kid who’d just done the killing. And the older villagers immediately realized, with absolute clarity, that if this was now possible everything was going to be possible."

 – Lawrence Weschler, Vermeer in Bosnia

Saturday, November 5, 2016

books read in November 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

67. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969) (reread; Penguin Classics hardcover edition)
68. The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch (2016)
69. Under the Bridge, Rebecca Godfrey (2005)
70. Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence, Bill James (2011)
71. Who Killed These Girls?, Beverly Lowry (2016)
72. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (1997) (reread)
73. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, David Grann (2010) (good writing; does not at all live up to the Holmesian framing)
74. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Mary Roach (2016) (wild mismatch of tone and subject)
75. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Arlie Russell Hochschild (2016)
76. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance (2016) (good, but overrated)
77. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class, Nancy Isenberg (2016) (very pop)
78. The Valis Trilogy, Philip K. Dick (2011) (reread)

all 2016 booklist posts