Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Week at the Library (15 Sept - 29 Sept)

Recent reads...

  • Casino, by Nicholas Pileggi, is the rise and fall of  of two real-life Mafia associates in Las Vegas.
  • The Mao Case is a detective story with political implications set in contemporary Shanghai: Qiu's detective is likable protagonist, so much that I'm interested in reading the rest of this series. My library doesn't have anything else by the author, though.
  • The King of Torts is a legal thriller by John Grisham criticizing the mass tort 'industry'/profiteering scam by chronicling the rise and fall of a public defender turned multimillionaire.
  • Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is far from deathly, abounding in interesting tales and plenty of dry humor.
  • Barefoot Boy with Cheek is Max Shulman's satire of college life at a liberal arts college in the 1940s, often surreal
  • African Exodus is an excellent history of human evolution by Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie. 

Selected Passages:

Now we come to the most important part of writing. Except for lady poets, writers must eat. In order to eat, they must sell what they write. But how? You must remember that thousands of manuscripts pour into editors' offices daily. Make your manuscript stand out from the rest. Attach a cake to it, or a bundle of currency, or a nubile maiden. " (Max Shulman's Large Economy Size; introduction.)

"I stood that day and gazed at the campus, my childish face looking up, holding wonder like a cup; my little feet beating time, time, time, in a sort of runic rhyme. A fraternity man's convertible ran me down, disturbing my reverie. 'Just a flesh wound,' I mumbled to disinterested passersby. "(Barefoot Boy with Cheek, Max Shulman.)

"'It has been reported to me, and I have seen it myself, that Asa has been observed riding in a convertible in which the top was up, the seats were not filled, and nobody was yelling., I want to say, in a friendly way, naturally, that it's things like that that can give a fraternity a bad name. When riding in a convertible, the top must always be down, no matter what the weather, and there must be no fewer than eight people in the convertible, and they must all be yelling. "

"I moved on to Czechoslovakia, tense as this was the third anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion. There my car was emptied out all over the road, and I was interviewed for four hours by border officials who made it clear that they found a long-haired, Western anthropology student about as welcome as a hippie at a regimental reunion. 'Your visit is of no value to the people of Czechoslovakia', I was told in response to my pleadings that my work was of international scientific importance". (African Exodus, Stringer and McKie)

"Life is a copiously branching bush, continually pruned by the grim reaper of extinction, not a ladder of predictable progress." (African Exodus)

"We should not be overcome with a sense of our own organizational superiority, however, for it is wrong to equate survivorship with some form of worth. Extinction is the inevitable destiny of all evolutionary lineages. [..] 'For every species alive today, a hundred now lie frozen into the rocket sediment of the earth,' as Erich Harth, of Syracuse University, New York, puts it with some understatement." (African Exodus)

"We sadly take our two-legged prowess for granted, says Gould. 'It is now two in the morning and I'm finished,' he concludes. 'I think I'll walk over to the refrigerator and get a beer; then I'll go to sleep. Culture-bound creature that I am, the dream I have in an hour or so when I'm supine astounds me ever so much more than the stroll I will now perform perpendicular to the floor.'" (African Exodus)

Potentials for Next Week:

  • Barring a case of spontaneous combustion, I'll finish off the essays of Emerson in the next couple of days.
  • I'll also be reading with serious intent to finish The Life of Greece by Will Durant.
  • Spook: Science Takes on the Afterlife by Mary Roach is a definite.
  • Christine by Stephen King is a twofer: not only is it a challenged book, which I'm reading in observance of Banned Books Week, but it's a horror novel that's seasonally appropriate.
  • There are more possibilities swirling about, but I've been distracted from Greece for nearly a month now. Time to dig in!

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