Thursday, July 15, 2010

More reading than writing

I just finished Logicomix, a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell's attempts to find a way of talking with absolute certainty about mathematics and logic—and how that lifelong project relates to what we can say, with any certainty, about morality and judgment. The story is interesting both intellectually and emotionally; in addition, the authors add a metafictional layer, letting us see the process by which they worked through how to narratively address abstruse concepts. Ultimately, the framing story becomes a way to understand Russell's story (which itself is framed by Russell as a story told to help answer whether the United States should involve itself in the second European war). Excellent, literate work; the artwork is restrained yet expressive, giving the feel of a cartoon documentary.

I'm still reading The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov's posthumously published novel of the 1930s-era Soviet Union. The book combines the moral urgency of Dostoevsky, the operatic largeness of Hawthorne, the goofiness of Gogol and the paranoia of Kafka via a tale of the devil and his assistants wreaking havoc in Moscow. It's entertaining and exciting.Though I've linked to the most recent translation (by Pevear and Volokhonsky), my copy is the Vintage edition, translated by Burgin and O'Connor.

"On the Brink of That Bright New World," by Robert Reed (and first published in Asimov's), the first story in his collection The Cuckoo's Boys, is quite a kick-in-the-chest way to start a science fiction collection. It gets at a familiar theme—regardless of what changes come in the future, humans will continue to behave in the same way—through a story that makes the them the plot. "Here's what I did while the rest of you were focused on messages from space," an unrepentant man tells a helpless scientist. Reed also lets us see—vaguely, through a train window—that the larger world hasn't changed either. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

I've set aside the next chapter in my "old man" sequence, but only for a time. I need to do more research before proceeding, but I'm also interested in writing some other fiction. I started something that could be much longer, though I haven't gotten very far on it yet. I'm anxious to hear back about "Clockworks."

Additionally, I have a lot reading to do to prepare for the school year. I just picked up Henry IV (having first dyslexically ordered Henry VI), which I haven't read since college. Fun stuff.

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