What I’m Reading – Oct 23


It was a good-looking little pile on the shelf I reserve for library books, so I photographed it. I’m about halfway through the Iain M. Banks but haven’t started any of the rest yet.

I’ve only read one Vance before, City of the Chasch, and that was 20 years ago. I remember enjoying the planetary romance setting, and I liked that it featured the Dirdir and the Pnume, both star attractions in Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials (a highlight of my childhood, along with the apparently forgotten Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons). I’m especially looking forward to this because Shelley’s “Alastor” is one of my favorite poems, the archetype of the Romantic solitary quest — though I have absolutely no idea if there’s any connection here aside from the title.

I picked up Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain after reading some of the stories in her short story collection Nano Comes to Clifford Falls last week. I’m a sucker for anything nano or quantum and she didn’t disappoint. Despite its awkward title, Beggars has a high reputation, so hopefully it’s a worthy read.

T.H. White’s The Goshawk is, like Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary, published as an NYRB Classic. They’ve done just an incredible job bringing back out-of-print titles in the past fifteen years, arguably re-raising the profile of the magnificent Richard Hughes single-handedly (if you haven’t yet read his novels A High Wind in Jamaica or In Hazard, for god’s sakes do it now). White’s The Once and Future King will be a certain contributor to the quotes I post here, it’s one of my favorites. I also looked over White’s selections of letters while browsing at the Seattle downtown library, but put them off for now — just too much to read, and I couldn’t do them justice this month. Really looking forward to this one though.

I’ve had George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying on my to-read list for a few years now, ever since I ventured into his less well-known books with Coming Up for Air. That one proved to be an absorbing and really quite moving look at English life in the late 1930s; as far as I’m concerned, it’s a crime that Orwell’s non-1984/Animal Farm novels aren’t more widely read these days. Aside from that, having been an underpaid bookstore clerk/aspiring writer in my 20s, I’m curious to see how the type is portrayed here.

As I said, I’m reading Iain M. Banks’s The Player of Games right now, and I plan to write about it shortly.

The top book in the pile is an illustrated guide to quantum theory. I’ve been working my way through a few of these lately, and keep reading different ones to fill in gaps and reinforce what I’ve learned from the others. It’s all quite interesting, and I’m retaining more than I expected — but yeah, there’s no way I could discuss this stuff intelligently at this point, and I won’t be building a quantum computer anytime soon. On the other hand I do understand what M. John Harrison meant by “decoherence-free subspace” now, so it’s not a complete fiasco.