Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Reading

OK, now I've kind of caught up on things again, so blogging should once more be fast and furious!

While I was away, I also got to read some books:

First up was Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power. He's nuts! He's completely myopic! He wildly overstates his case in every paragraph! Some of his 'facts' are incredibly dubious*! By the time I'd finished the first couple of chapters I was totally prepared to give this book a real bashing, yet somehow by the end he'd kind of won me over. He has some pretty smart, convincing explanations for his apparent prejudice and constant America bashing, and even though I disagree with many of his conclusions, I found the worldview he presented thought provoking and indeed a useful model with which to consider political subjects. My thoughts on it really deserve more space than I have in this multi-book extravaganza post, so they will just have to wait until the next time I read something of his.

* “So in northeast Brazil, for example, which is a rather fertile area with plenty of rich land, just it's all owned by plantations, Brazillian medical researchers now identify the population as a new species with about 40 percent the brain size of human beings, a result of generations of profound malnutrition and neglect[...]” Here's the citation.

I also read Lost in Transmission, by Jonathan Harley, which I really enjoyed. It's an autobiography by the former central Asian correspondent for the ABC (Australia's version of the BBC or TVNZ) and details the years of his life spent living in India and Pakistan, reaching a climax when he reports from the front lines of America's invasion of Afghanistan. Despite it's straightforward prose (obviously written by a news reporter) and modestly direct emotional aspect (obviously written by an Aussie) it captured my attention effortlessly. On one hand there's the political and world events portrayed, which provided a surprisingly relevant counterpoint to Chomsky and in one weird moment of synchronicity, the news (reporting Pakistan's General Musharraf declaring martial law) on TV in front of me. On the other hand there's the personal side of the story, which has numerous aspects and narratives (as any honest autobiography would) and introduced me to the concept of 'teen-creep', the state of living one's life with all the lack of responsibility and maturity of a teenager until your late twenties and beyond. Good thing I don't know anyone like that!

And you'll probably be surprised to learn that I didn't realise for over two months after its release that Buffy Season 8: The Long Way Home had been published. For those not in the know/who don't give a fuck, Joss Whedon has format shifted Buffy from TV to comics and this is the first collected instalment. It's a solid enough effort (certainly miles better than season seven) and Joss takes full advantage of the new medium by upping the epic battles, violence and lesbianism. Yet despite such sound artistic development, it doesn't quite scratch the itch. The dialogue is still great and the plot and characters are developed in a satisfying way, but as with most serialised comic collections the pacing feels terrible. Five months worth of comic issues feel filled with about as much content as a one hour episode of the TV show. Nevertheless I'm still stoked to see Joss continuing the story and I am eagerly looking forward to the continuation of the series and the forthcoming resurrection of Angel.

Lastly I also finished off the recent release Fatal Revenant (make sure you pronounce the title the same way George Costanza says 'prognosis negative'!), the latest instalment of Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant fantasy saga. The series has been a favourite of mine since I was a teenager and I'm still loving it even now. It's been a three year wait since the last book and I eagerly devoured this one (only to find that this has merely replaced one cliffhanger with another that I will no doubt have to wait another three years to read the resolution of) and it cemented Donaldon's place in my list of favourite authors. Fatal Revenant was definitely heavy on exposition and low on action, a flaw I am confident will be remedied in the remaining two books in the series, but even the exposition was still absorbing to read. A little more maturity has allowed me to see past the full on angst fest of the main characters in this series to the beauty of their world that Donaldson has created to contrast it. I really must go back and read the original series again. I'm curious as to what I might get out of it this time...

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