October 31st, 2010

boringstories

Discworld reading update

Just finished reading The Light Fantastic. I really enjoyed it.

Apparently it's the only Discworld novel that follows on so directly from a predecessor - in this case, the first Discworld novel published, The Colour of Magic.

Discworld, if you don't know, is a fantasy mega-series written with more than a dollop of humour. I'd call it a comedy, but in some ways that would be a disservice given that we have an awful lot of tripe in the pipelines that passes for "comedy". I think its wittiness is on par with the writing of Douglas Adams, though the styles are distinct.

You can jump in to Discworld almost anywhere you like, but you might as well do what I did and start with The Colour of Magic and follow with The Light Fantastic. From there you have several choices - you can read the third novel Equal Rites, or read the third Rincewind novel - that is, the next novel that follows the central character of the first two novels - that one's called Sourcery. I'm going to read Sourcery. I really like Rincewind. Actually, I like Terry Pratchett's characters more than I like Douglas Adams'. In my opinion, Adams' strength is more in funny ideas. But Pratchett is no slouch in ideas, either. In fact, the notion of The Clacks is what convinced me to start reading the series in the first place.

C of M is a bit too far behind me for me to offer up even a capsule review, but aside from the obvious exclamations like "witty!" and "hilarious!", I will say that is is a bit hampered by its division into vignettes. I greatly preferred the simpler structure of TLF - no formal chapter divisions (so no excuse to put down the book! - not that I looked for one), and there weren't any framed narratives* of the sort that were in C of M.

I don't want to speak too much about the specifics in the books because I'd dampen the delightful feeling you'd otherwise get when you reach their truly sublime moments. I'll just say that I don't think anybody in the English language has made so much out of a camera and a trunk.

Anyway, Discworld: great. And now for a series of posts about the non-fiction I'm reading.

* - I am not the world's biggest fan of framed narratives, at least not when they exist mostly for their own sake. Check out Lord Jim if you would like to experience my favourite worst example of an atrociously laborious framed narrative. (I had to read it for Intro Lit way back in the day. My classmates spoke of burning it.)
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likeshumanity

Sex at Dawn on the Savage Lovecast

I've just re-read The Book Nobody Read, but I'm not going to review that just yet. I'm going to re-read Sex at Dawn, and then I will be prepared to write the review for it. I am dithering on it somewhat because when a truly revolutionary book comes along, you don't want to do it any kind of disservice with a review that isn't well-written.

OK, yes, I might also be a bit daunted by the task itself. There's so much in the book that stands what we all thought we knew about sex and sexuality on its head. If I were merely to list the things in point form, I'd be doing the ideas a grave disservice. As Carl Sagan puts it, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

I don't think it's too much to say that this book has the potential to do for popular knowledge about sex what the Origin of Species did for popular knowledge about evolution. Now I must add that Sex at Dawn is not self-contained in the same manner - like other modern books that take science to the masses, the research of many people in many places informs the narrative, and the appropriate references are available. In fact, the book sometimes even encourages the reader to put the book down and to look up a source online.

I guess I am kind of getting into a mini-review, so I'll truncate myself. I will end by saying that no book has ever produced for me so many "holy shit!" moments as this one did. And will again, as I read the book for a second time.

But.

I know some of you don't really like to read.

And that's OK! I never really got into doing math. It's something I like far more in principle than in practice - as an example, I finished first-year calculus this year, age 28. But I was reading when I was 3.

And, even if you are a voracious reader (and I'm not - my own 93-year-old grandmother would put me to shame here), you are no doubt a discerning one. You have to be - you don't want to waste your time with unworthy books.

So! As luck would have it, Dan Savage had Christopher Ryan, the coauthor of Sex at Dawn, on this week's episode of his Savage Lovecast. He's been on before, but this time he stays for the entire episode, and as they take phone calls they have time to go over most of the major ideas in the book.

The sixties hipsters had it right: Make love, not war! Or... as it was with our ancestors... let the little guys duke it out while we concentrate on enjoying ourselves. Listen or read and you'll get what I mean. I don't quite yet have the temerity to spell this out explicitly in a public post. ;-)

Download links:

Savage Love Episode 210 (this week's episode, which covers most of the major ideas from the book)
Savage Love Episode 194 (Ryan's prior appearance)

Library links:

Halifax Public Libraries
Prince Edward Island Public Library
Novanet (I can't find it. Can you? Seems odd that they wouldn't have it.)
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