Books, My week in reading

Emerging for air

This week at work — ! Words fail me. I should probably check my work email, actually, but I will leave it till after I have finished this post.

On the shiny new smartphone: Swype is a proper revelation! Infinite thanks to delfinnium for pointing it out to me. It is still slower than keyboard typing, but I am doing much better with it than I was tapping away on the touchscreen. However, the Eljay app continues to be disappointing in the matter of allowing me to read my friends list, on either DW or LJ. I think it’s because it believes I want the advertising turned off (on the free app you can only read your flist if you enable advertising) — but I keep turning the advertising on and not seeing any ads, or my flist. I am wondering whether to just pay for the damned thing so I can get a look at my flist, but if it doesn’t work now what reassurance do I have that it would work when I’ve paid for it?

Since I’ve got a couple of months’ worth of paid account time, I have been indulging myself with reading my Dreamwidth network. This has afforded me the additional, quite unexpected pleasure of stumbling across kind reviews of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by people I don’t know — I think because a couple of people I do know recommended it when it was free, so people I don’t know downloaded it then and are only just getting around to reading and reviewing. So thank you very much to those who mentioned it. It has been a nice wee boost to balance out the recent rejection (of the short story collection I’ve been querying — not at all a surprise, since trying to get publishers to take short story collections is a dicey proposition at the best of times, but still hardly the “yes please!” response of one’s lurid writerly dreams).


What are you reading now?

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I like Anne Lamott, though she is very … er … I dunno how to say. She strikes me as a progressive white lady who very much thinks of herself as a progressive white lady, but she is not quite so progressive as she thinks. (E.g. she mentions hanging out with “ethnic people” at college because she was a bit of an outcast growing up and was drawn to other people who are ~different~.) But her writing is very easy and fun to read, and it is a good writing book because it is not prescriptive.

After all the only writing about writing that can be tolerated is that which is personal. Otherwise you get into “don’t use adverbs” and “show, not tell” type stuff — infinitely tedious, often just plain wrong.

What did you just finish reading?

A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851 by William Gibson. I didn’t read all of it — started somewhere near the middle of the eighteenth century — but I will count it as finished. It was more fun than I thought it’d be! The period from Walpole to Pitt was boring because it was all about politics, and made me reflect on the fact that history’s often being perceived as the story of who is in power (as opposed to: what everybody else was doing) makes it boring. Though of course you do have to understand the macro stuff to put what everybody else was doing in context … is the question of who was Prime Minister and the squabbles intrigue surrounding that really macro stuff, though?

But the stuff about the industrial revolution, though really a little later than what I was reading for (it is background research for my Regency fantasy romance!), was really interesting. And in fact I’m going to contradict myself a little here and say that even the Walpole stuff taught me something new, because the whole system of corruption and patronage up top made sense of why Jack Aubrey is always worried about “interest”.

Other things I had not known:

– There were four royal Georges in a row from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. How uncreative!

– Stockbroking was a new thing in the nineteenth century because they had all this extra money from the industrial revolution that needed investing.

– Before the 1660s there weren’t all these hedgerows bisecting (multiply-secting?) the English countryside — those came about because of enclosures. You think of hedgerows as being so typical of the English landscape that it is very interesting to think that it would’ve looked totally different before enclosures.

There was other stuff … but I have forgotten it.

So zhun (准), just as I had got to the last page and was starting to look through the “further reading”, my book expired and I couldn’t go on. (It was a library ebook.) I have reborrowed it so I can make notes on further reading.

What do you expect to read next?

I’m not done with Bird by Bird yet, but I’ve got to leave it at whatever percent for now, because it’s not got an expiry date, whereas I borrowed a couple of new ebooks from the library which do:

Japanese for Beginners by Katie Kitamura, by a Japanese-American about Japan — which I don’t think I’ll bother reading: I read the first few pages but it is too literary-journalistic, when I was hoping for more of a personal memoir sort of thing (e.g. when Kitamura meets her cousin at the airport, her cousin suddenly becomes the emblem of the “cool generation” of Japan, blah blah departure from previous generation’s values of hard work and depersonalised ambition blah).

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley, which I will read — it is about a lady in eighteenth century France who travelled on a ship making a round-the-world trip to (presumably among other places) Tahiti, dressed as a dude and doing Science. I am a little dubious because early on the author says that Baret could not have published her work on birds or whatever in France because society would have viewed her as a whore!!! I could accept an argument that such work would have been viewed as totally out of a woman’s sphere, perhaps leading on to the point that deviation from the norm in a woman is/was often couched in terms of sexual deviation, a betrayal of her inherent femininity … Or perhaps Ridley meant that by publishing Baret would have revealed that she’d shared her boyfriend’s cabin for the duration of the voyage, and so society would have viewed her as a whore. But the bald statement that a lady publishing science would have been viewed as whorish for publishing science seems to me to require some explication.

It is an interesting story anyway, so I will read on.


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