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February 02, 2020

Sunday Morning Book Thread 02-02-2020

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The Reading Room Café, Singapore


Good morning to all you 'rons, 'ettes, lurkers, and lurkettes, wine moms, frat bros, crétins sans pantalon (who are technically breaking the rules), thugs, delinquents, riff-raff, and other ne'er-do-wells. Welcome once again to the stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread, a weekly compendium of reviews, observations, snark, witty repartee, hilarious bon mots, and a continuing conversation on books, reading, spending way too much money on books, writing books, and publishing books by escaped oafs and oafettes who follow words with their fingers and whose lips move as they read. Unlike other AoSHQ comment threads, the Sunday Morning Book Thread is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Even if it's these pants, which apparently can be used as a flotation device in case of a water landing. Or if you wet the bed a lot. Hey, I'm just sayin'.



Pic Note:

Book cafés are apparently A Thing in Singapore:

Book cafés in Singapore have become somewhat of a unique area for meetings. Charity workers, clubs and societies meet in book cafes in Singapore and people are invited to listen, observe or get involved.

[The Reading Room] café combines sleek furnishings with antiques and art for a tactile comfort that is unique and original. The shelves are stacked out with books and with luxurious seating, you can enjoy your coffee in this renaissance styled café. By night, this café turns into a bar for a more sophisticated round of drinks.


It Pays To Increase Your Word Power®




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Reading Room Café View #2



We'll Get Him This Time!

I must confess I used to like John Bolton. Because Obama seemed determined to alienate our allies and suck up to our enemies, I thought Bolton's tough talk on the cable news shows he frequently guested on was refreshing. But I do see now he's infected with the Boot-Kristol Virus where you believe that all foreign policy problems can be solved by putting American soldiers in yet another country. Trump made it clear early on that that wasn't a solution he was keen to use, so I can well see why Bolton wasn't a good fit for his administration, and so was quickly given the left foot of fellowship.

So now Bolton is coming out with a book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, and by some fantastic coincidence, just when Amazon made the book available for pre-order, we get an 11th hour anonymous leak to the Fake News Media that something in this book may have relevance to the current impeachment trial. Of course, the leaker did not provid an *actual quote* from the book, he (or she) just claimed that the book shows the quid pro quo.

Bombshell! Hair on fire! White House in chaos! Wheels are coming off! Etc.

So this is the book that is supposedly going to Bring Drumpf Down.

But that's not the first time this has happened. According to this article, there have been at least 5 books published that were supposed to Bring Drumpf Down.

The first one mentioned was Unhinged by Omarosa, who is described in the blurb as "Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison", a title which, to me, sounds like something puffed up to look more impressive than it actually is. Anyway, pretty much all of the negative reviews complain of being ripped off; while the book is ostensibly about Trump, it is pretty much the author promoting herself, i.e. grift. One reviewer titled her review 'Bait and Switch.'

It sounds like a very silly book and you shouldn't waste your time with it.

The other book worthy of note is Bob Woodward's Fear: Inside the Trump White House, which apparently is packed full of unsourced quotes, unverifed incidents, and incidents that the participants strongly denied. Again, no new information. It's boob bait for Trump-haters. Also, Woodward was asked point-blank by Hugh Hewitt if, in doing research for the book, if he ever found any evidence of Russian collusion.

His answer:

BW: I have not.

Funny, I don't recall the media reporting this admission when Woodward's book came out.

Each of the books mentioned in the article suffer from the same defects, namely, poor sourcing, no sourcing, and no new information about Trump revealed. Which I suppose shouldn't be surprising. Donald Trump has been a public figure for, what, nearly 40 years now, everyone knows who he is, and so it's simply not likely that someone is going to come up with anything new. So, all these books do is confirm your biases: if you hate Trump, you'll only hate Trump more, if you're a Trump supporter, you'll continue to think that most Trump critics are lying scum. Full disclosure: I'm in the latter group.

A side effect of Trump's presidency is the large number of opportunities afforded to professional grifters to hone their grifting skills. Because grifters gotta grift.



Who Dis:

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Last week's 'who dis' was author J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife, Edith.



RIP Mary Higgins Clark, 1927-2020

Actually, I did not know she was still alive:

NEW YORK (AP) — Mary Higgins Clark, the tireless and long-reigning “Queen of Suspense” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world’s most popular writers, died Friday at age 92.

Any fans of MHC here? With sales past 100 million book copies, she sounds like the female version of Harold Robbins.



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Who Dat?

Came across this New Yorker piece about a 40-year-old dust-up between Ursula K. LeGuin and another science fiction writer named Joanna Russ. Now I've always found the squabbles between feminists of various stripes to be boring beyond belief (and I wouldn't be surprised if many of them boil down to 'well, you're not very pretty, are you?') but I had to ask myself, who is Joanna Russ? I had never heard her name before. The author of the article says:

In her heyday, Russ was known as a raging man-hater. This reputation was not entirely unearned, though it was sometimes overstated.

So, in other words, she probably *was* a raging manhater, full stop.

The search for that reality led Russ and Le Guin in different directions, and, though the latter has become, in the years since, the face of women in speculative fiction, it would be a mistake to regard Russ as overshadowed.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because progressives (and feminists in particular) always seem to be promoting minor or marginal figures in whatever field they're interested in because they've discovered an ideological soulmate, and then trotting her out as A Very Important Figure. In this case, it was, aha, here's a radical lesbian feminist who writes science fiction. She's just like Ursula K. LeGuin, only better!

But is she really? I'm not the science fiction nerd that perhaps some of you are. I'm just curious if any of you have ever heard or read anything by Russ. Am I just ignorant, or she just the literary equivalent of #FakeNews pushed by progressives?

Russ' most famous novel is The Female Man, published in 1975:

Widely acknowledged as Joanna Russ’s masterpiece, The Female Man is the suspenseful, surprising, darkly witty, and boldly subversive chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—all living in parallel worlds—meet. Librarian Jeannine is waiting for marriage in a past where the Depression never ended, Janet lives on a utopian Earth with an all-female population, Joanna is a feminist in the 1970s, and Jael is a warrior with claws and teeth on an Earth where male and female societies are at war with each other. When the four women begin traveling to one another’s worlds, their preconceptions on gender and identity are forever challenged.

Oh yeah, this definitely does not sound at all like preachy, progressive agitprop. But, as Dennis Miller likes to say, I could be wrong.



They Don't Publish Books Like This Any More:

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Wait, this book is intended for "the masses" and it was produced by a *committee*? So a bunch of commies wrote this book?



Moron Recommendations

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OK, fine. In last week's exciting episode of the book thread, we read:

65 Finished "At Swim Two Boys" and despite the homo theme permeating a lot of it, it was a good portrayal of WW1 Ireland with mixed feelings of loyalty or resentment toward the Brits. And of a small shopkeeper striving to be better than a common laborer. It was extremely well written and as the title indicates it contains some Flann O'Brien level humor at what disorganized fuckups the Irish are whenever the urge for self rule flares up. The text is full of elaborate wordsmithery with Irish slang and colloquialisms; Jamie O'Neill has a website with an extensive glossary for the first couple chapters after which it ends but by then you're pretty much up to speed and can understand things well enough. This was one of the book group selections that I'd never have read on my own but am really glad I experienced.

Posted by: Captain Hate at January 26, 2020 09:30 AM (y7DUB)

At Swim, Two Boys: A Novel

Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916—Ireland’s brave but fractured revolt against British rule—At Swim, Two Boys is a tender, tragic love story and a brilliant depiction of people caught in the tide of history...

Jim Mack is a naïve young scholar and the son of a foolish, aspiring shopkeeper. Doyler Doyle is the rough-diamond son—revolutionary and blasphemous—of Mr. Mack’s old army pal. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the nude, the two boys make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, on Easter of 1916, they will swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while Mr. Mack, who has grand plans for a corner shop empire, remains unaware of the depth of the boys’ burgeoning friendship and of the changing landscape of a nation.

The Kindle version is a bit spendy at $14.99.

Books written in dialect can be a challenge. But one reviewer wrote "the efforts of many readers may be thwarted by O'Neill's challenging and lyrical prose, the Irish brogue and street slang, the invented Latin derivations and oh-so-clever puns. After 50 to 75 pages, though, the reader's patience is well rewarded. Once you accustom yourself to the pattern of the prose, the context provides clues to even the most unfamiliar words..."

I remember the first time I read A Clockwork Orange, when I was in high school. I discovered that it was full of slang I had never heard before, and in fac was invented by the author just for that novel. So I eventually made sense out of most of the words based on context, and then, after the last page, they had a glossary of all the slang words. I remember thinking why couldn't they have put this at the front? But I suppose trying to work out the meanings was intended to be part of the experience of reading the novel.

___________

149 since we're on JRRT, I'll throw out Towards the Gleam (T.M.Doran) which is a thinly disguised JRRT and Edith and lots of other folks where JRRT discovers the source of Middle Earth. Other hijinks follow. Fun read, if only to figure out who everybody is supposed to be.

Posted by: yara at January 26, 2020 10:07 AM (rde8g)

Toward the Gleam

Between the two world wars, on a hike in the English countryside, Professor John Hill takes refuge from a violent storm in a cave. There he nearly loses his life, but he also makes an astonishing discovery - an ancient manuscript housed in a cunningly crafted metal box. Though a philologist by profession, Hill cannot identify the language used in the manuscript and the time period in which it is was made, but he knows enough to make an educated guess - that the book and its case are the fruits of a long-lost, but advanced civilization.

The translation of the manuscript and the search for its origins become a life-long quest for Hill. As he uncovers an epic that both enchants and inspires him, he tracks down scholars from Oxford to Paris who can give him clues. Along the way, he meets several intriguing characters, including a man keenly interested in obtaining artifacts from a long-lost civilization that he believes was the creation of a superior race, and will help him fulfill his ambition to rule other men. Concluding that Hill must have found something that may help him in this quest, but knowing not what it is and where it is hidden, he has Hill, his friends at Oxford, and his family shadowed and threatened until finally he and Hill face off in a final, climatic confrontation.

Yeah, I can sort of maybe see both Tolkien (LotR) and C.S. Lewis (That Hideous Strength) here. It sounds like it might be interesting, and $9.99 for the Kindle edition is right up at the Vic Boundary. There's a sequel, too, The Lucifer Ego, for about half the price.

___________


So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, insults, threats, ugly pants pics and moron library submissions may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.



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digg this
posted by OregonMuse at 09:00 AM

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