succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, January 02, 2009

Holy Shit. I'm now five chapters in to Little Brother and it is blowing my mind. It's the 1984 of the modern age. Except...I don't know, it's even scarier. 1984 is plenty scary, but it also already starts in a dystopian world. We're spared the tiny steps that inevitably got us to the ministry of truth and doublethink and all the rest of it. Little Brother starts, well, essentially where we are right now. It's those tiny details that scare the fuck out of me, like that throw away detail in Handmaid's Tale about turning off all the credit cards belonging to women. How many things have happened in the past eight years that cross a minor moral boundary for you, and yet you've failed to act up?

Maybe I'm able to identify just a little too much with a 17 year old boy who calls himself W1n5t0n.


I finally finished The Name of the Rose. A friend loaned it to me, along with the companion book The Key to the Name of the Rose, which translates many of the passages in other languages that Eco leaves untranslated and provides a bit of historical context to the story. The Key also recommends sitting down and slogging through the entire novel in one week (spending one day on each of the days described in the story). It's a nice, romantic idea, but egads! I consider myself a fairly speedy, and prolific, reader, and I'm not sure I'm physically capable of such a feat. Granted, I had one or two other things going on, but even with all the time spent on airplanes and in airports over the past three months, it took me those three months to complete the behemoth. Don't get me wrong - it was well worth the work, but I would describe wading through the text as (pleasurable) work. As my aunt, who once took a class with Eco, said, sometimes you just think, damnit man, get to the point! Nevertheless, I'm glad I undertook the challenge, and after a bit of a break I look forward to tackling Foucault's Pendulum.

To cleanse the palate, and fulfill the mental needs of a holiday, I breezed through Crusader Gold and Practical Demonkeeping, along with a couple back issues of Mother Jones, while home last week. CG is a silly bit of popcorn, with one of those ridiculously convoluted plots that involves the Vatican, Nazis, Vikings, and Mayans, among others. But there are wonderfully over-the-top descriptions of scuba diving inside an iceberg and down various underwater caves and daring escapes and whatnot that make for an enjoyable enough few days of reading. PDk is Christopher Moore's debut novel (published about 15 years ago) and I would argue that even from this first novel it's clear that he'll eventually take over the sad, vacant place Terry Pratchett will eventually (all too soon!) leave. And speaking of Moore, he'll be back at Wordsmiths at the end of Feb.

I'm now a few chapters in to Little Brother, on loan from Dad, who sped through it so I could take it back with me after the holidays. I'm trying to keep my fangirlness in check, but I can't help but think my odds of one day meeting Doctorow have greatly increased, now that it turns out my new boss is buddies with him.

I may continue to ride out this particularly geeky streak by hitting Stephenson's latest (Anathem) but I guess that will depend upon whether I can get my hands on a copy from the library and how brain dead I am in a few weeks (a few weeks being my goal for having turned in a copy of my dissertation to my committee. at which point I will be praying that they just smile and nod rather than coming back with a gazillion additional ideas. I'm just so ready to be done).

Speaking of being done, in the middle of attempting to finish my discussion sections, I keep getting distracted by constructing a mental list of all the things I'll do when I can finally mark this big giant thing off my To Do List. Even not-fun sounding things sound super fun and interesting at this point - getting smart about Bayesian Model Averaging, working up a Bayesian analysis for a poster Dad and I plan to put together for one of his conferences (yay dorky father-daughter publishing!), researching apartments and cars and moving companies and all the tiny and not tiny details required to move my ass to the other coast, etc. etc. etc.