Island Life by David Slack

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Island Life: Books are our friends

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  • Jeremy Andrew,

    And Robin, read Neal Stephenson, the story might be made up, but the facts are true. You'll learn at least as much about nanotech from Diamond Age as you would from any non-fiction available on the topic.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Bugger - edit - Robyn, my apologies.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Possibly the worst "classic" to read in public if you don't want to be accosted by dodgy strangers is that famous one by Nabokov, rhymes with fajita. If I write the name, I suspect it will get this page triggering worksafe filters across the country. The number of people who actually identify with the protagonist is scary.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    The only reason I forced myself to finish the Da Vinci Code (it was a near thing) was to see if he could fit in an evil twin, which was the only hackneyed plot device he needed for the complete set.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    Buy Snow Crash, go to a decent second-hand bookshop (Browsers if you're up this way) and just buy it. You'll be reading it more than once anyway.

    Pity the last third is loses the plot and the 'facts' about linguistics are complete crap.

    I made the mistake of the starting the heaving, turgid mess that is his Baroque Cycle. Neal Stephenson must be the smugest, most self-satisfied, and hugely over-rated sci-fi author working today. I find his cult even more annoying than Dan Brown's.

    (And to the person who asked what Dan Brown did wrong: well, there is, I suppose, 'produce bad versions of Umerto Eco books that people take far too seriously', but he seems to be fullfilling the role of allowing some of us to feel enourmously superior to others quite nicely.)

    Anansi Boys

    I found that quite dissapointing, really. One thing I like about Gaiman's work is that he generally provides rich sketches; rather like Rennasiance paintings stuffed with symbolism there's a good time to be had in picking apart which references he's chucking in. Another is that his work generally allows a bit of room for the reader to fill in gaps and come to their own coclusions about things; American Gods is certainly an exemplar about the former, and has a bit of the latter. Anansi Boys TELLS YOU WHAT IS GOING ON AT THE TOP OF ITS AUTHORIAL VOICE WITH REMINDERS AND HANDY DIAGRAMS TO MAKE... err, sorry, to make sure you get it it, in excruciating detail.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    Possibly the worst "classic" to read in public if you don't want to be accosted by dodgy strangers is that famous one by Nabokov,

    American Psycho might not be a great one to read if you're trying to pull, either.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I'm acknowledging the unreliable assumptions people can make, and confessing to be as guilty as the next person of making them

    I was wondering after I'd written that to you whether I might have been jumping the gun a little, David. I do apologise for doing so. And I have to say, I'm terribly guilty of being judgemental. And Che, I LOVE Harry Potter. I don't know what it is, because I don't normally like science fiction/fantasy/magicky type stuff, but damn that woman knows how to write. I have all the books, and have read, and re-read them several times (something I never do). I don't think I do highbrow literature. Give me a good esoteric discussion any day, but I'm not interested in what I see as the literary equivalent of having a good wank in public. Now, educational theory, that's a different thing entirely.....

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    I think the best strategy for pulling with books is to doll yourself up in the traditional way, then wrap a blank cover around whatever you're reading (in Japanese style, where people habitually buy these covers to conceal their literary choice on the subway). Fellow passengers' curiosity will take you a long way.

    People may also have heard of the My Penguin series, which are classics with a blank front cover for artists to decorate. Possibilities:

    1) Leave it blank and rely on curiosity
    2) Show off your artistic style and actually decorate it while in public, then give it to your target as a gift - with your phone number inside the cover. ;)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

  • kmont,

    This is a bit of a thread crossover thing, but reading this from the Guardian comments:

    "they were sharing a train carriage, she said 'that books rubbish', he immediately stood up and threw it out the window and she was duly impressed."

    I am thinking that "chucking a book" at someone facebook style probably wouldnt translate well into real life.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • kmont,

    Good thinking Sam F.

    Am with you on going J-style, I have a couple of those bookcovers from Japan that I bought back, some with manga style drawings on them. Keep em guessing.

    Also nearly bought a cloth bookcover complete with strap that looks like a little bag. I restrained myself however, such things would be considered too much in NZ methinks.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    And Che, I LOVE Harry Potter.

    that'll be because it is good writing, and is loved by millions.

    i'll also admit that my comments were, you know, to make me sound like an asshole.

    got the conversation rolling but... :)

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • David Hamilton,

    rogerd: I agree, Anansi Boys seemed like Neil Gaiman's entry into the rotating stand at an airport bookshop genre. It was still Gaiman, but with all the teeth pulled. On the other end of the spectrum I heartily recommend his Sandman graphics novels.

    Hamiltron • Since Nov 2006 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • David Hamilton,

    Oh god, I left an extra "s" in there and I can't edit it. I'm so very sorry...

    Hamiltron • Since Nov 2006 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    <i>And Che, I LOVE Harry Potter.</i>

    that'll be because it is good writing, and is loved by millions.

    Really? I know millions of readers can't be wrong, but I find JKR's prose style -- those clumsy, hackneyed sentences -- unbearable.

    I took a turn at reading one of the Harry Potter books to the kids and I actually had to stop, it was annoying me so much. Which all makes me sound like a terrible grinch ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    It's all about personal preference, Russell. Boring old world if we all liked the same thing etc etc. What astounds me is that so many adults DO like the HP books, considering that they were written for children. I certainly don't think her style would translate well to adult fiction, but who knows?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Really? I know millions of readers can't be wrong, but I find JKR's prose style -- those clumsy, hackneyed sentences -- unbearable.

    Same. The plot itself is quite impressive; particularly the way she throws in seemingly offhand notes in earlier books that have significance later on. But stylistically, it's a lot like short stories I was writing when I was 14.

    I wonder if the problem is with using a plot that's driven more by straight action than dialogue or character development? You can't just write "this happened, then this happened, then thingy did this..", but that's kind of what both JK Rowling and Dan Brown are trying to do, and I think it'd take a more mature/innovative taste for writing than they have, if that makes sense.

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    But Heather, in the case of JKR, that's pretty much how children of the age she's writing for, think. Without entering into a huge explanantion of how childrens' brains develop, she has been very clever in understanding her nonadult audience, and that is who, after all, the books are aimed at.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    you might also want to mention that many adults have 12-13y/o reading ages.

    that's why i think jkr has been so successful. she's been able to tap both markets. that makes it good writing imho. simple, but good.

    far better than i will ever be... :(

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • The Other Andrew Smith,

    I am surprised by the number of people who are reading JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman. I found Neverwhere the novel added little to my appreciation of the tv series; Stardust I returned to the library after a chapter. His characterization tends to be two dimensional. I think he should stick to more visual media. I might pick up Stardust again before I go see it as a movie.

    I read the first Harry Potter book about mid series. On an initial reading I concluded that she relied more on promotion of being a poor struggling writer than producing good writing. I think I will order my copy of the Deathly Hallows from Scribes Second Hand Books in Dunedin. It should come in quickly -- they already have the Children of Hurin.

    I don't normally read on buses or cafes. My current lunch-break reading is Iron Council by China Mieville (a second reading); before that I read Wild Wales by George Borrow, an 19th Century Travel Log. Make of that as you will.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2007 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    Hmmmmm ... not so sure about the vid you linked to. I'm sure there are plenty of White Trash who could benefit from being told to read a book, wear deodourant, and brush their teeth - not just The Niggaz.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Harry Potter books remind me of Dahl. Not so much in the prose style, but in the some disadvantaged child finds something special, but by virtue of their upbringing remains inherently 'good' (Matilda, BFG, Danny, Charlie, the boy in The Witches etc.).

    Also, I'm not sure what it says about either Rowling's writing or the state of our education system, but I know a few English teachers, and they all seem avid readers ...

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Harry Potter books remind me of Dahl.

    I was having that very conversation with (or 'at') my partner last night. The scenes with his aunt and uncle at the beginning of every book are very reminiscent of Dahl.

    I like JKR's writing style, I have to admit, and I expected to loathe it. I was finally pressured into reading the first book by a teacher friend of mine, and loved it - as a kids' book. I read the first three to my children and have sort of missed not reading them the others. (Their choice, not mine, reading aloud was just too slow and they had to know what happened next RIGHT NOW.)

    I really dislike talking about worthiness in children's lit. If they're involved and entertained, that's a good book. (Still loathe those colour fairy books: fortunately my daughter is more Captain Underpants.)

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    There's actually a good article on all this Harry Potter stuff - apologies, David - in the newest Listener. The content isn't available online, but I thought that a few people here may be Listener subscribers, like me.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I meant to say, also in the Listener is the review of Armistead Maupin's new book by Peter Wells. I like a bit of Armistead Maupin, I must say.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    . . . before that I read Wild Wales by George Borrow, an 19th Century Travel Log. Make of that as you will.

    If you like accounts of picking fights with Catholics Borrow's the bloke. He even manages to slip in a bit of narrative between his endless gloating accounts of how he tore some Papist or other a new one.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

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