Monday, July 27, 2009

more books and a movie

I have been having good luck with fiction lately. Valis was really outstanding, and took a bizarre turn somewhere in the middle that I did not expect; that made me happy. Then I read A Scanner Darkly because on the Amazon page for Valis everyone was saying that it was his best work. So I was expecting a lot from it. Mostly it lived up, but at times it had a sort of nauseating effect that I did not enjoy but also recognize as intentional. The biggest problem with it was that it did the same thing that all of Dick's books that I have read (except for Valis) do, which is that it appeared to end about three times before the actual ending. He seemed to have a real problem with endings. There is always one wonderful chapter near the end that would be the perfect closing, and then he insists on including three or four more chapters after that. It gets boring.

After that I read The Whit
e Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I found it delightful. I am not sure that it was as profound as all the blurbs on the cover made it out to be. But it was deeply enjoyable to read. I am going to add it to my list of independent reading books for my 10th graders (10th grade English is World Literature). I will say that it is the first Indian book I have read that is not excessively lyrical. It is an especially nice antidote to a book like The God of Small Things.

Now I am reading William Gibson's book Pattern Recognition. I am loving this book enormously for several reasons. I need to start by confessing that I did not really love Neuromancer, try as I did. I didn't like any of the characters, and it was hard to stay interested in it. What I did like about it was that it was well-written and charming and funny. This book has all of that, but also has characters who I like and a plot that keeps my interest.
The best part is that it has a female main character who is the exact antithesis of every science fiction heroine ever. I almost did not buy this book when I realized that the main character was female, that is how much I hate science fiction females. But this main character is alarmingly and disarmingly human, and feminine. She is a person, not a badass doing-things-that-men-do and looking-sexy-while-doing-them chick. She has flaws and vulnerabilities while still being independent and not hyper-sexualized.
The other thing that I like about it is that it was written in 2003 and, for all intents and purposes, takes place in 2003 or shortly thereafter, but it is written through this sci-fi lens that makes all this very real technology seem ve
ry futuristic. With one notable exception, everything the characters do and work with exists right now.

Also, Will and I saw Moon and it was absolutely wonderful. I don't really know how to explain this movie without giving too much away. We didn't know very much about it before we went and saw it; we had read a very minimal review of it which compared it to Philip K. Dick's work and that's why we decided to see it; I can say that the comparison is definitely apt, in the best possible way. There is essentially only one character in the movie, played by Sam Rockwell, and I am not even sure if I have ever seen Sam Rockwell in any movies before, but he does a really terrific job in this one. The story unfolds in a way that gives the audience a lot of credit and doesn't spoon-feed them at all, and it keeps a very steady, tense (but not edge-of-your-seat) tone throughout. It is a very smooth ride. I recommend it.

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