Another Exceptional Year of Reading - From short stories to a murder mystery, Cynthia Crossen at WSJ runs down the best books she read in 2008.
I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda (short stories)
My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides ... EXEMPLERARY collection of short stories. I will buy this book some day soon!
2 short novels...more like novellas...that I did read in 2008.
Samedi the Deafness Jesse BallTravels with Herodotus Ryszard Kapuscinski
The Art of Hunger Paul Auster (In recent years, I have become a big fan of Auster, like Saunders above, and have read many of his novels in years past. Early this year, I read about 40% of this book: non-fiction by him. Again, since I am a fan, I enjoyed his non-fiction too.)
Inner Workings J. M. Coetzee (Essays)....read and enjoyed a few of the essays but just about 25% of them.
The Complete Stories Franz Kafka (read only Judgement and re-read Metamorphosis)
Saturday Ian McEwan
Strange Pilgrims Gabriel Garcia Marquez (short stories)
Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the Polish communist who founded the Bolshevik secret police, once said: “The only object of terrorism is to terrorise.” The only recourse left for us, then, is not to feel terrified.
The year has taught me much more than facing my fears... it has been devastating in many ways but the thought that I would like to leave the year with is that "whatever does not kill me, makes me stronger." One wonders though whether one has scraped the bottom of the barrel (on many fronts) in 2008 and 2009 will bring better days ahead or is the end still not in sight. One hopes it is the former....
That said... while the house is back in order, it will be a quiet one for some time since I am away on a 6 week trip to India starting next week and so blogging will by necessity be infrequent and irregular.
P.S. The other blogs "Accidental Abundances" and "Revolutionary Virtues" as well as posts from Other Side of Silence have been merged into this one, along with all old posts from my blogging during the 2005-2008 period (which had been moved to "Desultory Reflections" during this mathi-maar-gayi-thi phase (sorry non-Hindi readers who do not understand that phrase; cannot easily explain but in essense ... 'what was i thinking'!!!!)
The Substitute for Wit and Other Side of Silence blogs and my poetry blog will also continue to be in existence but those are merely places where I compile and collect quotes and music and house my old poetry -- so are not really blogs.
And I do not refer to the fact that my blogging is going to slow down after next week since I am headed to India for 6 weeks. It seems the downturn in the economy has led to a belt-tightening in the sex industry (there is a joke somewhere in there -- in use of word 'belt tightening' - but I'm not at my wittiest mood right now and leave Leno-Letterman-Stewart-Conan to their day..er.. night jobs!)
Sex industry slowsAnd another related news about economy hurting a segment of the population :)
Brothel owners in Europe and the United States say belt-tightening is undermining a once-lucrative industry.
Rich Cut Back on Payments to MistressesOh...the worries of being rich! ;)
You know times are tough when the rich start cutting costs on their mistresses.According to a new survey by Prince & Assoc., more than 80% of multimillionaires who had extra-marital lovers planned to cut back on their gifts and allowances. Still, only 12% of the multimillionaire cheaters said they plan to give up on their lovers altogether for financial reasons.
Also... not related to economy but...
Amsterdam to halve shop window brothels and marijuana cafesSigh...what is the world coming to! ;)
Amsterdam will on Monday unveil plans to clean up the city's old town and red light district by halving the number of shop window brothels and cafés where marijuana is sold legally.
P.S. I did not know that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on the same day ..as in same day, same year - Feb 12th, 1809. So, both have their 200th birth anniversary being celebrated next year.
P.P.S. Kinda related, thanks to the P.S. mention: The complete works of Charles Darwin, now online. Also, this Daily Kos science post on Darwin's 199th birthday.
Aah...so, now I have a name for my condition!
Mr. Sieling, the writer of the Slow Blog Manifesto, gave up his personal blog because he felt no one was reading it. “I called it the Robinson Crusoe feeling of blogging,” he said by e-mail, “and I think it’s common.”That's from an interesting article that talks about the art of "slow" blogging and blogging as a meditative art form!
Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail's PaceSo, it seems its not just Amit Varma at India Uncut (and me lately) who have slowed down on blogging... there's a different kind of "slow" blogger out there!
slow bloggers believe that news-driven blogs like TechCrunch and Gawker are the equivalent of fast food restaurants — great for occasional consumption, but not enough to guarantee human sustenance over the longer haul.
"Slow Blogging is a rejection of immediacy. It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly."
Also, the article says something about blogging vs. micro-blogging (Twitter etc.)
That time of the year when people start compiling lists of "best" or "notable" books/movies/events of the year is here.
Compiled in this post will be links to such lists that will be compiled by various sources over the next month to celebrate all that was good and notable about 2008.
100 Notable Books of 2008 ..via NYT. Also: Michiko Kakutani’s 10 Favorite Books of 2008 and Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2008
Year-end review: Apple’s best of 2008
Best New and Improved Software of 2008
Update: Actually, forget it... why bother will making a list of lists when someone has already done this job for us! (Thanks to Ninad for the link.)
See Fimoculous.com's list of all the 2008 lists and Time magazine's list of the Top 10 Everything of 2008
Despite having read many books over the years on relativity and quantum mechanics, these theories just won't get embedded in my brains like Newtonian's theories and classical mechanics that I learned in school. (There was some exposure to statistical mechanics - Boltzmann, Gibbs, etc. - in some of the thermodynamics coursework I took but it was superficial at best and I rue I did not wade into the details and try to get a better grasp of that topic too!)
And yet, I'm drawn from time to time to read more about the fascinating developments in physics from 1900 onwards. I am currently reading a few books on the subject; some of which delve into the lives of the great men involved while others give a good historical narrative of their quest to understand the world of atoms and its components and the forces that hold them (and the world) together. It is amazing that these unique and devastatingly intelligent people were brought together in this scientific quest at the same time (essentially 1900 till mid-30s).
Anyways, just rambling now....since the books I have been reading the past week or so were on my mind and also because I saw this book review in the Washington Post just now.
Very Small, Very Weird - The struggle to understand what goes on -- or doesn't -- inside the atomThe Age of Entanglement - When Quantum Physics was Reborn by Louisa Gilder. - A review ofBecause I have never really understood even the basic ideas developed before WWII, I have kept away from the more recent (post WWII) developments in particle physics and new theories like string theory etc. First I need to grasp what Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, Einstein and co. are trying to teach us...then I can worry about Feynman, Greene, and many others!!
Two links to reviews of books & documentaries:
1. In Intentions and Opposite Results in Iraq in the NYT, Michiko Kakutani reviews Peter Galbraith's book, Unintended Consequences - How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies
In his compelling new book the scholar and former diplomat Peter W. Galbraith not only reminds us that the Iraq war has been a costly, bungled operation, but he also argues that the war has had the opposite effect of virtually everything that President Bush and his administration promised the American public it would have:
- A war intended to eliminate (what were later found to be non-existent) weapons of mass destruction in Iraq “ended up with Iran and North Korea much closer to having deployable nuclear weapons.”
- A war intended to help combat terrorism has led to the recruitment of more terrorists and the spread of Al Qaeda to Iraq.
- A war intended to create a bulwark against the ayatollahs in Tehran turned into a “strategic gift to Iran” and the empowerment in Iraq of pro-Iranian Shiite theocrats.
- A war intended to make Israel more secure has made that country more vulnerable to threats from Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
- A war intended to showcase American power has ended up underscoring “the deficiencies of U.S. intelligence, the incompetence of American administration and the limitations on the American military.”
- A war meant to boost America’s global leadership “has driven U.S. prestige to an all-time low” over the last five years and alienated important allies like Turkey.
2. In The War We Don't Want in the NY Review of Books, Sue Halpern, reviews a number of recent books and documentaries:
- War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003–2007; edited by Shawn Christian Nessen, Dave Edmond Lounsbury, and Stephen P. Hetz.
- The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
- Generation Kill a miniseries written and produced by David Simon and Ed Burns; based on the book by Evan Wright
- Baghdad ER -- a film directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
- Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery -- a film directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
New York Review of Books Special Issue on The US Presidential Election
This kid could teach me a thing or two :)
A nine-year-old boy has had a book published in the US - called How to Talk to Girls
Melancholy or funny?
An 82-year-old Italian man who took a Viagra pill scared his wife so much she called the police.
Is that a gun or are you just happy to see us, Fuehrer?
TV bosses in Belgium have been slammed for an advert for a travel programme featuring a semi-naked Adolf Hitler.
It's the season of giving ... interesting new years gifts though!
Man's mag loses 130,000 plastic breastsAnd that reminds me of this one from some time back (but I don't think I blogged about it then):
An Australian men's magazine says 130,000 inflatable breasts intended as a free gift for its January issue have gone missing.
Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Britain's oldest newly-wedsAnd so it goes...
A Devon couple with a combined age of 179 have become Britain's oldest newlyweds.
Man wakes wife from coma - by biting her toes
A Chinese man successfully woke his wife from a coma after 10 years - by biting her toes.
(I've added some hyperlinks to the books & Eric Meola's web-site in the text below, which is from a NYT article)
India: In Word and Image
The encyclopedic INDIA (DK, $40), by Abraham Eraly and others, seeks to govern the ungovernable — a rapturous, multicultural civilization hurtling into the future — by compressing it into orderly compartments. There are, for example, panoramic landscape photos, and neatly laid out sections about prehistoric India; the daily life of a Punjabi schoolgirl; Gandhi; ayurvedic therapy; textiles; jewelry; a Hindu bride; and various types of architecture.
Although the text is accompanied by striking pictures, some of them fascinating depictions of religious rituals and domestic life, the images and words are meant less to seduce than to inform: there are more than 24 million Christians in India; its state-owned railway is the second-largest employer in the world; it didn’t publish its first vernacular newspaper until 1822. This is not uninteresting cultural data, and the authors have devised a painless teaching method — short chapters, timelines and plenty of images to hold our attention. The well-organized research will provide a comprehensive, if clinical, briefing for a traveler to the country, as long as that traveler plans to confine himself to civically optimistic settings. As thorough as the book appears to be, it avoids some of the less enchanting details of life on the ground. There is no entry in its lengthy index for “poverty,” and there are no photographs of disabled beggars or fields of garbage being picked over by small children.
© Eric Meola
Eric Meola’s photographs in INDIA: In Word and Image (Welcome, $60) also present an idealized India, but one that is impressionistic and so tailored to the hedonistic armchair traveler that looking through it constitutes a kind of exotic five-star vacation in itself. The portraits, landscapes and photographic studies of flora and architecture are more art than documentary, and are accompanied not by history lessons, but by masterly literary prose that delights us and — isn’t this really the point? — makes us long to go to India.
The color-drenched images evoke an Eden where beautiful women, plump children and succulent fruits compete to catch the eye. But the accompanying text — excerpts from works by writers including Kiran Desai, Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth — is less reliant on the hot pink saris and temples that dazzle tourists. Given the largesse bestowed on Western readers by Indians writing in English, the selection process for the passages included here must have been agonizing. From them, the reader learns not just about India the ancient civilization and exotic destination, but about Indians — in all their eccentricity and humanity. The country’s tastes, nuanced colors and protocols are also revealed.
Next to an image of a woman’s hair festooned with orange flowers is R. K. Narayan’s description of a mature protagonist, regarding herself critically in a mirror, just before she steps into a garden to gather jasmine for her hair. “She was more or less satisfied with her reflection, except for two strands of gray hair which she had just discovered; she smoothed them out and tucked them cunningly into an under-layer.” With those words, the writer extends Indian citizenship to women on all continents.