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Thursday, August 11, 2005

[General] Reading on the bus

Given the recent long posts on football I thought I would do a quick blog on what I am reading at the moment and what I have read recently.


Doctrines and Visions by Noam Chomsky. This is part of the brilliant Penguin Books 70th Birthday series. We bought three others (JK Glabraith’s The Economics of Innocent Fraud; Paul Theroux’s Two Stars and; Stephen Pinker’s Hotheads) all four cost us NZ$20 in total. The books are all very short (roughly 50ish pages) and a lot of them are essays or articles (only a few are extracts). I hope to pick up the Hunter S Thompson one and the Richard Dawkins one and the Evelyn Waugh one and … well who am I kidding … all 70 of them. The shortness of the books and their “pocket” size makes them perfect for Wellington’s public transport system.

As with everything that Chomsky writes of says it is the clarity of “the obvious” that strikes you right between the eyes. He has, again as you expect, done a lot of background reading. He moves from point to point starting in history and moving forward until…BAM… you realise that he is talking about today and how we have all been duped.

His arguments are what I would describe as meta-arguments. Instead of debating the point of the time, which is the ploy of politicians, he looks beyond the points and to where we are heading and what the overarching lie was. Rather he collects them and polishes them so that when you come to the big picture it looks really good (or rather terrifying). Kind of like one of those composite pictures of Bob Marley or Yoda you might see on the wall of a university student.

Doctrines and Visions fits nicely with this article on Scoop and this Listener article by Paul Buchanan. Read Che Tibby’s blog to get an insight into why we shouldn’t be too afraid of terrorists here.

The “Visions” part of D&V is a reference to George W’s (or Bush II as he is called in the book) “vision”. Like his vision for new Iraq…that he came up with late last year. The book also reveals the reasons why America needs to initiate a pre-emptive strike against…America.

Previous books (reverse chronological order):

Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie.

This is easily one of the best books I have ever read; possibly a reason why it won the Booker prize in 1981 and was later awarded the 'Booker of Bookers' prize in 1993 - being the best novel to be awarded the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. The story of Indian Muslim Salaam and his family; or rather the story of Saleem Sinai requires the story of his family from his grandfather Adaam to his son. While reading this book I was constantly on Wikipedia reading about the history of Pakistan and India and Kashmir.

Midnight’s Children weaves magic and superstition into the real world and historical events (with some time discrepancy). The prose is thick and verbose* and moves around like anyone recounting story from a long time ago. As Saleem grows into a man he never loses his child like wonderment at strange events and as such many things as the cause of or caused by magic.

*especially considering what I had read immediately prior to this (see below)

I suggest Midnight’s Children book to absolutely everyone.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code is the complete opposite of Midnight’s Children. With a following to rival Harry Potter’s sect; while I was reading this book a woman actually came up to me on the bus and told me how great the book was (which it wasn’t) and how much I would enjoy it (which I sort of did). No one has ever done that to me ever, with any book.

I used to read Michael Crichton books when I was a teenager; The Da Vinci Code reminded me a lot of those books. Loose story based around slightly interesting facts and observations. I felt compelled to read the next page but only because important plot points were being hidden from me with the promise that they would be revealed later on.

Not an excerpt:

“He looked down at the photo and couldn’t believe what he saw. It was amazing what he saw in the photo in his hand. He gazed into the Paris night and wondered what it could mean, this amazing thing that he saw in the photo and that will be revealed to you in about 20 or so pages”

The whole book is like that. Seriously. Until the end. The best bit is that it, thankfully, only takes a day (or a month of bus trips) to read. This is not to say that it isn’t fun. Conspiracies are fun, so is deciphering hidden messages and codes. Screw all the stuff about “The Da Vinci Code is anti-catholic”, who cares? It’s a dumb piece of dumb fiction read it and then toss it. Don’t base your worldview on it. Actually don’t toss it; release it into the wild. Seriously. Look at that some already has.

I have also read a whole mess of comics; including the continuing Powers series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.

I am about to read the second instalment in the Erast Fandorin series, Murder on the Leviathan, by Russian author Boris Akunin. Fandorin, a policeman from Moscow in the early 1800’s, is the lead character. He is a cross between Hercule Poirot and August Dupin, but is actually behind either of the pair; his analytical mind is slightly less tuned than the other great fictional detectives. I also recommend these books.

That’ll do. Thanks for stopping by. If you came from the Kung Fu Monkey, then tell him thanks for the pimpage.


Tom said...

Ahem. Salmon Rushdie? Sounds like an extract from one of those Mainland Cheese ads ("Camembert Humperdink").

Sorry Hadyn: I couldn't resist :-)

Hadyn said...


Doh. It's like that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer sees a Rushdie look-a-like in the sauna

Tom said...

OK, so our cocktail-fueled musings on Friday night and hangover-driven ponderings on Saturday came up with these piscine authors:

Salmon Rushdie
George Gurnard Shaw
Ernest Herring-way
Terakihi Williams
John Fish-am
Squid-ney Sheldon
Marlin Amis

Any advances?