April 30, 2007

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, April 2007

Ingrid D. Rowland, The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery
Or: how a teenager got out of being shipped off to law school by forging ancient Etruscan writings, sparking a scholarly controversy that was to some extent a rehash of the Galileo affair. Briskly and amusingly told, with no great pretense that it was ever anything other than a brazen forgery — I won't spoil some of the jokes by pointing out some of the evidence of just how brazen. Thanks to John "reprieved" Burke for recommending this!
Jane Haddam, Glass Houses
Serial killers, pedophiles, bookkeepers...
C. J. Box, Trophy Hunt
Animal mutilation and energy booms in Saddlestring, Wyoming. Some bits made me wonder if Box had read Warren Ellis's Atmospherics (still, for my money, the best relation of the cattle mutilation myth).
Larry Gonick, The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part I: From Columbus to the U.S. Constitution
When I think about it, I realize a truly substantial proportion of my basic knowledge of the world derives from reading Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guides and Cartoon History of the Universe; this is a worthy continuation of the latter.
Peter Hedström, Dissecting the Social: On the Principles of Analytical Sociology
Will get its own review. In the meanwhile: right on, brother, right on.
Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant
Short devotional work presenting Wills's interpretation of the gospels. Wills has no interest in recovering the historical Jesus, and explicitly says that he finds such a project pointless; he is interested in the Jesus of his faith, as presented by the gospels vouchsafed to him by the Catholic tradition. (Presumably this is why, for instance, he uses only the canonical books of the New Testament, and assumes that they tell a consistent story.) Fair enough, if he wants to do that, though not at all convincing to someone without a prior committment to that tradition. But then I utterly fail to see how he can square this with rejection of, in no particular order, papal authority, bishops, priests, and even (I think) the mass? Well, he says, I don't see any justification for this in the text. But that same tradition which guarantees the text for him also comes down on their side. And a Jesus who founded a Church with bishops and priests performing miracles of transubstantiation would be very different from the Jesus he wants...
Battlestar Galactica [0; 1; 2; 2.5]
Yes, it really is based on that appalling old TV show. Yes, it really is as good as everyone says.
Michelle Sagara, Cast in Shadow and Cast in Courtlight
Fantasy novels with detective-story elements; the kind of thing which would appeal to those who like P. C. Hodgell, though it is not as good as her books. There is a weird emphasis here on names, writing (a --- you should excuse the expression --- literal body of inscription is a central part of the story, along with the magical struggle to control the reading of that text), and, near the climax, the autonomous power of language itself; this tempts me to postulate some kind of run-in with post-structuralism in Sagara's past (and I'd even say not a happy one, given her heroine's attitude towards teachers), but really anyone who comes to this looking for specifically Derridean high fantasy would be disappointed. (Not that I can think of anyone who would, now that Chun the Unavoidable is no longer among us.)
Sequel.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur

Posted at April 30, 2007 23:59 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth