Skip to main content

The things I promise

Ah, I said I'd write about the magical books I've been reading, didn't I? And here I am out of time--though I have had a pretty productive day for me.

Somerwhere in May I jotted a note to myself to read some Lessing; went to the library and found a new Doris Lessing that was a sequel to Mara and Dann, so had to read Mara and Dann first. After I tried to read the sequel immediately, but a major character DIES about 15 pages in and that was so heartbreaking to me I couldn't continue for a while and read some other things in between. Among them I read A Call for the Dead by John LeCarre because we had gotten the old BBC series of Smiley's People from Netflix. I was going to write about that too at some point--this was in that strange, sad draught of mid to late June where I stopped posting. I was going through a video game addiction at the time. They wax and wane with me depending on how much of life I can face. Anyway when we watched Smiley and then it's PREQUEL Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I realized I'd never read the FIRST Smiley book even though I'd picked up the original paperback free somewhere so stopped to read it. Very thin, but dense. Actually got H to read it two weeks ago because the first chapter is just amazingly written.

Lessing as I mentioned isn't on the shelf because she writes soooo much in so many different fields and genre's so I actually own very little Lessing but she's there in spirit. As a side note, the very first Lessing that I ever read was Particularly Cats when I was about 9 or 10, a bit early, but my parents never stopped me from reading anything I wanted. I remember being amazed by her sometimes graphic detail, but also by her extraordinarily clear eye. It was never self-pitying, never merely anecdotal. It was as near to objective as one can be in autobiography. I aspired to that kind of writing.

Anyway, finally returned to General Dann. It's not as satisfying as the first. It's only about a third of the length for starters. Where the first one was an exploration of survival in this future world, the second is a character with not much at stake (generally less interesting) but what he is able to consider and worry about is the loss of knowledge. When all that we know and have is reduced to broken machines and fragments of books, even though there may still be humans living, will we still be able to call it a civilization? Empires have risen and fallen and much knowledge has been lost over the last 5,000 years, but overall there's been a progession towards more knowledge (not all of it good), what we call progress. What will happen when it starts to regress? When each generation knows less than the one before overall. I know that many feel that this has already begun as we lose knowledge of nature and old ways, but again it's like the stock market, things dip and rise, but I would say that knowledge is expanding. We know more about the brain and the body than we did 100 years ago. Again, whether that knowledge is always for the best is debatable, and whether human instinct can keep up with human intellect is also a difficult question, but I would still say progress is generally positive. Those who are touting a simpler way of life really wouldn't want to do with outdoor plumbing, unpasturized milk, and no medicines at all but herbals if it came right down to it.

General Dann ends with a very positive image, though. Dann manages to make a peace of sorts and one city becomes a Mecca for the last of civilization. At the gate to the city is a great white wall and on one corner is a little square (like 3" x3", like I said, I don't have the book now, I returned it to the library) that represents what they know compared to what there is to know and what the ancients (us) knew. They have an appeal that anyone who has come across or been passed down some knowledge that might not be known to others bring it to the government for the betterment of all. Wow! What a dream...


Popular posts from this blog

Driving in Boston

Inching along in a log jam of traffic yesterday on the Mass Pike I watched an Audi a few cars in front of me weave in and out of traffic determined to find the lane that was "moving" and yet for the whole half an hour that we sat there he ended up still only a few cars ahead of me. Sure there were times his lane pulled ahead, but then mine would catch up and he would switch back. The only thing he accomplished was to make the line that much slower. There was a great article that a friend sent me years ago on the physics of traffic and it has been determined that weaving in and out of tight traffic will really gain you nothing and in fact cause the very blockages that you believe you are defying. (Sidenote--an unfortunately side effect of so much of interest on the internet is that it is impossible to store all of the articles that interest you over the years in the vague belief that you will someday want to reference them to others) The article also pointed out that if all d…

Adapting a book--The Prestige

I was completely blown away by the movie of The Prestige, and I thought then about reading the novel, but it seemed too soon. So I carried the author's name around with me for over a year (Christopher Priest) and then, finally remembered to buy it through an odd sequence of events. We watched The Painted Veil based on the novel by Maugham starring Edward Norton, and while I decided I didn't want to read The Painted Veil because of it's differences from the film (which was more romantic and tragic) it reminded me that I had wanted to read Fight Club (the movie version of which starred Edward Norton) and that reminded me that I had wanted to read The Prestige (which did not star Edward Norton, but was up against The Illusionist which did). it's all Edward Norton's fault.

The Prestige is a very good novel, and yet, the movie differs from it considerably. And I am still trying to figure out what exactly that means. The central premise is the same, AND HER…

The end of Cloud Atlas

Feel I must write this--promised it to myself, can I finish before midnight (when I said I would go to bed at 11)?

Where was I?

Oh, yes, section 5, where it gets interesting--because it's the future, at least 25 years, hopefully more. I say hopefully, because I don't want to be living in this future. The section is called "An Orison of Sonmi-451." An Orison (I had to look it up, proving I don't remember my Shakespeare) is a prayer, but in this future world where language has taken as many turns as in Orwell's 1984, it is more a confession or final statement. Sonmi-451 is a clone (as the name might suggest). The section is not entirely original. It owes much to Brave New World and Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (made into the film Bladerunner). I find it interesting that 40 or so years ago--when Dick wrote his book he believed that future slaves would be Androids, replicants. Now we are much more likely to presume they will be clones,…