Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reading Envy 009: Pirates and Noonday Demons

We are back! Starting with Episode 009, we will be posting a podcast every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.  Some will follow the book-based format while some might veer off onto other bookish topics.  We welcome your feedback as we continue to find our groove.

On Episode 009, Jenny brought three books to discuss: 

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
Varieties of Disturbance: Stories by Lydia Davis
Crux by Ramez Naam

Scott brought two books to talk about:

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers

We also mentioned:
Declare by Tim Powers
Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 009: Pirates and Noonday Demons

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  1. I've only read one Tim Powers novel so far, and that was Last Call. That was like old school noir meets old school pagan gods complete with black magic. It was a really strange book, but certainly interesting enough that I want to read more. Declare seems to be widely considered the best, so maybe I'll give that a go next time.

    Scott, the last name you mentioned in reference to the Blackberry book, was that Marshall McLuhan? He was a pretty big name up here in Canada when I was a kid. I would recommend reading his stuff if you can find it down there, he talks a lot about mediums and how they affect us.

    Another fun episode. Can't wait for the next one.

    1. Yes, JD - Marshall McLuhan. I will see what I can find!

  2. JD - Scott and I read Declare for our Good Story podcast. I have always been grateful that we did because it made me "power through" (ha!) the book which I had tried before (I think) and dropped. Simply superb.

    SCOTT - Marshall McLuhan was a famous philosopher of recent times who most famously, perhaps, coined the term "the medium is the message." It was not widely known that he was Catholic and I recently finished reading a collection of his writing pertaining to the faith, The Medium and the Light. It was simply mind-bending. Excellent but I had to stop between many of the pieces just to think over what I'd read. His conception of how we are affected by media itself (versus what is conveyed by the medium) and the Catholic Church still applies to today's world in what seems a fresh way.

    JENNY - it seems to me that the concepts in the post-human (not sure if I recall the right term) novels that you mentioned are not really the next step in evolution but are us tinkering with the basic model. Still very interesting ideas but not the next step in man's evolution, if I understood it correctly?

    1. As far as post-human, in the novels I've read, they're considered non-human enough to pose a considerable threat. It's true that outwardly they might appear human but it's often their brains that have evolved in a significant way. Or their cellular system, able to heal and regenerate.

  3. OH, I also meant to say ... huzzah for more frequent episodes! :-)

  4. Another fine episode. And a second huzzah for ramping up the production schedule.

    Two first notes.

    1: Powers - an old favorite of mine. _On Stranger Tides_ is a lot of fun. _Anubis Gates_ was probably the one I loved the best (yes, I have multiple editions, including a one-of-a-kind binding). _Drawing of the Dark_ is fun, too. _The Stress of Her Regard_ is less playful, more scary and serious.
    Among other things, I like the William Ashbless mythos.

    2: other thinking-about-the-digital-age books - have you considered Howard Rheingold's _Net. Smart_? Brilliant, subtle, practical. Howard's a guru for our age.
    There are tons of skeptical books now, but the best one for my money is Maryanne Wolfe's _Proust and the Squid_. She actually did brain research into how different media change the way we think.

    1. Ah yeah, William Ashbless! I recall him from The Anubis Gates, a book that I need to finish.

      Thank you for the recommendations - will look up Rheingold and Wolfe. (But not Gene in this case.)

    2. Always fine to connect with another Gene Wolfe fan.

      Powers was dear friends with two other writers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock. Early in life they hung out with Phil Dick; they appear under other names in PKD's powerful, tragic _VALIS_. Each has gone on to a prolific writing career. Jeter prefers a noir style, while Blaylock is more jovial.


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