Monday, January 12, 2015

A Book A Day

Last week I had several instances of reading a book in a day, which was quite satisfactory. To procrastinate on working on my project proposal (wherein I have to outline everything I'm going to write about and provide a background to the topic), I started reading Ursula Le Guin's The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (1989) and continued the whole day until I finished it. Admittedly, I have not held her in very high esteem after I was let down by her classic The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). It just wasn't the groundbreaking feminist science fiction novel I was expecting, and her use of the male pronoun always bothered me. This book was a collection of 1970s essays as well prologues to her books, with her going back and providing commentary on them from her 1989 perspective. It gave me some good insight into her perspective on both the science fiction field as a whole, and her works as a part of it. I liked a lot of what she had to say about the genre, and she admitted that she later realized what a big deal it was that she used male pronouns and regretted it. So, I am looking forward to rereading that novel (checked it out of the library today) as well as her other ones from the 60s and 70s. They will undoubtedly be important novels to compare to Dune, and I'm hoping I will like them.

The next day, I read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895). Nice, quick science fiction with a tolerable frame narrative. Normally you forget the narrator is telling a story by the time you return to them, but this book is short enough that you don't.

The following day, I started with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (1845). It is supposed to be the closest to science fiction of his short stories. It was certainly an interesting premise (check it out for free from Project Gutenberg -- love stuff out of copyright!). Then I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915), where three young men stumble upon a land populated only by women and girls. I found several similarities to Dune and marveled that she was writing this so far ahead of the "official" start of science fiction, especially with all of the attention to women's issues. It was great to see the men floundering when they were trying to explain how great their civilization was but kept having to avoid or explain away problems like poverty, crime, and diseases. Unfortunately, most of Gilman's critiques about society and gender still ring true today.

So I'm steadily working through my science fiction classics list. I moved it to a spreadsheet so I could sort it by year, and am trying to read in chronological order when possible to see the genre's evolution. Most of the books are available at either the university library or city library system, although some I might have to break down and buy elsewhere. It's difficult not to accumulate a sizable book collection here, especially working in academia, but I keep in mind the trip back home and how much paper weighs.

We watched Pixar's WALL-E movie and I was able to enjoy some of the references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have found that watching movies at different stages in life can render a new response and perspective on them. Maybe it's having more life experiences to compare them with. Just something I've noticed when rewatching movies that I haven't seen in a long time.

We've gone to the first two of the Lazy Sundays free concerts in the park to try to get out and enjoy the summer weather and some live music. Yesterday on our way there I picked up my first found money! A 10-cent piece on the sidewalk. Since they got rid of the penny and nickel, I guess people hold onto their change more carefully.

We took our car in today to get it tuned up ahead of our roadtrip down south. Oil change, new air filter, and new tires (spelled tyres here) since the old ones were almost bald and not very safe to drive on. Also got a wheel alignment and the tech commented on how off it was (it took them an extra half hour to fix). It's probably the first time it's been aligned in a long while. No word back on the check engine light problem, but otherwise it is ready to go. With gas dropping to 1.79/liter ($6.78/gallon) and the weather in the 70s, it's a good time for a summer vacation.

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