11.09, Tuesday 4 Nov 2008 Link to this post
Books read October 2008, with date finished:
- On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1st)
- The Embedding, Ian Watson (7th)
- The Mightiest Machine, John Campbell (11th)
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick (17th)
- The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter (20th, r.)
- The Cyberiad, Stanislaw Lem (23rd)
- A comprehensive review of the extraordinary new technology of Information, Scientific American (29th)
- Tales of the Night, Peter Høeg (30th, r.)
It's to be noted that 63% of the books I read this month have titles that begin with "The" compared to only 29% for 2008 as a whole (26% if you exclude October). The run of five is unprecedented, although back in March there were two groups of two separated by an indefinite article.
Seismology is the study of surface tremors caused by the tension built up below the earth's crust. The study of love represents the seismology of the individual and of togetherness. This is one point of view: Høeg's characters are all have deeply different approaches, and I am arrested by how he is able to see love in such a variety of profound ways:
Information, a collection of essays from 1962, has a delightful turn of phrase: computers are referred to as "workers" and timesharing a computer installation is a way to keep them "gainfully employed." It makes me wonder when the word "working" changed from meaning productively labouring towards a goal to simply not broken. There's also this quote:
They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them. (Ridenour, 1952)
I've read Tainter's review of collapse before. He comes to a view that complexity has diminishing returns, and a change in circumstances can mean it makes economic sense for the population to decomplexify their society. It's a must read. An op-ed in the New York Times pointed out that
Although banks perform an essential economic function — bringing together investors and savers — they are not the only institutions that can do this. It's true. Just as the internet reduces our dependence on high street shops and advertising to choose the products we encounter, and big entertainment verticals to choose what media we consume to unwind, it also reduces the importance of banks as a problem solving mechanism for how capital and entrepreneurs meet. But the financial sector, as an organ of complex society, must be paid for. If its complexity is no longer required, perhaps we are all better off to see it simplified.
My recommendation this month is for On the Road. To mix pace and narrative and meaning like that. I was carried away. Poetry!