My Usenet posts
Anansi Boys … „auf dem Weg zum Tanz“ … 2006 World Cup Final 10th of July, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 01:36
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman. If you spent your childhood and early teenage years reading the type of pulp fiction that ended up in second-hand book shops in my part of the world for 30p each and that did not come from Mills & Boon, then it may have struck you how egalitarian with regard to background and training the RAF of the Second World War was; there’s never a comment of surprise that a given person was a capable bomber pilot or navigator and then a conscientious document falsifier despite an education in the humanities, there’s a very real sense that anyone in that circle could have turned their hand to anything without trouble.
(Bien entendu, the books were limited to the officer classes; there was very little talk of privates or gunners in them. Still, the officer classes did not reflect social classes with the sharp demarcation you might expect—the pilots and navigators were disproportionately Australians and New Zealanders, since it was much easier to train them in the Antipodes, and they weren’t necessarily from the comfortable upper-middle-classes.)
I like that attitude, I’ve tried to adopt it—it worked well for their generation, didn’t it?—and so to read something like this book, where the primary character’s feelings of embarassment and incapacity are what defines him, and this is presented in such an affectionate way that it seems to be inviting the audience to identify with it, is distasteful to me to start with, it feels like allowing those aspects of yourself you don’t like free rein.
But then it gets better, as the books goes on and the focus on the main character’s self-image wanes—and the story has the feel of tribal folklore in places, and Gaiman’s weird misjudgements of the English (or rather, what I perceive as his weird misjudgements thereof) become peripheral. Not as enjoyable as American Gods, but good all the same. (Thank you Maura and Eileen!)
Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, Richard Powers. A birthday present from Sheila—thank you Sheila—this book is by the author of the Goldbug Variations. As you would expect from an author popular with the occasional ferocious intelligence on Usenet, it’s full of thoughtful digressions and insight on a huge number of things, much of them of a technical bent—there’s a consideration of Henry Ford in the context of the other undereducated public figures of the age, there’s interjections in German and Dutch, both in the scenes set in Europe and those in the US, a recurring Belgian theme of individuals being « fusillés par les Allemands » [even when the executed was a woman, unhappily], comments on the US, Europe, death, life, a subtly complex plot (one of its threads turns out to be a figment of the imagination of a minor character of one of the others, for example.)
There’s a lot of context-switching necessary to read the book; I did like that, because it has the occasional chapter end where you’re cringing in embarrassment for one of the characters, and then it switches to another thread of the story so that feeling of ach-I-can’t-read-this-scene-any-further disappears. But if you prefer to keep one thread in your mind at a time, the book’s not for you. Also, if you don’t have a lot of sympathy for programmers and technical writers and generally technical people, it may also be not that suited; there’s a feel of some of the smarter corners of Usenet (as mentioned above) to it, of what I imagine is a common atmosphere in the technical and engineering universities in the US, and I freely admit that that atmosphere is not universally interesting.
Italy vs. France, World Cup Final, 2006. Watched this with a French former colleague, at the Fan Mile; the fans there were mostly German, and there was disproportionate support for France, which was nice, because, well, my colleague is French and we were speaking French. The football wasn’t that great, but much better than some of the matches I’ve seen this year, notably Germany vs. Poland; there was a huge cheer and a feeling of elation when Zidane scored his penalty, less of a cheer when the Italians equalised, then near-silence when Zidane did that particularly stupid and unworthy head-butt.
The penalties were full of tension, and I felt a serious let-down when the Italians scored the last one. Also, the opportunity to sing „Ihr seid nur ein Pizzalieferant“ endlessly to the few Italians is something I was unhappy to miss. Dammnit.
Word of the day: „der Pizzalieferant“ is German for someone who delivers Pizza for a living.