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What books are you reading?
Here's a story from the first part of the book:
I’m standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon photographing florid undulating rock walls that drop to alarming depths. But it is almost checkout time at my hotel, and I want to take a tub and use all their emollients, a habit my ex deplored. When a young couple approaches to ask if I would please take their photograph, I want to say, I’m not the Park photographer. This happens to me everywhere—in the Boston Gardens, along the banks of the Charles. Always a couple in love—like this couple in their multi-pocket hiking shorts and sturdy Clarks. I let my Nikon dangle from the beaded lanyard round my neck, and take their fancy smart phone, heeding their instructions. “You were always a good listener,” my ex once said, “but sometimes you have to let things go.” I line the couple up in front of the Canyon’s distant north rim, bronze wall aglow. I wave them to the right a bit. Joined at the hip, they happily sidle right, probably thinking I am a good photographer. Then I motion for them to step toward me for another photo. Unaccountably, they shuffle three steps back—and disappear with scrabbling sounds and tiny shrieks. Then no sound at all. I whirl around for help but there is no one in sight. On hands and knees, I peer over the cliff’s edge, but it hides the floor far below. As if to assure myself that they were once here, I look at their photographs. Against two backdrops, they are young, expectant, with squinty smiles in the morning sun. And then a blur. Breathe, I tell myself. I set the phone on a wooden bench for someone to find. It is the only evidence the three of us were here.
Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made
"The annual Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) Awards are like the Oscars of the tabletop. Acclaimed British author and games expert James Wallis investigates the winners and losers of each year’s contest to track the incredible explosion in amazing new board games. From modern classics like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, and Dixit to once-lauded games that have now been forgotten (not to mention several popular hits that somehow missed a nomination), this is a comprehensive yet hugely readable study of the best board games ever made, penned by one of the most knowledgeable commentators on the hobby."
Maybe for his next book, he'll do a history of rock'n'roll music through the lens of the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.
He founded the Diana Jones awards, and designed (among other games) Once Upon a Time. Been involved in games publishing for decades, written quite a lot of RPG supplements.
Can't speak to the overall quality of the book, but I'd read it.
Most of the SdJ stuff is a little lightweight for my tastes, but now that I have a kid of gaming age I am a little more inclined to check their games out.
The Diana Jones Award is decided on merit, not popularity or commercial success. You may never have heard of some of the nominees, but you can be certain that they are all outstanding in their fields. What is more, because the winner is chosen by a closed, anonymous committee, it is impossible for a manufacturer or publisher to stuff the ballot or interfere with the voting.
Currently about halfway through the first book in THE CARDINAL'S BLADES by Pierre Pavel. It is basically Three Musketeers, with very mild fantasy elements -- little "dragonets" that rich people keep as pets. So far the fantasy elements haven't made much of a difference in the story, so I'm wondering why the author bothered. Maybe they'll become more significant later. It's fun and breezy, special ops with rapiers basically. The writing is no great shakes, although I'm not sure if the problem is with the author or the translator. (Or both.)
The ending of Russia House and the many attempts to decipher meaning and truth in the operation were devastating, but I’d still recommend Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for a first dip in le Carré.
Shellhead wrote: I am currently reading House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. It's a challenging read, because the author decided to go bananas with footnotes in an effort to add a sense of realism to his fictional work. Also, the book is actually telling a story within a story within a story. There is documentary by a photographer who moved into a strange house, with commentary by a mysterious blind man, with further commentary by the neighbor who inherited the blind man's possessions after he died. This gimmick should ultimately ruin an otherwise promising horror story, by creating layers between the reader and the horror, but it sometimes work quite well due to the quality of the writing. The paragraphs and pages of rampant footnotes lend a Scully-like authenticity that makes the horror that much stronger when it breaks through. But I am only 60 pages into this 700-page book, so it remains to be seen if the author will pull this off.
With some difficulty and declining enthusiasm, I finished House of Leaves. Danielewski can write well, but only for a few pages at a time. I think he would be a fine short story writer if he were so inclined. Unfortunately, House of Leaves is a big novel, and he constantly sabotages his own writing with various distancing effects.
The big one is the novel within a novel within a novel approach. It takes us two layers away from the central horror, which diminishes the effect. There are some horrifying aspects to the outer layers, but they do not connect strongly with the core story, leaving the effect of three weaker stories blended together in place of one strong story. The outermost layer is told by an unreliable narrator, which serves to weaken the horror even further. It's a real shame, because the occasional powerful passages show that this book could have been an excellent horror story.
Then there are the footnotes. Their mere presence lends a gravity to the work, a sort of artificial authenticity. But don't bother actually reading the footnotes, as they are generally a waste of time and add nothing to the story. In fact, most of the footnotes distract from the story, creating yet another undesirable buffer between the reader and the horror.
And there are the layout tricks. Every time the word "house" appears, it is in a dark blue font, even when it is part of a longer word, like say housework. Or even when it is house in a different language, like haus. All references to minotaurs and mazes are in strikeout font, and certain other passages are in bright red font. A great deal of page space is wasted on more advanced layout stunts, like paragraphs printed sideways, upside down, or even backwards. Sometimes the odd layouts will co-exist on the same page as more conventional layouts. The intent is to have the text simulate the bizarre layout of the interior of the house, but it is really yet another large distraction from the only thing that should ever matter in a work of fiction: the quality of the writing. There was one extended section where there was only one word per page, and I was very frustrated because I was trying to eat a quick meal while reading this part and I had to keep setting down my food so I could turn the page.
With the passage of sufficient time, I might be willing to try a later book by Danielewski. He can write well, and this first book seemed like the effort of a nervous amateur. All these tricks to distract from the quality of the writing, when all he really had to do was unleash his imagination and let the words flow. Perhaps easier said than done, as most writers wrestle with some degree of writer's block. Anyway, I consider House of Leaves to be highly overrated and not worth your time unless you are a compulsive reader with time to spare.
An overview of the history of QAnon, from a reporter who's been on the right-wing fringe beat for quite a few years. I'm reasonably well-informed (to my detriment) about the field -- long time interest in conspiracies going back to playing Illuminati and then devouring its bibliography; grew up in a conservative family that was all in on the Satanic Panic back in the day, etc. So not a lot in here was too shocking, but it was well-told. A good amount of human interest elements; people whose loved ones have gotten sucked into QAnon and the price they have paid (and have inflicted on their families). These are very sad. It's an all-encompassing worldview, where everything is explained and any countervailing evidence is rejected because it's lies from the enemy.
Also relevant (and not surprising) is the modern role of social media in modern conspiracy movements. Back in the day you'd have to proactively seek out badly mimeographed rants from the John Birch Society or whoever. Now Facebook's algorithm starts recommending antivax and stolen election groups to you within one or two clicks of liking a Donald Trump page.
It ends on a bit of a downer -- there's not much to be done. Maybe if algorithmic recommendation engines could be regulated. But for loved ones wrapped up in it, you can't present them with facts or argument -- they've been primed to reject facts, and to frame "persecution" from the mainstream as proof that they are right. For some, getting them away from the internet helps -- spend time with them going on hikes or something else where they can see that the world keeps spinning.
Shellhead wrote: Odd footnote of my own: Mark Danielewski has a sister named Anne who used play music as Poe. I am a big fan of her first album, Hello, which came out in 1995. I look forward to giving her second album Haunted (2000) a try soon, despite the creepy angle of incorporating vocal samples from her deceased father. Poe used to edit Mark's writing, and helped him get House of Leaves published. Her own promising career got derailed for a decade by record company machinations, and we never got a third album.
Wow, POE was a staple of my late 90's music rotation. I have House of Leaves because of the physical nature of the book but I've not read it yet.
The one real take-away from it -- Matt Gaetz is way slimier than the media gives him credit for. Hutchinson was told by two different men in the administration more or less to never get caught alone with Gaetz in a room. He seems to show up out of nowhere at all the most damning moments in the Trump presidency, often looking for a blanket pardon. I suppose that's to be expected from a congressman that pays a guy to bring him 15 year olds to fuck.
I did this one audio out of the library. She reads it herself. Don't usually read this kind of stuff.