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Culture Forum

  1. 17 Apr '14 01:48
    (As the previous thread has been closed for some arcane reason).

    Review:
    Memory of a Salt-Shaker by Bernard M. Cox

    I found this on my Kindle iPad app, not being quite certain how I had acquired it: perhaps as a free promotional copy in some late-night book-downloading spree, or maybe I saw it reviewed in a newspaper or blog and took a punt.

    It details, in a clipped and spare manner, the progressive mental and physical disintegration of Bert, a thirtysomething American lawyer whose wife, a teacher, has been murdered in a heartbreakingly senseless attack by two young pupils at her school, angry at the confiscation of an iPhone. The author delivers an effective, economical portrayal of the numb shock of bereavement, and the submerging of the psyche that may afflict the bereaved. Bert's only physical connection with his dead wife is a workaday object, a salt-shaker that she took from a diner on their honeymoon. Tasting the salt somehow allows him to access memories of their life together (yet from her point of view, not his). However unlikely this is, I found it didn't matter too much in the context of the story.

    Not being an American (let alone a New Yorker) or overly familiar currently with American culture and speech, I wasn't able to fill in the sounds, sights and smells mostly absent from the prose (which is, I guess deliberate), I still found the story affecting and a little moving, yet not uncomfortably so. Overall, I found it quite a tasteful and understated piece, like something that unexpectedly draw you in from your routine, read in a short timeslot on Radio 4 (or NPR) late one evening. I was surprised in the end by how much I liked it, as I considered giving up a couple of times, despite it being very short. Although the tone is one of sadness, I don't feel that the book is likely to cause feelings of depression, and ends on a positive (yet still understated note). Recommended.



    If you're on Goodreads you'll find my review there, too. Feel free to look me up and be my friend/follow my reviews.
  2. 02 May '14 21:36
    Virtual Light by William Gibson (pub. 1993, first of Bridge trilogy)

    A cyberpunk book—by cyberpunk's inventor—that plays, fairly effectively, on the uneasiness and fears that people, perhaps in increasing numbers, may have about issues such as computer hacking, erosion of privacy in the information age, and societal decay or disruption. For all it's dark and depressing atmosphere, evoking a rather nasty and brutal near-future, the story and writing feels rather inconsequential (I'm not even sure if there was a proper plot), and provides no useful clues about how to live in our world, if we are persuaded to take it as an analogue of the book's. Reading this book feels like consuming sensationalist news and trash TV for days on end without a break. The atmosphere is unremittingly bleak and the characters are bland, uninteresting, and undeveloped. Their monosyllabic dialogue and their thoughts and attitudes feel like stereotypes taken from the more cynical, sledgehammer-subtle variety of films avidly lapped up by the duller and more annoying members of the human species in between "recreational" drugs binges or online flame wars. Unless you start skipping over their lines, you start to feel pretty depressed and monosyllabic yourself.

    William Gibson is a highly successful and acclaimed author, believed by the more credulous of his devotees to have a special knack for predicting the future, but on the basis of this book I can't really see why. The technologies that continually introduced and quickly discarded, a deliberately offhand technique, might appear to be likely near or far future developments, or even seem retrospectively prophetic, but I believe this is due to two things: first, people's tendency to believe, to whatever extent, in the fictional world of the books they read, and second, Gibson's extremely scanty technical exposition.

    If I read another Gibson it will be Neuromancer, his best according to just about everyone. It was at its height of popularity during my years at secondary school, so it might give me one route back into my memories of those days, and that is at least one good reason to try it.
  3. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    03 May '14 22:08 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    (As the previous thread has been closed for some arcane reason).

    Review:
    Memory of a Salt-Shaker by Bernard M. Cox

    I found this on my Kindle iPad app, not being quite certain how I had acquired it: perhaps as a free promotional copy in some late-night book-downloading spree, or maybe I saw it reviewed in a newspaper or blog and took a p ...[text shortened]... ds you'll find my review there, too. Feel free to look me up and be my friend/follow my reviews.
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    (As the previous thread has been closed for some arcane reason).

    Last post: 28 Jan '14 03:46... inactive public and private club forum threads are routinely closed after 60 (or 90?) days.
  4. 03 May '14 22:41
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    (As the previous thread has been closed for some arcane reason).

    Last post: 28 Jan '14 03:46... inactive public and private club forum threads are routinely closed after 60 (or 90?) days.
    Thanks 🙂
  5. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    03 May '14 22:46
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    Thanks 🙂
    You're quite welcome. Is there a particular review you'd like retrieved?
  6. 04 May '14 10:47
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    You're quite welcome. Is there a particular review you'd like retrieved?
    No thanks, it's not that important.
  7. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    06 May '14 02:06
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    No thanks, it's not that important.
    Books: 02 Jan '14 "I just finished Lord Jim by Conrad. Absolutely brilliant, but it took me a long time. I'm trying to get my "currently reading" list down from 23 to 5-6 or so, so really musn't start any new books. I did start Rachel Newcomb's The Gift last night but abandoned it after about 10 pages as something I probably wouldn't enjoy or be able to relate to."

    NER, what criteria satisfied or exceeded served to make this work "Absolutely brilliant"?
  8. 06 May '14 02:35
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Books: 02 Jan '14 "I just finished Lord Jim by Conrad. Absolutely brilliant, but it took me a long time. I'm trying to get my "currently reading" list down from 23 to 5-6 or so, so really musn't start any new books. I did start Rachel Newcomb's The Gift last night but abandoned it after about 10 pages as something I probably wouldn't enjoy or be able to ...[text shortened]... o."

    NER, what criteria satisfied or exceeded served to make this work "Absolutely brilliant"?
    I didn't consciously apply a set of criteria to decide to write that recommendation, I just loved the book. Did you have any in mind that you'd have liked me to use?
  9. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    06 May '14 12:08 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    I didn't consciously apply a set of criteria to decide to write that recommendation, I just loved the book. Did you have any in mind that you'd have liked me to use?
    "The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America" by Richard John Neuhaus
    (4.02 of 5 stars · rating details · 55 ratings · 4 reviews)

    "The author's "central metaphor, the naked public square, refers to the public forum in American life, which is perceived as naked or empty because religion and religious values have been systematically excluded from consideration in the determination of public policy. {He believes that} the enemy that accomplished this, the ideology of secularism, has thus far been successful...more

    Paperback, 296 pages Published May 2nd 1996 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published September 1984) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/616631.The_Naked_Public_Square [accessible text, I believe]

    Here's one [not a novel] I've been told contains remarkable clarity of insight and prescience written two decades ago.
  10. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    08 May '14 16:52 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    I didn't consciously apply a set of criteria to decide to write that recommendation, I just loved the book. Did you have any in mind that you'd have liked me to use?
    NoEarthlyReason, here's an engaging novel I thoroughly enjoyed reading about ten years ago:

    "Shibumi is a novel published in 1979, written in English by Trevanian, a pseudonym of Rodney William Whitaker, an American academic who remained mysterious throughout most of his life. Shibumi is set in the 1970s and details the struggle between the "Mother Company", a conspiracy of energy companies that secretly controls much of the western world, and a highly skilled assassin, Nicholaï Hel...."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibumi_(novel)

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Shibumi.html?id=SQsXTzfyZfoC
  11. 08 May '14 21:29
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    NoEarthlyReason, here's an engaging novel I thoroughly enjoyed reading about ten years ago:

    "Shibumi is a novel published in 1979, written in English by Trevanian, a pseudonym of Rodney William Whitaker, an American academic who remained mysterious throughout most of his life. Shibumi is set in the 1970s and details the struggle between the "Mother ...[text shortened]... dia.org/wiki/Shibumi_(novel)

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Shibumi.html?id=SQsXTzfyZfoC
    Thank you GB, it's gone on my long list and I may well read it. I'm enjoying Goldfinger much more than expected, so anything so well received with parallels to James Bond will be a welcome read.
  12. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    08 May '14 22:44
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    Thank you GB, it's gone on my long list and I may well read it. I'm enjoying Goldfinger much more than expected, so anything so well received with parallels to James Bond will be a welcome read.
    The exquisite, intricate realism and sexual expertise of Shibumi far exceeds the James Bond flights of imagination. imo.