Category Archives: Books

Musing on English classes

A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

JONESBORO, Ga. — For years Lorrie McNeill loved teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee classic that many Americans regard as a literary rite of passage.

But last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.

My recollection of high school English class was long periods of slogging through (or reading the Cliff notes for) novels (and in some cases, plays) I had no interest in, with occasional moments of high interest in the a few with sufficient adventure or science fiction credibility to hold my interest. One of my favorite memories of my whole education was discovering Brave New World and plowing through it in a single evening – something I’ve never done with a whole novel assigned for class, before or since (even in the “Science and Science Fiction” multidisciplinary class I took in high college to fulfil my literature requirement.)

Huxley blew my mind; here was a far, far more evocative dystopia than 1984 – and much more frighteningly believeable as a child of the 1970s and 1980s, compared to Orwell’s vision of a “hard” police state. I had started 1984 on my own at some point in the previous year or two, but unlike Animal Farm, never finished it on my own (although it was one of the more enjoyable books we had to read for class, IIRC, a year later and a couple of years of maturity in between my first attempt and the latter one made a big difference.)

At some point I’ll need to dig into my files to refresh my memory of what I read from 8th grade on (anything from 7th will have been lost to old Commodore disks and handwriting.) Sort of scary, I suppose, that I still have a good bit from 8th grade on. Digital preservation, you’ve got to love it, and I can still read any of the files involved (although if any of them are in the old Wordstar format, that will take a little work.)

Upcoming books: “Without Warning”

John Birmingham’s latest, Without Warning has showed up on Amazon. Looks great, although it isn’t out in the US until February. If I make it to Asia again this fall, I may get it early … as I was able to do with Final Impact, since they get the Aussie editions at some of the Kinokuniyas there (can’t, at this point, remember if it was the Singapore one or the then-new Siam Paragon one in Bangkok.)

It does lead to the interesting question of whether to pre-order (then cancel, if I get it in Asia) or whether to wait to see if the fall vacation (A) happens, and (B) if it’s Asia or Buenos Aires… lots of steak plus the 32.5k mile Citi award (*) make for a tempting option, even with hotel and other prices once I’m on the ground so much higher.

(* vs 40k usually, and 70k for Asia… seeing as I’ve made PLT for the year, this is a good chance to burn miles rather than earn them.)

A “Deathly Hallows” parodic summary

Potterdammerung [Mega-Spoilers]

Don’t read this unless you’ve finished The Deathly Hallows, don’t care about spoilers, are or just a jerk who wants to find out what happens at the end and ruin it for everyone.

Sadly the funny parts are pretty much wall to wall spoilers, but once you’ve read the book, this is a must read. If you are not bothered by spoilers, while you CAN read it without spoiling the book, I don’t think it would be very funny on its own.

Update: Another summary of snark, albeit written straight rather than as parody.

OK, I’ve read “Deathly hallows” (no spoilers but may be spoilers in comments)

Finished reading at a bit after midnight last night… since I started a bit after noon, and given about a three hour break for dinner “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” provided about 9 hours of solid entertainment. Not bad.

Overall, liked it. A very few bits reverted to the “whiny/angry Harry” of Order of the Phoenix (OotP/Book 5) but fortunately that part didn’t last TOO long. Solid action sequences, and a nice resolution although a few questions left unsanswered.

I’m going to keep the body of this spoiler free and add a few of the latter to a comment. If you have complaints about unanswered questions or other comments/reviews, please add them there :)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Is out… although my copy won’t be here until later today (/tomorrow, subjective to sleep time)… and in light of my earlier suggestion for Harry Potter fanfic (“Book 7 ends with Harry and Voldemort, the way Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards ended”) here’s a youtube clip out of Wizards.

Catch it quick, as I don’t plan to leave this up indefinitely.

In other reading this month, I’ve read “The Disunited States of America” by Harry Turtledove, the latest softcover in his Crosstime Traffic series (#4 in the series; 5 is out in hardback, but I’m not quite that addicted to those, unlike one of his others) and have “Settling Accounts: In At The Death” also by Turtledove (said other series) and Michael Stackpole’s “A New World” (last in his Age of Discover trilogy) coming in the next 10 or so days, and then the softback of the latest (last?) Honor Harrington novel (“At All Costs”) comes out in Sept I think so overall it is being a good period for my reading.

What’s up with me, lately…

First, because it’s too cute to resist:
(from a mailing list I’m on.)

Other than that, not a lot of news. I’m back from a vacation that wasn’t, in the end, all that relaxing… though I will have got my AA Platinum renewed for another year once the miles post for the flight home. I’m not sure I’m going to bother next year; I’ve got the miles for Marie’s graduation trip, and I can’t help feeling that I’ve got better things to do with my life than travelling by myself (with company would help, I grant… perhaps someday, when Marie is done with school, or under other better circumstances.)

Slappy’s getting married this Saturday, which is really cool, though I am sad I will be missing a third weekend in a row out of town. Work is hectic; we have some deadlines coming up I have been procrastinating on finishing up rather badly, so I will be busy with that. Ah well.

If you’re really bored… some book/movie commentary follows.
Continue reading

Fanfic I’d like to see

OK, there are a few fanfic stories I’d really like to read. Perhaps I’ll get to writing one someday; more likely not.

Two alternate versions of Harry Turtledove’s Lizards/Worldwar books:
1) “Fleetlord Atvar and the Cuban Missile Crisis”
2) Lizards arrive in 2021, as described/implied in John Birmingham’s Axis of Time Trilogy

Harry Potter:
1) Book 7 ends with Harry and Voldemort, the way Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards ended
2) An alternate universe where Harry joined Slytherin house

There are some others I’m forgetting now, perhaps I’ll update this later

A must for any time traveller

Joseph LeConte, 1823-1901: Instructions for the Manufacture of Saltpetre. (Columbia, S.C.: Charles P. Pelham, State Printer, 1862.)

At the UNC Chapel Hill online library. Very cool, and if you’ve ready much time travel fiction, you’ll know exactly why this is so handy if you ever get trapped in the pre-industrial past. I love the internet.

Brin on Star Wars vs. Star Trek

A great article that I’d lost track of by David Brin“Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists

Anyway, when it comes to portraying human destiny, where would you rather live, assuming you’ll be a normal citizen and no demigod? In Roddenberry’s Federation? Or Lucas’ Empire?

See also his “incautious and heretical re-appraisal of J.R.R. Tolkien”… this latter article should be mandatory reading for would-be fantasy writers.

Now, this just about begs some Amazon links, but I’ll spare you the blatant shilling today. Just go look at the links, instead.