Janet’s new deliveries and her reading pile. We’ve both read the Leckie, Janet’s currently on the Stross (“bonkers, and I now know an awful lot more about banking than I used to”), Grant to follow, and the Max Gladstone because, well just because really. Janet loved Three Parts Dead.
Books I am currently reading:
‘Confessions of a Conjuror’ – Derren Brown. I’m not very far through it, but so far it’s part autobiography, part free association — an intriguingly stream of consciousness collection of thoughts and observations on magic, life, art and Brown’s own past. The observations are framed by a well-written, painstakingly detailed account of an evening spent roving a restaurant as the house magician.
I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction recently. The last fiction book I read was probably ‘The Naming of the Beasts’ by Mike Carey, the fourth in the enjoyable and intelligently pulpy Felix Castor series.
Book I am currently writing:
None unless you count my twitter account. (I did once write a fantasy novel in my teens, but the least said about that the better.)
Books I love most:
Tough call this. There are books I read and re-read obsessively in my youth, books that have moved me to tears, and books that have dazzled me. But the one that made the biggest impact on me in the last decade was undoubtedly ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’ by Carl Sagan. It’s a book about open-minded skepticism, the spirit of scientific enquiry and the debunking of pseudoscientific thinking. It chimed with my views on the Universe so precisely, and helped to crystalise them. I’ve read other similar books since, but none that bettered it.
The last book I received as a gift:
‘Why Evolution is True’ – Jerry A. Coyne, probably the best pop science book I’ve read on evolution. Some of Dawkin’s evolution books (such as Climbing Mount Improbable) are more rewardingly in-depth and feature more mind-blowingly complex examples. However as a comprehensive introduction to, and collation of the evidence for, evolution by natural selection this is far superior to Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. It’s just a shame it’s unlikely to ever be read by anyone who isn’t already convinced.
The last book I gave as a gift:
‘Emily Brown and the Elephant Emergency’ by Cressida Cowell. A gift for my daughter whose seemingly inexhaustible thirst for ‘stories’ is highly pleasing (even if she’s more than slightly obsessed with Miffy at the moment). We saw David Tennant read this book on CBeebies Bedtime Hour over Christmas, which he did brilliantly, subsequently dipped our toe in the water with the other books in the series, and followed up this one. A droll and witty book full of surreal imagination and a firm ‘self-rescuing’ type of heroine.
The nearest book on my desk:
‘Servant of the Underworld’ by Aliette de Bodard. It belongs to my wife whose seemingly inexhaustible thirst for books of all genres out-strips even our daughter’s. According to the cover quote it’s about an Aztec priest of the dead who tries to solve a murder mystery so I’m guessing it’s the pre-Columbian equivalent of Cadfael.
Last book I bought for myself:
‘The Final Solution’ – Michael Chabon. A spare, elegant tale of Sherlock Holmes in extreme old age, and the spectre of the Holocaust.
We’ve been watching the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series from the start. We’ve just made it to ‘The Final Problem’, featuring Holmes’s apparent death and the final appearance of Watson #1, whom I think I marginally prefer to Watson #2 for his eagerness and fantastically deadpan bemusement. I’m not sure what more I can say about Brett’s merits as Holmes except that rewatching these episodes has reminded me just how very good he was in the role, particularly early on. Athletic, eccentric, rude, bursting with nervous energy, and the very image of what you want Holmes to be.
There’s also a realism that this Granada series derives from having been shot on location that puts it streets ahead of any amount of over-dressed ye olde england sets, plush smoking jackets and fake pea-souper fogs. When you’ve seen Matt Frewer as Holmes (and generally speaking I have nothing against Matt Frewer) you realise just how badly wrong Holmes can go when treated like a Disneyland attraction. Brett’s Holmes and the world he inhabits are perfectly real — despite being inhabited by a parade of Victorian grotesques.
Despite all this I remain inexplicably positive about the ludicrous Guy Ritchie romp starring Robert Downey Jr. I put this down to an ability to compartmentalise.
On a related note I’m not sure how I missed this news that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are making a modern day version of Holmes starring the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch. If it weren’t for the writers I’d dismiss this out of hand. With these writers, well, I’ll give it a chance.
Plus they’ve just found the Giant Rat of (Somewhere Near) Sumatra.
Films 1 to 5 of 2009 (Defiance, Persepolis, Frost/Nixon, Valkyrie, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) are reviewed here.
Bookwise I’ve completed His Dark Materials but that’s it so far. Reviews to follow.