Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daily Thoughts 1/19/2010

Nurse Reading to a Little Girl, 1895, Mary Cassatt

Daily Thoughts 1/19/2010

Today has been very steady. I checked the displays to make sure they were up to date. I also did some weeding in the literary criticism section. A whole set of books from the bindery have come in. It is nice to see the rebound books.

I have read Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood. This book is hard to write about. It is an excellent book. The setting is the same as Oryx and Crake an earlier novel. The setting is very ironic and different.

I can see many things which are currently happening that could lead to the dystopian setting. The increasing reliance on private security guards, the melding of government with private business, and the increasing separation of the rich from the poor make this book prophetic in an ironic way.

The predictions for the future can be very darkly funny. There is the CorpSeCorps which is the replacement for the police which is completely corrupt. Corporations are warring with each other and trying to poison consumers. I especially like the names for the corporations like Anooyoo.

The main characters are part of an ecological religious cult, Gods Gardeners which combines green thinking with christianity. The saints are kind of ironic; Saint Peter Matthiesen and Saint Rachel Carson are two of them. There are a number of hymns and poems written throughout the book. Margaret Atwood even sells some of them at her site for the book http://yearoftheflood.com/us/music . She even went vegetarian for her book tour. The songs are ironic, funny, and touching.

Many of the characters are hiding out waiting for the end which is "The Waterless Flood", a plague which may wipe out most humanity. While this is happening we read about social and moral breakdown of society. With this breakdown is an increasing proliferation of escaped hybrid genetic animals; mohair sheep, intelligent pigs with human brains, glow in the dark rabbits, bobkittens, and other strangeness. This is one of my favorite things about the book.

Parts of the book are hard to understand because she is often writing about human irrationality and religious feeling. It shows peoples quirks, fears, and unpredictableness. We wonder why some of the characters do what they do.

The villains are villains not because of who they are but because of how society has treated them. They have been twisted or manipulated into being terrible. This is especially true of the savage painballers.

This is a unique, interesting and different book. I enjoyed reading it even though I didn't quite get it at points.

I spent some time this afternoon reading Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Then I did some book orders.

I put two books on hold, The God Engines by John Scalzi which is fantasy and The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by John Schenker. Patricia Highsmith wrote a number of mystery novels and did a brief stint as a comic book writer.

I read some of The Medieval Art of Memory An Anthology of Texts and Pictures Edited by Mary Carruthers and Jan M. Ziolkowski. This is a book on medieval memory techniques. Most are monastic in nature. There are different methods to memorize by rote, concept, and place. Many of these techniques draw from Aristotle and his treatise on memory and Simonides who created the method of Eidos. I find reading about these techniques very meditative. The text contains works by Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, and Hugo St. Victor.

I find reading about ways to improve memory helps me do three things; improve my ability to handle information overload, concentrate better, and have more focused attention. Information overload is often considered to be a failure of short term memory. The ability to remember better helps put some limits on the process. Much like speed reading teaches you to scan selectively on what you are going to use and remember, the art of memory helps you organize how you will remember things.

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