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Joined 1 month ago

I love books, grew up among, and still live among, teetering piles of To Be Reads. In my dotage here, I admit I have less patience for plots that feel too familiar, and I tend (even more than I always have) toward the strange and surreal. But a beautifully-written and perfectly normal book can also bowl me over.

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Review of 'The power of an open question' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A wonderful, if slightly odd, little book. In short, friendly, and relatable chapters, the author lays out, in terms that are Buddhist but not heavy-handedly so, the idea that the way to go through life is to ask questions, without expecting answers or final conclusions.

This strikes a deep chord in me, because final answers are so often wrong, and being open to the actual always-shifting reality around us is an essential aspect of good practice.

The oddity is that now and then, generally in a footnote, the author writes something surprisingly answer-like, for instance casually describing Tibetan Buddhism, the vajrayana, as "the most developed stage in the evolution of Buddhist practice". Is that so? :)

Relatedly, the author is married to her vajrayana teacher, which is kind of yipes, and perhaps shows a bit in the (relatively small) parts of the book that talk about the teacher-student relationship.

These …

The girls of slender means (1998, New Directions Pub.) 3 stars

Review of 'The girls of slender means' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A dark turn

A witty and poignant novel-of-manners about young women in a boarding house in 1940s London. It takes a dark and tragic turn, which struck me as rather out-of-the-blue, but to a contemporary reader, or just one more familiar with the mindset of postwar England, it would probably have worked better; as the back cover blurb says, the funny giddy bit is "hiding some tragically painful war wounds".

So it's not amusing escapism as the beginning might suggest. But it's good.

The Employees (Paperback, 2020, Lolli Editions) 4 stars

Review of 'The Employees' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

The rather detailed blurb says far more about the plot of this self-consciously odd little book, than the actual text does. I'm not sure exactly what to do with this book, or what I think of it.

It's short, almost a long short story, and made up of short, almost entirely under one page, "STATEMENT"s, with a very few other things to set up the frame.

It's about a starship, probably, about mortal humans and the perhaps-immortal AI humanoids they've created, about what humanness is, what longing is, and how we might relate to enigmatic alien objects.

And it approaches all of these things mostly obliquely, indirectly, through hints and implications. Which can, I think, be either fascinating, or unsatisfying. Or both!

The Memory Police (2019, Pantheon Books) 4 stars


A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, …

Review of 'The Memory Police' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I feel like this is a beautiful and evocative book, for someone whose life experiences are rather different from mine.

It's all about loss and love and memory, grief and acceptance and other deep themes, and it treats them in lovely skillful ways. But while I have of course experienced these things, being a person and all, the ways that the book deals with them is from a subtly and perhaps mysteriously different perspective than mine. Maybe the ideal reader is a woman, or from Japan, or just has a different relationship with the world than I do, in some subtler way.

Having said that, though, I don't begrudge the time that I spent reading it, and I certainly came away with some striking new images, if not any specific insights or resolution.

Review of '[Title]' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

lol. It was not trivial to even find this book in Goodreads in order to record it!

This is a fun little book, extremely meta, and if you've never encountered a work before that exposes and questions our assumptions about what books are, what an author is, what a reader is, and so on, this would be a neat first one to run across I think.

It doesn't raise these questions in any especially novel or creative ways, really, beyond the admittedly cute title, cover blurbs, and author bio. But still, that it does it at all is praiseworthy.

Circe (Paperback, 2020, Back Bay Books) 5 stars

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a …

Review of 'Circe' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A lovely rich retelling of the Circe story, keeping to the original (more than once I thought "well THAT didn't happen in the old myths!" only to discover on looking it up that it did), but also adding layers of its own.

I particularly enjoyed when another woman started out as antagonist, but gradually came to be seen as someone in similar circumstances, or even an ally.

Review of 'Perilous Waif' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Very fun anime space opera

A fine example of the genre; reasonably hard reasonably far-future SF with various "ready for anime" features. (catgirls! Many Japanese cultural references! Catgirls kissing! More mention of fashion and breast size than strictly necessary for the plot!) An interesting take on superhuman AIs and the challenges thereof. And brief interesting appendices on the technologies.

Very gratifying to follow Alice as she slowly grows up and discovers her unique heritage.

Very much enjoyed it and hope to notice when the sequel comes out.

Review of 'Book of the Lion' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

An amusing little bibliophile mystery novella.

Or maybe a longish short story. Fun and worth the brief time it will take to read. Slight twist ending helps with what might otherwise feel sort of pointless.

(And interestingly, the lost Chaucer work for which the story is named, actually exists! Or, you know, actually doesn't.)