Bohemian Society

Bohemian Society by Lydia Leavitt is a very short, around 50 pages, volume in which I made a around one highlight each page, so I’ll probably end up adding this old work to Hermetic Library, though, if there was a direct connection to the library subject matter, I’ve forgotten it. This is a story about a gathering where people tell stories within the story, an interesting historical snapshot of early 20th century society, and an interesting collection of stories. Here is an interesting, and perhaps not entirely imaginary, social circle in action, sharing ideas.

Well read and familiar with such writers as Tyndall, Huxley, Spencer and other scientists, and being rather cosmopolitan in tastes, liked to gather about her, people who had—as she termed it—ideas.

I made 52 highlights, some of which were truncated because of how many adjacent and lengthy highlights I made.

Unto Thee I Grant

Unto Thee I Grant: The Economy of Life by S Ramatherio is one volume in the AMORC book series. This work is also found in other editions, not from AMORC, as The Economy of Life and Infinite Wisdom published in 1923, from which the AMORC edition was probably derived.

Unto Thee I Grant as it appears here is an insipidly stupid collection of comically weak aphorisms written in an entirely unnecessarily pompous archaic style that falls victim to that familiar old fallacy of pretension to imaginary lineage and provenance.

Unto Thee I Grant also has historical interest as one of the sources that Drew Ali used to construct The Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America, along with Dowling’s The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. So, the AMORC edition taken from another publication was taken for even yet another publication!

Some of this strange twisting history can be found discussed in Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Sacred Drift, especially page 21, and Roberto Tottoli’s Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West.

I made no highlights at all.

“You can make the argument that we are living in Peak Asshole”

This Stanford Professor Has a Theory on Why 2017 Is Filled With Jerks—Jessica Pressler; talking with Robert I Sutton about his books The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide.

“You can make the argument that we are living in Peak Asshole,” says Robert Sutton, a Stanford professor who, as the author of the iconic 2007 book The No Asshole Rule, is perhaps the world’s leading expert on the species. According to Sutton, the problem of “disrespectful, demeaning, and downright mean-spirited behavior” is “worse than ever,” which, while it may be bad news for humanity, is good news for The Asshole Survival Guide, the book Sutton came to New York to promote. And he has a point, citing the recent “fiascoes” at Uber and Fox News as examples of “assholes running wild.” Then, of course, there’s “the degeneration of American political discourse,” as Sutton delicately puts it. We are sitting, on a Monday afternoon in mid-September, in what may arguably be the red-hot center of an Asshole Heat Map, if one existed: the pink, veined lobby at the base of the colossal penis that is Trump Tower.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Y?ko Ogawa is a emotionally strong and heartfelt story of a woman hired for a time to be care for a former professor of mathematics who is suffering memory issues due to an accident. The woman, her young boy, and the former professor come to care for each other and have a meaningful brief, almost accidental, time together.

I find that I wanted there to be more mathematics integral to the story than there were, and to to be more core to the way the story develops, implying the philosophical thoughts and feelings. The professor might as well have been a professor of baseball, but, I suppose, to be fair, the professors mathematics was reflected in the story by his love of baseball, and that allowed the mathematics itself to be unintimidating and approachable. But I kinda wanted more from that that I got.

Overall, a nice story that provides, for a few moments, a wholesome but emotional journey and character study.

I made 25 highlights.

I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic, last human alive, vampire story that is delightful and adds a couple deep new twists to the genre that are still fresh even after the intervening years since the original 1954 publication date. Somehow I hadn’t ever read this before, and I’m glad I finally did. Moreover, reading the story makes the 2007 big screen adaption with Will Smith even that much worse than it seemed at the time; gods, they really screwed that up, and how!

I made 39 highlights.

Pines

Pines by Blake Crouch is the first installment in the Wayward Pines series and inspiration for both the Wayward Pines television series and many additional Kindle Worlds Novellas. I read this in conjunction with the audiobook read by Paul Michael Garcia.

I enjoyed the first season of the television series. Were there additional seasons? I’m not sure what was happening in my life, but I stopped paying attention. But, the first season was good. I think, if what everyone else says about themselves is true, one of the few fans of M Night Shyamalan stories; I really dig how he subverts expectation through creative narrative. The Wayward Pines series seems extremely well aligned to that style and perfect for his stewardship in bringing the book to a live action series.

But, I wish I’d not seen the live action adaptation before reading this, as I really had a difficult time feeling like I wasn’t just repeating the same ground with which I’d become already familiar. The story and twists were just not repeatable experiences for me, and reading the same story didn’t reveal any new depth or any surprises. Perhaps that speaks well for the way the series was developed, but I’m afraid it may just be that the story was too thin and shallow, in spite of the wild premise, to provide joy when experienced more than once.

And, if truth be told, I’m not really a fan of how this was written. I think the audio narration by Paul Michael Garcia did a yeoman’s job adding emotional depth and emotional changes to the written word otherwise missing. Overall, the writing seemed unemotional and formal, almost like an episode of Dragnet. Not only was that awkward, but there were some writing choices that were just bizarre, and jarring; for example, at one point, a dangerous and deadly creature is described as leaping like a ballerina, and I can be pretty damned sure the image that appeared in my brain was not intended by the author, and was not in service to the story and destroyed my immersion in it at that moment. Sometimes words are used just to use them, without really being in service to the story.

However, the idea of the story is still compelling. If you’ve not worn out the novelty it would provide, by seeing the series, this could be worth reading. It’s a cool premise.

Also, I have a hard time being so tough on the writing as the back material in the book makes it clear how this was the culmination of 20 years of inspiration provided by the revolutionary phenomena of David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks. That’s a worthy progenitor that lends gravitas to the book that is missing in and of itself. Oddly, that’s a bit like how much more I liked M Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water after watching the bonus materials, revealing a warmth of heart I didn’t get from just the feature, but that provided a welcome halo effect after, making the whole better.

I made no highlights at all.

Pride and Joy

Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona is a story of six friends that stumble upon a shocking super-powered secret about their parents, and discover their own secrets in response to their parents as they become a team in spite of themselves. They become their heroic selves and find they have meaningful purpose for being in the world. The art and writing are not complex, but, even still, a lot happens in these first 8 issues in the collection. Also, the promise and premise provides ideas that are complex, and offer a depth for those looking for it. I hope the rest of the series develops those potentials further and eventually reveals itself to be narratively as superpowered as the heroes.

A live action adaptation of Marvel’s Runaways, once planned to join the cinema releases, is now scheduled as coming to Hulu in November 2017, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Who Goes There?

Fantastic novella Who Goes There? by John W Campbell is, of course, the inspiration for The Thing movies, including the 1953 The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s masterpiece rendition, and a re-remake that I’ve not seen. For some reason, the ebook version I read is no longer available, perhaps there were rights issues; but it can be found still in an edition with an introduction and screen treatment by William F Nolan, which I didn’t have in my edition, so I mention that only in passing.

As great as Carpenter’s rendition was at fulfilling the story as written better than the older movie, there’s still elements that were not brought fully to screen. So, even having seen both the previous movies several times, and Carpenter’s an untold number of times, if I’m honest, there was still a novelty to reading the original story that revealed a whole new dimension in the narrative to explore. There were places where the story shows its age, but it was still a damned fine experience of creep and paranoia. For example, the initial character descriptions are pretty stock manly men for heroes and degraded manliness for those not heroes. Another example is that the absolute end was a bit of stale period B-movie coda that wasn’t quite as great as the rest. But it is, ultimately, more than just what it was.

I made 12 highlights.

Hammers on Bone

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw is the first novella in the Persons Non Grata series, currently comprised of two volumes. The main character is a Lovecraftian creature inhabiting a hardboiled noir detective body which takes on a case in a modern urban London. The mix of Cosmicism with thick detective vernacular in a modern setting is a wild mix, but it works. If you enjoy characters like Constantine or Harry Dresden, and the horrors of Cosmicism, this is probably for you. In fact, in a way, the deep mixing of genres and the narrative voice, reminds me a bit of Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series. A good start to a series, which builds its setting well and quickly. The story has a nice twist on the detective procedural, and doesn’t require any particular familiarity with either noir or Lovecraftian genres. Approachable, quick, and fun; with promise for more.

I made 87 highlights, but a lot of those were about a formatting errors, including a pervasive snafu where a superfluous line break was added before words in italic causing sentences to split across lines, and only around 10 of them are proper highlights. But, even still, the ebook was readable, if a bit jarring.

Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam!

Looks like Klingon on Duolingo is finally nearing release, planned for Sept 15th. On launch, Klingon joins Esperanto and, also recently released, High Valyrian in the elite conlang learning club for English speakers. (Duolingo also recently released both Japanese and Korean, and conversation bots for several languages, which are all pretty awesome as well.) To those who worked hard to make this course happen: Qapla’! (Now … how about Trigedasleng and Toki Pona?)

Klingon is the constructed language spoken by the fictional extraterrestrial Klingon species in the Star Trek universe. Created by Marc Okrand, the language itself is centered around spacecraft, warfare, and weaponry — but it also reflects the directness and sense of humor of the Klingon culture. For example, the closest word you can use to express “hello” is “nuqneH,” which actually means “What do you want?”. There are also plenty of insults, as it is considered an art form.

The mastery of Klingon is extremely uncommon on Earth. Join the galactic elite and start learning this fascinating language.

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a retelling of a sequence of stories from the overall Norse corpus. There’s an arc, but it’s not a smoothly contiguous novelized story. But, the collection of stories are a good series, and well written. I also read this in conjunction with the Norse Mythology audiobook, read by Neil Gaiman himself. So, I had the author’s own voice to reinforce the rhythm and tone of the writing.

The brightest points were those where the alliteration and poetry arose in the writing and the reading. If this is your first approach to this material, I strongly recommend following up with the pure poetry of the poetic Edda and other source material. If you’re coming to this work already familiar with the source material, these bright points of alliteration and poetry will strongly strike you with memories of what you have already read. But, those moments feel a bit random in the whole, and not in places of the strongest action or in places that seem intentional for the story. They come and pass almost like a surprise for no reason other than, perhaps, they were inspired by such moments in the source material; though I didn’t try to go back and compare.

All in all, a good gift for someone new to the stories, and a welcome reminder for those already familiar with them. Also, having the whole read aloud by the author was a delight.

I made 70 highlights.

The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross is the first book in the ongoing Laundry Files series, for which there’s also several short stories to be found not listed with the series. I read this in conjunction with The Atrocity Archives audiobook, read by Gideon Emery.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Charles Stross, and I’m slightly in shock by how awesome the first story in the book was. The book contains two separate stories, and the first, “The Atrocity Archives”, for which the volume is named, is a just smashed full of a perfect storm of geeky and nerdy nostalgia for my late 90s self, deeply mixing references to technology, Illuminatus!-style paranoia, magic, and eldritch otherworldly Cosmicism horror. The second story, “The Concrete Jungle”, was good, but not quite as awesome.

Wow. What a start! I’m still blown away by how I hadn’t read this before given how perfectly related the first story feels to so many of my interests, both when it was first published and even still. Then again, maybe the 2006 publication date was a little late to catch me in my 90s Internet-professional phase and too early to elicit the hyper-nostalgia I felt while reading it now. Well, I may have missed it then, but I’ve read it now, by damn.

I made 49 highlights.

Mittens

Mittens: A story about two women falling in love and doing really weird things to each other by Phoenix Baker doesn’t quite deliver on the “doing really weird things” promise in the subtitle other than hints and thoughts of things that happen later, and the two characters appear not so much to be “falling in love” but already in love. But this does offer a good first installment in what appears to be an ongoing “two women in love exploring kinks” series that does eventually delivers on the “weird things” part.

The story is well written, and has a very grounded and real voice full of joie de vivre. The characters feel completely real, and there are many moments of verisimilitude missing in other such stories, and more than most stories not even in this genre.

This first installment is essentially about that particular time when two friends realize, both in the sense of becoming aware and in the sense of making something actual, they are in love with each other and learn how to start negotiating what that looks and feels like for a couple comprised of someone who’s experienced in kink and a partner who is just starting their journey of discovery.

Not sure I’ll pick up the other volumes, but Mittens is a playful and warm and first part to a good story about kink, sex, and love that leaves you with the feeling of a happy glow and cuddle.

In the interest of transparency, I picked up this book because ads for it appeared on Hermetic Library’s Project Wonderful ad spaces.

I made 19 highlights, slightly over half are errors.