Good week

by Tom Ingram

Exams are wrapping up, and I have a few moments to loaf around before immediately returning to school for a spring course in May and then descending into the salt mines for the summer. Yesterday I took a bus down to Nerman’s Books, a little place that looks exactly like a used bookshop should, but is curiously well organized (their entire catalogue is searchable online, and everything’s in alphabetical order). I picked up an anthology of stories from Fantasy and Science Fiction, as well as The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. I’ve actually never read anything by LeGuin, and my knowledge of classic SF is tragically stunted, so I figured I’d add it to my rapidly-growing to-read pile.

That pile also includes Snuff, American Gods, The Windup Girl (about which more below), Consider Phlebas, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, along with an assload of nonfiction on various topics. It’ll be a good summer.

In the wake of Christopher Priest’s discussion of the Clarke awards and its attendant controversy, Catherynne M. Valente wrote a post cheering Priest on for his audacity, but bringing up the issue of gender and noting that a woman would not have gotten away with that kind of rhetoric. This, in turn, linked to Requires Only That You Hate. I’d never heard of it before, but since then I’ve been reading pretty obsessively. The author reviews books that are offensive on gender or racial grounds (or that just plain suck), and she is unapologetically vicious in her negative reviews. Some people don’t like that; I think it’s hilarious and it’s something we need more of. Personally, as a straight white guy from a rich western country, I find the vastly different perspective illuminating.

One of her frequent targets is Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, a book I still know almost nothing about. I bought it months ago because of its neat-looking cover. Apparently it’s set in Thailand. The author of Requires Only That You Hate is Thai, and she is not overly fond of Bacigalupi’s depiction of the country, not to mention his handling of gender issues. I’m still going to read it, and I’ll probably post a review here, but this has me on the alert. The scary thing is that while all the rape stuff might have made me squeamish (I always get nervous when fiction writers try to use rape as a plot device), I probably would have passed over the depiction of Thailand, assuming it was more or less accurate because, hey, what do I know about Thailand?

I also saw The Cabin in the Woods the other day, and I’m planning to see The Raid soon. It’s been a good week.

This is all a roundabout way of telling you to listen to more Mendelssohn. You can never get enough Mendelssohn.