Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Can you believe I hadn’t read this before? In fact, I’m not sure I’d read any Didion before. I feel like I must have read a piece somewhere, in some publication, but I can’t prove it.

Certainly, while her novelistic style is known to me, it is very different from the more arch, patrician (patriarchal?) style of my favored essayists, who are more in a direct line of succession to nineteenth century essayists than to the experimental atmosphere of the fifties and sixties.

The title piece is the exemplar if the style she uses. Nearly stream of consciousness in effect and both dreamy and terrifying. Perhaps, though, only terrifying to a middle aged father.

I admire but did not love most of this (except for a piece on Joan Baez funding this weird school; loved that) collection and, if I’m honest, may not go on to read much Joan Didion in the future.


My fascination with two towering and toweringly problematic white, male, America intellectuals (Jefferson and Vidal) continues. People, I think, get my interest in Jefferson (which arguably dates back to a visit to Monticello with my mother when I was in elementary school), but Vidal continues to be get confused shrugs from my friends and family.

Elegiac. Remembrances of people lost. He is in his late sixties as he writes it, but sounds much older. His name dropping feels less pretentious and his poison pen less malicious than usual.

Early on, he notes that he has his grandfather’s imperious ponch, but that unlike that statesman, his is fueled by alcohol consumption. I noted this bit of honesty because I have read that in his last years, he suffered from dementia brought on by alcoholism.

He seems to have almost forgiven Kennedy for betraying him, politically, as he saw it (believing that Kennedy, after getting us into Vietnam, would have escalated as surely as Johnson did) and to look kindly on Jackie Kennedy.

‘TekWar’ By William Shatner

I assume he also had the benefit of an anonymous co-writer. I remember well the placement of these books in the Dunedin Library when I was in high school and later the TV movies and series.

It isn’t good, of course, but it’s not bad. The vision of the future is surprisingly realistic and the writing not that bad. The plot keeps moving forward at a solid pace and it really resembles a Neuromancer, if it had been written by a mid-level writer of sixties pulp space opera. I even managed not to always see the actors from the series (which I watched, of course).

All told, a relief. I love Shatner and it’s pleasant to see this lark of his was not unsuccessful.

Half A King

I read an earlier Abercrombie trilogy. I gather this is the start of another. Thrilling with many twists and turns, but it ultimately felt rather lightweight for a novel in the so-called grimdark genre. If it is easy to find in the library, I may read the rest of the series, but I won’t rush to do it.

‘First Love’ By Turgenev

After finishing it, I felt that I must have read it before.

Many years ago, when I first moved to DC, I read some Turgenev, definitely reading Fathers and Sons. I can actually remember being on the metro and reading it. Did I read this too?

Alternatively, the story is just so universal that it feels familiar. A man in early middle age who even now cannot bear to speak the story, but writes it down. The canny, experienced reader realizing early what is happening, but the young version of the narrator incapable of truly seeing. The girl is what might now be called a manic pixie dream girl, but because this is Turgenev, more complex than that cinematic savior of sensitive, white men.

Revelation Space

I appreciated that ‘hardness’ of the science fiction, by which I mean that it doesn’t, for example, hand wave moving faster than light; travel can take centuries because ships can only approach light speed. I am most reminded of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion.

And though it may disappoint one of my closest friends, I much prefer space opera to this. It doesn’t help that none of the characters are terribly likeable. But, within the genre, I must admit it is good and if you like more scientific science fiction, you will enjoy this.