Posts tagged ‘Les Miserables’

Books I am Way, Way Late On

I am currently, finally reading a book that most of you who know how much of a geek I am probably already assumed I had read:  Geodel- Escher- Bach.  I guess I was turned off by how hip the book was when it came out, so I assumed it was some new age goofiness.  As many of you know, it turns out to be a very readable book on modern number theory and all sorts of related mathematical topics.  I'm really enjoying it.

But I would add that it is a blessing I waited until today to read it.  20 years ago I was way to impatient to really savor and appreciate it.  The book is working on 3 or 4 levels at the same time at every turn, and I am not sure I would have been mature enough to appreciate it earlier.  I can just see myself screaming, "and what's the deal with this stupid turtle?"

I had a similar reaction after recently reading Les Miserables.  I couldn't understand it 30 years ago - a 100 pages in and we are still talking about this freaking priest and haven't met the main characters yet?  What gives?  Others may have been more mature at 17, but I needed a few decades to really appreciate it.  This time around, I thought the book was beautiful.  Really enjoyed it.

Next up in this vein?  Probably Foucault's Pendulum, which I pick up and give up on every decade or so.

Rethinking the Kindle

I absolutely love my Kindle, and take it wherever I go.  I particularly like the wireless feature, such that within 60 seconds of wanting a book anywhere in the country I can have the book.

But the recent events surrounding Amazon retroactively removing books from people's Kindles without their knowledge has me really worried about the model.  I have, by the way, no doubt that there were serious legal issues that forced them to take these steps in this case.  But considering the number of book burnings we have seen by religious nuts and totalitarians and statist-wannabees in even the last century, it is scary to me that we've actually made eliminating a book from peoples' homes so much easier.

Ray Bradbury was creepy enough, with his teams of book burners in Fahrenheit 451.  But even in that book the burning was a struggle.  There was conflict, effort, resistance.   How much worse is it now if books can disappear at a keystroke?  It is a cold sort of horror, like being unable to fight against a germ warfare attack without even the ability of a heroic stand against an invading army.

Update: I have read various places that Bradbury has said his book was not about censorship and the state but about TV and pop culture destroying books and reading.  That it is more of a book of low-culture vs. high culture.  Anyone know the truth of this?

It doesn't matter to me.   I am a fan of both high and low culture (I am reading Les Miserables but last night I took a break to watch a rented copy of Underworld).  If folks can read Huckleberry Finn as a Gay novel, I can read Fahrenheit 451 (while listening to my well-worn Rush 2112 CD, of course) as a critique of censorship and totalitarianism.