Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Robert J Sawyer's Hominids was a big waste of time. How is it I never noticed what a poor writer he is?

The dialogue is admittedly breezy. Reading his other books, I've been swept up and along by the ideas, the science, the philosophy as voiced by the characters.

But Hominids reads like it's written by one of those guys you date in first-year university who make a show of being modern and sensitive and take a Women's Studies course to pick up women and think they can get inside your head to get in your pants.

The characterization of women, their dynamics, is flat. One woman is raped. Though the emotions and her psychology may be true in essence, it is written without grokking and rings false.

Similarly, Sawyer strings out a slew of Canadian references, seemingly for their own sake. It feels unnatural. He forces the point of a multicultural environment. Dr Singh's syntax is badly rendered.

I've always liked Robert J Sawyer, from the first time I heard him in interview with Peter Gzowski on Morningside regarding Terminal Experiment. I've enjoyed the Canadian references, and appreciated the seeming ease of the science. But now he's trying too hard.
Doesn't anybody else think it's weird that there's so many massive power outages these days?

I 'm not particularly conspiracy-minded. When the first reports of the Canada/U.S. blackout stated that it was not the result of a terrorist attack, the thought hadn't even crossed my mind. But as days passed and no definitive answers were forthcoming, terrorism seemed to me a real possibility.

August 14 – Central eastern Canada and United States; 50 million people
August 28 – London and southeast England, London Underground crippled; 500 000 people
September 23 – eastern Denmark, southern Sweden; 5 million people
September 28 – Italy; 57 million people

Test run. What if they all went out at the same time? setting the stage for one big act of terrorism...

Monday, September 29, 2003

My mother. I happened to mention that Helena was becoming quite mobile, spending much time scootching about on the living room floor. Horror of horrors, she must be wiping up a lot of dust and cat hair in the process. I responded to my mother quite sarcastically — well, I never clean. And I think my mother actually believed me. I had to explain the joke. But that she had to consider this? What must she think of me, my cleaning abilities, my mothering skills? Why would she even mention such a thing in the first place if not to criticize or lecture?

Of course, it's not easy to brush off (no pun intended). I must be a neglectful mother, letting my daughter wallow in filth. I slept restlessly, instead planning my cleaning agenda for the day ahead. The guilt as I write this, sipping my coffee... I should be scouring something.

What does she think I do all day? God forbid I should spend time playing with my daughter — my mother admitted when I last visited with her that it was different in her day. It was unthinkable to spend an hour lolling about in bed with baby when there were breakfasts to prepare, beds to make, cleaning to do. Well, I still manage to prepare breakfast and make beds. I even clean — I'm just not obsessive-compulsive. God forbid I should trade dusty shelves for the little corner of sanity I defend by reading the news, writing to friends, trying to think a little. And with a little planning, I even manage to keep the pantry stocked and often have dinner ready and waiting when our breadwinner comes home.

My relationship with my mother has changed considerably since I've become a mother myself. I have new respect for her. But I also feel the gap in our perspectives widening.

(Why isn't "scootch/skooch" in the dictionary yet? How am I supposed to know how to spell it?)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Wow. Harold Bloom can be scathing. I know him by reputation, of course, but have never read more than the odd commentary of his here and there. And now Harold Bloom slams Stephen King.

I have to agree that King is not worthy of the National Book Foundation's award for distinguished contribution, though he is prolific and his work is of noteworthy dollar value. Not that I've actually read anything of his. I did like the movie The Shawshank Redemption. But I'm irked by members of the Editors' Association of Canada, by whom I don't store a lot of credit, insisting that King's On Writing is a valuable resource.

One reviewer on Amazon.com provided the following quotations:

The book-reading public: "Book buyers aren't attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; (they) want a good story to take with them on the airplane."
Plotting: "I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible...There is a huge difference between story and plot. Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest."
Research: "I simply made up all the stuff I didn't know."
Classes/workshops: "You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons are the ones you teach yourself."

These snippets confirm the sense of the book I'd already formed from some of its followers. King obviously thinks highly of himself and little of real authors with literary aspirations. Harold Bloom and I find intricately plotted, well researched literature to read on airplanes. Like Don DeLillo's Underworld (more on this another time).

Harold Bloom in this piece also cuts down J.K. Rowling, which I'd also like to address another time.

I am pleased to be seeing reviews that state strong and unpopular positions regarding trendy authors.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Can't get it out of my head. Spoke with Liam yesterday — his first day home with 7-month-old Nicholas on parental leave and Arleigh's first day back at work. He says he has more respect for his wife now that after a day, his back is killing him. I'd asked if he was enjoying the time home. "Well there's a lot of stuff to do y'know, so I'm busy. It's not like I'm sitting around playing computer games."

Something to justify? Something he hadn't expected? I just don't get why he felt he had to tell me, a stay-at-home mom, that there was work involved.

Sadly, still, in most our conversations and encounters I sense an underlying bitterness in him. Something in life hasn't worked out as hoped. Meanwhile, Arleigh sports a defiant attitude — like she's just won a petty argument, but it's ongoing.

I probably shouldn't talk about my friends here. What if they read this?
Autumn. It's raining. Helena's cranky. I need some time away from her.

The weather is thwarting the expedition we'd planned for today. May have to sit at home and read instead.

I finally finished reading Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Was compelled to pick it up after reading a review. Noir sf. Lovely, lovely prose. Dark and moody. And original. Mist falls on the city "like sheets of muslin." Clone pods are "lozenges." "The young men in silk watched us go with the dead-eyed concentration of snakes." "...a soft silk blouse settling over her torso like dark water." Beautiful. Plus violence and sex retold so graphically as to elicit sharp intakes of breath.

Cool concepts, too. It's a very coherent future world, with histories, technologies, mythologies, revolutions, countercultures hinted at. Much fodder for more books from Morgan. I hope.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I am furious with Hollywood.

Last night we rented The Core on dvd. Not a great movie, but I was entertained, despite the outrageous premise that sent an expedition of experts hurtling toward the centre of the Earth to "jumpstart" the planet's engine in order to reestablish the electromagnetic field and thereby life as we know it. But then, in the final moments of the film, something so egregious... It ruined the whole movie for me. I'm still fuming.

The computer geek hacker character is posting "top secret" documents on the web. As the texts are being transferred, we see the message box stating "ON IT'S WAY". Now, it doesn't require a whole lot of suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that a computer geek can't spell very well; au contraire, I find it difficult to conceive of a non orthographically challenged hacker. However, any insight into character through this detail is vastly overshadowed by its obvious wrongness and in drawing such attention to itself (the screenshot is the focus of our attention for some seconds). It's an example of Hollywood's sloppiness. This is why in real life software developers have quality control people, authors have editors, etc — though the guts and working of things is of primary concern, the superficial details count too. It would've taken but seconds for the moviemakers to change "IT'S" to "ITS", and it would've spared them my wrath. I'm not asking them to set an example for our children, but I do wish they wouldn't contribute to their illiteracy.

Worse is promotional material for "Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat". It's "Dr. Seuss's" with an apostrophe ess. Helena and I were just reading Dr. Seuss's ABC board book this morning. At least the book publishers got it right — they're supposed to be word people after all. But a major corporation marketing a product for and to children should know better.

Apostrophes are responsible for a lot of grammatical errors in English. I don't see what's so difficult about them: 1. "it" = possessive, "it's" = 'it is'; 2. to form a possesive add 's to a noun, even if it ends in "s" (with some established exceptions). If you "pronounce" the apostrophe ess, it belongs there.

Apparently the AP Stylebook calls for a simple apostrophe for s-ending words, but that's a poorly thought-out (if space-saving) prescriptivism, and Universal Studios shouldn't be guided by a handbook for journalists.

(I have emailed Universal Studios via their feedback form on the Cat in the Hat movie site.)

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Blog created. Baby wakes from nap.