I picked up Neal Stephenson’s new techno-thriller, Terminal Shock, because I wanted to lose myself in a big book. If you are fans of eco-fiction, such as Richard Powers’s The Overstory or Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, you’ll enjoy this genre-bending political novel about reversing global warming.
Set in the near future (circa 2030), it centers on the scheme of an eccentric Texas billionaire, T. R. Schmidt, Ph.D., to reverse global warming with a gigantic rocket-gun that shoots sulfur into the atmosphere. The technology is inspired by the 1991 eruption of the volcano Mount Pinatubo, which temporarily cooled the earth’s temperatures by the sulfur.
One of my favorite academic satires is Pamela Hanford Johnson’s forgotten 1963 novel, Night and Silence Who Is Here? Matthew Pryor, a wealthy middle-aged English bachelor, accepts an invitation to spend a semester as a Visiting Fellow at an American college. He is an expert on the poetry of his friend Dorothy Merlin, solely because she badgered him to write a few articles. “Since he mildly liked her work, he saw no reason not to; and as her total oeuvre consisted of twenty shortish poems and four slim verse-dramas, the labour was not demanding.” His adventures in inhospitable New Hampshire, where Matthew spends much of his time foraging for food – the nearest stores are 20 miles away and Matthew doesn’t drivw – are hilarious and believable.
During the pandemic, many have turned to comfort books. I review Stella Gibbons’s charming comic novel, The Matchmaker, which centers on a nature-loving “pre-hippie” mother who moves to Sussex. I alsi include a list of 10 recommended comfort classics.
The first winter storm of 2022 dumped 14 inches of snow – just like the snows of wild winters past, before global warming. I’m cozily reading this weekend and recommend two excellent books: Metamorphosis: Selected Stories, by Penelope Lively, and The Blackmailer’s Guide to Love, by Marian Thurm.
It began in the days when everyone was on AOL. We belonged to online book groups called The Book Band or Rowdy Readers, which was a bit like becoming a guitarist in a garage band. We had finally found a community of readers, and the internet was all about community in those days, because idealists believed people could truly connect through the written word.
Some people party on New Year’s Eve, others plan their reading.
At the beginning of the year, I perused several articles on how to plan one’s reading. I love these articles, because they have subheadings and bullet lists. Subheadings I’d like to see: “Color-Coded Genre Countdown!””The Ouija Board Option!” And I would enjoy a sidebar on essential oils to soothe the anxious reader. The typical reader passes out on the fainting couch while choosing between Jane Eyre and The Man without Qualities.
On the 100th anniversary of Sinclair Lewis’s novel Babbitt, the brilliant satire has lost none of its sting. You will laugh at this satire of conformity in mid-size midwestern cities – a synecdoche for the U.S. as a whole.
Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize, never overcame his hatred of his hometown, Sauk Centre, Minnesota, where he was an outcast, and which, ironically, has turned his boyhood home into a museum. No matter that Lewis graduated from Yale and became a famous writer; he continued to satirize midwestern conservatism – the American values embodied by Babbitt.
A classic worth revisiting. You can read this new post at Thornfield Hall Redux.
In the third year of the plague, I muse about Covid and translate a passage from Livy about the plague in Rome. I am sure that the ancient Romans would have run to line up for vaccination. The people seemed keen on staying home and social-distancing, but Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, was in complete denial at first. Sound familiar?