Ben Crowder

Booknotes 1.6

Nonfiction

As far as A Distant Mirror goes, I spoke too soon. Mired in the uninteresting-to-me Battle of Poitiers, I ended up abandoning the book once more. I now expect this to be a tome I read over several years, a hundred pages here and a hundred there. Which is something I’ve come to terms with.

I just finished John Seabrook’s The Song Machine, which I read in the hope of learning more about the process behind creating hit songs — anthropologically, not as something I intend to try myself. The dissonance between the hits the book covered and my own taste in music (film scores, some Broadway, hymns), however, ended up being strong enough that I didn’t really care for the history. Probably should have bailed early on. People who like pop and rock and hip hop, though, would probably like this book. (I hate earworms. So. Much.)

And mere minutes ago I began Madeleine Albright’s Madam Secretary, about her time as U.S. Secretary of State. Memoirs sometimes irritate me — overall, I think I’ve found that I prefer biographies — but I’m hoping this one doesn’t veer in that direction. And apparently this is the curmudgeon post where I get all my kvetching in.

Fiction

Shimmerdark ended well. Enjoyed it.

After that, I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. The haunting Arthurian atmosphere was delicious, though I wish there had been more actual Arthurian elements. (Which just means I need to go find those sorts of books. This book doesn’t actually need to change.) Lovely prose, lovely character voices (or voice, rather — they all felt somewhat the same to me, but in a wonderful way that felt appropriate to the storytelling). And the boatman metaphor! Whew. I read The Remains of the Day just over a year ago and loved it, and I’m looking forward to Never Let Me Go and Klara and the Sun.

Lastly, I picked Cryptonomicon back up again and am now a third of the way through. Definitely earthy. Also, I knew that Stephenson is notorious for what you might call info dumps, but they’ve turned out to be fascinating, and the writing is so compelling and readable that I actually look forward to them almost as much as I do the story itself.


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