Contented Reader

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Archive for July 2011

Another way to spend Sunday mornings

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If I am finished with church, because the annoying nonexistence of God makes church seem less fulfilling than it once did, then I have a chunk of free time available, don’t I?

I don’t really know how people who don’t go to church spend their Sunday mornings.  But I’m in the habit of spending mine in thoughtful contemplation and the search for wisdom, and that seems like a habit that is worth retaining.

I’m thinking that Sunday morning would be a good time for slow, thoughtful reading of the kinds of books that lend themselves to contemplation and wisdom, the ones that I don’t always make time for.  Philosophy.  Science.  Classics.  

I see myself reading slowly, thinking about what I’m reading, pausing for reflection, not worrying about when I’ll finish, putting the book aside to pick up again next Sunday.

I’m already partway through A.C. Grayling’s The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, which is a sort of anthology of wisdom writing of the past, so I started there, and spent this morning reading part of the ‘Histories’ section, stories about the wars of the ancient Greeks.

I think that using Sunday mornings for this kind of reading would be a good way to preserve the positive part of a very old habit.  It’s miserably hot right now, but on days when the weather is pleasant, I could even take my book to a park to read, which would be, I think, a very nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

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Written by Contented Reader

July 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Opinions

Book review: The Door to Lost Pages

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The Door to Lost Pages 

Claude Lalumiere

Chizine 2011

If you want to win my heart with your book, just add books to your book.  A wonderful library, a character who reads…  you will immediately have my attention.  This book is focused on Lost Pages, a mysterious bookstore where you can find books that don’t exist anywhere else in this dimension.  I get the impression they have… other suppliers.

I hesitate to call The Door to Lost Pages a novel.  It’s more a connected series of stories, about how Lucas and Aydee came to be running this mysterious and magical bookstore, and about the dark forces arrayed against them.  There’s a decidedly Lovecraftian tone to the dark gods and monsters that populate the world of this book, and some interesting games with point of view.

I bought this book mainly because the cover caught my eye… isn’t it pretty?  Chizine Publications is a small press, and I’m impressed with how appealing their books look.  That cover artist is Erik Mohr, whose good work on Chizine’s books stopped me in my tracks when I got to the Chizine table at Readercon.

Written by Contented Reader

July 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

Posted in Reviews

Cross-stitch: “May Cthulhu Eat This House Last”

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My friend bought a charming old house, which looks like this:

I was excited and happy for her, and I made her a housewarming gift, a cross-stitch piece which turned out like this:

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Yes, I’m aware that a good, ardent, really devoted Cthulhu cultist would be praying to be eaten FIRST when Cthlulhu rises from the ocean.  However, this version seemed to make slightly more sense to a casual visitor unfamiliar with the inevitability of the rise of the great old ones, and also, my friend and I aren’t really devoted Cthulhu cultists.  We’re more sort of Christmas-and-Easter Cthulhu cultists, you know?

I don’t suppose the charts for this will be very useful to anyone else, since it’s kind of specific to my own friend’s house.  But I suppose you could change the colors, move the windows and door around, and turn it into someone else’s house, and it is my personal tradition to share charts when I can, so I’ll publish the chart here for other people to use.  Feel free to copy and share it, and to make things from it, but please don’t sell the chart or the things you make from it without asking me.  If you change it into something cool, I’d love to see what you do with it.  Just click on the charts, and they should blow up to a size you can work with.

                                                                                                    Creative Commons License
May Cthulhu Eat This House First by Heather Murphy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at contentedreader.files.wordpress.com.

Written by Contented Reader

July 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

Posted in Needlework

Grocery delivery day

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Hooray!  It’s grocery delivery day!  I open my door, and find this

Which contains this

Courtesy of Green Bean Delivery.  Just one more reason I love living in Cincinnati.

Written by Contented Reader

July 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Grocery day

This is a cat licking another cat

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It’s my understanding that if you fail to add pictures of cats to your blog periodically, the blog police shut down your blog.  So here is a picture of Puck, licking Haiku.

I hope this is helpful.

 

Written by Contented Reader

July 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Cat pictures

When I visit your house, I look at your bookshelves. And I judge you.

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I dated a woman, for a little while.  Things seemed to be going okay.  Then I visited her house.  She only had one bookshelf- one of those narrow ones.  And most of the bookshelf was empty, or housed a few tchotchkes.  Only one shelf of the bookshelf actually had books on it.  About half of those were clearly left over from her college classes.  As we got to know each other more, I discovered that the names ‘Dorothy Parker’ and ‘Terry Pratchett’ were unfamiliar to her.  It was clear that there was no possibility of a relationship here.  And sure enough, we soon called it quits.

I visited the apartment of a classmate in graduate school, to work together on a class project.  She had lots of bookshelves, in every room of her house, and as I examined them, I discovered that she had many of the same books I have, plus a moderately impressive number of books on medieval writers and on serial killers.  I knew that we were kindred spirits, and a decade later, we are the best of friends.  In fact, we have plans to go see “Cowboys and Aliens” tonight.

When I come to your house, I look for your bookshelves as soon as I can.  Sometimes I’ll try to be discreet, and check out your bookshelves while you think I’m in the bathroom.  Sometimes I’ll be brazen about it, stopping in my tracks to examine your books.  I don’t want you to worry about whether I’m judging you, so I’ll let you know:  Yes.  I’m judging you.

First, I’m looking for the presence of books.  If I can’t find evidence of leisure reading in your house, you have just lost ALL my respect.  No, a cookbook, a technical manual for your job, and a Bible don’t cut it.  If I can’t see that you read for pleasure, then you are not someone with anything to say that I need to listen to.

Second, I’m looking for the presence of good books.  I’d like to see a few classics on your shelf, but not too many.  A dogeared copy of Huckleberry Finn, a collected works of Shakespeare or Chaucer, Jane Eyre, these are all good signs that you’re a person of taste.  A large, matching set of classics in leather covers makes me think you bought them for decoration or to impress me, and if I can’t see creased spines or blunted corners that persuade me they’ve been read, then yes, I am quietly making fun of you in my head.

Third, I’m looking for chunks of books.  What do you have a bunch of?  Zombie novels?  Poetry?  Comic strip collections?  Do you have everything by some author, and if so, who?  I want to see what you love so much you keep buying it.  If you love the same things that I love, then you have not only my respect but my friendship, as well.  If you love something that’s different from my own shelves but interesting – origami manuals, Victorian biographies, modernist poetry- then I’ll ask you about it, and be glad to have an interesting conversation and new stuff to learn.

If your collection is in a genre that I have no interest in – Westerns, say, or romances- I’ll be cautious but hopeful.  It’s likely that we don’t have anything in common, but we can still be polite to one another, and I won’t assume that you are a bad or stupid person, the way I would if you didn’t have any books at all.

If your books are mostly about angels, Jesus, crystals, or saints, I will be looking for an excuse to leave early.  You’re very frightening to me.

I love doing this, looking at someone else’s books and trying to understand something about them.  If I had a universal skeleton key, I would use it to let myself into the homes of all my neighbors and look for books.  There is no better, quicker way of understanding a person than to spend a few minutes in front of their bookshelves.

Written by Contented Reader

July 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

Posted in Opinions

Book review: Thinner than Thou

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Thinner than Thou

Kit Reed

Tor 2004

 

 

 

Thinner than Thou is part of science fiction’s long and glorious tradition of books about the terrible things that will happen if things go on this way.  I haven’t read one of those books in a long time – science fiction as direct social criticism – and this was a good one.  It’s gone out of fashion a little bit, hasn’t it?   It’s a great use for science fiction, though- as a tool for thinking about ourselves, our world, our priorities.

Here, the focus is on our obsession with having perfect bodies – and our simultaneous obsession with eating huge amounts of crap food.  Reed describes a future in which the social pressure has become a social mandate : you must be beautiful.  The main characters are on a cross-country search for their sister, Anna, shipped off by their parents to a treatment center for anorexia that is a little like a hospital and a little like a prison camp.  There’s also Jeremy, who gives his fortune to get into an exclusive weight-loss center that turns out to be considerably more horrifying than he bargained for, and the dazzlingly awful Reverend Earl, presiding over the religion of Afterfat with an iron fist and a lot of twists and disturbances in his awful mind.

I enjoyed reading it.  It was very funny in parts, and horrifying enough to make me really uncomfortable in parts.  It also made me think about my own ways of dealing with food and with my body… though it also made me think, “Yeah, I really do need to lose some weight” at absolutely the worst possible moments in the narrative.

Food is complicated, isn’t it?  Huge sections of our economy are devoted to food and to weight loss.  First, one side persuades us to spend money on fatty, salty food, not at all nourishing, and not even tasting all that good, more of it than we need or even want.  Then the other side invites us to spend money to lose weight- but not too much weight, and not permanently.  Join the club, buy the diet book, and you’ll lose about ten pounds, maybe fifteen, enough to make you feel you’re doing well, enough to make you feel that it’s your own fault when that’s as far as you go.  The diet plans always leave you ready to spend money on the next diet plan, in six months or a year.  And of course there’s also money to be spent on the doctors and hospitals and drugs, when the rest of it wrecks your health.

Come to think of it, this book is hardly science fiction at all.  It’s very nearly realism.

Written by Contented Reader

July 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

Posted in Reviews