Flicking through an old issue of Lapham's Quarterly (Volume III, Number 3, Summer 2010), the theme is Sports and Games.
The classical excerpts are interesting in their level of gore and violence. It is interesting to see a very different vision of the value of human life.
An excerpt from Virgil was particularly violent. Here a boxing match ends with the victor smashing the skull of the bull that is the prize for the match.
Trusty friends conducted Dares back to the ships,
dragging his wobbly knees, his head lolling from side to side
spitting clots from his mouth, blood mixed with teeth.
what power I had in my prime, and from what a death you rescue Dares now!
standing over against the bull's head steadied there,
the battle's prize, he drew the iron gauntlet back
and rearing up for the blow, swings it square between
both the horns, crushing the skull and dashing out the brains,
and dying, quivering, down on the ground the beast sprawls.
I'm reading the Dark lord of Derkholme by Diana Wynne-Jones after being inspired by the recent Google Doodle tribute to her.
Very readable, ironic fantasy humour so far.
The second in the Writers in Residence series is about the IMF and is really interesting. Lots of interesting anecdotes about the history of the IMF.
The latest one was that bankers started going to the annual IMF conference because it brought together many developing world finance ministers. As a public body the IMF was susceptible to protests and therefore the bankers abandoned it for the stricter (and less democratic) Davos Economic forum.
Really interesting piece in Another Escape about the Bamboo Bicycle Club which offers a workshop on building your own bicycle using bamboo.
People can make their own frame customised to their own body dimensions.
I now have two copies of Smith Journal on the go. It's seems that seed banks are in the culture magazine zeitgeist.
Sidetracked would also appear to be another West Country magazine.
The accompanying text is less interesting with a plug for the author's swimming manifesto and another game plug at the view that shark attacks on humans are accidental. While I accept that sharks don't attack on humans immediately on contact I also don't believe that all shark attacks are just "surfboards being mistaken for seals".
The Fallen is a book about former performers in The Fall. It's pretty interesting because The Fall are pretty unique in their approach to lineup changes and the fact that they produce a regular stream of releases.
There are a few themes starting to appear like the fact that Mark E. Smith doesn't like people who are more talented than him and he likes people who have few opportunities outside the band.
The only thing dragging the book down is the author's Fall fandom and his constant search for intersections between everything and is concomitant disbelief in chance or probability.
Reading through Cereal magazine issue 6 and I see that like Another Escape it too is based in Bristol. Very similar formats too, something in the water perhaps.
(Although both ape Kinfolk quite strongly)
I'm reading issue 3 of Another Escape magazine and while it's very beautiful the writing often seems poor.
The magazine generally fetishises artisans and craft leading to the idea that they are inherently worthy and important rather than explaining what is important in what they are doing.
Korean paper maker, Californian scent makers, bamboo bicycle makers: it's not clear to me that any of their artisanal activity matters beyond the aesthetic.
I started reading the first Writer in Residence book about life onboard the USS George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier.
Dyer comes across as a bit of a bore, offering up a self-portrait of a duffer but still behind it prickly, smug and self-involved. He referrers to the photographer that accompanies him as "the snapper", affects to be indifferent to that person's experience; an affected boorishness.
Sometimes his sentences clunk with non-sequiturs but when he writes reportage his imagery is striking and immediately conjures a scene into the imagination. Every now and then he drops a well-observed detail, the sailor with a black eye, the catapult shuttle returning to position.
The photography works as well, supplementing the words, telling its own story without being in competition.
It's expensive but so far an interesting purchase.
Finally getting round to reading Sensible Software 1986-1999. The book has a very attractive layout with a few key issues in the form of the quirky placement of footnotes vertically in the margin, requiring the book to be rotated to comfortably and the placement of all the full colour pictures at the back of the book rather than at the end of the relevant section in the main body of the book.
So far while the story of the 8-bit games revolution in the UK is interesting the book itself feels a lot like hagiography. It doesn't work as history because the author (an old acquaintance of his subjects) doesn't have access to one half of the original partnership of Sensible Software. As journalism it is too soft and fails to real dig into anything or illuminate a wider aspect of the world. You are ultimately reading one man's ruminations on his glory days. Even the analysis of what made the games good or bad is very limited.
There is also a reminder of the unpleasant blokeyness and purile humour that proliferated in a scene where most of the participants were male and barely out of their teens. Sexism at the time were perhaps understandable given the circumstances, I don't think it is sensible to look back now and regard it as all good fun.
Started A. S. Byatt's Ragnarok which is a little different to what I expected with retellings of the Norse myths being framed by what I assume are autobiographical elements from a childhood in World War 2.
Thetis, the mother of Achilles, knows that the sorrow of her son's death will be all the worse because, as an immortal, she will have to bear it forever.
Reading The war that killed Achilles which is an interesting explanation of the Illiad trying to set it an context of tragedy for the Classical Greek world and also the wider idea of the senselessness of war.
Achilles here is not the hot-blooded demigod but instead a vehicle for exploring the dilemma of the solider and why people continue to fight when they have lost faith in their cause.
It's kind of interesting how publishers don't create good pages for the books they publish. Amazon essentially hoovers up all the search traffic.
Into the woods is a structural analysis of writing for screen (television and film) that explains how act structures work and how even experimental writers fall into these structures because they match the natural cadences of satisfying storytelling.
This was a really readable book (perhaps supporting his analysis) and helped me both "read" films and understand how stories fail.
It also intersects with things like the Hero's Journey and the Seven Basic Plots by showing how these structures are actually incorporated into scripts.