I read Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith on the Eurostar yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It makes me really tempted to get some diving experience so I can meet octopi and cuttlefish, though I’m very surprised to learn that they actually tend to live only two years. When he was talking about meeting friendly individuals, I was imagining being able to revisit the same cuttlefish throughout something closer to the same lifespan…
What are you currently reading?
A lot of things. The next book I’m going to focus on finishing is After Atlas, by Emma Newman; I also recently picked up Samuel Delany’s Nova, Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and Ben Peek’s The Godless — all of which are fascinating, but I should really try and focus on one at a time.
What will you read next?
Probably I’ll get on with finishing The Godless and then turn to Britain After Rome to finish that, but maybe dual-wield it with Lamb for a lighter touch!
When I’ve heard of the Gaia theory before, I’ve usually heard of it in a sceptical sort of context that criticises the tree-hugging idea that Earth has a soul. That is not actually the main thrust of Lovelock’s argument at all: instead, what he argues is that Gaia, or Earth, is a self-sustaining system with in-built feedback loops which hold it more or less steady and capable of supporting life.
If you’ve studied climate or geology or even the water cycle, you know that he’s not wrong about the self-sustaining system. There’s so many negative feedback loops which keep things in check — some of which are, of course, threatening to be sabotaged by the action of one particular upstart mammal species with delusions of grandeur. We’re a part of the system, of course, but one which may have got out of hand. Or maybe not; maybe our intelligence will help rein us back in. We can only hope.
The point is, Lovelock’s not saying anything about a cosy loving Earth Mother spirit watching over us. Though his language in this book is sometimes poetical, and his sense of wonder at nature is clear, he’s talking about self-regulating, self-sustaining systems. He’s talking about the fact that the world has checks and balances in place which bring Earth into equilibrium, even though other factors — like the sun’s energy output — have changed over time. And okay, at some points he goes off on a tangent about whale intelligence and a hypothetical future in which whale brains give us technological advances, but the science here isn’t wrong.
There’s nothing actually revolutionary or tree-hugging here. It’s just true. Call it Gaia or call it a complex set of feedback loops; whatever you’re comfortable with, I guess. I do wish I’d read Revenge of Gaia instead, since this is horribly optimistic that humans will pull our collective fingers out and stop damaging the planet. I suspect Lovelock’s less sanguine about that prospect now.
That was not Jim’s experience. Assigned to a farm near Carlisle, he was put to work mopping floors and doing laundry. He was made to eat alone in the kitchen, and paid half of what a white laborer would typically earn.
I had high hopes for Maisie Dobbs as the series that would take over from Phryne as my current new comfort reading. I don’t think Maisie is the detective for me, though; for a lot of this, it felt more like the focus was historical fiction that detective fiction. There’s a big digression in the middle which eventually leads up to Maisie’s interest in being a detective, but it’s mostly about her character and the issues of class she’s faced. There’s something very cold about it — for example, the fact that she never went to see the man she’d intended to marry after his operation. She feels more like Sherlock Holmes than Peter Wimsey. Which is fine, but not what I’m interested in.
In terms of the mystery, well, any sense of urgency gets taken away first by the fact that there’s a massive flashback section, and secondly by the fact that Maisie doesn’t face any of the dangers personally. She doesn’t even meet many of the characters involved in the mystery more than once or twice. And she relies heavily on a “shiver down her spine” to tell her what’s going on. Sure, instinct, okay, but… it’s just too perfect, too precise, even alongside the many notes she takes. It’s more like precognition than detection, and I don’t think it’s intended to be supernatural.
I might give the second book a try, because there are aspects of the character and the context that I quite enjoy. I was curious/interested enough to finish this book, after all. But I’m not really feeling it at this point.
I’m in a tearing hurry and the theme for this week didn’t excite me madly, so instead, have a Top Ten of books I’ve pulled from the depths of my TBR to take back to Belgium with me to read. Some of them are more recent than others…
- Nova, by Samuel R. Delany. I haven’t read any Delany. I know, I know. I’ve just started reading this one, and I’m all at sea, but with how important a work it has been to the SF/F community, I have no doubt it’s going to be interesting.
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, by Christopher Moore. I was assured I would enjoy this, but heavily doubted it — while I’m not very religious and definitely not Christian, I still have a certain respect for stories as foundational to culture as the story of Christ. But, I’m 100 pages in and… yeah. I am actually really enjoying it.
- Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree Jr. I keep meaning to read it, and I think I mentioned it in a recent TBR, so I loaded it in.
- Darkwalker, by E.L. Tettensor. I forget who I follow that read this and sold me on it, but I do recall that it went straight on my TBR after reading their review, so I grabbed it.
- The Godless, by Ben Peek. You’re going to groan at me, but this is another one I’ve picked up recently without finishing the others I’ve already started. I’m not in love with the characters, but I’m fascinated by the world-building.
- The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian Bradshaw. I still need to finish reading Cleopatra’s Heir, but I do love Bradshaw’s work. If you like Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, it has a similar flavour, though it’s more adult and dense in style. The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman pretending to be a eunuch so she can learn medicine and become a doctor! How can that not appeal?
- Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. I have realised that I never finished reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, recommended to me by a wise English teacher who just happened to be ten years too early to catch my interest in non-fiction reading. So I want to read this and then maybe I’ll revisit the other book!
- Reality 36, by Guy Haley. From the depths of my TBR, truly — I was given this copy when I visited Angry Robot way back just before I started this blog. I’m a little lost so far, but starting to catch on. (And yes. It is another one I’ve picked up and started recently, but not quite finished. That makes four in this post alone.)
- The Family Trade, by Charles Stross. I’ve never yet got on with a book by Charles Stross, but I keep on trying. Technically I have the omnibus containing the first two books of the series, which I think has some changes from the original separate novels.
- The Days of the Deer, by Liliana Bodoc. I don’t remember anything about this or why I picked it up, but it happened to be the right size to fill a corner of my suitcase. So in it goes!
Knowing me, I won’t manage to read any of these before I travel back again. It’s the thought that counts…?
In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.
Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.
As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.
Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?
The description doesn't mention Henry, the Native character. Here's what I see in Amazon's "look inside."
We meet Henry at the start of chapter 4:
There's a new freshman named Henry at our school. He's an Indian who moved from the reservation. His father came here to work at the prison, not as a guard, but as a janitor. Henry has no mother. No one knows why for sure. Some people say she drowned herself when he was little, right after his baby brother drowned in the tub. But I don't know if that's true. People talk a lot, and only half of it has any basis in reality.
What I do know is that Henry has long braids, black and shiny like licorice whips. Daddy said Henry's father fought the school for Henry's right to keep his braids and they agreed because they needed his tuition money. That pissed Daddy off so much, he drank all night and punched out a window. "It's a disgrace for a man to have long hair!" he bellowed. "It says right there in the first Corinthians. They call that place a Christian school? The little fucker probably worships rocks and trees and wolves and shit."
Daddy isn't alone in his convictions. All the boys at school hate Henry. Especially Elijah Winchell. I heard that in the bathrooms, they shove him up against the wall and call him gay. Also, people say he wears tighty-whities, which is weird because, apparently, most boys wear boxers these days. Not that I'd know from personal experience, but everyone seems to agree on it.Mara feels bad for him. By the end of the chapter, she's invited him to her birthday party. He accepts her invitation. The last line in the chapter is this:
And that is how I ended up with a genuine Indian coming to my birthday.I'll order a copy and will be back once I've read it.
Are happiness and friendship and delight
Found frivolous, and beauty held so slight
As if life doesn't matter, since we die?
Here in the city, as I'm passing by
The afternoon is skimming down to night
The sun declines, bare branches weave red light,
The silken water folds the rippling sky.
So much of art is tuned into despair
Cold irony and all-embracing gloom,
It can feel hard to hymn the lambent air
Or strike a joyful note, but there is room.
Good things are real too, praise life and dare:
From beauty let a thousand sonnets bloom.
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People--some who are scholars, others who are resource people for their particular nation, and some who are teachers--spotted problems and began to talk about those problems on social media. Among the problems with his maps are the sheer volume he tried to put on a fixed page. Native Nations moved and were removed over time. So--where he shows a given nation can be incomplete or wrong altogether. Another problem is that he tried to tell Native peoples the right name to use--based on his research which many told him was wrong, but he persisted and told them they are wrong. Another is that he used photographs in the public domain--much like people have used them forever--which means replicating problems in the photos themselves and how they were taken and used. An admirable project, yes, but when you get down to the product itself, problems! Nonetheless, Carapella continues to sell his maps.
Some people recommended alternatives to Carapella's maps. I'm sharing their recommendations, below. Some are maps, and some are in-depth looks at the concept of mapping. If you've got one to recommend, drop it in the comments.
Important! A first step, always, is to go right to the website of the specific nation you're interested in. See if they've got maps you can study.
The Invasion of America is a time lapse map project created by Claudio Saunt. It's interactive features provide a lot of information teachers will find useful. (Added here on 3/27/17.)
Maps are Territories is a close look at the concept of mapping. There's terrific material all through that site. If you're a teacher who asks students to make maps, study the site before you do your mapping projects. Recommended by Eric Ritskes. (Added here on 3/27/17.)
Yuhaviatam (People of the Pines) is a map of Native peoples in southern California. Recommended by Pamela Peters. (Added here on 3/27/17.)
Yup'ik Environmental Knowledge Project Atlas is interactive and was created by elders. (Added here on 3/27/17.)