Sunday, November 25, 2012

november books

More book stuff:
The Moving Toyshop (Edmund Crispin): Light, amusing, clever crime novel set in 1938… eminently readable and its Oxford setting gave me a very nostalgic yearning to be back in the city. I also absolutely loved the cover design by Rowena Leroc!
Non-Places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (Marc Auge): I admit this is a rather strange book choice, but I was intrigued by the description the title. This is essentially an extended essay by the Director of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. It was written in 1995 and deals with “our” ever-increasing time spent in supermarkets, airports, on motorways or in front of TVs. I have to admit that some of the book simply “went over my head” and I found stuff such as ancestral practices in African villages somewhat tedious! However, it also contained some fascinating observations which, with the current even greater use of the internet and the introduction of social network sites, could be (and, subsequently, probably has been) massively extended.
The Case of the Gilded Fly (Edmund Crispin): Having enjoyed my first Crispin novel (see above!), I opted for more, predictable, light escapism! This time set in wartime Oxford of 1940 (although you’d hardly have known). I don’t even like crime novels… but still enjoyed being reminded of the city.  
In Search of the 40 Days Road (Michael Asher): I first read this in 1990. Asher first went to the Sudan in 1979 as a volunteer English teacher and became fascinated by the desert and the lives of the tribesmen. He ended up acquiring his own camels and living a nomadic life in the desert. As the title suggests, the book tells of his search for the “lost” “Forty Days Road” (ancient trading route). Beautifully written and completely captivating (and poignant in his descriptions of how the desert, through climate change, is gradually taking over what used to be fertile areas). Certainly, a part of me yearns to experience the desert for myself someday(?) – but perhaps not quite in Asher’s way! I loved this book (again!).   
Future Shock (Alvin Toffler): Another re-read (inscribed by my American friend Mark Lang just before Moira and I got married 40 years ago!). Strangely, after coming across the term “supermodernity” in Auge’s book (see above!), Toffler kept on referring to “super-industrialism”! As the title suggests, it’s a book about the rate of change in society (written in 1970). Lots of fascinating stuff but, inevitably, also lots of things that now seem rather strange (to me at least!), such as predicting “extensive submarine communities” and “professional parenthood”. Virtually no mention - apart from a couple of throw-away sentences in a book of some 500 pages - of climate change (or whatever you might choose to call it) and no real appreciation that personal computers and something called “the worldwide web” was going to transform our lives (although there was this somewhat oblique reference: “machines and man… will be scattered across the globe, linked together by amazingly sensitive, near-instantaneous communications”)! Thought-provoking – even today!

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