Reading Journal Entry: Counting Heads, by David Marusek

David Marusek wrote the beginning of this nbook as a novella titled 'We Were Out Of Our Minds With Joy'. I read that when it was first published, way back in 1995. It's about a relationship in 2092, from tantalizing flirtatious beginning to soaring apex to crushing disaster. I learned that Marusek had written Counting Heads from Dave Itzkhof's science fiction column in the New York Times.

The bulk of the story takes place forty years after the end of the novella, but, oddly enough, the world hasn't changed much. Some of the characters we met before are trying to work together to foil a conspiracy; but in reality this about an exploration of a high technology environment where computers are people and clones are too. Interesting, fun, but a bit scattershot.

Reading Journal Entry: Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon

The third volume inE lizabeth Moon's 'Vatta' science fiction series.

Moon gives great space opera, and she has wonderful strong female characters in her books. Unfortunately that's about the best I can say about this one, a sequel to Marque and Reprisal and Trading in Danger. It's tremendous fun, but the plotting is loose and really, not all that much happens, despite the space battles and shoot-outs.

Fagin the Jew, by Will Eisner

I read Fagin the Jew as a follow-up to Oliver Twist. Dicken's caricature of Fagain in Twist is frightfully anti-Semitic.

Eisner, one of the pioneers of the graphic novel format, decided to tell Fagin's story. He frames Fagin's life within Oliver's adventures; Fagin is in prison, sentenced to death, and he tells his life story to Dickens to set the records straight.

I was disappointed that Eisner spent so much time on Oliver's story; I would have preferred a greater focus on Fagin, Sikes & Nancy. Oliver's story is really only a small part of Fagin's. Also, in the retelling Eisner changed numerous details of Oliver's story, and since I just finioshed reading the original Twist, those changes jumped out at me in a bad way. It would have been better to cut most of Oliver's story and focus on the relationships that really brought Fagin down - Sikes and Nancy.

Someone complained on an Amazon review that there were too many coincidences - apparently that person hasn't read any Dickens.

Fagin the Jew Wwas enjoyable mostly for the historical content. I look forward to reading other Eisner works.

Reading Journal Entry: The Omega Diet, by Artemis Simopoulos and Jo Robinson

Another diet book today. Why am I reviewing all these diet books? Because last month my doctor told me I might be insulin resistant. I've had a fasting blood sugar test and it says I'm fine. But I do need to lose weight, and I don't really trust the numbers anyhow.

The two diets that the doctor mentioned were the South Beach Diet and the Omega Diet. I've read South Beach, and I've conceived a violent hatred towards Dr. Agarson for lying about the desserts his plan allows. This week I got around to reading The Omega Diet.

Artemis Simopoulos is Greek, and a major theme of the book is how awesome the Greek diet (and European diets in general) and how awful the American diet is. "In Greece, when I was growing up, we would start the day with eggs that had just been pulled out of chicken's behinds, fried in olive oil that we hand-wrung into the pan right before cooking, and wild greens that my grandmother picked while taking care of the herd of goats that lived in the living room," etc.

This, the 'original' Omega Diet book, was published in 1999, and it's frsutratingly behind the times. Simopouls devotes an inordinate amount of time arguing against 'conventional' diet advice that is no longer accepted wisdom. Slightly condescending , oversimplifications are mixed with insta-techno discussions of the details of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids. Simopoulos spends a lot of energy on the 'ratio' of omega-3 vs. omega-6, but this is misleading; her real goal is to increase the amount of omega 3 acids in the diet. The 6 acids are everywhere, and will take care of themselves.

The diet plan at the back of the book includes variations for maintenance, weight loss, and swift weight loss, which is nice. And the meal plan is surprisingly moderate. You get to eat white flour, etc. In fact, this isn't a 'glycemic index' diet at all. The meal plan as given is very 'low GI', but the '7 principles' that Simopoulos lays out don't deal with that at all. In fact, she hardly mentions sugar or refined flour at all.

The recipes look wonderful, and I would not hesitate to use some of them. I won't be following it, but it's one of the better diet plans I've read.

Reading Journal Entry: Black, White, & Jewish, by Rebecca Walker

Read this for book group. Not as much Jewish content as hoped - barely mentioned in fact. Nonetheless the book sparked the closest thing in real life I've seen to an internet argument, with one fiery member declaring loudly that the book was a piece of shit and totally uninteresting. He will use it for toilet paper.

I can't say I agree with that, but I must say that the book got a lot less interesting once she started talking about her boyfriends. I would have enjoyed hearing more about Walker's famous parents instead.

I think the book suffered from an overemphasis on the 'shifting self'; more about race relations would have made it a much more solid experience. More....something!

I printed out the publisher's suggested discussion questions before the meeting (it was at my house, and waht I had buyign vegetables at Costco, and arranging olives, and so forth) and my, weren't they awful. Both boring AND condescending at the same time.

Reading Journal Entry: Next Door Lived a Girl, by Stefan Kiesbye

Stefan Kiesbye is German, and this is a very German book. It's littered with German names (the narrator is Moritz, and his friends are similarly Teutonic), and the sentence structure at times has been left with a delicious hint of strangeness.

This is a disturbing and scary novel. It's more a novella, really, but it certainly didn't need to be any longer to do what it needed to do, which is scare me to pieces and turn my stomach at the same time.

Moritz is at that 'difficult' age of adolescence. He is fourteen, hovering between a longing for female companionship and loyalty to his old tribe of friends - the 'Badgers'. Moritz lives in a small middle-class town. He's a very transparent narrator, so much so that he seems childlike in the straightforward way he talks about the people around him and the things he goes through.

I don't mean to imply that this is a horror novel. It's not deliberately, provocatively frightening, it doesn't go out of its way to be scary. It's just that the deliberate downward descent into brutality from the daylight normalness of a small town is irresistable. Do any of my neighbours have lives like this, I wonder?

Lord of the Flies,set in suburbia, and about everybody instead of small boys.

Reading Journal Entry: Shadow Lover, by Anne Stuart

Bam reviewed this and I reserved it because it sounded like a really good read. And it was!

Carolyn is the type of romance heroine I like - she's 31, she's not too annoyingly passive, she's had orgasms and she's not a virgin. She does have a Haunted Past and mysterious origins, but in a totally believable foster child way. Carolyn was fostered by the wealthy McDowell family. They treat her like a servant. But she's stuck there for the moment, because the woman who raised her is dying.
Surprise! Her long-lost son shows up, after 18 years on the lam. But is he really who he says he is? And if so, is this Carolyn's chance to fulfill the mother of all adolescent crushes?

Snarky rich people, Martha's Vineyard, mistaken identity, violence, etc. The plot moves along nicely, and Carolyn and Alex's relationship is engaging without being over-the-top. Great fun.

Reading Journal Entry: Fly By Night, by Frances Hardinge

fusenumber8 has been gushing about Fly By Night for months. She chose it as her favorite book of the year in February!

Usually when someone recommends a book so strongly, I find myself disappointed. Inevitably the book fails to measure up to my inflated expectations.

Not so with Fly By Night.

One word: wow!

Hardinge has created a fantasy world, on par with the best modern children's fantasy authors: Pullman, Lewis, DWJ. Mosca,the nine-year old protagonist, is an orphan being raised by her unloving uncle in the boondocks. She flees town in the company of a charming con man, Eponymous Clent, and a chaos-creating goose names Saracen. Through her eyes we are treated to a wonderful tour of the Fractured Realm.

For the past twenty years, Parliament has been trying to decide who should be the king. And each region, village, town and city has declared for one candidate or the other. They are held together by a web of commerce and the efforts of powerful guilds, including the Stationer's Guild, which has complete control of the press and certifies every piece of printed material.

The three travelers proceed to Mandelion, a large city which is in the grip of a power struggle between dangerous factions, in which Mosca, Clent, and even Saracen become intimately involved.

Up until about page 330 I eas enjoying myself but I wasn't tremendously impressed. The prose is wonderful, the world is fabulous, the characters are fun, but it hadn't grabbed me. Then Hardinge gave me a moment. A real honest-to-god, icy fingers on the back of my neck moment of revelation. Suddenly she had her tenterhooks in my emotions and there was no getting free.

I read the last one hundred and fifty pages straight through.

I can't recommend this one enough.

Great Books: The Underdogs, by Mariano Azuela

A deeply cynical book about revolution, written in 1915 and set a few years previously.

It is written in a spare style that I enjoy, and that reminds me of Camus' L'Etranger. I like it because it leaves space for my brain to work in. And because it seems like the kind of stuff that maybe, someday, I could write stuff like that.

This modern retranslation, touted as a big improvement, annoyed me. The endnotes should have been footnotes and should have been more sparse. Some of the language was just awkward.

Macias is the leader of a few dozen country rebels. They capture a scholar-turned-scholar, Cervantes, who convinces him to join the greater revolutionary movement in Mexico. The revolutionary movement inevitably becomes sullied, and so does Macias. He becomes a general, but he is trapped by his success, unable to avoid his impending doom.

Depressing really. Unending cycle of exploitation and all that. But it has a lovely feel to it.

The Alt.list: winning authors

I took some time tonight to do some numbers magic with the votes allocation by author instead of title.

I counted two ways, by number of votes and by number of points. I used the same point balues I used before to assign weight to votes, if someone nominated more than one book. A nice side effect of that is that if someone voted for more than one title from an individual author, that weighting is carried through in the points score.

Paul Auster 10
John Irving 9
Richard Russo 9
Lief Enger 5
Don DeLillo 4
Marilynne Robinson 4
Michael Chabon 4
Alice Walker 3
David Foster Wallace 3
David Guterson 3

There are no huge surprises there. But wow, when I tallied up the weighted 'points' scores, what a difference! Paul Auster lost his lead.

Richard Russo 55.84
John Irving 33.22
David Foster Wallace 30
Paul Auster 29.61
Don DeLillo 22.93
Marilynne Robinson 22.67
Michael Chabon 18.23
Leif Enger 15.17

A lot of people really like Richard Russo.

I think I'll tackle Empire Falls here after The New York Trilogy

Great Books: The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Adventures of Oliver Twist appears on the list of great books courtesy of Bloom's Western Canon. I think he just threw everything Dickens wrote on there.

Oliver has been a favorite for adaptation; there have been movies, the famous musical, and at least one Japanese animated series which I saw in Italian (long story).

The whole orphaned, mistrated child bit seems to be an enduringly popular theme. Oliver has a lot in common with Harry Potter. The difference is that Dickins used his narrative to expose the harmful public conditions in contemporary poorhouses and slums. Rowlings takes the Dursley family to the same absurd extremes of cruelty, but in a less public-spirited way. There's not much of a problem in England of maternal aunts making their orphaned wizard nephews live under the staircase, unless I mistake my case.

Oliver is an orphan, born of anonymous parents and brought up by 'the parish'. That parish is populated by a number of amusing, self-important characters, second in number only to the number of amusingly self-important characters resident in London. After Oliver is denied more porridge, and apprenticed out to an abusive undertaker, he runs away to London. He is taken in by a group of rapscallions and thieves. First, there's the Artful Dodger, a boy his own age, and various others of the type. Then there's Fagin, a horrible Jew who masterminds robberies, fences stolen goods, and acts as an all-around corrupter of innocent young minds. Bill Sikes is an adult housebreaker, Nancy his adoring teenage mistress.

Oliver falls in and out of the hands of this dodgy group a couple of times. In between he stays at respectable homes, where he is taken in because his countenance is so innocent and pure. Everyone who 'rescues' him ends up being related to him in one way or another, in a truly literary manner. Oliver, it is eventually revealed, is the offspring of two unhappy but high-class people, and the beneficiary of a large fortune which his no-good older half-brother conspired to keep from him.

The plot is, hem, thin. The characters are interesting - at least, all the bad ones are. The good people are disappointingly bland and anemic, especially Oliver and his aunt Rose. As bad as the Dodger and Fagin were, at least they took Oliver in and gave him a place to sleep when he was starving to death.

I was really shocked by the antisemitism in the descriptions of Fagin. I suppose I shouldn't be, but I can't get used to it. I am really glad to learn that Will Eisner wrote a graphic novel about poor Fagin, and I look forward to seeing his take on him.

Reading Journal Entry: Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx

I loved the movie. This is the first work by Proulx that I've read.

I was disappointed. But that's my own fault. I couldn't get the movie out of my head, and I couldn't appreciate this story for what it was.

I will give Annie another chance.

Reading Journal Entry: Slow River by Nicola Griffith

Near-future science fiction; a brutal look at a teenage girl's life when she becomes entangled with a career criminal.

Nicola Griffith conveys the fragile ecosystem of the future through the eyes of Lore, an 18 year old who was once enmeshed in her family's high-tech biological business endeavours.

I loved the characters, the voice, the structure. Very good.


I am going to be covering local book events for Seattlest. My first contribution is now up, about Laurie R. King's reading at the University Book Store last night.


Reading Journal Entry: Califia's Daughters by Leigh Richards

I often put 'holds' on books at the library that don't come in for weeks. Sometimes I've forgotten what originally spurred me to ne omterested im a book. That's what happened with Califia's Daughters (and also Alanna: The First Adventure). It arrived, I picked it up, I looked at it, and it rang no bells. Why and when did I request this one? Oh well, up on the shelf it goes with the other thirty library books I'm hoarding.

Two weeks later, it's Memorial Day weekend and I need something to read on the exercise bike. I pick it up. And it's very good.

Califia's Daughters is about a valley of women building a life together in a post-apocalyptic 21st century world. Civilization's collapse involved engineered diseases with an affinity for the male genome, and men are rare and valuable. In 'the Valley' there are about twenty men to about 200 women. The women do the farmwork, the military work, and anything else the least bit strenuous. The men are guarded like precious little lambs and not allowed to do anything that might cause them to break a nail. It's well-drawn community.

Dian, the main character, is fiercely loyal to her family but has a wanderer's soul. She's the boss-lady in charge of secruity at the Valley which means she conducts martial arts classes and roams the hills with her big dogs. And one day she sees a vute little wagon train rolling along.

Is it an inoffensive group of traders? Or twenty women with machine guns? Surprise! Neither! It's strangers bearing gifts, in the form of two scrumptious looking men, one lega, one not. The catch is that they want to move in. Not just them, either, but they're 200 friends back home.

The book is divided roughly in two parts; first, the introduction to Dian and the Valley. Second, Dian's trip north to scope out the home base of the strange village and find out what deep dark secret they're revealing. That gives us a chance to see more of the territory (man, who'd have thought California would be a nicer place to live than Oregon) but it gives the book a schizophrenic feel. Several plot lines aren't really resolved.

On the upside, the author structures it very nicely after the ancient legend of the Amazons, and it moves along well. If you're willing to settle back and enjoy the ride without worrying about what's happening back home, it works well.

So I finish the book (sigh of contentment = good ending) and there's the author bio on the next page.

This is when I realize why I reserved the book.

Leigh Richards is Laurie R. King.

Why oh why do publishers play tricks with their readers? I ask you. I would have bought this book when it originally came out if I'd known it was by King. I would have done somersaults. Jumping jacks. Other miscellaneous exercises. A science fiction novel by my favorite mystery author? Bring it on!

Instead it was only by coincidence (probably browsing around the author website) that I ever heard of it.

Hey, I know, we're publishing a book by a New York Times best-selling author - let's pretend it's by someone else who doesn't have any publishing credits! That'll make it sell more copies!


Reading Journal Entry: The South Beach Diet Cookbook, by Arthur Agatson, MD

Friday's review today! (I'm going out of town so you get your daily review a day early.)

After slogging through the South Beach Diet, and being depressed by the lack of options on the menu, I was looking forward to The South Beach Diet Cookbook.

Surely that's exactly what I would need to help get me through those first two weeks where you can't eat anything you want to?

Wrong. I complained about the lack of desserts in the original book. The supplementary cookbook: it provides exactly one 'phase one' dessert.

I have to admit it looks positively FABULOUS (a chilled espresso custard, but I can't eat chilled espresso custard for two weeks straight, can I?

Or can I? I'll have to think about that.

Reading Journal Entry: The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatson MD

Reading this book was a waste of my time. It might not be a waste of yours.

I will get some blood tests back soon which may tell me whether or not I need to go on a low glycemic index. I might be insulin resistant. The doctor mention the South Beach Diet and The Omega Diet as possibilities.

So off I go to the Bat Library. I've been reading about Atkins, South Beach, Omega Diet, FI, etc. for years (why? because that's what I do, read about stuff! duh!). I considered myself fairly well educated about the South Beach Diet. Basically the same dealie as the Atkins diet with a few exceptions:1) more emphasis on portion control, 2) more focus on avoiding saturated fats 3) three phases, including an extremely strict introductory two week period where your body is weaned off carbs, followed by the gradual reintroduction of complex carbohydrates.

In short, it's not too much fun but it's one of the more realistic 'low-carb' diets. It's really focused on lowering the glycemic index of the foods you eat.

Frankly, I eat a low glycemic index diet now, except for the jelly beans and cupcakes. But I keep getting the mantra repeated to me: read the book, read the book. Reading the book will make everything clear. Until finally I didn't trust myself.

Even though I already knew thorough what the theory behind the South Beach Diet was, I started hoping that maybe there was some magical secret in this book that would explain how eating nothing but eggs for breakfast for two weeks is going to not suck.

There isn't. It will suck.

Agatson's claim that since he has a sweet tooth he incorporated 'lots of desserts' is a big fat lie. What he really means is that you can eat all the sugar-free jello you want (mmm, artifical sweeteners) OR you can mix up some revolting concoction of ricotta cheese every night. If you don't like ricotta, or jello, or you don't want to eat 10 servings of artifical sweeteners a day, then you're out of luck in 'Phase 1'.

Reading Journal Entry: Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce

I think I found a recommendation for this book in a list of great fantasy/sci fi books for women. I can't really remember. But I found it somewhere, and the Seattle Public Library did its thing, and a few weeks later it turned up on my bookshelf.

So I gave it a chance. It's a young adult fantasy novel. And you know I'm all about the genre. Didn't I just have an entire week full of books by Diana Wynne Jones? Believe me, I appreciate decent genre writing.

Alanna is a young girl who wants to be a knight instead of a lady, so she switches places with her twin brother. He goes off to be trained as a wizard, and she gets sent to the castle to train with lots of yummy noble sprigs.

It's a very female-friendly storyline, so I can see why it would have made it's way onto the list I found. It was originally published in the eighties when, perhaps, the standards for young adult fantasy were a little lower? The whole Harry Potter thing hadn't happened yet? And somebody read it when they were twelve and thought it was the neatest thing ever, so when they were writing a list of recommendations for fantasy novels for young women, on it went.

At least, that's the explanation I've come up with. Because honestly, it's not very good. At all. The plot is perfectly straightforward - not a twist, turn, or surprise to be seen. The writing is amateurish-to-winceworthy. The characters are uninspiring, including the obnoxiously plucky Alanna, who I wanted to slap into next week. Or should I call her, like Tamora Pierce does about a dozen times, 'pert'. Every single usage of this word snapped my out of the story (such as it was) because let me tell you, when you backsass adorably in a group of ten to 14 year old boys, they don't call you 'pert'. They call you gay, and then they beat you up.

Much better examples of the 'female warrior' subgenre are The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley or The Deeds of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon.

The Alt.list winners

I've finally finished compiling the results of the voting for the alt.list.

I received 159 votes from 79 bloggers and internet people, out of 189 total potential voters who were contacted by me or found the contest through links.

No single work received as large a percentage of the votes as Beloved did in the New York Times pool.

126 individual titles received votes.

The work that received the most votes as the best work of American fiction in the past 25 years is The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster, with 7 votes.

The runners-up:

Peace Like a River, by Lief Enger, with 5 votes

And with 4 votes each:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, by Michael Chabon
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

I encouraged people to vote for multiple volumes, which increased the inclusiveness of the list. So after counting the votes straight up, I counted them again using a point system. I gave each voter ten points, and allocated them among the titles he or she voted for.

If I got a vote for one book, that title got ten points. If I got a vote for three books, each got 3.33 points. If I got comments ranking multiple titles, I allocated the votes accordingly.

The 'points' total changed the list of winners significantly. The winner, The New York Trilogy, dropped right off the list.

The title with the most points is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, with 30 points. Three people voted for Infinite Jest and only Infinite Jest.

The runners-up, in a dead heat with between 21 and 23 points each, are A Prayer for Owen Meany, Gilead, Empire Falls, and Nobody's Fool (also by Richard Russo)

What's next?

I'm going to do some more vote-counting and announce which authors received the most votes later this week. Then I'm hoping to read the winning books and talk about them with the bloggers who made them winners.

I'll start with the runaway favorite, Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy, sometime within the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye out!

Great Book: Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is on the list care of Bloom's Western Canon and Jane Smiley's 100 Novels.

It was one of my childhood favorites. I haven't read it in a decade, but I must have read it a thousand times between the ages of 6 and 16.

I've seen the movie adaptations over and over again - the Hepburn version, the Elizabeth Taylor version, the Winona Ryder version (the Hepburn one is the best).

I have three sisters. There aren't a lot of big families like that now. Especially after we moved to Europe. All the people we knew had one kid - maybe two. We gravitated towards large fictional families. Little Women was one of the books we took for our own, with Little House on the Prairie and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read and re-read the Boxcar Children and the Bobbsey Twins. I'm just glad The Waltons wasn't available in Italy, or I'd probably have glommed onto that too.

I still have this fascination with finding my childhood reflected in print remains. I swallowed up Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. Even Big Love has an old feeling of familiarity about it. There's something about living with that many women....

I felt a special connection for another reason as well. When I was three, my little sister was born, and I became fascinated with the naming process. My mom told me that I was named after Beth in Little Women because that was her favorite character. This immediately motived me to learn to read, and a short three years later I was plowing through this book to figure out just who I had been named after. Then I found out that Beth dies.


I bear a grudge to this day.

I came out of the first half of Little Women feeling a little superior. My god, these March girls are so.... bourgeoise. None of them have passion, or genius, or ambition. They're just regular, ordinary people. Their little troubles are very, very little. I don't need explosions or sex scenes, but couldn't there at least be a great moral crisis? Meg goes to a party and borrows someone's clothes. That's the big scandal.

And oh, the guilt! Amy commits an unforgiveable sin against Jo. Really. Unforgiveable! You tell me how quickly you'd forgive someone who burnt the only copy of a manuscript of short stories you'd worked on for months. 'Never' is my answer. But at the end of the chapter it's Jo who regrets that she didn't forgive Amy. Amy gets to make injured remarks about people who don't forgive others, and doesn't apparently, get punished AT ALL. How does that make sense?

Nonetheless, a few chapters later, I was crying like a baby. My namesake, Beth, gets sicker and sicker, and finally dies. And I wallowed in it.

In the end, I couldn't disentangle my adult judgement from my childhood love. The Marches are still my dream family. The sisters quarrel with each other, but they are genuinely friends. Their parents never have fights, and every family gathering is surrounded by a golden glow. I want to crawl right into the book and have dinner with them. Though the conversation might be a little dull unless Professor Bhaer was present.

Who cares if they're just regular people?

So am I, after all.

Reading Journal Entry: Anonymous Rex, by Eric Garcia

Greek Week was a bit of a pull for me, and I think it might have been showing by the end of the week and my two-line review of Antigone.

I needed an upper after all the suicide and murder stuff, so I was glad to see that Anonymous Rex had turned up at the top of my pile. I've turned it over in my hands a number of times since its publication - those clever covers with the dinosaur tail dragging across the are so eye-catching. And once you read the premise it's hard to forget.

Anonymous Rex is about a hard-boiled private investigator from Los Angeles investigating the death of his partner. Both are dinosaurs.

Yes, dinosaurs still walk the earth. Carefully hidden beneath latex disguises, they are investment bankers, cable repairmen, traffic cops, politicians, and private investigators. A dozen and a half or so dinosaur species including velociraptors, tyrannosuars, triceratops, and other favorites from your childhood coloring books constitute the dinosaur community, which has it's own rules, secret government, and judicial system.

It was while investigating a dinosaur murder that Vincent Rubio's partner was killed by a taxi in New York City six months earlier. Vincent went off the deep end and burned a lot of bridges. Now he's ready to sober up and is getting tantalizing hints from a contact that the mystery might be beginning to unravel.

And whew! What a mystery. Let's just say that when you've got velociraptors who can disguise themselves as sexy humans (of either gender) at will, things get heated.

The set-up strains credulity a tad (I mean, really, where were they hiding all this time) but once that balloon is set aloft it's a well-crafted scenario. Garcia attends to little details about the dinosaurs' disguises and habits that gives this a very realistic feel. Very, very enjoyable.

Great Book: Antigone, by Sophocles

Errr - right! It's Saturday already! Antigone! By Sophocles! The original!

Plot summary: Antigone gets mad, Croen, gets stubborn, everybody dies.

Pretty much the same as the Anouilh one except, um, different words. And Antigone's not as much of a bitch.

In other news, I went to Mount Rainer today, and it's really pretty, and there's still snow everywhere.

Leader Board

I'm still tabulating the results of my alt.list poll.

But I'm able to release the front runners.

The top contenders among works are:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

The top contenders among authors are:

Don DeLillo
John Irving
Leif Enger
Marilynne Robinson
Paul Auster
Richard Russo

Great Book: Oedipus at Colonus, by Sophocles

Oedipus at Colonus is the middle play of Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, and like a middle child, it's just not as smart or as pretty as the other two (kidding!).

After blinding himself, Oedipus left Thebes (or was he thrown out? It's unclear) and wandered the countryside, begging, for twenty years. Here's where Antigone earns her grit, and her suicidal rage: she goes with him and shares this life of poverty and deprivation. I gather from the reaction of the Elders of Colonus that he's persona non grata in most places because of the bad mojo he carries. "Do not pollute our city with your tainted air," and so on. Nice life for a growing girl.

Colonus is a holy site within Athens. Oedipus feels his death approaching and asks for sanctuary. He soon becomes a point of contention between Athens and Thebes, because the site of his grave will protect one from the other.

Oedipus seeks asylum from Theseus, ruler of Athens. Various important Thebans, including his brother-in-law Creon and his no-good son, come to try to kidnap him or convince him to come home. He refuses. He doesn't want to reward the relatives who turned him out when he was in need. Creon tries to take Antigone and Ismene with him by force, but Theseus prevents this and brings them back to their father. At the end of the play, Oedipus is dead and Polyneices, his son, is poised to attack Thebes with a foreign army, thus setting the scene for Antigone.

This conflict between Thebes and Athens over Oedipus is colored by subsequent history. Oedipus promises that the mercy Theseus shows him will result in a great benefit to Athens in the future. And in fact, according to my translation, 'Theban invaders were routed in a battle near the tomb of Oedipus.'

Antigone, who acted as his eyes, and Ismene, who loved him and tried to save him, are left alone in Athens. They decide to go back to Thebes and try to stop the war. But they will fail, and everybody will die.

I don't really understand why this play exists. I went browsing for commentaries and didn't learn much. Perhaps the most interesting bit of symbolism is the manner of Oedipus' death. Instead of being assumed into heaven, which is the current fashion is mysterious deaths, he is swallowed by the earth.

Rejecting the rejection letter

very funny.