Dallying with audiobooks has left a few gaps for the written word.
As always, fond of factual books.
The make-do-and-mend and terrifying precariousness of the early SBS exploits is of course gripping stuff, though the later missions are still under security and social wraps to some extent. I’m guessing that the unvarnished details which may emerge in the future might be nearly as remarkable.
Steve Jones’ book carries many fairly gloomy ecological messages, but also a faith in the adaptability of organisms which may be summed up in his own words as ‘grim optimism’. Along the way, he adduces a number of attention-getting statements, of which my favourite is probably that human sperm are attracted to the scent of lily of the valley (p 146). What I want to know is, why did it occur to some bright spark to test this proposition?
Visiting a second-hand bookshop is always risky. I managed to confine my purchases to three:
It was interesting to re-read the title story of Consider her ways with an adult and post-feminist-movement eye, and see the mysogyny which Wyndham would barely have been aware of in himself. Salutary! I enjoyed some of Trader to the stars, especially the conceits of Hiding place, though the admittedly cartoon figure of Nicholas van Rijn presents other gender-related difficulties and is pretty irritating in any case. Pohl’s anthology at least represents women SF writers of the period, and a good variety of classic story types.
And then there is the family saga, which lightened my burdens as an undergraduate and cheers me up still:
… the ludicrously dramatic but true story of the Hauteville clan, petty knights from Normandy who made it from hired mercenaries to royalty in two generations. Robert Guiscard, in particular, is an unforgettable character, an extraordinary combination of guts, cynical realpolitik and joie de vivre. I’ve just re-read the first volume, The Normans in the south, and will save my re-reading of the second part, The kingdom in the sun, for another time.
These are some of Norwich’s earliest books, and have a rollicking zest in the language which makes things and characters memorable: the ‘glutinously emasculate statue of the Archangel’ of Monte Sant’Angelo; the unreliable historian Radulph Glaber with ‘a fair claim to have been expelled from more monasteries than any other littérateur of the eleventh century’; Empedocles’ ‘long and tedious apprenticeship as a shrub’; Sichelgaita, ‘the closest approximation history has ever dared to produce of a Valkyrie’; and Abbot Desiderius, who ‘felt safe from his enemies; but God … refused to protect him from his friends’.
The last few chapters were helped along by some little herby stars, a surprisingly successful experiment except that the lovely big salt crystals tended to fall off between the plate and the mouth.