Tag Archives: Arlington Park

2017 Roundup and list of Books Reviewed

This year I continued daily posts, which I have done for just under four years now.  Overall, traffic to the blog was up about 18% over 2016.

As always, the coverage is mainly review and commentary on topics of interest to me, including “the new way of work”, robots, dinosaurs, cryptocurrency/blockchain, quantum cryptography, internet of too Many things, computer software in general, and so on.

This year I continued weekly posts noting and commenting on books I have read.  Most of the books were recently published, with a few older ones.   (Listed below.)

Throughout the year, I offered a number of “great names for a band”, in tribute to Dave Barry who pioneered the genre.  Most of these are “sciency”, inspired by technical articles I read and commented on.

Countershading
Banded tail
Dinosaur bandit mask
Paleocoloration
Beryllium hydride
Biomimetic Robotic Zebrafish
Chicxulub    [Note:  pronounced ( /ˈtʃiːkʃʊluːb/; Mayan: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ])]
The Chicxulub Event
We Are Children of Chicxulub
Thanks to Chicxulub
Brought to You By Chicxulub
Service Office Industry
Comfortable edgy fit outs
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
Kuiper Belt & Braces
A Belt of Kuiper
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Fog World Congress
Penguin Guano

Adelie Census
Fog Orchestra
Shape Changing Fog Screen
The Fog and the Eye
First Ringplane Crossing
Grand Finale Dive #2
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Last View of Earth
Final – and Fateful – Titan Flyby
Robots On Europa
Gay Robots on Europa


Books Reviewed in 2017

Overall I posted 79 book reviews, 58 fiction and 21 non-fiction.

In fiction, these include old favorites (Donna Leon, Charles Stross, Thomas Perry, Tim Dorsey, Ian McDonald, Gregory Maguire, Tom Holt).

Some new favorites include Richard Kadrey,  Viet Thanh Nguyen, Emma Straub.

I really liked Robin Sloan’s Sourdough, and Touch by Courtney Maum, but my best reads for the year have to be

Joe Ide,  IQ and Righteious.  <<links>> Righteous by Joe Ide

In non-fiction, I liked Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell and Eugenia Chengs Beyond InfinityHow America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein is both good and important.

<<links>>

But at the top, I’d probably pick

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

List of Books Reviewed

Q4

Fiction

First Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg
The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps
Artemis by Andy Weir
Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Willful Behavior by Donna Leon
A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams
Righteous by Joe Ide
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Border Child by Michel Stone
Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Non-fiction

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern
After Piketty edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum

Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Books Reviewed Second Quarter

Fiction

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Touch by Courtney Maum
Mother Land by Paul Theroux
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Startup by Doree Shafrir
Off Rock by Kieran Shea
The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
The Underwriting by Michelle Miller
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
Huck Out West by Robert Coover

Non-Fiction

Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
The Spider Network by David Enright
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton

Books Reviewed Q1 2017

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
Wonderland by Steven Johnson
Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson


That’s all for 2017!  Happy New Year!

 

Roundup: Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

This quarter saw a few interesting ideas about coworking, ever weirder computer security threats, and the rapid approach of Quantum Computing and Quantum Cryptography.

Dinosaurs and birds remain interesting.

There was a never ending drum of dubious Blockchain technology, dubious Internet of Things technology.

And, as usual regular book reviews.

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Finally, I suggests a bunch of “great names for a band”.

“Service Office Industry”
Comfortable edgy fit outs”
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
“Kuiper Belt & Braces”

“A Belt of Kuiper

“The Grand Finale Toolkit”
“Fog World Congress”

Book Reviews: Two By Rachel Cusk

Serial autobiographer Rachel Cusk (she has written at least three memoirs so far) writes what she knows: the disappointments of a suburban mother and divorcee.


Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

Arlington Park (2006) follows the intertwined lives of four mothers on a rainy day in suburban England.

From our perspective more than a decade later, we know that this was a relatively calm and prosperous time—much worse was coming soon. (Most of the men in this story probably lost their jobs, and the families may have lost their nice suburban homes circa 2009.)

But these women are far from happy, and it is mostly because their husbands have “murdered” them. At least, that is what we learn from their introspection and conversations.

Suburban life is materialistic and spiritually empty, raising children is a drudge, and women are prevented from having a meaningful career and life.

Men, on the other hand, get the good jobs, choice of where to live, and no housework or child care.

If this sounds familiar, it is. Cusk isn’t telling us anything thing new, she’s just telling it from “the women’s point of view”.

Cusk is a clever writer, though I found the internal monologs hard to follow. Perhaps I’m not English enough. Or not suburban enough. Or maybe my dumb-old linear male brain can’t grok the meandering ruminations of these women.

The women are the only characters who are fleshed out in any depth. The children are unpleasant horrors that even their mothers seem to dislike. The men are monstrous idiots who don’t understand their wives and don’t seem to care (as far as the wives can tell).

It’s all a wasteland, and Cusk offers no particular solution or even hope of a solution. Love has failed. All men are useless. Motherhood cannot be undone. Life sucks.

The only prescription seems to be not to get married, and definitely not to have children.


Cusk suggests (almost certainly based on her own life) that it would be better to stay in the big city than to move to the suburbs. Life is more stimulating, even if scarier. On this, she may have a point. See, perhaps, Straub’s version of motherhood in the big city.


Transit by Rachel Cusk

And so, Transit (2016) tells about a divorced woman with children who moves back into the city. (This is obviously partly autobiographical.)

In Cusk’s accustomed style, the story is told in a series of conversations with friends, colleagues, neighbors, the builders renovating her flat, and so on.

The title refers to an astrological reading supposedly based on a celestial transit, at the same time she is transiting back into the city.  (We never really learn what the astrological reading says, only that it exists.)

The conversations include some men (for a change), though they are troubled and some are very troubling. Everyone seems to have a messed up childhood. Can it be that everyone in London was abused or abandoned as a child?

I guess it is good news that it isn’t all the fault of men, and that women aren’t the only ones who are damaged.

Much of Cusk’s work is about motherhood and children, and Transit also touches on fatherhood, at least, as viewed by a woman. Many of the men and women (including the narrator) are divorced, some more than once, and they are dealing with children. I must say that neither the children nor the parents are particularly attractive in this book. One despairs for the future of these people.

What seemed in the earlier story to be the solution to her “death”, seems no better. It is perhaps telling, then that once in London, she sends her children off to their father, and takes several trips out into the country. In fact, she spends almost no time at all in the city, and her children appear mostly in her memory and on the phone.


I haven’t read much of Cusk’s writings, so I can’t really be sure that she is never happy, positive, or even ironic. What I have read is, for better or worse, pretty grim reading. She may or may not be representing the contemporary life of women, I can’t say. But I’m not finding any solutions or even any path to a better way here. I wish I were.

And what’s the deal with all the memoirs, anyway?


  1. Rachel Cusk, Arlington Park, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
  2. Rachel Cusk, Transit, New York, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2016.

 

Sunday Thursday Book Reviews