A Fortnight of Reading 4-28

In my last two weeks, here’s what I’ve been reading.

It was my mother who turned me loose on Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, an exploration of how the King James Edition of the Bible has influenced American writing and rhetoric ever since—or at least, a look at all sorts of interesting techniques that can be explained as this topic. For the linguist in me, and the wordsmith, it was a fascinating topic—and as a side bonus, people who have a tendency to fall into voice might find reading chunks of it useful for when they want to make sure they sound poetic. (That freewrite post on heroism? That was after reading a couple of chapters.)

Two of the books I read managed to tie into each other, partly because I was going through them simultaneously: the audiobook version of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, and Makers by Cory Doctorow. The first of these is an exploration of how online collaboration has affected the economy; good stuff, if slightly overenthusiastic and, due to the speed of change on the Internet, a touch outdated. The second is a peculiar science fiction novel that treats with a number of similar ideas. The ideas are nifty, but I found the execution a bit disappointing, particularly with regard to Suzanne Church, reporter turned blogger. The lady was the viewpoint character for the first part of the book, but aside from popping up every now and then to sleep with one of the real main characters, brokering-sorta one deal, and being the one just about every main character is massively attracted to (which helps with the brokering), she doesn’t do much afterward. Though it could just be a difficulty with supporting characters, given the peculiar disappearance from the storyline of Death Waits. But what I found really interesting was going straight from listening to the ninth chapter of Wikinomics, practically a paean to collaboration in business and its effects on motivation and innovation, to the brimming-with-hope every-home-a-factory rah-rah-innovation optimism of the first part of Makers, before the drama hits…. I really can’t think of them separately anymore.

The next two I was turned loose on by our unofficial children’s librarian, both in a “You read this, I read this, we’ll compare notes on Saturday” sort of way. One, The Trouble with Chickens, was an adventure in voice; imagine, if you will, the slangy, cynical, been-there-done-that narration of a film noir private detective. Now put it in the voice of a dog, and adjust the slang accordingly. Somehow it works. The other, Smile, is one of those graphic novels that manage to sneak past our librarian on a semi-regular basis, so I was asked to preview it. Standard coming-of-age story, graphic novel format, but what makes this one different from the usual getting-older fare is the main character losing two front teeth in an accident, and all the orthodontic hoops this results in her jumping through. Pretty good, child-safe enough to satisfy said librarian, but nothing particularly teachable.

Happy reading!

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