A Week of Reading 5-13

Let’s see, what’s on the shelves this week?

The focus of my week’s reading was Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them. This book reminded me of a discussion I’d seen in I-forget-which-speculative-fiction-sourcebook (it might have been the one by Card, though) about the difference between the protagonist of a story and who the story’s actually about. In this one, it’s a case of what the book centers around vs. what it’s actually about. It begins with the bath-toys after which the book is named, a shipment of ducks, beavers, turtles and frogs lost at sea that the author decided to go haring off after. But what it’s about is the ocean, and humanity’s relation to it, and the author’s relation to both and to Melville (not only is the original Moby Dick alluded to constantly, but the author uses Melville’s style with a frequency that gives me flashbacks to the Moby-Dick chapter in Pen of Iron (see 4-28). It’s a fascinating comparison, and one I think we should look closely at—do we really know what our stories are about, and are they what we say they are? That and the oceanography stuff is pretty darn nifty, though all the stuff about the trash in the ocean could make one pretty cynical pretty quickly.

I finished up the audio version of Seth Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Premise is simple; if something’s a dead end, get out, focus on those things you can get through because if you can get through them, they make you special. I’m at a part of my life where that’s probably sage advice—except that there are some things (like this blog, come to think of it) where I can’t tell a dip from a dead end, and, well, let’s just say that I’m sure it’s sage advice but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether taking it is practical in my current situation. That or I’m my own worst enemy. Probably both.

And then there was Ship Breaker—a very, very odd book. The setting is post-apocalyptic Earth, though this isn’t your standard such setting. Most of them, they’re very gray, very metallic places, all jagged edges, and the most one remembers of nature is harsh winds blowing poison gas through the inevitable wastelands or over the trashpiles; Nature has lost her battle and won’t really be affecting this plot. This one’s different. Probably in large part because of the Time of Acceleration being a result of global warming, Nature is a key player. There are Cat-6 hurricanes, city-killers, like the one that sets the main part of the plot off. There are whole scenes, particularly in the beginning, taking place in areas where the dominant color is green. The plot’s been done, but it has its moments, and I like the questions it raises about the half-beast Tool.

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