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Happy reading! May 21, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Just came through the door – this months edition of Scientific American.

Think I’ll wipe down the plastic cover and leave it for three days! No rush.

Just on subscriptions anyone notice magazines taking a long time to arrive these days?

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1. Starkadder - May 21, 2020

Not subscriptions, but I missed getting a hard copy of History Ireland magazine for March/April because I didn’t buy one before the lockdown. Fortunately some of the newsagents re-opened this month and I could buy a copy of the current issue.

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

It’s good they’re still being distributed. I do think this is a time to keep buying magazines people like.

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2. alanmyler - May 21, 2020

I don’t have any magazine subscriptions. The last time I did was around 10 years ago when I splurged on New Left Review, Monthly Review, and Red Pepper. I found it a bit of a chore getting through them in line with the delivery timescale, so I didn’t renew.

So far in the pandemic I’ve only had one book delivered, Virolution by Frank Ryan, but I never did biology and it’s a bit heavy going so I suspect I won’t finish it. In fact I don’t know that I’m doing more reading in the lockdown than before. So far I think I’ve only completed a couple of books, Stalin And The Scientists which was very readable, mostly about the debates around genetics and Lysenko, and also The Stand by Stephen King because why wouldn’t one read it at a time like this?? (The young one has just come into the home office here to tell me she’s finished reading White Fang by Jack London, she’s all emotional about the ending). Anyhow next on the list I think will be Stalin, Waiting For Hitler 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin, the second part of his biography.

What about others, are you reading more or less than usual these days?

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

Found my focus vanished the first three weeks or so – stress response I imagine – couldn’t read anything longer than a news article. Initially less. Now about the same. Reading an interesting book on the making of 2001, the film. I’ve got that alt-right book waiting in the wings and I’m rereading to get me to sleep Asimov’s 1950s robot novels in sequence. Haven’t read them in years and while they’re very much of their time there’s some interesting stuff on phobias in them that dovetails with the present very well (as well as quite a lot about social interactions by screens rather than in person).

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alanmyler - May 21, 2020

I had exactly the same initial reaction in terms of attention span. I don’t know if it was stress or just being overwhelmed with information and uncertainty, it just took a while to adjust to the new normality and establish a new healthy routine. In fact I’d say my attention span still hasn’t gone back to what it was, which was part of my reasoning for reading something light like The Stand, just to take my mind off all the external distraction and daily updates about COVID. The sci-fi is good for that as well, I’m with you there. The young one got Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep at christmas so I might just borrow that one off her to go alongside Kotkin’s Stalin.

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

Yeah, definitely the information and data was way too much at first. Stepped well back from that for a while too.

Stand was a bit on the nose for me! A while since I read Philip K. Dick. Well we all live in an effectively science fictional future now – it goes with the grain to read it too.

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sonofstan - May 21, 2020

Not much more than usual – work seems to be taking up more time, not less, even taking out the hour or so going to and from campus costs me per day.
I had a bit of a shortage of reading matter for the first couple of weeks, but I’ve bought a fair bit since and they’re trickling in. Most enjoyable read was ‘The Romance of American Communism’ by Vivian Gornick – but perhaps not the most accurate guide to the history of the CPUSA. It was noticeable how un-PC an book written 40 years ago, by someone on the left, and a feminist, can sound to contemporary ears! She does also somewhat overplay the references to alcohol whenever anyone Irish or Polish is mentioned….
Just getting stuck into ‘Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties’ by Mike Davis and Jon Weiner. All 800 pages of it.

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alanmyler - May 21, 2020

SoS those Verso sales are dangerous aren’t they! After finishing the Stalin & The Scientists book I was tempted and bought The Crisis In Physics by Christopher Caudwell, and at 70% off it was impossible to resist.

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Alibaba - May 21, 2020

I never thought about Verso. Good to know about ‘Red MAY SALE! 50% off ALL print books, 80% off ALL ebooks! 3 days left’.

SoS any friends working remotely tell me the same as you: ‘work seems to be taking up more time, not less’. They put it down to home distractions and getting extra work.

My subscription to London Review of Books comes in regularly and now in a paper envelope. Otherwise I’ve taken to reading books that were gifted to me and put aside. Unexpectedly I am interested in The Great War: Unseen Archives.

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3. O'Dowd - May 21, 2020

Both ‘Workers Vanguard’ & ‘The Militant’ arriving on time. I think both are NY printed? WV is down to 4 pages from the usual 8 though

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

Paper shortages perhaps, or maybe social distancing precluded collating the two sheets necessary for an 8 pager? After all they could just run a single A3/A2 sheet through a printer to get 4 pages. Can’t blame them not taking the risk.

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4. CL - May 21, 2020

‘Mockingbird’ by Walter Tevis.
A futuristic NYC with empty streets, somewhat like the present.

Among other things its about a robot who is aware that he is a robot.
This raises an interesting question: If consciousness is a human attribute, can a robot who becomes aware that it is a robot still a robot?
Tevis also wrote ‘The Hustler’ and ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’.

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

I think yes – it would still be a robot. Just as an alien that was conscious would be still be an alien. But… consciousness would be a shared quality across humans, robots and aliens in such a situation. Wouldn’t that be the key commonality? I must check that out. Tevis had a wide range of literary output in terms of genres.

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5. sonofstan - May 21, 2020

As Anarchaeologist said recently though, I’d give anything to browse in a second hand bookshop right now.

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Joe - May 21, 2020

I want a pint in Hartigan’s on my way home from work.

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

That’s all you’ll be allowed! 🙂
Did you see the Claire Byrne special on pubs and social distancing? It was quite something.

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Joe - May 21, 2020

I didn’t but I’m in danger of going all Gemma on this the longer it goes on. For God’s sake open up the bookies and the pubs and let us have our lives back – I JEST.

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alanmyler - May 21, 2020

I was down in Galway with the in-laws for a weekend on the beer in early March, the weekend before the lockdown, and took a break from the afternoon pints to have a browse around Charlie Byrnes. It was paradise, between the fuzzy glow from the beer and the banter and the expanse of books. It’ll be a while before that combination can be revisited unfortunately.

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6. Gearóid Clár - May 21, 2020

Yes, it’s odd. At the time we went into lockdown, I figured my reading would go through the roof. It’s the same, or less, now. Probably because of lunchtime dynamics changing.

I got back into tabletop RPGs since the lockdown, something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. I host a weekly zoom and it’s real good craic with some close friends. More banter than anything else. The rulebooks tend to be encyclopediac, so there’s where a lot of my reading time has gone.

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2020

That sounds kind of fun.

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Joe - May 21, 2020

RPGs? I thought they’d been decommissioned.

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7. anarchaeologist - May 21, 2020

I had serious concentration problems for the first few weeks (still have) but have almost read through the LRB and New Yorker backlogs, finished Diarmaid Ferriter’s slim volume on the border, David Quantick’s book on the White Album and (the late) Deirdre Bair’s account of writing Beckett and de Beauvoir’s bios. Waiting for Rockwell Kent’s (look him up!) autobiography to arrive via abebooks as I’m obsessing about a camping trip to Glenlough in west Donegal where he painted for four months in 1926. For anyone who regularly buys History Ireland (or indeed Archaeology Ireland) in the shops, maybe consider a subscription! For the ears I’ve been listening to the Fabs (see above), Robyn Hitchcock and the new Sean O’Hagan solo lp is really good.

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sonofstan - May 21, 2020

Unlike sensible people, I have a turntable and CD player at work but nothing at home apart from the laptop. It’s a very long time since I had such a prolonged separation from ‘physical product’ and I’m hating it. The belated discovery of how much there actually is on Bandcamp helps, with the concommitant virtue signalling but I’m sick of listening to poor quality files through a shitty soundcard – had to stop myself buying an expensive digital analog interface the other night to try and improve matters. The lockdown discovery has been Daniel Romano, who has a vast and unknown to me until now catalogue that spans everything from honky tonk to Big Star-ish pop/ rock.

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Starkadder - May 21, 2020

“Waiting for Rockwell Kent’s (look him up!) autobiography to arrive via abebooks as I’m obsessing about a camping trip to Glenlough in west Donegal where he painted for four months in 1926.”

I’m aware of Kent’s work- he did numerous illustrations for works by Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. He was also active in leftist politics.

Am reading “The Oxford Illustrated History of the World”
edited by Felipe Fernández-Armesto. Very detailed and
well-written coverage of human history from the end of the Neanderthals, to the Obama Administration. Very much a movement-orientated history – “World War Two” and “Civil Rights Movement, US” are mentioned, but not Churchill or Martin Luther King, for instance.
The politics do seem to be conservative-with-a-small-c, though- the writers make several unflattering remarks about Marxism and “utopianism”.

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