Review and discussion: China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris.

The Last Days of New ParisThe Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ursula K le Guin says, “You can’t talk about Miéville without using the word “brilliant”. I concur!

Falling into a maelstrom best describes my reaction to this book. The whole notion of Surrealism has fascinated me for many years. I am probably, along with most people, familiar with the work of Salvador Dali. However, reading The Last Days of New Paris reveals so many more of the Surrealist artists, writers, and sculptors. Their creations take form and manifest in the story. The creations are the story.

This is a new universe. It is terrifying and unpredictable.

Once again, Miéville confounds me with his wit, intelligence, and his vocabulary. Here are a few that I had to research. I have put them in context and followed with the definition and some explanation.

Vocabulary

“He spoke in passé simple and imparfait: he was never other than ambiguous about whether what he was telling me a story, though his explanations of the city’s quiddity, of its history, his descriptions of the streets and landscapes of New Paris, were completely vivid” (pp174-175).

Quiddity: 1 [mass noun] chiefly Philosophy the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.
2 a distinctive feature; a peculiarity. In scholastic philosophy, “quiddity” (/ˈkwɪdɪti/; Latin: quidditas)[1] was another term for the essence of an object, literally its “whatness” or “what it is”.

“About New Paris itself, he never spoke with anything other than the most wrenching oneiric.” (pp176).

Oneiric: adjective, formal relating to dreams or dreaming. The study of oneirology can be distinguished from dream interpretation in that the aim is to quantitatively study the process of dreams instead of analyzing the meaning behind them.

“I would ask questions, and he might answer and our interaction became an interview of excursuses, at times for an hour or more, before returning to the main track of Thibault and Sam’s journey through the ruins of New Paris” (pp176).

Excursuses: noun, a detailed discussion of a particular point in a book, usually in an appendix. • a digression in a written text. (It is worth looking excursuses up in full. I wish I’d had this word in my vocabulary when I was writing my thesis)!

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Review and discussion: China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris.

Challenged by Philosophy

Peter Singer’s The life you can save: Acting now to end world poverty is a challenging book by any measure. Singer is uncompromising in his discussion about ending world poverty. As I read, a lot of the time I’m wondering is he dictating what we should do to end world poverty or is he making suggestions? 

The three premises on which he bases his argument are set out in a clear and concise way. I quote
 First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.
Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.
Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.
Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.

The example he gives in the second premise of his argument is this; by cutting back on unnecessary spending “… and donating what you save, until you have reduced yourself to the point where if you give any more, you will be sacrificing something nearly as important as a child’s life – like giving so much that you can no longer afford to give your children an adequate education”. I read that before reading more deeply into the premises and was, I have to say, shocked. In my thinking (and I don’t know whether I am alone in this) I presume education to be of vital importance in alleviating world poverty. So, perhaps his example is not one that appeals to me! 

I may or may not add to this blog. The book really is difficult on all sorts of levels and I end up playing solitaire on my iPad to take my mind off it. In a way it seems Singer is provoking a guilt trip in the reader. 

One reviewer writes, I gave the book 3 stars because (a) I assume the *facts* presented are accurate, and (b) we should be doing something about poverty on this planet. Just not the way Singer says we should.

Challenged by Philosophy

getting into practice for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo begins in a couple of weeks and all my good intentions of practicing writing every day have come to nought.

Some thoughts that are in my mind at present:
Why does the time go so quickly as I’ve got older? It really races by and I get quite muddled as to what day it is.
Why is it now a risk to ride my bike? I wobble around all over the shop and then get scared I’m going to fall off. This is not helped by knowing that if I do fall off I’m likely to break a bone or two due to osteoporosis.
I realise that nothing is certain; I am only as old as the breath I am taking so the thought about riding my bike is fairly useless.

Is the cold weather really colder and the hot weather really hotter or is my thermostat giving up the spoek?
How come the only doco I can watch on TV (without falling asleep) is Time Team?
If I have time to sit and fiddle around on Facebook, how come I don’t have time to polish my shoes?

Is it a good idea to take my grand daughters to England in a couple of years for my aunt’s 100th Birthday? I’d like the girls to have a sense of their history and this may be a good opportunity. I have no doubt that my aunt (my grand daughters great, great aunt) will make her century. She is a very determined woman.

Why does half a cup of lemon juice improve the taste of red lentil soup?

If blogger.com offers me various fonts, why won’t the one I choose apply? I was interested to read the text of Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University (June 12, 2005). Apple have always had a brilliant selection of fonts and now I know why. If you are interested, you can read about it if you follow the link. I’ve always had Macs and only one dud in all the years. The dud machine is still sitting on the floor of my study (the screen displayed vertical lines that eventually took over the whole screen and crashed the whole thing).

Why does the LBD insist on eating cat poo, goanna poo and/or ibis poo at every opportunity and why does it cost an arm & a leg to get her guts sorted out at the vet. She must be almost immune to the medicine by now – and she’s learned to spit it out all over me. Look at her, butter wouldn’t melt …

OK, so what is my 50,000-words book about? I have plans but am still not sure if the plans equal a plot and if they do, has it got legs. Maybe I’ll just have to wing it on what little I do have. Last year I already had a story in my head, one that I had been wanting to write for years and years. In the event I didn’t manage to finish in the allotted time although I got up to approx. 38,000 words. That novel is now languishing in my computer somewhere.

50,000 words in 30 days – that means 1,666 words every day. November is the last month that I can work comfortably in the garden. The weather isn’t too hot and the flies and mosquitos are starting but are not too horrendous. This is my conflict and I have a feeling that the garden will come out the winner – unless the flies and mozzies intervene! Writing at night is not an option for me. Early evening maybe but not burning the midnight oil.

If I can possibly bring myself to write in this blog each day until the end of October I’ll feel far more confident about finishing the November novel. At least I know nobody has to read this so if it is as boring as batshit, so be it.

getting into practice for NaNoWriMo