Monday, November 20, 2000

A Handful of Dust

I just finished reading this book (by Evelyn Waugh) last night. It was late when I finished, and moreover I wasn't sure I knew what I wanted to say about it, so I decided to sleep on it. After approximately 22 hours, I don't think I've clarified my thinking. The book was by turns a comedy and a tragedy. At times I believed I was reading P. G. Wodehouse, and at others, Joseph Conrad. The ending was positively bitter in the fates meted out to the main characters, at least to Tony Last. Brenda Last got less than she wanted, and more than she deserved.

On the whole, it appears to be a portrait of a society of drones, sometime after the Great War. Many of the characters are likeable, but on closer inspection have far too little self-awareness to supply enduring charm. I chose this book over Brideshead Revisited because I wanted to see something of Waugh outside his most popular work. Now I think I'll definitely add BR to my list, but I'll certainly want to read a few books in the interrim to give it freshness.

Books currently open, which may or may not get finished:

  • The Arrogance of Power - Anthony Summers. A not-so-friendly biography of Richard Nixon.
  • A Deepness Upon the Sky - Vernor Vinge. A 'prequel' to his award-winning series 'A Fire Upon the Deep'. I don't think I like this one as much, but I'll probably finish it. Science Fiction.
  • Just Six Numbers - Martin Rees. From the library, I have to get cracking on this one. Rees is a Royal Astronomer. This book explores how different our universe would be with tiny alterations of any of six fundamental constants.
  • GTK+ Programming Bible. I'll be working my way through this one for a year, at least. For work.

There are others that I pick up now and then, such as the book on the Haskell programming language, which is a functional programming language. I read this to stretch my mind. Then of course we've got the subscription to Scientific American now, and I'm gonna buy the next issue of Atlantic Monthly to continue evaluating it for a potential subscription (at $10 per 12 issues it's cheap, but if I don't read it, not that cheap).

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