Monday, October 08, 2007

Buried by Books

Last week was pretty busy.

On Wednesday I was in Swindon meeting the MD of a solutions consultancy to discuss a possible assignment. Thursday I was in London returning my equipment to BT following the completion of my Wireless Cities contract. Friday I was updating the Interweave Consulting accounts.

I also drafted a Q-and-A on my Wireless Cities experience. This is currently with BT so they can feel comfortable I haven’t breached any commercial confidentiality. When it comes back, it will be an asset in my Newsletter - part of my ongoing marketing campaign.

Meanwhile I am inundated with books!

1. My music theory class Thursday evening brought me “The AB Guide to Music Theory” which covers grades 1-5. I’m working through this as a priority.

2. On Saturday I had my piano lesson, where Suzanne has me focused on Grade 2 scales and the “Menuet in G Major” (BWV 114) from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook (made famous by The Toys' 1965 hit single "A Lover's Concerto").

Suzanne is into the mathematics behind the musical scales, and has lent me “Music - A Mathematical Offering” by Dave Benson. The mathematics which Professor Benson (Aberdeen University) has in mind includes Fourier analysis, Laplace transforms and group theory. Suzanne has expressed an opinion she might appreciate some help. I’m currently at chapter 2 (Fourier Theory).

3. Clare and myself both read the ancient Greece part of Robin Lane Fox’s “The Classical World” and ran out of time as we reached Julius Caesar. But it’s too good - we must continue!

4. I bought “The Indian Clerk” by David Leavitt after a rave review in the New York Times. This is a novelisation of the relationship between G. H. Hardy, feted Cambridge mathematician, and Srinivasa Ramanujan, unknown Indian clerk and mathematical genius. The basic story is quite well-known, but the novel delves deeper into the mysterious Cambridge Apostles, and other strange goings-on in the Cambridge high society of the first world war.

5. On the strength of several recommendations (and after reading “Atonement” and “On Chesil Beach”) I bought Ian McEwan’s “Enduring Love”.

6. Enthused by our recent archaeological trip to Greece, I bought “The Iliad” (Homer by way of a great translation from Stanley Lombardo).

“Rage: Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage, black and murderous, that cost the Greeks incalculable pain, pitched countless souls of heroes into Hades dark, and left their bodies to rot as feasts for dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.”

Good first line, right?

7. I have Peter Hamilton’s recent SF blockbuster lying untouched on my shelves for several months now (“The Dreaming Void”).

8. Also a biography of Cantor I’ve had for years and would like to read properly.

9. Clare also has Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” out on loan from the library, and I’m halfway through that.

Atwood is literary, so when she writes ‘science-fiction’ it’s ‘speculative fiction’. Put-downs aside, there does seem to be a real difference. The literary approach is to focus on people, personalities, character, motivation. These are real people in believable settings, and plot emerges from the interpersonal dynamics and is not the primary driver (although it’s there of course). Still it can be done well or badly and I’m not yet sure about “O & C”.

Most SF by contrast is plot/concept-centric with characterisation either perfunctory, or subordinated to whatever is necessary to keep the plot or grand ideas moving along. Easier to tap into the primary emotions of the reader that way (at the expense of enlightenment?).

It also pays better, as literary writers never fail to remind us.


My old reading glasses had made the transition to ‘computer’ glasses and a few days ago made the further transition to ‘out-of-the-way-drawer’ glasses. It’s really shocking the rate at which the eyes deteriorate as you get older.