Tuesday, June 02, 2015

After-dinner reading

Here are some of the books I've been reading to Clare (c. 30 minutes) after dinner.

1. "Me Before You" - Jojo Moyes

A working-class girl finds herself through caring for a tetraplegic hunk, bound for Dignitas. Well-written chick-lit.

2. "The Kind Worth Killing" - Peter Swanson
"Ted Severenson is on a flight home to Boston when he strikes up a conversation with his pretty seatmate Lily. He's had a few drinks in the lounge before boarding and the conversation takes an odd turn along the way ... it becomes a little more personal ... and a lot more dangerous. Ted's wife Miranda is cheating on him:

"What are you going to do about it?"
"What I'd really like to do is kill her."
"I think you should, she said."
Yes, we really liked that.

3. "Last Night in Montreal" - Emily St. John Mandel
"Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life. Haunted by her inability to remember her early childhood, and by a mysterious shadow that seems to dog her wherever she goes, Lilia moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. But then she meets Eli, and he's not ready to let her go, not without a fight.

"Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Emily St. John Mandel's Last Night in Montreal is the story of a life spent at the centre of a criminal investigation. It is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and - ultimately - about the nature of obsession."
As a literary thriller it's pretty good - very atmospheric. Doesn't totally work for me as some of the more extreme psychological reactions of her characters seem a trifle implausible. I believe that her "Station Eleven", which we also have, is better. Will read it shortly.

4. "The Hollow Man" - Dan Simmons (1992)

Simmons is a hugely talented writer and I have been in awe of his 'Hyperion' quartet for years (though I still gag at John Keats' overwrought, self-indulgent and pretentious poetry). Simmons has no scientific education and makes the schoolboy authorial error in "The Hollow Man" of trying to fake a scientific theory of consciousness. Much hand waving about the Schrödinger equation, standing waves and Fourier transforms: I was embarrassed to be reading this stuff aloud and had to skip on to where the hero is stuck in the Everglades swamp with a gangster. That Simmons does know how to write about.

I took the opportunity to explain Fourier transforms to Clare, using the Taylor series as an auxiliary concept (she has met that concept in the past). I wish I could convey to you how interested she was in the mapping of a time -> volume function (e.g. a sound wave) into a frequency -> amplitude function.

As she has just ordered a 'top of the range' hearing aid (age!) I was then able to bore her with Fourier transforms all over again.

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