I enjoyed it. It was light, fluffy and surprisingly poignant. And I am very curious how the book club feel about it. Nugent explores the feeling of being socially adrift and how nerds attempt to create a social system that works and makes sense. I, not surprisingly, very much understood this sense that social rules and who was popular and who was liked made no sense to me. I remember feeling very much isolated and the strong desire to find a community of like-minded souls. And this book left me with the question, is this how everyone feels? Or is it just the way nerds feel? Or do nerds feel it more acutely? Or perhaps, nerds take agency and try to make a new, better society, with their rules and their hierarchies and secretly don’t understand why people don’t join with them in their utopia.
Why was it poignant? I loved the bits about Nugent’s nerd-past. And I think in exploring his past, he comes back to my central question of why do nerds pick their order and is their sense of social dissonance universal? I think I am a bit like Nugent, very self-absorbed and seeing things from my own perspective. He assumes that people are nerds for the same reasons he was. That they played d&d for his reasons. When he goes back and talks to his friend, he realises that isn’t so. The nerdish pursuits and the nerd community was serving different functions for his friends. In some ways the little community of social rejects provided its own escape for kids who had a whole lot of confusion and instability in their lives. That he didn’t have this same need becomes apparent when he takes the opportunity to shed his nerdom and hang with the cool crowd. I can fully understand why he did that. His motives make complete sense. But his actions had a horrible cost. It wasn’t enough that he betrayed the people who were there for him in the lean years but that he had to falsely accuse another and sever that person’s connection to the nerd world too (which suddenly reminds me of a story in werewolf comic—they walk by night—but that is an aside too far). He is judas and I am glad he feels the guilt even now.
After a couple of attempts, I realised I need to have two posts about the book. The first will be a complete navel-gazing recitation of my historical nerdiness. The second and probably much more on subject post will look at the book and some of the questions it has left me with. That I am genuinely looking for answers to.
I like to think of nerdiness as a continuum. And while I most certainly know nerdier people (I knew undergrads I knew who would plan their evening meal so that it wouldn’t interfere with watching reruns of Star Trek where the game was to name the episode before the opening titles came up and then discuss how the teleplay differed from the novelisation of the episode), it would be wrong for me to deny my past.
I was raised by a NASA engineer who used to bring home films of clear air turbulence experiments and have the whole family watch.
When I was 11, I read Shakespeare. Two years later, I organised my friends into digested productions of Macbeth. I am not sure I have ever really solved how to stage the scene where Macduff walks in with Macbeth’s head tucked under his arm (though my was I impressed when I saw how the Reduced Shakespeare Company solved that problem).
In 1979, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. Last year, on a visit to my brother, I was reunited with my original boxed basic set, my advanced d&d player’s guide and monster’s manual and my set of dice. I think the twenty-sided is currently sitting on the tv. I was saddened by the news of Gary Gygax’s death.
The first computer language I learned to programme in was Fortran Four. I was working for NASA as a SHARP(summer hire apprentice research programme) on the X-29 forward swept wing project. My mentor tried to convince me that when I went to university I should major in maths because a) it was a great way to meet guys and b) it was a ‘mickey mouse’ major.
Did I mention I was a mathlete? That the first boy I kissed (Farley Stewart who went on to do computer science at UCSD—where they wrote Pascal) was the captain of the mathlete team. We both played in the same dungeon. I was also on the mock trials team, captain of the Academic Decatholon, four years in marching band, student representative on the school board, hated by the general school population and a geek pin-up. I’ve dated a lot of nerds. They like that I read science fiction. And I had breasts.
I may also have written fanfic, been involved in on-line role playing games based on a popular fantasy series, been a regular at the Renn Faire, considered joining the SCA, started blogging over five years ago and have a picture of myself with the crew of DS-9. I have, however, never been to a star trek convention or ComiCon or GenCon even if I have looked up the dates and times for one or more of those events.
I’d like to leave the subject of geek music untouched.
All in all, I fully expect to have a different experience in reading this book than other people. But go on, surprise me.
Well, my hope of blogging all the books I read this year has fallen by the wayside. Who knows what I read in a year? I now won't be able to report.
Anyway, according to the gp, I was depressed. And I am now on generic prozac. And a slightly elevated dosage. And actually, I feel fabulous. Life seems like a grand adventure. I suspect I have been depressed for years. At least two. Maybe longer. Maybe I am permanently depressed in my natural unchemically altered state. I don't know. But I think it helps explain the lack of blogging.
Because I have recently wanted to blog. About CSI:Miami. Today, I just wanted to mutter that now it is December, I figure I should send my paycheck straight to Amazon. Is their a more dangerous site out there? How many amazon boxes will my house collect this year?
I also went to Toys R Us yesterday. This didn't happen. But I can picture it happening. Easily.
I have been reading (as always). John Connelly (yes, I do read Michael Connelly too) which is a bit like a crime novel with a little bit of Stephen King mixed in. I think I rather like it. And well, I have been indulging in my complete and total guilty pleasure, regency romances. Ah....
Julia Quinn. She is fab. Read two. Cried over both. I am such a sucker.
Now rereading The Stand because it is 30 years old. Not as old as me. But still.
So I read Everybody Worth Knowing by the woman who wrote The Devil Wears Prada (which I also read, years ago). Why'd I read? It came free with a magazine and I bought it thinking I was getting the free mystery. What can I say, its about impossibly rich new yorkers and working every minute of the day. And finding true love.
I also read The Outcast by Sadie Jones. Why did I read it? because I convinced my mother to buy it when she was looking for books to buy. What can I say. Period details. bits of brutality. Oh yes, and finding true love. Because people do that when they are fifteen.
Then I read Fame Fatale. Because I wasn't sure I had read it before. I had. Its a typical Wendy Holden. Heroine working under miserable conditions, horribly partner. Truly horrible female lead who is all about materialism and bad fame. Then you find true love.
Read Louise Bagshawe too. I am obviously rebelling against the lit fic I have been reading. Horrible sister. Downtrodden heroine working heroically in today's world. And then you find true love.
I promise I am reading a proper book at the moment.
What have I been reading, other than the fabulous Brief Wondrous Life? Well, I can tell from my bookshelf that I read Straight Talking (free chick lit with a magazine) at some point and then immediately forgot about it. Speaking of which, I have now had enough of Harlan Corben. Read Gone For Good, had to big up book to remember title, characters, plot. And well, I am tired of it. I've read three stories of his now. Really liked the first. But I can't remember any of them individually and they all seem to follow the same narrative arc and with the same narrative twitches. Love, separation, crime committed in the past, Some one isn't who you think it is. The bad guys get killed in a divine providence kind of way, often there is a minor character of a Jersey crime family and we have had two reunited children too! Don't think I will read anymore.
Read another Tess Gerriston. The Apprentice. Which occurs in time before The Body Double. I enjoyed the novel. I like how its a bit of a literary CSI. Lots of explanation of the tech and forensics. Good villain. However, I could live without the clunky romance and well it builds nicely and then bam! its over. I kept thinking how can she finish this novel in the pages that are left and well she does it with a Hamlet ending. One villain dead (we never find out who he is, why he does what he does, how he hooked up with the other guy). Heroine saves herself and well the baddy ends up with his just desserts. Must admit I will read more but I may be looking to see if this is a pattern.
Read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Which surprised me. Old Country and The Road are both quite stark in style and language. This wasn't. It was verbose and bloody and well, I think keeping with the milieu. But much as I haven't watched Ride with the Devil (and I love Ang Lee), I don't think nineteenth century blood thirsty American complete with mud does much for me.
Which may come as a surprise when I talk about my classic for the year, Huck Finn. Loved it honestly. Loved Jim. Thought Tom Sawyer was a twit. Loved the language and Huck's gradual conscious awakening. And I can cross one more 'great work' off my list.
(cross-posted on the bookies--where it did have formatting).
Wow. No tears this time for a book of such brilliance it humbles me even as I watch in awe as Diaz manages to weave so many different currents, different, worlds, different universes together in a narrative both original and yet part of so much great literature. This is a work of genius. At first, I had a hard time imagining someone teaching creative writing at MIT. What kind of a (schizophrenic) person could do that?!? Having finished Wao, I now have no problem imagining Diaz holding his own with the geeks while writing (and I suspect reading) fiction. I think this is a book that could be read several times, and each time, the reader would learn more, see something new, appreciate it in a different light. Diaz speaks in so many languages like Spanish, the new footnote style of David Wallace Foster, incorporating the style of magic realism used by Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa. And I am not even mention the comic book/graphic novel references, all the rpging terms scattered about or the hip hop. Each a language telling the reader that little bit more, adding another layer to the compelling story of a family and its curse. I think I am most impressed at Diaz’s calling out to the literary canon(like a rap artist). Years ago, rocks were soft, dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in an American High School in a small town and actually I was 15, sophomore year, the year you have to do American Literature. More a lot of people that meant The Scarlet Letter. I was college prep. In our classes it was Thorton Wilder and Emerson and Thoreau (On Civil Disobedience not Walden) and a little bit of Hemingway. Specifically, The Old Man and the Sea and the Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. You think Diaz just picked his title out of then air? He’s running with the giants and I like him a whole lot more than Papa. Wao, like Mr. Macomber, takes life in his own hands, find happiness, if only for a brief time (fyi, Wao’s happiness is of a longer duration that safari participant Francis) Then final year, we had to read a lot (looking back on it now) including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. And that is what I recall in Oscar’s last words. In his life, it is not “the horror” he sees, but “the beauty”. For all the tragedy and unhappiness of the life of his family, Oscar finds love. But it isn’t just Oscar’s story that captivates me, its all those women: his sister, his mother, his abuela. Great story telling. But more. A book that illuminates on every page. Though I am not sure I am going to give it to my mother to read.
Other crime book: The Bone Garden by Tess Gerriston. It got slated by readers on amazon but I thought it was okay.
Got to keep bloggin on books or who knows where we will end up. I am sure there should be another crime novel in there somewhere but I can't remember what it was. I did also read Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. I quite liked it. Cyberpunk meets detective noir. I am not sure all of what happened. Or why some people did somethings. But it did read a little like a 25th century Big Nowhere. And we know how I feel about that.
Oh a completely different note, I am contemplating joining the Women's Institute. Do you think they read cyberpunk?
Don't blog for a month. Forget all the books I read. I know I read two Harlan Corben. And I enjoyed them. But I can only remember the plot of one and I have no idea what the title of either was. I don't know that this is a good thing in a book.
I did read Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams of My Father and I'll cross-post what I wrote about it.
I also have read Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day so now I think I will try and get the library to get me When We Were Orphans and The Unconsoled. I also read No Country for Old Men. I think I preferred the movie but my what is a sparse novel, a bit like The Road. Oh and I read Diary of a Nobody because my podmate loves it. I thought it was okay. I am planning on doing Huck Finn for my classic of the summer. But that is it for me for today.