Monday, March 17, 2008

Brief comment on The Dragons of Babel

Michael Swanwick is perhaps the best SF writer working today. His masterpiece, _The Iron Dragon's Daughter_, is richer, more creative, more ambitious, and more beautifully written and designed than anything else in the genre in the last decade or two; but his novel _Stations of the Tide_ and many of his short stories are similarly successful. He earns the allusions to John Crowley's _Little, Big_ in _TIDD_.

His latest work, _The Dragons of Babel_, comes after a few fairly uninteresting novels. It is set in much the same universe as _TIDD_. Anyone who has read any Swanwick should go pick it up, so no further comments are needed - and in the interest of avoiding spoilers I add only this: if _TIDD_ is _Das Schloss_ (a comparison it perhaps in fact turns out to deserve), this new novel is _Amerika_.

Somewhat relevantly to the aims of the Swanwick novel, this sentence by Kafka is the greatest ever written:
Und morgens wie abends und in den Träumen der Nacht vollzog sich auf dieser Straße ein immer drängender Verkehr, der, von oben gesehen, sich als eine aus immer neuen Anfängen ineinandergestreute Mischung von verzerrten menschlichen Figuren und von Dächern der Fuhrwerke aller Art darstellte, von der aus sich noch eine neue, vervielfältigte, wildere Mischung von Lärm, Staub und Gerüchen erhob, und alles dieses wurde erfaßt und durchdrungen von einem mächtigen Licht, das immer wieder von der Menge der Gegenstände verstreut, fortgetragen und wieder eifrig herbeigebracht wurde und das dem betörten Auge so körperlich erschien, als werde über dieser Straße eine alles bedeckende Glasscheibe jeden Augenblick immer wieder mit aller Kraft zerschlagen.
It's a description of the life and chaos of New York City, and the light that scatters off everything "as if a dome of glass over the street were with total force at every moment smashed."

Labels: , , ,

The End of the HRC Campaign

Quick reaction to the news that FL won't hold a revote: HRC would have had a good argument going into the convention that she won the popular vote (and did much better than Obama in the Democratic vote) but that depended on the large vote delta she would have gotten in FL. With no revote, and thus I assume the disenfranchisement of FL, the Obama supporters won't accept that argument on threat of bolting, so it's all over strategically (assuming that the Rev. Wright matter or something else doesn't explode). I nearly agree with BTD in comments here and elsewhere in that thread. Probably withdrawal would be too precipitous a reaction (and surely the HRC side isn't thinking this way given their failure to fight hard for a revote), but a winding down or downshifting of the campaign is probably the course I'd recommend on the facts as I understand them.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reading a Tell

See Bob Somerby on reading a tell here. Also another in a rather tragic series of devastating links to Josh Marshall burning his reputation at both ends.

[I've used the label "learning to read" (which I intend to use a fair amount in the coming weeks, having been thinking about that for a while) because the phrase is such a nice metaphor and because the skill is essential in reading as in the more typically relevant forms of interaction.]

Labels: , ,

Fateful Choice on Iraq Army Bypassed Debate

Let's play "spot the passive voice". Or rather, "spot the missing name".

Michael Gordon is widely regarded in the liberal blogosphere as a hack, if not a complete one. Here's an article in the NYT about the disbanding of the Iraqi army. It describes how that decision was made and approved. Well, no, it describes how mystified many of the main players were to find out the decision was made and approved. The article is an attempt to seem like the former, but all one needs to do is grep for the string "Cheney" in the article to read the tell.

Labels: , , ,