On Robert Harris (Imperium, The Ghost)

I just read a good novel by Robert Harris “Imperium” about Cicero so I was curious when I saw him on Andrew Marr’s show this Sunday. As usual, the artist did not live up to the expectations as a human.
1) He thinks that democracy was “an interlude” and not a natural/aspiring state of humanity. First “they”* said that democracy wasn’t right for the Middle East and Russia, now they are waiting for the dictatorship to be rolled out everywhere.
2) Robert Harris wrote a thriller “The Ghost” that was adapted for a film, The Ghost Writer, a passable thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan and directed by Roman Polanski. When asked about his thoughts about Polansky’s conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old (after 4’5” in the clip). Harris said: “I don’t see why I should change MY position [regarding Polanski] because the fashion’s changed”.
I could have understood any excuse, for example, “these were different times” (they were). But to think that just as Harris is calmly predicting the death of democracy, he is also waiting for the return of society’s acceptance of grown men having sex with underage girls with impunity along with a return of the flared trousers.
The rule of   “What is permissible for Jove is not permissible for a bull” where Jove is a talented individual as accepted by his peers was written by the same grey-haired white men who keep their ranks closed against “the others” and then use the resulting Pantheon as a proof that the others cannot do anything of value.
I don’t think I’ll be reading his other books.
*The Establishment that contains 95% of grey-haired white men
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Book review: “Mr Penumbra 24 hours book store” by Robin Sloan

Microserfs for the Google generation with harrypotterish fantasy thrown in.

NB: I am a bit thrown off by a casual mention of a “Foundation for Women in Art”  “organised for tax purposes” (= evasion)  by a supposedly benign character.

Book review: “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari

homo_deusThe first book of the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari  Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind made The New York Times Best Seller list and won the National Library of China’s Wenjin Book Award for the best book published in 2014. It is a  panoramic view of the human history from a surprising angle. While the history taught in schools mostly tells it as a chain of events, Harari tried to look at the species development as a product of several revolutions – cognitive, agrarian, industrial.

The second book reiterates a few of the first book’s points and I think these are the best parts.  For example, did you know that in Babilon swathes of the country were owned by gods via temples?  Concerning history, Harari is on familiar ground. However, his attempts to continue the imaginary line of Homo sapiens development into the future is much less successful. He overpromises and underdelivers in the second book. Continue reading

Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

Reading this book is like having a conversation with an intelligent, wise*, interesting, very open person. A conversation, because some of the things the author says resonate despite our differences in age, upbringing, and nationality. For example, she describes how while falling asleep she imagines herself drifting on a raft at a dark sea. For me, it is a canoe and a large, Amazon-like river at night.

But the book of an octogenarian author, who became famous in her seventies about life and death is better than a conversation because a dialogue is fleeting like a rainbow, but the book remains – to be shared. The prose is beautiful as well as befits to a long time editor.

I wish my local library had more books  by  Diana  Athill.