Friday, October 23, 2009

A Postcard from My Father-in-Law

My life trying to push me into action: yesterday I received a postcard from my father-in-law. It's much more personal than an email, and has cool stamps. Even better, it will still be readable when gmail is a dim memory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Escape Velocity, and Slowing Down.

Continuing my concern with escapist SF reading, it seems to me that reading and "commenting" on blogs on the 'net is the same thing. Yesterday on NPR there was an interview with a Granta editor who has written a book on the evils of email, and the virtues of the old-fashioned handwritten letter.

There are so many people in my life who would like to get a letter.

(ps re-reading this post, I realize that I meant reading and commenting on controversy blogs... like the various political blogs I'm addicted to. I think commenting on personal blogs is ok for me, because they don't seem to feed my internet monster, if that makes sense. But I still need to write letters.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why (this) Quaker Should Not Read (some) Novels

I've been reading an 1806 book on Quakers, at A Portraiture of Quakerism. While at first it sounds as though Quakers at the time were against having any fun at all (music, dancing, reading novels, drama, gambling) the arguments there are more nuanced than I expected.

While I'm right there with the author on gambling, I didn't expect to find myself convicted on the reading of novels. Namely, that reading novels makes it harder to read nonfiction:

Their [novels'] structure is similar to that of dramatic compositions. They exhibit characters to view. They have their heroes and heroines in the same manner. They lay open the checkered incidents in the lives of these. They interweave into their histories the powerful passion of love. By animated language, and descriptions which glow with sympathy, they rouse the sensibility of the reader, and fill his soul with interest in the tale. They fascinate therefore in the same manner as plays. They produce also the same kind of mental stimulus, or the same powerful excitement of the mind. Hence it is that this indisposition is generated. For if other books contain neither characters, nor incidents, nor any of the high seasoning, or gross stimulants, which belong to novels they become insipid.

Thomas Clarkson, "A Portraiture of Quakerism".

I've been noticing recently that my reading has been dominated by science fiction with a "thriller" element, that absorbs me and seems to make my nonfiction reading "duller". Much of the nonfiction I read would already seem dull to most people, so this is serious! Also, it pushes me away from spending that time with my family, a much more serious problem.