Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson

quicksilver2Quicksilver is a book that defies with ease any attempts at writing a pithy and flashy review. Swatting-a-lame-old-fly is the kind of ease I’m going for here. Read the blurbs if you are looking for that, a review of this type just wouldn’t really be a review, but rather an extended blurb.

Quicksilver, the first part of the Baroque Cycle trilogy, is vast and winding. It spans decades and continents, its subject matter is difficult to pin down, its method is an even more elusive beast. Perhaps the most apt definition I have arrived at comes from the novel itself:

“It seemed that Jack, here, had blundered into the fourth or fifth act of a drama – neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but a history.”

And although the sentence refers to somebody else’s historical drama, it self-consciously echoes the structure of the novel. Which, like history, maintains only the illusion of such a structure. As some proponents of New Historicism would have it, historians and document-makers are part of the historical process they are untangling and seeking to document and explain. They are just as much embroiled in the material practices and texts of their time, as are the agents of their narratives. Continue reading

Dodger – Terry Pratchett

A geezer, now, well, a geezer is somebody that everybody knows, and he knows everybody, and maybe he knows something about everyone he knows that maybe you wished he didn’t know. Um, and well, he’s sharp, crafty, um, not exactly a thief but somehow things find their way into their hands. Doesn’t mind a bit of mischief, and wears the street like an overcoat.”

That’s Dodger all right, a proper geezer and a tosher to boot. Which, in case you didn’t know, is a sort of sewers scavenger. To paraphrase the book, toshers look for value in the things people above throw away, the things they don’t care about. Pratchett’s homage to Charles Dickens, a story he has probably wanted to write for a long time, is very much interested in this toshing business, literally and metaphorically. Continue reading

Moving to London and a list of Londoniana books

That’s right, the blog’s den has moved to London and it finally has an official address. In keeping with local tradition, as I am writing this short post the rain is pouring outside our pretty flat. I love this city (despite the weather) and the next year will surely be exciting, there is just so much to take in and explore here. Museums, markets, gardens, pubs, random walks in unfamiliar neighborhoods, concerts, plays, whatnot. Hopefully finances will suffice to go see a couple of Gunners games, too. And lots of rain, of course. Continue reading