Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

The Solitudes and Oscar Wao

I've just finished listening to Aegypt: The Solitudes by John Crowley. Up until now I have been picking books for my i-Pod based partly on whether I like the the voice-artist, and I have been avoiding books read out by the author. My logic is that someone is good at writing, doesn't mean they are any good at reading. However, Crowley read The Solitudes with style, so I've decided not to miss out on books that I think I'll enjoy, just out of some kind of voice prejudice.

So the book I am listening to now is The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, read, yes, by the author. I'm less than an hour in yet but I'm enjoying it, glad I bought it. Blakes 7 gets a mention 34 minutes in (I checked the time when I heard the phrase), which must be the only time it has featured in a Pulitzer prize-winning novel.

Here are some quick pocket reviews so you can decide if these are books you would like to read or listen to.

The Solitudes is a loose rambling oddly structured novel about a history professor called Pierce Moffet (I don't know how it should be spelled) who packs in his job and goes to live in a little town in rural New York called Blackberry Jambs. Pierce is tantalised by an idea for a book about the secret history of the world, or a history of hermeticism (the two ideas sort of merge in and out of each other). The book is interspersed with extracts from a series of historical novels about 16th century hermeticism by a now-dead local author, and brief p.o.v. shifts to other people living in Blackberry Jambs. There are long philosophical and mystical digressions - either you go for that kind of thing or you don't. I like it fine.

Like many books I have read lately it is informed by Neo-Platonism - the idea of an ideal which looms either in the past, or the future, or outside time, and yet informs our experience of the present. I think Platonism is an idea which can only be explored obliquely, with tact. I can't bring myself to read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, which I expect to be crass and superficial (fairly or unfairly, I don't know).


Oscar Wao is a teenage Dominican-American SF fan. What the American youngsters call a nerd. I think it's a harder thing to be in the US than in Europe. Hence this novel about the life of Oscar Wao is not an SF book, but a book informed by SF, and also by Dominican culture. It begins with a wonderful prologue on the history of the Curse of the New World, centred on Hispaniola. Five minutes into this prologue I knew the writing was of excellent quality, and I was in safe hands. It's lively, funny, and engaging. I already love Oscar's sister Lola, who likes to read, drives a car and calls men 'bitches'.

There's been some talk lately on lj about the experience of the non-white SF fan, and whether SF fandom can adapt itself to be more inclusive. I'm not saying this book has any answers, but it's certainly pertinent, and I think portrays SF fandom as a positive aspect of a difficult life.
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