Oran 2 (22/30): Tracks

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Reading List 11

Only 35 books read this semester, mainly due to two whoppers.


King John — William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet — William Shakespeare


The Gold Coast — Kim Stanley Robinson
The State of the Art — Iain M. Banks
The Islanders — Christopher Priest
Summerland — Hannu Rajaniemi
The Well of Lost Plots — Jasper Fforde
2312 — Kim Stanley Robinson
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said — Philip K. Dick
Deadeye Dick — Kurt Vonnegut
Always Coming Home — Ursula Le Guin
Europe in Autumn — Dave Hutchinson
Enemies of the System — Brian Aldiss
The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country — Neil Gaiman

The Islanders: greatest fictional gazeteer ever written?


A Song of Stone — Iain Banks
Autumn — Ali Smith
Paradise — A. L. Kennedy
Brooklyn — Colm Tóibín
Journey Under the Midnight Sun — Keigo Higashino
This Must Be the Place — Maggie O’Farrell
Thursbitch — Alan Garner
Death of a River Guide — Richard Flanagan
Climbers — M John Harrison
Ansichten eines Clowns — Heinrich Böll
The Poetry of Du Fu — Du Fu
Opened Ground — Seamus Heaney

Pride of place goes to Du Fu’s complete works, translated in six volumes (though admittedly I only read the English versions, not the parallel Chinese). Everything’s in Du Fu: solipsism, compassion, hypochondria, bravery, variety and monotony. In biographical order, his poems are a remarkable experience.

Climbers is probably Harrison’s most “normal” novel, but his similes are still far out:

Smashed black blocks of rock balanced on one another like the remains of some civilisation whose observances grew so monolithic that in the end there was nothing to do but fall back into error, decline, barbarism.

… the neat turf of the Pembroke coastal ranges (where at night artillery fire sounds across St Govan’s Head like doors banging in some row between educated but childish married people).


Robert Fisk on Algeria — Robert Fisk
The Barbary Figs — Rashid Boudjedra
About My Mother — Tahar Ben Jelloun

About My Mother is actually Moroccan, not Algerian, but I include it here as it has a very similar portrait of familial dysfunction. Draw your own parallels with Fisk on national dysfunction….


The History of Lapland — John Scheffer

I also spent quite a bit of time reading the endless London Labour and the London Poor, but since it’s not finished it doesn’t count.


October — China Miéville
Close Encounters of the Furred Kind — Tom Cox
The God Delusion — Richard Dawkins
Begat — David Crystal
King James Bible — Various

As I think Miéville said when we went to hear him, October involved a lot of people going to meetings. Despite that, it gives a good sense of the social background in the months leading up to the revolution. The two companion volumes to the KJV were helpful in drawing out the linguistic and plain weird sides of it, which sometimes intertwine.

I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls

The mouth of strange women is a deep pit

the smell of thy nose like apples

naughty figs

Plan for the next six months is essentially non-fiction only. I might finish off The Overstory, which includes a lot of non-fiction, and I’ll also be taking on the Wake. That’s unlikely to be finished in six months, though.

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Gutenberging: History of Lapland

Inspired by this blog post from Jesus College, Oxford, a couple of years ago I started a project on Distributed Proofreaders for A History of Lapland, by John Scheffer, published in 1674. Now it’s finally made its way to Project Gutenberg.

The books starts off in very dry fashion, attempting to disentangle the names of various tribes and regions in different sources, but gets much more interesting once it moves on to the lifestyle of the Laplanders.

During a celebration, for example:

Now they who by reason of the scantiness of room in the hut, cannot be admitted to the feast, such are boies and girles, climb up to the roof of the hut, and from thence let down threds with hooks tied to them, to which they fasten pieces of meat, and the like, so that they also enjoy their share of the banquet.

There’s much space given to the use of drums in divination, and eccentricities such as the use of skis for locomotion:

Another point of emphasis is the importance of the reindeer both for transport and for food, here carrying a swaddled child:

Wedding ceremonies were also remarkable:

the Bride like one strugling against it, and endeavoring the contrary, is dragged along by the man and woman that are to wait upon her, and would seem to admit of her marriage with great unwillingness and reluctancy, and therefore in her countenance makes shew of extraordinary sadness and dejection

Thanks to all those proofreaders who helped with this one, especially for their work in figuring out the long ſ letters!

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Oran 2 (21/30): Fluff

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Oran 2 (20/30): Hero

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Cats of Constantinople

Like many Mediterranean places, Turkey turns out to be quite the cat country. Unlike in some areas, however, they seem to enjoy a good balance between being well looked-after and exercising their freedom.

There are cats in cafes:

Cats in shops:

Cats in hotels:

Cats in the Hagia Sophia:

Cats on lights:

And cats on bikes:

The streets are full of feeding and watering stations, which seem to be maintained by both individuals and businesses. When it’s milk o’clock though, only mum will do:

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Oran 2 (19/30): Shrike

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Oran 2 (18/30): Pigeon feeder

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Oran 2 (17/30): Sardinian Warbler

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Oran 2 (16/30): Raven

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