The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (Books 2015, 1)

This is kind of a frustrating one (and could, like the last one have been considered 2014, as I started it before the year ended; but it was well into January before I finished it.

Anyway, Pynchon can be difficult. I read V years back, and remember next to nothing about it; and I started Gravity’s Rainbow once, but ground to a halt and never quite got round to going back (this despite the fact that I was originally drawn to it by Alan Moore talking about reading it).

This one is a lot less difficult, to say nothing of significantly shorter. It’s problem is more to do with how our heroine comes to find out about the weird postal conspiracy that she investigates, and why it matters. We have some engaging characters in interesting situations, but it’s hard to get terribly enthused about a conspiracy to route the post be some means other than official government mail channels.

Especially in this deregulated times, when most of the post is deliveries from Amazon anyway. We Await Silent Bezos’s Empire, I guess.

But it’s worth reading.

Newsflash: the Firefly guys were villains

Malcolm Reynolds’ twelve-headed hydra wang of hate for the alliance doesn’t come from outrage over the dubious morality of a couple of black bag cabals within the government

An excellent analysis of Firefly and Serenity, by someone who loves them as all right-thinking people should.

via Newsflash: the Firefly guys were villains | Jay Kristoff - Literary Giant.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (Books 2014, 20)

A Christmas present: started on Christmas Day and finished just after midnight on the 3rd of January. So I could call it 2015 number 1, but it makes more sense to go with the year in which I started it and read most of it. Anyway, it’s all a bit arbitrary.

Viv Albertine, as I’m sure you know, was the guitarist in The Slits. They had only a short time in punk’s limelight (though as I learned from this, they released a second album, not just the one I’m familiar with).

This book is half about her early years and the punk days, and half about after. She went on to work as a filmmaker and then struggled to have a child, had serious health problems. Eventually she re-taught herself to play guitar, and started performing again (I saw her supporting the Damned a couple of years back, and then supporting Siouxsie at Meltdown a year and half back).

It’s really interesting reading about a time I lived through, events I experienced — from afar, true, but still ones I felt part of — from someone else’s point of view. Especially that of someone who was at the heart of many of the events.

And she writes with some style; it’s a compelling read. She makes some strange choices: for example, she only ever refers to her sister as “my sister”; we never get her name. Similarly with the man she marries. Initial he’s “The Biker”, and then “my husband”.

I suppose it’s a matter of protecting the privacy of people who are still alive — especially in the latter case, because he doesn’t come out of it terribly well. Indeed, it may be the case that the only people who are named are those who were already in the public eye to some degree.

Any road, if you are into music, especially punk, at all, I would highly recommend reading this. I plan to get her new album — which came out two years ago, it turns out — The Vermilion Border.

Eclipse SVN key bindings not working

I often get problems with the key bindings when I create a new Eclipse workspace. The recent ones with Subversion seemed intractable until I found this answer on the mighty StackOverflow.

It’s a frustrating thing when your muscle-memory has an action and it doesn’t trigger the expected response.

keyboard shortcuts - SVN key bindings not working in Eclipse - Stack Overflow.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (Books 2014, 18)

You know when you hear about a book, or read a recommendation, and you think, “That sounds interesting…” And then a bit later it’s available on Kindle for like 79p, so you download it? And then just a short time later you get round to reading it, and you think maybe you’ve heard that the author has written a sequel in the meantime?

And then you get to the end and discover that there are now six books in the series! Six! Do you?

That’s a definition of time passing without you noticing it properly. it’s very bad.

Unlike this book, which is very good; especially if you like tales of people escaping from hell and battling with demons, angels, and other creatures of the supernatural, while running a video store (sort of), drinking Jack Daniels, and stealing cars in LA (why does he steal cars when he has a key to the Room of Thirteen Doors, which can take him anywhere?)

Good stuff. And I daresay the sequels will be up to the mark too; though I’m not going to dive straight into those. I’ll give it a rest first.