Foundation and Empire
by Isaac Asimov
Spectra, originally published 1952
It’s weird. I think this is a “better” novel than the first, though it is not as “interesting” or impactful as the original Foundation novel, hence the lower rating. I appreciate how Asimov, in this book breaks the formula of his previous book a bit. It doesn’t cover as much time, it’s not as many small stories, but a few larger chunks of narrative. So rather than feeling like a short story collection, it feels more like a proper novel.
In this book, we continue the history of the Foundation–the eponymous organization created in the first book as a haven for human knowledge in anticipation of the Galactic Empire’s imminent collapse.
The first book saw the Foundation come out victorious over several enemies due to the careful planning of the mathematician-prophet Hari Seldon, who anticipated a series of what became known as “Seldon Crises” based on the natural profession of nations. In this book–again, following historical precedence–we see what happens after the Foundation becomes the de facto Empire, having conquered those competing interests in volume 1 to find themselves now looking very much like Empire they hated.
by Isaac Asimov
Spectra, originally published 1951
Okay, in preparation of the upcoming television series, I finally read Foundation, Isaac Asimov’s first book in what is widely considered the greatest science fiction series ever written.
As one who usually doesn’t seek out science fiction in his reading, I’ve got to say, this was fantastic, and represents what everyone says about the best sci-fi: the actual science and premise itself isn’t so much the point as it is seeing the human condition play out against its backdrop. On those terms, this book is a masterpiece and success in nearly every way.
Frank Budgen’s illustration of Proteus from James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses
Well, I made it through the chapter that’s famous for keeping people from progressing further through James Joyce’s Ulysses. And boy, let me tell you: this chapter is a trip.
The narrative of the chapter is incredibly straightforward. Stephen Daedalus walks down a beach on his way to drop off a letter. Along the way, he sees a dead dog on the beach, watches a gypsy couple meander towards him with their dog sniffing and exploring, and then he either imagines or witnesses the recovery of a dead body from the water. That’s it.
And yet, in these pages we find an intoxicating writhing of language in its theme, content, style, and technique. The chapter becomes more like a sense memory, larger than the sum of its parts, but also hazy in its exact contours.
Stephen & Proteus
As I wrote a couple of days ago, I’m blogging my way through James Joyce’s Ulysses, trying to give a layperson’s perspective on the chapters in an attempt to demystify it a bit. I previously wrote about Chapter 1, and how it’s incredibly straightforward. However, in Chapter 2, I’m starting to see the subtle storytelling shifts that he book is known for.
I’ve known that Chapter 3 is the sandtrap that gets a lot of readers stuck. It is a full-blown stream-of-consciousness sensory overload in the mind and perspective of Stephen Daedalus. Every thought, observation, and fantasy run together in a constant flow.
Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally started Ulysses by James Joyce. I’ve done a deep dive into preparatory materials, I’ve talked to those that have taken this journey before, and I’ve read the books that inform the background of this one. And now that I’ve jumped in and finished the first chapter….
I’m feeling pleasantly over-prepared.
Finally starting to tear into Ulysses. I’m finding it not nearly as intimidating as it’s made out to be. But there are many more pages to go. If you want to join me in the reading, check out the reading helps and plan.
The Remains of the Day
Vintage Int’l, 1989
Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day is, as the Amazon product page calls it, “universally acclaimed”. It won the Booker prize the year of its release, and no less a pedigree than Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson graced the screen in its film adaptation. I personally received recommendations for this book from people that both know me well and whom I greatly respect for their taste in literature.
Imagine my surprise, and the depth of my self-doubt and questioning of my own aesthetic inventory, when I read this book and really, really despised it.
This Summer, some friends of mine and I will be reading through James Joyce’s Ulysses–a mid-century modernist juggernaut that’s considered by many to be the greatest novel in the English language–and I want to invite all of you to join us. Feel free to pass this post (and its accompanying Google Doc) to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. You can purchase the book here.
The Bloomsday 2019 Kick-Off
Ulysses is at it most basic level, about one 24-hour period on June 16th, 1904 in the life of Leopold Bloom. For book nerds, that calendar day has subsequently been dubbed “Bloomsday”. Here in Philadelphia, there is a library and museum called The Rosenbach which has one of the only complete manuscripts ofUlysses, handwritten by Joyce. Every June 16th they throw a massive day-long block party celebrating Irish culture and James Joyce.
Our little reading group will begin on Bloomsday 2019, and we invite anyone in or near Philadelphia to come to The Rosenbach to party. We’ll then read through the book and, for those interested and able, we’ll occasionally meet in various Irish cafes and pubs around Philly to talk about the book. I’ll also try and blog a bit through the book here. Continue reading
But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
Ohh, that’s a nice literary turn of phrase. “Speaking of all the evil things he had done, he added to them by imprisoning John.”
See other Marginalia here.Read more about the series here.
In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us…The poet or the artist never yet had so fair and noble a design but some of his posterity at least could accomplish it.
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden (via Austin Ricketts, who’s contributed to this blog before. My thoughts on this topic here.)
No, this post has nothing to do with the picture. Sorry.
(But it is an amazing picture, though, am I right? I think I look like Mario.)
As most people know, several months ago I started a new job. Part of my orientation in the specifics of this field was a 12-week training course with others in the field from different agencies all over the city. We had assigned seating–assigned at random–and the table of people I ended up with were pretty fantastic. We joked and learned and had a great time for our twelve weeks together.
During our hour-long lunch breaks, we would all pull out books and read at the table. We learned that each of us were lovers of books and as our 12-weeks came to an end, we decided to start a book club to stay in touch with one another.
Enter: Staché: the paper trail
The website: ReadMyStache.wordpress.com
Summer is over. The autumn rains
Have descended like tears from an invisible god.
I lie on this rock, the ringing of the isle’s name
drips off my ear
along with the stampede of water rushing
rushing through the silence
Clothed with beauty,
I began to understand,
The source of Jupiter-Zeus
And begin to form my own mythology
Within the realm of reality
I see the personality of the wind
The fright of the trees
the whispers of the water
The art of the sky the song of nature
My altar erected
I now understand
The quiver of twigs
the movement of fingers
through the hair of some autumn goddess
Golden; beloved and adored above all the others.
Birds in silent homage,
while sabbatical flowers fall.
I smell the smell of my sacrifice
burning at the altar
of my gods and goddesses as I long to merge.
Be made a tree,
To know and experience all that I love
in one embrace
One flesh of flesh
Dust of dust.
My heart in one accord, in that which I was made for
Worship of somethings someone anything
In hopes of finding joy.
As I lie in the midst of beauty’s nature’s beauty
I grow sad because:
For although they knew him,
they did not honor him as such
or give thanks to him,
but they became futile in their thinking,
and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Claiming to be wise,
they became fools,
and exchanged the glory of the immortal for images
resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Because they exchanged the truth about him for a lie
and worshiped and served the creation rather than
And I am no different.