2007-04-24

The wisdom of James Surowiecki

I've always instinctively loved the idea of markets, and in The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki gives a very readable exposition of the idea of groups making decisions. It could do with a bit of proof reading though. To remain true to the ideas he champions, Surowiecki should really have published the book as a wiki, and then all his readers could have made corrections.

I was gripped by Nick Hornby's 'How To Be Good'. Kept on reading it. People describe him as a comic writer, and he does excel at humour, but I found the book sad and uncomfortable as well.

I realize that in these notes about books I'm nearly always saying how good they are. But The Rotters' Club really is good. A few months ago I read 'The House of Sleep' and that made me seek out other Jonathan Coe books. The character Paul in the Rotters' Club is my favourite. He's a precocious, annoying younger brother, 9 years old. I'd like to transclude some of his dialogue but the book isn't published electronically under an open content licence, and there isn't a good and generally available way of acheiving transclusion.

2007-04-09

The thoughts of his mind were of the gloomiest dye

'The thoughts of his mind, besides, were of the gloomiest dye, and when he glanced at the companion of his drive, he was conscious of some touch of that terror of the law and the law's officers, which may at times assail the most honest.'

That was one of my favourite bits of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Another great paragraph is:

'I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name. If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning; and you can do but one thing Utterson, to lighten this destiny, and that is to respect my silence.'

The book is chilling, an excellent example of Victorian darkness. How much of Robert Louis Stevenson is in this book? I'd like to read a biography of Robert Louis Stevenson, can you recommend one? I think he lead quite an unusual life. Had poor health. Apparently he had a rather dissolute lifestyle when he was young, and in the book Utterson looks back on his life and says that he did things that were barely acceptable and nearly did worse.

'The Ex-boyfriend's Handbook' by Matt Dunn is completely different. It's the male equivalent to chick lit. In fact it was on my desk at work and Emily asked why I was reading a girl's book, the cover sort of gives that impression before you look closely. It's a straightforward blokey book, really a feel-good book. Thanks to Irina for recommending it.

I think I've read all of Iain Banks' non-genre books except for Canal Dreams, and I've read all his sci-fi books. I'm so a fan. 'Walking on Glass' was a disturbing read. Banks' books seem to follow a pattern of starting off in an upbeat clever, bounding-along-happily sort of way. This sets you up for a descent into nightmare that doesn't contradict the beginning, it just cleverly reveals it as being part of the horrific whole.

I think Dean Koontz wrote K-Pax. I've seen that film twice, excellent. Is he an alien? I came to a conclusion after watching it but I can't remember the conclusion. Anyway, I've just read Demon Seed. This is another scary book. It seems to me though that people assume an AI will have a human-like set of motivations. But just because something is intelligent and conscious doesn't mean that it will have the same basic drives and feelings as animals.

I'm currently reading 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. I'm starting with the last part, is this a good idea?