Thursday, March 13, 2008

The latest book I finished is How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, the first in a series he is calling "The Hinges of History".

How the Irish Saved Civilization, or HISC for short, is a well-written and engaging book but short on actual meat to back the argument. The synopsis is that after the fall of Rome, the monks in Ireland were an important group that preserved and copied a lot of classical manuscripts, allowing them to survive and to influence the societies that would follow.

There is not much argument in the book beyond that simple statement. In fact, the first 2/3rds of the book don't even get to this thesis - instead it describes what was at risk of being lost in the civilization of the Roman world, what the Celtic culture was like in Ireland before Patrick converted the island and how Patrick and the Irish monks that followed him converted Ireland and created a variant version of Catholicism that lasted until the Roman version spread to Ireland through Europe.

The section of the book dealing with the actual thesis is quite short and doesn't really give a lot of evidence or theories relating to the thesis. It just restates it and moves quickly to the close of the book.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yesterday I finished The Well of Lost Plots, the third Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde.

The Thursday Next novels postulate a world where books are actually parallel worlds, inhabited by real characters who can travel from book to book and have lives of their own when they are not being read. In some ways, the idea is similar to what was used in Gary Wolf's Who Censored Roger Rabbit or in the film A Purple Rose in Cairo but more thoroughly developed and explored. Fforde also uses it as an excuse to engage in meta-fiction tricks like having the characters in the book aware of footnotes or mis-spellings.

My reaction to The Well of Lost Plots was similar to my reaction to the first two books - at first I was bit put off by the over-cute meta-fiction tricks and references to different books/characters sprinkled liberally throughtout but by the end of the book it had won me over and I quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Last night, we saw Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette as part of the SF Jazz summer season.

They make up one of the best piano trio's in jazz and put on a really good show of standards.

The only less than perfect part of the night was the slumped over guy who had vomited on the floor on the BART ride home.