Books

Good grief woman, look at the society around you

I write ‘women’s commercial fiction’ – why is my work still seen as inferior to men’s?
Emma Hughes

Blah, blah, romance isn’t seen as being as serious as other books etc.

Discrimination!

Well, yes, but have a look at the society around you for the Lord’s Sake:

romantic novels are one of the backbones of the industry, flying off the shelves in their millions. “We make profit,” she wrote. “No one gives us publishing deals because they feel obliged to.”

Indeed so but the sort of upper middle class and declining aristocracy that run British publishing still have that innate hatred of trade. Which is why you’re at the tradesmans’ entrance of the industry – the nobby nobs who write those things that sell 300 copies get the front door because they’re not profitable trade, d’ye see?

Oh, how amusing

Review of the latest Matt Ridley:

Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19 by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley pretends to be agnostic between the two while pimping the lab-leak scenario for all it’s worth.

Neither author, it is reasonable to note, is a virologist or epidemiologist. Chan has a PhD in medical genetics and is a junior research scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Ridley has a DPhil on the mating habits of pheasants; in April 2020 he declared himself confident that a cure for Covid-19 would arrive sooner than a vaccine, and a few months later he was arguing against any second lockdown.

Chan rose to Twitter fame in May 2020 by releasing a paper direct to the internet, written with two colleagues, claiming that Covid was already “pre-adapted to human transmission” when its first cases were detected, implying it had been deliberately engineered to target people. This book says that hers was “a scientific paper yet to be peer-reviewed for publication”, which seems at best disingenuous since it has never since been peer-reviewed for publication either.

Certain little linguistic tricks being used there to direct opinion, don’t you think? The reviewer is, I think at least, this Steven Poole:

Steven Poole (born 1972) is a British author and journalist. He particularly concerns himself with the abuse of language and has written two books on the subject.

Been practising, has he?

Yes, I know this is unkind of me

But:

No, it’s not about her looks. It’s about her look. It may well be specific to this one piccie. But the impression is that each and every idea that anyone else has which isn’t agreed with entirely is just so stupid as to not even need comment. Just clearly and obviously wrong because it’s not shared.

BTW, it’s Sally Rooney who apparently is a novelist of some repute.

A book review, of sorts

From Hallowed Be:

When you were talking about your serendipitous 2nd hand book, I almost asked you whether you’d read – down and out in the magical kingdom. (same guy as this post i think) From what i can gather- starts from a post scarcity, post mortality and they have social credit currency called wuffies. Be interested in a book review of that.

Not sure I actually want to read it but:

“Bitchun Society” is the dominant Earth culture in which rejuvenation and body-enhancement have made death obsolete, material goods are no longer scarce, and everyone is granted basic rights that in our present age are mostly considered luxuries.

OK, Marxist post-scarcity economy.

Whuffie, a form of digital social reputation, replaces money and is a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for a person. This rating system determines who gets the few scarce items, like the best housing, a table in a crowded restaurant, or a good place in a queue for a theme park attraction.

We’re never going to be entirely post-scarcity, there will always be positional goods. So, who gets them? Why not the Chinese social credit system as a method of allocation?

Adhocracy is a type of organization that is an opposite of bureaucracy that has replaced corporations.

That’s answering Coase on the Theory of the Firm. Some things are best done by permanent organisations – with all their costs and bureaucracy – and so we have firms. Other things are better done by networks which coalesce for a task then disperse. Which things are which depends upon, well, depends. The state of technology being one of them. Better comms will lead to more things being done by networks of short term contracts, for example. Better transport links will allow greater geographic dispersion, etc. It’s not necessarily true that post-scarcity will mean the networks win but why not?

This future history book takes place in the 22nd century, mostly in Walt Disney World. Disney World is run by rival adhocracies, each dedicated to providing the best experience to the park’s visitors and competing for the Whuffie the guests offer.

Markets and competition still exist!

One of my books is to be printed in Farsi

It’s all a bit of a coincidence, in fact a series of them, that this is about to happen. But one of my books is about to be printed in Farsi. The translation is done, the text has passed the censorship committee – yes, this is in Farsi inside Iran.

The advance is $0, the royalty an equally massive $0 so not something I think I’ll be able to retire upon. Still, will have a copy to put on the bookcase which is nice.

And the intro to this edition (first time I’ve been able to even imply that there’s more than one edition to one of my books) is:

The standard definition of economics is that it’s about “the allocation of scarce resources”. We live in a universe where there’s less of many things than we’d like. Food, land, minerals, human labour, the resources with which we can do things. Economics is, in that standard description, how we organise the world so that we can get the maximum out of the system for that limited, even if very large, amount that we can put in.

This is true but it’s also, at a deeper level, not quite so. Economics is really about how we humans react to, try to deal with, that scarcity of resources. In this sense it is not like physics or chemistry at all. If Homo Sapiens were different from what we are then economics would be different. Chemistry and physics aren’t going to change by one full stop let alone one line whatever we believe about them or however we act.

The entire subject of economics therefore rests upon human fallibility – one of those few things the universe has not left us with a shortage of. It’s thus useful to consider what we often or collectively get wrong about that human behaviour. Which is what this book is about. It’s only small attempt, baby steps if you like. But there are things which are widely believed about economics which turn out not to be true in an economics concerning human beings. Things which are believed to be true but which are not are fallacies. So, here are 20 of those things that many think describe our human interaction with that regrettable scarcity of resources but turn out not actually to be so.

By far the greatest cause of poverty in this modern world is bad economic policy. So, best we all get to grips with the ideas that are wrong then, no?

The Serendipity of Charity Bookshops

There’s no way at all I would have read this without being reliant upon a charity bookshop in a non-English speaking country. Selection issues, d’ye see?

Feed. Young Adult novel, bloggers are the irruption of truth into a staid mainstream media, there’s a pandemic – the zombies have arrived.

Well, OK, and rather well done.

The plot point being that the CDC and all know how to deal with the zombies but don’t because there are those who relish their power over society and think that the restrictions will lead to a better world. You know, one continually run by them?

Given that level of prediction it’s a wonder that it is a novel not a TED talk.

Wasn’t there a book written about this?

“Is it really likely that the average person of African ancestry is cognitively impaired when compared to the average white person?” David S. Jones, a Harvard historian and medical ethicist, told Vox. “I can’t think of how that could actually be true. And the assumption that it is true just sounds like white supremacist racism to me. We need to subject any claims like this to really strict scrutiny.”

Not that anyone is supposed to have ever read that book, so hateful was it. But the argument has, I’m sure, been made. And rather than not being able to think of how that could be true, why not read it to see if it is?

Circularity

In non-fiction writing, Asimov particularly admired the writing style of Martin Gardner, and tried to emulate it in his own science books. On meeting Gardner for the first time in 1965, Asimov told him this, to which Gardner answered that he had based his own style on Asimov’s.

Well, they’re right, it does

To Kill A Mockingbird will no longer be taught to pupils at a secondary school after teachers claimed the book promotes a “white saviour” narrative.

That the person Atticus saves is Atticus – his soul, doing the right thing and all that – might make it worse for the race baiters…..

Book antirecommendation

Prisoners of Geography
Tim Marshall

Don’t bother.

It says it’s about ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics. It ends up being half a paragraph on a map – for Russia, the existence of the Northern European Plain – followed by 15 pages of lightly digested Economist editorials.

A useful test of a book is whether, having read it, you think you can have done it better. I’ll admit that it passes this for I couldn’t have done it better. Don’t have the stomach to read enough Economist editorials to collect the necessary number of third hand opinions to regurgitate.

Modern literature

Through a series of beautifully observed novels that deftly map the fractures of the contemporary world – Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah – Adichie has become one of the most eloquent voices of anglophone Africa. She has also become a fierce protagonist in debates over racism, feminism and free speech.

Much of Adichie’s work wrestles with questions of identity in a globalised world and, in particular, what it means to be black and to be a woman. In a world of contested identities, this has inevitably drawn her into a number of controversies, most notably with trans activists. Last week, she published a three-part essay entitled It Is Obscene, which went viral, picked up by newspapers across the world. The essay is both a passionate defence of herself against her critics and a blistering polemical reflection on the state of public debate today.

I actually read this thing, It Is Obscene. And, well, I thought it terribly weak, very lily livered, and I desperately wanted the writer to come out and say what they were actually bothered about.

No, I don’t mean in my sense of a resort of Anglo Saxonisms. Rather, well, OK, but what’s the beef? Can you please be clear about this?

Then again, I clearly don’t write literature and there might well be that interesting reason why I don’t read it either. Which is that it keeps striking me as being very weak, entirely lily livered.

Idiot, idiot, stupidity

It has taken nearly a decade to research and write, and runs to more than 750 pages. But The History Makers, described as “an epic exploration of those who write about the past”, has itself been rewritten after its author failed to take into account enough black historians, academics and writers.

The complaints are that he’s ignored black history. Which isn’t what he was writing about, rather, about writers of history. And the impact of writers of history is going to be reliant upon how many people read them, not the history itself that happened.

Sigh.

Inflation

Back in that golden age of the pulp magazines – the 1950s – the rate was penny per word. That’s why the novels of that Dianetics guy are so wordy.

Just seen an ad for sci-fi romance writers. Penny per word……

What inflation?

What trust?

“When S&S chose to sign Mike Pence, we broke the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression,” it said.

Rather up themselves, aren’t they?

So allegations are enough these days then?

The publisher of a highly anticipated and widely discussed biography of Philip Roth is pulling the book and cutting ties with author Blake Bailey, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

WW Norton and Company, which previously released Bailey’s 2014 memoir The Splendid Things We Planned, said on Tuesday it was “permanently putting out of print our editions of Philip Roth: The Biography and The Splendid Things We Planned … Mr Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses.”

It also said it would match the amount of Bailey’s book advance to donate to “organisations that fight against sexual assault or harassment and work to protect survivors”.

Presumably Marx is about to go out of print then. He did, after all, groom Helene Demuth into giving him a son – she was a servant, that was a position of power and authority over her.

Or doesn’t it work that way?