'And then', says Lady Scrope brightly, 'the Company
will send cars to take us all to the Good Fortune Shopping Mall.
I understand that it is a real Alladin's Cave of treasures, where
we can all find prezzies for everyone and all sorts of little indulgences
for ourselves, and in perfect safety'
It's all here: the mysterious East, wives abroad,
British class, vulgarity, the narrator's ironic condescension. The
small, intense women of the small, intense stories are wonderfully,
strangely real. The bigger, heroic "A Lamia of the Cevennes" and
"Cold" can't quite match the dexterous irony of the stories that
The host of NPR's Weekend Edition crafts a wonderful
memoir of Chicago sports and Chicago politics. Ernie Banks and Richard
J. Daley, Leo Durocher and Jesse Jackson. Simon's chapter on the
'69 Cubs (who lost to the Miracle Mets) is the only account I've
seen that captures the spirit of a time that, for Chicagoans, outshines
the Boys of Summer or Murderer's Row.
Mei is a young, Chinese lawyer in Singapore and
her boyfriend, a bored British expat, has been jailed on suspicion
of running a gambling ring. Tan makes it the occasion for an evocative
portrait of a generation that lives on the edge of many cultures
and belongs to none. At times, Tan's first novel sounds like _Gish
Jen meets Jane Smiley_. Parts feel forced: could any lawyer really
be as ineffectual as Mei, or is this just a plot device to keep
the novel from being tagged a mystery?
Hartwell is a master of the introductory paragraph,
a staple of science fiction anthologies. Unlike many predecessors,
though, Hartwell usually has something to say. Of Greg Egan, he
observes that "he remains socially isolated from the SF field --
nobody has met him in person." Some lovely stories (Hiroe Suga's
"Freckled Figure", Robert Sawyer's "Blue Planet"), but either it
was a dull year or I'm becoming a fussbudget about craft.
Catherine Lim may be Singapore's most
acclaimed novelist, but this is not her most acclaimed book. Some
years ago, Lim went on a cruise, armed with notebooks and satirical
intent, only to find her weapons strangely blunt. She attributes this
to the ship's enchantment, though more skeptical readers may wonder
whether Lim abroad is up to the standard of Lim at home. A fluffy
If you want to read about a cruise, read this. Even
if you don't, read this anyway. Capping an uneven collection, the
title pieces (which is almost 96 pages long) is one of the great
essays of the decade. David goes on a cruise ship, revels in the
experience, hates himself for revelling, takes revenge on himself,
the ship, the crew, and the spume -- everything with brilliant prose.
Eighth in the series of wonderful naval adventures.
The Times once suggested that these were the best historical novels
ever written, and it might be time to take the claim seriously.
The Aubrey/Maturin novels need to be regarded as a single, very
large work -- one best experienced gradually over many years; it's
another interesting sign that this is the age of ultranarrative.
The sequel to McLoud's indispensible Understanding
Comics. A vital examination of the future of electronic publishing,
focusing on the comic industry but by no means limited to comics.
McCloud's espousal of micropayments gets the most space and has
attracted the most attention, but other topics are more intriguing
-- especially the tension between hypertext and spatial narrative.
A historical mystery in which a Jewish ex-boxer
tries to unravel intrigue at the edges of the incipient South Sea
Bubble scandal. Liss's historical detailing ranges from superb to
feeble; he does a wonderful job in the coffeehouse and exchange,
but all his characters, Jews and gentiles, sound pretty much alike.
Middle novels in trilogies are almost always weak.
Idoru breaks the jinx with the most interesting vision of a cyber-future
since Neuromancer. The new vision makes an interesting contrast,
too; where once we jacked in, now we tell the stewardess on the
shuttle that we've "got gogs" (meaning goggles) . Best Gibson since
An important book, likely to be among
the most influential computer science monographs of the late 90's.
Fowler takes a intuitive programming practices -- things you just
_know_ -- and explains them, giving us a way to think systematically
about things that, only a year ago, were just part of the mystery
of the craft.
This is going to be one of the most widely-discussed
software books of recent years. Beck turns orthodox methodology
on its ear and offers some intriguing economic arguments for why
scruffy development practices can work when so many thoroughly-specified,
orthodox projects blow up. Inevitably, Extreme Programming will
become a new orthodoxy, businesses will adopt it half-heartedly
but with great fanfare, people will be disenchanted. Life will go
on. Adopt the new methodologies (like new medicines) quickly, while
they still work.
A challenging, fascinating, difficult look at ideas
for the design of electronic objects -- radios, computers, art.
Dunne does an unparalleled job of showing the holes in usability
theory and in postmodern theories of industrial design. The edgy
book design is often arresting, but the plentiful illustrations
are often impossible to decode if the reader is not already familiar
with the object depicted.
A fine biography of an actor who would
much rather have done something else. Ken Auletta's review in the
New Yorker, however, hits all the high points and, in the end, proves
more sympathetic to Groucho than the biography.