The Emperor’s Children (Claire Messud)

I know that I said in my review of jPod that there are few books that I don’t finish once starting them: The Emperor’s Children is one of those rarities. I struggled through about half of the book, wading through the overly-complex and pompous wording and characters that I really didn’t care that much about, until I read something that made me realize what a bad writer that Messud actually is, and what a crappy editor that she has: “is comprised of” when she meant “comprises“. Twice. I put the book down and backed away, slowly.

jPod (Douglas Coupland)

My LibraryThing icon in the sidebar has been pretty busy lately; I arrived home on the 10th after being away for a month and found that three of the books that I had put on reserve at the library had already come and gone, and four more were ready to be picked up. I love the reserve system, and owe it all to Ingrid for telling me about it: just get your TPL library card and sign up online, then search away. When you find something that you like, you can put a reserve on it and it magically shows up at your local library branch when it’s available. The system sends you an automated phone message (which I wish was email) when there’s something for pickup, or you can login and check online. The unfortunate part is that after months of waiting for some of these, they all seem to be coming in at the same time: I have four things out on loan now, and another five waiting at the library for me (although two of these are DVDs).

The first one that I attacked was Douglas Coupland‘s jPod, and I have to admit that I was disappointed; although this is called “Microserfs for the age of Google”, I found it inferior to Microserfs. I actually liked most of the story and the characters: a group of Vancouver-based game software developers who were building an entire evil subplot into what was supposed to be a children’s video game, and some of their strange companions. However, there were some really stupid page-wasters, such as when one of the characters created a challenge related to the first 10,000 digits of pi, it was accompanied by the entire 10,000 digits. Yawn, interrupted only by the fast flipping of pages past this nonsense. The largest of these went on for several pages, and became more than a little annoying. The most annoying thing, however, was the way that Coupland wrote himself into the book as some sort of evil genius. Not funny, not even interesting.

There’s very few books that I haven’t finished, once I pick them up, and I did finish this, although I don’t recommend it. Also, I wanted to include it the arts challenge (although I figure it’s cheating a bit, since that I can pop off 50 books pretty quickly and wouldn’t consider that to be fulfilling the arts challenge obligation).

Funny, funny writer

I’m not sure how funny that John McPhee intends to be in his book Uncommon Carriers, which I’m reading right now. It’s a book wherein he travels around in all sorts of unusual vehicles, starting with a cross-country trip in an 18-wheeler. His prose is really lovely, very readable, and occasionally very funny. For example, he talks about father of the trucker who he was driving with:

He became the editor-in-chief of Screw Machine Engineering, a magazine whose name a hyphen would have improved.



Check out the new widget in my sidebar, just below the photos, called “What I’m Reading”. It’s generated from LibraryThing, where I can enter in books that I have in my library — using some very easy search tools that check Amazon and a number of other sources, so that I can just enter the title or author and see a list of hits — then create a widget for my sidebar that shows my recent books. By just adding in each book as I’m reading it, and setting the number of books to display to 1, it always shows what I’m reading right now. Okay, it shows one of what I’m reading right now, since I often read more than one at a time.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I really need some sort of social networking mashup around the Toronto Public Library site, where I could show the list of books on my hold list, and see those of my friends in order to get ideas of what to line up next. I have to check out more of the LibraryThing functionality, but this might serve a similar purpose.