December 22nd, 2003


The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, Meredith Broussard, ed.

Frequently when I go to the bookstore, I'll pick up a book about the young adult female experience, hoping to get some insight into my failed relationships and aborted prospective ones. I already know that my own brain causes most of my issues. But there's always that voice in the back of my mind when I see some books that maybe just might help me out. So I buy them.

So it was with The Dictionary of Failed Relationships which I figured I had to learn something. It's a collection of 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) reflecting on a failed relationship. Most are fiction. Unfortunately, few of them were entertaining, and only one of them was interesting. Most detailed issues with typical assholes or random driftings apart. Only the one really showed any kind of knowing introspection (Berniced). In that case the character didn't understand, but the author showed the character to be a shallow person through the story. Most of the stories suffered from trying to be too arty. People, stop listening to your college English professors. It doesn't make for interesting fiction.


Being public

So a couple of recent incidents have gotten me pondering the nature of the public web. I don't really go out of my way to be mean to people, but I am not always the nicest when I respond to public entries. While a recent incident is fresher, I'm going to use the to-do with Josh a few months ago as an example. He publicly posted a request for reasons why people hadn't come to his DJ night at the Mercury. I responded, in a somewhat mocking but truthful manner. He didn't take it well, and I am now no longer on his friends list. I use this as an example merely to illustrate the type of incident, not to request backing from people as to whether I was right or wrong.

I don't like eggshells. I don't like walking on them or avoiding them or whatever. I'll often step on people's toes and hurt feelings simply because I don't like taking a huge amount of effort to find the least intrusive way of saying something.

I put myself out there every day. There's not much about me that I am not willing to write about in this journal, which I have chosen to make mostly public. Sometimes I am surprised by the lack of people who don't hold back in response. I expect that I'll get both positive and negative responses. In my case, I'm not easily bothered by people's opinions of me generally. In fact, I wish more people let me have it with both barrels. My greatest learning experience ever was when a man I respected greatly cut me off from speaking in a group and very publicly corrected me.

In fact, I don't mind that people have taken offense on occasion. I don't mean that as I don't care what they think. I mean that if someone feels the need to get pissy about my pissyness, so to speak, they should do so, and I'll still listen. The pissyness is just one more aspect of communication.

I do wonder though, do people really expect to be public with their lives, and get only perfect validation and empathy? Or to have people they don't know refrain from commenting on a public place? Seems kind of short-sighted to me, in a number of respects. One for just missing the nature of the medium. Second because validation and empathy are only a very narrow band in the spectrum and good information comes in many different ways.

And are people keeping the gloves on with me? And why? People holding back with me offends me almost as much as letting loose seems to offend others. I'm missing a ton of perspective if peopel indeed are doing this with me.

FYI, if you do want to let loose and are scared that I'll retaliate, I don't have LJ set to log IPs. Post anonymously if you want. Feel free to respond with a reasoned reponse, or just chew my ass anonymously. Or whatever, it's all good in this case.


Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick

The third book I read in New Zealand is a time-travel book by Michael Swanwick. This is the first time I've ever read a novel by Swanwick, though I might have read a short story or two from his pen. The story is a little bit hard SF and a little bit SF farce. The plot is basically this, what if someone in the future invented time travel, then brought the technology back to the human race of the early 21st century. While most time travel novels spend a lot of time avoiding causality issues, Swanwick's Bones of the Earth revels in the contradictions inherent in the idea. The main characters bounce around in time so much that they simply leave memos for their other selves to pick up to carry out actions in the past or future.

Paleontology becomes the centerpiece of the story. The project for which time travel is used is a series of camps scattered throughout the timeline of the dinosaurs. Except there is a saboteur in the midst of the project. The saboteur strands a group in the Jurassic era. No problem, by the standards of the book, and plenty of time to figure out what to do. Because you can manipulate time at will almost, simply go back in time 10 minutes after they are stranded. You have all the world in time to set it up. Or simply go back in time to ten minutes before the sabotage, and prevent it from happening.

It's a lovely concept, and Swanwick runs amok with it because he doesn't care about the contradictions. He's messing with the subgenre of time travel.

This is one of the few books I've read recently that had a crappy plot (outside the time travel contradictions) and only average character development that I still liked. Simply because he messes with the time travel idiom so well.