Current Reading

Pete Carr and Robert Correll

HDR Photography: Photo Workshop

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is an eye-popping artform.  To see what I mean you might do a Google search to see a myriad of examples like those at the Flickr interest group.  Or visit Trey Ratcliff's Stuck in Customs website at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/

Robert B. Parker

Painted Ladies

Parker's latest Spenser novel finds the private investigator again immersed in the art world (see his first novel The Godwulf Manuscript) trying not only to retrieve a stolen Dutch painting but trying to "make good" on his promise to protect his client who is killed during the initial ransom exchange.  The novel involves Spenser battling against a group supposedly bent on retrieving art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  Each of my vacation periods for about the past 25 years has started with a Parker novel.  While Painted Ladies is not one of the best Spenser novels, it is nonetheless a page-turner in the potboiler tradition by a former Edgar Award and Grand Master Award Edgar winner.   If you like PI fiction, Spenser is one of the most interesting characters in a genre filled with interesting characters.  Parker also wrote another series I enjoy greatly about the police chief in a small Massachusett's tourist town.  These Jesse Stone novels have been made into a number of movies starring Tom Selleck.

Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club

Since the number one rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club, I won't say much about the novel's plot.  Most people are familiar enough with the basics from the film of the same name. I was very intrigued though by the novel's Afterword, particularly where Palahniuk describes the book as an updated version of The Great Gatsby.  Certainly the narrator is a tortured soul like Jay Gatz and the novel does deal with social stratification and "class warfare" at some level.  The novel also deals with some male gender and masculinity issues. Tyler Durden is certainly a compelling "doppelganger".

Cory Doctorow

Little Brother

If you've been in one of my classes this year, you've probably heard me raving about Cory Doctorow's 2008 novel, Little Brother, which is available free online via the Creative Commons license at Doctorow's Craphound.com website. Without giving away too much, the novel takes its readers though a terrorist attack in San Francisco and the response by a small group of young revolutionary technophiles. The novel raises some important issues concerning the politics of fear, the Patriotic Act, and Homeland Security. It's literally the most exciting thing I've read in the past couple of years. But don't take my word for it, here are what some other contemporary writers have said about the novel :

“A wonderful, important book…--I’d recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I’ve read this year, and I’d want to get it into the hands of as many smart thirteen-year-olds, male and female, as I can. Because I think it’ll change lives. Because some kids, maybe just a few, won’t be the same after they’ve read it. Maybe they’ll change politically, maybe technologically. Maybe it’ll just be the first book they loved or that spoke to their inner geek. Maybe they’ll want to argue about it and disagree with it. Maybe they’ll want to open their computer and see what’s in there. I don’t know. It made me want to be thirteen again right now, and reading it for the first time.” —Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman and American Gods

“A rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion.” --Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies, Pretties, and Specials

--“I know many science fiction writers engaged in the cyber-world, but Cory Doctorow is a native…We should all hope and trust that our culture has the guts and moxie to follow this guy. He’s got a lot to tell us.” --Bruce Sterling

For the Win

Doctorow's most recent novel, out in hardback, but also available for free at Craphound.com, examines the dark and gritty underside of  massively multi-player online games.  The book is an eye-opening analysis of the real world economics of these cyberworlds.  It has made me much more compassionate to the third world and other improvished gold farmers who make their livelihood in these alternate realities.  Much like Little Brother, a band of young computer enthusiasts, this time multinational, take on the system at great personal risk and ultimately create change and get justice.  The book is thoughtful in its analysis of the economic themes and related social issues. The book is multi-threaded following the lives of a half-dozen or so gamers worldwide.  Each of the individual threads is detailed and compelling enough to for a narrative of its own.