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Thread: The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

  1. #31
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Well I’m coasting in for splashdown on the Mars Trilogy, and it’s been a most enjoyable trip. I’m sorry to see this ride end. It’s been almost 2000 pages of densely written prose, but it’s been a constant companion for the better part of a month. I’ve spent my days looking forward to getting to a place where I can sit down and read for a while. Anyway, Danik, thanks for coming along. It definitely helps to chat with somebody while on a long read.

    Anyway, I was clumsily trying to compliment the German people by saying they’re a laid-back version of the Swiss. What I mean is they’re like the Swiss except more easy going, less uptight, less obsessive-compulsive. You know, they’re more fun to be around. And even though when you’re in Germany you’ll still get scolded for crossing against the little red man, in Switzerland I think they feel obligated to run you over if you’re crossing against the little red man. They won’t even brake or swerve away from the offending pedestrian. I believe they’d actually speed up and swerve into a walker who has the audacity to disrespect the little red man. To do otherwise would be contrary to living in a well-ordered society. You see, if you let the small stuff slide, you might as well let everything go. Letting someone cross against the little man is just a hair’s breath away from anarchy.
    Uhhhh...

  2. #32
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Books are being good travel companions in these times where real trips have become difficult if not impossible. I gather you are much traveled but you haven´t been to Mars before. And you are a fast reader. 2000 pages in less than a month is a feat. I used to be a fast reader long ago. I think I am starting to look at sci-fi with other eyes. It seems to be a kind of training for possible futures. It has been fun exchanging ideas even without having read the books. Maybe there will be more in the future.

    I have to say I am sorry for I quite misunderstood your joke, because I didn´t know what "a laid-back" version was. I somehow thought you where complimenting the Swiss. The German love their rules, but when they are nice, they are very nice! And they usually are trustworthy.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  3. #33
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I’ve gotta agree with you concerned sci-fi, Danik. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the genre. I’d actually gone to the bookstore interested in one one his more recent novels: The Ministry for the Future. I liked the set up. An organization is started (in 2025) to advocate for the future of Earth. And not just for future generations but for all the animals and plants as well. I liked the idea. But alas, the book was only available in the hardback format and I’m not keen on dragging a book the size of boat anchor around with me in my suitcase. And I don’t really like reading books on an electronic device. So I bought the Mars books instead, but since there’s three of them, they probably wound up taking up just as room. Oy vey.

    I don’t think I read all that fast. In fact I prefer to read slowly. The previous trilogy, Cormack McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, I read very slowly. He’s such a stylist that I enjoyed going word by word, sentence by sentence and just taking in the language. I can’t go too fast with McCarthy or I’ll miss something. That said Kim Stanley Robinson writes with such detail that if I started reading too fast I’d run the risk of missing something big. I’d be reading along and only partially paying attention to all the horticultural specifics of alpine lichens and then - WHAMMO - a space elevator is built, or an ocean bubbles up on Mars, the western ice shelf of Antarctica slides into the sea. So I’d have to backtrack a few pages and figure out what happened.

    Sorry about the “laid back” terminology. I thought it might be problematic. I think it’s generally considered to be a good attribute. I picture a California surfer dude — horns are honking, traffic on the 405 is backed up to Santa Monica, tempers are flaring, but out on Huntington Beach he’s like - “whoa, dude, surf’s up.” Of course it’s not always a good personality trait. For instance if your boat happens to be taking on water, you don’t want to be too laid-back, you’d be better off getting a bucket and commencing to bail.
    Uhhhh...

  4. #34
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol! Anyway you made a good deal exchanging three books for one. I got used in reading books on tablet and PC. I have reading apps, with features that make reading more agreeable, I can change the background, the size of the font and specially the glare. If I want to I can read in a totally dark room( but it´s not recommendable). I sadly quite lost the habit of paper books. But I think for a own library there are still beautiful hard cover editions.

    You are right. When you read some authors style is almost as important than the content sometimes it is even more. And here is a challenge for you: https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/...lison-entrekin. The publication of the new translation of the great Brazilian epic is scheduled for 2020.

    I myself have become a very slow reader. I usually read in the evening and I usually read until I start to get sleepy over the book.

    I understood this “laid back” terminology as somehow easy going. But it seems not to be quite that. Any German would be deadly worried about his boat and if that was possible, organize an efficient method of emptying the boat .
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  5. #35
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    You know, I’ve always shied away from reading literature in translation because I get the sense I’m missing too much. Languages are so complex and nuanced that unless there are copious footnotes it seems I’m missing a lot in a translation. And if the text is heavily footnoted, I sort of lose the flow. That said one of my favorite books of all time is The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek. And that said I’m sure there’s much in Švejk I’m missing. But I pick up something new each time I read it.

    It looks like Alison Entrekin missed her 2020 deadline to translate Grande Sertão: Veredas. Or anyway I can’t find it anywhere. I wonder how the project is going. I’d certainly be interested in reading it if she ever finishes. As I was surfing around the web (surf’s up, dude) looking at her work, I came across a novel she’d translated by Chico Buarque - My German Brother - evidently it’s semi-autobiographical. It gets high marks by readers on the Goodreads website. I’m certain, Danik, you’re familiar with Buarque’s work, but he’s new to me. And that’s another thing I really like about this website - I come across so many interesting leads I’d like to track down.
    Uhhhh...

  6. #36
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I understand you, Sancho, it´s exactly what made me learn English so many years ago. I wanted to read Dickens in the original. I don´t know if Alison Entrekin´s translation will have footnotes, she is basically set on recreating Rosa´s language and that is a herculean task. I shouldn´t wonder if she interrupted her task to translate easier pieces of work, she has to live from her job and literary translations are the most challenging but also the ones that render the worst payment. Anyway it seems now that the new deadline is 2022.

    I read some of Chico´s novels, I liked specially "Budapest". I heard about "My German Brother", but I still have his last but one novel "Spilt Milk" unread in my bookshelf. It must be good and yes it seems to be about a son out of marriage from his father, which was born in Germany. I´ll have a look at Goodreads.
    "And that’s another thing I really like about this website - I come across so many interesting leads I’d like to track down." I think
    you revived this trend by writing about the books you read. It´s mostly you and kev that write about the books they have read these days.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  7. #37
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Well, since we’re talking about reading fast and slow, I’ll mention the book I’m reading now: Roger Deakin’s Waterlog. I’m reading it slowly. It was written in the 90s when the writer was in his 50s and like many men at that point in their lives, he finds himself alone and with time on his hands. So he starts a hobby, which in his case is open-water swimming. He sort of tours around Great Britain and swims in just about every body of water he can. It’s nature writing, travel writing, humor, memoir, and philosophy. That is to say it’s not categorizable - if I were to walk into a bookstore and try to find it, I’d be at a loss as to which section to look in first.

    One reason it’s a slow read is because it’s so well written. And so with books like this, I like to slow down and enjoy the ride. But another reason is because the writer is British and I’m American and although our languages are similar, they’re not the same. Here’s a simple example. Early on in the book Deakin is out for an ocean swim in the Scilly Isles, which is off the Cornish peninsula, southwestern Great Britain. (I had to look it up) As he’s walking back to town he sees a group of coaches sitting there. So I’m picturing a bunch of guys wearing track suits and ball caps, each with a whistle on a lanyard around his neck, and sitting at a cafe, drinking coffee, and working out their game plan. Turns out what he sees are some old railroad cars that have repurposed into camping shelters.
    Uhhhh...

  8. #38
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol! Yes such misunderstandings happen all the time with Portuguese from Portugal and Portuguese from Brazil.

    For me Nature is an enjoyable theme. I read not long ago, a book called Heimkehr (Coming Home) by Wolfgang Büscher. Büscher is a journalist specialized in writing uncommon travel books. This one is about fulfilling an old dream. When he was still a schoolboy he used to build hunting huts with his friends in the wood near by. During the night when the boys had to be at home, the forest ranger destroyed the huts. So now he decides that he wants to live for year in a hunting hut. He goes to the nobleman of the region and gets an invitation to stay in his hunting hut. Only a few days he will need the hut for his hunting party.

    Büscher starts roughing it in the coldest winter. He lives as a real hunter would: no electricity and no facilities from the outside world. Only a second hand car, that he needs to visit his mother, who is dying in a hospital nearby. The first days are very, very cold. He soon discovers, that a cover and a fire aren´t enough to protect against the sharp winter. And he also learns to protect his food ( no fridge, of course) against the small mice who want to share his fire with him.

    But then he makes friends with the current forest ranger, who loves his job and tells him a lot about the trees and plants and the animalsof the wood.

    This period in the wood is in fact a voyage back into the past in every sense of the past. With his mother dying he examines his personal past, his family story. And also the story of the wood, with his footpath made by ancient folks. And last but not least, the story of this part of Germany with it´s possibly last aristocratic family that lost all it´s power but still has the respect of the people that live in the "Residenzstadt" near by, where the family still lives. Not even an ugly Nazi chapter is missing. But there is also the anedote, that the Prince of the family visits Büscher in his hut. With his simple household Büscher has a problem: one can´t suppose His Royal Highness drinking coffee out of a tin cup. So he goes to the house of his family, which is now his and takes one of the golden lined porcelain cups of his mother.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  9. #39
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I like nature writing as well. But it seems to work better when it’s encompassed in a broader work. Last year I read Hope Jarhen’s Lab Girl. It’s mostly a memoir about the writer finding her way in life - growing up in Minnesota, being drawn to science (botany in her case), dealing with an undercurrent of misogyny in the lab, struggling with depression, chasing grant money, etc, but inter spliced in all of that are some amazing descriptions of trees and how they work. Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods is ostensibly a book about guy having a mid-life crisis and deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail, but along the way he describes how plants and animals as well as the soil, the rocks, the water, and the air fit together. No one has written more beautifully about the Southwestern U.S. than Ed Abbey in Desert Solitaire, and the nature writing is only part of a greater cautionary tale about human progress. Anyway it seems to me me that straight up nature writing needs to hang itself on something else to become truly compelling literature. If there’s a symbiosis between certain plants and animals then there’s certainly a complimentary relationship between nature writing and the broader literary work.

    I’m not sure if Brazilian Portuguese or American English has strayed further from the language in the old country. I did, although, have an interesting conversation with a flight attendant about just that. She was a German woman, but she was working for a U. S. airline. We were on a flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai and just killing time in the galley. She said the airline staffs the crew with a certain number of flight attendants who speak the language of the departure and destination airport. And since flight attendants get their trips based on seniority, a newer flight attendant (she was young) can get a sweet international trip out of seniority if she’s qualified in the language. This particular woman said she worked mostly between the U.S. and Germany. But what she really wanted to do was fly to Brazil. So she was trying to get qualified in Portuguese. Unfortunately she’d bought a language course back in Germany that was based on the kind of Portuguese they speak in Lisbon, and she told me - “Oh it is sooo much different than Brazilian Portuguese.” Anyway she’d already spent her money and said she was committed to completing the course. She struck me as smart and diligent and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts she’s enjoying herself on Copa Cabana Beach right now.
    Uhhhh...

  10. #40
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Yes, I agree with you Sancho and I usually prefer nature in novels and bios. You seem to have read much more books about nature than me. And I thought first I would be bored with this kind of loner in the woods, but in fact the way he blended nature, personal history and the history of the country enchanted me.
    I don´t know about American English, but Brazilian Portuguese certainly has strayed far from the Portuguese of Portugal. It begins with the accent, that is very different. From all former Portuguese colonies, Brazil seems to be the only one that developed an own accent. So, at least in the spoken language our independence is complete, he,he. On the other hand, Portugal is more adherent to grammar and the new orthography rules and they sometimes use words that sound very "bookish" to us, nation of non readers. But I think nothing to scare away your German acquaintance. She will know to make herself understood.

    I am reading another interesting book now, it´s called "The Children of Hoy". It´s about the town Hoyerswerda in the former East German GRD and the 1991 multiple xenophobic attacks on emigrant workers. The author, Grit Lemke is herself a child of Hoy. She tells the story from the point of view from the children of Hoy, who mere mostly the children of the first workers of the new town, who arrived coming mostly from other German towns but also from other countries. The story is made up of narrative and statements from these former children of Hoy. So when it comes to the terror, the readers have gained an almost insider idea of the life of the town: they have been witness to the free infancy of the children living in collective buildings, they have gone to school with them and seen them grow up and find their employments at "Pumpe" and spending their weekends in more or less undergrounds events.

    But one always has the statements of Mozambican David about how they were not allowed to the dances and how they had to walk always in groups.

    That´s how far I´ve got up to now.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  11. #41
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I like finding gems like the Wolfgang Büscher book when I’m not expecting it. Last year I read Michael Finkel’s A Stranger In The Woods. It’s about a 20 year old guy, Christopher Knight, who decides he wants to live alone, and so he wanders off into the Maine woods and lives in a hermit hole for almost 30 years with basically no contact with anyone. The first thing that occurred to me was that it gets really cold in Maine in the winter. But he survives. Thrives in fact. His primitive camp is not far from a few summer cabins, but the woods are so dense that nobody ever comes across his abode. A few local legends arise about a hermit in the woods because things are occasionally missing from the cabins, food mostly. Well, he doesn’t voluntarily come in from the cold, but he is brought in when he finally gets caught stealing from one of the cabins. - curses be to security cameras - He said he just wanted to be alone.
    Uhhhh...

  12. #42
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I’m still slowly reading Waterlog. Here’s a short sample of why Deakin’s writing is so much fun to read slowly. It’s a wonderful and vivid description of a flying insect. He first compares the fly to early attempts at powered flight by humans and then comments on the present state of human affairs.

    The air is heavy with St. Mark’s flies; shiny, black, and about a half-inch long, feeding on cow-parsley flowers. They are top-heavy insects, with a thorax like an old Dragon Rapide biplane and a body that tapers to nothing. Their flight is jerky and uncertain. They kept taking off like Blériot on a maiden flight, dropping out of the sky quite suddenly, only to catch themselves, as if on an invisible safety net, and set new and equally aimless course. Their larvae live on the roots of wet grasses, and they must all have emerged at the same moment without any clear idea about the direction their lives should take. Truly a fly for our times.
    A fly for all times, I’d say.
    Uhhhh...

  13. #43
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancho View Post
    I like finding gems like the Wolfgang Büscher book when I’m not expecting it. Last year I read Michael Finkel’s A Stranger In The Woods. It’s about a 20 year old guy, Christopher Knight, who decides he wants to live alone, and so he wanders off into the Maine woods and lives in a hermit hole for almost 30 years with basically no contact with anyone. The first thing that occurred to me was that it gets really cold in Maine in the winter. But he survives. Thrives in fact. His primitive camp is not far from a few summer cabins, but the woods are so dense that nobody ever comes across his abode. A few local legends arise about a hermit in the woods because things are occasionally missing from the cabins, food mostly. Well, he doesn’t voluntarily come in from the cold, but he is brought in when he finally gets caught stealing from one of the cabins. - curses be to security cameras - He said he just wanted to be alone.
    Interesting story specially if based on real facts, Sancho. The guy certainly was an outsider and it unfortunately is so that the small modest thieves are usually the ones that get caught. But I have the feelings that in US there are some facilities for people who want to live in nature, in a trailer or so, and who have very little contact with urban life. I have been following for some time now a association of writers called the Rough Writers(No, no Mc Cormack here) of Carrot Ranch, leaded by a lady called Charly Mills, who drives around the coldest regions you can imagine in a trailer with her dogs. Yes /No found this group out and started sending short stories to them. I see they have updated themselves and can be found on twitter as well.
    If you want to take a look:
    https://carrotranch.com/2021/11/22/s...dall-robson-2/
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  14. #44
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancho View Post
    I’m still slowly reading Waterlog. Here’s a short sample of why Deakin’s writing is so much fun to read slowly. It’s a wonderful and vivid description of a flying insect. He first compares the fly to early attempts at powered flight by humans and then comments on the present state of human affairs.


    A fly for all times, I’d say.
    Yes, that reads well! I used to read very quickly, when I was a teen, but then I was after the plot. Today I like to read a good book slowly to savour the style of the author. And then I read late at night. When I start to get sleepy it´s time to leave of.

    Speaking of insects and style, I have these days been revising a story, that I never was able till now to appreciate rightly, because of the terror it inspired. I mean that most famous of all literary insects (but nobody knows what an insect exactly he is) from Kafka´s "Metamorphosis".
    There is pathos and dark humor in the same segment:
    Here an example with Gregor Samsa´s effort in trying to get out of bed:

    "It was a simple matter to throw off the covers; he only had to blow himself up a little and they fell off by themselves. But it became difficult after that, especially as he was so exceptionally broad. He would have used his arms and his hands to push himself up; but instead of them he only had all those little legs continuously moving in different directions, and which he was moreover unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, then that was the first one that would stretch itself out; and if he finally managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the others seemed to be set free and would move about painfully."
    https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5200/5200-h/5200-h.htm
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 11-25-2021 at 10:11 AM.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  15. #45
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Whatever happened to yes/no? I’ll check out the rough writers. They sound like my kind of people.

    The story about Christopher Knight is true. There was an update about him not long ago. He’s working at his brother’s garage I think and isn’t adjusting all that well.

    You’re right about the U.S. having places where you can disappear. In fact it’s been said that one of the pillars of the national personality is the ability to “light out for the territories,” like Huck Finn. It is getting harder and harder to disappear, but people still manage to do it. Ted Kaczynski for instance (the unabomber) did it up in Montana. I get the sense that about half the population of Alaska is on the lam from the law or a most heinous ex-wife. I lived up in the interior of Alaska in the 80s and people from the “lower 48” would always ask why in the world anyone would choose to live in such a cold and desolate place. The answer was always - “well, you know, a lot of people live here because they can’t live anywhere else.

    I bet you can disappear in Brazil too, certainly in Patagonia.
    Uhhhh...

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