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I’ve got some fun bookish things to share from the past week. First of all I received a RABCK from ApoloniaX in Germany: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Did you know it is the prototype of the modern detective story in the English language?
But that wasn’t all. I also received my present from velvet’s 12 Days of Christmas giveaway on vvB32 reads. A package with no less than 3 books and some other goodies! A post about that will be up soon, so I’m keeping the exact contents a secret for just a while longer ;)
I also worked some more on Graasland: I added my list of books read in 2001 and published my review of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The classic is now on its way to another reader in the UK.
Me, I’m off to the suburbs for another release in Bookcrossing Monopoly. Sounds like I’m having a good time, right?
So cool, today I received my (sur)prize for participating in the September readathon! Chucklethescot sent me Affinity, by Sarah Waters. This book has been on my wishlist for years — I put it there immediately after reading Fingersmith, in which there’s a chilling storyline in a psychiatric ward. That was so impressive I figured I should also try Affinity, about a woman in a Victorian prison.
Sarah Waters has been on my mind lately because her most recent book was on the shortlist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. But she didn’t win, that prize went to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. ‘Poor’ Sarah, she’s been shortlisted three times now!
Well, I’m very happy with my prize :) Thank you so much for this RABCK Chucklethescot!
Would you read a cursed book, if you had one? [p. 54]
Well, Ariel Manto, a lonely PhD student on the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas and heroine of The End of Mr. Y (by Scarlett Thomas), does. Guess what the title of the cursed book is?
In 2008 the novel was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction — one of the reasons why I wanted to read it. But which book addict would NOT put a page turner about a mysterious publication on his or her reading list? I read The End of Mr. Y while recovering from the flu and quite loved it. At times it has a really feverish plot! I’m just not sure about the ending… Intellectually I would have liked it to end differently, but sick & sentimental me sort of felt good about it.
The End of Mr. Y is a thought experiment wrapped in a contemporary adventure story that asks questions about thought, language, destiny, and the very limits of being and time. I didn’t think of that myself, I just copied Wikipedia ;) What does the book itself say on the topic?
[though experiments] are experiments that, for whatever reason, cannot be physically carried out, but must instead be conducted internally, via logic and reasoning, in the mind. There have been ethical and philosophical thought experiments for hundreds, if not thousands, of years but it was when people began using the experiments in a scientific context that they were first given the title ‘thought experiment’, a literal translation of gedankenexperiment, although Lumas had always referred to them as ‘experiments of the mind’. [..] Edgar Allan Poe used the principles of the thought experiment to solve the Olbers Paradox, and, some people believe, to more or less invent the Big Bang theory a good hundred years before anyone else [..] somthing close to the way he described infinity, as the “thought of a thought”.[p.95]
So not only is The End of Mr. Y a book-in-a-book, but also a thought experiment about thought experiments… Well, although I did write down the quote, I didn’t think about these things while reading. I was way too much carried away by the story!
Another quote, about quantum physics, brought two other books to mind: One, by Richard Bach (today I wouldn’t be caught dead reading it LOL), and Child in Time, by the well-respected author Ian McEwan.
There’s the many-worlds interpretation. In a nutshell, while the Copenhagen interpretation suggests that all probabilities collapse into one definite reality on observation, the many-worlds interpretation suggests that all the possibilities exist at once, but that each one has its own universe to go with it.
I hope I am not putting anyone off by these ‘scientific’ quotes. Just look at some of the excerpts on the book’s homepage to get a real taste of it!
Scarlett Thomas obviously likes to play with words. The name of the book’s protagonist, Ariel Manto, is an anagram of I am not real. And the Victorian writer Thomas Lumas has part of his name in common with the author herself. It made me contemplate about the name of Mr. Y, but I couldn’t come up with any nice theories. I’ll be glad to hear yours! I’ve thought about:
- Mr. Why
- Mr. Y being the opposite of, or familiair to the more well-known Mr. X
- (maybe my best guess) x and y being opposites in a coordinate system, creating dimensions; this book being about other dimensions, you could think of the x-axis (horizontal) being our ‘ordinary’ world and ‘y’ going away from that. I hope I am not sounding too foolish? :\
I considered releasing The End of Mr. Y as part of the Utopian/Dystopian Sunday Sunset Release of February 1st (yes, that long ago), since the novel is definitely dystopian (about a society in which conditions of life are miserable). But because this book was a Random Act of Bookcrossing Kindness by rapturina, I figured I couldn’t just leave it somewhere out there in the cold, cold world. Now I am happy to have found it a new destiny: sterestherster, and Gondaaa after her; tweeps that have joined some other twitter people in a real life book group — and their next read is The End of Mr. Y. I hope they’ll write a (short) journal entry when they have finished it, because it is always nice to know what other readers think. The social web provides a great new dimension to our lives!
I am not afraid of bringing more people in danger because even though my health was weak, I still survived The End of Mr. Y (phew!). I guess the curse has diminished! Or has it?
* * *
My remark about the social web just reminded me… several weekly geeks asked about this book when I posted ‘Help me catch up on book reviews‘. I have already implicitly answered Dreamybee‘s, Maree‘s and (most of) Jackie‘s questions above, but there are two left that I want to touch on briefly.
Bart asked what I thought of the story-in-the-story. Can I just say: hey, I like reading about books?! :) I’m not sure what you want to know exactly. It’s a bit much to really go into details of the story itself — and I must admit: a bit too long ago as well!
Also Trisha wanted to know what the book says about the unconscious mind… I feel really DUMB now, but I have no idea. It is a mishmash of philosophical and scientific theories put into a quick and believable read. You wonder how Thomas managed to make such a coherent story of it. I feel I’ve done a worse job with this blogpost… :( Can’t blame the flu anymore, can I?! ;)
I really have to get away from this computer and do some serious reading! I had planned to join the The Golden Notebook Readalong Project that started yesterday, but I haven’t finished my current book yet (Hitsuji o meguru bōken, or: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami). I don’t seem to get as much reading done as I used to these days :(
The Golden Notebook (by Doris Lessing, of course) was an important feminist book in its day, and I guess that’s how it came on my wishlist ‘to be read someday’. But I haven’t really felt like it up until now (and I still don’t to be honest). I’m afraid it will be difficult or boring… So I made it part of my personal 2008-2009 reading challenge. In the ‘readalong project’ seven female writers will read The Golden Notebook for the first time and blog about it. People like me can have their say on the forum. (Oops, that will get me behind the computer again ;) Well, I should at least try to read this golden oldie from a writer that won last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature!
Bookcrossing is instant karma! I just received a package from Taipei, containing Possession by A.S. Byatt as RABCK (Random Act of BookCrossing Kindness). Thank you so much Dauw! Your kindness followed just shortly after I had sent off Greenwich Killing Time to Canada, so like I said, it seems like instant karma :)
Possession is one of the books in my personal 2008 reading challenge. I thought I had already written a post about that but it seems not. Will do – soon – but for now I redirect all who want to know about this challenge to my Bookcrossing bookshelf.
At the moment I’m halfway another challenge book: The amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay (by Michael Chabon). It’s great! But 639 pages thick, so it will keep me busy for a little while longer. After that I plan to read Anne Enright’s The gathering because it is this month’s book for my virtual book club, the Boekgrrls. But after that… Possession it is!