Monday, 21 January 2008

My holiday reading

In between Scrabble games, swims and bike rides on the NSW Central Coast, I had time to read Saturday by Ian McEwan, a novel that is an exploration of the problems (and occasional joys) of human society as they unfold in the course the events of a single day in the life of a London neurosurgeon – a sort of theodicy for those who have no God to blame or seek to justify. How do disorders of the mind affect our understanding of evil and the accountability of those who perpetrate it? And how do we evaluate the greater evil (e.g. Saddam’s genocide v. the invasion of Iraq and its consequences)? At the time I was reading it, I also saw the movie Atonement (another “religious” theme!) based on the novel by the same author (which I read a couple years ago). The ending of the movie is one of the rare cases where it is more compelling than the novel.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night explores the confusing and sometimes terrifying world as experienced by an Asperger’s sufferer.
Next was Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, a fictionalised account of the early settlement on the Hawkesbury River to the north of Sydney – based loosely on the life of Samuel Wiseman whose name is perpetuated in one of the few remaining vehicular ferries in the Sydney region. It was good to be able to explore some of the area of which Grenville writes so well and picture it as it was 200 years ago.
Oh yes, and for light reading I enjoyed John Lee’s A History of NT Lexicography, which is as much about the philosophy and principles of defining words as it is about the historical processes which have led to the current state of the discipline (not too good but with better prospects). This book fills a much-needed gap.

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