Charlie Harvey

May 2016 reading

  • The rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald

    The rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald (cover image)

    This novel was leant to me by Nor who was recommended it by another friend. In a sort of rambling travelogue, Sebald ruminates on thoughts and stories that were triggered by wandering round on the Suffolk coastline — Lowestoft, Southwold, Dunwich and round that way. Sebald manages to capture a sense of a permanently crepuscular world, the decay of former lavish wealth and the sense of strangeness engendered by hanging out in the rural North Sea coastline. I found it particularly resonant because I know the countryside well, having made several camping expeditions to that coastline over the years. That said it was occasionally a bit on the pretentious side and often took a non-linear approach to storytelling so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

    2016-05-11 by Charlie Harvey

  • Pragmatic thinking and learning, by Andy Hunt

    Pragmatic thinking and learning by Andy Hunt (cover image)

    I first read Andy Hunt’s guide to refactor[ing] your wetware several years ago. I am not too sure why, though I suspect it was a piece of procrastination before I started the first Coursera I did — in Programming Languages since you ask. The idea is to go through techniques for which there is at least some evidence (albeit often qualititive) of effectiveness, with the general theme of learning more effectively. There is nothing revolutionary in the book, but Hunt does a good job of covering what could be dry material engagingly in the language of computer geeks.

    2016-05-11 by Charlie Harvey

  • How mumbo jumbo conquered the world, by Francis Wheen

    How mumbo jumbo conquered the world by Francis Wheen (cover image)

    Wheen takes apart some of the decomplexified bulshit that seems to have become the basis of much of modern discourse. From neoliberal economics to new age charlatanism via postmodernism, alternative quackery and the retreat of religious fundamentalists into medieval ignorance, he uses his dry wit to berate and expose those who reduce and trivialize difficult truths into soundbites and inadequate oversimplifications. Though I occasionally suspected that some of what he critiques was taken out of context, I felt the general thrust of his passionate defence of enlightenment values was spot on. And he managed to keep me entertained during a number of long train journeys, which is in itself no mean feat.

    2016-05-11 by Charlie Harvey

  • Satin island, by Tom McCarthy

    Satin island, by Tom McCarthy (cover image)

    I grabbed this in Waterstones merely because I needed a novel to read and I liked the cover. I know, I know, I shouldn’t judge books that way and blah, blah. But it was a pretty good novel in fact. The style is rather like Douglas Coupland, though possibly a little more literary. McCarthy tells the story of a procrastinating corporate anthropologist as he goes off on tangents rather than writing the completely undefined Great Report that his boss wants. In pondering the world in which we live, it seems to me that McCarthy engages in something akin to the anthropology of his main character, though he spends his time presenting rather than interpreting situations.

    2016-05-11 by Charlie Harvey

  • Barrel fever, David Sedaris

    Barrel fever, by David Sedaris (cover image)

    This is not the usual David Sedaris fare, being more than half composed of short stories. Like his autobiographical stuff, his stories are inhabited by the offbeat, the marginal and the plain strange. But the fiction, freed from the constraint of centreing on the authors’ life are far less rooted in everyday life. A cast of misfits cavort in a world at once familiar and bizarre. Less humorous and more literary than other things by the same author that I have read in the past, but nevertheless perfectly readable.

    2016-05-11 by Charlie Harvey


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