Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Evanston: retro; heavy

        Recently I have had several last century experiences.
        I read a hard cover book, read a physical newspaper, and entered a book store.

        The book, of course, was THE REGENERATION TRILOGY.  I finished the lost two volumes, and my opinion that it is masterpiece is confirmed.
        Although the three novels were published separately, they are in fact one only moderately long work, 592 pages in the edition I read.  The major characters, three of them historical, one fictional, continue through all three novels.
        After finishing the trilogy I bought two more of Pat Barker’s novels and read a bit about her.  
        Her early novels were about women and issued by a feminist publisher.  Critics admired them, but questioned whether she could write about men.  This is amusing because repeatedly while reading the REGENERATION TRILOGY I found myself wondering how a woman could write so well about men and experiences such as those of WWI combat that she could not have had herself.  What a great feat of imagination, I thought.  And it is.
        Reading a ‘real’ book only reinforced my preference for e-books.  The book was big, heavy, awkward to hold, and had no internal light so I could read in bed without disturbing an already sleeping Carol.

        Neighbors who were away over the Thanksgiving weekend asked us to collect their newspapers and mail.  We stopped subscribing to THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE years ago and I don’t think I’ve actually held one since.  It was pathetic.  A mere shadow of its former self.  A dying vestige, reduced in every dimension:  height, width, depth, weight, content.  Even the Sunday edition was feather light.  Why would anyone pay for this when you can get all the fake news you can possibly desire on Facebook?

        Two Sundays ago Carol and I went to see the film, ARRIVAL, a good sci-fi move, though not, I think, quite as good as its reviews.  The theater was a mile and a half away in scenic downtown Evanston and we decided to walk instead of drive.  We walked faster than expected and had some time to kill, so we went into the Barnes and Noble.  As you will know I buy lots of books, but all online.  I don’t remember the last time I was in a bookstore.  
        To my surprise there were a lot of people in there, perhaps Christmas shopping.  There was also a lot of stuff other than books for sale, including records—and I certainly don’t recall the last time I bought one of those—and Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-readers, which are subversively undermining the whole place, and gifts and novelties.
        Time killed, we left without buying anything.
        I have no plans to return.


        A geologist at the University of Leicester and his colleagues have calculated that the weight of the technosphere, consisting of all man-made substances on Earth, is thirty trillion tons, or 50 kilos/110 pounds for every square meter of the Earth’s surface.  One might wonder if we are going to sink the planet, as well as ravage it, but as Carol quickly pointed out most of the stuff we build is composed of materials already in and on the planet and we only rearrange them. Still we have been busy little beavers.
        That article, along with other events in the U.S. and abroad this year, caused me to locate a journal entry titled ‘three hypotheses’.  I was surprised to discover that I wrote it three years ago.  Ah, but true wisdom is timeless.