Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: books (page 1 of 3)

A revelatory book explored

A self-help book

The light bulb came on

If How-To’s Were Enough We Would All be Skinny, Rich and Happy – Brian Klemmer


I’ll be the first to admit that this post’s title would most likely fail SEO critiquing. On the plus side, it can certainly not be described as clickbait. No 10 reasons for blah blah here.

Anyhow, onward and upward. Some time back, my local library had a sale, disposing of excess inventory. I bought about 15-20 books for the princely sum of $10 Australian. A few were fiction, but most were non-fictional works on topics that I possess a passing interest in (at the least). This book was one of them. The title itself was intriguing, as I’ve sat and glossed over quite a few how-tos in my day, on a wide variety of subjects – including personal improvement.

This one is short at 149 pages, divided into ten chapters including an epilogue. Each of these chapters cover themes and concepts that could easily stand on their own, though there is ample inter-relationship, making this book a cohesive whole.

This book is strongly recommended.

Chapter 1: The secret

The key point of this introductory chapter is that we see things and the world tinted through sunglasses. While wearing these, we are loath to view the world (or anything) in any other colour or hue apart from what these glasses show us. We stubbornly adhere to the ingrained belief that there is nothing beyond this view, and you’re foolish to even try to describe the world in any other terms. So take them off and see what the world truly looks like.

Chapter 2: The Formula of Champions

For me, this chapter was the awakening. The formula to success is Intention + Mechanism = Result. This may well be self-evident to many, but the kicker here is what an intention is. The author argues that people intend to do things at two levels. There’s your stated intention – I’m going to lose weight – but your true intention is – it’s all too hard or it takes too long – therefore the formula collapses before it even starts. I’m proof of this intention vs true intention paradigm, just have a read of the Operation 47 pep talks I’ve posted here.

Once your true intention becomes what you’re truly desiring, then half the battle is won.

Chapter 3: The Key to Relationships

In this chapter, the author discusses the self-destructiveness of what he calls the 3R’s – resentment, resistance and revenge. He asserts that feeling these three emotions is natural. It’s not about avoiding them, but redirecting them into positive energy. Some excellent guidelines are provided to do precisely that.

Chapter 4: Responsibility

This one is self-explanatory. Taking ownership, and having the liberty to make choices.

Chapter 5: To think is to create

This chapter sums up the differences between the conscious and the subconscious. The author asserts that it is pointless to pep yourself up at a conscious level if your subconscious isn’t in line with it. It then discusses visualisation as opposed to imagination. Visualisation of wants and desires aid in realising them. Again, this is a landmark way of seeing things for me, much like what was discussed in Ch. 2. They’re limpid concepts that remain obscured to most people.

Chapter 6: Your vision 

This chapter is about goal-setting and some different ways of approaching them. Short and sweet.

Chapter 7: The power of balance

This is another one of those epiphanous chapters. Here, the reader is asked to visualise, or actually draw, a diagram based on four different aspects of your self (that’s not “yourself”) – physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Although the author is writing from a Christian point of view, he does stress that spiritual can mean whatever it means to the individual.

These aspects are rated out of ten with one being the least. The object is to balance the four aspects in harmony, without one or more having outliers and thus putting you out of balance.

Chapter 8: Oneness vs separateness 

Discusses how essentially that no human is an island. It goes on to explain that most of us have an ingrained us and them belief regarding others, and the object of this chapter is to remove this and become inclusive with those you formally excluded (mentally or otherwise). By doing this, life comes win-win for all concerned, rather than win-lose or lose-lose.

Chapter 9: an action attitude…first day, last day

How not to burden yourself with unwarranted fears and the like. Dreams are easier and simpler to achieve if the road ahead is cleared of all foreseeable trouble. Plus it tackles the subject of procrastination by asking you to roleplay your last day, and what would you do and/or achieve before you died at the end of that day.

In other words, there is no moment like now to get things going. See excuses for what they are.

Chapter 10:  Rags to riches…applying the philosophy 

Delves into a case study of an Hawaiian man who makes kites and yo-yos. This chapter is all about achievable goals and the art of goal-setting. Gives a ten point philosophy to make the transition from poor to successful, and most of these points were touched on in previous chapters, particularly win-win and visualisation.

The book then concludes with a summarising epilogue and an exhortation to being faithful and true to yourself while on the to a better life.

Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels – David Pringle

This is in regards to a well-favoured book that came out in 1988, that listed the best 100 novels in the fantasy genre since 1946. The author’s idea of what fantasy is mightn’t coincide with the popular view and for sure, some of the included works would raise a few eyebrows. Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Fowles’ The Magus wouldn’t ordinarily appear in your average list of great fantasy books. Neither of those two are what you’d classify as light, entertaining reading.

Sporadically over the years, I’ve tried to read all of these books and as of the writing of this post, I’m woefully short of even halfway. I’m at twenty-three, and of those, I couldn’t even finish a few of them – like The Third Policeman and Glory Road. I found them unreadable.

But a number of the author’s choices are among the best things I’ve ever read – Lord of the Rings, Lord Foul’s Bane, Titus Groan, Eyes of the Overworld, etc. The Lord of the Rings make most best-of lists, and Titus Groan and the other Gormenghast books occasionally do too. And, a little while ago, I was actually quite chuffed when Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.au included The Dying Earth as one of its 100 Must Read Books.
the dying earth

So, the point of this post? I suppose I’d better get to it. I will endeavour to read all of these in this list. I own a few of the unread ones, and most that I’ve seen can be had cheap off Ebay periodically. Failing that, there is the e-book route (Amazon, et al).

Stay tuned.

Absurdity in pairs (brief essay)

A piece I did for uni


 

Levitt in her paper lists many fictional pairs from Holmes and Watson, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. She illustrates the fictional device of playing off one another for dramatic and comedic effect. So with this theme, I would like to introduce a few more examples from fiction who in their own way, have contributed greatly to the absurdist literature canon.  At least I think so.

Firstly, there are Hergé’s Thompson Twins – Thompson and Thomson (without a “p” as in Venezuela, as he puts it). This pair of buffoons were introduced in a brief cameo in Tintin in the Congo and more solidly in Cigars of the Pharaoh. Loyal to Tintin to a fault, they serve as the Belgian counterpart to the Keystone Kops of early American comedic cinema. They are utterly inept in their actual day jobs as policemen, completely bumbling as humans – they are forever dropping things, running into things, misspeaking and being general nuisances at times. They serve as a foil to the more dedicated and serious Tintin. An argument could be made that Star Wars’ C3P0 and R2D2 are SF updates of these two.

The absurdist element is their ineptitude juxtaposed with Tintin’s competence, and this is doubled by the fact that they are policemen – career choices that demand competence and ability. They have neither. Their friendship with Tintin survives throughout the series, despite the peril they put themselves and Tintin in. In the final completed volume, Tintin and the Picaros, Tintin travels to a fictional yet stereotypical Latin American nation to rescue them.

More darkly depicted are the pair of Clarice and Cora Groan from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series. Like the Thompsons, they are twins, though they are neither inept nor as clownish as Hergé’s creations. Instead, they provoke a kind of pity, and their absurdism goes in step with the absurdist allegories that pervade the books they appear in. They have a petty and petulant rivalry with the second book’s protagonist Titus, and while it never approximates friendship, there is a familial sense of loyalty, more forced upon them than anything else. Cora and Clarice are exactly one halves of a whole – they complete each other’s sentences and seem to share each other’s thoughts.

In both cases, there is never any thought of a friendship sundering. Thompson and Thomson remain inseparable throughout the series, though there is a considerable element of oneupmanship and fraternal bickering. Cora and Clarice do not bicker with each other simply, as stated before, each is exactly one half of the other. The Groan twins represents a lost and faded glory, allegedly removed from the direct lineage by Gertrude’s marriage to their older brother Sepulchrave and the birth of their nephew Titus.

References

Hergé 1971, Cigars of the Pharaoh, Casterman: Paris
Hergé 1946, Tintin in the Congo, Casterman: Paris
Hergé 1976, Tintin and the Picaros, Casterman: Paris
Levitt, J 2000, ‘Odd Couples and Double Acts, or Strange but Not Always Queer: some male pairs and the modern/postmodern subject, Australian Humanities Review, 12:2000.
Peake, M 1946, Titus Groan, Eyre & Spottiswode: London
Peake, M 1950, Gormenghast, Eyre & Spottiswode: London

And people wonder why there is software piracy

Most of those people being managers or executives involved in the pertinent businesses no doubt. Case in point, a new biography of Rush. $38 for the hardcover version. sure, I can understand that kind of pricing but $35 for a digital version?

complete joke

That sort of pricing just encourages piracy.

Mark Lawrence – The Prince of Fools

Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War, #1)Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doesn’t hold a candle to the first series and Jalan is nowhere the character Jorg Ancrath was. And as Mark Lawrence has admitted, there’s a bit of Fraser’s Flashman in Jalan. Well, Jalan is no Harry Paget Flashman, VC. Not even close. Not even remotely. He’s a pallid clone of a pallid clone. In fact, Jalan is not even a close runner to Vance’s Cugel, who’s #2 when it comes to fictional cowardly rogues.

Which is all a shame because I like Lawrence’s smart-assy writing. It’s refreshing and makes a change from the “fantasy is serious business” style many of his peers have.

View all my reviews

Richard Morgan – Broken Angels

Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2)Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In an interview with an Australian SF magazine, Richard Morgan stated that he dislikes two or three star reviews of his stuff. Sorry about that, but this book is a three star affair. It’s involving and interesting enough to where you want to keep reading but it’s a muddle in places and the author gets carried away with his plethora of ideas.

No, it’s not as good as the book before it, and you can put that down to a loss of focus. The book’s reach exceeds its grasp.

And Kovacs isn’t as interesting this time around as he was in Altered Carbon. A touch of the old cardboard has crept in.

View all my reviews

Richard Morgan – Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 and a half stars actually. C’mon Goodreads, give us the ability to vote half-stars.

Anyhow, I liked everything about this book save how long it was. I felt it could’ve been tightened a bit by about 60-70 pages. So yes, it did drag a little, especially some of the sections where Kovacs and Ortega are alone. But apart from that, everything else contained within this book was A+. It’s uncommonly complex, labyrinthinely plotted, well characterised and it’s briskly paced (apart from what I said above). I’m impressed, so off to the sequel I go.

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Scott Lynch – Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This installment spends far too much time in flashback for my liking. It’d be great if Locke Lamora was an engaging character, but he isn’t. It’s like Lynch is purposely withholding vital or telling information about his protagonist for a future volume.

Either that, or he simply doesn’t know how to create a compelling lead character. All of the significant attendant characters are more fleshed out or have more intrinsic interest than Locke Lamora. While there’s many successful books out there in history where this is so, I’ve always found it to be poor character development.

So reading the acres of flashback was a chore. I’m sorry, Scott Lynch, I couldn’t care less about Locke as a kid. You don’t give me a solid reason to. It’s the right here, right now that drives your characters, not the infatuation they had for a girl when they were ten.

Further, I think Lynch is starting to fall for the cult that’s surrounding him and his stories. His tales are popular and so’s he. There’s a lot of lazy writing going on here, with too much reliance on cheap KHAAAAN! type over-dramatic effects. Too much pointless and nagging banter between Jean and Locke too. Almost at sitcom level.

Yet for all this, Lynch knows how to spin a good yarn, like Feist etc, before him. The world he’s made is intriguing and well-developed.

Just…make Locke Lamora a more interesting character please, without resorting to ineffective narrative tricks like flashbacks.

All right, so flashbacks aren’t an ineffective literary trick, but they can be overdone, like anything else literary. It’s overdone in this book. Too much history, not enough right now.

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Mark Charan Newton – Drakenfeld

Drakenfeld (Lucan Drakenfeld, #1)Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Intriguing story held back by some very broken up narrative and dialogue. So much so that it seriously gets in the way. It never flows smoothly. Apart from this, the tale could have used with a bit more flair too – and we never get in the mind of Drakenfeld enough. He’s far too faceless. First person perspectives are a good opportunity to get into the head of your character, mess with them a little, spice them up, but we don’t know any more about Lucan Drakenfeld at the end of this book than we did at the beginning. It’s far too matter of fact.

Not sure if I want to pursue this series if one does eventuate.

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Dan Simmons – Children of the Night

Children of the NightChildren of the Night by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quite frankly, it was a drag reading this. This book would’ve been a whole lot better had Simmons dispensed with the in-depth research on blood and Romania and simply let his storytelling skills shine through. As it stands, what we have here is a knotty and involving tale, though frequently there are stretches where it becomes tiresome.

What made Summer of Night such a wonder is missing here. The fine art of solid characterisation blended with flowing storytelling.

So yes, it’s a let down if you’re expecting it to be on par with that book. It isn’t. There’s not enough engagement here.

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