Jack Saul – The Sins of the Cities of the Plain; or, The Recollections of a Mary-Ann, with Short Essays on Sodomy and Tribadism. SugarFree shot me a message: “Would you like an e-copy of one of the first published works of gay erotica?” “Obviously!” I replied and figured a Victorian (1881) novel would be quaint. It was truly a delight to be proven wrong by Mr. Saul, who taught me that Victorians ate ass like fiends and generally engaged in and described sexual practices that remain largely taboo in even fetish-oriented adult content with the exception of maybe one major studio. The interplay of the vulnerable youth and moneyed members of society also felt timely although Saul himself is never portrayed as a victim in the narrative. Jack Saul does not. give. a. fuck. about your opinions of him and feels like a very fresh, modern voice in the Victorian context. I always used to joke that I felt libertine by LA standards, but prudish by San Francisco standards, but I feel positively dowdy by 1881 London standards. Even if you’re not interested in reading elegantly crafted prose about Jack’s 10-inch Mr. Pego breaking-in[to] barely-legal, virgin manhole on behalf of a wealthy older gentleman with particular tastes, I think you’ll enjoy the balls, both proverbial and tufted with fair hair, on the author.
This month I picked up the somewhat anticipated Apocalypse Never. Written by Michael Shellenberger, an environmentalist well-regarded in such circles. The expectation I gathered around the internet when it was released was it was a sort of debunking of environmentalist sacred cows by an insider to the movement.
This is not that kind of book. Instead, it puts them all into proper context. It takes the tone that many (if not most) environmental issues are overplayed by their advocates, and their solutions unfeasible. The first chapter on climate change for example referenced multiple scientists saying something to the tune of, “The newspaper quoting me took that line out of context” or “I don’t think the reporter understood what I was saying”. In short, I felt like I was re-reading Ron Bailey’s book End of Doom.
Many many decades ago when I was imprisoned in high school history class, I stumbled across a mention of a supposedly excellent series of books, “The Story of Civilization,” by the husband-and-wife team of Will and Ariel Durant (fun trivia- he’d be in jail these days since they got married when she was 15). I read a bit of one of them, was impressed by the writing, the depth of knowledge, and overall, the insight. Then I got distracted by quantum mechanics and never got back to them. After 50 years, I am rectifying that mistake, starting with Volume 1, “Our Oriental Heritage.” And fuck, this is even better than I remembered, and now I’ll have to make my way through the next ten volumes. Witty, unpretentious, and amazingly prescient in so many ways, though it is often noted that, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Here’s a fun passage from “The Age of the Poets” section on China:
…Wang Mang, at the very outset of his reign, abolished both the slavery and the estates by nationalizing the land. He divided the soil into equal tracts and distributed it among the peasants; and, to prevent the renewed concentration of wealth, he forbade the sale or purchase of land. He continued the state monopolies of salt and iron, and added to them state ownership of of mines and state control of the traffic in wine. Like Wu Ti, he tried to protect the cultivator and the consumer against the merchant by fixing the price of commodities. The state bought agricultural surpluses in time of plenty, and sold them in time of dearth. Loans were made by the the government, at low rates of interest, for any productive enterprise.
Wang had conceived his policies in economic terms, and had forgotten the nature of man. He worked long hours, day and night, to devise schemes that would make the nation rich and happy; and he was heartbroken to find that social disorder mounted during his reign…. Revolts broke out, and while Wang, bewildered by such ingratitude, struggled to control these insurrections,subject peoples weakened his prestige by throwing off the Chinese yoke, and the barbarians overran the northern provinces.”
Vegan cookbooks, vegan websites, vegan nutrition books, vegan medical studies. Yes, there is a pattern.
As of today, I’m on Day 26 of my 100 day trial of 100% plant-based. Only 74 (or maybe forever) to go!
It should be a National Holiday when a Neal Asher novel comes out. Shut it all down and let us read in peace.
The Human (2020) is the final book in The Rise of the Jain trilogy and is literally one long, insane space battle fought on a number of different fronts. Techno-porn, weapons-porn, and epic space opera all knotted together in a screaming mass of alien tentacles. Science fiction nerdgasm.
The Rise of the Jain, though billed as a trilogy is really a long, long novel difficult to print in one volume. (Although, coming in at 420,000 words, it is still shorter than It.) Set late in the Polity Universe, it draws together storylines from Agent Cormac quintet of novels and early Spatterjay storylines to bridge the gap from the last Cormac novel to the detente between the AI-run Polity and the psychotic crabaliens called the Prador shown in The Skinner.
Every month about this time I get nagged about adding a contribution to the What Are We Reading post. I’ve protested that it’s a waste of time because no one is going to read it. I’ve be reassured, countless times and against all experience, that the commenters are caring souls who cherish the experiences of others. I’d ask you motherfuckers if you’re going to just sit there and let your reputations be besmirched like that, but I know you won’t get this far anyway.