I um…read nothing.
I will confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for cranks- especially cranks who lead interesting lives. Some years ago, in a used bookstore, I picked up a copy of Alfred O’Rahilly’s “Electromagnetic Theory: A Critical Examination of Fundamentals,” thinking it might be a useful adjunct to the text I was using at the time, the infamous Jackson. It was only a dollar, and just riffling through it, I saw lots of familiar equations. Life got the better of me, though, and this sat on my bookshelf (and moved from city to city with me) for over 40 years. For whatever reason, I was inspired to pick it up this month and give it a read. And just a few pages in, I realized, “Holy shit, this guy is a crank!” And a very smart crank, which are the only ones worth reading. After each set of derivations, O’Rahilly penned a screed, usually attacking Maxwell/Heaviside’s theory of fields, the concepts of displacement current, and most of all, Einstein’s special relativity. He was clearly an admirer of Ernst Mach and Pierre Duhem (who was a fierce critic of atomic theory), and a strong booster of Ritz’s ballistic theory of electromagnetism (which was a correct but clumsy system that reduces to the simple elegance of Maxwell-Heaviside). And the writing is wonderfully creative invective.
Reading up on who this guy was only increased my fascination- besides being a mathematically sophisticated crank, he was a member of the Irish parliament, a member of Sinn Fein, a trade union activist, a religious scholar, and a biographer. Oh, and his science crankery extended to evolution, which he strongly believed did not apply to humans.
Fabulously interesting guy, fabulously interesting book. And there’s free versions of it online.
This month I’ve not really been sleeping, and so have read much brain-candy in the middle of the night. The Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, by “Charles Todd” to be precise. This series begins just post-World War I with a Scotland Yard Inspector recently returned from the war and back on the job after supposedly recovering from horribly traumatic events. I’m enjoying them.
There are 23 books in the series (so far). I’m only on book 6, so I’ll be interested to watch the development of the protagonist as he moves into the future.
Went into a reading overdrive this month, maybe just the time of year or something.
The Stand (1978) by Stephen King
I had promised myself that I would re-read The Stand during the pandemic, for the lulz and to get the story fresh in my mind before watching the new TV adaptation. Despite my love for early King, I never really liked The Stand all that much, too Manichean and mystical for me. I think the last time I read it was when the restored edition came out in 1990, which I didn’t like at all. What had been cut out was no great loss and the updating to make the entire novel be set in 1990 instead of 1978 made no sense whatsoever. In fact, the 1978 edition had more material he could have taken out. I imagine there are some Jefferson Bible edits running around out there that might be fun to read but the web is a scary place and the less time I spend on fanfiction boards the better.
I re-watched the 1994 TV miniseries. I found it less objectionable than when it was on originally. I still contend Molly Ringwald makes a terrible Frannie and Parker Lewis doesn’t have the acting chops for Harold Lauder. I plan to watch the new version once I tamp down my revulsion at the thought of Whoopi Goldberg playing Mother Abigail.
Live Girls (1987), Night Life (2005), Ravenous (2008), Bestial (2009) by Ray Garton
I had heard horror fans raving about Garton for a while. I started with his most well-loved and early novel, Live Girls. It is a great blend of sleazy 80s Time Square and vampires, who work as booth girls, draining just enough blood from a glory hole to keep going but not kill. The sequel, Night Life, is fairly unnecessary. Ravenous and Bestial are a good twist on werewolves as they take over a small Northern California town, spreading as a STD via wolfman rape. All four of the novels are firmly in the splatterpunk sub-genre, so they are super-gory and have lots of sex and violence and sexual violence. Very cinematic works. I’m surprised he hasn’t been the basis for a bunch of delightfully sleazy movies.
Flowers In The Attic (1980) by V. C Andrews
Another re-read, the last time being at some point in 10th grade probably. It’s a much better-written book than one might think. It just carries you along with clear lucid prose about horrible things. Your tolerance for incest, double-incest, and murder doughnuts will be tested.
I’ve been reading Roland Ennos’s The Age of Wood. He makes the case that wood, not stone, bronze or iron is the most important material in the rise of civilization. He also suggests that our ability to use wood is part of what made us human. At times I think he goes too far and gets ahead of evidence, but this was a fascinating read.
I’m currently reading Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, h/t Warty. It’s a book full of anecdotes that starts at the end of WWI and goes through WWII. The general theme is that Hitler was a monster, but it was assholes all the way down. As for the Jews, the global response to Hitler seemed to be early on, “Yeah, we all know the Jews suck, but that doesn’t mean you have to slaughter them”. I feel guilty enjoying this very well written book.