Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Afternoon At Elliott Bay Book Company - Scary Old Sex, The Life You Can Save, And More

While in Seattle this last time, I got the pleasure of browsing the shelves at the Elliot Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill.  Here are some books to munch on.  I hope this reminds folks that there is more to do than follow Tweets about politics,

Alec Ross - Industries of the Future

You can watch Ross talk about this book at this Ted Talk presentation.  He talks about growing up in West Virginia and teaching in West Baltimore.  He thinks the kids he saw in those place are no less intelligent than kids anywhere.  Those kids didn't fail, the system did.

Premise of the book:  If the last 20 years were shaped by the rise of digitization and the internet, if that's what produced the jobs and wealth, what's next?
The book, he says, mentions a number, but in this talk he flags three.
  1. Big data analytics - land was the raw material of the agricultural age, iron of the industrial age, and data is the raw material of the information age.  Background in data analytics will get you employment for the next 20 years or so.  
  2. Cyber security - just an associate degree will get you a job starting at $60,000, with college degree, $90,000.
  3. Genomics - The world's next trillion dollar industry will be created by our genetic code.  

Question is:  How inclusive will these industries be?  San Jose, for instance, has 4000 homeless people.
How to compete and succeed in tomorrow's world.

Three things we can do now for your kids:
  1. Do not rely on the systems to save you.  Because the system fails kids.  Create your own system to save the kids.  
  2. Make sure your kids learn languages - foreign languages and computer languages.  
  3. Be a life long learner yourself.  

Loss of hope and loss of opportunity is fatal.

The video fills in a lot more background.  I've just given you the barest outline.

[If I do all of these in this much detail, I'll be up way past my bedtime.  I've already decided to do this in two parts.  Each one of these is worthy of a post of its own.  But the point is to just give you a quick look at these titles, like you were browsing in the book store.]

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o - In The House Of The Interpreter

Margaret Busby, reviewing this book in the Independent writes:
"From the first pages of In the House of the Interpreter, strong and memorable themes emerge: the power of education, the rootedness of kin, the need to transform the colonialist narrative. "How could a whole village, its people, history, everything, vanish, just like that?"

This memoir takes place in 1950s Kenya as the Mau Mau are fighting for independence from the British and Ngugi is going to a school.
"Alliance High School is a sanctuary. It is an elitist establishment – the first secondary school for Africans in the country – founded by a coalition of Protestant churches and initially shaped by American charitable funding that aimed at turning out 'civic-minded blacks who would work within the parameters of the existing racial state'".

Arlene Heyman - Scary Old Sex

From a New Yorker review:
"Consider a character like the retired doctor in the story “Nothing Human,” a grandmother three times over, who takes the opportunity of a cruise-ship vacation to berate her husband for his squeamishness: “We can’t try anal intercourse because you think I’m filled with shit to the brim. You have no sense of anatomy. I can take an enema! You can use a condom!” She knows she’s being less than fair. It’s the middle of the night, and he’s half asleep; she picked a fight over his not washing his hands as he groped his way back from the cabin bathroom, and now she’s turned to nagging to cover her deeper anxieties about the relationship. Was he in there to masturbate, when they haven’t had sex since the start of the cruise? When they got together a decade ago, after her first husband’s death, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. She misses that, and she misses her first husband, too. But she’s too wise to indulge in nostalgia. When she dreams occasionally of her first husband, it’s in a detached, friendly way—'like a little visit.'”
This is a description of one of the short stories in this book, stories about older women and sex.  The author, Anne Heyman, is a psychoanalyst in her 70s.  To prove that so called sophisticated magazines like the New Yorker aren't any different from other media, the reviewer spends most of the review on literary gossip about Heyman's early affair with a much older famous author and how that affair is treated in different works of fiction.

Peter Singer - The Life You Can Save 

Singer is a prolific and well known philosopher.  You can actually read this book online here.   In the Preface, he writes about this book:

"I have been thinking and writing for more than thirty years about how we should respond to hunger and poverty.  I have presented this book's arguments to thousands of students in my university classes and in lectures around the world, and to countless others in newspapers, magazines, and television programs.  As a result, I've been forced to respond to a wide range of thoughtful challenges.  This book represents my effort to distill what I've learned about why we give, or don't give, and what we should do a out it."

Ken Liu - The Paper Menagerie

I pulled this book off the shelf because Liu is the translator for the Chinese science fiction book, Three Body Problem.

Amal El-Mothar writes about the book for NPR:
"Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a book from which I staggered away, dazed, unable to speak. I have wrestled with how to review it, circled my metaphors like a wary cat, and finally abandoned the enterprise of trying to live up to its accomplishment. I will be honest, and blunt, because this is a book that has scoured me of language and insight and left itself rattling around inside the shell of me."
No wonder he was asked to translate The Three Body Problem.

Neil Gaiman - The View From The Cheap Seats

I know Gaiman from the graphic novel Sandman, a gift from my son.  This is a collection of non-fiction essays.  Kirkus Review writes:

"Gaiman (Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, 2015, etc.) is a fan. Of course, as a writer, he’s created unforgettable worlds and characters, but in this collection of essays, introductions, speeches, and other nonfiction works, it’s his fan side that comes through most strongly. The author writes about the thrill of discovering a piece of art that feels like it was made just for you; the way certain books or songs seem to slot into a place in your heart you didn’t know was there; the way a text can mean different things at different times in your life. If the idea of going on a long, rambling walk with Gaiman and asking him about his influences sounds appealing, this is the book for you."
Jason Heller offers a longer review at NPR.

Charles Johnson - The Way Of The Writer

From a short review in the NY Times:

"Johnson’s book, the record of a single year’s email correspondence with his friend E. Ethelbert Miller, is a piecemeal meditation on the daily routines and mental habits of a writer. Johnson describes his study’s curated clutter, his nocturnal working rhythms and the intense labor of his revisions, alongside a careful outline of a theory, reminiscent of both Aristotle and Henry James, of how plots emerge from a “ground situation.” There is a winning sanity here: Johnson wants his students to be “raconteurs always ready to tell an engaging tale,” not self-preoccupied."

As I read some of this book in the bookstore, it was one I knew I needed to get back to.

I've got another bunch of images of books from that afternoon which I'll try to get up before too long.


  1. Try;
    If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

    Stonewall Book Award Winner
    Walter Dean Myers Honor Book for Outstanding Children's Literature
    iBooks YA Novel of the Year
    A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
    A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
    An Amazon Best Book of the Year
    A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist
    A Zoella Book Club Selection
    A Barnes & Noble Best YA Book of the Year
    A Bustle Best YA Book of the Year
    IndieNext Top 10
    One of Flavorwire’s 50 Books Every Modern Teenager Should Read

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. You've listed a lot of responses to the book, but you haven't told me why YOU liked it. It looks interesting.


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