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Category Archive for ‘books’ at Three Roads Blog
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Archive for the 'books' Category

The Painted Veil

The Painted VeilThe Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Set in Hong Kong in 1925 in the waning days of the British Empire, The Painted Veil tells the story of the short, tragic marriage between Walter Fane, a an emotionally distant yet kind government scientist, and Kitty Fane, an immature and adulterous socialite.

Against his better judgment, Walter truly falls in love with Kitty, who agrees to marry him only to avoid being upstaged by the marriage of her younger sister.

Later, when Walter learns of her infidelity, he coerces her into joining him on a risky (potentially suicidal) trip to a village battling a cholera epidemic. I’ll leave the plot summary there.

Emotionally rich, psychologically astute, and a real page-turner to boot. Read it in a weekend and savor it long after.

Retronyms

According to Schott’s 2008 Desk Almanac:

Retronyms are terms that has been created to clarify an exiting word rendered ambiguous by evolutions in technology or social practice.

I’m currently reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which is a beautifully written and thoroughly researched lament about our evolution (or degeneration) from eaters of food to consumers of “food-like products.”

With that book in the forefront of my consciousness, the following retronyms, listed in the Feb. 1 entry of my Schott’s page-a-day calendar, took on a timely significance:

  • Organic food
  • Conventional oven
  • Free-range eggs
  • Fruit in season

These terms came into being with the advent of the industrial food supply. Before chemical fertizers and factory farms and free trade agreements and cheap oil, all food was organic, free range and/or seasonal.

And it was cooked in a conventional oven.

Now we must specify.

[UPDATE]

In the near future, we may have to add a modifier to ‘cheeseburger.’ As in, “This conventional cheeseburger is much better than the canned cheeseburger I had yesterday.”

Haruki Murakami

blind-willow-sleeping-woman.jpgI’m reading a book of short stories by a Japanese novelist named Haruki Murakami. It’s called Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I’ve read most of Murakami’s books and loved every one (Norwegian Wood would accompany me to a desert island) and so far this compilation of 24 stories is no exception.

While every story Murakami tells is unique, many of them contain similar elements.

Here are a few of them:

  • Cats (occasionally ones that can talk)
  • Ears
  • Water wells (old-fashioned ones that are usually empty)
  • Spaghetti
  • Jazz

Slow Man

On the nightstand: Slow Man, by J.M Coetzee. 2005.

Link