I’ve only ticked off nine new countries in the last twelve months. This means that the finish-line has receded even further into the future, but hey-ho.
Which means I’ve read 16 (and a half!) this year. Which is down from the rate I managed at first — 53 in the first two years — but about in line with what I’ve done since. So at least I haven’t slowed down even more. Or stopped altogether.
None of those 16 were absolutely stand-out classics, but there are several I can recommend if they sound like the kind of thing that would interest you:
A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek is well-written, interesting and informative. It’s becoming ever less topical as the situation in Syria moves on; but as long as we have dictatorships, the subject of life as a dissident in a (wobbling, unstable) police state is still going to have relevance.
Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner is a book that tells a remarkable story, of a man who survived the Khmer Rouge and ended up winning an Oscar for his performance in a film about it.
Life and a Half by Sony Labou Tansi is yet another book about dictatorship, this time a dark, strange, poetic novel which I thought was very worth reading.
And not recommendations exactly, but a few books which stand out in my memory because of their subject matter rather than their literary qualities: 88 Days (Somali piracy), The Chronicles of Dathra (Kuwaiti chick-lit, sort of), and African Philosophy (African philosophy).
» Cupid Shooting Arrows at the World Globe is attributed to Otto van Veen and apparently 1608ish. From the Met.
The spam filter caught this reply to my post with the title ‘The stupidity of big books (and the joy of cheap paperbacks)‘:
wooow, take a fancy to your things concerning Heraclitean The stake » The vapidness of swollen books (and the felicity of of small account paperbacks
Yup, the spambot has just run the post title through a thesaurus.
The idea of course is to generate fake comments which are genuine-sounding enough to avoid being deleted. It’s an ingenious idea, even if the results are a bit peculiar. I guess it might have worked better if the original post title was something shorter and less elaborate.
If nothing else, ‘the vapidness of swollen books’ is quite a nice line of iambic tetrameter.
It is fascinating to see the evolving ways in which spambots try to fool us into thinking they are real people. It’s like a very narrow version of the Turing Test.
In response to a birdy post which mentioned, among other things, ring-necked duck, someone submitted this almost-relevant piece of commentary:
Like the scaups she has a white crescent at the base of her bill although it is less distinctive than that of either the Greater or Lesser Scaup. The Female Ring-necked Duck can be distinguished from the scaups by the thin white eye-ring that trails back to her ear and the peaked shape of her head as well as by differing habitat. A generalized diet may allow the Ring-necked Duck to colonize new areas and habitats that other species might not be able to use and this may be why it seems to be faring well.
It doesn’t actually make sense as a real human response to the post, but at a glance I thought it might do. Although the fact it was posted by a website offering offshore banking services would probably have been enough to tip me off.
A London Salmagundi, my Tumblr, has now been running for five months and accumulated over 1200 posts; if you haven’t been visiting it, this is the kind of thing you’ve been missing.
Photos by Pierre Bonnard — Hausa horsemen in quilted armour — C19th corset — a hornet mimic — Giovanni di Paolo — optical illusion — mermaid plate — Song dynasty vase — elephant skin — aubergine shoes — paper mosaic — knitted cuttlefish — brass knuckle — rhino beetle — Sweden — dub — ibis — sand art — taxidermy — cittern — set design — weimaraner — type specimen — target practice — bidis — bleeding tooth fungus — cricketers — diamond mine — mantua — good luck charm
The plugin which automatically fetches links from delicious.com and posts them to this blog went wrong last night. So it seems like as good a moment as any to stop posting them to this blog altogether, since they are all posted to A London Salmagundi as well.
If you want to keep reading the links but have no patience for all the other bits and pieces I post to Salmagundi, you can also find them at delicious.