9th July 2006
I am now back from my holiday in Poland and can concentrate on getting my book finished. To this end I have set up a section on the site called 'Website Handbook' and made changes to a few others. The old section called 'Reading' has now been changed to 'Blog'. This is because I have not had the opportunity to read a lot recently, plus I need somewhere to write additional notes and messages. The 'Websites' section has been moved to within 'About Me'. Finally, the order of tabs in the site's primary navigation has been changed around bit. Apologies for any confusion this has caused, but it was necessary.
I have just heard from A List Part that they wish to publish an article of mine on their website (for which I am very grateful). The article covers the elements to be considered when planning the manpower requirements of a web team. Much more about this topic (and many others) is covered in my forthcoming book "The Website Manager's Handbook" to be released in July '06. Subscribe to my newsletter or RSS newsfeed to find out when it is available.
As luck would have it, I am away on holiday in Poland at the moment, being pleasantly distracted by the lovely weather and wonderful cities (I recommend Gdansk very highly). As a result, I may be slow responding to any emails.
As you can see, I haven't been reading much recently. In fact, I have been writing for the most part (some of which appears on this site)! However, I have a few books lined up. In particular, my girlfriend Nina has recommended a new book that has been a bestseller in Germany. Originally published as 'Glenkill', it is to be reprinted in English as 'Three Bags Full'. From what I can understand it involves a mysterious murder and some investigative sheep in a sleepy Irish village!
The Innocent. Ian mcEwan. ISBN: 0385494335. A definite precursor to "Atonement", many of the same themes are evident. For example, the determination to descend into self-destruction. Also, the tragedy that can arise from misunderstandings and uncoded signals. The reality of the characters makes their personal catastrophes all the more unbearable. Things need not have been so strident and cruel! In fact they weren't, but they couldn't know that until much later.
The Fabric of the Cosmos. Brian Greene. ISBN: 0375727205. A superb overview of the main themes of modern theoretical physics. As well as being a leading academic in String Theory, Brian Greene is also an excellent author. The metaphors and examples he uses to explain concepts as varied as relativistic time-dilation, quantum entanglement and classical gravitational effects are both accessible and illuminating. That said, this book is hard work at times. However, this is mainly due to the strangeness of the phenomena he is reviewing.
Amsterdam. Ian McEwan. ISBN: 0385494246. While the endgame of this novel somewhat defies believability, as a portrait of the disintegration of friendship it is fascinating. As always, the author explores the essential human flaw of self-involvement in unflattering detail. While neither character is particularly endearing, there is a certain equity about the misery they cause.
Everything is Illuminated. Jonathan Safran Foer. ISBN: 0060529709. Initially confusing, then slightly amusing and finally simply annoying - the overall style and narrative of this book is infuriating! Furthermore the overly-stylised and downright weird histories it describes are simply too much work. I bought it because I was travelling to Ukraine this year for holiday - I need not have bothered.
An Béal Bocht. Myles Na gCopaleen. ISBN: 1856352846. Tá an leabhar seo ar an mhárgadh le blíanta agus tá sé éasca le tuiscint cén fáth. Tá sé an-ghreannmhar agus mar cur síos ar lucht na Gaeilge i méan an cheid seo thart, tá sé suimiúil go leor. Ach caithfidh a rá nach maireann dearcadh diúltach mar sin a thuilleadh i measc an phobail ghinéarálta, d'àinneoin góide a deir corr Gallgóir suarach.
Enduring Love. Ian McEwan. ISBN: 0385494149. This author seems to be suggesting that uncertainty and unforeseen tragedy are easier to deal with than those which are expected. It also seems that certainty is less believable and less tolerated by those who are unaffected, than a nagging doubt would. The exasperation and anger of the principal character as he attempts to convince his dismissive wife of the danger he is in, is palpable. Even more infuriating is her final polemic that his own certainly of doom made it more likely.
Notes on a Scandal. Zoe Heller. ISBN: 0805073337. A merciless study of loneliness and envy. The caustic monologue shows just how awful the results of desperation can be. Yet, as Barbara herself believes, it is not that "Evil will out", but that the circumstances of her unpleasant life conspire to make it so. In this way we accompany her story of ingratiation, betrayal and eventual stifling intimacy.
Atonement. Ian McEwan. ISBN: 038572179X. It begins like 'Room with a View', complete with sweltering summer, stuffy Englishness and repressed emotion. Then the narrative takes hold, reflecting Briony's emergent writing style. Some excellent passages describe her emotions of frustration, the need to be enveloped by it. The casual manner by which the fulcrum of the story then occurs, means it almost passes by without being noticed. Which may be the point of it all; the implications of an event only being understood long after it is too late to change anything.
The Time Traveller's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger. ISBN: 015602943X. Could someone really be said to 'suffer' from Chrono-displacement Disorder? Sure, it causes the affected person to be placed in dangerous and ultimately fatal circumstances; but to see one's wife or family as they were/will be in their youth or old age - how wonderful. Not since 'Snowleg' by Nicholas Shakespeare have I enjoyed a novel of this type so much.
Slaughter House Five. Kurt Vonnegut. ISBN: 0440180295. More of a scrapbook than a novel, it is hard to know what to make of this. Perhaps the lunacy of visits to Tramalfadore matches lunacy of what happened in Dresden in 1945. However, it is clear that the narrator is also a lunatic and is too pathetic to shoot.
Hitler. Hubris. Nemesis. Ian Kershaw. ISBN: 0393046710. It is incredibly difficult to get any type of perspective on Hitler. His person is so laden with half-truths. The success of this book is that it imposes some texture on him. A megalomaniac for sure, but also a miserable dreamer, an egotist, a sadist, a bore. Bitter and distressing detail of the violence he engendered is also revealed. Took me two years of on-and-off reading to complete these two depressing volumes.
Rubicon, The Last Years of the Roman Republic. Tom Holland. ISBN: 038550313X. Makes modern politics look positively tame. However, it can be hard to follow because of the similarity in names, e.g. Cato, Cicero, Catullus, etc.