Wednesday, December 01, 2010

November reading report

The only book I finished in November that was not required reading for school:  Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Loved it.  The main characters are two angels-- Crowley, who was the snake in the original garden scene, and Aziraphale, from the other side, the angel with the flaming sword who guarded the gates of said garden.  They've been hanging out on earth ever since, and they've become a little attached to it.  So when the apocalypse approaches, they start having second thoughts.  As you might expect if you've read any other Pratchett or Gaiman, it is laugh out loud funny at the same time that it is warmly human.

In academic reading, if you're up for it, check out The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, for an interesting take on ecological theory.  He has his moments of being a little too Euell Gibbons like (remember "Many parts of the pine tree are edible"?)-- there's one bit where he describes the strange looks his neighbors gave him when he returned from his travels and was chattering with the squirrels in his yard that really made me cringe.  But on the whole, he does a really good job of mixing science, theory, and a kind of wonder at the web of life in which we are immersed, however much we might try to disconnect ourselves from it.  I've said before that I'm not a big fan of nature writing, but although he occasionally edges over into lala land, for the most part he stays more in the realm of educating than pontificating.  For example, when he talks about a (Malaysian?) woman who is honoring/feeding the spirits of the land by daily refilling small dishes of rice at the corners of the house, he is very careful to maintain respect for the idea behind the tradition as he explains how the local ant population carries off the rice every day.  It's not that she is naive and ignorant and therefore creating supernatural beings out of natural events, Abrams' point is that the ants are the spirits of the land, or part of them.  It's not either science or belief--both are true.  You know I love that.

It's a fascinating book and well worth reading.  I've always been a dedicated recycler, and I try to remember to take my reusable bags into the grocery store with me (have about a 50% success rate), but I confess I've become discouraged over the years about anything I can do as an individual to divert global warming or whatever ecological disaster is your choice.  Abrams renewed my interest in the efforts for their own sake.  (and btw, he doesn't say anything about that, it's just my own response to his ideas.)  I am re-inspired.  For me, the issue isn't looming ecological disaster (too easy to get off on an argument about what and when if you take that route), it's that living in a way that is conscious of the natural world of which we are a part is worth doing for its own sake.  Good read, though difficult at times.

and if you like nature writing, try Mary Austin.  Stories from the Country of Lost Borders and Cactus Thorn.  She wrote around the turn of the last century.  Beautiful stuff about the high desert in California.


  1. I read Good Omens for the first time several months ago. All I could think at the time was, "How did I not read this before now?" Wonderful recommendation.

  2. That was my thought, too! I thought it was only 3 or 4 years old, was surprised to see that it was originally published in 1990-- the copy I have is a reprint from 2007.