Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dickens and Liquid Crystal = Joy!

I've just liberated this handsome little device from the uncomprehending clutches of my parents and I have to say, I love it!

I daresay I've been trawling the net way, way too long. The tides of pop culture have pulled the English language quite some distance from the days when books were written with pen and paper by lamplight. English, as we see it today, in magazines, newspapers, books and that crucible of memes, the Net, has become a leaner creature, driven by the needs of a rapidly accelerating world to convey the maximum amount of information with the minimum number of words.

In under an hour each morning, I'll be skimming Malaysian news*, IHT, BBC News, Wired, Al Jazeera, New Scientist and Scientific American. If the mood takes me, I'll sample bits and bobs of the blogsphere, grimacing at pretentious pseudopatriotic blowhards, laughing at fundies or pondering the intellectual integtrity of a peer's post. Back in the real world, within arm's reach is a pile of linguisitics texts to devour, printouts from, a small stack of Japanese books with an accompanying BIG stack of Japanese dictionaries and sod knows what else in the fearsome ranks of archfiles of reference material I've printed. In the bathroom, a pile of Skeptical Inquirer, Scientific American Mind, Popular Science and New Scientist. In my car, Bertrand Russell's Unpopular Essays, because I need something fun to read in KL's traffic jams. And by my bed, science fiction of various grades, ranging from trashy WH40k to the stuff that makes you think, by the likes of Alistair Reynolds, Vernor Vinge and Huxley, supplemented by 3 volumes of Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, assorted manga and a majestic, leatherbound tome: Bullfinch's Mythology. Oh, two majestic leatherbound tomes! The other one is the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy - all 5 books of it.

Point is, I'm one of those people who are firmly of the opinion that one can never read too much. I've been wolfing down information for quite a while now, often simply for the sake of it, SO... I did find in the garden of literary and intellectual wonders that I surround myself with a particularly rare and radiant blossom in the form of Checkov's Uncle Vanya. It came with the ebook reader, one of a hundred literary gems** that now sit in a slim device of steel, leather and semiconductor wafers (with all the right buttons in all the right places! What a triumph of engineering design!) on my desk, though more often, these days, in my hand.

I'd never read Checkov, and was enamoured of science very early in my life, so for a very large part of it, classics were something I read because I simply had to know.

*Brief interlude. Haruka wants her chin rubbed.*

Where was I? Checkov! There is a singular beauty to the language as written in his day, and its such a joy to read after days and days of Pinker's pedantry! To be fair, given Pinker's subject matter (I'm halfway through The Language Instinct), pedantry is a necessary evil, especially for a schmoe like me who's never studied linguistics, let alone cognitive linguistics, at uni before. As such, seeing English put to work by the hands of such masters as Wilde, Shaw, Dickens and the like is a much-needed break from the relatively clipped, emotionless drone of news and popular science texts.

I luv the ebook reader. All I need now is a steampunk version of it and I can die happy...

*The travesty that it is...

** I was very chuffed to find Darwin's On the Origin of Species was among them.

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