Elseweb: Ellen Ullman, Jeannette Winterson, and Christopher Priest

Every time I sit down to write one of these posts, I want to be the hedgehog who can focus on one big thing, but today I cannot commit myself to a single subject and so I have to be the fox who talks about several little things. (My inability to concentrate may or may not be due to the fact that my three children are home from school all week long, and not one of them can sit still or stop talking to save his or her life.)

  •  The Independent has an interview with Jeannette Winterson, and it is a fascinating read even if, like me, you haven’t yet gotten around to her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Among other things, she talks about mortality–“Shakespeare was dead at 52! Time is different for us now”–and manners–she informs the interviewer mock-sternly, “I don’t know why you put your milk in first if you come from Bolton. I think you’ve been fancified.”
  • Be still my heart: a novel that incorporates computer code. Ellen Ullman has a new book out–By Blood, which sounds marvelous–but I was fascinated to discover via this Kirkus interview that her first novel, The Bug, is all about debugging software. Here is what Ullman says about her goals for that book:

    Part of what I hoped to do with The Bug—in addition to showing how there is madness at the edge of programming, that the persistence that is absolutely required to write clean, good code can bleed into madness—I did hope to demystify what being a programmer was. So the book includes code samples. It wasn’t important that the reader being able to read them, but I just wanted a visual representation. At that point, in books and film code was being used as this metaphor for something else. But code doesn’t mean anything [else], it means what it does. To that extent, it was my explicit intent to demystify what code was.

    Maybe it’s just because I spent six straight hours staring at one section of code yesterday–and no, I never figured out the problem with it, and yes, by the end of the day I was definitely right on the edge of madness–but I am dying to read this book.

  • Finally, after last week’s Clarke kerfuffle, you will all be relieved to know that Christopher Priest has won something for his book The Islanders, since its omission from the Arthur Clarke shortlist in favor of less worthy contenders made him peevish. The novel won the British Science Fiction Award, and credit where credit is due, the write-up in the Guardian does make it sound fascinating: “a guide book to the Dream Archipelago, from Aay, Island of Winds, to Yannet, known as Dark Green, or Sir. Told by a series of unreliable narrators . . . . it is also a murder mystery.” So now that’s on my to-be-read mountain. The good news for Priest: he beat China Mieville, which must have been awfully satisfying for him based on last week’s rant. The bad news: the Guardian’s article about his win is tagged “China Mieville,” which must have had him gnashing his teeth in frustration.

1 Comment to Elseweb: Ellen Ullman, Jeannette Winterson, and Christopher Priest

  1. Jenny's Gravatar Jenny
    April 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    The Winterson is definitely worth reading, and you shouldnt be surprised to find extreme honesty and thoughtfulness.

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