JLMOP // Ο ΙΠΠΟΤΗΣ ΜΕ ΤΗ ΣΚΟΥΡΙΑΣΜΕΝΗ ΠΑΝΟΠΛΙΑ

Ο ιππότης με τη σκουριασμένη πανοπλία

Ο ιππότης με τη σκουριασμένη πανοπλία by Robert Fisher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Δεν μου άρεσε πραγματικά για περίπου τους ίδιους λόγους που δεν μου αρέσει ο Paolo Coelho. Ενώ είναι «παραμύθι για μικρούς και μεγάλους», ξεκάθαρα προορίζεται για ενήλικες: τα παιδιά δεν έχουν τα προβλήματα που έχει ο πρωταγωνιστής ιππότης, γιατί είναι στη φάση που τα κόμπλεξ τους είναι ακόμα στη φάση της γέννησης. Γι’ αυτό η παιδική απλοϊκότητα στην ιστορία γινόταν εκνευριστική – θα προτιμούσα αντί για αυτό το παραμύθι να είχα κάτι πιο δοκιμιακό με τα ίδια μηνύματα και να μην διάβαζα κάτι το οποίο ήταν σαν Disney με Alan Watts και, ξέρω ‘γώ, τον Μικρό Πρίγκιπα (για τον οποίο στα 5 χρόνια που έχουν περάσει από τότε που διάβασα το βιβλίο δεν έχει συμβεί κάτι για να αλλάξει την φλογερή αντιπάθεια που του τρέφω).

Μου άρεσε πάντως ο Μέρλιν. Αν μίλαγε μόνο ο Μέρλιν το βιβλίο θα ήταν σαφώς καλύτερο.

View all my reviews

JLMOP // ΤΟ ΝΟΥΜΕΡΟ 31328

Το νούμερο 31328

Το νούμερο 31328 by Ilias Venezis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Πρωτοδιάβασα για αυτό το βιβλίο από το Αϊβαλί του Soloúp, το οποίο και μου κίνησε την περιέργεια με την απόδοση σε κόμικς μερικών από τις σκηνές του.

Είναι μια ωμή αποτύπωση μιας περιόδου ακριβώς μετά την Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή και πριν την ανταλλαγή πληθυσμών, ενός μίσους που κανείς μας δεν μπορεί καν να φανταστεί στις μέρες του «ανθρωπισμού» στις οποίες ζούμε ότι είναι δυνατό. Οι περιγραφές του Βενέζη θα μπορούσαν να ανήκουν σε κάποια ταινία ή σειρά με ακραία βία και δημιουργικό πορνό βασανισμού, όπως είναι το Game of Thrones ή άλλα πιο ακραία που εγώ δεν ξέρω, όμως αυτά τα πράγματα συνέβησαν, και συνέβησαν σε χιλιάδες, εκατομμύρια κόσμο. Πάντα το έλεγα ότι το Game of Thrones μου αρέσει γιατί, κατά κάποιον τρόπο, μου φέρνει μπρος μου την ιστορία της ανθρωπότητας.

Πόσοι Βενέζηδες όμως ήταν αγράμματοι ή δεν έγιναν συγγραφείς και οι εμπειρίες τους δεν έγιναν ποτέ «το νούμερο 24290» ή πολύ απλά πέθαναν κάπου στην πορεία και δεν επέζησαν ώστε να μας πουν την ιστορία τους; Ίσως καλύτερα έτσι: πόσων ανθρώπων, εποχών και γενεών τον πόνο μπορούμε να αντέξουμε σε μια ζωή;

Βάζω στο «νούμερο 31328» 3 αστεράκια όχι γιατί δεν με ενδιαφέρει προφανώς το θέμα ή επειδή πιστεύω ότι δεν είναι σημαντικό βιβλίο, απλά η γλώσσα του ειδικά, η οποία ήταν γεμάτη μικρασιάτικες, άγνωστες για μένα λέξεις, το μετέτρεψε στα μάτια μου σε κάτι λίγο πιο μακρινό από εμένα απ’ ότι θα ήθελα – από μαρτυρία σε ιστορία κι απο ιστορία στο αποστασιοποιημένο της πρωτογενούς πηγής.

Και, ίσως απλώς προτιμώ -γούστα είναι αυτά- τα βιβλία που πατάνε σε πρωτογενείς πηγές και τις αναπτύσουν – π.χ. στο Αϊβαλί έβαλα 5 αστεράκια, γιατί πιστεύω ότι μιλάει πιο άμεσα στον σημερινό αναγνώστη και λέει περισσότερα απ’ ό,τι ο Βενέζης από μόνος του.

Τι θα σκέφτοταν άραγε αν κάποιος του έλεγε ότι το 2017 κάποιος θα διάβαζε το βιβλίο του δανεισμένο από τη βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Σμύρνης; Θα χαιρόταν άραγε; Θα το πίστευε; Θα του έδινε ενέργεια και πίστη; Ή πολύ απλά όταν «τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα πρόθυμον, ἡ δὲ σὰρξ ἀσθενής» εστί, λίγα μπορούν να γίνουν;

View all my reviews

JLMOP // HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOMORROW

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book’s conclusion:

‘The world is changing faster than ever before, and we are flooded by impossible amounts of data, of ideas, of promises and of threats. Humans relinquish authority to the free market, to crowd wisdom and to external algorithms partly because they cannot deal with the deluge of data. In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. People just don’t know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore. So considering everything that is happening in our chaotic world, what should we focus on?

If we think in terms of months, we had probably better focus on immediate problems such as the turmoil in the Middle East, the refugee crisis in Europe and the slowing of the Chinese economy. If we think in terms of decades, then global warming, growing inequality and the disruption of the job market loom large. Yet if we take the really grand view of life, all other problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes:

1. Science is converging in an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.

These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book:

1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?
3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

I read the book Homo Deus is the sequel of, Sapiens, in audiobook form last year. It kept me eloquent, rational company in my first months in the Greek Army, an organisation that likes to think it possesses those qualities in abundance, but is frightfully misguided. I liked Sapiens a lot, but I think my inability to take notes diminished my enjoyment and what I truly got from it in the end. So I decided to properly read the sequel by holding it in my hands and taking notes as I went through it.

Even though I like underlining my books, I have to admit that I rarely go back to actually reading the parts that stood out for me. However, that is precisely what I did now, just before writing this review. I thought it would help me write a more accurate representation of how I feel about it, but the only feeling I’m noticing at the moment is my powerlessness to convey the sheer sense of awe Mr. Harari has impressed on me. Hm, perhaps that description is pretty accurate in the end!

Mr. Harari has brought together consciousness science, religion, informatics, ethics and more, to write a revealing, interconnected history of all these fields and paint a convincing picture of what could be the true challenges humanity will face in the 21st century. All the while, his writing is incredibly lucid, easy to understand and follow, and extremely quotable.

I was actually tempted, as I have done for some of my other reviews in the past, to fill this one with whole passages on amazing, perspective-shifting facts about the world today and leave it that, but it was just too difficult to choose and make it seem as coherent as Mr. Harari has woven his book together to be.

This is obviously a very intelligent man, but what I found most interesting about his writing is that, despite his extremely rational way of thinking, he wasn’t afraid to write about spirituality, consciousness and religion.

Even if I don’t agree with some of his conclusions or fundamentals, such as the inexistence of an immaterial component of consciousness, or a soul, I can appreciate how he writes rationally about the topic within the given materialist paradigm without ever turning into a dogmatic academic – he even admits, on the book’s acknowledgements, that he would have never had the clarity of mind to write this book without having practiced Vipassana meditation for more than fifteen years.

Even if I also disagree with him about our chances of having the raw resources or the social cohesion in the future to meaningfully reach for the revolutions that will give us human godhood, I can only say that this is an open-minded, clear-headed, spiritual intellectual, and Gods know we need more of his type. Also, he raises some of the strongest points against animal cruelty I have yet to see, which counts for a whole lot as far as I’m concerned.

This is a book for the reader who’s thirsty for meaning and ready for contemporary intelligent insights into our chaotic world; insights that convincingly connect history with the present to create predictions and guidelines for life in the 21st century.

Reading this right after The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight just feels so right.

View all my reviews

JLMOP // THE LAST HOURS OF ANCIENT SUNLIGHT

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too LateThe Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late by Thom Hartmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found out about this book through Conversation with God 3 which I “read” in audiobook form. It was recommended as a really important book to read by the words of God him/herself through the writer Neale Donald Walsch (I’m fully aware of how corny this sounds but I just don’t care because Conversation with God is just so amazingly good) and just by hearing the utterance of the title I knew it would be something special.

Then, one year later, I found out my father’s wife actually had it. It was sitting half-read in her bookcase in Aegina for more than a decade. I promptly borrowed it from her, complete with underlined passages with “!!” jotted down on the sides.

This book basically says that everything around us, especially life forms and organic matter, is literally sunlight – energy that comes to Earth from the our precious sun and is stored in varying densities in the form of plants, animals and yes, humans: we’re made out of sunlight (link to an excerpt from the book that discusses this part in beautiful detail). So what is ancient sunlight? Condensed, conserved sunlight in finite amounts that had been trapped in the ground for millions of years: oil and fossil fuels.

The last hours of ancient sunlight is our time. It’s the period in humanity’s lifecycle when we realize as a species that the whole foundation of our great modern civilization is based on a limited resource; that everything we’re so proud of can be attributed to a very sudden rise in available energy, directly comparable to the “extra food” that leads to a population boom of bacteria in a petri dish or in yesterday’s pasta, or of cats in an environment were humans deposit up to 50% of our food production in specially designed vessels.

This is basically what it boils down to:

Ancient sunlight and other sources of cheap energy have fueled our expansion. Soon we’re going to run out, and our population will dwindle to a number which won’t need extra food, or ancient sunlight, in order to be sustainable. But of course there’s a long, painful way to go until that day comes, and no-one can guarantee that a sustainable population of humans will actually exceed zero.

This book, then, is split into three parts:

1. The part where it tells the story of exactly how deep in the shit we are.

2. The part where it makes the distinction between our Younger Culture, which has existed ever since civilization created scarcity and vice versa, and Older Cultures, whose existence was/is based on sustainability and “making decisions with the well-being of up to seven future generations in mind”.

3. The part where he goes over what’s actually possible to do “before it’s too late” if we want to change things. Spoiler alert: it’s not solar power, it’s not a revolution, and it’s not colonizing Mars.

The first part is the one with the “!!” marked by Vasso on the sides of the pages. It was shocking, worrying and depressing, but it was incredibly concise – presented in a way that made me feel hopeful just by the fact that there was someone out there who had written about these things so clearly. So lovingly. It felt like warm sunlight shining over me. It also felt like I was standing waist-deep in industrial waste, but at least it was a clear, beautiful day…

The second part, which went on anthropological and historical forays, was also amazingly done. Sometimes it did feel as if it was romanticizing the “noble savage” concept a bit too much, grouping together whole bunches of tribes and peoples like it did, but the premise actually made sense, so perhaps I was seeing a “noble savage” caricature just because I was expecting to see one. Older Cultures were just masters of sustainability and had been around for much, much longer than the Younger Cultures that destroyed them – it’s just a matter of fact.

Some may be quick to point out that that is how evolution and “Darwinism” works and that our greedy, unsustainable Younger Culture has actually “won” by annihilating all that was weaker than itself… but, pray tell, do cancer cells or tumors “win” at the game of evolution by spreading to a different organ of their host’s body?

The third part, where Mr. Hartmann went on “what we can do before it’s too late”… This book’s first edition was first published in 1997. Perhaps there was still some hope left back then that the culture could change before the point of “too late” had been crossed.

Alas, one look around you is enough to see that, whatever the point of no return used to be, we’re way past it now. True, the point of no return has this nasty habit of also changing like a moving goalpost, and “too late” (for what, I wonder?) tends to always be around one decade into the future. Still, it would be far from unreasonable to think that perhaps it never was anything but “too late” – in fact, the only useful question I can think of regarding this topic is what we do with the knowledge that it’s too late. Right now, the most popular way of handling it is depression and indifference, but once we stop grieving over the loss of our feelings of entitlement to perpetual abundance, or that growth is something self-evident and unquestionably good (a painstakingly constructed illusion at any rate), then we might start moving in interesting and creative directions.

That said, if we’re going to look into survival, we better return to the Old Culture way of looking at sustainability: making sure that not only we or our children have everything we need to live a happy, fulfilled life, but also that our descendants 7 generations down the line will have the “luxury” of choosing a fulfilled life over a terrible one. What that would constitute is a difficult discussion, but that’s precisely the point: it shouldn’t be.

My only qualm with the third part is that it goes into American politics and tries to hammer across the point of just how bad the Republicans are. It seemed to presuppose that the reader was American and I found that this detracted from the still-fresh quality of the rest of the book.

That is probably though my only qualm with The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Mr. Hartmann displayed through this work his unique and enviable talent of writing clearly while being scientific and citing sources, but without being restrained by science by refusing to talk about things outside of it. He used this talent to write an amazing book that just might help you change your life, and hopefully, by extension, the future of humanity. God from CwG was right: it really is a very important book.

The afterword by Neale Donald Walsch starts with this phrase:
You have just read one of the most important books you will ever read in your life. And because you have gotten this far in this extraordinary book, you are one of the Crucial Ones. You are one of the people who will play a key role in co-creating our future on this planet. You may not have thought of yourself in that role, but if you’ve gotten this far in this book, you’ve been given it.

Yes. You should read it.

View all my reviews

JLMOP // ΠΩΣ ΝΑ ΕΙΣΑΙ ΚΑΛΟΣ

Πώς Να Είσαι ΚαλόςΠώς Να Είσαι Καλός by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Δανεισμένο απ’ τη Μαριλού αφού είδαμε μαζί το High Fidelity.

Δεν ξετρελάθηκα από τις ξεκάθαρα μεσοαστικές early ’00s βρετανικές ανησυχίες των πρωταγωνιστών – του πώς «πρέπει» το ένα και το άλλο ώστε να μπορούν να πουν ότι έχουν μια ευτυχισμένη οικογένεια. Όμως βρήκα τη σουρεαλιστική συνθήκη που έβαλε την πλοκή σε κίνηση διασκεδαστική – αναφέρομαι στο ότι ο σύζυγος της ιστορίας, από ειρωνικός, κυνικός, οργισμένος αρθρογράφος προσπάθησε να γίνει «άγιος» και τι τελικά κατάφερε – και τι τελικά σημαίνει στην κοινωνία σήμερα «να είσαι καλός», όπως αναρωτιέται και η πρωταγωνίστρια που έμμεσα ή άμεσα διάλεξε το επάγγελμα της ιατρού ορμούμενη από αυτή ακριβώς την διερώτηση.

Ήταν κάπως κλειστοφοβικό και μέσα στην απελπίσια, βέβαια, και πολλά ερωτήματ σχετικά με τους χαρακτήρες του – γιατί ο ΚαλάΝέα είχε τις δυνάμεις που είχε, ή γιατί η κόρη ήταν το απίστευτο κωλόπαιδο που ήταν – θα μείνουν αναγκαστικά αναπάντητα. Δεν θα χάσω τον ύπνο μου πάντως.

View all my reviews

JLMOP // EARTH ABIDES

Earth AbidesEarth Abides by George R. Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a quote from close to the start of the book – I find it so powerful, so detached yet timeless and all-encompassing, it could be the beginning of the introduction to the post-apocalypse manifesto. I’ll split it in three parts, scattered throughout this review.

*Stretched out between its rivers, the city will remain for a long time. Stone and brick, concrete and asphalt, glass–time deals gently with them. Water leaves black stains, moss shows green, a little grass springs up in the cracks. (That is only the surface.) …*

I discovered Earth Abides on what I think was this Reddit thread on great post-apocalyptic “rebuild the world” books – yes, I pick up book recommendations on Reddit. Only sometimes, okay?

Written in 1949, it was conceived during a time when people weren’t exactly discovering the threat of human extinction for the first time, but when the distinct possibility that it could come to pass was more prominent in the popular imagination than it ever had been before (that we know of). As such, I consider it one of the granddaddies of today’s post-apocalyptic fiction – a genre whose popularity has become reflective of our times in the same way puritan, sexless Victorian ethics once paved the way to timeless romantic novels.

* …A window-pane grows loose, vibrates, breaks in a gusty wind. Lightning strikes, loosening the tiles of a cornice. A wall leans, as footings yield in the long rains; after years have passed, it falls, scattering bricks across the street. Frost works, and in the March thaw some flakes of stone scale off. (It is all very slow.)…*

In Earth Abides, a rapidly-spreading deadly disease wipes out almost everyone on Earth (everyone in the continental US, at least). Our protagonist Ish survives only by what could be understood as coincidence. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, he discovers in fine practical as well as poetic detail all that was left behind, living off the utilities and commodities that would still keep running and existing for a short time without any input from man. Let’s say it involves a different sort of road trip across America.

He quickly discovers he is not alone, and what happens next is telling of where humankind came from and where it might soon be heading towards.

I found Earth Abides entertaining, thought-provoking and very poetic, in the sense that many parts of the book dealing with everyday things were looked at from a completely different perspective – all just by using unusual or, at least for us, outmoded manners of speech. I found that unexpectedly fulfilling. It seemed to capture perfectly the outlandishness as well as the perfect ordinariness of the situations and scenarios at hand.

On top of that, what surprised me was how fresh it all felt, how much of it could still have been written today, barring some very sexist, racist or discriminatory stripes that could be attributed to the writer just being a man of his era. If I were to be perfectly honest with you, even they were more fascinating to look at than offensive, like an old photograph depicting socially unacceptable things that were commonplace not so long ago. It’s interesting how many things seem to have changed, but maybe haven’t – including, of course, our interest in stories telling of our inevitable demise and virtual extinction. Virtual is the key word here, for: Men go and come, but Earth abides.

It’s a solemn and soothing feeling.

I’m giving it 4 stars because I thought it was a bit too long. It felt epic, sure, just a bit drawn out. I recommend it to all who like thinking about what the world would look like without us and the thought fills them with calm instead of terror.

* … The rain washes quietly through the gutters into the storm-drains, and if the storm-drains clog, the rain runs still through the gutters into the rivers. The snow piles deep in the long canyons, drifting at the street corners; no one disturbs it. In the spring, it too runs off through the gutters. As in the desert, a year is like an hour in the night; a century, like a day.*

View all my reviews

12 ΠΑΙΧΝΙΔΙΑ, 60 ΜΗΝΕΣ, 300 ΛΕΞΕΙΣ

    • Παρακάτω θα βρείτε τα 12 παιχνίδια που αγάπησα περισσότερο την περίοδο 2012-2016 (αυτό το διάστημα είναι 5 χρόνια, όχι 4, ε!)
    • Θα γράψω 300 λέξεις και για τα 12 παιχνίδια μαζί. Γιατί 12 * 5 = 60 = 300 / 5, και κάτι τέτοια ελαφρώς aspie ψυχαναγκαστικά μου αρέσουν.
    • Αυτό σημαίνει 25 λέξεις για κάθε παιχνίδι μαξ. Για μια φορά δεν θα αρχίσω τη φλυαρία! Ανυπομονώ να έχω περιορισμούς! Μήπως είμαι κρυφομαζοχιστής;
    • Μην κρίνετε την απάντηση στην παραπάνω ερώτηση με το πρώτο παιχνίδι της λίστας: η κατάταξη δεν είναι με σειρά προτίμησης,

Dark Souls

Πρόσφατα, ο Garret μου είπε «το DS είναι το αγαπημένο μου παιχνίδι». Tελεία. Σ’ έναν μαλθακό, άδικο κόσμο, η τίμια, ακριβοδίκαιη σκληρότητα του ήταν επαναστατική.

Crusader Kings II

Κάποτε, υπήρχαν τα «μεγάλα» παιχνίδια στρατηγικής. Μετά ήρθε η Paradox και το CKII. Πλέον, χωρίς λίγη ανθρώπινη κλίμακα, χώρις λίγο μικρό, το «μεγάλο» δεν φτάνει.

Kerbal Space Program

Tα παιχνίδια που λειτουργούν με καθαρά εσωστρεφείς όρους με ενδιαφέρουν συνεχώς λιγότερο. Το KSP έκανε για τη διαστημική (“rocket science”) ό,τι το SimCity για τους πολεοδόμους.

Total War: Attila

Η παγκόσμια ιστορία τείνει να μας παρουσιάζεται σαν χρωματάκια σε χάρτες. Πιο πολύ μοιάζει με βαθυκόκκινο αιματοβαμένο σφαγείο που καθαρίζεται κάθε βράδυ με χλωρίνη.

The Stanley Parable

Ο Χωλλ κοντοστάθηκε· θυμήθηκε αυτό το παιχνίδι που με αστείο τρόπο έσπαγε τον τέταρτο τοίχο. Άρχισε να γράφει για αυτό προσπαθώντας να μιμηθεί τον αφηγητή του.

Fez

Η ιστορία του αμφιλεγόμενου δημιουργού του  απλώς ολοκληρώνει το Fez. Ποιο αριστούργημα στην ιστορία της τέχνης, άλλωστε, δεν έχει κάποια τέτοια κουτσομπολιά από πίσω;

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

To LA παίζεται πολύ πιο ευχάριστα απο πολύ πιο πρόσφατους τίτλους της σειράς. Τα Zelda τότε δεν προσπαθούσαν να ξεπεράσουν το Ocarina· δεν υπήρχε Ocarina.

Life Is Strange

Φωτογραφικές μηχανές. Ιστορία σαν δυτικό slice-of-life. Πολυδιάστατοι χαρακτήρες. Το ψυχογράφημα ενός INFP όπως δεν το είδα ποτέ πουθενά. Όχι μόνο ταξίδια στον χρόνο.

Mount and Blade Warband

Πού αλλού είναι τόσο απολαυστικό να μάχεσαι πλάι στον μικρό προσωπικό σου στρατό, καβάλα στο άλογο σου, για το δικό σου, ολόδικό σου τσιφλικάκι;

Rayman Origins

Χαζοχαρούμενο. Με την καλύτερη έννοια. Είναι αδύνατον να παίξεις το RO και να μην σκάσεις ξαφνικά ένα+ τεράστιο χαμόγελο. Αξίζει να είναι ο ευρωπαίος Mario.

Portal 2

Πώς το Portal κατέληξε να υπάρχει θα μπορούσε να είναι αξιοπρεπέστατη ταινία – και αν την έκανε η Valve, το sequel θα ήταν 3 φορές καλύτερο.

Papers, Please

Αν έκανα ποτέ αφιέρωμα στα παιχνίδια που βοηθάνε στην κατανόηση Άλλων ιδεολογιών και πολιτισμών, το PP θα ήταν απ’τα ευκολάκια. Ειρωνικά, τραγικά επίκαιρο.


Oι 5 επιλαχόντες σε 25 λέξεις:

Sword & Sworcery EP
Χιπστερικό, ψιλοδήθεν κομψοτέχνημα με στιλ.

Persona 4 Golden
Μόνο στον στρατό τέτοιο game!

X-COM: Enemy Unknown
Εξομοιωτής Kübler Ross. Με εξωγήινους.

Psychonauts
Σπιρτόζος εγκεφαλικός οργασμός χωρίς ψυχοπλάκωμα.

Shovel Knight
Σταφύλια → κρασί / ’80s games → αυτό.


Έτσι απλά για την ιστορία, από τα 17 αυτά παιχνίδια, έχω «τερματίσει» τα 8 και τα 3 νομίζω δεν τερματίζονται. Νομίζω.

JLMOP // THE HANDMAID’S TALE

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?

Written in 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale was very clearly influenced by George Orwell and his let’s say less than optimistic view of things to come: the cracks of the system being more treacherous than the wall itself; the pervading ritualistic masochism which looks normal, even necessary, within its own context; the simplest, most basic joys of life succumbing to humanity and civilization, turning into acts of rebellion – and treated as such.

The question that keeps popping in my head is: why? How can the forces of evil (because I lack any other words that aren’t as strong), forces that go against everything that’s right and good, prevail? Because the forces of good are really crap at winning. Maybe it’s because winning doesn’t concern them per se. Or maybe it’s because they never really get to fight; the moment they use force, which of the two sides actually wins the fight becomes irrelevant – the victor gets to write the story of what happened, the good and bad roles are reversed, and that’s the end of that story – the good guys have won. It might not even be this way, but it certainly feels this way.

Yet Atwood’s dystopia is a notch less extreme than 1984, which only made it even more chilling. Few in Gillead are brainwashed to the extreme they enjoy the new ultra-religious status quo, but that only makes it that even just a few (literal or figurative) breadcrumbs casually thrown to them is enough to keep the parts of the system.

Sex, which is the whole point of the book, still exists of course, it’s the whole point of the book and Atwood’s feminist (I’d say “pro-life” but that term has been hijacked) look on it was quite refreshing to read. However, in The Handmaid’s Tale, the purpose and function of sex has been twisted to such an extent, the new concept has become a pillar of that society’s culture, making it much more difficult to replace than if sex was simply forbidden.

Finally, in the book, the system itself has not been in place for time immemorial, or rather, it’s not placed outside of time like 1984’s Big Brother is: the protagonist had a life she can remember before “the revolution”. Yet, the mere fact on its own is neither consolation, nor a springboard for action. It scarcely even acts as a safe haven for her or a source of encouragement. It’s just backstory, as seemingly unreal as anything else in her world. It makes us ask ourselves: were we in her place, wouldn’t our story, our ideals, our upbringing, our relationships, our memories of what came before, be enough to kick us into action? Perhaps not, and that, frankly, is the scariest part.

I’ll finish off by sharing something I recall Atwood saying about this book connected to current events – I think it was in In Other Worlds, which I curiously read before really getting to know and adore Atwood’s real style. When she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, she didn’t really believe any of this was possible or maybe remotely close to happening, that humanity could mutilate itself on its own accord so terribly and in such haste. But now (surprise!) she thinks we’re closer to that happening than ever. Reading the passage in the book about the intrusion in Washington and abolition of the US Constitution reminded me of that.

But hey! You know what’s fun and exciting about the 21st century and a sign we’ve progressed as societies? All this could happen without any use of force or violence at all! The good guys will have won. Thank God.

Is that how we lived then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

We lived as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspapers stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories.

View all my reviews

JLMOP // THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK: A COUNTERINTUITIVE APPROACH TO LIVING A GOOD LIFE

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Manson hit the life advice sweet spot with the deceptively-titled Models and came back for more with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. What can I say? I loved it.

It’s not that this book is revolutionary or never-before-seen material. Far from it: a lot of it has he seemingly copied from his blog (not that that’s a bad thing – I enjoy his writing a lot). Listening to it as a whole though (yeah another audiobook) I got the feeling the whole was more than the sum of its parts.

I’ve been stressing over this review and avoiding it cause I don’t remember many details from the book itself – I didn’t take any notes while listening to it (I never do) and it’s already been 3 weeks since I finished it. What should I write here for you to read my review and make it worthwhile?

But hang on a second. Why am I stressing over this?

Fuck off, you part of me that makes me think that writing something here needs to be amazing and super-expressive and indicative of my true thoughts, so much so that it can often induce low-level anxiety on me. What a load of crap.

Fuck off, you part of that makes me need to play passive-aggressive smart and makes me avoid saying things as I really see them (especially if my viewpoint is banal) because I’m scared of looking inadequate/uninteresting.

You know something? This could be nothing more than an average review. Perhaps it’s even worse than average. Maybe I could write a better one if I really tried, but it doesn’t matter now because I don’t really want to try harder. Can’t be fucked. That’s fine, it’s okay. I embrace it.

In all honesty, what’s this “average” business? What does it even mean? Since when is this a competition? What am I after? Who cares if my little review is good or not?

I’m done with this. There are more important things to give fucks about than this review, and I’m off to find them – life is short, don’t forget!

There. That felt good!

Get inspired, check Mr. Manson out. Thanks for reading!

View all my reviews

JLMOP // QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN’T STOP TALKING

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every second person you know is an introvert in some way, shape or form. The reason you might not have noticed is that there’s a certain social stigma and many misconceptions attached to introversion which are forcing many introverts to feign extraversion, maybe even getting half-good at it in the process.

Introversion has an unjustifiably bad rep – argues Quiet author Susan Cain – considering introverts are in general terms more knowledgeable and academically accomplished, thorough, sensitive and other positive personality traits often overlooked in favor of the more reserved, closed and self-conscious aspects of introversion.

At the end of the day, introverts need to believe in ourselves and own our special powers, not feel ashamed for being different – not isolate ourselves either, but recognise that the way we operate is fundamentally, in part biologically, different, and that social pressures and expectations might not always be coming from a right place. Introverts rarely agree with the dominant value system anyway, so we shouldn’t be stressing too much over it.

I get all that, and I agree. Susan Cain made a brilliant point with this book which, apart from a feel-good guide for struggling introverts everywhere, could act as a great introduction to one of the cornerstone dichotomies of personality typology. If you’re interested in the topic, I would recommend having a look at this summary of the book’s concepts — check out “Pitfalls of the Extrovert Ideal” in particular.

My main qualm with the book, although not directly linked to its content and argument, is that I feel it encourages a kind of tribalism and entitlement within the ranks of introverts, especially the kind which is visible on the web. I see many people identifying quite strongly with being introverts: acting proud of how nobody gets them, showing in little -or big- ways how special they and their own little world are, not making any efforts to communicate whatsoever, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I myself am guilty of indulging in introvert exceptionalism from time to time. The difference is that many introverts out there identify so strongly with their introversion and make it such a big part of their persona they will outright reject invitations to social gatherings, shun new experiences that could help them grow in some way and feel justified in being avoidant. Some may even end up with what would be superiority complexes, if the notion of extrovert superiority wasn’t ingrained in us so deeply it will never truly be overwritten by a genuine “introvert supremacy” ideal- probably the point of the book in the first place, to be honest.

Susan Cain says that “introverts today are where women were in the 1950s and early 1960s—a population discounted for something that went to the core of who they were” and thinks society is getting more and more ready for a change of perception about them, just as it did with women. Looked at this way, I suppose the outspoken introverts (no pun intended) are the natural consequence of a “a population on the verge of coming into its own” – as have been the feminists identifying with being a woman more strongly than any other part of themselves. From that perspective, it’s something healthy and empowering.

What I’m concerned about is how social exclusion and isolation is becoming the new normal – just look at Japan and how its young people rejecting society and the real world around them are making a dent in the country’s demographics. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of decades from now it will be the extraverts who will be forced to pseudo-introversion if they want to have any hopes of making it… “socially”.

Is the whole world going to become so self-absorbed and proud of it, we’ll forget how introversion is actually only a part of a dichotomy? Only time will tell.

View all my reviews