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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity



Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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Serina has commented on (3) products.

Chronic City (Vintage Contemporaries) by Jonathan Lethem
Chronic City (Vintage Contemporaries)

Serina, February 22, 2011

Great writing about a bizarre, slightly skewed alternate Manhattan. The main characters are obsessive urbanites who are a bit self absorbed - but also strangely sympathetic. There is some very funny word play in the mix of pop culture from the real world and the alternate - "gnuppets" for muppets, "Obstinate Dust" for Infinite Jest. The writing is very distilled - each word seems considered with extra words dropped. But at the same time, the language is rich - he has a genius for using a surprising word that nails a description, thought or emotion.
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The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians

Serina, January 31, 2011

I wanted to really like this book - but in the end I just sort of liked it. The premise was great - a mash up of the Narnia books and Harry Potter with older, more knowing magical students. It turned out to be a bit like The Secret History - the main character and his entourage of fellow magic students suffer terribly from coming of age cooler than thou ennui. They feel cheated by the world because the heroic adventures promised by the fantasy novels they read as children haven't materialized. Apparently, being able to fly and run naked to the South Pole aren't enough for these guys. So they break the rules - drink, drugs, sex, betraying each other - while also clinging to their group. If you read it as a satire of rich kids or over achieving college graduates today who aren't getting the exciting dream lives they feel they deserve - then maybe it works. But I found the characters a little too shallow, self absorbed and narcissistic - it was hard to feel much sympathy for them. Their emotional development (or lack thereof) is the real story - the focus is not on creating a surprising fantasy world. The magic and magical creatures are taken from other world - Potter, Narnia, Tolkein. The premise is great and there were a lot of good things in the book - but I think it could have benefited greatly from a good edit (my version even had several typos). Not much subtlety in the writing - what they think and feel is just flat out stated.
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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Ship Breaker

Serina, January 19, 2011

A fast pace adventure / chase novel set in a brutal future where gangs of kids risk their lives stripping precious scrap metal from beached tanker ships. The book centers on a teenage boy and the "posh" girl he rescues from a wrecked ship, but its appeal is much wider than young adult. Waiting to read the next in the series and will also read The Windup Girl - which is set in the same world.
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