Monday, July 09, 2012


Not a lot of time today, after a busy weekend.  A couple of one-line observations, though.

First, Bill Bryson is cranky.  This is probably a risk of compiling a weekly column into a book, but I'm a Stranger Here Myself is just a series of one moaning rant after another about how lazy, impractical, bureaucratic, dangerous, and selfish America is on various levels--sometimes as a society, using statistics, and sometimes as individuals, using examples.  It's funny, because the book was written in the late '90s and can often go for long periods without seeming dated, and then I'm hit by something really surprising and I remember, oh, yeah, he's talking about when I was in college.  America's attitude toward the environment was more cavalier, England's airport security was comparatively much weaker, and people faxed letters to their far-off friends.

Second: Stephen King really believes that ugly people are ugly.  Which is to say, people who are mean, frightening, shrill, or horrible in Stephen King books are almost always sweaty, distended, bug-eyed, crooked, and poorly dressed.  Good, kind people, on the other hand, are at worst plain, and mostly attractive and pleasing to the eye, if not downright good-looking.  This kind of goes along with some of his other problems--I've always noticed that his women have intuition coming out of their metaphorical ears, and someone (Nnedi Okorafor, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Who Fears Death, which has just gone on my to-read) pointed out in a blog post I just read that he also falls prey to the Magical Negro problem.

Another interesting factoid I learned from Okorafor's blog is that H.P. Lovecraft was a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE racist.  I've only read a couple of his stories, so I didn't realize.  This is why I don't like finding out about authors/actors/creatives whose work I admire.  Learning about their personalities and personal lifes is almost always a bad thing (cf. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Orson Scott Card).

(As an aside, I've been very interested in reading and thinking about the idea of how to be a fan of things that are problematic--how to recognize racism and sexism in books and movies that you really like.  It can be easy to get defensive about stuff you love and try to pretend the problems don't exist, but that's so much worse than facing up to it.  I have friends I love who do things I don't like.  I'd like to do a whole post about it, but I think it'll probably just be passing along good links.)

I suppose this post is now a bit of a ramble, but I was away all weekend and didn't have any time to post or much time to read.  I'll keep you as posted as I can, and know I love you all, Dear Readers, and have missed you!


Aarti said...

I completely agree with you on Bill Bryson in that book! I thought he was such a jerk. He said nothing nice about us at all, whereas in all his books about other countries, he tempered the bad with the good. I think he wrote it while very homesick for England.

LibraryHungry said...

I know! I can see how you wouldn't notice in a weekly column, but it's really annoying that in one passage he's complaining about how wasteful Americans are that they leave their computers on all night instead of taking "thirty seconds" to boot them back up. Then five pages later he's complaining about how his computer takes 10 minutes to boot up and by then he's already done whatever offline. Everything's so COMPLICATED in America. It's not just different, it's WORSE! I'm definitely more interested in the next one that I pick up from him than I am in the rest of this.