James Joyce and Ulysses

I have tried to read some of the classics of English literature. In particular I attempted the works of James Joyce, including his most famous work Ulysses. I gave up early on in that book, deciding that what I was likely to get out of it was not worth the effort that I needed to put into it. It also made me wonder what purpose was served by the author burying the message under so many layers of metaphor, code, obscure allusions, and word play that it required years of study by professors of literature to explain it. This high level of difficulty has led to the suspicion that some of the people who claim to have read and enjoyed it have not really done so but are merely being pretentious.
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My book has been released

Note: I am going to keep this as the new top post for a while. Later posts will appear below it so please scroll down.

To find out more information about the book, click here and for ordering information (including discounts) click here. You can read the first three chapters at the Amazon webpage for the book. (Click on the ‘Look inside’ link at the top left.) Barnes and Noble gives a smaller excerpt (Click on the red arrow on the cover image.).

If those of you who read it and could spare a few moments to post a review on the various book-related sites and as comments here as well, I would really appreciate it.

Enjoy!

The making of a ‘best seller’

Reporter Nick Confessore has been digging into how Donald Trump Jr.’s book became a #1 non-fiction bestseller an it appears to be exactly as I suggested in a previous post, that the Republican National Committee purchased copies in bulk to the tune f $94,800. Confessore has the documentation to prove it.

See also the follow up tweets.

Books-a-Million is selling the book at a discounted price of $23 so the $94,800 would have purchased more that 4,000 books.

How even lousy political books can become best sellers

I think it is safe to say that Donald Trump Jr., the grifter son in a grifter family, would not be considered a deep thinker or a literary genius. So how did it come to be that the book he purportedly wrote rose to #1 on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list? In fact, it is surprising how so many political books by hack politicians are advertised as ‘best sellers’ according to this or that publication.
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Book review: Moneyland (2019)

The subtitle of this book by investigative journalist Oliver Bullough pretty much says it all: The inside story of the crooks and kleptocrats who rule the world. If you recall, my review of the film The Laundromat (2019) dealt with how the firm Mossack Fonseca specialized in creating shell companies for people to hide their ill-gotten gains from their victims and governments. This book lays bare how the corrupt system works, providing multiple detailed examples from all over the world.
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The racism in The Searchers and Heart of Darkness

I can vividly recall my strong negative reaction to Joseph Conrad’s highly acclaimed novel Heart of Darkness. Its racism appalled me as I wrote in a blog post ten years ago.

I remember the first time I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, hailed by critics as a masterpiece. I was appalled at the blatantly racist portrayals of Africans and could barely get through the book. Many years later, I re-read it. The shock and anger that the original reading had aroused in me had worn off and I could see and appreciate Conrad’s skill with words in creating the deepening sense of foreboding as Marlow goes deeper into the jungle in search of Kurtz.

Ironically, Chinua Achebe gave a talk criticizing the book and saying that Conrad’s novel, whatever its other merits, perpetuated African stereotypes. The talk attracted a lot of attention and Conrad’s many admirers leapt to his defense, saying that Conrad was a product of his times and merely reflecting the views then current and that his book was actually a critique of the evils of colonialism.

Maybe so, but the racism was still there and still bothered me even on the second reading.

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The Great Paradox of Science to be released on November 20!

I am pleased to say that my book will be released next month and can now be pre-ordered. You can read more about the book and order it here.

As you can see from the flyer below, you can get a 30% discount from the list price of $34.95 if you order from the publisher and use the promotional code so that the cost becomes $24.47. Oxford University Press will start shipping out copies starting November 20, other retailers in the US on December 18, and in the UK on January 1, 2020. I have no information as yet about the rest of the world but I assume it should be around the same time as the UK.

Why do people broadcast film and book spoilers? (No spoilers!)

Yesterday saw the release of the film Avengers: Endgame, the latest in the franchise of superhero films based on the Marvel comic books. These films have been roaring commercial successes. I myself am not a fan of the genre and have watched just a couple (The Avengers and Spiderman: Homecoming) to see what all the fuss was about. I had not planned on seeing the latest film.

But last evening I got an email from someone I do not know in which the subject line, all in upper case, revealed what is apparently a major plot twist in this film. The person who had sent out the spoiler had gone to great lengths to make sure that every single person who might in any way be connected to my university (including alumni) was made aware of the spoiler. The address line contained the addresses of about 250 email address lists (not individual addresses) that seemed to cover pretty much everyone. I think my address was in the list of physics faculty, staff, students, and emeriti. This person had gone to great lengths to obtain all these email address lists, presumably by hacking into the university server that has the database that contains all of them.
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Found in translation

I do not read much fiction these days but I used to read it a lot in the past, especially the classics that were written in so many different languages. Because my language skills are so poor, I only read English translations of them and almost always the translations were so good that you forgot that you were doing so. The translators were able to make the English versions feel familiar while not losing the foreign culture that the source material was describing. The ability to make translations so smooth, especially in literary works where metaphors and style are so crucial, was always something that impressed me greatly.
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