Review: Dark Reflections, by Samuel R. Delany

Roads not travelled

Samuel R. Delany's Dark Reflections:
A marriage of SF and the mundane

With thousands of books published in the English language every year, to name any particular book or particular writer as "the best" of any particular category is to be either simply foolish or foolishly hubristic.

But still ... Samuel R. Delany is still the best writer working in the English language today. His recent novel, Dark Reflections, is a quiet, almost elegiac proof, not only of Delany's mastery of his craft but, perhaps more interestingly, that while you might take the science fiction out of the story, you can't take the science fiction out of the writer — at least, not this writer. And further, that "science fiction" may be less a matter of technology and time-lines than it is one of attitude and tone.

Dark Reflections is unquestionably a "literary" novel and yet, in its uncompromising story of one man's (unique — and yet, somehow universal) life, it nevertheless feels like science fiction in that it offers the reader the chance to explore the aline — that is, to get to know another being. If not "the universe in a grain of a sand", then the universe in the life of a man.

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Just desserts or, The Ballad of Marian Hossa (a haiku in honour of the Stanley Cup)


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Review: Admonishments and Aphorisms, by M.C.A. Hogarth

The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar reviewed

I've never liked the aphoristic form, never warmed to twee, manga-style illustrations and have always been suspicious of Utopias — in my experience, the latter tend to be either fascist or ridiculously simplistic in nature — or both.

Dawn - The Admonishments, by M.C.A. Hogarth

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I leafed through the twin volumes that recently arrived in the mail for me, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar, both written and illustrated by one M.C.A. Hogarth, who — remarkably — read my evisceration of Battlestar Galactica's abysmal finale and asked whether I'd be interested in reviewing her efforts at what I think she called "anthropological science fiction".

Well-bound and printed on good paper, but with covers that feel a little too much like mediocre comic book covers, before even opening either book I was already contemplating a quick email to the author, thanking her for the review copies and informing her that I would not actually review the books. Criticizing Battlestar Galactica or doing my small bit to prick the inflated reputation of the likes of Gregory Maguire is one thing. Slamming a self-published writer of little standing in the world of lit-rah-toor is something very different and not a game I intend to play without good reason.

But still, the author went to the trouble of sending me review copies; the least I could do was to ignore the covers and give the words a chance.

And I'm glad I did; Hogarth has written a diptych quite unlike any I have read before.

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(What should be) The last word on Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle

By now I'm sure all of you who are even remotely interested have seen the video of Susan Boyle "surprising" the judges and the audience of Britain's "reality" television show, Britain's Got Talent.

Boyle is, shall we say, not conventionally attractive, small-town, unemployed and — horrors! — at 47, of an age when our culture expects women to gracefully disappear from view.

Of course, the video has been spreading through the blogosphere and beyond like wildfire, because it turned out that Boyle can, in fact, really sing.

Now, to tell you the truth, I have been pretty good at avoiding "reality" teevee shows; a brief sampling early on convinced me they were exactly what I had expected them to be, freak shows more often than not, and I've never had much interest in such sort of degrading entertainment, thank you very much.

Anyway, the Boyle video was emailed to me, and a couple of you posted about it, and so I too have seen it (and yes, she can sing). I was appalled by the sexist, classist, ageist and — yes — lookist presumptions of both the audience and the judges and, with just everybody else, cheered Boyle's success at turning a theatre full of freak-show gawkers into fans.

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Medical mal-practice?

DANDRUFF The ANSWER is usually vinegar. To some problems there are solutions.

What we call dandruff is often the result of a PH imbalance on the skin, which shampoo exacerbates. Wash your hair with a simple non-detergent shampoo, soap, olive oil, beer, almost anything. Rinse. Then close your eyes and pour on some vinegar. The extremely cheap but natural sort — apple cider, for example — is probably best. The smell will stimulate interesting conversations in changing-room showers and your explanation will win you friends. Wait thirty to sixty seconds. Rinse it off. The smell will go away. So will your dandruff.

All dermatologists, pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies know this simple secret. They don't tell you because they make money by converting dandruff into a complex medical and social problem. By most professional standards this would amount to legally defined incompetence or mis-representation.

Dandruff shampoos that promise to keep your shoulders and even your head clear are harsh detergents and may promote baldness, which ought to constitute malpractice.

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