Archive vom Januar, 2009

This book is so great.

Having claimed that Anathem has scientists living in convents just like monks and nuns, I can, after one hundred and fifty pages, elaborate a bit: in the distant past, one Cnoüs had a vision that each of his two daughters interpreted in her own way. Whereas one thought he had seen God and spoken against idol worship; the other one maintained he had witnessed something like a Thing in itself, a world of platonic ideas, and that he preferred that to the world of phenomena.

The former daughter became the founder of religion in a quite Christian sense; the latter, however, founded the mathic world. I do not know anything quite like it in our world, except maybe for the concept of the Ivory Tower. The avout, as the inhabitants of the maths are called, are probably best described as mathematicians or maybe theoretical physicists: for they strive for knowledge as an end in itself. Any application of that knowledge is of no interest to them.

Day-to-day life in the maths, could not be more different from that in earthly research institutes; it resembles traditional convents instead: there is Discipline, a set of rules regulating every aspect of life, including a list of plants sanctioned in the garden; there is the inquisition, making sure rules are adhered to; there are daily masses; and of course a strong relationship with tradition.

At this point, it may be important to mention the immense age of  Anathem's world -- the ancient world of what is not quite Greece lies seven thousand years in the past; the Praxic Age, reminiscent of our Industrial Age, has passed three or four thousand years ago. Therefore, some things that are new to us may have a tradition that extends for millennia.

Even folding tables. Amongst all the grand concepts and the awe-inspiring world there are time and again details that make me laugh, or area feast for the geek inside me. Take, for example, the two thousand five hundred year folding table, taken from army supplies, but with a mechanism so complicated that it leaves the protagonist at a loss even after trying for a quarter of an hour. Fortunately, there is a manual; but that is merely five centuries more recent than the table and thus written in a language hardly accessible to the average reader. If you do not think this is funny, or at least interesting, you will hardly find Anathem an enjoyable read.

As for me, I am two chapters into the book and cannot get enough of it. More to follow shortly.

[Edit: Typos, Übersetzung]

2 Kommentaredeutsch

Ich will auch!


  1. Enya -- Watermark (64)
  2. Enya -- Cursum Perficio (62)
  3. Enya -- On Your Shore (61)
  4. Enya -- Storms in Africa (59)
  5. Enya -- Exile (59)
  6. Enya -- Miss Clare Remembers (58)
  7. Enya -- Orinoco Flow (58)
  8. Enya -- Evening Falls ... (54)
  9. Enya -- River (51)
  10. Enya -- The Longships (49)

Das seht jetzt, zugegeben, sehr langweilig aus, ist es aber nicht. Ich bin nichtmal ein so großer Fan, obwohl ich sie recht gerne höre. Allerdings habe ich in der ersten Jahreshälfte die beiden Alben, die ich digitalisiert besitze, fast jeden Morgen gehört.


  1. Enya -- Watermark (588)
  2. Gerry Rafferty -- Night Owl (393)
  3. Enya -- Shepherd Moons (380)
  4. Gerry Rafferty -- Snakes And Ladders (370)
  5. Crosby, Stills & Nash -- CSN (326)
  6. Carole King -- Simple Things (320)
  7. Gerry Rafferty -- City To City (320)
  8. Crosby, Stills & Nash -- Daylight Again (282)
  9. Carole King -- Tapestry (277)
  10. Amazing Blondel -- Evensong (224)

Hier kann man schon eher meine wahren Favoriten erahnen: Gerry Rafferty, Carole King sowie Crosby, Stills, Nash und Young als Quartett, Trio, Duo oder auch Solo. Neuerdings darf es auch gerne mal Folk sein, und da sind Amazing Blondel gerade noch auf Platz 10 gerutscht.

Ja, und damit sind wir auch schon bei der wichtigsten Liste angekommen, nämlich der der Künstler:

  1. Gerry Rafferty (1085) [+1/+1]
  2. Enya (1028) [+1/+5]
  3. Toto (944) [-2/-2]
  4. The Alan Parsons Project (702) [+2/+1]
  5. Carole King (619) [0/-1]
  6. Crosby, Stills & Nash (608) [-2/-3]
  7. Stephen Stills (340) [+1/neu]
  8. ABBA (333) [neu/neu]
  9. Jethro Tull (286) [neu/neu]
  10. Steve Winwood (249) [-1/-1]

Im Vergleich mit der Liste von vor sechs Monaten hat sich nicht viel getan -- plus oder minus zwei Plätze sind nicht die Welt; und auch im Vergleich mit der Liste von 2007 ist da nicht viel mehr los. Die Neuzugänge haben ihr Erscheinen in den Top Ten wohl neu digitalisierten Alben zu verdanken. Ich bin halt doch ein recht konstanter Hörer.

4 Kommentare

Frankly, there is nothing borrowed I could write about, but I do have a new and an old book; or at least one I have just finished, and one I have started a few days ago. The former is Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I have been a bit disappointed with Making Money, but the little blue men made up for that: this is Pratchett at his best. It is not quite as harshly criticising society as the later adult Discworld books are -- but I would not expect that from a children's book. The wee free men are simply loveable characters with their naïve, rash ways, and their Scottish dialect is great.
Apart from that, the book is just like Pratchett. It is a quick and funny read; and if I just said not as harshly criticizing, I do not mean there is no criticism. It is, however, not the main issue, and it is put forth in a somewhat gentler way.

The new book is by Neal Stephenson, one of my favourite authors. I believe I could rather do without Pratchett than without Stephenson: he does not write as many books, but they are much more diverse. Cryptonomicon, my first, is set both in World War II and in the near future (by now, that should probably read the present). It is -- more or less -- about cryptography. Its successor, The Baroque Cycle, shows how Science and modern finance came into being during the Age of Reason. Both books show Stephenson's calm writing, which I am very fond of: he mostly dispenses with classic rising action/falling action and tells a story instead. Often, he includes details that only appeals to geeks: take the dependence of mathematical skills on sexual fulfillment (with equations and diagrams!); or the small day-to-day tasks that were in the seventeenth century quite different than in the twenty-first.

Stephenson's latest book, Anathem, is not set on the Earth at all, but in a strange parallel world: scientist are living like monks and nuns (fraas and suurs) in convents (maths), their life ordered by a huge mechanical clock. Some of them interact with the sæcular world but once a decade, century or even millennium.

This story is being told in a very appropriate language that makes the monastic setting real. I have been enthused from the first page, but I have to admit that Anathem is hard to read because of that language (including quite a few terms invented by Stephenson). However, it promises to be worth it.

3 Kommentaredeutsch

Kurz vor Weihnachten in der Multimedia-Abteilung des hiesigen Kaufhauses. Ich irre durch die Gänge, als mir ein Regal mit der Aufschrift Alben ins Auge springt. Etwas verwundert registriere ich, daß dort unter anderem Fotoecken angeboten werden.

Aber ich finde ja auch den Zeitungsausriß, der an einer Tür des physikalischen Instituts klebt, unglaublich witzig: 5000 Liter Latex ausgelaufen.

4 Kommentare