Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's been happening, reading and such

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, October 05, 2006 | Category: |

I realized that it has been some time since I last posted anything. Consequently, I suppose that a massive update is required by the World At Large, those amies internationales who crave the input of the goings on in Simon’s life. Or at least gross approximations thereof.

Well, I am in the happy and relatively uncomplicated and longest standing relationship of my life (read relationship as girlfriend boyfriend thing). Amy Miller and I have broken the back of my 3 (or so) month curse and hit the 4 month mark on September 23rd. Which means that this Saturday we’ve been going out for 4 ½ Months! (No! What? Shock/Horror! Depredation!). It really is great, we’re both tend somewhat to intellectual narcissism, but not so much that we can’t laugh at ourselves, or each other. We are also both hopeless romantics, making random plans for touring Europe and ‘being’ with one another. Oh no… Not Simon too. It had to happen at some point and she’s a keeper.

Enough of that MASSIVE part of my life. What else have I been doing? Well… Reading is one of the things with which I keep myself occupied. So books:

David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten and Number9Dream are the books of his that I have recently read. I have also just bought, and will read soon, Black Swan Green. Mitchell’s command of language and of the interchange between narratives is extraordinary. I haven’t enjoyed reading someone as much in a very, very long time. He has rocketed his way up to my personal Top 5.

Michael Chabon: I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay earlier this year, which is the book for which he won the Pulitzer. I have more recently read The Final Solution, not at all about the Holocaust, but rather about an ex-police investigator, who remains nameless throughout the entire novel. He is an 89 year old man, in Britain in 1944. You realize later who he ‘could’ be. But I won’t tell you. Go and read it, it is a very short little novella about 120 pages or so and it is a really fun and dynamic read. I am currently reading another of his books: Wonder Boys. It was made into a film with Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst if I accurately recall. To chant the customary ‘the book is better’ would be boring, but it is.

Toni Morrison: I read her Beloved recently and have ordered Song of Solomon. I found it very challenging reading Beloved. I didn’t follow the narrative that well and I didn’t grasp some of her characters or her modes of communication that well either. Nevertheless, the book is masterfully written and, despite my inability to relate to some of it, it recounts a very haunting and dynamic period in America’s history.

Don De Lillo: I have been trying to get hold of a number of his books recently, namely Americana and Underworld. Being unable to do so, I got hold of Libra which is a re-history of Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassination of JFK. It does so in a complex and challenging way – as the reader you can’t help but have paradoxical empathy and detestation for Oswald. Moreover, the people who surround him: his mother, people linked to US intelligence agencies, and so forth, make the narrative run in weird and fitful ways, making it both difficult to read, but also driving you on to read more. Cool stuff.

Mary Watson: I read her collection of linked short stories called Moss. I liked some of them, others I found quite boring. Nevertheless, she commands a new and original South Africa voice. I was quite pleased to read the book and impressed with what she wrote and how she wrote it. I look forward to seeing a novel, or something equally palpable from her.

Mike Nicol and Joanne Hitchens: Their co-authored Cape Town based crime novel Out To Score was a lot of fun and a really good change for me. I am so accustomed to reading ‘literary’ novels, that writing this slightly more commercial minded text was a load of fun. It pursues the lives of two Capetonian PIs pursuing independent cases, which end up being linked (as they would). I’d seriously recommend this as a cool SA read. It’s racy and captures much of CT and SA life well. Some really well-conjured images of the city.

Rayda Jacobs: I read My Father’s Orchid and I was incredibly disappointed. Here is this ‘award-winning’ author, who, I was told, delves into the political and social factors involved in Moslem/Cape Malay-Christian Capetonian/SA living. What I got instead was a dialogue driven soap opera, the characters of which were either Christian or Moslem ‘so-called coloured’. A bit of race and religion politics, but mostly a crap soap opera. I wouldn’t bother.

Etienne van Heerden: I tried my desperate best with the English translation of The Long Silence of Mario Salviati, but I got bored. Not my cup of tea. Picturesquely written, with beautiful sentences and marvelous characters, but just not my kind of story.

Koos Kombuis: His Secret Diary of God is a very comedic and not too challenging discussion of religion, the role of God, ‘big names’ in politics, psychology, etc and basically about having a bit of fun with beliefs. A fun and really easy read.

I read a couple of Fantasy/Sci-fi books in between, but nothing ground-breaking. I am seriously looking forward to reading the new Robin Hobb book though. Should be good.

Other than that? Hmm… I’ve been lecturing. I went away briefly with Al, Rich and Amy to Plett. We chilled, walked on the beach, played Trivial Pursuit, ate Pizza, made flapjacks, chilled some more. It was a load of fun!

I’ll try to think of other interesting morsels to feed to you, but right now I can’t think of anything. I’ll be putting some poetry up soon.

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