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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Runner
Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006





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Bellwether
Sunday, May 28, 2006

When I mentioned fads last week, Bill Clementson was kind enough to recommend me two books: bellwether by Connie Willis and Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. I've read quite a bit of Gibson's work over the years -- dark, but interesting -- but had never even heard of Willis. After reading bellwether, I'm very happy to have finally been introduced.

Willis is a delightful writer whose characters speak with the sort of ironic detachment of the modern person and yet still remain fully human and approachable (in this, she reminds me of Walker Percy). Her subject in bellwether, appropriately enough, is fads and trends and why it is that they ebb and flow across the human condition subject to a tidal pull all their own. The book offers an answer (though I don't think Willis believes it completely): that genius arises out of chaos, as a sort of self-organized criticality that forms because anything else would cause total system collapse; and that trends are both part of this self-organization and also the result of human bellwethers who are "a little faster, a little more greedy". Bellwethers lead without leading (though not in the Taoist sense <smile>) and move at least partly to their own deep beat... pulling at least some of the rest of us in their wake.

Regardless of its sociological value, however, this book is a wonderful read. Highly recommended.


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