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i hate flying. i really really hate it. i've done 6 fear of flying courses, 2 accompanied flights, 7 lessons in a piper cherokee and dr diazepam holds my hand from runway to runway, but it's taking a bloody long time to get over it. during the main body of the flight i can resort to films or minigore or scrabble on the ipad (reading is out of the question). but during take-off and landing i'm not allowed to do anything electronic so i try and draw to occupy myself. the quality of the drawing has become a rather good measure of the amount of turbulence.
this, i think, is me coming into istanbul during a storm earlier this year (turkey was the furthest i'd flown since the fear really took hold 12 years ago):
the way back was a lot smoother:
then i had to fly to dublin during freak storms that were knocking walls down and flooding caravan parks in the south of england (i was not terribly comfortable at this point):
i'm thinking of taking out a patent and calling it the haddon sketch turbulence scale.
i'm doing a talk, 'flying and swimming' at the purcell room next monday, 9 july at 7:45, as part of the festival of the world. it's about... wel,, pretty much everything: great white sharks, thoreau, poetry, creative writing, engine fires, ice hockey. it's about an hour long and it will be very different from most author talks...
whilst i've never been opposed to ebooks in principle, i've always disliked the kindle for a string of reasons (see kindle below), so i've rather surprised myself by falling in love with ibboks on the ipad, on which i'm reading wirginia woolf's orlando (her gender-bending historical romp; one of her best-selling novels at the time but not a great work of art and for woolf completists really). the interface is great. it looks like a book (black print on white 'paper'), the page flip is rather sexy, the search, navigation and bookmarking are fluid and intuitive (you really can flip back and forth easily) and the underlining / highlighting are actually easier than using a biro. you also get to see the (colour) covers, titles and authors' names on the main 'library' page (kindle readers occaisonally tell me they're reading a great book then can't remember the author because they don't see it when they pick up the kindile which remains 'open' at the last page they read). obviously you can't use it in bright sunlight or in the pool (neither of which i've ever really done with books) but now that my ipad is fixed suited in a us military grade rubberised cover (mostly so my children don't destroy it) i can drop it onto conrete from 6 ft or use it in a sandstorm, presumably if i need some down time while invading an oil-rich middle eastern country.
but, but, but... this particular novel / edition contains the worst piece of proofreading / ebook scanning i have ever seen:
'to seventy yellow satin chairs and sixty stools, suitable with their buckram covers to them all... sankuarsankuarsan kuarsank uarsanku arsan kuarsanku arsankua rsank uar sankua rvsanku arsankua rsankuarsan kuar...' etc. to end of paragraph.
shame on you, penguin digital.
... somebody's son, by gordon burn, a meticulously researched book about the yorkshire ripper, peter sutcliffe.
some second thoughts:
it seemed rather brilliant at first, a brave attempt to get behind the salacious headlines and tabloid rhetoric of vicarious thrills and 'absolute evil', prostitutes who deserved little sympathy and the 'innocent victims' sutcliffe wrongly identified as prostitutes. and indeed it was interesting to to read about sutcliffe's childhood family history in detail. but you can't read this kind of book without wanting some insight into why he went on to do what he did. would he, for example, have become the yorkshire ripper if he hadn't grown up in a town with its busy red light district, drinking in pubs where 'respectable' people mixed with prostitutes and damaged young women with chaotic lives, in a culture where violence against women was widely tolerated? would he have become the yorkshire ripper if he had not worked in a graveyard or become obsessed with a particularly gruesome collection of 'medical' waworks or worked as a lorry driver and so on and so forth?
there is no clear or obvious answer. if there was a clear and obvious answer the police, incompetent and disorganised as they sometimes were, might have caught him earlier than they did
if there is any conclusion to be drawn it seems to be that psychopaths, however terrible their crimes, are psychologically less interesting than other people. they are psychopaths because they have something missing. there are things which they can't or don't feel (empathy imagination...), and extreme version of ordinary feelings they can't or don't control (anger, sexual desire...). and, ultimately, it is more interesting to read about the complexities of empathy, imagination and self-control than their absence.
one final note: there are passages in the book where burn seems to have been infected by, or possibly to share, some of the prejudices of some of his subjects, particularly with respect to characters who are not white and who are often spoken of dismissively or not given names (... an educationally subnormal west indian... the asian immigrant to whom she was married... married to an asian wearing a sari...).
... by bryan talbot, which my son (11) and i have been greatly enjoying, along with the follow-up, grandville mon amour, steampunk detective graphic novels set in a parallel version of history in which france has invaded and subjugated britain and guillotined the royal family and recently granted the country independence. london and paris are inhabited anthropomorphic animals of various species (humans appear infrequently in a few subordinate roles as fetchers and carriers) and the muscular badger inspector lebrock is called upon to investigate and solve dastardly crimes often resorting to somewhat excessive level of violence which, sadly, appeals greatly to my son. sly literary references abound which also appeal to me. not that i'm averse to a bit of blood, too...