The Preface

As I recently mentioned the preface to the novel I Hate The Internet (though, yes, Kobek does call it a “note”), here’s another good one (and tellingly on the same subject) from Doug Stanhope’s book Digging Up Mother: A Love Story.


Towards the end of Stanhope’s book, when he writes about his mother’s last few hours, it reverberated with a book I read last summer: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.  Both books deal with the death of a parent: a mother in Stanhope’s case; a father in Gawande’s. They deal with it very differently mind you.

And though I say Stanhope’s account is excellent, timely, and necessary, so as to push against any chance of a narrative forming about how you should deal with, or react to, death and dying; this doesn’t mean I think it’s any better, or preferable to, Gawande’s account, or the way Gawande deals with his father’s death – no one knows how, when the time comes, just how they will react: as Stanhope acknowledges, ‘maybe we’re just different.’

But what comes across in both books – the best way I can describe it – is the trust that is established, in the end, between the person living and the one dying. That’s not a trust the books suggest, by any means, is easily won or everyone will achieve. But Stanhope and Gawande at least give us a chance to see it exists, and that it might be achievable to the extent our different situations and circumstances allow.


Reading: Either Side of Winter, Benjamin Markovits


Jarett Kobek

Jarett Kobek has just published a new novel. I finished reading his last novel, I Hate The Internet, recently and liked it, so will be looking to read this new one.

I Hate the Internet the UK edition has a great note at the start:


I still feel (perhaps sadly to some?) a sense of anticipation and excitement when I’m just about to start a new book. This note definitely added to that.

The note is also a good indication to what to expect from the novel.


Reading: Digging Up Mother: A Love Story, Doug Stanhope

6 reasons to be (technologically) cheerful


In my experience – and occasionally to my slight disappointment – free e-books available online are of a poor quality. Standard Ebooks, a volunteer not-for-profit effort, are doing something about this.


Solid is a project, led by Tim Berners-Lee, which aims “to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy.”

One of the issues it looks to negate is ‘vendor lock-in’; or what Jaron Lanier in his book Who Owns The Future calls less diplomatically ‘punishing lock-in’; this is where a user puts data valuable to them into a server but then cannot leave that server as access to their data will be lost.


DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t track you; Ecosia is a search engine which uses the ad revenue it produces from search ads to plant tress. Both seem a good idea because if you can’t (as yet – see no.2) own the data you create you might as well assert some control over the data you put out there, or put the data you do generate to some use.


OpenStreetCab is an app which lets you compare prices between black cabs, Lyft and Uber (London and New York only currently). While not able to address some fundamental issues with the sector, this app seems at the very least to (re)introduce some competition between the platforms.


The continuation of RSS readers. I use NewsBlur, but have used Feedly.


That you are able to own your digital presence:

It’s not yet been a year on from deciding to migrate (most of) my digital presence to WordPress, so I hope I’m not speaking prematurely, but overall I think my decision has been a good one. There have been drawbacks. And when I think of a particular drawback such as the loss of ease at which I can stay in touch with friends, I try to bear the following in mind from the writer Warren Ellis:

My social media are either deleted or shut off in some way, but it’s not hermitage, because friends and comrades know how to reach me. I’ve just turned the volume control down on the world, and I focus on other things, in other ways. It brings me peace, and peace brings me clarity, and clarity brings me energy. Good to go.


Reading: Delayed Gratification, Issue 27


English as we know it today was shaped principally by three periods of settlement and invasion […] In the fifth and sixth centuries […] the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes […] sailed over from the north-western coastline of continental Europe […] pushed most of the Celtic-speaking Britains north and west […] and their Germanic language developed into what we now call Old English […] A few centuries later […] the vikings were on the move […] their language was also a Germanic variety, Old Norse, and it had a deep influence on Old English…

Then it was the turn of the Normans. This was the invasion which triggered enormous changes in English, as it developed into what’s called Middle English […] English vocabulary increase[d] hugely with the influx of French borrowings.

There was a third language too, though: Latin. Ever since Augustine and his monks came to Britain in the sixth century, Latin (and Greek) words have been influencing English. During this trilingual period in the later medieval period, words stepped over from one language to another and left their footprints. Hugh numbers of French and Latin words entered English, and English was happy to accommodate them. The habit of borrowing and assimilating became second nature.

I’ve sort of perhaps, in a way, kind of knew this, and it could be you maybe did to, but it was nice to be reminded, while reading Planet Word by J.P. Davidson, that the English language is essentially, at its core, a hybrid language with, to quote Davidson again, “the vigour and subtlety of a mongrel creation”.