April 17, 2005
Reading: A Report

Only 2 completed books in the past three weeks. This is mostly because I'm doing my typical thing of reading multiple books at once, and when two of those books are Collapse and System of the World, I spend a lot of time reading without finishing, it seems. So anyway:

  • The Outlaw Sea, by William Langewiesche. If you're feeling like you don't have enough free-floating anxiety about ways terrorists could bring about physical and economic devastation, this book is for you. What I took from this book is: the ocean, and the ships on it, are basically unregulated due to flags of convenience; most containers enter countries without being inspected; piracy is a major problem; never, ever take an Estonian ferry; and ship decommisioning is an environmental disaster. A lot of the book originated in articles for The Atlantic, which results in a bit of a disjointed feel - there's little to connect the various sections except that they all relate to water-based commerce/travel.
  • Grits, by Niall Griffiths. Griffiths first novel, and the reason he gets called the Welsh Irvine Welsh. There's a fair amount of Trainspotting in this book, on the surface - a group of outsiders telling their experiences of various types of addiction in dialect, with no shortage of sex, violence and profanity. Beneath the surface, though, I think Griffiths is working different ground - he's fascinated by how these characters, already on edge of society, conduct themselves in a place that is on the edge geographically as well. As he puts in an interview:
    I'm fascinated in the ways landscapes work on a people, on their social and linguistic habits etc. We are an ancient people in an ancient landscape of lakes and of mountains; a liminal race in a liminal place, and mad, fascinating and seemingly irrational things happen in these breaches between worlds. This question is central to my writing and I'll continue to address it until I die.
    As I've found with other authors that use dialect (Welsh, James Kelman), it was a bit of a struggle to read this book at the start, but eventually the language forms its own world and you can really hear the characters voices.
Posted by Bill Stilwell at April 17, 2005 05:40 PM
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