Monday, January 2, 2023

On those given to much reading

From time to time, I watch videos by Michael Vaughan on his Booktuber channel.  He recently committed, along with some other booktubers to avoid buying any more books until he read 500 of his own books, presumably most of which will be unread although rereading is permissible.  I wondered how fast he could read and, in another video, learned that he counted the books he read in 2022 and the number was 60.  It doesn’t seem possible that he will meet his 500-book commitment. 

I wondered how many books I read in 2022.  For pure enjoyment and with no literary interests, I’ve been reading mostly detective/thriller novels and I’ve made note of which one’s I’ve read in a little yellow field book.  I counted and discovered that I read 82 in 2022.  I also read books that didn’t fall into that category, some in my own quest to read books that won awards and some for other reasons.  I commented upon those in a journal.  I found 24.  So, 106 in 2022, and while I did read some I’d already read on Kindle, I bought a lot of new ones as well.

Michael Vaughan has some sort of job.  He takes time to make his weekly videos; so, he may never do much better than 60 a year.  [However, in subsequent videos he reports finding a few more.  He is up above 71 now, and because he feels disorganized in keeping track of his reading, despite having a reading channel, he resolved in 2023 to become more organized 😉].  

Michael Vaughan in his last video of 2022 reported the last book he read in 2022, Deathworld by Harry Harrison.  Per Wikipedia, Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was an American science fiction author best known for his character The Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973).  Vaughan had read other Harrison novels, but not yet Deathworld.  He said it was a lot of fun to read.  Looking for something a lot of fun to read at the moment, I downloaded it into my Kindle.  It was written in 1960.  (Harrison died in 2012 at age 87.)  

Always on the lookout for anthropological and evolutionary implications and theories, I was struck by one in Deathworld.  The main character, Jason, a talented gambler, has just arrived on the very hostile planet Pyrrus: “Jason’s eyes opened wider as he realized she was very beautiful – with the kind of beauty never found in the civilized galaxy.  The women he had known all ran to pale skin, hollow shoulders, gray faces covered with tinges and dyes.  They were the product of centuries of breeding weaknesses back into the race, as the advance of medicine kept alive more and more non-survival types.”  [I subsequently read Deathworld.  It was okay, a light-hearted read despite a lot of death, but I'm not tempted to read Deathworld ii, and subs.]

One thinks of H. G. Wells The Time Machine written in 1895 in which he envisioned evolution turning humans into beings with large heads and weak bodies (the Eloi) as well as the more beast-like Morlocks.  The Eloi were apparently descended from Britain’s upper class and the Morlocks from the lower.  When I first read that book, probably in my teens I took it as an incentive to work-out with weights and pass my strength and Marine Corps inclinations along to my descendants, alas. :-)

As to Harrison’s 1960 prediction, yes, we are attempting to keep alive our hitherto non-survivable kin, but the work being done in genetics may be able to eliminate the passing along of the genes that made them “non-survivable.”  So perhaps they would not be doing damage to subsequent generations.

We as a species are moving awfully quickly.  If the Gaia hypothesis, conceived by the British chemist James Lovelock in the early 1970s has any validity" our world may know of an impending invasion by an alien species and be rapidly getting our species ready for it.  And if Gaia is true, perhaps it will, being in its best interest, end California's drought (where Michael Vaughan and I both live).  So good, so far, this season.

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