Work's been a bit demanding lately, so much so that I can't say I really had a Thanksgiving break (although the food was spectacular). My fumes ran out a couple of hours ago, so I'm not running on anything but inertia right now. That's all my long way of saying I'll be keeping it short tonight.
I recently read Alan Lightman's novel Einstein's Dreams, which is the lightest reading I'm ever likely to do on the subject of the theory of relativity. It's a tiny thing, easily read in an hour or so. Each chapter describes a dream in which time behaves differently than how we perceive, highlighting how that world would be different than our own. These dreams are the dreams Einstein has as he completes his theory of special relativity.
The reviews on Goodreads are wildly mixed between people who love it and people who find the central conceit twee. In that sense it's sort of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull of physics. It works for me because I can't resist a book filled with so many "what ifs?" I can't help but think it's custom made for discussion groups, reading a single chapter, and then discussion the implications of that particular world. It'd be a great jumping off point for creative writing classes as well, as each chapter is a ready-made prompt.
Next up is J.G. Ballard's penultimate novel Millenium People. I haven't heard much about this one, but I love Ballard and it was on the discount shelf at the bookstore, so I was never going to pass it up. I get the impression it's not considered one of his best (the discount shelf was my first clue), but lesser Ballard is still a treat. Here's a sample, a conversation between an English couple about to fly to Orlando for a conference:
'It's having to shake hands with Mickey Mouse that drives me up the wall. Americans love these Disney hotels.'
'Don't be mean. They remind them of their childhoods.'
'Childhoods they didn't actually have. What about the rest of us--whey do we have to be reminded of American childhoods?'
'That's the modern world in a nutshell.'
So, lesser or not, I think I'm going to enjoy this.
P.S. Because the days are getting shorter and greyer, I'm feeling very sentimental these days. I've rediscovered the joy of using snippets of song lyrics for titles for my posts. It's something I used to do on LiveJournal and we've reached the point where LiveJournal is something one can feel sentimental about.
Come to think of it, references to song lyrics pack a lot of memetic information into a small package. There's the literal meaning of the words, the meaning of the song they're references, the time, the place, the scene, and even the specific band referenced can shade the meaning. It still feels very high school to use lyrics this way, but I can live with that.