Archive for Books

Words I wish I wrote myself, n. 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 9, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero

Reading, I had learned, was as creative a process as writing, sometimes more so. When we read of the dying rays of the setting sun or the boom and swish of the incoming tide, we should reserve as much praise for ourselves as for the author. After all, the reader is doing all the work – the writer might have died long ago.

Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels

Angels & Demons

Posted in G 0 with tags , , , , on June 15, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero

As many will know, Angels & Demons is a rather appalling, if highly successful, book by Dan Brown.

Director Ron Howard is presently working on the movie version of the novel, following up on his previous rendition of another bestseller by Brown, The Da Vinci Code. Tom Hanks will be starring in the movie, in the role of professor Robert Langdon, which he had covered in the previous one as well.

I learned today that the Vatican had denied access to its premises for the shooting, as it had previously done for the Da Vinci Code, on account that the movie “offends common religious feelings”.

As you may know, the novel start with a murder of a physicist taking place at CERN and the theft of an absurd amount of anti-matter in order to set-up an unlikely anti-matter bomb. The process of anti-matter production, the physics involved and the laboratory itself are also described in a rather ludicrous manner. Such that CERN felt obliged to rectify a few questions in one of its public web pages.

I was wondering if the movie plan was requiring some shooting at the CERN site, so I had a look and discovered that it was indeed so. And, guess what, not only CERN management apparently had already granted access to the site, but CERN physicists had helped to get some physics issues straight in the script.

I have still some reserve about the likely result, but this is not the main point. What is worth noticing is the different behavior of CERN and the catholic church administrators.

It could well be that in the novel the church has been treated in a worse way than science or CERN had been. Or they are more easily offended. Or less tolerant. Or again, could be that science is less vulnerable than religion to what adds up to a fair amount of essentially innocuous bullshit wrapped around a cleverly devised plot.

And could be that this has something to do with science being based on facts and logic rather than faith. Up to you to decide.

For me, I’m rather happy to be on the side of Angels, this time. Or are we the Demons?

Well, whatever.

Vonnegut and the Arrow of Time

Posted in G 0 with tags , , , on May 6, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero


Some time ago, triggered by a post on Universi Paralleli, I started re-reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. As everybody should know, the book is inspired by the author’s experience as a war prisoner in Dresden, during the Allied bombing that completely destroyed the city.

In the book, following a personal habit, Vonnegut fools around mischievously with time, going back and forth through it in almost every page. Not only that, but he actually has the protagonist travel subjectively in time, which he doesn’t experience in the usual, linear fashion. On the contrary, he goes through different moments of his life in a discontinuous way, jumping backward and forward in imitation of his author’s literary style.

Also featured are aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. The Tralfamadorians have as well a peculiar perception of time, since they see in four dimensions, the fourth being time. They thus perceive every instant of their lives simultaneously. So, for instance, nobody really dies for them. Any individual is only dead in given areas of the four-dimensional space, while in other spots he is indeed alive and well.

The book is full of time-based tricks. Let me offer you a taste of Vonnegut’s juggling with time. At a certain point, many years after the war, the protagonist is looking at a war documentary, while subjectively traveling backwards in time. Here is what he sees:

“American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen…

The bombers opened their bomb-bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.”

As it to happens quite often when confronted with something written by Vonnegut, I find this passage disturbingly poetic, utterly sad and outright beautiful at the same time.

Reading it, I almost wished for a moment that Vonnegut was still alive. Then I realized he is actually not quite dead. He only happen to be not very healthy in this particular moment.

So it goes.

Words I wish I wrote myself, n. 1

Posted in G 1 with tags , , , , on March 21, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero

“Personally, I believe that when faced with an imperial power – and let’s not kid ourselves, that’s exactly what the USA is – one ought to do everything non-violent that one can do to resist it, just on principle.

The USA is a great country full of great people. It’s just their propensity as a whole for electing idiots and then conducting a foreign policy of the utmost depravity that I object to.”

Iain Banks, The Steep Approach to Garbadale

Possibly first of a series. I don’t think it will be regular, I’ll just post them when I meet them, whenever I feel like it.

And, to my US friends – nothing personal! As an Italian, I can teach you a few things myself about electing idiots.


Posted in G 0 with tags , on February 7, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero

If you’re wondering about the blog name, have a look here.

That will be all for today.