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Showing posts from October, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

GUNN: How do you avoid reality?
VIRGINIA: Money.  It cures everything but boredom and food cures boredom, so there you go.
Angel, "Happy Anniversary"

Several weeks ago, Publishers Weekly's science fiction blog got bent out of shape over the New York Timesreview of Lev Grossman's The Magicians, in which reviewer Michael Agger made statements like "Fantasy novels involve magic and are a little bit like magic themselves.  To work, they require of their readers a willingness to be fooled, to be gulled into a world of walking trees and talking lions.  They affect us most powerfully as teenagers, but then most of us move on to sterner, staider stuff."  Such generalizations, insisted blogger Josh Jasper, were "so demeaning towards the genre as to stand out" from even the Grey Lady's general inability to grok it, and represented the belief that "Fantasy novels are suitable for entertaining uncultured teenagers, and require sneering at to make sur…

Killer Kids(' Books): Two Novels

2008 was the year of the YA novel.  You could see it on the Hugo ballot, on bestseller lists, and on the blogosphere.  On a personal level, I see it in the fact that I'm still catching up to the year's crop, starting with a book that received ecstatic and effusive praise from many of my friends and most respected reviewers, Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go.  To name but a few, Niall Harrison, Dan Hartland, and Adam Roberts have all raved about it, and Martin Lewis called it "the best effing science fiction novel I've read all year."  Taken together, these reviews build up a heavy burden of expectations that few novels could gracefully shoulder, and even as I was turning The Knife of Never Letting Go's first page I was preparing myself for the inevitable disappointment.  My reaction to the novel, however, turns out to be more complicated. Knife is a compelling, engrossing read.  I wolfed it down in a single sitting, and found myself genuinely a…

Inglourious Basterds: The Israeli Response

This post was inspired by Matt, who in the comments to my post about why I wouldn't be watching Quentin Tarantino's Holocaust action film, Inglourious Basterds, wondered what the Israeli critical and popular response to the film would be.  Which struck me as an interesting question, and hence this post.  All quotes are my translation from the Hebrew originals, and all links go to Hebrew sites.

The Tel Aviv weekly entertainment guide Achbar HaIr (City Mouse) publishes the Reviewers' Table, which ranks all films screening in the city according to the average star rating they received from nine different sources, including the three Hebrew language daily papers (Yediot Acharonot, Maariv, and Haaretz), the two Tel Aviv guides (Achbar HaIr and Time Out Tel Aviv), the two national TV and film guides (Pnai Plus and Rating), the free daily paper Israel Today and the military radio station Galei Tzahal.  English and Russian daily papers are not represented (though the Jerusalem Pos…

Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2009 Edition, Part 3

At long last, we've reached the end of this abysmal fallseason (well, not quite--the V pilot won't air until early next month). Progress reports on those shows I've stuck with: Community is coming into its own, albeit by making the main character the straight man and focusing on his reactions to the zany supporting staff, which a bit of a departure from the show's original premise but seems to be working; Glee has settled into a comfortable good-but-not-great zone, and I think it's time to give up on the hope that anyone other than the beautiful white leads is going to get a storyline; The Good Wife has been consistently good but, as I suspected, has turned into a client of the week show and is thus probably going to lose me; FlashForward has gone from flawed but potentially interesting to moronically, insultingly stupid, and is my first abandoned show of the season.
Mercy, Trauma and Three Rivers - The fall's three new medical shows, each trying to find a fres…

Future History

Writing in The New Scientist several weeks ago, Kim Stanley Robinson caused a bit of a stir when he argued that the Booker juries were ignoring the best and most vibrant British literature by neglecting science fiction. These juries, Robinson wrote, "judge in ignorance and give their awards to what usually turn out to be historical novels."
Sometimes these are fine historical novels, written by tremendous writers; I particularly like Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh, and my favorite was Penelope Fitzgerald. But working, like all of us, in the rain shadow of the great modernists, they tend to do the same things the modernists did in smaller ways. A good new novel about the first world war, for instance, is still not going to tell us more than Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford. More importantly, these novels are not about now in the way science fiction is.There followed severaldiscussions about the relative merits of literary and science fiction, but …

Self Promotion of a Slightly Different Kind

Those of you attending Icon, the Israeli science fiction convention at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, may be interested in a panel discussion I'll be participating in tomorrow. The title is A 2009 Model - Futuristic Feminine TV Action, and the topic is the intersection of woman and machine in recent television series, with a specific focus on three series: Dollhouse, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Caprica.

The panel is tomorrow, October 8th, at 19:00, in lecture hall 2 at the Eshkol Payis building near the Cinematheque. My fellow panelists are Dudi Goldman and Pnina Moldovno, and the moderator is Ziv Kitaro. As Worldcon taught me, it's hard to take detailed notes while participating in a discussion, but I will see if I can't put some summary up on the site. Either way, I hope to see you there.