How To Be Good, Full Dark, No Stars, and The Theory of Everything

Finished all 3 today, although I have a lot of other books that I’m part of the way through. It’s just been that kind of day šŸ™‚ .

Cover of

Cover of How to Be Good

How To Be Good is a rather characteristic Nick Hornby novel – funny, dark, with strongly liberal themes but an almost apologetically conservative ending. OK, I guess that’s less true for High Fidelity, but it’s exactly the same feeling I got when I read About a Boy, except that it isn’t as funny, and it made me think a lot more. The basic plot revolves around Dr. Katie Carr and her marriage. Her husband, who used to be “the Angriest Man in Holloway” undergoes a spiritual conversion after his chronic back-pain is “healed” by a, well, spiritual healer. He starts making radical changes to their lives, such as trying to get all the neighbours to put up a homeless person in their spare rooms and write a book about convincing people to donate all money above the national median wage to charity (not, of course, a novel idea). The book deals with all the resultant friction and was a realistic if rather bland look at “20th century morality”. It’s a good book to read lazily, picking it up every now and then when you have nothing better to do.

Cover of

Cover of Full Dark, No Stars

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. The wiki page points out that all 4 deal with “retribution”, and that’s clearly true, although they’re all really very different kinds of retribution and they all had entirely different “feels”.

1922 is an old farmer’s confessional about how he murdered his wife and the fallout it had and is a fairly standard story of this type, although the way King brought out the landscape and the sense of the time (just before the Depression set in, and of course that features quite heavily, too) was simply brilliant. It was set in Nebraska; the other 3, like most of King’s novels, are set in New England.

Big Driver uses a rather different voice, and although there isn’t much to spoil- it’s the details and the atmosphere he evokes that really shines out, even though he likes to talk about how he believes that plot should come above everything… or rather that storytelling should, and atmosphere is a fairly integral part of storytelling, isn’t it?- I don’t think I can describe it further without taking away some of the joy that would come from reading it. Suffice it to say that it is about a woman and what happens to her one lonely evening as she’s trying to return home to her comfortable life.

Fair Extension shifts voices yet again; it’s about the deal that a cancer-struck executive strikes with a “peddler” on the road, and has a rather unexpected storyline. A Good Marriage is the story of a perfectly content wife who finds out that her accountant husband is not quite who she thinks he is. I will confess to having felt a rather strong sense of “natural justice” at the end of both “A Good Marriage” and “Big Driver”.

All 4 are interesting, and all 4 are well written, so this collection is definitely recommended.

Cover of "The Theory of Everything: The O...

Cover via Amazon

The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe is apparently an unauthorized book of lectures by Stephen Hawking, although in the edition I borrowed from a friend his name appears quite clearly on the front. I did wonder why he was repeating material he dealt with elsewhere, but in any case, this is a very short and reasonably clear explanation of astrophysics, principally about black holes and so on, because that’s really what he’s done his research in. I don’t want to sell it too short- it was educational and interesting, and you really can’t ask much more from a book like this if you also want it to be easy to read- but I wouldn’t really recommend it over, well, anything else by him, unless you’re not that curious anyway and you just want a quick primer to all this stuff so that you can look educated if it ever comes up at a party or something. Although of course even in my college that’s not very likely.

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