Thursday, October 13, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesday -- Oct. 12

For the WWW weekly Web meme:

Finished reading: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" by Richard Feynman and "I'm Looking Through You" by Jennifer Finney Boylan: I listened to these two memoirs on my car stereo. "Looking" is the more literary of the two; "Joking" is more a collection of reminisces. In "Joking," Feynman, a theoretical physicist who died in 1988, recounts anecdotally his development as a scientist from a boy fixer of radios through MIT, Princeton and the Manhattan Project to his life as a professor at Cornell and Cal Tech. Feynman was the supreme rationalist, concerned mainly with physics, painting (he recounts his career as an amateur artist) and lover of women -- he really liked women. Listening to the book is sometimes difficult, because he goes into some detailed science (at least detailed to me), and it would have helped me understand it more if I could read those passages a few times. But overall, the book is highly enjoyable -- great insights into the scientific process (far different than textbooks tell you), and Feynman's outlook on life is great to peek in on. And he didn't enjoy winning the Nobel -- was he churlish or just not that into accolades?

"Looking" is a follow-up to Boylan's more noted memoir, "She's Not There," which I haven't read yet. Boylan is transgendered and has appeared extensively in the media -- Will Forte even parodied her on "SNL" (something she seems to have enjoyed, and rightfully so). This memoir is very funny and wry, like his novels, and deeply self-deprecating, but also sad -- in part because she's haunted by memories of how she hid her true self and tried to be a boy and a man. Her house on the Main Line was haunted (often by the woman he wanted to be). Also, like me, Boylan now is at an age when you start to tally loved ones you've lost (i.e., look at a photo of a family gathering and realize you're the only one in the photo who's still alive). I didn't know Boylan at Wesleyan -- she was one of the cool kids, always doing weird things on WESU ("Well into the '80s"). But I was there at the same time (she was two years ahead of me), and I knew a couple of the people she mentions in her warm recollections of that ultra-liberal liberal-arts campus. Of course, I listened to the book mainly to find out what she said about Wesleyan -- that and I'm a fan of her earlier novels The Planets, The Constellations and Getting In. Anyway, she does a great job performing on the audiobook -- I always enjoy it when a writer reads her or his own work (particularly Paul Auster and Dave Barry). Boylan's voices are great. Well dee well dee well.

Reading now: I'm splitting my time between "John Dies at the End," a funny horror novel by David Wong (for Halloween) and a book about the development of digital resources, titled "Digital Information Contexts."

Reading next: I have a few Amazon Vine titles to read, so I'll tackle Domestic Violets by Matthew Sherman and The Stranger's Child by Allan Hollinghurst.

1 comment:

Susan Oloier said...

I like your choice of reading. I definitely need to read through anything scientific a couple of times, as well. I've read Hawking, and I don't think my listening comprehension would allow me to absorb as much of it as by reading it myself.