This took me a long while to read, and I'm a little ashamed of that because it's a great book. And yet, taking so long (seven months!) to read it was a wise choice. It's heavy on the technical space stuff—which, frankly, I loved, being the space buff that I am— so taking a break every once in a while was useful. It's also the kind of book that tells such a fantastical story, that stopping to savor and digest it made it better. When I wasn't reading, I was mulling over the story, dreaming about it, imagining what it would be like to look out a tiny porthole and see the Earth no bigger than the palm of my hand.
The last chapter of the book is specially poignant. Collins wrote this just five years after Apollo 11, so the significance of the space program wasn't yet clear, but he does address some of the issues we're still hearing about today (issues that people like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed and are still discussing) about how useful the space program is and why we should continue advancing it. It's sad to see that the space program was doomed from the start in a way, and Collins offers his own explanation for it.
I'd love to send a copy of that last chapter and the preface and introduction to every Congressman, to make them see why the space program is important, but like Collins says, it's a bit futile to show pictures and words, because only traveling 100,000 miles out into space can really wake people up to the importance of space exploration and environmental protection. He says the only way he can describe Earth from Up There is as "fragile", and seeing that fragility and how it translates into the fragility of water quality, air quality, fossil fuels, etc., changed his outlook on what we need to make Earth healthier. One can only hope that the policy makers will realize that without having to stuff the entire government into a space shuttle.
I still have a lot of thoughts about this one, and no defined train of thought. It's a memoir, but the things that happen are so bewildering, one would automatically assume they were fiction (magical realism, really, like the one Winterson uses in The Passion) if there wasn't a reassurance from Winterson herself and from the blurbs in the back cover that it is, indeed, a true story. Truth is stranger that fiction, it turns out. It's a painful book to read (and I can't imagine how it must have been for Winterson to write it), but it's also beautiful and hope-inspiring. It's a story about adoption, coming of age, being saved by books, and learning to love and be loved. It's about the pursuit of happiness.
This one quote stands out to me:
“[A]s I try to understand how life works—and why some people cope better than others with adversity—I come back to something to do with saying yes to life, which is love of life, however inadequate, and love for the self, however found. Not in the me-first way that is the opposite of life and love, but with a salmon-like determination to swim upstream, however choppy upstream is, because this is your stream[…]What the Americans in ther constitution call ‘the right to the pursuit of happiness’ (please note, not ‘the right to happiness’), is the right to swim upstream, salmon-wise."
"March Violets" was fantastic. Kerr has a really interesting take on the sort of tired detective noir novel. Bernie Gunther is acerbic, sarcastic, facetious and mysterious and I love how he toes the thin line between sucking up to the Reich and being an enemy of the state. I'm really looking forward to reading his other adventures.
7/6/12: This is the second time I've read TGG. First time was when I was fifteen or seventeen, on my junior year of high school. I loved it then, and I still love it now. I think I get it better now too. Fitzgerald's little subtleties about Gatsby, Nick, the Buchanans, the Wilsons. Fitzgerald had a great talent for bringing all these strange people to life. I'm looking forward to the adaptation even less now, because I know that Luhrmann won't be able to capture those subtleties. He's all about the FIZZ! SNAP! BOOM! of the Roaring Twenties, and maybe not so much about the fact that the people this story is about are inherently sad, pathetic, terrible people whom we identify with because they reflect the sad, pathetic, terrible parts about ourselves.