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Category: Literature

The Valley of Premature Optimization

Posted on February 11, 2012 in Computrons Literature

So this is the first text produced using the new Nokogiri-based HTML parser unassisted. The process of getting it to work found me looking at a lot of the individual paragraphs of Ulysses on their own, and it made me want to read the book again. We’ll see how long I hold on to that.

One really important thing is that generating text based on a book this big (~15 megs in plain-text, and 16 with HTML markup) is taking FOR EVER. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. For one thing, there’s still a strong argument for having the parsing happen in Javascript which would make optimizing the current code a waste of time. If I don’t decide to do that, then I think dealing with it on the character level is probably the way to go. For now, suffering is the only option that doesn’t expose me directly to the root of all evil.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ulysses, by James Joyce — I — Stately, plump Buck Mulligan wiped again his gem, turned it and put it neatly into her mouth, asking: –What time is that? –Seven d., sir… Thank you, sir. Mr Bloom said. The drain, you mean. –Drain? Lenehan said. It was an infinite great fall of dung, the breeders in hobnailed boots trudging through the meshes of his body laid. Dolor! O, he did. And Jacky Caffrey shouted to look, look, look, look: you look for some money somewhere? Dilly said. Give me my Wordsworth. Enter Magee Mor Matthew,

This is the best one of these that I have put up by some distance.

Small Potatoes

Posted on February 9, 2012 in Computrons Language Literature

So mostly I just kind of tinkered with things in a smallish way, but I used “Ulysses” as an input text which mainly matters because it’s fucking enormous. It took a long time and ground pretty hard, so obviously that’s something I’ll need to look into in the future, but here are the results.

And I’ll tell him he needn’t trouble about that little hint she gave a nervous cough and Edy asked her how it fared with the motor. Hooked that nicely. Entertainments. Open house. Big blowout. Wetherup always said that. Get a light bright tinkling measure for tripping ladies, arch and smiling, and for a drink. –God, do you do, Mr Crimmins? First rate, sir. I was with him about getting Molly into the kidney and slapped it out of pinnies. Edy told him no offence and all delighted_… Tenors get wom. Cowley lay back. –Stand

I’d love to be able to read single chapters form “Ulysses” and then compare what each one generates.

Here’s to Them

Posted on November 27, 2011 in Literature

To nobody’s surprise, The Stranger’s Child stayed good until the very end. It also had some cards up its sleeve until that point as well, which isn’t necessarily a thing that I go for (I’m not reading Encyclopedia Brown, am I) but in this case it underscores something important about the book, and (in my experience) about Hollinghurst.

Unlike The Stranger’s Child, I’ll just come right out and tell you what I’m on about: the book is all about absences. Not content to have gaps in the narrative which inquisitive characters fill in during subsequent pages, the missing elements are promoted to full-blown lacunae, about which the characters struggle between themselves. Because this is the substance rather than a parlor trick, it’s actually deeply satisfying.

Because if its subject (hidden artifacts leading to a revised literary biography for a fake poet), I couldn’t help but be reminded of Possession. This is sort of amusing to me, as I first read Possession for the class in which I also read The Swimming Pool Library.


The Steady Beat of Your Drum

Posted on November 13, 2011 in Identity Literature

So I finished Wuthering Heights today, and the last quarter of that book is a total dog. I will note that by that time there were few enough pages that the whole thing didn’t just collapse under its own weight, so it’s still better than Great Expectations, and you should just ignore my mother.

I think I’m finally off this stupid old-book kick. I don’t know what I was thinking letting it go on that long. Moby Dick is awesome, but it isn’t awesome enough to justify reading 2/3 of Great Expectations. I’m all set for the new Hollinghurst novel, The Stranger’s Child.

It’s actually quite strange to me that it has taken so long for me to get around to reading another Hollinghurst novel, because I adored The Swimming Pool Library back at Hampshire. I think that the problem may have been that I studied it very closely for a paper (reading it maybe 4 times through in a month, and certain sections more than that) and I burnt out for a while. I was reminded of him by a couple of press stories recently, and I’m actually looking forward to working back through the rest of his oeuvre.


The Stupid Past, The Stupid Future

Posted on November 7, 2011 in Computrons Culture Literature

I gave up on reading Great Expectations. The sanctimony overcame the quirky humor, and I couldn’t be bothered to keep track of what was going on any more. Now I’m reading Wuthering Heights, mostly because of Hark, a Vagrant. It’s way better, although every single character is totally fucking loathsome. Almost as bad as Austen, in that regard.

Speaking of loathsome, the previously observed race to the bottom of the Facebook-UI-emulation barrel continues apace with Gmail and WordPress’ control panel being the latest things that I use to become completely fucking horrible. It’s enough to make me hope that rich fucks do in the global economy completely so I’ll be too poor to see it get any worse.


More Oblique Strategies

Posted on August 15, 2011 in Literature




Posted on May 20, 2011 in Culture Literature

So after a lifetime of not quite getting around to it, I finally read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. While it’s natural for science fiction of that age to seem somewhat anachronistic, I suspect that Dick was a bit of an anachronist even in his own time. For example, he uses “American automobiles of the 1960s” as a multiplicity sufficient to be completely incomprehensible. Also, while this is one bajillion time better than The Man in the High Castle I think I have to just face the fact that I don’t like Dick that much as a writer. He’s more interesting for ideas than execution.

But the ideas are powerful. I don’t remember them (sadly, this is pretty normal), but the night I finished it I had paranoid dreams about people around me being strange beings with motivations I didn’t understand. It was definitely creepy, creepy, creepy. In addition to the obvious source of tension, the book is full of contradictory cues about which structures ought to be trusted and which are purely manipulation.

It’s interesting to note the. . . form of these institutions. The poles represented by Buster Friendly and Mercerism are completely monolithic. At the time I suppose that made sense. Media hadn’t fragmented into a bizarre and riotous ecosystem that made the range of 1960s cars look like the range of 1960s television stations. This, ultimately, is Android’s biggest anachronism, if the reader looks closely. More than the spectre of nuclear war, more than the indefinite lifespan of the pay phone, the notion that the world’s homogenisation was going to derive from a mere handful of sources is an idea that from where I stand seems as if it must have come out of a parallel universe. Here in this universe we’ve long since learned that ephemeral displays of “you” are the key to creating monolithic norms towards which people will move without having to be persuaded.


Brother You Guessed

Posted on March 6, 2011 in Culture Literature

So I got C a Kindle for Christmas. When you turn it off it shows an image, often of a famous author. In this case they chose a picture of pioneering glam rocker Marc Bolan dressed as Emily Dickinson.



The last Proust post?

Posted on January 22, 2011 in Culture Literature

So about a month-and-a-half ago I finished The Past Regained, the final volume of Remembrance of Things Past. I was going to say something about it, but then I didn’t. Life is always, I suppose, getting in the way of things that are “marvelously about life.” At any rate, while I recall having all kinds of exciting things to say at the time, I suppose I’m now mostly interested in saying that it got good again, which I suppose makes sense, seeing as how it was written at the same time as Swann’s Way, and before it descended into pure sniveling.

The aspects of the book having to do with recollection are much more explicit, which I suppose is the point. Simply laying out the theoretical armature in volume one would have been boring, and not nearly as effective. By the time the curtain is being pulled away from Proust’s ideas about memory and experience he’s already dragged the reader through a narrative that has approximates that sort of experience primarily by being too detail-rich for the reader to hang on to much of it. This kind of enacting what you write is a marvelous skill, even when it’s clear that the filler content could have been a little more varied, if you know what I’m saying.



Posted on July 5, 2010 in Literature

So after being basically illiterate for months on end I decided to try out Gene Wolfe. The Book of the Long Sun is totally great, and I’m looking forward to reading other work. Like all foo-ologies, there were some problems near the end where keeping up the overall development of the arc required a bit of excess, but man have I ever read a lot worse.

Building on this, I have redoubled my attack on The Past Regained and I’m tentatively hoping to get through it by the end of the month. Best like plans of walruses and antelopes and all that, but you never know. Helping to sustain this optimism is the fact that Paris’s social life carrying on under the searchlights set up against air raids is intrinsically surreal in a way that allows the dreamy-Marcel-voice to invade the real world, which is pretty agreeable.