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wealhtheow

wealhtheow

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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
Listen, Listen - A collection of novellas, each quite odd and genre-bending.

In "The Winter Beach," a middle-aged historian is recruited to spy on a reclusive scientist who may be killing other promising scientists. The scientist cultivates her friendship, and eventually the historian starts questioning her handlers' motives. Has a sf twist I saw coming quite a ways away, and some beautiful descriptions of the forests of Oregon. Spoilers for the sf:The scientist and his "assistant" have made themselves immortal, and are slowly offering immortality to others they think worthy of shaping the world. This is presented as a hopeful prospect, but I'm not so sure that I'm a fan of immortal intellectuals molding human society. Perhaps it is better than our current hierarchies, but benevolent dictatorship is still pretty creepy.

A boy sees something he can't explain in "Julian," and it shapes him into a strange man who eventually forms a cult around the experience. The way the experience is framed, first as something fairly normal to be skimmed past, and only later is the full weirdness revealed, was a very cool narrative choice.

"With Thimbles, with Forks and Hope" follows a retired detective and his wife, who try to save a man from a woman who has a strange power over him. Another spooky examination of reality and memory not coinciding.

"Moongate" was probably my least favorite, because I never quite got what was going on and it went on a bit too long. But again, it features ordinary people coming across something they can't rationally deal with, and the ways their brains try to explain it and remember it.

The collection finishes with a great speech given by Wilhelm in 1980, in which she discusses the various ways in which humans still aren't great at finding objective truth (from mysteries of chemistry to legends that prove to be truer than we'd assumed) and then says, "'I am asking, What actually do we mean by reality, and are we stuck with the one we have?...We are more than simple animals using sophisticated tools...We are something new on the earth...We can change reality.'"