Posts in category 'books'

  • Review: The Twelve Chairs

    Review of The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf & Yevgeny Petrov (9780810114845)★★★★
    Cover for The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf & Yevgeny Petrov

    Ostap Bender is an unemployed con artist living by his wits in postrevolutionary Soviet Russia. He joins forces with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to find a cache of missing jewels which were hidden in some chairs that have been appropriated by the Soviet authorities. The search for the bejeweled chairs takes these unlikely heroes from the provinces to Moscow to the wilds of Soviet Georgia and the Trans-caucasus mountains; on their quest they encounter a wide variety of characters: from opportunistic Soviet bureaucrats to aging survivors of the prerevolutionary propertied classes, each one more selfish, venal, and ineffective than the one before.

    Well, I finally finished reading The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov… in a word, surprising. The translation from Russian to English is, to say the least, rough at times; I’m sure there are many Russian cultural jokes and references that I simply have no hope of understanding. But overall it was fairly entertaining, as long as you’re happy reading the odd passage with the knowledge that you’ll never really understand it’s meaning.

    The story revolves around the two main characters, Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman, and Ostap Bender, who is essentially a crook. The setup is simple: just before Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law dies she reveals that she has hidden a cache of jewels in one of her twelve dining room chairs, which has been taken by Soviet authorities. Vorobyaninov is then joined by Bender, and the two of them go on a cross-country search to find the chairs and recover the jewels. Along the way, in order to fund their journey, Bender comes up with some rather ridiculous schemes in order to con people out of their money.

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  • E-Books... They Don't Suck!

    So, in my on-going search for ways to justify the purchase of my PDA, I’ve decided to try and read my first e-book on the thing, specifically “The Da Vinci Code”.

    Okay, quit laughing. I’m entitled to read a little pulp from time to time, too, ya know. So piss off! And, hey, it can’t be as bad as Decipher. No, seriously, it really can’t. If an author tried to write a book worse than that, I’m pretty sure his/her own lower intestine would reach up and strangle him/her, Douglas-Adams-style.

    Anyway, surprisingly enough, the experience has been remarkably positive. I absolutely love real, physical books as much as the next guy (actually, probably more… I have this really nasty habit of “stopping in” to book stores and walking out with two or three new items to add to my collection. Which would be fine if paperbacks still cost $5, rather than the current going rate which is upwards of $10… frickin’ wallet rapists), and still think that the classic paper book provides a superior overall reading experience, although that’s probably at least in part due to nostalgia. But I have to admit, this whole e-book thing might not be so crazy after all.

    Now, going in, I knew that e-books have some problems:

    • Eye fatigue.
    • Difficult to see in bright-light conditions.
    • Poorer “random access” facilities.
    • Less durable (for obvious reason).

    In my case, the first two were my major concerns, especially given my poorer vision. But, as it turns out, it’s not as bad as I thought. The screen on my TX is clear and readable. The brightness controls make it pretty usable in a variety of light levels (though reflection is an issue). And as for the other issues, well, I can deal with them. Plus, e-books have a few advantages:

    • Smaller pocket-print, thus easier to carry around.
    • Easy to read one-handed, or even no-handed with autoscroll.
    • Ability to adjust fonts, colours, etc, to suit the reader.
    • Can carry around a whole collection of books easily.
    • Very easy to just power on and read. The reader automatically remembers where I was and opens directly to where I left off.
    • Works in dark environs. I could read while Lenore’s sleeping, if I wanted.
    • Allows me to easily read material from resources like Project Gutenberg without having to print stuff off.

    As for actual software, I really can’t say enough good things about PalmFiction. Unfortunately, the only things the author can say are in Russian, so you kinda have to fumble a bit with it. But once you do, wow! The feature set is incredible!

    • Reads txt, PalmDoc, Word files, RTF, and others, and can even read compressed files.
    • Can display the text using anti-aliased fonts converted from TTF sources.
    • Supports any screen orientation, so you can read left- or right-handed.
    • Can display in true full screen on hi-res devices. No wasted screen space!
    • Does a great job of word wrapping and hyphenation.
    • It’s FREE.

    And there’s probably many more features I neglected to mention. Truely an awesome program, and far better than trying to read PDFs using PalmPDF.

    On a separate but related note, the next e-book on my list is a Russian work called The Twelve Chairs, by Ilf and Petrov. ‘course, I was originally planning to read The Golden Calf by the same authors, as recommended by Arkadi, our resident Syberian. However, the folks at that site haven’t completed the translation, and the last thing I want is to be left hanging halfway through. ;)