A Novel I Really Loved: Adam Johnson’s ‘Parasites Like Us’

2014 09 21 parasites

At the airport on my way to a recent beach getaway I picked up a copy of Adam Johnson‘s “Parasites Like Us.”

It is a remarkably good novel.

Though the book was published ten years ago, I hadn’t heard of it. (Johnson’s 2012 novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Parasites Like Us” is his debut novel.)

It tells the story of an eccentric anthropology professor, his similarly wacky students, and an apocalyptic scenario. (Previous post about apocalypic scenarios is here.)

But the book’s mostly about relationships, love, the passage of time, and what, if anything, we can learn from those who inhabited the earth 10,000 years ago, at the dawn of civilization.

The writing is evocative. The characters are vivid. And it’s extremely funny. I found the passages describing the landscape — the story takes place in South Dakota — especially moving.

For more, here’s the New York Times‘s review. Some reviews I’ve read are critical of certain elements of the book. But I loved it.

‘1984: Pop’s Greatest Year’

Rolling Stone:

From Prince to Madonna to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper, 1984 was the year that pop stood tallest. New Wave, R&B, hip-hop, mascara’d hard rock and “Weird Al” Yankovic all crossed paths on the charts while a post-“Billie Jean” MTV brought them into your living room. In the spirit of this landmark year, here are the 100 best singles from the year pop popped. To be considered, the song had to be released in 1984 or have significant chart impact in 1984, and charted somewhere on the Billboard Hot 100.

Just incredible.

Any Top 100 list that has “Sunglasses at Night,” “The Warrior” and “People Are People” at 100, 99 and 95 respectively is going to be spectacular. Worth a look — and listen — indeed.

The Alibaba IPO Roadshow Came to Singapore Yesterday

And some colleagues and I wrote it about it here:

Alibaba on Tuesday wrapped up its roadshow in Asia as it nears what could be the world’s largest initial public offering, with investors seeming to shrug off concerns about a higher valuation and focusing on the Chinese e-commerce firm’s growth prospects.

Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma, along with other top executives at the Chinese e-commerce firm, met with about 150 investors behind closed doors at Singapore’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

He did not speak with media, and hotel staff did not allow reporters to enter the luncheon event, which included prawns, spiced chicken, Portobello mushrooms and tiramisu, according to people who attended.

Ma, speaking in English, told investors that Alibaba is more worried about competitors it cannot see – early stage startups developing technologies “from their apartments” — than more established rivals, according to Adrian Toh, a Singapore-based executive at RHB OSK Asset Management, who attended the roughly hour-long meeting.

Many folks in the U.S. aren’t familiar with Alibaba. Check out this WSJ interactive feature about the company:

Alibaba is China’s — and by some measures, the world’s — biggest online commerce company. Its three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba.com — have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. Alibaba handles more business than any other e-commerce company.

And here’s a snip from a story we ran back in April:

Jack Ma still has the spartan apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou where the former English teacher started Alibaba.com in 1999. As the e-commerce company grew, executives and employees often hunkered down there for inspiration while trying to come up with the next big thing.

Big doesn’t come close to describing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. now.

Taobao, a website dreamed up in Mr. Ma’s apartment a decade ago, has about 800 million product listings from seven million sellers who pay Alibaba for advertising and other services. In 2013, the combined transaction volume of Taobao and another Alibaba-run shopping site called Tmall reached $240 billion, says a person with knowledge of the figure.

The total is more than double the size of Amazon.com Inc., triple the size of eBay Inc. and one-third larger than the value of all the transactions last year at the two U.S.-based e-commerce giants combined.

A fascinating company indeed.

Travelfish Founder Stuart McDonald Talks Southeast Asia Travel

If you’re interested in Southeast Asia travel, you might enjoy listening to this podcast interview with Stuart McDonald, founder of the travel site Travelfish.org.

McDonald has been traveling in the region for more than 20 years, and has some interesting thoughts on how travel — and travelers — have changed over time.

He talks mainly about Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia, and suggests an intinerary for a one-month tour through the region. His recommendation might surprise you.

Personal Blogging: Everything Old is New Again

Blogging — at one’s own custom domain, as opposed to scribbling away over at Medium or penning an email newsletter — is cool!

Seriously, is it 2014, or 2004?

Fred Wilson:

There’s a bit of a renaissance of real personal blogging here in NYC. Two of the original NYC bloggers have, after years of writing professionally and editing others, returned to their own blogs.

It started with Lockhart Steele, the founder of Curbed, Racked, and Eater, who started that media business on his personal blog.

Then the next day, Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor/blogger at Gawker, dusted off her blog and started writing on it again.

And:

There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.

It feels so good to link to both of them.

Brent Simmons:

I’ve heard blogs classified as a type of social media. Maybe that’s true, and maybe not — I don’t care.

What I do care about is that my blog isn’t part of a system where its usefulness is just a hook to get me to use it. It works the way I want to, and the company running the servers (DreamHost) doesn’t care one fig what I do.

My blog’s older than Twitter and Facebook, and it will outlive them. It has seen Flickr explode and then fade. It’s seen Google Wave and Google Reader come and go, and it’ll still be here as Google Plus fades. When Medium and Tumblr are gone, my blog will be here.

The things that will last on the internet are not owned. Plain old websites, blogs, RSS, irc, email.

Kottke:

I knew if I waited around long enough, blogging would be the hot new thing again: Sippey, Steele, Spiers.

I have been blogging consistently here at Newley.com since January, 2002.

Streaks are important.