Eclectica, 8/1/21 – 9/3/21: A still pen, here we go again

tl;dr: Untranslated book club, novichok fiction, Homo sovieticus, exercises in style. Grad school over. NYC.

This roundup was withheld for a couple of weeks to prevent it from becoming yet another mindless list of articles. Moving forward, Eclectica won’t follow an every-other-week posting schedule anymore. New posts will appear when there’s something to say. Your inboxes will thank me for it.


The Untranslated is launching a multilingual book club.

(Announcement here. Please read in full.)

Looks cool. Need to get my German and French up to snuff first.

A helpful article on Anki deck configuration.


If you, like me, started using Anki without ever learning how to optimize it, you’ll probably get something out of the recommended options settings section (scroll down a bit).


This cycle’s reading.

Как попытки сделать “город для людей” разбиваются о некомпетентность чиновников. Показательная история из Краснодара (TJournal)

Хотели как лучше, а получилось как всегда?

New kids on the bloc: the rise of Novichok fiction (Russian Dinosaur)

Russian Dinosaur is back, and this time they’re taking a look at a curious turn in RFTH (Ripped-from-the-Headlines) fiction.

Series on “Homo sovieticus” (I | II | III | IV) (Postsocialism)

More specifically, on why it’s time to retire the term. Homo sovieticus has always reeked of pathologizing to me, so it’s great to see someone (indeed, an entire panel of scholars) taking it to task.

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau (trans. from French by Barbara Wright)

The 5-second summary: Writer tells the same story 99 times without getting bored or boring the reader. The encounter itself is extremely banal: A man with a long neck and a cord around his hat boards a bus, picks a fight with another passenger, then takes a seat. Later, the narrator sees the same man in another part of town, talking with somebody about a button on his overcoat. Sounds like ideal bedtime reading material, amirite? Not quite. Queneau sustains the reader’s interest via variation, relating the encounter with a focus on a different literary device or narration style each time. Repeat casual readings might bring diminishing returns. I don’t know. I haven’t tried and have no interest in doing so. On the other hand, Exercises in Style might be useful to a novice writer as a sort of reference guide or collection of samples from the full toolbox.

Personal favorite forms include hesitation, distinguo, apheresis, and a strongly worded official letter.

In an S bus (which is not to be confused with a trespass), I saw (not an eyesore) a chap (not a Bath one) wearing a dark soft hat (and not a hot daft sack), which hat was encircled by a plaited cord (and not by an applauded cat). One of his characteristics (and not his character’s instincts) was a prim neck (and not a numb prick) (Distinguo, p. 51).

Lurking: How a Person Became a User by Joanne McNeill

A somewhat frustrating book about the concerns of people online and how a changing netscape has affected them. The introduction and first chapter (about the evolution of search engines) set up a great argument

Life online is powered by traits and conditions in oppposition: anonymity and visibility, privacy and transparency, real and fake, centralized and decentralized, physical and digital, friend and stranger, autonomy and constraint, with an operational clash of values between human ambiguity and machine explicitness. […] At its worst and at its best, the internet extracts humanity from its users and serves it back to other users (p. 9).

which then gets hijacked by the author’s Critical Social Justice agenda in later chapters. McNeill’s work feels disjointed and probably would’ve fared better as a series of articles. Maybe that’s how it started, who knows. Regardless, I got what I got. It’s a soft “Not recommended.” Or a hard “Your Mileage May Vary.”


School’s out, forever (?)

I’ve finished my second degree program. I’m a student no longer.

I completed a madcap Master’s thesis (my prime focus for the past year and a half), the readers approved, and it wandered into the infotrust vineyards’ digital repo, to die quietly and obscurely, hopefully. A degree is coming in the mail. The morning after submitting, I awoke feeling exhausted and, strangely enough, abandoned. Now it’s September; the season is changing, and yet the feeling remains.

A lack of desire to read, write, or talk. To touch any other project. To celebrate the end of this one. A feeling of emptiness. Of having nothing left to give.

Теперь я понимаю смысл слова “опустошение.”


Until next time.

3 thoughts on “Eclectica, 8/1/21 – 9/3/21: A still pen, here we go again

    1. Thanks, Andrei! I’m done with college but could use your positivity anyway))

      Your book club is gonna be great! Consider Mike and Jake’s suggestion 🙂 But no pressure, of course!

      Liked by 1 person

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