Very impressive testament to certain individuals' love of a site devoted to a community of readers. Personally, I think this raises many interesting i...moreVery impressive testament to certain individuals' love of a site devoted to a community of readers. Personally, I think this raises many interesting ideas about what exactly constitutes censorship in this digital age. Next semester when my advanced comp class is reading the unit on censorship, I may actually assign this; hell, it'll be the cheapest book they'll have to read throughout college.
The self-reflection that reading this prompted made me realize that in an increasingly police State, I'd probably be graciously accepting all the new mandates...until I disappeared.
Favorite Quotation: "...this is a great piece about Manny being a dickhead" (179).*
*Is that an attack on the author?^
^Is that a form of protest or even simply a quiet, but not silent, nod to those actively protesting?(less)
The author grew up in Wallingford, CT, like me. She attended Middlesex Community College, where I work. Yet somehow I just wasn't the right audience f...moreThe author grew up in Wallingford, CT, like me. She attended Middlesex Community College, where I work. Yet somehow I just wasn't the right audience for this book.
She's coming to campus to speak this spring, so I'll leave it at that. I do think that many students will very much enjoy the book.(less)
The movie is better than the book. Forget entertainment, rhetorically the movie is better than the book.
The film crafts a more effective argument...more1.5
The movie is better than the book. Forget entertainment, rhetorically the movie is better than the book.
The film crafts a more effective argument by successfully weaving together the right amounts of ethos, pathos, and logos. Bravo. Also, the film made me really like Robert Reich.
The book is repetitive beyond belief. Claims are REPEATED rather than SUBSTANTIATED. Not only is supporting evidence lacking, but the completely one-sided argument never pauses to address and rebut counterarguments. While I tend to actually agree with all most of the points Reich sets forth, I do not think that he has proven them effectively enough at all.
Some Favorite (and summative) Quotations:
-“As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn implies a distribution of wealth—not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced—to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation’s economic machinery” (17).
-“It is no mere coincidence that the two years in the last hundred that marked the apogees of inequality—when the richest 1 percent received a record 23.5% of total income—were 1928 and 2007” (5).
-“It is both an economic challenge and a moral challenge; concentrated income and wealth will threaten the integrity and cohesion of our society, and will undermine democracy” (65).
-“Just before the Great Recession, personal consumption in America equaled almost 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (more than 75 percent if you include the purchases of homes” (84).
“By 2000s, before the Great Recession, the typical American worker put in 2,200 hours/year…All told, the typical American family put in 500 additional hours of paid work, a full twelve weeks more than it had in 1979” (62).
-“The 400 richest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined.” (less)
While reading more than a few of the essays in this collection, I was struck by the feeling that I've read them before. I haven't checked, so that may...moreWhile reading more than a few of the essays in this collection, I was struck by the feeling that I've read them before. I haven't checked, so that may be true, or it may not. The mere fact that I don't remember actually made reading this very work resonate all the more. In addition to examining categorization and classification, a staple of Perec is the investigation of memory. Nabokov: consciousness::Perec is to memory; Wallace: solipsism::Perec is to memory; Vonnegut:humanism::Perec is to memory. You get it--I just liked writing that because it allowed me to think about all of my favorite authors. Then I got to imagining what it would be like for those four to sit around and shoot the shit for while. Boy would I love to hear that.
But I digress.
I would argue that digression is another of Perec's "modes" of writing. This lies in his ability to look/think beyond the obvious. For example, in "Three Bedrooms Remembered," he writes about three bedrooms he remembers. YET it is amazing how much we can learn about him simply from so utterly simple a concept; he includes the memories associated with each physical locale. This begs readers--or at least it begged me--to follow the same thought process: "Hmmm...where have I slept? What memories immediately spring to mind when I recall that place?" It's really a fun little game of introspection. That, by the way, is why I categorized this as fitting on me "being-a-human" shelf.
One of the many things I love about Perec is that his writing (much like DFW's) is really a window into the workings of his mind. A glimpse into those windows often reveals the same concerns/insecurities/questions that we all--or I at least--have (albeit much more cogent and nicely worded).
Favorite Quotations: -"...[a new book] would be one more attempt at defining my place, a somewhat oblique approach to daily lie as I live it in practice, a way of talking about my work, my own history and my preoccupations, an effort to pinpoint something which is a part of my experience of the world not in terms of the reflection it casts in distant places, but at the point where it actually breaks surface" (16 my italics).
-"For the plain and obvious facts that we don't bother about or acknowledge, the kinds of things that 'go without saying' -- these facts, though we may like to think that we don't have to describe them, describe us nonetheless" (87). (less)
I managed adolescent lit when there were only 2-3 protagonists, but I just can't handle 7 incredibly powerful demigods and their pathetically stupid j...moreI managed adolescent lit when there were only 2-3 protagonists, but I just can't handle 7 incredibly powerful demigods and their pathetically stupid jealousies and insecurities. The dialogue is awful and I hate every character; the mythology worked in is still cool, though.(less)
Upon starting this novella, a strange feeling of deja vu descended upon me; things seemed familiar, as if the universe was trying to let me in on...more4.5/5
Upon starting this novella, a strange feeling of deja vu descended upon me; things seemed familiar, as if the universe was trying to let me in on some divine secret about the interconnectedness of things. Finally, a few pages in, lightning struck and I realized (drum roll)...oh, I've read this before, and not more than a month or two ago. This is one of the stories in Horvath's collection of stories Understories. Duped, cheated? Is that how I felt after realizing I spent money on a story I already owned? More like pleased and rewarded. Not only is this story worth a separate read, but it's certainly worth it's own read (if that makes sense).
If asked, I'd say this book is about the--and/or man's obsession with searching for the--divine secret about the interconnectedness of things. After all, it does immediately introduce a father who is writing/plans to write The Atlas of the Voyage of Things, which would, through a likely all-but-endless series of maps show "how things came to be where they currently were" (12). This premise alone both whimsical and titillating. Also, it introduces that major theme of man searching for answers, seeking to explain the universe, hoping that, by tracing the infinite and illusory paths that have led things to be where they are, we can somehow make greater sense of our world. "Do all families have such unifying themes? And if not, what replaces them? How, otherwise, do they make sense of it all, bring together the noblest and the basest in their histories within a single binding?" (18).
Even as the story shifts from the father’s obsession with his Atlas to a poignant tale about a son both comforting his father and discovering his own gift for storytelling, that central idea ripples--sometimes in the periphery, others in the spotlight—throughout. Early on, the son recalls his own naïve and charmingly fanciful ideas about the nature of paper. Having only colored on the backsides of manuscripts discarded by a print shop, he assumes that all paper thus contains one blank side and one with random text. This leads him to the idea that "All things that could be said or drawn were thus built upon the backs of words already written: dancing constellations of music on metaphysics, the mineral composition of scarabs, the origins of the treble clef" (10). As the son finds his own voice and begins to craft his own stories—a way of making a final and meaningful connection with his father—he must invent new scenarios in which to place another book, the book really being the protagonist of these stories. To mirror and balance his father’s fascination with tracing the connections that led things to be where they are, the son grapples with the frustration of discovering where things are going next. He notes, "I'd grown restless in the evening hours thinking about where the book would go next" (59). Note that “the book” in question here is about caves; thus, it is only logical that a passage within it should describe explorers’ own obsessions with being firsts. For example, there is the specific example of being the first to prove that "two caves were ultimately connected in some remote channel inaccessible to all but those who were willing to die for an idea, the idea that all things must be connected" (61).
This really is a brilliant novella/short story whose length belies its layers. It definitely can be read as an entertaining, affective family portrait; however, I certainly feel that it also embodies one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotations: "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."
I only read the first paragraph of this and just didn't enjoy it; paradoxically, I finished the entire book and also didn't enjoy it.
Not a scathing "...moreI only read the first paragraph of this and just didn't enjoy it; paradoxically, I finished the entire book and also didn't enjoy it.
Not a scathing "I Hated it" one-star, just an "I didn't like it" one star. First person monologue from a character who's vapid, hypocritical, delusional, depressed, narcissistic, solipsized, incompetent, lazy, a member of the idle rich; and somehow I just couldn't find it palatable.(less)
Pathetic. Just pathetic. Not the book. Me. It's been about three weeks since I've finished a book, and now, for my big return to GR, I've go...moreStrong 3.5
Pathetic. Just pathetic. Not the book. Me. It's been about three weeks since I've finished a book, and now, for my big return to GR, I've got nothing for a review. Nothing. Read the blurb about the book; it really is perfect and everything I would want my review to be.
A Favorite (and fitting) Quotation: "I can't describe things any more. I can't find the words, or maybe I'm just not trying hard enough. It was such a long time ago. And unless I tell it because I want to, it's as if it never happened; it gets closed off and then it's lost" (80)..."And things that were a lot of fun don't mean anything any more. It makes me feel cheated, like what was the point? At least you ought to be able to talk about it" (84).
(Note: that's much more meaningful when it's in the context of an elderly grandmother reflecting on her life than it is coming from a stressed, too-busy-to-read 32 year old narcissist.) (less)
According to Dictionary.com, the word "singular" means the following:
1.extraordinary; remarkable; exceptional: a singular success. 2.unusual or strange...moreAccording to Dictionary.com, the word "singular" means the following:
1.extraordinary; remarkable; exceptional: a singular success. 2.unusual or strange; odd; different: singular behavior. 3.being the only one of its kind; distinctive; unique: a singular example. 4.separate; individual.
God, I hate it when students start their papers off like that. Yet here we are. I cannot think of another word that so perfectly captures my feelings about this book. Perhaps because I am not a very creative person--alas, I'll never be the author that Horvath is--I tend to remark on "other books this reminded of" in many of my reviews. Of course, that could also be my Type A Personality's need to rigidly define and categorize everything: it is this, but not that. In that regard, this book threw me for a loop in a few ways. I don't even know whether to call it a book (as in "novel"...sort of) or a collection of short stories. The first chapter/story(?!) narrates readers' entrance into the lobby. "Okay," I think. "I'm entering Horvath's fictive world and everything herein [the book] will be part of that world." And I suppose in one sense it is, but, on the other hand, it might just be glimpses at a whole bunch of different worlds. But there is the unifying thread of the "Urban Planning: Case Stud[ies]." But those don't even have anything--at least anything obvious--at least anything obvious to me--connecting them. But then there's the fact that, as I read and think--and over-think--how to analyze what I'm reading, I also happen upon lines that suddenly seem planted just to make me think I'm on the right track. Lines like this: "There is always a sense of connectedness, of going somewhere, even if Schoner [or Horvath or the reader or just me?!] is lost mostly in the sounds of words" (61). BUT am I giving importance to that line only because it speaks to what I'm looking for? For example, take a random number, say 72. Now look for that number and you'll be amazed at how often it turns up.
So back to my feeble mind trying to categorize this book. Here's the first thing I came up with: Barth's Lost in the Funhouse. The damndest thing is that I don't think I've ever even read Lost in the Funhouse! Or if I did (is that the one where the first chapter is about sperm?) I don't remember the slightest thing (except for maybe the sperm) about it. Thus, it MUST be the title! Lost in the Funhouse is exactly how I felt while reading this. At times I was lost, but it was always fun. And guess what. After I've already got that all worked out in my own head (I swear!), I come upon this line: "It was a fun house, only a fun house asked of you a single mind state, that peculiar to fun houses, whereas Palamoa [this book?!] demanded a continuous pivot, a peering into the pockets of life as they turned themselves inside out one by one" (204-5).
So after all that, what do I know about the book? First, I know you should read it. Second, I know that all of the stories, as absurd/fantastical as many are, are human. Here I am again at a loss for just the right word, and this time Dictionary.com can't bail me out he says before he actually decides to type "human" into Dictionary.com.
According to Dictionary.com, the word "human" means the following:
1.of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or having the nature of people: human frailty. 2.consisting of people: the human race. 3.of or pertaining to the social aspect of people: human affairs. 4.sympathetic; humane: a warmly human understanding.
Perfect! In these various fictions, Horvath seamlessly weaves real humanity with surreal settings/situations. It's like he knows "exactly where the cogs of illusion meshed and where the seams flickered by undetected, how life could be adjusted with the efficiency a tailor takes to a suit: a few seconds trimmed here, an inversion or two, a telling juxtaposition, voila" (202). To further enhance the illusion and make me lose sight of the surreality of the whole thing is the language. There are some many beautiful sentences in here. At times--to return to my need to categorize, to compare--I definitely got faint whiffs of Wallace (DF). No, there aren't copious foot/end notes, but some sentences manage to be so long and still seem so natural because they just flow so well AND they plant erudite, scholarly language smack dab next to crass, colloquialisms that it's hard not to think of DFW. In fact, my one complaint about this book is that it is (sort of?) a collection of short stories. I loved the characters, the premises, the ideas so I was constantly disappointed by the endings. However, it probably wasn't even the quality of the endings but rather the fact that there were endings so quickly. Basically, I'm saying that I want to read Horvath's 1,100 page masterpiece, his Infinite Jest.
And now, as I draw to a close, I realize that I've written all that and really haven't told you much about the actual stories. Don't get me wrong, they certainly don't totally defy description, I just rambled in a different vein. If you pick up this book--pick up this book--you will get some of, but not limited to, the following: a dying father obsessed with the journeys of things and his son's touching, comforting stories which, themselves, speak to the power of fiction; an eccentric professor and his displacement in/from Nazi Germany; a soul's passage to death; the realistically comical and comically realistic depiction of a college's faculty interactions, but in the department of Umbrology, and one professor's lone passion for his subject; a family vacation that leads to the all too-familiar thoughts of "What if...What could have been?" and the often jarring, even upsetting realization that there is no one "right" path to lead through life (this was a favorite of mine); some pseudo baseball players on a roof; a scrupulously accurate description of bringing your child to a public place to interact with other children and all of the interactions that entails (another favorite!); a world of people who only come to truly value conversation and the power/importance of expressing oneself after it was explosively taken away from them; and a whole lot more. Even as I was writing this list of ever-so-brief synopses, I thought about deleting this whole paragraph because none of those are good descriptions of what the stories are about.
I guess I'll simply have to stick to this: the stories are singular and the stories are human.
After mocking the mom of J, Outside of norms he will stray. Once hooked by the sirens’ call, He will rush to read them all. Did he overcome his fatal flaw? Well, perhaps…let’s see…Naw!
Oh my gods! The prophecy came true! With our upcoming Hellenic trip, I thought it would be great to buff up on my Greek mythology. Of course for me, that means looking through notes from a grad course on mythology and re-reading texts like The Illiad, The Aergonautica, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and Hesiod’s Theogeny. I really think Erin will get more out of the trip if she knows some of these classic legends; thus, I encouraged her to read with me. Alas, my dear wife, clearly no daughter of Athena, chose not to expand her knowledge with this epic history. To add insult to injury, she decided to read the Percy Jackson series. The best I could do to retaliate for this affront to the gods is to mock her for reading kids books.
Then I began reading The Illiad, and after about 300 pages of “Attack, the gods are with us!...Retreat, we can’t beat them!...Rally and attack, cowards!” Repeat. I needed something to lighten the load, so to speak. And like the tempting box (or vase…) of Pandora calling to be opened, what happened to be right at hand? Percy Jackson. Book 1. Well, just one won’t hurt. After all, maybe I’ll just read it to see how incredibly dumb it is and how awfully it besmirches the “true” myths with inaccuracies.
Five days later and I have finished all five books.
Perhaps going in with such low expectations helped. Classic literature, I expected not. Perhaps that freed me up to simply enjoy the stories. What’s more, what’s even harder to admit, I learned something. Okay, I learned a lot. Every time a new mythological creature was introduced with whom I was not familiar, I thought “Ah ha! Finally caught you, Riordan! Mixing fact with fiction…or…uh…mixing your own fictive creatures with those tried, true, and established.” To confirm that said creature could only be a figment of Mr. Riordan’s paganly impious mind, I turned to Wikipedia. Who the hell knew that the ancient Greeks had creatures with flippers instead of hands and dogs' heads? Telchines? What?! Needless to say, each time I both realized that Riordan had stayed true to his sources and I learned something new. Not only did this series refresh my memory regarding many of the myths I had forgotten, but it also taught me many, many new ones. I would say that if I had a fatal flaw (and I’m not saying I do!), I guess maybe, perhaps some might say, if put at gun point and told to name something, I'm a wee bit arrogant. In this context, that would be in the form of literary snobbery. Well, while the Percy Jackson series did introduce me to many new super-cool monsters, the most important lesson I learned is that just because something is YA doesn’t mean it’s terrible.
All of that said, you won’t find me rushing out to buy the Twilight series unless Hades freezes over!
p.s. I have always loved mythology, ever since I was a kid. I can’t wait for my son, Jameson, to get into this stuff…and, of course, to read Percy Jackson. (less)
Not as creative as book one, but enough to keep me on my new pace of 50-75 pages of Illiad, one book in this series, 50-75 pages of Illiad, etc. (Both...moreNot as creative as book one, but enough to keep me on my new pace of 50-75 pages of Illiad, one book in this series, 50-75 pages of Illiad, etc. (Both take about the same amount of time to read.)(less)
I don't like YA books. Don't like at all. This, though, was not only palatable but almost enjoyable. So much so that I'm actually tempted to write a p...moreI don't like YA books. Don't like at all. This, though, was not only palatable but almost enjoyable. So much so that I'm actually tempted to write a proper review. At the very least, for now I'll say that it's a book I'll love my kids to read when they're old enough.(less)
My realtor strongly encouraged me to read this. Don't judge me. Otherwise I won't share the secrets to wealth with you.
Well...okay...just promise not...moreMy realtor strongly encouraged me to read this. Don't judge me. Otherwise I won't share the secrets to wealth with you.
Well...okay...just promise not to tell anyone. It's only takes three easy steps.
1) Get a bunch of "good" debt by continuing to refinance your home and taking out every cent of equity you can.
2) Use all of that money to start your own business. How hard could it be to come up with an idea for a home business that you intend to realistically make a significant profit off of? I would recommend an S corporation.
3) Once all the money comes rolling in from your wildly successful business, you can invest it in passive income: real estate. As we all know from 2005 (when the book was published) real estate does nothing but appreciate in value.** Plus, if you rent it out, you're sure to never have problems with renters who can basically stop paying rent and still live in your place for a year or so.
By doing those three easy things, you'll have a butt ton (I think that's the technical term) of deductions, and most of that new income will be taxed at a much lower rate.
Finally, if you write your own book about how to do this, be sure to have three grammatical errors in the first sentence, repeat yourself a lot, repeat yourself a lot. And, use coordinating conjunctions to start most of your sentences.
First sentence: "Are you one of the millions today who keep working harder and harder and receive less and less in return for their money?"
From first page: "And, even more frightening,..."; "And, worse yet,..."; "And, even worse...."
In all seriousness, there probably are some good ideas in here for the right person. Unfortunately, since I'm not that person, it just angers me that I can pay 30+% to taxes and have my deductions cut off because of gross income, yet people with real money can just create companies, dump their money in there and/or in investments and pay 0-13% on that income.
Oh well. Welcome to the middle class.
**That reminds me of why I have a realtor in the first place: I'm trying to sell my house. It's on the market for $25,000 less than I paid for it six years ago. I'm a shrewd real estate investor indeed! (Anyone want to live in Meriden, CT???)(less)