The ratings on this book tend to be polarized here on Goodreads, with lots of people giving it 5 or 4 stars, and quite a few giving it 1. This is beca...moreThe ratings on this book tend to be polarized here on Goodreads, with lots of people giving it 5 or 4 stars, and quite a few giving it 1. This is because this book is upfront about where it stands politically: Howard Zinn runs with the notion that poor people tend to be exploited by rich ones. (GASP!) If you agree with this general human tendency, yet STILL believe we should teach the NERFed version of American History--where Columbus is a swell fella, the Native Americans were using the land wrong anyway, and rich people have no advantages over poor ones--I'm not sure how you can reconcile these ideas.
One common critique of Howard Zinn is that this book, if taught by itself, will present a skewed version of history that inspires a general hatred of rich people. So, I fully expect these reviewers to give low ratings to every history book, including those that pretend to be objective. By giving a low rating to only the books that point out flaws in the U.S. government, these people are essentially admitting the direction of their own bias. Of course, we're all biased, whether we're writing history books or reviewing them. If I weren't politically biased towards LIKING this book, I'd probably give it a four-star rating because there were some topics I wish Zinn would've gone into that he didn't.
All historians have an agenda, so the obvious solution is to teach from two or more textbooks with conflicting views. There. Problem solved! Moving on...
I'm gonna talk about the book itself now, so that I remember to do so. Then, I'm going to get into political rant mode, because I want to talk about why Zinn and the Tea Party SHOULD be best friends if people were more rational than they are.
The Part Where I Talk About the Book:
Zinn, in the newest versions of this book, discusses U.S. history from its origins all the way up to Bush Jr.'s presidency. Throughout, he pulls no punches, questioning the motives of those in power regardless of their political party, because there's really not that much difference between the right and the left. He covers a whole lot, even considering the length of the book, and has done a lot of work since the book's original publication to add sections addressing the plight of those segments of our population that were ignored in the earliest printings. Keep in mind as you're reading this that there really WASN'T anything like this book when it was written. Before Zinn, no schools taught history from the perspective of the lower classes...in fact, most of them STILL don't. I know mine didn't. So, I think we need more historians like Zinn, willing to challenge the assumptions we make about history. Like every academic field, history should be evolving and growing more nuanced over time.
I should've known I'm incapable of actually FOCUSING on the book.
The Part Where I Talk About Other Stuff:
As those who have talked to me about politics know, I have a lot of frustration with the tea party. First off, some of them don't realize how batshit nuts Sarah Palin is. That's bad. And, that's not nearly as bad as the fact that they don't realize how batshit nuts GLENN BECK is.
Glenn Beck: Professional media clown.
But, more importantly, the so-called Tea Party developed at the same time that a democrat entered office, developed under the leadership of republicans, yet developed saying they were independent from this big-business-focused party, and that they were all about lowering taxes. Pardon me while I take that with a VERY BIG grain of salt. I'm still willing to be proven wrong, though, if it turns out that the tea party actually DOES want to cut taxes, and not just assist the federal government in deep-throating big business a little bit more. Until SOME political party is willing to come right out and say, "Guys, we're spending more than 500 billion THIS YEAR on the military. We could pretty much kill everything alive a few times over with the weapons we have stockpiled. Maybe it's time to think about cutting part of THAT spending instead of complaining about health care expenses." Until someone comes right out and says that, I'm not declaring my allegiance to any party.
I have yet to hear anyone willing to challenge the importance of the military industrial complex...anyone in politics, that is. A lot of normal humans think this is a pretty fucking solid place to cut spending.
The government can only be improved if we as citizens are willing to call it out when it acts in ways that are unethical. The notion that patriotism is connected to a blind faith in the current version of the political structure is foolish. Those who really believe in freedom will recognize that freedom applies to everyone, including those of us who want to examine whether or not the government is operating in our interests. After examining it, a lot of people are convinced it isn't.
That said, we're all gonna get along better when we stop focusing on the issues that we don't agree on, and focus on what we think a government should do. When we say the government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people," I think "the people" includes everyone who lives here, including those of us who didn't make any money on the bailout, and those of us who don't want to help finance murder abroad through "Overseas Contingency Operations." I would think pro-lifers would agree with me on that.
Anyway, I'm going to climb off my soap box now, but I give this book my recommendation. Read it if your American history education hasn't included enough skepticism. (less)
(Cue Star Wars theme. This paragraph scrolls up the screen in yellow letters.
A nuclear accident creates a new breed of gigantic, evil crabs, who like f...more(Cue Star Wars theme. This paragraph scrolls up the screen in yellow letters.
A nuclear accident creates a new breed of gigantic, evil crabs, who like feasting upon the flesh of mankind. Their shells are nearly indestructible, with the heaviest of artillery simply denting their bone shells. The King Crab, even bigger than the other very big crabs, is leading his army onto the beach of...oh, some place. It doesn't really matter, does it? They're giant crabs, and the full moon is approaching...the time to feed is nigh....
(Scene 1: By the beach, Eh! stands guard before the gate to Karen's castle.)
Esteban: Who's there?
Eh!: Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself!
Esteban: Long live the king!
Eh!: You come most carefully upon the hour.
Esteban: Yeah, I know. I'm pretty fucking awesome. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Eh!.
Eh!: Well, good night. If you do meet Michael and Caris, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Esteban: I think I hear them. Stand, you hos! Who's there?
Giant Crab: RAAAAAWWWWWRRRR!!!!
Eh!: Holy Eff! It's a giant effing crab!! And it's roaring at us!!!
(Giant Effing Crab rushes them, moving surprisingly fast. With a single blow, Estaban falls.)
Esteban: Forsooth! I am slewed!
Eh!: The word is slain, you dumb-eh! I suppose I'd better use my ninja teleport skills to--
(Crab snips Eh!'s body into two sections. She successfully teleports the upper half of her body back into the castle. Meanwhile, the crab devours her legs, then returns to Esteban's carcass, taking a couple of bites before deciding it's tainted.)
Scene 2: (Safely inside of the castle. Karen is sitting upon the American Goodreads throne, and Caris is standing by her. The two look already immersed in conversation as the upper half of Eh!'s body teleports in.)
Eh!: Queen Karen, unfortunately, it seems we have a crab infestation!
Karen: that's what she said.
Caris: Haha! Douche douche douche!
Eh!: Why aren't you at your post, Caris?
Karen: off with his head!
(Eh! springs from the ground and karate chops Caris's head off.)
Karen: it's too bad. he finally mastered another word.
Meanwhile, in the dark recesses of the jungle around the castle, a dead quiet had settled over the bleak darkness, jet black as dark as a murder of crows. The only light was from the dim headlights of a 2004 Ford Taurus, the windshield wipers turned off despite the fact that it was a dark and stormy night. Rain cascaded down the windshield rapidly. Inside, Ceridwen and Sock Puppet were emitting bad dialogue.
Ceridwen questioned, "C'mon, baby, if you really loved me, you wouldn't be so shy."
Sock Puppet adamantly responded, "This is only our sixth date. I don't want you to rush me into anything I'm not ready for. I've only known you for a week and a half, Ceridwen."
Ceridwen exclaimed animatedly, "We aren't even near first base yet! I like holding your hand, but I really think it's time we kissed!"
Sock Puppet begrudgingly said, "Well, because I truly love you, I suppose we could go a little farther. You can kiss me."
Ceridwen smiled. "Sweet," she said, leaning across the seat towards Sock Puppet.
"...On the cheek," Sock Puppet aloofly continued.
Ceridwen contimplated thoughtfully for a moment. Then, suddenly, she leaned in. "Fine, I'll take it," she said, kissing Sock Puppet on his cheek.
Sock Puppet blushed. "See? Now, wasn't that pleasant?"
Ceridwen slid her arm around Sock Puppet momentarily, before he swatted her arm aside like she'd attempted to put her arm around him. "Hey!" he angrily spake, "Don't try to rush me!"
"But, baby! It's just my arm going around your shoulders!"
"Ceridwen, don't be a pervert, and don't rush me."
Suddenly, a giant crab arrived and ate the car.
As the sun was rising, Michael was standing thoughtfully on the beach, wind blowing his hair playfully. His eyes contemplated the text of the book that he held in his hand, his other hand halfway in his pocket. Totally still, his eyes remained on the text. The absence of movement stretched forward in time for several moments, when suddenly there was a flash. "That should do it," Michael said. He tossed the book he was reading, Trailer Park Tramps, onto the ground before walking over and looking at the picture. "How the fuck do I manage to blink so much? That's the third picture in a row where my eyes were closed." The sun was continuing to set further, so he picked up the tripod and turned it, moving a little closer to the shoreline. Out in the water, he thought he saw large, red boulders out in the water. "I wonder why those would be there," Michael said to himself, wind blowing his hair sexily. "Well, I'd better get this picture of me reading by the waterside taken quickly, before it gets too dark."
Turning his back to the watery ocean, Michael again flipped open Trailer Park Tramps to a random page. He began reading the novel and chuckled to himself at the stupidity of the characters, the unbelievability of the plot, at the awkward sentences that seemed to be written by someone with little understanding of the language. Then, the camera flashed again, taking the last picture of Michael ever seen. Two days later, when the camera was found undamaged yet bloody by Elizabeth, she turned it on to see the final picture: Michael standing gallantly on the shore, wind blowing his suit jacket and his hair, a book in his hand as the sun set behind him, and a gigantic crab emerging from the waters.
And he was blinking, of course.
DAY 4: WAR WITH THE CRABS*
Brian stood in Karen's throne room, his scientist getup on, to make sure everyone knew he was the scientist. "I tell you!" he told them, "There's only one way to get rid of these crabs!"
"that's what she said," Karen said, sitting on her throne with a book open.
"Bombs won't destroy them. Bullets can't pierce them. Sticks and stones won't break their bones. And they're virtually impossible to offend. No, what we need is that one thing, the only thing that can defeat them."
"what is it?" Karen said.
"A deus ex machina."
Karen was kicking her feet, because the throne was slightly oversized. "eh!"
The remaining half of Eh! looked slightly confused. "Were you saying my name, or just going "Eh!"?" She inquired curiously.
"i was saying your name. could you go get a deus ex machina?"
"Why should I do it? I don't have any--"
"off with her--"
"I'm going," Eh! frightenedly stated. Eh! toddled out of the chamber. She returned roughly five minutes later with a deus ex machina.
"Here it is, still in mint condition."
"awesome," Karen said. "let's get rid of these crabs once and for all!"
The crabs were defeated and all the people lived happily ever after. Except for the ones who had been slaughtered by the crabs before the angels came down with their axes made out of divine light and hacked those evil fuckers to bits.
*: You may say it's inconsistent to give a name to one of the days and none of the others. You would be right.
For instance, when I was a little tot, Sammy Terry scared the shit out of me. I...moreI was a very sheltered child.
Or was I a wuss? I was probably a wuss.
For instance, when I was a little tot, Sammy Terry scared the shit out of me. I remember being frightened by commercials of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and the one time I inadvertently saw part of a Friday the 13th movie on TV? Fogettaboutit. Nightmares for weeks.
But that all came later.
But this book. Oh, this was traumatic shit.
I was in preschool, probably 4 years old, when the teacher decided to read us The Witches. Every day we'd sit on the carpet and listen to a little bit more, and . . . well, witches! Witches were frickin' scary at four, it didn't matter how cartoony they looked on the cover. I knew that real witches were scary looking and ugly. And *SPOILER ALERT* when that one kid got turned into a mouse, it scared me so bad I cried! I cried in front of the other kids, and they all thought I was a wuss!
When I got home, I told my mom about crying in front of the class, and SHE WAS SOOOOO pissed. She called the teacher that night and expressed her displeasure with great verbosity and eloquence, probably traumatizing the teacher every bit as much as The Witches traumatized me.
What happened the next day? We switched books. I can't remember the book that followed The Witches; it didn't scare me, whatever it was. Nobody found out what happened to the little kid who got turned into a mouse. For me, he will forever be a mouse. But at least we little chillens didn't have to hear about any more witches.
A happy ending? More of an ambiguous one. Just a couple weeks later, my parents withdrew me from the school after I, in passing, told mom that the teacher gave her two favorite students ice cream bars during lunch, but never gave anyone else one.
(I wasn't a tattle tale, I promise. I was just very talkative. And a wuss.)(less)
Let me start with this: I love dystopias. Some people are fascinated by zombies, some love post-apocalyptic novels, some like undead porn. I've always...moreLet me start with this: I love dystopias. Some people are fascinated by zombies, some love post-apocalyptic novels, some like undead porn. I've always loved dark visions of how the world could end up. In fact, one of my college essays was an elaborate discussion of how older dystopias (We, 1984, and Brave New World) got it wrong (and right).
This was the scariest dystopia I've ever read.
Part of the reason might be that I'm older now than I was when reading these other books. Maybe it's that I'm more politically aware, and see more connections between the zealotry in this book and events of recent years. Maybe...well, maybe this is just really scary shit. All Atwood had to do was mention the possibility of nuclear power plants leaking because of unexpected earthquakes and I was thinking, "Why not?" All she had to do was mention women being treated as second class citizens to get me thinking, "Been there, still doing that." And with a convenient re-reading of The Bible underlying all these horrible social changes, I could imagine the majority of people buying whatever the priests are selling.
So, yes: scary, scary, scary, scary shit.
Offred is a surrogate womb for the wife of a wealthy man. If she manages to concieve with him, during this time period when healthy babies are rare (most of the babies are called unbabies or Shredders, although I don't think it's explained what exactly a shredder is), Offred will avoid being declared an Unwoman and being sent to a concentration camp. Of course, the guy who she's required to fuck is an old man who is probably impotent since the previous handmaids have given him no children.
The Handmaid's Tale tells Offred's story: the various humiliations she undergoes, her suffering, her small triumphs of freedom and fighting the system. One thing I love about this book is Offred, a strong character who struggles with the system in believable ways. That is, her thoughts simulateously rebel against the society's restrictions and in some ways give in to them. Many of her rebellions are only inside of her head. The society is so restrictive that even these internal rebellions seem like triumphs.
I almost cried twice. I didn't, of course, because I am man, and man don't cry. With this book, I had to put it down a couple times and give myself a minute because it was so overwhelming.
As with most books I give five stars, I find that my review is sucking dog cock. Why is it so hard to write a good review of a really good book? Is it because nothing you write is really going to do it justice? Is it because it's almost impossible to be sarcastic and witty when saying nice things? Whatever the reason, I want to make you read this book. GO! READ IT! THIS THE REAL SHIT! (less)
This book astounded me. Not in a good way. I expected to like "Little, Big" quite a bit from what I'd heard about it. But, like the Drinkwater house,...moreThis book astounded me. Not in a good way. I expected to like "Little, Big" quite a bit from what I'd heard about it. But, like the Drinkwater house, it looks smaller on the outside than it feels from inside. Not in a good way. I mean the book feels like it's a thousand pages.
Some people like it, as you can tell by other reviews: the language is often quite clever, it ends on a semi-strong note, and it plays with myth in some interesting ways. These are all good things.
Bad things? Well, the characters aren't compelling, the clever language is often stilted and ponderously slow, and almost nothing happens. On top of that, the fantastical aspects of this book were never surprising or especially interesting.
When it comes to the characters, we run through four generations in about 600 pages. This gives us slightly more than a hundred pages per generation to get to know the characters, and Crowley clearly needs more pages than that to make them interesting. Only in the last of the four generations did I like any of them (Auberon and Sylvie). Before that, the motives of the characters were sketchy at best, and it didn't feel like any of the characters were DOING anything; they were waiting for something to happen. As a reader, I was doing the same thing.
Okay, here's the plot. A man marries into a family that lives in a gigantic, mysterious house in Edgewood. For generations, this family has been interacting in various strange ways with the Faerie folk that live in the forest around them. The family is part of a great Story, and they don't know quite what this story is going to be. Some members of the family come into direct contact with the fae, while others yearn to see them and are never able to. A few live lives of tragedy as a result of this proximity with the mythic side of reality, while others live semi-normal lives.
Being part of a grand Story? Having a Destiny? These are meaningless designations unless it ends up BEING a grand story. Or unless it feels like a destiny is reached. You can't entertain me by assuring me these people are Living Some Grand Story, when I can see clearly that Nothing is Happening. They're all hanging out at a house in the woods, going through the process of forgetting about their connection to the faerie realm because they believe this is the only safe thing for the family.
Then, finally on page 450 or so, it looks like there's GONNA be a plot. The kind of plot where stuff is going to happen. But don't worry: it's a false alarm. Things DO happen, but they're safely off-screen and vague. Then the end pops up predictably and....well, bleck. How else could it have ended? I mean, did anyone NOT know it would end this way? And is the ending crafted in a way that's especially insightful?
Let me be honest about something, though: I don't like generation-spanning fiction. Pick the generation that is interesting and focus in, don't give me 400 pages of background about the people who won't be involved in whatever climax you've cooked up. If someone isn't even alive during your story's climax, then why do you think it's a good idea to tell me about them?
But if these characters had come to life for me, I would've probably still enjoyed the book. Unfortunately, at all of the most dramatic moments of the story, characters did things that seemed to come out of the blue. Why did this married guy and this woman suddenly have an affair? No idea. Why did his wife react the way she did? No idea.
I was supposed to be intrigued by all of this I suppose, but it felt flat to me because of my lack of interest in the characters. Crowley reimagines myth in a way that is often vivid but never surprising, and that's unfortunately the strongest part of this book.