In Swoon, Prioleau examines what makes a Lothario tick. What are his facets? Why do women find him irresistible? Is there a magic equation for being a...moreIn Swoon, Prioleau examines what makes a Lothario tick. What are his facets? Why do women find him irresistible? Is there a magic equation for being a ladies man? The answer seems to be that instead of one set formula there are a host of ways in which a ladies man can arise. A man need not even be physically attractive, so long as he has other attributes (the gift of gab, attentiveness, intelligence, humor, etc.).
Prioleau peppers her narrative with anecdotes from history, literature, and mythology. Many men are mentioned only briefly, but are interesting despite being little-known characters. She spends a great deal of time on Casanova (understandably), notably pianist Franz Liszt, and the odd poet Gabriele D'Annunzio (I guess you really had to meet him to understand the fuss).
Almost right off the bat, Prioleau makes a distinction between the "players" of today (who use a plethora of tricks learned from other "players" merely to get into bed with as many women as possible) and the true ladies men (who use no tricks, but genuinely just love women and through some combination of characteristics are loved en masse by them). I suppose if one has to choose between the two, it would be better to be wooed for years before being dropped for the next woman, rather than being dropped the morning after an encounter a la "player" style. In the end however, while the two types may be fundamentally different, the results of encountering and falling for either seem to be the same - a string of broken hearts.
Prioleau's book is solidly researched and entertaining. I will make a point to visit Seductress the book she published some years prior, discussing the female Casanovas of the world.(less)
In The Sin Eater the reader follows the hijinks (not very hi or jink)of a family waiting for their patriarch to pass away. In the meantime, the self-c...moreIn The Sin Eater the reader follows the hijinks (not very hi or jink)of a family waiting for their patriarch to pass away. In the meantime, the self-centered, boring rabble go about their days, meandering through palpable family tensions. Rose, one of the central focal points of the story, married into the family years ago and now seems to think of herself in terms of being better than everyone with the exception of her two twin boys (whom the reader never meets; they are away while the patriarch lays dying). Add in a few upper crust snobs, a surly housekeeper with a delinquent grandson to take care of, and a teenager with an obsession for reading the Bible to solve problems, and you have what could be construed as a barrel of laughs - if you get the inside jokes.
I loved Ellis' The Inn at the Edge of the World, and I was pretty stoked about this earlier novel by her. In the end however, I think you need to be British and old enough to have experienced life in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as cognizant of several jokes specific to British class structures in order to appreciate this novel. Without a prior understanding of these things, I'm afraid the book was fairly dull. I won't give up on Ellis though - her writing style is too strong and vivid to let one book scare me off. (less)
I'll update with the new link for Dueling Librarians (complete with d...moreAnd, as promised, here is the link to the full Dueling Librarians review!
I'll update with the new link for Dueling Librarians (complete with duel!) on June 1st, but in the meantime, here is my review...
I have to start this review by saying that Sam Taylor probably has the most amazing dreams once he hits the REM part of his sleep cycle. Reading The Amnesiac is like reading a multi-layered dream in which all of the parts of the vision make perfect sense to the dreamer at the time, but upon waking and looking back on the night’s events the dreamer has to concentrate deeply in order to keep the facts in order.
The basic arc of this plot relates the story of James Purdew, an English citizen living in Amsterdam with his girlfriend, Ingrid. Over the course of about a month, James realizes that he has lost three years of his life. The memories associated with these three years are missing, and the diaries associated with them are locked in a black box for which he has no key. He returns to England to discover what happened during those three years, and is commissioned to renovate a house that is vital to understanding his past. What follows are several interrelated conceptual plots that simultaneously give the reader both the idea that they know what exactly is going on, and the idea that some impending twist will prove that they know nothing. Taylor’s style is, in fact, pretty ingenious.
I really enjoyed The Amnesiac. Even the aspects that I would normally dislike in other novels - rehashing of previous concepts, wandering through an unstable mind, etc. - were so carefully and intricately woven into the story that I found myself liking their presence. Pivotal issues were introduced into the story with perfect timing; boredom was pretty foreign to me as I read. My favorite passage was the one concerning Thomas Ryal - I can’t say too much about it without giving things away, but if you read the novel you may agree or disagree completely on this point.
The only detraction in the book that would keep me from giving it a “perfect” score was one plot device Taylor uses in the last half of the book. Again, I can’t say much here without giving things away, but at that point it was almost as though he had a really great idea for two different novels, tried to combine them, and found that the second book was taking up too much time and needed to be abbreviated in some way. Overall however, this plot device simply distracted me a tiny bit from my immersion in the story, but did not take away from the larger power and…er…awesomeness of the book.
The Amnesiac is a brilliant novel, but it won’t be for everyone. It is strange, with many circular, overlapping plots, rather than one linear one. If you don’t mind having your brain twisted in circles a bit, and would like to read a pretty amazing novel about the tenuous nature of memory, I recommend this highly.
I finally got around to this book after a quarter century. I'm not kidding. There is a whole bit about this weird journey relating to this book here.
A...moreI finally got around to this book after a quarter century. I'm not kidding. There is a whole bit about this weird journey relating to this book here.
After such a long time, I am pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Unnerstad's book. Confused after his mother goes to the hospital, young Pelle-Göran punches the doctor and is sent away to live with his grandmother for a time on her picturesque farm. Also staying there is the older Kaja, who though Pelle-Göran is initially skeptical about, soon becomes his fast friend. A brilliant cast of supporting characters made this a very enjoyable book. I think children will really relate to the shenanigans Pelle-Göran gets into, and after saving the book for 25 years, I will definitely hang onto this one.(less)
If you want to be kept awake at night over the state of society, you could go over the usual suspects - media violence and/or pornography, political u...moreIf you want to be kept awake at night over the state of society, you could go over the usual suspects - media violence and/or pornography, political upheaval, economic decline, etc. - or you can read The Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains. Of course, the other societal problems are more glaring, but the issue outlined by Nicholas Carr is insidious, and therefore harder to fight. The whole book is interesting and telling, and if nothing else, I suggest that readers pick it up for the chapter entitled “The Juggler’s Brain.”
These days the internet is not only everywhere, for individuals to function well in most societies, it is also absolutely necessary. Even if you are someone who in general eschews net-surfing, think of your electronic debit cards, being paid by direct deposit, searching for a job (newspapers just don’t have enough prospects anymore), or even watching TV (show me a major network that has not been affected to the net, I dare you). All of this is fine and good, perhaps, unless Carr’s thesis is true. On the net, which is rife with distraction-inducing hyperlinks, and information clustered with pictures, video, and sound, the human brain is basically on a constant state of overload and cannot create stores of new long-term information. He asserts that humans are also losing their ability to think deeply - to sit down and focus on a single thing for any long period of time:
What we’re not doing when we’re online also has neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together. As the time we spend scanning Web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the circuits that support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones.
Carr cites quite a bit of research to support this thesis, and I don’t dispute his premise. Quite frankly, I have experienced the causes and fallout of minds that are completely scattered and unable to focus. Actually, I include myself in this fallout - though I can still sit and read for hours with the right book, there are times when I will - in a fifteen minute time frame - check Facebook, read news articles, find new music to listen to, and be thinking of other things I need to do when offline. As for how this world can affect daily life, take a couple of real-world examples from a different office jobs I have held:
1. A man is test-driving the new format for the company’s website. Some individuals are asked to come in and review it, including myself. When I mention that the new, visually pleasing website is not really intuitive for searching (for individuals who need to find specific, in-depth information), I am told that this type of thinking is archaic librarian thinking (the man actually seems angry at the idea that librarians would have anything to teach IT professionals). In his mind, it is more important to impress the visitor to the site with pretty pictures and interactive links than it is to allow them to find pages of in-depth information. According to Carr’s research, this type of thinking will result in a bunch of visitors who may like the new website, but will retain little to no information regarding their visit there. A trip to the site will become just so much background noise in a world that is increasingly nothing but background noise.
2. A woman comes to me for help on an issue. I explain to her the process for her problem. After about a minute of explanation, her eyes glaze over and she starts to look impatient. She retains the information just long enough to complete her task…and then…She comes to me again, not once, but five times asking for help with the same problem. After explaining it in detail for the sixth time the concept finally sinks in. I can’t help but wonder…if she had been able to focus properly on what I said the first, or perhaps second time, would it have sunk in to begin with?
And these incidents happened at fairly simple office jobs. I, for one, am concerned that one day I will see a world in which the people filing my tax returns can’t focus for longer than 30 seconds at a time, or heaven forbid, doctors are distracted during important tasks like…making sure the combination of drugs they prescribe don’t kill you, or while completing major operations. If we are training our brains to not retain important information, and further, not be able to focus in a way that allows to them learn information in the first place, how will society progress?
Technology is great, as a tool, but I would prefer to retain my ability to process and draw conclusions from large, complex pieces of information myself. (less)
Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber and Edna St. Vincent Milay are the focus of Meade's biography - which is as much a biography of an era a...moreDorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber and Edna St. Vincent Milay are the focus of Meade's biography - which is as much a biography of an era as it is about the individuals portrayed here. The story of the roaring twenties is played out through the stories of these troubled, vibrant souls. There have been some negative reviews on this one...I think I was helped along considerably by listening to this one on audio during my commute to work. Vocal talent Lorna Raver was perfect in her exuberance and witty reading of Meade's work. By the end of the book I wanted to read something by each of the four stars of literature - even Milay, and I am not often one for poetry.(less)
A lot of shelves for this one...because there are a lot of different types of stories here. Some really worked with the "love and death" star-crossed...moreA lot of shelves for this one...because there are a lot of different types of stories here. Some really worked with the "love and death" star-crossed theme, and some were sort of stretches. Most of the collection was very good, which is hard to achieve in a collection of short stories created by several authors.
My personal favorites, in no particular order:
Rooftops by Carrie Vaughn (super hero fun) The Thing About Cassandra by Neil Gaiman (a given almost - I can't name a thing he's written that I don't like) Blue Boots by Robin Hobb (a good little fairy tale type of story) Under/Above the Water by Tanith Lee (which makes me want to seek out her novels) After the Blood by Marjorie M. Liu (crazy, disturbing, and very original)
Check it out. With this collection you are bound to find at least one story that you really enjoy, regardless of your personal tastes.(less)