"There can be a state of soul against which Love itself is powerless because it has hardened itself againstQuote from a 2012 article by M. Scott Peck:
"There can be a state of soul against which Love itself is powerless because it has hardened itself against Love.... There are analogies in human experience: the hate which is so blind, so dark, that Love only makes it the more violent; the pride which is so stony that humility only makes it more scornful; the inertia – last but not least the inertia – which has taken possession of the personality that no crisis, no appeal, no inducement whatsoever, can stir it into activity, but on the contrary makes it bury itself the more deeply in its immobility."
If you have believed the widely-held view that "everyone is basically good," and have been harmed by people who spend their entire lives responding to kindness with cruelty, reading this book may answer some central questions for you. If religious references bother you, I don't know what to suggest. I myself am not a great admirer of the world's religions, yet, with so much unexplained phenomena in the world, I feel I can't realistically dismiss spirituality. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that there is psychosis, and then there is psychopathy, and then there is evil, and that they are distinct from each other. If something exists that can hurt you, better to understand it well....more
This is Mary Karr's third memoir, and her writing has mellowed and become numinous, while she's kept her Texas talent for raucous storytelling. Her joThis is Mary Karr's third memoir, and her writing has mellowed and become numinous, while she's kept her Texas talent for raucous storytelling. Her journey from alcoholism to God kept me riveted and filled me with awe. (There's no need for spiritual sustenance quite so ravenous as that of the person who's hit bottom.) Simply put, this is one of the most purely beautiful books I've ever encountered....more
**spoiler alert** I'm intrigued by how many people give meager ratings to this book because they "hate Rabbit." I wonder if they're mostly people born**spoiler alert** I'm intrigued by how many people give meager ratings to this book because they "hate Rabbit." I wonder if they're mostly people born after, say, 1970, so they don't immediately see what Baby Boomers see at a glance: Rabbit is an eerily perfect analogy for the America of his time. Hermoine Lee wrote that Rabbit, Run "is the most metaphorical writing in American fiction, except for Melville's." And the metaphor is so perfect that, if you're personally acquainted with the original, you occasionally want to bang the book against your head.
Rabbit is about 10 years older than me -- the generation between me and my parents -- and, yes, I actually find him extremely unlikable. Let's face it, the guy's a walking id -- big strapping golden boy, glorying in the athleticism that came so easily to him and was anyway more generally admired than intellect -- he has a HUGE sense of entitlement with a correspondingly low sense of responsibility. The world is his $5.99 (in current dollar value) all-you-can-eat buffet. Or it's supposed to be, but has somehow stopped being, which is the source of Rabbit's pain and resentment. With few resources (and little desire) for analysis, he follows every impulse toward the easy gratifications he expects from life. He gets in the car and leaves his pregnant wife -- but turns around before the territory becomes too new. He seeks out the high school basketball coach, who loved him in the old days before losing his job in an unidentified "scandal," and puts Rabbit up for a bit in his seedy room over a boxing joint. The coach introduces Rabbit to a prostitute who falls in love with him and lets him move in. He stays with her until he hears his wife has had their baby, and then leaves her, also pregnant.
Through all this, yes, Rabbit does demonstrate a certain sincerity -- even when he's at his most self-serving. But I don't think this is Updike's way of trying to make him "lovable." Apparently, Updike considered this character his most fun of all to write, and I'm pretty sure that's because it was so interesting to show how a certain kind of buffoonery can do so much damage. In the sequels, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, each showing Rabbit a decade after the other, we get to see the logical outcome of Rabbit's (and America's) peculiar brand of irresponsibility.
If you hate Rabbit, then you know why so many Americans of his time pushed "hippie" things like feminism, civil rights, the EPA, alternative health practices, consumer protection, etc., etc., etc. They hated the guy, too....more
I gave this book five stars, not because it's a brilliant piece of literature, but because everyone should read it. This slim tome was just what I neeI gave this book five stars, not because it's a brilliant piece of literature, but because everyone should read it. This slim tome was just what I needed in seeking behind-the-scenes info on stock trading.
Besides explaining halfway comprehensibly what derivatives bloody well ARE, Frank Partnoy shows exactly how junk bonds are designed (you take some bad-risk instrument and give it a cool-sounding name), given AAA ratings (you pay the ratings agencies), and sold (call your most unsavvy clients and talk meaningless jargon really, really fast). Most illuminating, though, is the insight he offers into the world view that pervades the industry: pure hostility toward you and me.
If that last statement sounds harsh or paranoid, consider the conversation Partnoy recounts with another trader in his early days with Morgan Stanley (once the industry's bastion of integrity). The guy described how he did exactly the above with a corporate client who "obviously didn't understand" that he had bought $85 million worth of an extremely high-risk bond, instead of the safe, government agency bond the agent had implied. When the bond became nearly worthless within a few weeks and the client called in a panic, the agent cooly told him he had simply "made a big foreign exchange bet, and you lost." As head of an insurance company, which isn't even allowed to invest in foreign exchange (something the agent undoubtedly knew), the client was dumbfounded.
The agent, who of course had made a huge commission on the deal, howled with laughter as he related this story to Partnoy. Then he introduced Partnoy to an expression traders commonly used when describing how they conned uninformed clients this way.
"Frank," he said, "I ripped his face off."
It would seem we are not, in fact, in good hands with Allstate -- or with pension funds, unions, municipalities, state or even national governments (can you say Greece?), and certainly not with the investment banks who "help" these entities to invest their funds judiciously. But, according to Partnoy, we can't point the finger solely at institutional sleaze. When the first edition of this book came out in 1997, Partnoy discovered that betting on public reaction was riskier than any derivative.
"Derivatives outsiders howled they were sick, sick, sick," he writes, "not about the excesses of the derivatives market -- but about not joining up sooner."
The fictitional Larsen E. Whipsnade said that you can't cheat an honest man. I don't put the blame for the 2008 financial meltdown on consumers, as so many mortage companies, pundits, and politicians rushed to do. But I don't absolve "Joe Sixpack," either. Wall Street is guilty of extreme fraud and thievery, and it's been going on for 30 years, but I seriously doubt it could have reached this level if not for the larceny that resides, cherished and safe, in every person's heart.
Bottom line lesson from this book: Do NOT expect good faith efforts of financial reform from decision-makers -- demand them. Then do your part: Stop expecting your conservative investments to yield too-good-to-be-true returns. ...more
Never schooled in finance myself, I am admittedly not someone whose opinion you want to rely on in this matter. Nonetheless, I am offering it, for oneNever schooled in finance myself, I am admittedly not someone whose opinion you want to rely on in this matter. Nonetheless, I am offering it, for one reason: Since its 2007 publication, many of the alarming economic predictions in this book have come to pass exactly as described.
I don't suggest that Ms. Brown is a prophet -- virtually everything in her book is drawn from other sources (and scrupulously cited) -- but simply that she has got her facts straight. This being the case, her book should be read by anyone who wants a modicum of understanding of our global financial situation. It should also, I think, be required reading for everyone in the Legislature.
In reading this book, I was amazed at how coherently the monetary system could be described to a lay person. I'd never have guessed, from all the boring, jargon-filled discourses of our venerable "financial experts," that this was an issue that could be addressed in common sense language. And before anyone thinks I'm just some lay person who is delighted to understand SOMETHING about global finance and hasn't analyzed the data: I have in fact heard and read many arguments against the salient points in this book. I've also posted questions to some of them online -- in particular, about tallies and local currencies, two alternatives Ms. Brown mentions. I've been fascinated to see that no one so far has even acknowledged my questions, even though both tallies and local currencies have long been used with great success in many places in the world up to the present time. Instead, people more informed than I continue to call for "a return to the Gold Standard," a system guaranteeing scarcity and inflation, as far as I can see. It seems that the human urge to ignore "the Emperor's clothes" continues even into this current historic economic crisis. We humans hate considering a new paradigm. And so we continue along the old routes, keeping the major players in their jobs and the current structures afloat, despite their catastrophic track record and the alarming future staring us in the face.
I think it's worth pointing out that this book is strongly supported by world-renown economist Bernard Lietaer, among other high-profile financial and economic experts. These are people who know what they're talking about, and they believe Ms. Brown does, too. Some people may scoff at Ms. Brown, but I can't see how her supporters can be easily dismissed.
The information in this book needs to be common knowledge to every citizen of every country in the world. If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so is the price of financial freedom. The economic crisis did not start in 2008. Its roots are deep and far-spreading -- it is the logical result of a centuries-long systemic shell game. We could cut the taproot if we only identified it correctly. Then, with the right steps, we could create a flourishing garden. I wonder if we will ever do so....more
Unlike many of the people who, to my great surprise, give this book low ratings, I had no feelings of disgust or outrage toward it at all. This may beUnlike many of the people who, to my great surprise, give this book low ratings, I had no feelings of disgust or outrage toward it at all. This may be because I expected it to be neither a scientific work nor some sort of feminist Word Of God. I simply found the topic interesting, the quality of her work acceptable on all counts, and some of her experiences quite surprising (yet resonant).
The most valuable insights I gained from this book are what she herself expressed as the two biggest surprises she encountered:
1) Among other things, she had expected to finally see what the "privileged" position of males in our society was really like. For the main part, she experienced no great privileges.
2) As a part of the "inner circle" of boys-only, she expected to hear numerous open expressions of disrespect for women. To the contrary, she was struck by the deep devotion many of the men -- even sexist Joe Six-Packs -- felt toward the women in their lives.
These two insights were alone worth the price of the book, although there was much else that was eye-opening. The crappy way she was treated by the straight women she tried to date was amusing in a macabre sort of way. (And yes, that too resonated. Unlike some of the other reviewers here, I deeply regret to say that I AM acquainted with many women who fit these descriptions.) In addition, the moment-to-moment harassment of men to keep them in their "masculine" roles was news to me. Yet, once more, it rang completely true as I examined it.
When she ended the book by declaring, "I'm glad to be a woman," I thought perhaps I heard the a faint trumpeting of the end of the "Lifetime Television" era of victim-based feminism. THAT would work for me in a BIG way....more
I recently finished an outstandingly beautiful novel (THE MASTER PLANETS), and immediately went into one of those "I'll-Never-Find-Anything-As-Good-AgI recently finished an outstandingly beautiful novel (THE MASTER PLANETS), and immediately went into one of those "I'll-Never-Find-Anything-As-Good-Again" funks. Then I found this book, which is not only a brilliant piece of literature (it's by Roth, after all), but also deals with some fascinating issues similar to those in PLANETS--issues I wanted to read more about.
As just one example: I am not Jewish, but have noticed in certain writings something uniquely poignant in the Jewish love for America immediately after World War II. This was the country that had taken in many Jews' parents and grandparents in a way never before experienced, I believe. For the first time they were not outsiders, but simply immigrants in a land full of immigrants. And for the first time, every opportunity--in this nation of bounteous opportunities--was open to them. It is not surprising that the name "America" would become almost a hymn on the lips of many American Jews in this period, that they would develop an unparalleled love for their country. As all of America basked in a cornucopian economy and the righteous sense that our own good works had entitled us to it, American Jews were, perhaps, "Ultimate Americans." So it is also not surprising that, like everyone else, they also gave little thought to the idea that the richness of life here was too well fed by our military industrial complex and exploitation of Third World nations.
The protagonist, Seymour "Swede" Levov, certainly does not think about these things, and therein lies his downfall. As Amazon reviewer Ian Muldoon so aptly notes, the central question of the book is whether it is acceptable for Levov to to accept that he is one of the lucky ones and simply enjoy his place in time and history, or whether his good luck also carries an obligation. An inherently decent man, Levov does not look beyond his own life to wonder if it impinges on the lives of others. But his daughter cannot feel so sanguine. Merry has not had the good fortune of Seymour and his wife to be thought "perfect": She grew up with a terrible stutter, over which her beautiful parents agonized. Is this what gave her the ability (willingness? determination?) to see the fissures in the edifice they revere? In any event, she sees the fissures yawning, and her answer is to place sticks of dynamite in them. And later to withdraw so far from the world that she scarcely eats so as not to "destroy plant life," and will not even wash for fear of "harming the water." She has started by demolishing the world around her, and is now obliterating herself. Miraculously, the stutter that at one time "terrified" Levov is gone... as she herself soon will be.
AMERICAN PASTORAL is the story of a beautiful nation that, about 40 years ago, let some part of its best self slip away. As the "Ultimate American," Levov is the perfect symbol. As he thinks, so thought we....more
I'm sorry to slam something that has moved as many people as has this collection of monologues. I also hasten to note that I'm frequently out of stepI'm sorry to slam something that has moved as many people as has this collection of monologues. I also hasten to note that I'm frequently out of step with the tastes of general public, so feel free to take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt....
I do NOT, in ANY way, get the merits of this book/play! What are we going to read about next -- our anuses? The spaces between our toes? Our tongues? ("My tongue, when it curls -- warmly, trustingly, joyously -- against my hard palate... brings me home to myself....")
This piece of work strikes me as the HUGEST fit of public navel-gazing (except lower down, of course) in the past 30 years -- and when you think about some of the writing we've seen in that time, that's going some. On the other hand, maybe it's the naturally-arising response to the massive cuts in NEA funding in this country:
The 15-year surge of one-man and one-woman monologues in our non-profit theatres is purely due to the fact that there's virtually no money anymore for full stage productions. Costumes, sets, and ensemble casts have given way to a solitary actor standing on stage under a single spot, in black slacks and the obligatory "gem-toned" shirt, possibly using a prop or two as s/he describes some aspect of his/her life to the audience. Many times, this is good theatre -- I don't suggest it's not. My point is that this kind of low overhead allows both the actor and the venue to make a BIT of money out of their efforts, whereas a real play no longer can.
So here's the logical extension: You can't slash overhead more than by offering a monologue, but you CAN raise attendance by making the monologue all about vaginas! Please note this bit of dialogue from "Curb Your Enthusiasm":
[Actress who got the part:] Here's to "The Vagina Monologues"!
[Manager who got her the part:] Here's to the vagina!
Recognizing the deadly forces arrayed against our American dramatists today, I hate not to support them. But my support stops short of reading -- or attending "dramatic" productions of -- irrelevant tripe. Life is just too short. ...more
I just don't know where to start with this book. It's huge in scope, deep in concept, beautifully written, and an enormously FUN READ that grabs you fI just don't know where to start with this book. It's huge in scope, deep in concept, beautifully written, and an enormously FUN READ that grabs you from the first paragraph, takes you from WW II to the 1970s rock scene to the modern world of high finance, and holds you straight through to a deeply satisfying conclusion. How did Gallinger pull it off, that's what I want to know?
We start out with a tense exchange between Daniel Gilaad, an elderly Israeli ambassador, and Peter Jameson, a handsome, fabulously rich, less-than-ethical New York corporate attorney. The ambassador wants Peter to take part in an event honoring his mother, who had been a partisan fighter in WW II Poland. In the course of the conversation, we begin to see that she had been a rather unique fighter -- and that this "uniqueness" followed her into her new life as a middle-class American wife and mother. We also see glimmerings of how the attorney's own life was twisted by the events that took place many years before he was born.
In the summer of 1973, Peter, a buoyant, handsome, rock wunderkind, had already written two songs -- "The Battle of Britain" and "Oh Laurie" -- that would become rock and roll classics. His band, The Master Planets, was gaining rapt attention across the country for the newness and heat of its music. Then came the suicide of his beautiful and withdrawn mother, and, quickly following, an avalanche of bewildering information about her identity and history as a war survivor. Far from being just another of the innumerable victims of the camps, she had in fact fought with the partisans against the Germans... and exacted retributions of a barbarity rivaling the Nazis' own. She committed numerous acts of bloody revenge. She also saved scores of lives. Shaken by the truth about the woman they thought they knew, Peter's family began to disintegrate. Meanwhile, Peter's talent -- the creative force that had defined, directed, and sustained his life -- suddenly deserted him.
Today Peter Jameson reflects again on the destruction of his family and the dissolution of his dreams. Now a ruthless attorney for international consortiums tied to organized crime, he has embraced his own brand of violence against humanity. The life he lives is far from what he imagined in his exuberant youth, and leaves him with a single, burdensome question: How to reconcile an intimate knowledge of human brutality with the heart's irrational urge to believe again, to desire, to reach out once more toward possibility?
This book is at once an action-based story and a meditation on the costs of violence and revenge. When does self-defense become atrocity, the victim a perpetrator? What happens to us when we cross that line? Spanning five decades in 336 short pages, in beautiful prose that manages to read like a mystery novel, the book explores one man's struggle with a legacy of evil, the search for meaning in the midst of ugliness. It is, simply put, one of the best debut novels I have ever read. Have a look -- you will NOT be disappointed.
DANG! Just like its opening character, Dr. Begley, MADICINE burst out of the gate like a shot and kept roaring down the road nonstop, with me hangingDANG! Just like its opening character, Dr. Begley, MADICINE burst out of the gate like a shot and kept roaring down the road nonstop, with me hanging on for dear life. Fortunately, the book lasted longer than Begley. (That's not a spoiler -- all kinds of people kick the bucket before the story's finished.)
Taking the time-honored formulas of classical crime thrillers and adding his own brand of quirky irreverence, Armstrong has created a constantly moving tale of intrigue, greed, monstrosity, and evil. With prose that comes alive and some pretty damned unforgettable characters, MADICINE is one of those books many will hate finishing. ...more
Okay, first you've GOT to be okay with ugliness. I qualify. Second, for better or worse you maybe have to crave sensation. This book is all newness anOkay, first you've GOT to be okay with ugliness. I qualify. Second, for better or worse you maybe have to crave sensation. This book is all newness and surprise. There's nothing expected about the story, and that happens too rarely for me not to be grateful. Finally, I'd argue that the book is good literature. I personally don't agree that Dunn's writing is haphazard or needs editing -- her prose whined through my nerves, her images moving constantly before my eyes.
All in all, I think this book meets the fate of anything that's not one hundred percent inoffensive: Some will always love it, and some will hate it. I loooooooooved it....more
I don't jump on every alternative medicine bandwagon, but I do regard our American "health care" system with a bit of a jaundiced eye. To me, a for-prI don't jump on every alternative medicine bandwagon, but I do regard our American "health care" system with a bit of a jaundiced eye. To me, a for-profit system has built-in conflicts of interest. Drs. Walker and Shah make a cogent and powerful case that this may be so regarding chelation therapy.
And indeed, after reading the book I called a local MD who is a chelation therapist, and learned that 1) the therapy wasn't covered under my (quite comprehensive) healthcare plan, and yet 2) there was a 5-week waiting period to get in to see him. In other words, many many people are apparently choosing this form of therapy even though they must pay for it themselves.
This, taken together with the fact that chelation is used extensively in virtually every Western country other than the US, with 2,000 studies supporting its use, makes a pretty strong argument that it quite possibly IS a very effective alternative remedy that is being blocked by our healthcare system. One can only speculate as to why....more
When I wrote my books (2000 and 2002), the marketing strategies that Weber describes largely didn't exist. Meanwhile time has passed, and it turns outWhen I wrote my books (2000 and 2002), the marketing strategies that Weber describes largely didn't exist. Meanwhile time has passed, and it turns out these strategies don't just sell books -- they're a GREAT way of meeting interesting people and finding ideas and info you'd never have found otherwise. Weber got me excited about reading blogs (I had always assumed they were just a bunch of boring, misspelled rants -- who knew??), and then he gave me clear, concise directions for setting up blogs and communicating with other bloggers. The acid test: I've always hated marketing, but if this is "marketing," BRING IT ON! Great job, Mr. Weber!...more