This is a mystery that I recommend for people like me who don't often seek out mystery stories. Yes, it's about a woman wrongly accused of murder and...moreThis is a mystery that I recommend for people like me who don't often seek out mystery stories. Yes, it's about a woman wrongly accused of murder and a private investigator who is desperately seeking the real killer, but the trappings of mystery are overshadowed by those of a surprisingly modern romance.
The book is charming, witty, and delightfully-written. The scenes featuring aristocrat sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and mystery novelist Harriet Vane are laugh-aloud funny, and the author plays the genre-required suspense with the same light touch that she uses in the romance. The only thing I didn't quite find believable was the poor showing the accused's defenders made in the first scenes of the book. If I had been Harriet's publisher, I'd have sacked the blighters. But that's a no-see-um in a veritable ocean of ointment- there's so much else to like in this story that you'll hardly notice.
Being a social liberal, I figured it was high time that I read some unabashedly liberal nonfiction. Thomas Frank's intelligent and well-researched exc...moreBeing a social liberal, I figured it was high time that I read some unabashedly liberal nonfiction. Thomas Frank's intelligent and well-researched excoriation of neoconservatives presumes to be a sweeping indictment of the greedy, cynical school of thought that has allowed unprecedented gaps between rich and poor, and it is largely successful. Frank's one failure, if you can call it that, is not keeping the tone relatively neutral and allowing the outrageous deeds of the book's antiheroes to speak for themselves. I'd expect such snideness and sniping from someone like Ann Coulter, and was slightly disappointed that Frank chose to use the same crude rhetorical tools that he derides the Rush Limbaughs of the world for using. But that niggle is only a tiny part of of this eye-opening, enormously effective argument against cynicism in politics, and the book has proved to be quite prescient. Let's hope the days of Jacks Abramoff and Karls Rove of the world are on their way out, if not for good, then for at least another seventy years.(less)
I've been a fan of Robert Reich's no-nonsense commentary on Marketplace for quite some time, so it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed his 2004 book...moreI've been a fan of Robert Reich's no-nonsense commentary on Marketplace for quite some time, so it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed his 2004 book on the rise and predicted fall of radical conservatives ("Radcons"). What makes Reich's arguments so persuasive and effective is that he refuses to frame issues in terms that have been solely defined by Radcons. For example, he refuses to measure America's prosperity in terms of Gross Domestic Product, as Radcons do. In challenging what Radcons see as the fundamental indicator of American prosperity, he not only refuses to let them reduce the discussion to only the things that are bought and sold, but also expands the definition of prosperity to include things like quality of life, and the state of the environment.
Reich systematically dismantles other sacred platforms of Radcon rhetoric that liberals have been reluctant to touch, like public morality, by pointing out that immoral behavior in the board room has a far more devastating impact on America than "immoral" behavior in the bedroom. He recasts patriotism not as refusing to ask questions of leaders, but the willingness to make sacrifices, like paying higher taxes, to improve the common good.
It's also hugely refreshing to have a writer who can profoundly disagree with someone like Robert Bork and still respect him. I highly recommend this book for liberals who prefer to be moved to political action by the hope and promise of their own ideals rather than by anger or outrage at Radcons.(less)
I grew up during a time when debate on pornography consisted of dire accusations that mainstream pornography was harmful to everybody- a view that was...moreI grew up during a time when debate on pornography consisted of dire accusations that mainstream pornography was harmful to everybody- a view that was commonly espoused, despite a near complete lack of evidence supporting it. Linda Williams's book is a refreshingly frank and reasoned analysis of cinematic hard-core pornography- its history, censorship, how it was meant to be viewed, and how women viewing/making it has changed it. But it's not all feminism and games- there's also some Freud-baiting (always fun), an examination of the way economic theory informs pornography, parallels with movie musicals and slasher films, a deliciously scathing indictment of "gaze-based" film analysis, and, in this edition, a very funny bit about CD-ROM based porn.
For all that the book was written before internet pornography really took off in the mid-to-late 1990s, Williams's analysis still feels fresh and relevant. Rather than being invalidated by current trends, the book, appropriately, leaves one desiring more. I look forward to reading more of Dr. Williams's work, and not just the stuff about dirty movies!(less)
A highly enjoyable extrapolation of the Buffyverse, "Fray" occurs in the future's urban slums, where weird faces and violence are commonplace. Fray, a...moreA highly enjoyable extrapolation of the Buffyverse, "Fray" occurs in the future's urban slums, where weird faces and violence are commonplace. Fray, a young thief, is the first active Slayer in generations, or so she's told. She thinks she's just tough. I was tempted to make this a three-star story, simply because Fray = Faith with backstory + season 8. And yet, for all that the individual elements are far from novel, they've been put together so effectively that this deserved four stars. Props, Joss. Well done.(less)
Further adventures of Walker and Pilgrim investigating superhero murders, except these victims aren't really superheroes. A bit weaker, IMHO, than vol...moreFurther adventures of Walker and Pilgrim investigating superhero murders, except these victims aren't really superheroes. A bit weaker, IMHO, than volume I, but still with much to recommend it, particularly some fascinating exploration of the limits of superpowers and the as-always gorgeous art.(less)
A solid and entertaining noir-ish take on a society that loves and hates its superheroes. We follow veteran homicide detective Christian Walker and hi...moreA solid and entertaining noir-ish take on a society that loves and hates its superheroes. We follow veteran homicide detective Christian Walker and his new partner Deena Pilgrim (yes, author, we get the names...)investigate the murder of a popular superhero. An excellent yarn well told and fantastically drawn.(less)
There's loads to like here, provided you have a strong stomach in re: violence and gore and don't mind a walk on the morally ambiguous side. It's easy...moreThere's loads to like here, provided you have a strong stomach in re: violence and gore and don't mind a walk on the morally ambiguous side. It's easy to see the influence of this book on more current deconstructions of the superhero trope.
The book opens with the murder of a man later revealed to be one of the disbanned group of costumed vigilantes. The narrative unfolds through the eyes of the other former members, as they seek the murderer. The world that is revealed is a "what if" world. In this case, what if a nuclear accident produced a man with incredible superpowers whose alliance with the US allows them to decisively win the Vietnam War. There are a number of meta-fictional artifacts that intersperse the 9-panel pages, including sections of an autobiography written by a retired superhero, and a comic-within-a-comic about a man determined to save his village from ship of demon pirates, and media commentary from other Watchmen perspectives, all of which play up elements of intention, morality, and questions of truth and the greater good.
The only thing that I didn't wholeheartedly embrace was the art. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the sumptuous illustrations in Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta" and "Lost Girls," but I felt that some elements of design, not least of which how Dr. Manhattan was rendered, didn't really gel with the overall look of the book.
Overall, "Watchmen" is an exciting and ultimately chilling read. Not for nothing is it known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time.(less)
How could someone NOT love a play called “Tamburlaine the Great, Who, from a Scythian Shephearde by his rare and woonderfull Conquestf, became a most...moreHow could someone NOT love a play called “Tamburlaine the Great, Who, from a Scythian Shephearde by his rare and woonderfull Conquestf, became a most puiffant and mightye Monarque, And (for his tyranny, and terrour in Warre) waf tearmed, The Scourge of God?” Well, I suppose it is possible. I certainly enjoyed "Dr. Faustus" more. I would blame the editors for some of the oddness, given that a great deal of the play's "lesser" comedic scene have been cut. In spite of this, "Tamburlaine" has much to recommend it.
By the time Shakespeare was writing his greatest plays, Christopher Marlowe, who penned “Tamburlaine” circa 1587, was very much out of style. However, the influence of Marlowe’s Middle Eastern-flavored historical drama is undeniable on Elizabethan playwrights, from his use of blank verse to powerful and dramatic effect, to his characters’ bold passions and ambitions. Tamburlaine’s triumph in the first half of the play and his hubris and his fall in the latter half are clear precursors to Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies, for all that "Tamburlaine" has more in common with Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy" and Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus," given the huge body count, including two characters that brain themselves against a giant cage.
While “Tamburlaine” is, in my opinion, not as much fun to read as, say “Henry IV,” its language is beautiful, Marlowe's exploration of virtue and barbarism is fascinating, and it’s well worth reading for those who are interested in the origin of tropes used by so many Elizabethan playwrights. For the leisurely summer reader, not so much.(less)
Christopher Marlowe’s masterpiece “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” was first performed in 1594 and published over a deca...moreChristopher Marlowe’s masterpiece “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” was first performed in 1594 and published over a decade after both its first performance and the playwright’s unfortunate demise. Marlowe’s play is a series of short scenes involving Faust dabbling in and later mastering the dark arts are interspersed with comedy scenes involving buffoons and magical mischief. While the action sputters somewhat after Faustus’s pact with the devil, the ending remains slightly ambiguous as to Faust’s fate.
The play remarkable for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that it was the first dramatization of the famous story ever done in English. It remains one of the most influential retellings of the story, whose origins go back to medieval morality plays. The play is also impressive in that Faustus’s Lucifer-inspired insights into science as well as the impressiveness of the drama and stagecraft, which remain accurate and spectacular even today. If you are a lover of Shakespeare and haven’t read “Doctor Faustus,” it’s high time you did. (less)
Much ado has been made over the patios and nationality of this book, its numerous accolades, and the way it's steeped in geek and pop culture. Yes, ye...moreMuch ado has been made over the patios and nationality of this book, its numerous accolades, and the way it's steeped in geek and pop culture. Yes, yes. Fine. I will add that it's a very funny book, it has a great deal of fun making its characters turn stereotypes and assumptions on their heads, and reads as facilely as a bestseller. It's the story of Dominicans and life under and emergence from Trujillo, of multiple generations of a family who suffer from fuku, or seriously bad, death-causing karma. I doubt it will be spoiling much to say that Oscar, the last scion of his family, dies a tragically young death. Frankly, I didn't think much of the death. Like many contemporary protagonists, the Oscar doesn't really grow or change, but when he dies, the rest of the world perceives him differently and learns from his life. I think this is a pretty egocentric way to write, and I think it's probably the book's biggest weakness. It's strengths, however, are myriad- so much so that I still recommend this book unhesitatingly. It's not so much about the destination, which we know from the title, but the ride. And oh my friends, it's a fabulous ride.(less)