"Idiots" is an amusing work of absurdist fiction that is more than a little reminiscent of "A Confederacy...moreThis isn't a summary, it's just my two cents
"Idiots" is an amusing work of absurdist fiction that is more than a little reminiscent of "A Confederacy of Dunces." Not a surprise, as Savio wrote it as something of an homage to "Confederacy." It is one of those books with a dozen minor characters, each with some sort of unlikely and hysterical history or outlook. The way these books go, the stories of all of these seemingly random characters converge in a complex, skillfully constructed climax... except in this case, the end just didn't quite seem to jell. For me, about the last 20% of the book fell flat and felt kind of tacked-on. On the upside, the eccentric protagonist, who has been nicknamed "Satan"by his friends because of his fascination with an imagined subterranean civilization, isn't nearly as venal and annoying as I found Ignatius Reilly. (This is the main reason I didn't enjoy "Confederacy" more than I did- Ignatius was so well written that I hated him too much to care what happened to him). Satan is a little easier to empathize with.
Sadly, though, the author seems to have a serious problem with homonyms, in nearly every chapter substituting words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings (eg waver/waiver, toe/tow... oh and heroine/heroin.) Maybe it was supposed to be clever; if so, I did not get the joke and it drove me absolutely bonkers. (Dude, you have to read it, not just turn on the spell-check function). The editor should be tarred and feathered and the author should spend some serious time with flashcards.
Mostly, it is a funny and well-crafted story whose author shows signs of eventually becoming great.(less)
The only book I could find that was specifically about the Wallace/Darwin affair, the Watergate in the history of biological science, was published ne...moreThe only book I could find that was specifically about the Wallace/Darwin affair, the Watergate in the history of biological science, was published nearly 30 years ago and appears to have almost immediately gone out of print. Aside from a few of the author's irritating habits (e.g. adding italics in quotations and the quite unnecessary display of his scornful attitude toward modern psychoanalysis), the book is quite readable. Although his descriptions of both parties at times approach caricature, the narrative is firmly based in the letters, journals, and more formal writings of Wallace, Darwin and their friends and colleagues. The author makes much of the fact that many of the letters to and from Charles Darwin during the critical period are missing... it would be interesting to know whether any such materials have turned up since the publication of this book. All in all, Brackman provides a relatively reasonable analysis of what happened and why.(less)
This was a fairly easy read that discussed differences in the ways that various cultures perceive time. This topic may sound dry, but the author manag...moreThis was a fairly easy read that discussed differences in the ways that various cultures perceive time. This topic may sound dry, but the author manages to make it interesting. It is completely approachable for the masses. Any traveler should be aware of these differences and this book certainly would prepare a person to expect the unexpected.
However, I was somewhat disappointed that the book did not go into more depth, consisting in large part of anecdotes from the author's own experience as a tourist/researcher. Even his experiments seemed a little fluffy (but from my own background in the hard [not social:] sciences, I suppose that's not surprising). I'm not sure how he would have made the work more scholarly without losing its broader appeal, but that is what I had hoped for in this book.(less)