In Equinox, author and falconer Dan O'Brien narrates a season of his life dedicated to the elusive pursuit of perfect falconry. The main characters in...moreIn Equinox, author and falconer Dan O'Brien narrates a season of his life dedicated to the elusive pursuit of perfect falconry. The main characters in the memoir include loyal dogs and talented falcons - one of my favorites is Alice, a brazen passage Cooper's Hawk accidentally trapped, but conscientiously kept and trained: so much personality in a person who is not human! I just wish the book had more about her story and career as a gamehawk. O'Brien's writing paints a vivid picture of life on the northern plains. O'Brien also masterfully captures the high tension inherent in the life of a falconer and family man who must constantly make choices about where to invest his attention - with his wife or with his hawks, both of which comprise necessary prerequisites to a happy and balanced life, and neither one of which ought to be satisfied with "just enough" - a tension to which most falconers can relate all too deeply. Anyone who practices their passions which often clash with other aspects of life should be able to identify with the themes of O'Brien's tale. All in all, Equinox is a deeply evocative book that is simultaneously an education, an entertainment, and a meditation to be enjoyed by all nature-lovers.(less)
This is a fairly literal, but perfectly understandable transcription from original manuscripts, and academic versions of the book that has inspired sc...moreThis is a fairly literal, but perfectly understandable transcription from original manuscripts, and academic versions of the book that has inspired scores of novels, movies, musicals, et cetera. Spelling has been regularized when necessary, and there is no criticus apparatus or footnotes to break the flow of narrative. Scholars looking for critical editions must search elsewhere. Lovers of medieval literature, Aurthurian legends, and courtly romances will find all they wish in this edition of a fifteenth century classic.(less)
In this biography of Frederick von Hohenstaufen – Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Germans (& N. Italians), King of Jerusalem, King of Sicily (incl...moreIn this biography of Frederick von Hohenstaufen – Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Germans (& N. Italians), King of Jerusalem, King of Sicily (including S. Italy), et cetera – Professor Abulafia intended to supersede the classic work on the subject by Kantorowicz. In Abulafia’s efforts to revise Kantorowicz’ views of Frederick (and van Cleve’s derivitive interpretation), the argument is put forth that Frederick was not uniquely forward-looking but, instead, thoroughly medieval in action and attitude. In this case, although the argument may be sound, Abulafia pushes his agenda too far, abandoning those aspects of Frederick that are clearly ahead of his time. To be sure, Frederick was a product of the Middle Ages and such is reflected in his behavior. He was also, however, a singularly brilliant human being who had the power and leisure to perform remarkably modern scientific inquiry. Yes, he manifested a nasty knack for realpolitik, but he also demonstrated a quasi-modern outlook to minorities (especially in his treatment of Jews within his realm).
A second, and far more alarming aspect of Abulafia’s revisionist interpretation of Frederick’s life, is found in his treatment of the relationship between emperor and papacy. Here, Abulafia’s disproportionate rhetoric belies his ostensible balance. Although Abulafia claims that Frederick could be just as much at fault as Gregory IX or Innocent IV, in the actual description of events, the adjectives chosen for Frederick are benign or positive (e.g., determined, tenacious) whereas the pope is described in negative terms (e.g., stubborn, obtuse). In Abulafia’s rhetoric, Frederick was guided by precedent, logic and rules of government all to preserve and expand Hohenstaufen power, whereas the popes were governed by malice and self-interest and to unjustly(?) influence the secular world. The rhetoric is not always quite so obvious. Usually the key to Abulafia’s true, heartfelt views on the matter are found in a scarcely perceived tone of distain for the pope and the papacy in general. It would be helpful if the author simply came out and stated this.
All in all, it is a good book, but not a great one. Although Abulafia’s work is more modern and therefore answers questions more likely to be of interest to twenty-first century students, I still feel that Kantorowicz’ work has yet to be superseded. At least with Kantorowicz, one knows where one stands and can more easily disregard the hagiographical rhetoric which surrounds Frederick II. Abulafia’s great contribution to the discourse on Frederick is his first chapter, which traces Frederick’s Norman inheritance – a subject oft neglected, and much needed. What remains to be written is a truly balanced and impartial biography which includes good footnotes; a feat that neither Kantorowicz nor Abulafia can claim. (less)
Perhaps Adams' best work. For those who find the Hitchiker's series a bit too random, this book has all the hallmarks of that famous DNA wit, but this...morePerhaps Adams' best work. For those who find the Hitchiker's series a bit too random, this book has all the hallmarks of that famous DNA wit, but this time with a clearly delineated plot (although it may be hard to recognize until the book is completely read). Highly recommended.(less)
Douglas Anderson has provided an excellent view into the influences of Tolkien. He has also done his homework well on early/ foreign editions of the b...moreDouglas Anderson has provided an excellent view into the influences of Tolkien. He has also done his homework well on early/ foreign editions of the book that started it all. If you're a Tolkienophile, this is highly recommended.(less)
Growing up, while the rest of my family hated the movie, I have always been inexplicably attracted to its ideas. Whenever it was on the TV, I had to s...moreGrowing up, while the rest of my family hated the movie, I have always been inexplicably attracted to its ideas. Whenever it was on the TV, I had to sneak down to the basement to watch it. The film is one of the few out there that can speak to my innermost soul.
I finally read the book a few years ago, and found a profundity that the film barely touched. It is difficult to put into words the reason why this is one of the most significant books in my life. The plot seems common enough, when explained, but the writing is finely crafted yet never pretentious. It speaks to a subterranean level of spirituality that I believe all people possess, but men find nearly impossible to express. The book addresses this yearning and salves the wounds without ever explicitly stating what it does, or how it is effected.
A River Runs Through It is the tale of a family in Montana, overwhelmed by testosterone, and unable to ever fully express the depths of their love for each other, except (perhaps) through their activities. For the mother, this was primarily through her cooking. For the men in the family, it was through fishing - and not just any fishing, but fly-fishing. This autobiography, of sorts, relates how Norman and his wife each have a brother who is conscientiously estranged from them and their respective families. Some of the most beautiful passages emerge from efforts to help these men and acquire a more intimate understanding of them.
If you allow it, reading this can be a truly transformative experience. I still find myself crying several times per reading, usually unable to fully explain to myself why. I always feel myself a better man after I read the last few paragraphs. Amazing.
"One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful."
Postscript: the other stories contained in this anniversary volume are also extremely well written. One can easily tell that Maclean was a lit. professor and was surely beloved by his students (less)
This is probably the most finely researched work of fiction I have read. The historical setting has been reconstructed to a degree that most historian...moreThis is probably the most finely researched work of fiction I have read. The historical setting has been reconstructed to a degree that most historians should hope to aspire. The characters are engaging, and the way the "truth" is played with according to the (presumably) honest perspectives of each player is astounding.
Although the novel is long, it is still best to try and complete it in one go, never setting it down for long. This is important if you want to maintain the thread of thought, as well as remember the details (many of these). Contrary to several other reviews on Goodreads, I found the ending thoroughly satisfactory, and the perfect cap on what constitutes "truth" versus "perspective." Highly recommended.(less)
Eric Haney has written a gripping memoir that narrates events from the first few decades of the most elite counter-terrorist force in the world. From...moreEric Haney has written a gripping memoir that narrates events from the first few decades of the most elite counter-terrorist force in the world. From selection to operations, the reader is swept away by Haney's momentum while, at the same time, astounded at the prowess of these fine soldiers. It is difficult to ascertain weak-points, but the sections I found most valuable/interesting were the selection/training process (the first and largest single chunk of narrative) and the epi-epilogue on the world after 9/11.(less)
Dan O'Brien set out to train and release a young Peregrine in the days just after DDT had more than decimated their natural population. The author/fal...moreDan O'Brien set out to train and release a young Peregrine in the days just after DDT had more than decimated their natural population. The author/falconer trained the falcon as they crossed the nation, North to South, following (roughly) the migration patterns of wild birds. O'Brien's descriptions of personalities and events are top-notch, as always. This book features a surprising (and realistic) ending, which adds to the quality of the whole. The individual characterizations of Dolly (falcon), Jake and Spud (O'Brien's dogs) are fantastic and truly make you feel as if you know and love them.(less)
This book scores such a high rating because, although it has many omissions and has several inaccuracies, it is still the most entertaining work on th...moreThis book scores such a high rating because, although it has many omissions and has several inaccuracies, it is still the most entertaining work on the subject of the English language I’ve read (and I’ve read a fair few). Recommended for the amateur for inspiring zeal, and recommended for the professional for sheer entertainment.(less)
This is a great read. Master essayist Stephen Bodio introduces more thoughts on living closer with planet earth, as well as provides other insight int...moreThis is a great read. Master essayist Stephen Bodio introduces more thoughts on living closer with planet earth, as well as provides other insight into his life-philosophy.(less)
I love T. H. White, and the reason why I love his writing shines through in punctuated brilliance in this brief book. Be aware that the descriptions o...moreI love T. H. White, and the reason why I love his writing shines through in punctuated brilliance in this brief book. Be aware that the descriptions on the back cover are misleading: This is NOT a book about good falconry. This is a book about terrible falconry performed with zeal fired by the best intentions and armed with very antiquated source material.
Still, White's enthusiasm for the sport and for the intense relationship between falconer and hawk is moving and incisive. His joys and pains illuminate many of the pages. There are a few sections in which a more clearly definite goal might have proven helpful, but these were probably left in place to give the impression of desperate aimlessness felt by the bewildered and bereaved White. If so, the sentiment is perfectly evoked. Most of the frustration I felt during these phases of ennui were mollified, at least in part, by the author’s postscript, written decades after the main bulk of the book. (less)
Michener has taken enormous effort to narrate the history of the Jewish nation and people from the Neolithic period up through the immediate aftermath...moreMichener has taken enormous effort to narrate the history of the Jewish nation and people from the Neolithic period up through the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War. To do this he has utilized his usual mode of historical fiction through the vehicle of an invented archeological dig. Although his writing is not the most compelling nor poetic I've read, such a monumental task has been carried out with aplomb. Read this book if you wish to gain a more complete understanding of the current Middle East or (even better) what it means to be Jewish.(less)