I read this when I was about 11-12 years old. Thought it was awesome. However, the high stress level of reading Stephen King books at that point in my...moreI read this when I was about 11-12 years old. Thought it was awesome. However, the high stress level of reading Stephen King books at that point in my life resulted in incredible frustration in dealing with my parents during the moments I did not have my face buried in the book. Or maybe that was just hormones. Anyway, this was my favorite from that period.(less)
"He that has done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."
I lent my umbrella to one of my most troublesome clients today - I nearly withheld it. I find myself thinking more fondly of him now that I chose to lend it (the "virtuous circle", Tavris calls it). I hope my client feels likewise, but honestly it's just good to have let some of that spite go.
Very interesting, but a hard read. I had to alternate between other things to keep from getting bogged down by the heavy subject matter. Here are my i...moreVery interesting, but a hard read. I had to alternate between other things to keep from getting bogged down by the heavy subject matter. Here are my impressions.
For context, I do remember when this happened, but I don't remember the footage or many of the media rumors mentioned; like many of my friends, Dylan and Eric were class of '99, I was class of '00 (like Patrick Ireland), several states away, with my own teenage world of self-importance. I only have vague memories of coverage of the standoff at Waco (I was 11) and the collapse of the Murrah building: I can't tell you where I was when I got news of Columbine or how much footage I might've watched. The author mentions that media attention on Littleton dropped off after a deadly tornado struck Oklahoma later that spring -- I do remember driving from Texas to OKC in May '99, that we happened to see signs of the tornado's devastation visible from the highway, and later visiting the site of the Oklahoma City bombing with my church youth group. Not long after, in November '99, I remember losing former classmates in the A&M bonfire collapse. My high school went on lockdown at least once because a gun (or two) was present in the school. It was a weird year to turn 18.
The author switches time frame and subject matter often, the book is broken up into 50+ chapters and several "parts", giving him a chance to start the telling over, but it is generally pretty easy to keep track of what's being discussed, except at the beginning when I had no idea who Dave Sanders and "Mr. D" were, if they were possibly the same person, or why we were bouncing into and out of their lives. Early on there is a preliminary description of what happened on 4/20/99 which kind of leaves you wondering how he is going to stretch the story out for 11 full CDs, but there were still interesting new details trickling in at the end.
The tone borders on flippant sometimes ("chugging brewskies"?), but I'm sure it's hard to bounce back and forth between the juvenile first-person perspective of the shooters and the more reverent tone that is generally called for in dealing with a massacre. I don't know which words were taken verbatim from other sources (interviews, the kids' journals), because I listened to the book on audio. Audio was fine, I just wish the author had read the book himself because the voice actor didn't totally fit the tone of the writing. And it was really hard for me to get used to Jefferson County being called "Jeffco" at nearly every opportunity; I understand that this is how the locals refer to themselves, but the constant use of local shorthand was jarring to me, as an outsider.
I think Cullen did a good job presenting the information and letting it tell its own story. I felt that a really thorough assembly was done of a lot of information that was not previously widespread, and I'm sure the author did his share of interviews. I liked the way old myths were acknowledged and set aside with explanations that felt much truer; I think the author did a very good job presenting the boys as a depressive and a psychopath, who were not spurred to action suddenly by any particular offense but had planned this, and suggested reasons they went through with this instead of getting caught or letting the plan fizzle out. It was fascinating to learn what their real plans were, and how the didn't really work out.
There was decent amount of attention on the police/FBI/justice system, and the ways that things went wrong, the precursors that were ignored, the files that were "lost", the victims that were left bleeding for hours after the shooters had already died while the cops did nothing - which led to new tactics about how to approach such situations actively. The mess that was made of investigating. It's haunting to think about Dave Sanders, and the kids whose bodies were just left outside overnight.
I was surprised by the evangelical spin on the tragedy, but I was also relieved the book didn't focus there for too long.
I'm not sure if Dave Cullen actually interviewed the Klebolds, but the Harrises apparently aren't talking. The book seemed to dispel a lot of myths about the cause of these events: it wasn't goth music or the trenchcoat mafia or jocks hazing nerds or racism, and he strives to show that it wasn't because the boys had terrible childhoods either. There are a lot of ways to speculate about the level of parental attention that allowed kids who had already committed at least one felony to hide alcohol, firearms, and explosives in their rooms without real fear of being caught, to have a "hit list" posted on a website that other parents knew about, to stay out all night drinking after prom (look at this half-full bottle of schnapps mom, see I didn't drink too much!), to have an unannounced sleepover with their known partner-in-crime (when did I ever have someone spend the night without asking first?), etc. It's really hard to say "they did their best, they did as much as they thought they had to, they aren't at fault" and leave it there.
But it's really not about the parents, it's not about laying blame, or reasons why the Harris and Klebold families shouldn't be allowed to mourn their losses too. (And what profound losses; the loss of their children and the futures they'd dreamed for them, the shock of finding out who their children "really were", the fear or guilt that they could've/should've stopped something, and the life-altering shame and rage directed at them... so different than the other experiences that came out of this tragedy.)
I think this book is just about telling what happened, so that we can all clear up our misconceptions and let it rest, which is probably what those injured, the victims' families, and the community would most appreciate at this point. Just understanding the truth and letting go. (less)
Thought it was great, giving it a second listen, recommend to everyone.
Actually one of those books that I would have read more slowly if I were readi...moreThought it was great, giving it a second listen, recommend to everyone.
Actually one of those books that I would have read more slowly if I were reading the text, because there are things my mind wanted to rest on, to savor or turn over and over until I really understood them.(less)
We attended a reading in November, he read a few of these stories. He mentioned that he has recently had an interest in dirty jokes, told a couple, an...moreWe attended a reading in November, he read a few of these stories. He mentioned that he has recently had an interest in dirty jokes, told a couple, and solicited more from the audience. I like hearing David Sedaris read, but I think these stories were just subpar. Creepy, cheap, lacking. Contrived characters with wry little endings, in the style of a dirty joke. I don't usually fast forward when listening to books on tape, but I did here. I hope this is just a passing phase; he's better than this.
PS sorry if this review sucks, I tried 5x to edit it on my Android, lost numerous better phrasings to the proximity of the "cancel" or "close" button to the "save", and this interface on a mobile device is the most frustrating thing I have ever dealt with. (less)
Can't imagine picking up the hard copy - Tracy was made for audiobook.
I would kind of like to know if the book has anything the CDs don't. Because ce...moreCan't imagine picking up the hard copy - Tracy was made for audiobook.
I would kind of like to know if the book has anything the CDs don't. Because certainly you don't get the same hauntingly cool experience of listening to Tracy's late father's original recorded songs by reading the book. Are there like, family photos?
Yes, there has been a lot of oversharing and stories of hard times. I'm 1/2 the way through and he has already identified his personal hero as three different people. That's cool. I have thought he was a hilarious man for years, but this book isn't a comedy. It's really neat to hear the places where he touches a sore subject and his voice cracks.
I imagine the original "writing" process was a lot like this - hand Tracy a tape recorder, then hand the tapes to the ghostwriter to sort into some kind of order - Tracy and Anthony Bozza go over the edits, then get Tracy in the studio to read the text onto CDs. (less)
Interesting account of what the 350 US prisoners-of-war (and some European concentration camp prisoners went through) at and after the labor camp of B...moreInteresting account of what the 350 US prisoners-of-war (and some European concentration camp prisoners went through) at and after the labor camp of Berga. I'm not sure how the author chose the (Jewish) Hungarian civilians profiled in this story, which was not woven back in with the story of the American Soldiers until 2/3rds of the way through the book, and even then it was just a mention that they both happened to be at the same camp and did not interact.
We're familiar with the concept of concentration camps and forced labor camps at this point, but the Allies apparently had no idea of what was going on. Although the 350 US soldiers (mostly chosen because German soldiers felt they were Jews, whether or not this was true) were sent to Berga in 1944, when the war was nearly over, they were still worked to death in dramatic numbers. The book includes the story of their conditions in the camp, the labor assignments, their death march and ultimate liberation, and a couple escape attempts. How shocked they were that the German soldiers were not abiding by the Geneva conventions for prisoners of war.
Ultimately, 73 of the 350 died, in addition to the millions of civilians killed in similar ways. It's a tragic story. I'm not sure if there was any intent to make the reader/listener feel MORE compassion towards the American vs. European prisoners, or more shock? There was certainly some effort to show that the German people were at least complicit in much of the proceedings and the blame cannot be shifted wholly on to Hitler and the SS. That there is a lot of residual shame and denial in Germany - but that there are lessons to be learned. That acting as an agent of a government does not absolve one of having a conscience. That modern Germany can honor those who took a stand against the overwhelming current of the time.
I spent a lot of time thinking about modern interrogation, the conditions at Guantanamo, and how the American people are aware that we have been engaging in torture even if our leaders are not willing to call it that. Anyway, politics aside.
I really appreciate that the author took advantage of the 60+ year lag since the unfolding of these events to provide updates, some sense of closure to the story. It's worth explaining why we have not heard a lot about Americans being sent to labor or concentration camps. The survivors were made to sign confidentiality agreements, which is ridiculous enough, because apparently speaking out could have some detrimental impact against POWs in Japan or Allied control of Western Germany (where Berga was located)?? American survivors were ashamed and felt no one could understand their unique and terrible experience, and they were even prevented from testifying at the trials of their abusers, which ridiculously enough resulted in reduced sentences because a burden of proof was not felt to have been met. Some were even denied disability benefits, and little attempt at compensation was made until more than 50 years later.
Ultimately part of surviving seems to be the ability to move beyond past injustices and move forward with one's life in a direction of one's own choosing, rather than letting hate fester inside until the end of your time here on Earth. I do think there is something empowering about that. (less)
I appreciated hearing (the fictionalized approximation of) the story of Valentino Achak Deng. It is a moving story of humanity, hardship, and survival...moreI appreciated hearing (the fictionalized approximation of) the story of Valentino Achak Deng. It is a moving story of humanity, hardship, and survival.
I had not previously studied much about the "Lost Boys" of Sudan (although I was familiar with the term) and did not realize the extent of their marches across the desert and YEARS in refugee camps, or the political circumstances leading to the abandonment of their homes, and I hadn't known much about the trials and tribulations of the Sudanese refugee population in the U.S. I am only a few years younger than Valentino, but I had a pretty narrow world view in the '80s and '90s. This book was really able to bring that time alive for me.
Still I couldn't bring myself to give more than 3.5 stars. I resent the "fictionalization" of his story, not knowing what I can trust. I don't think it was retold by Eggers as well as it could have been. All autobiographies involve some degree of speculation and the possibility of remembering things in ways other than they may have actually happened -- surely his story could be told to someone, edited for clarity, pieced back together, and NOT injected with fiction growth hormones.
There were some clumsy literary devices, some foreshadowing that spoiled later events, and a whole lot of parts that left me utterly confused at how we had gotten to where we were. Major events were introduced with little fanfare, passing me by before I realized they had even begun (and maybe this is a flaw of the audiobook format, not having the visual clue of new paragraphs). There was one occasion in which I inserted the next CD well out of order (#14 instead of #12) and didn't realize until halfway through that I had missed several chapters of action in the camp. I have never read anything else by Eggers and this example did not leave me looking for more. But I appreciate the work he did in bringing this story to light, and I feel it is admirable that he is donating all proceeds to Valentino's foundation.
I enjoyed the synchronicity of reading this book just as news spread of a vote for secession in Southern Sudan, and was glad to hear that Valentino is now back building schools in Marial Bai.
Ultimately, I think it is a fine book and would not discourage anyone from reading it, but I also would not go out of my way to recommend it to anyone, and that's what leaves me unable to bump it up to the next "star" level.(less)
I'm glad they accomplished what they set out to do and I think there were some good messages interspersed throughout about how practical and beneficia...moreI'm glad they accomplished what they set out to do and I think there were some good messages interspersed throughout about how practical and beneficial it can be to seek out ways to put your consumer dollar towards something you believe in AND eat more healthily. Some of the parts about cultivating crops for food and appreciating what's in season were enjoyable.
However, this audiobook was more of a downer for me than anything and I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone. It seemed to go on forever, and there was just so much negative attitude about the state of the world and the melting ice caps and derisive attitudes towards "moon pies" and soda and other mass-produced food products that surely EVERYONE else in the western world thinks is JUST HUNKY-DORY. A little too "us vs. them" from a book that seemed to be trying to clear up prejudice against farmers.
Other than THAT, it seemed fairly down-to-earth and not preachy about how they actually accomplished what they were doing. I really appreciated the part at the end about how occasionally bending the rules does not negate all the good of changes people are attempting to implement in their own lives. We do what we can, and possibly some people will gain the confidence from this book to ask their local supermarket to carry more locally produced products, or shop more at farmer's markets, or reserve a heritage turkey in the spring for their Thanksgiving dinner.(less)
The audiobook seems to start with a headlong rant out of nowhere and finishes just as abruptly. There was TONS of repetition of facts scattered throug...moreThe audiobook seems to start with a headlong rant out of nowhere and finishes just as abruptly. There was TONS of repetition of facts scattered throughout, but very little distinction made between the victims, to the point where it was easier to assume she was describing the same crime scene over and over than describing totally different cases. There is SO MUCH focus on watermarks and stationery and paper manufacturers, it will put you to sleep. Apparently the actual book has photos that are well worth a look but the audio version does not! (less)