This is not an empowering book. This is a let-me-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of book. At some point, it has become hip and "good writing" to use profan...moreThis is not an empowering book. This is a let-me-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of book. At some point, it has become hip and "good writing" to use profanity and say shocking things like "I hate my baby". While I acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed is very real for some mothers, especially those without a partner (myself included in the latter category), reading "Operating Instructions" gave me a dark feeling, somewhat akin to the feeling that reading Dostoevsky causes (minus the mastery of the prose). Lamott describes herself as being in a dark hole most of that first year, unwashed, depressed, extremely tired and lonely, with rare glimpses of her son's beauty. I think a lot of her issues stem from the self-acknowledged substance abuse problems of the past and losing her father some years earlier though, not from having a baby on her own. All in all, I would much rather read a positive, upbeat book written by somebody who is capable of maintaining self-discipline and organizing their lives than an author who aims at being brutally honest but really sounds like another common wreck of a person. (less)
I deliberately started my vaccine research with this book - this is a history of vaccines from the times of Jenner and variolation to George Bush bein...moreI deliberately started my vaccine research with this book - this is a history of vaccines from the times of Jenner and variolation to George Bush being vaccinated for now non-existent smallpox on TV to demonstrate his belief in the threat of bio-terrorism. I expected for this book to be as neutral as possible for a text on a controversial subject. As a parent to be, I am trying to go into the issue with an open mind - it is after all about the safety of my child, not which political group I happen to identify with the most. On this particular criterion of neutrality, however, Allen does not quite measure up. For instance, after describing numerous confirmed cases of vaccine injuries, he would still refer to vaccines as "completely safe" or "entirely safe" without providing any justification for his logic. As a reasonable human being, I understand that both diseases and vaccines come with risks. What scares me is the denial or belittling of risks which leaves me in no position to compare them intelligently.
Another quite annoying aspect is Allen's description of those people who don't vaccinate. He admits it that in some communities people who don't vaccinate are mostly PhD's, quite successful and well-off, but he mentions it in passing. However, an entire chapter is devoted to describing wackos in sects and with no understanding or respect for science as an example of the people "who prefer the whooping cough". That is offensive, as many people I personally know who choose to not vaccinate or vaccinate selectively (which is the option that I am leaning towards) are very reasonable people who did their homework.
This is a thoroughly researched text, however, and it serves its purpose. Definitely a good starting point for those parents who want to know everything there is to know about vaccinations to make the right decision.(less)
All commonsense information, nothing new. More pertinent information would have been on the balance of the two languages in the child's life, and mult...moreAll commonsense information, nothing new. More pertinent information would have been on the balance of the two languages in the child's life, and multilingualism. Both are mentioned, but glossed over. (less)
Ah the great Anna Politkovskaya, a paragon of journalist's integrity... Puts to shame her so-called colleagues on both sides of the ocean - both in Am...moreAh the great Anna Politkovskaya, a paragon of journalist's integrity... Puts to shame her so-called colleagues on both sides of the ocean - both in America for reporting on irrelevant crap like home tanning and calling it news, and in Russia for selling their souls to the devil VVP. Funny that this book is still not sold in Russia..(less)
This, for reasons of time, is not going to be a complete review, but a couple of notes.
1. I cringe whenever I see Shteyngart compared to Nabokov. Suc...moreThis, for reasons of time, is not going to be a complete review, but a couple of notes.
1. I cringe whenever I see Shteyngart compared to Nabokov. Such comparisons are very superficial and can only be made on the basis of the authors' national background. The proponents of such view will claim that both of the writers, native Russian speakers, tweak the English language in such a clever way as to arouse a chuckle in the English language reader. Well, where Nabokov's use of unexpected metaphors and synesthetic references was marked with outstanding finesse in its simplicity (i.e. never overdone), Shteyngart's prose is amusing at first but soon becomes tiresome. There is only so many times that one can tolerate such gems as "blinding yellow orb" instead of a three letter "sun." To reiterate, I am not against such verbal tomfoolery, rather I believe that overall simplicity adorned by an occasional embellishment is a more elegant solution.
2. If one is really intent on comparing Shteyngart to Nabokov, one could draw parallels between Vladimir and Pnin. The former would then have better English, and, once again, is a much more heavy-handed version of the latter. As one example, the not-so-subtle character transformation he overcomes from the first part of the novel to the second is nothing short of miraculous. Gone is the insecure hapless fool, replaced by a rather ruthless criminal with lots of bad habits. Maybe it's the semi-fictional Eastern European locale that inspires such change (Prava being, of course, Praga or Prague in the Czech Republic). While we are on the subject of the locale, I suppose this is another attempt at being Nabokov, in imitating his "Fialta" (of "Spring in Fialta").
3. The phonetic play Shteyngart is engaging in (see p. 235 - "weeping willows wept under the weight of the tetra-hydro-petra-carbo whatever-the-hell-it-was being belched out of the smokestacks") is curious, but such moments are rare in the text.
4. Overall, the text is amusing at best. My guess is that the target audience is the Russophile Westerners infatuated with all things Russian. An actual Russian reading the book (such as myself) will likely understand all of the references better, but will not find them quite as tickling. One word summarizes the work for me as I put down this text, a word that Nabokov wrote at length about: "poshlost'". Vulgarity, tawdriness, cheapness are some (although imperfect) English equivalents of the term. Out of respect for Nabokov, let's keep Shteyngart out of the big leagues and place him instead where he really belongs - light quick reads for the subway or the beach.(less)