A slender volume that packs a powerful punch. Gladstone, the co-host of the popular podcast On the Media takes on the troublesome times in which we fiA slender volume that packs a powerful punch. Gladstone, the co-host of the popular podcast On the Media takes on the troublesome times in which we find ourselves and the challenges of finding our way in a maze of facts and counterfacts, thoughts, biases, assumptions and prejudices that shape our perception of the world in which we live.
Taking as her jumping off point the election of Donald Trump as president, she builds a compelling case for the idea (self-evident and yet difficult to accept) that each of us carries certain assumptions about reality we consider obvious and patently provable that nonetheless do not accord with the reality of others. Gladstone makes no apologies for the fact that she considers her mostly liberal worldview the correct one, even in the face of all this. The facts back up her version of things, at least the facts she can marshal to her defense.
But what if one dismisses the legitimacy of those who purvey the facts we use to bolster our way of seeing the world? What then? As one of her sources, Ned Resnikoff said, "When the truth is little more than an arbitrary personal decision, there is no common ground to be reached, and no incentive to look for it". This is the age in which we find ourselves.
The author makes no pretense of having all the answers. What she is encouraging here is an investigation into our own motives and reasoning underlying how we see the world. It is not helpful, she asserts, to simply dismiss all those who disagree with one as misguided cretins. These are the people who elected a president, have a stranglehold on Congress, and control 32 state legislatures. While it might not yield the outcomes we have in mind, escaping our own little boxes of assumption might free us up to understand the boxes in which those others have trapped themselves. As Gladstone quotes Schopenhauer, "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." The least we can do is expand our vision to incorporate as much of the world as we can. Minds do change, but bombarding them with facts is perhaps the least effective way to help that process along (you might want to do a search for the backfire effect and see what you find). Perhaps compassion and an attempt at understanding might help. God knows, we can use all the help we can get. ...more
I have never had the experience of being in love with a plot of land. Oh, I have affection for some places, and I am fond of the home my wife and I haI have never had the experience of being in love with a plot of land. Oh, I have affection for some places, and I am fond of the home my wife and I have lived in for 25 years. But Mary Frances Lombard, the hero of this wonderful novel, has a passionate relationship with the place which has been in her family for generations. And, like all loves felt as deeply as this one, there is a measure of pain that comes along with that love.
Actually, Mary Frances's passions about everyone and everything run at the temperature of molten steel most of the time. She hates with a passion as thoroughgoing as her loves; she yearns with a heart that is begging to be broken. Her love for her brother is so deep and pure it feels like the center of her life, but the completeness of their bond is one that can only last for the length of their childhoods.
The Excellent Lombard family run an apple orchard. The land is owned by three different members of the family; mostly they get along, but the lack of a single decision-maker sometimes leads to friction and hard feelings. And they all work very, very hard, raising the apples, growing hay and other crops to feed the livestock, tending to the animals—the never-ending panoply of duties that face those dedicated to the land. Mary Frances has no dream in her childish heart but to continue here forever, as, she feels, should her whole family, even those who frighten or disappoint her. They are, after all, the Lombards, and what else would they do?
I have read a bit of Jane Hamilton before this, and particularly enjoyed The Book of Ruth, but in the years since that book was published she has gained an enormous confidence in her abilities, so that this novel unfolds with a seeming effortlessness that can only come from devoted effort to craft and language that can evoke a mood, a place, and people who we come to care deeply about. It is hard to praise this book highly enough; please take a look if you get a chance....more
At the heart of this sweet novel is Lily Roberts Maynard, a septuagenarian first-time author who surprises herself and her family with her literary abAt the heart of this sweet novel is Lily Roberts Maynard, a septuagenarian first-time author who surprises herself and her family with her literary abilities. Her most successful work is a memoir which, like all such books is something of a revisionist tale. Her son, Alan, is the other pivotal character, and the relationship between the two is the kernel around which all else builds.
Miller is very skilled at building believable characters and portraying the relationships between them. Her writing is smooth and seemingly effortless. The plot has its twists and a few surprises but, for the most part, is a fairly bland and commonplace story of a dysfunctional family making a go of it. There is nothing offensive or objectionable here, no untoward drama or eye-rolling shift in the narrative.
Neither is there much to excite a reader's awe or interest, though. This is a thoroughly palatable, easily digestible, unobjectionable, worthy literary meal. But nothing here makes me want to come back for seconds....more