I don't know whether to give this 1 star or 5 stars. Comprimised at 3 stars.
Some of this story was wonderful and moving and clever and heartwarming an...moreI don't know whether to give this 1 star or 5 stars. Comprimised at 3 stars.
Some of this story was wonderful and moving and clever and heartwarming and heartbreaking, but some of the writing made me want to find the author and shove a hardcover edition of the thickest grammar book I could get my hands on up her nose. That said - the human cello scene was one of the most understated yet erotic love scenes I've ever read.
I'm sorry, I just don't get it. The whole time reading this I kept wondering if I was missing some sort of obvious point. Or is this whole book just W...more I'm sorry, I just don't get it. The whole time reading this I kept wondering if I was missing some sort of obvious point. Or is this whole book just Waugh's low opinion of Americans? (less)
**spoiler alert** Yes, the death is telegraphed hundreds of pages beforehand, and no, I'm not a dog lover... but I still cried when Stella had to be p...more**spoiler alert** Yes, the death is telegraphed hundreds of pages beforehand, and no, I'm not a dog lover... but I still cried when Stella had to be put down.
And yes, this is wrapped up tidy with a pretty little bow at the end, but what the hey, it was the 90's - no one had discovered gritty realism yet.(less)
In the book Daniel’s Story, the main character describes the horrors of WWII. He narrates how just a few years before the war, if a person died, the w...more In the book Daniel’s Story, the main character describes the horrors of WWII. He narrates how just a few years before the war, if a person died, the whole community mourned, but, as he describes his present situation (no spoilers, but hint, its bad) death was is common as to be unremarked.
That always stuck with me – death is an indicator of the health of the community.
When times are good a person is buried with full pomp and circumstance. When times are bad, bodies are buried in haste, if at all.
Times in Greenville, MS must be very good indeed. The co-authors reminisce about the many funerals they have attended. Death isn’t just something that happens – it’s a happening, an event, a chance to show off the family silver, a time for much eating and drinking and singing.
People plan their final resting place with as much care as to make a pharaoh proud, and obituaries are written up in a style that walks an artistic tightrope between “what actually happened” and “out right lies”.
The food that is the staple of this area’s funerals is lovingly described in detail, with recipes provided, and just a little defensive about the fact everything involves box mixes. I’ve made a note to try the Vodka Cake the next time I wish to provide someone with caloric and alcoholic solace.
More anecdotal than historical, with absolutely no comment on race issues, perhaps sociological or maybe anthropological in nature, a fascinating read about one group of people’s approach to Death – invite Him over for southern style comfort food.
This is a book for all the Harry Potter fans out there who have been just dying to know what the Dursley’s were up to while Harry was off at Hogwarts....more This is a book for all the Harry Potter fans out there who have been just dying to know what the Dursley’s were up to while Harry was off at Hogwarts.
Oh the questions fans have had! What was the bullying at Smeltings like? How profitable was Vernon’s drill making business? What were the zoning restrictions in Little Whinging? Please oh please Ms. Rowling, tell us not of the wondrous world of magic, tell us of the pedantic lives of the Muggles!
The world of Pagford is one Uncle Vernon would have fit right into – the kind of world where everyone in town keeps a sharp eye on each other, because nowhere does the political get more personal than at the town level.
There is no quest to save the world, no huge mystery to solve, no passionate meeting of two souls – it is just the day to day, mundane, common routines of some very common people. It is a world anyone middle class in any first world country would recognize, and, for me, at least, it caused a more powerful reaction to recognize something real than any tale of aliens or monsters.
Rowling performs a sad little trick of presenting characters from the outside perspective as mean, petty, trite, common, disdainful, worthless people – and then moves the point of view around to let you inside each character’s heart and head and suddenly you want to root for some very hopeless people. Its mean – these people’s lives are never going to change, and now your heart breaks for them when two minutes ago you were feeling smug about it.
It breaks down an interesting gender line – most of the men are very happy to live in Pagford, masters of their own little universe, while the women want to get the hell out of this rinky-dink town, feeling nothing but trapped in that very same world the men love.
About three-fourths through Rowling keeps up a relay race of passing the POV, leaping through about five different characters heads in the space of a paragraph, leading to some tragically funny moments of seeing some drastically different perspectives. As usual, most problems stem from people simply not expressing what they really think. Simple, but not easy, as the saying goes.
The book is about as realistic as they get, a 21st century answer to James Joyce’s The Dead. There is death, and mostly life shrugs and goes on. (less)
The arc of the book is, when all’s said and sifted, a simple little story about the daily lives of devout monks at a small monastery, tracing its hist...more The arc of the book is, when all’s said and sifted, a simple little story about the daily lives of devout monks at a small monastery, tracing its history over a thousand years from a time of dark ages where there is little knowledge to a time of renaissance in learning to a time of technology and nuclear war – all post 21st century.
"All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again…” -J.M. Barrie
After reading this, I am 1) happy I – completely by accident – found this book and 2) very surprised it isn’t on the same level of recognition as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World.
It certainly ought to be, since it is trying to patiently teach the same lesson as the rest that ignorance is dangerous. Possibly the reason it never got its deserved recognition was due to the fact Miller went against the then current Sci-Fi grain and heretically supposed that there will be religion in the Future.
Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Huxley, McCaffrey, Orwell, Roddenberry, Sagan, and a host of other 20th century Sci-Fi writers, were all pretty sure God was going to go the way of the dinosaur in the Future.
However, after the nuclear holocaust, there will be Twinkies and cockroaches – and, Miller speculates, the Catholic Church.
About a thousand years after WWIII has wrought nuclear armageddon, the American southwest closely resembles that of 6th century Europe – lots of howling heathens occasionally banging on the gate, little in the way of technology, infrastructure or literacy, and a religion that has the only library in town.
The events of the nuclear ravishment have been enfolded into the Catholic Church, added to the litany, the same way the New Testament was soldered onto the Old Testament, and the early medieval martyrs were made part of worship.
The Church recognizes as saints the survivors who fought to preserve knowledge shortly after the final war – the Flame Deluge – when mobs attacked them, determined to blame someone for the end of the world as they knew it and those smug politicians and scientists who assured the general populace that an arms race was the only way to keep everyone safe seemed as good a scapegoat as any.
It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince:
"Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m'Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought."
But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself, If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy those others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.
Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.
It all feels distressingly plausible.
So, a brother monk, sometime in the 31st century or so, finds some artifacts in a “fallout” shelter from the time of the Flame Deluge. There’s the usual jostling from his superiors deciding weather or not the relics are real and if anything found disturbs the holy texts, etc, and it all feels very much like a typical episode of Brother Cadfael, albeit one with bands of mutants roaming the countryside, just slightly more viscous than Norman soldiers.
Then, halfway through the book, (view spoiler)[Miller decides to kill off his extremely endearing, affable, likable and innocent main character in a way as pointless and stupid as when Tasha Yar was killed, with absolutely no hope in this case of a reappearance via an angry half-bred child. (hide spoiler)]
Next, the book skips ahead a few centuries to the point where “civilization” such as it is, is finally getting towards the point of moving forward, so of course the Church and State are more than a little at odds with each. And we have the character of Benjamin, who seems to have wandered in from the set of Lost. He also goes by the title of The Wandering Jew, which kind of made me cringe.
And we then skip ahead a few more centuries and tune back in on a humanity which has reached a space faring, expansionist point, once again armed to the teeth with nuclear weaponry and possessing an itchy trigger finger, and one little monastery doing all it can to help to ensure both life and faith continue...
Neat trick, to start off in Mad Max territory, and successfully wind up in the middle of Battlestar Galactica.
This is an example of the subgenre Cold War Sci-Fi Distant-Future Post-Nuclear Armageddon. This was a subgenre commonly seen in books, movies, and tv from about 1955 to 1995. For a brief while this subgenre was seen as hopelessly dated and trite, with people saying to each other, ‘how silly, isn’t it obvious the whole thing would end peacefully once the Russians went broke?’ and ‘isn’t it great to not live in a Time of Fear? So great to live in a Time of Reason?’
From the place of ground zero, O Lord, deliver us. ~ Ch 2
Hhmmm, turns out religion IS important. So much so that people will fight and scream and kill and die over it.
And I tell you what, it’s a whole lot more scary than a robot uprising, zombolyspse, or Martian invasion. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The major theme of this story is that of ‘Passing,’ something that provides plenty of conflict since the usual case is when a member of a Minority att...more The major theme of this story is that of ‘Passing,’ something that provides plenty of conflict since the usual case is when a member of a Minority attempts to pass as a member of the Majority, everyone gets mad.
Members of the Other who are not passing get angry that the person Passing is not proud to BE a member of that ethnicity/race/religion/gender/orientation/etc. There is possibly jealously involved for the Passing member able to “get away with it” or there is anger that Passing is “putting the cause back.”
Members of the Majority get even more angry if someone is exposed as Passing amongst their ranks, vitriol anger of “how dare you trick us! How dare you pretend to be one of us! How dare you muddy the waters of the sharp and clear distinction between Us and Them! How dare you put doubts into our heads that maybe all these categories of ‘better’ groups vs. ‘lesser’ groups is all nonsense!”
It’s a hard, dangerous thing, Passing.
We see all of this, and more, in this book, because Passing is something that happens when you draw a line in the sand and say ‘everyone on this side will be treated well and everyone on the other side will be treated as sub-human’. Of course people are going to try and sneak across that line, especially when it looks like that line will never, ever be erased.
Those lines, those categories, labels, distinction, etc., are, on one hand, as insubstantial as the breath of air used to say the, but on the other hand, human minds being what they are, as solid a mountain range.
This book is an excellent examination of the issue, and a really good mystery as well, as Benjamin January examines the mixed threads of Fact and Fiction that make up the cloak of someone Passing. (less)
A.J. Jacobs, in a light, breezy, funny and informative tone, informs of us of the hands on research he undertook to discover how to try and make every...more A.J. Jacobs, in a light, breezy, funny and informative tone, informs of us of the hands on research he undertook to discover how to try and make every single part of him, from his ears to his toes to his lungs to his skin to his mind to his sleep patterns, as healthy as possible.
When the Founding Fathers wrote about the “pursuit of happiness” it’s unclear if they realized what kind of chain reaction they were starting, as now, as Jacobs documents here, the American culture supports billion dollar industries that promote every conceivable (and some inconceivable) way to make one “healthy.”
For every section – ears, nose, spine, skin, immune system, etc., he does a good job researching, interviewing, and trying two polar views on the subject (eat only meat! / Eat only plants! Or, Sterilize everything! / Bacteria’s good for you!) It reminded me of writing exercises in middle school when you are being taught the fundamentals of pro/con arguments.
A lot of it is snake oil, and lot of it comes down to the fact that people continue to search for that one magic thing – a nut, a fruit, a pill, an exercise, a machine, etc., that will fix everything. (less)