The fascist utopian setting was appalling. The contention that crime/social decay occurred because parents stopped takiOr: The anti-Full Metal Jacket.
The fascist utopian setting was appalling. The contention that crime/social decay occurred because parents stopped taking the belt to their kids is laughably simplistic if not totally ignorant (Old Man Heinlein: Kids these days!!! Hrumph!). Heinlein's justification for galactic imperialism? Because we can (manifest destiny) and if we don't spread through the universe those non-human bugs who practice collectivism (communism) will. While I think Heinlein was trying to be open-minded toward women, he comes off sounding paternalistic and condescending, viewing women primarily as objects that are meant to drive the desires of men (but hey, they're good at math!). The wide-eyed support of the military industrial complex doesn't read well to modern ears. Why are we fighting the 'bugs'? Because they ain't us. I couldn't help comparing this (negatively) to Ender's Game. Say what you want about Orson Scott Card's personal views, he writes with a nuance and self-awareness that is sadly lacking in Heinlein's militaristic future. It's almost like Ender's Game was a response to Starship Troopers.
I will say this: I kept turning the pages. Despite the fact that I fundamentally disagreed with Heinlein on almost every philosophical point, it was a diverting and well-written book. Parts of it were slow, unrealistic plot twists were added in at key points for little apparent reason, and almost half the book was devoted to the main character's boot camp experience. All in all though, something kept me coming back. There were interesting points about leadership and group dynamics that I can probably apply to actual real life situations, for example.
Heinlein totally discredits himself as a philosopher, but has more than enough juice as a sci-fi writer to make me open to reading more of his stuff. Perhaps the author's greatest success was making me care about a story that seems to be blatant propaganda for a worldview that I adamantly oppose. I don't usually put down books like that. I throw them. Or I never start them....more
Loved it. I had heard of Munroe's site, xkcd, but hadn't really followed it. Munroe's funny, engaging, thoughtful book is for anyone who has wonderedLoved it. I had heard of Munroe's site, xkcd, but hadn't really followed it. Munroe's funny, engaging, thoughtful book is for anyone who has wondered things like:
What would happen if a baseball were pitched at relativistic speeds?
What would happen if we made a periodic table of actual elements?
What would happen if we lost all the DNA in our body instantaneously?
The answer is usually some variation of: Nothing good. But told with humor and insight.
You do not have to be a genius or a scientist to understand or appreciate this book. I would recommend it especially for younger readers, particularly those who ask questions like the ones above. The most important thing a person can do is ask a question about the world around them, no matter how ridiculous. It's neat that Munroe took these ridiculous questions and gave thoughtful, serious answers to them....more
I agree with other reviews that this one meanders a bit. It's about a third too long and there are lots of irrelevant characters and situations that cI agree with other reviews that this one meanders a bit. It's about a third too long and there are lots of irrelevant characters and situations that could have probably been cut in the editing process. Also, his attempts to write a couple characters' dialogue in dialect is a total fail. There are lots of reasons why this is an important book.
1. It's an interesting look back at Vonnegut's style of satire and social commentary with snappy prose that's deceptively saturated with deep insight. If this was the only book Vonnegut ever wrote, it would still be better than many authors' best books.
2. Vonnegut correctly foresees the ramifications of America's looming (in his day) loss of manufacturing and blue collar work. Turns out that rather than mechanization alone, a combination of mechanization and overseas workers sounded the death knell of American manufacturing. But still, he anticipated the real problem facing most normal people in the post-WWII world: loss of purpose, loss of dignity in labor.
3. For some reason this struck me as the anti-Rand. I've never read Ayn Rand, but from what I can gather it seems like an appropriate comparison.
4. In a bit of a throwaway aside, Vonnegut cleverly introduces us to a world in which college football players are paid!
5. Somewhat funny in retrospect that Pittsburgh is seen as the manufacturing hub of the East where the most desirable managerial jobs are. See #2.
6. This is dystopian literature before it became cool. Like 50 years before it became cool.
7. He totally nails the corporate rhetoric (and pretty much just leaves it alone to demonstrate its inherent absurdity), probably thanks to his time at GM.
8. Though subversive, its tone is a lot gentler than much of Vonnegut's later works, and the ending is pretty realistic.
9. Reminds me of 'Fight Club' in very significant ways. But 40-odd years earlier.
Anyway, worth a read for Vonnegut fans. Probably if you get around to reading this you are a pretty hardcore Vonnegut fan anyway....more
Probably not something I'd read again, but what the heck I found it for a couple bucks at the local used bookstore. If I could rate them separately I'Probably not something I'd read again, but what the heck I found it for a couple bucks at the local used bookstore. If I could rate them separately I'd give 'Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters' four stars and 'Seymour' three stars.
'Roof Beam' was very smooth and well written in a style similar to what I remember of Franny and Zooey. There's not much 'there' there in terms of how the story develops. Salinger balances humor and pathos, neurotic characters and bossy characters, while developing the close relationship between Buddy and Seymour, revealing how maladjusted both are. Salinger does reveal himself as a nimble writer who can balance many complicated characters and emotions. If his unpublished stuff is like 'Roof Beams', then I'll probably enjoy reading them. If they ever materialize.
'Seymour' on the other hand...
Put bluntly, it was barely readable. The style was strange and rambling, with even less of a point than 'Roof Beams'. Also, both Buddy and Seymour come off as being far less likable than in the first work. However, there is a scene where Buddy is playing marbles and Seymour gives him some advice that really sticks out in my mind. And also Buddy says some interesting things along the way, don't get me wrong, it just takes far too much effort on the reader's part to get there. Most interestingly, Buddy implies that he is the 'author' of The Catcher in the Rye. Neat Easter Egg implying that all of Salinger's works may be interrelated.
Is anybody else reminded of The Royal Tenenbaums when they read about the Glass family?...more
Really fantastic story that gets at the real Jesse Owens while paying tribute to his one-of-a-kind talents. I'd heard a lot about the '36 Olympics butReally fantastic story that gets at the real Jesse Owens while paying tribute to his one-of-a-kind talents. I'd heard a lot about the '36 Olympics but had no idea exactly HOW out of this world Owens was. Schaap's writing is subdued and informational and he knows how much to temper the athletics with the human interest. It's a compelling read, even though I knew how the story was going to end. I knew that Owens and the other African-American athletes at that games exploded the Aryan superman myth, but I had no idea that Owens and a German athlete, Luz Long, became very good friends until Long was killed in WWII or that rather than hating him as a non-Aryan, the vast majority of Germans seemed to adore Owens and to have treated him very well. After all, the same blood courses through all of our veins, regardless of what racists and despots incorrectly think.
Schaap pays appropriate tribute to Owens' ability and to the struggles against racism that he faced at home and abroad. Schaap neither deifies nor disrespects Owens. Well worth a read if you've heard of Owens but don't really know much about him....more
I read this just after 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold'. Le Carre's first book, it introduces the enigmatic George Smiley (who features briefly inI read this just after 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold'. Le Carre's first book, it introduces the enigmatic George Smiley (who features briefly in 'The Spy', and by the way you should read that before you read any other Le Carre...it is a masterpiece). 'Call' is a fairly standard murder mystery on the surface and you get to see Smiley Sherlock his way through it, after getting nearly murdered himself by a man who will resurface in 'The Spy Who...'. It's quite obvious that the author's talents are huge, and his potential palpable, especially in a tired genre that very few writers can elevate in any meaningful way.
The plot is developed skillfully, the characters are subdued but believable, and there's a surprising level of depth here. It left me wanting to read all of the Smiley books....more
A bit of a slow read at first. Initially I thought this would rival Galapagos or Timequake as my least favorite Vonnegut book. But I ended up really lA bit of a slow read at first. Initially I thought this would rival Galapagos or Timequake as my least favorite Vonnegut book. But I ended up really liking it. True, KV recycles a lot of his constant themes (man's inhumanity to man, the military industrial complex's inhumanity to man, capitalism's inhumanity to man, etc.) but introduces a memorable narrator and a little bit of art criticism along the way. The ending is great bordering on poignant. If you've read enough KV to be reading Bluebeard, then you probably aren't turned off by the meandering sometimes plot-less style and you've probably built up enough good will toward KV to make it through the first 30 or so pages....more
I've read almost every one of King's books, not counting some of the Bachman books and some of the one off stories and recent novels. That being said,I've read almost every one of King's books, not counting some of the Bachman books and some of the one off stories and recent novels. That being said, this is the book I resisted reading the most. Why? I think mainly because I knew that it was 'psychically' linked to 'Gerald's Game' (which was horrible). But also because I didn't find the plot as compelling as some of his other books. And also because the various local libraries for some reason never seemed to have a copy. And yes I'll be honest, a novel about an old lady recounting how she killed her husband didn't seem all that original and I was not sure King was up to the task. It's not that it was a book about a woman or even a Stephen King book about a woman. There are lots of books with female leads that I love (Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' and the Harry Potter books to name a few...I'm always on the lookout for strong female characters on behalf of my daughters (which is the same reason I was so disappointed with Katniss Everdeen, by the way...so much potential wasted in the third book)), and King's 'Lisey's Story', 'Rose Madder' and 'IT' all prominently feature strong, well-characterized female leads just to name a few.
Well: you should not judge something before you read it. 'Dolores Claiborne' kept me reading. It was tense and suspenseful and it was clearly an effort that King took seriously. There is nothing before or since that he's written that's exactly like this. It's Serious Literature. The book doesn't always succeed, but Claiborne is a very compelling character. I wished she'd shown up elsewhere in King's writing through the years. Written from her perspective in her own Maine vernacular she is tough, charming, uneducated but intelligent, loving toward her children, and SO funny. King nails the sassy tough as nails country woman without making her seem like a bumpkin cliche or patronizing her. However, the link to Gerald's Game was totally unnecessary and didn't do anything for either book beyond distracting readers from DC's compelling and sweetly meandering narrative. Also there was not anything super memorable about it like there is for me from, say, The Shining or The Dark Tower or IT. For that reason four stars. But this book proves once and for all that King can write anything he wants to write from humor to horror and everything in between. His depth and range and talent are unbelievable....more
Well-written and well-researched book that would make a good starting point for someone who is new to King's writing. Once I started I could not put iWell-written and well-researched book that would make a good starting point for someone who is new to King's writing. Once I started I could not put it down. The main plot device is a time tunnel from the present day back to 1958. It is the same day in 1958 no matter how many times you go through the tunnel. The main character, an English teacher from Maine named Jake goes back in time to 1958 as 'George' to put a stop to the Kennedy assassination. Along the way he stops in Derry, Maine which is a welcome departure on the road to Dallas on 11/22/63. Cool Easter Eggs for fans in the know are lengthy references to the characters and events of 'IT' (also set around the time of Jake's trip there). Like Sam in Quantum Leap, there's something Jake has to put right in Derry before he can move on. From there George has some time to kill so he travels down to Florida and finally arrives in the ugly place that is Dallas in the late fifties/early sixties. During this section, which is also a page turner, we get emotionally invested in Jake/George's new life as a popular, successful small town English teacher while leading a double life spying on Oswald's family to make sure he was indeed acting alone. Jake gets more and more invested in his new life as he falls head over heels for a librarian named Sadie. Then events with Oswald start to take off.
I debated about giving this four stars rather than five because I felt so let down and cheated by the ending. But for all that it was a superb read with cool time travel concepts (a mean feat considering how terrible many time travel books can be), a great emotional story and historical aspects. Also, I wished King's narrator would have stopped referring to the past as 'obdurate' after about the seventeenth time, though the concept of a self-correcting semi-sentient past is a neat one. ...more
Foer's 9/11 book, a somewhat haphazard story told mainly from the perspective of a nine year old boy who lost his father when the towers collapsed. BoFoer's 9/11 book, a somewhat haphazard story told mainly from the perspective of a nine year old boy who lost his father when the towers collapsed. Both of his grandparents pen chapters as well, and their story becomes a parallel with the story of his grief. It works well as a way of exploring grief, loss, family bonds and above all the nature of adolescence in the face of tragedy. At times it was funny, at other times it was moving. There was aching loss bookended by a cool detective story concerning a key found taped to the bottom of a vase.
Beneath all of that, it's a story of the relationship between fathers and sons....more
Probably one of the most harrowing books I have ever read. I could not put it down.
Steve seems to touch on pretty much every major theme from his imprProbably one of the most harrowing books I have ever read. I could not put it down.
Steve seems to touch on pretty much every major theme from his impressive body of work. I know the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, but to me 'The Shining' is still his best (and most culturally significant) work, and Danny Torrance is one of his great protagonists. It was neat to see him as an adult.
In significant ways, this is about every child who is forced to bear more than any childhood should bear. It's about the legacy that fathers pass on to sons. It's about the mothers and fathers who try hard but fail, passively or actively. It is about alcoholism, destiny, purpose, and above all redemption.
And it's also about psychic vampires who abduct and torture children who have the 'shine' so that they can live forever. There had to be a monster in there somewhere, right?
Obviously it references 'The Shining' (Jack Torrence, Danny's dad, even makes a cameo), but also 'Salem's Lot', 'IT', Castle Rock, The Dark Tower books ('ka is a wheel' vs. 'life is a wheel'), and even mentions his son Joe's work (possibly both authors are writing characters in the same world?).
I loved this book. Loved it. But as a parent, it also deeply troubled me. I guess that's King at his best, right?...more
Overall, I liked this a tad less than 'Guns, Germs, and Steel'. There were quite a few interesting moments, especially ones that forced me to think ofOverall, I liked this a tad less than 'Guns, Germs, and Steel'. There were quite a few interesting moments, especially ones that forced me to think of my (for want of a better phrase) moral values and the extent to which they are influenced by societal context. For example, how we treat the very young or the very old.
Diamond compares traditional societies to modern western societies (WEIRD: western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic), and I do think that those traditional societies can teach us how to lead more balanced, well rounded lives. The one criticism I have of Diamond is that he really loves to belabor a point, and it can be very dry at times. However, I felt a huge strength of this book was his ability to draw upon personal experiences in New Guinea to illustrate his points. Those were the most memorable and engaging moments.
"What counts in friendship is whether people like each other and share interests, not whether one's group is politically allied with the other person's group."
"The flip side of that overriding emphasis on social networks in traditional societies is our greater emphasis on the individual in modern state societies, especially in the US."
"Instead, they produce individuals capable of coping with big challenges and dangers while still enjoying their lives."
"Given that people do differ in language, religion, ethnicity, and political view, the only alternative to tyranny or mass killing is for people to live together in mutual tolerance."...more
You could bury this in a time capsule for fifty years, dig it up and give it to somebody who had been born since you buried it and it would still carrYou could bury this in a time capsule for fifty years, dig it up and give it to somebody who had been born since you buried it and it would still carry just as much weight and be just as relevant as on the day that you buried it. From a literary standpoint, it's not as good as some of his other stuff (The top three being 'Sirens of Titan', 'Cat's Cradle' and 'Slaughterhouse-Five'). The plot and character development is clearly just a (sometimes uneven) means to his true end. It's more like a manifesto (or like THE manifesto) that runs through much of Vonnegut's work.
Agree or disagree with him, at least you always know where Vonnegut stands. The book is about class distinction and economic disparity, a criticism of the lingering 'maker vs. taker' ethos. By art echoing life, it blows a hole into the simple assumption that the super wealthy are all morally superior to the very poor, as if money were the major determinant or sign of a person's value/goodness/righteousness/closeness to God.
The protagonist, Eliot Rosewater, is a Senator's son from Indiana who fights in WW2 and comes back from the war totally changed (Senator Rosewater would say 'deranged'). What's interesting to me is that Eliot, the newly appointed chair of the 'Rosewater Foundation', decides to start giving away the Foundation's endowment bit by bit. He gives it generously, without regard to who he is giving it to. His only question is: "What can I do for you?" It turns out that lots of people in desperate circumstances are just lonely and lost and want to talk. Others need money, and Eliot gives it to them, knowing that many of them have been so marginalized by generational poverty and lack of access to opportunity that they are not likely to ever appreciate his gift. The important thing was that Eliot saw each person, even his father whom he displays tremendous compassion for and genuine sorrow for upsetting him, as an actual person. He actually gets to know the class of people that his father despises, and while he doesn't actually like all of them, he at least tries to care for them.
At the very end of the novel something profound happens. Eliot declares that every child in Rosewater County, Indiana (the population his Foundation has been primarily serving) will be legally adopted as his child and heir.
"Let their names be Rosewater from this moment on. And tell them that their father loves them, no matter what they may turn out to be. And tell them...and tell them to be fruitful and multiply!"
In other words, he has lavished an identity upon them that they did not deserve or warrant. Though certainly not a one to one comparison, I can hear echoes of the New Testament (and direct quotation from the Old) in that closing declaration. I'm certain that this was Vonnegut's intention. Though he was not a person of faith, I'm certain the character of Eliot Rosewater is intended to give good hearted people of faith a moment of pause in which to reconsider the practical expression of said faith.
One other quote that struck me as I read this book:
"Poverty is a relatively mild disease for even a very flimsy American soul, but uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike, and kill every time. We must find a cure."
That last quote has been staring me in the face since the sequester in March of '13....more
Great first book by one of my friends and college classmates. It's an insightful deconstruction of how modern Christian culture has replaced the revolGreat first book by one of my friends and college classmates. It's an insightful deconstruction of how modern Christian culture has replaced the revolutionary teachings of Jesus with various strategies designed to cover up our 'smell'.
One observation in particular struck me, which is that the fruits of the Spirit (kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc.) contain 'seeds' just like literal fruit. In fact, when these fruits are manifest in a person's life, it's like they are sowing seeds that may grow in the 'soil' around them.
I have to say though, that I am mildly disappointed that there were exactly zero references to professional wrestling. Hopefully in his next book Jamie can rectify that situation....more