Lively and droll literary criticism. Adams traces a modern rhetoric of “bad” language, i.e. as used to insult, lie, and shock. Though he’s a curmudgeo...moreLively and droll literary criticism. Adams traces a modern rhetoric of “bad” language, i.e. as used to insult, lie, and shock. Though he’s a curmudgeonly conservative, with a broad disdain for Marxists that I don’t share, his concern for the integrity of language is sincere. And he can be very funny:
"...the insult majestic may embody considerable duplicity of thought and even a delayed explosion of implication. Doctor Johnson, being rowed down the Thames by a sculler, was assailed from the shore (as custom then was) by a foulmouthed fellow with a very generous flow of invective. Having endured as much as a man decently could, he turned on the scurrilist and said loudly and deliberately, “Sir, your mother, under pretext of keeping a bawdy house, was a receiver of stolen goods.” The subordinate clause provides at once the balance and the dynamic of this insult. “Under pretext of” gives evidence of judicious discrimination between appearance and reality; yet it implies that the man’s mother, casting about for the most decent front she could find for her fencing operations, could imagine nothing better than running a whorehouse. There is no way to make pretext or pretense of running a whorehouse except by running one, so that implication stands too. It is an extraordinarily opulent sentence; yet balanced, objective, and perfectly simple. One would like to think the recipient took it home and thought about it for several weeks.
In much the same vein is a pronunciamento of Bill Klem, the Old Arbitrator, to a quarrelsome batter who was protesting a called third strike. “Sir, you are an applehead.” Here no latent subtleties cry out for exegesis, no hazy definition requires resolution. It is one of those heavy pronouncements to which the English declarative sentence lends itself. Not an implication or an overtone impairs the dignity of the speaker; his key word falls with the impact of a cleaver, but it is not, and was not a cliche. “Applehead” has the special aroma of a word invented or discovered perhaps in a rural setting, ripened in the speaker’s mind for years, and exploded at this moment against the one tedious numskull in the major leagues fatuous enough to deserve it." (less)
Oh boy! This may be my favorite of all the Joan Aiken books. Dido Twite is simply one of the greatest characters I've ever read. I wonder if anyone wr...moreOh boy! This may be my favorite of all the Joan Aiken books. Dido Twite is simply one of the greatest characters I've ever read. I wonder if anyone writing today could handle the challenge of a story with an adult Dido as protagonist?
"At the beginning, Dido is an eccentric, somewhat snappy child, with little to endear her. It is not long, however, before Simon and the reader begin to see something attractive in the ‘‘brat’’ (p. 23). Initially it is her ‘‘forlorn, neglected air’’ but soon her quirky slang language becomes her hallmark. At first it is the odd word or phrase: ‘‘jellyboy’’ or ‘‘wotcher my cully.’’ But once she gets into her stride, Dido’s language increases in its use of original early nineteenth century slang, her variations upon it, and a totally made-up but authentic-sounding idiolect. Into the first category come words such as ‘‘havey-cavey,’’ ‘‘mint-sauce,’’ and ‘‘sapskull.’’ The second includes ‘‘betwaddled,’’ and ‘‘tipple-topped.’’ In the last come words for which I can find no dictionary meaning: ‘‘croopus!’’, ‘‘lobbed his groats’’ and ‘‘in the nitch.’’ Although Dido is not the sole user of dialect or slang, the originality of her speech is intrinsic to her character and helps endear her to the reader. Her language is evocative and does not necessitate a constant recourse to the dictionary: a meaning can always be derived from the context. What it evokes is the language of the time and it epitomises Dido Twite."
--Lathey, G. A havey-cavey business: language in historical fiction with particular reference to the novels of Joan Aiken and Leon Garfield in Historical Fiction for Children: Capturing the Past, F.M. Collins, and J. Graham, eds., London: David Fulton Publishers, 2001. (less)
I'd never have gotten past the title if NotCathy hadn't recommended it, but it's actually quite good. Dystopian near-future NYC setting, plausible dia...moreI'd never have gotten past the title if NotCathy hadn't recommended it, but it's actually quite good. Dystopian near-future NYC setting, plausible dialogue, interesting racial & gender themes, a rough coming of age tale.(less)
Raymond Smullyan cautions that a purely psychological explanation of a belief constitutes no rational evidence for or against the truth value of the b...moreRaymond Smullyan cautions that a purely psychological explanation of a belief constitutes no rational evidence for or against the truth value of the belief. But I find the link that Greven makes here between belief in an Apocalypse and the childhood experience of corporal punishment to be very compelling. The self-descriptions of evangelical parents forcing themselves to beat their children because they believe their faith requires it of them are harrowing. A humane book.(less)
This is my favorite kind of science writing, done by someone in love with the physical world, who skillfully communicates how amazing their object of...moreThis is my favorite kind of science writing, done by someone in love with the physical world, who skillfully communicates how amazing their object of study is. It got to a point where I was dogearing most pages. Moss is awesome, the first stuff to cling to land out of the primordial ocean. You can freeze it to almost absolute zero, then add a drop of water and it's good to go. Kimmerer is an astute observer not only of plants but of people as well. Her chapter 'The Owner,' about her encounter with a deranged, secretive billionaire and his preposterous landscaping, could stand on its own as an ecological manifesto. Excellent. (less)
While not quite as fully realized as his other book, Albion's Dream, this book begins with a great premise. A youngster slips into an alternate kind o...moreWhile not quite as fully realized as his other book, Albion's Dream, this book begins with a great premise. A youngster slips into an alternate kind of time where our world freezes in place, and trees become both sentient and mobile. And they have very strong personalities!(less)
I don't know why, considering that he writes such genuinely creepy scenarios, but Lovecraft's rhetorical style is so over the top that it makes me lau...moreI don't know why, considering that he writes such genuinely creepy scenarios, but Lovecraft's rhetorical style is so over the top that it makes me laugh. Like, life may be challenging, but at least disembodied time-travelling omniscient aliens from deep space aren't insinuating themselves into our lives and personalities at this very moment. Right?(less)
I am amazed by much of what she does: strong-willed & smart young protagonists, dizzying plots, a delight in lang...moreI am on a major Joan Aiken kick.
I am amazed by much of what she does: strong-willed & smart young protagonists, dizzying plots, a delight in language including excellent cockney slang, a fine historical sense for detail, and the occasional odd metaphysical touch such as telepathy or Arthurian legends come to life. What a genius! I have enjoyed everything I've read by her, and am pleased she was so prolific because there's so much left to explore.
This book finds her in a more restrained Dickensian mode (no sea captains obsessed with pink whales). Young Lucas and Anna-Marie must fend for themselves in industrializing Blastburn, and Aiken's portrayal of the industrial revolution in England is spot-on. While the book succeeds as an adventure story, it would be particularly good for young readers working their way towards difficult questions about work, wealth, and "progress." (less)
Klein provides trenchant analysis of the human costs of fundamentalist free-market privatization policies. She gives case after outrageous case.
This b...moreKlein provides trenchant analysis of the human costs of fundamentalist free-market privatization policies. She gives case after outrageous case.
This book is a valuable tool for understanding the politics and history of the last 50 years.
One aspect of the book I think especially timely is her analysis of torture as a state policy designed to intimidate populations resistant to neoliberal economic schemes. It makes anyone who uses that old "But what if you had a terrorist who knew where a bomb was, and it was going to go off in 5 minutes? Isn't torture OK then?" line look naive and/or misinformed.
For anyone involved in thinking about ways to transform global capitalism into something that doesn't generate greater poverty and destroy natural resources without limit, this book is essential. (less)