If you liked William Langeweische's American Ground or his writings from the Atlantic Monthly, this is a good book to have.
Ever wonder just how easy...moreIf you liked William Langeweische's American Ground or his writings from the Atlantic Monthly, this is a good book to have.
Ever wonder just how easy it is to build a nuclear bomb? Just take two uranium tablets (at 75 lbs. each), a ladder, and... No spoilers!
Langeweische does a good job countering the prevailing notion that our biggest nuclear threat is terrorism. Langeweische argues that third world countries are much more likely to obtain nukes and then spread them, (see part III) about Pakistan's A.Q. Khan ("The Wrath of Kahn"). LW puts you behind the scenes in today's nuke market and contextualizes the rise of third-world nuclear powers.
Particularly good/horrifying moment: the book begins with a 15 page description of the processes involved in a nuclear explosion. Eeeeeee...
American Pastoral is my ninth Roth book and I found this one to be sad, compassionate, and horrifying. I am used to a Rothian character who grew up in...moreAmerican Pastoral is my ninth Roth book and I found this one to be sad, compassionate, and horrifying. I am used to a Rothian character who grew up in North Jersey, is Jewish, and does some things he regrets with women. The Swede is almost Anti-Rothian in this regard. He tries to please all and self-sacrifices almost pathetical, escapes most of his Jewish roots as he mimics the upper echelon of WASPery, and whose sole focus becomes the horrific acts of his only daugther. Zuckerman (Roth's aging, impotent double) is obsessed with the Swede and sets out to rewrite his life, especially its "Fall" (the three books are called "Paradise Remembered, The Fall, and Paradise Lost).
What I found so touching about American Pastoral is that the main character tries to do all he can for others, and eventually becomes subsumed with ill-feeling towards all he loves. The black and white American life becomes a muddied back-stabber, and the thought processes that Roth outlines in the Swede's head as events unfold is staggeringly in its ability to ellicit alarms of "Oh my god this is what I am thinking..." At one point an emotionally destroyed Swede sits on his back porch and is overcome with claustrophobia about his "perfect" American life. He is overwhelmed with the feeling that as he sits on the back porch, watching the sun set too slow for comfort, that nothing will ever ever happen in his life again. (less)
Amazing collection of profiles including Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Tyson, Tony Blair, and more. The book has five sections: one on Washington politics...moreAmazing collection of profiles including Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Tyson, Tony Blair, and more. The book has five sections: one on Washington politics (included a horrifying article on Katrina), one on authors (Philip Roth included), one with Russian politics, language(learn why Vladimir Putin tries to be boring), Israeli section, including Palestinian and Israeli profiles, and the last on sports figures. (less)
Way to write about Einstein, Einstein! Before reading Isaacson's "Einstein" I had no idea of the full scope of Einstein's discoveries. Using only thou...moreWay to write about Einstein, Einstein! Before reading Isaacson's "Einstein" I had no idea of the full scope of Einstein's discoveries. Using only thought experiments, Einstein tore down 250 years of Newtonian logic. I also learned that he was a fanatical pacifist, though helped in the first stages of urging the US to seek the Atom bomb. He was offered the presidency of Israel and spent the last two decades of his life in Princeton (112 Mercer St). Interestingly, Einstein helped ignite the study of Quantum Physics and yet tried to pull it apart for the rest of his life. Einstein's quest for a unified field theory was seen as tragic and impossible, but Einstein, never one to conform, pursued his wanted theory to his death bed.
A great book for anyone who wants to learn about how revolutionary Einstein was and receive a wonderful education on the events, politics, and science of his lifetime. (less)
Classic, but I have to say, at the risk of some Hitchiker's fan slipping a knife into my ribs, I liked the movie better. More complete (i.e. Douglas A...moreClassic, but I have to say, at the risk of some Hitchiker's fan slipping a knife into my ribs, I liked the movie better. More complete (i.e. Douglas Adams didn't hand in the manuscript half-finished because he was 10 weeks over his deadline).
Bonus points for being a good supplement to Einstein: His Life and Universe. (less)
A collection of three dark dark dark hilarious Irish plays. All three plays overlap and tell the stories of the residents of a small western Irish vil...moreA collection of three dark dark dark hilarious Irish plays. All three plays overlap and tell the stories of the residents of a small western Irish village. Father Welsh, Walsh, Welsh presides over a parrish that tends to murder and committ suicide. From the daughter and mother who hate each other, the brothers who keep each other in a black-mailed contract, and the grave-digger who may or may not have killed his wife, all of these characters can definitely hold a grudge. (less)
Read the first half in a coffee shop and the second half after lunch.
An incredible novel about a rural Irish boy growing up filled with intense ambiv...moreRead the first half in a coffee shop and the second half after lunch.
An incredible novel about a rural Irish boy growing up filled with intense ambivalence (emabarassnment, empathy, fear, hatred, love) about his manic-depressive father. Boy also filled with intense ambivalence about the priesthood; feels he should enter if only if he could kick that masturbation habit. Ambivalent about education; scores well enough to make it into school in Dublin but doesn't know if it is what he wants. Ambivalent. Dark. Etc.
Burned and banned when it was written. Obviously because no one in Ireland is ambivalent about anything.
This book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampl...moreThis book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampling the Asian teas from the top of a pagoded camel, smiling at your Mohammedean fez-headed domestic servant condescendingly... ahh...
Apparently, Imperialism can be a good thing. Countries of old British colonialism were given decent infrastructures (in exchange for total subserviance), not to mention America's two big post-occupied nations of Japan and Germany... Ferguson, after going through an exciting history of America's imperial escapades up to World War II, gives the reader a good sense of post World War II America as the almost-Empire--always nervous to utter the "E"-word, always one foot in and one foot out of the pool. "We're going to leave any time now" seems to be the American mantra Day 1 of any occupation.
Ferguson was actually able to sway my personal stance on the Iraq war, though it would not be a popular opinion among most Post-Mid-Term Election Americans. Unfortunately, the last third of the book lags as Ferguson begins to show the economic side of imperialism, and me, not one for the numbers, was admittingly a bit lost.
Still, a good book to learn about Free Trade, Liberal Empires, and somber realities. (less)
I like to imagine an angry mother yelling out, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez" (just has so much rythymn) because this book just makes me love the craziness...moreI like to imagine an angry mother yelling out, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez" (just has so much rythymn) because this book just makes me love the craziness inherent in large extended families. If you like this one, definitely check out Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family.
Won the Nobel Prize for Best Supporting Actors. The book is full of interesting characters doing interesting things. They are all passionate, sad, lonely, in love, unable to love, succumb to heredity, try to break free of national and family bonds, become ghosts, angels, pigs, and live out 100 years in one house. So sad and so human.
Enjoy the rhythmn of the story-telling-a kind of "and then this happened, and then this happened,"-that refuses to waste time pounding in symbolism and metaphor, opting instead to just let it all unfold. Marquez said that he was mimicing his grandmother and the way she took magic as just a happenstance. Beautiful. (less)
What is so amazing about this book is that it is almost exclusively narratives of the Ethiopians alive during Haile Sallasie's reign. The reporter har...moreWhat is so amazing about this book is that it is almost exclusively narratives of the Ethiopians alive during Haile Sallasie's reign. The reporter hardly inserts himself and his views, which is impressive, considering he was from Communist Poland. He never tries to skew the narrative of his book, that is, of a complex African Emperor manipulating the people around him to help themselves--the denial on part of all involved in the Ethiopian regime is staggering.
Each Ethiopian, denoted by initials only, shares moments of what they observed in a corrupt and strangely anachronistic regime. A good read for anyone interesting in journalism and African history. Word has t that the author learned his prose from Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (less)
I initially felt obligated to give Hamlet 4 stars (collective gasp from English majors (my inner English major included)), but I just love seeing Shak...moreI initially felt obligated to give Hamlet 4 stars (collective gasp from English majors (my inner English major included)), but I just love seeing Shakespeare and reading him, as I am untrained, just makes my mind wander.
However, while a different edition could have helped me pick up more lingual nuances, I have to say that I got a pretty good read from this version.
One thing I noticed is the incredible amount of fathers screwing over sons and sons avenging those fathers nonetheless. Hamlet and Hamlet Sr. Fortinbras (Norweigon son) and Fortinbras Sr. Polonius and Laertes.
Also, a healthy obsession with death on Hamlet's part. If I read it again in an academic setting, I would probably give the read one more star. (less)
**spoiler alert** One of Roth's funnier books. Kidding. I cannot tell you how depressed I was after finishing this short novel. The title was the kick...more**spoiler alert** One of Roth's funnier books. Kidding. I cannot tell you how depressed I was after finishing this short novel. The title was the kicker too; hauntingly reminds the reader of every human mortality and the tediousness of studying morality plays in high school.
This is a book about the betrayel of the body and is a morbid reminder that while you are the king of your consciousness, your body is something that can be wholly other, a ticking time bomb that one day that will end your short existence. Like I said, hiiiiilaaaarrriiiious!
Roth has always spent a good deal of time writing about physical issues: Sex and Death (our greatest preoccupations) (see Sabbath's Theater) and this book lands pretty hard on both. As Everyman's body ages, his taste in women reverses. Trying to stay young? The betrayel of the physical form is a very Rothian focus, spending time on the degeneration of the body--Zuckerman ages, and goes through prostrate cancer, which invariably takes him away from being a main character in his narratives. This is very apparent in the novels The Human Stain and American Pastoral where the subject is older men and Zuckerman reminds the reader of his ailments--while his preoccupation with own body ends (or perhaps he feels less after becoming impotent), his obsession with other peoples' begins (see the Swede, Coleman Silk)...
And now in Everyman we have the cold hard facts. A man's life lived out before us. He remains unnamed and dies a mundane death, unconscious during surgery. This is a hard book to read straight up, but put into the context of Roth's other novels, a definite powerful addition to the aging author's library.(less)