A near perfect book club pick - it foster some great discussion about women's roles (both historically and today), responsibility, true love, childrenA near perfect book club pick - it foster some great discussion about women's roles (both historically and today), responsibility, true love, children, quality time, divorce, the role of the media in the personal lives of famous people, etc.
I started off really disliking both Mamah and Frank, but Mamah became a lot more complicated in the middle of the book. Yes, she abandoned her children, but at least she didn't *just* do it to be with Frank. And how much of her did her children have before this, anyway? Upperclass mothers didn't always have terribly close relationships with their children - nannies and housekeepers (and in Mamah's case, her sister Lizzie) had arguably more day to day importance in their children's lives.
The ending is shocking. And true, which makes it that much harder to absorb. I did eventually get past wanting to know how much of this novel was true, but aspect (fiction about real characters) is still a little weird for me. I wonder how descendants of the novel's real-life characters feel about how everyone was portrayed....more
This is a very well-written book - which frankly surprised me, because it's a book by an archaeologist. In my experience, academic archaeologists areThis is a very well-written book - which frankly surprised me, because it's a book by an archaeologist. In my experience, academic archaeologists are not very good at writing for people who haven't had at least a few years of grad school.
Anyway, this is *much* more accessible to the general reader than Pauketat's previous book (Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians). And this is a very good thing, because there really aren't many books explaining modern archaeology to an interested public.
It's short and it has some great descriptions of an under-appreciated wonder of the prehistoric world located right in the middle of the US. In addition to telling people about Cahokia, and why it's so different from other prehistoric sites in the US, and when it rose and fell, and what kinds of things happened there, Pauketat also describes some of the archaeologists who've worked at Cahokia over the years - their colorful histories and weird foibles - and the accidental discoveries that have accompanied interstate highway construction and suburban sprawl.
I think Pauketat (or his editors) made a very deliberate decision to NOT include any flashy illustrations in this book. He focuses on what he thinks happened at the site (including several quite "ghastly and bizarre" rounds of human sacrifice), describing it as people's actions - part of religion and political ploys - and downplaying the *stuff* itself. A lot of archaeology books are largely pictures of flashy artifacts and skeletons, but Pauketat tries to put the Native people of the past and their ideas foremost.
Unfortunately, a lot of what archaeologists know about the people who lived at Cahokia and their beliefs is....uncertain. We can't ever really know if a certain tribe's stories about "He-who-wears-human-heads-as-earrings" is related to the high status burials at Cahokia that wore "long-nosed God" ear ornaments, or how the culture hero Red Horn was related to Mesoamerican gods and what their connection was to Cahokia's rulers. So a lot of what Pauketat proposes is couched in "perhaps" and "probably", as is noted in O'Hehir's salaciously titled Salon.com article on the book. I think that's the way it has to be.
Pauketat also very deliberately (but not so obviously, to the general reader) downplays the human effects on the ecological and environmental processes at work around Cahokia. In the late 70's and 80's, many archaeologists used an "adaptive" model to explain a lot of what happened in prehistory. Pauketat goes to the other extreme, portraying Cahokia and its "big bang" as a result of specific historical political and religious machinations - which probably does explain a lot of what happened there better (though I'm not really convinced that the supernova in 1054 AD really did set it all off).
These things didn't happen in an environmental vacuum, however. People there did need firewood and food, and these things were undoubtedly harder to get near Cahokia after so many years with so many people living there. But maybe that's a topic for a different book on Cahokia - one that emphasizes environmental history along with human actors? Regardless, this is an important, enjoyable, and long overdue book. I'd have given it 5 stars, but it didn't have that un-put-downable quality that the best non-fiction writers (like Tony Horwitz and Robert Sapolsky) manage to inject into their books. ...more
Interesting, but very uneven collection of articles and recipes and brief descriptions of food in different regions of the US in the 1930's. The MidweInteresting, but very uneven collection of articles and recipes and brief descriptions of food in different regions of the US in the 1930's. The Midwest isn't covered very well (all there is about Michigan is a bit on pioneers and lumberjack camps), but there are some very interesting passages from the South and New England. It's a good book for browsing, if you feel like reading about Florida shrimp pilau or Boston baked beans or lutefisk in MN. ...more
Wow. I don't even know how to classify this novel. Fantasy? Magico-realism? Eco-porn?
It definitely has lots of trash, sex, and magic in it. The plot iWow. I don't even know how to classify this novel. Fantasy? Magico-realism? Eco-porn?
It definitely has lots of trash, sex, and magic in it. The plot isn't as great as it could be - it's more like a long short story.
I was drawn to this because it's set a stone's throw from where I spent the first 18 years of my life, on the banks of the Fox River in northern IL. The main characters are dirt poor and live in trailers in a small town.
The descriptions of the wildlife, the trees, the fish, the flooding garbage, the spring weather, the riverboat, a construction site, the thunderstorm - Stevenson just got it all right. Except I'm pretty sure there aren't any cottonmouths there. The biologists all say they don't come that far north
Pretty amazing fiction....hard to say if you'll like it. You'll probably either love it or hate it. ...more
A rather suspenseful novel about a closeted old gay man living in a small town in Illinois, and what happened to one of his best friends fifty years aA rather suspenseful novel about a closeted old gay man living in a small town in Illinois, and what happened to one of his best friends fifty years ago, and what his brother has been up to since they were estranged.
It was very good, very spot-on in the descriptions of the town (white squirrels, like Olney, IL!) and townsfolk. The only thing I really didn't like was the title - when I finally figured out where it came from, at the end of the book, I thought it didn't fit in well with the rest of the story....more
Meh. I think that this book covers some very important topics (and ones I mostly agree with them about), but the authors go over the top and annoy youMeh. I think that this book covers some very important topics (and ones I mostly agree with them about), but the authors go over the top and annoy you so much with their hyperbole and repetition that by the end of the book you want to throw rocks at their perfect little village of Seaside, FL.
It's all about the "new urbanism" and "traditional neighborhood development" (aka TND or neotraditionalism), if you want to google more.
Anyway, their ideas about urban planning can be summed up by their conclusion:
Quote: No more housing subdivions! No more shopping centers! No more office parks! No more highways! Neighborhoods or nothing! (p. 243). ...more
An interesting short story/graphic novel about readers. From the "After Words":
"...a story about a woman's secret life as a reader. As I worked it alsAn interesting short story/graphic novel about readers. From the "After Words":
"...a story about a woman's secret life as a reader. As I worked it also became a story about the claims that books place on their readers, the imbalance between our inner and outer lives, a cautionary tale of the seduction of the written word. It became of vision of the afterlife as a library, of heaven as a funky old camper filled with everything you've ever read."
I think I would have given this five stars if the illustrations had wowed me as much as the text. Niffenegger illustrated it herself, and although she did a pretty good job, my graphic novel standards are pretty high....more
The best part of this book are the illustrations of all the stuff under the Great Lakes. Something nice to have before you hit the beach at Saugatuck,The best part of this book are the illustrations of all the stuff under the Great Lakes. Something nice to have before you hit the beach at Saugatuck, Mackinac Island, Petosky, or Warren Dunes. Or Chicago, Toledo, or Buffalo, for that matter. ...more