(I want to read this because of the New York Times’ ‘essai’, Montaigne’s Moment (March 10, 2011). There’s a copy of Montaigne in the Great Books serie...more(I want to read this because of the New York Times’ ‘essai’, Montaigne’s Moment (March 10, 2011). There’s a copy of Montaigne in the Great Books series my folks have had since I was a wee lad, so that’s covered. But Bakewell’s companion is somewhat oversubscribed at my library: “37 holds on first copy returned of 23 copies”. Of course, it isn’t as if I don’t have enough stuff on my TBR shelf.)(less)
The book is a collection of forty short essays — some only a page or two — depicting variations on life after death. Some are delightful and scintillating, others not quite as much. But they're all so short that even the duds aren't really disappointing, since they're over so quickly.
I checked and found some stuff on this author and book that might further your appetite: NPR did ‘Afterlives’: 40 Stories Of What Follows Death (about 30 minutes); and the Guardian UK has an extensive collection of pieces, including two short video interviews, audio excerpts from his book read by Stephen Fry, Jarvis Cocker and Emily Blunt, as well as several articles from Eagleman (see here). Apparently Stephen Fry tweeted about his reading and sent the sales of the book skyrocketing. Lucky author!
I had a few favorites. I'm not sure listing them makes much sense, but here goes…
Some were amusingly ironic: Chapter 2: Egalitaire, Chapter 6: Mary, Chapter 17: Perpetuity Others were bittersweet or sad: Chapter 3: Circle of Friends, Chapter 7: The Cast, Chapter 8: Metamorphosis Or both ironic and very sad: Chapter 16: Mirrors One foretold the future of Facebook: Chapter 25: Death Switch Another was just deliciously insightful: Chapter 27: Prism And unclassifiable: Chapter 28: Ineffable (less)
The whole anthology is excellent, as they always are, but the story that really stuck in my memory is Michael Swanwick's "The Dead", which is possibl...moreThe whole anthology is excellent, as they always are, but the story that really stuck in my memory is Michael Swanwick's "The Dead", which is possibly one of the best zombie stories ever written.
I was discussing the distinction between zombies and ghouls with a co-worker, and a few days later he loaned me this book with that story bookmarked. It has zombies and technology in a bone-chilling dystopic vision: what more could you want?(less)
Krugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics just a few days after I checked this out of the library. I'd been reading his essays in the NYT for years, an...moreKrugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics just a few days after I checked this out of the library. I'd been reading his essays in the NYT for years, and his books had been on my to-be-read list for almost as long.
This set of essays is easy to read, mostly. At times the concepts can get a bit slippery to those of us that might not sufficiently remember enough about macroeconomics. They are a bit dated, however, dealing with events of the mid-to-late nineties, and I kept wondering whether and to what extent history had proved him right or wrong. For example, I believe France, whose economic planning he disparages, actually did quite well in the following years. However, they might have also shifted their planning to align more with his prescriptions.
I'd recommend the book as a pretty easy read to those that are curious about and at least somewhat conversant with economic theory. I do wish his articles were as amusing as Galbraith's, but that is perhaps asking for too much.(less)
Quote from page 67, in Richard Preston's bio essay on Craig Venter, "The Genome Warrior" (originally published in The New Yorker):
I placed some of the DNA on the ends of my fingers and rubbed them together. The stuff was sticky. It began to dissolve on my skin. "It's melting -- like cotton candy." "Sure. That's the sugar in the DNA," Smith said. "Would it taste sweet?" "No. DNA is an acid, and it's got salts in it. Actually, I've never tasted it." Later, I got some dried calf DNA. I placed a bit of the fluff on my tongue. It melted into a gluey ooze that stuck to the roof of my mouth in a blob. The blob felt slippery on my tongue, and the taste of pure DNA appeared. It had a soft taste, unsweet, rather bland, with a touch of acid and a hint of salt. Perhaps like the earth's primordial sea. It faded away.
The Secret Sharer is a peculiar story. It is quick -- the whole thing is only a few dozen pages long, and can be read in something like an hour. And it is certainly not complex: the plot is very basic.
Conrad's prose is a pleasure to read, as always. Despite the fact that it was written towards the end of the Edwardian period, an odd Victorian vibe drives this story, which is both its strength and major flaw. Conrad explores a kind mystical conception of the human spirit, heightening the effect that extreme emotions or experiences can have on the psyche. Heart of Darkness deals with the impact on the soul, while Secret Sharer is a story dealing with psychological tension. It is worth noting that Freud's first major contributions were made between the publications of Heart of Darkness (1899) and Secret Sharer (1910).
The impact these experiences have on the major figures within these two stories is vastly exaggerated when compared to modern expectations. This still continues to work well in Heart of Darkness, since a man's spirit and soul are still objects of mystery. But the captain in Secret Sharer has a psychological reaction that, while hauntingly portrayed, seems quaint and naive, and distinctly from another time.
Conrad's mastery of english makes the book an enjoyable oddity -- worth reading, especially since it takes so little time.
Update, including some spoilers: Knowing how limited my awareness of allegorical content is, I examined the CliffsNotes study guide on this (and Heart of Darkness).
Wow, did I miss a lot. It turns out Conrad is using a doppelgänger theme: Leggatt is similar to the Captain in many ways, to the point that the latter often refers to Leggatt as his double. But the Captain, new to his command, is timid and anxious, whereas Leggatt is cunning and forceful. The captain's recognition of their similarities begets respect, and the desire to protect Leggatt -- but that is a risky endeavor, and forces him to become cunning and forceful -- thus avoiding the contrasting fate of the old captain of the other ship, who is weak and foolish. Thus, an allegory of psychological integration during a career crisis.