Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced another excellent translation, this time of short stories by Nikolai Leskov. The book includes The Enchanted WandPevear and Volokhonsky have produced another excellent translation, this time of short stories by Nikolai Leskov. The book includes The Enchanted Wanderer and sixteen other stories (such as "Lefty" and "The Spook", which I enjoyed) written between 1865 and 1887. Leskov wrote at a similar time as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev, but his writing was very different. He influenced later writers such as Chekhov, Bulgakov, and more modern writers. I definitely recommend the book. The introduction, footnotes, and endnotes by the translators are useful too. The only thing I didn't like was that a couple of Leskov's earlier stories include occasional negative stereotypes about Gypsies and Jews, which I found jarring, but translators and editors shouldn't really omit the occasional offensive remark, especially in historically important work. I hope you'll enjoy these stories too, warts and all....more
This is an interesting book, and definitely worth reading. In each chapter of Green Gone Wrong, Heather Rogers documents the successes and failures ofThis is an interesting book, and definitely worth reading. In each chapter of Green Gone Wrong, Heather Rogers documents the successes and failures of common attempts of "going green" (or greenwashing, as it turns out). There are chapters on organic and fair trade certifications, eco-architecture, biodiesel fuels, hybrid vehicles, and carbon offsets. In each case, many purported solutions to major environmental (and social) problems turn out to be very different than the proponents' claims. Rogers visits the factories where particular vehicles are built, and the sites of carbon offset programs, and the places receiving organic and fair trade labels, and in practice she finds that the claimed benefits of these things aren't always fulfilled.
The introduction and last few chapters are interesting too. She argues that business-as-usual consumerism, for example by simply changing light bulbs and buying Priuses, won't solve deep and widespread problems of environmental degradation and climate change. On the other hand, she applies her same practical criticisms to more radical proposed solutions, and finds that these may be insufficient as well. In the end, of course, there are no easy solutions. Nonetheless, we need to start with public engagement and political will, and with educating ourselves and each other. We should also become more aware of the connections between the environment and society in both the short- and long-term....more
Annie Dillard is excellent as usual. This reader includes a variety of very well written short stories and excerpts from Dillard's poetry and non-fictAnnie Dillard is excellent as usual. This reader includes a variety of very well written short stories and excerpts from Dillard's poetry and non-fiction. I definitely recommend it for fans and for those wanting an introduction to her writing....more
This was an excellent book and it's definitely as good as the hype. George Saunders is always entertaining to read. Two of the stories were clearly inThis was an excellent book and it's definitely as good as the hype. George Saunders is always entertaining to read. Two of the stories were clearly influenced by Vonnegut, but Saunders has multiple writing styles and writes about a variety of topics. I especially enjoyed the title story as well as "Victory Lap", "Escape from Spiderhead", "The Semplica Girl Diaries", and "My Chivalric Fiasco"....more
This is an interesting and well-written book, as usual for Zadie Smith. It's different in many ways from her previous work, and it's good that Smith iThis is an interesting and well-written book, as usual for Zadie Smith. It's different in many ways from her previous work, and it's good that Smith is exploring different writing styles and novel construction. In my opinion, NW is not as good as On Beauty, but it is still quite good. It follows the lives of four or five characters in London, especially Leah Hanwell and Natalie Blake. Issues of race and gender are definitely involved (which is also the case in her previous novels), but this book changes perspective in each section of the book, yielding more insight into particular characters. Leah and Natalie are the main characters, and they are usually good friends but have a complex relationship. They have very different strengths and flaws, and there is an interesting twist near the end that I won't spoil. The third section with many short "chapters" involves some clever writing tricks, but it definitely works better than Jennifer Egan's Visit from the Goon Squad, of which NW occasionally reminded me.
I definitely recommend this book to Zadie Smith fans. For those who haven't read her before, I recommend starting with On Beauty or White Teeth, which are more like traditional novels, but NW is worth reading too....more
This is an excellent collection of short stories. Atwood, as usual, creates compelling and multi-dimensional characters and interesting plots, with maThis is an excellent collection of short stories. Atwood, as usual, creates compelling and multi-dimensional characters and interesting plots, with many well-written passages. I definitely recommend this collection, though there are other short story writers, especially Alice Munro, who are at least as good. In addition, I'm personally especially a fan of Atwood's novels, and I recommend starting with the Handmaid's Tale for readers being introduced to her writing....more
This is a fascinating book. It consists of a wide range of thoughts from Annie Dillard about subjects like culture, the origin of sand, birth defects,This is a fascinating book. It consists of a wide range of thoughts from Annie Dillard about subjects like culture, the origin of sand, birth defects, deaths, the buried soldiers in Xian, archaeology, religions, God, and a bunch of other disparate topics. She also describes the life of Pierre Teilhard, an exiled French Jesuit priest in the early 20th century who was also a paleontologist (especially in China), and a world traveler. She discusses very large and small numbers, including in astronomy and in deaths; many people do not have a good concept of large numbers, but she makes them real. Dillard somehow ties these thoughts together in a way that makes sense. She discusses multiple religions, but focuses a lot on Judaism, with which I'm not very familiar. It's very interesting to read though....more
This is a very interesting book to read, full of vivid writing, magical realism, and Russian history and culture. It's certainly different from anythiThis is a very interesting book to read, full of vivid writing, magical realism, and Russian history and culture. It's certainly different from anything I've read before. It follows the story of Marya Morevna, a clever, perceptive, and strong-minded "daughter of the Russian Revolution". It also involves the legend or folklore of the dark and powerful Koschei the Deathless, as well as many other fascinating characters. Nature and the environment, including particular buildings, also play interesting roles. Valente is clearly a good writer, and I definitely recommend this book. (By the way, the Onion's A.V. Club has a good review of this book, and it's more informative than what I've written here.)...more
This is an interesting and important book, and it's worth reading. The first half is about major environmental problems, most of them global ones andThis is an interesting and important book, and it's worth reading. The first half is about major environmental problems, most of them global ones and most related to climate change. The chapter about Rachel Carson is a particularly good one. Environmental movements and attempts at environmental reform (such as at the Rio UN summit) are discussed as well. The next section deals with environmental and ecological aspects of Marxism and socialism, with a focus on the concept of humanity's "metabolic rift" with nature. (For readers interested in the origin of this concept in Marx's writings, I recommend reading "Marx's Ecology".) The final section consists of two chapters about "ecological revolution" in the context of a human revolution against capitalism, which may be required to avoid the compounding crises of climate change.
Unfortunately, most of the chapters of this book are adapted from articles written about different issues at different times, and they do not appear to be edited sufficiently well to fit together into a cohesive and consistent book. Foster occasionally repeats himself, such as when he explains the Jevons Paradox of resource efficiency and when he discusses the discoveries of the soil chemist Justus von Liebig. He also occasionally contradicts himself, for example when he criticizes ecological contradictions of capitalism (and how capitalism undermines itself by consuming necessary resources), but in another chapter criticizes those who focus on this limited concept, because capitalism adapts to environmental degradation rather than attempting to abate it, and because with this focus one can miss environmental problems that don't directly or immediately affect the interests of capital, such as the depletion of the ozone layer and the extinction of numerous species.
This is an interesting book to read, but Foster has written better ones. It's better to think of this as an edited volume of an assortment of articles, rather than a cohesive book making a single argument....more
What an incredible book. I can't recommend it enough. This is one of the books that really makes one enjoy reading. Faulkner writes stimulating and evWhat an incredible book. I can't recommend it enough. This is one of the books that really makes one enjoy reading. Faulkner writes stimulating and evocative prose, almost poetry-like, with a fascinating story and compelling characters. I really can't do justice to it with my own words.
The Sound and the Fury is basically a tragedy, or a sum of multiple tragedies. It's written in four parts, which take place at different times, from the perspectives of different characters in a family: Ben, Caddy, Quentin, Jason, and also their servant Dilsey. It's an interesting and disturbing story, following these people as they conflict with each other and with themselves, and their lives seem to unravel. There is more suffering than joy in this book, while everything is written in vivid detail. Since the first three parts of the novel are written in the first person, when the final part (in the third person) follows them, Faulkner's impressive writing style is that much more evident there. I read through that part the quickest.
There are many references in the book, and it's clear that it influenced many other writers as well. At times the book reminded me a bit of Ulysses and One Hundred Years of Solitude. In any case, it's very interesting to read, and well worth the effort to read it. I should read it again....more
This is a very interesting book to read. It is a novella, written a few years after Moby Dick. It's based on a real-life incident, in which an AmericaThis is a very interesting book to read. It is a novella, written a few years after Moby Dick. It's based on a real-life incident, in which an American captain, Amasa Delano, encounters a strange Spanish ship named San Dominick, captained by Benito Cereno. It is partly a political book, in which race, caste, and power relations play a role. It seems to be very different than Melville's other work.
For the first two-thirds of the book, there a disturbing cloud of ambiguity and suspicion hanging over everything, which reminded me of Kafka's writing style. No one's motives were clear, nor who was allied with whom. The Spanish ship has a white captain and a nearly all-black crew, and they had clearly been adrift and had suffered a long and difficult trip. The details about how the ship arrived in this condition are unclear though.
There are more interesting things to be discussed, but I don't want to spoil the ending, which has a few surprises in it. I definitely recommend this book. It's quick and fascinating to read....more