Found this on my first trip to Powell's in Portland, and I was devouring it all the way home. Excellent reference for understanding the connections be...moreFound this on my first trip to Powell's in Portland, and I was devouring it all the way home. Excellent reference for understanding the connections between modern western herbal models and regional traditions. Full of 'herbal lore,' bits of forgotten history and good practical advice. Also, unlike some herb books, this one was an absolutely delicious read. I've finished the book, but there are bits in here that I will never finish re-reading. (less)
If Joy Williams were just a little less brilliant and withering, I'd hate her. Blatantly unrealistic, overblown dialogue, tangential approach to story...moreIf Joy Williams were just a little less brilliant and withering, I'd hate her. Blatantly unrealistic, overblown dialogue, tangential approach to story/narrative (no rapid page-turning here, really; and even the strength of the writing wasn't enough to keep me from turning to other novels occasionally), cynical ruthlessness towards her own characters along with a stubborn resistance to portraying any successful/hopeful connection between humans.
But, I get the comparisons to Flannery O'Connor. They couldn't be more apt. That tightrope walk between disdain for humanity and respect for her characters...they may be unhappy, wrong, ruthless, completely adrift in their own lives--but they speak like prophets with doctorates, even, or especially, the 'lowest' among them (the five year olds, the brain damaged, the bored teenagers, the truck drivers, the dogs, the otherwise entirely unenlightened). Williams isn't dealing in realism, she's building an impression of the real as it might be built by someone at a distance from their humanity, someone dead or half-dead, or someone who is an animal--at a distance from our usual excuses for and sympathies with the terrible things we casually do, and even from our own useless horror at the terrible things we do as a species (there's some brutal black humor at the expense of leftist activists here, even though that's unquestionably where Williams' sympathies lie--but then, Flannery O'Connor wrote obscene religious characters, though her overall perspective was decidedly devout).
Dead animals, as a group, might as well be considered a major collective character. Williams spends time on them and gives each an undeniable, unsettling presence that rivals every human character consciousness we're allowed to invade. And invade we do--Williams uses completely omniscient perspective and jumps into the heads not only of the major characters, but also the ones we meet only for a page, often offering up a jarring impression from the mind of a 'stranger' that we're never allowed to later plumb or revisit.
She's very funny, in a blackest of black humor way. I had to put it down occasionally just because the hopeless cynicism was starting to affect my consciousness in a negative way (it's kind of a default of mine that I have to fight for balance, so your mileage may vary--if your thoughts trend negative, depressive, morbid, cynical, you might want to have something light on hand too). But it works. It's pitch perfect. It's balanced by moments of beauty and profundity that never veer into preciousness. I read most of this in a window seat on a connecting flight from North Carolina to Arizona, then out. I feel like that helped, seeing the craters, the Barry Goldwater memorial parking deck.
Pay attention to the roadkill you passed. Pay attention to that strangely revolting kitsch in the road stop, that dead-end job, that place you stuck your father when he got old, that stupid protest nobody cared about that you passed on the way to work. And that roadkill. They are this story, too. Maybe more than you.
This is a pretty informative collection of personal essays and overviews of the Radical Faery movement that was just one twentieth century queer respo...moreThis is a pretty informative collection of personal essays and overviews of the Radical Faery movement that was just one twentieth century queer response to cultural oppression--the ideas are dated and may seem limited to modern gay men, but the infusion of spirituality and environmentalism may be interesting for some. Worth the read for their veneration of Walt Whitman and their take on the 'calamus' poems. (less)
Interesting for the first-hand account, but Roselle doesn't exactly come off as a feminist here and he's not, pardon, the most brilliant reflector on...moreInteresting for the first-hand account, but Roselle doesn't exactly come off as a feminist here and he's not, pardon, the most brilliant reflector on events. Roselle makes very clear that despite his call for radical action, he doesn't advocate violent actions and favors civil disobedience. (less)
Just read this in a day. If you're a proto-DIY/homesteader geek like me, you'll want to make Jenna Woginrich your penpal. Devotes a lot of time to ani...moreJust read this in a day. If you're a proto-DIY/homesteader geek like me, you'll want to make Jenna Woginrich your penpal. Devotes a lot of time to animal husbandry, which I'm not as into, but it's a good book for drumming up interest. Also, the fact that she includes learning string instruments like the dulcimer, banjo, and fiddle in her chapters on essentials for urban homesteading makes this book stand-out accessible and fun. Great, up-to-date research section, and beautiful to look at.(less)
I could do without the Debbie Stoller-esque cutesy-ness of the layout, but I'm a huge fan of Gayla's blog and this is really excellent as a primer for...moreI could do without the Debbie Stoller-esque cutesy-ness of the layout, but I'm a huge fan of Gayla's blog and this is really excellent as a primer for the average urban/container gardener. Full of little garden-aesthetic diy projects, too, like how to leaf-print your own garden stones, and how to build big wooden box planters (think square foot gardening). Glad to own it.(less)
Beautiful cover. Premise that's right up my alley. But the writing's very insular, jargon-y, self-consciously academic (usually, these things don't tu...moreBeautiful cover. Premise that's right up my alley. But the writing's very insular, jargon-y, self-consciously academic (usually, these things don't turn me off, but in this case I found myself seeing over and over how much more simple was the idea being expressed than the language used to express it. That gets tiring. And for such an intriguing premise, I often didn't think Rozelle went far enough to merit the linguistic trudge--very specific literary analysis of very specific, if somewhat arbitrarily chosen, works, but with conclusions that rarely seemed to forward my understanding of what's meant by the "ecosublime" in more than the most plodding way.
Two chapters stood out for me--I could've left the rest:
Ch. 6, Decentralized Visions and Ch. 7, Sabotage and Eco-Terror(less)
I finished this book at 3AM on a Saturday night. I finished it in three days, completely in urgency, reading not compelled by beauty as might typicall...moreI finished this book at 3AM on a Saturday night. I finished it in three days, completely in urgency, reading not compelled by beauty as might typically be the case when I read so rabidly, but by a sense of need. Like most books about peak oil/global warming/water shortage/global upheaval, this one was deeply troubling. It is, after all, something of an end-times scenario, but written competently through to the logical conclusions of our short-sighted accoutrements of modern civilization. Writing in 2005, Kunstler accurately predicts the current housing crisis, and describes our recent and coming struggles with oil with precision.
Kunstler is often decried as a doomsday nay-sayer--known for his previous books criticizing suburban sprawl and the impossibility of sustaining it, it might seem almost fair to say that Kunstler is blinded by his own bias in imagining a future where they become entirely obsolete and American society is forced to re-structure along every spoke of the wheel. But in reading "The Long Emergency" I was struck most often by the lack of screed-itude, the lack of extremism, and overrall how appropriately reasoned Kunstler seems to be. (Nevermind that Kunstler addresses the criticism that his predictions represent what he 'wants' to happen head-on: they are so bleak, only a true misanthrope could relish their coming to fruition.) Kunstler is far from a perfect messenger, though. His descriptions of what might happen in America regionally and in terms of racial strife will make any progressive squirm (his predictions betray a bit of a cocooned existence away from actual Latin-Americans and African Americans, and his characterization of the Southern states are pretty appalling even to the most self-deprecating Southerner--he calls us 'Crackers' for one...)
The book is not all prediction, of course--in fact, I'd say the bulk of it is spent in going over relevant recent history. Kunstler is obviously well-read, and there's a lot to be learned here, but this book loses a LOT of value in not having a bibliography, and very few footnotes to boot--Kunstler should have cited his information much more thoroughly.(less)