An interesting collection of photos taken in and around San Francisco in 1964. One of the themes in the images involved political issues within a chan...moreAn interesting collection of photos taken in and around San Francisco in 1964. One of the themes in the images involved political issues within a changing city. Tress shot the Republican Convention in Daly City wherein Barry Goldwater was nominated, protests of the auto showrooms along Van Ness for unfair treatment of black people, a speech by President Johnson in downtown San Francisco, and several groupings of gay men next to apparently disapproving older women. What is striking about these images is their focus on one or a small group of individuals. They are tight shots, and one would not really know what they were depicting without explanatory text. This of course results in a focus on the individual rather than the event as spectacle. The introduction as well as the interview of Tress, though brief, are enlightening and in my opinion should not be skipped.(less)
The choices for this book were fairly eclectic, and I loved that the author did not rely exclusively on professional photographers. I felt there were...moreThe choices for this book were fairly eclectic, and I loved that the author did not rely exclusively on professional photographers. I felt there were too many photographs and the analysis was often the same from one to the other. The personal aesthetic of the author became quite obvious about halfway through the book. I learned a few things and discovered some photographers whose work I'll likely follow. I know this book is about photographs themselves, but all of the photographs chosen for this book stood alone aesthetically. But I think there are many images whose effectiveness is enhanced when the theme or overall project is raised as part of the work. (less)
I read this for the first time many years ago while in college and before having moved to San Francisco. I recall enjoying it, though I couldn't place...moreI read this for the first time many years ago while in college and before having moved to San Francisco. I recall enjoying it, though I couldn't place the action in anything more than a foggy vision of the land around the Golden Gate Bridge. I had only touristy notions of San Francisco and an embarrassingly simplistic concept of California.
Having lived in San Francisco, I now know where most of the events occur in Tales of the City, which makes the story much more enjoyable. It certainly doesn't change any simplistic notions of California. But it was never intended as that kind of book.
It's a very quick read, not at all heavy. Probably the perfect example of breezy. That's not meant to be insulting, but it is the style. All we know of the characters is from dialogue, as the narration is sparse, but it's often fun dialogue and it keeps the story moving.
The cultural references may be dated (though wonderfully dated -- think macrame, driftwood art, fake wood paneling, and disco), but that doesn't detract from the book's biggest strength. San Francisco has always been a place where almost everything goes. Where while the people may be transient, they still feel at home. It is the characters' ability to create a community within this free bastion that makes the book. (less)
Torres certainly knows how to convey emotion and he has a gift in his ability to create a scene with few words. The story is told from a younger boy's...moreTorres certainly knows how to convey emotion and he has a gift in his ability to create a scene with few words. The story is told from a younger boy's perspective, and the non-linear structure works well. (less)
(4 ½ stars) Creation and destruction may be a recurring theme in Heyday, but the quest for personal freedom is what predominantly motivates the charac...more(4 ½ stars) Creation and destruction may be a recurring theme in Heyday, but the quest for personal freedom is what predominantly motivates the characters to detach from their past, and sometimes present, circumstances and pursue their dreams.
An almost tangible sense of anticipation and excitement buzzes throughout the book. The action takes place in the late 1840s, mostly in the young, ambitious, exuberant United States. Nothing about culture, society, or politics in America seems to be established quite in the way it is in the staid, dour Old World, even as revolution spreads across Europe. America is rolling and fighting its way west, building its empire. The possibilities for freedom and for crafting a new way of life really do seem endless. I found this sense of newness and possibility to be the best part of the book. It really did make me feel excited for what could be.
At the same time, there is really nothing jingoistic about the book. Slavery, Native American massacres, religious repression, disease, and the horrors of war exist simultaneously with America's revolutionary goal to create a better nation, as well as the search for individual liberty which motivates nearly every character.
The plot takes the action from London and Paris to New York, across the United States and into the territories. There are quiet a few coincidences, which makes the plot feel a bit staged. But, that really didn't seem to matter. The beauty of the book was in its ability to convey a sense of possibility and newness and wonder. (less)
This is certainly a collection about place. Some poems are centered on a particular geographical location more so than others, but it is obvious that...moreThis is certainly a collection about place. Some poems are centered on a particular geographical location more so than others, but it is obvious that the wide Bay Area is the celebrant. Of course, it would be difficult to exclude the natural world when contemplating the Bay Area, and these pieces are heavy on nature. But, they often include humans and our emotions in the mix, just as we interact with nature in reality. The poetic styles vary, and it seems there might be a little something for everyone. An enjoyable little collection.(less)
Remaking California gave a good overview of some of the biggest institutional problems in California government and politics. It discussed how these i...moreRemaking California gave a good overview of some of the biggest institutional problems in California government and politics. It discussed how these institutional problems cause gridlock in the process of legislating and forming public policy, and even in furthering, if not causing, voter apathy.
Many reform proposals were introduced and given various levels of analysis. Though the range of reforms raised kept the analysis rather superficial.
All in all, this book is a good primer on some of the fundamental problems in California governance and some possible reforms.(less)
The author does a good job of describing how Carter's so-called "malaise" speech has been misinterpreted, for primarily what seem to be political reas...moreThe author does a good job of describing how Carter's so-called "malaise" speech has been misinterpreted, for primarily what seem to be political reasons, in the history books and America's collective social memory. In fact, the public's reaction to the speech was overwhelmingly positive, and Carter's ratings increased dramatically overnight. I wish more time had been spent on analyzing how the country so quickly dis-remembered or perhaps ignored the speech, given its huge popularity.
The author spends a lot of time recounting the rise of the fundamental, religious right, suggesting that these neoconservatives sold Americans a dream in which everything was possible without any sacrifice (either by the individual or for the common good). Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy to understand quite how America gave up on Carter. Of course, Carter's mass firing of his cabinet a few days after giving his speech didn't help. But, the people did not turn their backs on Carter for that episode alone. The book seems to blame history's misinterpretation of the speech on Carter's own actions, the rise of neoconservatism, and the impact of public selfishness coming from the "me decade". But, it never sufficiently finds or describes a nexus among those.
The book also doesn't exactly say how the speech should have changed the country. In fact, it recounts how confounded Carter and his own staff appeared to have been in going forward after the speech. Although Carter outlined policy proposals in the speech, the book painted a picture of a rudderless White House that wasn't sure even where to turn next.
The book is well written and provides a wonderful and intricate background to the development of the speech, both in terms of the actual mechanics of preparing for the speech, but also the psychological changes that the major figures had to go through in order to get to such a dramatic and uncommon speech. The psychological development of Carter and his White House team in the months before the speech is really what this book is about and is where the book shines.
This is a (very) short story in a single printing, a bit weird, but hey, it's McSweeney's. The story is unique and there is a certain mystery that kee...moreThis is a (very) short story in a single printing, a bit weird, but hey, it's McSweeney's. The story is unique and there is a certain mystery that keeps the quest in which the characters are engaged interesting. I really liked what I took away as the message to wake up from our rampant consumerism and commercial fascinations that masquerade as culture, get off our butts, and do something. I definitely wasn't blown away by any means, but I'll read Lethem again.(less)
This has all the hallmarks of Murakami's style, which I like. But, the book seemed disjointed, with the latter half much more cohesive than the first....moreThis has all the hallmarks of Murakami's style, which I like. But, the book seemed disjointed, with the latter half much more cohesive than the first. Another goodreadser said this is like a seed for all his other novels, and I think that is apt. I'm happy I read it, but I don't think I'd want to read it again. (less)