**spoiler alert** They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to small things. In so saying, Arundhati Roy captures both the hope and hopelessness of...more**spoiler alert** They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to small things. In so saying, Arundhati Roy captures both the hope and hopelessness of modern Indian culture. Still as I read this often beautiful prose carefully, I began to think that I was observing someone who claimed to be an impressionist, yet creating with a paintball gun on a brick wall while wearing a blindfold. There are some great colors and even the admixtures are often spectacular, but the events seem to go on and on ad infinitum. After a while, I wasn’t inclined to visualize this as art any longer. The events of the book, written not only in reverse order but to a great degree, upside down, seemed oftentimes incongruous and inchoate as the culture she criticizes so vehemently. This is not so much an argument against the portrait which she creates but rather that it is all too busy making multiple points to be completely understood, at least by me. I was most impressed by the fact that Roy defended herself in an Indian court which felt this book was an affront to Indian culture. While I am glad of such, I have to admit that I cannot identify with this struggle, besides being horrified. After the first thirty or forty really ugly things, I stopped thinking that this may be truly beautiful... and simply regarded the ugly for what it was. After a while I could guess that the repulsiveness was going to begin oozing out or perhaps break like a dam simply by the character. I also admit to being puzzled by exactly what the god of small things really was... and what his powers were... and what his relationship to the god of bigger things was. I found myself wondering whether, in fact, there might be all sorts of gods, like "the god of things bigger than small, but not quite medium." In a word, it seemed a bit contrived in much of the writing. Several passages were so profound that I could not help ascribing meaning to them although I am still incapable of understanding them. For example the following: "The air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." I have stared at such sentences and paragraphs for almost a week, unable to grasp their significance. Why was the air filled with Thoughts? Were they BIG Thoughts because it is capitalized? "Small Things" gets capitalized too, as if Roy wishes to give them greater influence as we read it. Critics say that this portrayal is genius, but I rather think it comes off as affected. But the greater question is why the big things lurk inside! Are they incapable of being said or are they just not, as I suspect, culturally said? One is left to wonder or perhaps I am just obtuse. Ultimately, I think Roy is stacking the deck in order to win the hand: The beautiful people are too good and the bad are too ugly. This isn't to say that I think that either the caste system should be changed or should not be changed. I would have to be some sort of part of it to even comprehend it. From a western standpoint I admit that it seems ugly and horrid, a fearful hideous thing like the lemonorange man. Still the untouchable is the only one who appears almost godlike, and, unfortunately, without a human personality. The greater question remains: Could the untouchable have become who he was without such a class struggle? Hence in a way, the greater argument goes against itself. One last quote: Man's subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify. Men's needs. I didn’t even think that this statement were true, although I can understand the bitterness and anger generating such. If I were in such a cultural system, would I have such prejudices? Probably. Still this comment and the book as a whole seems overly cynical, like a call to become more natural and, in her way of thinking, pure. One might as well suggest that the perfect lovemaking of tomorrow could be replaced by the injection of a drug, a temporary panacea, a place where one exists without pain for a little while. Culture could all be repaired if we all just got naked and rolled around in the grass every day. To me, her conclusion smells of some sort of desperation. Maybe I just don't understand the smaller gods at all. (less)
**spoiler alert** While I loved the beautiful writing, I wasn't quite prepared for how this book turned out. Before I was halfway through, I was absol...more**spoiler alert** While I loved the beautiful writing, I wasn't quite prepared for how this book turned out. Before I was halfway through, I was absolutely positive that it would begin making its point. While this is a thoroughly lovely tale about a young girl's summer in Savannah, replete with estrogen laden environment (all male characters are either rendered as scuzz-buckets or dismissed as ancillary,) I think it deserved to be so much more. When Cee Cee's mother suffers from schizophrenia, consistently humiliates her among the small-town Ohio citizens and finally is accidentally killed, when her father disappears from her life pretty much escaping in the same way that her mother did, this gave the story all the earmarks of a truly damaged psyche. While in fact Cee Cee does recover, slowly, with the help of new friends she never believed she would ever have, I thought that the story might engage in some real life lessons. Instead it completes itself like a kind of Disney movie or southern sweet tea. It is even suggested that had her mother been living in Savannah, her oddness might never have been more than eccentricity. I also thought the comparison of women to oysters rather odd though it is worth repeating that, It's how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty." Of course one ought rightly to say this about both genders.
This was a great read, very funny in places, heartbreaking in others and the writing is first rate, but I think it could have been so much more.(less)
I read this book because I heard that it was the basis of the movie No Way Out which I adored, even with all its logical problems. It wasn't a popular...moreI read this book because I heard that it was the basis of the movie No Way Out which I adored, even with all its logical problems. It wasn't a popular book and so I had to order it, but at least it was still in print, perhaps receiving a resurgence in interest. It is certainly a delightful depiction of a very different era.
However, this book stands on its own as a gritty kind of dark venture into the underworld, thankfully coming out the other side in better shape. I was somewhat surprised to find how easy it was to read, although it took enough twists and turns that it was delightful. I think I was most fascinated because everything in the book wasn't a case of black and white and even at the end it is only the fact that the bad guy is revealed that the peccadilloes of others are either forgiven or overlooked. It must have been the kind of wonderful world we had before Miranda... about which only the sane can dream.
Although somewhat tame now, the clock in question exposes its great mechanicals as the inside of the great boss' office and it really does feel quite remarkable, both a symbol of power and wealth as well as the sense that time passes judgment on each of us. It is quite a powerful image and the movie version does the book great justice, especially with the characters which pop up for comic relief. After I read the book, I found the movie on late night cable, but I still didn’t get more than a passing connection between this and No Way Out. I am surprised that anyone saw the connection much less the critics who described the movie as a copy. Frankly I think they were just jealous of Kevin Costner.(less)
In Garden Spells, one of the two appealing male characters, Tyler, (three if you count the gay guy,) has a sexual relationship with Claire which consi...moreIn Garden Spells, one of the two appealing male characters, Tyler, (three if you count the gay guy,) has a sexual relationship with Claire which consists solely of him pleasuring her… without pleasuring himself. It also takes place in a garden on the ground, apparently without attracting any attention of the house dwellers. One almost has to return to the insidious vampire books to find relationships with a less firm grip on the reality of male/female relations. As a result, I have finally become convinced of the truth of chick lit in general… and that is that it is pornography for females. While traditionally women prefer erotic words to pictures, chick lit has bypassed the airbrush and gone for a complete restructuring of the individual into some new amenable gender. Porn for guys dehumanizes women. Chick lit not only dehumanizes men, but makes the ones who receive any approbation at all completely unrecognizable as male. Most of the women I know have more male characteristics than these men. I have often wondered why guys aren’t interested enough to complain because these books so atrociously stereotype male behavior. It’s probably because they are too stunned to believe the truth. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Garden Spells, but I couldn’t help reading it without replacing the two lead ‘witches” in my mind with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman from a similar movie. Still my favorite characters were the little girl, Bay, and the apple tree which acts more human than any of them but for some reason or other no one can figure that out. One of the female antagonists is described as follows: She was so Southern that she cried tears that came straight from the Mississippi, and she always smelled faintly of cottonwood and peaches. While that’s a bit over the top for someone who lives in western North Carolina, it is reasonably eloquent and enjoyable. This book has all of the elements of a good Southern novel, overtly bitchy women, strange women (who don’t accept that they are strange) and really eccentric women whom everyone accepts as a matter of tradition. The men, such as they are, remain remarkably calm and oblivious, the latter being this books only nod at reality. Still this isn’t Faulkner or O’Connor or Welty. This is a fun read, albeit thoroughly predictable. This also doesn’t mean that I am going to stop reading chick lit. I have decided that this is the only way I will ever find a guy who wants to cuddle in bed and listen to me prattle into the wee hours of the morning without offering advice. That’s got to be worth something, even if it’s fantasy. (less)
There is a great beauty in mathematics, a kind of natural beauty which mirrors worlds composed of other dimensions. While some mathematics refers to t...moreThere is a great beauty in mathematics, a kind of natural beauty which mirrors worlds composed of other dimensions. While some mathematics refers to things of this world, a great part of it does not. To a degree, there is a precipice in mathematics in which those who are naturally inclined never see, but walk off into Hilbert space. The rest of us, even those who really want to find out the mysteries of the universe which it holds, those who wait like frightened baby birds for the faith to leap from the nest into the void, we can never really capture that magic. It's a place where one can never question one's need to push forward, but, moreover, a place where one exists by him... or her self. More's the pity that loneliness and solitude are intermixed at various intervals. Therein lies the theme of this book: obscure mathematics as it applies to humans. Most people have probably never heard of the Riemann zeta function, upon which one of the protagonists wishes to work in order to graduate. Suffice it to say that it would be an ambitious task for a graduate student, but unheard of for an undergraduate. Still the key point about the Riemann zeta function is that it established a relationship between its zeros and the distribution of prime numbers. When you combine this with the title of the book, one gets the compacted version of what this book is about. The irony is that calculating the possibilities of mathematical functions is a kind of necessity, much like the consequences of certain actions elicits a certain reaction in people. The difficulty is not that certain actions don't require certain reactions, but that in order to put either into motion, they require the will to put it all into motion at all. No, what she had found in front of her was a grown-up person who had built a life around a terrifying abyss, on terrain that had already collapsed, and yet who had succeeded, far away from here, among people Alice didn't know. She had been prepared to destroy all that, to disinter a buried horror, for a simple suspicion, as slender as the memory of a memory.
Still when we see that each character in Solitude is capable of making some relatively miniscule choice which might resolve the tremendous difficulty of his or her life, we are in the audience of the Dr Phil show, insisting that other people's lives be changed by the simple concept of confrontation, without insisting that we change our own. Hence this book is a reminder that all great fiction ought to be capable of eliciting a life changing event in the reader. As far as that is concerned, I believe that this book falls a bit short in that regard. It is beautifully woven, masterfully crafted and monumental in its details of the study of mathematics and photography (the real kind where we used to use actual film.) Giordano writes beautifully and captures the reader's attention early and keeps it on a varying pulse throughout. Ultimately he holds the mirror up for us and asks which one of us does not understand the excuses we maintain of our own paltry lives and the results we have, perhaps, reaped. Still while each of our lives may be like the computation of a complex function, especially in an heuristic manner, the greater question is why we have chosen a certain model of a function by which to operate our lives. Thus, while overwhelmingly brilliant in its conception, I find that conception slightly flawed in that the choice to discover the consequences are only bound by the certain vicissitudes of time. In that, it is not so much that we have existed which is important, but that our paths have been chosen actively through our choices… especially when, as humans invariably do, we run into the dead end of our ineffectiveness. Thus I argue that while we create our own abysses and pitfalls, ever so inadvertently, we can always choose new directions, even when those directions require a greater degree of discomfort than we think we can withstand. I believe that ultimately it isn't all about us anyway.(less)
I have been reading this book over the last several weeks and I admit that it has been tough going. I first ran into this tome as a sophomopre in high...moreI have been reading this book over the last several weeks and I admit that it has been tough going. I first ran into this tome as a sophomopre in high school.. and immediately fell in love with Weber's passion, his three page paragraphs and sentences so long that they would make Hegel blush.I had read some psychology and I was suspicious of such writings, suspecting that someone who wrote (or studied) psychology probably had a few things wrong, but sociology was like psychology without people... and I loved the concept of groups of people acting in this very defined and therefore predictable manner. To me it was like seeing the underworkings at Disney World... and it was almost like magic. No, actually it was magic! Of course the great tome is divided into two separate part and I loved the teutonic sense of order. When you get to an end of a section, all you know is that you have read enough arguments on the issue to feel sated. This time I wanted to be convinced. Alas it was not to be, although Weber is still my favorite of the classic sociologists, Durkheim a close second. Still this time I was able to understand a great deal more when in high school most of tose Reformation guys were just names in a book. I knew Calvin was a determinist, something I still find quite strange, but that's another issue. Rreading quotes fromn Luther and Bradley and Franklin was just exalted. The huge trouble is, of course, that the correlation between events is always a rationalization, kind of like post hoc ergo propter hoc. This wonderful argument concerning the spirit of capitalism seems much more likely to correlate to the rise in literacy rather than some disvestiture of value or even deterministic triangles. Weber to his credit forsaw what the modern alienated worker would be like and it's like living in a time come true. It's too bad none of this could have been used to prevent today's wealth redistribution concepts. Of course it's easy to throw rocks now, but the point remains that Weber saw today's alienated spiritless society, left without values and redefining the past. It's a heady read but one worth a sincere effort. Anyhthing else wil leave you lost.(less)
We read this in a weekly meeting at church and I was impressed with this book's simple wisdom. One can read the words easily, but taking them to heart...moreWe read this in a weekly meeting at church and I was impressed with this book's simple wisdom. One can read the words easily, but taking them to heart is a different matter. I can recall reading a handful of books in my life, only a few which were theological in nature, where I got to a certain point and I had to stop, simply because I couldn't go any farther: I could not get my head...or heart... around such a concept as was being presented and I felt that pushing through or on would have been a waste of time. I still feeel that way about really good books. The first time I read this book, I pushed through without bringing myself to some of those hard decisions, things which would change the way I did things, should I do them. In a sense I had to push onward: there wasn't any time to stop and tell myself that I was unwilling to do something important for my relationship with God. This time I am not stopping and that makes it all the more beautiful.(less)
It has been a long time since I read Schopenhauer, but I remember I used to laugh at some of his aphorisms. His comments about women notwithstanding,...moreIt has been a long time since I read Schopenhauer, but I remember I used to laugh at some of his aphorisms. His comments about women notwithstanding, The World as Will and Idea (sic) is a truly important book in the history of modern thought. Modern philosophy shoud take it more seriously simply because of all the problems it raises.
I read this, I think, the summer after I had completed a graduate course in Hegel's Phenomenology. Schopenhauer was not much studied and there wasn't a course which included it (other than the plebian survey courses) and I became thoroughly engrossed in it over the summer. Oddly enough I recall I was reading Whitehead at the same time, ostensibly for the same reasons and found him much better than I had anticipated...but he is for another time.
First of all, I cannot understand why "Vorstellung" was ever changed from "Idea" to "Representation." I first saw this in a mid 60's translation. I think this is highly misleading. If anything it ought to be changed to "Conception" or "Presentation." I cannot figure how any translator thought that "Representation" was a better translation than "Idea." In English one ought to be as familiar with the derivations of words as we are their meaning and the idea of "presenting something again" seems a needless error.
After rereading book 2 recently, I was impressed as to the derivation of so much 20th century thought in him. While it is true that he didn't solve so many problems as he perhaps thought (destroying most of Kant was perhaps a serious mistake) I began thinking about the origins of consciousness, especially in Husserl and Heidegger. Schopenhauer's will seems much like Plato's demi-urge but with a greater part to play in things. I found his arguments about eternity somewhat compelling, although I would hardly equate the fear of death with what went on before one was born. Although both of the same type of mysteries, you aren't usually afraid of what you have already lived through right? S's efforts to prove that Christianity was derived from Indian beliefs just seems rather silly and primitive today, although there are some modern critics who make their living at doing such thing. One might, without being unreasonable ask for a bit more evidence... of which there is none, but only pretty theories.
Still Schopenhauer not only brings eastern philosophy into the picture, but he suggests that certain issues of eternity and indestructibility of the will become not only linear but circular. It is a great shame that his concept of will seems to have occluded the difference between its existence and the impossibility of knowing its existence. If he had pushed a bit harder on epistemology, perhaps we should be studying this book in course along with the First Critique and The Phenomenology of Mind (or Spirit). (less)
**spoiler alert** I was somewhat surprised to discover what kind of book this was, having expected from the recommendation a science fiction novel. Ne...more**spoiler alert** I was somewhat surprised to discover what kind of book this was, having expected from the recommendation a science fiction novel. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by not only the drawings, which were quite excellent and imaginative, but the story line which, quite frankly, I esteemed much more than the actual dialogue involved. This short book involved the using of children in the art of war, training them in games in which the various children were able to use their own imaginations and, more to the point, left to develop their own kind of adherence to structure and duty. Perhaps this too was an example of necessity or, even more so, the mores of pre-adolescence becoming a substitute for things which we call true. Even if judged as a mere lark, it is exceptionally imaginative. On the downside, I thought the dialogue was somewhat stark, drawing a contrast between only two extremes of emotions, recognition of one's capacity to perform and the questioning of whether one ought to perform such. Still in narrowing the preconditions of any action, this is the same technique used in modeling psychological models. I tend to think that such fantasies as this provide greater insight than the pretentious paradigms of thought and action, but I digress. While it makes for interesting reading and gives pause for consideration, surely there are greater issues at work in the human mind. Still as an issue of fantasy, this story is quite beautiful in and of itself. When combined with all the artwork, it is a very pleasurable effort to fall under its spell. It is the quality of the product which makes it not only delightful but inviting. (less)
This is a lovely and fascinating cookbook, filled with some excellent recipes of very high caliber. I received it for my recent birthday after someone...moreThis is a lovely and fascinating cookbook, filled with some excellent recipes of very high caliber. I received it for my recent birthday after someone made an orange marmalade cake from it (and the Mitford series of books by the same author.) I was impressed that even though the dishes themselves are recognizably American and non-fussy, they appear to have been collected with the utmost of care and concern. I don't buy many cookbooks any longer but this one is a welcome addition...if only for that delectable orange marmalade cake.(less)
While I have no doubt that I am not going to read the whole series, I picked up two when I was at the library and the second dutifully begins where th...moreWhile I have no doubt that I am not going to read the whole series, I picked up two when I was at the library and the second dutifully begins where the first leaves off. Someone commented that these are the types of books which little old ladies read when they feel like they can put their collective noses into other people's affairs. If one hasn't read these books, that's a pretty good assessment, which is to say that it is totally incorrect. While Jan Karon has a huge following, no doubt composed in part of little old ladies, these stories are anything but what they appear to be on the outside. While the excitement is of a far more subtle sort, it is extremely human... as well as Christian. Without preaching, it successfully delivers the method of the utmost simplicity, something of which I think our Father would approve. It takes a while to become used to reading these, especially when you are expecting something exciting and dangerous, but what you end up with is that people are real and they solve their issues in very real ways. These are funny, inviting and joyful books of the Christian faith, and without too much of a stretch, I would probably say that they were inspired also. They are works of grace and beauty also, but that takes a while to see, if you are a complicated person with a complicated life. It makes you wonder why we made our lives so complex in the first place...and what we missed when we did so.(less)
**spoiler alert** When I first picked this book up, I was not expecting very much. Indeed, I received the recommendation from the lady who makes my we...more**spoiler alert** When I first picked this book up, I was not expecting very much. Indeed, I received the recommendation from the lady who makes my weekly cappuccino and she told me it was a Christian book. As always I am on the lookout for Christian books which are well written. I will be the first to say that I just didn’t understand the book and was tempted twice to put it down. I understood that it was about a character named Father Tim…and I assumed he would be like Hercule Poirot and fall into all sorts of interesting affairs. To be candid, it is about any number of human issues and there are, in fact, a few mysteries thrown in along the way. Still it bothered me why the book didn’t really have much action or plot: in fact it was several days after I finished it that I first began to understand the intention of the book as well as its marvelous subtlety. In short, this is a story about life in a Western Carolina town. But more than this, it is a story about how people in this town live the faith they have. At first, I found it too simple, too sanitized and too ethereal, but then I came to realize that it wasn’t sanitized in the least, at least not by circumstances. If you can’t live without reading the actual swear words then you will be disappointed. On the other hand, it takes little imagination at all to understand when it happens. I was bowled over by the simplicity of this book. I marveled, at first, in how each character lived a relatively simple and straight forward life. Most of us have had dreams of a town which is simpler and slower, somehow more meaningful, but it is doubtful that many of us could actually make any sort of transition. When I was reading this, I realized that this town would drive me crazy, but later I realized that the fault for that lay not in the town or is inherent simplicity, but in myself. Though without any intent to preach openly, this book makes its own values very clear indeed. Why do we indeed over-complicate our lives? I have no idea. Father Tim reads Wordsworth aloud at night and his dog listens. To me this might work for a week, but after that I would want Tennyson, Rilke, Hopkins and Eliot. I know myself well enough that I believe that the big picture of life comes from more information and interpreting that information over and over until we get it right. I look around my study and see books and papers and case files and all sorts of things in a kind of mess. Without a doubt, this mess is indicative of the way in which I look at life. But this book and the entire series, I suppose, looks at life as if you already HAVE the information and the only real trick is accepting the responsibility for using it. I have spent a week pondering the issue, but I still find this revolutionary. Even now I find it difficult to believe that such a lack of sophistication should deliver a message with this kind of power and charm. As to the writing itself, I have to say that it seems as if the writer stopped every so often and when she picked up again, there were a few things left undone. It is not a serious flaw, but one which I discovered again and again. In addition, when she has conversational dialogue between several people, one must read some passages a few times before you can gather which one is speaking what. Again this is irritating, but not a terrible sin. Still, this woman’s writing is truly inspired, perhaps in several different ways. In truth, I could never have foreseen myself thinking so highly of it until it had a chance to ferment. I am grateful that it did so. (less)
This is such a short book and yet it contains so much wonderful writing! Reading a book like this reminds me that it isn't the quantity of a man's wor...moreThis is such a short book and yet it contains so much wonderful writing! Reading a book like this reminds me that it isn't the quantity of a man's work which is valuable but the quality...and this book is a prime example of the haunting beauty that is possible in the very careful use of words strung together. One cannot read this book and come away unchanged and, in that, it belongs to the realm of very great literature.
I found myself reading over certain lines and pondering them, ceasing to read but beginning to think of all the extrapolations possible in such observational wisdom. This is a book which cannot be forced and ought to be savored, but oftentimes I felt my exasperation growing because we had already read about so many opinions... and here we have yet another. I found myself wondering about the truth and how this was all to be resolved, wanting my two hour mystery to be tied in a neat bow. It is probably a common frustration with modern literature.
A few weeks ago, someone in a group was saying how he read a 500 page book in two days and at first I was stunned. After that I asked what he thought about the references to German philosophy. He hadn't understood them so he skipped over them. Then I asked about the cryptic French phrases and their import in literature and why they were appropriate: he didn't know French and hadn't looked them up. I asked about two other major issues and the same responses ensued and by this time he figured that I was attempting to ridicule his achievement. That wasn't my point at all, but I find so many readers these days with a like mind: one ought not to receive some life credit points for how many books one reads, but how well one reads even one book.
I insert this story into my usual long winded review because this book has to be read very carefully and I am disturbed to discover the growing trend of people having read books for some sort of mental masturbation. This is a book which rightly ought to change one's life in certain ways and if it does not, then perhaps one ought to try it again. In our throw away society, we have here a thing of great value. It seems frustrating that we cannot find that which is in front of us.
One can hardly read this without seeing the depiction of so many different things, perspectives, of course, a kind of mythology, most certainly, the excesses which wealth often brings, without a doubt. However beyond all of this one is left with a kind of mysticism concerning the human condition, not one created by the reader, but simply examined on all sides by the would-be narrator, someone like us who needs to find complete solutions... and yet cannot.
It is like coming to the end and having realized that a riddle is forced upon us by circumstances and personalities. We wonder which ones are truly good and which ones are evil... and all we have are our opinions, accepting certain things as meaningful, but not others. Still the great lesson is how off we humans look when we examine ourselves and our actions from so many angles. After we have taken these all apart and examined each carefully, it is a simple case, as in the book, where one's internals will no longer fit within his or her body any longer. The greater question is what we make of this... and how we go on from here.(less)