A well-meaning friend gave me this book for a birthday present and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I confess that I have not taken the attitude of saA well-meaning friend gave me this book for a birthday present and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I confess that I have not taken the attitude of sacrifice and restraint which this book directs. While it is clear that wealth is built up gradually and cautiously, sometimes life takes funny turns which tend to defeat such efforts. Still, the advice in this book is sound, if not colored by a grayer flavor than most of us care to wear. If nothing else, the purpose that it preaches is a welcome change from the drivel of "get rich quick(ly)" schemes with which we are inundated. Perhaps if we had this better focus on things in our lives, our society would not be as heavily burdened with our moral frustrations and existential angst....more
Sophocles covers the entire gamut of humanity in these three, twists it around and makes you take a long look at yourself. Like any great playwright,Sophocles covers the entire gamut of humanity in these three, twists it around and makes you take a long look at yourself. Like any great playwright, he crafts the story around sub stories of people and how they relate to one another as well as to themselves as a whole. In this regard, these three plays are about as an important contribution to sociology and psychology as anything modern and perhaps considerably more so as it shows the incipient sources of human misadventures....more
Being proactive is a wonderful habit tol earn. It is important, moreover, that we refresh our understanding of these principles from time to time. AftBeing proactive is a wonderful habit tol earn. It is important, moreover, that we refresh our understanding of these principles from time to time. After all, if reading something once were enough to change behavior, we could just pass around the ten commandments in prisons. The real problem comes in watering down the message here to make it coincide with the mere appearance of these messages in people. That's not a fault of the book,but it is perhaps a human character flaw which the idealism here doesn't recognize. While I applaud the intent of this book and found it valuable, it perhaps cuts a slice off that is too universal for us all to truly appreciate. perhaps I am just a bit bitter that I was introduced to it in a corporate setting intended to convey the message that we required repair in order to support the people who gave it to us....more
**spoiler alert** If you wrote a novel about wine and got some of the facts right, especially the background of the locale involved, I would give it 3**spoiler alert** If you wrote a novel about wine and got some of the facts right, especially the background of the locale involved, I would give it 3 stars. Shepard makes only one mistake as far as wine is concerned... and it's a serious one. the protagonist brings back several 1989 vintage bottles of Bordeaux on the airplane in his luggage (one gathers that the wine has been aging roughly a decade or less) and offers it up for dinner. Most winos would know to allow the bottle to rest for several weeks before drinking it. OK, I am being picky, but I know how easily wine becomes bottle sick.
In this case Shepard writes an extremely interesting novel with wine in the background. Knowing the area in Bordeaux where most of the book takes place, it was like revisiting old haunts, including learning a number of things I never knew about the area and the issues involving WW II occupied France. Without going into details one may see the chateau on the front cover of the book and realize its more than passing resemblance to The White House. Accident or plan? Actually I am not entirely sure if history can decide that point but it's an interesting issue.
the story begins simply enough with a family gathering in new England. Uncle Seth is the patriarch of the family who always wondered what happened to the woman he loved during the war, She was, as it turned out, dropped into France to work for the French Resistance. Recently this woman's bones have been discovered in a cave with prehistoric cave paintings. The story of the book then appears as a flashback from a journal given to Uncle Seth to read. I found this technique very awkward from the principle of writing a novel: one might have understood various entries explaining things and then modern conversation, but this isn't the case. In fact, the journal is somewhat complex in its mention of not only WW II issues of political ideology and history, but also the continuus statements of various characters which become somewhat confusing at times. Imagine arriving in fifth grade two months after the term had started and having to remember everyone's name and you get the idea. Sometimes you are trying to follow what is happening and then more characters pop up from a different direction. One is sometimes not quite sure which way one is heading.
In this regard, the author is writing an extremely interesting book, but my criticism is that sometimes the book appears to have been a history of WW II French politics that was turned into a mystery. The biggest issue, as stated above, is that we get into the journal and we never get out of it. One wonders why the author didn't just relate the story in stages to Uncle Seth. Still a novel about Bordeaux can't be all that bad and the history is enlightening and the descriptions of the countryside are delightful and warm. One can feel the closeness of the French temperament, both positive and negative and one can perhaps understand it a bit better than we do from a distance. I only wish the entire journey weren't quite so bumpy a ride in changing of direction so often....more
When I first read Henry Miller, I put it down in disgust, unwilling to believe that a man could be saying anything important while wallowing in the guWhen I first read Henry Miller, I put it down in disgust, unwilling to believe that a man could be saying anything important while wallowing in the gutter, both in language and figuratively in his writing. Still later I picked it up for some unknown reason, perhaps curiosity or boredom, after watching the movie Henry and June. I was curious as to whether abnormal pleasures really did kill the taste for normal ones. Miller was expanding our depth of field as human beings, without question. Today by comparison, his writing seems somewhat mild but I admire the tremendous passion with which he writes. What I discovered from reading The Tropic of Cancer is that Miller is,in a sense, putting us on. You see all the sex and the dirt and you are immediately repulsed... but then there is a glimmer of the distillation behind all of that. Ultimately, to look at Miller's books for their sex alone is to miss the point entirely: one must remove the mask, so to speak, of the ugly dregs of life to see what is behind the curtain. When one does that, the whole story pops out as plain as day. Miller uses the sexuality of his novels and writings essentially to keep those away who cannot see beyond that existence of sexual beings and into the insides of them. I learned to understand people a great deal more from reading Miller, not just the essence, but how to understand people from the inside out. Miller practically begs you to come and look at humanity by taking away all of that which is arguably moral and immoral, and just understand how we seem to work. Still, by the end of both Tropics, (and I preferred Cancer to Capricorn as did George Orwell who thought it the best book of the generation) I wasn't sure if I should end up like Anais Nin, should I have married a banker. Alas I decided the sacrifice to my immediate sanity would have been too great. I have so far avoided that abnormal pleasure too....more
Eudora Welty found her genre in the short story, withut a doubt. It was nice to read stories with continuity again, something with which modern authorEudora Welty found her genre in the short story, withut a doubt. It was nice to read stories with continuity again, something with which modern authors seem unfamiliar or perhaps they have discarded the practice in the dubious name of art. Her descriptions are sometimes sparce but always evocative. She brings in the reader as one would a close friend, speaking about things we have in common. Before long, you are smiling and nodding, remembering the time you never spent down by the old tire swing in that big persimmon tree. You can see the fields worked by negroes and whites, a slow cadence in the hot sun, hear the cicadas in the cool of the evenings as you sip cool mint tea and sit on the front porch. the children collected some fireflies and even little Annabelle has a jar with some in them, thanks to her brother jorry's generosity. Tthe travelling salesman came by just last week and you should have the new kitchen things any time now. Everyone is anxious to see them. Of course everything is not sweetness and light in these stories and Welty masterfully doesn't look for causes as much as she shows how people function. We laugh or shrink in horror sometimes as the parts oflife we want to know the least emerge from the characters, and seemingly, in ourselves. People run around doing funny things and ultimately, well most all you can do is tell the story in the porch tonight and listen to mother cluck her tongue and watch for father's sly grin. In many ways. it's the kind of life you never knew, but somehow cannot leave...at least not until we sneak off and go swimming later tonight in the creek!...more
When first faced with the daunting study of the philosophy of language, I eventually discovered this book, one which is without question seminal in moWhen first faced with the daunting study of the philosophy of language, I eventually discovered this book, one which is without question seminal in modern linguistic studies. I was terribly impressed with his writing and it gave me much difficulty for years to be able to merge this thinking into my own train of thought. While I now believe that there are some huge holes in Chomsky's linguistic theories, he remains a giant among men in this field. Everyone seeking to make any sense of this field should read and digest what Chomsky writes about the subject. Unfortunately knowing of his fame, I made the poor decision. induced by my friends, to attend one of his many lectures on modern society at which I was truly appalled. First, Chomsky is both incredibly quick minded and extremely convincing, whether writing or speaking. He has a rare and wonderful combination of quick wit and a remarkably agile mind. Personally I wish he had stuck with linguistics at which he certainly excels. My respect for the man and his writing in this field is immense; American politics, where I think his ideas border on the deranged, perhaps not so much....more
I have difficulty understanding how this book escaped my attention for so long, but I am deeply grateful for the circumstances which recommended it toI have difficulty understanding how this book escaped my attention for so long, but I am deeply grateful for the circumstances which recommended it to me. One ought to read this book, I think, not as if it were a kind of camera which captured the thoughts of two great men of quite unique ideas, but as a kind of transcendental interpretation of ideas in themselves, not perhaps thoroughly vetted, but ideas put into motion in the hope that others might continue with them and bring them to fruition...and thereby create other ideas. Do not be disappointed, in other words, when you read this and find that there are three minds hard at work, rather than just two, from which the entire work benefits.
I will have more to say when I finish this....more
There isn't much better writing than in part one of Faust. Even with the apologies for part 2, no one can read this and not be shaken to the core of hThere isn't much better writing than in part one of Faust. Even with the apologies for part 2, no one can read this and not be shaken to the core of his or her foundations concerning good and evil. I don't understand wht Goethe is not more popular in English, but it is clear that his use of language is primitive and doesn't always translate well....more
**spoiler alert** I have long postponed reading Christopher Isherwood for some odd reason or another. I think it was because I never really discovered**spoiler alert** I have long postponed reading Christopher Isherwood for some odd reason or another. I think it was because I never really discovered that there was a lot of attention given to them in book discussions over the years. Nevertheless, I have learned what I was missing. I have always been fascinated by Berlin, mostly because it has always seemed a bit out of the ordinary. Germans themselves are an odd combination of pure rigor and gaiety, something which doesn't make much sense until you experience it. One day they are yelling at you about leaving the wrong waste can by the driveway or not cleaning your windows and the next day they are inviting you for a beer or some schnapps. Still Isherwood's Berlin is the one which gave us Cabaret and the first thing I noticed, this after four selections, is that only "Berlin Stories" was well named. Other than this, he had, apparently no talent for naming his books. Even when they were altered, as for the American market, they were less than satisfying titles. For example, the Last of Mr. Norris would seem to be a story about the demise of a man, but it isn't. Nor does this character disappear forever. Still it is a lovely novel about Isherwood's relationships, closely paralleling his diaries of the early 30's. I enjoyed the story about the politics most, discussing early flirtations with communism, despising the heavy handed tactics of the Nazis, the surprisingly ineffective right wing conservatives. It was strange to see this and then oddly see the Nazis rise to power even after the communists held power briefly. I found the underworld gaiety mildly interesting, although one gets the feeling that there was quite a bit more of illicit sex than is described. While we are treated to some mild S&M, fetishism and even hints of homosexuality, one gathers that Isherwood himself was more involved than he indicates. It isn't that he doesn't make it subtly clear he is a rump ranger, but that he appears to be one of the most naive persons on the planet, combined with a stubborn streak the size of Vermont. I never understood why he was doing anything, apart from trying to please a friend. It all seemed very restrained. As a result, one never gets quite why the title character is doing anything: he is merely present and fills in the scenes but it is maddening to read about someone with commitment issues of any kind AND less passion about anything happening around him. Perhaps the title of his play, I am a Camera , suggests what he may have been all about. Simply put, while all the other characters are somewhat vibrant and real, the narrator is dull as dishwater. He gives English lessons and does translations, but that's about it. He is interesting around others but never seems interesting in and of himself. Hence while the book is fascinating in its insight to the era, it lacks the dimension to make it truly a good read. ...more
Dostoevsky is a truly impressive writer. Unfortunately I had to find this out on my own because Ihad been forced to read him in high school. I have noDostoevsky is a truly impressive writer. Unfortunately I had to find this out on my own because Ihad been forced to read him in high school. I have no idea why high school is so bent on destroying great works of art for readers, but it seems that it is a common issue. In any case, this is a very existentialist novel, one which begins by recognizing man's situation as a responsible agent. The frustration concerning this is that there seems to be very little he can do to dig himself out of the hole in which he (or she) finds him or herself. This is a fascinating account of someone who desperately needs to find a way out. Maybe that is the whole problem with the book also. Dostoevsky translates fairly well from the Russian, unlike some other writers such as Nabokov or (Boris)Pasternak. I like the Russian novelists immensely and I am enjoying reading this again after a long lapse. One feels so much more alive after taking the true matters of the soul to heart.
The book is divided into two parts, that of a later statement of existence, with lots of intended subterfuge using the technique known as "the unreliable narrator." Frankly, I found it a pain to read, although the second part where he deals with people somewhat explains what he first writes. One must, in my opinion, go back and read the first part again after reading the second in order to attain the complete understanding. Nevertheless, one is tempted to discount this as madness from living with oneself for long periods. While somewhat plausible, I think that a recognition of the frilliness of our lives. When I was in college, I believed that everyone should examine his or her life: consequently I pissed a lot of people off on my crusade. I found a lot of characters like in the book at school, many of them only focused on getting large quantities of money which they equated with happiness. Over ten years later, I find more of them all around me. One doesn’t profit monetarily by reading this kind of book, but perhaps it leads us to dig a bit into our own souls. It doesn’t have to make us crazy, but maybe it keeps us focused on things that are important in our lives. ...more
**spoiler alert** This was not the first of the Burgess novels which I read in college. I was first drawn to him because of his word play, the double**spoiler alert** This was not the first of the Burgess novels which I read in college. I was first drawn to him because of his word play, the double and triple meanings that purveyed his writing. OK, perhaps I am giving him too much credit with triple meanings. Burgess reminded me that literature is about the sound of words. It gave me a new appreciation for the way something was said,less whisically and more for the effect of an audience, much like Homer. When I picked up A Clockwork Orange, I was expecting a sad tale, knowing that Burgess had written this in a period of deep depression following his wife's death. However I was unprepared for the prophetic look at the future through his eyes, almost like a spot on accuracy that books like Brave new World, 1984 and others missed completely, including the relatively bizarre Dahlgren from a later time.
Alex has a kind of morality about him which he has learned. He is relatiely happy with his morality and there are rules of behavior and things which are worthy of respect and others disrespect, but he knows that being able to use any of it requires either false obsequiousness or overwhelming power.
This is in a close contrast to the stark world of, say, Catcher in the Rye in which the hero denies everything value. Here in the future, Alex appreciate fine music, appreciates and celebrates his natural aggressive tendencies and even hones them to a fine edge. Ultimately it is his dull witted gang members which turn against him: they don't see that there are any rules at all, but just do whatever they feel, kind oflike hip hop artists today. It is all the more biting that his ex-gang members become ruthless policemen.
In prison, Alex continues to follow the rules, pretending to be whatever is expected of him in order to get on with his life. He recognizes that unless one has the strength to object, all one does is lose. Ultimately, Alex is the only moral character in the entire book or, at very least, the only one who maintains from beginning to end a kind of consistency aboiut his actions which make sense to him. When he learns something, he immediately incorporates it into his syetm of epistemology. I also learned to enjoy Beethoven from reading this book and would often play one of the 9 symphonies from the Berlin Philharmonic while reading it. It was great fun. While many do not like what Kubrick did with the movie, the last scene in the snow is hysterically funny and I get in lots of trouble with women for saying so. It isn't that I think the issue is funny, but I think that it's a perfect resolution to the ordeal Alex has been through with society which is always second guessing itself with political correctness. Where have we seen that lately?...more
I do not bother adding all the books I have read to my lists unless I have the idea that sooner or later I will write a review of them. As it turns ouI do not bother adding all the books I have read to my lists unless I have the idea that sooner or later I will write a review of them. As it turns out, this one is long overdue. Not only is Jean Shepherd a superlative writer, but despite the great differences in our generations, his stories illuminated my early childhood in ways in which I could not have conceived, somewhat like using a flashlight to look in the corners of a darkened room. I had forgotten that most of those memories were there. Moreover, I just read that someone put "A Christmas Story" on the worst books list. OK, that's the real reason I am writing this: while this book doesn't require a defense, its prose alone more than deserves one.
I had long ago heard the title as a kind of a tired joke and, when I picked up the book, I was expecting far less than I received: after all if the title were trite, how could I conceive the writing inside should not be? Still I could not have been more wrong... even if Sheldon Cooper would argue that being wrong deserves no degrees. What is contained herein is nothing less than the magic of childhood in its essence, preserved in a kind of amber, as it were, for us to turn over and marvel. Sometimes I would take on the characteristics of the character as if I were one of his/her friends just because I could so intimately feel myself a part of it all. My sixth grade teacher really was quite like Ralphie's. We weren't ashamed of Christmas. On top of it all, my father really did drive Oldsmobiles, albeit significantly newer!
It is quite a shame that the word "lyrical" is so overused in writing, but the ease with which Shepherd evokes a child's thoughts and observations make me both laugh and blush, alternately. He creates the images in which we are there in the kitchen, living room or watching the fight in the alleyway, not really as an observer but one taking part. I have thought about how to put it concisely and this is the best I can do: it's a book of considerable nostalgia, most of which the reader can only imagine but yet somehow knows the truth thereof.
While this book is a reminiscence, one now written a half century ago, it is not all giggles and I think that's what makes it valuable. The backdrop of existence is small town life in a Midwestern town during the Great Depression. Moreover it is the contrast that creates the greater value in this book and, perhaps provides a lesson for us today. Life is really quite ugly and unhappy in most of its circumstances, but the human spirit picks itself up during special times. One must appreciate the silly and ridiculous and sometimes near insane moments in order to understand.
The beauty of this book is that these people lived in all the muck and mire that reality can produce and still found special moments to celebrate and be joyous. It is a far cry from the misery which we seem to inflict on one another daily in our modern life. In its essence, our wealth has brought us only want and our satisfaction has created only a deeper desire to negate our pain forever. Of course we can do neither, but Jean Shepherd explains to us how ridiculous we sometimes are, how we deserve to laugh and, most, how we can free our spirit through not taking our temporary consignment to the earth so seriously....more