"We're all still walking, aren't we? We're still persisting, still keeping on, still sleeping, waking, still crouching on cans, still crouching in car...more"We're all still walking, aren't we? We're still persisting, still keeping on, still sleeping, waking, still crouching on cans, still crouching in cars, still driving, driving, driving, still taking it, still eating it, still home-improving and twelve-stepping it, still waiting, still standing in line, still scrabbling in bags for a handfull of keys.
Ever have that childish feeling, with the sun on your salty face and icecream melting in your mouth, the infantile feeling that you want to cancel worldly happiness, turn it down as a false lead?"
"Bills and wills, deeds, leases, taxes -- oh, man, the water torture of staying alive."
"The revolution is coming, Detective. And it's a revolution of consciousness. That's what Jennifer believed."
Damn didn't expect to lose my heart to this book. It was an anti-mystery that flouted and mocked its own conventions and it was pure sweet noir, told by a big broad lady with a man's voice and blue eyes that've seen everything but still can admit that this deal with Jennifer, that was the worst.(less)
A lot of reviews here think you won't like this if you're too puritanical but I'd say you can't like it if you're not puritanical enough. If you don't...moreA lot of reviews here think you won't like this if you're too puritanical but I'd say you can't like it if you're not puritanical enough. If you don't find it shocking that someone would drink and screw around a lot then it gets boring pretty fast. And the whole second half as I recall relies on cheap racism for laughs which by the way is not a thrilling shocking trait but the mainstreamest comedy there is.(less)
A wrenchingly strong beginning and lovely writing throughout, but the other reviewers were right to call it disjointed. It worked in some ways - Aziz'...moreA wrenchingly strong beginning and lovely writing throughout, but the other reviewers were right to call it disjointed. It worked in some ways - Aziz's back-story comes like a revelation to explain his distanced paranoia. However some bits were brushed over too quickly, especially Ghazi's transformation around 2/3 through. Heather is never fleshed out and it's particularly annoying that Lorraine only chooses to let us into her head once she loses a lot of weight and starts sleeping with another guy... definitely wasn't a single strong female character in the book at all. No one paper-thin police officer doesn't count. The whole hunt was not done with the sensitivity she probably could have mustered, I felt like all of a sudden I was watching crime TV.
Sitll, I found it an engrossing, rich book. I guess Aziz makes it all worth it. Watching him struggle to understand the gestures and language of the foreign people around him, trying to make sense of his life and his drive for survival, of why things were bad in Algeria and bad in a much different way for him in America, we got to follow along as he explored all this with great poetry and insight.(less)
The book is so good I don't know what to say about it but I can say something about that introduction because that was...moreSome cats just swing that way...
The book is so good I don't know what to say about it but I can say something about that introduction because that was plain awful. Again and again Giles tells us how Algren "challenges" us to identify with these grotesque poor people. Well when I first started reading this I did have that wow moment of damn, I never did quite imagine so clearly what it would be like to actually be one of those putrid crusty drunks leering cock-eyed from a bar stool (I'm thinking of Blind Pig here...) But by the time I ended it I wasn't thinking about social justice or middle class privilege or how proud of myself I was that I had identified with the characters. I was just - in awe. Of some of the most seductive writing and tragic characters I have ever met. Sophie stuck in her wheelchair by the force of her own spite, watching out the window as she waits for Frankie to come home. The "piece of trade" downstairs, waiting too, as the el billows her white curtains. Record Head Bedmar mulling and mulling on how we are all members of one another. All members of one another. The punk scampering along behind his idol. Violet dragging her velvet train around picking up cigarette butts telling all the men at the party that they can only kiss her if they compliment her husband's socks. And Frankie Machine of course running and running from that monkey but the monkey keeps on laughing at him just the same. All the riffraff of West Division street come together to make this one of the best tributes humanity's got.(less)
The Rav's first and last words: "'Speech, he said. 'If the created world were a piece of music, speech...moreA fable about the power of words and of silence.
The Rav's first and last words: "'Speech, he said. 'If the created world were a piece of music, speech would be its refrain, its recurring theme. In the Torah, we read that Hashem created the world through speech...'"
And later, in one of the 13 sermons that begins each chapter: "The more powerful a force, the more holy a place, the more truth there is in wisdom, the more these things should be private, deep, accessible only to those who have worked to contain them."
Strident disobedience comes naturally to Ronit, the Rav's daughter. Through the course of the story, she learns the courage of peace - walking away from a fight without submitting.
As Esti tells her: "But I think, if God wishes to punish me, so be it; that is His right. But it is my right to disobey."
Neither Esti nor Ronit are fleshed out in that bulky way novelists tend to fatten their characters. Their impulses and emotions are minimalist, universal strokes across the bland claustrophobic canvas of Hendon.
On the night of the new moon: "The sky was almost cloudless, with only one long streak of thin cloud smudged across the blue-black. Beneath the heavens, she thought. This is where we are. Always, but especially here, with the heavens looking. She spoke to the stars, silently. She said, 'Can you still love me, after what I have done?' The stars were quiet, but they continued to shine. She took this as a positive indication. She said, 'Your sister is gone,' The stars thought for a moment. They said, 'Our sister will return.' Esti said, 'As mine has?' The stars winked and smiled. Ronit said, 'Er. Esti, what are you muttering about?' Esti said, 'Let's walk through the trees.'"
On the origin of the earth in chaos: "What does it mean, that this world came into being at first through a blinding Act, but then, subtly, slowly, as elements were teased away, as infinitely fine lines were drawn? It means, surely, that, to understand the world, one must understand the separation."(less)
"Sexually speaking, Indian women and men are simultaneously promiscuous and modest. That's a contradiction, but it also happens to be the truth."
That...more"Sexually speaking, Indian women and men are simultaneously promiscuous and modest. That's a contradiction, but it also happens to be the truth."
That true contradiction is a tidy way to sum up the style of this collection. Promiscuous and modest, tough and vulnerable, stoic and maudlin, elegant and clumsy, smart and naive. And by contradiction I'm talking extremes, no pansying moderation but full-on over-the-top ballsy commitment to both poles.
Maybe it's that contradiction which ties the whole collection together. Each story has its own separate tone, rhythm, and vocabulary, which delightfully seems to flow straight out of the respective main character. Still, reading through the stories, you have no doubt that they belong together. Of course, they're all about Indians in the Northwest, but there's a stylistic unity as well.
So much for style. As for content, I was just as hooked. The characters evoke my dream of homesick nostalgia for the West - rugged, isolated dreamers every one.
And funny! Really funny. Sad, not so much, for me at least. Touching, sure, but the sad parts were too exaggerated or maybe it's just that I can't get invested enough within one short story to empathize with the characters and weep a little. But I can definitely laugh.
Also, language. Even in my least favorite story The Sin Eaters (too much of that coldly sad stuff for me) certain phrases leapt out and shook me for no tangible reason. "Memory is a church on fire."
But mostly, looking back, funny. Even too funny, aggressively so, trying a little too hard maybe. Sometimes with writing like this I can just see the author at the circular table of his college writing class, his prof standing above him wagging his finger saying "active verbs!" But wit is wit, and Alexie has it.
"Listen, Mary Lynn had once said to Jeremiah, asking somebody why they fall in love is like asking somebody why they believe in God. You start asking questions like that, she had added, and you're either going to start a war or you're going to hear folk music." (less)
Wow. Raw? Yes. Raw garlic, raw beef, raw onion, raw carrots, raw beets, three raw eggs, and a pile of raw spices, bitten and swallowed, one after the...moreWow. Raw? Yes. Raw garlic, raw beef, raw onion, raw carrots, raw beets, three raw eggs, and a pile of raw spices, bitten and swallowed, one after the next. Agee, perhaps, had he not died before its publication, would have simmered and mixed and stirred his book up for more subtle crescendoing enjoyment. Instead you get this onslaught. Maybe I'm just getting old, but this book made me cry every single time I picked it up. I came to approach it with dread and awe, asking myself, am I ready to enter this trauma now?
OK back up a moment, try to get some distance. That's what he is able to do - Agee. He achieves that golden distance of ruthless observation. You get a Woolf-ish inner monologue, but with even less care about accurately representing how the characters would have represented their own feelings. What I mean is, he translates it for us. In the first pages I thought the whole thing was heavy-handed and silly but then he explained, "There were no words, or even ideas, or formed emotions, of the kind that have been suggested here, no more in the man than in the boy child."
... I just wanted to give a much longer quote just now, but shied away, afraid of exposing the inner soul of this book to casual skimmers. Like Rufus did, when he bragged. He bragged about the death. That exquisitely tragically human reaction to great tragedy, or to any great beauty - show it off. See its grandeur and know nothing better to do with it than to show it off and twitch afterwards in the knowledge that the swine shat all over those pearls.
There are so many moments like that in this book, so many tenderly cruel revelations of frail human dignity. My other favorite is Andrew and the Christmas carol. Questions of faith - should they or shouldn't they, does He or isn't He - are raised over and over throughout the family's shocked grief. Andrew is the least decided. His angry confusion ends the whole book (one of the rawest moments in the sense of surely Agee would have tucked that bit into the dough somewhere earlier on had he lived to do so). But after the sitting through the first night of grief, walking home with his parents, he has these words in his head. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
... I can do no more than keep quoting. This book's shameless beauty refuses further gloss ...
The silent stars go by, he said aloud, not whispering, but so quietly he was sure they would not hear. His eyes sprang full of tears; his throat, his chest knotted into a deep sob which he subdued, and the tears itched on his cheeks. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, he sang loudly, almost in fury, within himself: the everlasting light! and upon these words a sob leapt up through him which he could not subdue but could only hope to conceal. They did not notice. This is crazy, he told himself incredulously. No sense in this at all! Everlasting light! The hopes and fears, a calm and implacable voice continued within him; he spoke quietly: Of all the years. Are met in thee tonight, he whispered: and in the middle of a wide plain, the middle of the dark and silent city, slabbed beneath shadowless light, he saw the dead man, and struck his thigh with his fists with all his strength.(less)
Kvanvig argues that knowledge is not more valuable than any subset of its parts, such as true belief, or (gettiered) justified true belief. [sidenote:...moreKvanvig argues that knowledge is not more valuable than any subset of its parts, such as true belief, or (gettiered) justified true belief. [sidenote: I think it's one of the wonders of human thought that Gettier managed to get his name made into a widely accepted verb by publishing a three page essay! just sayin...] So Kvanvig brings us this sorrowful news but then hastens to tell us that, rather than fall into despair, burn all our epistemology books and dance naked in the flames with a bottle of rum, we should comfort ourselves with the fact that understanding is indeed more valuable than any subset of its parts. Why? Because understanding doesn't come in isolated bullet points like knowledge, it requires coherence between a bunch of related beliefs. And, more important for his style of argumentation, a subject needn't "assuage Gettier" in order to achieve understanding. Understanding is Gettier-proof. [seriously! anyone outside of analytic epistemology must think we are all lunatic cult members...]
I agree with critics who argue that Kvanvig went all wrong on his descripion of understanding - for instance, with his insistence that understanding is factive. However, I don't think that's the primary weakness of the book. The problem is the structure. He zooms through all the major attempts to prove that knowledge has more value than any subset of its parts, dismissing each one with what he considers its fatal flaws. Then he concludes, having come this far, we may responsibly assume that all such attempts will fail. That's not impressive technique. Look at history, sometimes the truth just takes a long time to come out! You can't make an argument in philosophy based on your own exhaustion. And if Kvanvig were honest with himself, he would realize that he knows that. After all, look at his argument against Hartry Field's idea that it's impossible to resolve which is more important: maximizing truth or minimizing falsehoods. Kvanvig chastises him by pointing out that difficulty does not imply impossibility. Yet that's exactly the argument he trots out in favor of the impossibility of finding a value for knowledge over that of its subparts!
Moreover, such an argumentative structure makes it far too easy to ignore his important suggestion that understanding is valuable and worthy of our attention. For if you can find a single flaw in any of his previous refutations of other philosophers then one is no longer obligated to consider the value of understanding, but will go right on battling about the value of knowledge. I applaud efforts to widen the perspective of epistemologists, but I don't think he has found the most convincing way to do so.(less)
I enjoyed the slang and some of the flashier, more surreal moments of this book, but I disagree with most of the other reviews up here that it works a...moreI enjoyed the slang and some of the flashier, more surreal moments of this book, but I disagree with most of the other reviews up here that it works as a scarily believable prophecy. Well, he may be right about the environment. (Nice touch: the memories of geezers about how beautiful those times were when the eagles and the animals wandered into the cities after the last forests were gone.) But I don’t think humanity could ever get so stupid and controllable. The speed of technology does change minds, but I don’t see evidence that it dulls them. Let’s not succumb to golden age thinking and forget that there have always been masses of people who focus only on comfort and consumption, who have no interest in thinking for themselves and do whatever they’re told. Why should we assume that there will be ever more of them? Just because advertisements have become more sophisticated doesn’t mean that they can ever become all-powerful. I can't imagine that people wouldn't get *bored* of hearing advertisements all the time in their head.
Basically, I don’t believe that human society will ever lose its tendency to include and respect groups of creative and critical people. For example, where were the techies who program the Feed? Can’t the ones intelligent enough to create such a monster also be the ones to transcend it?
And let's not forget that the possibilities technology offers the creative and the critical are tremendous! Such as, for example, sharing book reviews with strangers across the world. Not to mention the stuff you can do with music. Yes, pop music is only written to be sold. That is nothing new. That doesn't mean there are no more artists! Let’s not go all Miniver Cheevey and forget about the benefits of modernity.
So, Feed actually works as a warning against using consumption as a way to ignore the unpleasant side of reality. It gives no reason to freak out and turn off your internet or your ipod, which after all are just as likely to be the solution to that problem as its cause.
"I call it reaching to the heart of the matter. If I could split myself into ten different people, I'd be even happier. Sarajevo was an experience, so...more"I call it reaching to the heart of the matter. If I could split myself into ten different people, I'd be even happier. Sarajevo was an experience, so is being a stripper in New York. Experience teaches you detachment."
All the trust issues and double-crossings bored me, but Sami's identity crises as he wanders around New York City were fun to follow. Also, I liked the poem Ellena wrote:
Something moaned In her? No Though it could have been the oud she plays When he calls for her(less)
"It is not by deduction from first principles arbitrarily chosen that human reasoning actually proceeds, but by loose habits of mental equivocation wh...more"It is not by deduction from first principles arbitrarily chosen that human reasoning actually proceeds, but by loose habits of mental equivocation which such principles at best may exhibit afterwards in idealized form. Moreover, if we could strip our thought for the arena of a perfect logic, we should be performing, perhaps, a remarkable dialectical feat; but this feat would be a mere addition to the complexities of nature, and no simplification. This motley world, besides its other antics, would then contain logicians and their sports."
mwah! Thanks Santayana! I ended up not finishing you because I liked your writing about skepticism so much I went over to the Oxford Skepticism handbook (ed. Greco) to get a less eloquent, more up-to-date approach. Not sure if that was the right choice. Now back fully in the throes of analytic epistemology, I miss your snazzy, bold integrity!(less)