Zadie Smith is amazing. She portrays the immigrant experience in London more poignantly than Rushdie. Her dialogue pops off the page with the same powZadie Smith is amazing. She portrays the immigrant experience in London more poignantly than Rushdie. Her dialogue pops off the page with the same power as Junot Diaz, but without the melodrama.
The book wasn't flawless. The narrative flow didn't always work. I was dying for her to spend more time on Clara and Alsana (it's definitely way more about fathers and sons than about mothers and daughters). And the ending felt a little incomplete, with a lot of tension built up and not really being dealt with in the final scene.
But damn. She was how old when she wrote this? 20? Put me on the list of worshipers. ...more
As an introduction to anarchist theory for someone who knows only the conceptual framework, this was very helpful. And also very frustrating.
The vastAs an introduction to anarchist theory for someone who knows only the conceptual framework, this was very helpful. And also very frustrating.
The vast majority of people have no idea what anarchism is. (Chaos and bombs, right?) This is unfortunate. Anarchism is so beautiful and liberating, and really, truly founded in common sense.
The basic premise which Chomsky reiterates many times is that humans should be completely free, to the greatest extent possible. Any structure, relationship, or institution that limits that freedom must be challenged and questioned, and that authority holds the burden of proof to justify its existence. Chomsky acknowledges that there are instances when authority, which automatically reduces freedom, is justified. For example, if a child is running into a street, and a parent yells "Stop!", the parent limits the child's freedom, but in a very justified way.
What Chomsky argues, and I tend to agree, is that in the vast majority of cases, authority is not justifiable. It limits freedom unnecessarily, and so should be eroded.
Each piece in this collection was interesting in its own way, but the two I enjoyed the most were "Language and Freedom" and "Containing the Threat of Democracy." I also appreciate his demarcation between goals (achievable things we can work for now) and visions (the ideal society that we would love to see but which is currently impossible given the present social structures).
What I liked about Chomsky's writing is that it's very accessible and easy to understand. He does this consciously--he opines that highfalutin intellectual jargon is usually just a means of mystifying very simple concepts so that only a privileged few can take part in the discourse (boy is that ever true!). He's very good at reducing concepts to their core.
However, he is very short on specifics, and when it comes to anarchism, a theory that I find so attractive, yet am very new to and know little about, I want some specifics. The shortcomings of anarchism seem so obvious and non-trivial that I need someone to really walk me through it.
I definitely recommend this for anyone who is new to anarchism and wants to learn more about it, or anyone interested in intellectual attacks on imperialism, corporate tyranny, government coercion, etc. ...more
Wow, I had no idea what to expect going into this book, but this certainly caught me off guard.
First of all, the slang was brilliant. Just brilliant.Wow, I had no idea what to expect going into this book, but this certainly caught me off guard.
First of all, the slang was brilliant. Just brilliant. Amazingly consistent. Really hard to follow at first, but super natural by the end.
I haven't finished sorting out how I feel about all the themes in this book; the violent erupting of repression, the reduction of individuals as symbols for political campaigns, state approaches to dealing with violence, the importance of free will, and whether that importance changes in the face of horrible violence or depravity.
In some ways, this novel was deeply unsatisfying, because I wanted way more details about the context than the narrator was able to give. But the narrator is so brilliant and self-aware and complicated (and horrible), and that was sorta the point of the book.
I would love to talk about this in a book club or something. ...more
Blah. Horrible book. Stupid characters. Gaping plot holes. Oh, and let's not forget the overt racism and incredibly flagrant sexism. My favorite lineBlah. Horrible book. Stupid characters. Gaping plot holes. Oh, and let's not forget the overt racism and incredibly flagrant sexism. My favorite line was this: "We shouldn't be surprised their nation has lost all its leaders..... After all, we're now led by a female, who is also the lowest ranking cabinet member."
Bleh, bleh, bleh. I'd give it -2 stars if possible. ...more
It's hard for me to rate this book. At some points, I loooooved it. It was heartwarming. It was hilarious. It was tragic. It was fascinating. Eggers iIt's hard for me to rate this book. At some points, I loooooved it. It was heartwarming. It was hilarious. It was tragic. It was fascinating. Eggers is a talented and engaging writer, and he manages to perfectly express so many convoluted topics. I loved how he talked about writing. I loved how he just put his internal dialogue right into text. I didn't know if other people's brains were as constantly neurotic as mine. His is.
The hyper-self awareness of the book helped it overcome some of the typical annoying nature of memoirs. He acknowledges that it's obnoxious to write a book about yourself because you just think you're that interesting. So it was much better than most memoirs in that respect.
There were some majorly problematic race things going on - he could have overcome them with a mild attempt at analysis, but he just sorta let it drop. And, like with Sedaris, I was super bored at the stories about the white middle-class life of a privileged kid. I don't find privilege compelling. I get that it was a necessary part of his story and background. But it annoyed me.
Probably my favorite aspect of this book was how he used all the material surrounding the book. His acknowledgments had me roaring with laughter, and everyone in my house was itching to read the book when I was done because they couldn't help but hear my response to it. He has fun making fun of intellectual types of literary analysts.
Overall, I really liked it. But it still kinda annoyed me. But I really liked it, and would recommend it for most people. ...more
I know, I know, it won a Nobel prize, but I'm sticking with 3 stars.
I could have been more into it if the author had tried to turn all his ramblingsI know, I know, it won a Nobel prize, but I'm sticking with 3 stars.
I could have been more into it if the author had tried to turn all his ramblings into something maybe resembling a plot. But in this book, as he says himself he just "slapped together travel notes, moralistic ramblings, feelings, notes, jottings, untheoretical discussions, unfable-like fables, copied out some folk songs, added some legend-like nonsense of your own invention, and are calling it fiction!" (p. 453)
I'm guessing this was insanely difficult to translate, and given how beautiful the writing was in English, the translator apparently did a fantastic job. The writing was quite lyrical and descriptive at moments. Like describing the ringing of a gigantic bell in a monastery: "The monk in the black cassock is striking this enormous bell with a big wooden pole suspended from the ceiling. It does not so much as quiver but, as if in response, from the ground beneath, the sound of the bell slowly ascends to the rafters and fills the hall--booming reverberations gush through the doorway, engulfing my body and mind in its sound waves." (p. 441) That sounds like something I want to experience.
The vast majority of this book did not do a great job of holding my interest. I'm not that interested in philosophical ponderings about identity, and that's a central theme. I was engaged during a lot of his tales of visiting different sites, but he never picked up the narration where he left off. The graphic descriptions of violence against women on page after page after page after page mostly just wore me out and made me feel terrible, and I am not sure it wasn't just gratuitous.
Things I thought he did well: Trying to describe life under totalitarianism and during political upheaval could be long-winded and detached and use lots of words to say very little. He avoids this by sharing a multitude of very simple, powerful stories: a girl sentenced to ten years in prison because of writing in her diary that she missed her father while he was away serving in the military; families destroying ancient heirlooms to avoid being punished for having them in their possession, etc. These vignettes, paired with the narrator's wanderings through China's cultural history, made me much more interested to learn more about Chinese history and society.
And by the last 80 pages or so, the theme of loneliness and isolation did start to carry some resonance.
So, not a total loss, but definitely not what I wanted to read now, and not something I'd recommend to most people. ...more