Tribal Leadership offers insight regarding Human nature. More importantly, it identifies how group dynamics are influenced and defined by the types of...moreTribal Leadership offers insight regarding Human nature. More importantly, it identifies how group dynamics are influenced and defined by the types of people who, by nature, are attracted to group interactions. The authors identify five different levels of groups based on levels of sophistication and what draws people to them.
This is more than a self-help book. It attempts to describe the nature of various tribal associations, how they come about and why they can be utilized as vectors to effect outcomes and bring about change. Considering the boldness of such an undertaking, it might seem like a daunting task. However, the authors have met their goal. This book based upon research from longitudinal studies conducted on some well known, contemporary organizations.
While the book's findings could easily be adapted as an organizational model, they effectively explain why particular associations have the potential to be destructive while other 'higher' functioning groups have the potential to bring about long-lasting, positive changes with global implications.
The paperback edition that I just finished reading has an addendum (completed in early 2011) that offers insight regarding the state of current American politics, the depressed economy and how the two were affected by "Level 3" thinking.
It is a fast read and easy to follow until the final few pages of the penultimate chapter explaining "Level 4" organizations. That is the only place it bogs down - if only slightly - and makes sense with more thorough reading.
It is too bad our politicians, media, policy wonks and bloggers cannot all read this fascinating book. It is a keeper.
Made to Stick provides insight regarding why some ideas take hold while others do not. The authors Chip and Dan Heath use entertaining stories to demo...moreMade to Stick provides insight regarding why some ideas take hold while others do not. The authors Chip and Dan Heath use entertaining stories to demonstrate that effective communication changes people. The Heath brothers accomplish this by explaining how people think, how the reasons behind decisions are not always immediately evident and even counter intuitive.
Borrowing from successful advertising campaigns and teaching regimens, the Heaths cover some ingenious methods used by those who not only want to get their message across but, to make it stick.
It may be a stretch to classify this book in the category of meta-cognition. However, it does heavily deal with how people think and how yet others have capitalized on that knowledge to develop effective advertizing campaigns and successful educational endeavors. The worthiness of a book such as this has to do with the sway these techniques hold in recruiting change of thinking and more importantly, how easily they can be applied in other situations where change is the goal.
Don't let the length of this cursory review dissuade you from reading Made to Stick. It is a great book with many useful, practical insights.(less)
This book is jam-packed with information from start to finish - and the information is engaging all the way through. There is so much in the way of re...moreThis book is jam-packed with information from start to finish - and the information is engaging all the way through. There is so much in the way of relevant information that can be beneficial for people from all walks of life. Goleman rightly points out that while cognitive ability and IQ do carry their own importance, such competencies are eclipsed by emotional competency. he makes some cogent arguments and supports them with reliable data. This book is highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in understanding Human nature and the art of communication. This is one of my all time favorite books.(less)
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecut...more***Please note: this review contains spoilers***
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecution and the miscarriage of justice.
It is a story about a serial sex offender whose life is allegedly coming to an end because of an inoperable brain tumor. His confession, which could exonerate a young black man - erroneously accused, convicted and doomed to die in Huntsville, Texas - comes too late.
Here is what the book made me think about:
When we are young, it makes sense to see the world in rather absolute terms. Because our experiences are limited, we rely on quick, easy answers as a matter of survival. With the passage of time our life experiences teach us there are few issues that are either ’black’ or ‘white.'. Consequences are measured and decisions are weighted. The greater good is balanced against personal gain and self-preservation. Adult decision-making is a matter of pragmatism versus dogma and reality versus the ideal.
With age comes experience whose continual ebbs and flows slowly soften the boundaries between right and wrong. Our absolutist world segues into the realm where shades of gray predominate. The anticipation of youth molts into the reminiscence of maturity, a longing for a simpler time. Never is it so apparent than when we are facing times of crisis.
Intuitively, we understand that when facing calamity, we ought to slow down. Experience tells us trying times are when reason ought to prevail. Sadly, something about the Human condition prevents such rationality and reliance upon logic. Despite how irrational it may be, in a world that seems ever unwinding and deteriorating - especially in times of stress and deep emotional turmoil – the quickest, the most definitive - the most sought answer lies in simplicity. And, that is where our problems begin.
As a civilized society, our obvious remedy is to dole out justice through legally accepted venues. We have developed a legal system of codified laws prescribing punishment for breaking the law from the most mundane of offenses to the extreme. Understandably - with an eye focused on religion for guidance - we seek a means of how exactly to mete out that justice fairly, equitably and without prejudice. Taking of a Human life is a serious matter and arguments based on religiosity carry great sway over how we - as a society - deal with lethal Human transgressions via state-sanctioned execution.
Now, if the media is to be believed, violence is rampant in America. There is little doubt that they have a powerful influence over the collective consciousness of those who tune in for the news coverage. It seems like there is no limit on just how cruel - even vicious - Humans can behave toward one another. Now I am not solely accusing 'the media' of perpetrating mass hysteria. There is a need and there is a need to feed. This symbiosis plays itself out on a more practical concern. The Media's primary motivation for patronage is ratings driven and the ever present, bottom line dictates of supply & demand. America is enthralled with violence. We can't get enough of it. Indeed, crime does pay. We love the 'shock and awe.'
Couple the ratings-driven pimping of violence and the unlimited supply if politicians who pander to the American public by clamoring for law & order, inciting fear and it is no wonder that God-fearing Americans have become fluent in the double-speak of religion where they can simultaneously lament the murder of a fetus and fervently abide in their belief of the sanctity of Capital punishment all in one fell swoop.
Perhaps I am giving into my own reminiscences here but nowadays, there seems to be a great void in leadership both politically and in houses of worship. I am not only talking about American society. It is being played out all over the planet. Humanity throughout the world - owing to the maladies of emotionally driven responses, swathed in religiosity - account for the more predictable Human condition where vengeance and fear take precedence over rationality, compassion and forgiveness. We opt for the immediate - the dramatic.
Personally, I fail to draw any clear distinction between the Sarah Palins and the Muqtada al Sadrs of the world - well maybe Sarah is right - the difference comes down to lipstick ...more like lipschtick.
I am convinced that is precisely why Cable News and Faux news networks have become so popular: they focus on problems and offer sound-bite solutions. Like snacks, the messages being proffered for complex, difficult issues the solutions are filling, even tasty but completely lacking in nutritional value. Junk news is society’s junk food, its pre-processed agenda.
Grisham weaves a decent story that reveals less-than-honest ambitions and motivations of key players in the process of pursuing justice. Grisham’s character, Robbie Flak – the pugnacious defense attorney - sums it up very well when he says; “Death binds people in odd ways…”
The first killer in this story’s most immediate victims were Nichole Yarber, the seventeen year-old cheerleader he stalked and her classmate, Donté Drumm – the fall guy slated to die. The second story carries larger implications; society is the ultimate victim, and ironically, the perpetrator, the second killer.
I suppose the most disturbing part of this story is how, through legal processes and religious appropriation, something as sacred and high-minded as justice can be meted out so rationally and, with so much slight-of-hand. In order for society to move forward, it does so with a conventionality of thought and unquestioned respect for a process that everyone assumes is working flawlessly and free of the taint of personal agendas. This is a story about process rum amok. Despite America’s best efforts to assure fairness and lack of bias, meting out justice in such a routine manner, there are countless points along the way where rules can be bent, manipulated and ignored outright as a means of affecting the outcome.
The Confession explores the motivations of killers, how they differ individually and how they share a certain commonality. It is an exploration of how the individual offense touches off a cascade of events where posterity reveals, we collectively become killers. The characteristic ideal of blind justice is usurped through winks, blinks, nods and squints; it is anything but just.
Capital punishment is something I do not agree with for reasons philosophical, religious, spiritual, moral and even fiscal considerations. I understand that such a stance nowadays is unpopular because, contrary to exhaustive research, swift and terrible punishment is popularly perceived to be a powerful deterrent for would-be rapists and murderers.
Violence is infectious, it is self-perpetuating. Its beginnings are almost imperceptible. However, once seeded, it lies in wait - like some inoculated virus awaiting the right conditions to manifest itself. It wears many masks - some brutal and others cloaked in righteousness. But, let's not deceive ourselves; it is still violence.
Aristotle said,“Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy."
There is a time to be indignant and injustice is something to be indignant over. Robbie Flak is right to be angry just as society is right to be upset at the violence perpetrated upon the innocent. But, we can never forget that - with rare exception - society's monsters are often a product of their environment just as the self-righteous and the indignant are. People who feel powerless relish it wherever and whenever they happen upon it and its intoxicating effects are difficult to restrain, confine or relinquish. Perhaps that is the greatest reason we need to be reminded that we are all connected.
I agree with the Poet John Donne, "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind..." [For Whom the Bell Tolls], and that is the lasting thought I can take away from this book which serves to remind the reader that extreme reactions, fueled by moments of passion where fear and anxiety are stoked by the desire for revenge - while regrettable, cannot be reversed
I am reminded of a cartoon series character named Pogo, created by Walt Kelly back in the seventies. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I think this is what Grisham is trying to get across in his story line.
I haven't read all of Grisham's books. He has touched upon the topic of the Death Penalty in two other books, “An Innocent Man” and “The Chamber.” The former actually chronicles a real-life miscarriage of justice and I have not read it yet. I have read the latter and I did like it, despite the ending.
Thus far, I have read seven Grisham books and for me, The Confession ranks in the top two.(less)
My friend Tony purchased a house two years ago because the spacious kitchen had potential; plenty of counter space and a fireplace. Last year, I remod...moreMy friend Tony purchased a house two years ago because the spacious kitchen had potential; plenty of counter space and a fireplace. Last year, I remodeled it and it is beautiful. The layout is like a command center where Tony can roll out appetizers and entrees while chatting it up with whoever he is cooking for as they belly up to the bar.
Now Tony isn't the warm and fuzzy type. His childhood was marked by tragedy and strife. While he's never talked about it, his mother died of Cancer when he was 12 years old. Her passing left his father, a New Jersey Italian who was enrolled in the school of education, at a small town southern Colorado community college with two boys and no family to rely on.
Much to his credit, Big Tony - Tony's 'Pops' finished up his degree and settled in Albuquerque where he taught, and eventually retired from Ernie Pyle Middle School - a predominantly Latino, under-privileged working class community. Raising the boys on a teacher's salary was tough but they made it. There were times when the gas got cut off and there was little to eat. However, to his credit, both of Big Tony's boys are successful in their own right. Tony has started up two charter schools with a focus on creating socially-conscious, community-oriented citizens and his little brother Ernie is a much loved High School Football coach in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Tony is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He is tough-as-nails but he also has a very gentle side - very affectionate with his kids and wife - and he loves to cook. I suspect this is where he gets to play that out. Food is love and this is how Tony shows it. It is a place where he can create delicious gifts of sustenance for his family and his friends. In Tony's kitchen, everyone is a welcome guest.
So, last year, during one of Tony's meal preparation adventures, I mentioned that I wanted to enroll in a cooking class. Tony retorted, "Don't be a pu**y, all you need is a sharp knife and a cookbook." Well, I never enrolled. I did get myself a good cookbook and I am progressing quite well. I'm no Tony but I am getting better every day.
This Christmas, Tony gave me, an autographed, boxed set of Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential' and 'Medium Raw.' I must admit, I didn't really like Anthony Bourdain whenever I saw him on television because he presented as a bit of a food snob - someone I might not want to be around. Bourdain's, 'Kitchen Confidential' has proven otherwise.
What I find most compelling is that this is a book about a guy who works with his hands, it is the story of a craftsman and how he came to acquire the skills that all those who preceded him did - no different than the many other craftsmen who work with their hands have done regardless of their chosen field of expertise.
This is probably why the book worked for me; it has a decidedly Human side to it, it is not about perfect people living perfect lives. It is about making it through everyday struggles, dealing with the questioning and the despair. It is about overcoming hardship by never giving up and sometimes, through dumb luck that we reach a level of expertise and the sense of accomplishment when our trajectories finally do level out.
This is a book about developing a craft, building skills and earning respect through dedication and hard work. Yes, Anthony Bourdain is cocky, he is brash. But, he has earned it. Looking at him through the filter of the craftsman's perspective, I cannot help but admire him because - his delivery, albeit offensive to some - knowing who he is makes him easier to understand. He isn't an unqualified spectator, he is a doer.
Had I not received this book-set as a gift, I would have never picked it up and that was based on first impressions. Anyone who knows me knows I don't like bullies. That is why I dismissed Anthony Bourdain.
That is what disturbs me; now I am wondering about how many other books have is passed over, how many people or even professions have I elected to avoid on the basis for my ignorance? Just how many other potentially fulfilling experiences have I walked away from simply because I found them objectionable or off-putting - based on my lack of exposure - I will never know. I have friend John, who is a talented painter; his creations are so moving and real - why didn't I ever learn how to paint? Yet another friend of mine, Elaine is a linguist - what a magnificent job and I never even knew what that work entailed - how could I have missed it?
I am certain of this reality, Anthony Bourdain has made me more cognizant that I ought not be so quick to dismiss what seems to be uninteresting at first blush. Curiously, this book makes me aware of all the things I passed up - things like learning how to cook and the many other things I never tried.
Since reading his book, I now watch his show on the Travel Channel, 'No Reservations' and am always amazed at the level of respect he has for people, their cultures and their cooking methods. He is the consummate guest - completely the opposite of what I imagined him to be. He definitely has the chops to speak from the perspective of a chef and his writing offers an insight to his abilities for food preparation because the craft of writing is every bit as intricate as the ability to cook. His mind-set and personal ethics come through quite clearly. His insights and advice are solid.
He is a guy I'd like to meet in person. He may have started out in a different place but he has paid his dues. He has done some living along the way - and part of living includes making mistakes which he does not try to sugar-coat. Consequently, his Humanity comes across in a way which is not disingenuous.
Anthony Bourdain's story is a success and that he is able to tell it so articulately makes it even more engaging. He may as well be my friend Tony, his brother or their Pops, just another stand-up, tough, decent Human Being. (less)
This short book has a series of topics on Human motivation which are short and to the point. In addition, there is a bibliography which expands on eac...moreThis short book has a series of topics on Human motivation which are short and to the point. In addition, there is a bibliography which expands on each topic and references/credits the authors whose seminal ideas comprise this tome.
I'll be looking for more Daniel Pink books. His style is informative without being pedantic. His deliverables are clearly stated and he comes through with relevant,convincing real-world examples which are neither contrived nor skewed with opinion.
"Drive" is a book to have in your library because it serves as an ideal reference book. I have already picked three books to order from those on the list recommended to further enlightenment. I already own a couple and will be ordering a couple at a time until I own the entire collection.
I have often maintained that with the mass of information available today, the future belongs to those who can assimilate it all and make sense of the inundation. Daniel Pink is such an author among others who have also distinguished themselves with this genre of informative books. To me, Daniel Pink is shoulder to shoulder with writers like Malcolm Gladwell.
The definition of "Magical thinking is a clinical term used to describe a wide variety of nonscientific and sometimes irrational beliefs. These belief...moreThe definition of "Magical thinking is a clinical term used to describe a wide variety of nonscientific and sometimes irrational beliefs. These beliefs are generally centered on correlations between events."
Joan Didion's choice for this book's title is appropriate in that it reflects her mindset as she recounts her experience of year following her husband's death. The book is filled with numerous details surrounding the event itself and so many associations arising from it. Her chronicle is delivered in a dream-like stream of consciousness style of writing that convincingly evokes her sense of loss, her state of loss and her need to maintain some semblance of connection to the man with whom she spent four decades of her life.
It is a heart rending story that is equally melancholy as it is effective in conveying the lonely, meandering state Didion drudged through attempting to make sense of it all. It is a sad, honest depiction of how she coped with the loss.
Relying on her journalistic skills, she researched the many aspects surrounding death. The insights offered from literature to medical sources provide a unique learning experience while the story progresses.
If there is anything I find objectionable or perhaps unnecessary, it is the references to her elevated social status. Some details like name dropping or describing physical possessions almost sounded like advertising for certain clothing items or restaurants. I suppose however, such references to the 'good life' serve to illustrate that death is unfazed by our social position or net worth and - more importantly - we all suffer the same.
The materialistic references seemed to act as anchor points for the author. Perhaps this is more a demonstration of her attempt to use total recall as a means of not letting John's memory die. Nevertheless, it just seemed gratuitous and irrelevant in the overall scheme of her story. That is what caused me to rate the book 3 stars rather than 4.
Because of her thoroughness of exploration, I was able to cull out many references which I intend to follow up on (eg "How We Die" by Sherwin Nuland).
This is my first experience reading Joan Didion and I like her craftsmanship."The Year of Magical Thinking," is informative and not at all contrived. It is a touching account. Joan Didion's style is relaxed, straight-forward and easy to read. I look forward to reading more of her novels in the future. (less)
The story progresses quite quickly. I understand why some people like this author's writing style. His sentences are simple and his...moreWhat a morose book!
The story progresses quite quickly. I understand why some people like this author's writing style. His sentences are simple and his thought processes are logical.
However, I have a tough time with Moss's character. Despite his survivalist acumen with how to protect himself, he makes some incredibly stupid mistakes.
Chigur, the villain is ruthless, he shows up, always finds his mark. Does his dirty work, gets away and disappears.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is a totally believable and entertaining and sympathetic character. He reminds me of some of the old salts I used to work with. While I am not convinced his character is representative of most old law enforcement personalities, he is the story.
This book just seems to wallow in fear. Perhaps the real appeal of this book and why its movie counterpart garnered an an Academy Award for Best Picture is that it reflects Americas prevailing psyche; there is no hope for America and that her best days are past.
The rationale goes as follows;
1] good people do bad things and when they do, bad things happen to them.
2] Some bad people do bad things and they too fall victim to their questionable behavior. and finally,
3]some bad people do bad things and they get away with it anyway.
I think the moral of the story for this book has to do with remaining true to whatever you believe. Moreover, if you make a choice in life - whether good or bad - or better yet, moral or amoral - then you better be willing to stick with it to the very end. Otherwise, the end result is tainted. In other words; "Be the best that you can be regardless of what that may be; welcome to Situational Ethics 101.
I suspect that where this story retains its greatest appeal is in its protagonist, Sheriff Bell's elegy for the death of an 'America' - a clarion call for the Rockwellian world that really never existed.
Despite Ed Tom Bell's assessment that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I did however find it ironic that he found himself being consoled by his octogenarian uncle Ellis who concluded that change is the only thing that can be counted upon. Now that's an old salt.
In the end, I believe Ellis had it right; problems will always persist. The only difference between young men and old men is that somehow the problems of the past seem to be eclipsed in their level of severity because for the young, there is a novelty to the new experience. Consequently, the adaptive process is retains more resiliency for the young. Getting older seems to be clouded over by experiential frames of reference leaving the older to reflect upon change with a sense of nostalgia and foreboding.
This is my first Cormac McCarthy book.
I still have a few more of his books - The Crossing, All the Pretty Horses & The Road - on my 'to read' list. Let's see how they go.(less)
In Physics, there is a phenomenon called the "Butterfly Effect." - it is a means of acknowledging how everything is interrelated by demonstrating how...moreIn Physics, there is a phenomenon called the "Butterfly Effect." - it is a means of acknowledging how everything is interrelated by demonstrating how a seemingly inconsequential event of a butterfly flapping its wings in China can influence a hurricane on the other side of the planet.
In a sentence, I see this story as an exploration of cause and effect; it is a "Butterfly flapping its wings in China" kind of story. It is a story about doing the 'right' thing without fully understanding that our decisions are reactive and highly focused upon where we are in our respective life paths.
Edwards reminds us that what we consider to be 'right' usually makes sense, and only to us. The Memory keepers Daughter is character study that explores how we go about defining 'rightness' from our own limited frame of reference. Since our motivations derive their impetus from life experience - and each experience is highly individualized, we are continually at risk of losing the ability to understand how our right to exist is continually at odds with others' right to exist as well.
Self-perception is shaped by our personal exposure to death, poverty, shame. To a person, we have all felt an incessant need to shake our fists at the universe, and how we go about this self-assertion will undoubtedly have an impact on everything and everyone around us. In short, when life is first-person subjective, we fail to grasp the far-reaching consequences attached to spur of the moment decisions.
Edwards' story reminds us all that there are a myriad of reasons why we do what we do, and explores how we go about making up our minds. She explores how our actions can be motivated by doing what we consider right - often oblivious to how our actions impact the rest of the world.
For me the ultimate irony lies in Phoebe's perspective; so innocent yet focused, and far more genuine than any other character.
Dave Pelzer's The Lost Boy is a difficult story about an abused boy who enters foster care and eventually develops a semblance of normalcy over time....moreDave Pelzer's The Lost Boy is a difficult story about an abused boy who enters foster care and eventually develops a semblance of normalcy over time. It is a compelling albeit tortured story of an abused child that is difficult to take in. Ultimately, however, it is a story about redemption, and serves as an example of what can happen when people believe in a child who hasn't even a clue that his life could be better.
In all, it is a sad story about a kid who was born into a family that had some serious emotional problems. I think what most affected me was how Pelzer described the pattern of abuse and evocation of a dynamic that I would describe as the domestic violence victim persona - where victims make excuses for, and even protect their abusers out of fear. The trade-off for revealing the 'family secret' as Pelzer describes it is that the whistle blower suffers the ultimate punishment; s/he is ostracized and shunned for life. Unfortunately, the price for keeping such family secrets is that the victim is evermore tied to the family s/he loves, but at the price of intense, unending social, and emotional abuse. While the physical abuse may eventually disappear, the threat of impending doom never leaves, and the victim is forever tethered emotionally to the abusive family by nothing more than a sick need to belong.
His story relates how Pelzer even attempted to gain acceptance by using some of the same dysfunctional behaviors that helped him to survive in his family of abuse. Consequently, it serves as a cautionary tale to people who have emerged from such dysfunctional constellations with a burning desire to belong leads to compromises of the self; such tradeoffs are simply not worth the high moral cost borne out of a need to be a part of the relationship.
Pelzer effectively exposes the dynamic of dysfunctional family secrets and the price paid for keeping them. This is where the value of reading a memoir such as, The Lost Boy; knowledge is power. It is the key to breaking such cycles of abuse. To that end, families bound together on the basis of such connections are little more than distorted affiliations that rely on manipulation and abuse to keep them bound to one another.
Perhaps it is the subject matter but this book just didn't move me the way Pride & Prejudice did. Sentence structure is difficult to follow at tim...morePerhaps it is the subject matter but this book just didn't move me the way Pride & Prejudice did. Sentence structure is difficult to follow at times.
She tends to draw out her explanations and descriptions, quite often, with exquisite detail and that can make the reading feel heavy and controlling at times (sort of like this sentence).
Once she has led her reader through a particular thought process, there is no room but to accept her description. She leaves little room for her reader to come to any other conclusions other than her own.
None the less, the fine details she offers regarding how people of her time thought and behaved is her enduring legacy.
**spoiler alert** If you are looking for a pick-me-up DO NOT buy this book. I'm borrowing a Southpark line, "You killed Edgar you bastard!"
This book h...more**spoiler alert** If you are looking for a pick-me-up DO NOT buy this book. I'm borrowing a Southpark line, "You killed Edgar you bastard!"
This book had the potential to be one of the best books ever and it turned out to be a total waste of time. For the first time in my life, I actually regret spending my hard-earned money on a book. I just want to know who the editor was and what the hell the publisher was thinking when s/he gave the green light for publication of this book.
Admittedly, there are some points in the story that are absolutely mesmerizing. I particularly liked the chapter entitled, 'Almondine'. The anthropomorphic descriptions were great but, in the end, difficult to believe. I love my dog Poe but I just do not see his deep philosophical thought processes behind those coffee colored eyes.
Also, the story about Henry's kindness could so easily have been a turning point. In short, he gets robbed, puts the kid and dogs up for a while and ends up with two expensive dogs for his troubles.
Unfortunately, the book is really a tragedy that has been marketed as a coming-of age-story. That's why I bought the book and that's why I felt ripped off. These are tough economic times so, I must admit, I was looking for a book about redemption. I wanted to read about a hero who overcame great odds and, if it included a little bit of magical realism then so be it. Disappointingly, the author tipped his toe in the water but never just jumped in any of the pools he dabbled in.
According to the jacket, there are breath-taking descriptions that are pervasive throughout the book. In reality, the book has a smattering of descriptions of the variety alluded to in the jacket. Who is the person that wrote such a specious jacket synopsis anyway? Probably the same kind of dolt who writes obituaries in some local rag.
There were several places where word usage was a bit pedantic and sentence structure clunked - so much so that I had to re-read quite a few sentences in order to get the gist of their meaning. At one point I wondered if Wroblewski's phrasing meant to mimic the sentence structure of a deaf person (however, since Edgar is mute and not deaf, I conclude his sentence structure would be like that of a hearing person - then again, I don't sign) but it didn't seem to happen with any regularity, The clunky wording just seemed to happen randomly.
I found the first two hundred pages a bit cumbersome at times and found myself pushing through in anticipation of what was yet to come. While the book did seem to pick up after the half-way point, it got better. Then it seemed to consume itself - much as the fire did at the end. There were too many loose ends to my liking. For instance, the notion that Claude got away with murder didn't set well with me. Yes, he did die in the fire but, how would the rest of his world ever really know to what extent was actually involved in his brother's demise?
I don't necessarily like books that end 'happy.' However, I don't like books that breach a topic and fail to address it either. For me, that is where this work falls. It is loose on the paranormal breaches. They titillate but in the end, they seem to be added for effect and no real purpose. I am still left scratching my head over the old man's ghost in the barn; he spoke with great technical detail to Edgar but remained silent and failed to come through with any advice when Edgar sought it.
I understand Wroblewski's (and many other authors for that matter)desire to establish his own, unique voice. I understand that he wants his work to stand out alone and not be dismissed simply as another story that echoes Shakespeare. I also understand his contention that the story of Edgar Sawtelle is one that preexisted Shakespeare's Hamlet and yet, there is something disingenuous about his claim as he seems to follow a Shakespearean formula with one difference - Wrobleswki's ending. Ironically, the work is kind of like the mysterious poison. Shakespeare is Wroblewski's poison to be handled delicately, used to achieve a selfish end, destructive by its very nature and capable of causing death even when it is disposed of.
It is still Shakespeare but different - somewhat akin to plucking off the flower from the stem and grafting another flower in its place. There is something oddly displeasing about putting a dandelion on a rose stem.
Reading Wroblewski is like going to a four star restaurant and having the chef deliberately sabotage the dessert by piling on a load of salt - ostensibly (in accordance with the author's attached interview responses in the back of the book) because he wants to shake his fist at the universe to declare that he is unique. Plainly put there are stories that are timeless and, there are stories that are not stories at all. The Sawtelle family started out as an uninteresting,simple family whose lives were carefully documented and then summarily dispensed of so that they would once again disappear into obscurity.
No lesson. Nothing. Well, maybe one; guys whose names include the letters 'g-a-r' are doomed to die by poisoning. How did Shakespeare say it? I'll paraphrase - something about strutting and fretting on the stage - a story told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
Doubtless, David Wroblewski has some definite skill in describing his subjects with enviable creativity however, With an ending like that, perhaps sticking to computer programming is better advised. Why tell such a beautiful story and then sabotage it with such a sloppy ending?
Why would anyone who had the potential to reach out to his audience squander such a golden opportunity? I have stated my reason for buying the book and now, I feel like the victim of a 'bait and switch' swindle.
The ending is as enigmatic as Claude's character and, because of that, I say, keep your day job Wroblewski. I'm going to have a tough time parting with my money to purchase any more of your books. (less)