It is a problem when the writer of a biography yields to polite society and tries to fit her subject into the norm. This happens with this book whereIt is a problem when the writer of a biography yields to polite society and tries to fit her subject into the norm. This happens with this book where too much ink is wasted on explaining away Seago's relationships with a series of young men as the result of a dominating mother and so on. It would have been ok if the writer also hadn't shown bafflement at why some chances of deeper friendship with the opposite sex didn't materialize. At this point you'd be forgiven to think that the author is either deluded or really thinks she is doing Seago a favor. It is a bigger problem when she yields to convention once more and fails to see that Seago was neither a great 'war artist' -accomplished as he was- nor a great portrait painter. He was a phenomenal landscape painter but his portraits, which to be sure , were his bread and butter as commissions, lagged sorely behind unless the figure becomes part of a landscape. As a war artist, one walks away with the impression that Ted Seago spent the war in quaint cottages and under the protection of generals, living in modest luxury by comparison to his fellow soldiers and hiding his heart condition. We learn much from the artist in the book, but it all feels skewed. One also walks away with the impression that opportunities were handed to Seago in a silver tray...with a glass of Port to boot. May be so. More likely, he refused his minor bourgeois origins and sought the approval and company of intellectuals and aristocrats, he craved success and status and could camouflage not only planes but himself as a darling of polite society. He saw his exceptionalism and exploited it to good effect and success. No need to explain that away either as 'good timing' or even justify it. This book should also put to rest the legend created by the man himself that he never had some sort of training. He did, and from some of the best, albeit not in an academy. Not to mention his time in the circus must have been and education all on its own. This book takes good care to be faithful to research and important details of geography and people and , for that motive, it gets three stars from me. The biggest problem of the text, far beyond anything else is the lack of illustrations. Only a few ,and not great ones, grace the pages. I think for someone that wants to know more about Seago, any one of the color catalogues and books in existence will provide a lot more enlightement as his personality fades against his beautiful artwork. ...more
Read original italian text. It is rare to find a book were the protagonist is an older man. Set in Lisbon in 1938, The protagonist, Antonio Pereira, iRead original italian text. It is rare to find a book were the protagonist is an older man. Set in Lisbon in 1938, The protagonist, Antonio Pereira, is a reluctant hero, an editor of the cultural section in a discredited newspaper called the 'Lisboa', a widow, a lover of French literature and a man pretty much in decline. He meets a young revolutionary and he immediately feels a paternal urge to protect him beyond what is safe in the circumstances.He even takes an immediate dislike for his girlfriend-he thinks she is an instigator. His desire to remain at the margins of History slowly gives way to his soul's desire o become a new person, a fighter against the oppressive Salazar's regime. Pereira is not necessarily likeable, he is an intellectual, a writer too set in his petty habits, unhealthy and stuck in the past. His heroic act corresponds to his capacity but he gives up everything in this one last act of defiance and we love him for that. The style is poetic with a certain repetition that works wonder to transport the reader to the stifling but radiant city of Lisbon. ...more
The biggest flaw in this book is the use of too many examples of celebrities' epiphanies. You discover what you love, skip twenty years and you are DeThe biggest flaw in this book is the use of too many examples of celebrities' epiphanies. You discover what you love, skip twenty years and you are Debbie Allen. It is a statistical fallacy, the bias of saliency you could call it, that because 'it happened to me, it can happen to you'. I though Oprah had exhausted this slice of salami but apparently not. This book has however a kernel of truth, one that would have required a leaflet, not a whole tome of success stories and not one failure. The kernel is in the last two chapters which deal about education and how along with climate change we are experiencing a catastrophe in terms of human and social change. It is true tat education as a means to mould and conform people to the production market fails those who learn or have talents elsewhere. It is true that standardized tests sometimes harm more than help, especially when they become not a tool but a goal. Allow for different ways to learn seems to be the main message here. Also an interesting chapter on the role of mentors as people that allow, promote and push their mentees. Other than that, nothing new here except some boilerplate consoling words for those who start late with some more examples of success at an old age, sort of. If you are into education this book might open your eyes. If that train left the station or you still haven't found what you are looking for, this book won't help....more
Excellent book. The author delves into what creates character, personality. Is it something etheral inside us sullied by our imperfect existence and oExcellent book. The author delves into what creates character, personality. Is it something etheral inside us sullied by our imperfect existence and our circumstances, a "soul" in the platonic sense? Or is it the other way around where the form, the habits, even the dress become us? How do we pour ourselves into preexisting forms : the gangster, the advertising.executive, the mean girl? This a book about our resistance to change and how it is change , the hard difficult clumsy time of adjustment, the time when we despair for new stability and grasp for new habits to spare us the floundering around , that forges us. Change forces us to choose the person we want to be, through thoughts, then deeds, then habits and eventually a whole persona. Tread carefully, the author says. Any screenwriter might appreciate the beautiful paralels the author draws between film or drama and the upheavals that make life interesting. May be not for everyone but it spoke to me and allowed me to see my restless search for a life that 'fits', made me wonder what habits have made me become this unhappy depressed person that I am and brought back many memories and aha moments. The author doesn't offer much in the way of prescriptions but the questions are poised so they feel eeriely recognizable. I enjoyed his descriptions of how we end up haunting our rooms, tracing paths of desire in our lifes and shopping for a revelation that seems to come easily in youth and becomes muted as we age. Loved his view of religious practice as a 'fake it till you make it, kind of exercise , including Bhudists by the way , who usually get spared in most other books. His quotes from film, literature and the classics are well picked. ...more
Interesting noir premise and top artwork. Script is a bit breathless and lacks rhythm, not to mention the main character's Chance, Esmeralda, etc haveInteresting noir premise and top artwork. Script is a bit breathless and lacks rhythm, not to mention the main character's Chance, Esmeralda, etc have some made-up dysfunction, tired one-liners and weary-of-the-world demeanour that is meant to make them vulnerable and interesting but imho sounds contrived. The best est bits belong to the drug lord vs preacher violence as well as the L.A. Hollywood netherworld characters and settings. A film version could be better if the writing improved. ...more
Great rhythm, compelling nuanced story worth telling where the drawings don't detract from the narrative (they are a bit clunky but expressive and suiGreat rhythm, compelling nuanced story worth telling where the drawings don't detract from the narrative (they are a bit clunky but expressive and suited for the theme). Very good use of the comic book form for other than the usual stuff. ...more
This book is not about the 'tourist and the Queen' London 8 million people are presented with every year. This is multicultural London with the many lThis book is not about the 'tourist and the Queen' London 8 million people are presented with every year. This is multicultural London with the many layers of Polish, Somalian, Jamaican, Romanian, Nigerian, Middle Eastern, you-name-it residents rubbing shoulders, criss-crossing categories of students, transportation workers, financial suits, even natives!. It never stops. This series of interviews, monologues rather, attempts to dip its toes on some of those layers by collecting short fragments of people's stories that might or might not represent very different experiences of London. It's not a book of praise or loathing of the city even though London doesn't come unbruised but rather as very incomplete human mosaic. Some of the people selected seem a bit cliched and predictable, the cruiser, the cabbie, the artist, te immigrant...but most are fun reads because real life beats fiction anytime, it is not well-rounded, it has no arch, it just is and the stakes are so much higher. I particularly found the stories of immigrants very touching. But there are others equally enthralling even though they are unevenly dispersed and some feel a bit banal -but the author is wise not to edit them too much except for organizing them into very loose categories like 'arriving', 'getting on with it', etc..Most interviewees are candid and straightforward. The result is an entertaining glimpse into many facets of London, a city defined-if anything- by the multiplicity of facets and the constant evolution. There's no grand plan, no vision beyond keeping it moving. Most London admirers follow a common pattern of 'it's rude, gritty, nasty but I love it!. it's the same pattern you see in New York folk loving the city for its 'energy'and feeling a bit sorry for aspic-preserved Paris or the fake chill of Los Angeles, etc. London reflects the human condition, not too adulterated by planning and, as we know, Hell is other people (with bits of goodness if you look hard enough and if you get off the 'observer' high horse)....more
Typical example of well written and researched scholarly work that totally fails o engage the reader. It analyzes the Canterbury tales from a socio-e Typical example of well written and researched scholarly work that totally fails o engage the reader. It analyzes the Canterbury tales from a socio-economic point of view with emphasis on the different status of classes, genders, levels of piety or embrace of social convention. Chaucer seems to favor the gentil and pious in his portrayal (being a gentil himself) of the pilgrims to Canterbury. Despite its merits, this book was thoroughly boring and didn't kindle any desire to read the actual tales or even know more about them. It would have helped if a short description of the tales had been added instead of small obscure excerpts to prove a certain semantic interpretation or mood. It would have helped to place the text in its historical and geographical time with a bit more of a panoramic view. May be also add some reference to other tales and even real historical events. Not recommended unless you have to write your own dissertation on the subject. ...more
This book is tough going. I was expecting more from the "I, Claudius" writer. Mr. Graves strings here one anecdote after another to take us from his tThis book is tough going. I was expecting more from the "I, Claudius" writer. Mr. Graves strings here one anecdote after another to take us from his time in school to his time in the trenches of the First World War to his eventual return to England and marriage. The book spares no names, as if addressed to people to his contemporaries or future historians. He never ventures a wider theme, remaining quite detached form even his own brushes with death. He is not sentimental, good!, but one needs not to be to draw he reader in with a broader scope, a sense of his place in the events. He is fastidious about rankings, customs and school/military traditions. To the point that as much as he seems to protest, one wonders how much he actually relished every one of them, specially the ones in his favor. The writing is excellent but it is so heavy with procedure that the good narrative bits are like morsels swimming in a regiment roll call or a school syllabus. I certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in IWW in all it's botched tragedy, some descriptions of the trenches are memorable. It was a mistake to pick this book as an introduction to the war because Robert Graves seems very uninteresting himself, an English poet (in the most formal academic sense possible) getting shot at one minute and strolling poppy fields the next. And even though he is an excellent writer and one with stories to tell, he seems to think that just the facts will do. He rarely gives us a hint of why we should care whether he or anybody lives or dies. May be that was the point all along but why indulge in reading it just because he was compelled to write it. It's fine to leave the reader to reach her own conclusions but those removed form the events in time and space might require a little less distance in the writing. ...more
Mohsin Hamid advocates here for some humanization of the lazy constructs that we use to define vast groups of people. A plural society means we are abMohsin Hamid advocates here for some humanization of the lazy constructs that we use to define vast groups of people. A plural society means we are able to invent ourselves beyond labels and engage on a level that sweeping definitions cannot achieve, he says. His experience living in New York, London and Lahore gives him that much perspective and this is what he hopes to convey: that wrapping all Muslims under one blanket , or Westerners, or 'civilizations' is a mistake that inevitably leads to other terrible mistakes and failed policy anywhere, most of the time. The book is a collection of short articles dealing with his own personal circumstances, his craft and certain political issues centred around Pakistan. His personal circumstances are probably the least interesting segment from a narrative point of view despite being the root of his wide lens. He lays down some hopeful interpretations of what it means to live in a world that has shrunk considerably, as a resident of three big cities often seen as incompatible but a lot more similar than one might think. In a clear, concise style Mr Hamid paints a picture of hope for the future of Pakistan if only it will manage to focus on its own internal strife and away from Kashmir conflicts by settling some compromise with India. It talks about harnessing the resilience of its people and its own strengths: the abhorrence of inequality, practical tribal compromise and recent press and judiciary independence. It also makes a case against the relentless drone attacks by the US and the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric. It makes a very strong case against the internal discrimination of different types of Muslim groups by dominant majorities and the witch hunt they inevitably spawn. It bemoans islamization campaigns at state level which end up being terror regimes against the inevitable variety and persistence of individual beliefs they are unable to uproot. More than anything, this book is about seeing beyond the veil of newsflashes and stereotypes, no matter how convenient. For all its well intentioned and wise words the author seemed keen to ignore the power of mass delusion, the fact that the lazy route is the human route. Stereotypes do save time and they also wreak havoc but that's the way most humans function when under threat. The author describes an experience of the world from an educated freelance writer's point of view. As a writer, the author can work from remote locations without ever having to engage much other practical considerations beyond an internet connection. As a well educated man, he is aware of the far reaching consequences of policy and the contrast in philosophy of many environments. He is part of a very select group of humans. He rightly points out that economic disparities are at the root of most fears as well as educational lapses. Most of his countrymen and a large percentage of people in the EU, not to mention the USA will never attain this kind of panoramic vision simply because they have bigger troubles right now and because they are too busy confirming their biases, not questioning them. Out of fear. Another book against insanity may be , and that's no small feat, but were Mr Hamid to run for government in any of the troubled spots he mentions, I doubt he would last, and that is very unfortuante indeed. ...more
So far so blah. I was recommended this as a shining example of fantasy literature. I suppose it is. It gets one star for being readable, that is, it iSo far so blah. I was recommended this as a shining example of fantasy literature. I suppose it is. It gets one star for being readable, that is, it is written in proper English and despite some cringe-worthy attempts at wit and humour ...( I paraphrase: she giggled covering her mouth like a Japanese girl; they blended in the crowd like droplets of mercury, and so on ) it is well written and structured. It gets another star for some lush imagery and some basic research into London's trivia even though it still manages to miss that the Big Ben is not a bell tower but the bell itself. Examples of this recourse to trivia are easily dug out in any "secret" guide of London, from the buried Roman ruins to abandoned stations or Victorian sewage systems (even though he manages to miss some fantastic bits like sewage powered lamps that used to light up the Strand). I was tempted to add one more star for the idea of giving every tube station a literal meaning until it became too predictable: Angel has an angel, Earl's Court has an Earl, Blackfriars, Hammersmith....what about Cockfosters or Arsenal?. The author really milks the underground system for all its worth. Even "mind the gap" is transmuted into a dire warning. I must confess I am not a fan of escapist literature, including the kind centered around parallel worlds with their own rules and mysterious characters that can't, simply won't explain. I think anyone above 20 reading such books needs to move on and quickly which is why i found the sexual bits and some mention of drugs totally out of place even when used as jokes, not because of the sex or the drugs but because they seem shoehorned and rather immature, the kind of fantasy a grown man should avoid because it involves girls hugging enthusiastically way too many times. So talking about girls, the characters were cartoons, Renaissance fair fodder, with an abundance of doe-eyed females taking a like at Richard, the ugly duck turned hero that "fell through the cracks" -there's another deep metaphor for you. There is the necessary kick-ass lesbian heroine Hunter, the two girls in need of hugs Anesthesia and Door, the vampire Velvet Children and so on. The masculine characters are all shades of filthy with some allowance for the nerdy Old Bailey, the suave Marquis de Carabas, the dull Abbot and other imaginary foes and friends. The murderous duo Vandemar and Coup are the oft used parody of a Victorian business partnership specializing in murder. Many young adult books seem to toy with the idea of a world next to ours, Harry Potter, Narnia, Never-ending Story, etc. These worlds become distorted mirrors in the best of cases but more often than not they shelter themselves in the lack of logic and over-abundance of dreamed up visuals and characters which pretend to enlighten us about reality. They rarely do anything but confirm well established prejudice. I think they provide good material for movies and can incite young readers to keep reading but no thank you, no more of these type of books for me. ...more
**spoiler alert** Hogwarts it ain't. Seabrook School for boys is everything you feared an Irish Catholic school would be... with a twist. As the Parac**spoiler alert** Hogwarts it ain't. Seabrook School for boys is everything you feared an Irish Catholic school would be... with a twist. As the Paraclete priests begrudgingly hand the reins of the institution to a market-oriented Acting Principal, one much beleaguered fanaticism is substituted by another of equal virulence. These are the Celtic Tiger years in Ireland and there is no room for dusty traditions, ruins, field trips or scandals.
Kids in the brink of adulthood are in turmoil, nothing new and, as always has been the case, susceptible to embrace almost any dream of escape or glory however dubious. Some like to shelter themselves in cynicism ;others use video-games, drugs or sex; even science. One of the teachers, the hapless Howard, stretches comparisons by trying to enlighten the youths about their place in the world with stories of the First World War and one Irish battalion in particular. All while his own life crumbles. True, so far, this sounds like any other coming of age story this side of the Dead Poets Society, another book where the author is up to date with the kids' lingo, their plausible dialogues, gadgets, music and psyche...and yet, there is enormous merit in the way P. Murray avoids the obvious traps, albeit not all. For one thing, this book could have been edited a lot shorter Some points are hammered in flights of dense self-satisfied prose. Also, the cast of characters, mostly male, seems to embody a collection of one dimensional traits. There is sex-crazed Mario, nerdy Rupercht, cynical Dennis, druggie and mentally sick Carl and so on. Women are mostly there fulfilling the different romantic roles of desire, dependency or threat with only Lori, the protagonists' love interest, left with a more nuanced set of particular personality disorders.
And then there's Skippy, who dies. On the first page. He is at the centre, a timid boy in love for whom everything else but his beloved Lori progressively fades away including family, school, friends, pain... Two thirds of the book lead to the moment of the death and the last third deals with the aftermath. Skippy, as it turns out, might have been the hinge upon which the rest of the school was swinging. Misunderstood by every self-serving teacher, coach and priest and ,worse of all, by his own father, with whom he is entangled in a "game" of pretense, his story unravels in ever more tragic missed chances. Skippy's short life becomes the measure of everyone's inadequacies. Well, his life and the myth of the White Goddess. But that is for the reader to find out.
At 660 pages the book is a time investment even though it is one relatively easy to make since the writing is agile and well paced. That is its most outstanding characteristic, how well it manages its large scope without derailing when so much of it could have gone wrong. There is a lot of genuine humour which lubricates the otherwise hefty themes which arise at times. There is a good dose of mystery, sex or the lack of it, betrayal, love, drugs, bullying, societal aspirations, the inability to communicate, superstition and a very metaphorical brush with Physics or rather, the limits of Physics to open or suggest a door to other dimensions. In other words, this is a very ambitious work with a very well crafted grasp of its story and subject. I found the passages where the character of Rupertch tries to remedy the imbalance in the world by recruiting the school boys and building a machine to pierce into other dimensions particularly beautiful. Same goes for the auditions for the school Christmas concert, one of the funniest segments. In its essence though, the novel is quite sad, tragic even, but unlike most books with similar outlooks, the final twist manages to uplift ever so little without resorting to implausible plot turns. Highly recommended for everyone including older teenagers (17+) and mature younger teens as it has very explicit language and scenes. ...more
There are like 5,000 plus reviews in here. I won't add another long one ;). Great book. I had avoided in the past because I really wasn't that interesThere are like 5,000 plus reviews in here. I won't add another long one ;). Great book. I had avoided in the past because I really wasn't that interested in the South and segregation stories. But this book, like all good books, quickly touches on themes on human nature. Well observed and delicately woven, it is a compassionate look at humanities flaws, the progressive muddying of a child's outlook on life, the true value of character and compassion as well as courage and prejudice. And well, some good writing in there too. ...more
This is an excellent primer for anyone, and that should be everyone , interested in economics. It is a bit simple and that suits me fine as I think moThis is an excellent primer for anyone, and that should be everyone , interested in economics. It is a bit simple and that suits me fine as I think most economics books are ridiculously complex sometimes for no good reason . The fact is that most of our notions about the economy are authored by corporations and people in the thick of the financial system so we get a very partial account, one that tends to emphasize the importance of markets, the efficiency of an economy with no regulatory framework beyond the basic protections, the idea that government should leave things alone least it damages them further, etc... And this mostly Hayekian vision we've been fed has always had the horrors of Marxism and central planning as a warning tale. It has also delivered the myths of trickle down economics, people as consumers and the noxious idea that the poor are poor because they want to, more or less. Like the author quotes "follow the money" if you want to find out who benefits from one theory or another, what interests lie beneath a policy tha is presented as driven by facts .But I digress. The book offers a much needed perspective by pointing out that the truth seems to be hovering around the multiplicity of approaches, not dogmas, and reminds us to take assumptions and even 'cold hard numbers' with a grain of salt. After all, there are "lies, damned lies and statistics" to paraphrase Disraeli. It starts with a definition of economics and the subtle but transcendental layers of meaning...are those rational decisions made about scarce resources always rational? Why does economic theory persist in trying to become a science when it is practically a political framework... It goes on to cover most schools of thought in a brief way: Neoclassical, Keynesian, Schumpeterian, Austrian, Marxists and all the rest with some helpful charts to see where the fall on their definitions. The book also defines basic concepts like GDP, GNP, PPP, and other useful tools to measure the true wealth of nations pointing out how all this measures fail to account for some crucial outputs like domestic labor which has gone grossly ignored for centuries. The economy touches on the issues of money and banking so the book explains a bit about that with a fun chapter dedicated to derivatives and other fancy and deadly products hawked by the financial system. Work, poverty, inequality, trade and government get their own chapters. I must point out the work chapter was probably my favorite since it was indeed refreshing to read about something that takes up most of people's time and that is however always neglected in this man-as-consumer madness we've endured thus far. All in all, a great easy to read book peppered with interesting numbers and data...did you know Mexicans are some of the most hardworking people in the world along with South Koreans but their productivity is diminished by corruption and lack of infrastructure? ...more