A trope of detective fiction is the investigator who just can't let a case go, even though everyone else tells him it doesn't matter. In this case, beA trope of detective fiction is the investigator who just can't let a case go, even though everyone else tells him it doesn't matter. In this case, because an asteroid is going to destroy the earth in less than a year, they tell him nothing matters.
What made this book work for me was its immensely likable young narrator and the good writing, especially dialogue. (Dialogue can be clunky to quote, so instead take this sentence: "Fenton looks surprised and not pleased to see me, like I'm a garden pest, a raccoon maybe, she thought she was rid of.") Despite its shared interest in space junk, this book is far more human than The Martian and contains a surprising little dash of the mingled despair and ecstatic clarity of Station Eleven.
I probably wouldn't have picked this up if I'd realized it's from the author of such novelties as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, so it's a good thing I didn't know. I'd read the sequels....more
I've been in quite the reading rut, with a new job and a cross-country move that caused a breakdown in my carefully curated supply of requested librarI've been in quite the reading rut, with a new job and a cross-country move that caused a breakdown in my carefully curated supply of requested library books. I was looking for something quick and familiar that wouldn't bog me down in footnotes, and this fit the bill, however it also convinced me that I need to give this series a break.
This volume relied so much on grudges and favors between Wells and various government officials, arms dealers, and operatives carried forward from the previous nine books that reading it felt almost exhausting. (Hence my two stars of impatience.) I wouldn't have minded if I found these secondary characters as interesting as Wells. There has to be some middle ground between these fraught re-encounters--which force Berenson to recount long pieces of previous books--and the empty stage that Reacher steps onto in each of his books. I also felt that Berenson was losing his handhold on some of what makes Wells unique . For example, a huge part of the appeal of The Faithful Spy is Wells's ability to completely blend in with Islamic, Middle Eastern cultures, but here he worries multiple times that a casual observer will be able to make him as an American or that he can only play the part under the right circumstances. The forward momentum of the plot relies on the most obvious ticking clock I can recall, and Berenson too frequently falls back on cutting off a scene at a key moment as a way to artificially generate drama. (E.g. Someone is about to be shown into an office where they might learn something interesting, someone says "Come in," and all of a sudden we're two thousand miles away in an unrelated scene--when the office scene may or may not have been very exciting anyway.)
Wells is a great character but this is just too top-heavy. I'd like to see a new series from this author or a book that delves into a fresh and separate intrigue both internationally and in Wells's personal life....more
One reason I like to own books even though I spend a lot of my time in a much larger library is being prompted to reread them at chance moments. WhenOne reason I like to own books even though I spend a lot of my time in a much larger library is being prompted to reread them at chance moments. When I was unpacking a carton on Friday and found myself holding my ancient, paperback, $0.25-at-a-library-booksale copy of this work (the day after the 70th anniversary of the bombing), the time seemed ripe for a read.
Dropping the bombs required Americans to dehumanize the Japanese; but Hersey's account is terribly human, empathetic, universal, and seemingly timeless. I realized that my birth is now substantially closer to the date of the bombing than to today--that got me thinking about the status of it as a current-affairs event or a historic one--but I was struck by how Hersey writing so close to the event tells a story that is immediate and humble yet totally aware of its importance. That is to say, he strikes a note that still sounds right today, partly by sticking to personal stories and avoiding larger questions.
I wasn't sure how recently I'd read this after high school, but when I got to the section "Details Are Being Investigated," I was sure it could not have been since 9/11, since I found the behavior of the survivors--entranced and strangely only half-curious about the cause of the explosion--oddly familiar, despite the huge difference in magnitude between the events. ...more
Such a promising topic, but I found that the level of detail and thematic (i.e. non-chronological, anti-story-like) organization sapped all forward moSuch a promising topic, but I found that the level of detail and thematic (i.e. non-chronological, anti-story-like) organization sapped all forward momentum. ...more
I know it's fashionable to make fun of trigger warnings these days, but I think there are cases where they make sense, for example, their (original?)I know it's fashionable to make fun of trigger warnings these days, but I think there are cases where they make sense, for example, their (original?) purpose of warning people suffering from eating disorders away from descriptions that could trigger relapses of their behavior, symptoms of the most fatal mental illnesses. In the same spirit, I think part of this book benefits from a content warning, but since it comes up about 80% in, I will put it under a spoiler tag for you to read if mental illness is of interest or concern. (view spoiler)[This book deals with themes of suicide, which are presented in a multipage excerpt from an invented suicide website in terms of detailed methods and logistics and plans to partner with others to carry out the deed. The suicide methods are presented in thorough, lavish, almost loving detail. If suicidal ideation is an issue for you, read any other Reacher book--the rest are all violent, but in a cartoonish, action-movie way. (hide spoiler)]
The ending of this book also takes an extraordinarily dark turn (even more so than my spoiler). Reacher's antagonists usually seem to be motivated by greed or power, but these villains have found a complicatedly evil way to make a lot of money. The book ends so abruptly that you don't feel like you get an answer to "Wait, how did that come about?" or "How did they get away with it for so long?" etc. When one of the villains tries to justify his scheme, in the last few pages, it is so lame you can't believe that he even believes it.
There are some dubious details about computers and the Internet. Also an implication towards the end that Reacher expects to spend more time in the future with the female protagonist of this book, which rarely happens (he's a drifter, after all). I'm not sure I understood why he is interested in this woman in particular, other than the fact that we're on volume 20, so why not change things up a bit.
For all that, I'll give this the same rating as the rest of 'em, since the first 80% or so is as good as the others, and some readers will find the dark tone and open-ended romance fresh.
Review copy received from Edelweiss.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The only problem with this book is that it only occupied half of my stressful cross-country flight. I realize that I'm in danger of reading enough ofThe only problem with this book is that it only occupied half of my stressful cross-country flight. I realize that I'm in danger of reading enough of these that I appear to be a non-ironic romance fan, but with a lady scientist protagonist and lots of good dialogue, who cares? If you were put off by the weird sadism of Outlander, here's your sweetly sexy Scottish romp.
Obviously, I should circle back and review this book more thoroughly in a few months. But it seemed useful to me. When you start a new job as an indivObviously, I should circle back and review this book more thoroughly in a few months. But it seemed useful to me. When you start a new job as an individual contributor, you mostly have to figure out the subject material and your boss, which is relatively straightforward and can unfold at its own pace. But if you have direct reports, you need to figure out what you're doing, what you should ask them to do, how to operate in a new culture, how much to change how fast, and how to work with your peers to manage projects and resources, too. This book offers a blueprint for finding out what you need to know, making contacts, and forming plans. Even if it seems to assume that you are the incoming CFO of a multinational widget concern, it is confidence-building to have a systematic plan to react to and adapt, an agenda that tells you how to start....more
I'm an ambivalent reader of books about management and work. Some of them don't pass the common sense test. Others are so common-sensical that you wonI'm an ambivalent reader of books about management and work. Some of them don't pass the common sense test. Others are so common-sensical that you wonder why you're bothering. Only a few hit a sweet spot of seeming worthwhile and practicable and seeming like a hat you'd be willing to be seen wearing. I think this one is in that category. Some of the author's points are obvious but she offers ways of framing concepts so that you'd remember them and be more likely to apply them. I particularly liked her concept of your Evil Twin: the way you're coming off, unintentionally. For example, you think you're easy-going, but your Evil Twin is making staff uneasy through inconsistency and lack of clear direction.
Four stars, because I would recommend this if your position at work involves managing others and forming a workplace culture....more
When I read an old bestseller like this, I always ask myself if I would have recognized its potential. In this case: no way, rejectorama. I couldn't bWhen I read an old bestseller like this, I always ask myself if I would have recognized its potential. In this case: no way, rejectorama. I couldn't bring myself to read more than a third of it--which, by the way, amounted to 250 pages.
What happened in those pages? There's a great opener where Jack Ryan is almost hit by a bus and barely exhales before he is swept into a kidnapping attempt on the British royal family. That contrast between the near disaster, his relief and reorientation, and then the real disaster is very well done.
But it's all downhill from there as we feel the boredom of waiting around to be discharged from the hospital, interrupted by multiple, totally gratuitous visits from members of the royal family who express their deep admiration of Ryan, but in awkwardly bantering ways. Once he gets out of the hospital, we're taken on a tourist visit to the Tower of London which feels like a transcript of the actual tour, except for more awkward bantering at the end about how special Jack is. Not sure he's special? In addition to being a former banker, Marine, current college professor and (we quickly learn) CIA agent, and on top of his oh-so-American down-to-earth humility and sexy, devoted, symbolically fertile wife, he gets knighted and is now Sir John Ryan! His universally adored daughter is given horse-riding lessons by the royal family, although I didn't read far enough to learn whether she also gets a fairy princess wedding or a unicorn or whatever.
I read for a good bit after he gets back from the UK, but there was no point, since it doesn't become good and is less hilariously bad after that. I was amazed at the slack, daydreamy pace of this novel, especially having the seen the movie (which I recall as rather exciting). Daydream is le mot juste because this does feel like the fantasy life of a certain kind of person who is not me. I scoffed aloud when I hit the transparent description of the luxurious and attractive, and also tactically complex, landscape surrounding Ryan's family home. When are they going get to the fireworks factory? I give up....more
I like Thomas Perry as a writer (I mean, as a writer of dialogue and description, and as a pacer of a story) and in this book he starts to acknowledgeI like Thomas Perry as a writer (I mean, as a writer of dialogue and description, and as a pacer of a story) and in this book he starts to acknowledge some of the logistical changes in the world. For example, in this novel, published in 1995 originally, the heroine needs to create credit cards to match her fake identities so she can buy plane tickets. In earlier installments, she just walked up and gave them any old name and paid in cash, which I'm sure was possible in the '80s, but gave the books an unintended historical vibe, as if they were about a Victorian hansom cab driver or something.
The heroine of this series lives in upstate New York and is Seneca, which has featured in the previous two novels about her, but much more so in this one. I found it bothersome that I was totally unable to tell whether all the Native American lore and practice depicted here is authentic or not. That is to say, I became irritated with myself as I realized how uniquely useless my usually well-informed and sensitive BS-meter is with regard to Native American history and culture, and not necessarily with Perry, because for all I know he did tons of research. I did what a librarian friend of mine calls "a little internet research" on the topic (i.e. I googled it) and couldn't find any critique or praise for Perry on that score, so it remains a mystery.
In this novel, I disliked the female antagonist, who I thought was a bit cardboard in her motivations; also tactically a badass yet pathetic in her self-preservation, which didn't add up in my mind. I did like Jane's relationship with her new husband, who appears as lovable and bantering but plausibly flawed....more
Another great read from Tana French. It's hard to think of another author whose work I find so completely absorbing without any junk-food aftertaste.Another great read from Tana French. It's hard to think of another author whose work I find so completely absorbing without any junk-food aftertaste.
In this book, the main action takes place over a single day at a boarding school, with flashbacks to the events preceding a student's murder. It is somewhat contrived that all these interrogations and realizations and reversals would happen in a single day, but I didn't mind. The flashbacks give French a chance to write in a more flowery style, which I don't favor in general, but she does it well enough. Her depiction of fierce teenage girls was both warmly familiar and chillingly imagined. I was definitely aware of the fact that this book alludes to events from one of the previous ones whose details I couldn't remember clearly, but it was a minor annoyance.
There's one particularly good run here where Moran and Conway interview eight uncooperative teenage girls, one after the other, in the space of about fifty pages. It's tight writing, with flickers of surprise and good conversations (I was reminded a little of Richard Price's skill with dialogue). There are other passages in French's books like it, but this one was particularly well done.
I read this on a plane and the hours flew by. Could French please write another for me by the middle of July?...more
This novel is about a protégé of Benjamin Weaver's on a mission of revenge in Lisbon. (If you know your 18th c. history, you can predict the major eveThis novel is about a protégé of Benjamin Weaver's on a mission of revenge in Lisbon. (If you know your 18th c. history, you can predict the major event that becomes part of the plot.) It has a similar flavor to the Weaver books, which is both a welcome return to form, after Liss's last effort, and a little disappointing, since I wasn't as excited about being immersed in Lisbon as in London. There's a plot about untangling financial wrongdoing but also a plot about formerly Jewish "New Christians" enduring the harassment of the Inquisition that gives this an air of menace rather than the sense of wild opportunity that Liss depicts in London's coffeehouses. I probably shouldn't have given The Twelfth Enchantment three stars since this is clearly more successful, while not being more than a three-star book itself. ...more
Every time I think I'm in danger of absolutely running out of things to say about the plays, I hit one that introduces something major. This one introEvery time I think I'm in danger of absolutely running out of things to say about the plays, I hit one that introduces something major. This one introduces Falstaff, Shakespeare's profound and melancholy buffoon. In addition, it has the rivalry between Prince Hal and Hotspur, and lastly and perhaps least interestingly, the ostensible main action, an uprising against Henry IV. The revolving and ritualistic power struggles that appear in all of these chronicle plays are the reason I've never made any systematic attempt to read them before now, and they're still not a selling point for a reader. Probably on stage, actors are able to lend all sorts of depth and nuance to the dukes and barons of wherever-and-such but I confess that, fourteen or so plays in, reading them after work and practicing the piano, my eyes are beginning to glaze. So it's a good thing this one has Falstaff and Hotspur to keep us well entertained.
Stray observation: Hotspur would make a good cat name. Someone should name their reckless young cat Hotspur. And perhaps with this, my Shakespeare commentary has jumped the shark....more
This play is like The Taming of the Shrew with some plot elements so offensive to modern sensibilities that it's hard to know how to read it today. UlThis play is like The Taming of the Shrew with some plot elements so offensive to modern sensibilities that it's hard to know how to read it today. Ultimately I think this is the more enjoyable of the two because some interpreters have looked for ways to make Shylock sympathetic and because there are other agreeable elements to the play.
Shylock as a sympathetic character is a stretch to me--his vengefulness seems blankly evil--and the triumph of the Christian characters, his comeuppance and conversion all seem meanspirited. But I think if you leaned in that direction you can derive a wobbly argument for tolerance here, and the speech on mercy is nice.
Meanwhile there's a fun subplot where suitors have to solve a riddle to woo Portia, a good friendship between Bassanio and Antonio, and some comedic cross-dressing. I don't know if these motley elements outweigh the problems with the character of Shylock as written, but they at least provide more variety than you find in The Taming of the Shrew....more
I've already hit a few plays that have a decent claim on being Shakespeare's worst, but this one is so marginal that I don't think I knew it existed uI've already hit a few plays that have a decent claim on being Shakespeare's worst, but this one is so marginal that I don't think I knew it existed until I started my reading project. It is both muddled and dramatically rather inert; there's one scene where someone's in peril of being murdered or having their eyes put out, and the reaction I could muster was "Huh." You'd think that a work where Shakespeare gets to compose speeches for Queen Elinor would be a delight for us Eleanoristas but here she's paired with the most notorious failure among her many colorful relations and the most interesting thing she does is get into some catty bickering with her daughter-in-law. With themes so reminiscent of other histories, this play may be the most skippable....more
I've been slammed the past few weeks so it's a good thing I was reading a play I already know fairly well. Although it was a cursory reread, I did notI've been slammed the past few weeks so it's a good thing I was reading a play I already know fairly well. Although it was a cursory reread, I did notice something new, which was that MND's farcical presentation of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe was written around the same time as Romeo and Juliet (which reprises the legend's suicide scenario). What always sticks with me about this play is how it's the purest distillation of a certain fairyland aesthetic that pervades English literature both before and after this work....more
Shakespeare's best-known plays are also the most enjoyable and admirable: news at 11! One of the benefits of my Shakespeare schedule is that reading eShakespeare's best-known plays are also the most enjoyable and admirable: news at 11! One of the benefits of my Shakespeare schedule is that reading everything in order gives it one kind of context, and even if we handicap this play for having been ingrained in my mind starting in 8th grade, it's elegant (both language and plot) and a striking step forward in terms of a "tight" drama. (I do think it's fair to rate these plays on how easy they are to understand, by the way, since anyone reading me is a 21st century person and not a 16th century one. Some of Shakespeare flies off the page, and some doesn't--this does.)
As an opera fan, I find myself often explaining my favorites in terms of which operas have lots of beautiful songs in comparison to not so much noodly recitative parts, and if Romeo and Juliet were an opera, it would have several world-class solo arias and duets, which you already know about. ("She speaks!", "'Tis not so deep as a well...") But some of the parts I like best in this play and always have are the bantering parts.
BENVOLIO Good-morrow, cousin. ROMEO Is the day so young? BENVOLIO But new struck nine. ROMEO Ay me! sad hours seem long. Was that my father that went hence so fast? BENVOLIO It was. What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours? ROMEO Not having that, which, having, makes them short. BENVOLIO In love? ROMEO Out-- BENVOLIO Of love? ROMEO Out of her favour, where I am in love.
NURSE I am a-weary, give me leave awhile: Fie, how my bones ache! what a jaunt have I had! JULIET I would thou hadst my bones, and I thy news: Nay, come, I pray thee, speak; good, good nurse, speak. NURSE Jesu, what haste? can you not stay awhile? Do you not see that I am out of breath? JULIET How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath To say to me that thou art out of breath?
I deviated from my schedule by finishing this a day early as if I were eating dessert first; the conventional wisdom about it remains right no matter how many times I read it....more
Once you get over the idea that you're reading a nearly 500-page Kate Middleton fan fiction, this is a lovely bit of chick lit. The heroine is worse tOnce you get over the idea that you're reading a nearly 500-page Kate Middleton fan fiction, this is a lovely bit of chick lit. The heroine is worse than a commoner, she's American, and there are some juicy twists of fictional intrigue shoehorned into the action, but mostly this is the story you already know from nail salon magazines and also a ludicrous made-for-TV film that my mum and I may or may not have watched a few Christmases ago, in which the University of St. Andrews appears to be located in southern California.
But I digress. The novel primarily covers what were, in real life, the "Waity Katie" years and you find yourself feeling really sorry for Bex in her predicament: no career, no engagement, no plan. I also thought the rapport between Bex's father and Prince Nicholas was especially charming. It's a peppy novel and good at the kind of romance it's trying to be; most of the jokes work; it's too long but I can't point to anything obvious to cut. If you're not immediately put off by the premise you'd probably enjoy it.
Comparing this to the run of history plays I read earlier in the year, I thought Shakespeare's sense of drama was strikingly more mature here. I thinkComparing this to the run of history plays I read earlier in the year, I thought Shakespeare's sense of drama was strikingly more mature here. I think I've probably been focusing more on his language--just because I knew more about that to begin with, and maybe the early plays aren't dramaturgically stellar anyway. Here he has really pared down the quantity and variety of action to focus on a few particular themes and relationships with the result that I found this a lot more propulsive to read. No random outbreaks of peasant uprisings or witchcraft here, although there are some cliffhangers to the future Henry plays that I'll read in a few weeks. There are some familiar speeches, especially the one about "this scepter'd isle" in Act II. ...more
Compulsively readable: Don't pick this up if you have anything important to do in the next few days. After I devoured the book, I learned that it hadCompulsively readable: Don't pick this up if you have anything important to do in the next few days. After I devoured the book, I learned that it had originally been self-published, and in retrospect, I think that explains some of its flaws. It's got some repetitive bits (too much about attempts to combine various chemicals to create water or breathable air) and the secondary characters are pretty cardboardish. But even without an editor, the author gets some other things so right that I didn't mind. For example, I loved the pacing of when NASA discovers the stranded astronaut is alive and when they get in contact with him, and how the narration is, claustrophobically, only in the astronaut's voice until that happens. Even though I didn't seriously think the book would end with the astronaut starving or getting blown up, I was on tenterhooks throughout.
One of my friends said that this is a good book for readers who "enjoy not having to talk about feelings"--and I can see that, say, for your reluctant teen readers, maybe--but I felt emotionally drawn in, mostly by the protagonist's palpable yearning for closure and rest and the ground staff's desperation to let him know that they know he's there. This book is a survival adventure and I was at first reminded of The Island of the Blue Dolphins or Castaway, but those were both accidents, and this is an accident that takes place during a mission of exploration, so I think this story has a more heroic gloss. Imagine Ernest Shackleton as a sarcastic contemporary of ours, and that was the flavor of it for me. ...more
I had this clever idea that I'd reread the introduction of this in French, when it popped up at the library. I didn't recall that the introduction aloI had this clever idea that I'd reread the introduction of this in French, when it popped up at the library. I didn't recall that the introduction alone is over 70 pages long, plus others are waiting for it, so I couldn't renew. I read about 25 pages a few days back, but it was ultimately a rather pointless exercise....more
I give two stars to books I'm impatient to get over with, and I guess I have to be consistent, Bard or no. This is exactly the kind of untranslatable,I give two stars to books I'm impatient to get over with, and I guess I have to be consistent, Bard or no. This is exactly the kind of untranslatable, clever humor that I was just saying I was happy The Comedy of Errors lacked. To give one example, there is a passage making puns based on the terms for deer of certain ages, pricket, sore, and sorel, and how L is the roman numeral for fifty, and I just give up. Sometimes it was hard for me to detect the pulse of the plot through all this raillery.
Holofernes: I will something affect the letter, for it argues facility. The preyful princess pierced and prick'd a pretty pleasing pricket; Some say a sore; but not a sore, till now made sore with shooting. The dogs did yell: put L to sore, then sorel jumps from thicket; Or pricket sore, or else sorel; the people fall a-hooting. If sore be sore, then L to sore makes fifty sores one sorel. Of one sore I an hundred make by adding but one more L. Sir Nathaniel: A rare talent!
At one (later) point, my endnotes admit: "The editors' efforts to evolve wit and sense out of this dialogue are all far-fetched." It probably doesn't help that my otherwise totally adorable Yale Shakespeare edition, originally published in the 1920s, daintily omits to gloss the bawdy bits. Sometimes Shakespeare's point is impossible to miss ("I would he had boarded me" -- 10-4, Beatrice!) but I'm sure some of the naughtier parts of this play escaped me. The text also seems messy, with a lopsided organization that makes me think large sections have gone missing or gotten stuffed in or something. The last scene alone is longer than any of the first three acts.
This play is available on the Globe Player and is the first one I might end up renting (there are others I've read so far that I would like to see, but aren't available in English on this intriguing platform). Since this week also marks my being one-quarter finished with the Shakespeare reading project, I would add that it has been worthwhile and not very time-consuming, but that sticking to the schedule has forced me to blow through a couple of the plays faster than desirable, during especially busy weeks. Still, it beats not doing it at all, and I can always (re-re-)-re-read and watch them again later....more
I've now hit the first of these plays that I already knew well; it was covered in a college class I took and I wrote a rather pleasing little 2000-worI've now hit the first of these plays that I already knew well; it was covered in a college class I took and I wrote a rather pleasing little 2000-word essay on it. Having just reread the essay, I will be disappointed in anything I try to write here. The gist of it was that excitement in Shakespeare's plays often arises from mismatches of formal and emotional relationships. Romeo and Juliet have an emotional attachment but no acceptable formal connection. A Midsummer Night's Dream is full of mismatched lovers, with inappropriate transitional combinations like Titania and Bottom serving as a source of comedy. But those kaleidoscopic realignments are nowhere so important as in The Comedy of Errors, where they serve as the entire comedy and most of the plot. There is an alarming crisis of causality when one character’s actions can affect the relationships of another. The tone of the play contains something menacing: the characters are in situations that are funny for the audience, but they themselves often react with panic, fear, or anger.
The rest of my essay was a close reading of this situation, mostly of the second act. For example, Adriana objects: “Ay, ay Antipholus, look strange and frown,/Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects;/I am not Adriana, nor thy wife.” She is close to the truth in her understanding that there is a mistaken identity—but she does not believe it to be a literal one. She thinks their emotional bond has changed (he is in love with someone else), while in fact, the formal bond has changed (she is talking to another person altogether).
One thing I like about this play is that its silly elements are relatively easy to understand. It's an unfortunate reversal that the broader elements of Shakespeare's writing are (to me at least) the most difficult to understand as a 21st century reader, since they rely so much on outmoded slang and wordplay. The comic relief is often a struggle for me to read compared to the elevated verse. Some readers complain that this play contains too much slapstick, but I think it here continues an intriguing element of fear or alienation, and also it easier for me to appreciate as slapstick than what we find in some of the other plays....more
The chief storyline of this book concerns Meister Frantz Schmidt's efforts to restore his family name. Schmidt's father, a respectable woodsman, had tThe chief storyline of this book concerns Meister Frantz Schmidt's efforts to restore his family name. Schmidt's father, a respectable woodsman, had the misfortune to be standing around when a despised local noble required someone to dispatch some supposed would-be assassins, on the spot. The father was permanently tainted by this killing, leaving him and his son no choice but to become professional executioners. Frantz spends his entire (unusually long) life trying to revive his family's good name through careful strategy and unfailing probity and piousness. Reading this, you feel lucky to live in a modern society where you can't incur lifelong untouchability through the whim of a social superior. Frantz's carefulness and thoughtfulness also make him surprisingly sympathetic for a guy who personally killed nearly 400 people and tortured or maimed many more. No other livelihood was open to him, so he tried to be good at his unwanted profession.
I hadn't previously thought much about this, but early modern jurisdictions didn't imprison people for long periods of time; they simply jailed them until they were dealt with, by execution, flogging or some kind of punitive mutilation, or exile. Because the punishments were a one-time deal, they tended to be more extreme, with executions being handed down for property crimes or for repeated minor crimes, simply because that was the only way to permanently deal with a criminal. However, you don't walk away from this book thinking that we--by which I mean Americans--are much smarter than these early modern people in terms of devising punishments that are coherent or give the desired results. In fact, reading about how the city councilors get frustrated with recidivists and order the execution of teenagers, you're reminded how frequently teenagers get charged as adults in our society, just because someone thought them especially bad.
I read this book because I'm interested in 16th century Nuremberg, not because I'm interested in crime and punishment, and on that front the arrangement of the material is a little disappointing. Harrington follows the chronology of Schmidt's journal and the progress of his quest for social rehabilitation, which is quite interesting but perhaps does not warrant 250 pages. Meanwhile, you get glimpses of late 16th to early 17th century life throughout--ridiculous nicknames of career criminals, tiffs between master and servant, unruly teens, the fashion for "earth apples" (globes), recurrent outbreaks of plague, etc.--but these take a backseat to Schmidt's career. Harrington is so successful at bringing his narrow topic to life that I wish he'd highlighted and interpreted more of the details he encountered along the way.
As it is, this seems to occupy an uncomfortable middle ground between academic history (reflected by the author's meticulousness and contextualization) and popular history (reflected by its focus on one person's biography and inspiring personal story). I'd recommend it if you're interested in the period or in law and order....more
Wow, was this ever violent. After I finished, I learned of various disputes about its attribution, which made sense, because there are very few passagWow, was this ever violent. After I finished, I learned of various disputes about its attribution, which made sense, because there are very few passages here that felt recognizably Shakespearean to me. (And I don't mean just the famous lines that everyone knows, but his kind of imagery or turns of phrase also seem to be missing.)
It would likely be more interesting taken in the context of Elizabethan "revenge plays," which seem to have been a whole genre--maybe Shakespeare and/or whatever coauthors did something inventive with the pacing or the reversals of the characters' fortunes in comparison to competing contemporary entertainments. But I doubt any context could make (view spoiler)[the murder of rape victim Lavinia by her own father (hide spoiler)] relatable, and you could get your mind really twisted up wondering whether the audience is supposed to find her death preventable and tragic, or unpreventable and tragic, or what. Did Elizabethans find this play shocking? Probably yes, that seems to be the point. But to me it was alien as well. It takes the troubles that the modern reader might have with The Taming of the Shrew, dials them up to 11, and then douses them with blood.
In conclusion, yikes.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book exceeded my expectations in both form and content. The author assembles a devastating case against the low-fat diet that has been recommendeThis book exceeded my expectations in both form and content. The author assembles a devastating case against the low-fat diet that has been recommended by doctors and government agencies as a way to prevent heart disease. My interest was piqued because my family--dutiful "compliers" with health advice, one and all--zealously partook of the low-fat carb-fest that was the 1980s through 1990s. Several of my family members now have serious health conditions that I can hardly say were caused by this diet--but I'm sure it didn't help. Sample food selection from these days: unlimited snacking on low-fat pretzels. It's okay if they don't have surface salt!
What Teicholz shows is a cascade of inane decisions on top of each other, reminding me a bit of the episode of The Simpsons where they release lizards into the wild to kill birds, confident that they can then "unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes" when the lizards proliferate, and then take care of the snakes with gorillas, who will "simply freeze to death" "when wintertime rolls around."
In this case, we have a weak association between cholesterol and heart disease, which turns into a frantic effort to lower cholesterol, which is achieved by eliminating saturated (animal) fats in favor of vegetable oils. These oils need to be made solid to be put in packaged food, so they got partially hydrogenated. Then we realized trans fats were bad for you so we replaced those with interesterated (sp?) oils, which turn out to be toxic when heated to high temperatures. No reliable evidence existed for many of these steps; for example, the vegetable-oil diet seemed to make heart-disease outcomes worse, but by that point, researchers were so religious in their quest to lower cholesterol, they didn't consider that important. In fact, any time researchers came up with evidence that ran counter to the "diet-heart hypothesis" they got shouted down, or their data was treated as a problem to be explained away rather than considered. Meanwhile, dietary fats got replaced with carbs, with results that we're all familiar with.
Some of the mistakes in this science are such boners that they're breathtaking. Remember the "Mediterranean Diet" that was supposed to be so ideal--lots of vegetables, grains, and olive oil, and not many animal products? The Europeans who followed this diet had low heart-disease and such natural lifestyles! It turns out that the original study about the Greek islanders was done during Lent.
As for the form of this book--it's almost entirely about heart-health rather than diabetes or obesity, and therefore contains zero-percent concern-trolling by volume. Nor is Teicholz very interested in providing actual diet advice to the reader (you could read some between the lines if you like). Instead, this is a story of the processes of science and publishing going wrong; of advocacy groups exerting disproportionate power; and of how extremely difficult it is to do ethical, conclusive research on such a complicated system as the human diet. The American Heart Association comes off particularly badly, and looking at this book alongside my recent read The Emperor of All Maladies you could become suspicious that correct scientific ideas don't need associations like this; the groups flourish when desperation to do something about a health problem outstrips knowledge of what is to be done. There's also one passage here--about how you can assert almost anything if you throw enough variables in the pot--that should be assigned in statistics classes.
Consider this not a diet guide but an analysis of a scientific community that lost its way and an indictment of government making recommendations without solid reasons. If it makes you feel free to enjoy a nice steak afterwards, that's just a bonus. ...more
Richard III--"hell's black intelligencer," "marvellous ill-favoured"--runs slyly amok in this either-history-or-tragedy play. To me, it feels more likRichard III--"hell's black intelligencer," "marvellous ill-favoured"--runs slyly amok in this either-history-or-tragedy play. To me, it feels more like a history, since his wrongdoing is almost too over-the-top to have real psychological content in comparison to (say) Hamlet. In his very first speech, Richard says "I am determined to prove a villain"! Before long, he's musing on strategy: "Murther her brothers, and then marry her! / Uncertain way of gain!" He regrets the bride's possible reluctance, not the murders.
Quite a lot of the enjoyment in this play is the wild and passionate language on the topic of Richard's villainy: "From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept / A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death." There's a sense in the play that once he starts down his path of seizing power, he keeps having to commit more crimes to hold on, but you don't really get the sense he regrets any of it. In light of that, I suppose it's a bit deflating to imagine that Richard was recently discovered buried under a car park in Leicester. Even Shakespeare couldn't make that up....more
An engrossing novel that teeters along the border between outrageous and surreal. At an airport bar, Ted indulges himself with a conversation with a bAn engrossing novel that teeters along the border between outrageous and surreal. At an airport bar, Ted indulges himself with a conversation with a beautiful stranger, revealing that his wife is cheating on him and that he wants to kill her. The stranger offers to help. At this early stage of the book, I had an unsettling sense of moral wrongness, which evaporated as the story becomes more and more incredible. The reader is drawn into the amoral puzzle of one of the protagonists rather than the messily conflicted world of the other.
There are twists and turns here to rival Gone Girl except that this manages to come to a satisfying conclusion (so abruptly that I didn't think the author was going to pull it off until the last page). The novel also strongly reminded me of Mr. Peanut although it's definitely less self-consciously weird or artsy.
Save this for a trip and you will be well-pleased at how brisk a read it is.