There are two or three pages in this book that are very beautiful. I suspect they're the reason it's been recommended to me for years by people whoseThere are two or three pages in this book that are very beautiful. I suspect they're the reason it's been recommended to me for years by people whose opinions I deeply trust. The rest of the book, however, was often difficult to read. It took me several attempts to get through the beginning (which was boring) and shear stubbornness to get through the rest. At one point near the end I threw it down in frustration, yelling at the poor paperback, not knowing who to blame--the author or the translator--for its maddening point of view reverses, arbitrary tense shifts, and seemingly willful, random ambiguity. Probably, I hope, it all makes sense in its original Japanese. There's something very beautiful and sad and rich inside here, something that brought me near to tears, but it requires patience to find it. And I think a part of me is angry that the beautiful thing wasn't handled better. ...more
In four pointed chapters, journalist Sebastian Junger tucks deep into the ties between trauma and tribalism, and the psychological resilience—or lackIn four pointed chapters, journalist Sebastian Junger tucks deep into the ties between trauma and tribalism, and the psychological resilience—or lack of it—of individuals who have lost the bonds of integrated, interdependent community upon reentry into modern western society. This is a quick, simple read about our culture and the things we've lost by "advancement". But it leaves you wanting more—particularly in the form of some kind of answer to the question, "how shall we then live?" Junger doesn't answer the question any more than he poses it. He simply clarifies, with researched and experienced precision, a socio-cultural phenomenon we've largely sensed for years without being quite able to name with certainty.
Here's something I've been thinking a lot about recently which I was grateful to hear him name: "The public is often accused of being disconnected from its military, but frankly it's disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction—all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most."
I'm not sure the solution is to go around visiting factories, mines, and ports of trade. But maybe that actually should be an essential, assumed aspect of early education (as well as visiting one's nearest local garbage dump). Nor is it the point of the book entirely. It's one of many not so small consequences related to our individualistic, hierarchical, segregated, sectarian society. Perhaps a reason he avoids offering a "next step"—apart from that being largely uncharacteristic of a journalist—is because our curse comes out of our blessing. Our widespread wealth and health are oddly related to our communal poverty and psychological illness. Which means there can be no simple "next step".
Unless that's what this conversation is. Only it's not a next step, it's a first step: admitting we have a problem....more
It seems only right, having proselytized the enneagram to dozens of friends, family, and acquaintances over the past few years, that I finally do moreIt seems only right, having proselytized the enneagram to dozens of friends, family, and acquaintances over the past few years, that I finally do more than browse websites on the subject. Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert's insight serves as a reminder that we can only really examine our own lives—and that with the goal of transformation. I just finished it, and I already want to read it again. Hopefully with a greater inclination towards understanding and empathy rather than simply typology. And that for myself as well....more
Reading short stories is hard for me. I get to the end of one and want to plow ahead to the next, but I need to sit still for a moment and wait insteaReading short stories is hard for me. I get to the end of one and want to plow ahead to the next, but I need to sit still for a moment and wait instead. It's a hard practice, but a good one. That's kind of how I feel about the stories in George Saunders's "Tenth of December" as well. They're not hard to get through. In fact, they breeze by with a playful, human, lyrical ease, so that you quickly fail to notice they're saying hard things—about human nature, our inclinations toward good or ill, broken class structures we willfully ignore, and the dignity of human life. I tried to get at least one person to read my copy before I'd even finished, and I can think of a handful of others to whom I'll be recommending it in the future. If you're reading this, you're one of them....more
I did not think he could write something as perfect as The Graveyard Book without simply transcribing The Graveyard Book all over again. But The OceanI did not think he could write something as perfect as The Graveyard Book without simply transcribing The Graveyard Book all over again. But The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a perfect novel. It is mournful to think there was a day when I had not read it, or that there will be a day when I have forgotten it. But what a delight it will be to read it again, and be surprised by the things I find there, and the things I suddenly remember all at once, like a bucket become an ocean at my feet.
Suggestion: Before you read this, be sure you've watched Wings of Desire. Maybe it won't be clear why, even when you've gotten through them both. But I felt I understood the Hempstocks better because of Damiel and Peter Falk, and I think maybe you will too. ...more