Not a bad book, just superfluous, you're far better off with his subsequent autobiography, Cash. But if you're just interested in him beating pills anNot a bad book, just superfluous, you're far better off with his subsequent autobiography, Cash. But if you're just interested in him beating pills and his religious experiences, this isn't a bad book. It's just that if you want to read about Ostrich attacks, you'll have to go with the newer autobiography....more
This is a very ambitious first novel, and does a lot of things right, but unfortunately just tries to do too much. After opening with a bang on a birtThis is a very ambitious first novel, and does a lot of things right, but unfortunately just tries to do too much. After opening with a bang on a birthday cruise down the bayou, lawyer Jay Porter is dragged into a conspiracy he'd really rather stay out of, but in which he lets himself get increasingly entwined due to his own paranoia. Jay's psychological profile is the most compelling thing about this book, as Locke presents him as a product of government persecution, stemming from the attempts of the government to plant informants in the radical student movement in which Jay was once active, and then to try Jay on trumped-up charges of conspiracy to murder said informant. Locke, inspired by her own parent's experiences in the civil rights movement, shows how the possibility of government informants in their midst made the student radicals distrustful of everyone; for Porter, this paranoia continues long after he's started his new life as a husband and low-rent lawyer, causing him to see conspiracies where none exist and to dangerously misunderstand the powerful interests he's unwittingly crossed. I really admired the psychological insight Locke brings to her protagonist, which adds a realism to Porter often lacking in traditional thrillers, and the flashbacks to his student days mostly work, though they lack some suspense. The main problem with the book is there's simultaneously too much story and not enough. The dockworker's union strife subplot moves far too slowly, a sort of racial On The Waterfront, and the actual conspiracy, finally revealed, is rather tame compared to what I was envisioning. And the book ends on a didactically liberal note, especially grating for its suggestion that Jay Porter's paranoia can be dismissed, if only he wants it gone badly enough. Attica Locke's writing is really engaging, and I wanted to like this more than I did, but there was just too much that fell flat, and the ending really disappointed me....more
A story within a story within a story...you'd think at least one of them would be bearable...A final message from the world written by a girl in her tA story within a story within a story...you'd think at least one of them would be bearable...A final message from the world written by a girl in her twenties locked in a closet and about to be murdered, yet she writes like a Meg Cabot heroine. And the mysterious roaming story-teller who holds all in his midst transfixed by his storytelling prowess, with a tale that sounds like a cross between Prince Valiant and Erin Hunter's Warrior's series. If you haven't noticed by now, I was not able to get into this book at all. The characters are obnoxious and flat, the mystery is utterly uncompelling, and the writing style grating. I only got about 100 pages in, but I doubt I missed much; by the second installment of Jim's story-telling, I realized my eyes were going over the words but my brain was refusing to process them--time to move on to another book....more
Things I expected this book to tell me: I should try running barefoot. Things I didn't expect this book to tell me: The eponymous seeds found growingThings I expected this book to tell me: I should try running barefoot. Things I didn't expect this book to tell me: The eponymous seeds found growing from the Chia Pet line of products are one of the healthiest foods on the planet; Why I have such a honkin' huge head; Harvard University apparently put rectal thermometers in cheetahs and made them run on treadmills; 45 miles into a 50-mile race, your own urine can seem mighty refreshing, when it's your only option; the drug war really sucks if you're a people indigenous to regions of Mexico renowned at least since Pancho Villa's day for their inaccessibility and tendency to lure the law into deadly situations; You should live in a cave in Hawaii (a la Vincent Price on the Brady Bunch) if you want to be a real bad-ass boxer; and being the manager of a team of Native Americans who won an obscure ultramarathon in Colorado is in fact enough power to make one mad with power (I would not have thought so). Mainly what I didn't expect was the book to be as much fun as it is, crisply written with enough juicy fun facts on each page that you only gradually realize that what first seems like (and is) a great adventure tale about the author's journey to discover the secrets of the solitary Tarahumara tribe, preservers of the almost-lost art of natural endurance running, is also an authoritative analysis of what exactly is wrong with the state of running today. I occasionally had questions that the book didn't address--for instance, if we're being lied to about the importance of expensive running shoes, what other lies are also circulating? The Tarahumara (and Scott Jurek and the other ultrarunners) seem to run pretty intense schedules; what does that say about Runner's World's insistence that rest and cross-training should be a vital part of my running routine? But still, the book makes a convincing argument that the human body evolved for one thing--long-distance running--and that Bill Bowerman didn't do us any favors when he decided 30 years ago that the foot needed protection from itself--and convinced the world of the same, with no evidence to back up his claim (and as McDougall shows, there is still no evidence proving that advanced running shoes prevent injury--and lots of evidence that they cause them, not least of all the fact that the shoes are widely adopted, yet approximate 80% of runners are injured every year).
One more thing I expected from this book: a lot of stuff that wasn't applicable to me. Maybe a little scrawny guy in great shape could run barefoot, but surely someone packing quite a few extra pounds needs something to cushion his body from the massive force of his body meeting pavement. But one more thing I was very surprised to find in this book: It was for me. The author is a big guy (I believe he said that when he first asked the question, why does my foot hurt, he carried about 230 pounds on his 6'4" frame), and putting in mileage not too far from my own. And shoes weren't protecting him from injury (the sad truth is a thin layer of padding cannot negate 700 pounds of impact pressure with every step), but were part of the problem. So I found plenty of information in this book that I could put into action. Running barefoot? Not yet. But I plan to incorporate it into my routine in the near future, even if it's just an occasional jog on the beach (though I'm thinking the purchase of Vibram FiveFingers and a weekly run in said shoes is in my near future). In the meantime, I must admit I was bowled over by my discovery that chia is in fact a health food, and am enjoying a refreshing chia fresca as I type this review. And while I'll concede it is quite likely the placebo effect, I've noticed a real difference in how I feel. So thank you, Scott McDougall, for, if nothing else, introducing me to chia. And for keeping me so thoroughly entertained in the process. This book is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it--runner or not....more