You know a writer's great when he has the ability to change the way you think about the world. Borges' mathematical interpretation of cosmology branchYou know a writer's great when he has the ability to change the way you think about the world. Borges' mathematical interpretation of cosmology branches off in several directions with all the stories he writes. Some are set in the real world, but most are set in fantasy worlds, where the narrator might appear to be talking about our world at first, instead of his own.
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius left me speechless. Imagine a world of immaterial things- only the thoughts and ideas of geniuses, with no actions whatsoever. It's like a representation of what the afterlife might look like on the Mental Plane of metaphyisical philosophy.
The Circular Ruins is like the idea behind The NeverEnding Story - that our creator is imagining (or dreaming) us into existence, while we in turn dream him (or others) into existence.
The Lottery of Babylon suggests that the creator of the world leaves everything up to chance; that everything that happens, even something as insignificant as a grain of sand landing on a beach, is the result of a lottery number drawn from an infinite number of others.
The Library of Babel also plays with the idea of infinite possibilities. It suggests that the narrator's universe is made up of an infinite number of rooms where books can be arranged in an infinite number of letters. I sure wouldn't want the daunting task of doing research in that library!
The idea behind The Garden of Forking Paths probably makes the most sense out of all of them. It says that time is an infinite fractal of constantly diverging paths; that everything that has happened and could possibly happen exists in our universe and ones parallel to it. This seems to predict some of the new multiverse theories in cosmological physics, though I don't think he ever studied it.
Borges was a straight up genius. Even though his stories are fast-paced, he leaves enough on the table for you to understand, though not always completely!...more
What a heartbreaking story. Few books have ever made me cry, and this is one of them. To see some of my favorite characters of all time fall into abjeWhat a heartbreaking story. Few books have ever made me cry, and this is one of them. To see some of my favorite characters of all time fall into abject despair after a shocking tragedy was painful for me to read about. It was also eerily reminiscent of a drama I went through a couple years ago, which amplified my emotional response. I can't even write an objective review of without my emotions taking control, so I'm not going to try....more
In the Alps of Bavaria there is a place of wonder and wisdom. Its remoteness welcomes those that are ill, both from treatable diseases and psychologicIn the Alps of Bavaria there is a place of wonder and wisdom. Its remoteness welcomes those that are ill, both from treatable diseases and psychological malaises brought about from living in industrial civilization. Hans Canstorp is a member of this latter group, and he visits the mountains initially to see his cousin, but he finds so much peace and comfort in their solitude that time slows down and swallows him inside their location.
The Magic Mountain is a meditation on time, elevation, genius, sociology, biology, and metaphysics at the beginning of the 20th century, just before the thunderbolt of World War 1 went crashing down across Europe. It’s the coming-of-age story about a young man caught between the ideologies of two talented debaters: Settembrini, a poster child of the Enlightenment, and Naptha, a fascist Jesuit. Like the lost corridors and unpredictable weather patterns of the chaotic mountains, their discussions dish up a storm of contradictions that rattle our minds with the ambiguity of confusion. But somewhere lingering inside the ongoing war between love and reason, a magical philosophy breaths clarity into the minds of those patient enough to persevere through the novel’s length. The mountains know this philosophy, and it is the destiny of our protagonist to find it.
Although we must go through long stretches of disinterest and inactivity, we are served several golden nuggets of literature scattered in between them. Research is what I believe to be one of the greatest chapters ever written- a meditation on the parallels between biology and the cosmos. Walpurgis Night is as seductively memorable as The City of God is intellectually stimulating. Snow is the most famous of them- an atmospheric skiing adventure that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality. Finally, the book ends with The Thunderbolt- an invasion of the senses from the Underworld.
Fans of plotless literature and challenging structures should enjoy this. If you’re looking for a light read filled with bare-chested warriors, flaming dragons, and cheap romance, then stop what you’re doing and run....more
Invisible Man is as powerful as any book out there. It's a snapshot of 1950s America, set in the increasingly disruptive district of Harlem. The mai Invisible Man is as powerful as any book out there. It's a snapshot of 1950s America, set in the increasingly disruptive district of Harlem. The main character is the narrator, and he goes through a lot of intense coming-of-age situations involving keen opportunists and the use of his race for their benefit.
In my opinion, it isn't only the color of his skin that makes him invisible. It is also the power and originality of his voice, which is something a lot of people have ostracized themselves over, regardless of race. He knew that his ideas and talents aroused a lot of jealousy and insecurity in people that knew him, so he decided to cut the ties that bound him to them. A lot of us can empathize with this. We've all had to become socially invisible at times, and that's what makes this book a classic for all demographics....more
Not too many great books have been written about the desert. It was nice to finally take an adventure through it with a man as passionate for bizarreNot too many great books have been written about the desert. It was nice to finally take an adventure through it with a man as passionate for bizarre geology and hikes with aerial viewpoints as I am. He also has a likable disinterest in the civilized world and a preference for nature, which many chapters are devoted to explaining. Not only that but the style of writing is perfect for an atmosphere of blistering heat, mazes of canyons, and nights alone with the the stars as your only companions. After reading the first chapter I knew it would be an instant favorite. There isn't a single bad chapter in here, but in my opinion the best are “The First Morning”, “Rocks”, and “Down The River”....more
Moby Dick is incredible, not only for the adventure it takes you on, but for the way Melville writes and all the symbolism he uses. Unfortunately, lonMoby Dick is incredible, not only for the adventure it takes you on, but for the way Melville writes and all the symbolism he uses. Unfortunately, long ago, the poor reputation it had in the adolescent gossip wars prevented me from fully delving into it and exploring its mysteries. I had always thought it was a generic story until I finally grew up and read the whole thing, disregarding what others felt about it.
Melville foreshadowed many things in this classic novel, which is a testament to its greatness. At the time of its release (1851) it was panned by critics, and did not reach the status of fame it has today until about the 1950s. He seemed to predict that America would eventually become a melting pot of mixed races, since the crew aboard the Pequod contained members of several races and all got along with their white superiors. Keep in mind that this was written just before the Civil War- a time of segregation in America- and Queequeg, a black pagan protagonist, engages in what may be a homosexual relationship with the main character, a white Christian. If that’s not pushing the envelop in 1850s America then I don’t know what is.
Further symbolism can be realized by looking at the relationship between Ahab the whale. Ahab, a madman bound to his fate, is everything that man faces when confronted with the merciless power of nature. The whale, in turn, represents the chaotic cosmic forces that man can never control, no matter how much he tries. Not only is Ahab a prototype of the human condition, but his animated, hysterical dialogue is one of the most quirky in all literature. His descent into madness, along with Ishmael’s yielding of the plot to his perspective, is what keeps us glued to the pages even though we know what will happen to him. With all that in mind, Moby Dick is not only a philosophical treaty on fate, but a prime candidate for the “Great American Novel” so argued about over the years.
A minor note: the way in which Melville constructed his chapters had a major influence on modernist writers, including James Joyce and DH Lawrence. If it weren’t for Moby Dick, literature wouldn’t have been as convoluted as it became in the 1920s (well, maybe it would have, but MD was the first to claim the broken streamy style). Especially prominent are the chapters in which Melville’s talent as a poetic pioneer of fractured narratives really shine, including “The Whiteness of the Whale”, “The Grand Armada”, “The Symphony”, and of course “The Chase”. Also, for those interested in whales, there is no shortage of interesting information about whaling in Moby Dick. It almost reads like an encyclopedia at times.
Who knew that such praise could be given to such a simple adventure story? Next to Les Miserables it’s probably the best book of the 19th century....more
Lyrical, haunting, colorful, and disturbing, Red Sorghum is a powerful novel that is set during one of the darkest periods of Chinese history: the JapLyrical, haunting, colorful, and disturbing, Red Sorghum is a powerful novel that is set during one of the darkest periods of Chinese history: the Japanese invasion of the 1930’s. I’d known from reading The Rape Of Nanking some of the horrors that Japanese soldiers did to defenseless civilians, but to read about them in a novel, one in which I grew to love its setting and characters, is especially unsettling. Amidst all the wretched spoils of war and unstable love affairs in Red Sorghum, atmospheric, dynamic descriptions of its natural setting are prominent in every chapter, especially ones involving the sun painting landscapes laden with fields of endless sorghum with rich color. At times I felt like the red, rising ball of the sun was a metaphor for the Japanese flag, the one which Japanese soldiers most likely marched into China with as the sun baked the Earth below with its threatening radioactivity.
Mo Yan is a controversial figure in China; his work is praised by the Communist party, but critics claim that their support makes him a proponent of censorship. While he has not outright said this, his own support of the party might suggest he shares the same view. However, his work would most likely be censored if he didn’t support the party, so I have doubts that he really is against censorship. It’s up to the reader to read between the lines and see if he he/she notices the anti-totalitarian themes in his novels. I’ve only read two of his novels, but I didn’t get the impression that he’s trying to glorify his government at all. If anything, he satirized it in The Republic Of Wine with the grandiose portrayals of savagery and gluttony that Liquorland’s ruling class displayed. Like Salman Rushide, an author as misunderstood as this should be recognized for his poetical talents, not for his supposed crusades against religious or political ideologies....more
A horrifying, yet hilarious tour-de-force that spins wildly out of control. Reading this will make you feel like you're drunk. It reminded me of AliceA horrifying, yet hilarious tour-de-force that spins wildly out of control. Reading this will make you feel like you're drunk. It reminded me of Alice In Wonderland with a heavy dosage of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas....more
We all know a bad girl. She’s the one who leaves when you least expect it, throwing your heart in a blender and running off with some rich asshole thaWe all know a bad girl. She’s the one who leaves when you least expect it, throwing your heart in a blender and running off with some rich asshole that treats her worse than she accused you of treating her. In this novel, Mario Vargas Llosa explores the psychology of obsessive love, the dynamics of fate, and the capability of a good person transofmring a morally corrupt one. I was so engrossed in the story that I felt my heart racing during scenes that had no action at all: scenes of drama, trauma, and nervous anticipation. You never know when or where The Bad Girl will show up, who she’ll pretend to be, and what new spin she’ll put on your world. The unpredictability of her antics is what makes this an endearing page-turner, as well as Llosa’s talent for writing. He really shines in the first chapter, “The Chilean Girls": one of the most romantic segments I’ve ever read. Llosa, one of the few internationally famous Peruvian writers, certainly deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature he won a few years ago. If his other work is as good as this, then I’ve got a lot of reading to do....more
He was a God among men, a black commander in a time of racial oppression, and one of the finest warriors Europe had ever seen. Alex Dumas, champion ofHe was a God among men, a black commander in a time of racial oppression, and one of the finest warriors Europe had ever seen. Alex Dumas, champion of the French army, stood his ground against foreign attackers, the institutions of conservative restrictions, and even his own country. First came the French revolution: the collectivist overthrowing of a Monarchy whose inept actions provoked its people to revolt against it. There was a new concept in the air, an equalist concept called democracy, and this is what gave Dumas the rare opportunity for a man of color to quickly ascend the ranks. Next came the military campaigns of Italy and Egypt when Napoleon, Dumas’ nemesis, took command of the army in hopes of attaining his unrealistic ambitions. It was a chaotic time in the history of a country that had seen too much of the status quo. The fact that a black man was able to rise out of the ashes, briefly, in an almost superhero driven comic-book fashion, seems to pulverize the very notion that some things are impossible. Dreams do come true, and sometimes in epic form.
The life of this man is unfathomable and I encourage everyone to read this book. Ultimately Dumas’ glory was overshadowed by white supremacy, as many of his phenomenal accomplishments were glazed over by the ruling class of post-revolutionary France. He paved the way for the French army, but Napoleon and his generals got most of the credit. What’s even more astonishing is that this is a tale already well known to man. It was dressed up incognito in a novel we all know and love, a famous novel written by Dumas’ son, Alexandre Dumas; The Count Of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantes is based on his father while Danglars is based on Napoleon. His betrayal & isolation in the Chateau D’ If is based on real events portrayed in this book.
Personally I think this is a landmark in biography. It’s one of the few biographies that reads like an entertaining work of adventure fiction....more
Book 1, in which he writes about the various things that he learned from others throughout his life, from those closest to him to those he briefly kneBook 1, in which he writes about the various things that he learned from others throughout his life, from those closest to him to those he briefly knew, is divinely inspirational. I would like to write something like that when I am older.
As for the rest of the book, Aurelias' philosophy is the western parallel to eastern philosophy. Do your work and do it well, but don't be a dick about it....more
The Hidden Reality is the penultimate source for all the ambiguity at the heart of physics. Brian Greene serves up a spicy platter of nine differentThe Hidden Reality is the penultimate source for all the ambiguity at the heart of physics. Brian Greene serves up a spicy platter of nine different multiverse theories, each of which use the mathematics behind Unified Field Theories to set the stage for a complete out-of-this-universe experience. It mocks your mind for thinking it knew everything about the nature of reality. Granted, these are only theories, and they may all be entirely wrong, but has math ever been wrong? Even math that dispels logic, like Godel's Theorem, proves itself to be "right". If there are an infinite number of universes, in which we are all doing an infinite number of things, then I would seriously like to read this book's follow up in the universe that uncovers these facts (assuming he's not going to write one in ours!)
Greene is an excellent writer and he uses many effective analogies to explain things that are confounding without an adequate lecture behind the math. The footnotes in the back have a fair amount of mathematical detail for those inclined. I was curious to explore the notes myself; some of them were more interesting than the main part....more
There’s a rumbling storm crawling up the spine of American history. Here there be details that politicians, Wall Street bigwigs, and textbook writersThere’s a rumbling storm crawling up the spine of American history. Here there be details that politicians, Wall Street bigwigs, and textbook writers on propaganda commission don’t want you to know about. It’s history seen from the eyes of the middleman, the lower class, and all the fighters for economic reform that have been shunted by the armor of militant suppression. The history of America is coated with the blood of its builders, not by the rhetoric of elitist figureheads that occupy the White House. A great and bloody civil war has been going on for decades, a subtle one. You’d be surprised how often union strikes and civil rights protests ended in violence (provoked by jackhole authorities, not peaceful demonstrators). The whole story of labor in America is here baby; this knowledge is bonafide classified, at least in history classes.
Unions were originally effective in organizing workers’ rights, whether they be about wage, safety, child labor, or hours-per-week issues. The amount of violence that these civilians had to withstand to obtain these rights over the years is staggering. As the unions evolved and gained more influence they were loosely connected with Communism after the Red Scare of 1919. It was mindblowing to read about how J. Edgar Hoover unconstitutionally ordered the deportation of thousands of suspected communists (many of whom were influential union leaders and didn’t even identify with the ideology). During the Great Depression many of the workers’ rights we know and love today came into effect thanks to FDR’s New Deal and other Supreme Court rulings; all the struggles of the past were finally worth something.
One of the more disturbing facts about unions is that, as they grew in strength and merged, their political affiliations became more corrupt. I was shocked to learn that the largest union in the nation’s history, AFL-CIO, backed the Viet Nam war and its members were highly influential as the “silent majority” for keeping the war going. Well, every rose has its thorn.
In addition to outlining the epic history of labor vs. capital, the book’s concluding thesis offers that the future of union organization can only depend on transnational compliance. I’d have to agree, because it doesn’t matter how many rights are won. Corporations always sell out to the cheapest bidder, and the world will always have a new one unless the power to strike is not universal....more
I’ll start by saying that Pryan is another fascinating, otherworldly planet, unique in scope like Arianus in Dragon Wing and Aberrach in Fire Sea .I’ll start by saying that Pryan is another fascinating, otherworldly planet, unique in scope like Arianus in Dragon Wing and Aberrach in Fire Sea . The planet is turned inside out, meaning its surface is on the inside and subjected to constant daylight by four “stars” centered at the core. Naturally, this creates a planetary greenhouse effect, which causes the jungle-laden surface to sprout mega trees the size of continents.
Elven Star is also interesting for its diverse cast of species & characters. Elves, dwarves, humans, giants, dragons, and one kooky wizard bring balance to a story loaded with contrasting personalities. The thing that really enhances this book, at least for me, is the coupling of forbidden romance with raw, apocalyptic adventure. Not to mention the well placed comic relief; there’s no shortage of wisecrack humor and dramatic hysterics. The unstable relationships between Alethea & Roland; the dragon and Zinfab; Roland & Rega; the dwarf and pretty much everyone; Zinfab and pretty much everyone; Haplo and pretty much everyone, is the chaos one might expect after centuries of racial instability yields to the sudden unification of a global alliance, much like in Lord Of The Rings .
It has it’s moral perks and immoral downfalls as well: from the breaking of race barriers to betrayal and abandonment (Haplo, you dick!). Don’t let the first hundred pages of character development turn you off, or the fact that it’s far different from Dragon Wing . The action & drama comes at you in full force for the remainder of the book. Once the giants invade the land it’s an unrelenting page turner. One of the most intense passages I've ever read was when the giants first rumbled onto the pages- when Paithan and Rega were trapped on that enormous mushroom....more
Magma, necromancy, magic, giant dragons, massive subterranean caverns, armies of the dead... this book is pure awesome. I picked it up not knowing itMagma, necromancy, magic, giant dragons, massive subterranean caverns, armies of the dead... this book is pure awesome. I picked it up not knowing it was the third in a series, but it didn't matter because the concept is easy to gather. Humans, on evolving after desecrating planet Earth, split into factions of species with supernatural powers, and inhabited various planets distinguished by the four elements. Each book in the series is set on a different planet (Fire Sea is set on a planet representing the Earth element), and if any of the other planets are as interesting as this one then this is going to be one of my favorite series ever! ...more
Isabel is one the most talented writers we've ever seen. I adore her style; it's poetical, flowery, and delicate, with tinges of darkness appropriateIsabel is one the most talented writers we've ever seen. I adore her style; it's poetical, flowery, and delicate, with tinges of darkness appropriate where overdoses of sentimentalism intoxicate the reader. Her novel Eva Luna is a political, erotic, and artistic first person account of a dreamy woman who finds herself in many bizarre situations and likes to create stories about the interesting people she meets. Apparently there's a companion book called The Stories Of Eva Luna; I'll be checking that out, along with most of her other work....more