I thought that this was a very opaque read. Hemingway, as a general trend, seems to take a pleasure in rubbing your nose in the experiences that you lI thought that this was a very opaque read. Hemingway, as a general trend, seems to take a pleasure in rubbing your nose in the experiences that you lack, and this is what is part of his unique attraction. Even in this book, only the animal lovers could fail to be seduced by the romance of hunting in the african lands barely touched by humans. The problems, for me, concerned Hemingway's abandonment of story.
The book is in the same biographical vein as A Moveable Feast, but whereas that book took a look at historically interesting people and occasionally tried to explain the context of those times, The Green Hills of Africa doesn't condescend to situate any of the characters in the reader's mind. None of the characters are introduced in the traditional way; we learn that there are such people called "Pop" and "P.O.M." that are in the vicinity of Hemingway along the way, but why there are in his vicinity has to be deduced.
Not the merest helping hand, such as "P.O.M., my wife" is given, even as a courtesy. The fact that P.O.M.'s identity is hidden behind initials is illustrative of the opaque attitude of Hemingway towards his readers here.
At moments you feel as if the book could have been made more engaging for the general (ignorant) reader, such as more fanciful descriptions of the landscape, or the abrupt yet provocative reflections on questions of literary greatness... but these are in any case few and far between (even in a short book), and the latter can only be counted as interesting insights into Hemingway the man - they are not in themselves beautiful to read. In the end, then, this is a book which deliberately throws you only a moving train with no idea where you're going or where you've come from... you are in company with people whose associations are either intimate, servant-master, friendly or of rivals... yet you cannot see their faces clearly or easily guess from the dialogue what these are (everyone has a very clipped, idiomatic way of talking). The scenery is sometimes nice but often monotonous, and you feel like if you had lived a little more and lived in their shoes you could enjoy it a lot more....more
I felt like this was a book that was written for a specific academic audience. It has the right atmosphere to be accepted as a piece of literary anti-I felt like this was a book that was written for a specific academic audience. It has the right atmosphere to be accepted as a piece of literary anti-racist activism, but it's anti-empire rhetoric seemed tacked on, to me. Moreso than in-group/out-group perceptions and the crimes of the powerful, what is far more extensively covered is the embarrassingly youthful libido of a aging, repulsive man of the establishment. His struggle to intellectualize his own ordinary feelings of horniness lead him to flaunt set codes of apartheid and to deliver a captured barbarian turned magistrate's whore back to her people. He he caught and seems to get little more than shown the tools of torture, with some harsh words to go with it. He ends the book by ruminating on how difficult it is to guess what the future might bring. Read it for yourself and see, but do not take it for granted going in that this is a blisteringly anti-empire novel. I think it's more satisfying as a kafka-esque treatment of obligations and sexual frustration....more
I had already heard about a lot of the content in this book. This is probably because of its heavy crossover, in content, with the writings of Bloom´sI had already heard about a lot of the content in this book. This is probably because of its heavy crossover, in content, with the writings of Bloom´s mentor and fellow linguist Stephen Pinker, and through reading other allied popularizers like Dennett, Dawkins and Baron-Cohen. But had I not already learnt of the content before, I should think that it would have made for the most fascinating single collection of popularized insights that have ever been borne from the fruits of decades of academic work since the cognitive revolution of the mid 50s.
Bloom´s background is in child language development, but also knows about the whole range of literature on child development and, to boot, the brain science behind all the psychology. In addition he includes his personal areas of research in the psychology of disgust and the psychology of religion. It emerges that there are any number of very unique and specific, natively-programmed faculties sitting in the mind. They take assessment of the situation like uniquely dreamt-up process commands once the living creature goes "on line" at birth. The faculties merely await activation in the "on-line" mind. They are already latent at the moment that consciousness takes over control. It is mindblowing to anyone who considers the consequences. Bloom does not indulge in any lengthy, nerdy trek through the branching divisions in dis/agreement of any philosophical literature, but that is probably because such a thorough book could hardly ever end, given the breadth on display in this briskly written, friendly and witty tour. I'll try to justify this highfalutin praise:
The collective body of evidence from cognitive science puts a cannonball through much of the work of philosophers: ordinary political philosophy as well as on the most arcane thought in the tradition of Descartes through Kant and beyond. It has the only authoritative say on matters of political urgency like "how can we discourage racism and nuclear war?" as well as contributing hard facts to perennial head-scratchers like "are men born evil?" "are we enshrined in nature or above it?" Most importantly, the work showcased in this book gives new vitality to the hard questions of body and soul, reality and perception. Are we rational beings? Are we blinded from reality or do we perceive it accurately?
So I cannot recommend this book enough to curious people, not-all-too familiar with any of what I just wrote, who, however, see the value in such questions and could approach cognitive science with an open mind. For those a little more familiar with the subject, it would definitely still tie things together into a very gratifying and witty 200 pages. This was my experience and I'm very glad that I read it....more
For whatever rhetorical power Penny has at her command her writing is rife with overstatement and a determined ugliness of depiction. Her main metaphoFor whatever rhetorical power Penny has at her command her writing is rife with overstatement and a determined ugliness of depiction. Her main metaphors are of slavery ("drudgery" "suffering" "oppression" "cruel machine"), filth, violence and unclean physicality ("butchery", "stink of my flesh" "cannibalistic", "brutal" "the ooze and tickle of real-time sex") but above all, POWER.
The final words of this collection are "we need to end our weary efforts to believe that our bodies are acceptable and begin to know, with a clear and brilliant certainty, that our persons are powerful." Specifically, that power is to "say "no"" and only through this will "woman of the 21st century," according to Penny, "regain their voice and remember their power." Though this is an adaptation of her journalistic writings and should not be expected to be too unified, the desire for power (nominally expressed as a collective striving) is by far the strongest single thread in the collection, as far as I could tell. One may judge for herself. ...Though repulsed by the perceived constant abuse of power over women by the patriarchy, Penny does not think that the glory of power is suspicious in any way, if one is to judge from her tried and tested political revenge-rhetoric. The purpose of this hypothetical power is not clear: equality under the law is not the vanilla mission statement, but rather the complaint is of a more deep-rooted form of spiritual corruption that is allied to the exercise of power (see the quotes to follow).
However what dimensions of power are worth women holding? Penny explicitly ridicules the "drudgery" of "brain-bleedingly pointless tasks" such as knitting and cupcakes, and to accuse as false superiority women who boast of their rule in the domestic setting, and of "well trained" male helping hands in the domestic sphere (p.58). But again, what dimension of power matters? This dimension of power is real enough: possession thereof seems to satisfy many women who are not Laurie Penny and her readership. And the object of this sort of power is clear: to make a habitable, peaceful sort of environment to live in through some concrete division of labour. Neither the justification nor the lifestyle would appeal to Laurie Penny and her readership, but the existence of this power - roundly dismissed here - seems to undermine the flat demand that women realize their power: what Penny rather means is unsure, then. Perhaps that women should demand political power, though the reasons for this are unexplicit and more obscure than the reasons for baking cupcakes and maintaining domestic chores.
What also turned me off, at a more stylistic level, was the reliance on literary techniques, such as the employment of spuriously holistic entities such as "society" "the culture" or "the world" with the active singular voice to create a ghoulish, vampire-like personificaton: "[society] condemns young women as wanton strumpets," "[women] are destroying themselves and western society, fostering a deep loathing for female flesh applauds them for doing so." This last example is interestingly mirrored in a later, in my opinion unconscionable, accusation against her own family for encouraging her anorexia: "my family complimented my new figure, reinforcing the message that good girls don't eat."
The frequency of such autobiographical anecdotes reveal a sad personal history of self-hatred, mental illness and hermit-like behaviour which goes some way to explain to the skeptical reader why she views the world as such a scary place, and more importantly why the uncomfortable metaphors of bodily violence and unclean physicality are so superimposed upon the entirety of Society, which is deemed to work so homogeneously and conspiratorially. In addition, her own mental problems are retroactively gilt-framed as a kind of unconscious rebellion: "a rebellion by self-immolation, by taking society's standards of thinness, beauty and self-denial to their logical extremes."
"Women are not powerless beings without agency, even in this circumscribed culture, and only by acknowledging that fact will we ever achieve full adult emancipation, or ever save ourselves from the hell of narcissistic self-negation. We need to take responsibility for our part in the cruel machine of enforced feminine starvation psychosis. To do anything else would be to accept our own victimhood." p.29
Penny is adamant that women should not live as helpless victims, however there is some tension between her stark and visceral choice of words, magnifying the threat of the obstacles to liberation, and her willingness to imply that socially constructed entities such as gender ("human biology is not subject to cultural norms of gender polarity"p.39) can be swept away given such simple advice as "remembering how to say no."...more
For me this was relentlessly technical in the middle, and for those sections may as well have been written in chinese, but what small amount I did undFor me this was relentlessly technical in the middle, and for those sections may as well have been written in chinese, but what small amount I did understand elsewhere was very courteously explained and generously diagrammed - fitting the remit of the pelican series. For the layman, the introductory chapters about the history of counting technology (eventually machines proper) will be good food for thought alone. ...more
Was it just me, or were the examples chosen far too few and far too unclear? The space at the beginning of each chapter should have been the place toWas it just me, or were the examples chosen far too few and far too unclear? The space at the beginning of each chapter should have been the place to lay out exactly what is in question. A few homely examples from the then-present day and age would have made the concept solid. Instead, the key words in his examples are often so arcane that a modern person is immediately strained to search for any meaning on the face of them at all, never mind competing ambiguities!
I think there's definitely a lot to a few of the distinctions that he makes (for example that between an ambiguous word that points a different way forward than backward (type 5) and when scope for ambiguity is so large as to allow for mystical and profound interpretations (type 4/6)) but others seem, as he freely admits a couple of times, very minor elaborations on others. Why not 5 types? Or 3? If the writer will not treat his own categories with any gravity, as Empson's breezy seminar-free manner refuses to, then I suggest that he does not put it in the title of his book.
That all said, I am not the target audience for this book (the target audience, I would flatter myself by guessing, would be a small and intimidating circle of scholars). A reader should not expect a scientific-objective account of the linguistic resources available to the literary writer, in the style of a Stephen Pinker book, but rather a very erudite and personal reflection on the joys of reading poetry, "scientific" in the older sense which presumes a familiarity with the whole: all the great poets of the canon from Chaucer onward, and with the latin sources of so much English literary history to boot....more