I read this book just before finding out about "Empire of the Summer Moon," by S.C. Gwynne, also about the Comanches. The two together convey a sliceI read this book just before finding out about "Empire of the Summer Moon," by S.C. Gwynne, also about the Comanches. The two together convey a slice of time, a big chunk of geography, and a sense of the infinitude of human possibility as expressed in the multiple cultures performing on this stage.
I'll review the two side by side and reference this review under the other title....more
A jewel amongst rocks! Protagonist is a light-skinned Afro-American who is recognized by other characters as being smarter than them (because they donA jewel amongst rocks! Protagonist is a light-skinned Afro-American who is recognized by other characters as being smarter than them (because they don't see him as black.) AND, he not only doesn't die, but gets the girl!
I trivialize. This is a fascinating weave of historical fact, with lots of dialogue in various archaic forms of English. I can vouch for the authenticity of the black American's voice -- unusual enough. The dialogue of the Brits born in India was more than occasionally opaque, due to Ghosh's larding of their sentences with hobson-jobson. Ghosh did a lot of research for this book and was totally fascinated with the huge number of words and expressions from S. and E. Asian languages that were current in 18th and 19th century British speech that have now sunk with almost no trace.
I love Ghosh's non-white and totally sophisticated view of the people of the British Raj. Ghosh depicts the hard-shelled, seamless and self-serving union of Protestant Christianity, sentimental white supremacy, and hypocritical opportunism that enabled Brits of mediocre intellect to conquer people who were there superiors in all other respects, enslave a lot of them, and convince them of their own inferiority.
I learned lots about the opium trade and a little about the slave trade that I hadn't known.
If you have little or no interest in language, you may still enjoy a riveting weave of subplots, colorful characters, and dramatic incident....more
A page-turner that doesn't neatly fit any genre, but is written in sparkling English prose. Appealed to my love of language, things desi, and questionA page-turner that doesn't neatly fit any genre, but is written in sparkling English prose. Appealed to my love of language, things desi, and questioning of notions of ordinary reality.
Without spoiling the surprises, I can say that the setting skips between Victorian and contemporary Calcutta, contemporary New York, and involves a fascinating set of quirky characters and historical events....more
Sartre is supposed to have said,"perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood" of Camus' books. It's just like Sartre to claim to find somethinSartre is supposed to have said,"perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood" of Camus' books. It's just like Sartre to claim to find something profound in what seems to me just one of those things that didn't quite come off.
For once, I can agree with Sartre, at least half way. This is certainly not the most beautiful of Camus' books --- I'd choose "L'homme revolte", but you might choose "La peste" and I wouldn't argue with you. Sartre's right about "The Fall/La chute" being the least understood, though -- at least by me. The technique of the single character's monologue is, right off the bat, not brought off here. The character's indictment of all humanity's integrity, with especially bad marks for the Dutch and the French, is just. . . peevish.
Okay, maybe it's the translation. I may revise this after I get hold of the original version and read it.
Wait a minute --- Camus wrote it, after all. Here's two good quotes I had to share: "Martyrs, cher ami, must choose between being forgotten, mocked,or made use of."
And, "But too many people now climb on to the cross merely to be seen from a greater distance, even if they have to trample somewhat on the one who has been there so long." ...more
Been so long since I read this! I vaguely her issues with with her husband, children, her role with them, and my own imperviousness to her predicamentBeen so long since I read this! I vaguely her issues with with her husband, children, her role with them, and my own imperviousness to her predicament. I did not identify with her at all. Really strange to look back on that state of mind and attitude toward others! ...more
This book presents more cogently and in greater detail the argument Ivan Illich made in "Deschooling Society":
School undergirds the totalitarian tendeThis book presents more cogently and in greater detail the argument Ivan Illich made in "Deschooling Society":
School undergirds the totalitarian tendencies inherent in global capitalism by socializing us to think of learning as a packageable commodity, and by disguising the fallacy underlying capitalism: that we live in a world of scarcity. School perpetuates social class hierarchies by reproducing the class structure, while claiming to be an engine of egalitarianism.
School makes learning a scarce commodity by a whole series of inefficiencies (which parallel the inefficiencies of industrial capitalism). Furthermore, by its attaching learning to grades and certificates, it heightens the illusion of scarcity in knowledge and learning. School absorbs more and more resources, mirroring the infinite appetite of capitalism. It is not possible to educate everyone up to even the current level deemed adequate; anyway, as soon as that level is approached, "competition" bids up the minimum level of "necessary" schooling. The affluent always manage this minimum, the poorest never can, with few --always celebrated! -- exceptions. That's all I can cram into this space, but there's lots more! Alternatives to the entire school nexus are outlined. Reimer is vaguer here, but still valuable.
We live in an era and a civilization in which the cultivated appreciation of all the arts has been besmirched with snobbery anHow to speak of Hopkins?
We live in an era and a civilization in which the cultivated appreciation of all the arts has been besmirched with snobbery and identified with wealth and privilege. For all but the few born to wealth and privelege, then, cultivated taste automatically becomes a kind of treason against class. The only exceptions are things like Celtic music, which have clear ties to currently popular forms. Appreciation of Hopkins’ poetry requires cultivation not only of vocabulary, but of a stock of referents in literature and awareness of the ancestry of words. Being a language nerd is a start, but only a start. You need to be able to walk outside urbanized areas and know and appreciate what you’re looking at: birds, rocks, trees, plants, sky. How many people do that nowadays, even those who claim to love “Nature” ?
After all that, you’re ready for Wordsworth, Shelley, and all those guys they give you in literature appreciation. Hopkins, though, is going to ask you to appreciate something he calls “sprung rhythm”, which substitutes the meter of living language for the strict duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah we’re all used to. Then, he turns around and asks us to accept some highly irregular word order and word coinages to make his resurrection of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse work. Well, it’s also about making the sounds of words and underlying meanings come out stronger. He’s heavy, but he’s great.
Since I read “Spring And Fall: to a young girl” at the age of sixteen, I’ve felt with Hopkins a connection deeper than anything conveyed by the word “kinship”. I thrill to the identification with a soaring bird each time I read “To a Windhover”, and to the ultimate love and beauty that underlie all Manifestation, when I read “God’s Grandeur” — although the word and concept “God” has always seemed to me an unnecessary complication and, ultimately, an obscuration and distraction from that grand apprehension. I want to shout at Hopkins “Stop calling it ‘God’! Let yourself be open to the pure experience and wisdom! Let go of all those rules, all that verbiage, ideation, and dogma!” I totally understand his original attraction to Roman Catholicism, with its declaration of the Mystery and its recognition of grandeur. However, I’m mystified by his obsessive clinging to the tangled, and necrophilic apparatus of orthodoxy — but part of me understands it. Much as I’d rather not, I completely understand the sonnet that begins “No worst, there is none.” Though my Buddhist self eschews it, I am not yet totally removed from the self-hatred at the core of Christianity, in which as English-speakers, “Westerners”, we are all steeped.
“I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.” cries from the depth of this self-hatred, but then goes further — to acceptance of its justice. Having already come to love and identify with Hopkins, I raged at this in! I got a “C” on a final exam at the U. Of Chicago that had this sonnet as an essay prompt — I couldn’t put together a coherent critique of it, nor leave it and get on with the rest of the exam.
Like thousands before me, I’ve felt closer to this really odd, truly sick, yet beautiful and brilliant mind than so many I’d be more comfortable with. I’ve wanted to jump into a time machine, sneak into his chamber and remonstrate with him about this acceptance of the notions of Original Sin and of a God who, after allowing the original event, then imposed the Supreme Sacrifice on his Only Begotten Son and — on top of all that — maintains the category of “the lost”, referred to in the penultimate line of “I wake . . .” What could such a being have to do with the glory of Manifestation? What sense is there in speaking of such an entity as “loving”, let alone “perfect”?
But, I have no time machine and I can easily envision great difficulty in reaching Hopkins, even had I one.
I give this a superlative rating because of its clear statement of what it means to be black in a racialized environment, and becDreams from My Father
I give this a superlative rating because of its clear statement of what it means to be black in a racialized environment, and because of Obama's ability to confront the complexities of his own biracial/multicultural heritage without succumbing to romanticism or denying any aspect of his heritage. He opts for a black identity for the same reason nearly all black/white biracials do -- a white identity isn't possible when you're his color and being white requires a dimmed awareness of the reality of race.
I need to explain this last sentence for the majority of people likely to read this. I’ll need to unpack it: why a white identity isn’t possible; what I mean by “his color” and what that means in the world of today; what I mean by a “dimmed awareness”; and what I see as the “reality of race”.
(Come to think of it, I’ve used other terms that really require examination: “black”, “racialized”, “biracial”, “multicultural”, “heritage”, “identity”, and “white”. All these terms partake of the qualities of “keywords”, as discussed by Raymond Williams, Tony Bennett, Ivan Illich, and others (search for my reviews of these texts). “Keywords” in this sense are words that come trailing strong connotations of significance, along with sets of overlapping but distinct, sometimes nearly contradictory, denotations gathered over time from usage in distinct contexts. The first characteristic — strong emotive value — makes them useful for sprinkling around in oral or written discourse to lend authority to what is said or the person saying it. The difference between keywords and“buzzwords” is that keywords actually carry histories of meaning and reference to demonstrable phenomena. This complexity makes them stumbling blocks, but also makes them hard to replace by anything that might be a synonym.)
“You black? What is you mix with?” — minimum half dozen students per year, for nearly two decades of teaching. These questions admit the legitimacy of my claim to black ethnicity, but query details of my heredity. In doing so, they implicitly decouple the biological and social conceptions of “race”, allowing “black” as an ethnic identity.
“Eric, I don’t get why you say you’re ‘black’. To me, you’re not black, at all.” — dozens of white people from my college days up to a few months ago. In order to enjoy or at least manage my interactions in whatever context they and I were interacting, it was incumbent on me — the black man — to get around their (mostly unconsciously held) stereotypes of blackness. I do this by accomodating their parochialism in speech and gesture: don't talk too educated, no jokes in black dialect, tone down my gestures.The comment is a backhanded recognition of my success. Depending on the circumstance, I could go on and help them (maybe) confront those stereotypes and, just maybe, inject historical, cultural, and biological data and insights. This is what non-whites (not just Afro-Americans) refer to when they talk about being “tired of educating white people.”
“They ain’t black!” — student in West Oakland, speaking of Haitian immigrant students. Meaning, of course, “They ain’t Afro-Americans, like me!” “You ain’t black!” — same student, to me. Same meaning, mutatis mutandis.
Obama captures the essence of Whiteness on page 312: “It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures.” Well, that almost captures it. What distinguishes white Americans from Chinese, most Europeans, and others from imperial cultural backgrounds is the white Americans’ childish lack of historical context, of the fact that “white American” is an ethnicity. White Americans blithely tell you “I never think about race. I don’t think of myself as white.” You can’t imagine anyone of any other nation or ethnicity making such a statement (never mind whether it’s true or not.)
Nerdy WWII vet comes back inspired to be a rock hound by a guy he helped die in one of those no-surrender-in-the-jungle situations. His older son is iNerdy WWII vet comes back inspired to be a rock hound by a guy he helped die in one of those no-surrender-in-the-jungle situations. His older son is inspired to be a rock hound like Daddy, but dies mysteriously. Younger son becomes a revolutionary in the sixties. Flashbacks and surprise ending. Very compelling, well written, by youngish author....more
Written by a real teacher who likes kids and recognizes the huge number of them who fall through the cracks in public junior high and high school clasWritten by a real teacher who likes kids and recognizes the huge number of them who fall through the cracks in public junior high and high school classrooms. Starts off with a story of her own painful experience with this.
If you're a teacher like I or the author was, you have had kids (probably more than one per class) who can't do the work you assign because of reading deficits. With 30+ others to deal with, it's easy to just shine these kids on. You can flunk them or give them a D and pass them on. Either way, you fail and you know it.
This book cuts through the bullshit and pretentious educationese of so many books on reading remediation. Gives you clear, plain English how to's and pointers. ...more
The long chapter on lyching balanced and amplified Orlando Patterson's discussions. Hale's careful construction and defense of her concept of the "speThe long chapter on lyching balanced and amplified Orlando Patterson's discussions. Hale's careful construction and defense of her concept of the "spectacle lynching" as a phenomenon of 20th century consumer culture, specifically a product of the combined influence of the railroad, telephone, and newspapers is convincing. Calls into question Patterson's somewhat mystical concept of lynching as a modern manifestation of something ancient. Hale's discussion and appreciation of W.J. Cash's Mind of the South made me want to go back and re-read him. ...more