Vowell takes her title from a letter the Hawaiian David Malo wrote to friends, referring to the big, unfamiliar fishes (the AmerFishes of the shallows
Vowell takes her title from a letter the Hawaiian David Malo wrote to friends, referring to the big, unfamiliar fishes (the Americans) coming to swallow up the fishes of the shallows, the native Hawaiians. And so it was.
"Unfamiliar Fishes" traces the first contact with the island by British explorer James Cooke to the annexation of Hawai’i by the United States by a stroke of legislative evil genius in 1898. Throughout, she incorporates her first-person experiences hiking the island, talking to natives and native historians, and infusing her mirthful wit. She has a worthy and incisive eye for historical irony, and I found this journey through Hawai’i’s history a quick and fascinating read. Moreover, I have a newfound respect for Grover Cleveland. I now know one thing about him: he vehemently opposed the imperialist tendencies of some fellow Americans, and was able to block annexation and maintain Hawaiian sovereignty for a few years. And of course, the natives were somewhat complicit in the subversion of their language, culture, agriculture, and religion. Such a truth makes the turn of events all the more heartbreaking.
This is my first Vowell read. Points against for organization: there are no chapters, only periodic ellipses, for the full 200+ pages. Anecdotes and historical tangents spring up every couple pages, linking events in multiple centuries before springing back to the main, somewhat chronological narrative. The reading can be jarring and the flow is poor at times. Without chapters or an index, it is almost impossible to return to the text to remind oneself of an event or quote (i.e. “who is this again?”). Not a problem for me, as the title pages and margins of all my books are littered with notes and underlines. But for some, this small discursive story, interesting though it is, may feel random and unfocused. ...more
David Sedaris is a consistently funny, effeminate humorist, but something strayed too far from normalcy in "Holidays On Ice" for my taste.
David Sedaris is a consistently funny, effeminate humorist, but something strayed too far from normalcy in "Holidays On Ice" for my taste. There is a first story involving his fictional tenure as a mall elf, but this is quickly followed with a morbid first-person recounting by a mother of her family's trials at the hands of a 22-year old bastard (and Vietnamese) stepdaughter, who attempts to frame the narrator for the murder of their infant child by putting it through a cycle in the washing machine. Though I suppose babies and death can be funny (although holy hell this alienates a large readership, we must think), it never really recovers. C+....more
Perhaps that is what your world becomes on the crack-cocaine that is video gaming. Tom Bissell figuratively (and literally) knows this is t Vice City
Perhaps that is what your world becomes on the crack-cocaine that is video gaming. Tom Bissell figuratively (and literally) knows this is true. He presents a self-deprecating, semi-autobiographical history of recent video gaming and focuses on why, if not high art, video games are something else entirely. Or maybe they are the highest art.
Bissell has serious literary chops and a voluminous knowledge of contemporary film and prose (he is a creative writing major and literary critic, after all). It's the reader of exceeding eclecticism that can digest all of his allusions to Epic Games, Nabokov, John le Carre, Braid , Cutting Crew, and David Foster Wallace (a mere iceberg tip). Every chapter is filled with fascinating interviews with adults who aren't just cynical suits piloting moneygrabbing corporations, but instead a smattering of brilliant and groundbreaking individuals who want to take gaming to an experiential height that we can't yet imagine, finances be damned. Along these chapters, Bissell recounts the games that morphed him into something other than himself, a feeling to which we might relate. Perhaps we snap at our girlfriends' temerity of a goodbye kiss during Demon's Souls (i.e. "What are you thinking!?"). Mayhaps we ignore our supposedly highbrow pursuits. Or simply lament the inordinate amount of time we have spent gaming. Bissell readily admits to 200+hrs playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , something to which I can entirely relate (120+ playing Dragon Age: Origins and ~150 hrs (so far) with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ). Are we doing anything worthwhile with these hours?
Slate.com's Michael Thomsen tried to tackle this question in a recent article entitled "Dark Night (After Night After Night) of the Soul:Is a 100-hour video game ever worthwhile?". I would submit that Thomsen only partially gets the point in his critique of the 100+hour game. The gaming journeys he criticizes in the epics of modern RPGs aren't important to gamers because of what has actually been accomplished (breaking boxes, amassing virtual currency, having polygonal polyamory, or drubbing enemies with increasingly cool magic). It's actually immaterial if the activity is repetitive, irrelevant, or goofy, and boy are some of them goofy. Gaming matters to me, at least today, because it gives me a buzz. Demon's Souls gives me literal goosebumps and can cause a literal rage. The SNES's Final Fantasy III made me weep. Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City made the capable author Tom Bissell disappear into another world, and be thankful for the opportunity. If video games don't do anything for you, you most certainly should not be playing. But as long as they do, you should never stop....more