Well written with a compelling narrative. At times philosophically heavy and hard to chew but in a good way.
However, the narrative is no longer as en...moreWell written with a compelling narrative. At times philosophically heavy and hard to chew but in a good way.
However, the narrative is no longer as enticing because many forms of art have explored this theme in the past few decades rendering, in my view, the work less potent. Films such as Minority Report, Equilibrium, and Gattaca have visually captured this "futuristic" reality that Orwell conceived of and in turn it's very power, the power of a shockingly new but believable reality becomes weak and feeble from mere exposure; as a reader I felt desensitized.
Some of my favorite quotes below:
"Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. But the essential structure of society has never altered. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable" (152).
"But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. the fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at" (153). - modern war has changed; and just like the British in the Revolutionary war, we can not afford to mis-represent it, mis-understand it or our wrong thinking will take us to wrong conclusions.
"Secondly, in a material sense, there is no longer, anything to fight about" (154).
"The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society" (155).
"The essential act of war is destruction, no necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor" (157).
"While wars could be won or lost, no ruling class could be completely irresponsible. but when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous" (163).
"The essence of oligarchical rule is not father to son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living" (173).
Another great read in line with Malcolm Gladwell that uses scientific approach and logical thought to help make sense of the world and trends. It was...moreAnother great read in line with Malcolm Gladwell that uses scientific approach and logical thought to help make sense of the world and trends. It was interesting though that a few of the studies in this book were also mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", but both authors drew different conclusions from the statistics- I guess a warning that even these books are merely guides on how one can choose to think and not concrete conclusions. Funny- that's all we want sometimes as humans; something or someone to make it all make sense for us.
Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle causes. Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own purpose.
"Cheating is a primordial act: getting more for less." (21). - I just listened to An America Life that delves into the market crash last year and certain companies that were not only hedge betting but creating probable investment failures in order to collect on them (foreseeing the impending doom so to speak). Are people by nature honest? Sometimes, but it depends on the the conditions surrounding them.
"The supreme court gave voice to what the mothers in Romania and Scandinavia- and elsewhere- had long known: when a woman does not want to have a child, she usually has a good reason. She may be unmarried or in a bad marriage. She may consider herself too poor to raise a child. She may think her life is too unstable or unhappy, or she may think that her drinking or drug use will damage the baby's health. She may believe that she is too young or hadn't yet received enough education. she may want a child badly but a a few years, not now. For any of a hundred reasons, she may feel that she cannot provide a home environment that is conducive to raising a healthy and productive child" (126). - There is a strong social incentive here to consider abortion based on, I believe, true and a rather insightful look into a women's psyche and nurturing instinct.
"Emotion is the enemy of rational argument" (134).
"Risks that you control are much less a source of outrage than risks that are out of your control" (136).
"There was, however, one group of students in Chicago who did see a dramatic change: those who entered a technical school or career academy. These students performed substantially better than they did in their old academic setting and graduated at a much higher rate than their past performance would have predicted. So it did help prepare a small segment of otherwise struggling students for solid careers by giving them practical skills" (145). - an interesting find considering the controversy that can surround vocational schooling." (145)
"To overgeneralize a bit, the first list describes tings that parents are; the second list describes things that parents do. Parents who are well educated, successful, and healthy tend to have children who test well in school; but it doesn't seem to much matter whether a child is trotted off to museums or spanked or sent to Head Start of frequently read to or plopped in front of the television. For parents, and parenting experts, who are obsessed with child-rearing technique, this may be sobering news. The reality is that technique looks to be highly overrated. But this is not to say that parents don't mater. Plainly, they matter a great deal. Her is the conundrum: by the time most people pick up a parenting book, it is far too late. Most of the things that matter were decided long ago- who you are, whom you married, what kindof life you lead. IF you are smart, hardworking, well educated, well paid, and married to someone equally fortunate, then your children are more likely to succeed. But it isn't a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are." (161)
"What kind of parent is most likely to give a child a distinctively black name? The data offer a clear answer; an unmarried, low income, undereducated teenage mother form a black neighborhood who has distinctively black name herself. In Fryer's view, giving a child a super black name is a black parent's signal of solidarity with the community" (168).
"But they are all trying to signal something with a name, whether the name is Winner or Loser, Madison or Amber. What the California names data suggest is that an overwhelming number of parents use a name to signal their own expectations of how successful their children will be." (188). (less)
This book tackles the powerful tension that lies between idealism and reality. As human beings we are often drawn to ask ourselves whether we are capa...moreThis book tackles the powerful tension that lies between idealism and reality. As human beings we are often drawn to ask ourselves whether we are capable of something great- truly experiencing the pinnacle of some achievement or feeling in our lifetime. Sadly however, Madame Bovary never takes off.
I spend more time bogged down in descriptions of people, houses, countryside, and back again that by the time I was more than halfway through the book- very little had still happened. To me, it was well written but simply put, boring. There were sparks of great insight into human desires and what drives them, but far less than needed to keep me going. I shant recommend it nor read it again. Too bad, because it's a great theme.
Just for kicks, here are some quotes I found worth recording:
"Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed ot her so beautiful in books."
"He was beginning to feel that depression caused by the repetition of the same kind of life, when no interest inspires and no hope sustains it. ... Yet the prospect of a new condition of life frightened as mush as it seduced him" (73).
"She sprang towards him, she pressed against him, she stirred carefully the dying embers, sough all around her anything that could revive it; and the most distant reminiscences, like the most immediate occasions, what she experienced as well as what she imagine, her coluptous desires that were unsatisfied, her projects of happiness that crackled in the wind like dead boughs, her sterile virtue, her lost hopes, the domestic tete-a-tete she gathered it all up, took everything and made it all serve as fuel for her melancholy" (78). - It's so dangerous as human beings when we let unfulfilled sentiments turn onto another person and then hold them in silent contempt. Either speak our minds and be free or we must let it go.
"But happiness, no doubt, was a lie invented for the despair of all desire. She now knew the smallness of the passions that art exaggerated" (143). - It's so easy to get caught up in the romanticism of art, the thrill and passion of it incites and coming back down to reality can often burn. Is art a microcosm of one intense moment or feeling sold as a complete picture?
"By the side of a Parisian in her laces, in the drawing room of some illustrious physician, a person driving his carriage and wearing many orders, the poor clerk would no doubt have trembled like a child; bu here, Rouen, on the harbor, with the wife of this small doctor he felt at his ease, sure beforehand he would shine. Self possession depends on its environment" (147). - Are human beings constantly evaluating themselves against the presence of others- judging accomplishments and status of others, desperately trying to avoid the "bottom"- their own self judgement that would make them lacking in comparison to those around them.
"He was in one of those crises in which the whole soul shows indistinctly what it contains, like the ocean, which, in the storm, opens itself form the seaweeds on tis shores down to the sands of its abysses" (158). - Crisis truly test man, what he is made of and who he is, these are the points in life where we define ourselves real-time.
"But the disparaging of those we love always alienates us from them to some extent. WE must not touch our idols; the gilt sticks to our fingers" (179).
"Every notary bears within him the debris of a poet" (184). - What could we have been; what separates the good from the great?
"Then, thought she might feel humiliated at the baseness of such enjoyment, she clung to it from habit or from corruption, and each day she hungered after them the more, exhausting all felicity in wishing for too much of it" (185). (less)
I just wrote a really long review and it didn't save. Damn it. It was good. So now you'll just get my favorite quotes.
"And this is easy and efficient...moreI just wrote a really long review and it didn't save. Damn it. It was good. So now you'll just get my favorite quotes.
"And this is easy and efficient. So easy that the wonder goes out of work, so efficient that the wonder goes out of land and the working ot it, and with the wonder the deep understanding and the relation. And in the tractor man there grows the contempt that comes only to a stranger who has little understanding and no relation." pg 115
"The people in flight from the terror behind- strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever" pg 122(less)
A collection of short stories that peer into ordinary lives of ordinary people struggling to come to terms with new realities. The experiences and fee...moreA collection of short stories that peer into ordinary lives of ordinary people struggling to come to terms with new realities. The experiences and feelings of these people are universal (death, alienation, change, bitterness, contentment) yet their stories come alive in a new way as experienced through the sights, sounds, smells, and mentalities of Indian culture. These short stories are snatches at life and therefore are fleeting. Reading them is an experience of immersion but once done they began melting away, perhaps lacking the staying power of a full fledged novel.
Below are some of my favorite quotes and my thoughts:
"Lilia has plenty to learn at school, my mother said. . . How can you possibly expect her to know about Partition? But what does she learn about the world? My father rattled the cashew can in his hand. We learned American history, of course, and American geography. That year, and every year, it seemed, we began by studying the Revolutionary War." School- we study the same wars every year, never reaching past WWII, and never really learning anything.
"As his mind raced, Mr. Kapasi experienced a mild and pleasant shock. It was similar to a feeling he used to experience long ago when, after months of translating with the aid of a dictionary, he would finally read a passage from a French novel, or an Italian sonnet, and understand the words, one after another, unencumbered by his own efforts. In those moments Mr. Kapasi used to believe that all was right with the world, that all struggles were rewarded, that all of life's mistakes made sense in the end. The promise that he would hear from Mrs. Das now filled him with the same belief." - The older I get the more of a realist I become; but it seems universal- this need or hope in a belief that it will all come full circle; that it will all mean something- and every once in awhile we drop our guard for a few minutes and believe once again in the potential of the universe and are in awe.
"Miranda folded her arms across her chest and looked Rohin in the eyes. Tell me something. He was silent. What does it mean? What? That word. Sexy. What does it mean? He looked down, suddenly shy. I can't tell you. Why not? It's a secret. Tell me. It means loving someone you don't know." (less)
As described this book is dark, vivid, and eloquent. The writing is very descriptive and effective. I don't know why, but sometimes I read books and a...moreAs described this book is dark, vivid, and eloquent. The writing is very descriptive and effective. I don't know why, but sometimes I read books and all I can think is how awesome it would be if I could make them into a movie. That's how I felt about this book. Actually- that's how I feel about a lot of the more recent literature (1900's and up) that I've read. Maybe a fault of mine, but when I read books with intense imagery I feel less drawn in to the story itself and rather find myself spending more time imagining my own version in my head. So this book was odd- it didn't create a new world for me or take me for a ride like some of my favorites, but my mind is crawling with all sorts of artistic, dark images that only exist in my imagination where I've all but filmed the whole thing. (less)
Is our great fear that the world doesn't really make sense beyond the meaning we can ascribe it; that all that's holding it together is ourselves?
Lor...moreIs our great fear that the world doesn't really make sense beyond the meaning we can ascribe it; that all that's holding it together is ourselves?
Lord of the flies observes human nature, and the road that nature takes if unfettered by social cues, norms, and laws.
To me, humanity seems to be an organism of paradoxical extremes. On a large scale people are driven to violence while others to science. Some to religious spiritualism and others to logical reality.
On a smaller scale, even the mass of people living "ordinary" lives find extremes to visit; affairs, sex fetishes, drugs- anything that breaks away from the norms we've set up for ourselves.
Why do we feel compelled in one moment to create structure and stability, and then with our very own hands thirst to upset our own created balance?
Here are some quotes for thought:
"ancient, inescapable recognition, the recognition of human capacities for evil and the superficial nature of human moral systems. Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You know, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close close! I'm the reason why its no go? Why things are the way they are?" (242.
"He wanted to explain how people were never quite what you thought they were" (58).
"They closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink"(76).
"There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled commonsense" (77).
A great read... I don't often read fantasy (my favorites are harry potter, lord of the rings, and narnia)... but this one is right up there. Great cha...moreA great read... I don't often read fantasy (my favorites are harry potter, lord of the rings, and narnia)... but this one is right up there. Great characterization and plot, surprises, and well written. I highly recommend it!(less)
Reading Willa is walking backwards to a brief moment in time that you can almost taste, that you can almost remember; a time whose remnants still roll...moreReading Willa is walking backwards to a brief moment in time that you can almost taste, that you can almost remember; a time whose remnants still roll across our vision before tumbling out of sight, soon to be lost completely to those who follow. The west.
Like a pinprick flashed a brief moment in our history when European immigrants were arriving to survive or die, carving out a period of history on an indifferent land that changed the people who learned to live on it.
"My Antonia" tells the story of this relationship to the land simply, without frills. The book reads like a view that stretches out long and lonely, yet arresting. Lives are lived and hard times are endured, or not. I found it took me a bit to settle into the reading- it's not fast paced or thrilling, yet this in itself helps hold the very nature of the book to its honest roots. I'm glad I read it but it took a little perseverance; fitting perhaps.
Below my favorite quotes:
There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.
The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers.
I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more.
At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.
All day the storm went on. The snow did not fall this time, it simply spilled out of heaven, like thousands of featherbeds being emptied.
I knew that I should never be a scholar. I could never lose myself for long among impersonal things. Mental excitement was apt to send me with a rush back to my own naked land and the figures scattered upon it. While I was in the very act of yearning toward the new forms that Cleric brought up before me, my mind plunged away from me, and I suddenly found myself thinking of the places and people of my own infinitesimal past. They stood out strengthened and simplified now, like the image of the plough against the sun.
I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man's experience is. (less)
After reading Asimov's second book in his Foundation series, I don't think I will actively pursue finishing the series. The first book, Prelude to Fou...moreAfter reading Asimov's second book in his Foundation series, I don't think I will actively pursue finishing the series. The first book, Prelude to Foundation, was great- a thrilling beginning to what I thought would be an epic battle of human survival.
Unlike Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter where the reader is engaged and attached the the protagonists struggle to succeed, Foundation falls off because there are no core characters that stay around long enough to invest in. The epic battle remains, yet the book leaves Hari Seldon (the previous protagonist) and jumps so quickly through time to follow the foundation that as soon as one storyline climaxes and you start to care, it's 50 years later with a new crisis to overcome and completely new characters. Too much time travel leaves leaves Foundation a dull read.
Here are some notable thoughts/quotes I encountered:
"Lord Dorwin thought the way to be a good archaeologist was to read all the books on the the subject- written by men who were dead for centuries... Throughout you have invariably relied on authority or on the past- never on yourselves. It's a worship of the past. It's a deterioration - a stagnation!... At best, he might indicate the problem, but if ever there is to be a solution we must work it out ourselves." - Bam! I'm finding that on an individual basis of intellectual growth that past works only provide a companion or guide to our own experiences. If we aren't out there- figuring out the world for ourselves- we are a useless collection of superficial knowledge. You can't just read, you have to read and live (and living doesn't mean just going to work everyday; you have to constantly be putting yourself in new situations, growing and changing- that's where humanity and the world reveal themselves.
"The fall of the empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damning of curiosity" - ouch, watch out ye nations who are stagnant.
I hate Tess for her weakness (why can't she fight back; determine her own destiny) yet I am moved to feel for her as she is continually beat down by t...moreI hate Tess for her weakness (why can't she fight back; determine her own destiny) yet I am moved to feel for her as she is continually beat down by the world she lives in (how many tragedies can the human spirit really survive before all that is left is pity). Nature is benevolent to some while harsh on others. This is the philosophy that Hardy puts forward in his novel: victim or not, the large wheel of nature: physical, human, supernatural- is indifferent and falls upon the unfortunate with random accuracy.
Hardy has beautiful descriptions that are a combination of physical landscapes and human experience: "The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned and indifferent; the night which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was now digesting it listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the happiness of a thousand other people with as little disturbance or change of mind."
I believe nature is indifferent- some of us are living, some will die tomorrow, some more will be tried perhaps beyond their strength. Up till now in life I have always been able to control my response to circumstances- refusing to be a victim. Is there a limit to my own resilience, when all that is left is anger at the known, or unknown?
The following quotes, to me, are an accurate portrayal of the progression of the human spirit:
"Tess Durbeyfield as this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience"
"By experience we find out a short way by a long wandering. But it had not been in Tess's power- nor is it in anybody's power- to feel the whole truth of golden opinions while it is possible to profit by them"
"It was unexpected youth, surging up anew after its temporary check, and bringing with it hope, and the invincible instinct towards self delight"
"Nevertheless humanity stood before him no longer in the pensive sweetness of Italian art, but in the staring and ghastly attitudes of a Wiertz Museum, and with the leer of a study by Van Beers"