I have never empathized less with a character than I did with the main character in this book. That is perhaps why I disliked it so much. She was a coI have never empathized less with a character than I did with the main character in this book. That is perhaps why I disliked it so much. She was a conservative woman in the 1920s (complete with accusing a young girl of being raped for the way she dresses, and being terrified at seeing black folks at a theater), who slowly comes around to being moderately liberal (not even - just moderately agreeable and less horrifically judgmental) after having an affair, etc. etc. blah blah. It felt like the author was trying to get me to high-five the main character - "Congrats for realizing that being gay isn't a moral abomination!" - but instead I just continued to focus on her many shortcomings. She never stood up for these realizations she had - instead we would have to endure hearing her inner moments of feeling morally superior to others for espousing the very views that she had just realized were wrong! The whole thing was very aggravating. I am genuinely perplexed as to whether others empathized with her character, or just more enjoy reading about someone they feel better than.
The writing itself was certainly engaging, and I'd give this author another shot. But I'll be much more conscientious of the main character before picking up another one of her books. I want to feel inspired by the characters I read, instead of just feeling like I'm witnessing someone's aggravating and too-little-too-late Come To Jesus moment....more
This was an enjoyable read about a fascinating, though deeply troubled family. Usually I have a lot to say in these reviews, but there's not much to aThis was an enjoyable read about a fascinating, though deeply troubled family. Usually I have a lot to say in these reviews, but there's not much to add to this story. Read it if you enjoy glimpsing into outlier lives. The audiobook was fun because the author read it in her truly West Virginian accent....more
This was a good, quick read (well listen for me). I love the show Hoarders - this book is a slightly more clinical version of that, which I enjoyed. IThis was a good, quick read (well listen for me). I love the show Hoarders - this book is a slightly more clinical version of that, which I enjoyed. I learned some new vocabulary and techniques that will be helpful.
I could go on at great lengths about hoarding and how to cope if you have hoarding tendencies, etc. I definitely do, but I've completely reshaped my relationship with objects of the past couple years. My formula was the FlyLady book, then watching a bunch of Hoarders, and then reading various books like this one to top it off. This book brings up a good point - learning good habits is just like learning a new computer program. You need to expect to put time into it but also be confident you can learn it with practice....more
I love this play - it's hilarious, witty, a complete delight. There was a free version on audible and so I gave it a listen. It's definitely worth watI love this play - it's hilarious, witty, a complete delight. There was a free version on audible and so I gave it a listen. It's definitely worth watching the play, either live or in movie form. I saw it with the lovely Gretchen Hall as Gwendolyn at Center Stage in Baltimore in 2009 and it was amazing....more
A really cute audiobook - Amy Sedaris is hilarious. She has the sort of dark biting sarcasm that I love about David Sedaris. From this book it also seA really cute audiobook - Amy Sedaris is hilarious. She has the sort of dark biting sarcasm that I love about David Sedaris. From this book it also seems like she'd be a hilarious and fun friend....more
I learned about this book after hearing the author's fantastic interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. The interview was superb, and the buzz about tI learned about this book after hearing the author's fantastic interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. The interview was superb, and the buzz about the book was exciting, so I was very hyped to read it. The book has two interweaving themes - an autobiography of the author, and a "manual" on How To Be Black (as the title suggests) which brings in "testimony" from other black bloggers, activists, authors, etc. The manual part was funny and informative, though I have read some other influential books ("Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?") that offered more thorough and in-depth discussions of race and race relations. The autobiography part was... not all that interesting to me. I couldn't tell you why exactly - perhaps it was that hearing about how someone has succeeded after attending a top private school and Harvard isn't the most compelling story. He seems like he would be fascinating to talk to in person, but I got bored listening to what it was like to go to Harvard, network on Twitter, etc. The author's mother's biography would be truly interesting - somehow she carved out a superb education for her kids despite being a single mother and living in inner city Washington DC during the crack wars. Regardless, if you don't have much background or exposure to formal discussions of race this would be a great primer. And it's a quick read (or listen for me), so I'd say it's worth the time....more
Writing reviews for a book like this is intimidating - there's so little I could add to the conversation, but I'll try.
I first read this in high schooWriting reviews for a book like this is intimidating - there's so little I could add to the conversation, but I'll try.
I first read this in high school, and I remember being blown away. The humor and style were so fresh and invigorating. However - tellingly - I never finished it. The novel has a serious undertone throughout, which gets a bit more heavy as it goes along and the situation gets more desperate. Either I didn't understand the seriousness, or I consciously avoided it.
Now, going back and reading (well listening) to it again, my perception of it has changed. The humor is still spot on - dry, sarcastic, witty, cartoonish without being campy. I don't think I've laughed so hard at a book as during the chapter on Major Major, or hearing about Milo's syndicate. However now that I am older, the more serious underpinnings of the book resonate. I understood and felt Yossarian's pain of being the victim of complete nonsense, irrationality, and the self-interest of others - a situation that can only be conveyed with dry sarcastic humor, because facing the pain of it would just leave the reader in despair.
The book is dense. If you feel lost, you're supposed to be. The characters and missions merge together, and I think that was Heller's intent. Upon finishing the book, I don't feel like I absorbed even half of the detail. I feel as though I have met new friends, who I will go back and visit and understand better with time, as the subtleties of the book reveal themselves to me when I am ready.
ALSO do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook narrated by Jay O. Sanders. Absolutely phenomenal....more
Feb 19, 2012: A stunning masterpiece. Truly enchanting performance by Jeremy Irons. A perfect work of art that will stick with me forever.
Oct 22, 2012Feb 19, 2012: A stunning masterpiece. Truly enchanting performance by Jeremy Irons. A perfect work of art that will stick with me forever.
Oct 22, 2012: Some thoughts before getting too deep into my second reading...
The thoughts that remained with me about this book several months after I read it was the way that it differentiates readers from one another. The emotional responses that people have to the book seem to vary widely (from people asking questions like "Was she really raped?" to people saying "He's a monster"). I think the power of and my affection for the book lies in just that. It was so subtle, and the narrator was so manipulative and self-apologizing that you could easily get seduced by him. This was his special talent that he used for evil. Perhaps it's unfair and overly judgmental of me, but I get to glimpse into the minds of readers (from above-mentioned rape apologists to people who think the book is "gross" and stop reading immediately) and see how susceptible they are to influence, to victim-blaming, etc. It's incredibly interesting, and a bit depressing. This isn't to say that there weren't moments in the novel when I was seduced by the narrator, but there were carefully placed reminders throughout as to how awful he was, and how unhappy Lolita was.
tl:dr It's just a very interesting delve into psychology.
Here are three lectures (one, two, three) from Open Yale Courses that I plan to watch while reading (er listening) the second time. ...more
Just got an audible account and listened to this free gift. What a beautiful story - about how she built a marriage "upon the bones of divorce." ResonJust got an audible account and listened to this free gift. What a beautiful story - about how she built a marriage "upon the bones of divorce." Resonated deeply with me, loved it....more
I can already tell that this will be a book that I think back about and draw lessons from for my entire life. It came at the right time for me (as a gI can already tell that this will be a book that I think back about and draw lessons from for my entire life. It came at the right time for me (as a grad student I have felt completely burdened and rendered motionless by decision fatigue and unharnassed willpower), and already it's had a tremendously positive impact on the way that I work and function. And the entire book had many more lessons than the already very helpful NYTimes article that directed me towards the book (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/mag...).
The book gives a detailed account of the current research going into "willpower." It describes the experiments and contextualizes the results into action items that you can have in your own life. The strength of this approach is that it either gives the evidence behind traditional advice, or debunks bad advice. I feel more confidence taking certain approaches to work knowing that there is research to back up my claim. It has freed me up to start building toward a surpremely productive life without always second guessing if what I'm doing will work.
Here's a summary of some of the key points of the book.:
Supply of willpower is limited, use it for different things: - As you make decisions, your self-control diminishes
Watch for symptoms of depleted willpower: - If you notice you're cranky, then conserve what's left and anticipate effects on behavior -- You can cause a lot of damage at this moment. -- Try to avoid fights at this moment. -- Temptations to eat/drink/etc. -- Try to avoid decisions at this moment. -- You'll be unable to make even easy decisions rationally.
Eating is really important and will help with willpower - Depleted glucose causes depleted willpower
Pick your battles - You can't do a bunch of things at once - Allocate willpower to only one big life-changing task at a time
Planning: - Plan a month at a time, check progress - Have flexibility - Life should gradually improve from month to month - Don't bite off more than you can chew - it will cause you to give up in despair - Effective planning of when/how you will expend your willpower -- Figure out how you will "get" extra willpower - give up other things to - Set time limits for tedious tasks so you don't put off doing them
To Do List: - To "don't" list -- Don't ignore unfinished task - by writing them down you can free yourself from thinking about them. Plan the next specific step to take.
Take good care of yourself: - Good diet - Adequate sleep - "A rested will is a stronger will" - Expend willpower on neatness. Keeping things clean and organized bc they subtly influence your brain and behavior and help you maintain discipline. Order is contagious. - Bad habits are strengthened by routine.
Procrastination: - If you confront a temptation, say "I'll have it later." - Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it's not the work you're supposed to be doing. - Don't allow yourself to do anything besides work - nothing alternative. You can stare at a wall instead of working, but you can't do other projects.
Make implementation plans: - If x then y - make your decisions routine and automatic - This is a way to make a habit - Precommitment - don't buy junk food, plan meals by the week, lock yourself off the internet, etc. - Anticipate how depleted your willpower will be at certain moments.
Monitoring: - Crucial for any plans - Weighing, food diary, tracking purchases, etc.
Reward often: - Set rewards for reaching goals - Don't feel like you've failed, feel like you "just haven't succeeded yet" - Never underestimate how little it takes to reward yourself - little smileys, taking 5 minutes off working, etc.
Hands down one of the best memoirs I have ever read. So very honest and non-self-conscious. I've read a lot of books in this genre, and this is one ofHands down one of the best memoirs I have ever read. So very honest and non-self-conscious. I've read a lot of books in this genre, and this is one of the few authors who I didn't roll my eyes at from time to time. She had a style that was very matter of fact, charmingly self-deprecating and so brutally honest with herself and the trainwreck that became her life for a while.
Second Reading (January 2014): Several years and several predictable breakups later (those who come into your life fast also leave your life fast, amirite?), I decided to come back to this book. I don't think everyone will like this book -- in fact, I think most people won't like it. But reading this is like watching a movie starring myself. I felt proud that this time around I saw more problems earlier and recognized more warning signs that maybe even she herself didn't recognize. Her writing is so honest and unpretentious and uncomplicated that this is totally possible.
Also, I listened to the audiobook the second time. It was lovely. Sometimes she pauses in a weird way that most people don't pause, but it was endearing....more