I feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated chaI feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated characters. But I sadly think I just wasn't in the mood for all the absurdist situations and comedy. It was all just a little too random. I'll have to try a re-read when I'm feeling particularly goofily giddy with 1980s British nostalgia.
Just two quotes that struck me: They are not the funniest nor the most famous, just ones I'd like to remember:
"Shapes that we think of as random are in fact the products of complex shifting webs of numbers obeying simple rules. The very word "natural" that we have often taken to mean "unstructured" in fact describes shapes and processes that appear to unfathomably complex that we cannot consciously perceive the simple natural laws at work. They can all be described by numbers."
"The things by which our emotions can be moved—the shape of a flower or a Grecian urn, the way a baby grows, the way the wind brushes across your face, the way clouds move, their shapes, the way light dances on the water, or daffodils flutter in the breeze, the way in which the person you love moves in their head, the way their hair follows that movement, the curve described by the dying fall of the last chord of a piece of music—all these things can be described by the complex flow of numbers. That's not a reduction of it, that's the beauty of it. Ask Newton. Ask Einstein."
Those two quotes pretty much sum up why I felt so compelled to study physics after years of intending to get an art degree....more
Jim Dixon is like a cross between Holden Caulfield and Adrian Mole. Maybe just ever so slightly smarter than either, but just as cynical, aloof, and fJim Dixon is like a cross between Holden Caulfield and Adrian Mole. Maybe just ever so slightly smarter than either, but just as cynical, aloof, and full of troublemaking buffoonery. That type of humor hits some people in just the right way, while leaving others in the cold. Personally, I was in hysterics.
This book is quite funny if you have worked in upper levels of academia, and particularly hysterical if you have worked at a UK university. The skewering academic humor still rings true today - research of minutia, clueless older profs, uncertain job market, and the social awkwardness of the intellectual community.
Even if you haven't had the unique "pleasure" of academia, just the mischief Dixon creates to cover his hide will send you rolling. He likes to pull faces when people aren't looking (I was imagining a Jim Carrey face). His internal dialogue while trying to pay attention was a hoot - the situation in reality is much tamer than in his head. And his inabilities with women are funny, even if dated.
Just a good, amusing read. If you liked Catcher in the Rye, you'll most likely like Lucky Jim....more
Part of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. ItPart of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. It feels more like you're having a snifter of brandy and cigars while Stephen is telling you the stories. As you go on, and imbibe more, the stories seem to meander fairly far from the clear plot. That's okay, because I quite like Stephen Fry. My curiosity in his background and amusement at his anecdotes overcame any deficiencies in the overall story line, as it were - which makes it more like real life than a traditional fictional novel. Although, I couldn't help but think that more than a few details in his stories read like The One Big Fish That Got Away.
He is a self-absorbed, deprecatingly funny, obtusely verbose navel-gazer in the extreme.
I might add that there were many references to English customs and culture that dovetailed nicely with the last book I read, Watching the English....more
I have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes commentI have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes commentary while I was living overseas, and his quick wit and descriptions of restaurant visits made me long for the food and customer service of home. I loved that he was as much a fan of good greasy take-away grub as he was with Keller's work at Per Se. Never mind that I was not from New York - his writing was too captivating to ignore.
I was highly intrigued when I heard earlier this year that not only was he leaving his position and "outing" himself (i.e. revealing his true identity) by publishing a memoir, but that he had struggled with overeating his whole life. It shares many similarities to David Kessler's memoir The End of Overeating Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite which also came out this year. Both are eloquently able to elucidate those unspoken urges to overeat. Kessler has taken the scientific and commercial tack with his life story thrown in, while Bruni's focuses wholly on his life story, revealing all that was happening within. Both are very worthy reads, and I would suspect Kessler and Bruni would be two peas in a pod discussing their struggles.
Luckily Frank Bruni has both had an unusual life and describes it with humor, drawing us into his extended Italian-American family and circle of friends. As a journalist, he has lead an unusual path from working as a movie critic, to being a staff reporter following the Bush 2000 Presidential campaign, to working as a foreign correspondent in Rome, and eventually landing him as food critic at the NYT.
If you can't relate to having a complicated relationship with food, Bruni's memoir might come across as slightly whiny, or a little too self-reflective; i.e. you won't relate. To others us who through our life have had to have a serious "relationship discussions" with food, he really lays himself bare, admitting to various levels of eating disorders and self esteem issues. It's honest. It's funny, and a well-written account of his life.
The only flaw is that the book is heavily marketed as "food critic who was overweight", yet only about 25% of the book deals with his years as a food critic, eating lavish dinners 7 nights a week. After following his blog, I know there's much more to this story - more behind the scenes stories, surprises, learning about the industry. Perhaps Bruni is trying to be kind to restauranteurs still in business or he's saving the majority of those moments for some future book.
At any rate, reading Bruni's memoir is like getting to sit next to that unusual stranger at a dinner party who has a magical way of telling his life story. If only!...more