This book is full of interesting ideas buried in some of the densest, most obtuse prose I have ever encountered. Foucault writes about the history ofThis book is full of interesting ideas buried in some of the densest, most obtuse prose I have ever encountered. Foucault writes about the history of the treatment of the insane, particularly in Europe, and how mental illness has been viewed in culture. Drawing heavily on French history, he makes the case that mental illness was viewed as shameful and a sign of moral degradation, so mentally ill people were no longer considered human, but were punished for being "mad". He goes into a fairly detailed history of French psychiatry and how reforms in hospital care for the mentally ill were enacted.
The book is exhausting to read because of long, multiple-clause sentences, obscure vocabulary and references to philosophy and other authors that will mystify the uninitiated. Nonetheless, I think the translator is somewhat to blame for convoluted syntax and phraseology. Foucault himself was writing to impress a hyper-academic audience. Too bad, because there is a lot of useful thinking here....more
Adult education has been my profession for the past seven years, so I was interested to read this and other books by Jane Vella, highly-recommended byAdult education has been my profession for the past seven years, so I was interested to read this and other books by Jane Vella, highly-recommended by my colleagues. I was quite disappointed: the book is long on theory and short on practical advice. It is also heavily padded with Vella's self-promoting anecdotes in which she overcomes insurmountable problems through her own wit and genius. Within about ten pages I was already annoyed and bored, but I slogged through it because my colleagues had touted Vella as one of the greatest teachers in history. A lot of the theory was interesting but hard to see how practical it would be to actually teach this way: she recommends, a la Paulo Freire, that you vet every lesson with your students to be sure it's what they really want. Sounds time-consuming to me, and I know that many of my students would say, "You're the teacher, you decide!" I do listen to my students' preferences, but for the sake of getting things done, I also make some decisions in the classroom. I don't buy Vella's philosophy that the students must decide everything, although this might work well in some settings. ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed Kate Taylor’s novel about a French lawyer who decides to do some undercover work to search for evidence that will prove the innocI thoroughly enjoyed Kate Taylor’s novel about a French lawyer who decides to do some undercover work to search for evidence that will prove the innocence of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the artillery officer condemned to life imprisonment in 1894 for a crime he didn’t commit. François Dubon has a small law practice and has settled into a comfortable life with a family, a mistress and no real ambitions. One day a mysterious woman in black engages his services to help her appeal Dreyfus’ unjust conviction. Dubon is only vaguely aware of the case—even though it nearly tore France apart—and is unsure that any such evidence exists. Gradually he begins to uncover a trail of blunders and cover-ups that persuade him to dig even deeper, risking his career and even his life in the process.
The best thing about this book is Dubon himself, a self-centered and venal attorney, whose transformation into a hero is at first improbable but by the end becomes central to the story. His interest in the case forces him to forgo his accustomed pleasures, angering both mistress and wife, but providing him with a sudden goal in a life that had been fatuous and vapid. Taylor does this with an extremely subtle sense of humor, so that one almost doesn’t appreciate the absurdity of Dubon’s situation when he disguises himself and pretends to be a clerk in the Statistical Bureau, the counter-intelligence agency of the French military.
I also liked Taylor’s lucid and understated prose, which made it easy to follow a complex story in a place and time with which I am unfamiliar. No breathtaking panoramas or poetic metaphors, rather a story told so convincingly that it took hold of my attention and kept me wondering what would happen next.
It is possible to enjoy this story as an adventure, a mystery, and a thriller, but you would miss out on this book’s greatest achievement: Taylor’s meticulous adherence to the facts of the Dreyfus affair. I have spent several months reading about it myself and was delighted to see how many events and details in the book were taken from history: the forgeries, the incompetent spies, the bordereau on which Dreyfus was convicted but which in itself was full of mistakes and misinformation. Without knowing something about the Dreyfus affair you would fail to grasp the true cleverness of this novel.
Having said that, the final chapter of the book contains numerous factual errors: Dreyfus was only kept in chains for 44 days during 1896, and had been given significant liberties in the days before he returned to France in mid-1899. But these are minor quibbles: this is a good book, and I will look for more good books from Kate Taylor in the future. ...more
This is a highly pleasurable and engrossing book, although I am still wondering exactly why I liked it so much. Possibly the pluck and determination oThis is a highly pleasurable and engrossing book, although I am still wondering exactly why I liked it so much. Possibly the pluck and determination of the protagonist, combined with her humility and wit. Maybe the other characters--precisely depicted, pitted against each other with ferocity and humor. Probably also the language, an elegant imitation of that 19th-century narrator's voice found in so many biographies of the era, not sophisticated but articulate and vivid nonetheless.
While telling us the story, now well-known through the movies, of Mattie Ross's avenging of her father's murder, we encounter a wealth of detail about Arkansas and Oklahoma of the 1870s, including the elder Mattie's opinions on local politics and many curious anecdotes from post-Civil War America. Mattie's adventures throw her into an arduous overland journey tracking outlaws in Indian Territory, told with extraordinary skill. The perspective of a fourteen-year-old girl allows us to laugh at the smug, boastful gunslingers that she hires to find her father's killer and whom she matches step for step, even to the point of shooting the fugitive twice with her dad's dragoon pistol.
There is such a riot of color and action and history as you will never find in most Old West fiction (with the prominent exception of Thomas Berger's Little Big Man) making this novel hard to put down and saddening to finish....more
In my opinion, T. Coraghessan Boyle is a genius who will remain popular and well-known for many decades to come. He is exceptionally skillful at bothIn my opinion, T. Coraghessan Boyle is a genius who will remain popular and well-known for many decades to come. He is exceptionally skillful at both language and characterization and can describe a scene so precisely and with such vivid language that seeing it yourself would be less exciting. He knows how to weave light and shadow, smells and noises, and even motion together with a person's internal psychochemistry to put the reader into the middle of the story. My favorites among his books include 'Water Music', 'Budding Prospects' and his collection 'Greasy Lake and Other Stories'.
But, alas, 'Wild Child' was a disappointment. Boyle likes to take bizarre situations and spin them out for us in luscious and startling detail, sometimes using historical or scientific curiosities as a central starting point. Where 'Wild Child' fails in general is the lack of meaningful conclusion in most of the stories.
A huge exception is the first story, 'Balto', a brilliantly-told story of a daughter forced to testify against her father in a drunk-driving case. Another excellent tale is 'La Conchita', in which a courier is trapped in a mudslide and is transformed from embittered cynic to hero. The title story, 'Wild Child', is based on the life story of a feral boy captured in eighteenth-century France, a story which has been rehashed by many other authors. While Boyle really tries to create a lifelike character, this story leaves us asking 'So what?' at the end. Ditto for 'Thirteen Hundred Rats', 'The Lie', 'Hands On,' 'Sin Dolor', and 'Admiral'--all of them beautifully told, funny and sad, but ultimately pointless.
Still, Boyle's wit and vision, his bizarre situations and his glorious vocabulary will keep pulling me back. I was never bored with 'Wild Child', just let down.
Clearing landmines and explosive remnants of war is often characterized in the popular press as a quintessentially humanitarian activity: making post-Clearing landmines and explosive remnants of war is often characterized in the popular press as a quintessentially humanitarian activity: making post-war communities safe for agriculture, commerce and children. Unfortunately, there is a darker side to demining, as Matthew Bolton explains in this book, which characterizes two radically different political approaches as opposite poles on a continuum. The first is the “Great Power” approach in which demining is handled by “Strategic-Commercial Complexes”, in which governments contract private security companies to clear UXO as a means of achieving military or strategic objectives. These companies often sacrifice quality and safety to speed and profit and may become entangled in the shadier elements of the local economy. Bolton contrasts this with the “Middle Power” approach, in which demining is accomplished through “Human Security-Civil Society Complexes”, which aim to protect people’s interests through aid, advocacy, persuasion and legal processes. In an in-depth study of mine action programs in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Sudan, Bolton compares US-funded demining projects with those funded by Norway, and concludes that “US funding of clearance and mitigation of explosive remnants of war was shaped largely by its strategic interests and favored a commercially-driven process,” while Norway’s mine action programs, implemented through “NGOs, churches and other small states…were shaped by a more global conception of interest and normative commitments to humanitarianism, multilateralism and international law.” Bolton ends the book with recommendations for mine action to “rediscover its human face” by prioritizing quality, safety and protection, viewing demining in its proper socio-political context, and building peace by opposing the politics of violence.
The book is full of interesting data and detailed research, but the author seems to have an agenda which made me wonder as I was reading if his bias led him to select certain information and exclude the rest. US-based corporations and the US government end up looking very bad, almost evil, while the Norwegians are portrayed as saints, doing everything in the best possible way. One has to be a bit suspicious of this. ...more
I first read this book when I was in Japan in 1989 and marveled then at Mcinerney’s use of language and his deft delineation of character. Over the yeI first read this book when I was in Japan in 1989 and marveled then at Mcinerney’s use of language and his deft delineation of character. Over the years the book stayed with me, not least because of its peculiarly painful plot twists and its unique setting.
Twenty-two years later the book has lost some of its charm and McInerney’s use of language is less innovative, but the story of a heartbroken young American seeking redemption through self-discipline in a Japanese karate dojo in Kyoto in 1984 is still compelling. Ransom has had a traumatic experience in Pakistan and is full of loathing for his father’s selfish TV business and the materialism of America. He is determined to become a karate master and has made enough progress in two years to impress his teachers and his colleagues. Suddenly things change with the appearance of Marilyn, a Vietnamese refugee who needs his help to avoid being sold into prostitution, and DeVito, a deranged ex-marine who wants Ransom to fight him.
This book deviates in many ways from McInerney’s usual themes: wealthy yuppies mesmerized by sex and drugs, their lives centered around viciously attacking each other. The description of Ransom’s karate classes and the city of Kyoto are so vivid that the author must have based these on personal experience.
The book was not a success (not even enough to get a Wikipedia entry) and most of my friends didn’t care for it, but I wish that McInerney had written more in this style. ...more
This is one of only five first-person accounts by WWII-era US Counter-Intelligence agents in Europe, and it is full of wonderful details of life in thThis is one of only five first-person accounts by WWII-era US Counter-Intelligence agents in Europe, and it is full of wonderful details of life in the service, including a lot about food and friendships with local people. Myers has included reproductions of some documents that he collected during the war, and bolsters his personal recollections with an occasional history lesson. Strangely, however, he talks very little about his work with the CIC. Myers never saw combat although he was in North Africa, France and Germany during the height of the war (intelligence officers were rarely required to fight). His style is chatty and light-hearted and fun to read but the reader comes away without learning much about either WWII or the CIC.
Somewhat better books on the CIC include two other first-person accounts, Edward Koudelka's Counter Intelligence: The Conflict and the Conquest: Recollections of a World War II Agent in Europe, and Ib Melchior's Case By Case: A U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in World War II. John Schwartzwalder's We Caught Spies, long out of print, is also good....more