If I was to write a review of this book at the end of the first part, I would have talked about how it's sort of boring and somewhat self-consiously p...moreIf I was to write a review of this book at the end of the first part, I would have talked about how it's sort of boring and somewhat self-consiously post modern. That is to say, I would have written it off as being one of those "classics" that's more in vogue with the literary critics then with regular readers. That all changed as the first section was revealed to be nothing more then a prolonged epilogue. You see, it's not the slightly strange post modern world of the book that is supposed to be interesting but its fragility and powerlessness in the face of the absolute that contemporary man is still unable to face. It seems that while post modern man believes everything to be relative and subjective, the truth existing only in the mind, there is one thing that is still unknowable and terrifying, Death. As much as he, and us the readers, would like it to, the white noise of the popular society is not sufficient to shield the awakened mind from such a fact.(less)
I don't think I can explain this book very well but I will try. It's about a species of intelligent newts that are discovered in the pacific ocean. Th...moreI don't think I can explain this book very well but I will try. It's about a species of intelligent newts that are discovered in the pacific ocean. These newts can walk on two legs and are about four feet tall. After being discovered, they are used in industrial projects around the world, building ports and canals and even new continents, driving humanity into a new age of prosperity. Such a prosperity is short lived as, like the Golem, these tools of mankind become the germ of it's destruction. Did that make any sense?
Though it was written in the interwar years, when reading this book I couldn't help seeing the newts as being an allegory for global warming. I'd like to quote a passage, "What can I do? It's what people wanted; they all wanted to have Newts, commerce wanted them, and industry and engineering, the statesman wanted them and the military gentleman did... ...It's enough to make you want to scream, looking back at it now. Scream and raise your hands as a man might when he sees a train running on to the wrong track".
I'm as likely to agree as anyone that high school history is awash with half truths and the covered up faults of "great men". Unfortunetly, this book...moreI'm as likely to agree as anyone that high school history is awash with half truths and the covered up faults of "great men". Unfortunetly, this book has a poor methodology. By cherry picking erroneous facts from a set of twelve textbooks, the author proves nothing except the fact that any history is relative and is based on the writer's notions of what is important to record. This is true but it doesn't tell me anything interesting. One could look at any book on history, even this one, and find signs of bias. If you're thinking about reading this book. Skip it and read Zinn's People's History of the United States. It is a much better book.(less)
According to goodreads, three stars indicates "liked it" and two stars means "it was ok". I would like to give this two and a half stars because it wa...moreAccording to goodreads, three stars indicates "liked it" and two stars means "it was ok". I would like to give this two and a half stars because it was pretty good in some parts but got sort of boring in others. This boredom was never terrible but it just sort of "was ok". I think that my main problem is this. Chabon sets out to write what's basically a classically structured hardboiled novel. But he puts a twist on it and sets it in an alternate history. In this world, Israel was defeated in 1948 and the closest thing the jews have to a homeland is a special federal district in Sitka, Alaska. Very cute. The juxtaposition of these two elements is very neat at first but after awhile, I feel like I'm just reading a detective novel but with hassidic bad guys and more blintzs and sour cream and a little extra pretentiousness. Still it was not a bad book. Some parts were certainty good. At times, the book really came into focus. Throughout the whole book, you also cannot fault the craft. Chabon writes with excellent rhythm and a clear understanding of tone. But the points when the prose really sang were just not enough to raise the book from it's novel premise.(less)
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at...more"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." This is the opening paragraph of Lolita which immediately sets the tone for the book. This is exquisite writing, really. Re-read the quote aloud and listen to it hang in the air for a moment. Savor it. The book is full of such poetic precision of words and images and finely (very finely) balances the sense of revulsion with the aesthetic beauty. Anyone who has ever loved someone that they knew they shouldn't love or felt themselves drawn to something they shouldn't have been drawn to will recognize in Humbert Humbert's prose a bit of themselves, that tug of the heart that says "I would rather have my love and burn for it than give myself up to a slow loveless death". Read this book unless you're afraid to even entertain the idea that a middle-aged man can feel true love for a teenage girl. In the end, you may find Humbert Humbert to be a completely evil man or (unlikely) you may find him totally blameless. More likely, you will judge him as a somewhere in the middle. One of the most complicated and complete characters I've read.(less)