I wanted this book the minute I saw the title because I'm a big fan of well-crafted analogies. I remembered hearing good things about Dr. Hofstadter's book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid from college roommates who'd read it, which added to my sense of anticipation.
Sadly, other than the prologue and parts of the final chapter, I find very little to recommend here.
The book opens with an exploration of the "zeugma", which is the use of a single word in two different ways in the same sentence. An example of a zeugma from a song I wrote is "I can make you a cup of tea/And you can make me smile.” This begins to get at the ability of the human mind to make and break lexical categories in unexpected ways.
Yet starting with the first chapter, Dr. Hofstadter and his co-author, Emmanuel Sander, seem intent on removing everything that was interesting about analogies by taking a particular word or expression and overanalyzing its figurative meanings for a number of pages. The reason this comes across as extremely tedious is that the point has already been made, and it’s easily understood. No one who knows what an analogy is needs to ruminate over why a mother board is a little bit like a real mother. Most people who read this book will go dozens of pages at a time without learning anything new.
A number of pages compare airport "hubs" (for airlines) to the hubs of wheels. Who cares?
There's a section on the difference between "and" and "but", as if anyone on Earth could have reached page 109 without understanding that.
They bother to point out that understanding is not actually standing under anything.
One particularly unreadable section uses letter patterns to illustrate how we are reminded of past events. They somehow thought that people wanted to read about how iijjkk-->iijjkd is different from iijjkk-->iijjd and iijjkk-->iijjll. This reminded me of how in high school a classmate thought that the page numbers had some connection with what was happening in the novel. I can't bring myself to care about that.
Chapter 7: Naïve Analogies and Chapter 8: Analogies that Shook the World were the only two worth writing, though they were not particularly well done. Naïve Analogies discusses the ways that using physical terms to explain abstract concepts limits our understanding. The best example is that people think of division as splitting something up, thereby making it smaller. However, this is a limiting analogy. If you have four bags of chocolate chips, and you need half of a bag to make one batch of chocolate chip cookies, you can make eight batches of chocolate chip cookies, ending up with a number (8) that is larger than the first two (4 and .5). Thus, 4 ÷ .5 = 8. The last chapter explored analogies in physics, concentrating primarily on Einstein’s theories. Unfortunately, the language was so abruptly technical that it seemed like it had been written by a different author.
The Epidialogue has to be the worst possible way to end a book. It’s a made-up conversation about two friends discussing categories vs. analogies and referring to parts of this book, Surfaces and Essences, including this very epidialogue. Then one of the characters wakes up, and has a conversation about the crazy conversation it had just dreamed. Then one of the characters wakes up, and it turns out that the second conversation was all a dream, too. It’s bad.
Lastly, (analogy alert) the authors’ rampant use of clunky, mixed metaphors reminded me of Stephen King’s “dandelions” from On Writing. Dandelions are unobtrusive until you notice them, and then you really notice them, and they get on your nerves. (For Stephen King, dandelions are adverbs, as in “she replied nonchalantly”). For example, Hofstadter and Sander write: “Once he had glimpsed this analogy, Einstein went way out on a limb, placing all of his chips on it, in a move that to his colleagues seemed crazy.” And “The turning point when light quanta at last emerged from the shadows came only in 1923.” I’m not sure if the authors are trying to be cute or if they just don’t proofread, but this stuff is not good.
It makes me annoyed and write a long negative review....more
This is the kind of book that really only matters if any of the advice is useful. I've read several parenting books, and they all seem to suffer fromThis is the kind of book that really only matters if any of the advice is useful. I've read several parenting books, and they all seem to suffer from the same constraint: the premise is easily explainable in a page or two, so the remainder of the book must become an exhaustive list of real or fictional anecdotes that illustrate the concept in its myriad permutations and applications.
Despite that, I found that I agree with the logic of Love and Logic and have begun to model and explain natural consequences to my children, now aged three and five. This book has even prompted me to look back at my own experiences growing up; I think I missed some chances to become more mature and responsible through early failures. Rules in our household seemed more like rules that invited breakage, as opposed to wise guidelines for healthy and happy living for a half dozen individuals under one roof.
Though I'm sure many of the examples will seem harsh to people, such as allowing a child who continues to break the rules at the dinner table to go hungry for a meal, as a teacher, I see many instances every day of people who just don't see the connection between their aberrant behavior and undesirable social and academic consequences. I'm very interested in the follow-up book, Teaching with Love and Logic....more
This book is amazing. It's mindboggling to me that one person knows enough to write such an in-depth look at world history through the lens of languagThis book is amazing. It's mindboggling to me that one person knows enough to write such an in-depth look at world history through the lens of language. It's not an easy read; in fact, I put it down the first time I attempted it because the first chapter seemed to drag on and on. However, once you realize that reading each chapter makes you a mini-expert on the language movements of a particular part of the world, the book seems to open up. Chances are, you won't find yourself saying, "I know this already. Heard it a million times before." I speak a dozen languages badly, so to see the level of understanding and appreciation for scores of languages throughout history was humbling.
Clearly, there are very few people I'd recommend this to. But if you have any interest in language history, I can't imagine a more complete yet readable resource than this one....more