This book purports to be the story of Birahima, an orphan 10 years of age, and his odyssey to reunite with his closest living relative, an aunt who re...moreThis book purports to be the story of Birahima, an orphan 10 years of age, and his odyssey to reunite with his closest living relative, an aunt who resides in (shudder) Liberia. Except that it's not just a story about Birahima, it's really a story about the western part of Africa and the utter destruction and desolation of these poor exploited countries, particularly Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Kourouma speaks through the medium of Birahima, and in so doing gives the reader an account of the roots of the multi-faceted conflicts plaguing the region. I think it is probably the most lucid explanation of the tangled political situation that I have ever read, and since it is related to the reader in a child's voice, it is thereby easier to understand.
Some might write this off as poorly written: Birahima is pedantic and repetetive and hugely profane in his story. He uses the "N" word A LOT! If you're sensitive or queasy in your choice of literature, you might want to shy away from the book on those grounds. It is violent, obscenely violent, but not falsely so. If you need verification, the dismemberment of Samuel Doe and the mass exeution of members of the Liberian regime can be seen on Youtube in living colour. I think that Kourouma is a genius, a master of irony; where he appears to ridicule and castigate, he is really doing so in order to educate the reader regarding the woeful plight of the poor people of the region who suffer under the exploitation of warlords, thieves and lunatics.(less)
The first 75% of this book is a great read, detailing the author's adventures in a number of African hotspots, often accompanied by professional soldi...moreThe first 75% of this book is a great read, detailing the author's adventures in a number of African hotspots, often accompanied by professional soldier Nick du Toit. The book is absolutely riveting right up to the point where Brabazon starts detailing his investigation into the circumstances surrounding du Toit's involvement in a failed coup, at which time it starts to read a bit like the begats in Genesis. Overall, a very engrossing account of some hair-raising adventures on the troubled continent leavened with a serious dissection of the moves and counter-moves involved in a coup attempt.(less)
It's a pity that this book was out there for so long and I just got around to reading it. Capote doesn't use the typical murder/non-fiction ploy of ma...moreIt's a pity that this book was out there for so long and I just got around to reading it. Capote doesn't use the typical murder/non-fiction ploy of maximizing gore and downplaying the character sketches; he makes sure that you are well introduced to the principal participants and, I think, tries to drum up some sympathy for the culprits in the case.
(view spoiler)[In spite of knowing beforehand exactly how this sordid deal played out, I still found the story and the characters absolutely engrossing. I couldn't shake the feeling that Capote was partial to Smith; the story seems to emphasize Hickock's bad qualities (of which he had plenty), while going to great lengths to portray Smith in a sympathetic manner. Poor Smitty had a bad childhood, and parents that drank, and a sister that didn't like him, and a motorcycle accident, and on and on and on. It didn't work for me; probably no massacred family in history was more innocent or less deserving of their fate than the Clutter family, and to suggest that either of these killers deserved a pass because of an uncomfortable childhood is just too much. The insinuation that the actual trigger-puller, Smith, is a better fellow than Hickock is just more than I'm willing to swallow. (hide spoiler)]
I'm not sure of the reason for the favoritism; maybe it's just my perception; maybe Hickock wouldn't talk to Capote as nicely as Smith did. Another possibility is that Capote, a homosexual, might have had a thing for Smith. In any event, I thought that the scale tilted slightly in Smith's favor. It didn't make the book less interesting, and it surprises me that he didn't write more in this vein.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This just might be the book that sends me back to watching reruns of the Three Stooges during my spare time. I'll admit that I wasn't particularly int...moreThis just might be the book that sends me back to watching reruns of the Three Stooges during my spare time. I'll admit that I wasn't particularly interested in Hunter S. Thompson. But hey, there was a neat photo of a man with a gun on the cover so I took the plunge.
Now I had never heard of the author, E. Jean Carroll, before ....and with any luck I never will again! What she has done here is gather a bunch of anecdotal information, apparently from interviews, some of which were possibly conducted by her, although I see that she is listed in the book as the interviewee on a number of occasions! What a great ploy that would be! Imagine interviewing yourself! You could tell yourself anything and write it down as anecdotal information! Now Ms Carroll has mixed the information gleaned through interviews and supplemented it with some documentary details and basically edited the works into rough chronological order.
I'm not too sure why she did this, but Ms Carroll has interspersed the apparently factual chapters with chapters written by a fictitious character, one Laetitia Snap. Does that make you want to laugh? I didn't either. The Laetitia Snap chapters are certified BS, so who knows about the rest of it? Anyway, I think Ms Carroll had to write the book this way because she can now take credit as being the author, rather than just the editor. I could be wrong, but who gives a hoot anyway? The real mystery is this: why would anyone write this man's biography in the first place? Hunter Thompson is a certified knob who beat his wife and mother! Repeatedly! Who beats their mother? I don't care what your BS excuse is, you don't hit women. Except Rosie O'Donnell. And maybe the blonde woman with the short hair who sits on her ass talking to other women on TV all the time.
Maybe someday I'll read a Thompson biography written by someone who wants to make a career as a writer, but probably not. I knew the guy wasn't a saint, but I wasn't prepared for someone who was as totally depraved as HST. I can't understand what is wrong with women, either. This guy had scads of women throwing themselves at him and he was a totally depraved junkie. I could have forgiven him most of his transgressions. But he hit his Mom.(less)
This book details the manhunt for the Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. What the book reveals about the soviet legal system is almost as frighte...moreThis book details the manhunt for the Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. What the book reveals about the soviet legal system is almost as frightening as the horrific murders perpetrated by Chikatilo; a number of innocents perished as a result of shoddy and criminal investigative and judicial practices. Mr Cullen took the time do do some research and interview some of the principals involved; this is not a hastily- crafted story scribbled in haste to capitalize on a sensational story. One pressing question remains after reading of the malfunctioning soviet system: why in hell were we afraid of these guys?(less)
Not a bad read. The author took the trouble to do extensive research, and the result is perhaps a little more information on mumbo-jumbo and weird-ass...moreNot a bad read. The author took the trouble to do extensive research, and the result is perhaps a little more information on mumbo-jumbo and weird-ass religion than the reader really wants to know. Worthy of note is the fact that the "narcosatanicos" were not the only frightening group in Mexico; the various law enforcement agencies are even scarier, if that's possible. There probably isn't an Archbishop in the world they couldn't torture into a confession of satanism. Bad people on both sides of the fence.(less)
This is another hastily-written account by a crime reporter who is exploiting the misfortune of others to profit by pandering to our baser voyeuristic...moreThis is another hastily-written account by a crime reporter who is exploiting the misfortune of others to profit by pandering to our baser voyeuristic instincts. That having been said, the book is not a bad read, although the writer was handicapped by the reticence of many people who might have shed some light on the murderer's past and by his own reluctance to include some of the more lurid details of the slayings. Personally, I was put off by his lack of familiarity with military terminology...what the heck is a "dress-kit function" anyway? In any event, he gets the job done. The reader will learn that a creature like Williams can flourish without detection in our society in spite of all the screening systems we have in place to detect him. Scary stuff!(less)
Mr Ressler is apparently quite good at what he does and doesn't mind telling you that at every opportunity. The book was a disappointment; the author...moreMr Ressler is apparently quite good at what he does and doesn't mind telling you that at every opportunity. The book was a disappointment; the author didn't have much in the way of new material and resorted to including excerpts of interviews with serial killers as filler.(less)
A reasonably well-written account of the atrocities committed by this husband and wife team of monsters. This case was notable because of the infamous...moreA reasonably well-written account of the atrocities committed by this husband and wife team of monsters. This case was notable because of the infamous gag order effectively preventing the press from reporting on many details of the murders. The book contains transcripts of the notorious murder video recordings and the reader is warned that much of this is graphic and gruesome. If there were any real justice in Canada, this pair would be dancing at the end of a rope.(less)
A surprisingly good read. Although I already knew the basic details of the case, this book was hard to put down. Mr Edwards seems actually to have don...moreA surprisingly good read. Although I already knew the basic details of the case, this book was hard to put down. Mr Edwards seems actually to have done some work on this one rather than just rephrase newspaper articles as so many reporter/authors do. He errs in some small details (Steinbach not being north of Winnipeg, as an example), and he can't conceal his partiality to the murdered bungling buffoons as opposed to the murdering bungling buffoons, but he has produced a truly engrossing book well worth the money(less)
I'm not particularly impressed with this one, although I moved heaven and earth to get a copy. It turns out that the frequent spelling mistakes and th...moreI'm not particularly impressed with this one, although I moved heaven and earth to get a copy. It turns out that the frequent spelling mistakes and the sometimes hilarious typos ("I was balling my eyes out, holding Carter" p. 234 does not refer to anything sexual) were the most interesting part of the book, insofar as holding your attention is concerned.
To start out with, I don't believe this book was objectively written. I got the impression that Lynndie England might be the only famous (or infamous) person of Mr Winkler's acquaintance, and he decided to capitalize on that acquaintanceship by writing her story. He jumps back and forth during the introductory stages of the book with quotes from one relative hard on the heels of a quote from another relative or friend; it was like he was at an England family reunion taking note of accolades given by a group of Lynndie fans. I guess what I'm getting at is that if there was anything odious in Lynndie England's nature, we wouldn't hear that from Mr Winkler.
The book touches, too lightly, on the crimes and excesses committed by American soldiers on the inmates of the American detention facility at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. The soldiers, most of whom were Military Police reservists, were operating under the apparent instructions of Military Intelligence and "Other Government" Agencies, as well as civilian contractors. England herself was not a Military Policewoman; apparently she attended the jail on her time off to socialize and pose for photos with naked Iraqis. Now these Iraqis are not all "insurgents" (how can you be an insurgent when in your own country and opposing an invader?). None had apparently been charged with anything. Some of them weren't even suspects, having been rounded up in "sweeps", yet they were denied basic human comforts and necessities, insulted, degraded, tortured, and sometimes killed by their keepers.
What I did get from this book is the feeling that the US Army unit at Abu Ghraib was out of control: who puts reservists in charge of anything? Everyone knows that's a recipe for disaster all by itself! Why were civilian agencies giving instructions to military personnel to soften up suspects for interrogation? Why were the senior NCOs not charging enlisted personnel for their excesses? Where were the officers? Why was a Corporal in charge of any goddam thing, never mind a range of prisoners? Why is the US Army hiring recruits who were "special needs" students? The questions are endless, but there is only one answer: "We didn't know any better. We had no orders." There is a quick and easy retort to this: everyone knows that torture is unlawful, and one of the first things taught to a soldier in basic is that they are not obliged to obey any order which is manifestly unlawful.
England herself does not get any sympathy, at least from this reader. She threw over a perfectly viable marriage in order to cavort with Cpl Graner, her military superior and, eventually, her co-accused. At no time does she ever really get around to realizing that this guy is no good for her. Personally, I think it should have dawned early in the relationship when the guy showed her dad the photos of their sexual antics. She has a tendency never to accept responsibility for anything, always producing excuses: she was a special needs student, she didn't know it was wrong, Graner told her to do it, she had no instruction...you get the picture. And the whining is enough to make you hurl. I can't imagine where she got the sand to complain that her trial was inconveniencing her because she couldn't visit her folks and get on with her life, and if she was convicted of a felony she couldn't hunt turkeys. Very little remorse is forthcoming regarding the detainees who suffered mistreatment at Abu Ghraib.
That being said, England and the other co-accused are scapegoats in the end. A situation like Abu Ghraib can only occur when the upper echelon are neglecting the obligation to ensure that regulations are enforced, but people such as these are hard to nail down; in the end the common soldiery will have to bear the brunt of criticism. Predictably, the only corrective action taken resulted in a number of lower-ranking military members being tried before courts martial. Turds roll downhill and no one was lower in the valley than England and her buddies in the reserve MP unit. They ended up in disgrace while the officers who should have been in control were unscathed by judicial censure. The poet summed it up when he said "Men crown the knave and scourge the tool that did his will".(less)
The book is competently crafted and easy to read; you won't need a dictionary or your notebook to puzzle out any difficult passages. Having establishe...moreThe book is competently crafted and easy to read; you won't need a dictionary or your notebook to puzzle out any difficult passages. Having established that, I have to say that the book left me a little hot under the collar, having been written by a man who has essentially confessed to kidnapping, drug trafficking, assault, sexual assault, and destruction of property. This particular manuscript should have been written deep inside a penitentiary.
I understand that some band members have disputed the accuracy of the information put forth by Mr Cole, but if only one-half of his allegations are true this band was steeped in moral degradation on the grandest of scales with their wanton destruction of property, assaults on concert-goers, and an apparent sexual preference for girls barely into puberty. I was prepared for a little bacchanalia, but nothing of this magnitude. I lost a lot of respect for the band as a result of reading this: they should all have been locked up.(less)
My first Atwood. It's nicely written and holds the attention but ....I don't know what the hell happened! I'm really not sure what the hell was going...moreMy first Atwood. It's nicely written and holds the attention but ....I don't know what the hell happened! I'm really not sure what the hell was going on at the end of this book, and I was expecting so much from it.(less)