Good entree into some of the history of the Taliban and tensions in the Swat Valley + the basics about the inspiring story of the girl, Malala. The te...moreGood entree into some of the history of the Taliban and tensions in the Swat Valley + the basics about the inspiring story of the girl, Malala. The text, however, leaves questions about voice, identity, and imperialism unexamined and unproblematized. (less)
Although I knew Tina Fey was famous for her Sarah Palin skins on SNL, I must have been living under a rock during those years. My exposure to her happ...moreAlthough I knew Tina Fey was famous for her Sarah Palin skins on SNL, I must have been living under a rock during those years. My exposure to her happened primarily through her films (Mean Girls, Invention of Lying and Date Night), all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Similarly, this book brought plenty of pleasure. I listened to it on audio as part of my self-bribery technique to spend time preparing healthy foods in the kitchen, and I found myself making excuses to spend MORE time listening. Tina Fey reads the book, which is perfect because, of course, her tone and inflection are a good part of the humor. In addition to being solidly funny, her feminist insights on a number of topics (e.g. body image and Photoshop, the challenges of being a working mom, sexism in showbiz) were delivered with brilliance and humor. Other pleasurable nuggets include: descriptions of her Republican parents, the awesomeness that is Second City in Chicago, and hilarious responses to Internet trolls who trash her. I'm thinking I need to check out those 30 Rock shows... (less)
I have often thought that in-depth journalism could be considered a kind of ethnography for the masses. This book certainly fits both genres. Not only...moreI have often thought that in-depth journalism could be considered a kind of ethnography for the masses. This book certainly fits both genres. Not only does it pay keen attention to and deliver all the markings of good storytelling, but it also provides a sense of the complexity and everyday-ness of Vatican culture. John Thavis, the author (who also happens to be a Minnesotan ,yay!), has amassed over 20 years of life in Rome where, after a few gigs for the AP, ABC News, and Wine Spectator, he had a long career writing for the Catholic News Service.
A good reporter and an official "Vaticanista," he has his ear to the ground for good stories and immersive experience observing how the Catholic church works ... and more accurately, how it oftentimes doesn't work. It turns out that basic lack of coordination between officials and failures of communication happen more often than outside appearances usually suggest. While his stories often have humorous elements, Thavis by no means makes fun of the Vatican or the Catholic Church. Instead, he approaches the institution and his topics with an inquisitive ear and a desire to understand. The entire book is rich with pleasurable detail, including: * the troubles convincing the bell ringers that the papal conclave had indeed concluded * a sobering and well-handled chapter on sub-cultures and hierarchies responding to (or not) sex abuse allegations * the story of what might have been a major archeological find where a parking structure dig was taking place * the difficulty reporters experienced in trying to understand the persona of Pope Benedict in their efforts to write compelling stories about him
If, like me, you enjoy stories that are about the makings of stories AND you're curious about how this plays out at the Vatican, then I highly recommend.
Review of the audiobook version because, until my dissertation is finished, cooking and driving time are the only available times I can "read" for pleasure. Speaking of which, one of the pleasures of the audio version is hearing the narrator's lovely pronunciation of Italian places and names. He also does a pretty good imitation of George Bush Jr.'s accent. (less)
I love the way that Solnit thinks, and I love the way that she writes about what she thinks. I heard her read aloud from this book on her recent book...moreI love the way that Solnit thinks, and I love the way that she writes about what she thinks. I heard her read aloud from this book on her recent book tour, and the themes it takes up -- story, empathy, Alzheimer's and the loss of self, metamorphosis, and different registers of intimacy with those near and the far -- resonated with me on a number of levels. The book pulled me in immediately with tales of apricots and her mother's steady decline. The further the stories moved away from that centering tale, the less captivated I was by the narrative. It was still all interesting. Just not captivating. I may have wanted something from it that it was never prepared to give.
Things I particularly loved about it: the deft and masterful interweaving of many kinds of stories, the nuanced and considered attention to both Buddhist and Christian thought and practice, and the ongoing meditation on the self. I hadn't expected the flat affect of Solnit's voice, and I found it unsettling throughout. I'm not sure if that's a weakness or a strength. It certainly illustrated the sense of being "faraway nearby." Regardless, it's masterfully crafted.
I put the book down several times during summer busyness and then came back to it last night in a fit of insomnia. The final chapters returned more directly to the apricots and mother/daughter relationships and I was again captivated. I struggled with whether or not to give this book 4 or 5 stars, and I first went with 4 simply because I don't think I'll reread it even though several sentences and paragraphs are surely worth it. Instead, I want to read more of Solnit's other works. In the final analysis, however, I decided to give it 5 stars for sheer artistic brilliance in composition. (less)