Very glad I gave DFW's essays another go after disliking A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I think the problem with a lot of essay collectioVery glad I gave DFW's essays another go after disliking A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I think the problem with a lot of essay collections is that they contain not essays, but old magazine articles. To me, an essay tackles an, if not universal, at least widely applicable/relatable/engaging topic. Magazine articles tend to become dated quickly, and/or are too specific to the original demographic to warrant being collected in a book. I think that was my main complaint about a Supposedly Fun Thing.
Consider the Lobster didn't start off a much better, given that the first article concerned late 90s pornography/porn stars. Had the article been wider in scope, so that it could be applied to porn in general, we might have had an essay rather than just an article. It's a shame, too, because I'm sure DFW could have asked some hard questions about the whole thing.
But the collection picks up rapidly with the next few essays. I'm not sure I can even express how much I loved Authority and American Usage. After a few pages, I started to read it out loud just for the flow of it. It made me remember how much I'd liked doing that with certain parts of Infinite Jest, so I went back and bumped that book up a star. Wallace has an ear for rhythm that's hard to find and which can be pretty easily overlooked if you let yourself get bogged down in silent reading and googling the definition of, say, dysphemism.
The other essays were good, too, and while many had clearly been magazine articles, he manages to make compelling arguments in each, even if he only just touches upon them. The Lobster essay was just ballsy as hell - here's an article on the Maine Lobster Festival written for Gourmet magazine and DFW goes, "It's nice that you have your hobbies, Gourmet Reader, but I'm going to ask you to wipe your chin now and consider your worth as a human being."
I think I'm starting to appreciate DFW's lack of irony. As a culture, we really are tyrannized by it, and we need more people willing to look a thing dead in the eye and ask it why it should matter. DFW addresses this in his essay on Dostoevsky, and I appreciate his attempts to do the same. You don't even have to always agree with him, either; the fact that he's willing to do it is usually enough. For instance, I don't exactly agree with his views on (not) voting, but I appreciate that he's at least not flippant about it.
Up, Simba (what a great title) accomplished what the porn article didn't - namely, that even though the specifics of the article are dated (e.g. McCain is no longer a champion of the people, and it seems sort of crazy that he had ever been thought of as such), the questions regarding authenticity in politics remain vital.
A note on the sports article: I was glad to see someone tackle why it might be that sports stars invariably come off as dolts when they may not actually be dolts. During Michael Phelps's historic winning streak, the man couldn't come up with anything more than "I'm at a loss a words [sic]" each and every time he was interviewed. You would think that having been through the Q&As before, and having a reasonable expectation of winning a shit ton more medals, he'd have come up with something better, or at least more grammatically acceptable than "I'm at a loss a words." But no. DFW's strength is making fans of whatever (lobster, sports, ghetto slang, etc) face the realities of what it is they live by, without necessarily arguing for or against it.
Zeigler was all hurt about being an asshole and having someone notice that he's an asshole. He says that DFW wrote a near hit piece on him. That's called restraint. I think DFW did a fantastic job of trying to look at conservative media fairly. Ziegler also accuses DFW of being a fraud and a salesman. Well, I'm just sayin':
I've been watching a lot of Sherlock lately, so when I read that this book was contemporaneous with and partly inspired by the Holmes sSpoilers ahead.
I've been watching a lot of Sherlock lately, so when I read that this book was contemporaneous with and partly inspired by the Holmes stories, I thought it would at least have that going for it, but no. I understand that no one could actually have the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief if the author puts in the least effort. Buchan, on the other hand, has events occur exactly as best support the main character. Every page is a deus ex machina, and Buchnan doesn't even pretend that his character is clever:
“All this was very loose guessing, and I don't pretend it was ingenious or scientific. I wasn't any kind of Sherlock Holmes. But I have always fancied I had a kind of instinct about questions like this. I don't know if I can explain myself, but I used to use my brains as far as they went, and after they came to a blank wall I guessed, and I usually found my guesses pretty right.”
The problem, for me, with most espionage stories is that everything is so clandestine and obscure that there's basically no reason to care. So, in this story, Hannay stumbles upon an assassination plot that will hoist the world into WWI. He has 15 or so days to act on it, but instead flees the country to wander the moors of Scotland until the 15 days have passed and the assassination takes place. He does this because he believes that foreign spies are after him, and indeed they are, though it's, again, not at all clear why, especially given how ineffectual Hannay is. And the chase isn't even exciting, because whenever Hannay finds himself in a tight spot and could use a bit of help, lo and behold, as though out of the ether, here comes his acquaintance in a god damn luxury car, just roaming around the countryside for no good reason. Thanks friend! And there are many instances of just such luck.
At no point is it clear what Hannay plans or had planned to do to remedy the situation. By the end of the book the world has gone to war, the murderer escaped, and Hannay pats himself on the back for having done his "best service" for England. Absolutely infuriatingly stupid....more
I don't think this really qualifies as a novel. While I appreciate the way Vonnegut frames the narrative with an introduction of his first attempt atI don't think this really qualifies as a novel. While I appreciate the way Vonnegut frames the narrative with an introduction of his first attempt at Timequake, and by inserting himself into the story, it really only came across as a memoir. I think there is un-tapped potential in the idea of a Timequake that makes us all relive the past 10 years of our lives, but Vonnegut, especially toward the end, opts instead to throw random biographical tidbits at us.
I'm still going to give this 3 stars because it was fun to read, and a handful of parts had me laughing out loud.
Oh, and when my sister and I were little, we used to have a recurring dream of floating down our staircase. There were other shared details, which I w
Oh, and when my sister and I were little, we used to have a recurring dream of floating down our staircase. There were other shared details, which I won't bore you with, but the point is that it was recurring and we didn't find out about the others' dream until some years after we stopped having them.
In the notes section at the end of this book, the translator says that Hopper had a "repeated dream of levitation, sailing downstairs & out thru door."
I'd be curious if anyone else has ever had that recurring dream....more
I'm supposed to put a disclaimer up here: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think that this style of research is going to become more rI'm supposed to put a disclaimer up here: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.
I think that this style of research is going to become more relied upon in the future, and I think it's important. Unsolicited data (i.e. information provided willingly by website users, without an agenda in mind by anyone) has got to be the most authentic of all available data. It should be able to tell us a lot about ourselves and cover a lot more ground than the smaller sample sizes of university studies. I think data like this is also a great way to get people to confront taboo subjects that are infuriatingly glossed over in fits of political correctness. There are some hard facts out there that aren't going to improve unless we are willing to address them.
This book really sucked me in, and it would be a 5-star book if not for the couple of assumptions I believe the author made, which makes me wonder if there were other assumptions/biases I did not notice.
I'm referring to the star rating system on OKCupid. Rudder uses the star ratings to assess users' overall view of other users' attractiveness, but what makes him think that those ratings are based on looks alone? I've been on that site and you could just as easily rate a person for their profile w/o even looking at a picture. That may be unlikely, but I don't think you can say that 5 stars equals beautiful and 1 star equals butt ugly.
Rudder also discusses the importance of good looks for women in applying for a job. He states that female applicants via shiftgig.com are called in for substantially more interviews if their looks are rated highly, but nowhere does Rudder tell us how their looks were assessed. Did he conduct a survey? Where is the Appendix? This was one of the most serious and interesting charges, and as such I think it requires a good deal more background and data.
Aside from those objections, this was a very compelling read. I hope more books are published with this research method at play. ...more
I am no arteest. I've always envied people who have a natural talent for drawing, even if it's just making an apple look like an apple, and not an anaI am no arteest. I've always envied people who have a natural talent for drawing, even if it's just making an apple look like an apple, and not an anatomically correct heart.
When I was little, I was so bad at drawing that I would only ever make a series of dots on a paper and then connect them until I saw an image - sort of like looking at clouds until an image emerges.
At some point in my late 20s, I decided to kick up the habit again. A friend gave me a cutesy little Korean notebook, and I started to make a series of marks on the pages until I saw connections in them. Sometimes I would elaborate on those connections, but mostly I just let them be and would assign some bizarre name.
Sometimes I would see a more meaningful connection.
Sometimes my connections were direct, and sometimes they led to bullshit.
This book started out promising, but quickly slipped into pseudoscience and self-help. The author is a "Reiki Master" and her faith in the mystical really puts a damper on what I think can be a fun and useful exercise.
I've known reiki folk. They think that they can take bad energy away from you by pulling it off of your aura. They interpret dreams, and no dream is ever just a mishmash of the day's events. They see meaning where there is no meaning, and they encourage others to as well. I think it's generally a bad idea to encourage people to remember trauma when it might have been forgotten, moved beyond, or rendered insignificant. The author's "clients" find meaning in her interpretations of their sketches because they want to find meaning in them.