I have actually read this, both for a High School "Origins of the Holocaust" course and then a University course about autobiographies as a genre.
Sadl...moreI have actually read this, both for a High School "Origins of the Holocaust" course and then a University course about autobiographies as a genre.
Sadly, because it is an attempted autobiography (or at least contains many autobiographical passages), and because of Goodreads' new policies, I cannot say anything else about it. To do so would involve somehow discussing the man who wrote it, and as we all know, books should be judged on their own individual merits rather than the character of the author. Even if the book is ABOUT the character of the author.
Oh no! I mentioned the author! PREPARE FOR DELETION!(less)
A beautiful meditation on Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzakh (RaShI), concerned primarily with Wiesel's own personal relationship to Rashi's work and Rashi's pl...moreA beautiful meditation on Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzakh (RaShI), concerned primarily with Wiesel's own personal relationship to Rashi's work and Rashi's place in Rabbinic Jewish tradition.
If you're seeking historiography, you're unlikely to find much of use here -- rather, it is a combination of hagiography and reflection on intimate human connections to the great scholars and teachers and artists who make the world in which we find ourselves born.(less)
Ahhhh, the classics never go out of style! This is a volume with HEFT, both literal and metaphorical. It's amazing how much I had forgotten about the...moreAhhhh, the classics never go out of style! This is a volume with HEFT, both literal and metaphorical. It's amazing how much I had forgotten about the comics thanks to the television series and the films. For instance, the Shredder dies early on; Krang's species is peaceful; Splinter was actually a rat; April O'Neil was a scientist and lab-assistant; and Baxter Stockman was black! The annotations and explanations from Eastman & Laird are well worth the price, and the art...good gravy! The art! The scene of the Triceraton "homeworld" alone left me utterly bewildered. I think I said "wow!" out loud so many times that I alarmed my cat.(less)
This is a man who takes nothing seriously. He reminds me very much of myself before the depression set in as heavily as it has; a sort of avatar for C...moreThis is a man who takes nothing seriously. He reminds me very much of myself before the depression set in as heavily as it has; a sort of avatar for Coyote, finding humor in everything, because everything is ridiculous and because being too sincere and earnest is both exhausting and, after a point, obnoxious. He even closes the book by thanking Satan, not because he is a Satanist but because (as he states) he figures it's safer to cover all his bases.
Incidentally, Greg Gutfeld is a former Liberal who wrote for Men's Health, Stuff Magazine & The Huffington Post, but who has found himself somehow transformed into a Libertarian host of a Fox News self-parody show. This show, "Red Eye", is basically a late night Fox News show featuring a bunch of bizarre people -- including John Bolton, Penn Jillette (who wrote the introduction to this book), Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Kevin Sorbo, Gilbert Gottfried, Dennis Kucinich, Johnny Rotten, King Buzzo, Krystal Ball, Andrew Napolitano, Andrew W. K., Sherrod Small, Ann Coulter, Michael Ian Black, Kurt Loder, Kennedy, Gary Johnson, Mike Huckabee, Gavin McInnes, Harris Faulkner (be still my heart!), Imogen Lloyd Webber, etc. -- making fun of Fox News for an hour. One of their catch-phrases is "Shut up! You're spoiling the narrative!" They frequently bring up ludicrous topics and then try to spin them into vehicles for fabricated outrage, and there have been several times in which major news networks (and the people at "The Daily Show", who should really know better!) have mistaken these satirical discussions for real Fox News statements; if my brother hadn't recommended Gutfeld's show to me, I certainly wouldn't have known any better. My personal favorite was a a satirical discussion of how Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood actually brainwashed children into becoming communists, which a neo-hippie friend of mine took VERY seriously after catching about 2 minutes of it one night and used as a platform for railing against Fox News. I've seen stories from Gutfeld's show taken out of context and used in articles on MSNBC or Media Matters or reports on NPR attempting to slam Fox News.
Both his show and his book are full of references to cannibalism, sado-masochism, homo-eroticism, sex-tourism, and drug use (often paired with one or more of the other subjects I mentioned). Even when he seems genuinely passionate or outraged about something, you can't be sure if that's really what he feels/thinks or if he's just amusing himself. I adore that about him. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I recommend picking up this book. If, however, you are one of those obnoxiously, insufferably, single-mindedly earnest and sincere people so prevalent in our modern, Western world...Well, don't bother. You'll just feel outraged, and that will just give him more material. (less)
Like McConkie's "Mormon Doctrine", this book contains many treatises by one man which largely represent only his own personal views and interpretation...moreLike McConkie's "Mormon Doctrine", this book contains many treatises by one man which largely represent only his own personal views and interpretations. Unlike "Mormon Doctrine", Fielding Smith typically does an excellent job of outlining A) which views and interpretations ARE his own, and B) that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints expects its members to pursue personal spiritual confirmation of statements by its leaders. I tend to feel that this is one of the primary defining characteristics of the largest Mormon sect -- the belief that one should not just do what the leaders say because the leaders have said it -- and so appreciate when its leaders explicitly express this fact.(less)
I have nothing but respect for Peters -- I studied under him before he retired (in fact, his retirement de-railed my plans for my MA degree and required me to go in a different direction entirely) and he was easily one of the best and most evenhanded academic scholars of early Christianity and the Roman Empire I have ever encountered. He regarded the work of the "Jesus Seminar" with dismissive contempt (and rightly so!) and relied entirely on contemporary sources rather than specious academic or religious theories.
That said, he was not without his flaws. He was a rather mean drunk, a huge fan of ABBA, and had something of an axe to grind against the Roman Catholic Church (I believe he was, himself, a "recovering Catholic"). And he was, at heart, an Islamicist. The study of Islam was his true passion, the field in which his heart forever lay, and as a result this book suffers. He tends to view Islam with rose-coloured glasses, and his analyses of Judaism and Christianity are...half-hearted. His desire to make the comparisons fit and avoid discussing harsh realities results in a somewhat romantic view of Islam and sparse analyses of Judaism and Christianity. Especially (as noted in the review linked above) Christianity.
So, sadly, this book is not great. It's a nice, friendly, no-sharp-edges review of how Judaism & Christianity can be compared to Islam, but it's hardly a serious academic text. I've assigned it to my students this Summer, but only because I was only allowed to assign them two books and needed one that could cover the three Abrahamic faiths. (less)
A beautiful dream, one well-worth striving toward, but humans are monsters and will always find a way to trade justice for oppression, Heaven for Hell...moreA beautiful dream, one well-worth striving toward, but humans are monsters and will always find a way to trade justice for oppression, Heaven for Hell.(less)
I have never found this as compelling as my friends in High School seemed to. Marx always seemed like a very passionate man, but idealism often preclu...moreI have never found this as compelling as my friends in High School seemed to. Marx always seemed like a very passionate man, but idealism often precludes objectivity and Marx's idealism seems to have blinded him to the reality of human nature -- a reality which no amount of revolution or re-education can erase.
Learning later that he was an inveterate self-hating anti-Semite (check out his "On The Jewish Question") hasn't helped my reading of this text. But I do believe that everyone should read "The Communist Manifesto" for its historical significance.(less)
"Garcin, come and lend a hand. Quickly. We'll push her out and slam the door on her. That'll teach her a lesson... Don't listen to her. Press your lip...more"Garcin, come and lend a hand. Quickly. We'll push her out and slam the door on her. That'll teach her a lesson... Don't listen to her. Press your lips to my mouth. Oh, I'm yours, yours, yours." --Estelle Rigault, No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre
I knew Ms. Baker for several years back in NY. She was in my circle of acquaintances and I went to a few of her stand-up shows. As a result, my reading of this book is informed by personal encounters with and observations of Ms. Baker, and is therefore potentially biased. I should also point out that I find David Sedaris a tremendous bore. Here is what I got from her book, which, I must remind you, is intended to be a quirky comedic autobiography:
Elna Baker is a tragic figure, desperate for attention. Any attention. From anyone. For just about anything. She reminds me of Estelle Rigault from Sartre's "No Exit", a woman hopelessly seeking to define herself through the eyes and approval of others, but doomed to unending torment because the people whose approval she seeks are not looking at her, and she cannot bear to truly look at herself.
She never really understands the religion with which she half-heartedly identifies herself (and which she frequently misrepresents). She never really grasps anything beyond the broad caricatures of it which she sees in popular culture, or in the non-religious cultural practices which she seems to mistake for the religion itself. It's rather like a nominally observant Jew believing that eating Chinese food on Christmas and listening to the Maccabeats are what defines "Jewishness". She makes no efforts to see anything beyond her a priori assumptions. This book left me with the distinct impression that all of her willfull ignorance and indolence were the result of the fact that doing anything more would require a level of introspection and genuine interest in other humans which is somehow beyond the author.
As many other readers have noted, Ms. Baker comes across as a tremendous narcissist, and it is truly disturbing how much time she spends deceiving others, either to win their approval and acceptance...or to simply amuse herself at their expense.
Much of what she does also seems to be a sort of sub-conscious "striking back" at the strawman she has created out of the jealousy she felt towards her sister -- blow after blow leveled against a villain who never existed anywhere outside of Ms. Baker's own psyche. Elna seems to deeply resent her successful, supportive, loving sister, not for anything her sister has actually done or said, but for the simple fact that Ms. Baker believes that her sister is/was the more physically attractive of the two. And in a remarkably anti-feminist twist, being seen as sexually attractive makes up a good deal of what really matters to Ms. Baker. In this respect she also reminds me of the Dwarf/Thespian in C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce", so caught up in her posturing and self-pity that she cannot see that she has only ever been diminishing herself and driving away those who truly loved her. (see also Pink Floyd's "Outside the Wall")
As I said, she is a tragic figure, but she is unaware of this fact. She thinks she is being bold and daring -- that she is some sort of incredible rebel -- but it's immediately clear that everything she does and says is designed to get attention and assuage her ever-growing insecurities. Deep down, Elna Baker is terrified of herself, and terrified of having to choose a side. "LOVE ME!" she cries, "But don't look past my surface, and don't make me look at myself either!"
I hope that I am wrong and that I have somehow disastrously misread this book. But more than that, I hope that some day, as an older, wiser, stronger, healthier adult, she will look back at this and say "Good riddance!" to the sort of girl she used to be.
UPDATE: An acquaintance recently informed me that Elna Baker now proclaims herself an "ex-Mormon". In response to the question "But what will Elna write about now?" that acquaintance commented wryly: "Oh, but don't you know? Apparently being an EX-Mormon makes you a better expert on being Mormon than any actual Mormon." I think that really does put the whole thing into perspective.(less)
A wild, weird look into the history of the Marx Brothers (and more especially the making and impact of "Duck Soup" ((and even more especially into the...moreA wild, weird look into the history of the Marx Brothers (and more especially the making and impact of "Duck Soup" ((and even more especially into the thoughts and feelings of Roy Blount Jr. on the same)) ) written almost as a stream of consciousness exploration. Dangerous to start reading before bedtime, because now I don't want to stop!(less)