Ok, I'll admit it, I was on a 10 hour flight from Europe and read all my other books and this was the only book I had left unread on my iPad. I had doOk, I'll admit it, I was on a 10 hour flight from Europe and read all my other books and this was the only book I had left unread on my iPad. I had downloaded it, I don't know when, because it was free and it was on the Random House list of 100 best modern novels, so I figured I'd eventually get to it. But, wow, it's an incredibly dated, fussy, morality play where an earnest young pig of a man eventually learns about love and life only after f**king up the lives of everyone around him. I know that you're not supposed to find the protagonist appealing through most of the arc of his story, but I didn't even find him appealing after his redemption.
Boring as hell and unpleasant. Only slightly more interesting than staring at the airplane seat back in front of me for a couple hours....more
I have to admit that previously I've tried to read one of Henry Miller's "Tropics of…" and failed because it felt so dated. Yes, I know he was doing lI have to admit that previously I've tried to read one of Henry Miller's "Tropics of…" and failed because it felt so dated. Yes, I know he was doing language experimentation and word jazz before any of the beats. But this travelogue of Greece made his riffs more relevant to me. He's very anti-capitalism, particularly as embodied by the corporation -- you could probably take some of the passages from this book and read them at a rally for the Occupy Movement or Blockage the Google Buses and if you didn't attribute them to Henry Miller, no one would know the words were almost 70 years old. But in this book, he's talking about a topic he really loves, Greece and the Greek people, and that offsets some of his curmudgeon-ness.
I surprised myself by really enjoying this book....more
It's easy to grow up in the West, in California, and not know where your food comes from, where your electricity, where your water comes from. It's eaIt's easy to grow up in the West, in California, and not know where your food comes from, where your electricity, where your water comes from. It's easy to believe that all the huge water projects, the dams, the aqueducts, are for the big desert cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, that the places in need of power and water and multi-billion dollar federal projects are the urban dwellers, and you would be completely wrong. This book is still as fascinating, hard-hitting, and prone to make you yell and throw things as it was 30 years ago when it written. Because nobody knows this shit. The destruction, the hubris, the greed, the stupidity. The chapter where the dam breaks and Rexburg is lost had me in tears.
And given the NPR story *last week* about how the Bureau of Reclamation wants to add another 10-20 feet to the top of Shasta dam, someone is not listening.
Dated. I have to keep reminding myself that Bond is a very sexist character and that had to come from somewhere. It reminded me of the advice that oneDated. I have to keep reminding myself that Bond is a very sexist character and that had to come from somewhere. It reminded me of the advice that one should never meet authors, because they're seldom as pleasant and intelligent as you would hope....more
Infinite Jest is considered part of the canon of English language literature, so nothing I say about it is going to move the needle one way or anotherInfinite Jest is considered part of the canon of English language literature, so nothing I say about it is going to move the needle one way or another. Bigger brains than mine have championed it as Writing(tm). They'll tell you it's a comedy. (it's not.) They'll tell you it's multi-braided plots that tell you everything about nothing and build meta-meaning. (It's a hot mess of topics I care nothing about -- junior competitive tennis, substance abuse, substance abuse recovery, pretentious art cinema, French Canadian separatist politics.) but it was the ending (that I had every reason to hope would eventually wrap itself back to and explain the first, very unexplained scene) and instead made me wonder if I'd had better luck reading the book from back to front or maybe in Arabic.
I feel it says more about me that I could actual slog through 1079 pages of this than anything about the quality of its story-telling..
And then... I realized that this book was a product of its time, the Seinfeld era, where in the first fire hose rush of the Internet bubble and our first blush with over-information, it was cool and hip to have no pretensions of meaning, that it was better to say a lot about nothing and fade off leaving your audience to argue what the hell was *that*.
Oh, dear gawk, even its dysfunctional future where TV is dead and we're in danger from oversized feral hamsters is so last century. But no worries, I'm sure in six months or a year, this soap bubble of a story will have completely vanished from my mind and I'll have to look it up in Wikipedia to remember what it was about.
So, here's a woman, a jazz age baby, with the bob and dark eyes, who flees Kansas at 15 to study dance with Martha Graham, dances in the Follies, workSo, here's a woman, a jazz age baby, with the bob and dark eyes, who flees Kansas at 15 to study dance with Martha Graham, dances in the Follies, works in silent movies and hangs out with Hearst at San Simeon and Bogart and Chaplin and John Wayne and everyone who was anyone, steals part from Greta Garbo. Surrounded by men who paid her rent and took her dancing and bought her expensive clothes, she ends up throwing it all away when she's 30-ish because, man, she wasn't going to be a slave to the system and it interfered with her drinking and dancing all night, followed by fifty years of very hard luck because, well, it's no longer the jazz age and the men who keep women are looking for younger girls.
All though the essays in the book, she keeps telling me how independent she was, how smart and well-read she was, but how independent and smart can you consider yourself if you're kept by millionaires and never give a thought to the future and living the bulk of your life after the brief party was done, alone in poverty? I know it was a different age and she was a product of that age, but I struggled with the idea of her as a proto-celebrity, self destructive and self absorbed, having successfully convinced herself that she was where she was because she was special, that the celebrity and good times were deserved, rather than just being manufactured by chance and other people.
It is refreshing that she has no excuses for her downfall, that she just found it inconvenient and boring to do the things that could have kept her in the good graces of Hollywood a bit longer. The rest of us make a few compromises to get through the years....more
This book made me feel really old. I have no evidence that anyone enjoys their adolescence, that everyone feels like disconnected loser outsiders. Th
This book made me feel really old. I have no evidence that anyone enjoys their adolescence, that everyone feels like disconnected loser outsiders. That we're all just stumbling through it doing everything wrong. But I survived it and you survived it and we all went on to figure out who we were. So I read the book but I just didn't care, which probably means that I'm 152 years old and don't remember what's its like to be young and bursting with hormones. But seriously someone go and tell the boy that it's all gonna work out and none of this goes on your permanent record.
When I started this book, I was amazed and astounded. I flatter myself that I write this way, or maybe it's better to say that I aspire to write this
When I started this book, I was amazed and astounded. I flatter myself that I write this way, or maybe it's better to say that I aspire to write this way -- the poetic attention to detail, the way she notices the little things that say everything about the big things. Her reporting of the Spanish Civil War and World War II are so incredibly spot on. I was a huge fan.
And then we get to the portion about Vietnam. And she adopts this tone that she was the only American who had problems with the Vietnam War (which is wrong) and that no American soldiers were in an danger (which is wrong) and makes a great point of not knowing or caring who Robert McNamara was. Her reports flirted around the bigger picture of all the millions of, billions of dollars that are spent on refugees without making the refugee lives any better, so where does the money go? *That* is a compelling thread for late twentieth century wars, but because she doesn't see beyond the details, she misses it. Her later writings are almost a cautionary tale of how we try to keep using the same filters on different situations, how we age ungracefully by not being flexible enough....more
I can see why this book is listed as an inspiration and influence of writers like Hemingway: the truth of how people think and feel, the emphasis on tI can see why this book is listed as an inspiration and influence of writers like Hemingway: the truth of how people think and feel, the emphasis on the small details and moments, the poetry of how we live our lives. There are moments in the stories which all circle each other, that make you catch your breath.
But is the writing enjoyable? No. Are you desperately looking at the page count to figure out how close you are to the end? Yes.
This book is the springboard that influenced the course of more famous writers. A historical note of where writing changed, but by itself not all that compelling....more
It feels like most of the writing / exploration / thinking about the Arctic was all over and done with a 100 years ago. That Antarctica and all thoseIt feels like most of the writing / exploration / thinking about the Arctic was all over and done with a 100 years ago. That Antarctica and all those penguins get the tourists and the press. Most of the modern books are picture books aimed at children to show them all the wonderful not-fully-understood things that used to exist before global warning caused the death of species.
The best part of the book is that all the excepts are short, so you're on to the next cold brutal death before you know it....more
Twenty-first century man doesn't goes out into the wilderness without a flight plan, GPS, satellite phones, emergency SOS beacons, a corporate sponsorTwenty-first century man doesn't goes out into the wilderness without a flight plan, GPS, satellite phones, emergency SOS beacons, a corporate sponsor. So, we ratchet up the risk level to compensate. Blind climbers on Everest, kayaks dropping down 189 foot waterfalls, swimming from Cuba.
This is the adventure tale of an old skool mid-20th century guy who just went out there to a blank spot on a map to see what was out there and report back. Let's just say he had no plan B. The author who wrote a number of first person sub-Arctic adventures has been challenged as to whether or not he actually did the things he said he did. But the story feels very real and is very engaging. It is a tale of an outsider trying to understand a foreign culture, so you have to accept that the author is struggling with his interpretations and will get things wrong.
I felt that a walked away with some small understanding of what these people's lives were like....more
Under the Volcano is a highlight of 20th century literature and considered one of the best modern novels in the world. I'm not sure there is anythingUnder the Volcano is a highlight of 20th century literature and considered one of the best modern novels in the world. I'm not sure there is anything I could say to promote or disparage it that would move the needle on the appreciation of it.
To me this novel was infuriating. Part of it were amazing, poetic, glowing descriptions of the characters moving through the landscape. The attention to detail, the crafting of a scene, the character of his wife who when you finally get her backstory, it pierces you. There were entire paragraphs which burned into my brain like ball lightening, illuminating life and the world we live in. But the main character, the narrator, the least interesting character in the book, is a man drinking himself to death and the story (as he gets progressively drunker and drunker) becomes more about his hallucinations, his dreams, his fragmented, unfinished thoughts, his difficulties understand what's going on around him, well, lost me. This is probably what it feels like to drink yourself to death, to put yourself in harms way because you are too drunk to avoid, to just get up and walk out the door when you see trouble, to chase off everyone who loved you and could have had your back, but these parts are not a pleasant read.
The over-arching theme that you can't allow anyone to love you if you can love yourself and you can't live without love is repeated in the story to make sure you "get it". But those beautiful poetic scenes, they took my breath away. A very mixed bag....more
Every 5 years or so, someone convinces me that there's this English comedy of manners that I need to read because it's sooo funny, I'm going to enjoyEvery 5 years or so, someone convinces me that there's this English comedy of manners that I need to read because it's sooo funny, I'm going to enjoy it so much. And it's always the same combination of mistaken identity and foolish over-proud men trying to keep their dignity and stiff upper lip as the situation deteriorates around them. Though this one did have the added bonus of racism, because we all know that racism is just hilarious.
I plowed through it, I finished it, I have read my English comedy of manners for this half decade....more