Like most collections, this was a mixed bag. There were a couple, I simply didn't finish, but most were pretty solid literary efforts with a few tryinLike most collections, this was a mixed bag. There were a couple, I simply didn't finish, but most were pretty solid literary efforts with a few trying their hand at literary genre (mystery or SF)with usually less that stellar results. Many were moving though they tended to be on the depressing side; a few were laugh out loud funny. Steve Almond's "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punished" opens the book very strongly but was followed by one of the stories I couldn't finish. Not a great beginning -- perhaps that was why it took a year to finish. Jennifer Egan's "Safari" was solid but would have been better without the metafictional ending. It was followed by Danielle Evan's "Someone Ought to tell Her There's Nowhere to Go" a deeply moving story about the effect of war on daily lives in America. Lori Ostland's "All Boy" and Maggie Shipstead's "The Cowboy Tango" were solid and "PS" by Jill MCCorkle was hilarious. The book ends with Wells Tower's "Raw Water," easily the best of the genre tinged story though the ending was weak and somewhat predictable.
If you like literary fiction, this is a good intro to a lot of fine writers. It also makes me want to subscribe to Tin House -- where many of my favorite stories were originally published....more
I was disappointed by this book -- not entirely by John Baxter but by the editor, publisher and marketing department which sold this book as somethingI was disappointed by this book -- not entirely by John Baxter but by the editor, publisher and marketing department which sold this book as something it wasn't. This book is a lot of things but the story of Paris during WWI is not one of them. Rather it is a series of anecdotes about Paris (yes, part of the book is set there), Australia, England, the rest of Europe -- and only partly set in the period of 1914-18.
In fact a significant part revolves around the author's search for the truth around his unremarkable and largely unremarked grandfather (dead by the time John Baxter is seven). More than anything this is a story about John Baxter himself -- his concerns and the things that draw his eye. Few of the anecdotes will be new to anyone with a basic familiarity with Paris of the period. The commentary is thin at best and does little to illuminate the city of light.
The saving grace: Baxter is a good writer and a fine storyteller and some of the pictures have seldom been seen.
If you really want to know about Paris or the Great War, there are plenty of books that will do it better....more
After a recent spate of books praising the value of instinct and emotion as the basis of great decision making and 'common sense' politics, Heath launAfter a recent spate of books praising the value of instinct and emotion as the basis of great decision making and 'common sense' politics, Heath launches a vigorous defense of human reason as the only way to move forward in a modern complex world. Linking the latest understandings of cognitive science, Heath shows how our 'lazy' brain, evolved to deal with primitive conditions and tiny social groups, often works against our best interests and seldom gets it right when complex social issues are at stake.
Reason, which is slow and dependent on social institutions, is easily overwhelmed by appeals -- often through deliberate political and commercial tricks -- to our 'gut' responses. He also shows how easy it is for political parties to use 'truthiness' -- things that feel true even when they aren't -- to defeat and even denigrate more 'nuanced,' but actually true proposals.
He offers few solutions but that's okay -- sometimes it is enough to understand the situation and leave the implementation of social and political changes to others....more
Although occassionally lapsing into hagiography, The Eco Barons offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and motivations of a dozen or so individuaAlthough occassionally lapsing into hagiography, The Eco Barons offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and motivations of a dozen or so individuals -- all american -- who are devoting their lives and, in many cases, fortunes to environmental causes -- from protecting endangered species and preserving ecosystems to creating parks and fighting climate change.
Doug Tompkins, co-founder of Esprit clothing, is a major figure in the book, devoting his $200 million fortune to preserving wilderness in Chile and Argentina and to supporting a wide variety of eco-causes and organizations around the world. Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt's Bees, and Ted Turner of CNN are major figures as well. (Turner holds more land in the USA -- 2 million acres -- than any other individual.)
Most of them are dedicated and determined environmentalists who use whatever legal tactics available to them to advance their causes. Even if you don't agree with all their views, you might be thankful they exist -- because without them the world would be in even worse shape than it already is....more
Although Fitzgerald is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Great Gatsby, a perenniel of high school curriculae, he was like his sometimeAlthough Fitzgerald is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Great Gatsby, a perenniel of high school curriculae, he was like his sometime friend, Ernest Hemingway, a master of the short story. Perhaps because he wasn't burdened with the need to write the great American novel, he let his sense of whimsy, play and pathos have full play. "Bernice Bobs her Hair" and the "Diamond as Big as the Ritz" were particularly memorable and both captured the exurbance and hope, not to mention the frantic pursuit of fun, that marked the Roaring Twenties. ...more