How can I review a book that expounds on what I already do? Well, I can give you my impressions, my own soulful commentary, my sense of the book as it...moreHow can I review a book that expounds on what I already do? Well, I can give you my impressions, my own soulful commentary, my sense of the book as it speaks to me... Bayard is playful and good fun throughout, drawing sharply on what he has and hasn't read in order to push his (and Oscar Wilde's) argument about literary criticism. He staggers slightly at the end and various questions plague me now that I set down the book: How does otherness and culture work (as in the Tiv-Hamlet example)? What does Bayard actually think the self of which criticism can speak means? In the end, I admit, I feel his surge of creative self-expression being integral to education--especially of a literary or philosophical bent--is very, very useful. Not to mention that he is legitimizing a process of student and academician behavior that seems ubiquitous and often entirely necessary. I can take issue with Bayard's reading--and I do in various points--but deeply appreciate his project and his sardonic success. The book is not perfect, but its coy, indirect, and entertaining route is well worth skimming, at least for ten minutes or so. (less)
In the process of reading We I wrote down at least a half dozen brilliant, poetic quotes. We was a story - not just a book or plot or style - that too...moreIn the process of reading We I wrote down at least a half dozen brilliant, poetic quotes. We was a story - not just a book or plot or style - that took time for me to work through. Though a meager 200 pages, I can think of few other books that have allowed so much meditation so regularly. The story predates and inspires the numerous dystopian tales written over the course of the 20th Century and identifies, at times, with other material ranging from The Brothers Karamazov to Brave New World. The foreword to my particular edition (Viking 1972, Tr. Mirra Ginsburg) places Zamyatin rightly amongst the great political commentators and story weavers. We was a novel I had been intending to get to for sometime and wonder why I can think of no one who urged me toward it faster. If the reader were to rush too quickly through We, I believe some of the lessons and tribulations might come off as overbearing; but when given adequate time to savor the richness of its telling, I cannot help but thoroughly recommend this to others and commend the visionary behind it, not to mention this Ginsburg and her translation. This is one of the few books that, having read it once, I now feel compelled to purchase a copy to have around. As an aspiring writer myself, I know that further inspiration still lays fallow in these pages.(less)
Though I have yet to finish this book, I find it a continual source of amusement. The dry writing can be challenging, but it is such a sharp parody (n...moreThough I have yet to finish this book, I find it a continual source of amusement. The dry writing can be challenging, but it is such a sharp parody (not exactly an ironic one) of a survivalist's to-the-point instruction that I can't help but enjoy it. Max Brooks captures a sense of necessity to inform his audience about the impending (thanks to World War Z) zombie apocalypse and the anxiety that such a survival guide entails. I comment that it is a book to calmly come back to rather than read straight-through, since its complete lack of plot does become somewhat stifling. One still enjoys wading through the thoroughly and logically (as best as one gets with the living dead) constructed world Brooks has crafted.(less)
Ellis succeeds at writing about comics in the most circuitous way possible. With the sometimes narrator of the robotic head of Jack Kirby, Ellis provi...moreEllis succeeds at writing about comics in the most circuitous way possible. With the sometimes narrator of the robotic head of Jack Kirby, Ellis provides a sort of ethnographic history of comics, charting the confounded, conflicted, and intensely political world of comics writers, artists, and bussinesspeople. Though the volume is slim, it contains more ideas, explication, and people than a single reading can divine. It will be worth returning to often. As usual, Ellis's wit is rich and heady, not unlike working through a satisfying pint of dark stout. Ambiguities, uncertainties, tangents, and in-jokes run rampant, but Ellis proves himself an adequate guide into, if not out of, the history of comics. His constant references to potential later volumes and other robotic heads of comics' figureheads suggests that future jungles, depths, and psyches are yet to come. I eagerly await them.(less)
When engaging in those frustrating discussions in which interlocutors use terms like "genre fiction" and say things like, "I don't spend much time rea...moreWhen engaging in those frustrating discussions in which interlocutors use terms like "genre fiction" and say things like, "I don't spend much time reading genre fiction," Ursula K Le Guin is one of those authors I love to bring up. Whether it is in the political philosophizing and social theory mixed up in "The Dispossessed" or the queering and multigendering of the rich characters in "The Left Hand of Darkness," it is a cinch to argue the depth with which Le Guin crafts her stories, ideas, and characters. "The Lathe of Heaven" is another such book I can introduce into the discussion, but for slightly different reasons.
The style and prose of "The Lathe of Heaven" is less finely tuned than in the previous two works mentioned--which are surprisingly published on either side of "Lathe," 1969 for "Left Hand" and 1974 for "Dispossessed"--but that isn't to say it is poor. The work feels much more like Philip K Dick than I expected, pronounced both in its often more straightforward style as well as its surreal and delightfully paranoiac substance. Telling this story is decidedly more difficult, but it is assuredly well worth the effort. The difficulty arises from not only the multiple perspectives--George Orr, Heather Lelache, and Dr. Haber--but the multiple continuities or memories (Haber refers to them as continua) that these characters undergo. As I feel is the case with many Philip K Dick stories, the author attempts to portray the internal conflicts of the characters through the storytelling itself, which can make for a rough but potent ride.
Nearing the end of "The Lathe of Heaven," and more and more upon reflection, I wished almost for annotations and footnotes/endnotes on the text. In order to articulate a metastructure to the plot mechanisms at play, le Guin deftly incorporates vague references to mysticism, traditional beliefs--especially Australian Aboriginal folklore--and likely psychoanalytic and sociological theories. Such allusions, highlighted all the more by the introductory quotes in each chapter, shape the narrative but do not the least bit hinder the telling.
My gripes are few, but I could not set them aside, particularly having been so engrossed in other le Guin works. I cannot escape an alarming flatness in George Orr through most of the book; albeit, George Orr's apparent flatness is addressed in the thoughts and actions again and again, which is inevitably overturned by a more sympathetic reading and listening to his person. All the same, his inability to react with any real decisiveness until the axe blade is on his neck is rather painful. Similarly, Dr Haber's character is distressingly familiar, but the reader is forced to only ever identify him as a well-intentioned villain, a doctor with a shiny scalpel with which to reshape the world. An attempt to more finely humanize Haber would have made his character and his quest more sympathetic and his methods more unpleasantly palatable.
"The Lathe of Heaven" is indubitably successful. It comes with that characteristic le Guin panache, not to mention a delicious touch of SF inside joking. She tells a story rich with social concerns and the manic attempts to resolve them, but weighing in most on the impacts such endeavors have on the human spirit and personal identity. I cannot help but expect slightly more, but it does leave only very little to desire.(less)
A marvelous, elegant read. Eggers brilliantly covers the experiences of the Zeitoun family through Hurricane Katrina and into the injustices that foll...moreA marvelous, elegant read. Eggers brilliantly covers the experiences of the Zeitoun family through Hurricane Katrina and into the injustices that followed. Its understated, often journalistic style often feels dry, but it does succeed at making the most powerful snippets all the stronger. The faith, love, and commitment of Abdulrahman and his wife Kathy are palpable in the text; their fears and confusion are all the more real with each passing day. In understanding the painful episodes that sculpt individuals, families, a people, a nation, these strong personal narratives define a character that is otherwise difficult to grasp.
I cannot say that reading Zeitoun was always a pleasure--its somber subject matter and painful realizations prevent that--but it is quietly powerful and genuinely successful at charting its uncertain waters. From Dave Eggers, it is not what I suspected, but I am happy that he has told this family's story so successfully.(less)