Many reviewers say they get confused when reading this book. To aid understanding, I recommend readers simply toss out everything they think they know...moreMany reviewers say they get confused when reading this book. To aid understanding, I recommend readers simply toss out everything they think they know about the universe before diving in.
The problem I kept facing while reading was that the universe as per Hawking didn't match the universe as per, well, me. My concepts of infinite time and space, gravity spinning planets around stars, and time flowing at a constant rate were centuries old. Sir Isaac Newton conceived them when an apple smacked him upside the head. So when Hawking claims that gravity is energy, that time had a beginning and potential end, that there are ten or eleven dimensions (some folded into pockets of the four dimensions we know), and that there exists a parallel universe (brane) that we cannot see but whose effects we feel, it didn't match my preconceived notions. At. All.
Hawking is a positivist: if current theory doesn't match observable phenomena, he scraps it and reconceptualizes everything. Even if it means starting over. Even if it means proving Newton and Einstein wrong, or at least not totally right.
And, really, you have to give him props for trying. This is quantum mechanics at its most accessible. Full-color illustrations. Nerd humor. Figurative analogies from choo-choo trains to two-dimensional camels. He's doing his best to let the lay people have it.
As an aside, the most fascinating chapter for me was probably the least scientific. He hypothesizes, based on current, observable trends, what human life will be like in the next few centuries. What's his vision? Read it to find out. I'll give you a hint: it's not like Star Trek or Star Wars.(less)
The pace was glacial, the characters one or more of these three qualities: whiny, annoying, or ridiculous (with perhaps the exception of Doctor Prunes...moreThe pace was glacial, the characters one or more of these three qualities: whiny, annoying, or ridiculous (with perhaps the exception of Doctor Prunesquallor).(less)
To read Black Like Me is a very immersive experience. I found myself looking up from the book, suddenly disoriented, trying to come back to present-da...moreTo read Black Like Me is a very immersive experience. I found myself looking up from the book, suddenly disoriented, trying to come back to present-day reality. He writes with pathos and dignity about the reality of living as a black man in the 1960's American South.
I would really like to give the book four stars, but toward the end Griffin begins endorsing self-imposed segregation, criticizing whites who want to participate in civil rights. Irony aside, it's strange how a man who fought racism much of his adult life suggests the races now live separate. It's tantamount to throwing in the towel.(less)
It's not just hype--This is an excellent biography. I couldn't help but feel drawn into Adams' life. McCullough said John Adams is like a Dickensian c...moreIt's not just hype--This is an excellent biography. I couldn't help but feel drawn into Adams' life. McCullough said John Adams is like a Dickensian character, quirky, tempestuous, passionate, well-rounded (rotund?), and lovable. And it's true; he reads like that.
My favorite sections were the correspondences when he and Jefferson were friends in Europe and, later in life, writing from Quincy and Monticello. Two of America's greatest writers producing a wealth of letters to which we are now privy.
It's evident that McCullough loves John Adams, and who wouldn't? But the book's sole flaw is that the writer seems to too eagerly defend Adams at every turn, even excusing the bouts of temper and the infamous Alien and Sedition Act. Maybe it's only fair given Adams' reputation among historians (who label him vain, a monarchist, a lunatic). After all, this is the founding father with not a single monument to his name in Washington, D.C. But it's a little distracting when McCullough rushes to defend Adams when I didn't necessarily put him at the defendant's table in the first place.
I feel torn. I love Jefferson's mind and writing, but, out of the founding fathers, Adams is the one I'd rather have for a pen pal or neighbor.(less)
I've recently given in to reading more modern works. But books like this make me want to go back to nineteenth century literature. I seldom, if ever,...moreI've recently given in to reading more modern works. But books like this make me want to go back to nineteenth century literature. I seldom, if ever, read any truly awful classics because the drivel is all out of print. As a friend in college said, time is a good filter.
Asking many questions, Everything Is Illuminated conclusively answers almost none of them. It's hard to grasp what Foer means to say with this book, if anything. Some theories: a) Apparently, love is unattainable because of the walls that separate us, or b) love is merely performance so oft-rehearsed it becomes reality, or c) love cannot be arrived at without cutting ties to others, or d) love is a construct of imagined self-identity. The novel suggests all of these possibilities, but doesn't give us any easy answers.
Not that I'm looking for easy answers. Any who know me well also know that I dislike everything so clearly stated that the moral of the story can be summed up in a single sentence, spoon-fed (though I do try, see above). But it seems the book doesn't even seriously explore the depths of the questions it raises. The characters, in tragicomedy, experience feeling and perform actions like they have no choice. But short of star-crossed, these characters all felt contrived, spouting deep thoughts in spite of themselves. Giving no answers because they are denied them. And I couldn't shake the idea that Foer's novel is clever for the sake of being clever, obscene at times for the sake of being obscene.
I admit that some of Alex's language choices made me laugh aloud, but the novel's novelties wear off, and just made me feel frustrated and spleened.(less)