Jhumpa Lahiri sure does know how to express the dilemmas of the human condition. Each story in her collection focuses on a Bengali-American family, an...moreJhumpa Lahiri sure does know how to express the dilemmas of the human condition. Each story in her collection focuses on a Bengali-American family, and the details are in some ways culture-specific. But the tales and feelings are universal as she wades through families and friendships, growing up and growing old. She masters the art of short story telling. Every story is satisfying, neither stunted nor overly prolonged. Worthy of the praise it has received.(less)
Although I have read a fair few graphic novels now, I am not a comic book reader. This, in fact, was my first superhero graphic novel read (though of...moreAlthough I have read a fair few graphic novels now, I am not a comic book reader. This, in fact, was my first superhero graphic novel read (though of course I'm very familiar with Batman and other superheros through movies and TV). So judge my reaction accordingly:
Art: A+. Fantastic, evocative, wonderful
Storyline: C. I think far too little time was spent on the actual crisis and climax compared to the lead-up development time. I had the impression that The Joker had Commissioner Gordon for a few hours before Batman came. I don't think that's probably what they intended to convey. If it is, then I'm even less impressed with the storyline.
Dialog: D. Especially in the first half, the dialog reminded me strongly of fanfiction. Bad fanfiction.(less)
Confession: I never read this book, or any Madeleine L'Engle, as a child. My brother loved it, which I took as a clear sign that it was obviously horr...moreConfession: I never read this book, or any Madeleine L'Engle, as a child. My brother loved it, which I took as a clear sign that it was obviously horrible, and that was that. But having found a copy in my local Little Free Library, I decided that at age 30 I could no longer allow my brother (despite the fact that he continues to be both (A) my brother and (B) a Boy) to unwittingly dictate my movie and book choices so tyrannically. But having read this book around two decades later than I was intended to, I brought to it a much different level of understanding than I was meant to.
This book is clearly a product of the 1960s. In a way, with a strong female lead character who is good at math and science (and whose mother has a Ph.D. in physics!), and who learns that it is her "faults" that allow her to be strong and independent, it is progressive, and something that I would be happy to see my daughters reading. But at the same time, the story is resolutely Christian, sometimes explicitly, to a degree that were I a non-Christian child, I think I would have felt detached from it. I find it somewhat unbelievable that children being raised in such an odd, radically scientific home, even in 1960s Middle America, would express such knowledge of and belief in Christianity. Additionally, the three Mrs. W's bear a clear resemblance to the Holy Trinity, with the oldest being barely able to maintain physical form and the youngest being the most comfortable and relatable in human form, and their final lesson that love is the answer. But what makes this book's publication era so telling is the form in which the Dark Planet Camazotz takes. It is a place covered in shadow in which the Holy Trinity cannot go and has no power. It is also a place devoid of love and feeling, routinized and bureaucratized to the degree that no one is allowed any individuality at all, because they are brainwashed by a central, bodyless mind that lives in a shiny, surprisingly ornate domed lair. In other words, it is the godless, heartless Soviet Union, where children who bounce balls at uneven intervals are taken from their parents, jailed, and corporeally punished until they can learn to bounce the balls just like all the other children. Were I to have read this as a child, of course, I would not have understood this allusion. But I didn't, and now I'm 30 and cannot fail to see political messages everywhere. So that is where L'Engle lost me a bit. I still think that this is an entertaining book with a good story line, and that its message to children that they are better off being who they are, as weird as they are, and thinking for themselves, is excellent. But it is nonetheless one more Cold War book that is subtly about how We are Good and Right and Love God, and they are shrouded, evil conformists who have entirely lost their ability to think for themselves or know God. I intend to read the rest of the series and expect that when I have finish, a rousing chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" will be called for.(less)
3.5 stars. I read The Red Diary first, and then The Re[a]d Diary, which meant that I did not come to Steven Seagle's explanation of the stories' juxtap...more3.5 stars. I read The Red Diary first, and then The Re[a]d Diary, which meant that I did not come to Steven Seagle's explanation of the stories' juxtaposition until after I had finished both versions. I was reading the second one (Seagle's "translation") under the impression that it was a retelling of the original story in some way related to the content, not just the art, and I spent much of the second story confused. I flipped the book over several times to go back to the first story, trying to regain the context, and figure out what was going on with the narrator's identity, but ended up no less confused--obviously. The way the book was printed, with the barcode and price on the side of The Re[a]d Diary, implied to me that I ought to start with The Red Diary, but I think I would have been better off the other way around, so that I would have understood that the second story was, in fact, a second story.
But putting the confusion of my poor random choice aside, I found this book remarkable. The art is wonderful and evocative. I think the fact that Seagle's story came so close to the original in many ways (such that I could confuse them for two angles on truly the same story) is a testament to the skill of the art. It tells a compelling story without the need for words. And I found Seagle's idea of "translating" languages he doesn't know clever and interesting. While I agree with him that at the beginning such work is merely a play on words and lacks depth, I think finding meaning out of that random assortment of words to make them something meaningful and interesting is a great exercise in language and creativity.
Perhaps I'll re-read the book at some point now that I know what's going on.(less)
As a constitutional scholar, I picked up this book with some trepidation about how it was going to portray the history and content of the Constitution...moreAs a constitutional scholar, I picked up this book with some trepidation about how it was going to portray the history and content of the Constitution, specifically the aspects that are currently the most politically charged (the Second Amendment, for instance). I was generally pleasantly surprised about the political neutrality and balance. I was also pleased about the fact that the author acknowledged the fact that neither the Civil War amendments nor Brown v. Board of Education immediately fixed the horrible situation in which blacks found themselves in the US. However, I found some of the descriptions of content or history surprisingly stunted. If a reader didn't already know the story of what happened leading up to the case of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court seized the power of judicial review for itself, I have a hard time believing that she would really understand it after the stilted (and at one point inaccurate) version shown in this book. Nor do I think the author emphasized enough how radical John Marshall's decision was, or how crucial it has been to our mode of governing forever after. I had a similar feeling about the very brief and mostly accurate description of the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford.
Furthermore, while I greatly appreciated that the author often reminded us that the Bill of Rights did not originally apply to the states, and that it took the 14th Amendment to create the mechanism by which nearly all of its provisions would eventually bind the states, I was surprised at how little coverage the 14th Amendment got in its turn. How and why does the 14th Amendment make the Bill of Rights apply to the states? You'll have to look elsewhere to find out! This book sure doesn't tell you.
I have more...why were there no women included in the drawing of the Supreme Court justices? In fact, why were there really only portrayals of women in places that had specifically to do with issues of gender? Why is the author so frank about the fact that the 13th Amendment didn't do a whole lot to help out former slaves in practice, but so silent about how ineffective protections of the requirements for probable cause and reading of Miranda rights have been since the 1970s?
So in the end, I would not put this book on my syllabus for any American Government class.(less)
3.5 stars. I liked this book. I thought the juxtaposition of Vladek Spiegelman's story of the Holocaust and Arthur Spiegelman's experiences with his a...more3.5 stars. I liked this book. I thought the juxtaposition of Vladek Spiegelman's story of the Holocaust and Arthur Spiegelman's experiences with his aging father was brilliant. I know that this book was groundbreaking in its time for opening up the idea of graphic novels apart from superhero comics, and that has obviously been an important addition to the ways people can tell and read stories. Reading it nearly thirty years after the original publication of the first volume, however, I had to ask those more knowledgeable than I regarding graphic novels what was so groundbreaking about the art or style of this book. I felt sure that I was missing something deep about the craftsmanship of the drawing in my lack of education. Their response, though, was mostly that it was among the first of its kind, and had it been published more recently it might not have garnered the same attention.
Both the Spiegelmans, Vladek in his telling and Art in his drawing and recording, make the horrors of the Holocaust very real and present to readers now 3 generations removed from WWII. In that way I believe this continues to be an important book for people to read. Many other stories about the details of Auschwitz and the other camps are so disturbing that they are hard to get through. But the format here and the jumping between the very relatable frustrations of Vladek's and Art's present and the inhuman atrocities of the Holocaust allow the reader to swallow the horrors in tolerable doses. (less)
I loved this book! Despite being its namesake, I had never read the real story. I had a picture book version as a kid that I vaguely remembered a girl...moreI loved this book! Despite being its namesake, I had never read the real story. I had a picture book version as a kid that I vaguely remembered a girl named Heidi, a mean grandpa that I was nonetheless not afraid of for some reason, and a girl in a wheel chair. Oh, and an owl named Hootie (never did find him in this version). My patchy memories were clarified, and I was delighted by Heidi as everyone else who met her was.
I noticed, particularly as I tried to describe the story to my niece to encourage her to read it, that it doesn't follow much of a real story line. The only real conflict is when she is whisked away to Germany, and that is resolved fairly quickly. Otherwise Heidi is just pretty much delighted by everything for the whole story and everyone is delighted by her, there is no danger, and no major accomplishment. Heidi is just happy through and through. It shouldn't be a good story by any literary standards I know of, but it was delightful.(less)
I had several worries going into this book. The first was that it was going to be a dull litany of statistics that I would soon glaze over (mind you,...moreI had several worries going into this book. The first was that it was going to be a dull litany of statistics that I would soon glaze over (mind you, I have taught many a statistics class, but this STILL worried me). Seeing an endorsement from Bill Bryson on the cover alleviated this to a large degree, however. And my trust in Bill has never yet been misplaced. Despite a heavy reliance on statistics, charts, and technicalities for the meat of the book, Berners-Lee works in a lovely dose of British wit. I wonder if Brits find him equally amusing, or if we find it funnier because the language is that much more charming to our Yankee ears. That being said, however, I did find that the numbers he gave had little meaning for me. I understood that the things I read about first were not so bad and the things I was reading about later were perpetually worse, but beyond that, I retained very little sense of the proportion that he was trying to convey. My mind, mathematically inclined though it is, was far more focused on the British humor of the narratives than on the numbers. This is one of very few books that I'm sorry I borrowed from the library rather than owning, because I feel I could glean much more of the math if I could periodically take a closer look at the numbers without re-reading the narrative. But I feel that I did come away with a good sense of what he discussed in words rather than leaving in numbers.
My second worry was that reading this book would simply paralyze me by making me unwilling to do anything that causes a carbon footprint (dear lord, I'm flying--FLYING!--home for Christmas in a few weeks. It's less than 400 miles, but I may as well just chop down a few hundred trees while I'm at it), or at the very least cause me to develop over-elaborate rituals to make my actions as carbon friendly as possible. The fact that he started with the carbon footprint of a single text message, something that had never been on my radar of Terrible Things I'm Doing to the Planet, made this even worse. I may indeed start pouring my water for tea into a cup and then use a funnel to get just that amount into the kettle to avoid boiling more than necessary. But perhaps you don't share my neuroses. In fact, Berners-Lee explicitly encourages you not to. Repeatedly. It's probably not his fault that I am riddled with carbon guilt, since I knew that would happen before I started, but I do seem to be the target audience here, given my propensity to care a lot.
And given that I was more into the narrative than the numbers, I was also a Very Bad Academic, and didn't bother to check a single one of his endnotes as I read. I noted that he had lots of them (good!), and that he has several degrees in science (very good!), and he further made it very explicit many times that he was making only semi-justifiable guesstimates with his numbers. So I decided to just implicitly trust him that he had done the work he claimed to and had backing from legitimate sources as he claimed to. If I'm wrong about that and he's playing me for a fool, at least I'll be a very self-satisfied fool as I measure out my tea water each day and smugly bike to work.(less)