3.5 stars, more precisely. Oh, hell, let's go crazy. 3.75.
Since it seemed that everyone knew the story of "The Lottery," I wondered if I had read it3.5 stars, more precisely. Oh, hell, let's go crazy. 3.75.
Since it seemed that everyone knew the story of "The Lottery," I wondered if I had read it in high school too and forgotten it. I hadn't. So I spent the entire book in anticipation of this really creepy story waiting for me at the end. "The Lottery," in this post-Hunger Games world of ours, did not creep me out or horrify me in the way that everyone seemed to have expected. But I presume that I now know where Suzanne Collins got her nascent idea for a story. Personally, I found "The Tooth" and the strange character of Jim who followed the ailing woman and appeared out of nowhere at frequent intervals far more unsettling than the entrenched and unquestioned societal more of stoning a random community member for the sake of tradition.
I disliked the story of "Elizabeth," the failing publisher, the most. It seemed to drag on forever. I enjoyed the unsettled feelings of "Like Mother Used to Make" and "Charles" the most. I appreciated the bounces back and forth between city dwellers and small town folk, some appreciative of their surroundings and others disgruntled, following the sorts of vague fears and social dilemmas that occur in various social spaces.
I read in the introduction that the book was nearly subtitled The Adventures of James Harris, so I appreciated the knowledge that the repetition of that and other names among the stories was quite intentional, but I'm looking forward to a discussion about what his repetition signifies (apart from the obvious nefariousness he is often up to)....more
I just finished reading this book, but I had to go read the Wikipedia entry about it to make sure I hadn't missed some crucial plot element somewhereI just finished reading this book, but I had to go read the Wikipedia entry about it to make sure I hadn't missed some crucial plot element somewhere that would have explained my utter inability to connect with the legendary horror of this story. Nope. Didn't actually miss a thing. And when I think on the topics of the plot line that I read mostly on dreary grey October days, it ought to be sufficiently creepy. So I have to lay all the fault for my disinterest at James' writing style, which, it must be admitted, if there ever were a person to engage in such a critique--and surely there are many who so aim to do!--suffers inexorably from a wanton disregard from any interest in conveying meaning to a mystified reader, and rather, seems to glory in the main on the superfluous use of adverbs, gratuitous punctuation, and the purposeless lengthening of sentences beyond all reason. (I didn't lose you there, did I?) This slim 120 page book really could have fit into The New Yorker with some editing for modern reading sensibilities....more
I did not read this book as a child, though my brother enjoyed the whole Oz series, and it was clear from the very beginning that I missed the boat. II did not read this book as a child, though my brother enjoyed the whole Oz series, and it was clear from the very beginning that I missed the boat. I have read many children's books for the first time as an adult and enjoyed them a great deal. But this was not one of them. Every challenge in the companions' journey, though described as difficult or impossible to overcome at the outset, was dealt with swiftly and without much challenge. I never felt in the least bit caught up by their predicaments because each one was over before I could really bother. I doubt that it would have held my attention much as a 10-year-old either....more
My take-away impression of this set of graphic vignettes that mostly revolve around fairly mundane glimpses into her life and motherhood, is that thisMy take-away impression of this set of graphic vignettes that mostly revolve around fairly mundane glimpses into her life and motherhood, is that this is what happens when hipsters reach middle age and write a book. Of course it's going to be a graphic novel, because most people still think of them as "comic books" and are sooooo behind the times. And of course it's going to be a set of stories about how you swear a lot in front of and with your pre-teens because you're "that mom"--not like the other moms. Also, your 12-year-old daughter is a vegetarian--of course she is. And naturally you used the all-natural de-licer instead of the mega-chemical ones when she got lice. And then you wrote this story about it. And, imagine my shock to learn that you play the electric fiddle (guitar is so passé). I never would have guessed.
To be clear, I like graphic novels, I swear A LOT, I was a vegetarian when I was 12, and I would choose the all-natural de-licer if I needed such a product. I don't play the electric fiddle, but I do play the bassoon (nerd checkmate). It is not the content of her life that I find clichéd, nor do I object to the idea of a book about finding meaning in mundane life events, but in this case it added up to a whole that I found a bit pretentious and, well, hipsterish....more
Whatever Kahn's intended purpose was with this book, it did not mesh with what I was looking for. I am just beginning to explore the idea that I may pWhatever Kahn's intended purpose was with this book, it did not mesh with what I was looking for. I am just beginning to explore the idea that I may possibly one day choose to live in a tiny home. I appreciated the different varieties of homes profiled in this book, but could have used much more detail about them. It seems that the owners of each one just sent some photographs to be published along with their letters saying they'd love to be featured in the book and a couple interesting details about their home. I was looking for some more practical information, like floor plans, how people have chosen to balance trade-offs between, say, a bit more storage space and designated eating nook. I wanted to hear whether people who have chosen ladders to sleeping lofts rather than committing enough space to a staircase are happy with that decision after living with it for a while. I was also hoping for some answers about whether and how people successfully combine tiny house living with true homesteading (e.g., space to preserve food and store it, space for sewing projects and supplies, etc.). But never mind homesteading, some of these places don't even have space for a kitchen of whatever kind. Is it really a home if you can't cook in it? It must not be an all-the-time home. And to each his own, but I also fail to see the value of making a home for yourself that is so small that you have to have a separate outhouse, or in one case even, an outhouse, a bath house, and an entirely separate structure that is the bedroom, i.e., a shack just large enough for you to crawl onto your mattress.
Also, why are things like backyard sheds and a little covered bridge featured in a book about tiny homes? As much as I'm interested in simplicity, living ecologically, and living well within my financial means, comparing people's homes with tool sheds, potting sheds, and a covered bridge area is not making me more enthusiastic about the prospects of tiny home living.
I guess if you're reading through this book as an art/architecture book it may be fine. Or if you're just mildly curious about what this alternative lifestyle might look like on the surface, cool. I was hoping for something a little more helpful, I guess, and I will have to keep looking....more
Michael Ian Black is VERY frank about his life and its very normal, even banal problems in this memoir. Oh, you and your wife fight about chores? YourMichael Ian Black is VERY frank about his life and its very normal, even banal problems in this memoir. Oh, you and your wife fight about chores? Your babies are a pain in the ass to take care of when you only want to be sleeping? You got picked on in middle school because you weren't cool? This material should not make for an interesting read. The thing is, though, that Michael Ian Black is hilarious. His brief stories are ordered perfectly to jump from his present day back to a relevant childhood story, back to the present day in a way that improves each one. The banality of his problems makes them supremely relatable, and maybe has the power to make your own mundane problems a bit funnier? Maybe? Maybe arguing about who's going to clean the bathroom can be funny if only I can word it right?? At the very least, I'm pretty sure, after gulping this book down in basically one sitting, that everyone else's life is at least as shitty (and nonetheless happy) as mine....more
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, anJhumpa 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....more
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 ofAlthough 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....more
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 horrConfession: 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....more
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' juxtap3.5 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....more
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 ConstitutionAs 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....more
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 a3.5 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. ...more