I am an Alexander Hamilton hipster. I loved him before it was cool.
Not to drag on Lin-Manuel Miranda's parade. My APUSH teacher in high school waxedI am an Alexander Hamilton hipster. I loved him before it was cool.
Not to drag on Lin-Manuel Miranda's parade. My APUSH teacher in high school waxed rhapsodical about Hamilton and my first exposure to America's most under-appreciated founding father was through the Federalist papers and a subsequent trip to a museum exhibit. This was circa 2004, 2005 and among our APUSH class, a secret cabal of female teenage Hamilton admirers was born. That Christmas, one of our number gifted me a Hamilton biography—not Chernow's—which I devoured, and that was mostly that. I hoarded my ten dollar bills for years but a stint abroad dampened my Hamilton fervor into a warm fondness.
Fast forward ten years later. I am sitting in Richard Rogers theater, watching dumbfounded as Lin-Manuel Miranda rips through American history with his verbal gymnastics, reaches into my ears and slaps me awake to the rhythm and beat of a hip hop musical revolution. The next day I am bombarded with press buzz about Hamilton, articles ruminating on his place in American history and how his legacy has resonated even as the man faded into obscurity. So I downloaded this book and where Miranda's musical punched me awake, Chernow's biography (the inspiration for the show) rekindled my Hamilton fever.
I used to think biographies were dull, dry things. In a bid for historical accuracy, my view was that they treated their subjects antiseptically. Like a dead frog on a dissection table.
Chernow does not do this and that is what makes this biography about a great man enthralling. The Founding Fathers are less dignified, paternalistic icons and more like squabbling teenage girls. George Washington's notorious temper, Thomas Jefferson's oily duplicity, Hamilton's genius and crippling braggadocio—these are all lovingly painted, expertly researched and described with compelling momentum. More importantly, even as a Hamiltonian, it changed the way I thought about the country I live in and the people who shaped it.
Yes, Hamilton's name is on the cover but this is equally a story about a nascent America and the men who fought, squabbled and wrote pages upon pages upon pages to guide its future. And by framing it from the perspective of the original American immigrant overachiever, it invites all minorities to take ownership of our shared, collective history.
Like seriously. For fuck's sake Treasury Secretary Lew. Kick Jackson off the 20, give it to Harriet Tubman and keep Hamilton on the 10. ...more
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a gift with a pen. With a simple turn of phrase, Marquez is able to whisk readers away to the hot, sticky Latin summers wheGabriel Garcia Marquez has a gift with a pen. With a simple turn of phrase, Marquez is able to whisk readers away to the hot, sticky Latin summers where rabies remains uncured, and exorcisms are not limited to horror-movie fodder. Short and sweet, the book explores a torrid romance between a young eccentric girl accused of demonic possession and the priest sent to oversee her exorcism. While “Of Love and Other Demons” is sometimes criticized for its brevity, it seems as if it belongs in a collection of South American myths and should probably be read as such. Here, Marquez explores the same themes of some of his more well-known books (“A Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”) such as class distinctions in South America, love as a broader metaphor, and the Church, but the focus remains on protagonists Sierva Maria and Cayetano Delaura.
Describing what makes reading a Marquez book so enjoyable is always a difficult task, but I would have to say it’s his hypnotic story-telling ability. You forget that it’s absurd for an entire village to contract insomnia or for two people to share the same symbolic dreams. His books are steeped in a thick cloud of delicious romanticism; it’s pure escapism at its best. Overall, it’s not as satisfying as “A Hundred Years of Solitude” and it didn’t move me as much as “Love in the Time of Cholera” did—but I don’t really think that’s what Marquez was trying to do. Nevertheless, it was thoroughly enjoyable and for the Marquez beginner (or skeptic), it would probably serve as a good gateway book into his more lengthy sagas. ...more
Some books have great word of mouth. This is not one of them. Among my book-nerd friends, Gravity's Rainbow was described with words such as "difficulSome books have great word of mouth. This is not one of them. Among my book-nerd friends, Gravity's Rainbow was described with words such as "difficult" and "dense," or met with scrunched up noses of disdain. One friend saw me carrying the book and threw her hands up with a cry of "Oh god, Pynchon !?!?!"
After 3 months, I can understand why Pynchon and Gravity's Rainbow can elicit such a reaction from even die-hard book lovers. It's by no means an easy read; it is dense, jam-packed and at 776 pages, a bit of a mental marathon. If you're not familiar with World War II's general timeline of events, the setting and the plot can seem like a giant maze filled with twists and turns of unrelated references, digressions and pages upon pages of pointless distractions. It is definitely hard to keep up with the astronomical number of characters--some who only appear for one "chapter"--who appear and reappear seemingly at random.
However, I can recognize that there is indeed a spark of genius within the madness. Whether or not that genius is something that speaks to you, however, very much depends on your personal preferences for literature. If you want a fast page-turner, this will not be your cup of tea. Pynchon is certainly skilled with his wordplay and there's quite a bit to chew on intellectually--but the information deluge can be understandably overwhelming.
Perhaps foolishly, I tackled Gravity's Rainbow without reading Crying Lot of 49 or V. Some say that reading either before Gravity's Rainbow makes it easier to read and appreciate. In my personal opinion, I don't know how much merit that holds and depends on the individual. I think even the most seasoned reader will have to double back over certain passages. This is definitely a book that's meant to be read multiple times to get the full force of what Pynchon is trying to say.
Was the possibility of understanding that meaning worth the monumental effort? I'm not sure I got the "message" and most certainly didn't understand everything that was going on. I enjoyed a lot of passages, but powered through a lot of them as well. Will I pick up this book for a re-read? Maybe, but not anytime soon. But I'm not about to run away and cry in despair should I see another Pynchon book in the future.
GGM is a master of language, and this book was so fluid and intoxicating it was hard for me to put it down and actually tackle the things that neededGGM is a master of language, and this book was so fluid and intoxicating it was hard for me to put it down and actually tackle the things that needed to be done in my personal life. The transitions between Urbino, Fermina and Florentino are seamless and beautifully written.
I think one of the best things about this book is that its not what it seems. On a superficial level you could say its a story about true love between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, but I think that would be missing the entire point. There's a great deal of subtlety where Florentino's devotion to Fermina is done despite of the fact that he doesn't really know her, and while Fermina and Urbino's marriage looks to be perfect--there's a lot more conflict and heartache. Ultimately, I think this book is a wonderful depictions on the many types of love that exist (And many types of happiness), and that at the bottom of it all--love needs work from both parties to bloom.
The worst thing I think you could do is write this off as a typical true love story, because its not. In fact, I would venture to say that "true romantic love" isn't even explored until the last twenty or so pages of the book. ...more
I was recommended to read Umberto Eco by a friend of mine, and I was not disappointed at all.
Eco's style is a bit dense, so I can imagine it would notI was recommended to read Umberto Eco by a friend of mine, and I was not disappointed at all.
Eco's style is a bit dense, so I can imagine it would not appeal to a lot of people. However, it's also extremely lyrical and beautiful. The book itself is littered with debates on life and death, love, the nature of God and time itself. This is probably the book's greatest strength, as Eco writes so beautifully about such lofty ideals. So for anyone who's a fan of debating or philosophy would probably enjoy this book.
I will say however, that the book itself requires a certain kind of mindset. So while I immediately loved the book and its premise, it still took me a decent amount of time to really feel as if I were absorbing it. There were times where I really wanted to read the book, but I felt way too overwhelmed at the time, or I wasn't really in the right mindset to really read it and appreciate it.
I don't know why I never read "To Kill a Mockingbird" before now; it was just one of those books that everyone else has read that I never really got aI don't know why I never read "To Kill a Mockingbird" before now; it was just one of those books that everyone else has read that I never really got around to reading. Now that I have, my main impressions are: Atticus Finch is a badass, and what took me so long?
Harper Lee is a very sensory writer, and paints an incredibly vivid picture of life in Depression-era Alabama. In choosing to narrate the story from the point of view of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, Lee manages to marry a myriad of different themes in an organic way that never feels particularly preachy or forced. On top of addressing the issues of segregation and racism in the South, Lee also deftly tells the story of a child losing his innocence as he eventually leaves his childhood behind. Lee also manages to sneak in a subplot about feminism in the South, though it generally takes a back-seat to everything else that's going on.
That being said, I hesitate to give it five stars simply because it didn't leave me feeling much other than, "That was a good book." I think that's in part, because I felt like the Boo Radley storyline at times felt somewhat jammed in. The book opens with lazy summer days where the children invent ways to meet their recluse neighbor, promptly forgets him, and then brings him back at the end to illustrate the "mockingbird" symbolism.
All in all, "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a book everybody should read, if not for the story than at least for Atticus Finch (seriously, he's a badass). It's not the most mind-blowing piece of literature, but it is a solid piece of substantive fiction. ...more