Read a bunch of current "literary fiction" then read this. Just do it, as an experiment. If you don't weep for the state of the American Novel, I willRead a bunch of current "literary fiction" then read this. Just do it, as an experiment. If you don't weep for the state of the American Novel, I will weep for you.
This is the most heart-breakingly human novel... maybe ever.
I was discussing "the quintessential American novel" earlier today with a lovely smart young man who hadn't read this book, I learned after about a half hour. I stopped the discussion and said, "Well, unless we're not counting the South as part of America, we can't have this discussion until you've read this book." I then went in search of one of my three copies and stuffed it into his hands.
I want to read it again right now, cancel everything I have to do in the next few hours, put on PJs, make hot cocoa & reread this, but he has the only copy I can find at the moment, so I'll be a big girl.
Most heart-breakingly human novel? Yeah, in a way, yeah. It is entirely self-aware without being the least bit precocious or precious or prescient or even aware of that awareness. This novel knows things that many people live their entire lives without knowing. It ought to be required reading for every single US citizen. Not because I want to educate anyone -- just because it's that good. I'd recommend it to anyone.
I'd tell you something about the book, but I want everyone on earth to read it, so I'm not gonna. Find out for yourself....more
I often wonder, while looking at SPECT and PET scans, what Charles Darwin would have done with a map of the human genome at his fingertips and the abiI often wonder, while looking at SPECT and PET scans, what Charles Darwin would have done with a map of the human genome at his fingertips and the ability to measure something as "squishy" as cuddling in a lab. I find this amazingly fertile fantasy ground for me, and one that I never tire of. I wish Richard Dawkins had a similar fantasy life.
Dawkins is the obvious person to go from those Australian honey bees to the thrilling work being done with oxytocin (to name but one) then pop over to the West coast of the US where Berkeley is pioneering "survival of the kindest" genetics and pull it all together, rather than putting out an anniversary edition of a work that reads as dated as this one does. Some of what he says goes against the most basic cellular/genetic science, and it's tough to ignore that no matter how stimulating (and even perhaps correct) his hypotheses may be.
While I find Dawkins' gene theory interesting & thought-provoking and his central point a fairly obvious extension of Darwin's work, I would rather he correct what continues to be a glaring flaw in this book -- namely that he oversimplifies the relationship between genes and organism to a degree that just doesn't fly anymore. 30 years of science make this book more of just historical importance than anything else, and while I'm sure Richard Dawkins is doing just what he wants to do, I still need someone to fulfill my Darwin at work 2000 version fantasy.
Dawkins provides no real basis in this landmark text for his original conceit, despite all of the amazing work going on around the world in precisely this arena. He is an insightful evolutionary scientist, a wonderful speaker and writer, but his best work lies in disproving other myth-based nonsense rather than supporting his own theories. There are much better choices to be made if one wants to spend some pennies & time on a book by Richard Dawkins. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is the most recent, where we see him shine while taking apart the creation myth at a time when it seems absolutely necessary that someone as persuasive as Dawkins do.
No matter what, the general criticism of this particular work still holds (despite anarchist honeybees or my infatuation with the cuddle gene.) And his oversimplification might be considered even more socially dangerous with an ever-expanding, yet still far too limited, arsenal of tools and understanding in a world where people seem willful about believing whatever they want, facts be damned! (Example: US Presidential election 2008, we actually spent time as a country discussing the fact that the VP candidate believed humans and dinosaurs all walked the earth at the same time after a six-day quickie creation bit. That there were so many people willing to defend this absurdity in public made me despair a LOT.)
That is the area where Professor Dawkins shines. This is why his strong work on evolution seems to show a completely different person: there he aims to correct, rather than create. I just find it stunning that this "side" of his work is so lacking in substantiation at a time when he could be smacking down massive numbers of his detractors with interesting empiricism from all over the world. Perhaps since he writes for the general population and since this is an early work, he feels he doesn't need to support these hypotheses and can just state them as "fact." The obvious problem there is that anyone reading his books is likely to be at least a slightly critical thinker who wants to know HOW he arrives at these particular conclusions rather than just believing any old thing they read....more
Horrible, pseudo-science, pathetic, psychobabble, nonsensical, just plain wrong and really badly written.
If you would like some junk science nonsenseHorrible, pseudo-science, pathetic, psychobabble, nonsensical, just plain wrong and really badly written.
If you would like some junk science nonsense to spout whilst downing canapes at a dinner party, then this book is for you. But I'm warning you that someone will overhear you and think, a la Woody Allen in Annie Hall, "Jesus, make this person shut up! He doesn't know what he's talking about!"
To the author "mental force" (some of you may have heard this same idea called "soul" or "mind" or "free will" or countless other things people create when we haven't figured it out just yet) is bigger than the possibilities created by the plasticity of our wonderful brains. He is a fool.
I'm back. My friend says I have to say why (all of the above.) Mostly b/c the entire book is based on a faulty and unsupported premise. Also because the authors ignore the very plasticity they mention in their title in favor of their magical thinking.
The reality is that we do not know how our "minds" actually relate to our brains, but there is some power in exercising those brains. When we think -- positively or negatively, when we act purposefully or automatically, when we USE our brains, they do -- in fact -- change a bit. Ask anyone who has ever had any sort of brain injury. Do it repeatedly and you can even learn things! You can feel differently by thinking differently -- ask your favorite cognitive psychologist. This is nothing new. It's wrapped up in a bow w/ nonsense filling the package, but it's just plain wrong. I believe that the actual process works, but I don't believe for a minute that the authors explain why. ...more
As a massive Russo fan, I think I'm the only one of his fans that doesn't think this is his greatest, or close to greatest, book. That's a problem, buAs a massive Russo fan, I think I'm the only one of his fans that doesn't think this is his greatest, or close to greatest, book. That's a problem, but I'll flesh it out later. Promise....more
Greg Mortenson's passion and ability to see what one man, with very little means, could do to change the world is impressive. The book is less so. It'Greg Mortenson's passion and ability to see what one man, with very little means, could do to change the world is impressive. The book is less so. It's a poor attempt to tell what should be an amazing story. Poor ghost-writing/co-authorship is to blame, I think.
I admire the work Mortenson is doing. I admire his single-mindedness. I also love a good crazy dreamer who actually can put those dreams to work. Mortenson is, in fact, a hero, but the book is rough going. Its ghastly purple prose is painful. There is also massive hero-worship on nearly every single page. This comes, I'd imagine, from the co/ghost writer. Written in third person, perhaps the description should be "as told to" rather than listing Mortenson as an author. If he is, then self-esteem is not an issue with this man.
He is constantly referred to as "a real American hero" and the book cover advertises a "real Indiana Jones." It kills the tone of what should be an incredibly interesting story.
Mortenson's way strikes me as a PEACEFUL means to fight the war on terror, and in fact it is a tangible way to do what the US keeps putting off doing anyway...We will have to educate the mothers of a society if we ever want to change minds, and these girls want to learn.
Mortenson is respectful of the local ways and changes himself to fit in rather than trying to create a little Western world in the midst of east central asia.
I fault the book for not being what it could be. Mortenson's work should be shown in full glowing light, not surrounded by difficult writing and hero worship. Nobody needs to be told it's heroic to leave your country, go to Pakistan and start educating the girls with no resources to start. We need to be told the story with all its good and bad parts. ...more
My theory on this book it thoroughly unoriginal: writers hate it, readers love it -- especially if they once thought they could write or know writersMy theory on this book it thoroughly unoriginal: writers hate it, readers love it -- especially if they once thought they could write or know writers or would-be writers -- especially if those writers write "literary fiction."
If you are slightly wicked, you will love this book. If you aren't, and who isn't, then don't read it. Writers should stay away from it!
Oh, it makes me laugh -- and hard -- especially when I've recently read something I wrote quite earnestly, and I realize how much it stinks....more
Really interesting and easy read. It's not my field, and it was written by someone not in the field; so I can't vouch for credibility, but decent footReally interesting and easy read. It's not my field, and it was written by someone not in the field; so I can't vouch for credibility, but decent footnotes make it easy to find original sources. I'm a firm believer in journalists and interested other geeks writing science for the masses - the more science out there, the better we all are. On to the book.
An easy read that drew me in from the first pages. I learned more about modern humankind and our ancestors in this book than I did in classes specically designed to teach this info years ago in university. My overarching inclination now is to throw that old picture of one human species quite literally following the last out of my brain. I sort of knew this, but the book makes it incredibly clear: human species have (and maybe still do) co-exist and interbreed and the whole book takes this as context to explaining how, despite some not-helpful traits, we ended up as the last (or latest?) ape standing.
Recommended for lay persons interested in this subject and those concerned about American school systems misunderstanding and maltreatment of evolution in today's schools....more