This will go down as one of my favorites on language, translation, and writing. Using an unorthodox style, Zambra has recreated his book as an exam. HThis will go down as one of my favorites on language, translation, and writing. Using an unorthodox style, Zambra has recreated his book as an exam. He demonstrates the fluidity of language. Through repetition, we see words in a different way as they take on new meanings. It is a combination of poetry and creative writing. The secret is in the reading. It makes sense the slower you read and let it wash over you. However, it certainly is not a book for those who have test anxiety.
Zambra's work starts off innocent enough. Multiple choice answers to questions with the true poetry in word association. Next, there are short stories that focus on familiar Zambra themes. Themes of fathers, being a family man, and the Pinochet dictatorship becomes the focus. It becomes an examination of what you can add and take away as a writer. Does it mean the same thing or does that slight pivot alter it significantly?
This work reminds me a great deal of Javier Marias' A Heart So White, in that it examines the nature of language and meaning. How a translator can struggle with just the right word is the same as the writer attempting to express a feeling. A wonderfully disjointed book that focuses on the power of the writer.
You wonder if you deserve to be hated. You wonder if anyone really hates you. You wonder if you hate anyone. You wonder if you hate the people who hate you. Insomnia wounds and accompanies you. P 20
When you were a kid, you were in love with silence. Later, you wanted words to flood you, sink you. P23
While Chris Anderson's book is advice on how to give a TED Talk, I think the lessons here can be applied to any presentation.
One of the key ideas earlWhile Chris Anderson's book is advice on how to give a TED Talk, I think the lessons here can be applied to any presentation.
One of the key ideas early on in the book is to convince the reader that public speaking isn't as difficult as we make it out to be. If you can have a conversation with a small group of people, you can give a TED Talk. Anderson then goes into detail of the history of the program, lessons he has learned in that process, and what the expectations are for the presentation.
The most valuable aspects are in the last third of the book. He provides tips on anything from using props to which fonts you should use in your powerpoint. Even if you are not planning to give a TED Talk, this can provide the tools to succeed in any talk. It would be a handy manual to have around as you prepare.
Richard's tale can encourage us all to believe we might be able to give a decent talk Your goal is not to be Winston Churchill or Nelson Mandela. It's to be you. If you're a scientist, be a scientist; don't try to be an activist. If you're an artist, be an artist; don't try to be an academic. If you're just an ordinary person, don't try to fake some big intellectual style, just be you. You don't have to raise a crowd to its feet with a thunderous oration. Conversational sharing can work just as well In fact, for most audiences, it's a lot better. If you know how to talk to a group of friends over dinner, then you know enough to speak publicly. P10
Is this a topic I'm passionate about? Does it inspire curiosity? Will it make a difference to the audience to have this knowledge? Is my talk a gift or an ask? Is the information fresh, or is it already out there? Can I truly explain the topic in the time slot allocated, complete with necessary examples? Do I know enough about this to make a talk worth the audience's time? Do I have the credibility to take on this topic? What are the fifteen words that encapsulate my talk? Would those fifteen words persuade someone they'd be interested in hearing my talk? p. 41
Connection: I trust this person. Engagement: Every sentence sounds so interesting! Curiosity: I hear it in your voice and see it in your face. Understanding: The emphasis on that word with that hand gesture--now I get it. Empathy: I can tell how much that hurt you. Excitement: Wow--that passion is infectious Conviction: Such determination in those eyes! Action: I want to be on your team. Sign me up. p. 55
Kurt Vonnegut begins Slaughterhouse-Five recalling his struggle in how to recount his wartime experience. It is difficult to tell his story without reKurt Vonnegut begins Slaughterhouse-Five recalling his struggle in how to recount his wartime experience. It is difficult to tell his story without reliving the horror. Meanwhile, publishers shy away from revealing these details to the public. The soldier's story is often bottled up. They are stories that can only be told to other soldiers. Eric Fair's story is worse than most. His time in the military stretched to cover everything from the murder of Barry Winchell to being an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. He even has stints working for the NSA. If there was a soldier that would represent the worst stories of American Servicemen over the last 20 years he would be the poster boy. While Vonnegut was trying to convey the atrocities of the Dresden firebombing, Eric Fair was committing those atrocities. This memoir is an attempt at atonement. As we read his memoir, we watch as a pious Christian turn into someone he can no longer face.
Fair grew up in the dead mining town of Bethlehem. A Presbyterian, faith is the center of his world. His two goals in life are to become a minister or a police officer. When he chooses the latter he finds there are no jobs. Joining the Army is recommended as a way to get a better chance. After a five-year stint as a linguist, he gets an offer to work as a private contractor. This is where the story gets harrowing. He becomes an interrogator at Abu Ghraib Prison. He witnesses inhumane acts and commits them himself. He uses devices such as the Palestinian chair. Some of the interactions in the book are even redacted. He then has to deal with what he has become.
The big problem I had with this memoir is that it is told with all the warmth of a technical manual. The cause of that detachment comes midway through the book. As an interrogator, he must betray the two centers of his world, Mercy and justice.
He says things like, "I hope there is a way back." Later on in a heavily redacted section he states, "I am not disgusted by my actions. I am disgusted by how good it feels to wield power. I am terrified by where that feeling might take me." We see Fair completely unravel using alcohol to keep his demons at bay. After it is all over he starts to settle down with his wife Karin, but writing and testifying about his experiences bring his demons back. He joins a writing class and feels some catharsis. One line from The Laws of Repentance becomes the ForeWord of his book.
"For example, a person is not forgiven until he pays back his fellow man what he owes them and appeases him. He must placate him and approach him again and again until he is forgiven."
This book is part of an atonement for his past actions. At the end, there is no resolution or way back from what has happened. Just a constant processing for him, a documentation of the horror for others, and a desperate need for penance.
Best passages: I am silent. I know this is a sin. I know it as soon as I see it. There will be no atonement for it. In the coming years, I won't have the audacity to seek it. Witnessing a man being tortured in the Palestinian Chair requires the witness to either seek justice or cover his face. Like Henson in Fallujah, I will spend the rest of my life covering my face. p122...more