It was intriguing, written with the right balance of emotion and objectivity. I think everyone who lives...moreJust a couple of quick notes about this book:
It was intriguing, written with the right balance of emotion and objectivity. I think everyone who lives in New York should read about the life that goes on beneath our streets. I wonder, since the book was written in 1993, whether it has changed much. I suspect it has. There are many descriptions of drug-addicted homeless people from the Upper West Side.
The author was brave, not only because she physically put herself in danger but because she descended into a whole other world and had to accurately portray it to our world. She risked not only being killed but being the stupid, young, white girl who got what she deserved for not knowing to stay away.
What this book is about:
Basically, there are or were "Mole People" although the reality is probably a little different from what you think. There were thousands estimated to be living in subway and train tunnels, sometimes as far as 7 stories below ground. The people's stories she chooses to tell are heartbreaking and simple and complex. Many are drug addicts. Remember, this was the early nineties when heroin was back in form and crack was introduced. Many also have jobs and families. Many make a family out of people they live with. They will defy your expectations as well as confirm your suspicions.
Toth also puts their lifestyle in the context of past underground dwellers, talks about conflicts with the police and homeless advocacy organizations and in general tries to give a bigger picture. But the times I was most drawn in was when she was describing the people she met.
I love when she encounters "Sam" the mayor of a small community who was a social-worker above ground and quotes Walt Whitman.
What I got from this book:
Living underground is freedom and abuse, safety and danger, lucidity and insanity.
This book was much better than I thought it would be. I found myself drawn into it unlike other novels which lately don't seem to hold my interest.
Th...moreThis book was much better than I thought it would be. I found myself drawn into it unlike other novels which lately don't seem to hold my interest.
The writing style is completely different from "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" which was refreshing. He showed ability in this book to write a normal, even typical, story.
What drew me in was the same thing that drew me to Herman Hesse. He uncannily describes emotions that I've felt on almost every page. Hesse does that brilliant thing of making all human experience universal and Haddon does that to a lesser degree in this book.
I was continually surprised by the main character, even though he never did anything out of character, and so even though I guessed on what note the book would end, I was still surprised and delighted by the events at the end.
I'm almost tempted to say it's better than "Curious Incident" because it's less gimmicky, more of a real novel. He doesn't reinvent the wheel, he writes a good story with interesting ideas.
Actually at one point today, I was so shocked and disgusted by one part that I got nauseous. So my new protocol for a book is if you don't want to throw up, it can't be that good. (less)
Lawrence Wright (the journalist and author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11) back in 1993 (the date in my copy) undertook the task...moreLawrence Wright (the journalist and author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11) back in 1993 (the date in my copy) undertook the task of comprehending the major religious forces in America and his feelings about religion. He did this by profiling 6 prominent religious leaders of the time and studied them, much as a scientist studies wild animals: with awe, with trepidation, and with emotion.
This is not the objective report I expected it to be. Nor is it a scathing indictment of Christianity and its leaders. It is a relatively balanced, incredibly insightful, and simple book about the natures of these 5 men and 1 women as Wright sees them and what they reflect of himself, American society, and humanity in general.
Even though Wright purports that he wrote this book in order to have a vehicle for his own religious/spiritual journey, he is usually quiet on the subject of himself. He wrote about the subjects in the same order as he interviewed/hung out with them and therefore we get a clear picture of his path without him saying much. However, when an idea of his mental state is needed he provides it and this makes the book much more than journalism. It paralleled my own mental state; in consequence I was much more connected to Wright and the religious leaders he wrote about. Therefore, the book changed me and it has the power the change other people.
I thought some of the profiles were more insightful than others, but in general they were amazing. He became a little too enamored with one of the figures and I thought that might have compromised his reporting despite it being one of the best profiles (and me liking the guy too).
The reason I gave it four stars was simply for the end. Up until the last five or so pages, I would have rated it slightly higher than "The Mole People" as an interesting view into the heart of American religion. The ending completely changed that. I think I could read this book over again as if it were a novel. The characters are even more entrancing because they are real.
The religious figures profiled go in this order: Walker Railey, Jimmy Swaggert, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Anton LeVey, Will Campbell, Mathew Fox.
They are all Christians except for O'Hair, who was rebelling against Christianity mostly. I think he chose Christian leaders because they overwhelmingly represent the American population (especially in 1993) and because Wright was raised a Christian.
Interesting note: The new Pope (Benedict) is mentioned in the profile of Mathew Fox. Back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger he was Fox's ultimate foe. It sheds a little bit of light on the new Pope for those who don't know too much about him.(less)
This was pretty good. I liked it best when Poitier was describing his family and his childhood. He veered off many times to philosophize and the only...moreThis was pretty good. I liked it best when Poitier was describing his family and his childhood. He veered off many times to philosophize and the only time I was really hooked was when he was talking about his vision of the universe and being a friend of Carl Sagan.
His descriptions of Cat Island, where he was born, are vivid and he writes about his parents and children incisively.
I read it because I just saw "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" again on television. He's a great actor. He mentions in the book that he chose characters he felt were stand-up guys.
Beyond that, I could hear his very unique way of speaking as I read. The book is not great but I did come away feeling I'd learned something. I look up to Sidney Poitier as I always looked up to the characters he played. He does think highly of himself but it really comes across as honesty with himself. Besides, he's great! He made it to the top without compromising himself by playing roles he didn't like. He mentions that he refused to sign loyalty oaths during the 1950s. Sidney Poitier is a stand-up guy. (less)
This was a funny, original book written by Dan Savage of "Savage Love" fame, the sex column that appears in weekly newspapers like the Village Voice.
T...moreThis was a funny, original book written by Dan Savage of "Savage Love" fame, the sex column that appears in weekly newspapers like the Village Voice.
The title comes from the title of a right-wing pundit's book, "Slouching toward Gomorrah." The author, who I had never heard of, along with other conservative commentators Savage quotes complain that America is on the wrong path and that feminism, homosexuality, pornography, gambling, etc. are responsible. Since Americans are such sinners in the eyes of right-wingers and since 9/11--the book was published in 2002--the eyes of Muslim fundamentalists, Dan Savage decides in his book to take us on a tour of American sinnery and celebrate it.
The book is divided into about 10 chapters, 7 of which focus on the 7 deadly sins. Sometimes Savage loses his way a little. For instance, he wants to champion all the sins but he barely holds back biting judgement of the proud-to-be-fat people in the gluttony chapter. This one I thought was the most interesting. Anyone know what a "feeder" is? Yeah, I didn't either.
Savage makes good points, sometimes ones you don't want to hear. His chapter on Pride (you guessed it, gay pride) is certainly controversial, like Savage himself. But I found his opinions refreshing.
Besides that, this book is pretty much hilarious. It's not quite as good as "The Kid" or "The Commitment" but definitely worth reading.(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by this book and by Fox's writing. I could almost hear Marty McFly but older, with Parkinson's disease, and sober.
He's very...moreI was pleasantly surprised by this book and by Fox's writing. I could almost hear Marty McFly but older, with Parkinson's disease, and sober.
He's very down to earth. This book is good for fans, and really, who isn't a fan? Is there a soul on earth who disliked him in "Back to the Future?"
I learned a little bit about the disease as well as a lot about Michael J. Fox. I was born 3 years before BTTF (as it's called on imdb.com) hit the theaters so I grew up watching him on video. I didn't think of him as a teen idol, just my idol. After seeing the movie, my friend and I tried for years to make a time machine, unsuccessfully. We just couldn't find a flux capacitor in the junk yard.
The book is not political. It's a well-written memoir about a hard-working guy who gets Parkinson's at an extremely young age. He is forthright about what he went through dealing with the diagnosis and, need I tell you?, he comes out on top. There are some funny parts, and of course, some sobering parts. But through it all, I got a sense of his optimism and it's refreshing. It's a cliche but true: reading about what he went through made me appreciate my good health. Damn if I can't get on a treadmill when he's getting up early to exercise.
I think it's time for a BTTF marathon. Anyone want to join me? (less)
I read this is one night. It's only about 100 pages. Growing up in America it's almost impossible not to know the story. Still, I found myself on the...moreI read this is one night. It's only about 100 pages. Growing up in America it's almost impossible not to know the story. Still, I found myself on the edge of the seat (well, the toilet seat). It's a simple, haunting book.
It reminded me of the 60's movie "They shoot horses, don't they?" I recommend that to anyone who liked "Of Mice and Men".(less)
What can I say? I picked up this book expecting it to be not as good as "The Alienist" and was satisfied with another New York adventure circa 1897.
O...moreWhat can I say? I picked up this book expecting it to be not as good as "The Alienist" and was satisfied with another New York adventure circa 1897.
One thing I appreciated about the book was how dark it got at times. Despite the serial killer's mutilations of children in "the Alienist", I found the killer in "The Angel of Darkness" much more terrifying, although not at first.
Then, the characters had interesting bad moments too. I was particularly affected by Stevie's love for Kat, the pre-adolescent cocaine addict and whore. The characters were fleshed out and became real; as opposed to heroes, they were flawed people doing right.
Not as fastly paced as the first book but definitely worth reading for whoever enjoyed "The Alienist." (less)
This book made me laugh and cry. If you like Billy Crystal, I think you'll like it. It's pretty much a memoir taken from a one-man show he did on Broa...moreThis book made me laugh and cry. If you like Billy Crystal, I think you'll like it. It's pretty much a memoir taken from a one-man show he did on Broadway.
He writes about his family and, one the whole, happy childhood beautifully. He made me laugh in the midst of the saddest part.
There were a few aspects of his life very similar to his character's in "Mr. Saturday Night." They are just as funny to read about as to see.(less)
This was interesting. I planned to just skim this book but ended up reading the whole thing. In general, I thought the author's writing was good.
If y...moreThis was interesting. I planned to just skim this book but ended up reading the whole thing. In general, I thought the author's writing was good.
If you think you're not prejudiced against fat people, read this book. If you want to know what it's like to be fat, read this book. It's important considering the obesity epidemic in this country.(less)
I picked up this book because I love the movie. I dare anyone to see it and not pick up a chess board. When I finished the book, I thought I could res...moreI picked up this book because I love the movie. I dare anyone to see it and not pick up a chess board. When I finished the book, I thought I could resist but within ten minutes I was playing on chess on yahoo. I am not a genius like Josh Waitzkin.
They did a very good job with the movie but there are some major differences. Pandolfini (portrayed in the movie as a ruthless teacher) is actually supportive & idiosyncratic. Vinnie plays a much smaller role in the book. But the dynamic in Washington Square Park is much more interesting and in depth.
Two things happen in the book that they cut out: Fred, Josh, & Bruce Pandolfini go to Russia in the midst of the Cold War to see a match between two grandmasters.
Fred goes to Los Angeles to search for Bobby Fischer. Fischer was not as elusive as in the movie but was said to be much, much crazier.
I just finished the last Harry Potter book twenty minutes ago and realize what a great series it is. I have not read all of them and decided to skip a...moreI just finished the last Harry Potter book twenty minutes ago and realize what a great series it is. I have not read all of them and decided to skip ahead to 7 because it would have been spoiled anyway.
I'm glad I did. The book pretty much stands on its own although I am enticed to read the rest despite the fact that I know the ending. Don't worry, I won't give anything away in this review.
I was captivated and moved. The book took unexpected turns and the characters were remarkably real. For a world that seems to deal very obviously with good v. evil, it is very complex.
I wonder how hardcore Harry Potter fans are holding up. Are you devastated that it's over? I believe the ending is worthy of the series and the culture it created. Maybe that will ease the ache.
You'll be cheering at parts. You might cry. During one battle scene, I was grinning with excitement like a ten-year-old watching 'Jurassic Park' in the theater for the first time. Is there such a thing as a blockbuster book? This is it.(less)
I, probably like most Americans, had never heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali before ordering this book because I had heard great things about it. She has been...more I, probably like most Americans, had never heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali before ordering this book because I had heard great things about it. She has been compared to Salman Rushdie, only because of the price on her head.
The book begins, perfectly in this regard, with the death of Theo van Gogh. Some people might remember the book "Murder in Amsterdam" which was about his 'assassination'. He was killed because of a movie he and Ayaan Hirsi Ali made together called "Submission" which was meant to illustrate how trapped women are in Islam.
Besides the incredibly interesting juxtaposition of a devout Muslim woman in a secular country, I got a very good idea of who Ayaan is as a person. She has been selective but very honest about her life. I feel like I know her intimitely. She picked anecdotes and story-lines that perfectly define her as a Somali woman in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Holland.
The story is basically this (don't worry, I won't give too much away): Ayaan was born in Somalia to a revolutionary father and independent mother. They lived afterward in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They were religious Muslims and Ayaan became very devout.
The most fascinating part for me was when she describes the process of becoming more devout until she was basically a fundamentalist. She describes there being a "New Islam", sort of a world charismatic movement. It sounds similar to the movement of American Evangalism (except Americans don't preach that Jews are the enemy). This is an important book to understand a little bit better the reason people flew planes into our buildings.
The transformation she undergoes when coming to Holland is incredible to watch. In the end, I was as addicted to this book as to the last Harry Potter. I read the last 150 pages in one night, not being able to put it down.
She is in Holland when the 9/11 attacks happen. It profoundly changes the way she believes and behaves. Her view of Western relativism is fascinating. I will think about the questions she raises, including those that first started her departure from Islam. (less)
Wow, I haven't been on this site in a while. It got a little tiresome trying to document every book I read. So for now, it's pretty much just going to...moreWow, I haven't been on this site in a while. It got a little tiresome trying to document every book I read. So for now, it's pretty much just going to be books I'd like others to learn about.
"I am David" fits into that category. I actually saw the movie first, then ordered the book, and finally read it. Even though the movie was pretty accurate and therefore I knew what was going to happen in the book, I was completely drawn in.
This is a young adult novel, originially written in Danish, first published as "North to Freedom" in the U.S. Then the title was changed to "I am David" after the movie came out.
It tells the story of 12-year old David who has grown up in an Eastern-European prison camp and has no idea why; he has no idea of who he is, except that his name is David. Then he escapes and makes his way to Denmark, meeting all sorts of people along the way. By far the most interesting is the psychological thaw he goes through. He discovers practically everything for the first time at the age of 12 and lets go of the prison mentality in the way I imagine adults would. In fact after the life that he's led, he's not a kid as much as an adult in a kid's body. There are no Hollywood answers in this book. David will probably never get to be a child.
I also found him an inspirational character. He never gives up, he tries to do right. He's smart and careful. At the same time, he's pitifully terrified of everything. But can you blame him? I kept thinking, when he gets older, so much of this will make more sense. Of course, he'll never grow up, he's just a character, but he felt real. (less)
This book affected me more than I expected it to. I don't read much modern fiction but we started a book club at the store and this was chosen as our...moreThis book affected me more than I expected it to. I don't read much modern fiction but we started a book club at the store and this was chosen as our first book.
While sometimes I was put off by the experimental aspects, in the end I appreciated their originality. The story had a great finish and got to me. I was thinking about it for days afterwards.
This is the only book I've read about the 9/11 crisis. I also haven't watched any of the movies. Why would I want to watch a film of something so close to home? However, the story in this book was achingly real.
There were parts that I thought were factually inaccurate, namely the fact that Oskar is told to leave his school on the day. All the kids I knew were trapped in their schools for the whole day, pretty much.
But that doesn't change the fact that this book was, I thought, emotionally accurate and not exploitive. For anyone who has a lost a family member or friend, Oskar's grief and rationalizations will resonate. Grief is a theme throughout the book, but this depressive tone is offset by beautiful and original images. They distract us from the grief just as Oskar is distracted. (less)