**spoiler alert** I am sharing this review for posterity’s sake, this is the very first review I ever wrote and posted online. I blogged this review o**spoiler alert** I am sharing this review for posterity’s sake, this is the very first review I ever wrote and posted online. I blogged this review over ten years ago on December 13, 2001. I meant to post it here on its ten year anniversary but the holidays got in the way. Instead I am posting it today to kick off a new year with. This review is full of spoilers (seriously, it spoils just about the whole book) and is really more of a book report than a review but I can definitely see some of my beginnings in this and so I decided what better way to start a new year than with my start in book blogging. Enjoy!
"The French Mathematician" started out life as a project that was submitted for a Master of Arts degree entitled "A Fictional Biography of the French Mathematician Evariste Galois 1811-1832". The author, Tom Petsinis set out to link the humanities and the sciences in a piece of writing that would tell the tragic tale of Evariste Galois in such a way so that writing majors might be able understand the type of mathematics that Evariste fathered and also the man himself. Petsinis is a professor who teaches mathematics at the University of Technology. And, he came across Evariste's story while attending a lecture on Group Theory, a branch of mathematics based on Galois's discoveries. The book is a well-written three-part biography with an excellent choice in writing style. It is very accurate for a book about whose subject there is such a small amount of information available on. Following is a summary and review of the various parts of "The French Mathematician" in the order that they appear in the book, for the most part.
There is no introduction, just acknowledgements of the support of various professors during the undertaking of this endeavor.
The first chapter is written as though it should be tacked on to the end, but is instead written at the beginning. The conclusion, on the other hand, simply gives what the fate of Evariste's discoveries was to be.
Part one summarizes Evariste's introduction and love affair with mathematics, his undying faith in the "x" and the power of that "x" to replace the cross and change the world to a place of order. Something Evariste believed would come about with the (French) Revolution. That the revolution would lead from chaos to mathematical precision. He believed in the power of mathematics.
Part two shows Evariste's change of loyalties as he is swept up into the revolution. With the death of his father on his conscience and a need to prove himself and make himself great after being locked behind school walls during the outbreak of violence in the streets of Paris. He forsakes mathematics for the sword and the flame, wreaking buildings and joining various Republican organizations. He seems crazed at this point, thinking violence and a complete rebuilding of the French empire will be the only path to a Republican era.
Part three illustrates Evariste's slow return to mathematics. He still clings to his Republican ideals but he begins slowly coming around to recognizing and nurturing his love of mathematics. He begins to write and submit works again and even holds a series of public speeches where he lays out his theories and proofs for his work. Throughout this section you watch as he is torn between mathematics and republican ideals. And he never really decides either way when he is arrested and imprisoned for six months for his part in the revolution. While in prison he becomes very sick so he is transferred to a hospital where he meets and falls in love with the Doctor's daughter. Unfortunately she is only flirting with him and when her fiance (one of Evariste's good friends) returns to Paris, his friend is forced to challenge Evariste to a duel.
I find that the writing is reminiscent of the style of writing popular during Evariste's time (1811-1832). Prone to detail and more advanced diction then what is commonly known today, the book could almost pass for the diary/notebook the author "claims" it is. Unfortunately when referring to acts of a sexual nature the writer approaches the subject more blatantly than a writer of the nineteenth century would and uses far less subtltey. "The French Mathematician" is an excellent read that is recommended for English and Math majors alike....more
This book caught my eye for its clean, well styled cover and hooked me with its promise of a simple and concise biography of Jane Austen written for yThis book caught my eye for its clean, well styled cover and hooked me with its promise of a simple and concise biography of Jane Austen written for young adults. I love Jane Austen and am a huge fan of her novels, their movies, and their many spin offs. But, aside from what I knew from watching Becoming Jane, I didn’t know too much about the author herself. This book was the perfect toe in the pool and revealed Jane Austen in a way that was engaging and interesting and left me eager to re-read her novels again with this new information in mind.
The biography begins with a summary of Jane’s younger years with her family, her earlier writing, and the many moves she was forced to make throughout her life being both poor and dependent as she was a single woman. It was fascinating reading about her extended relations and their exciting lives. Jane’s life, though, was not as exciting. She was left a constant observer on the sidelines. She was witty though and snippets of her letters showing her sharp, occasionally acerbic wit, are sprinkled throughout the narrative.
The book also has lots of historical background explaining the political and social rules of the day and there are plenty of illustrations both from the period and from Jane’s letters, books, and the movies made from her books throughout.
Finally, the biography takes us through each of Jane Austen’s works. It covers how each was published, the book’s history and reasons for being written, a summary of the book, and its reception in Jane Austen’s time. This re-awakened my interest in Austen’s novels all over again to get this very interesting history of each book, including works that were never finished or published.
The book was accessible and easy to read. The illustrations and explanations kept the events in Jane Austen’s life entertaining and understandable for someone who might only have a passing knowledge of the author and her era. The history of each of the books was the best part of the biography in my opinion and it was fascinating to read what Austen thought of her own books through her letters, and to read about their reception during her life time. I highly recommend this book for teen readers who have just been introduced to Austen, or older readers who aren’t big on biographies but would like an accessible primer to Jane Austen’s life. This is an easy, light read that can finished in only a few hours, but leaves a sparked interest in the author and in her works.
In these trying times college graduates have it particularly hard, many find themselves having to move back in with parents, taking jobs at lower payIn these trying times college graduates have it particularly hard, many find themselves having to move back in with parents, taking jobs at lower pay grades or outside of their fields, and more often than not they are left feeling like they are not where they should be. I urge those people to pick up this book, because it could be a lot worse. In Running the Books Avi Steinberg shares his memories of graduating from college (with a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny) to eventually become a prison librarian for two years. His greenness and nonchalant attitude toward life before entering the prison to work with inmates among the stacks had me wincing but ultimately his experiences there, and the fascinating people he met, gave me a lot of food for thought. If you are looking for an in-depth analysis on American prison culture this is not that, but what it is turns out to be more than what you’d expect considering Avi’s less than auspicious start: fooling a drug test to get hired at a prison.
The book begins with all the reasons Steinberg ended up working at a prison in the first place and the introduction to what his job working there entailed. It also opens with what has to be one of my top ten favorite book openings of all time: “Pimps make the best librarians.” A lot of the opening continues in this vein with a lot of sharp wit about both prisons and libraries and the interesting place where they intersect. The memories of his time there are shared in a series of anecdotes that veer between being overly self-deprecating and negative towards both himself and the prisoners that he worked with, and moments of true light and hope that maybe libraries could bring some good into the lives of these convicts. Ultimately he manages to bring it together and strike a realistic tone that lies somewhere in the grey area between those two extremes.
The book really started becoming interesting when it became obvious the author had done his homework. He visited other prisons in the area, including abandoned ones, and spent some real time digging into the place of prisons in society. He compares what they are meant to do with what they actually do in an unflinching and bold way that almost makes you forget his lighthearted and almost mocking beginning.
I think the second half of the book is where he really shined though. He talks about specific stories of three inmates and the impact both the library and the prison system had on their lives. An ex-stripper now inmate who gave up her son for adoption asks Avi to help her contact him when he is admitted to prison as an adult. A pimp wants Avi’s help writing a memoir that glosses over his very real and very terrible crimes. An ex-gangster wants help putting together the paper work necessary to pitch his own cooking show, Thug Sizzle. Where those stories, and the prison system, lead him to is a reality based conclusion worth reading about.
In the end Avi Steinberg is a civilian looking from the outside in on a broken prison system through privileged eyes, and its best not to forget that reality. It is also worth noting that he was given next to no training on working with convicts before being thrown in to the deep end and his struggles reflect that. You may wince your way through reading about the trials Steinberg went through, both self-inflicted (drug test) and not (robbed by one of his former patrons out on parole) but at least you will leave the book with this one take away. You, and Avi, may not have it so great right now, but it could be worse.
Whenever life hits a bump in the road or I find myself stressed out the first thing I turn to is a book. Books ground me and give me a form of escapeWhenever life hits a bump in the road or I find myself stressed out the first thing I turn to is a book. Books ground me and give me a form of escape from my present circumstances. They let me take a step back and look at my problems from another point of view and provide a much needed mental health break. While I have done this all my life I have often felt very alone in my solace in fiction, until I discovered the internet anyway. But a print book, in IRL, now that’s a different sort of validation and this is why The Heroine’s Bookshelf is ranked among my top reads this year.
In her book Erin Blakemore showcases twelve books with their fantastic heroines and authors and shows how each one can help inspire and improve our lives in different ways. She covers everything from faith to dignity, compassion, ambition… even magic. Each chapter covers one theme and talks about how both the heroine and the author embody that theme in their lives and in their books. Laura Ingalls Wilder embodies Simplicity, Charlotte Bronte and her heroine Jane Eyre show steadfastness, while Margaret Mitchell and her heroine Scarlett O’Hara fight every step of the way.
I loved how each chapter covered not just the literary heroines and their themes and adventures but also took the time to research each author as well. Often the history of an author proved to be surprising and very relevant to both the heroine they would go on to write and the theme that both they and their heroine would represent. Both Lizzy Bennet and Jane Austen were true to themselves against great financial and societal odds. Both Celie and Alice Walker led lives of dignity in impossible circumstances. It surprised me as well how many of these great female authors were forced to publish anonymously or under male pseudonyms and often led lives of poverty and degradation because they wanted to be true to themselves and write.
What I loved most though was how reading the chapters dedicated to my favorite books offered me insight into my own life that I hadn’t considered before. The lines she draws are fascinating to follow and I really felt like I learned a lot about my favorite literary heroines, about my beloved female authors and, within this new context, myself as well.
Highly recommended reading for bookish types, The Heroine’s Bookshelf offers more than life lessons, it offers new insight into favorite characters, great authors and even yourself....more
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this book. A lot of what I read in its pages changed my entire worldview and caused me to reeI am grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this book. A lot of what I read in its pages changed my entire worldview and caused me to reevaluate the history of the world as I knew it through a feminist lense and to change how I felt and thought about that history. There was a lot in this book that I didn’t completely agree with but there were many parts that I was glad to have read and have reached a deeper and richer understanding of the world because of it.
The Chalice and the Blade is a book divided into two basic parts. The lion's share of the book is devoted to a detailed history of human kind comparing and contrasting the two different basic types of worship: god worship and goddess worship, worship of a dominating war-like god and worship of a nurturing loving goddess. The societies that practiced these are taken apart and examined and a lot of history is re-evaluated along these lines of dominator societies and equality societies.
The beginning was fascinating to read about, to hear about these societies that practiced worship of a female goddess that were run by a semi-democratic government with women making up the majority of the leadership. To hear about the research and archaeological work on these sites, the fact that they had paved roads, irrigation systems, drainage systems, and probably lived in better and cleaner cities than some people in third and fourth world countries today can boast of, eight thousand years before the birth of Christ was absolutely stunning to read about. To hear about their destruction at the hands of dominator societies, heartbreaking.
A lot of history starts to make sense once you read the beginning chapters of this book. How do we learn such amazing things and then "forget" them for centuries on end? Why does our society seem to stagnate for thousands of years at a time? What happened to the goddesses of long ago? These and more are answered and the answers make this book worth the read in my opinion.
Some of this book seems very anti-christian and anti-semitic. Those parts were a little uncomfortable to read about. It does explain why the first half of the bible is filled with war and hate and the second half peace and love. If you can hold on until chapter nine the answers will surprised you. This author is not anti-religion, just anti-hate. Jesus Christ was actually one of the first recorded, and definitely the loudest, speaker for the support of love and equality of all people. After reading the chapters that came before, you realize how amazing it is that he spoke the way he did in the time and society that he did. It was pure blasphemy.
A lot of the coverage of the more recent history I didn't really agree with. This happened a few times in the earlier chapters but it happened a lot later. It seemed like the author just went too far and tried to draw the lines of comparison too much and in places where they didn't belong. Was there a hatred that sparked Jesus' disciples to try and oust the women placed in positions of leadership in the church? Yes. Was the same hatred of women and their gaining of equality and rights what helped spark World War I and II? Not so much. Her expertise is clearly with the former and not the later.
In spite of that and the ending, which seemed to me to have lost its way, this was a powerful and enlightening book. Read it for the first three quarters if nothing else. The new insight and the new worldview you will gain about the history of god and goddess worshiping cultures makes it worth it. Just be prepared to switch gears once she gets beyond her realm of expertise as she does stumble in the last few chapters, and by the end finds that while this new understanding can change how we view our past not even she can come up with a way for it to help guide our future. Many questions are answered in this book, but some we just have to answer for ourselves....more