Read by the author. Cried half a dozen times-- the parts about her mother and regret, and so many lost children. I recognized myself in self-righteous...moreRead by the author. Cried half a dozen times-- the parts about her mother and regret, and so many lost children. I recognized myself in self-righteous entitled letter-writers, whining and self-pitying, and enjoyed her calling them out. (less)
Couldn't get into this that much. It felt like too much self-reflexivity in the service of itself, rather than in the service of doing greater justice...moreCouldn't get into this that much. It felt like too much self-reflexivity in the service of itself, rather than in the service of doing greater justice to something outside of the author. This impression was NOT negated by her self-reflexive acknowledgement that this was a possibility, the entire topic of the essay on Saccharine/Sentimentality. She references Joan Didion in one of the "Pain Tours" essays, and her style reminded me of the little Didion I have read, which would be great recommendation for many. Portions of the first essay, on being a medical actor, and the essay on Morgellons, were almost medical anthropology (which I like). Wide ranging in location/topic as well as in references. The references don't always add to the reader's experience, though contemplating them might have added to hers. (less)
In this dense and brilliant graphic novel memoir, Bechdel explores her strange relationship with her mother through intensive examination of the her c...moreIn this dense and brilliant graphic novel memoir, Bechdel explores her strange relationship with her mother through intensive examination of the her childhood journals, her sessions with various therapists, and the biographies of Virginia Woolf and child psychologist D.W. Winnicott. Reading this memoir often felt acutely uncomfortable because Bechdel's habit of intensive self-examination and self-analysis is one I try to avoid these days. (less)
Jacobs' memoir covers his experience in successfully reading more or less the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica. I thought the construction was clever....moreJacobs' memoir covers his experience in successfully reading more or less the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica. I thought the construction was clever. The book consists of an alphabetical list of selected topics that are either especially interesting or effective launching points for a quip or personal anecdote. There was greater emotional depth than one would expect, thanks to Jacobs' honesty in discussing his motives (desire to surpass his very nice and smart father) and describing his frequently idiotic and arrogant behavior. I read 97% of this on the can. It's a perfect piece of bathroom reading.
Right now, all I can remember are the following facts: 1. abalones have 5 buttholes 2. Phryne was a Greek prostitute who got acquitted of a crime by showing her boobs to the judges 3. The anecdote about the demanding Pharoah who kept wanting his scholars to construct shorter encyclopedias until finally they presented him with a phrase to the effect that "everything passes." (less)
Dubus recalls growing up in working class Massachusetts towns with 3 siblings and single mother, with weekend visits with the writer professor father...moreDubus recalls growing up in working class Massachusetts towns with 3 siblings and single mother, with weekend visits with the writer professor father who left them (male academics, bah). Their childhoods are characterized by near daily violence, casual delinquency, and occasional tragedy. Dubus eventually reacts to his and family's repeated victimization by becoming a boxer/weightlifter who exacts righteous bloody vengeance on those he believes deserves it, an approach to conflict resolution he gradually comes to realize is flawed.
Fantastic writing for the most part. Dubus describes interior psychological processes vividly:
"It was like punching Steve Lynch in the face, how you have to move through two barriers to do something like that, one inside you and one around him, as if everyone's body is surrounded by an invisible membrane you have to puncture to get to them. This was different from sex, where if you both want it, the membranes fall away, but with violence you had to break that membrane yourself, and once you learned how to do that, it was easier to keep doing it" (135).
"Pop reached over and squeezed my shoulder. He laughed again and I laughed too, happy to be the object of his pride, but my knuckles stung and there was the dark, tilting feeling I had added something to myself that each time I used it subtracted more than it gave" (174).
"bored and far away from myself" (175)
It would have been impossible for Dubus to have accurately recalled his childhood in such detail, but this only felt false to me toward the end, which covers more recent events. (less)
This book's notorious now due to some outrageous published excerpts in the WSJ that readers interpreted as serious advice on parenting. In context, th...moreThis book's notorious now due to some outrageous published excerpts in the WSJ that readers interpreted as serious advice on parenting. In context, the excerpted bits are still pretty outrageous, but clearly meant to be seen in a humorous light. Chua also intended this as a memoir, not a parenting treatise, though she presents a lot of information on her philosophy of parenting in a manner that suggests that she still firmly believes its correctness, despite the fact that it nearly created an irrevocable breach between her and her second daughter.
Whatever one's own opinions about Tiger Mother parenting methods, I think most will find this an incredibly entertaining and compulsively readable book. The anecdotes are wryly, hilariously presented, and the family dramas and conflicts described with great immediacy. Many times, I marveled at the fact that Chua actually admits various things she does and says to her family, which are occasionally so harsh and batshit crazy that they beggar belief.
I had tons of unanswered questions at the end of this book, like I'd like to know more about the cultural and societal roots of this parenting belief system, whether it is specific to certain classes or historical periods in Asia. I wanted to know what aspects of Tiger mothering Chua might regret as a result of her experiences with her second daughter, because she certainly never explicitly states that she should have done any particular thing differently -- she just presents the horrific fallout. I was curious as to what toll her fanaticism might have taken on her marriage to a dude who managed to become as accomplished as she is despite being raised by laid-back Americans.
One thing that was clear, though, was that by creating the conditions under which her older daughter Sophia could achieve virtuosity in the piano, Chua gave her an enormous gift that might even have been worth all the sacrifice. The book includes a jaw-dropping essay that Sophia wrote about learning and performing the Prokofiev piece "Conquering Juliet" in Carnegie Hall. My favorite part:
"In Prokofiev's original arrangement,[Romeo]'s theme really is played by the cello. Romeo's character was always easier for me to understand. I'm not sure why; it definitely wasn't real-life inspiration. Maybe I just felt bad for him. Obviously he was doomed, and he was so hopelessly besotted with Juliet. The slightest hint of her theme had him begging on his knees."
Have been thinking more about this book since writing the somewhat dismissive review below. This book is extremely valuable for demonstrating the subs...moreHave been thinking more about this book since writing the somewhat dismissive review below. This book is extremely valuable for demonstrating the substantial downside of what society would generally laud as the quintessential successful life trajectory in America. Clawing your way out your hardscrabble roots into the cushy office job is not just difficult, but can carries longterm emotional punishment, both self-imposed and external.
Lubrano recounts his own and others' experiences as a white collar worker from a working class background. Their stories are mostly characterized by pain, remorse, confusion, alienation, grief, etc., as they try to navigate the strange, stifled, often insincere social rules of professional environments and try to stay connected with family who can be baffled by or hostile to their personal transformations. There were many stories that they blurred together after a while. (less)
Am giving this four stars for the unjust reason that I wished it was 8 (long) chapters longer. Would follow Tina Fey around the world like she was my...moreAm giving this four stars for the unjust reason that I wished it was 8 (long) chapters longer. Would follow Tina Fey around the world like she was my guru, not the least because if she knew what I was doing she would tell me to knock it off and get away from here. Favorite lines: "Oh! My Maria! What is to become of us?" and "That idiot had fallen off the mountain."(less)
Earlier: Got through intro and first chapter only... just didn't relate to Klausner and found humor pleasant but not really that funny? I like more ab...moreEarlier: Got through intro and first chapter only... just didn't relate to Klausner and found humor pleasant but not really that funny? I like more absurdity and scatology.
2nd attempt: Picked this up again because lately I've been enjoying Klausner's podcast, "How Was Your Week?" immensely. Am so glad I did! Am still not wild about the first few chapters but it's smooth sailing after those.. Julie Klausner is a wonderful person and writer and it's a sign of a fair universe that her star's on the rise. She's a wise no-nonsense broad who has also has gone through hilarious and mortifying amounts of nonsense to get that wise. She tells a mean sex anecdote and she's got a gift for the figurative language.
ex: "he was as flirty as a pleated skirt every time he wrote back" (117)
"A goatee, especially on a corpulent man, is like a hair ring floating atop a raw loaf of bread." (167)
She's also a feminist whose wagon I want to jump on with all my luggage. Klausner's not afraid to express or act on her desires, but fully acknowledges the risks and sacrifices of doing so. She is articulate and firm in her stances but also witty and funny and empathetic. I love her. (less)
Jessica Stern, a terrorism expert who teaches at Harvard, trains CIA agents, and who has interviewed scores of violent, dangerous men, writes of her e...moreJessica Stern, a terrorism expert who teaches at Harvard, trains CIA agents, and who has interviewed scores of violent, dangerous men, writes of her experience being raped at gunpoint with her sister at age 15, and the effects of crime's denial by the police, her father, and herself. Absolutely amazing. Stern is an amazing narrator. Written in a focused, rigorously unsentimental style that still allows the reader to empathize. Stern's conversations with her remarkable father, a Holocaust survivor who rarely identifies himself as such, are riveting and heartbreaking.
A wonderfully entertaining travel memoir, consisting of anecdotes from author's 1982 stint teaching English in China. I liked it a lot. Favorite parts...moreA wonderfully entertaining travel memoir, consisting of anecdotes from author's 1982 stint teaching English in China. I liked it a lot. Favorite parts, when students were describing their happiest moments, martial arts training.
It did strike me how so much of the stories are distancing, framed so that the Chinese are quaint little characters, summed up with some incident or phrase that illuminates yet conceals. The majority of the Chinese individuals that Salzman describes come across as wonderful or heartbreaking in some way, but also as curiosities for the western reader.
I guess it's tricky trying to describe a people - you don't want to presume you understand them, and Salzman is at least honest in expressing his limitations. (less)