Seven hundred pages is a whole lot of Blake and more than most people probably need. It's an editorial decision that all the books in "The Viking PortSeven hundred pages is a whole lot of Blake and more than most people probably need. It's an editorial decision that all the books in "The Viking Portable Library" should be around 700 pages, but maybe they could have had a few less for this guy.
The first fifty or so pages are an excellent introduction. The more accessible works run about hundred pages or so... the Songs of Innocence and Experience and some other "verses and fragments," also his letters where Blake is maybe trying extra hard to sound like someone from this planet. But most of the book is very difficult. I think the excerpts from "The Prophetic Books" would have benefited from some explanatory footnotes. The only illustrations in here are black and white pages from "The Book of Job" and I think it would have been better to maybe have less text and some more of the illustrations. I'd like to think that would have made some of the text more understandable. At the end is an appendix, relevant excerpts from Crabb Robinson's Reminiscences, and it's a humdinger. Blake's intensity and his relationship to his own visions is lovingly described. Almost makes me sweat.
Blake's nutty religious views are not my own, but I dig the poetry and the whole outsider artist thing he's got going, and his ideas on morality are something to think about. ...more
Read this a few years before writing this review. I remember thinking Kristof's "big stick" solutions had a ring of the old "here comes the West to saRead this a few years before writing this review. I remember thinking Kristof's "big stick" solutions had a ring of the old "here comes the West to save you" and that that hasn't been working out so well the last few centuries. I also remember a bit where he kind of dismisses sex worker labor unions, and the example he uses is actually a "yellow" labor union by which I mean one that is controlled by management. It's all classic New York Times ... humanitarian interventions and union bashing. But I mean, come on, his heart is very much in the right place! I think the stuff in here about maternal mortality made the biggest impression on me, and the book did inspire me to look at various NGOs and to even fork over some money to some of them. ...more
If you go deep into the what was then the Belgian Congo, and get into the woods, it isn't The Heart of Darkness that you find, but rather an entire trIf you go deep into the what was then the Belgian Congo, and get into the woods, it isn't The Heart of Darkness that you find, but rather an entire tribe acting like the Three Stooges, and singing about how Darkness is Good. According to Tolkein, the People of the Forest are tall, white, pointy-eared contemplative keepers of some kind of high culture. The reality is they are short, and dark, and tend to laugh so hard that they roll around the ground, clutching their sides. Instead of pointy ears, they have filed teeth.
My favorite chapter was the one about the ceremony when a girl first gets her period. All the women go into a specially built hut to celebrate this blessing ... contrast that with the Curse, Eve's punishment type crap we get. The women and girls make themselves extra beautiful by oiling up and getting shiny and also doing things like painting stars on their butts. Then they go around whipping the boys and men they like. The men and boys respond by firing banana peels out of sling shots back at the women. Men who have been whipped are expected to visit the women's hut at night. They will have to fight their way past the older women... the mothers of the unmarried women... if they are valiant and liked by the moms, they will get in. Going all the way and spending the night means staying in the women's hut for the rest of the ceremony which is, like, a month, and also basically means you have to marry so typically they just flirt a little and then leave again.
But the whole book is filled with stuff like that, that was just my favorite bit. There were some parts where I wasn't sure if it was just Turnbull's take on things or if he was really explaining how the Mbuti feel about or think about something... and then, it's from the 1950s, and he's a guy... it just seemed like there was stuff a female researcher or a more contemporary ethnography might include... so I had some questions about women's lives and there were a couple of characters I thought might be queer but Turnbull just writes things like "confirmed bachelor" or "Kidaya was handsome rather than pretty, and she had a reputation for being able to beat up even the strongest youths if their advances were not welcome to her..." later Kidaya is seen upset because the other Mbuti are staring at her when she makes some noises with a gourd that sound like some of the man-only noises made at some other ceremony. Considering that the Mbuti are one of the most gender-equality cultures known... with women always participating in the hunt and men often participating in child care and neither task viewed as more or less worthy... essentially no division of labor on gender lines... the stuff in their culture where gender counts ought to maybe get more attention.
On the other hand, there's plenty of laughs as the Mbuti play tricks on the Bantu villagers and of course mess with the anthropologist and generally just start hitting each other over the head with logs from the fire... The Forest is Good....more
The strangeness and "sense of wonder" and all that stuff people say they like about fantasy is piled up pretty high in this weird book.
I have recentlyThe strangeness and "sense of wonder" and all that stuff people say they like about fantasy is piled up pretty high in this weird book.
I have recently decided I need to know a lot more about William Morris and the door-stopper biography by E.P. Thompson William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary is on my desk, mocking me with it's Stephen King "It" sized massiveness. I only knew that Morris was one of these utopians from before Marx crushed a lot of the imagination out of most socialists. I hadn't known that he'd written fantasy novels until I read Lin Carter's wonky history of the genre. Apparently William Morris was also a part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which I have been interested in since reading To Hell with Culture and so Morris is also known for his patterns and designs.
So with all that baggage, I had some expectations for this book. Some of those were met, for example, the whole thing feels like you stepped into a John William Waterhouse painting, or something from The Pre-Raphaelites. Lin Carter had plugged the hell out of Morris in his book, and the kind of manly, episodic quest, anglophile stuff Carter likes is boiling over in "The Well." This also means a lot of archaic language, not just "forsooth," "nigh," and "wherefore" but also "rede," "hight," and other words not in my spell-checker. It's not like you need an OED, but it does slow a reader down.
An obvious expectation is that somewhere there is going to be some kind of social message, or even a full-on utopia. The story covers a lot of ground in this fantasy world, and everywhere there is slavery and weird gender stuff. It is clear enough that the protagonist is all for a just peace and equality, but even when he seems to find pockets of that, there seems to be something amiss, or even sinister, about it.
There are probably hundreds of characters who fall into the "threshold guardian" category. Every where Ralph, our hero, goes, he runs into people who are either warning him about the dangers ahead or confirming the rewards beyond those dangers. Many of these cats are not to be trusted and the ones who are, aren't telling the whole story. This makes for a lot more puzzling and anticipation than the action-packed dungeon-crawl stories of Moorcock or Howard. There is action, too, don't get me wrong... but this book is more about, "Wait, is he fighting the right people, or should he be on the other side?" Also... tons of blushing. Because there are many characters who everyone can't help but fall in love with. Lots of love, but nothing too steamy.
Well, we're still not at the World's End, let alone the Well, because this was only Volume I. I kind of expect Volume II to be even better, but I get it why 1970s Ballantine divided it up into two slim paperbacks. Luckily for me, Villa Fantastica, the science fiction and fantasy library in Vienna has the second part, so I'll get to that sooner rather than later....more
Despite an endorsement from Dena Fleno of AFSCME, this book seems more relevant for chuggers than union organizers. At first I was a bit annoyed thatDespite an endorsement from Dena Fleno of AFSCME, this book seems more relevant for chuggers than union organizers. At first I was a bit annoyed that much of the book is a literature review of the kinds of social psychology articles that are discussed in books like Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. So, like, one of those for chuggers, basically. But then I got to thinking, I could always stand to read that sort of thing again, if it will help me stay calm when discussing things with people, instead of just going nuclear like I often do. If it were really possible to internalize these tools, and then use them, that would be great, but as the book often points out, knowing things doesn't automatically translate into behavior changes. Although one thing Cooney brings out early and often, about dressing like the people you are trying to reach... I am already on board with that.
As I got further into the book, I started to get more disturbed. It has awoken a kind of philosophical dilemma for me. Given that people aren't rational actors, that actually most if not all of their (and my) attitudes, behaviors, thoughts are just stuff that feels right and is explained away later... stuff that has more to do with important people in a person's peer group, socio-economic class, and all the spam ... cough, cough, I mean, media and marketing ... around us, than with any kind of reason or moral compass. So, like, the whole free will versus determination thing. And for me, I don't want society to go the "right direction" because of top down decisions, because of what this book calls "upstream approaches." I want a truly democratic society, one where these kinds of decisions are ... when not personal... based on consensus. So, yeah, you could use this kind of stuff to try to get others to adopt your views... but isn't the ethical approach rather the old fashioned, ineffective one of just presenting your views and letting others come to their own decisions?
Obviously, if you are going to present your views, you want to present them in the best possible light. And obviously, if your group has reached consensus on some kind of campaign or target you want to the best possible information materials, strategy and tactics. But I think this book tipped a little bit into a kind of creepy side that I didn't like as much. Something like California über Alles... the song, I mean. Yeah whatever. Probably just making excuses to be lazy or something. As opposed to really trying this stuff, which would take more effort. But as Cooney sort of writes in the conclusion, if you can do something to even reduce one creature's suffering... you should do it....more
This took me over a year to finish. The stories in here offer a broad range of themes and moods but first and foremost, they all take place in a horriThis took me over a year to finish. The stories in here offer a broad range of themes and moods but first and foremost, they all take place in a horrible society where women are essentially chattel slaves. Men who don't automatically rape women when they are alone with them are considered to have exceptional moral fiber. Women are traded like any other object and are included when men speak of "all their possessions." It is disturbing. Within that context though, the female characters in the stories are incredible survivors. In quite a few of the stories, women succeed at their goals or even triumph over the men they "belong" to. Some of the stories are extremely dark, including horrible torture. But most are more or less the equivalent of a fourteenth century "truly tasteless jokes" collection. Boccaccio pops up himself once in the middle and then again at the end to defend his work and to fight against censorship. Although I found it difficult going, it was well worth it and I would like to learn more about Boccaccio the man and how this work was published and distributed and received at the time and through history. I would also like to know what literary theory types make of it today, and which stories were reused where. I did recognize one Shakespeare plot in here, but there must be tons of others. Just an amazing collection, full of humor and soul but also a brutal depiction of its times....more
A fun story, with a lot of humor. The alternative history setting is so subtle and detailed -- just slightly off from capital-h History -- that readerA fun story, with a lot of humor. The alternative history setting is so subtle and detailed -- just slightly off from capital-h History -- that readers might find themselves double checking and looking stuff up just to keep their own heads straight. This is the first Arnason book I have ever read and I really like the mix of progressive at times radical politics and optimistic, happy endings. ...more
I guess I wanted something a bit more sociological, or more rigorous. Helmreich went to some archives and flipped through his Philip Roth collection,I guess I wanted something a bit more sociological, or more rigorous. Helmreich went to some archives and flipped through his Philip Roth collection, added some of his personal experience and wrote the kind of rambling and bittersweet version of the story that you might get if you worked in a Jewish old age home and were a very good listener. Actually, no, I think Helmreich should have done more of that himself, although there does seem to be flashes of oral history in his account and the occasional survey or statistical study does poke its nose in. I also had the feeling that after getting so much cooperation from the MetroWest organization he didn't want to be all that critical so his history does this thing: what ever happened in the past was ultimately for the good, because look how great everything is now! Which is not so terrible when you are writing about the centralization of charity organizations or changes in synagogue leadership but I get annoyed when he is writing about breaking unions that were too communist or about the fate of certain anti-Zionist personalities. Fortunately, the biggest thing in the history of Newark's Jews -- the Riot -- is handled well and Helmreich makes no bones about the fact that Jewish 'white flight' had already passed the tipping point in Newark before the riot. Still, I liked reading this book even if it was at times slow going and it is definitely useful if you plan to spend any amount of time with Jews in Essex County of a certain age, so you can hold your own when the baloney starts flying. Judging from some of the excerpts in here, maybe Philip Roth wouldn't be such a terrible novelist to read after all. I'll get to him when I finish with Amiri Baraka....more
I got interested in the hidden manuscripts of Timbuktu during a period of relative peace in the region and I was just freaking out when the Tuaregs teI got interested in the hidden manuscripts of Timbuktu during a period of relative peace in the region and I was just freaking out when the Tuaregs teamed up with Al Qaeda and goons from Libya a couple of years ago. I followed along daily in online news sources that actually report on Africa and was generally on tenterhooks. When this book came out, I knew I wanted to read it. Joshua Hammer is a journalist with some background experience and knowledge in the area so ... oh, it's too tempting to write "Hammer nails it," sorry ... anyway. He delivers a gripping story based on lots of interviews with people involved and rich descriptions of a city that for many people, including me, is as legendary as it is real. Part of his schtick is that these manuscripts reveal a multicultural, scholarly Islam that knows how to party and that is of course just the opposite of what some of the groups who occupied the city want. And, maybe just as importantly, it is just the opposite of the kind of Islam that some people who are addicted to having enemies want to believe exists. If you follow my drift. I want to also point out, that this latter group, living in places like Europe and the USA, also pose a danger to libraries, just not as immediate as the one Timbuktu's scholars were facing.
For me, the manuscripts in Timbuktu and the surrounding area are precious in and of themselves. Old books. Really old books. Old books that might even be considered lost, hidden away in walls and cellars since the Moors were last in Mali. This book, while telling the exciting story of how some bad-ass librarians saved them from some very bad 'bearded ones' as the locals call them, also points out how both African history and the history of Islam are itself at stake there.
Alongside the librarians, Hammer gives us more than a little bit about the Desert Blues scene and a very stirring story about courageous market women standing up to the occupiers.
Enjoyed this more than "Probability Moon." Most of the characters were new and I think she did a better job fleshing them out, although the academic iEnjoyed this more than "Probability Moon." Most of the characters were new and I think she did a better job fleshing them out, although the academic in-fighting was less nuanced here. The physics is getting weirder, too....more
Wow, I loved this. Shostak's translation of the click-filled !Kung language is just poetry. The story is filled with lovers and hilarious sexual innueWow, I loved this. Shostak's translation of the click-filled !Kung language is just poetry. The story is filled with lovers and hilarious sexual innuendo, the level of solidarity among the !Kung and their attitude to community and to their Herrero and Tswana neighbors are fascinating. Nisa is an amazing personality, and it is all just "wow" but then the language of it is so incredible... it's like, "I want to talk like that" ... just, wow. I am blown away and can't even write a proper review. ...more
Although the subtitle says "Social Movements," the subject of this book is much broader including revolutions, elections and everything in-between. DiAlthough the subtitle says "Social Movements," the subject of this book is much broader including revolutions, elections and everything in-between. Divided in three parts, the book begins with "The Birth of the Modern Social Movement," a very readable and at times exciting opener. The second part, though, "Powers in Movement," was rather dry: The author spends a lot of time defining academic terms for things that already have names in real-people language, and the "neutral" and "objective" academic stance made me wonder sometimes if the book wasn't ultimately in support of the status quo... but all that stuffy university talk was worth it for the last third, "Dynamics of Contention" which was very rewarding. Together with the conclusion, this last bit takes the raw material of the first two thirds and offers interesting models to use when thinking about political and social struggles and also suggests some areas where "the next generation" of researchers could make their mark. I had been meaning to read this for a while, but I am glad I waited because this most recent edition incorporates Al Qaeda and other examples that belie the arguments made in past editions that soon all social movements will be easily integrated into legal frameworks and "transgressive" direct action would fade away. Still, a little more insider information and less of the 'subject-object feeling' would have lent this book more blood and sympathy....more
Torgovnick closely reads and contextualizes a list of modern intellectuals and discovers that most of them are basically just masturbating to images oTorgovnick closely reads and contextualizes a list of modern intellectuals and discovers that most of them are basically just masturbating to images of topless natives. Extremely readable despite its academic intentions, she offers a corrective to viewing the primitive as a stage on the path towards modernism or as the personification of Freud's "id" (and therefore something to be suppressed by a colonizing "superego"). Hitting me where I live is what I'll call a blackface tendency, to use the primitive as a way to make myself seem more civilized.
I feel like I might want to read this again some day, which is a pretty strong recommendation. I would also like to see a similar book looking at primitivism in more recent examples of pop culture, literature and scholarship. Like Torgovnick's second chapter, "Taking Tarzan Seriously" I want a book that starts off taking Cameron's Avatar and Gibson's Apocalyptico (or whatever that Mayan film was called) seriously. That looks at cats like Wade Davis the way Torgovnick looks at Tobias Schneebaum. And, yeah, I especially want someone with Torgovnick's chops to get behind the curtain of wizards like John Zerzan.
This book also made me think about librarianship. On the one hand, you want to keep older, thoroughly discredited works if they were of significant importance at the time. On the other hand, maybe something like The Golden Bough should be moved from BL310 .F72 to somewhere in PR... know what I mean?...more
Academics in space, screwed over by the military they are unwittingly serving... that's a good start. One of the main characters is Iranian... I likeAcademics in space, screwed over by the military they are unwittingly serving... that's a good start. One of the main characters is Iranian... I like that, I am really sick of everyone in the future being into Shakespeare or the ancient Greeks, nice to have a character who refers to great Persian poets. I felt like the culture of World, that is, the aliens that the anthropologists are studying, was a little thin on the ground. There must be more to life than headaches and flowers. There was also a big plot point that I saw coming, like hundreds of pages before it happened, but that didn't bother me too much when it did happen, there was enough other stuff going on and it wasn't all "Plot Twist!" I mean, it was telegraphed but then it wasn't that big a deal after all.
What is with the German character being some kind of übermensch, the only one really prepared for when the shit hits the fan? Is this a riff on Hitchcock's Lifeboat? Plus, the weird physics talk made me want to learn some real science about radioactivity and quantum something-or-other so that is old school science fiction cool. Speaking of old school SF, it also felt like it was tipping into YA territory, like the language or the style of writing seemed kind of simple and each character gives us an internal monologue and then they do it again and it is pretty much the same. It's like, yeah, I get your motivation already. Yeah, I know that's what you think about the others and the plan. All in all though, a good start and I plan to read further in the series. Once I got to the last third of the book, I was like, I am going to finish this today. So, points for "immersion." ...more