a collection of "short stories" from variously famous and unknown victims of decapitation in the moments after they've lost their heads.
he calls thema collection of "short stories" from variously famous and unknown victims of decapitation in the moments after they've lost their heads.
he calls them short stories but i say they're poetry. they each follow a structure (a set amount of words which he estimates a person could think in the amount of time which people are estimated to be able to think after decapitation), and the imagery is often intense and beautiful.
i found the best way to read this was one or a few of these per night, so as to let them sink in. since the prose is so crafted, i also found it really pleasant to read aloud.
this book is at times funny, thought provoking, arousing, disgusting, and heartbreaking.
in his historical accounts, he either has researched or imagined close personal secrets of the subjects, and convincingly speaks as everyone from queens to pedophiles to serial killers to animals.
the thoughts range from distant flashbacks to musings to the events immediately preceeding the beheadings, and of course the author imagines his own death on the last page.
the concept is a total gimmick, and most of the poems are probably ridiculous for people to be thinking as they are violently dying, but really that's not the point.
it's no surprise after reading this that he won a pullitzer, and i intend to check out some of his other books. ...more
Seeing childhood photos of someone you're in love with is a pretty strange feeling: All the lust and competition are distilled away, and you're left wSeeing childhood photos of someone you're in love with is a pretty strange feeling: All the lust and competition are distilled away, and you're left with this pure, almost painful feeling of love that I imagine to be something like what parents must feel toward their kids.
Niffenegger uses that feeling as her anchor, and time travel as the lens through which to examine identity, knowledge, free will, and morality.
In this book's world, you're an entirely new person every day, which was an interesting contrast to the history of love, in which every character is ultimately the same. Context is everything here.
Another aspect that I found really interesting was the unrequited form their love takes at various points. Girl meets boy when boy already knows they've been married for years in the future. Boy meets girl when girl has been in love with him for years already.
The first 20 pages of this book make an almost-perfect short story. It must have been really hard to keep writing past that point. ...more
i picked this up on a whim the other night, and had finished it before i went to bed. it's a very light read, but filled with some interesting insighti picked this up on a whim the other night, and had finished it before i went to bed. it's a very light read, but filled with some interesting insights.
"people often come to me asking for medication. they are tired of their sad mood fatigue, and loss of interest in things that previously gave them pleasure... Here is what i tell them: the good news is that we have effective treatments for the symptoms of depression: the bad news is that medication will not make you happy. happiness is not simply the absence of despair. it is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure."
the concept of the book is that a psychiatrist with a pretty tragic life of his own is giving his insights as to what patterns he's observed in his patients and himself. wishing he'd realized these things earlier in life, he decided to make a list of the top 30 things he things people need to realize about life and themselves.
i actually found some of the most interesting parts of the book to be about how to raise children and how it is to become elderly, and why relationships (especially marriage) dissolve.
the stuff that applied to me the most were small tips on day to day life, such as:
* we are what we do * only bad things happen quickly * there is nothing more pointless, or common, than doing the same things and expecting different results. * notice what you forget * plan, don't wish
he supports each little chapter title with an anecdote. some of these are clearly cathartic exercises for himself, and i had a hard time figuring out what to pull out and apply to my own life. but like i said, he's had a crazy life and that's interesting to read about in its own right.
the other interesting aspect of the book is he mentions from time to time the type of things he has found useful to ask people as their therapist.
* what's next? * how's that working? * what are you saving yourself for? * what is the biggest chance you have ever taken? * what are you looking forward to? * how will this decision make you feel about yourself?
i found this interesting since so much of the trouble with trying to help someone change their life is the risk of them becoming defensive. these questions seemed useful for introspective purposes as well.
this is an amazingly good book, and it's a shame it's not getting more attention.
based on the title, it's easy to mistake this for a self-help book. ithis is an amazingly good book, and it's a shame it's not getting more attention.
based on the title, it's easy to mistake this for a self-help book. it's something much more interesting, which is a blend of pop-science book and memoir.
the author describes lab experiments, summarizes research, guides the reader through parts of the brain, which chemicals they make when and why, and how all these things can help to stack up and create the ephemeral feeling of satisfaction in a person. this is pretty standard stuff for a book on neuroscience.
the really great aspect of the book, though, is that berns goes out into the world on adventures. he talks to people in cuba about their life under a communist regime. he visits iceland, supposedly the country with the most satisfied people in the world, and accidentally finds out how their mythology may be connected to his research.
he spends an evening cooking and talking with a famous argentinian chef, interviews people who run 100m-mile ultramarathons, and visits an SM club.
at the end of the book, berns brings his knowledge home, and tries to get more satisfaction out of his marriage. i found this part in particular really personal and honest, and it's a great illustration of how he's looking for connctions everywhere in the world around him. if it's a self-help book for anyone, it's the author, which i always find makes the most interesting books.
he's very skilled at weaving the real-life anecdotes into the relevant science material, and he's obviously got a flair for prose. these elements on top of the interesting content make for a really well-paced book that it's sad to see end. i'll be rereading this one frequently. ...more
"let me begin with a confession: i'm lying. not to you or to the world, but to my striking blond editor at spin; she thinks i'm driving straight from"let me begin with a confession: i'm lying. not to you or to the world, but to my striking blond editor at spin; she thinks i'm driving straight from new york to west warwick, rhode island to "investigate" the great white club tragedy. i am actually driving tho ithaca, new york, with a woman, solely because this woman asked me to take her there and i immediately said yes. traveling to ithaca might seem harmless, but it's actually a metaphor. in fact, there may be a day in the near future when yo find yourself in a conversation about this book, and someone will ask you what the story is really about, beyond the rudimentary narrative of a cross-country death trip based on a magazine article. and it's very likely you will say, " well, the larger thesis is what underdeveloped, but there is this point early in the story where he takes a woman to ithaca for no apparent reason, and it initially seems innocuous, but - as you keep reading - you sort of see how this behavior is a self-perpetuating problem that keeps reappearing over and over again." in all probability, you will also complain about the author's reliance on self-indulgent, postmodern self-awareness, which will prompt the person you're conversing with to criticize the influence of dave eggers on the memoir-writing genre. then your cell phone will ring, and you will agree to meet someone for brunch. but ANYWAY, the woman i am taking to ithaca is named Diane. she works with me at Spin, although not directly. as o right now, i am in love with her, and that love is the biggest problem in my life. it's the only problem in my life, really. and by this time tomorrow, i will have given diane an ultimatum about our future together, which is ironic because i will do this in response to an ultimatum given to me by a different woman who lives in minnesota (a woman who has yet to be introduced into the story). so-ultimately-that will be the crux of this book: i will be driving across the country with two ultimatums hanging in the balance, delivered to (and from) two different women who have never met each other. and the larger irony will be that neither of these women will be the central female character in the story; that will actually be a third woman, but she will never tangibly appear anywhere in this entire book."
"in my opinion, we must legalize gay marriage, gay males are the only men in america who still want to be married."
"don't ever cheat on someone. i'm serious. it's not worth it. and i'm not saying this because cheating is morally wrong, because some people have a very specific version of morality that doesn't necessarily classify actions as right or wrong. the reason you should never cheat on someone is because you won't enjoy it. no matter which person you're with, you'll always be thinking of the other one. you will never be in the romantic present tense; your mind will solely exist in the past and the future. let's say you sleep with your mistress on friday and your wife on saturday: to an epicurean, this is the dream lifestyle. this is sexual utopia. but it never works out that way. when you're having sex with your mistress on friday, you will find yourself thinking about your wife. you will be thinking about how this act would destroy her, and how humiliated she would feel if she knew the truth. but then on saturday, when you're back in the arms of your trusting wife, your mind will immediately drift toward decadence, at the height of your physical passion, you will think back to how exciting things were 24 hours ago, when you were with a new strange body, except that it wasn't exciting to be with someone else; it 's only exciting in your memory (at the time, it just made you wracked with guild). so no you're having sex with someone who loves you, but your mind isn't even in the same room. and suddenly it's sunday; you have now had sex with two people on two consecutive nights, and you didn't appreciate either episode. algebraically, a + b = c and a + c = b. the only thing infidelity does is remind you of the people you're not having sex with, which is something you can just as easily think about when you're completely alone.
sometimes i read books to see life from a completely different perspective from my own, but this is one of those indulgent books that was written by someone just like me for people just like me. he's self-centered, relentlessly suspicious of his own motives, and unhealthily introspective. the hypothetical conversation between himself and the three women halfway through the book or so is amazing.
i read this book either the day before or the day after high fidelity, and it also was a very addictive one-night read. i'd been intending to pick up a klosterman book for multiple years, and this is the first one i finally ended up reading first.
i do a lot of underlining and dog-earing in my books, which is one of the reasons i can never read library books. when i'm finished with a book, you can tell how much i liked it by how many of the pages are dog-eared or marked. this book was mercilessly attacked. there are great little pithy quotes throughout....more
"sex is about the only grown-up thing i know how to do; it's weird, then, that it's the only thing that can make me feel like a ten-year-old"
"so maybe"sex is about the only grown-up thing i know how to do; it's weird, then, that it's the only thing that can make me feel like a ten-year-old"
"so maybe what i said before, about how listening to too many records messes your life up... maybe there's something in it after all. david owen, he's married right? he's taken care of all that, and now he's a big-shot diplomat. the guy who came into the shop with the suit and the car keys, he's married too, and now he's, i don't know a businessman. me, i'm unmarried - at the moment as unmarried as it's possible to be - and i'm the owner of a failing record shop. it seems to me that if you place music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can't afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. you've got to pick at it, keep it alive and in turmoil, you've got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you're compelled to start all over again. maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content; we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heals happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship. maybe al green is directly responsible for more than i ever ralized. see, records have helped me fall in love, no question. i hear something new, with a chord change that melts my guts, and before i know it i'm looking for someone, and before i know it i've found her. i fell in love with rosie the simultaneous orgasm woman after i'd fallen in love with a cowboy junkies song: i played it and played it and played it, and it made me dreamy, and i needed someone to dream about, and i found her, and...well, there was trouble."
over christmas break i became mildly obsessed with the idea of music as the nexus of everything important. i read a bunch of books about music, watched cameron crowe movies, played guitar, sang in the shower; it was super self-indulgent and i loved every second of it.
i read this between midnight and sunrise. i kept intending to stop so as not to waste all the goodness in one night, but i couldn't let it go. i liked it so much that i actually rented the movie again later that same day, which i realize is slightly ridiculous.
sometimes a really good movie adaptation makes the book seem unnecessary, and i think this is one of those for a lot of people. i've always loved the movie, but the book has the added bonus of british charm, and more dialog and flashbacks.
despite the fact that the book is light and fun, i think it does tackle some real issues, and honestly at that. it will ring true to the guys of the personality that it's written about, and to the women who have to put up with them. ...more
absolutely beautiful and amazing. i love this book so much i can't describe it. i'm going to make a point to read it once a year for as long as i liveabsolutely beautiful and amazing. i love this book so much i can't describe it. i'm going to make a point to read it once a year for as long as i live.
the book has so many interesting facts and quotes that i ended up dogearing almost the entire book, so i'll just include the prologue:
"this book is an autobiography of my body, a biography of my father's body, an anatomy of our bodies together- especially my dad's, his body, his relentless body. this is my research; this is what i now know: the brute facts of esistence, the fragility and ephemerality of life in its naked corporeality, human beings as bare, forked animals, the beauty and pathos in my body and his body and everybody else's body as well. accept death, i always seem to be saying. accept life, is his entirely understandable reply. why am i in love with easeful death? i just turned 51. as martin amis has said, 'who knows when it happens, but it happens. suddenly you realize that you're switching from saying Hi to saying Bye. and it's a full-time job: death. you really have to wrench your head around to look in the other direction, because death's so apparent now, and it wasn't apparent before. you were intellectually persuaded that you were going to die, but it wasn't a reality.' so, too, for myself, being the father fo an annoyingly vital 14-year-old girl only deepens these feelings. i'm no longer athletic (really bad back - more on this later). natalie is. after a soccer game this season, a perent of one of the players on the other team came up to here and said, 'turn pro.' why, at 97, is my father so devoted to longevity per se, to sheer survival? he is - to me - cussedly, maddeningly alive and interesting, but i also don't want to romanticize him. he's life force as life machine - exhausting and exhaustive. rest in peace? hard to imagine. mark harris, tryign to explain why he thought saul bellow was a better writer than any of his contemporaries, said bellow was simply more alive than anyone else, and there's something of that in my father. d.h. lawrence was said to have lived as if he were a man without skin. that, too, is my father: i keep on urging him to don skin, and he keeps declining. i seem to have an oedipal urge to bury him in a shower of death data. why do i want to cover my dad in an early shroud? he's strong and he's weak and i love and i hate him and i want him to live forever and i want him to die tomorrow."
first of all, what an incredibly honest thing to have written about your dad when he's still alive. i can't imagine writing the things that are in this book knowing (hoping) that my dad would be alive to read them.
the relationship and competition between father and son is a huge focus of this book. the dad is twice the son's age, and in many ways is still the better, healthier man. shields is making peace with the fact that his dad is finally starting to slow down at 97, and will soon be dead, but he's simultaneously also making peace with the knowledge that he'll never make it that long himself, or be in as good a state if he does. he's also struggling with the idea of whether or not he would want to.
the book is also about the family as a whole. how does the son's wife and daughter impact his thoughts on life and love and sex and purpose and dying, and how did the father's father impact his?
this is also a sports book. shields' previous books were all about basketball, and his father was a sportswriter as well. sports were a major bonding point between them, and a point of contention.
the amazing thing is that the sports sections didn't bore me. between this book and all of chuck klosterman's stuff, i actually find myself curious about the beauty of basketball. these guys make me want to go shoot freethrows for the first time since grade school.
another big element of this book is an incredible array of statistics about life, gender, death, desease, and demographics. they're peppered throughout, and even though i recognized some of them as debatable, he uses them very well to enhance whatever story or philosophy he's currently dealing with.
the last element of the book is a huge selection of quotes from famous thinkers, as well as nobodies. a late section of the book includes thoughts on the meaning of life from people such as stephen jay gould, a cab driver, and ice-t. surprisingly the latter two had the more interesting things to say.
the book ends with a bunch of last words from famous people, including the last diary entry from the author's mother.
the book discusses in detail the biology and chemistry of being born, living, having sex, aging, and dying, and most importantly, how all those things are really the same thing.
it's not a sad book, or at least not any more than it's a happy book. it's got a bittersweetness to it that reflects the subject matter perfectly.
as someone who's almost 30 and trying to decide sooner than later what i want out of the rest of my life, this book seemed tailor made for me. i'm going to lend it out to all the introspective, slightly emo people i know. ...more
**spoiler alert** this book made me cry, though it's just about the last book i would have expected to do so. the character arcs in this book are just**spoiler alert** this book made me cry, though it's just about the last book i would have expected to do so. the character arcs in this book are just great.
like then we came to the end, it's a work novel about much more than work. but while that book is about noticing the complexity and worth in the people around us, this book is about people discovering those things within themselves.
it should really have a different title, as it's barely about microsoft at all. but it's the best read if you were just expecting a novel version of The Office, so by saying that maybe i've already ruined the surprise.
this was the first coupland novel i read, but his postmodern habit of turning some of the pages into little typography/art pieces suits this book very well....more
"Give me a sweater made from your smell and whispers."
"The fatigue setting in, the emptiness, the dull panic, an alarm clock blaring, banging against "Give me a sweater made from your smell and whispers."
"The fatigue setting in, the emptiness, the dull panic, an alarm clock blaring, banging against the love and desire. The certain knowledge that all of these things will live within you and fight for dominance the rest of your days."
"The power light on the Twin Reverb glows like god's electric blood."
"You lean down, closer, closer, close enough now to feel the heat of her breath on your mouth, and to taste it, sweet and vaguely smoky. You are the drift of days and the unknown future. She is an academy of eyes. Your hands move slowly up her arms. You want to rip out her scars and eat them like Twizzlers."
I've read this book four times in the past six months. It's prosaic and musical and has what I consider to be the best dialog I've ever read.
(I accidentally discovered today that the first half of this book goes really well with Violent Femmes, and the second half goes really well with The Arcade Fire.) ...more