Imagine if you would Ralph Waldo Emerson. Now imagine him not writing Self Reliance but Self Doubt. That would get you pretty close**spoiler alert**
Imagine if you would Ralph Waldo Emerson. Now imagine him not writing Self Reliance but Self Doubt. That would get you pretty close the maddening nothingness that is NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND.
Dostoevsky divides the book into two parts. The first part is a rambling journal...or is a stream of consciousness exercise...or is he talking at someone? It's a little hard to say. It has the officiousness of an Emersonian lecture on the nature of Man, but as explained by the narrator of the Telltale Heart.
Though that would be giving the narrator (known as the Underground Man as he is nameless) too much credit bc the narrator of the TellTale Heart actually did something. The Underground Man does nothing.
In his opening he...to my best guess...is at odds with himself in his inability to define himself. He's full of contradictions. He's the villain then a hero. He is wise then full of ponderous questions. He talks about a "wall" which cannot be broken...this I think is his concept of Man's limit. The end of all he can be. He goes on about bullish men of action who would rage blindly, unaware of the wall...and the meek mouse who dare not proceed for fear of a wall. The Underground Man seems more mouse than Man, and he's clearly in pain living in a world which binds him in...but unable or unwilling (mouselike) to rage at society's barriers (this would be, I think, Emerson concept of Transcendentalism).
He's really tripped out. The Underground Man does nothing and it takes all his energy to do it. He doesn't know what morality really is as he questions the very idea of making choices (Science kind of proves the Underground Man correct here).
In the end, he calls us in his rally to do nothing and to hate normal people. A fun guy! An 1880s version of an internet troll.
Part Two is narrative, but totally frustrating. I can see Holden Caufield coming from the Underground Man. He starts by hating everyone he works with and having no friends...but pretending to like people though it makes him gag. He goes on and on about a fantasy wherein he gets in bar fight but he never actually does it. He spends his off hours wandering the streets getting increasingly freaked out by his otherness.
He's got friends and they make a date to meet up. The Underground Man hates this and hates himself for wanting to go. He gets there early but his friends show up an hour late. The Underground Man loses his shit on them. They try to make nice but he's a total ass. So they take off without him, which drives him nuts. Nuts enough to go looking for them. Where? A whorehouse of course!
He finds them but gets distracted. Holden Caufield he ain't (though now I am wondering about the prostitute scene in that book: was it a tribute to this novel?). He has sex with Liza but then screws with her mind...he tries to convince Liza she will be dead soon and that she shouldn't waste her life. Liza mistakes this for someone who cares, and...on his prompting...shows up later at his apartment.
Before we get to that, though, the Underground Man tries to get himself arrested / noticed, but the cop shrugs him off as an innocent loony. This drives the Underground Man nuts.
When he gets home guess who's there. Liza! And the Underground Man totally punishes her, saying he made everything up to play with her. She leaves, humiliated...he chases after her but cannot find her (ummm....try the whorehouse).
I hated this book as much as I hated Catcher In The Rye for the same reason I hate indecisive characters. I am Emersonian for sure. Be more! Be bold! Be true! Every heart should vibrate to that iron string.
The Underground Man is the opposite. He is a wet blanket of snow.
Still..I would call this a must read. I'm convinced it was inspiration for the Modernist giants as well as Camus.
This is an interesting science book about identity that already...in a world dominated by talks of genetic manipulation (via CRSPR) seems quaintly out
This is an interesting science book about identity that already...in a world dominated by talks of genetic manipulation (via CRSPR) seems quaintly out of date even though it was published in 2014.
The title takes on the structure of the book. ME deals with gene research, the neural network of the brain, and psychological personality profiles. In all three cases the story stays the same: there are no simple answers. Things and complicated, vague, and tend to shift around. Any effort you make to have some sort of definitive claim on personality via your genes, your brain, or your "essence" is likely to be debunked at some point.
MYSELF focuses more on case studies, for lack of a better description. Oullette looks at three major ways in which people see identity: alcoholism, your online persona, and your sexuality. Again...no simple answers. Alcoholism was a bit boring. We know there's genetics...but there's also brain chemicals, emotional response, history, and life changes that factor in. The online persona was more interesting...looking at the idea of totems (things that you hold dear)...avatars as the expression of inner fantasy (though most people make their avatars themselves instead of some role play)...and your persona as personality. Good stuff, even if Second Life is a strange company to focus on. Sexuality looks at it as a choice versus a thing that just is. It also looks at the trouble of binary thinking in a complicated world.
WHY tackles the metaphysical. Again in a set of three, Oullette first drops acid and looks at consciousness and how we can alter it through drugs...and do drugs like MDMA change you or reveal you? Then she moved onto consciousness as our sense of self, going back into the brain and psychology research from earlier...but mostly looking at how consciousness might have to do with connections (how the brain connects; how we connect). The last section brings in the concept of myth and storytelling...the way we become agents of our story...the way we use literature to create a schema for life arc...the way we misremember ourselves for the sake of our story. As an English teAcher I liked this last section a lot.
All in all, an interesting read that can jump start some great conversation. But please don't take drugs. ❤
I like books that tell history in an interesting way. Bill Bryson is one of my favorites. This book is Bryson-esque. It tells interesting stories, howI like books that tell history in an interesting way. Bill Bryson is one of my favorites. This book is Bryson-esque. It tells interesting stories, however it could do with a sense of humor.
The book is mistitled. These really aren't innovations/discoveries/inventions in the way you'd typically think: the classic Aha moment. Instead the author tracks innovations over time in six key areas. Glass, for example. Light, for another. Are these the greatest arcs of innovation, as the title suggests? Not in the least, in my view. Medicine should have gotten an arc. Combat should've been another. These are way more impactful than, say, Cold or Time.
So, just let go of the title and enjoy the real thesis of the book: the little things you enjoy are made up of many, many moments of innovation. Do you like ice in your drink? The story of how we come to that is a great one. Checking the time on your iPhone? The story of why you see the time you see is fascinating.
I like this book a lot because the stories weren't really known to me and were told in interesting fashion, even if I didn't believe the hype of the title....more
- 40,000 is a number used in Rome hyperbolically like the way we say millions (ex: We destroyed 40,000 livestock)
- Emperors were clean shaveFun facts:
- 40,000 is a number used in Rome hyperbolically like the way we say millions (ex: We destroyed 40,000 livestock)
- Emperors were clean shaven for busts until around mid 100 CE...then they went full beard...for reasons unexplained but most likely to emulate the look of Greek philosophers
- Two major "blood on the Senate floor" preceded Caesar...both were brothers...the murders were decades apart...and came from anxiety over their plans to help the poor. The author is showing here that Caesar's murder wasn't strange.
- Caesar worked with 2 other guys in a bid to fill the Senate with their own people...one of these guys was Pompeii (who Caesar later destroys...Caesar's victory march from Pompeii's demise opens the play)
- Pompeii was actually killed by Egyptian spies...more
Durant is really a philosophical historian, so it's no surprise that his greatest minds tend to be philosophers and occasional scientists. Durant is aDurant is really a philosophical historian, so it's no surprise that his greatest minds tend to be philosophers and occasional scientists. Durant is adamantly against praising the likes of Alexander the Great and other military greats (even though you could argue Alexander the Great had a much greater impact on the world than, say, Kant).
Though Durant does give accolades to some people and books outside of the Western tradition, the great thrust of his picks can be summed up thusly: - most of the great minds and great books about the nature of man came about in ancient Greece and Rome - though some artists and thinkers squeak through in the age of modernity, basically nothing of any merit appears from the minds of men (and it's basically men) after the year 1800 - in the age of modernity (if you want to call 1750 "modern"), though there are influences here and there globally...there is a seismic shift away from Europe (the likes of Voltaire and Dante) and to America (or the British colonies)...this is, in my view, the Western tradition
Durant's list of 100 best books is just, you know, for people who live the life of the mind. I'm thinking George Will would like this list.
Durant loves poetry, but he seems to be transfixed with poetry that celebrates the romance of the soul. So...Whitman makes the cut. Though there's a nod to literature as a promoter of social change (he really likes Euripides because he had the guts to create a play that called out the terrible price of war while in the midst of a Civil War), Durant doesn't extend this model of literary merit outside the Greeks and Romans. So...Langston Hughes does not get a mention.
The book inspires me to delve into the classics more...I really need to re-read the Iliad and the Odyssey...and I've never read the Aeneid....and I've never read Plutarch...and I've never read Newton. I've not read the complete works of Shakespeare. So, that would be fun to do.
But I'm a big believer in the relevancy of today. There's a lot going on. Globally, change is afoot. And I don't think it's enough to stick to the Western tradition. I feel that's part of the frustration in "make America great again". The world has changed...or more specifically...the Western tradition is a lie in that it is the only route to a cultured soul. The Western tradition neglects and negates the contributions of most of the world. That's my opinion anyway....more
Drama is relentless as the coloring of the book. And it has this Disney-fied kind of approach to making theater in middle school. Everyone is SUPER ja
Drama is relentless as the coloring of the book. And it has this Disney-fied kind of approach to making theater in middle school. Everyone is SUPER jacked about performing / auditioning. Everyone has super inventive ideas and looks at film and photos and books for inspiration on how to put the show together. It's a little overwhelmingly saccharine in all those places.
But you cheer on regardless. Callie is hyper emotional and bounces from boy to boy with confusion. Not in a trampy way...very innocently.
My daughter suggested this to me and I'm glad she did. If you like Disney shows like THE SUITE LIFE IF ZACK AND CODY you will enjoy DRAMA....more
Love this show! Love this book! It reminded me most of the stressful emotional life changing time I spent in Miami with Just the Funny...moments I cheLove this show! Love this book! It reminded me most of the stressful emotional life changing time I spent in Miami with Just the Funny...moments I cherish but do not miss. That's why Stewart says he misses the people but not the grind. OK some thoughts...
John McCain came off good in the book...his arc through the book is the most interesting
Lewis Black was really open and interesting.
Tucker Carlson is still a whiny douche and I wish they'd stop putting him on NPR. All these years later and he still can't see the truth
Jim Cramer is still full of shit...I don't know how he sleeps at night.
Glenn Beck is delusional...that guy was and is a big part of the problem.
Wyatt Cenac (I'm assuming) declined to be interviewed for the book. He should have done it. He comes off as overly sensitive in a business where that shouldnt be.
Bill O'Reilly is not in the book. He should have though. His head is too big I guess to realize it's all show biz
Stephen Colbert...I mean, just when u think u can't live this guy more! My favorite part of the book was the story behind the ENG assignment where Carell gets drunk on purpose.
Samantha Bee...this is the person who SHOULD be helming the Daily Show now.
John Oliver is great in this book and takes a lot of shit from everyone...and I mean everyone...in the book...which speaks to how great he is ...more
This book is not for everyone. Here is why it is awesome.
ONE STAR awarded bc the author is connected to Rochester NY. The book is set in NYC (I think)This book is not for everyone. Here is why it is awesome.
ONE STAR awarded bc the author is connected to Rochester NY. The book is set in NYC (I think) but the character grew up in Rochester. No street names or buildings are name checked...but you can feel it in your blue collar bones.
ONE STAR awarded for the audacious nothingness. I see a lot of reviews saying that is the trick of the book. Maybe I'm overthinking things but...
ONE STAR awarded for a lyrical novel about being nowhere. Not stuck. But OK with the monotony of the hum drum.
ONE STAR for how brilliantly Baker does this. The narrator believes you are stronger when you tighten in on yourself. Like those damn shoelaces. He's confident in finding control in little things. This draws him in tighter. Why obsess over bags in supermarkets? Not to be like Seinfeld. No! My guess...the narrator concerns himself with bullshit...focuses in on the mundane...so that he can lace himself up tight. He overthinks but in truth he underthinks. He likes loops (shoelaces, escalators, baggage terminals, the grocery store checkout treadmill, etc...) because he's a loop. This guy will never date the hot checkout girl or marry L or find meaningful work bc all of that is a series of unknowns. This is a book about a poison that kills brain cells but it's not alcohol...its complacency.
ONE FINAL STAR for the humor that weaves through the book. The novel is not unlike standup comedy. The narrator goes off on riffs...he gets distracted...he teases you with one thing and then goes ADHD and goes somewhere else. The footnotes are a great way to visualize the constant need for asides.
This is a smart book for sure...but if you are hunting for the motif of loops as you read (and how can you not consider the cigarette twirling around, caught on the escalator track, as anything other than a symbol) then I dare say it's a bit of a page turner! ...more
A wonderful book that is funny and informative. Every chapter was interesting. The author points out some flaws in the musical while proving that HamiA wonderful book that is funny and informative. Every chapter was interesting. The author points out some flaws in the musical while proving that Hamilton is a subject worthy of a musical. Amazing!...more
Amazing book!! A slow burning horror story that gets totally nuts at the end. Like any haunted house book you do wonder why they don't just leave (andAmazing book!! A slow burning horror story that gets totally nuts at the end. Like any haunted house book you do wonder why they don't just leave (and Koiko doesn't make the ghosts in the story really vague...so its a little like "What exactly is the debate here? We are leaving. Right. Now."). I'm really glad I read this...it was akin to choosing the best candy in an assorted mix box. A treat!...more
A really good read if you are a fan of the man or the band Genesis.
I especially loved Collin's liberal use of British slang. It made it so you felt heA really good read if you are a fan of the man or the band Genesis.
I especially loved Collin's liberal use of British slang. It made it so you felt he was really just talking to you.
The Live Aid chapter is a standout.
Once again, a book about how smashing success as an entertainer requires a 100% commitment to the road, at the expense of you your wife/wives and children and liver and memory.
I juxtapose this story against RUSH, though, or THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS...bands that love creating music...but maintain a normalcy.
Phil Collins was...as he would say...gobsmacked by "the scene"...I mean, even when he settled down he threw big parties at his house for, literally, "the whole town"...and he was a regular at their pub and on their celebrity cricket team. Phil Collins in a way reminds me of Myrtle in The Great Gatsby, spinning around that smoky apartment in her dress. It's the scene. Yes, he made enduring friendships...but did he keep taking jobs because as he put it "I had opportunities I couldn't say no to" or was it because he was addicted to being in the center of the machine?
Keep in mind...I love this guy. His music is the music of my youth. Late nights in my basement writing horror stories were largely fueled by Steak-Ums and Genesis music.
I hope he can keep it together. He's got a lot to live for. In light of the staggering loss of life in 2016, NOT DEAD YET takes on a different tone than the jovial dry Brit wit I think he was going for. That's why I took one star off...you are left feeling altogether unsure that Collins has actually reached a point of reflective peace. But I hope he is that. Love that guy!...more
Great book! A horror movie on the page! I really enjoyed the narration (especially the split screen gimmick...that was cool). The motivation and charaGreat book! A horror movie on the page! I really enjoyed the narration (especially the split screen gimmick...that was cool). The motivation and characters were over the top, but it's a horror movie, basically, so no need to go overboard.
I found myself disoriented and confused for the first 5 chapters...then it really hummed along.
The sex scene was a little to graphic and gratuitous...and I thought the Jules/Justin storyline was all distraction and fluff...but this is an amazingly good first novel. ...more
I read this begrudgingly in college. I return to it now as my daughter is (begrudgingly) reading it for English12.3 Swedes walk into a Danish bar....
I read this begrudgingly in college. I return to it now as my daughter is (begrudgingly) reading it for English12. Why 5 stars? OK...glad you asked.
One star for History! What I appreciate now as an older person is the when of Beowulf. People think it was built on an older oral tradition and was definitely Pagan...but got a Christian facelift and put to paper around 800-1000. It was nearly destroyed in a fire and (I read) was targeted for destruction by Henry VIII. That is very cool!
Another star for History! The Odyssey is awesome...but I like Gilgamesh for how it captures that space in our culture as we move from Nomadic wanderers to city builders. What Beowulf captures is our transition between Paganism and Christianity. Beowulf is a Christ figure deep fried in manly bravado. When the big B dies (spoiler?) for the unworthy, instead of being saved, they are marked for death. Instead of being forgiven for denying B at his most desperate moment, the Geats are damned.
One more star for history! Grace's class is discussing The Warriors Ethos for their reading focus. Love that! Right at the front, the reader understands what makes a good King: it involves a lot of ass kicking. Which is funny bc when B dies, the Geats lament that, w/o him, their community will surely be destroyed....by a great King??? The lack of logic here is really interesting to discuss. William the Conqueror was Great in 1066...but he did that by destroying...he didn't even speak the language! Alexander the Great....a decimator of culture. We praise that quality but bemoan it when we are on the pointy end. Wherefore empathy?
One star for Seamus Heaney and JRR Tolkein! Seamus Heaney is my favorite poet (a good Irishman) and Tolkien lovingly pays tribute to the pace and themes of B in LOTR. Heaneys translation is wonderful and worth listening to as well.
A final star for the ambiguity of the creatures! Tolkien thought the creatures and Warriors were like Ragnorock. All destroyed in the end. Some think the creatures are Pagan forces pushing against Christian culture. Some think the creatures represent Earth and her penchant to kill us in the dark. (What does Grendel hate? Civilization.). And how about Grendel's mom? Was she really wrong? And what did the dragon represent but a bad King? A hoarder not a sharer. (Has there EVER been a good King on that definition?)
Yes this is a bit like reading the Old Testament. A little patience involved. Yes there are distracting side stories (I saw a video that suggested these would be known stories to that audience...kinda like putting Johnny Tremain in the middle of the American Revolution.). But it's only 100 pages, unlike the slog that is reading Don Quixote....or anything by Charles Dickens. It's worth reading...just don't force it upon your students. Give them the choice to come to it. ...more
A high school classic! But time is not kind to Rainsford, who comes off as too, too manly. Zaroff is a mix of Count Dracula and Vladmir Putin. Too hilA high school classic! But time is not kind to Rainsford, who comes off as too, too manly. Zaroff is a mix of Count Dracula and Vladmir Putin. Too hilarious to take seriously. The bottom line: Zaroff should have won....more