Oh my. I'm so glad I waited several years before finally reading this. Dillard's brief commentary on what it is to write is SO true, but so painful. FOh my. I'm so glad I waited several years before finally reading this. Dillard's brief commentary on what it is to write is SO true, but so painful. Funny at moments but raw in every way. Every aspiring blogger should read it to understand what real writing is. THIS IS IT. Annie Dillard is recognized for her fiction but this is so much more. She strips off the fantasy of writing, tears away the false glamour, and gets at the guttural ditch-digging effort of what it takes to craft sentence after sentence in ways that make you want to read. For those who wish to write, it will give you courage. Courage to delete heavily. Pour over the structure of your work. Throw away beloved passages. It will convince you risk it all now and not wait to write something great later. Later is for later. Thanks, Annie. I needed that....more
I LOVED this book. And I have no idea why. I'm not sure I even understood it and Taleb is clearly a total ass, but I loved this book. I kept wanting mI LOVED this book. And I have no idea why. I'm not sure I even understood it and Taleb is clearly a total ass, but I loved this book. I kept wanting more and more and more of it and then kept seeing Taleb's ideas everywhere. At work, in relationships, at church, at the gym, in politics, on TV. Antifragility was everywhere. I think there's a very strong chance that this book is on to something incredibly important about why somethings succeed and others fail and more importantly-why modern life in almost all its forms is a total mess. As soon as the smoke clears I'm going in for a second read. If anyone reads this, please let me know so I can see if you understood it better than I did!...more
This book is difficult to review as it has moments of brilliance interspersed among paragraphs of under-edited wandering. It's clear that Mr. Berger iThis book is difficult to review as it has moments of brilliance interspersed among paragraphs of under-edited wandering. It's clear that Mr. Berger in his love of questions has no great hate for wandering, in fact he venerates it. But he doesn't seem to consider what that means for a reading. Obviously false confidence from an author (particularly with a topic such as this) would be off-putting, but a little bit of a sense that Berger has something more strategic in mind to say than, "What if we asked this? And then this? And then this? Wouldn't that be interesting?" The premise of the title implies that there are qualitatively better questions than others, but it would be difficult to gauge from the book what those questions would be or how to consistently find them except by following the Jobsian logic of "Question Everything." And yet there is something of brilliance here. Moments where the author calls us to overcome the mundane by sitting in silence, unplugging from or solution-centric noise and consider if what we are running after is worth being after at all. He hints at the brilliance of the old mystics and sages all the while framing his argument in the language of venture capitalists--a shrewd persuasive move, no question. As a researcher he borrows greatly from other sources, particularly the consulting firm IDEO, and in some ways represent their ideas better than they do in their own book on the topic Creative Confidence. This book is worth the read as it jars you a little from the myopy of the mundane in the the flightpaths of the possible. My only caution is that if you are well-versed in the now popularized "Everything Should Be More Like Silicon Valley" religion, you will not find a lot new here that derivates from the traditional Steve Jobs worship, etc....more
When I saw on Social Media that my old friend Jarrett Stevens' new book was being released I felt so strongly prompted that I should read it. CertainWhen I saw on Social Media that my old friend Jarrett Stevens' new book was being released I felt so strongly prompted that I should read it. Certain books will do that to a person every now and again… they call out to you by name and won’t let you go until the last page turns. Four Small Words was like that. And I want to share with you a few reasons why. The Bible – The Premise of Jarrett’s book is that it stands as a summary and an access point for people to understand and appreciate the complex and withering world of Scripture through four small words: OF, BETWEEN, WITH and IN. I wanted this book to be great (and it was) for one primary reason: In an age where the most propaganda churches have abandoned legitimate attention to Scripture as nothing more than convenient quotes to prooftext pop culture sensibilities, I wanted this to be a real love letter to the Bible. Even as I’ve professionally and in some ways personally taken far turns from my old pastoring days… I still love the Bible. It is rich and multifarious. Dangerous and deep. And Jarrett doesn’t disappoint on this. He, too, loves the Bible and he brings it here with such passion and clarity as to almost be jarring in its simultaneous beauty and simplicity. The Pastoring – This book flows right out of Jarrett’s pastor’s heart. Jarrett loves people. Always has and he shows it hear with a maturity and panache that clearly God has blossomed in him over these years. This is a book about ideas, yes, but it is a book for people. Jarrett’s want for you to know yourself and know God and know the Gospel through the reading of his Four Words is palpable. It had me drawn in the whole way. I felt my heart be awakened and inspired. I was reminded about God, things I have known all my life, but needed to know again. I felt myself cared for by the pages themselves. And I remembered my old friend in the reading. “Ahh, yes. This is Jarrett at his true best.” The Humanity – Four Small Words, like almost every teaching I’ve ever seen Jarrett do, is a deeply human project. It’s funny and winsome and accessible and humble. It reminds us of the mundaneness of life and how perhaps there God is most palpable of all. It tells the epic story of God on the canvas of Rock ‘n’ Roll lyrics, skateboard scrapes, and Monopoly games. Not just settling to tell us, it shows us that our story is God’s story and vice versa. And in considering the intimacy of our life in God’s life, I found myself caught up, refreshed and reverberating with all that is possible in a life lived with God. In so many ways, this is Jarrett’s magnum opus. It is 148 pages of intense story telling all written in such an accessible and attractive hand that I can’t imagine it coming from any other human. You needn’t know Jarrett to love this book, but if you do know him at all (as I only do a little now) you can feel all of him through it. The quasi-nerdy pop culture references, the quick wit, the deeply warm heart toward his stories’ subjects, his love for Jeanne. It’s all there. Jarrett, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this review, but if you do: Thank you. Certainly for Four Words, as it is a book that should be read by the thousands. But more importantly, thank you for your heart. You tell in the book about the great tragedy that we are only 10% ourselves, and I agree. But as over a decade has past, you are more you, more full of life, and grace and freedom and humility and joy, more deeply Jarrett than I last saw you. And what more could be asked of any of us, in the years that we have, than that?...more
While I realize this is a classic of western theology, the book is too dripping in self-hatred and moments of misogyny for me. I was so hoping for somWhile I realize this is a classic of western theology, the book is too dripping in self-hatred and moments of misogyny for me. I was so hoping for something really rich in the visualization of an interior world inhabited by God, but Teresa is too much of her time and of the culture of medieval Christendom, where shame and self-denial is the central human response to God's holiness. I believe there is more and I think other mystics from all ages would agree.
There is something certainly beautiful here, but there is something truly broken as well....more
What to say about Jonathan Franzen's latest? An infamous player in the world of American literature, Franzen does it again in a way that only his fansWhat to say about Jonathan Franzen's latest? An infamous player in the world of American literature, Franzen does it again in a way that only his fans will love and his detractors will eat alive. Franzen loves to explore the role of distorted sexuality in the lives of the hyper modern, juxtaposing the high ideals of the ultra liberal up against their base actions in the bedroom. His books are not for the faint of heart. There are unquestionably moments when I was ready "Purity"--Franzen's book which most severely exemplifies the previous statement--that it was all too much for me. Too vulgar, the characters too hateful. But then you realize that Franzen is doing what he always does: use his unfiltered lens on our most animalistic tendencies (sex, violence, self-preservation) to expose the ludicrous illusions of our first-worldliness. I ended up loving it, loving the characters, understanding their profound insanity packaged in cultural accessibility. I've read two Franzen books in less than a year, so I kind of need to take a shower, but other than that... phenomenal read....more
At least what one can say of Lev Grossman's completion to his Magician's Trilogy is that it is finally clear what in the world he was trying to do witAt least what one can say of Lev Grossman's completion to his Magician's Trilogy is that it is finally clear what in the world he was trying to do with his characters all along. That is not to say he does it well, but at least he does it with a degree of transparency that lets the reader in on his clearly personally gratifying retro-taxonomy of the fantasy genre. Much has been said of what Grossman is up to in the fantasy space. Is he continuing his role as literary critic, this time as meta-critic -- pointing out the flaws as protagonist rather than commentator? Or is he reveling in homages to his betters: Rowling, Tolkien, Lewis and the like? I suspect has been doing some of both, most recognizable in Land, the last and best tale in his traversal of Quentin Coldwater and Co. At times he seems to love the rich imagery and possibility of the phantasmagoric, pushing it farther than some of the archetypes have been pushed in the past, bringing into a healthy R-rating at times, making sure that you are willing to believe that while others only told fantasy stories, his in fact are real. But there are clearly other times where his disdain for the chosen genre shines through. This is most vivid in the first two novels where by the third he seems to finally having a little fun and is not so goddamn morose about the whole thing. And this, likely, why The Magician's Land is really the only enjoyable member of the trilogy and at least a small payoff from the trudging experience of reading the first two. In the finale we find our heroes moving out of the existential woes of the their 20s and into the adulthood of their 30s. People are having babies. Risks start to have real teeth. The bodies are not the physical specimens they once were. There is not so very much rampant sex. In aging his melodramatic center, Quentin, Grossman gives us a point of reference for the nearly decade of narcissistic whining we've seen up to the point. Is it possible that Quentin's need for raging self-importance could reprieve? Could we all get a rest from his quest to be the center of the universe? In fact we do. And in fact this is perhaps the point. The point is that fantasy and comic books and all the genre-forms that are now the center of the pop culture world are generally formatted to tell hero's tale and to make us believe that we are all really special deep inside. Grossman has spent two painstaking novels questioning the special-ness of the well-endowed (and by nature the special-ness of those of us with no magic abilities). He reminds us that our quests are mostly self-aggrandizing. Our dreams are mostly ego-trips and our aspirations of greatness mostly reactions to the fact that our father's didn't love us very well. Grossman, in his final Magician's book, hauls out all the old tropes and cliches, dances upon them, raises them in a funeral pyre and pull us through the eye of the needle on every one, hoping that one more pass through these old forms might finally redeem all us sinners. Does he achieve his aim? I will leave that for you to decide. But to my taste, he does enough of it to achieve something truly unique and almost remarkable in moments. If you are willing to go on Grossman's ride, you may just be--as I unexpectedly was--glad you did....more
It pains me to say that this is the worst book I've read this year. It pains me because I worked for Greg Hawkins many years ago and loved his insightIt pains me to say that this is the worst book I've read this year. It pains me because I worked for Greg Hawkins many years ago and loved his insight, his heart and his perspective on so many things. I know this book by reputation and am a little late the party in reading it. What is wrong with this book is it's complete inability to address the assumptions and biases that created the sociological work behind it. Hawkins and Parkinson speak with near certainty about the implications and results of the REVEAL study and yet show no academic humility about the way they ask the questions or the options they gave responders. The findings of the Reveal study and the sadly simplistic way that they present spiritual maturation are the result of a rigid set of 20th century Americanized Christian definitions that no church father would recognize. Their heart in it is deep and real, and for that I am grateful. They lead evangelical pastors to the power of data to overcome confirmation bias and this is important. But the study and the accompanying book draw little to nothing from the broader transformational material on how growth happens, a body of knowledge that Western Evanglicalism desperately needs if it's ever going to face its own golden calves....more
I had to work hard to get through The Magicians, the predecessor to this book. But there was enough there and such positive outside reviews to get meI had to work hard to get through The Magicians, the predecessor to this book. But there was enough there and such positive outside reviews to get me to give Mr. Grossman another chance. I'm still convinced that a career in literary criticism does not make one a writer, much less a great story-teller. But what I will say is that Grossman, who steals liberally from writers and ideas better than him (Rowling, Lewis, Tolkein among others), his homage to the story structure of the Godfather II in this book was wildly satisfying.
Knowing the whole time that we are on a collision course between the future and the past that made the future possible made this quite the page turner. Hoping that The Magician's Land completes the trilogy in ways that are satisfying and original....more
What to say of Mrs. Dalloway? It is strange to have read it after being so familiar with the modern reworking of it in "The Hours." I kept seeing theWhat to say of Mrs. Dalloway? It is strange to have read it after being so familiar with the modern reworking of it in "The Hours." I kept seeing the ties between them everywhere, which I can only expect pulled me distractedly from Ms. Woolf's infamous languid and wandering prose. I can see that this book was revolutionary for its time. Existentialist in it's tone, anti-establishment yet rich in cultural appreciation and metaphor. It is an Anglophile's book, all while being hypercritical of the Empire all the same. Mrs. Dalloway touches of the edges of hyper-controversial issues of her day: divorce, class war, suicide and even dawdling on the edge of lesbianism. It's no wonder she is the bastion of feminism that she is to this day. Clarissa is--in her own way--a sad figure of her times, a product of the makings around her, and yet she flirts with the possibility of feminine power in way that would have been impossible to imagine in her time. Her story begins with it, of course. When Mrs. Dalloway, overflowing with self-actualization decides to buy the flowers herself....more