The amazing part of Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America for me is that it clearly and calmly outlines the major problems facing the United StateThe amazing part of Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America for me is that it clearly and calmly outlines the major problems facing the United States in the late 1970's and so fully explores the sources of these changes from the fragmentation of the family, the explosion of corporate greed, and the loss of purpose among the workforce and yet goes beyond a simply eulogizing to offer real and difficult solutions.
Berry's central theme for me was that hard work has been made a soiled concept (excuse the pun). He outlines numerous examples of people doing legitimate work that have found contentment and solace in a hectic and changing world. The values of family, a balance of self-interest and community sacrifice, along with other fundamental moral principles have been sacrificed at the altar of industrialization. We have been sold off to the highest bidder and are afloat in a sea of self-interest and greed that so permeates our economy and now our social lives. The prescription for these woes, in Berry's mind, comes from a balance of hard work coupled with a refusal of base-consumerism, industrialism, and petroleum-based solutions to delicate and complex problems.
I was profoundly affected by Berry's book. I would go so far as to rate it as one of the most powerful works I've read. The profusion of sticky-notes protruding from the edge of my completed copy remind me of the profound insights I enjoyed while reading this masterpiece. A few examples include:
"If there is any law that has been consistently operative in American history, it is that the members of any established people or group or community sooner or later become "redskins" -- that is, they become the designated victims of an utterly ruthless, officially sanctioned and subsidized exploitation." p. 4
"The first, and best known, hazard of the specialist system is that it produces specialists -- people who are elaborately and expensively trained TO DO ONE THING. We get into absurdity very quickly here... More common, and more damaging, are the investors, manufacturers, and salesmen of devices who have no concern for the possible effects of those devices. Specialization is thus seen to be a way of institutionalizing, justifying, and paying highly for a calamitous disintegration and scattering-out of the various functions of character: workmanship, care, conscience, responsibility." p.19
"The concentration of farmland into larger and larger holdings and fewer and fewer hands... forces a profound revolution in the farmer's mind: once his investment in land and machines is large enough, he must forsake the values of husbandry and assume those of finance and technology." p. 45
"But nowhere is the destructive influence of the modern home so great as in its remoteness from work. When people do not live where they work, they do not feel the effects of what they do... The people responsible for strip-mining, clear-cutting of forests, and other ruinations do not live where their senses will be offended or their homes or livelihoods or lives immediately threatened by the consequences." p. 52
"As machines replace skill, they disconnect themselves from life; the come between us and life. They begin to enact our ignorance of value -- of essential sources, dependencies, and relationships." and he goes on to say "When productive power--that is, speed--in machines replaces the productive skills of people, there is a consequent narrowing of attention. The machines are expensive and they run on purchased fuels; they feed upon money. The work of production is immediately profitable, whereas the work or responsibility is not. Once the machine is in the field it creates an economic pressure that enforces haste; the machine concentrate all the energy of the farm and hurries it toward the marketplace. The demands of immediate use eclipse the demands of continuity. As the skills of production decline, the skills of responsibility perish." pp 92-94
Not to be excludes, Berry takes aim at what he sees as a loss of credibility among university professors: "The careerist professor is by definition a specialist professor. Utterly dependent upon his institution, be blunts his critical intelligence and blurs his language so as to exist "harmoniously" within it--and so serves his school with an emasculated and fragmentary intelligence, deferring "realistically" to the redundant procedures and meaningless demands of an inflated administrative bureaucracy whose educational purpose is written on its paychecks." p. 148...more
An excellent overview of woodworking techniques and tools by a competent author. I have read several of these older "How to" books from the mid-20th cAn excellent overview of woodworking techniques and tools by a competent author. I have read several of these older "How to" books from the mid-20th century and this volume is near the top of the heap. It provides clear and concise directions for basic tasks like crosscutting boards accurately, but delves much more into the details of fine cabinetwork than other books, equipping the readers with more advanced skills like laying out pieces efficiently to maximize your use of your lumber. In addition to skills, most of the basic tools are covered in detail as well as tips on picking quality tools.
This is a book I'd recommend to anyone looking to explore traditional woodworking techniques that isn't interested in purchasing the slew of unnecessary doo-dads that are touted by modern publishers. The books assumes you have an interest in the craft and a basic skill set and can make your own jigs and tools in some cases. That sort of confidence in the reader is sadly missing in most modern publications. I'd love to see more of it (like with Toshio Odate's fine book Japanese Woodworking Tools). Overall, a highly recommended albeit older book on an ever-evolving field....more
A nicely updated and augmented version of Moxon's classic treatise. There is some good information here for the beginning woodworker and enough to keeA nicely updated and augmented version of Moxon's classic treatise. There is some good information here for the beginning woodworker and enough to keep the more advanced woodworker reading along as well. Recommended. ...more
An absolute classic. Do yourself a favor and give this brilliantly written book a read. Dialogue doesn't get any better than what Portis accomplishesAn absolute classic. Do yourself a favor and give this brilliantly written book a read. Dialogue doesn't get any better than what Portis accomplishes here. It is exciting, informative, snarky, sharp, and at times laugh out loud funny. This will become a perineal favorite for me....more
A better than average western that moves along well but is marred by the out-of-date roles of "cowboys" and "Indians". The story line wavers around thA better than average western that moves along well but is marred by the out-of-date roles of "cowboys" and "Indians". The story line wavers around the central theme of searching for a young girl taken captive by Comanches after her family is killed. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot more in the way of analogy or symbolism here other than the obvious. It's a quick read and isn't bad, but it has to be read with some leniency to avoid discounting it as an old-fashioned cowboy story. ...more
It's not often I'm truly disappointed in a book, but Riders of the Purple Sage was a pretty bad book. It is an outdated, corny, underdeveloped, old-faIt's not often I'm truly disappointed in a book, but Riders of the Purple Sage was a pretty bad book. It is an outdated, corny, underdeveloped, old-fashioned, and frankly pointless book that I was quite frankly mad at having to finish. If this is Zane Gray's most highly acclaimed book then count me out for any more. I think I need to pick up Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove and re-read it just to purge my literary palette. I've got some other Westerns on my to-read list at the moment, please let them be better than Riders of the Purple Sage!...more
An absolute masterpiece of a novel. Sparse, keenly accurate, insightful, and as well-crafted as they come. This book will give you a lot to think abouAn absolute masterpiece of a novel. Sparse, keenly accurate, insightful, and as well-crafted as they come. This book will give you a lot to think about after you've completed it: the role of vengeance in acts of mob violence, the nature of justice and from where it derives, the role of courage or lack of it when speaking out for what you believe. We are bound to the group in our society and are sometimes unwilling participants in things that are beyond the pale, like trading the freedom of individuals for the sake of perceived righteousness. We convince ourselves that we are doing things that we know are innately wrong because we don't want to appear cowardly, unpatriotic, or different from the group. This provides the rich loam from which Clark's wonderful tree grows.
This book will definitely return to my to-read pile in the future and I expect I will find even more to glean from its wonderfully crafted pages. The introduction by Wallace Stegner is worth the price of the book alone, but Clark's amazing insights make it a true classic and a must read....more
A great read. The style is so real and natural it is hard to imagine it written in any other way. If you enjoy tales of deep, emotional wanderings ofA great read. The style is so real and natural it is hard to imagine it written in any other way. If you enjoy tales of deep, emotional wanderings of the soul, All the Pretty Horses is a true masterpiece. It's tough to put down and delves deeply into the passion of a restless spirit. One if my new favorites. I am looking forward to The Crossing, the next book in this trilogy. ...more
A melancholy book focusing on tragic loss and missed opportunities. This book is not for the faint of heart. It's not a book of "happily ever afters"A melancholy book focusing on tragic loss and missed opportunities. This book is not for the faint of heart. It's not a book of "happily ever afters" but is masterfully written and really drives at the heart of human nature with stories of avarice, jealousy, and hubris. This is a book very much written in the classical style of a well done tragedy.
The main story is about Joe Cobden, half-Native American, hunchback who is spurned by society despite his incredible intellect and need for empathy despite his rock hard façade. The story follows his life and the poor choices he makes as well as the stories of other equally ill-fated characters in Kansas. It begins prior to the Civil War and proceeds to the turn of the 20th century. The book mirrors the changes the frontier witnessed with the wiping out of the buffalo, the expansion of small towns, the rise of the railroad, and the wanderlust that was pioneer America.
This is a book worth savoring. It moves quickly through its 700 pages and has many memorable lines sprinkled throughout. I had not heard of Greg Matthews prior to picking up this book, but will definitely be checking out his other offerings. Highly recommended. ...more
This is a looooong book that really lost me in the middle. Cut 300 pages from it and it would have been a much better book. Lots of dying, plot twitsThis is a looooong book that really lost me in the middle. Cut 300 pages from it and it would have been a much better book. Lots of dying, plot twits aplenty, and witty dialogue is lost in the leaf pile of pages you have to wade through to enjoy them. This is a good example of epic fantasy gone off the deep end. ...more
An excellent and entertaining history of the larger-than-life men who helped establish the first National Park. This book doesn't cover the Park itselAn excellent and entertaining history of the larger-than-life men who helped establish the first National Park. This book doesn't cover the Park itself as much a it covers the men and the surrounding area of Yellowstone. Stories of wild mining towns like Virginia City, vigilante mobs, the massacres of Indian villages, underhanded politics, and inflated egos abound in this book and are written in an approachable and highly entertaining style. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the founding of Yellowstone as well as the history of Montana. ...more
This was my second attempt at finishing this book and I am very thankful that this time through was successful. There is a lot going on in this volumeThis was my second attempt at finishing this book and I am very thankful that this time through was successful. There is a lot going on in this volume involving several "main characters" who lead you through a harrowing tale of political intrigue, battles, deaths, murders, and more. For the dedicated reader, the end result is rather astonishing. A massive tale told from numerous viewpoints all with a slightly different take on the story line.
There are definitely the favorite characters for me, Jon Snow is the standout as the bastard son of Eddard Stark, and who represents the inner battle for honor when the character himself is the product of a dishonorable relationship. Tyrion Lannister is perhaps the best bad guy I've had the pleasure of reading. He is pure cynic mixed with reluctant family member. He is despicable (not entirely) and knows that he's not the only one. Aryn Stark is the character you know will come into her own in the next volumes, but she is definitely a developing character we want to care about. She is stubborn, smart, compassionate, and strong. I can't wait to see what she has in store. Finally, Bran's character is perhaps the most tragic and yet the most filled with potential. He is the emotional touchstone in this volume and really keeps the reader on their toes looking out for him.
All in all, this is a masterful story, perhaps among the three best fantasy books I've read and I say that with reservations. There aren't spells, magic swords, or orcs, but the story has the setting and hints at mysteries yet to be uncovered. It's definitely not standard fiction, but the classic epic fantasy tropes are not to be found within its pages. Perhaps that's refreshing but it night turn off some of the more die-hard fantasy fans out there.
Overall, a masterful work in any genre and I am eagerly waiting to start the next volume. ...more
The final volume in the Shannara triology, this book is a classic that is still readable after 28 years in print. While not among the finest examplesThe final volume in the Shannara triology, this book is a classic that is still readable after 28 years in print. While not among the finest examples of story-telling, the story is captivating, espicially as it nears the conclusion. For those reading the first two volumes in the series, there is lots that will seem eerily similar: young adventurers leaving their quiet vale, Mord Wraiths disrupting their journey, and Allanon as the wise guide. There are enough differences, however, to keep it interesting and the way the story develops and concludes is clearly different than the first two volumes.
Overall, Brooks's style is very readable, he includes enough world-building to provide a rich backdrop to the story without bogging down in details, and his characters, although a bit cardboard in certain settings, do show development throughout the arc of the story. A very approachable story that is easy to recommend for those looking for a fairly straightforward fantasy epic....more