This is an improvement over Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which is riveting in its own way but full of blanks and gaps.This is an improvement over Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which is riveting in its own way but full of blanks and gaps. So at least in the narrative and topics regard, Bourdain has improved with this rendition. However, the raw passion, fiery anger and indignation, sense of injustice, and acerbic resentment are gone. This book truly suffers from those qualities, which Bourdain is right to point out himself. He notes that when he was writing Kitchen Confidential, he was writing angry and pissed off early in the morning after a 12 hour shift while suffering from a massive hangover and adjunct drug use. I cannot expect Bourdain to pack the same punch, but the title of the book is misleading in his attitude and feeling. Raw and bloody are contained within the title. Bourdain brought those to his previous books. He mentions that with a young daughter, new wife, new perspective, yadee yadee da that he has changed and softened. That is fine with me. It seems like it has worked out better for him, considering the crazy bender and suicide attempts he made in the Caribbean after his first failed marriage. That is no reason for him to fall flat in many criticisms of "personalities." He presented himself as a crusader against flailing morons showing up on televisions screens and having the bravado to call themselves chefs when they clearly had not touched a kitchen in years. I am fine with him being soft on Rachel Ray or Paula Deen because they are empire builders, not seasoned line cooks and chefs. My problem is that he is seemingly unremitting in his hatred against troglodytes like Alice Waters and Alan Richman, but then he eases towards them towards the end of his invective. He tries far too hard to find common ground between himself and Alice Waters. He rightly devotes ten pages to showing just how incorrect and torpidly wrong Waters is on nearly every single issues, including her singular devotion towards implementing her nutty agenda on the White House. He might as well begin retracting his statements and sending everyone fruit baskets. This is the same guy who wrote an article claiming that he was upset that New York City lacked its criminal edge and sense of excitement any more. I prefer him confrontational. He is usually right or incisive in making valid points. No need to blunt the verbal swords.
Otherwise, he is right on point. His human interest pieces are actually interesting because he can relate to the subjects in a way that very few people can. How many people can possibly relate David Chang or to a guy who guts and cuts fish perfectly all morning long? The fish cutter received his first meal at his own restaurant with Bourdain. If that is Bourdain's new niche, that is cool. His travels and gastronomic experiences are innumerably enhanced when he tags along with an old or new friend. His point of view is best shared by someone who has traversed the same dangerous culinary waters as he has.
I exhausted Bourdain's three main memoirs/opinions/diatribes within a week, so I am going to have to watch a lot of No Reservations now to compensate. It is a good thing there are eight seasons to work through and I think the show is formatted to allow Bourdain to implement his auteur and traveling/food desires without being restricted. Like his shows, the book is easy to eat up. No need to savor; I devoured it in 24 hours. I might try his other books (I have heard they were failures and he admitted as much), so his book ouvre is over as far as I am concerned. I hope he releases something in this line again. It has been two years. Time to cash in and grow his empire.
EDIT: At one point, Bourdain gives a free pass to Hindus and their vegetarianism. This is not only inconsistent with his previous invectives against vegetarians, but it would also seemingly contradict his insouciance towards religious dictates and control. In addition, there is no clear mandate in Hinduism that prohibits meat eating. Rather, it is a nebulous concept promulgated and propagated by poor Brahmins who have very little to hold onto other than their unmeritorious birth statuses. Their reasoning is that it is civilized not to eat meat. Civilization was not possible without meat eating (our ancestors had to consume meat for their brains to reach modern day sizes), so chew on that one.
I would also like some Bourdain commentary on halal and kosher. ...more
The combination of history and science will always compel me to start and complete a book, especially when it relates to an important contemporary issThe combination of history and science will always compel me to start and complete a book, especially when it relates to an important contemporary issue that requires constant vigilance and attention. However, as insofar as the actual book is concerned, I have some criticisms.
1) Mukherjee is inconsistent with the amount of science that he explains and conveys. In some chapters, it is so sparse that it is worth wondering whether he is writing about science in the first place. In other sections, especially towards the end when he discusses retroviruses, sarc, and kinases, it transforms into a science book finally. There is disturbingly very little on evolution, other than a pontification here and there. The actual science of cancer receives uneven attention. Biology is almost ignored in the first half of the book and then the second half becomes a panoply of various biological fields. I want to be taught and have the science explained to me throughout the book, not just by whimsy.
2) The attempt at interweaving the history of cancer with science and its important figures worked well. The attempt at interweaving Mukherjee's personal life worked reasonably well in giving us a picture of who he actually is and what he does. His integration of his patients, especially Carla Reed, was confusing. She made an appearance maybe once every one hundred pages. The second time he mentioned her, I had totally forgot about her because he allowed so many pages and topics to lapse before finally getting back to her. A successful interweaving tale does not require equal parts, but it is a bad sign when I forget characters. Admittedly, his patients made for just as fascinating as a story as the history of cancer, perhaps even more so because their real humanization and struggles. He needed to allow this aspect of his book shine a lot more.
3) There is no mention anywhere of Ibn Sina (Avicenna). This is an stunning and egregious omission when tracing the history of science and medicine. The basics of the history of science and medicine: Hippocrates --> Galen --> Ibn Sina. Likewise, he expelled the entire Medieval and Renaissance periods from his recall of history. While not much progress might have been made scientifically or intellectually in thinking about the diseases, surely he could have related how those diseases were constructed in those times. The omission of Ibn Sina (are there others?) is really surprising. The history on how medicine was constructed with humors is lean, as well.
4) Mukherjee might want to take a cue from Bill Bryson on this because Bryson does this excellently. He needs to present the scientists involved in the discoveries and battles of cancer much more fully. That is to say, an introduction and description of a scientist cannot be their ethnicity, when they were born, and what their first profession was. It needs to be an entire construction of who they are and what animates them, not a generic CV. I understand all of the cancer researchers are "dogged" or "bulldogish." There are other ways of describing who they are. Scientists need to be presented as literary or historical figures, not merely another cog in the machine of cancer research.
5) Talk about Roswell. It is mentioned over and over, but almost no importance is attached to it, whereas Boston receives all of the attention.
This is never a criticism, but Mukherjee refers to Susan Sontag an inordinate number of times. That indicates to me that it is imperative that I read Illness as Metaphor. Also, receiving a positive blurb from Tony Judt for a first book is pretty standupish. As a first book for Mukherjee, this is a fine effort. I expect him to hit a stride as he hits his third book. By that time, I also expect to his face on television news shows. His face picture on the back jacket is photogenic to say the least. There is a future for him in this niche of medicine, history, and science writing. I look forward to his future work. ...more
Bourdain wins with me on this one. A grand slam home run, really. His first memoir/food book/diatribe/anthology, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in tBourdain wins with me on this one. A grand slam home run, really. His first memoir/food book/diatribe/anthology, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly drew my ire in many regards. Here, he changes the focus by actually concentrating and dividing the book into essays. This helps with organization and it also provides him with real structure. It permits him to tackle - okay, Bourdain does not tackle, he confronts head on - various topics and challenges to his lifestyle and philosophy. Bourdain does not have matters of indifference or insouciance; he possesses life-pouring adulation and major psychotic hatreds.
One reason I connect with this book is through an ideological congruence. I suppose that makes it easier to enjoy and read Bourdain, but I had the ideological congruence with the previous book and that failed to meet expectations. His characteristic writing style and conversational language flowed. His feelings and thoughts jumped off the page, especially when constructed polemically or in a haranguing format. An eloquent defender against something that seems to be dissipating at alarming rates - meat-eating - Bourdain again criticizes the terrorist tactics of animal rights splinter groups and approving animal rights groups (PETA). The main story is a terrorist animal rights group that threatened a chef's life in California and has threatened his family's life over their bete noire. As Bourdain points out, there is actual animal oppression occurring in the country. However, for reasons of sympathy, they can easily attack the foie gras chefs. States have been banning foie gras and it seems like I will have to journey to Montreal if I am ever to delight in this delectable dish. Culinary genius dies, diners suffer, and animal rights terrorists win essentially. I know that animal rights activists have actually murdered prominent European politicians (the Netherlands jumps to mind). While vegetarian consumption and lifestyles are on an uptick for reasons of health (totally deluded), animal cruelty (semi-deluded; there are other options: own butcher, local farm slaughtering), and general lifestyle choices (risible), meat-eating consumption has decreased. I hope that purveyors adopt better means of slaughter and distribution. However, that is no reason to assassinate chefs and threaten their families in the spirit of Bourdain's term for them, Hezbollah. This is matter of constant concern and dismay for me. Bourdain mentions that he believes foie gras will be eliminated in his lifetime. I imagine other meat dishes will disappear from restaurant tables, haute cuisine, and regular dining. This is definitely a cause that needs resistance and push from the meat-eating side.
Bourdain's travels are fascinating. You have to be willing to live vicariously through his TV budget because it allows him to eat a $500 dollar sushi meal in an exclusive New York hideout, endless courses of seafood in Japan, and perfected fried recipes in Singapore. Where Bourdain really shines in this book is explaining to the reader the real wonder of "fast food" in foreign countries. His second trip to Singapore is a testament to this. Fast food and food courts there operate how fast food really should operate. It should by small business owners and independents, not hackneyed chains serving disgusting resemblances created out of processed scraps and spraying them to appear like actual food. His descriptions make me want to travel, a prospect which rarely crosses my radar. I will have to check out his show on the Travel Chanel because he has sparked a real interest in international food and cultural perceptions of food. Hopefully American chains and businesses can learn from those cultural perceptions and incorporate them into their model of service and food.
Of course, there are also the passionate defenses of the heroes of the kitchens - Hispanic line cooks - who receive zero credit. Bourdain is adamant that they begin to receive credit. With immigration looming (I suppose it always is) is a hot-button issue with legislation, it matters for Bourdain and for restaurants. He makes sure to viciously attack some of the "personalities" on Food Network, though he is overly receptive to Bobby Flay's Las Vegas restaurant. There is no point in overspending on a meal just because the owner of the restaurant has a show on Food Network where he shows us how to make basic foods. I think that is worth keeping in mind. Seek out the best foods, not merely the famous ones. Bourdain does that, and he does it to perfection.
This is a difficult memoir/expose/anthology/opinion book to judge. It is simultaneously all of those, but without any clear indication as to which itThis is a difficult memoir/expose/anthology/opinion book to judge. It is simultaneously all of those, but without any clear indication as to which it really is. I suppose the reader has to absorb all these different parts and construct something coherent out of it. The problem with Bourdain stretching himself so thin by extending into so many different spheres without truly explicating on each one is that it forces the reader to stitch the narrative together and wonder or fill in the gaps for him. Bourdain has left many parts of his life untouched and that aspect of this book injures the book's comprehension the most. I cannot construct his life for him, especially when there are gnarly but fascinating facets and facts about his life that I need to know in order to have a clear and fuller picture of who he really is. He is adamant and upfront about who he thinks he is, but I am not going to allow his self-deprecating insults and motley collection of cusses to frame my thinking of him solely. I need to be given enough information in order to form a real picture of who I think he is and the lack of information really hampers my ability to do that.
I can illustrate this argument more thoroughly with two seemingly incredibly important pieces of his life that he nearly neglects to write about in any meaningful detail: his wife and drugs. It is Bourdain's book and his life, so he can feel free to include whatever and however of each aspect of his life as he wants to, but he has really maligned how I can think about his junkie lifestyle and his wife because he rarely detailed them. Yes, we know that he did drugs often and the kind of drugs that he did, but it is always mentioned in passing. I have read many memoirs of rock stars who have devoted entire chapters to how their foray into years of drug use affected their bodies, attitudes, relationships with others, work, etc. Bourdain mentions that drugs have screwed him up and that a culture of drugs exists in kitchens, but there is very little to no information on how he personally rehabilitated or how he struggled with his addictions. I believe this is necessary information. Also, I am fairly certain there is no mention of him even having a wife until we reach somewhere around page 200. There is no wooing, no courting, no how we met or anything of that nature. There is very little information provided on what she means to him (there is a paragraph in the Acknowledgements, but the sous-chef receives more plaudits than she does) and how she puts up with his life style.
I must be thinking of the wrong memoir/expose/anthology/opinion book, but I was under the impression that he was going to eviscerate and excoriate the Food Network Chefs that he despises so much. Despite my profound affection for some Food Network personalities and cooks, I am not under any delusion that they are the creme de la creme of the food industry. I was hoping for Bourdain to tap into his intense hatreds for them and provide an insider opinion of them. They are insulted in passing a couple times.
Otherwise, this is a truly encapsulating read of his life and how he fits into the food industry. He rightly mentions that his way, personality, and methods are not the only paradigm, which is sharply contrasted with his friend who runs a kitchen and restaurant that is entirely different from anything that he has done and it is an idyllic paradise. Much of what Bourdain discusses about kitchens and cooks is congruent with academic studies of the subject, notably in Gary Fine's Kitchens: Culture of Restaurant Work.
His insights into running a restaurant and the inflated failure rate of restaurants is especially perspicacious. Death seems to be the norm, not the exception. Most restaurants are run into the ground for a myriad of reasons, least of which have to do with the kitchen. It takes a rare restauranteer and food staff to carry a restaurant to success.
His unmitigated abhorrence for vegetarians is well-appreciated and approved of. It is also refreshing in this idiotic strand of thought we have right now where everything vegetarian is supreme. I would read an entire book in which he annihilates vegetarians and their imposing evangelism.
I was hoping for more suggestions and recommendations as to how to order and what to order at restaurants. He spends a chapter with specific recommendations, but I was hoping for more, even though I am not going to accept his word for gospel.
One of the more rewarding aspects of the experience of reading this book and probably Bourdain in general is that he is well-read and knowledgeable. He makes apropos literary and historical references, and he reads culinary books voraciously. That knowledge invariable makes the book more readable because without that, it is just a dictated conversation. The book is written loosely, so that the prose is more conversational than formal writing. The literary and culinary book references round out the book.
I am sure that I need to read his subsequent memoirs for more information, so that I can fill in blanks about his rich and fulfilling life, but also for more information and insight into his perspective into the food world. I will certainly be reading those. ...more
I recently was talking to a friend who chortled at my JA (not quite obsession) affinity. Literary preferences differ on all kinds of spectra, but thisI recently was talking to a friend who chortled at my JA (not quite obsession) affinity. Literary preferences differ on all kinds of spectra, but this difference got me thinking because there is the obvious weirdness of being a dude in 2015 who is reading about gentrified women in Southwestern England in the early 1800s, their marriage prospects, their temperaments, and their struggles. Practically and even literarily thinking, it might even seem like a black hole.
So I am not quite sure why I care about Elinor and Marianne, Wiloughby and the Ferrars, Jennings and Colonel Brandon, Dashwoods and Middletons. The easy answer is to say that they represent archetypes of people who continue to exist today and the situations that we find ourselves in, two centuries later. But that would not elevate JA above anyone else in importance and there might be better characters to connect with for that purpose. Do we make Team Elinor and Team Marianne and debate the merits of their positions and temperaments?
Even if I think that Jane Austen writes mellifluously in a way that entrances me, I am not sure that is enough to justify going through her life and novels and pretending that Bath and Cleveland in 1803 are places that I can form and identify. I am genuinely interested in the stories, the characters, the personalities, the dilemmas they face, and the pressures they feel. Even then, why?
This is my third JA book and I have enjoyed them all (though I was hoping for more Darcy characters). Hopefully by the next book, I will be able to articulate why I am spending hours reading about these imaginary people from a time and place that might as well be imaginary to me. If not, maybe I will not a whirling dervish of why I have to feel like I have to justify JA reading.
As a bonus for me, old English property law is pretty cool. Inheritances and inalienable plots of land, amirite? ...more
Surely this is one of the best books written, standing the canonical and temporal tests into the kingdom of classics. It lay the groundwork for futureSurely this is one of the best books written, standing the canonical and temporal tests into the kingdom of classics. It lay the groundwork for future action, adventure, and romantic stories. Better, it combined all three of these and has pervaded our general consciousness and vocabulary for two centuries. What young kid, galloping as a cowboy or gallivanting as a knight of yesteryear aspiring for glory does not quote "tous pour un, un pour tous?" It is the ultimate rallying cry and a clarion call for solidarity through battles, real and imagined. There is no way Dumas could have predicted that these serials he wrote in the mid 19th century would have such an inculcating effect on children and adults. It is full-blown romanticism with all of its faults, along with some restraint and doubt. It intensely captures the glory and ignominy of action and adventure. It presents a varied but special cast of characters, capped off by conniving and manipulative villains. Some villains play puppet master and demand their pawns lay down their lives; others orchestrate favorable outcomes without an ounce of remorse. Royalty, nobility, church, knights, dames, evil dames, innocence, irredeemable guilt, glory, aspirations, ideals, failures, etc. all make their presence well-known in this epic.
The fun game to play, of course, is who is your favorite Musketeer. This game supposedly lends insight into who you are, insofar as the character you choose is a stainless reflection of your own personality, character, and ideals. It is obviously impossible to ask Dumas what he was intending to do on this count since I doubt he considered that non-Frenchmen two centuries in the future would apply their presentist nueroticism to his cast of heroes, but my conjecture is that D'Artagnan is supposed to be everyone's favorite musketeer. By everyone, I mean the vast majority, save for those who find a silver of fondness and similarity with Aramis or Pathos in world view or attitude. Once again, we are applying what I would consider to be modern day (in)sensibilities on the four musketeers by transposing our personalities, attitudes, ideologies on those four partially historical, partially imagined figures. Therefore, I avoid that game and assume D'Artagnan is the favorite and is supposed to be the favorite because he embodies the ideals and dreams of romanticism. Naturally, he embodies them to a fault. The story will fail to resonate if D'Artagnan is not the favorite. There could be some concerns if your favorite musketeer is Aramis. He is certainly a mostly wise and amicable character, but Dumas probably constructed him in the way that he did so that amicability would not cross the boundaries into heroic territory. D'Artagnan is the foolish young kid who falls in love at first sight with two different women. He is the brave, chivalrous, and dashing hero who seeks to make his name, fame, and fortune in the heart of Paris after growing up in the outskirts of France's Gascony. While I did just excoriate the practice of identifying with characters because an aspect of their personalities or life stories rings a bell within the reader's own life, everything about D'Artagnan screams it at the reader. The positive and wonderful romanticism contains its own apoptosis. He plays dangerous games with his lady-lovers, and he thinks so little of his own life that he will happily throw it away in defense of others who have no regard for him or anyone else. That is, I think, a central theme and takeaway from this novel. In this historical period, especially, villains and charlatans like Cardinal Richelieu and the Duke of Buckingham controlled the entire world through their own narrow interests and deployed corruptible youth and willing pawns as any means to their own ends. You could read the adventure as Richelieu with the king and queen vs. Buckingham with the Charles I with everyone else sacrificing their lives, so that the mischievous nobility and royalty can accomplish their own base and illicit desires.
I was surprised by how funny Dumas made some of the fighting scenes, like Monty Python fighting funny. The best example of this would be when the Musketeers make the bet with the inn patrons that they could defeat everyone coming their way in the next hour. They easily dispatched large companies of men easily outnumbering and multiplying them and then proceeded to continue their conversations as if they had just wiped a brow of sweat or swatted a fly, a minor disturbance rather than a life threatening situation. They converse, they slay a company of trained soldiers, and then continue picnicking.
The conclusion is supposed to bring with it the low point of romanticism. By the luckiest skin of their teeth, all four musketeers are still alive. Plenty have been killed in their quests for glory, honor, and love. A war has been started in the pursuit of illicit love. Behind the scene manipulators wield more power than the actual power-holders, who themselves are just like nobility, just lazier. Ten men have put a women to death without any real justice system. Duals have been made illegal already, spelling an early death of romanticism, but the melancholic ending of the book with the breakup of the musketeers deems the death knell of romanticism. Their era is over, if they ever had an era. Everyone retreats to their own private lives and pursues what they probably should have pursued in the first place. D'Artagnan serves as a hero for the majority of French readers in the 19th century, who are fed up with Louis Napoleon and various attempts at creating a better France. There is always a powerful force attached to the outsider - in this case from the French countryside - who can penetrate the inside. However, Dumas is correct to show that the outsider has plenty of flaws himself.
The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite book. Nothing has topped that for me. The Three Musketeers come very, very close, but Edmund Dantes reigns supreme. Another romantic character steeped in love but driven by a vein sense of revenge. ...more
This has been mentioned by Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, and other illustrious contemporaries as a defining book. I enjoyed Lucky Jim by MartiThis has been mentioned by Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, and other illustrious contemporaries as a defining book. I enjoyed Lucky Jim by Martin's father, so I gave this a try.
I think that Amis's creation of John Self(ish) is brilliant. Here you have a protagonist who is the antagonist. It can be viewed through many prisms. John could be the protagonist who just has so much antagonist within him that the novel is really an internal conflict that fails resolution. John can be the antagonist with very little protagonist in him by way of redeeming qualities. My perspective is that he is just an utter, totally despicable, repugnant, thuggish arsehole face. I assume this is a popular prism and a main theme that Amis is trying to convey. Not solely ad executives, but there is a class of rising rich people who do not necessarily deserve to be rich because they are awful and horrible human beings in their lack of education, morals, sense, etc. In due part to their affluence and wealth, they now have influence and set the rules of the game, as it may be. A truly deplorable character, Self rarely failed to bring out nothing but my full contempt and anguish. His treatment of women, his constant search for a handjob, his frivolous spending and use of money, his lack of recognition for other human beings, his full-scale racism; everything about him screams preening wanker. I suppose the attempted rapes of Selena constitute the apex of disgust towards this reproachable and reprehensible foe. Then again, he does show glimpses of amelioration - constructed through trying to learn George Orwell, which scores big points with this reader, but his treatment of the only person who sticks with him (yeah yeah, she gets a lot of money out of it) is brutal. It is really brilliant. Usually villains become likeable, as there can be a saturation point when the hatred alleviates or there is no longer any reason to hate the character. As the story progresses, there is even more reason to hate this bellowing fool.
I am unsure of what to make of the conclusion. Self gets what he deserves, and he gets it hard. I have no sympathy for him or his plight, but it seems that he is going to be okay. He seems to have lost everything, but not everything because he can seemingly start a new and better life. He had a crazy sex rhombus going with Selena, Martina, and Martina's other half that confused me. The baby situation confused me, as well.
I am going to look into more works of Amis because I am interested in the motif he presents of morally bankrupt individuals hogging the power and imposing it, but I doubt anything can match the sheer contempt I felt for Self. ...more
I am not really sure what to say other than I revere Hitchens' unrepentant and unremitting dismemberment of stupidity for over four decades and that II am not really sure what to say other than I revere Hitchens' unrepentant and unremitting dismemberment of stupidity for over four decades and that I also revere his brilliant and pungent writing. Whether he is excoriating undeservingly over-adulated public figures or sympathizing with the plight of the oppressed in Kurdistan, he is always at his most insightful and intelligent. Nobody gives me more optimism than Hitchens, even though he explores the mass and general stupidity that seemingly prevails in many parts of the world. He dedicated his life to fighting against Fascism and stupidity. I think we are much richer for it.
Love, poverty, and war is a title surfeit with meaning because a person's life is ultimately in a different dimension by enduring these three abstractions as realities. Even one of those events can be life-changing. Perhaps a person's life is empty without having experienced those hardships, highs, and lows. Hitchens clearly has experienced all of these, as has his hero, George Orwell. His chronicle of these three life-altering events and phenomena provides the proper organizing structure for these series of essays. I can read Hitchens all day, but he is best savored.
I would love to have been Hitchens' editor. I think his editor at Slate wrote a encomium when Hitchens died last year and said he had the easiest job in the world. What can there possibly be to edit? Just marvel at the writing and perspicacity; then publish it. Hitchens was world-renowned for his ability to eat, drink, party, converse, bang out an essay, and then return to the carousal. Even if you ideologically disagree with Hitchens on various issues, it is a joy reading his writing. ...more
This hardly is a psychology book, but I am unsure of how to characterize it otherwise. At the very least, Gladwell cites a wealth of psychology studieThis hardly is a psychology book, but I am unsure of how to characterize it otherwise. At the very least, Gladwell cites a wealth of psychology studies (as he usually does) and aside from the usual ones that every writer invokes to prove/support (depending on their understanding of argumentation), he actually taught me about a couple studies. I was unaware of the Yale men and public health study, but he also uses some less cited studies, such as the callous priests study. The usual ones, of course, are Milgram's six degrees of separation, Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, and Latane & Darley's bystander effect influenced by the Kitty Genovese event.
I read Outliers the day before reading this, and I was very critical of it. Most of my criticisms stand, but in an alleviated form and not with the same virulence. There are actually statistics in this book, though still not enough. He is making statistical points, but making them sans statistics. That same attitude prevails whenever he mentions his own surveys. He admits that they are not scientific. They do not have to be for the purposes of what he is doing, but he should at least aim to gain a representative sample. The survey is null if he does not cull a representative sample. That can be very frustrating.
A common criticism is that he over simplifies and reduces. I can see that quite clearly. He summarizes a couple of popular explanations for a phenomenon, adds some academic analysis from well-known social scientists, and then summarizes them all. Regardless of that formula, the phenomena he attempts to explain are so fascinating that I can live through the mechanized method he has of detailing and explaining.
Gladwell has this really uncomfortable propensity to shift into a Deepak Chopra / Dr. Oz quack, pseudoscience, professional charlatan tone. "With just a little bit of effort, you can do anything" sort of mentality pervades a couple chapters. He is not writing a quack book by charlatans for the easily and willingly deceived. Let the quacks deceive their willing flocks. Gladwell should stay away from making those kinds of scurrilous and erroneous conclusions.
He also has this deferential attitude when he is discussing the extraordinary people that he is interviewing. It is unnecessary. They might have accomplished something great or in fact, be extraordinary, but that does not mean they are flawless. Treat them as human beings, not as deities.
All of this being said, I blew through it in less than a day. Despite all of my criticisms and the book's shortcomings, it is an engrossing read. I will try to make my way through the Gladwell ouvre, but I am far more interested in the New Yorker essays than books. ...more
This book is nonstop excellence, wittiness, and fun. If there is a such thing as a comfort book, this is the epitome of it. It evokes a wide array ofThis book is nonstop excellence, wittiness, and fun. If there is a such thing as a comfort book, this is the epitome of it. It evokes a wide array of happiness, sadness, emotions in general, and I think I even screamed when Fadiman described someone committing a crime against a book. The book explores the depth of bibliophilia that appeals to all in unique and quirky ways. It renewed my love for books in a reaffirming way because I was able to share in Fadiman's excessive and superfluous obsession for books of all kind. I will never reach her level, but it is enviable, if not neurotic.
One of the wonderful gleanings from this book is how they can bring two people together. The case in point is George and Anne. Their marriage is essentially founded on their bibliophilia. The book starts off with merging their book collections and forging a new library. Anne is descended from book maniacs. The chapter about her family is one of the most evocative because I can relate to the obsession of correcting minor errors that people should not care about (my view is that I should not have to care about those errors because they just should not be committed). That is one of the gifts of this book: since she covers so many topics that it allows bibliophiles to relate to different aspects of bibliophilia. For example, I can relate to the obsessive correcting.
The funniest chapter by far was "Everything Under the Sun." It was ten pages of hilarity concerning plagiarism. The chapter on food and reading was funny, as well, but I could not identify with it. An insightful chapter was reading a book in the location it is set in. This is something I do not think I have done, but I will definitely try to.
I am resolved to read this book every year. I love it. It might just turn into my favorite book. There is not a weak chapter nor a weak anecdote. Despite my previously adulation, the best aspect of this book is the writing. My goodness, her writing is witty, sesquipedelian, brilliant, and stellar. ...more