This book really interests me in terms of morality, just the fact that Venkatesh, as a researcher, has knowledge of all these criminal activities, som...moreThis book really interests me in terms of morality, just the fact that Venkatesh, as a researcher, has knowledge of all these criminal activities, some very violent, and only acts in the role he has taken as an observer. I'm not sure what exactly he could do if he chose to, beyond alerting authorities who likely already are aware of the issues in the community, but it does provide an interesting look at the relationship between a sociologist and his subject. Being that I'm reading this for a class studying The Wire, one part that struck me was that Venkatesh several times uses the same analogy of the gang playing "a game" that The Wire does, it seems that this is universal within gang dynamics. Overall, the book was a good supplement to more academic/statistical analyses of crime and criminals in urban environments. (less)
The book focuses on the way racism and the laws surrounding it during the post-reconstruction period up through the world wars, civil rights movement,...moreThe book focuses on the way racism and the laws surrounding it during the post-reconstruction period up through the world wars, civil rights movement, and today, shaped the city of Baltimore (and can also be somewhat used as a case study for other urban areas). It's a very interesting topic, particularly given the context for which I'm reading it (a class on The Wire and its representation of Baltimore's social and economic divides), but it's so dry and full of statistics that it was very difficult to get through. There are so many names and places that aren't fully identified or explained that I found much of it confusing, and an overall interesting thesis was lost under the mountain of stats. The parts about specific people and bits of legislation were interesting though. (less)
Nothing much happens in these stories, and nothing much happens in nothing much of a way. I enjoyed the story about the fishing trip, but for the most...moreNothing much happens in these stories, and nothing much happens in nothing much of a way. I enjoyed the story about the fishing trip, but for the most part I much preferred the vignettes, particularly the ones about bullfighting, for the intensity of their imagery. Overall, the book felt a little... unpolished? unfinished? incomplete, and not just in the usual "Hemingway leaves everything up to the imagination" kind of way. But those little interchapter stories were quite striking and wonderful. (less)
Apart from the title story and "Madame Zilensky," I don't know how many of these pieces will really stick with me (and the latter is mainly because I...moreApart from the title story and "Madame Zilensky," I don't know how many of these pieces will really stick with me (and the latter is mainly because I read it for a class). I didn't find myself connecting with any of the characters in any of the stories, apart from Miss Amelia in "Sad Cafe" and to some extent, Madame Zilensky, and not enough happened in any of the stories to really be engaging beyond that. In particular I want to focus on "Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland" because we just discussed it in my writing class, and the issue I had with the story is that I couldn't find a reason for Brook's actions—his calling out Zilensky seemed to be more of a moment to say "Aha! Gotcha" than out of any actual interest or concern, and this made him the villain of the story, but he wasn't interesting enough to make him a villain I had any investment in. Many of the other characters evoked similar emotions, or in this case, lack of emotions. Still, the writing in the book was nice, and there were some beautiful turns of phrase (particularly one passage about love in "Sad Cafe"). (less)
I like the style of this book a lot. I feel like sometimes journalists writing long-form narratives act like they are the first and foremost expert on...moreI like the style of this book a lot. I feel like sometimes journalists writing long-form narratives act like they are the first and foremost expert on a topic, and while sometimes they really are the first to cover it other times this leads to a lack of reflection on other media coverage. Something I think Reding does well with is dissecting the stereotypes of small towns and meth users, confirming and denying various aspects of the accuracy of these stereotypes. He also puts a variety of faces to the conditions that led to meth's presence in small towns and in the United States in general, beyond just what other media outlets have shown. In some parts of the book he tries too hard to buddy up to the residents—meth users and law enforcement alike—or at least to show that he has buddied up to them, but for the most part he has a clear, personal connection to small towns that leads to an effective, in-depth interest and exploration of the subject matter. (less)
I just finished reading the book for one of my journalism classes this semester. Before we started, my professor explained us how Roberto Saviano's li...moreI just finished reading the book for one of my journalism classes this semester. Before we started, my professor explained us how Roberto Saviano's life has been threatened by the Camora, and finished by saying that it may not be for years, but he won't be surprised if one day he turns on the news and sees that Saviano has been killed. That's a chilling thought, but now that I've read the book I can understand why the Camora wants its author dead. Not only does Saviano paint a picture of their ruthless and violent lifestyles, but he does so in a way that includes names, places, and intimate details. It's a brave book, and an important one, and it is a sharp contrast to the glorified mafiosos of The Godfather that most of us (myself included) think of when we imagine the Italian mafia. This is not to say that there weren't and aren't gangsters in that tradition, but the Camoristas' style and unrelenting, mechanized violence is intense. Saviano's writing is full of imagery that captures both the harsh, blunt details of the violence everpresent in the region (one of the most powerful moments is the discussion of the best way to die—a shot to the head rather than a shot to the heart), as well as the minor details about the daily lives of those in the region, both in the criminal lifestyle and the bystanders who must witness and hopefully survive it.(less)
The book is a little bit repetitive, but it makes sense in the context of the similar ways in which different goods and cargo, including people, are s...moreThe book is a little bit repetitive, but it makes sense in the context of the similar ways in which different goods and cargo, including people, are smuggled and trafficked around the world. It provides a good introduction to the many types of cargos which are trafficked, and more importantly how governments and legitimate businesses cooperate with illegal enterprises in order to boost the bottom line and make a profit. It provides a good introduction both into the world of smuggling and trafficking itself as well into the systems that allow these crimes to take place. (less)
This is the first book I read for college, as it was the required reading for a book discussion as part of the program I'm in, and it was very interes...moreThis is the first book I read for college, as it was the required reading for a book discussion as part of the program I'm in, and it was very interesting to look back at the way I viewed it then and how I look at it now as a senior with three years of journalism education and experience. In part, it's somewhat depressing how jaded and cynical journalism has made me—there's so much in this book that absolutely shocked me when I was an incoming freshman that now seems to me just another sadly commonplace occurrence—but at the same time the knowledge and experience I've gained over the past few years have made me feel empowered to work to change things, or to expose the issues with neo-conservatism and disaster capitalism. As a book, The Shock Doctrine is not for the faint of heart, and it is so dense with facts and figures as well as anecdotes and analogies and historical context that it is a much more informative and compelling read to those with some modicum of experience with international affairs and particularly international media reporting, but it is an important and interesting work that I can appreciate even more now than I could when I first read it. (less)
I've read a lot of sort of abstract analysis of how social media is impacting revolution or protest in various countries including Egypt, Libya, and t...moreI've read a lot of sort of abstract analysis of how social media is impacting revolution or protest in various countries including Egypt, Libya, and the United States, and had a lot of discussion both socially and academically about the effect is can have and is having on such demonstrations, but for the most part it is in a general sense. I've certainly seen specific examples of social media causing change, but mostly it is as a result of things happening after the fact—a story or video of protest or violence going viral and reaching people through the use of social media. This book is interesting because it details the "before": how Ghonim and his fellow protestors were inspired by an "after" (the death of Kahled Said, whose story went viral) and used social media, mainly facebook to organize protest throughout Egypt. The book is definitely a memoir rather than a historical account—some of the personal details Ghonim includes have little connection to the events he is documenting, at least to this reader—but this helps to capture the thoughts and emotions he was feeling at the time as both a key figure in the protests but also as a husband and father who feared for his own safety and that of his family. Having followed the Egyptian revolution in the news when it occurred, I feel I know many of the basic facts of it so anything lacking on this front didn't much matter to me, and the insider's view was invaluable in providing an account of the protesters' perspectives, although I also liked that Ghonim tried to be largely unbiased in his reporting, not demonising even those in power but just promoting the message of peace and change. It is an inspiring story, and an important one in an age when digital communication is becoming more and more prevalent and powerful. (less)
Bernarda Alba is the ruler of her house, and Bernarda and the five daughters coexist in a sort of dictatorship broken up by tension and romantic entan...moreBernarda Alba is the ruler of her house, and Bernarda and the five daughters coexist in a sort of dictatorship broken up by tension and romantic entanglements. It is a fascinating, thrilling play and the characters are brilliantly developed by Lorca. One of the most interesting aspects is that all of the characters are women, with the exception of Pepe el Romano, who never appears on stage although his actions are integral to the plot. (less)
The play is a stark, realistic, and insightful look into human motivations and relationships. In three acts, he tells the story of the entanglements b...moreThe play is a stark, realistic, and insightful look into human motivations and relationships. In three acts, he tells the story of the entanglements between three families, particularly the children: the daughter of one family, who is to marry the son of another, but who is in love with the son of a third. The play is full of violence and conflict. It is thick with symbolism but the writing style is simple, leaving the reader to imagine the setting. (less)
I always find it more difficult to read books required for school than those I choose myself, and reading in Spanish is even more difficult (although...moreI always find it more difficult to read books required for school than those I choose myself, and reading in Spanish is even more difficult (although I must admit I found an English translation and I used that much of the time). But I think even if I was reading this on my own time, in English, I wouldn't have particularly enjoyed it. It was boring and not a particularly good adaptation of Don Juan. The ending was cheesy and didn't have the impact of something like Mozart's Don Giovanni, another adaptation of the Don Juan story.(less)
This is one of those books where the thesis should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense: women are not treated equally in politics. And...moreThis is one of those books where the thesis should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense: women are not treated equally in politics. And yet when the evidence is all laid out in front of you—the statistics of women in office versus the much higher percentage of men, the headlines about Hillary Clinton crying and rumours about Sarah Palin's pregnancy, the fact that a main concern for voters is how a mother can take care of her children while she is in office, even if her children are grown up or her husband works from home—it's pretty staggering to be reminded that no matter how many cracks there are in the glass ceiling, it's pretty far from broken. Kornblut supports her argument with extensive interviews, research, and anecdotes, looking at the history of women in politics and some recent races. While she focuses on the 2008 presidential election, she also discusses Nancy Pelosi, Claire McCaskill, Meg Whitman, and other prominent female politicians. The book is an entertaining and informative read, and takes a look not only at the ways women are treated in politics, but also the ways they have taken charge of their roles and campaigns.
There are two extremes when discussing women in the 2008 election (and women in politics in general). On one side, there's the claim that women should band together, should vote for women because they are woman, seemingly regardless of whether or not their views mesh, and that any dislike of a woman candidate is pure sexism. On the other, there are the people who say that sexism does not play a role in a woman's chance at running or winning, that people don't analyze her hair or her clothes any more than they do men, that it's all about the issues!!!!! Most people fall somewhere in between this, recognizing that you can dislike Sarah Palin because she's an awful politician and still know that people wouldn't be photoshopping her into bikinis if she was a man. For the most part, Kornblut's book is moderate about this too, but there were moments when she seemed to lean into the "women should vote for women because they're women!" extreme. For instance, she calls out a female college student on her decision to support Obama over Clinton and quotes her as saying that "This isn't, like, our only chance" to have a woman president. I find it telling that this is one of the few times when filler words (which journalists can usually cut without accusations of misquoting) remain; the other instance also comes in a quote from someone Kornblut disagrees with. She also writes that women choosing to support Obama over Clinton sent the message that "there is no shame in supporting a male candidate over a female candidate." Well, that's because there isn't. I would have liked the book more if she had not made these implications, because I think it detracted from her overall message.
At the end of the book, Kornblut looks ahead to the 2012 (and 2016) presidential elections. While at the time of writing it still appeared that Sarah Palin could decide to run, and Michele Bachmann wasn't even on anyone's radar, her insights into what it might take for a woman to become a candidate and potentially win are still useful in looking forward to the future. (less)