Connie Willis is one of my favorite authors. She seems to think (and bookstores agree) that she is a science fiction writer, but I respectfully disagr...moreConnie Willis is one of my favorite authors. She seems to think (and bookstores agree) that she is a science fiction writer, but I respectfully disagree. Her writing style is more literary than sci fi. This book was my first Willis but lead to most of her others.
Several members of a Time Travel group out of Cambridge need a vacation. One decides to go to Victorian England but things go rather wrong and it's not sure he'll get back without affecting the future.
This is linked to Willis's favorite book (yes, I heard it straight from her mouth), Three Men in a Boat.(less)
I was SO prepared not to like this book. I mean, after all, MORE zombies? A zombie world war????? But I had read a couple of interesting items (no rev...moreI was SO prepared not to like this book. I mean, after all, MORE zombies? A zombie world war????? But I had read a couple of interesting items (no reviews or I would have been better informed about what I was getting into) about the book. So when I was in a bookstore once - I can hardly EVER walk out of a bookstore without a book - and browsing for a purchase, I saw this and decided to pick it up. Boy am I glad I did!!
The war was fought by people all over the world and that is what the book is focused on - not the scenes of moaning zombies, grabbing anything within their reach, pulling themselves along with their arms if their legs are gone that you see in the zombie graphic novels. The "author" of the book has interviewed survivors of the war from all over the world, people with various occupations and interests, from professional soldiers to a computer geek in Japan who spends his time researching data online about zombies while the war rages around him. So the war is not told in a linear fashion but is pieced together by the individual stories. We learn about the origins of the plague in China (and hear how an organ transplant doctor who imported cheap "parts" from China originates the plague in Brazil); the efforts of the government to cover it up; how nuclear war broke out, not between India and Pakistan but between Pakistan and Iran; how the Israelis recognized early the impending extent of the crisis and walled themselves off but reached out to the Palenstinians in the area to join them; how people tried to evade the plague by living in the sewers of Paris; how dogs were trained and used to identify zombies; what the quislings were and how dangerous they were; and quite often how the soldiers of the various countries fought, comparing it to other wars. Although there are no exact years given for the war, people talk about events that happened before`or simultaneously that the reader should be familiar with - the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan; the Vietnam War; the DMZ between the Koreas; the Russian Revolution.
And then there is the diabolical Redeker plan for survival and the entrepreneur who developed Phalanx, which was supposed to work as a vaccine and protect people against zombification.
All in all, this book is an amazing work. There are layers upon layers, each a puzzle piece for the reader to assemble. So even if you don't like zombies, read the book. It could be about ANY truly world war. But mainly it's about the human condition and how we survive the impossible.(less)
Some of the interviews repeat information (and most of it is very elemental - he started drawing at 1 1/2, his first drawing was of sausage-shaped rai...moreSome of the interviews repeat information (and most of it is very elemental - he started drawing at 1 1/2, his first drawing was of sausage-shaped railroad cars, he taught himself to read at 3 1/2, he attended nearly every performance (evening and matinee) of the New York City Ballet for 10 years...), but you glean at least one nugget of new information from each one. Since I love Gorey, it was fun to read more about his actual life, but after reading this, I'd rather read his actual work.
Great for Gorey fans or those who want to see a few of his drawings to get a feel for his style.(less)
While not exactly a debate between Freud and Lewis, Nicholi does present their ideas in juxtaposition so that it almost seems like a debate. The cover...moreWhile not exactly a debate between Freud and Lewis, Nicholi does present their ideas in juxtaposition so that it almost seems like a debate. The cover blurb purports that Nicholi is neutral, but his last chapter appears to come down more on Lewis's side. I found myself disagreeing very much with Lewis's Christianity, but I couldn't quite swallow Freud's paranoid atheism either. But the discussion the book brings up within the reader's own mind is well worth the read. There is also a play based on this book, Freud's Last Session, which puts the two in the same room for an actual debate on the subject of religion. (less)
Ah, one of my favorite travel authors. But Tahir Shah never does the expected travel or travel writing. He's always on a journey of discovery. Somethi...moreAh, one of my favorite travel authors. But Tahir Shah never does the expected travel or travel writing. He's always on a journey of discovery. Something piques his interest and he follows it to its origin. This time it's the legend of the Birdmen of Peru. According to the stories, they flew. Clear back in Inca times, before the Spanish arrived.
As he progresses in his journey, he meets Peruvians, strange Europeans, an American Viet Nam vet who will guide him to his destination and the question: "You ask if they flew; but do you know why they flew?"
Of course, the answer revolves around the meaning of "to fly." Shah finds his answer and along the way reveals as much about being a clueless tourist as he does about the cultures and people he meets.
Anyone who enjoys offbeat travel writing (like Bill Bryson) will really enjoy Shah. Jump into his expedition into Peru and you won't regret it.(less)
There is a picture by Norman Rockwell called "The Gossip" which shows a woman whispering something to a friend, who whispers it to a friend...... all...moreThere is a picture by Norman Rockwell called "The Gossip" which shows a woman whispering something to a friend, who whispers it to a friend...... all the way back to the original whisperer. That is one of the major themes of this book. Florent, a young Parisian gets caught up in a protest one day and after seeing the bloody mess the government made of it, tentatively becomes a rebel. He's "manning" a barricade one day when he falls asleep and is caught by the police - everyone else had the good sense to run away. He's sent to Devil's Island, but manages to escape and after 8 years return to Paris. At first he's extremely cautious, thinking that the police are everywhere and watching him. Eventually he settles in with his brother and wife. He takes a job as an inspector of the fish market and starts to lead a "normal" life. This, however, bores him to tears and he gets involved in politics, planning a revolution to overcome the monarchy.
The title Belly of Paris revolves around the fact that the entire book takes place in Les Halles, the marketplace of Paris. When Florent originally returns to Paris, he rides in on a vegetable cart coming to market goods. He meets a painter who rhapsodizes about the beautiful colors of the fruits and vegetables piled high and running into the streets. Zola paints food pictures everywhere: the vegetable market, the fish market, the meat market, the fruit market, etc. etc. You almost wish you were a painter there. You can easily visualize.
Florent's ruin comes about because of gossip, however. When he first moves in with his brother, an old woman who is the gossip monger of Les Halles, notices him and starts rumors. He is the lover of his brother's wife. He murdered 8 gendarmes and was sent to Devil's Island. If she doesn't know, she makes it up. And of course she engages others to help her make it up.
The people are as well described as the market. Zola roughly divides them into two groups in this novel: the fat and the thin. The fat are the successful, bourgeoise marketers; the thin, the "artistes". The rants on the "fats" are extremely funny. One of the reasons that rumors begin to be passed about Florent is because he is thin, not something seen in the market.
I love Zola's worlds. He is quite socially conscious but doesn't throw it into your face. His style is easy to read. He should be a required author in schools.(less)
I recently finished a course on Coursera on Medical Neuroscience. It was an extremely difficult course for me because I really don't have a science ba...moreI recently finished a course on Coursera on Medical Neuroscience. It was an extremely difficult course for me because I really don't have a science background. On the other hand, it was fascinating. I took it because for a long time I've had an interest in books concerning the brain and its workings, most commonly Oliver Sacks. Now I'm finding that the course has made a difference in my appreciation of this type of book.
Prion diseases are not entirely new, but the name is. Prions are not a virus, they are not bacteria, they cause no inflammation or fever, cannot be controlled by precautionary tactics but appear to be passed along only by direct contact, although not simply touching a surface or infected person. They appear to be twisted proteins which are reproduced by a cell's DNA once the mutation has occurred. No one knows for sure.
Prions were the reason for the "Mad Cow Disease" plague that rampaged Britain in the 1990s. They were also what caused kuru in a primitive tribe in New Guinea. They cause scrapie in sheep. They are what causes Jacob-Creutzfield disease also. The first 2 were discovered to be the results of "cannibalism': in the case of kuru, direct human cannibalism; in the second, the result of using animal remains to create bone meal supplements for cattle feed.
No one knows how they get started; the theory is that a mutation occurs, the proteins get reproduced and cause the disease. The passage of the disease is known.
They cause huge holes in the cerebellum and plaques of astrogliosis and amyloidosis. They inevitably cause death in the animals they infect and the humans. There is no cure.
Now, how does my class fit into this? Because I now know how the proteins are produced and multiplied, I know what astrogliosis and amyloidosis are and how they occur. I understand why there is no cure. And this has increased my appreciation. (Not that everyone interested in this type of book should take a class in neuroscience.)
Whether or not you have neuroscience knowledge, anyone interested in medicine will find this book fascinating. In spite of the fact that there is no cure and that this type of disease is an awful way to die, the discovery of what happens in the disease process and of what causes it is extremely interesting. And Rhodes, also known for his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb is an excellent writer.
If you love medical books, but this one on your For Sure reading list. (less)
I love Dan Savage. Maybe that's because he's a local boy and totally irreverent. Maybe it's just because he's a superb writer. My guess is both.
This i...moreI love Dan Savage. Maybe that's because he's a local boy and totally irreverent. Maybe it's just because he's a superb writer. My guess is both.
This is an older book from 2002 but it wears well in spite of its slightly political nature. Savage decided to "commit" all of the seven deadly sins and write about them. He pinged off Robert Bork's (anybody remember him?) Slouching Towards Gomorrah, which was a takeoff on Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Whew!!
Bork's book essentially said that America was headed to hell in a handcart and at Indianapolis 500 speed at that. Bork, a well-known conservative, felt that American culture was on the brink of destroying the entire country he loved so much.
Not only does Savage take on Bork, but also Pat Buchanan, William Bennet and Bill O'Reilly. (You know, I find it extremely interesting that, while conservatives rant and rage about how "liberals" are destroying our culture, they seldom read works like Savage's, but liberals, like Savage - including me - do read the conservatives' book to see what makes them so angry.)
Savage travels to Las Vegas to study gambling (greed), attends a swingers' convention (lust), also attends an NAFFA conference (National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance (gluttony)- and muses on the fact that all the conservatives that he's commenting on in his book are, um, rather, how do you say it?, overweight - takes a mini-vacation by smoking pot (sloth), goes to a health spa that caters exclusively to the rich (envy), spends time with gays in Los Angeles and attends a Pride Parade (pride) and takes a shooting lesson in Plano, TX (anger) where he learns he's a natural at shooting a gun.
Savage is a very funny writer and worth reading even if you don't agree with his views.
On a solemn note, he actually reads the Sodom and Gomorrah story in the Bible and finds it has nearly nothing to do with sex and drugs as many conservative Bible readers say. It doesn't mention what Gomorrah did to get itself nuked, but the Sodomites found out that angels were visiting Lot and wanted him to hand them over (apparently for sexual reasons since Lot offers them his daughters instead!!). Many scholars think that it was the social boo-boo of not welcoming strangers that got Sodom in trouble. Needless to say (why do we always say that when we're going to say it anyway?), both the cities got bombed off the face of the earth.
Savage presents a balanced view of each "sin" and constantly refers to the Declaration of Independence's promise of the right to the pursuit of happiness. He argues that if it doesn't injure anyone else, why can't "sinners" be left alone?
He also has a fantastic comment about the First and Second Amendments.
Seconds want the most liberal reading of the Second Amendment while Firsts want the most liberal reading of the First Amendment; most Seconds favor a conservative reading of the First Amendment and most Firsts favor a conservative reading of the Second. There's room for a deal here. If Firsts agree to sign off on a liberal reading of the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed), and Seconds agree to sign off on a liberal interpretation of the First Amendment (complete separation of church and state, total freedom of speech), perhaps we could end most of the culture war. Gun nuts don't have to worry about People for the American Way coming for their guns anymore and First Amendment fans can write, print, publish, film, videotape, and chat on-line about anything we care to.
Matheson is a wonderful writer of modern "terror" stories with unexpected twists, and, believe me, I kn...moreRead this book, read this book, read this book.
Matheson is a wonderful writer of modern "terror" stories with unexpected twists, and, believe me, I know most of the tricks horror/terror writers use these days. But he got me over and over and I loved it.
The stories are both dated - Matheson wrote mostly in the 50s and 60s so we have constant references to record players, phones being put back in their cradles, cars that are stick shift and require you to push a button to start the engine - but the ideas are distinctly modern or perhaps I should say timeless.
This anthology starts with a story that many of us my age are familiar with. I can't remember if it was Twilight Zone or one of those other shows that dealt with the "unreal," but one of them had a story about a driver, Dennis Weaver, driving his car across the desert and harmlessly passing a semi. But the semi seems to have it out for him, passing him, maneuvering to keep him from passing again, stopping when he stops, starting again when he starts, until it takes on a personality of its own. Matheson's Duel is the story that show was based on and it losing nothing in being in print instead of on a screen.
The others are much more oriented to sci fi but just as good. One concerns an Earth person who lands in a future time and is arrested for having something absolutely obscene on board - food. Another glorious one has a female from Venus placing an ad in the Saturday Review which a young man answers and begins to discover has a lot of mystery about it. It was never sent to the Saturday Review for publication; no one else has seen it; a box containing rocks and earth samples is delivered and found to be "not of this world" by the scientists at the university. What's going on?
Matheson has the subtlety and finesse of the older sci fi writers who edge you into a story rather than plunging you in headfirst. That's part of what makes these stories so timeless.
I don't even remember where I saw Matheson's name or why I decided to try one of his books, but you can bet I'm d------d glad I did!
I was really disappointed in this one. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting but the author (who was a founding member of Blondie) gave a short re...moreI was really disappointed in this one. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting but the author (who was a founding member of Blondie) gave a short review of several different eras of "occultism" and then basically reviewed some mostly authors who were interested in or displayed some hints of occult followings. I guess I expected more explanations or actual examples of the authors' writing analyzed for how they showed occultism. (less)
If you live in Riseholme, England, you are a minion of Lucia (pronounced the Italian way), the Queen of Art and Culture. She controls the social netwo...moreIf you live in Riseholme, England, you are a minion of Lucia (pronounced the Italian way), the Queen of Art and Culture. She controls the social network and has raised the poor little town to a degree of culture it has never known before. Any social event MUST have Lucia play the first movement of The Moonlight Sonata (she doesn't play the other two because they don't have the same 'mood' although her best friend Georgie knows they are actually too difficult for her!) and provide the requisite communal sigh (denoting the sheer beauty of it). If music is provided (and it had better never be a grammaphone!), Lucia will sit in her "appreciative" pose of elbow on knee, leaning forward, chin resting on hand, eyes slightly unfocused so that you know she is concentrating on the beauty of the music. In short she is a small town tyrant. But a loveable one. In the first story in this edition, Queen Lucia, Lucia's reign is suddenly threatened by the arrival of an opera diva who, of course not understanding the dear inhabitants of Riseholme and their tastes, institutes free-for-all "play" evenings, plays music on the grammaphone and threatens Lucia's dominance in every way. Will Lucia be able to survive? Will she be replaced? Will Riseholme lose its cultural magnificence?
In the second story, Lucia in London, Lucia's husband's aunt dies and throws them into deep mourning (although they haven't seen her in the 7 years she's been in the asylum)AND into the ownership of a house in a nice section of London. Lucia has never made it a secret of her distaste of London and its hustle-bustle, mindless actions, etc. When she visits it, she always longs to return to "dear Riseholme" with its quiet and its culture. But now it appears that she is determined to move to London. Will she really go? Will she decided to stay? What will happen to the Hurst, her house in Riseholm? And who will take over the social programming?
Lucia's neighbors are a wonderful lot as well. Georgie (or Georgino, since they MUST speak Italian!) is not married, lives by himself, accompanies Lucia in her piano duets and embroiders. Mrs. Quantock, short and round, moves from one fad to the next - spiritualism, yoga, onion soup diets, you name it. Mrs. Antrobus who can't hear a thing in spite of her enormous ear trumpet. Mrs. Weston who rides all day in a bath chair, pushed by one servant or another at a breakneck speed around the town. And others too numerous to mention.
Another story on a different heroine, Miss Mapp, is included as well. Miss Mapp is around 40 and has her eye on the Major who lives just across the street. In more way than one. Miss Mapp has a bow window in her garden room from which she can watch the entire street to catch someone doing something he/she ought not. She is worried that her servants are using her phone for their own purposes, she MUST be the one who starts gossip spinning around town, can NEVER be wrong about what's happening in the town, and never hesitates to explain the the Major and the Captain how they must lead their lives.
In short, these two ladies typify English small town life between the Great War and the Great Depression. The humor is sharp, the characters all complicit, and the writing sweet. E. F. Benson is well worth reading. (less)
Ralph Waldo Emerson called Swedenborg a mystic in his Representative Men. I can't tell why. This is a straight forward description of Heaven and Hell...moreRalph Waldo Emerson called Swedenborg a mystic in his Representative Men. I can't tell why. This is a straight forward description of Heaven and Hell with some interesting twists (God rules both heaven and hell, so there is no devil; you attain heaven after basically going through "training" by spirits right after you die; you keep your body and have a job, house, all the things you had in life...). Anyway, unless you're really interested in the people who influenced the spiritualism that developed in the late 19th century, don't bother.(less)