Any Gordianus book (or set of stories) is worth reading for Saylor's fine writing style and a deep knowledge of the era, but this one seems to me a le...moreAny Gordianus book (or set of stories) is worth reading for Saylor's fine writing style and a deep knowledge of the era, but this one seems to me a lesser entry in the series. Gordianus tours the seven wonders of the ancient world with his tutor-in-disguise, Antipater of Sidon; of course at each location the 19-year old Gordianus finds a small mystery to solve. the good: the description of the wonders and the rituals/culture that accompanied each of them is fascinating. the bad: the mysteries are not particularly interesting and, in almost every case, unconnected to each other. In a way the book reads as a travelogue rather than a typical Gordianus book ... and perhaps that's why it is consciously not catalogued in the Roma Sub Rosa series. (less)
I'm enjoying Cutler's book quite a bit, as much for its breezy, but fairly erudite, writing style as for the insight into the period from 1969-1970. A...moreI'm enjoying Cutler's book quite a bit, as much for its breezy, but fairly erudite, writing style as for the insight into the period from 1969-1970. A couple of critical observations: Cutler bills himself as tour manager for the Stones, and I imagined that meant he had enjoyed a long relationship with them. In fact, he seems like a peripheral member of the Stones' entourage, someone who was never in the inner circle and who only acted as Tour Manager for the autumn tour of the US in 1969. Since that tour ended at Altamont, however, Cutler's role in the organization and carrying out of that infamous concert is worthy of special scrutiny. And Cutler does not disappoint, as the majority of the book is spent on that 6-month period (from July 1969 to December 1969). Cutler is defensive, seeking to justify his own actions in advance of Altamont and casting suspicions on a number of the other characters who were part of that tour (John Jaymes, the alleged Chrysler rep; Melvin Belli; the Knights of Columbus, etc.). Fair enough. I don't know enough about Altamont to judge the degree to which his claims are valid, but they do make for entertaining (if lengthy) reading. When it comes to the Grateful Dead, about which I do know a bit more, Cutler is much more superficial, and even seems to make a number of factual errors or exaggerations. From the extensive Dead setlist projects, it's pretty clear that the Dead did not play (at least publicly) a lot of Rolling Stones songs prior to the late 1980s, despite Cutler's claim (in a jab at the Stones, he claims the Dead idolized the STones, and played a lot of their songs, while the Stones didn't bother to learn who the Dead were). Furthermore, Cutler's account of his role in helping to identify the corruption of the Dead's tour manager, Lenny Hart, seems a bit confused, and at odds in places with what other Dead scholars have written. In the end, although Cutler spent a lot more time with the Dead than he did with the Stones, it is that 6-month period in 1969 with the Stones that occupies the majority of this memoir. One would have liked to hear more details, and more specifics, about Cutler's time with the Dead. But still, it's an interesting, well-written account by someone who had first-hand experience with the rock scene of the late 1960s and 1970s. (less)
I certainly consider Bacigalupi to rank among the top five most significant science fiction writers active today. His work crackles with invention and...moreI certainly consider Bacigalupi to rank among the top five most significant science fiction writers active today. His work crackles with invention and relevancy. Indeed, a few of the stories in this book are among my favorite sci-fi stories of the past decade. So why only 3 stars? I'd already read the Windup Girl, and two of the major stories in Pump Six are clearly first drafts of ideas that were later worked up in the Windup Girl. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It's just that for me this made the volume a little less original. As is to be expected, there were a couple of stories that seemed not to live up to the general excellence (Softener, for ex). Still, if one hasn't read Windup Girl, this is a must-read by one of the the most significant genre writers of the 21st century. And Pop Squad is still haunting me - great story.(less)
There's a lot to like about this shaggy dog story of a book. Moments of laugh-out-loud brilliance, some profound observations on cooking and life, and...moreThere's a lot to like about this shaggy dog story of a book. Moments of laugh-out-loud brilliance, some profound observations on cooking and life, and a clever twist interlarded along the route. Lanchester's writing is intelligent, witty, and often sublime. Ultimately the book is somewhat of an existential tour-de-force; those seeking a plot or action are likely to be disappointed. That will be good for some, but a turn-off for others. While I enjoyed it and would recommend it to certain friends, I also found it to be as a whole less than the sum of its parts. That is, the entire story (with twist) is eventually obvious and not particularly interesting; I found myself relishing the moments of wit as the unreliable narrator spoke about food, art or history. (less)
A enjoyable read for any fan of 'modern' Jazz. Kahn (also notable for his book on the making of Miles' _Kind of Blue_) is an unabashed devotee of jazz...moreA enjoyable read for any fan of 'modern' Jazz. Kahn (also notable for his book on the making of Miles' _Kind of Blue_) is an unabashed devotee of jazz, and particularly of post-bop and '60s jazz. His decision to cover the swift changes in that world through the framework of Impulse! records is a wise one, as it allows him to link creative currents and innovations to an underlying analysis of the business side of jazz. Kahn has interviewed as many of the surviving jazz icons - and A&R and label men - as seems humanly possible, and the book is filled with a rewarding (but judicious) array of their reflections on individual albums and on the era that produced them. For me the sweet spot was the period that Kahn clearly loves best, that represented by the Bob Thiele era of Impulse! (1961-1969), but his (shorter) analysis of the ways in which Impulse! adapted both to changes on the business side, including a move to California and shakeouts of the executives, and the ways in which jazz confronted the avant-garde and pop music (rock) in the 1970s are fascinating as well. As other reviewers have noted, I also appreciated his decision to include about thirty 2-page side-bars devoted to individual albums that Kahn felt were either of surpassing creative worth or that marked important shifts in the overall nature of the label. Finally, as a jazz lover I found myself drawn to the fine discography that Kahn includes at the end of the book; my wallet is already lighter from some of the discoveries I made thanks to his book.
So, easily a 3- or 3.5-star book. One previous reviewer noted that Kahn avoids the 'other elephant in the room', aka Blue Note. His is a valid point, and one worth a short epilogue. Kahn focuses rather unrelentingly on Impulse!, its producers, and its artists. As the title indicates, this is the story of a label - it is not the story of Jazz in the 60s. At times I sympathized with that other reviewer, as I wondered if Kahn's triumphalist narrative about Impulse and Coltrane might not have benefited from some comparison with what, say, Columbia (Miles) or Blue Note (lots of others) was up to. As is well known, and as Kahn notes early in the book, even 'signed' artists could appear as one-offs on other labels in this period. I would have found it interesting to see Kahn compare the techniques and approaches of the big jazz labels and even to have heard what the musicians thought of their options. But ultimately that is another book, one Kahn chose not to write. Perhaps for his next work?(less)
A gripping memoir by a very brave person. Luttrell's toughness is incredible, as is his devotion to comrades and country. The book is at its best in d...moreA gripping memoir by a very brave person. Luttrell's toughness is incredible, as is his devotion to comrades and country. The book is at its best in describing action - first in SEAL training in CA, and then, more substantively, in the ill-fated Operation Redwing. Luttrell and his ghost writer are able to frame these episodes in remarkable ways, such that one is brought into the immediacy of the situation and one can feel the sweat, blood, pounding hearts, fear, and so forth. As a battle memoir it is clearly first rate, and deserves to be read widely as an example of the extraordinary lengths to which American special forces soldiers can go. The only issue I had with the book was that as an analyst of broader strategy, global politics, and even the complexities of politics and culture in the US, Luttrell is much less successful. He is certainly entitled to his opinion (especially in a memoir), but his repeated claim that the disaster on Murphy's Ridge can be laid, even in part, at US liberals and 'the liberal media' (for producing in himself and his fellows an unwillingness to shoot unarmed goatherds, knowing that these goatherds will likely tell the Taliban of their presence), is disingenuous and confuses political partisanship with morality. But this is a small quibble, and one worth tolerating for the underlying story and the robust way in which Luttrell tells it.(less)
A tough one to review. Let's be clear straight off the bat. Bobby Orr has always been my favorite sports figure, bar none. As a boy I wanted to be a d...moreA tough one to review. Let's be clear straight off the bat. Bobby Orr has always been my favorite sports figure, bar none. As a boy I wanted to be a defenseman like him (that dream didn't last long!), I wrote him in 3rd grade, I had his record lp, etc. Once some perspective arrived, I found that I still admired him above nearly all others. He was, of course, possibly the greatest hockey player ever - certainly in the top 5. And perhaps more significantly, he was and is a truly good person, filled with respect, passion, and quiet goodness. All reasons to love the man. But the book? It does reinforce those core perceptions about Bobby - he is, at age 60, still genuinely bewildered by all the interest in him. He still values the team above individual awards. So that core of decency shines through in almost every chapter. That said, the book is not particularly interesting. Sure, you get a thin overview of his career, and he offers a few interesting insights about players, games, and decisions. But, and I hate to say this, it's all a bit mundane. By telling us he won't dish out dirt on other people (an admirable fact), he deprives his memoir of one of the things that draws readers - real, personal insight into the headlining figures of the era. Bobby's also genuinely interested in thanking almost everyone he's encountered in his life and career - again, laudable, but never analytical or critical. I guess that's ultimately my biggest regret - there's very little analysis here, of people or situations. This point is perhaps why the final chapter is, in my view, the most interesting: here he weighs in on the state of the game, offering his opinion about various rules changes. Nothing particularly surprising (as throughout the book), but he does take a stand. In the end I was pleased to read about one of my lasting sports heroes in his own words; but the qualities that make Bobby such an impressive person are exactly those that render his memoir a bit punchless.(less)