This book executed its goal very, very well, but the sheer purpose and art of delving into the criminal mind and the sadistic side of humanity depress...moreThis book executed its goal very, very well, but the sheer purpose and art of delving into the criminal mind and the sadistic side of humanity depresses me so much I can barely enjoy any good book it produces.
It is important to endeavor to understand how humans can resort to callous behavior, but only for the sake of preventing it. Otherwise, the entire task seems to be for nothing but nihilism. That Goldman offers no example of prevention or justice served as the final, deadly blow to this reader's inspiration.(less)
I fully sympathize with her horrible loss - there were so many moments when I had to cover my face with the book as I read yet another jarring line br...moreI fully sympathize with her horrible loss - there were so many moments when I had to cover my face with the book as I read yet another jarring line bringing back my own excruciating memories. Two stars, however, because most of the time I couldn't empathize with the detached tone. Everyone is entitled to grieve in their own way, but having written my own accounts of deep loss, I personally find more validation and universal meaning in the expression of raw emotion.
She definitely had a few beautiful lines, but it seemed buried under the weight of names of places, quotes from textbooks, and medical procedures. I'd rather hear about what her friends meant to her and what the inside of the hospital was like, rather than a sheer listing of all their full names. (I kept remembering my 8th grade English teacher saying, "Show the reader, don't tell!")
And one afterthought: I wonder if other readers who don't belong to New York's upper-middle class art circle also felt alienated by her constant name-dropping and mentioning of all the locations where she and her husband lived and the restaurants where they dined. Because the names of those restaurants and schools aren't universal experiences for readers, it gives the book the feeling that it was written by a member of an elite club for her fellow members. It's her right, but it was too distracting for me.(less)
Hitchens says he's been writing this book all his life, and the passion and wit that pervades gives it the feel of a masterfully crafted diary of his...moreHitchens says he's been writing this book all his life, and the passion and wit that pervades gives it the feel of a masterfully crafted diary of his enthusiastic intellectual development in the persistent shadows of all the world's religions. I do not believe this book is for fundamentalist believers any more than the Bible is for atheists - any reader has already established the basis of her own beliefs and thus opens the book awaiting the arguments with either an intrigued mind or sharpened weaponry. That said, as an atheist who has already read Harris and Dawkins, I absolutely embraced it.
One could say that Hitchens is preaching to the atheist choir - but aren't they quite unharmonious to begin with? They crave different perspectives, and his is unique. He repeats the well-known fact that all powerful religions have upheld the oppression of women, non-believers, and non-conformists, and it seems this fact needs a great deal of repeating before anything will be done about it on a massive international scale. He is brave enough to dismiss Orthodox Judaism as racist, the New Testament’s urge for proselytizing imperialist, and Gandhi’s Hindu-leanings divisive. While Harris focuses on the horrors of Muslim theocratic communities, Hitchens is far fairer in his distribution of attacks upon all major religions.
He also points out that the many great leaders in the fight for social justice (e.g. MLK, Jr.) who claimed religion as their inspiration were nevertheless choosing to adhere to only a few passages and downright ignoring a great many other violent ones.
Though Hitchens says he would gladly allow the religious to privately believe in whatever supernatural beings they wish, “contempt for intellect is never passive.” He cannot leave them alone because they have steadfastly refused to leave the intellectual alone throughout the course of history and never by using reason but rather by the simple dogmatic threat that they are right because they have the word of god. (And for daring to challenge this, Hitchens receives countless death threats.)
Hitchens claims the somewhat good Pope John Paul was primarily good because did so much long-overdue apologizing for the Church. I would take this a step further in pointing out that it took Germany one generation to apologize for the Holocaust and the government continues to rightly assert that not a single German is ever allowed to forget it. The Catholic Church, meanwhile, took over 500 years to apologize for the Inquisition and few Catholic children spend up to 2 years learning how to prevent future atrocities in Sunday School. Instead, they learn "Jesus is the only way," which is not too far off from what the Church said to the Jews in Spain all those years ago. All religions continue to repeat this mantra, differing only in the name of the god they choose, and as a result the world is still divided into groups that pity and/or hate one another based on texts as old and as reliable as Roman mythology.
Anyone has the right to believe in whatever they wish, but no one should be granted immunity from the intellectual community merely because they refuse to admit that their source is as man-made and fallible as all the others. Anyone who reads Heidegger today is compelled to acknowledge his poisonous racism, admitting that he was a flawed individual who obviously did not have all the answers and can only contribute somewhat to our intellectual progress. If only the words of god could be held to the same standard, the debates would be far more interesting and constructive, as Hitchens's book is. (less)
I don't like superlatives, but I don't think I have ever enjoyed any other book so much. I read it in two days and I've read it several times since ju...moreI don't like superlatives, but I don't think I have ever enjoyed any other book so much. I read it in two days and I've read it several times since just to soak up the beautiful prose poems that tell the story, and the utterly innovative new tools he introduces such as the use of photographs, of text as illustrations, and run-on punctuation to facilitate the childlike sense of stream of consciousness. I've noticed that many of my favorite books are told from the wonderfully honest point of view of a child (a child more often gets away with poetry without sounding too theatrical or self-involved), but this one surpasses them all through its ability to make such a precocious, original juvenile character so believable. I felt as though I'd met him before but I couldn't put my finger on when or where.
It seems that the greatest criticism seems to come from those who find Oskar too incredible. I think this relates back to the fact that it's easier to write non-fiction than fiction because the crazier non-fiction is, the more it is perceived as impressive. To me, Oskar's story is never unbelievable in the usual trite ways; his dialogue is very natural and the plot is colorful and many-many-layered, rather than melodramatic. One could criticize Foer for being too creative, but I experienced each load of ideas as fireworks going off all at once in my mind.(less)
This book was good, I enjoyed it, and I might have given it more stars if I hadn't read Foer's other book first. As three other friends said, this one...moreThis book was good, I enjoyed it, and I might have given it more stars if I hadn't read Foer's other book first. As three other friends said, this one just didn't flow like its sibling did. It was very funny at times, and never lacking in meaning, especially compared to the average bestseller. If anything, Foer must always be applauded for his ambition. But in this case, he seemed to be running in too many directions at once, trying to grab every ploy he sees off the shelf of Literary Creativity and cram them all into his story, which bulges somewhat hideously at the seams.
I wasn't surprised the flashbacks to the shtetl were completely left out of the film; he should have published them in a separate book. The tone was so different - it shifted into the third-person but was nevertheless odd, almost sardonic in a "like it or leave it" challenge to the reader. The film decided to leave it, and as far as attempting to grasp its ultimate purpose, so did this reader.
I suppose the terrifying aspect of this book is that the main character is very easy to empathize with until she descends into madness. All her critic...moreI suppose the terrifying aspect of this book is that the main character is very easy to empathize with until she descends into madness. All her criticisms of 1950's misogyny are entirely valid from what I know of the time period and her descriptions, but I'd prefer her to become an activist rather than a self-absorbed victim.(less)
This was one I couldn't put down, unlike any of the others I tried. I think Rowling - to plagiarize the words of a friend - is a good storyteller, but...moreThis was one I couldn't put down, unlike any of the others I tried. I think Rowling - to plagiarize the words of a friend - is a good storyteller, but not a good writer. (less)
**spoiler alert** I wouldn't give it the Pulitzer. Eugenides seems to have far more empathy for his protagonist's parents and grandparents than for Ca...more**spoiler alert** I wouldn't give it the Pulitzer. Eugenides seems to have far more empathy for his protagonist's parents and grandparents than for Cal the protagonist himself. The movements through history such as the Greco-Turkish war and the Detroit race riots have ramifications for the characters' microcosm that are plausible in all the ways that the ramifications of intersex identity for Cal are not. War and incest are explored with a slow and gentle sensitivity, while the supposedly central theme of intersexuality remains coldly at the end of a microscope.
Eugenides makes a few overly philosophical musings about identity that are far too academic for my taste and credulity. I'm willing to concede that some individuals would articulate their complex feelings about such a personal issue in such an abstruse fashion, but usually such distant pontification indicates insecurity or mistrust. There was no reason to feel anything toward Cal but pity as he was thrust through Hollywood-like plot devices that included running away from home, a ransom deal, sleazy strip joints and predatory thieves. As he occasionally dips back into the present to talk about his current difficulty dating, he ends up being successful in love for the first time in his life, albeit offering no reason why, other than that it makes a perfect happy ending. Another cry to be made into a film.
That the intersex individual's struggle with identity seemed thrown in borders on offensive. Did the judges give the book the Pulitzer because they found the mere topic of intersex identity to be radical? I find such well-intentioned treatment of people ultimately circus-like. That said, it's sad to see reviews by people who said they didn't want to even try the book because the topic was too "marginalizing" for them. What is literature supposed to be if not enlightening? (less)
"America is awesome." "America is the greatest nation on earth." "America - like it or leave it." If you've never heard these phrases before, you most...more"America is awesome." "America is the greatest nation on earth." "America - like it or leave it." If you've never heard these phrases before, you most likely have never lived in America. American children grow up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance from kindergarten on (with no idea what "liberty" or even "allegiance" means), and most know that not standing during a flag ceremony is a punishable offense in school. It is unsurprising that American history is also taught as a celebration of a wonderful country that has made few mistakes... unlike all those other countries no one would want to live in if they had the choice.
Loewen starts off his book with an attack on such a Pleasantville view of America as his central argument and admittedly caught me with it hook, line, and sinker. He focuses primarily on the survival of racism in America through the teaching of history and offers many enlightening examples. Why do so few classrooms learn of the archaelogical evidence for African explorers in the Americas? Why are achievements by minority groups lumped together almost solely in "Black History Month" or "Women's History Month" rather than taught as U.S. history, as American as George Washington? Why does the average history class spend 0 to 9 minutes on the Vietnam War?
I agree with some comments that Loewen's indictment of U.S. history as it is taught in American schools is also a soapbox moment for his own politics. A mere questioning of the history curriculum will not necessarily lead one to the conclusions he himself makes. However, that he is merely liberal should be unsurprising since the oppression of questioning and iconoclasm so rampant in our educational system is by definition conservative and counterintuitive to the idea that we must learn from history - and thus, from our mistakes - in order to progress. Few conservatives today can be seen leading an attack on American jingoism but for the extremists such as Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, or Pat Robertson whose own radical interpretations of history would end up alienating ten times as many students as already are. (less)