As usual, beautiful writing by a fine American writer. Sadly, I was disappointed with this book. Her journeys to Greenland are compelling enough to keAs usual, beautiful writing by a fine American writer. Sadly, I was disappointed with this book. Her journeys to Greenland are compelling enough to keep reading, and although her prose is filled with tedious redundancies, it is also studded with well-crafted gems of insight. Somewhat more interesting are the historical narratives of Knud Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen, and the artist Kent Rockwell, which she inserts within and among her personal narratives. The juxtaposition falls flat, however, in that, unlike these polar sojourners, she has no clear purpose for being there. Rasmussen and Freuchen were explorers and researchers. Rockwell had an artistic goal. But Ehrlich? From start to finish of what is clearly a deeply personal book, I found myself asking, Why is she there? She is an aimless wanderer not knowing what she seeks. Yet curiously, she is surrounded by Greenlanders who have a clear sense of purpose in their lives; and she fails to make a connection here. In a nation riven by alcoholism, sexual abuse, and child neglect, and with one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world, all of which she acknowledges, Ehrlich never elucidates the drive to serve others that motivates her friends. Finishing the book, I couldn't help feel a little sad for her. Here is this very percipient writer unable to connect personal fulfillment with compassionate action for the sake of others. In the end, all her journeys to the top of the world felt like an exotic getaway for its own sake. ...more
I have an odd relationship with this series. I read the first trilogy at the end of the '90s and really loved it. Now, so many years and changes laterI have an odd relationship with this series. I read the first trilogy at the end of the '90s and really loved it. Now, so many years and changes later, I decided to jump into the second trilogy. I plan on finishing the series, but I'm not in a hurry; this is both a result of Donaldson's daunting vocabulary and his lumbering narrative style. Actually, I wouldn't say it is his narrative style that is drawn out and plodding, but his character Thomas Covenant. I can't stand Covenant. He is the center of the entire story, and yet a detestable, miserable, guilt-ridden bastard, for lack of a more polite description. Here is the original Philoctetes, complaining interminably because of his disease, a physical manifestation of his damned soul. He is riven by doubt, non-committal, hostile, manic and insufferably self-slanderous; hence his designation, "Unbeliever". And yet, I can't let him go. I care about him, deplorable as he is, and I must know what happens next. The question so often in my mind is whether it is Covenant's story, or the The Land itself to which I am most attracted. These books are not for everyone. Donaldson is not presenting a clever story set in a magical world that is entertaining for its own sake. Rather he presents a tortured psycho-drama that employs a magical world as its backdrop. It has been a long time since I read the first trilogy, so it wouldn't be fair to compare this first book in the Second Chronicles to them. I can say, though, that The Wounded Land is as slow and tortured as its main character, and his internal stultification is tedious to the point of exhaustion. Nevertheless, Donaldson keeps the reader moving, even if at the pace of a sur-jeherrin traversing a mire, and fleshes out the very original world of The Land such that one cares about what is happening. In a way, a reader's experience can be likened that of Covenant's, one who never asked to be transported into this bizarre world, but once there can do little but make his way as best he can....more
An early work by Clark that I'd wanted to read for years. I finally got around to it, and I wasn't too impressed. Part of the problem is the dated-nesAn early work by Clark that I'd wanted to read for years. I finally got around to it, and I wasn't too impressed. Part of the problem is the dated-ness of the book, so I can't hold Clark accountable in that regard. Story-wise, however, it just wasn't all that exciting. Here is a rather humdrum story about rather humdrum characters in an exotic landscape that could have been investigated by the characters far more than it was. Clark's big surprise is the same one he regurgitates in his awful, late-career novel 2010: Odyssey Two. This is vintage Hard SF, and if you're in it for the vintage theories about Mars, go for it. But as it stands as a narrative, there is little here to fire the imagination....more
Such a crazy idea, I had to read this used bookstore surprise. Longyear is a strong writer, and the structure of the narrative (through interconnectedSuch a crazy idea, I had to read this used bookstore surprise. Longyear is a strong writer, and the structure of the narrative (through interconnected story-chapters) is strong, but the book suffers from not being as off the wall as its title and description suggest. Here is an opportunity for a great pulp sci-fi comedy that never really gets off the ground. In short, although it was well-written, it just never gets off the ground. Imagine Jack Vance on anti-depressants and you have Circus World. I won't be reading the other titles in this trilogy....more
Friend and fellow SGI Buddhist Nathan Gauer has put out his first book, a memoir entitled, Songs to Make the Desert Bear Fruit. To my knowledge, thisFriend and fellow SGI Buddhist Nathan Gauer has put out his first book, a memoir entitled, Songs to Make the Desert Bear Fruit. To my knowledge, this is the first American foray of Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism into literary non-fiction. There are plenty of books available on the Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement and its president, Daisaku Ikeda, titles such as The Buddha in Your Mirror, The Reluctant Buddhist, Encountering the Dharma, and most recently Waking the Buddha. Songs, however, is not such an informational commentary, but the coming of age memoir of a youth who happens to be a practitioner.
In 1999 18 year-old Nathan Gauer leaves behind a troubled adolescence of inadequate schooling, drugs and friends lost to violence to go on a cross-country road trip with his mother. Their ultimate destination is a place well below the radar of most Americans, the impoverished Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota. Gauer poignantly captures people’s lives there, as they are, without a Euro-American guilt complex, nor a noble savage perspective. In fact, were the Lakota not reminding him that he is a white outsider, a reader might forget that the story is being told by an Anglo. On the reservation we see America in all its ugliness, beauty, sincerity and despair, from Gabrielle’s stolen wristwatch to the Rosebud residents crying around the t.v. at the news of JFK Jr.’s death: “Camelot was our story too, you know.”
Trenchant passages in the book detail his inner journey away from anger and aimlessness: “My unwillingness to take responsibility for my past was limiting my ability to envision the future.” Yet Gauer presents his personal transformation as part of a larger reflection on alienation, violence, poverty and mis-education in America. Readers may find themselves compelled to question a society that so easily provides the mire through which he must slog. There is, however, no preaching here, nor does it smack of a recovery story. Gauer simply takes a snapshot and hands over the picture. In describing some young men who are brutalizing a pit bull to ensure its viciousness in the betting ring, he writes:
Watching these sad, violent young men beat that dog every night, you found yourself looking into a mirror that, depending on your angle, reflected either everything or nothing.
As a reader I was left to decide what this meant to me, and it is this hands-off approach that lends his writing its power. Yet this isn't to suggest that he is afraid to share an opinion. He comments in the epilogue:
Although America still prides itself on carrying the torch of its own ideals into the world, millions of American youth remain marginalized and disempowered, little more than consumers who figure abstractly in competing bottom lines.
Through such statements, Songs takes on the aspect of a generational work, in this case for Generation Y. As such, it stands in contrast to Douglas Coupland's Generation X, the book that named the preceding generation. Like Brecht’s assertion that art is a hammer rather than a mirror, Gauer does not reflect the zeitgeist, he challenges it head on:
To put it mildly, it is clear that there will be no simple answers regarding the world we, the last generation of youth to graduate from our nation’s public schools in the twentieth century, will soon inherit. However, I have hope. I have deep, abiding, unfashionable hope, for there is another inheritance that can guide us as we grow into our responsibility to create a new age. This inheritance beats at the heart of the dialogue I began with my mentor [Daisaku Ikeda] nearly 15 years ago; a dialogue that has strengthened my sense of responsibility for the links between our past, our present, and our future; a dialogue that I approach every day as a mirror; and above all, a dialogue that calls upon me to act.
Such grounded, open-eyed vision is definitely not fashionable in today. In America’s present state of ever-deepening entropy, if there is one thing we still hold in common as a people, it is resignation to a future that we imagine will be far worse than the present. Ours may yet become a land of self-fulfilling prophecy, but Gauer shows the courage to counter it. His is not a story of rootless youth, nor of impossible hope. It is a call to arms anchored in the “conviction that our individual and collective voices can create a new era; the belief in our innate potential to sing songs to make the desert bear fruit.” ...more
Nnedi Okorafor is a writer to watch. I very much enjoyed this remarkable, and original work of speculative fiction. Here is a potent imaginative respoNnedi Okorafor is a writer to watch. I very much enjoyed this remarkable, and original work of speculative fiction. Here is a potent imaginative response to the reality of modern Africa, a continent locked in post-colonial, geopolitical turmoil. Will Africa's peoples always suffer as they do today? I don't believe so, and I don't think Okorafor does either. For example, while current events in C.A.R. are disturbingly akin to the conflict between Nurus and Okekes in the book, Who Fears Death is essentially a story of renewal, and the potential for humanity to sprout anew matter how scorched its seed. This is not a story of hope in the face of hopelessness, but rather a mystical journey of people who know that life may be temporarily impeded by death, but that it never ceases to be. Here is transcendence in the face of evil, unburdened by the illusion of sacrifice.
Since this is a bundle package, this will be a running review.
After completing A Game of Thrones, I was hooked. Martin's chief talent is his ability tSince this is a bundle package, this will be a running review.
After completing A Game of Thrones, I was hooked. Martin's chief talent is his ability to spin a great yarn, and spin it well. I eagerly started A Clash of Kings, expecting more of his great pacing, suspense and plot twists. I was not disappointed. Martin's narrative flow, pacing and plot twists are what drives the current Thrones mania. My minor criticism of A Song of Ice and Fire, however, is certain formulaic aspects of his prose. Although his syntax is polished and tight, it can be unremarkable, if not predictable at times. He has a formulaic way of introducing characters that I find wearying in particular. For example, every character coming into a scene is described with a focus on apparel. It is obvious that Martin loves medieval and Renaissance costume, but does the reader need to know the color and ornamentation of every doublet, jerkin and cloak? Yet curiously, when he belabors his descriptions of sigils, feasts, armaments, and battles, I am not bothered; so perhaps it is just me. This literary device is common in ancient literature, and Martin has clearly internalized his Homer.
As I begin A Storm of Swords, I am looking forward to continuing an epic fantasy that I simply can't put down, although there is so much other reading to which I need to attend. This is a full and rich narrative that I look forward to immersing myself in for some time.
Okay, I'll quit belaboring this review. I burned out 50% of the way through A Storm of Swords. The quality of Martin's prose degrades after the first book. I was will to be forgiving in the second book, but now, in the third, I feel like I'm trapped in a never-ending mire of mediocre writing and an unnecessarily protracted narrative. I love the t.v. series, and I think it is an improvement over GRRM's series. I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed reading these books, I have if I've made it this far. Yet, I continually find myself stopping to read something else and then never getting around to coming back. It is simply time to take ASOIAF off of my currently reading list. I could say more, but I'm as weary as Daenerys during her last days in the Red Waste....more