HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 4½ stars (i probably should give it 5)
The following lengthy quote exemplifies everything i most liked about this book.
We have beco
...moreHIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 4½ stars (i probably should give it 5)
The following lengthy quote exemplifies everything i most liked about this book.
We have become used to thinking that religion should provide us with information. Is there a God? How did the world come into being? But this is a modern preoccupation. Religion was never supposed to provide answers to questions that lay within the reach of human reason. That was the role of logos. Religion's task, closely allied to that of art, was to help us to live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems that we could not solve: mortality, pain, grief, despair, and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life. Over the centuries people in all cultures discovered that by pushing their reasoning powers to the limit, stretching language to the end of its tether, and living as selflessly and compassionately as possible, they experienced a transcendence that enabled them to affirm their suffering with serenity and courage. Scientific rationality can tell us why we have cancer; it can even cure us of our disease. But it cannot assuage the terror, disappointment, and sorrow that come with the diagnosis, nor can it help us to die well. That is not within its competence. Religion will not work automatically, however; it requires a great deal of effort and cannot succeed if it is facile, false, idolatrous, or self-indulgent.
Because i only listened to this book, because my listening was interrupted by full days of work and entire weekends, because i have been actively reading/juggling multiple books simultaneously, and (finally) because Karen Armstrong's subject matter is so literally non-material, i remember very little (if anything) specific about this book.
I take away from it, however, a feeling of having learned something very basic and important and ... transcendent. As if i now know something that is not, in the strict sense of the term, knowledge but that can be applied to any realm of thought. I guess you could say i had a postmodernist rebirth. Armstrong managed to rekindle and stoke the healthy fire of intellectual uncertainty. So much so that i'm eager to read criticisms and rebuttals of this very book (though i probably won't bother).
Attempting to Concretize the Ineffable I assumed the title implied a reactionary starting point leading to a purported proof of god's existence. But i take as the book's thesis is twofold: (a) the idea of god is a noble and human one and (b) the practice of religion is worthwhile.
Armstrong helped me realize that i've always been uncomfortable with rigid scientific rationalism's fundamentalist ideology that the only knowledge worth pursuing is that which can be proven empirically and/or via the scientific method. I wasn't ever a staunch atheist or materialist or anything like that, but i think i desperately wanted to believe scientism could help solve all of life's problems.
Armstrong's ideas about ideal religion appeal to me, too, though i can't imagine most "average folk" latching on to them, at least not nowadays, because ... —they're highly conceptual, not down to earth, not touchy-feely, not o'er brimming with emotionalism ... —the best ideas about god are the least pinpointable, the least expressible in words (apophatic), the least certain, the least tangible, completely undefinable because a god that can be defined is a got that has limits set upon it and is, therefore, subject to human reason and can be abused and misused and refuted (or, is merely another physical phenomenon like a rock or a tree or a jaguar or a thunderstorm or a supernova ...) ... —the best practice of religion is so strange as to seem unfathomable; could anybody today participate in an Eleusynian mystery? would we want to experience ecstacy if it meant a literal stepping outside of oneself or, going even further, an emptying of the self (kenosis)?
Modern religions and notions of god and the practice of faith has become material and literal minded and that works against that which i think of as the religious ideal.
The Great Giving Up I apologize for failing to make any concrete, but before completely quitting these ramblings....
It might sound to some as if i must be a Believer. Armstrong beat me over the head enough about the meaning of that word (and its correlate, Faith) to know that i'm not. And i've absorbed enough ideas from the karmic religions to suspect that there isn't any me/i to Be (period). And i admire Socrates enough to aver, i have no wisdom. And i'm so thoroughly a product of the postmodernist pseudo-intelligentsia of the 1980s and 90s that my strongest base of operations is the fundamental belief that all mental constructions are built upon the quicksand of themselves.
I struggle with accepting the certainty of uncertainty. I'm pretty sure i'll continue to do so. Armstrong's book hasn't "cured" me of this dis-ease of the mind.
But i'm certain that i had a great experience listening to this book ... even though my attitude toward it could change because of future experiences. I am / Life is funny that way.
Relegated-to-the-end parentheses that prolly shoulda just been deleted (Werner Heisenberg and other quantum superheroes get small cameos) ([thanks for the word, Karen]) re: apophatic ([thanks again, Karen]) re: kenosis (Hmmm ... might excessive ellipses be the simpleton's way of attempting to convey thoughtfulness just as excessive exclamation points are the simpleton's way of conveying excitement?)(less)
My first audio book ever. I enjoyed the experience of having somebody else read the book to me but it's not quite as enjoyable as actually reading a b...moreMy first audio book ever. I enjoyed the experience of having somebody else read the book to me but it's not quite as enjoyable as actually reading a book into my own head.
The ending seemed a bit disproportionately chilling when compared to the everything that preceded it, but a great chiller of an ending is something to be lauded. You can't end a book quite more convincingly than this. (The fictional Langley would beg to differ, i'm sure.)
I've never read anything by E.L. Doctorow but Ragtime is on my short list of Novels I Must Read. This book certainly didn't dissuade me from wanting to read Ragtime.
I was reminded of Chang and Eng, another fictional memoir, which is about the Siamese twins. Not because the styles or themes are similar but because they're both about "freakish" brothers as told from one brother's perspective and so that you can't look at them again as being freaks.
I also was reminded of (sorry for the damning comparison) Forrest Gump (i've only seen the movie and don't wanna read the book) because each at times feels like the story exists merely as The Timeline of 20th Century American History with incidents and anecdotes from the main characters' lives dangling from each major marker along the way. (less)
I often say this, but seriously, IGNORE THIS "REVIEW."
3 stars is sort of the default, factory-installed rating. I don't feel qualified to rate or rev...moreI often say this, but seriously, IGNORE THIS "REVIEW."
3 stars is sort of the default, factory-installed rating. I don't feel qualified to rate or review this work. Even though i heard all the words spoken by the reader, i wasn't listening carefully most of the time. Not out of boredom or irritation but because of sheer distractedness.
I should not listen to the audio production of a novel unless it's concomitant to reading it. (Thanks to Huston Smith for forcing me to look up that word.)
Would The Big Reveal have been big-bee Big if i'd been reading?(less)
Listened to amid a desert of comparative religion non-fictionizers and translations of ancient and arid sacred texts, this audiobook not only compleme...moreListened to amid a desert of comparative religion non-fictionizers and translations of ancient and arid sacred texts, this audiobook not only complemented the drier bits but, in comparison, was a humidly aesthetic pleasure palace of an oasis. I might have found its plotlessness and ebulliently ubiquitous sermonizing tedious under different circumstances. Beware, fair reader/listener, many another Goodreadster has assessed it in the negative thusly.
The reader deserves at least 4.5 stars for never going over the top and never excessively amping up the linguistic crescendos. I actually found myself liking his accent simply because it was an accent, which might be described as OxBridge subcontinental Ewan McGregor.(less)
All 6-plus feet and 200-plus pounds of Randall Patrick McMurphy arrive at a psychiatric facility of mostly voluntary residents in the 1950s. Petty cro...moreAll 6-plus feet and 200-plus pounds of Randall Patrick McMurphy arrive at a psychiatric facility of mostly voluntary residents in the 1950s. Petty crook and angle-shooter that he is, McMurphy figures this'll be an easier stretch than the last 4 months of his sentence on the work farm. He immediately locks horns with "the big nurse," Miss Ratched, who is, in McMurphy's words, "a ball crusher" (ball buster hadn't been coined yet?). She is indisputably and absolutely in charge of the ward and everyone around her. Her will to control everything hides beneath an unflagging smile and lip-service to the good of the community. McMurphy is also a manipulative control-freak, plus he has women & authority issues, to say the least. Rather than sticking to the original plan of skinning the self-proclaimed rabbits on the ward for profit, McMurphy eventually sides with them and strives to remind them what it's like to enjoy life and be a Man. Ratched doesn't like the threat to her regime's stability. Whoa Nellie. Katie bar the door.
I laughed and laughed and laughed and give it a very high 4 stars. (We didn't need anyother narrative that overtly calls to mind the Jesus of Nazareth story, but as a framework, i can't call it hackneyed cuz a savior's tale never truly loses significance.)
I watched the movie many years ago during a Jack Nicholson phase. I wondered what the original would be like and finally chose to listen to it.
I mistakenly assumed that McMurphy would provide the narrative point of view but Kesey wisely chose Chief Bromden instead. Chief Broom's feigned deafness & dumbness allow him access to conversations and inner sancta that an "able-bodied" patient couldn't have. His mental landscape faces outside of himself and seeks growth whereas McMurphy is as self-centered as any other tragic hero hellbent on a path toward the salvation of others that requires his own destruction. The true savior must take on the sins of others; only then can his death destroy and expiate those iniquities. Clearly, the Chief is the better way to acquire information from the other characters, process it through a personality/filter, and distribute to the reader.
Some might complain that Kesey and/or this book are sexist: Nurse Ratched is a bitch; Billy Bibbit's mom is a bitch; Harding's wife is a bitch (and a slut; and a ball crusher); McMurphy only fraternizes with whores; etc. Maybe my gender acts as blinders, but i didn't get the sense that Kesey wanted us to conclude that women are bad and men are good or women are mean and men are noble or any such nonsense. He seemed to be speaking through Chief Bromden that the evil that needs to be stamped out is the World As Combine, a vast and uncaring machine designed to grind down every individual until all of humanity is a homogenous, flavorless paste. That is, Kesey hated the status quo, not women. He was a hippie, not a misogynist.
As for the audiobook experience, i liked the reader's voice, which reminded me in several ways of The Perks of Being a Wallflower's reader. That might've had more to do with the narrative voice, though: Chief Bromden and Charlie have a lot in common. I wish i'd read rather than listened, but overall i was not disappointed with the medium.(less)
I felt no sadness for this little girl during the entirety of her actual diary. And then the ominous sounding Afterword had to go and pummel my emotio...moreI felt no sadness for this little girl during the entirety of her actual diary. And then the ominous sounding Afterword had to go and pummel my emotions with the facts i wanted to know about these people i'd come to feel acquainted with. That some of them lived until the late 20th or early 21st century, including Anne's father, is encouraging but also saddening because they must've been conscious of how many loved ones they lost that entire time. Then there are the horrible and varied ways most of them died, usually painfully close to the moment they might've been rescued.
Anne grows up right in front of you. Starting as a whiney, petulant, childish voice. Maturing into an introspective, considerate, empathetic young adult worrying for the world outside the limited space she'd been forced to accommodate as her life (cf. the much younger, more limited, and completely fictional Jack in Room?!).
There are doldrums. This is a diary, folks. It's not a novel and even though ~25% into it Anne knew it might someday be published by the Dutch government, she wasn't writing a thriller. Her sincerity remained throughout. This is one of those rare times that i can value literal truth over fiction.
I'd recommend reading this along with, right before, or immediately after Night by Eli Wiesel. I'm not certain, but i think he and Anne's "boy friend" Peter might've been on the death march at the same time. Wiesel's work after Frank's would give you a lot of the details about what the Annex dwellers would've experienced during their time in concentration camps.
I wish i could write a letter to Mr. Frank to thank him for sharing his daughter's thoughts and his family's private life with the world.(less)
I think that i just like the way this dude thinks. Maybe i envy him in exactly the right way for it to be expressed as respect. (comparison: my envy f...moreI think that i just like the way this dude thinks. Maybe i envy him in exactly the right way for it to be expressed as respect. (comparison: my envy for each principle in the Brian Regan webisode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee turned into self-hatred because it made me realize i'm infintely inferior to each of them separately and infinity-squared-ly inferior to them as friends)
If you'd like to see something resembling semi-tangible opinions, you may click to see the daily twitter-esque comments i keyed as i progressed through the audio book. I'm not gonna try to inflate them into a true review. (#feelinglazy)
So, another very solid 4 stars for Mr Gladwell. (less)
I am a great admirer of this BBC Radio full-cast audio production: envy-inducing vocal characterizations from start to finish. Just listen to this boo...moreI am a great admirer of this BBC Radio full-cast audio production: envy-inducing vocal characterizations from start to finish. Just listen to this book.
But overall? Droll, yes, but not precisely my cup of tea i suppose.(less)