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)
Cohen deserves 5 stars for creating a manageable, single-volume, comprehensive distillation of the Talmud. I never would've read anything about it if...moreCohen deserves 5 stars for creating a manageable, single-volume, comprehensive distillation of the Talmud. I never would've read anything about it if not for this book.
I gives it 3 stars, though, for meager entertainment value.(less)
This book seems best for people who wish to be (specifically) enthusiastic about Judaism. Not to say that one should not be enthusiastic, but this ain...moreThis book seems best for people who wish to be (specifically) enthusiastic about Judaism. Not to say that one should not be enthusiastic, but this ain't a common denominator guide.
Somewhat strong coverage of festivals start us off along the path to joy ("joy" and its variations appear in almost every paragraph throughout the book). Though Einstein provided enough info to diminish my ignorance, i wanted more about the origins and evolution of the holy days. Mr. E is focused almost exclusively on the here and now, on describing modern Judaism.
God and Death are not more clearly or cleverly written than the rest of the book, but these chapters discuss the most vexing questions (for me) about Judaism: why have i encountered almost zero eschatology so far? is it just because there's nothing about the afterlife in the first 5 books of the Bible? what kind of god is this Jewish deity anyway? is it as inscrutable as the tetragrammaton?
In an ideal world Every Person's Guide could never supplant or even substitute for the work of Rashi, Maimonides, Soloveitchik or any of the myriad scholarly endeavors brilliantly crafting every facet of Jewry.
Unless there's an eternal reading in the afterlife, i probably will have had to settle for this.
Hopefully, everyone will someday know why i read this book. (i realize that sounds like something one of them Columbine kids would of wroten, but i swe...moreHopefully, everyone will someday know why i read this book. (i realize that sounds like something one of them Columbine kids would of wroten, but i swear it's meant to be merely oblique, not darkly ominous)
Strunk provides readers and wannabe writers with almost 100 pages of helpful, timeless grammar lessons overlarded with tired, pedantically stuffed-shirt quibbles about words and phrases he doesn't particularly like. For example, he claims to be incapable of interpreting "the student body" to mean something other than "the corpse of one who has matriculated to this institution."
If human language processing were as literal and unforgiving as a computer's processing of code, all of Strunk's dicta would be helpful. But we consume language using fuzzy logic and generate meaning accordingly. Thus, my first sentence—which would surely irk the old prof—no longer need be scorned as poorly written. Its parenthetical follow-up, on the other hand....
Elements of Style is essentially a work of belief. And i beg to differ with many Goodreadsters who say it is not about "style." That's all it's about, kids. This work preaches that language rules should not change, not that they do not—a crucial distinction.
Enjoy the parts that educate you about the underlying structure of language and how to construct a clear thought in writing. Ignore the parts that you argue against (after you've argued with them, because that's half the fun). Don't throw this book away, don't force others to read it, don't insist that every student follow every rule.
Now, go write something and stop wasting your time reading something as foolish as this.(less)
I thought all the grade school Bible reading was sufficient, but i began looking for guides to help me understand that monster quickly into my current...moreI thought all the grade school Bible reading was sufficient, but i began looking for guides to help me understand that monster quickly into my current endeavor to read it cover to cover. The Interpreter's Bible seemed a godsend (harrharr) but it added a lot of time and effort. Additionally, it felt wrong: volume 1 is a decidedly Christian vision of a decidedly Jewish text that frequently hinted at an underlying anti-Semitism. So i found Robinson's book by scanning the Oak Park (MI) public library shelves.
I enjoyed it from the start. I almost could not restrain myself from jumping ahead to the mini-Midrash. Patience was a virtue in this situation, so i recommend that you not skip ahead. This book provides much more than a Jewish exposition of Bible verses.
I see Robinson as someone smitten by Judaism yet level-headed enough to realize it cannot be the same thing to every person. (How do i know he's in love with Torah? He lauds the narrative perfection of Leviticus. Nuff said.) He conveys his devotion with the conviction of a star-crossed lover and the pragmatism of a dedicated skeptic (though he certainly isn't a skeptic in the sense that he innately rebels against the existence of god or the value of Religion). All i'm trying to say is that he portrays his faith honestly and without the hyper-gushiness of the secretly uncertain (even to himself) proselytiser (cf. my opinions re: Every Person's Guide to Judaism).
Oddly enough, one of the book's greatest strengths is the backmatter: helpful glossaries of terms and Torah commentators, a juicy bibliography that makes me want to cry like Burgess Meredith's character at the end of the Twighlight Zone episode, "Time Enough at Last", and a brief essay about the non-inclusion of a chapter about Torah's historicism. Go to Amazon.com, find the hardcover version, search for "purport to describe," click on the link that takes you to pg 549, and read the last paragraph. If you can dig that, i think you'll like this book.
I wish i could remember enough of each chapter's contents to give you a taste of their strengths and weaknesses, but i read too hastily and noted only a few things.
I must ask the ladies to forgive me yet again: my latent anti-feminism made me prejudge the chapter on the silencing of women's voices as a snoozer. Robinson does not sweep the chauvinism under the rug. He doesn't attempt to explain it away. The words of prominent female Torah scholars speak for themselves and argue the case for equal value of women within Judaism even though the Bible typically gives them short shrift. It was lively. And it probably enlightened my benighted soul.
The equally good "Troubling Texts" chapter, which i could probably talk about for hours, follows right on the heals of feminism's chapter. In it, Robinson stands bravely on the assertion that he probably will never know how to assimilate some Torah horror stories with the Jewish ethos that centers on the sanctity of life. yet its most foundational text includes the well-known (i think) tale of god blithely ordering Abraham to use his son in a blood sacrifice (aka, the Aleikah). It also contains decrees requiring the death penalty for infractions clearly unworthy of such a harsh punishment, homosexuality (male only, by the way) being the most cited and publicized. (i'm planning a soapbox speech on this topic as part of my review of the Bible, but don't hold your breath)
I'd already read Bereishit/Genesis and Shemot/Exodus before picking up Robinson's book. So i started reading the parashiyot in Vayikra/Leviticus according to his list. Then i'd read his exposition, often making notes in my Bible. Then i'd quickly go through the whole parashiyot again. (A parashah, by the way, is a "Prescribed weekly section of biblical Torah (Pentateuch) read in synagogue liturgy on an annual cycle"; plural = parashiyot.)
After only a couple parashiyot i felt disappointed because Robinson's explanatory text was ... nothing like The Interpreter's Bible. His were so much less academic, less elaborate. Ah, but isn't that what i was looking for? Didn't i say i'd prefer not to spend an entire year reading "The Book" plus a dozen 1000-page volumes of commentary, especially if that commentary entailed subliminally Jew-hating Protestants sussurating in my ear about books to which Christians should just relinquish all claims already? Okay, so i am at peace with "Jewish but (almost insufficiently) brief." Far preferable to "Christian but (exhaustingly) complete."
And that's all i got. Except i can't resist. sidebar Is Hollywood bastardizing the Abraham/Isaac story (the Aleikah) yet? Maybe 4 or 5 shorts, each by a different director & writer working from a different Midrash, but with the same actors? Just spitballin here.(less)
Reading this book is like watching a documentary film about everything crosswordese, from history to construction to solving to publishing. Don't expe...moreReading this book is like watching a documentary film about everything crosswordese, from history to construction to solving to publishing. Don't expect a smooth narrative format because you'll be disappointed. Go in knowing that this is a book of insiders' insights chopped up and organized into chapters. Though having all the interviews presented beginning to end might be quite enjoyable, i believe Amende's format is the right one for her subject: each interviewee's personality, prejudices, and predilections are revealed piecemeal while illuminating the immediate subject at hand.
For hardcore puzzlers who desire insight into one of the big names in cruciverbalism's (not so) "new wave," focus on chapters 1, 2, & 4. For begin...moreFor hardcore puzzlers who desire insight into one of the big names in cruciverbalism's (not so) "new wave," focus on chapters 1, 2, & 4. For beginners who want a boost over the invisible fence of unwritten rules, read chapters 3, 5, & 6.
Those who find this book most instructive will probably consider it only mildly interesting while those who find it most interesting will learn little from it: a perceived balancing act that i think warrants precisely 3.00 stars.
Mr Newman's tips, tricks, and advice should catalyze rapid progression from newbie to semicompetent solver. For example, if you haven't completed a few hundred grids already, the list of "100 Essential Words" will significantly shorten your learning curve. The explanations of various clue/answer types also should expedite an increase in skill level.
As a self-assessed semicompetent xworder, i most enjoyed the industry insider info, whereas the recommendations and explanations seemed mostly expendable, incomplete, or poorly organized.
At the macro level, i question Mr Newman's belief that puzzles can benefit society by improving the psychonimbleness of the general populace. He also seems to lust for a world in which everyone loves what he loves as much as he loves it. In short, he came across as a cruciverbalist zealot.
If such fanaticism won't bother you, then have at it. If you can brush aside the ardor and focus on content, go for it. If you really Really REALLY like crosswords, accept the invitation to Mr Newman's party, but don't expect to get a word in edgewise.
Negative Nancy's Nitpicks/Editor's Notes: Inadequate relationship between chapter titles and chapter content ... why bother?
Arrange the memoirish material comprising chapters 1 & 2 chronologically to improve ease of comprehension?
Mr Newman fails to mention that clues ending in question marks yield jokey answers, which i deem a serious oversight, especially for its helpfulness to new puzzlers. (Is this a convention that he doesn't follow at Newsday?)
Just wondering: How much was he featured in the documentary film Wordplay? Did i form the same impression of him from the film that i formed while reading this book? He mentioned his accomplishments so frequently (and unnecessarily) that i couldn't help being reminded of the amusingly self-centered speeches at my nephew's recent high school graduation ceremony.(less)
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)
Certainly not my favorite of the handful of de Botton books i've read, but it did grow on me. At first i found myself contending with his every idea a...moreCertainly not my favorite of the handful of de Botton books i've read, but it did grow on me. At first i found myself contending with his every idea and suggestion, but i think i finally see his main point and can agree that (even if there isn't such a Thing as a soul within each human) humanity benefits from many religious traditions, rituals, and practices. Even the most hyper-secular mind—perhaps especially the most hyper-secular minds—would benefit from similar nourishment of "the soul," which is the aspect of humanity that the science age has discarded in favor of vapid pleasures and techno-marvels.
I doubt there's any chance such an institution as Auguste Comte's Universal Religion will ever evolve (an atheist church) to help us spiritually impoverished unbelievers, but i'm glad de Botton mentioned it—i'm tempted to add Comte's works to the list of Holy Shit. The chances are just as slim that museums/art galleries will rearrange themselves as de Botton suggests or that the Western idea of education will restructure itself to teach its students how to be well-rounded People as opposed to well-prepared wage earners.
You can't say de Botton didn't try, but you can say that all he did was write yet another book. Read his "books vs. institutions" section and you'll realize i'm not really slamming him.
Recommended especially for atheist do-gooders and religionistas who'd like some evidence that not all atheists hate all religions and all god-worshipers. Just because we don't believe in your god(s) doesn't mean we think you are idiotic for doing so.(less)
Thich Nhat Hanh = a wise guy with a heart of gold(en sunlight). It would almost surely be a pleasure to be able to spend time with him. He has many in...moreThich Nhat Hanh = a wise guy with a heart of gold(en sunlight). It would almost surely be a pleasure to be able to spend time with him. He has many intelligent and worthwhile things to say and says them frequently and often and repeatedly, typically with little or no variation in terminology. At least he embraces the only medium by which instruction, teaching, and dissemination of wisdom is possible, though, namely the sincere use of human language, which is something i believe cannot be said for many Buddhist teachers, especially the Buddha himself and much of the Zen i've ever read. (If you know of a straight-shooting book on Zen, please P.M. me. Remember, my happiness = the world's happiness [and vice versa, i guess].)(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)
The jacket copy quite oversells what to expect from this book by one of the most easily and consistently respected individuals on the planet. Hype, as...moreThe jacket copy quite oversells what to expect from this book by one of the most easily and consistently respected individuals on the planet. Hype, as usual, merely plants the seeds of disappointment.
Mr. Lama's premises, however, seem weak regardless of publisher hyperbole. He identifies fewer correlations between Buddhist natural philosophy and Western scientific theories than one could reasonably expect from a book this size. Those he describes, have tenuous and abstruse connections at best. Mr. Lama appeared to be going for an exploration of how Buddhist thought could complement and expand upon Western science's reductivist examinations of reality. Other than in his convincing tone of sincere desire for cooperation and mutual understanding, though, that goal is not convincingly justified.
The greatest data were the rare personal revelations of Mr. Lama's life, aspirations, and thoughts. He's a charming man with a seductively serene, deeply introspective, expansively compassionate, and still sensible voice. A true, substantial memoir would probably delight.
Its greatest shortcoming is the frequent implicit espousal of the belief that The Truth about that which is subjective can be revealed. Can't we all just agree once and for all to live with our individual experiences of sense data and emotions being subjective? That there is nothing to be gained from quantifying them? That attempts to share them are destined to be shadows of the original experience at best? Even the greatest Mettā (lovingkindness) meditator remains trapped within the experiential net, no matter how all-compassionate that meditator becomes. Anyway....
Lama lovers will probably really dig this book.
Not recommended for fundamentalists of any kind, which naturally includes diehard materialists and folks who believe that science can answer every question (Mr. Lama is correct on that score).(less)