You may expect this book to be filled with doubt (and it is), but even more so, it advocates humility.
In But What If We're Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman juYou may expect this book to be filled with doubt (and it is), but even more so, it advocates humility.
In But What If We're Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman jumps from topic to topic, questioning some of the opinions that society has more or less reached consensus on. Some of these are objective (our understanding of gravity), and some are subjective (who will be considered the greatest writer of the 21th century?), but it's interesting to think about "Opinion" in the macro sense of what society believes (in the aggregate), rather than the petty differences of opinion in the moment that get lost once public opinion has congealed. Dan Carlin, from the Hardcore History podcast also engages in this sort of thinking (and is actually interviewed for this book). It's the Family Feud approach to collective opinion, where nobody cares if you're right or wrong in the long term, but judgment is passed on society as a single hive-mind.
Some of the passages remind me of a horrible epistemology class that I took as an undergrad, where we held endless debates about how we know what we know: Can we ever truly prove our existence isn't as a brain in a vat (or players in an alien video game, if we're going with Elon Musk's version)? Are things that happen to us in a dream are less real than things that happen in the real world? Does any of this matter?
There is a limit to the usefulness of doubt, and there are a few parts of the book where Klosterman flies off the rails. I think he's aware of this, since you can hear him struggling to figure out what an appropriate amount of doubt would be necessary to make his point, while not making him sound like a conspiracy theorist who is clinging to sanity by a thread.
But ultimately, I think Klosterman pulls it off, and his last few paragraphs really resonated with me. My takeaway: we are most likely wrong about a lot of things, but once in a while, we're (surprisingly, miraculously) right, and we're collectively rooting the most improbable of outcomes - that our understanding of the world will continue to hold....more
Really interesting ideas were what really sold me on this book. I think the author struggles with characters and dialogue though. It could be the tranReally interesting ideas were what really sold me on this book. I think the author struggles with characters and dialogue though. It could be the translation (the translator of the first book did a better job) though, since dialogue in translations of Murakami novels have a similar 'off' feel (though I feel he gets away with it because of how surreal they are)....more
It's like Glen Cook read all the fantasy books that had too much exposition, got upset, huddled in a corner of his apartment clutching an old laptop aIt's like Glen Cook read all the fantasy books that had too much exposition, got upset, huddled in a corner of his apartment clutching an old laptop and said "I'll show THEM".
Then he wrote a book with horrible pacing, the most jarring transitions, and empty, soulless characters. Throughout all 3 books, it was extremely hard to care about any of the characters, or understand their motivations, much less understand what they're doing.
A lot of reviews here are billing this as one of the great epic fantasy books, but I don't know. I just don't see it....more
This started out really interesting, since the author explained a lot of details about finance that I didn't understand, it started getting repetitiveThis started out really interesting, since the author explained a lot of details about finance that I didn't understand, it started getting repetitive and name droppy, and I couldn't make myself finish after that....more
An interesting collection of writing by eighty different writers (both male and female) about "how to be a man". Some of these were really good, but mAn interesting collection of writing by eighty different writers (both male and female) about "how to be a man". Some of these were really good, but most of these were just ok. Some of them I even actively disliked.
Here's what I really liked: - the essays that sum up a feeling really well (David Gilbert and Khaled Hosseini) - the essays that are one paragraph, but end up somehow being better than the long, vague ones (Ron Carlson's was my favorite) - the ones that make sure you remember that being a man isn't all smoked meats and Axe body wash (Liz Moore has a good one)
However, I think there might be something inherently wrong about the approach of getting 80 of the world's 'best writers' to each contribute one essay. It's like getting a bunch of the smartest people in the world in one room. They'd be even more insufferable than usual, because they would all be trying to show each other up.
Here's what I wish there had been less of: - essays where it's really unclear what's happening, until the very end. I get that you're going for that thing where the reader feels like the wool got lifted up over their eyes at the end, but when 1/5 of the essays try to do this (and most of them not particularly well), it starts feeling like everyone is trying too hard. - the vague 'what are you even talking about' story. Being a man is mysterious. That's part of the point, I'm sure. But do we really need essays that start like this? "She walked around me three times. Each revolution took about half an hour. On the first pass, I saw black waterproof boots and pants. Second pass, a bright orange parka, hood up." I'm sorry but what the fuck are you even talking about? - When they try to make their essay a poem. It's an essay, not a poem. There also isn't so much happening that you need to mark off sections with roman numerals so that the reader knows that a different thing is happening each paragraph. Your 300-word essay doesn't need a line break between each short , vague sentence that you wrote, just so the reader has a 'pause'. This is the essayist equivalent of how rappers drop a clever reference, and then feel the need to ask 'get it?'. We get it. Or don't.
They say that the act of great writing is subtractive, not additive (Zinsser). Cut this down to the 20 best, and I'd have given it 5 stars. My advice for anyone reading these is to trust your gut when reading, and feel free to skip ones that you sense are trying a little too hard. You're probably right....more
I found an old copy over winter break, and read it. It was pretty good! Especially for a younger kid. I do have some gripes though - mainly about howI found an old copy over winter break, and read it. It was pretty good! Especially for a younger kid. I do have some gripes though - mainly about how sparsely populated the world seems to be:
Why does his village only have 2 other people in it (one of which is a blacksmith)? Where are the farmers and shit? The mayor. The ice cream guy. Et cetera.
Later on, they run into the Prince. Where are his bodyguards? Where is his servant boy? Where is his man about town? Where are his food tasters? Where are his legions of adoring peasants? Where are the swooning, broken-hearted women he leaves in his wake? Where are his evil advisers? Where is his lovable court jester who is more than he seems? Where is his nanny who has raised him since his birth? Where is his faithful direwolf? Where is his...more
Didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked. George W. obviously respects his father a lot, and intended this to write this as a tribute his fDidn't go into as much detail as I would have liked. George W. obviously respects his father a lot, and intended this to write this as a tribute his father, but the reason I (and I'm sure many others) were excited to read this book is because it promised a glimpse into a president's life from the perspective of his son.
He says things about GHWB like the fact that he never heard harsh words exchanged between him and his mother. And every story he tells about his dad is positive. I'm willing to believe that his father was a great person, but where are the stories that humanize the former president? Where are stories about the time his father did something silly, or unexpected? This made me feel like I was reading about someone out of a parable, rather than a still living, former president.
As W points out, Bush Senior never wrote a presidential memoir, and if The President's Club taught me anything, it's that all outgoing presidents care about their legacy, and how they will be judged by history. Parts of this book felt like W was trying to draw parallels between his legacy, and that of his father's. That's fine, since former presidents are so rarely given the opportunity to speak candidly about their decisions without interruption. I don't mind reading that. However, then George W. should uphold his end of the bargain, and tell us something about his father that hasn't already been said by someone who wasn't his son....more