Engaging and fun read, even if just a tad predictable. The quasi religious nonsense at the end leads me believe (without even looking to see if it's t...moreEngaging and fun read, even if just a tad predictable. The quasi religious nonsense at the end leads me believe (without even looking to see if it's true) that Card spent altogether too much time around Hubbard...(less)
Perhaps it's me and the stories were just not my cup of tea. Perhaps the translation scraped out the rich cultural tradition this work represents and...morePerhaps it's me and the stories were just not my cup of tea. Perhaps the translation scraped out the rich cultural tradition this work represents and left only a shell of Japanese stories for westerners to further their romanticizing of the east. Perhaps I have no idea what these stories were trying to say, when baffled by the abrupt and awful termination of these tales by bad puns, role reversals or another cheap devices, when they were otherwise fascinating and occasionally haunting.
At times I would finish a story and feel so put off by its anti climactic culmination that I would put the book down and think twice before picking it up again. I'm glad I read it, though. The final story was worth the frustration of the rest.(less)
A truly novel novel. Binet gets pretty meta and at one point refers to this work as an infranovel, by which I gather he is referring to his constant e...moreA truly novel novel. Binet gets pretty meta and at one point refers to this work as an infranovel, by which I gather he is referring to his constant examination of how close he can stick to the truth. I was happy reading this because I had no idea where it was going. I had suspicions that proved to be mostly wrong and partially correct at once. At the end, however, I couldn't tell whether he had told a fictionalized account of history with bits of his process interwoven, or a fictionalized process of his piecing together details of an historical event. For that he achieves the "Well, done!".
It was a serendipitous find, this book. I came across his name in the most recent McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, and the name of this book. Then I saw it while browsing the shelves of my local library. I'm happy I did.
Incidentally, I find reading translations now to be a fascinating thing. The above mentioned McSweeney's is an issue dedicated to the exploration of translation as a version of the children's game 'telephone'. How much of what is translated is faithful to the author's original words? Call me a geek, but as a bit of language freak I think in writing and maybe, without sounding insulting, especially "literature" like this where word choice and phrasing is so crucial, translation can change the intended meaning of a book so much as to produce a secondary work that is very different from the first. Something is certainly lost in translation. But, as I will no doubt get into when I review the McSweeney's issue, I wonder how much can be found? (less)
Unfortunately for me, this book, like many others before it, fell into the abyss of my interests and my wont to pick up just about anything that grabs...moreUnfortunately for me, this book, like many others before it, fell into the abyss of my interests and my wont to pick up just about anything that grabs my attention at the library. I meant to get through it more quickly but didn't and now find I have nothing (haha) coherent to say about it.
I will give it another go when I don't have quite so much biology to read...and poetry...and Hitchens...and...and...(less)
This was eminently enjoyable. It read like it would easily be adapted to the screen. Vividly described. Rather it has the quality of igniting the mind...moreThis was eminently enjoyable. It read like it would easily be adapted to the screen. Vividly described. Rather it has the quality of igniting the mind to imagine vividly. I will read more of deWitt as I come to it.(less)
I put this book down thinking how well read Hitchens was, how well travelled and connected to so many cultures he was. "Who better to have written a b...moreI put this book down thinking how well read Hitchens was, how well travelled and connected to so many cultures he was. "Who better to have written a book which examines the effects of religion on culture," was a recurring thought I had as I read.
I am not nearly as well read as Hitchens was. For me to critique this work would border on the ridiculous. My task, as I see it, will be to compile a list of books from his references and slowly conduct a sort of protracted fact check to see for myself the source arguments he used to back up his claims. This task is made very difficult by the number of impossible to verify personal experiences from which Hitchens seems to have drawn a great deal of his conclusions. I suppose I can only take those at face value.
For the greater part reading this was, if you'll pardon the mangling of a metaphor, like being in the choir listening to the preacher. I was in no way a believer when I picked up this book, and do not necessarily feel as though I have greater 'strength of conviction' having finished it. It read less like an essay aiming to convince believers to abandon their religions and more like a very eloquent and reflective essay explaining 'Why I am an atheist'. But perhaps I read it this way because I am not a believer.
What stood out for me as the cleverest chapter was sixteen: Hitchens' "case" against secularism. Upon finishing it I had the rather dull thought that no case against secularism was made at all. It was much later that I realised his intent and that the commonly referred to "scare quotes" around "case" were actually magical, meaning reversal quotes. His comparison of countries governed by their religion (e.g. Iran) to those which have secular governments (e.g. North Korea) demonstrated so many shared qualities as to render false the definition of being secular.
In all I found this book to be refreshing in its focus on real world examples of the effects of religion on countries and cultures, the use of arguments from philosophy and literature, with only mild references to science. The prose, too, was a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading more of Hitchens' work, and join many others in lamenting his early death. (less)