I picked this novel up at the suggestion of my Lonely Planet New Zealand guidebook. The travel book promoted this Booker Prize winner as the quintesseI picked this novel up at the suggestion of my Lonely Planet New Zealand guidebook. The travel book promoted this Booker Prize winner as the quintessential introduction to New Zealand culture and art. What a mistake it was to trust the Lonely Planet for a literary suggestion. This book was crap that dragged on and on. It took me almost two months to finish and with each page I couldn't wait for it to get on with it and be over so I could start another book. I don't understand why a book that rambles and rambles, glorifies child abuse, and has a completely unsatisfying ending, is so celebrated.
I gave Nobody Is Ever Missing a chance. I actually finished it, so I guess that is some semblance of a chance, but in finishing it I have no more apprI gave Nobody Is Ever Missing a chance. I actually finished it, so I guess that is some semblance of a chance, but in finishing it I have no more appreciation for this book than what I had expected of it from the impression I gathered from the first fifty pages of reading. In an attempt to highlight the positives, I can say that Catherine Lacey writes nicely structured sentences that carry the narrative along at a comfortable pace. As a collection of nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adverbs Nobody Is Ever Missing is a decent book. However, as an engaging story, it totally missed the mark.
Elryia is constantly running from something she can’t even identify and she has no goal in her running. Time and again I found myself just simply frustrated with Elyria, wanting her to gain some insight, achieve some goal, or at least get help for her psychological troubles, but she does none of these things....more
This book made it’s way into my hands only by chance. I had read Ishiguro’s famously popular Never Let Me Go several years ago and on that reading I wThis book made it’s way into my hands only by chance. I had read Ishiguro’s famously popular Never Let Me Go several years ago and on that reading I wasn’t very impressed by the quasi sci-fi mysterious plot twist hidden within the pages of that book and I didn’t imagine myself reading Ishiguro again. I found A Pale View of the Hills a better book. Ishiguro uses many of the same stylistic tricks in both books by creating an oddly mysterious setting with questionably reliable narrators that don’t reveal all the truth of their circumstances. However, I enjoyed A Pale View of the Hills more than my first exposure to Ishiguro because this book managed to say much about historical themes, the identity of womanhood and culture, and personal relationships with memory all within a slim and enchanting concise 185 pages. This book succeeds with its brevity in creating an aura hinting at so much more than is written on the page prompting the imagination of the reader to fill in the blank spaces – and that is truly respectable art. ...more
Though this is a short novella, it offers much to consider and stands alone as a literary accomplishment worth reading – and for those with short atteThough this is a short novella, it offers much to consider and stands alone as a literary accomplishment worth reading – and for those with short attention spans, this can easily be digested in a single day’s reading.
This seemingly straightforward story takes place in three parts spanning the dates January 18-17, 1883 with a short prologue occurring as a written letter dates March 23, 1883, with the second part actually occurring two days prior to the introductory part. The storytelling weaves back through time with a mysterious and enchanting poetic lyricism that is both compelling and engaging with a dark and melancholic quality that captivates the reader.
Paulo Hewitt’s Bowie: Album by Album is a beautiful coffee table sized book that provides a portraiture of Bowie’s entire career up until the the 2013Paulo Hewitt’s Bowie: Album by Album is a beautiful coffee table sized book that provides a portraiture of Bowie’s entire career up until the the 2013 release of his latest album, The Next Day. I’ve been slowly reading, or rather, browsing through this book for the past year and a half, savoring the fantastic collection of photos from his concerts, recording sessions, and album shoot sessions. The text within the book is just enough for a coffee table book, providing a brief synopsis of the unique styles, experimentation, and personal backstory surrounding the production of each of Bowie’s 26 studio albums as well as the the 3 soundtrack albums he has put together throughout his extensive career. The collection is deeply satisfying to take off my shelf and simply browse while listening to any one of his fantastic albums. For a Bowie fan, this book simply is worth the purchase....more
I read Just A Geek slowly over several months in between other books and it served its purpose as brief distraction from my other reading. Wheaton’s wI read Just A Geek slowly over several months in between other books and it served its purpose as brief distraction from my other reading. Wheaton’s writing isn’t groundbreaking, but it is engaging enough (this is a personal memoir after all) but he has a humor and ability to poke fun at himself that is admirable.
The book is mostly about Wheaton’s struggles as he goes to audition after audition to be turned down for several parts. As a married man raising two children, the lack of income weighed hard on him over the years and he compromised by doing infomercials in an attempt to make ends meet. Things seemed to get really bad as he got cut from his cameo in the final TNG movie because his scene didn’t fit the story, but the most life changing event was when he backed out of a week long family vacation to sit through a few auditions that didn’t go anywhere. The time alone away from his family was really heart-wrenching for him and allowed him to reevaluate his acting career. Eventually he decides to write and for all I know, he is doing just fine as a writer.
Overall, this was a fun distraction book. I wouldn’t really wave it from the hilltops as a pinnacle of literary achievement or as an all revealing memoir of scandalous propensity, but it was a fun and amusing read to occupy time that needed occupation.
This was a fun and surprising find that made its way into my hands via my wife’s reading list. Tomboy is a graphic novel/graphic autobiography portrayThis was a fun and surprising find that made its way into my hands via my wife’s reading list. Tomboy is a graphic novel/graphic autobiography portraying the writer/artist’s struggles with identity during her youth and teenage years. Since her earliest memories she recalls being strong willed in her denial of “girly’ expectations. She wouldn’t wear dresses or play with girl toys. Her hero was Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters and when she watched Star Wars she imagined herself as a Jedi, not the damsel in distress, Princess Lea. She was truly unique from her earliest years but her unique identity would cause her several years of anguish.
What is special about her story is that it is told with upfront honesty and enjoyable art that drives the narrative. Liz’s artistic career was actually influenced by a family friend, Harley, a young woman that supported her and pushed Liz to rethink her own ideas about boys and girls as depicted in a conversation with Liz when Harley states, “I would challenge you to decide: do you hate girls? Or do you hate the expectations put on girls by society” (211). Initially, Liz doesn’t know what to make of Harley’s challenge, but as she stumbled upon a new group of friends that exposed her to underground feminist literature, she realized that she had “subscribed to the idea that there was only one form of feminity and that it was inferior to being a man” (240).
This is not a biography. This is not simply a summary of Bowie’s ground-breaking artistic achievements, nor is it a comprehensive discussion of his stThis is not a biography. This is not simply a summary of Bowie’s ground-breaking artistic achievements, nor is it a comprehensive discussion of his stage characters or musical adaptations through the years. Simon Critchley’s Bowie is a love song written about Bowie the artist’s impact on Critchely the author’s personal and creative life. It is a blend of personal reflection and philosophical discourse with an examination on the culture of Bowie’s time, that is the culture of our times. This is a slim and concise read, a collection of 23 short essays that average only 4-5 pages each focused on a different facet of Bowie’s career, his innovativeness, his relationship to the cultural milieu and impact upon it....more
This is an enjoyable read and one that can be quickly digested in a single sitting. American Born Chinese manages to be both pleasurable and thought pThis is an enjoyable read and one that can be quickly digested in a single sitting. American Born Chinese manages to be both pleasurable and thought provokingand there is a lot to consider within these pages regarding race, culture, heritage, and identity within the “melting pot” of American culture....more
This is a slim little book, so slim it could almost be considered a pamphlet, yet it is dense with ideas to consider and reflect upon. I don’t think tThis is a slim little book, so slim it could almost be considered a pamphlet, yet it is dense with ideas to consider and reflect upon. I don’t think that in this, my first reading, I fully grasped the full scope of Kierkegaard’s ideas, but I found myself digesting his discussion and making the most of it. Buried, or rather, planted within this text is worthy inspiration that prompted a lot of personal reflection upon my relationship with faith, the man of faith I once was, and the closeted agnostic I have become....more
Pamuk’s melancholic love for his city shines with an admirable inspiration. Not having ever visited the city (I would like to someday) I feel that I nPamuk’s melancholic love for his city shines with an admirable inspiration. Not having ever visited the city (I would like to someday) I feel that I now have an informed perspective of the city that these foreign eyes will never truly experience by visiting the sites and walking its streets:
“I will remember how troubled I was the first time I looked at this view from the same angle and notice how different the view looks now. It’s not my memory that’s false; the view looked troubled then because I myself was troubled. I poured my soul into the city’s streets and there it still resides. If we’ve lived in a city long enough to have given our truest and deepest feelings to its prospects, there comes a time when – just as a song recalls a lost love – particular streets, images, and images will do the same. It may be because I first saw so many neighborhoods and back streets, so many hilltop views, during these walks I took after I lost my almond-scented love, that Istanbul seems such a melancholy place to me.” (346)...more
This novel was so different from The Stranger that it was hard to believe that it was written by the same author. The narrative of The Stranger is dirThis novel was so different from The Stranger that it was hard to believe that it was written by the same author. The narrative of The Stranger is direct and brief, focusing on the principle character of Mersault. The Plague weaves its narrative amongst many perspectives and is told as though it were a journalist synopsis of the events that take place in the plague stricken city of Oran. There is a first person accounting, but the narrator is purposefully removed and objective, unwilling to stipulate the emotional intentions of its characters and in so doing the narration lacks speculation. I did find the narrative style somewhat disengaging because the absence of emotional quality caused failed to capture the engagement of this reader, but I understand what Camus’s purpose was in utilizing this style. Through the use of a chronicle accounting of the events that take place The Plague obtains a quality of believability. The events that take place within the borders of the plague stricken Oran are events that can take place in any city faced with epidemic....more
Knausgård’s autobiographical work of fiction, My Struggle, lingers in the shadows of the mind’s imaginings. This narrative illuminates an essence of rKnausgård’s autobiographical work of fiction, My Struggle, lingers in the shadows of the mind’s imaginings. This narrative illuminates an essence of realism often forgotten and unnoticed by a mind that is too distracted to notice the finite occurrences of the everyday. The awareness towards the finite motions of each moment are drawn forward by a voice that is acutely hyper-aware and astutely direct in its intentions. Though he is deeply connected to his friends and loved ones, Knausgård is a solitary man, a man that revels in the peace offered by reflection both internal and external. His narrative voice speaks with an intoxicating simplicity, capable of describing everyday actions – such as buttering toast, cleaning a bathroom with disinfectant, or carrying a grocery bag of beer down a snowy road – with exactitude lacking metaphorical intentions....more
This book was originally published in 1999 and I read the 2012 updated copy of the book.For a book that argued so much about the lack of integrity inThis book was originally published in 1999 and I read the 2012 updated copy of the book.For a book that argued so much about the lack of integrity in medical science, I was sorely disappointed in the format that Le Fanu had updated his book. The updated copy wasn’t really an updated in as much as Le Fanu had written a few new chapters that were applicable to the 13 years since his original publishing but the original content of the book was completely unedited from its 1999 presentation. This was most notable in the references to costs of medical expenditure in the 1990’s that could have easily been updated with 2012 figures without needing to add on new redundant chapters to cover the last decade.
Another drawback to this book is that in being British and enjoying the benefit of a single-payer medical service, Le Fanu completely omitted any reference to the debilitating influence of American style medical insurers as a downfall to the medical system. Le Fanu did make reference to the overall expenditure of the US economy, but he seemed to completely ignore one of my most influential factors in the US system, that being that a myriad of insurance providers have an overly influential power with regard to dictating care administered because the insurance providers influence the cost of care received. Furthermore, in ignoring the influence of insurance providers Le Fanu takes no notice of the plight of the uninsured who do not receive the benefits of preventative medicine because they avoid the cost of seeing a medical provider. Shannon Brownlee’s OverTreated provides a much more thorough analysis of the labyrinthian influence of the American medical system and I would recommend that book over Le Fanu’s if you have interest in the cause for the high costs of medicine....more
Admittedly, I am just as much as pessimist about society’s misgivings as the next guy, but while reading Pinker’s book I allowed myself to swallow the
Admittedly, I am just as much as pessimist about society’s misgivings as the next guy, but while reading Pinker’s book I allowed myself to swallow thekool-aidand accept his argument that violence has actually been in decline through the ages, despite our gut reaction to the contrary.
To acknowledge this trend, one must accept a big picture view when looking at current events. Pinker actually urges us to take a very, very big picture view that compares the global violence experienced today with a perspective that acknowledges that our ancestors were often brutal towards one another in ways that is unimaginable today. Yes, brutality does still exist today, Pinker is not arguing that violence has been erased from human nature, and no one can deny the relatively recent past of the first half of the 20th century as the father to the two most destructive wars in human history. However, through careful analysis of world population statistics, it becomes apparent that the proportion of people living today (or even during the time of the two world wars) untouched by the many faces of violence depicted through slavery, rape, genocide, murder, and war far outweighs the number and proportion of people living (and dying) than do feel the awful touch of violence’s brutal hand.
In short, as mankind has grown to accept reason and rationality while concurrently become reliant upon a system of social order, our moral perspective has expanded and has grown to expect rational and moral treatment towards each other. Of course we are far from perfect and many continue to struggle for safety and simple livelihood across this expansive globe, the fact that you or I can grow so inflamed towards a jaywalker or a car that has cut us off in the fast lane to only forget it minutes later is a sign of a greater good, for these inconsequential problems that ignite and later quench our emotions are but mere trivialities when compared to the greater perspective of mankind’s capacity for atrocity towards one another....more
I had opened this book expecting an informative academic exploration of the challenges faced by families that raise children with unexpected disabilitI had opened this book expecting an informative academic exploration of the challenges faced by families that raise children with unexpected disabilities, anomalous behaviors, and qualities that fail to mimic the father-like-son cliché. I had not expected to open a book that would totally challenge my perspective on identity, the relationship of self with society, and universal rights. Far From the Tree does all of the above and much, much more through an engaging presentation of true-to-life stories that are both inspiring and heartbreaking. These stories grip the imagination with an enlightened consideration that extends beyond simple illumination of fact and detail. Solomon has provided us with a book that explores literally hundreds of human stories he has gathered from first-person interviews in an effort explore the universal truths inherent in human relationship and identity developed by parenthood. This book is a phenomenal reference as well as an easily digestible narrative that is well worth any reader’s investment and attention.
The words needed to describe this collection of stories of Iraq by the expatriated Hassan Blasim all share a common theme. These aren’t stories for thThe words needed to describe this collection of stories of Iraq by the expatriated Hassan Blasim all share a common theme. These aren’t stories for the faint of heart. These aren’t tales of sweetness or beauty. These are tales that communicate a blunt disregard for life by those that must live amidst a ravaged and crumbled society. As alluded by the title story, these stories exhibit the corpse, not life.
And yet, despite the grit and brutality on display in this body of fictional works, there is an eye-opening importance to this collection. Art serves many necessities, and at its best the written art-form inspires the reader with a new perspective that increases empathy and understanding. Blasim has succeeded in that endeavor; for despite the display of brutality in these stories, he is a writer capable of penning a narrative voice that remains in touch with a humanityworthy of consideration.
Several of the stories had a dream-like magical quality that was both intoxicating and jarring. Of the ten stories, four were phenomenal and only oneSeveral of the stories had a dream-like magical quality that was both intoxicating and jarring. Of the ten stories, four were phenomenal and only one was a total dud (The Proverb) and all but that one dud captured my attention completely, preventing me from doing anything other than finish the story in hand. These writings possess both the quality of the bizarre and the profound with a whimsical and enjoyable artistic realism. And they were fun too!...more
Much can be saidabout Cheryl’s ridiculous unpreparedness, how she never even packed her bag for a test run before her first day on the trail, how sheMuch can be saidabout Cheryl’s ridiculous unpreparedness, how she never even packed her bag for a test run before her first day on the trail, how she assumed hiking was simply walking and therefore she didn’t practice her strength or endurance training, how she packed the wrong fuel for her stove, and how she clogged her water filter. These foolish actions are forgiven due to her youth and naiveté. Much can be said how she spent the months prior to her hike dabbling in heroin, completely distracting herself from a practical approach towards long distance preparation. This can also be forgiven since the purpose of her hike was prompted by her realization that her life choices had drifted her far from her roots. What can’t be forgiven is her ceaseless self degradation and whining about her life. Yes, I understand that her story has purpose, she did have a challenging and unique upbringing and her mother’s sudden and unexpected death impacted her greatly, but in reading about it, I wanted her to move on beyond her personal history and tell me more about the PCT and how its beauty impacted her. She did this on several occasions, but too often she turned back to herself with such navel gazing proclamations as the following:
“You should see a therapist, everyone had told me after my mother had died, and ultimately – in the depths of my darkest moments the year before the hike – I had. But I didn’t keep the faith… I had problems a therapist couldn’t solve; grief that no man in a room could ameliorate.” (134)
I will say that Cheryl writes well, her style is engaging and despite my annoyance with her story, I finished the book: but that endeavor felt like an accomplishment in itself....more
Looking for a light, fast-paced read (that wasn’t total garbage) I turned to Murakami and found exactly what I was looking for. There is a good amountLooking for a light, fast-paced read (that wasn’t total garbage) I turned to Murakami and found exactly what I was looking for. There is a good amount of lighthearted slapstick included to keep the bizarre detective story enjoyable and grounded in a surreal semblance of reality. A light, fast-paced read that presents multiple interpretations is definitely an enjoyable read, and lends itself towards being a wild chase in of itself....more
Hessler’s book is engaging because it is collection of very human stories based upon his friendships developed during his time in China. This is a booHessler’s book is engaging because it is collection of very human stories based upon his friendships developed during his time in China. This is a book about China told through the eyes of very real Chinese people. The books reads almost like a novel, weaving in and out through lives of many voices.
Lewis is honest in his intentions and is forthright in acknowledging that this is a brief history. The success found within these pages is the author’Lewis is honest in his intentions and is forthright in acknowledging that this is a brief history. The success found within these pages is the author’s ability to weave the 2,000 year succession of culture, economy, religion, and governance with a fluid and overarching perspective that illuminates the debt owed by both western and eastern culture owe due to the prominence and innovations of the middle east during the middle ages, while concurrently revealing the multifaceted reasons why the middle east has so recently and persistently been a hotbed of political strife with a skewed and imbalanced range of poverty and wealth coupled alongside religious revivalism and fanaticism. In other words, this is a good “big-picture” summary of the middle east through the date of publication.
Of course, this book is limited in that it was published in 1995 and an astounding number of influential events have occurred since that date of publication; consider only the influence of the Taliban, the September 11th attack on America, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Arab spring of 2009, and the tumult currently ongoing with ISIS. However, since this is a brief history of the middle east, I did not feel that it was necessary to purchase the revised version. What this book brings to light is an appreciation for the the depth of cultural complexity that influences the outcomes of those most recent events that I had referenced....more
At 680 pages, this is a daunting and lengthy historical text on a subject not often discussed or reflected upon in my daily thoughts and conversationsAt 680 pages, this is a daunting and lengthy historical text on a subject not often discussed or reflected upon in my daily thoughts and conversations. Despite this, The Scramble for Africa lives up to the recommendation that persuaded me to pick it up, as this was a surprisingly enjoyable and informative read. After having completed this book over the past month I feel more informed regarding both African and European history and have a much deeper respect for the ongoing struggles faced by the African people. The civil strife that echoes throughout the continent is not merely a result of the fractured and divided borders set up by the European powers. As is apparent in this book, Africa is a continent of extreme geography with few navigable bays, meandering and marshy deltas, rivers that are difficult to navigate due to waterfalls, dense jungles, parched deserts and expansive planes that altogether make travel and commerce difficult despite all the promises of modern technology. The European explorers and colonists had a difficult time making profit in these conditions; it is no wonder that Africa continues to struggle in our modern era.
The argument that Holt presents is an argument that leads down a path absent of meaning. The book is an intriguing read, but in the end, the questionThe argument that Holt presents is an argument that leads down a path absent of meaning. The book is an intriguing read, but in the end, the question remains unanswered. Although Holt does present a proof that the existence of something rather than nothing is necessary and essential, this proof is less satisfying than simply looking at the existence of the reality in front of me. This leads me to ask, why in the world does this book exist? Well, Holt does provide a reflection that gives a human meaning to the existential inquiry he takes us on. His book ends with first a reflection on his dog’s death and then later his mother’s slow and painful decline and death. With his mother’s death, Holt is left alone with no family to connect him to the world that surround him. That emptiness is tantamount to the emptiness of nonexistence that he is interested in. Ultimately, the great philosophical and scientific inquiry that has driven mankind has its basis in our connection with one another.
Whimsical, dazzling, reflective, gruesome, saddening. Any number of adjectives could be selected to portray the impact of this book. The Tin Drum wasWhimsical, dazzling, reflective, gruesome, saddening. Any number of adjectives could be selected to portray the impact of this book. The Tin Drum was nothing what I had expected and much more than what I could have ever wanted. Why so? I was first exposed to the existence of this book years ago when Grass won the Nobel Prize and I have picked it up many times during my book store browsing. However, my ignorance about Grass and the subject matter of the German text created an aura of intimidation that impeded my hesitant desire to read this landmark. After now having finally finished this lengthy work, I’ll admit that in the simple act of picking up and browsing the book it isn’t easy to get a quick understanding about the content of the story. From the opening pages the novel reveals a narrator who is “an inmate in a mental hospital” with a “keeper [who] is watching [and] never lets me out of his sight.” The tone of these opening lines implies that the reader should get ready for a dark book, a story of incarceration and madness with potential political implications relevant to the East German communist state. Those opening lines are unfortunately off setting from the rest of the novel, for if you give it a chance, The Tin Drum reveals that it isn’t any of those things....more
Overall, this was a fun and quickly paced book but it isn’t Pynchon’s best. Despite its lesser status, it is actually in the realm of books that I wouOverall, this was a fun and quickly paced book but it isn’t Pynchon’s best. Despite its lesser status, it is actually in the realm of books that I would recommend to new Pynchon readers because it is approachable and easily digestible. Yes, Bleeding Edge has hundreds of characters that appear and disappear as a reflection of the myriad population of human life and the multiplicity of characters that is a Pynchon staple. Yet, few Pynchon books have what is considered a main character but Bleeding Edge gives us a believable and likable female protagonist in Maxine Tarnow, a separated mother of two, private-eye fraud investigator, who actually manages to capture the reader and writer’s focus and attention. As characters come and go through the narrative, we always come back to Maxine and her professional and personal troubles.
And what of the narrative? It is focussed on a possible conspiracy that ties a wealthy dot-com CEO that manages a computer security firm that may or may not be tied to the 11 September tragedy. Pychon’s persistent insistence to use the expression “11 September” rather than the culturally expected “September 11th” may be a satirical nod towards the fictional acknowledgment of Pynchon’s own blend of paranoia and backward looking perspective. ...more
As is typical of any Pynchon book, the novel is overflowing with well-researched alternates to our reality that could only exist within Pynchon’s verbAs is typical of any Pynchon book, the novel is overflowing with well-researched alternates to our reality that could only exist within Pynchon’s verbose and lyrical prose. This book is populated with werewolves, a mechanical duck that can speak and travel faster than light, astrological phenomena, ancient native American magical folklore, an inverse hollow earth populated by underground cave dwellers, alien abductions, all alongside the likes of a suspicious and conniving Ben Franklin, a pot-smoking George Washington, and a young Thomas Jefferson that steals the words from Mason’s mouth to pen the Declaration of Independence. With all of that fun-frenzied fantasy, what can I say after having spent the past month lost in the pages of this 773 page behemoth?
From beginning to end Maidenhair demonstrates itself as a unique and lyrical artistic expression of the multiplicity of life’s offerings. I cannot sayFrom beginning to end Maidenhair demonstrates itself as a unique and lyrical artistic expression of the multiplicity of life’s offerings. I cannot say that I loved every page of this book, but in reflection it is a book worth loving.