The story flows easily but an expectation on my part due to the classification by others that this is an existentialist novel anticipated a reading deThe story flows easily but an expectation on my part due to the classification by others that this is an existentialist novel anticipated a reading dealing with metaphysical concepts such as absurdity, alienation and nihilistic despair rather than the ranting of a dysfunctional family. Fortunately, the dysfunctional family serves as a context within which existentialist questioned can be explored otherwise the novel would have quickly degenerated into something of a brutal comedy.
Even after some brief forays into definitions of existentialism I am still left wondering are the characteristics of an existentialist novel but some words by others that proved somewhat helpful were: “The idea of existential dread often dominates our understanding of existentialism, and this is not only unfortunate, but terribly flawed,” along with “involves the attempt to make meaning in a chaotic world. … with special emphasis on the struggle to define meaning and identity in the face of alienation and isolation." Even though such descriptions did not completely satisfy my need for understanding the structure of the novel, I could at least see the existentialist outlines as others may have seen them as the young protagonist Andrea begins to become aware of herself through the conflicts with her family and friends within the exotic confines of city of Barcelona. However, she can only witness the barest luxuries that the city can offer due to her poverty as struggling university student.
Carmen Laforet’s descriptions of Barcelona as experienced through Andrea’s senses are some of the most vivid and compelling that I have read in a long time. Being familiar with the works of Camus, I would say that Laforet’s treatment of her characters is tenderer and less clinical than that of Camus’ which may be a result of the latter’s desire to address moral questions. Laforet’s focus seems to be more immediate and concerned with the process of becoming. ...more
This small book is a good first introduction to Aristotle and it is easily read. However, it requires some amount of attention on the reader’s part toThis small book is a good first introduction to Aristotle and it is easily read. However, it requires some amount of attention on the reader’s part to understand the import of what Adler is talking about otherwise certain points can easily slip by.
Some of the early chapters can be frustrating because Aristotle gives the appearance that he can prove anything just by choosing his arguments to fit his observations which gives one the impression that his argument is circular. Aristotle can be forgiven because he developed a philosophy of common sense and it wasn’t until a more refined development of the scientific method that one tested the theory to determine if it explained observations other than the ones used to develop the theory.
The chapter "Logics Little Words" is probably one of the more important in terms of terminology and it can provide the reader with a succinct introduction to syllogistic reasoning. Adler provides a clearer picture of what the laws of reasoning are and how to use them to one's profit.
The chapters discussing government are very interesting from the perspective of today’s political debates about the function and size of government. Aristotle’s view is that the institution of government is good because it is necessary to live a good life; a good government serves the good of the governed and governs by laws and a just constitution. Concerning rights, a good man does not want more freedom than he can use without causing injury to others.
Aristotle's theory of truth is the correspondence theory i.e. it either corresponds to the right desire as it relates to morality or corresponds to reality in terms of scientific explanation.
The final chapters dealing with difficult philosophical questions on infinity, mind, and God provide some insight into Aristotle’s thinking but leave you wanting more detail. Adler abides the reader with and epilogue that points the reader to specific sections of Aristotle’s works for additional study. ...more
Ballard’s physical descriptions of the Concrete Island are so well detailed that you could draw a map from them. He is able to accomplish this by limi Ballard’s physical descriptions of the Concrete Island are so well detailed that you could draw a map from them. He is able to accomplish this by limiting the domain of his story and does it with such spare prose that you can visualize the scenery while reading about it; maybe that's one of the secrets to the attraction of his elusive style. What I particularly like about Ballard’s prose is the limited use of the word "like" used along with an analogous descriptor as well his limited use of quotes to delimit mono/dialogue. He instead opts for a stream of consciousness which plugs you directly into the character’s mind.
Ballard twists and distorts the reader’s perception of the island’s landscape into some alternate reality by defining its boundaries in terms of traffic sounds and enlarging the island’s domain from a small triangular patch of wasteland to include the remnants of an Edwardian neighborhood. The latter is eerily suggestive the author’s childhood memories of his life in the British compound of pre-war Shanghai. Adding to this sense of the fantastic is Ballard’s frequent mention of the island’s tall grass throughout the story; his descriptions invoke willfulness into it and at one point it takes on qualities of a green harp.
Maitland, the main character, is a castaway on an island bordered by motor traffic overpasses and to some readers this story is reminiscent of the Robinson Crusoe story; but depending on the reader’s repertoire, Ballard’s story can invoke other parallels such as William Golding's: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin with its bleak isolation of a delusional survivor or Shakespeare's: The Tempest and Victor Hugo’s: The Hunchback of Notre Dame when midway through the story Maitland encounters a couple of other inhabitants on the island, Jane (a youthful runaway) and the brutish Proctor (a cast off acrobat). These two are reminiscent of Miranda and Caliban or Esmeralda and Quasimodo depending on how their relationship with Maitland evolves. Whether it was Ballard’s intent to draw these parallels or it is the author’s subconscious at work is another story but I’d be surprised that this observation would go unnoticed by others.
Maitland establishes his authority over the island by humiliating Proctor and then domesticates him into what becomes a bizarre parasitic relationship. Maitland’s visions and urges become gruesome while he begins to imagine that he shedding the wounds he received during his automobile crash. However, what we see is the shedding of the veneer of his humanity through various devious acts that he perpetrates upon the other two characters.
Maitland ultimately arrives at a minor epiphany when recognizes that what he is really trying to escape is not the island, which is now becoming his refuge, but the burden of human feelings. He accomplishes this by establishing a new balance in his simplistic universe by equating token monetary exchanges for his physical needs. This allows him to transcend his former personality in order to escape the guilt, remorse, and pain resulting from human relationships.
Better read after visiting Catalonia than before in order to enjoy it more. There is probably something in the selections for every taste but it shoulBetter read after visiting Catalonia than before in order to enjoy it more. There is probably something in the selections for every taste but it should be read in totality to get a sense of the range of modern Catalonian literature. Especially enjoyable for me was Josep Pla's essay on Antoni Gaudi which gave me a better appreciation for La Familia Sagrada than my initial visual response of it being the physical representation of a monstrous insanity. Whereas, in the case of Merce' Rodoreda's two conte's or very short stories and Josep Vicenz Foix's prose verse, I became aware of the experimental side to Catalonian literature and the historical and political context in which it arose; however, its reading requires concentration to better appreciate its flavor. The editor and translator, Josep Miquel Sober, has done an excellent job in main introduction to the book as well as his introductory notes for each of the selections which provides the reader with the necessary background to better appreciate the stories and essays....more
This was certainly an easy read. However, Nuria Monfort's extended letter near the end has inconsistencies concerning the voice of the narration sinceThis was certainly an easy read. However, Nuria Monfort's extended letter near the end has inconsistencies concerning the voice of the narration since she's not present at some of the events described in the letter. Zafon's scenic descriptions of the sky over Barcelona, Montjiuc Cemetery, or the Tibibado neighborhood were painterly. I would have preferred to have invested my time in a more literary novel given the length of The Shadow of the Wind....more
Worthwhile reading if you're interested in the events surrounding the beginning of the Cold War. It is more of a chronology than an explicative historWorthwhile reading if you're interested in the events surrounding the beginning of the Cold War. It is more of a chronology than an explicative history....more
The Prelude and First chapter cover the basics quickly which is merciful for the reader familiar with the concepts but reinforces the important geometThe Prelude and First chapter cover the basics quickly which is merciful for the reader familiar with the concepts but reinforces the important geometrical ideas concerning space-time. The major focus of this work is on the development of gravity wave detectors and the personalities involved. The astronomical sources of gravity waves, such as binary neutron stars and black holes, are covered to a lesser extent but it's not till late in the book that you begin to understand the relationship between the frequency of these waves from these sources and the sensitivity of the current generation of gravity wave detectors. As mentioned, you later learn that the current detectors would only be sensitive to cataclysmic events of low probability, such as collision of neutron stars and black holes, even while events that continually propagate gravity waves, i.e. neutron stars in orbit about a companion star, remain undetectable because the frequency of their gravity waves remain well below the limit of detectability. The last couple of chapters now seem to be wishful thinking since severe economic issues after the book’s publication a decade ago have severely dampened schedules for planned improvements....more
This read was tough going for someone not familiar with the financial players in this epic overview of the subprime mortgage debacle of 2007-2008 andThis read was tough going for someone not familiar with the financial players in this epic overview of the subprime mortgage debacle of 2007-2008 and it is told from the perspective of these players of which there are slightly more than one hundred. Fortunately the author includes a cast of characters and their organizational accountabilities at the beginning of the book which can be helpful in keeping the reader straight on who’s who during the narrative. It would have been helpful to have included a similar glossary of the various financial instruments and organizations discussed in the book for those readers not familiar with structured finance and regulatory agencies involved; however, discussions of this type are kept at a minimum with the primary focus being kept on the personalities involved and their professional interactions. There is some repetition obvious to even me that could have been done without but it may have been intended to provide another perspective of the same situation. Overall, I have a more grounded understanding of what happened and why based on well referenced sources provided in the authors notes rather than a vague feeling based on what has been projected in sound bites by the news media or political campaign rhetoric....more
I find the story interesting having lived through some aspects of it long ago as a submariner. Nice to know what might have been going on in the forwaI find the story interesting having lived through some aspects of it long ago as a submariner. Nice to know what might have been going on in the forward section of the boat while I spent my time in the after section in engineering. However, I'm taking some of these stories with a grain of salt since it appears that some of them have been "peached" up according to some Amazon reviewers. As to the fate of the Scorpion, the authors leave us baffled regarding the causes; first they relate a Navy analyst’s elaborate "hot run" theory and then introduce some new information from another analyst’s i.e. "warhead burn off" that takes us down an alternate path without recognizing and resolving the contradiction as to the unexpected location of the wreck. The storyline dealt primarily with the intelligence gathering aspect which was a secondary function of the nuclear submarine service's primary goal of active nuclear deterrence. The swashbuckling "can do" one upsmanship attitude of the commanding officer’s involved actually added grist to the adage that military intelligence is an oxymoron. The thoughtful reader might takes this as a cautionary tale of how unchecked brinkmanship at lower levels of command in the intelligence community can lead to disaster and enormous wastefulness of resources with small consideration of the risks involved. ...more