Short but informative introduction to the artist, his personal life, development as a painter, and his reception by his contemporaries. Some illustratShort but informative introduction to the artist, his personal life, development as a painter, and his reception by his contemporaries. Some illustrations in text are in color but most are not. However, that is not a distraction as the author tries to convey the important aspects of Schiele's style in relation to the influence of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Viennese society during the beginning of the 20th century....more
Irving Howe's introduction refers to this novel as "a grotesque-lyrical rumination" and I agree in part. The narrator, Comrade T, relates his observatIrving Howe's introduction refers to this novel as "a grotesque-lyrical rumination" and I agree in part. The narrator, Comrade T, relates his observations in long series of qualifiers that describe point-like aspects associated with his surroundings that are intended to give the reader a fuller grasp of the overall environment that the narrator is experiencing. The enumeration of a variety of sounds that taken together paint a partial image of the surroundings. Events are related as if casually observed and quickly commented upon much like a journalist sitting in a café summarizing his surrounding scenery. Comrade T’s metaphorical descriptions flow easily as he relates his conscious impressions of both sight and sound. Meanwhile the reader has a feeling of disembodiment; not unlike an overhead camera sequence in a film wherein the observer moves above a crowd that is unaware of his presence. The people and the surroundings described are reminiscent of Paul Leppin's Blaugast: A Novel of Decline. The difference is that the latter describes the protagonist's decline as an individual (more like in the film Leaving Las Vegas) and the former is the narrator's description of his encounters while wading through a sea of societal decline.
As an individual, Comrade T acknowledges Man’s attempt to regulate society are futile and that authoritarian duty bounds him to participate in it. He respects life for its own sake rather than a right or a moral imperative and that each individual is trapped in a mesh of their own creation. Although seemingly contradictory, he merely relates life’s cycle reduced to its squalid simplicity. One might call this as an existentialist view; fatalistic rather than hopeful but existential nonetheless because life’s dictum is to live and plod through it. He appreciates the mundane and senses something of value in it and lives it without regret. Some might see this novel as an indictment of Soviet society but then you have to wonder how much of that enlightened opinion is due to media propaganda and whether the same elements of the life’s futile cycle are present in capitalist society.
The following is an example of Konrad’s prose that gives some sense of his metaphorical descriptiveness applied to existentialist view: “In the middle an old man in a black raincoat, a grey-bearded barroom saint, a strolling graphologist, a toothless peddler, a forgotten musical clown, possibly a dealer in stolen goods, in any event an old man in a black raincoat, lifts high his silver saxophone, tosses back his head and blows. Out of the instrument pour shaggy figurines in black raincoats, no doubt peddlers or strolling graphologists or possibly even forgotten musical clowns or dealers in stolen goods, lifting minute silver saxophones.” ...more
The first half of the text contains prose that is capable of eliciting one's imaginative vision; a dreamlike narrative but more precise because of itsThe first half of the text contains prose that is capable of eliciting one's imaginative vision; a dreamlike narrative but more precise because of its logical articulation for long stretches before, as in a dream, it jumps to a vaguely related track. It can be somewhat difficult to engage with the passages at first but the semi-poetic nature of its flow soon encompasses the reader in a steady stream of surrealistic events taking place in a parallel world.
Unfortunately the second half of the text is disjointed and ham-handedly tries to explain events through a series of letters,medical notations, and recollections. Even worse is Lessing's insertion of communist drivel into parts of the narrative. I suppose that her disavowal of her Communist Party membership didn't necessarily mean she abandoned the utopian illusion that permitted people swallow a rotten authoritarian agenda. ...more
Partly essays and partly excerpts from essays or chapters from literary studies on Conrad's work. The editor has done a good job of organizing the matPartly essays and partly excerpts from essays or chapters from literary studies on Conrad's work. The editor has done a good job of organizing the material into common themes and inserting text from the Heart of Darkness to coordinate with a particular essayist's point. While giving me a better appreciation for Conrad's Heart of Darkness and the many levels from which a reader might interpret it, one begins to wonder how can all the critics be right? In one sense I gained more respect for Conrad and less for literary critics. ...more
This is my first reading of Conrad and I was more impressed with the literary style than the stories. Both of these stories can be reread to benefit aThis is my first reading of Conrad and I was more impressed with the literary style than the stories. Both of these stories can be reread to benefit alongside critical essays and yield a better appreciation for their contents.
Conrad's prose is gothic and reminiscent of Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and J. G. Ballard's The Crystal World. Could the former have influenced Conrad and the latter been influenced by Conrad/Poe? That's an interesting question but I've yet to come across any opinions much less a serious study concerning this question....more
Bernhard's prose style is unique and not difficult to read. If I were to classify it, I would call it recursive and possibly ergodic (if I knew more aBernhard's prose style is unique and not difficult to read. If I were to classify it, I would call it recursive and possibly ergodic (if I knew more about the literary aspect of ergosity). even though it appears repetitious it is not; it approaches the same thought or idea from different slightly angles in order to achieve the closest approach to the truth or clarity of that thought or idea. Bernhard's text seems to incorporate the mathematical ideas of iteration, recursiveness, and limits.
This approach is in line with the ideals of the three characters involved; narrator, Hoeller, and Roithamer. Roithamer is thought to be a reflection of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the building of the Cone a representation of his search for the establishment of perfection in a non-ideal world. Wittgenstein actually designed and crafted a house in Vienna which stands aloof from the existing architecture. The result is somewhat ludicrous and certainly central to Bernhard's story. What starts out as perfection when seen from the exterior turns out to harbor psychological scars and a slow progression towards insanity. ...more
The first part of the book deals with observations of Carl Sagan's professional demeanor during the run-up to the landing of the Viking 1 and 2 whereaThe first part of the book deals with observations of Carl Sagan's professional demeanor during the run-up to the landing of the Viking 1 and 2 whereas the second part deals with controversy surrounding the results and interpretation of four onboard experiments intended to detect the presence of organic life on Mars.
It is clear that Sagan was predisposed to find life and at times was a distraction to the mission with his attitude of; if we don't find it doesn't mean it's not there. The author provides only limited insight into the mindset of each of the principle investigators and instead tries to deal with the chemistry of the experiments and in my opinion does so ineffectively. There result is that we are left to judge for ourselves whether or not the investigators were biased or whether they designed their experiments based on a lack of knowledge of the geochemistry of Mars. The book was first published in 1976, only a few short years after the landings, and has to be taken into consideration because trying to settle the technical controversy would take years of research to resolve which it only partially did. The author conveys the ongoing confusion but could have done a much better job on explaining the chemistry involved and leaving the reader with a clearer picture of the overall mission....more
The first half of this book was interesting as well as educational regarding the concept of temperature and its development in classical physics. HoweThe first half of this book was interesting as well as educational regarding the concept of temperature and its development in classical physics. However, the main subject in latter half of the book was thoroughly diluted in the author's effort to relate temperature to everything in existence. He tries to cover diverse scientific topics that range from quantum mechanical to cosmological and biological to physical. Even though temperature is present in everything, it isn't the overwhelming element that ties everything in the universe together. He could just as well picked a concept like density or energy and done the same thing with the same effect. Among all of this he inserts odd subjects such as Einstein's refrigerator and plate tectonics. Some of the material is simply a quick rehash of topics from modern physics. While some of the topics might whet the curiosity of the general reader, the more technically literate reader is distracted and put off by the melange. ...more
With a few exceptions, the story of Barabbas is linear and Lagerkvist's prose style is extremely narrative and flat. Based on the editor's blurb and WWith a few exceptions, the story of Barabbas is linear and Lagerkvist's prose style is extremely narrative and flat. Based on the editor's blurb and Wikipedia's biography, I was expecting something of a cross between Ingmar Bergman and Albert Camus; both representative of the existential angst of the 1950's. The latter two still retain some power to move me but unfortunately this did not turn out to be the case for Lagerkvist. His Barabbas character barely reveals any depth until the last third of the story. Lagerkvist's idea of simple prose structure to communicate human feelings seems to be self-defeating and anything believable about his philosophy of religious atheism just doesn't come across. Maybe one has to be a fervent believer to feel anything profound in this simple tale. Given the public's accolades for this story at the time of its original publication, one has to wonder what drives it to identify with a subject; were the crisis' of the 50's more tame and manageable or has the proliferation of public technology made existentialist topics mundane?...more
There is a lot of matter of fact repetition in the beginning chapters but it is interesting look back from a perspective of the state of computers thrThere is a lot of matter of fact repetition in the beginning chapters but it is interesting look back from a perspective of the state of computers three decades later and the great expectations at the time of publication. Good explanations of the basic issues associated with the development of AI. Some of the AI applications mentioned have come to fruition but not by means of AI.
The authors were extremely optimistic and saw their book as a call to arms. The second half of the book is spent on belaboring the state of the U.S. economy, which hasn't improved in the interim, and how we are going to turn into a third rate nation militarily and economically if we don't start investing whole hog in the AI R&D program.
The style of writing is somewhat odd because the authors refer to themselves in a detached manner. The authors do a good job in trying to dispel the myth that the Japanese are copycats lacking in original thinking; however, no attention was paid to it at the time based on my own experience.
The last two chapters were excellent summaries on the possible effects that knowledge technology might have on humans. Of course the benefits of technology were expected to raise the entire world out of misery and poverty which hasn't happened. The world was transformed not because of Japan’s 5th Generation program, which failed, or because the U.S. didn’t follow suite but for more fundamental reasons; viz. globalization, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and corporate greed.
This is a good follow on to Philby's "My Silent War" and the authors provide a more substantial insight on the events from a different perspective thaThis is a good follow on to Philby's "My Silent War" and the authors provide a more substantial insight on the events from a different perspective than does Philby who is more reserved for obvious reasons of guilt. Insight into Philby's Communist sympathies while at Cambridge as a reaction to the rise of Fascism in England and Europe during the 1930s is offered as a reason for his ideological preferences. The dysfunctional nature of MI5 and SIS is painted in a similar manner to the picture given by Philby in “My Silent War.” The sheer incompetence in affording advancement based on class over meritocracy is stunning and an indictment of English bureaucracy by the authors as the main causes of this security debacle.
The latter half of the book spends a fair amount of time accounting for Maclean and Burges activities and how it possibly ties in with Philby and each was probably aware of their common ideological sympathies to the extent they suspected one another’s involvement in treason to some extent. The chapter on Burgess' background was helpful in understanding that he was a manipulator capable of upward mobility despite his mediocrity and Maclean despite his cleverness was psychologically the weakest. Much of the activities just prior to the defection of each member had to be based on interpolation from circumstantial evidence but the authors are straightforward in acknowledging their limitations but are convincing in terms of reasonableness. What still remains unknown is why each member chose to do damage to their own country in spite of historical developments within the Soviet Union. ...more
The narrative revolves around a young man’s reminiscence of his preparatory school experiences and friendships just after America’s entry into WWII. WThe narrative revolves around a young man’s reminiscence of his preparatory school experiences and friendships just after America’s entry into WWII. While it is a coming of age story involving various students it also parallels the subtle undertone of the transition of the nation as a whole from one that is carefree to one of regimentation in behavior and thinking. The story provides some insight on how young people perceive war and how they respond to their possible involvement in it. It clearly illustrates that civilian involvement in the war was much more personal and affected more people than it does today; possibly because we felt more vulnerable then.
John Knowles uses the preparatory school setting to create an atmosphere of isolation and safety that is slowly being encroached upon by an ominous treat from the outside world. In doing so he parallels America’s isolationist response to the war in Europe. The prose that is used to create this mood is wonderful and originates in the imagination of the main character, Eugene Forrester. It begins with a mundane setting that slowly expands itself outward taking in an ever larger view of the landscape as it does so until it evaporates into some mysterious boundary. ...more
This book is worth reading if only to provide a personal perspective on the shadow war during WWII and the early Cold War.
An abundance of official relThis book is worth reading if only to provide a personal perspective on the shadow war during WWII and the early Cold War.
An abundance of official relationships to individuals who are no longer prominent and laying out the organization of early British espionage via acronyms can make reading a little confusing but a guide at the front for the latter does help. Philby begins his espionage career in Spain prior to WWII and the confusion of the war makes it easy for anyone with some connections to get in. The organization is rife with petty rivalries and incompetents.
His characterizations of Hoover ( FBI), Angleton (CIA), and Allen Dulles (CIA) along with a host of other players and officials provides interesting sketches of individuals and how their personal quirks can affect the functioning of bureaucratic organizations. Philby notes an extreme dislike for Hoover and his organization's use of blackmail of American citizens to maintain his grip on power.
Not until his posting to Washington and Burgess' defection does Philby allude to his covert association with the USSR as well as possible knowledge of the activities of Burgess and Maclean. He spends a fair amount of time discussing his interrogations and his bouts with the media once he came under suspicion but does not provide underlying reasons for his treason other than his motivation was not money. ...more
It has been awhile since I've read this story and it was my introduction to Auster. However, it left an unforgettable impression on me that I find difIt has been awhile since I've read this story and it was my introduction to Auster. However, it left an unforgettable impression on me that I find difficult to characterize. I think that some of the prose affected me emotionally in addition to it evoking concrete imagery. The first half of the novel, if it can be called that, left me with a sense of mental despair whereas the second half was more visual to me. This was fortunate because I don’t believe that I could have continued reading with this level of mental anxiety but it did give me the feeling that there was a distinct division in Auster’s writing process. I subsequently read two other dystopian novels; Level 7 and Down to a Sunless Sea both of which are laden with a sense of despair but not to the level that I experienced in Auster’s novel....more