A coming-home story, with the earlier coming-of-age stories that made it difficult. There are many complex characters – some of whom I thought I under...moreA coming-home story, with the earlier coming-of-age stories that made it difficult. There are many complex characters – some of whom I thought I understood until later visits to their pasts gradually added another dimension to their existences and roles in this tale. Conroy does not shy away from the heavy issues, attacking them through his characters’ experiences in a very convincing manner.
Though it may be a function of my aging, I prefer to believe that Conroy’s writing skills are responsible for the fact that I felt some of the most extreme emotional reactions to some of the actions of his characters, that I’ve ever experienced from a novel – the intense anger I felt a couple times even worried me some. (less)
Very dry read, but historically informative as to industrial practices and some aspects of the developing struggle between modern industry and labor i...moreVery dry read, but historically informative as to industrial practices and some aspects of the developing struggle between modern industry and labor in the early 20th century. As a study of "scientific management", the author was impressively objective in analyzing its claims, weaknesses, proponents and opponents. He also exercised repeatedly a humble caution in assessing the impact of this approach to production management.
While not good recreational reading, it does seem to be one of the most cited sources in the Wikipedia articles on scientific management and its early apostles.(less)
This book leaves me feeling as though I’ve had a long and rewarding conversation with Joseph Conrad. I’m in the process of reading all his books in th...moreThis book leaves me feeling as though I’ve had a long and rewarding conversation with Joseph Conrad. I’m in the process of reading all his books in the order in which they were written, and with each of his novels I’ve become more and more impressed with this man’s mastery of his adopted language – English – and his astute perception of humanity and a great variety of its members.
In this book I found what I had hoped to find in his earlier autobiographical Mirror of the Sea, before being somewhat disappointed to learn that it focused almost exclusively on the general experience of sea life, and otherwise contained very little of his story before and after his life at sea. In contrast, this autobiography provided satisfying answers as to how this young Polish man from a landlocked region of eastern Europe came to be one of the most respected English writers of maritime literature.
Perhaps most rewarding of this presentation was the deeper respect I felt for this man concerning his attitude about life and mankind. Throughout are comments indicating his continual awareness of his mortality, and that he and the other memorable characters he has met and/or used in his fiction are only passing phenomena. His story about the inspiration for, and the precarious survival of the manuscript of his first novel – Almayer’s Folly – is especially rich in clues to his unique abilities of perception and expression, and to the good fortune leading to its publication – good fortune both for him and posterity. (less)
What a thought-stimulating collection of essays! The introduction by Ernest J. Simmons was excellent at describing the scene in which Tolstoy lived du...moreWhat a thought-stimulating collection of essays! The introduction by Ernest J. Simmons was excellent at describing the scene in which Tolstoy lived during his final years as a celebrated author. and the following progression of selected essays worked well in conveying a sense of Tolstoy’s obsession to make sense of the troubles he saw in human “progress”, and then to convey his thoughts as widely as possible in hopes of saving humanity. I know from that introduction and from some collateral research that Tolstoy was felt by many to have lost his mind, and in reading some of his later essays, I, too, started to wonder about the practicality of his suggestions. There were also a few pages on which I moved my eyes over the words without paying much attention, as he sometimes went on far longer than was necessary to make a point, and so I would estimate that about a third of this book was very boring.
In general I was pleasantly surprised by his treatment of religion. I feared that I would be as turned off by this book as I had been by C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, but was instead convincingly coaxed into thinking about religion in manner reminiscent of my reaction to Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy. My very recent reading of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha probably helped to prepare me for this book as well. Even as an atheist I can appreciate their shared concepts of a universal yearning by humans to apply their power of reasoning in an unending search for their purpose of existence. This yearning, which overarches individual theologies, is referred to by Tolstoy as simply “religion”, while he refers to those institutions of big buildings, clerics, and rituals as “Church Religion” – which he considers a perversion of the true religion.
While he scoffs at most teachings of the Christian churches and the stories in the Bible, he apparently believes that the Gospel of Matthew contains an accurate transcription of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, for that seems to be almost completely the source of his concept of true religion. And while he admits a legitimate search for religious understanding by some individuals in all organized persuasions, he feels that the true Christian religion is the superior one in that it most clearly encourages individuals to continually seek self-perfection, and that that process involves the love of all brother humans and the belief that they are equal. His disdain for societal structures that elevate some at the expense of others comes from his belief that they force individuals to violate those precepts.
Of historical interest to me was seeing how some of Tolstoy’s thinking fared in the century since his death in 1910. It didn’t escape my notice that some of his anarchist and egalitarian opinions were eerily similar to the theoretical basis for the revolution that shook his country seven years after his death. The final essays in this book shared his dismay that as the privileged in Russia got more brutal in their repression, he feared that the reactions by the downtrodden would be just as evil, as he was already dismayed by how violent rebellion was looking imminent. It was also interesting that his concept that man was motivated by three forces – feeling, reason, and suggestion – paralleled Freud’s id, ego, and superego, which may be indicative of a widespread paradigm at the time, or perhaps Tolstoy had been influenced by psychoanalytic theory. As for the perverting influence of Church Religion, his examples from then brought to mind many current examples I see all the time in American politics and the social media, where “religious” belief is the basis for dehumanizing some groups and an obsession with making sure they don’t get something they don’t deserve. (less)
This one hit the ground running and never stopped until the very end. This was my introduction to both the author and his repeating attorney character...moreThis one hit the ground running and never stopped until the very end. This was my introduction to both the author and his repeating attorney character Paul Madriani, and I’m thinking that this one must not be typical of the dozen “legal novels” featuring this defense lawyer, as the legal action served mainly as a mechanism to introduce him into the action of a global suspense thriller of far larger consequence.
Author Martini based much of the content on historical and scientific facts, which was somewhat disconcerting in that I don’t want to believe that any of this could happen in the real world. (I kept thinking that this is how Dick Cheney likes to see the world, while he rubs his hands in glee and predicts catastrophic terrorist attacks under President Obama.) I finished the book thinking I had a fairly good sense of what was real and what wasn’t, only to read the “Author’s Note” at the end and wonder if there may not be a lot more to be concerned about which I am unaware.
The storyline and action were fairly convincing, although there were times when I thought amateur operative Madriani was allowed to stay central to the action only because of inconceivable lapses in villainy by the by the bad guys and in the vigilance of the all-knowing “good” guys. Although this novel was written in 2009, it brought to mind some recent revelations and current concerns regarding government surveillance and secrecy. (less)
A quick and easy read, but that’s not what I expect of a crime thriller. The author often expressed in words the major emotional stresses of his chara...moreA quick and easy read, but that’s not what I expect of a crime thriller. The author often expressed in words the major emotional stresses of his characters through their thoughts and dialog, but there never seemed to be a sense of real distress or urgency. Either Sandford’s descriptions of these tensions lacked poignancy, or the actions of his characters did not adequately coalesce with the emotions that motivated them.
This book is billed as a suspense thriller, but except for a couple of scenes near the end of it, there never seemed to be much of a sense of either suspense or thrill. I knew from the beginning the identity and methods of the perpetrator, so there was no mystery. One could assume, therefore, that the primary drama of the book would revolve around the intellectual game between a deranged murderer and law enforcement, but that seemed to become secondary to a contest between the media and police as to which could out-exploit the other. And even that game – thanks to Lucas Davenport’s apparent lack of concern for the blending of his personal and professional lives – all came down to the assumed turmoil he felt regarding his bedmates – past, present, and future.
When it comes to enjoying this genre, perhaps I’ve been forever spoiled by Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. (Although I was grateful that this book didn’t require me to keep notes in order to track of an ever-growing list of Scandinavian names and locales.) I realize that this was only the author’s second stab at fiction, and that this was only the introduction of Lieutenant Lucas Davenport, so I’ll be curious to see how the author’s skills and Davenport’s depth developed in the later novels already written. It was an enjoyable read, but only about as much as when I used to watch hour-long Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot episodes on Mystery. (less)