A quick read of the reviews makes me think that this book acts as a mirror through which our own values bounce back at us. Eustance Conway is either tA quick read of the reviews makes me think that this book acts as a mirror through which our own values bounce back at us. Eustance Conway is either the last american man or an anachronistic relic (or several other things in the middle); Elizabeth Gilbert either fawns too much and can't get out of her subject's way or offers a refreshing anecdote to the over-blown sentimentality of her later, much more successful book (or several other things in between). And maybe that's the point. The book is about an interesting character (tragic hero, caricature, flawed human, savant) into whom Gilbert (we) have poured ideals and expectations.
So what we think of Conway says more about us than about him. For my part, I see an interesting mix of a tragic figure, trying to save a world that doesn't really want to be saved, and a brilliant man (like Steve Jobs or Davy Crockett) whose ability, work ethic and exacting standards open up new possibilities, but also who is impossible to be around.
The kind of man that we Americans often idealize as heroic, uncompromising and visionary. I think Gilbert does a good job at balancing these two sides and had a great quote about it, which I didn't mark and now can't find that goes something like: there is a great price for heroic deeds, just ask women and servants. Essentially, there is a price for the kind of uncompromising heroism, one usually paid by the people around the hero, though sometimes by him (and its usually a him) too. ...more
Somewhere between a three and a four. It was a quick and engaging read - I finished it over a weekend. It also gave me a few things to think about. ASomewhere between a three and a four. It was a quick and engaging read - I finished it over a weekend. It also gave me a few things to think about. A comment comparing Armstrong to Trump (made in the early 2000s) had me thinking about the power of bullies and the consequences of the American celebration of those with a win-at-any-cost mentality. Also the difficulty of holding a duality and the instinct to classify a person as "good" or "bad". Armstrong both did great things for cancer and cancer survivors AND was vicious, manipulative and destructive force to those around him or those who crossed him.
The end dragged a little. Though I though I believed Hamilton's account, I wasn't particularly interested in the guy or what happened. The last 20 pages about his life could have been a few sentence epilogue.
All in all, a good rainy-weekend read that didn't require too much of me....more
This book was a perfect example of my sometimes-dilemma as a reader (my dilemma because I feel guilty about it and struggle against it) which is to noThis book was a perfect example of my sometimes-dilemma as a reader (my dilemma because I feel guilty about it and struggle against it) which is to not like a book because it wasn't the book that I wanted the author to write.
I can agree and see that Ishiguro is a brilliant writer. A masterful use of the unreliable narrator, the inversion of the usual detective story, the window into the oblivious absurdity of the British mentality as its Empire crumbled.
But. There's always a "but." His demonstration of all of the above made the last third of the book a slog. We had to be in the head of a guy who personified all of the above. And hence the sometimes-dilemma. Can I really dislike a book for being exactly as the author intended? Am I allowed to dislike a book for that reason? Can I be annoyed that a brilliant author didn't employ his skills to write the book that I would have wanted him to write? ...more