When you get off the plane in Managua, Nicaragua you are greeted by giant portraits of country's two national heroes: the general, Augusto Cesar SandiWhen you get off the plane in Managua, Nicaragua you are greeted by giant portraits of country's two national heroes: the general, Augusto Cesar Sandino, and the poet, Rubén Darío. Little paperback copies of Azul are standard issue for Nicaraguan school kids and can be found behind the counter at every librería around. Although he's not well known outside Latin America, Darío is a pretty big wheel in Spanish literary history, known as the "prince of Castillian letters" and the father of the modernismo poetry movement.
Azul... is a brief collection of prose and poetry. Darío's native habitat is the gardens and parlors of the classically-educated bourgeoisie, and there are a lot of nymphs and satyrs and other classical references. Although he writes almost exclusively about the European-influenced upper classes, many of his stories are fairly critical of them and instead lionize the artist's struggle. The poetry is mostly florid love poetry, although he does do some interesting things with imagery and structure. I found the collection in general to be a bit dated, although diverse enough to be interesting. Plus, it gave my Spanish vocab a big workout....more
After spending much of last year plowing through Infinite Jest, reading this collection of essays was a hoot. IJ is certainly not a prerequisite, butAfter spending much of last year plowing through Infinite Jest, reading this collection of essays was a hoot. IJ is certainly not a prerequisite, but the obsessions that animate that book (e.g. tennis, avant garde cinema, the very concept of "entertainment") are mostly all in abundance here.
As a tennis fan, I found the his journeys through the lower-ranks of competitive tennis to be charming. The uber-academic essays about literature, TV and movies were a little hit or miss for me, but his state fair and luxury cruise essays are total classics. As with IJ, it is sad and poignant to read DFW's words about despair and social isolation while knowing how his own story ended, but similarly, the themes of both books are grandly life-affirming and typically hilarious. ...more
With far too many books out there it's clear that the author has a decent concept for a novel but no ability to write an interesting finale. Not so, EWith far too many books out there it's clear that the author has a decent concept for a novel but no ability to write an interesting finale. Not so, Elmore Leonard. Pronto's ending is hardly a surprise, but it is pretty funny, and almost makes up for the 250 pages preceding.
The main problem with the rest of it is that the protagonist is a tedious, unlikable old fool (as other characters are constantly pointing out to him). Nothing much happens and you don't care a whole lot about the characters. Still, it has its moments and it zips along pretty quickly.
I hear that Elmore Leonard is usually much better than this, so maybe don't let this be the first one you pick up....more
(1) The prose is terrible: pretentious and windy. The authors typically end each chapter with chin-stAn entertaining potboiler with two main problems:
(1) The prose is terrible: pretentious and windy. The authors typically end each chapter with chin-stroking fluff that almost makes you want to put the book down each time. Or at least thumb ahead. The plot is decent enough - I could see this being made into an entertaining summer movie.
(2) We never really learn anything about the mystery book, the Hypnerotomachia, which is a missed opportunity. The authors have constructed an elaborate puzzle balanced on top of actual scholarship. But the authors hold all the cards, so what we get is a big "historical what if."
Still, despite a terrible ending, I thought this was a step up from Dan Brown's books. There are no silly global conspiracies, just academic warfare, and the characters are somewhat believable (if often irritating)....more
**spoiler alert** The story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy and her encounters with the California medical system. The author tries her absolute h**spoiler alert** The story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy and her encounters with the California medical system. The author tries her absolute hardest to be completely fair to the parents and the doctors and everyone involved, which just makes the tragedy of the story all the more wrenching. The most thought-provoking book on multi-cultural America I've read in a long time.
Here's the passage that has stuck with me (spoiler! p. 255):
"Lia's parents think that the problem was caused by too much medicine." "Well," said Dr. Hutchison, "that may not be too far from the truth." I stared at him. "Go back to Merced," he said, "and tell all those people at MCMC that the family didn't do this to the kid. We did." Driving back to Merced, I was in a state of shock myself. I had known about Lia's sepsis, but I had always assumed that her seizure disorder had been the root of the problem. The Lees were right after all, I thought. Lia's medicine did make her sick! That night I told Neil and Peggy what Dr. Hutchison had said. As usual, their desire to ferret out the truth outweighed their desire--if indeed they had one--to defend their reputation for infallibility....more
The idea that profit-maximizing behavior by food companies might harm your health and your waistline is a more mainstream idea now than it was back inThe idea that profit-maximizing behavior by food companies might harm your health and your waistline is a more mainstream idea now than it was back in 2002 when Food Politics was first published. Skyrocketing obesity rates seem to have focused a lot of peoples' attention, and while there's no real consensus on what (if anything) we should do about it, corporate behavior is definitely on the radar screen. In one level it should be obvious that corporations exist to maximize profits and there's no law of physics that says what's good for the corporate bottom line is good for public health. Quite the contrary. However, as Marion Nestle makes clear, food companies are not quite the equivalent of tobacco companies, even if their tactics are similar. We still do need to eat, the challenge is to eat better, which is a subtler message than "Don't smoke, dummy."
Nestle touches on a wide-range of topics here: the Food Pyramid wars, lobbying, soda in schools, food supplement, techno-foods, etc. (See also her follow-up Safe Food.) The book can be a pretty dry in places and she resists the urge to demonize food corporations or simplify the issues at stake. She doesn't bring the writing style or conceptual gimmicks of a Michael Pollan. But she makes up for her lack of poetry in sheer overwhelming academic firepower. By all indications this is a researcher who has read every USDA Federal Register notice for the past several decades. She knows her stuff....more