I had a review copy of this book for months last year and now I'm kicking myself for never getting into it. At the same time, it fits perfectly into mI had a review copy of this book for months last year and now I'm kicking myself for never getting into it. At the same time, it fits perfectly into my month of reading books from and about New Guinea, so the bookish universe must have known I needed to wait.
I've read several novels about anthropologists - some I loved, like Mating by Norman Rush, and some I liked slightly less but still enjoyed, like State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
In Euphoria, Lily King takes the person of Margaret Mead and her first research in New Guinea and that becomes the basis of her novel (she doesn't say this within the novel but it is pretty obvious, and others have pointed it out as well.) I have a copy of Growing Up in New Guinea: A Comparative Study of Primitive Education coming my way, so I will have the experience of dipping into her actual writings. The field of anthropology was in its infancy in the 1930s, and that is well reflected in this novel. The characters question themselves and are questioned by the others in their lives.
"I asked her if she believed you could ever truly understand another culture. I told her the longer I stayed, the more asinine the attempt seemed, and that what I'd become more interested in is how we believed we could be objective in any way at all, we who each came in with our own personal definitions of kindness, strength, masculinity, femininity, God, civilization, right and wrong."
Lily King also gets quite a bit of PNG culture right, and some of it she stretches in a pretty believable way. Especially in the 1930s, anthropologists had to take what they were given, and often got it wrong (or didn't get the whole picture.) What she gets more right is the isolation and difficulties of anthropologists in the field, and how they might relate to one another when they are so needful of contact. Although I'm not sure anyone, anyone could successfully transport two desks and a mattress that far up the Sepik River (small detail.)
"And now I am engulfed in this new flavor, so different from the light but humorless flavor of the Anapa and the thick bitter taste of the Mumbanyo, this rich deep resonant complex flavor that I am only getting my first sips of and yet how do I explain these differences to an average American who will take one look at the photographs and see black men & women with bones through their noses and lump them in a pile marked Savages?"
There is even an element of self-examination, why does the anthropologist do the work? What is he/she looking for? These are fictional anthropologists but I have often found this in the books I've read by journalists and researchers who travel deep into New Guinea. Michael Rockefeller, Carl Hoffman, Kira Salak so far.
"I think above all else it is freedom I search for in my work, in these far-flung places, to find a group of people who give each other the room to be in whatever way they need to be. And maybe I will never find it all in one culture but maybe I can find parts of it in several cultures, maybe I can piece it together like a mosaic and unveil it to the world. But the world is deaf."
"When only one person is the expert on a particular people, do we learn more about the people or the anthropologist?"
The intense focus on research is interesting, the relationship triangle is compelling, and the differences in tribes along one river is fascinating....more
This was a sweet and funny, also sometimes sad, book about a little Australian girl who is obsessed with death and gets abandoned by her mother. The sThis was a sweet and funny, also sometimes sad, book about a little Australian girl who is obsessed with death and gets abandoned by her mother. The story starts in a department store, where she is hiding until her mother comes back for her, and a retired man saves her from social servies with the help of the cranky recluse from across the street.
A combination of artistic commentary, the journals and photos of Rockefeller, and a catalog of the art he purchased from the various groups he encountA combination of artistic commentary, the journals and photos of Rockefeller, and a catalog of the art he purchased from the various groups he encountered in New Guinea. Amazing, amazing collections that he should really be applauded for, while understanding that he was there first and foremost as a collector. This comes across in his journals and letters expressing frustration at the lack of commitment the tribes have to "reenacting" their rituals on his request. *facepalm*
Great adaptation of this book! While Adam feels like the focus in the book and audiobook, this seemed to better feature the angel/demon duo, kind of aGreat adaptation of this book! While Adam feels like the focus in the book and audiobook, this seemed to better feature the angel/demon duo, kind of a sad end to a very civil war, soon to end with Armageddon.
Still too many uses of the word ineffable, but I think that's a joke....more
I was aware of this book in my childhood but never read it until now, because I'm working with two C.S. Lewis classes and wanted to get a better senseI was aware of this book in my childhood but never read it until now, because I'm working with two C.S. Lewis classes and wanted to get a better sense of his theology. I know some people still use this book as a way to explain the tenets of the Christian faith, but I think that is unwise for several reasons:
-Most of the book is based on church (not Biblical) teachings, which are only really emphasized inside certain denominations. The virtue/vice lists and the trinity concept - these are frameworks that have been placed on the practice of religion, more of a way of talking about morality than anything else. While they have a longstanding tradition within one end of the spectrum, they are absent in others. Lewis claims to defend the main concepts, but I'm not sure what he picked is what I would have picked, having come from a different background within the same religion.
-The narrow view of Christianity continues in his pronouncement that "anyone who professes to teach Christian doctrine" will tell you to use all three - baptism, belief, and "Holy Communion." In practice only belief seems to be central to all denominations.
-Lewis is a product of his time. He claims refusing to fight in war is a sin, calls homosexuality a perversion, and jokes about why anyone would ever want a woman as a decision maker.
-Lewis has a meandering way towards most of his conclusions. One minute he's talking about letters in envelopes and then he's saying, "See, this proves God exists." Some of the time I followed him and others I felt he was being deliberately obtuse.
-Several times Lewis says "you might think x but let me explain to you why you are incorrect." I should have just stopped there. The great irony is that he will go on to show why he thinks pride is the worst sin. :)...more
A great capture of the first scholarly expedition into the region of the Dani people of New Guinea in 1961, with full color photography, ethnographicA great capture of the first scholarly expedition into the region of the Dani people of New Guinea in 1961, with full color photography, ethnographic study, and a host of important scholars involved. Includes photos by Michael Rockefeller prior to his death. How interesting to witness a "stone age" war between tribes (their words, not mine) alongside sweet potato farming, funerals and rituals, and daily infrastructure building. The primary author, Robert Gardner, also made the documentary "Dead Birds" from his filming and research there, ...more
Michael Rockefeller traveled with a group of researchers to New Guinea, where he took photos and recorded audio of the Dani people. Some of his photosMichael Rockefeller traveled with a group of researchers to New Guinea, where he took photos and recorded audio of the Dani people. Some of his photos and recordings were used in the works of Robert Gardner and Peter Matthiessen. This is all before he traveled back on an additional trip to collect more "primitive" art, and died. I think it's amazing that we can revisit New Guinea through his eyes, that all his work wasn't lost. ...more
This is a "true story" of two penpals that end up with a longterm friendship, with the American's family helping the Zimbabwean finish school. I didn'This is a "true story" of two penpals that end up with a longterm friendship, with the American's family helping the Zimbabwean finish school. I didn't realize while reading that it was a true story, and found the writing a bit basic. I'd expect that from the letters (which by the way do not sound like the children writing them) but not from the narrative. Also something doesn't quite sit well with me, despite doing a little poking around and seeing that the two penpals are alive and well, several years past where the book ends. But there are a few details omitted that seem important and make me wonder if the entire things is completely true. Just a gut instinct thing. But I'm a little skeptical after having that same feeling with Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time and not being mollified for a few years.
Okay, I'll spell out my skepticism in a series of questions.
-In a random Pennsylvania town, how would just one student end up with a penpal in Zimbabwe? Usually school-based penpal programs are reciprocal and structured. You don't normally declare "I shall find a penpal in [name exotic country.]" -If one Zimbabwean student, with no internet or tv or phone, has an American penpal, why don't the others? How did this happen? So many other questions relate to my confusion over this point. -Why would a penpal program exist for people who can't afford stamps or paper? How would it have even started? Who made the contact? Where did the people who made the connection go when the Zimbabwean economy collapsed, because the family doesn't seem to have any support or backup or other American connections? -How did any cash make it through international mail? I've had things stolen in the American postal system and that's supposed to be more secure. -A highschool pizza waitress gets paid an actual wage ($9/hour) AND can make up to $300/night in tips? I have never met a server who made an actual wage. And who tips like that for pizza? -Why does a girl whose family buys a car for each child and vacations in Europe need to work, especially during the school year?
I have other questions but that's a pretty decent list to demonstrate why this doesn't read as a "true story" exactly. Of course this is an advanced copy. Perhaps some of these details will be fleshed out in the final version. I also read this between 4 and 7 am, thanks to my geriatric dog's crazy schedule, so it is possible I missed the answer to one of these, but I doubt I missed it all....more
It was an interesting experience to reread this book, because I remembered nothing about the plot or characters, just the world itself.
In the introducIt was an interesting experience to reread this book, because I remembered nothing about the plot or characters, just the world itself.
In the introduction the CBS Radio production of Brave New World in the mid 1950s, Aldous Huxley (serving as narrator) indicates that he meant the book as a warning about what would happen with our society if we continued on the path of consumerism and technological advance to the detriment of our humanity. He uses the term "negative utopia," and twenty years after the publication thought he had overestimated the number of years it would take us to get there - the novel was set 800 years into the future, and 20 years later, he decided it may be more like 200. He is very stern in this recording, a prophet of warning.
I think this time around I was struck most by the debate about happiness. Is happiness truly the greatest pursuit? Or should it not be the "first thing?" (subtle C.S. Lewis reference, booyah)
In the world of BNW:
"You can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma."
Conditioned to only want what you can have, and if that's not enough, a mood-altering drug to balance you out. That's the world of BNW, until it is disrupted by John the Savage and a few Alpha males who long for things their society is not set up for - one desires isolation and one desires poetry.
Women are resigned to "engaging" with men on a regular basis, pregnancy is simulated to cheer them up, birth control is something they are conditioned to do, and marriage and other long term relationships are considered pornographic. The greatest compliment a man can pay a woman is to say she is "pneumatic." But if this is a negative utopia, perhaps Huxley knew that increasing the number of castes, and keeping women from the top, would only be a part of the calm but controlling world he feared.
I wish Huxley would have written a novel set on one of the islands where the outliers are sent. It seems like the conversations and advancement of ideas in those places would have been more interesting than the rinse-repeat-condition universe of The World State. ...more
Incredible true story about a master spy who had a tremendous impact on operations in British, American, and Soviet intelligence. Graham Greene, JohnIncredible true story about a master spy who had a tremendous impact on operations in British, American, and Soviet intelligence. Graham Greene, John Le Carre, and Ian Fleming all knew him personally, and surely he inspired something in their future spy novels. This is a story that's been told before, this man is a legend, but the author is able to dig deeper into declassified documents and notes Le Carre took from Eliot decades earlier.
I listened to the audio read by John Lee who has such an old fashioned voice. It worked for this book....more