This is pretty much a grammar and style book for computer programming. I bought the original version, which is about 20 years old and uses older langu...moreThis is pretty much a grammar and style book for computer programming. I bought the original version, which is about 20 years old and uses older languages such as C, Pascal, Fortran, Basic, and Ada, but the fundamental ideas of simplifying nested loops, separating complicated routines into smaller ones, etc. are still relevant. McConnell writes very clearly, as you'd expect in a book that's all about writing (code) clearly. Code Complete is great until it gets boring. The sleep-inducing chapters on software project management near the end confirmed that I'm not terribly interested in the practical aspects of programming.(less)
Witty observations, brilliant writing. Sometime in the second half of the book, however, Barbara Covett becomes altogether too creepy and too much. On...moreWitty observations, brilliant writing. Sometime in the second half of the book, however, Barbara Covett becomes altogether too creepy and too much. Once I was taken out of her character, I was taken out of the entire story. Still, highly recommended.(less)
Three years ago this might have been right up my alley, but now it just didn't really affect me. I liked Senna's "sophomore slump" Symptomatic a lot...moreThree years ago this might have been right up my alley, but now it just didn't really affect me. I liked Senna's "sophomore slump" Symptomatic a lot more-- it tackles similar issues in a more exciting and unique plot. Here, there are too many long passages of nothing really happening but white people making racist jokes about black people...after a while I was like, OK I get it, people are horrible when they think they're alone. Obviously. I know I am.
Caucasia is really, in the end, too much about race and not enough about Birdie and Cole. The characters were all very bland and stereotypical (yes, including the white radical mother, who came off as crazy and unnecessarily profane throughout the entire book). The plot was predictable. And frankly I didn't see anything particularly novel in the way the issues played out.(less)
I don't know much about number theory, but I can recognize great writing when I see it, and trust me, this is great. Simon Singh ties together seeming...moreI don't know much about number theory, but I can recognize great writing when I see it, and trust me, this is great. Simon Singh ties together seemingly tangential topics (Alan Turing's contribution during World War Two, string theory, Hilbert's Hotel!, etc.) into a coherent, riveting story. It's sort of like the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture in literary form.
While this far outstrips the little book on the same subject that I read a month or so ago (Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem), I encourage reading both of them. This book said a lot more, but it didn't, for instance, eulogize Carl Friedrich Gauss or vilify Augstin Louis Cauchy. Perhaps this shows that Singh stayed on-topic (even when he didn't) and was less enthusiastic about giving in to historical rumors. Even still, you won't learn that Gauss corrected his uncle's ledger calculations at the age of three from reading this book alone.
But this book, more than the little book and the great documentary (which Singh directed in his other life as a BBC producer), showed me that math is beautiful. It isn't the plug-and-chug nonsense that dominates the school curriculum, which made me loathe math (with the exception of geometry and maybe calculus) for most of my life. No, it's geometry proofs, but even better. It's the most abstract, pure subject ever and I can almost understand why Andrew Wiles willingly locked himself up for seven years in pursuit of this elusive proof.(less)
All I have to say (actually I have a lot more to say than just this) is that there's a reason Alain Robbe-Grillet's vision of the "New Novel" didn't c...moreAll I have to say (actually I have a lot more to say than just this) is that there's a reason Alain Robbe-Grillet's vision of the "New Novel" didn't catch on. Characters, plot, and language in these two novellas earn a very solid 1/5 stars. I only consider this 2/5 overall because of the somewhat interesting risks taken, particularly in Jealousy.
Jealousy has an absent narrator. The deletion of the self-centered I/me/my/we/our that dominates traditional first-person narrative creates a hole in the story. Ultimately, this hole seeks to draw the reader in, enabling a greater identification with the man we never see whose wife may or may not be cheating on him with their neighbor who may or may not visit much too often. Counter-intuitive, yes. It almost works. Robbe-Grillet repeats scenes over and over again in slightly different words, which could have been very powerful if he had any sort of voice.
Which brings me back to my overall impression of his work. Objects figure largely in both Jealousy and Into the Labyrinth, but without the influence of human definitions, traditions, and assumptions. This is his chief innovation. So, as one of the introductory essays explains, where other writers would describe a few slices of ham as part of someone's dinner, Robbe-Grillet would take these objects outside of the human point of view. "Three slices of ham lying in the center of a plate, three inches from the right edge and two from the left" or some such laborious nonsense. It makes for very dry, uninspired writing with way too many details. I do not care about your banana plantation that is twenty feet, twenty-two feet, twenty-five feet, black and white and boring as hell all over. These stories sound compelling. Whoever wrote the summaries on the back -- great job with that. But Robbe-Grillet has to find the most insipid ways of executing them.
Why do people even bother to write exclusively to showcase a philosophy and pass off the resulting jumble of words as a story? That's an essay. It might be fiction (i.e. did not actually happen as far as anyone knows), but it's still an essay. Stories (at least in my perhaps not-so-educated opinion) should provide some entertainment.
Unshielded philosophy leaves itself vulnerable to attack. So, while it is interesting for a story to create meaning for objects through the sense of sight alone, Robbe-Grillet still uses human language to describe these objects. And whose sense of sight is this anyway? Humans', of course. And why would humans bother stop evaluating objects beyond what they see? Why would they take things out of context? Humans understand the world around them by contextualizing objects. So, if these objects aren't actually supposed to be filtered through the human understanding -- if they exist independently of human experience -- then how are they being communicated to readers (who are most likely human beings)? Basic communication requires an understanding of language, which, last I checked, doesn't rely on sight. What's the point? Hell if I know. Neither the two stories nor the three introductory essays could answer that question for me.
Oh, wait. Maybe the reader is supposed to take up the role of contextualizing these objects. Okay. Sorry, Robbe-Grillet, but I have absolutely no desire to be one of your characters (can I even call them that??).
I'm a literary snob, but I don't have enough pretentiousness in me to even pretend to like this guy. Just because something is inaccessible does not mean it is ingenious or even remotely intelligent. Sometimes it's just clunky and unstylish to the point of torture. I can understand why Robbe-Grillet despised traditional fiction. I've seen this before, many times, with bad works of "art" that people only like because they mystify the general public:
* "Yeah, we can't make music that actually sounds good, so let's just make emo synthetic noises that people will think are really deep and cool" - Radiohead * "Yeah, I can't write worth a damn, but maybe I'll convince people I'm a down-to-earth genius if I write a story about abortion without using the words abortion, babies, hospitals, etc." - Ernest Hemingway ("Hills Like White Elephants") * "Yeah, I don't have the chops to write anything engaging, so I'll fool people into believing that my total lack of style is the the second coming of Jesus--uh, I mean the Novel" - Alain Robbe-Grillet
Now, I am all for experimentation. But please master the basics first. And if your experiments fail, admit it. Don't keep at it and pretend you're worth anyone's time.
This book did make me think a little bit. So two stars for that. However, if I couldn't appreciate structural risks I would have stopped at page ten. Maybe earlier. Also, the two stars are only for Jealousy. In the Labyrinth is complete one-star drivel.(less)
One of my (many) obsessions. Five years ago this book told me I was an INTP, and I was skeptical. I did not think four letters could sum an entire per...moreOne of my (many) obsessions. Five years ago this book told me I was an INTP, and I was skeptical. I did not think four letters could sum an entire personality. Little did I know...they could and did! (Sort of.) Then I found out that skepticism is a typical INTP trait. Keirsey is also an INTP! So is (probably definitely) Thomas Pynchon! I've probably taken at least 30 variants of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator since, and while the one provided in this book isn't the best, the profiles are top-notch. The clear, straightforward text fixed many of my misconceptions about the four personality temperaments. Now I can type anyone, anywhere, anytime! (Just kidding. Or not. Be warned: if you see me while I have this book I may accidentally-on-purpose steer the conversation toward types and not-so-subtly force the test on you. It doesn't mean I'm particularly interested in you as a person, in a creepy way that is; I'm merely trying to gather as much data as possible to test out the theory.) Apparently it is a bit NT-biased, but hey, as an NT, I really don't mind that. This book would have been even better had it included extensive overviews of Jung's cognitive functions and Enneagram theory, but then it would have been the size of a small dinosaur. I mean, dictionary.(less)
This book is told entirely in present tense, which is a dangerous choice unless you're a very good writer. Fortunately, Judith Guest is a very good wr...moreThis book is told entirely in present tense, which is a dangerous choice unless you're a very good writer. Fortunately, Judith Guest is a very good writer. She gets right into Calvin and Conrad Jarrett's troubled minds (the wife/mother, Beth, remains elusive). It's also an easy, light read. Unfortunately, the story itself is just too depressing, and there were many aspects of the Jarretts' lives that piqued my curiosity but were never developed beyond a few spare references here and there.(less)
Can I say I've read this book? I've definitely LOOKED at it. Anyway, it's cool. There are even people (or at least one person) who is "like" me in thi...moreCan I say I've read this book? I've definitely LOOKED at it. Anyway, it's cool. There are even people (or at least one person) who is "like" me in this book which surprised me because I'm not a hapa in the modern sense.(less)