Written by a physicist for an educated but popular audience, Gino Segre accomplishes a great feet by discussing the conferences, personalities, intellWritten by a physicist for an educated but popular audience, Gino Segre accomplishes a great feet by discussing the conferences, personalities, intellects, arguments, and development in Copenhagen of modern quantum mechanical theory. “Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, emerged in 1925-26 only after a long buildup. Its details evolved over time, and its meaning continued to be debated for years. Unlike relativity, it was the work of many who struggled together, often arguing with one another as they hammered out the theory’s conclusions. Its final version, the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, was contested even by some of the creators of the revolution. The questioning has not ceased.” In this way, the development of this theory resembles most of the innovations since, resulting from collaboration from a diverse set of people to achieve a remarkable result. Segre writes “in the ongoing struggle to make sense of our lives, we sometimes have moments when pieces from a distant past realign themselves and a previously unnoticed pattern emerges. Nothing has changed except perhaps the angle from which we look at those events, but the new vista suggests another meaning or even a connection of which we were previously unaware.” In this way, physics is philosophy, and vice versa.
The stories of the people and their personalities are truly fascinating. It is truly remarkable how the contributions of Lise Meitner have not been fully appreciated, as well as the degree to which her commitment was tested by the prohibition of women in her field. “Beginning in Berlin was even harder for Meitner than for Hahn, because Fischer’s Chemical Institute was off-limits to women. After negotiations, a compromise was reached whereby Meitner could use a basement carpenter’s room that had a separate entrance to the street, but she was not allowed to go upstairs into the institute, even to Hahn’s laboratory. If she had to use a bathroom, she needed to walk to a nearby restaurant. When the Rutherfords spent a few days in Berlin on their way back to Manchester after the 1908 Nobel Prize ceremonies, the men talked in Hahn’s laboratory while Meitner went shopping with Mary Rutherford. Meitner was also unpaid, which meant continuing to live in a furnished room on an allowance from her parents. But with the exciting work propelling her forward, she extended her stay in Berlin well beyond what either she or her parents had originally envisioned.” I want to learn more about John von Neumann, who was a true universal genius as one of the century’s great mathematicians, developed economic game theory, and developed the first digital computer, in addition to his contributions to quantum theory.
Segre devotes much attention to Einstein, Bohr, and Pauli, as would be expected. Einstein’s protestations are well documented throughout this history. “When Einstein talked of the Old One, he wasn’t invoking a traditional divinity. His god was the god of Spinoza, the god of order in the universe. The notion that the observer necessarily affects the results of experiments was unacceptable to him. And yet he could not convince those who thought otherwise that his view was correct.”
There is a wonderful exchange on Einstein’s protests to the Solvay conference proposals. Einstein had turned his focus away from quantum mechanics and instead was pursuing a unification of gravitation and electromagnetism. Pauli wished Einstein’s efforts a speedy death because he thought they were doomed to failure. In the conference, he proposed a thought experiment as a challenge to the Copenhagen interpretation that involved a box of particles and a clock, with a shutter that would open and let one particle out at a time and then the box would be weighed. In the uncertainty principle, it would be impossible to exactly measure the particle’s energy. Bohr, however, after an evening’s thought, showed that Einstein had neglected to take into account the slight movement in the earth’s gravitational field, and therefore proved that there was indeed a small uncertainty in the determination of mass an energy. Einstein ultimately conceded that he lost this battle, but not the war. The Bohr, Heisenberg, and Pauli argument won out against the lingering doubts of some physicists in 1927.
This is a highly readable history of physics, and as well collaboration between men and women of towering intellect. ...more
Flaubert’s retelling of the temptation of St. Antony is an unexpected, strange, wonderful dramatic prose poem. I do not know of many other examples ofFlaubert’s retelling of the temptation of St. Antony is an unexpected, strange, wonderful dramatic prose poem. I do not know of many other examples of dramatic prose poems of historical religious fiction. It is as if Flaubert strove to combine all possible genres into one.
The work itself centers around St. Antony, the 3rd century desert follow who was the subject of St. Athanasius hagiography, which is one of the foundational post-biblical texts of western theology. Flaubert starts by roughly sketching Antony as the character familiar to religious readers.
Antony: Man, being spirit, must withdraw from mortal things. All action degrades him. I could wish no to be attached to the earth – not even by the soles of my feet!
Soon, however, Flaubert diverges from the character portrayed by Athanasius, in that he isn’t writing the text to make a central theological point. Flaubert’s Antony is used as a model to debate philosophical and religious issues currently debated in Flaubert’s time. He has Hilarion represent two points that directly represent more modern attitudes:
“Efforts to understand God are superior to your mortifications aimed at moving him. Our merit lies only in our thirst for the True. Religion alone cannot explain everything; and the solution of those problems which you won’t recognise can make it higher and more unassailable. Therefore one must, for one’s own good, communicate with one’s brothers – otherwise the Church, the congregation of the faithful, would be nothing but a word – and one must listen to every reason, despising nothing and nobody.” “My kingdom has the dimensions of the universe; and my desire knows no bounds. I go on forever, freeing the spirit, weighing up worlds, without hate, without fear, without pity, without love and without God. I am called Science.”
Ultimately, the devil stops disguising himself and represents himself directly to Antony. In an argument that has never made theological sense, the devil argues against a God because evil persists, therefore he does not exist, is powerless to stop it, or doesn’t care. The existence of the devil seems a sufficient proof against these points logically, but nonetheless it is a motif frequently portrayed in literature. After Antony declares that there must be a heaven for goodness and a hell for evil, the devil replies: Do the demands of your reason legislate for things? God is no doubt indifferent to evil since the earth is thick with it! Is it through impotence that he tolerates it, or through cruelty that he conserves it? Do you imagine him to be constantly readjusting the world like an imperfect masterpiece, and watching over every creature’s every movement, from the butterfly’s flight to the mind of man? If he created the universe, his providence is superfluous. If Providence exists, creation is defective. But good and evil concern only you – like day and night, or pleasure and pain, or birth and death, which are relative to a corner of extension, to a special milieu, to a particular interest. Since the infinite alone is permanent, there is the Infine – and that’s all!”
Finally, Antony resists the temptations and fully comes to his senses. He is victories, and states, “It was yet again the Devil, and in his double guise: the spirit of fornication and the spirit of destruction. Neither of the two can terrify me. I reject happiness, and I feel eternal.”
Flaubert’s take on St. Antony is original in both form and attitude. It is highly lyrical, and anticipates some of the hallucinatory literary fiction of the late 20th century. Flaubert was ahead of his time. ...more
Written as a book of reflection on half a century after taking up his priestly vocation, this book by Pope John Paul II is very personal. In it he talWritten as a book of reflection on half a century after taking up his priestly vocation, this book by Pope John Paul II is very personal. In it he talks about how he came to be a priest, and what shaped him as an individual. He lost his father at a young age and fate decreed that he be born in Poland leading up to WWII. As such he witnessed first hand evil pressures all around, all of which were dehumanizing. “The two totalitarian systems which tragically marked our century—Nazism on the one hand, marked by the horrors of war and the concentration camps, and communism on the other, with its regime of oppression and terror—I cam to know, so to speak, from within. And so it is easy to understand my deep concern for the dignity of every human person and the need to respect human rights…” (67) It is easy to understand this indeed, and it is important to understand the first hand experience of all survivors of these regimes. I’m worried that, as their memory recedes into history, we will forget or be desensitized to their cruelty and end up allowing similar regimes to creep back.
He traces his early years as a seminarian, his intellectual and spiritual influences, and ultimately his rise to the papacy. He discusses his theory of priesthood, and many of the mysteries of the Roman Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II was always a man of work. “I became a Bishop twelve years after my priestly ordination: a good part of these fifty years has been marked by this care for vocations. A Bishop’s joy is great when the Lord gives vocations to his Church, while their absence causes him anxiety and concern. The Lord Jesus compared this concern to that of the reaper: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt 9:37).” (98)
With a little hindsight, it is easy to get a clearer picture of the impact of Pope John Paul II. He was a major force for change in the world, and took it upon himself and the Church to resist the forces of Totalitarianism everywhere. He did not advocate violence, he resisted it. He also never backed down from proclaiming the truth, and calling people to their spiritual calling. He was clearly conservative as well, and as such there are a group of people who emphasize his rejection of many progressive policies. His purpose in this book is not to argue these points, but merely to explain how he got to where he was. This is an interesting book. ...more
This play is a classic of Japanese Noh theatre from the early 1500’s. In it, the Rishi, who has overcome the dragons and guards them in a cave withinThis play is a classic of Japanese Noh theatre from the early 1500’s. In it, the Rishi, who has overcome the dragons and guards them in a cave within the mountain, becomes tempted by a noble lady of Benares. She was sent to him because the kingdom was suffering under his curse a drought. The Rishi cannot resist himself, and in-so-doing loses his magical hold. The dragon rumbles, and the rain falls.
Much of this play is lost on me, I must confess. ...more
This 13th century Chinese opera is a classic comedy of Chinese literature. The story is a comedy of errors, in which a scholar traveling to become a cThis 13th century Chinese opera is a classic comedy of Chinese literature. The story is a comedy of errors, in which a scholar traveling to become a civil servant stops for a room at a temple and becomes infatuated with a young woman who is there to perform funeral rites for her father. Her mother has promised her in marriage to another, and of course it is a better financial match for her. However, the man is entirely romantic, and lures her with his beautiful poetry. A great example is the following (I prefer the translation of Henry Wells, included below): Chang: Every step she takes moves my affections; All the motions of her body please; She has a thousand wiles and subtl charms, Like willows swaying in an evening breeze.
She treads on fallen petals with noiseless step; Their rose-sweet, aromatic scents diffuse Heaven’s own perfume, while the dust itself Is rich from the light pressure of her shoes.
Even without the glances of her eyes Her gait reveals the secrets of her heart. Slowly she walks, reaches her door at last And, smiling, seems reluctant to depart. She turns to look at me and with her eyes Confers on me a glimpse of Paradise.
Now she is gone, the door behind her shut, Her silence richer to me than all words, I only see the willows blurred by mist And hear the muted chirping of the birds. Ultimately, the comedy and romantic comedy come down to the woman’s choice of partner. Will she give in to maternal demands and family commitments, or will she give in to passion? ...more
This play is based on the legend of King Udayana and Vasavadatta. Udayana has been told that Vasavadatta was killed in a fire, and his sorrow has beenThis play is based on the legend of King Udayana and Vasavadatta. Udayana has been told that Vasavadatta was killed in a fire, and his sorrow has been deeply felt. His kingdom is invaded and he needs an alliance with Magadha to save it. His Chief Minister, Yaugandharayana, has arranged that Udayana will remarry with Padmavati, sister to the King of Magadha, to cement the alliance.
It is the Chief Minister that spread the report that Vasavadatta perrieshed in the fire. Vasavadatta conceals her true identity, and attaches herself to the future wife. She renounces her happiness for the sake of the kingdom, and in doing so becomes the noble and perfect stereotype of a woman of nobility. She overhears Udayana clearly articulate his undying devotion to his deceased Vasavadatta, and this grants her great consolation. In a dream sequence Udayana believes he sees the actual Vasavadatta, and ultimately all is restored to happiness. ...more
The Nonexistent Knight is a story about Agilulf, an empty suit of armor, who is valiant and fights on Charlemagne’s behalf. At first, the story is quiThe Nonexistent Knight is a story about Agilulf, an empty suit of armor, who is valiant and fights on Charlemagne’s behalf. At first, the story is quite puzzling. What would the purpose be in creating a hero without a body? Charlemagne himself is puzzled. In response to Charlemagne’s question on how Agilulf does his job without existing, he responds, “By will power and faith in our holy cause!”
The story is told by a nun, and relates her experience. Agilulf’s honor is challenged, which throws into question the validity of his knighthood. He embarks on a quest to confirm that a women he believes he saved from rape was in fact a chaste virgin, and that he was not duped. I will avoid spoiling the final revelation. This story brings into question the nature and honesty of storytelling, and the basis of nobility and honor. Do we all play the roles expected of us in our suit of armor, or do we have inherent honor and substance within? ...more
The Cloven Viscount is a fable/fantasy novella that explores the interplay of good and evil in human nature. In the middle ages, a Spanish knight is sThe Cloven Viscount is a fable/fantasy novella that explores the interplay of good and evil in human nature. In the middle ages, a Spanish knight is split in half by a Turkish cannonball. The battlefield surgeons attempt to save this noble young man. “They sewed, kneaded, stuck; who knows what they were up to. The fact is that next day my uncle opened his only eye, his half mouth, dilated his single nostril and breathed. The strong Terralba constitution had pulled him through. Now he was alive and half a man.”
When he survived, he returned to his home in Terralba. Quickly, the hapless people of his lands learned that the half man that returned was pure evil. He was cruel, and took pleasure in his cruelty. He would appear without warning, and inflict pain on all around him. “If only I could halve every whole thing like this,” said my uncle, lying face down on the rocks, stroking the convulsive half of an octopus, “so that everyone could escape from his obtuse and ignorant wholeness. I was whole and all things were natural and confused to me, stupid as the air; I thought I was seeing all and it was only the outside rind. If you ever become a half of yourself, and I hope you do for your own sake, my boy, you’ll understand things beyond the common intelligence of brains that are whole. You’ll have lost half of yourself and of the world, but the remaining half will be a thousand times deeper and more precious. And you too would find yourself wanting everything to be halved like yourself, because beauty and knowledge and justice only exists in what has been cut to shreds.”
Soon, however, another half man appeared, who looked just like the Viscount. This man was purely good and selfless. People were incredibly confused at first, thinking that the Viscount was sometimes good and sometimes evil. However, it quickly became apparent that this new man was the other half. The two contend for the hand of a woman. “Thus the days went by at Terralba, and our sensibilities became numbed, since we felt ourselves lost between an evil and a virtue equally inhuman.” Ultimately, they are forced to duel for her hand.
In the end, to save their lives they are forced to be joined again. “So my uncle Medardo became a whole man again, neither good nor bad, but a mixture of goodness and badness, that is, apparently not dissimilar to what he had been before the halving. But having had the experience of both halves each on its own, he was bound to be wise. He had a happy life, many children and a just rule. Our life too changed for the better. Some might expect that with the Viscount entire again, a period of marvelous happiness would open, but obviously a whole Viscount is not enough to make all the world whole.” What does this fable teach us about human nature? We are none of us purely good or evil, and if we were we would be ignoring a critical part of our existence. Knowledge of these parts of ourselves is required for wisdom, and wisdom is required for happiness. This is an excellent novella. ...more
Rainer Maria Rilke is one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century, and if anything his fame and influence have increased with time. He reprRainer Maria Rilke is one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century, and if anything his fame and influence have increased with time. He represented a change in thought - Rilke parted ways with the Romantic tradition in the form of Schiller and Keats. For Rilke, the search for beauty “dwells and is awake in each thing,” and the search for beauty opposed the purpose of art, which was to find integrity, honesty, and truth. This collection of previously untranslated correspondence shows his philosophy of life developing and elaborating over time, and provides keen insight into Rilke’s mind.
The high points of this collection read like extraordinary wisdom on everyday life. Some very quotable statements are as following:
“Wishes are memories coming from our future!” (10)
“We lead our lives so poorly because we arrive in the present always unprepared, incapable, and too distracted for everything.” (12)
“You have to live life to the limit, not according to each day but according to its depth. One does not have to do what comes next if one feels a greater affinity with that which happens later, at a remove, even in a remote distance. One may dream while others are saviors if these dreams are more real to oneself than reality and more necessary than bread. In a word: one ought to turn the most extreme possibility inside oneself into the measure for one’s life, for our life is vast and can accommodate as much future as we are able to carry.” (14)
“Fame is nothing but the sum of all the misunderstandings that cluster around a new name…Wherever a human achievement becomes truly great, it seeks to hide its face in the lap of general, nameless greatness.” (53)
“To have a childhood means to live a thousand lives before the one.” (69)
“Nothing makes it more difficult to help than the intention of doing so.” (179)
There is, however, a darker side as well, and it is just as revealing. Rilke was heartless about his decision to prioritize his writing and intellectual life over that of his wife and child. He wrote, “I have to find the strength to lift life in its entirety and including everything into calmness, into solitude, into the quiet of profound days of labor.” It is instructive to remember that, no matter how insightful and wise, or how beautiful is his writing, he himself made choices that I would consider incorrect, amoral, unloving, and unwise. On the subject of marriage, he wrote in guarded fashion that “No one would dream of expecting a single individual to be ‘happy’—once someone is married, however, everyone is very astonished when he is not happy!” (36) “Above all marriage is a new task and a new seriousness—a new challenge and a question regarding the strength and kindness of each participant and a new great danger for both.” (36) We have a connotation of Rilke that he, despite his search for truth, was at his heart a Romantic. This collection dispels that myth entirely. He was always suspicious of permanent human relationships. “It is contrary to nature to part with books with which one agrees, just as it is important in the same case not to hold on to people for too long.”(130) For Rilke, the search for truth was an independent quest in the life of the mind. Human relationships were a means to that end, but should persist only so long as they do not distract.
With this in mind, the context of Rilke the artist becomes clearer. “Art is directed against nature: it is the most passionate inversion of the world, the return path from infinity where all honest things now face us. There, on this path, they can now be seen in their entirety, their faces come closer and their movements become more distinct—but who are we to be allowed to proceed in this direction facing them all, to carry out this eternal reversal that deceives them by making them believe that we had already arrived somewhere, at some destination, and that now we can leisurely retrace our steps?” (52)
Rare is the book that challenges the reader to assess their own morality. Rilke’s grace with language, his opinionated style, and his clarity of thought all combine in this volume. It truly is a great collection of thoughts. ...more
I always find it interesting to read with the benefit of passed time those writings labeled, current affairs. Anyone who predicts the future is boundI always find it interesting to read with the benefit of passed time those writings labeled, current affairs. Anyone who predicts the future is bound to be wrong a large percentage of the time. This does not excuse such incorrect forecasts, but it does speak to our expectations of experts and talking heads. We expect them to nearly always be right. When the topic is politically charged, and cross-cultural morality is at play, we revel and dance on the graves of failed prognostication. It is with this in mind that I read this collection of hawkish writings by Victor Davis Hanson – a scholar of classical military history – regarding the events of the early Bush administration.
Most Americans would agree that 9/11 exposed terrorists for what they are – murderers and thugs. “Islamic fundamentalism has proved not ascendant but static, morally repugnant—and the worst plague upon the Arab world since the Crusades. By lurking in the shadows and killing incrementally through stealth, the vampirish terrorists garnered bribes and subsidies through threats and bombs; but, pale and wrinkled in the daylight after 9/11, they prove only ghoulish, not fearsome.” (3) However, Hanson clearly misunderstands that American understanding is not necessarily world understanding. “And the ultimate consequence of the attacks of September 11 will not merely be the destruction of al Qaeda but also complete repudiation of the Taliban, the Iranian mullocracy, the plague of the Pakistani madrasahs, and any other would-be fundamentalist paradise on earth.” (4) Clearly this is incorrect. The Taliban is resurgent. Al Qaeda has survived rather than thrived, but its amoral disciples have grown in power in the ashes of Bush/Obama policy in the Middle East. Why is this the case?
Hanson attributes, in general, the lack of success in the Middle East to the absence of democratic institutions. “True, the so-called masses of the Middle East have grounds for redress—who wouldn’t without elections, free speech, sexual equality, religious tolerance, or the rule of law? But their want arises largely from self-created failures and runs the gamut of tribalism, corruption, fanaticism, and frequent apartheid of women and non-Muslims—not a lack of dollars and euros. The depressing ruins that are now a large part of Kabul, Beirut, and Cairo, or the moral black holes of Teheran, Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad were the dividends of indigenous Middle Eastern genius, not of outside Western machinations. Promoting democracy, not handing out food, practicing appeasement, or tolerating suicide bombing, will do far more for the disenfranchised on the West Bank. Instead in the therapeutic thinking of Senator Murray war arises only from material need. Thus, lend a helping hand and offer a few billion, and—presto!—logically millions should love us. Stalin’s ruined postwar Russia, however, did not appreciate American forbearance in Eastern Europe or offers of billions of dollars in Marshall Plan money. Just as likely, it saw such conciliatory outreach as either stupidity or weakness—if not the laxity of a Western power overly worried about its own sense of morality.” (17) I would tend to agree that money will not on its own solve the problem of extremism. While poverty may provide fertile ground for the disenfranchised to be swayed my hate mongers and terrorists, I do not think it is the root cause. It remains to be seen, however, whether democracy on its own solves the problem. There are many instances of democracies who still have terrorists in their midst. Any minority, if their rights are not respected, could resort to violence. So to are many examples where impurely democratic countries have been able to establish peaceful cultures and productive peoples – Singapore being a great example. Forcing a country to eliminate corruption, establish democratic institutions, control the period of transition to such institutions – these are some of the principles of the Marshall Plan. It was highly successful. It also required a lasting commitment supported by the world, as well as the American people and government. These things have never been present in either the Bush or Obama administrations.
Who is to blame? Hanson, in true American fashion, blames ourselves. This is also and American tradition. As a conservative, he blames liberal thinking and institutions. “There is a postmodern amorality afloat—the dividend of years of an American educational system in which historical ignorance, cultural relativism, and well-intentioned theory, in place of cold facts, has reigned. We see the sad results everywhere in the current discussions of the Middle East and our own war on terror.” (23) I agree that there is a postmodern amorality afloat. I think it is highly over-simplistic to blame ourselves, and to blame our educational system and members of the Democratic party. A valid criticism does not equate to a root cause.
Ultimately, as we watch the Taliban continue to reassert control in Afghanistan, and we watch ISIS grow in both Syria and Iraq while Egypt continues to founder in the chaos after the Arab spring, Hanson’s neo-conservative predictions have proven false. “Taking on all at once Germany, Japan, and Italy—diverse enemies all—did not require the weeding out of all the fascists and their supporters in Mexico, Argentina, Eastern Europe, and the Arab world. Instead, those in jackboots and armbands worldwide quietly stowed all their emblems away as organized fascism died on the vine once the roots were torn out in Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo. So, too, will the terrorists, once their sanctuaries and capital shrivel up—as is happening as we speak.” (206) Maybe there was a chance of success, and the Bush and/or Obama administrations blew that chance. Maybe there was never really a chance of success with the initial approach undertaken by the Bush administration. I would suspect that Hanson, in retrospect, would criticize the early withdrawal of troops from Iraq. There is likely merit in this criticism. There is also merit in the criticism that the Bush administration never had a plan for the peace, and its hawkish policy towards the states of Syria and Iran weren’t likely to succeed. ...more
Grass, in this drama, uses an ingenious ploy to discuss the workers uprising in East Germany in 1959. The Boss, thinly veiled as Bertolt Brecht, is moGrass, in this drama, uses an ingenious ploy to discuss the workers uprising in East Germany in 1959. The Boss, thinly veiled as Bertolt Brecht, is modifying Shakespeare’s Coriolanus to support communist rhetoric. Coriolanus deals with a peasant uprising, and so it is a natural fit for such a play. The east German workers were protesting an increase in their norms of production by 10 percent. The workers appeal to Brecht to support them, in fact they seem assured at first that he’ll do so. He remarks early, however, “No plan, no logic. You can’t make a revolution with feeling.” In Shakespeare’s play, the plebeians search for support of their uprising against the Roman patricians. In Germany, the workers continue to appeal to the Boss. “Great bastions are seldom taken at the first try.”
Unfortunately, while Brecht may have been sympathetic, he is practical and realizes that revolutions and protest depend on timing. In his estimation, the timing for this workers protest is not right and has little chance of success. In fact it did not, as the Soviets rolled in tanks and brutally ended the protest. Brecht dismisses the protesters as “the brainwashed mob, demanding freedom.” In the end he pens a letter supporting the party, and not the workers.
What starts as an ideal scaffolding for a play within a play, Coriolanus is not well developed within the story. Brecht’s character is also puzzlingly depicted, momentarily showing enthusiasm but in the end manifesting a cold and calculated response.
This is a great play by a great writer, that could have gone beyond its final form. ...more
Hoban’s Riddley Walker is a serious literary work of post-apocalyptic literature. It is incredibly difficult to read, and I must admit that my intelleHoban’s Riddley Walker is a serious literary work of post-apocalyptic literature. It is incredibly difficult to read, and I must admit that my intellectual appreciation for Hoban’s accomplishment far outweighs my actual enjoyment of the novel.
The action centers around Riddley Walker. He lives in a world that has been destroyed, and only the carcass of previous civilization survives. The world has forgotten much of its knowledge, and only the oral traditions of storytellers appear to have survived. There are hucksters and thugs aplenty, and Riddley Walker must navigate this world without losing hope in his future. Those in power travel around the country pushing propaganda on the people. Only 12 himself, he must take over for his father as a sort of trader. He becomes aware of efforts to recover by those in authority the relics and secrets of power that existed before humanity was wrecked.
Having read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, it is clear that he borrowed heavily from Hoban for one of his story sequences. He has influenced countless science fiction and fantasy writers as well, demonstrating that it is critically acceptable to invent without any explanation a new vernacular, and expect the reader to learn it through context. It is this achievement which deserves our respect as readers…I just didn’t enjoy it. ...more
I received this book as a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.
Interestingly, I didn’t actually get this book for myself. I’m a casual soccer fan, only becaI received this book as a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.
Interestingly, I didn’t actually get this book for myself. I’m a casual soccer fan, only because my son is. Ibrahimovic is his favorite player, and has his jersey. I only knew the rough facts and accomplishments of this superstar. I did not expect much from his autobiography.
I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how forthright and interesting the book truly is. Zlatan Ibrahimovic grew up in circumstances that I cannot relate to. His parents left their war-torn home, and became immigrants in a rough section of Sweden. He grew up different. Essentially, all his friends were thugs, and he was too. He also became enthralled with soccer tricks, and practiced them relentlessly. Both his attitude and his skills set him apart from the other kids in the Swedish soccer programs. He never fit in, and it disturbed him. He was completely naïve, and was taken advantage of by those he was supposed to trust. Those people were also different from him. Ultimately, his talent was undeniable, however.
His career was turned around when he met an agent named Mino. Mino had a similar background, and the same thuggish tendencies. He would also tell Zlatan the truth about what he needed to do to attain his goals. He became a lifelong friend and confidant, and Ibrahimovic gives him a great deal of credit. He talks about his various coaches, and why he fit in some places and not others. His career was transformed by a few coaches, the first being at Juventus. “Step by step, I became who I am today, the one who comes out of a loss so seething with rage that nobody dares come near, and sure, that can seem negative. I frighten a lot of younger players. I yell and make noise. I have outbursts of rage. I’ve retained that attitude since Juventus and, just like Capello, I stopped caring about who people were. They could be called Zambrotta or Nedved, but if they didn’t give their all at practice, they’d hear about it. Capello didn’t just knock Ajax out of me. He made me into a guy who comes to a club and expects to win the league, no matter what, and that’s helped me a lot, no doubt about it. It transformed me as a soccer player.” (182) Later, he is also highly complimentary of Jose Mourinho.
What makes Ibrahimovic so successful is this attitude that he is responsible for his own destiny, and others are against him. There are very few teammates like Maxwell that he has nothing but praise for. He is flashy, and unapologetic for his love of flashy cars or the mistakes he has made.
The prose itself is as you would expect it to me. It reads as if he is dictating his life story, only organized a bit better by his editor. He is fairly insightful about himself and his shortcomings. He knows what has made him great, and who has helped him. After reading his book, he’s now my favorite player too. ...more
The Long March is one of William Styron’s masterpieces. It is a perfect indictment of the psychological impact of the military on people. Mannix, a MaThe Long March is one of William Styron’s masterpieces. It is a perfect indictment of the psychological impact of the military on people. Mannix, a Marine captain, sets himself in a training exercise against his superior officer, Colonel Templeton. Mannix believes that Templeton’s motives are punitive and idiotic. He also believes that Templeton is a hypocrite who will not subject himself to the hardships of his men in the training exercise – a long, hot, ridiculously long march.
Mannix cannot let himself admit that he has been beaten. “The old atavism that clutched them, the voice that commanded, once again, you will. How stupid to think they had ever made their own philosophy; it was as puny as a house of straw, and at this moment—by the noise in their brains of those words, you will—it was being blasted to the winds like dust. They were as helpless as children. Another war, and years beyond reckoning, had violated their minds irrevocably. For six years they had slept a cataleptic sleep, dreaming blissfully of peace, awakened in horror to find that, after all, they were only marines, responding anew to the old commands. They were marines.” The question is why? This novel is a darkly comic tragedy. One can see easily that this scenario has repeated itself many times over. That Templeton turns out to be an honorable representation of a Colonel and Mannix is incorrect only makes it that much more tragic. Mannix no longer needed the military in his life, but he still was not capable of leaving it behind. This is a great book. ...more