While Helen Fischer's categorization of people's personalities into four types based on neurotransmitters and hormones is interesting, it ul...moreIt's okay—
While Helen Fischer's categorization of people's personalities into four types based on neurotransmitters and hormones is interesting, it ultimately succumbs to simplification, though to her credit she does admit the complexity of personalities by qualifying her statements and presenting other factors influencing your personality. The simplification, however, works sometimes (though I'm not sure if it's just theory-induced blindness coupled with confirmation bias), and you realize there are people out there who seem to be more prone to one type than the others. Besides, it's kind of fun to look at your behaviors based on your biochemistry (while keeping in mind the complexity of the subject at hand).
One complaint I have about this book is that the first half is engaging and informative—characterization of each type and their dating style—and then the second half sort of becomes a bunch of generic "dating tips" that weren't all that informative or illuminating. I for one was curious how some people can be in love after 20 years of marriage, how you can retain the flame, etc., but she touches on the subject tantalizingly and doesn't answer it, saying the important thing is to find the ideal match your personality type calls for.
This book came highly recommended in Kahneman's book, and it is a very useful book. The concept of "choice architecture" is for one thing illumin...moreGood—
This book came highly recommended in Kahneman's book, and it is a very useful book. The concept of "choice architecture" is for one thing illuminating and useful in creating/engineering any environment, and the little mnemonic in the book pretty much captures the entire book: iNcentive, Understand mapping/translating, Defaults, Get feedback, Expect errors, and Structure the environment. (less)
After being blown away by his Savage Detectives I didn't hesitate to get his final book and magnum opus, and I was not disappointed. It's an u...moreAmazing—
After being blown away by his Savage Detectives I didn't hesitate to get his final book and magnum opus, and I was not disappointed. It's an unconventional novel essentially consisting of five novellas that are loosely linked together and end in the fictional city of Santa Teresa in Mexico by the US-Mexico border. It's unconventional in a variety of ways, but one of the prominent ways is the narrative mode: the entire thing is told from an omniscient point of view, a little distant, but poetic and delightfully loquacious, but at the same time not the kind of voice the readers of contemporary American fiction—so entrenched in scenes and minimal psychic distance—are not used to and might find "hard to get into." Worse yet, the longest part that comprises Part 4 takes a rather avant-garde turn in which dozens and dozens of murdered women are described in the rather dry, repetitive style of police reports (though held together by a cast of characters that keeps cropping up), and the tediousness of the accounts might make someone who's in for a purely entertaining read and who've miraculously managed to make this far, throw the book against the book in utter frustration and possibly fury.
This is not a book for pure entertainment, though it offers quite a bit of narrative entertainment imo. It's a book chock-full of resonant images and weirdly charming situations and a delightful prose that stretches and contracts at will, according to the content much like Faulkner's (but a lot clearer and more comprehensible). It's a book about sex and murder and insanity and literature, it's a book about strange characters with strange thoughts, about stories that brush against one another but not quite merge, about bits and pieces of poetry that seem to float but in fact constitute parts of the whole. And if you can't enjoy them without asking anything monumental in return—if you can't sit back and just enjoy the process of reading those seemingly disparate but oddly resonant and unifying but sprawling narratives—then this is not a book for you.
It's been a while when I felt sad for finishing a long book. No matter how good and famous a given novel is, I always feel restless and I'm looking forward to reading the next book on the ever growing list of books to read. But this time, I was sad to finish it—the novel's world felt so comfortable to me that I wanted to keep staying there. The strange thing is it wasn't the sensation of enchantment I get from reading a really good narrative, but something deeper and more completely immersive, or as a good friend of mine put it, it felt like "being immersed in another being." And more than anything, like The Savage Detectives, the book showed me what the novel as an art form is capable of, and I can't be grateful enough that I came across Bolano's works at the exact time I myself am working on a sprawling novel.
I didn't really like it. At first. For the first 100 pages or so, I didn't know why this book received so many rave reviews, and th...moreGreat Performance--
I didn't really like it. At first. For the first 100 pages or so, I didn't know why this book received so many rave reviews, and then came the second part, and I was frustrated, annoyed, and wanted to put the book down, but then around page 200, I go used to it, the disparate narratives told from so many different characters grew on me, and I was actually enjoying them, really enjoying them. The ability to conjure up 40 different narrators in 40 different voices (though I suspect they're flattened by the translation—translation always does that) and lives with all their troubles and happinesses and urgency was simply impressive. More importantly, though, I was blown away by the novel's cohesion and admirable performance in spite of, or because of, the polyphonic messiness of it all, the novel's very imperfection. It made me think differently about fiction, especially contemporary American fiction, and I'm grateful for it.
Slog through those first 200 pages, and it's definitely worth it. (less)
The collection starts out strong with the title story, at 78 pages with a very Munro-like ending where nothing seems to be resolved but you fee...moreSOLID--
The collection starts out strong with the title story, at 78 pages with a very Munro-like ending where nothing seems to be resolved but you feel strangely satisfied (but then if you go back to the beginning, all the necessary parts are there, they just need to be assembled by the reader). Then there are some stories that blend together in my mind—"Jakarta" and "Cortes Island" in particular—but from "Save the Reaper" (a homage to Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"), the collection wallops you relentlessly with one good story after another, and then finishes you off with "My Mother's Dream," which begins with—God forbid—a dream, basically breaking one of the fundamental "rules" of fiction writing, but being Alice Munro, she pulls it off and creates a voice so distinct from the rest of the stories that at times I wasn't sure I was reading an Alice Munro story.
Though Open Secrets remains my favorite collection so far, you really can't go wrong with any Alice Munro collection.(less)
The first time I opened this book during the summer, I couldn't really get into it, but having picked it up and forged o...moreNietzsche + Bullying + Poetry—
The first time I opened this book during the summer, I couldn't really get into it, but having picked it up and forged on through the rather conventional and humdrum beginning (a letter comes to the protagonist who is being bullied, from another victim of bullying), I slowly got into the rhythm of her prose—it gets better and better (she might have been testing the waters toward the beginning, as the prose felt choppy and awkward). Her prose is full of fresh description and imagery, her main characters—especially Kojima—are delightfully fleshed out, and the story is engaging. Though I was doubtful at first how much I could stand the helplessly passive protagonist, but Kawakami manages to pull it off. I wasn't sure how I felt about the rather surreal and slightly unrealistic confrontation scene between the protagonist and one of the bullies, but their philosophical/ethical/moral argument reminded me of Doestoevsky in technique and Nietzsche in content (or well, it's pretty much straight out of The Genealogy of Morals, and I wished she could've done a little more in this department). It was, however, cool to see a contemporary writer tackling an important moral question in such an openly philosophical way in fiction a la Dostoevsky and the effect was at once quaint and refreshing. The climax, though risky in its potential for melodrama (sort of like Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"), was well executed and was simply excellent.
Alice Munro just does not miss her steps. Her stories aren't ornate, or savvy, or especially lyrical, but nonetheless they f...moreAnother solid collection–-
Alice Munro just does not miss her steps. Her stories aren't ornate, or savvy, or especially lyrical, but nonetheless they feel real and true, so much so that I have moments of deja vu, remembering my own experiences. They resonate. And, more importantly, they are engaging. Again and again, I marvel at her ability to cover so much ground in the frame of a short story and pack a lifetime into it (especially the last story in this collection, "Powers").
It's quite a novel: clocking in at 281 pages in the edition I read, this covers much more than what 281 pages usually covers—the history, th...moreWonderful—
It's quite a novel: clocking in at 281 pages in the edition I read, this covers much more than what 281 pages usually covers—the history, the family saga, the depth of characters, the richness of the setting are all here, delivered in a precise, beautiful prose. You come to inhabit these people on Cape Breton, breathe their culture, appreciate their customs and beliefs, and love them. You'll laugh at the jokes of Grandpa, you'll be touched by the dogs and by the strong family tie, and you'll weep, heartbroken, at the end.
Though everyone talks almost identically, in the formal, precise, yet lyrical language of the protagonist, it still worked to impart the dialogue and the texture of the story as a whole with a foreignness, maybe even a mythical quality, which is fitting for a story that explores history, folklore, and memory.
This is not a plot-driven novel. This is not for people who'd like a quick read. It's a story that works more like a poem in that it's driven by imagery, by disparate memories that are not always told linearly, but associatively. Once you get used to the pace and nature of the novel, you'll be able to relish every moment with the Clan Calum Ruadh.
I really did. Ever since I read her "How to be an Other Woman," I've been meaning to read more of her stories, and now th...moreI really wanted to like this—
I really did. Ever since I read her "How to be an Other Woman," I've been meaning to read more of her stories, and now that I got this collection with anticipation and excitement, I was a bit let down. Actually I was disappointed, bewildered. There are some gems here, to be sure, some funny moments and poignant insights, but many of the stories included in this collection didn't do it for me—they were completely and sadly forgettable.
But I kept trudging through one story after another, fighting the urge to put it down and move onto something else, but thankfully, the last three stories saved this collection for me: "Real Estate" (entertaining), "People Like That Are the Only People Here..." (sad and poignant in the only way a story can in a postmodern, irony-filled landscape of American fiction), and of course, "Terrific Mother," which is just a gorgeous read all around in terms of humor and the starkness of the experience.
But was it worth it? Was the entire collection worth it for those three gems?
I don't know, but I'm at least glad there were gems in here that I could appreciate.
Less solid a collection than Open Secrets, but still...
Really good, especially the title story, "Apples and Oranges," "Goodness and Mercy," and of cou...moreLess solid a collection than Open Secrets, but still...
Really good, especially the title story, "Apples and Oranges," "Goodness and Mercy," and of course "Differently"—which I think exists on a higher plane than the other stories in the collection. Regardless, in every story there's this moment, subtle and yet familiar because you recognize it—not epiphany but a kind of revelation, the way Chekhov's stories reveal human nature. Hemingway probably would've called it "truth," and it is—an emotional truth.
Not for everyone, though. If you're looking for characters you can *like* or stories that entertain you and nothing else, go elsewhere; but if you love subtle stories that reveal human nature, if you appreciate gorgeous prose, if you want literature, you should read Munro.
I have to admit I didn't quite *get* some of the stories (e.g. the title story) and had to reread some to understand them (and still not 100%...moreSo good.
I have to admit I didn't quite *get* some of the stories (e.g. the title story) and had to reread some to understand them (and still not 100% sure if I really understood them). But the stories here go deeper than the mere intellectual/cerebral level and challenge the reader to appreciate them at another level—metaphorical, associative, poetic even. In stories like "Carried Away," "The Albanian Virgin," "Spaceships Have Landed," and "Vandals," Munro proves herself to be a real master of the short story (or the "long" short story): she bends the "rules" of the form every which way, twisting them and breaking them and molding them as she sees fit, and the result is exhilarating; she shows what's possible with the form. As a writer, this collection was a treasure trove of possibilities.
As a reader, too, the stories were solid. Subtle. Engaging. Not the kind of stories where you say you can't put it down. No. It's a kind of book that grows on you. Many stories don't start out with a bang, they end in a perplexing fashion, and they might not provide the sort of excitement other types of fiction might provide, but still. These are not "potato chip" stories that you can wolf down and keep wolfing down, but rich confectionery that must be eaten slowly and savored, over a cup of tea so strong it's black.
It took MacLeod a total of twenty years to finish the sixteen stories contained in this wonderful collection, and it shows....moreExquisite, rich, evocative—
It took MacLeod a total of twenty years to finish the sixteen stories contained in this wonderful collection, and it shows. The prose is exquisitely wrought, with a formal but comforting lilt reminiscent of Faulkner and McCarthy in a way, and the stories—almost all of them—are extremely well-conceived and crafted. MacLeod doesn't rush, though; he doesn't just give you the quick excitement, the easy high, but feeds it to you slowly, as sumptuous meals ought to be fed, and it's well worth the effort to read, say, 15 pages of exposition or page after page of family history or the daily life of a farmer. He slowly immerses you into the world of Cape Breton Island, and it's in a way like reading Joyce's Dubliners—you get to know the inhabitants—miners, fishermen, farmers, and others—as well as the desolate and beautiful setting from inside out.
Some of my favorites include "The Golden Gift of Grey" (heart-warming), "In the Fall" (the little boy—simply majestic), "The Road to Rankin's Point" (heartbreaking), "The Closing Down of Summer" (philosophical and evocative), "Winter Dog" (again, heartbreaking), "The Tuning of Perfection" (heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time), and "Vision" (complex, richly layered).
If you like lyrical prose and being slowly immersed into a world, this is a book to read.(less)