The illustrations in this book make it look a lot cooler than it actually is. That is not to say it is a bad book. I stand my my #4 rating. I really l...moreThe illustrations in this book make it look a lot cooler than it actually is. That is not to say it is a bad book. I stand my my #4 rating. I really like it.
It is the story of a personified bat. The message is "There are may ways to be and all of them are good. If you keep being yourself then life tends to make a way for you."
Yes, "You can be anything you want" just like they say on the Disney Channel.
The illustrations show an albino bat and it makes reader want to read to find out what is going on. It is a little disappointing that such intriguing images are just an episode of "Blue's Clues".
Don't get me wrong, I like "Blue's Clues". It's just that those illustrations led me to expect something more. (less)
"His Dark Materials" is a highly imaginative trilogy. The people have animal familiars attached to them for life with an invisible metaphysical cord.
I...more"His Dark Materials" is a highly imaginative trilogy. The people have animal familiars attached to them for life with an invisible metaphysical cord.
It is a steam-punk world including a dirigible pilot.
There are creatures with a symbiotic relationship with a plant that they make hoops out of. The creatures travel in herds by rolling inside of the hoops. The hoops are so hard that the only way the pods can be broken out of them so they can reproduce is by being used as they are by the traveling creatures.
The heroine is a strong girl, child character that we see personal growth in throughout the series.(less)
This is Faulkner's first book and the one his publisher would only publish if it was cut down to a third of the submitted manuscript. The excised part...moreThis is Faulkner's first book and the one his publisher would only publish if it was cut down to a third of the submitted manuscript. The excised part became "Soldier's Pay." This is the full manuscript and it is difficult why anyone would want to tamper with perfection.(less)
This is more of a book to make you think about things than it being a book that will provide you with reliable facts. The argument of the book is that...moreThis is more of a book to make you think about things than it being a book that will provide you with reliable facts. The argument of the book is that we have genetic programming that is approximately a million years old that has helped our species to survive. That programming is causes disastrous behaviors for us during the past 10 thousand years since our social behaviors have changed. And it is even more true during the past 150 years of industrialization.
An example, food was scarce for the majority of human history. Our genes urge us to eat all food we can get our hands on as it is available because you don't know how long it will be before there is food again. We have the same urge but there is always food around us. The result is that the same urge that helped us to survive is now urging us to eat until it is killing us.
Another example, for most of the history of humans if you heard a story about something happening to someone then it was probably someone that you knew. In fact, if you heard of someone having good fortune then it was reasonable to believe that you could have the same good fortune because you didn't run into very many people in a life time. That same sense that you too can reasonably have good fortune is not true if you are expecting to win a jackpot lottery, or become an entertainer, or a sports figure.
The above is one example of the way that our senses of proportion are not accurate for the world we live in. That messed up sense of proportion results in things like math being really hard for us. The authors develop the theme of our poor sense of proportions and how it causes unproductive behaviors and poor decisions.
As I said, this is a book to make you think. It is not necessarily telling you the way things are. Either way it is a good read. (less)
I read this book upon Stephen King's recommendation in his book "Danse Macabre". He said it was an excellent book about obsession that is not for the...moreI read this book upon Stephen King's recommendation in his book "Danse Macabre". He said it was an excellent book about obsession that is not for the faint of heart.
I read it and agree. It is an excellent book of obsession. A thing I thought of last night is that the story is a lot like the movie "Ben-hur." (view spoiler)[It is the story of a pair of tight buddies who become murderous to each other throughout the novel. (hide spoiler)]
Not only is it a great story that gives a picture of turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco, it is an extended dramatic study of human human psychology showing how simple good-hardheartedness can turn to obsession and how love and goodwill can turn to hatred and murder. (less)
It amazes me to think that this book went essentially unread during Melville's life, after he had already experienced literary celebrity for earlier w...moreIt amazes me to think that this book went essentially unread during Melville's life, after he had already experienced literary celebrity for earlier works. It ought to have been the achievement to keep him warm and cared for during the remaining 35 years of his life. Instead, he went uncelebrated and nearly drank himself into insanity.
Moby-Dick had to be rediscovered during the first couple of decades of the 1900s.
The book has an odd structure. Melville alternated chapters containing information about whaling, with chapters telling the story. The point was that whaling is a universe of its own. He introduces the reader to that place as a universe while describing an event that occurred in it.
It takes a while for our hero Ishmael and his friend Queequeg to get aboard the ship. The long introduction gives the reader the sites and smells and cold of a whaler looking for a berth. It introduces us to characters who say odd things. All of these are great for the repeat reader, puzzling to the newbie.
Also, the hero and narrator is an outsider reporting what he saw during a voyage. It is not the story of what he did so much as him being a really good fly on the wall. Ishmael had been on merchant voyages before but never on a whaler. His friend Queequeg was a highly skilled harpooner, as were most of the rest of the crew. The captain, obviously, was also an old hand at whaling and invested in the world. I have to wonder if the passive and uninvested voice of the narrator contributed to its lack of success. We are taught to engage the reader by engaging the characters. The reader has always expected an ocean going story teller to relate his actions in pursuit of whatever his goal is, not to tell us about a really weird thing that he saw when he was working on a boat.
But, it is a weird story about characters who are larger than life who have pitted themselves against a creature with other-worldly qualities along with its monstrous bulk, intelligence and intention. The story has the qualities of an episode of the X-files at times.
Regardless of the publishing failure of Moby-Dick during its first 50 plus years we recognize it as the beginning of greatness in American letters. It is arguably even the greatest American novel ever written. This book should be read by anyone with the patience to brave the depths, to risk being left floating aloft, but if you preserver the reward is magnificent. (less)
Here is a companion from my undergraduate days. It is a little difficult but does a fantastic job of arguing why the question of whether or not the wo...moreHere is a companion from my undergraduate days. It is a little difficult but does a fantastic job of arguing why the question of whether or not the world exist independent of our sense experience of it is an important question. He does not argue for a solution. He presents the different possible strategies that are out there.(less)
"The Grifters" is my favorite Jim Thompson novel. This superably crafted book is character driven, provides a riveting plot, and gives us a rich pictu...more"The Grifters" is my favorite Jim Thompson novel. This superably crafted book is character driven, provides a riveting plot, and gives us a rich picture of the culture of con men (grifters) during the 1940s or 1950s.
It is another of those novels that is begging to be interpreted using "Being and Nothingness" as a guide.
Roy Dillon, Lilly Dillon, and Moira Langtry do not engage in Bad Faith regarding the con. Their work is to deceive and to take advantage of the greed and carelessness of others for their own profit. Yet, they are unblinkingly honest with themselves and with each other about who they are and what they do. The book provides dramatic examples of the permutations of Authenticity and Bad Faith as it is found in the work of Sartre.
(view spoiler)[On the other hand, their love lives are a fascinating tangle of Authenticity and Bad Faith. Roy and Lilly are definitely attracted to one another, despite being son and mother. Roy has an affair with Moira because she is so much like his mother. The relationship appears to be a release valve for the desires Roy hasn't dealt with concerning Lilly.
In fact, as shameless as Lilly is about everything it is almost a wonder that they were not a couple, despite all normal human and societal restraints. She does not get her way in this because Roy keeps a continual distance between them.
In the end Roy takes steps to give up the con and to embrace normal relationships in both love and professionally. In the middle of the novel Lilly wrecks his relationship with Carol Roberg when the affair moves toward becoming more than a tool for Lilly's use. At that point Roy begins to realize that he wants to be free of his mother's weird influence.
Moira is outraged when Roy refuses to become her partner in the long-con. She takes the refusal as a rejection of the influence she thought she had over him through their physical relationship. In her anger she becomes morally outraged by the sudden understanding of the nature of Roy's relationship with Lilly. She believes the worst about them.
Surly, Moira was engaged in Bad Faith by not understanding the nature of the relationship until there was no chance of Roy becoming her partner in the long-con, and once her influence over him was rejected. At that point moral outrage was better than understanding that she had lost in her bid for Roy. This incident in the novel is rich in capturing so many shades of Bad Faith. The way the theme is worked out throughout the novel makes it worth reading for that alone. (hide spoiler)]
It is the novel that "Nausea" should have been but isn't. Let me iterate. This is a well-crafted novel, worth reading just because it is a good story. Granted, the relationships are pretty weird. They are so far out there that if Thompson had gone out any further then it would have been an offensive book and I wouldn't be writing this review. As it is, I do not consider the book to be prurient or even dirty. I consider it to be a solid piece of modern American literature that is well-worth reading. (less)
Have just reread Heaney's translation of the wonderful old classic. Following is my previous review:
I am a fan of "Beowulf". I also believe there is a...moreHave just reread Heaney's translation of the wonderful old classic. Following is my previous review:
I am a fan of "Beowulf". I also believe there is a difference between what we think of as the action of the poem and what actually occurs. The following description of the epic "Beowulf" emphasizes that odd characteristic of this piece of world literature.
(view spoiler)[The narrator began his praise of the hero Beowulf by describing how great and beloved his father was. The story opened at the father's funeral where many trophies of his deeds and evidence of his wealth and power were displayed in the service.
Once the funeral was over there was a leadership opening among Beowulf's disheartened people. The young scion's first action was to outfit a crew to go to resolve a thing he heard a rumor about from a neighboring country.
The issue, in the other country, was that King Hrothgar celebrated his achievements by engaging in conspicuous consumption. He built the largest, most opulent mead hall that anyone had ever seen or heard of and had loud parties every night. This stirred the anger of --descendent of Cain-- the monster Grendel, into showing up at the parties and eating the guests.
Maybe Hrothgar was entitled to be inconsiderate toward his neighbor, but if he had just taken the hint when the trouble first started a lot of his own men would have been spared.
Of course, have mead hall, will party, so they partied on.
More warriors were devoured by the party crasher, and despite the fact that the hall was built to celebrate King Hrothgar's prowess it is also a fact that King Hrothgar needed a hero.
Enter Beowulf. He stiff-armed Grendel and that part of the story was over pretty quickly, which is odd because the villain we hear about is Grendel. The action that covers hundreds of lines is between Beowulf and Grendel's mother. She retrieved Grendel's arm and it took Beowulf 3 days to catch the craggy old she. He followed her into her lair and killed her with a blade he found in her home. This was not the most noble event in the history of chivalry, but Hrothgar rewarded Beowulf and sent him on his way.
Fifty years pass. Presumably Beowulf has had a successful reign. A dragon threatens his people and he is happy to go down in glory to protect them. All of that is well and good, but what about his fifty year reign? We don't get a single story from all of those years about the hero who is worthy of an epic song to celebrate him. That absence is as odd as the other underwhelming events previously described.
Don't get me wrong, I do get it. The narrator opened with a description of the funeral of the father in order to show that Beowulf is of noble linage. The young scion's first act as heir apparent is to take on a monster in another country to demonstrate that he is worthy to follow in his father's footsteps. And, in the end he gets a fabulous funeral, which is an expression of how much his people loved him. So, he must have done something notable during those fifty years. Still, it didn't make it into the celebration of his deeds. (hide spoiler)]
Tolkien single-handedly revived the ailing discipline of medieval studies with his inaugural address of one of his academic chairs. In the address he calls upon scholars to stop treating "Beowulf" and other medieval poetry as a dig to uncover artifacts of the past, and to start reading the texts as poems. That change in approach to the literature and the pleasure generations have gotten from Tolkien's popular writings have both contributed to our contemporary appreciation of "Beowulf".
While it is true that I have described the action of "Beowulf" in a less than reverent way I do enjoy the poem, and I also wonder why it was written the way it was.
Today we have the benefit of being able to enjoyment Heaney's beautiful translation of "Beowulf" into modern English. My guess is that he could tell us a great deal about why that poem has the story telling values that it has. Among its many virtues, his translation gives the reader the opportunity to experience something like the literature of another time with all of its monstrous and dragony glory.(less)
I have read this at least 13 times. My first time was in middle school during the 70s. My friends kept talking about "The Lord of the Rings" and "The...moreI have read this at least 13 times. My first time was in middle school during the 70s. My friends kept talking about "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" so I wanted to read them too. I loved "The Hobbit" and found "The Lord of the Rings" to be pretty stiff reading.
I pushed my way through it. It is one of those books that I gravitate back to even if the first reading was unsatisfactory. I read "The Hobbit" a lot of times in High School.
I think my break through reading was when I was an undergraduate in college. I had a course on Space Age Mythologies in the sociology department. We had one week to read "The Lord of the Rings". So I took advantage of the opportunity and spent those days reading in the library. I believe it was my 3rd reading. I had liked it before but that was when I started to love it.
Why do I love it? I don't know. It is unique and beautiful in so many ways and it is an imaginative space I like to be in. Also, it is a broad canvas to explore. Obviously, LOTR stands up to multiple readings, but with the Silmarillion and "The History of Middle-earth" there is the opportunity to explore and explore. I like reading Tolkien criticism. It interests me that the work stands up to that sort of examination as well.