I liked the premise of the book and liked the subtle way it brought up some deep questions, but felt the execution was pretty flawed. It made for chop...moreI liked the premise of the book and liked the subtle way it brought up some deep questions, but felt the execution was pretty flawed. It made for choppy and uneven reading out loud and a lot of the key moments in the book were flawed by awkward prose. I read it to Max, now 10 years old, and while he seemed to enjoy it enough, it wasn't nearly as big of a hit as other books we've read together.(less)
This was an accidental read. I ordered a used book on Amazon and this came instead. Not one to waste an opportunity to read a free book before I have...moreThis was an accidental read. I ordered a used book on Amazon and this came instead. Not one to waste an opportunity to read a free book before I have to send it back, I spent a couple hours reading it. It's decent. Bennion touches on some tough issues for Mormons and ways he, as a self-proclaimed liberal in a mostly conservative church, felt about them. It's thoughtful and sometimes even illuminating. Overall though the organization was a little haphazard and many of the ideas of the book were pretty familiar to me already. (less)
I just didn't get this book. Some of that, I'm sure, comes from the fact that I read it in Spanish, and while I like to tell myself that I speak excel...moreI just didn't get this book. Some of that, I'm sure, comes from the fact that I read it in Spanish, and while I like to tell myself that I speak excellent Spanish, reality would probably wound my ego, so I'm going to ignore that and focus on the book itself.
The plot--it moves so fast you feel like you're a dog with your head out the window of a car on a Utah freeway, the only ones where you can go 80 legally. You're driving through the state and trying to take in everything you see but it's just moving by so fast and your tongue, which you normally never have any problem keeping nice and wet, is somehow drying out in the wind and your eyes are flipping back and forth, grasping things that shine or glitter but not fast enough, you can just never quite get a good look at anything. What I mean by that, in case the metaphor missed, is that Every Sentence moves the plot forward and it is utterly exhausting.
The characters are flat and weird. They never change, are never motivated by anything other than their widely varying versions of human nature which they are born and die with and never evolve.
A lot of the time it is hard to discern the magic from the realism. Neither are very convincing, making the magic less magical and the realism less real. I've read that the 100 Years was influenced by Faulkner and I believe that, but wow, the worst parts of Faulkner. It feels like it's all the confusion and it tries to capture all the types and symbolism but it lacks the beauty and the depth. Just when you are getting used to a character or, for that matter, a generation of characters, suddenly so much time has gone by that you're now dealing with a whole new group of people, a new war, new relationships and the only things that give the book any continuity at all are Macondo and Ursula and the family names which repeat and add to the confusion.
If you want magical realism, and I know this is blasphemous, especially for someone who minored in Spanish, I'd say read Salman Rushdie or, if you really want Spanish, Borges or Carlos Fuentes. They represent the genre better. Maybe my opinion will change after I revisit Cien Años in English sometime in the future, but for now I really don't have much of a desire to do that at least not for the next 100 years or so. Oh yes I did.(less)
Wow! What a story. I was warned by numerous reviews that it wouldn't be easy--it wasn't. My approach to it was to read the Wikipedia summary and get t...moreWow! What a story. I was warned by numerous reviews that it wouldn't be easy--it wasn't. My approach to it was to read the Wikipedia summary and get the basic plot along with all the characters straight in my head before diving in. It worked out pretty well. Faulkner gives away most of the plot within the first 20 pages which has the great upside of rendering spoilers impotent. Knowing the basic plot I felt like I could sit back and enjoy the tale without being paranoid that I was missing something crucial to understanding the rest of the book. And wow, it is a tale to savor.
Absalom Absalom! shows the inconsistencies, layers and complexities of the Civil War South as they should be portrayed--from multiple and personal perspectives. It is in no way the trite and axiomatic history of textbooks. There is pride, secrets and hidden motives. Love and war, murder, justice and redemption. The complexity of the story fits the time and subject perfectly.
The writing is as intricate and beautiful as the story. It often feels like Faulkner is purposefully obfuscating his sentences while as the same time superficially clarifying them by expanding pronouns. At times the language is so convoluted that it seems that Faulkner is parodying himself, parodying the English language. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, either way the book lands almost perfectly in my sweet spot. I love the South, paradoxes and all, I like thick, rich language--some of my favorites are Rushdie, Lowry, and McCarthy. I like long books and books that can be, or even need to be, re-read to be understood. I savor the moment when I'm reading a book and I realize that it's one of those books that if I was stranded on the proverbial desert island with just it, that I could find enjoyment in it for a long, long time. Absalom, Absalom! is all of that.(less)
This book is full of the type of psychology studies that make me really question the validity of psychology as a scientific discipline. There is surel...moreThis book is full of the type of psychology studies that make me really question the validity of psychology as a scientific discipline. There is surely something to the idea that decision making process is susceptible the bad influence of evolved mental heuristics, but I feel like that concept is stretched to the breaking point here.
Several of the studies in the book are found here http://psychfiledrawer.org/ in the "couldn't replicate" category which is, in case you're wondering, not a good place to be.(less)
This book should have been called Christianity: A Speculative History from a Somewhat Antagonistic Viewpoint. I only read the first 150 pages, plenty...moreThis book should have been called Christianity: A Speculative History from a Somewhat Antagonistic Viewpoint. I only read the first 150 pages, plenty far enough to understand how MacCulloch feels about Christianity. Most of the book is, by nature, extrapolation based on a very fragmented set of documents and conflicting histories, but MacCulloch is always overanxious to undermine Christianity by taking huge leaps of speculation and is never, at least that I saw in the first 150 pages, willing to remain neutral or actually go the other direction.
I found his writing style to be good and the idea for the book is fantastic. I'm fully prepared to deal with problems in history and with the faults of Christians throughout history, but I'm not willing to read a book by an author I feel I can't trust or have to constantly second guess. Because of that, the bits of information I gleaned are all mentally footnoted as being something to go back and verify from a less biased source.
Here are a few examples:
"Yet at the heart of the Egypt and Exodus story is something which no subsequent Israelite fantasist would have wished to make up, because it is an embarrassment: the hero and leader of the Exodus, the man presented as writing the Pentateuch itself, has a name which is not only non-Jewish but actually Egyptian: Moses." My response is that if the Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years is it so surprising and embarrassing that they'd eventually adopt Egyptian names? If the implication is that Moses was actually Egyptian, why doesn't MacCulloch just say that. It wouldn't be the longest logical jump he makes in the book.
Later, this is what MacCulloch concludes about the Beatitudes. "There is nothing gentle, meek or mild about the driving force behind these stabbing inversions of normal expectations. They form a code of life which is a chorus of love directed to the loveless or unlovable, of painful honesty expressing itself with embarrassing directness, of joyful rejection of any counsel suggesting careful self-regard or prudence. That, apparently, is what the Kingdom of God is like." Really? Only the most literalistic reading of such a poetic passage could lead to such an imbecilic interpretation. MacCulloch makes similar mistakes of interpretation of various other passages in the New Testament, notably in the Lord's Prayer and the command to "leave the dead to bury their dead."
When writing about the resurrected Christ (note, resurrected) he says, "He repeatedly appeared to those who had known him, in ways which confused and contradicted the laws of physics." Again, we are talking about a ressurected being. Why is physics even relevant?
When he refers to Paul and his desire to teach of salvation through Christ alone, MacCulloch phrases it this way: "Paul managed to find a proper in the Tanakh to sum up what he wanted to say:.." This comes across as incredibly condescending, to take for granted that Paul was just manipulating the Tanakh to justify his message. If MacCulloch had left out "managed to find" and replaced it with "found" it would have made all the difference. It is maybe a small infraction on its own, but it was, for me, the last straw.
In a way, I'm really disappointed to stop reading this. The parts of the book that talk about the origins of the Old Testament and the influence of Socrates and Aristotle on Christianity are great. The discussion of differing ideas of Satan, comparisons of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, ideas on prophecy and life after death in the Old Testament and the obsession with the virginity of Mary are all fascinating. For now though, I'm done. I don't have time to verify every reference and I don't trust MacCulloch to give it to me straight.(less)