It's difficult to recount in this space everything good and bad about an anthology such as this, so I'm going with essays I found interesting and/or u...moreIt's difficult to recount in this space everything good and bad about an anthology such as this, so I'm going with essays I found interesting and/or useful: - a rediscovered piece by James Agee on the 1943 Detroit race riots - Jared Diamond's "The Last Americans," which seems to be a starting point for his book "Collapse." - "The Unreal Thing" by Adam Gopnik, which is both a review of the Matrix films and an examination of the philosophical issues they raised. - Laura Hillenbrand's amazing account of her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the effort it took to write her first book, "Seabiscuit." - "Yarn" by Kyoko Mori, a mix of histories about knitting. - Susan Orlean's "Lifelike," a personal report from the 2003 World Taxidermy Championship. - Oliver Sack's "The Mind's Eye," which looks at blindness and how the brain adapts to it. - Janna Malamud Smith's meditation on her father in "My Father is a Book." - a previously unpublished essay by Tennessee Williams, "Amor Perdida."(less)
The stories are a mix of classic and obscure scary stories. But the scariest parts about this omnibus--something that scared me to near death the firs...moreThe stories are a mix of classic and obscure scary stories. But the scariest parts about this omnibus--something that scared me to near death the first time I read these books when they were first published--are the drawings. After seeing them, it is hard to forget them. They will haunt you, almost literally. That said, they are perfect for any wayward child in your care...(less)
Due to a combined misfortune of timing and circumstance, I have not been to the Paris that Liebling describes in "Between Meals." Given that this was...moreDue to a combined misfortune of timing and circumstance, I have not been to the Paris that Liebling describes in "Between Meals." Given that this was Liebling's last book before his death in 1963, I suspect that the Paris contained within this slender book were no more than so many remembered meals by the time this was published. Regardless, Liebling's Paris recalls a time when people savored their food and drink. (Then again, this was also when our traditional notions of men and women dominated and civil rights in America were not at a high point.)
However, as the title implies, the meals were secondary to the people who toiled to create them and the company they provided to those who appreciated good food. The meals, which are sumptuously described, are nothing more than catalysts for Liebling to recall his Paris and its inhabitants.
Liebling's writing exemplifies the New Yorker magazine's style: literary in tone, knowledgeable without sounding too snobbish, rich with the right details, humorous and opinionated without being unseemly. Few writers and journalists nowadays can write like this and not sound pretentious. Even though "Between Meals" represents its time and an era that no longer existed, it continues to serve as a classic food memoir by which other food memoirs should be judged. Well worth reading.(less)
Overall, an excellent collection. Highlights by order of appearance:
Gretel Ehrlich's "The Endless Hunt" - about her experiences on the ice with her Gr...moreOverall, an excellent collection. Highlights by order of appearance:
Gretel Ehrlich's "The Endless Hunt" - about her experiences on the ice with her Greenland Inuit friends as they hunt for food. Harrowing stories. Anthony Lane's "The Maria Problem" - A review of the "Singalong-a-Sound-of-Music" event along with an "appreciation" of the movie musical. Rian Malan's "In the Jungle" - amazing in-depth investigation that uncovers one of pop music's great mysteries and tragedies. Robert Kurson's "My Favorite Teacher" - Kurson tries to grapple with the fact that his high school biology teacher and role model is a serial sex offender convicted of murdering a teenage hitchhiker. David Foster Wallace's "The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub" - a dense yet incisive look at the 2000 McCain presidential campaign and what it means to be a journalist covering it, what it means to be a potential voter caught in it. A stark contrast to his 2008 campaign. Malcolm Gladwell's "The Pitchman" - a profile that is as engaging as its subject, Ron Popeil. William Langewiesche's "The Million-Dollar Nose" - another profile, but accordingly, of a different flavor that is no less interesting than Popeil. This one is on the influential American wine critic, Robert Parker. Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Ghost" - an amazing look at Hank Williams III and his struggles to deal with his grandfather and father's legacy while marking his own path as a musician. Lewis H. Lapham's "Stupor Mundi" - a wonderful essay on Patrick O'Brian, author of the "Master & Commander" series. This can induce anyone to seek out O'Brian's work. Donna Tartt's "The Glory of J.F. Powers" - a critical essay/review that coincides with the reprint of Powers' stories, which had a decidedly unromantic view of priests and the Catholic church.
Also worth reading for certain aspects: Bill Vaughn's "Skating Backwards" - a humorous chronicle of Vaughn's efforts to transform a patch of polluted swamp into a cozy, clean pond. Sean Flynn's "The Perfect Fire" - a tragic tale of a warehouse fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters. Anne Fadiman's "Mail" - a personal essay on handwritten letters just as email began to take over people's lives via AOL. Robert Olen Butler's "Fair Warning" - a short story about a young female auctioneer who can sell anything yet cannot find love. Donald L. Barrett and James B. Steele's "Big Money & Politics," "Soaked by Congress," Throwing the Game" - a series of articles that examines how campaign finance and lobbying efforts prove detrimental to the average US citizen. Jonathan Gold's "Paris on the Hudson" - a fun review of New York's Pastis restaurant. James Wolcott's "Forever Young" - a critical appreciation for the work and legacy of the singer and entertainer, Bobby Darin.(less)
Notable essays: Wallace's introduction, which could've served as a notable essay for the 2008 edition Ian Buruma's "The Freedom to Offend" Mark Danner's...moreNotable essays: Wallace's introduction, which could've served as a notable essay for the 2008 edition Ian Buruma's "The Freedom to Offend" Mark Danner's well crafted "Iraq: The War on Imagination" George Gessert's "An Orgy of Power" Malcolm Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw" Mark Greif's "Afternoon of the Sex Children," which was strong until its flagging end Garret Keizer's "Loaded" John Lahr's "Petrified" Louis Menand's "Name That Tone," which has a good ending Elaine Scarry's philosophical "Rules of Engagement" Roger Scruton's "A Carnivore's Credo," which ends with a sharp sense of humor Peter Singer's "What Should a Billionaire Give — and What Should You?" has some harsh facts Jerald Walker's "Dragon Slayers" Edward O. Wilson's "Apocalypse Now" is a great empathetic plea on behalf of science, religion and environmentalism(less)
Great satire of the American landscape that still holds true today to some extent. Stephenson does a great job of pulling together threads of mytholog...moreGreat satire of the American landscape that still holds true today to some extent. Stephenson does a great job of pulling together threads of mythology, religion, politics, bureaucracy, and satire to create a futuristic (at the time) vision of the U.S. I'm surprised at how much of what he has described — avatars, virtual worlds, hackers as heroes — have resonance today. He makes a great connection between Sumerian myth and the virtual world. The story is a little hampered at times whenever he switches viewpoints or has to go into exposition about religion, but overall, this is a surprisingly brisk read.(less)
Odd to read this a decade after its publication. We have lived through the effects of many companies, commercial and nonprofit, that have consciously...moreOdd to read this a decade after its publication. We have lived through the effects of many companies, commercial and nonprofit, that have consciously employed many of his ideas over the past decade. Is the world a better place because of it? Hard to say. But at least we have been given a tantalizing explanation for why certain phenomena happen the way they happen.
It's easy to see why Gladwell's book proved to be so influential not only in business but also in fields as diverse as the people and topics he discusses. "The Tipping Point" features some of the best nonfiction writing I've read — concise, lucid, complex. Can't wait to read the critical reaction to this book.(less)
More like 3.5 stars. Though the writing is light, there is a surprising density to the ideas presented in Lanier's book that I find myself somewhat il...moreMore like 3.5 stars. Though the writing is light, there is a surprising density to the ideas presented in Lanier's book that I find myself somewhat ill-equipped for. I'll have to mull over it for some time.(less)
What does it mean to be a person in the "land of the free" when each and every one of us are bound by the relationships we find ourselves in, regardle...moreWhat does it mean to be a person in the "land of the free" when each and every one of us are bound by the relationships we find ourselves in, regardless of whether or not we want to be in them? What does it mean to be "free" in a world that, despite or because of, our global connectedness to whatever abstract or concrete degree that we can see and feel it, doesn't allow us to be truly alone to experience utter freedom? Can we find some redemption and solace in knowing that just as we are free to make mistakes, we are equally free to correct them? These types of questions were popping in my mind as I read "Freedom." Franzen attempts to put into a novel a definitive account of not only one family's saga and but also the national generational sensibilities that seeped throughout the U.S. of the 2000s. He succeeds in weaving together the thoughts and actions of his characters with objective and acute observations about them in a way reminiscent of voice-overs in nature documentaries. Patty's early life in the beginning of "Freedom" was a slog to get through and it was jarring initially to read her memoirs in the third person, but it laid the foundation for her dealings with her family and friends later on. Reading the travails of the Berglunds in "Freedom" felt as messy, fascinating, and complicated as hearing the latest life news from a close friend or family member.(less)
"Zero History" wraps up the story that began in "Pattern Recognition" with many of the same characters popping up, including a surprise cameo. "Zero H...more"Zero History" wraps up the story that began in "Pattern Recognition" with many of the same characters popping up, including a surprise cameo. "Zero History" still feels unusual in that Gibson is dealing with the present that looks like a new future made from discarded or overlooked pieces of the past. After dealing with so much physical and consumer culture, Gibson looks at how his protagonists, namely Hollis and Milgrim, find themselves and their humanity in this complex world where people like Bigend try to maneuver themselves to supersede the nation-state. (Great MacGuffin toward the end.) Where does the future go from here?(less)
Good basic reference on the different US Supreme Courts and its justices. Clear explanations of how the court operates. This is for someone who hasn't...moreGood basic reference on the different US Supreme Courts and its justices. Clear explanations of how the court operates. This is for someone who hasn't studied law, political or legal history in depth.(less)