If this book were by a writer i didn't know, or if i hadn't already read The Talented Mr Ripley, i'da given it four stars. It's certainly well written...moreIf this book were by a writer i didn't know, or if i hadn't already read The Talented Mr Ripley, i'da given it four stars. It's certainly well written. Highsmith has a wonderful way of building tension that leads to nothing (a Suspension Bridge to Nowhere, if you will). Even the most mundane actions seem sinister. She'll make a point of mentioning that a character left his door unlocked even though he was warned not to do so, and then when he returns to his room everything is fine. The book is full of moments like this.
Additionally, the homoerotic tension Highsmith builds between our straight protagonist and the gay man he befriends is done so offhandedly that i kept wanting to overlook it as too obvious. Her handling of this relationship comes as close to a knowing smirk as is possible without ever risking her complete detachment from her characters. Perhaps i was the one smirking.
Because the book is set in North Africa & is foremost a psychological study written in a detached manner i was constantly thinking of Paul Bowles while i read this, particularly Sheltering Sky. But the tension in Bowles' work is like an arrow flying inexorably in a precise arc toward disaster. Highsmith here takes obvious delight in leading the reader into blind alleys. Which is not to say that i didn't enjoy the tour.
Really, any complaints i have are due to my own expectations being defeated. But i do love a good anticlimax. And the book did stay in my head for a day or two after i finished it, which is also a sign of success. (less)
not only is the text adolescent but the illustrations in this edition are hideous. now my friends who like bataille will tell me all the clever psycho...morenot only is the text adolescent but the illustrations in this edition are hideous. now my friends who like bataille will tell me all the clever psychology i missed. phooey. he writes like a teenager. maybe a college senior at best.(less)
I picked up Endless Universe mainly because I wanted to read something about recent cosmological theory, especially dark matter and dark energy. The b...moreI picked up Endless Universe mainly because I wanted to read something about recent cosmological theory, especially dark matter and dark energy. The book provides all that and then goes further by postulating a more controversial model than the inflationary one currently in favor.
In a recent phone conversation, I mentioned this book and its authors' ideas to a friend of mine who writes about astronomy for a major scientific magazine, and I could hear her rolling her eyes. Suffice it to say, the model put forth in Endless Universe is not widely accepted by the scientific community.
I have no problem with the inflationary model's premise that the universe will expand forever until it is so diffuse that it is, for all practical purposes, empty. What I find hard to believe is that 'everything' just popped into being one day. From where? One might as well believe in creation theory.
Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, physicists at Princeton and Cambridge Universities respectively, have an alternative. The idea, in a nutshell, is that rather than one big bang out of nowhere/nowhen, why couldn't there be a never-ending series of bangs and contractions? This is called the cyclic model and in itself is not a new idea. In the past, the cyclic model was soundly trounced by everything from evidence that the expansion of the universe is speeding up with no end in sight to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. To deal with all this they introduce the multiverse, the idea that there are other universes along other dimensions which exert a gravitational effect on ours that could act to reverse the inflationary effect of dark energy. The bangs themselves are actually our universe whacking into the universe next door from time to time.
The book does a great job of presenting things simply, but the midsection does get a bit difficult for layfolk. ('Challenging' is the word the authors use.) In order to explain what they're explaining they throw in basic primers on string theory and quantum mechanics. I was able to plow through all that with only the sketchiest idea of what they meant, and it was enough. Some simple drawings were helpful.
One of the joys of the book is its enthusiasm. In one touching passage, the authors, both physicists by discipline, pay tribute to the trailblazers of the previous generation, such as Andrei Sakharov and Steven Weinberg.
"In the 1960s and '70s, most particle physicists judged cosmology to be too speculative and recommended that their students steer clear of it. But a few celebrated theorists... were notable exceptions... As important as the research itself was the impression it left on the younger generation of physicists. The fact that world-renowned scientists would consider this problem worthy of their attention sent the message that cosmology was ripe for exploration by particle physicists. By the early 1980s, a growing band of young particle theorists had begun to follow their pioneering trail and explore other puzzles lurking in the early universe. The two of us were part of this new generation."
It's a great read whether you agree with their ideas or not. Steinhardt and Turok provide a good overview of cosmology, including a sympathetic summary of the inflationary model. (Steinhardt is a defector from that camp, so he knows the party line well.) There were moments reading this book when I was suddenly struck by the scale of space and time being thrown around, and I felt real awe. That alone is worth the price of admission.(less)
her first book is not her best, but if it were another writer's book it would probably be that writer's best. so that's three stars on the toni morris...moreher first book is not her best, but if it were another writer's book it would probably be that writer's best. so that's three stars on the toni morrison scale, Song of Solomon being a perfect six. one nice feature of the edition i read was a new afterword by morrison where she mulls over all the ways she failed to do what she set out to do. but her next four books (at least) kick ass.(less)
okay. first of all, i found it impossible while reading this book to forget, even for a moment, that its author might be our next president. this mean...moreokay. first of all, i found it impossible while reading this book to forget, even for a moment, that its author might be our next president. this means it is very difficult to appraise the book on its own merits. but i will try. i should mention at the outset, in a spirit of full disclosure, that i am cautiously a supporter of obama, although i do not drink the kool-aid. i think he is a natural leader, well-organized & given to introspection, and i think this might be a nice change of pace for the US. i just hope he knows what he's planning to do in office, because i sure don't. now on with it.
it's a good book. it's a thoughtful book exploring issues of race & family & community. mostly well-written with ocassional lapses into unnecessary dramatic-ness. obama's background is an interesting one from which to reflect on race. most of his early comments, as he relates the story of his school years, read like recycled Baldwin & Wright. which he pretty much cops to when he gives us his reading list in college: Baldwin, Wright, DuBois, Ellison & Hughes. his story acquires greater complexity when he writes about community organizing on the South Side of Chicago, and even more so when he finally goes to Kenya to meet his father's family. this is not a great book, but it is a thoughtful & interesting book. and it is intelligent throughout.
as far as the possible president thing goes, this book confirms my feeling that his pride & arrogance are his weak spots, but also that those traits are balanced by a sort of humility, albeit an egotistical one. i suspect no one was ultimately more upset by his "clinging to their guns & religion" comment than he was, if only because i suspect he expects better from himself. if that's what keeps him centered, then fine. the other thing that caught my attention was his repeated references to the world of "men". there's definitely a streak of male-centeredness in his worldview, although he treats his female characters sympathetically.
on the other hand, he wrote this book when he was 33, which was 13 years ago. hopefully his wife has educated him somewhat in the meantime.(less)
Ted Hughes always got painted as the villain in the Plath/Hughes romance. sure, he probably was an egotistical philaderer, but people forget that she...moreTed Hughes always got painted as the villain in the Plath/Hughes romance. sure, he probably was an egotistical philaderer, but people forget that she was not an easy person to live with either. if you want poets getting along then read Donald Hall & Jane Kenyon. Hughes & Plath was not what you'd call a success story.
this book of poems that Hughes wrote to Plath over the years since her death, and published shortly before his, are heartbreaking & sweet. and also magnificent.
and loving these poems takes away none of my enjoyment of the Ariel poems, but actually adds to it.(less)
i am, again, reading & rereading kafka. it surprised me when i picked up this book yesterday how many stories in it i had never read. i just finis...morei am, again, reading & rereading kafka. it surprised me when i picked up this book yesterday how many stories in it i had never read. i just finished, "The Burrow", which, alas, kafka did not (the version he did finish was burned in accordance with his wishes), and a lot of his really short pieces as well. kafka was so much more versatile than most people realize. some of these pieces are quite sweet, some wry & humorous. ("Josephine the Singer", for example, is both.) my favorite story about kafka is that he would frequently laugh so hard while reading his stories to his friends that he would not be able to continue reading. charming. ____________________________________________
On The Tram
I stand on the end platform of the tram and am completely unsure of my footing in this world, in this town, in my family. Not even casually could I indicate any claims I might rightly advance in any direction. I have not even any defense to offer for standing on this platform, holding on to this strap, letting myself be carried along by this tram, nor for the people who give way to the tram or walk quietly along or stand gazing into shop windows. Nobody asks me to put up a defense, indeed, but that is not relevant.
The tram approaches a stopping place and a girl takes up her position near the step. She is as distinct to me as if I had run my hands over her. She is dressed in black, the pleats of her skirt hang almost still, her blouse is tight and has a collar of white fine-meshed lace, her left hand is braced flat against the side of the tram, the umbrella in her right hand rests against the second top step. Her face is brown, her nose, slightly pinched at the sides, has a broad round tip. She has a lot of brown hair, and stray little tendrils on the right temple. Her small ear is close-set, but since I am near her I can see the whole ridge of the whorl of her right ear and the shadow at the root of it.
At that point I asked myself: How is it that she is not amazed at herself, that she keeps her lips closed and makes no such remark?