Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance, and Civil Liberties in World War I through Today October 19-22, 2017 National World War I Mus Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance, and Civil Liberties in World War I through Today October 19-22, 2017 National World War I Museum and Memorial Kansas City, MO, USA https://theworldwar.s3.amazonaws.com/......more
This is a biography of a gifted artist who unfortunately also possessed a proud and difficult personality that got him into frequent trouble with theThis is a biography of a gifted artist who unfortunately also possessed a proud and difficult personality that got him into frequent trouble with the law. Ironically, much of what is known about Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) comes to us from the criminal archives that document his frequent arrests and various depositions in legal interrogations. Of course his paintings are also a permanent record of his life's work as is also the milieux, both churchy and raunchy, within which he lived that offers a fairly complete biography of the sort of life he lived.
His early career was influenced by the resurgent Counter Reformation Catholic church that sought a style of art to counter the threat of Protestantism. Caravaggio is generally credited with being part of the early Baroque movement. Caravaggio's innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro which came to be known as tenebrism (the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value).
The author pieces together circumstantial evidence to suggest that Caravaggio may have had a second avocation of pimping. If so it helps to explain why he repeatedly is apprehended in the middle of the night prowling the streets (curfew violation) and armed with sword and dagger (unlawful without a license).
I was interested to learn that Orazio Gentileschi was an acquaintance of Caravaggio's. I've listened to the book The Passion of Artemisia which is a historical novel about Artemisia Gentileschi, the daughter of Orazio. Caravaggio was NOT involved in the notorious trial regarding the rape of Artemisia; however an excerpt from the trial records is included in this book in order to provide background information and an example of the dangers found in Rome in those days.
The artist community in the city of Rome of that era was filled with rivalries and jealousies that tended to lead to situations of slander and insult. In retrospect it's almost predictable that an environment such as this would lead to homicide, and indeed it did. Caravaggio killed a man and fled the city to escape prosecution. The story at the time was that it resulted from an argument about a tennis game. The author sites evidence which indicates that it was actually a duel with swords involving two combatants, two seconds (who became involved in the fighting), and four witnesses (two on each side). The cover story of a tennis game was used to avoid the laws against dueling.
As an exile from Rome Caravaggio traveled to Naples and then Malta. He was imprisoned in Malta for rowdy behavior and made a miraculous escape, the details of which are unknown. He escaped as a fugitive back to Sicily and then back to Naples where a gang, probably sent from Malta, attacked him, held in down, and carved cuts on his face to create scars. In the author's opinion this cutting of the face was intended as payback for an insult given by Caravaggio to somebody from Malta. (The author, who seems quite sure of himself, provides the name of the person who had Caravaggio tracked down.)
Caravaggio painted two paintings after being attacked, and they show signs of being physically compromised.
...the brushwork is so broad, the definition of forms so unsure, that the painter seems to have fallen prey to some form of essential tremor, an uncontrollable shaking of the hands, as well as perhaps to damage of the eyes.
Caravaggio's reputation as an accomplished painter enabled him to win prestigious and well-paid commissions at all the places he visited after fleeing Malta even though he was a fugitive and probably knew that he was being tracked by Maltese agents.
He died, reportedly due to a fever, in 1610 during a trip back to Rome where he expected to receive a pardon arranged by powerful Roman friends. It was from this later part of his life that he reportedly refused holy water at a church "on the grounds that it was only good for washing away venial sins. 'Mine are all mortal,' were Caravaggio's words, hardly those of a man untroubled by questions of salvation or damnation."
This book was published too early to include information about the recent findings of an excavated grave in Italy that is likely to be that of Caravaggio's. Bones in the grave contained high lead levels which is probably related to the paints used at the time which contained high amounts of lead salts. Thus it is likely that some of Caravaggio's violent behavior was caused by lead poisoning.
This is a big book (514 pages including Notes, Further Reading, and Index) that thoroughly covers the subject. Insightful commentary is provided in the book for almost all of the surviving works of Caravaggio. I believe these descriptions would be constructive reading for anyone who anticipates visiting a museum where the paintings are on display.
The rest of this review is focused on specific paintings by Caravaggio that I found to be of special interest:
One reason for my interest in this book is the fact that the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, located in Kansas City near where I live, contains within its collection the painting St John the Baptist by Caravaggio.
St John the Baptist by Caravaggio (Nelson Atkins Museum of Art)
The following excerpt is what this book had to say about the above painting. I have included it here so I can review it prior to my next visit to the museum.
It was probably in the summer of 1604, between fights, that Caravaggio painted the hauntingly intense St John the Baptist now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Kansas City. The picture was almost certainly painted for the Genoese banker Ottavio Costa. There is an early copy in the church of the Oratory of the Confraternity of Conscente, in Liguria, which was a fief of the Costa dynasty. The family had paid for the building of the church, so it may be that Caravaggio's painting was originally destined for its high altar, and subsequently replaced by the copy for reasons unknown. Perhaps Ottavio Costa was so impressed by the work when he saw it that he decided to keep it for his art collection in Rome.
The picture is very different to the St John the Baptist painted for Ciriaco Mattei a couple of years before. As in the earlier painting, the saint occupies an unusually lush desert wilderness. Dock leaves grow in profusion at his feet. But he is no longer an ecstatic, laughing boy. He has become a melancholy adolescent, glowering in his solitude. Clothed in animal furs and swathed in folds of blood-red drapery, he clutches a simple reed cross for solace as he broods on the errors and miseries of mankind. The chiaroscuro is eerily extreme: there is a pale cast to the light, which is possibly intended to evoke moonbeams, but the contrasts are so strong and the shadows so deep that the boy looks as though lit by a flash of lightning. This dark but glowing painting is one of Caravaggio's most spectacular creations. It is also a reticent and introverted work—a vision of a saint who looks away, to one side, rather than meeting the beholder's eye. This second St John is moodily withdrawn, lost in his own world-despising thoughts. The picture might almost be a portrait of Caravaggio's own dark state of mind, his gloomy hostility and growing sense of isolation during this period of his life. (pg 277-278)
The following excerpt from the book tells of one occasion when Caravaggio's work was rejected because it portrayed St Matthew with too much appearance of a poor peasant instead of an important saint of the church. I happen to be sympathetic with Caravaggio's preference to show the followers of Jesus as being plain and poor folk.
Despite or more likely because of its brusque singularity Caravaggio's picture 'pleased nobody', according to Baglione. The St Matthew was rejected as soon as it was delivered. Bellori gave the fullest account of events: 'Here something happened that greatly upset Caravaggio with respect to his reputation. After he had finished the central picture of St Matthew and installed it on the altar, the priests took it down, saying that the figure with its legs grossed and its feet rudely exposed to the public had neither decorum nor the appearance of a saint. That was, of course, precisely Caravaggio's point: Christ and his followers looked a lot more like beggars than cardinals. But the decision of Mathieu Cointrel's executors ... was final. Saving Caravaggio's blushes, Vincenzo Giustiniani took the painting of St Matthew for his own collection. .... Giustiniani also prevailed on the congregation of San Luigi dei Francesi to allow the painter to try again.
The resulting picture, his second version of St Matthew and the Angel, was accepted without demur. ... The character of the painting, and indeed the very fact that it was commissioned at all, suggests that those in charge of the commission had few doubts about the painter's ability. As far as they were concerned, it was merely his taste, and the tenor of his piety, that was suspect: if he was given the right instruction, these could easily be amended. (pg 236-237)
Here's the first version of St Matthew and the Angel:
Here's the second version of St Matthew and the Angel:
When this book was published over two years ago I decided not to read it because I'm not interested in the sport of rowing and I've already seen enougWhen this book was published over two years ago I decided not to read it because I'm not interested in the sport of rowing and I've already seen enough newsreels of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Since then some of my friends have recommended the book to me. What are friends for if not to try out some of their suggestions. Thus belatedly I have finally listened to the audio of the book, and I now agree with my friends. It's a good book.
This book takes the reader to a time and place, Washington State during the 1930s depression era, and makes it so real with such convincing detail that it instills visceral emotion within the reader. The author manages to present this detail in such an enticing manner that it puts adventure novels to shame, and this is in spite of the fact that most readers are aware of how the story ends. Yet it still manages to be exciting.
I found the story leading up to the Olympics to be the most interesting part. The Olympic story was familiar enough to me that I didn't find it so compelling. And in spite of my lack of interest in rowing, I now know more about the sport than I ever intended to learn, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
This book emphasizes the unique and almost spiritual experience of being a part of a racing crew—eight oarsmen plus coxswain—that must move in perfectly coordinated rhythm while at the same time expending energy from almost every muscle to the limits of the body's ability.
Physiologists, in fact, have calculated that rowing a two-thousand-meter race—the Olympic standard—takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. And it exacts that toll in about six minutes.
A well-conditioned oarsman or oarswoman competing at the highest levels must be able to take in and consume as much as eight liters of oxygen per minute; an average male is capable of taking in roughly four to five liters at most. Pound for pound, Olympic oarsmen may take in and process as much oxygen as a thoroughbred racehorse.
Crew members depend on each other to make every stroke in perfect form and time in order to achieve success. Crew racing at its best is a "symphony of motion." For the members of the racing crew in this story, it was the experience of a lifetime.
Where is the spiritual value of rowing? The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole. —George Yeoman Pocock
When the author interviewed crew member Joe Rantz (1914–2007) shortly before his death Joe insisted the any book written must not be about him, but rather the "boys in the boat." Nevertheless Joe's story was particularly poignant because of his being abandoned by his family at age fifteen. With hard work and determination he managed to enter the University of Washington and win a place on the crew team.
It is my understanding that a movie based on this book is currently under development. I'm not sure when it may be released.
The author obviously did extensive research for this book to provide all the detail contained within it. The book as published includes a condensed version of the endnotes. The book says that the complete version of the endnotes can be found at http://www.danieljamesbrown.com/. But they're not there. At this link it says notes are "coming soon." Since this book was published 2 1/2 years ago I have my doubts that they're ever going to show up.
The story of the gold medal winning crew also inspired a 2016 PBS American Experience documentary The Boys of ’36. ...more
Silence tells the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden ChristianSilence tells the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion.
A persistent theme of this book is the silence of God for a believer facing adversity.
Questions raised by Silence include:
• Where is God’s voice?
• Why is God silent in the midst of suffering?
• How may an individual’s actions (or silence) contribute to suffering?
• How can human beings inflict such horrors upon one another
• Can concept of God be understood by the Buddhist mind?
• Does veneration of holy icons merit the endurance of torture?
• What is responsibility of Church when their presence causes suffering?
• Suffering on behalf of a God who may not exist is so pointless
• Will Rodrigues (the main character) apostatize? (based on historical Giuseppe Chiara)
• Did Ferreira and Rodrigues gain a more genuine "Christianity" through their experience?
The answers to the last three questions constitute a spoiler. (view spoiler)[They both apostatize. Whether they achieve an enhanced insight into the meaning of religion is for the reader to decide. Needless to say, answers to the other questions remain unanswered. (hide spoiler)]
Another historical question that comes to my mind—not asked by this book—is why did the missionary work of the Jesuits in Japan thrive so robustly between the years 1540 and 1620 when such success did not occur in China or India?
Unfortunately, much of this book is spent describing various forms of torture. This makes for an unpleasant reading experience, and makes me wonder if I really want to see the new movie Silence. Martin Scorsese seems to relish the showing of suffering in his movies. Not sure I care to see that kind of portrayal. Those of you who have seen the movie, do you recommend that I see it?...more
This book consists of eight chapters, each of which stands as an independent short story that follows a different individual, time and place. But theThis book consists of eight chapters, each of which stands as an independent short story that follows a different individual, time and place. But the reader of this book will notice, as they progress through the book, that some of the characters from previous stories make appearances. These short story chapters build upon each other, and by the time the end of the book is reached it leaves the impression of being a complete and unified novel. It's creatively written with food and beverage playing a role in each chapter, and sometimes the recipes are even included.
The writing style emphasizes character development with a focus on different individuals in the various chapters. The final chapter titled "The Dinner" is something of a reunion with many of the characters that were developed in the previous chapters making their appearances again in this chapter.
But there is one character who keeps making an appearance in each chapter, and with each appearance she's a bit older. It soon becomes apparent that the book is following this individual from her being born and gradually progressing into adulthood as a celebrity chef. That individual's name is Eva Thorvald.
Those chapters dealing with the younger years portray gritty life styles that probably reflect youth culture beyond my understanding as an old person. However, when it got the chapter titled "Bars" where the Lutheran church ladies are competing to win the baking prize at the County Fair, I knew that this was a cultural environment that I could identify with.
The emphasis on food will appeal to foodie types. But the book's narrative includes plenty of satire on gourmet enthusiasts of a certain type. I'll have to admit I enjoyed those passages that I perceived as slams against those food snobs who emphasize things other than taste and freshness.
In the following excerpt from the book the down-home Lutheran Church lady character named Pat Prager is encouraged to enter her winning "peanut butter bars" into a contest in the big city sponsored by Petite Noisette, a gourmet magazine. Unknown to her, this contest was completely out of her league, sophistication-wise. The following excerpt describes the reactions of the food snobs when they encounter her food:
Pat and Sam made their way across the room to platter number 49, where Oona had a big smile on her face.
"Wow, guys!" she said. "What's in these? They're amazing!"
"They totally taste like the real thing," Dylan said, and glanced at Oona. "What's in'em?"
Sam looked at his mom.
"Butter," Pat said. "Powered sugar, peanut butter, milk chocolate chips. Graham crackers."
Dylan and Oona stared back.
"Butter?" Oona said. "What kind? Almond butter?"
"No, regular milk butter. Like from cows."
"I don't know. It's just Land O'Lakes butter. It was what was on sale."
"Oh," Dylan said.
"Does their milk have bovine growth hormone?" Oona asked Dylan.
"I don't know, but I think they're on the list," Dylan said. "Are you thinking about the baby?"
"I don't know, do you think I should go vomit it up?"
"I don't know, is that worse? The bile and stomach acids?"
The narrative continues beyond this point, but I'll end the excerpt here. I apologize to any readers of this review who think that Land O'Lakes butter is poison and are sympathetic with the concerns expressed by Oona and Dylan. I happen to not share those concerns, and for me their reactions are so extreme as to be laughable.
One nit-picky complaint I have with the title of this book—there is "The Great Plains" and there is "The Midwest" but there is no "The Great Midwest." That's my opinion. ...more
This novel is about an unhappy recently widowed man who has decided to commit suicide, but nosy neighbors keep interrupting his plans by imposing on hThis novel is about an unhappy recently widowed man who has decided to commit suicide, but nosy neighbors keep interrupting his plans by imposing on him though various requests, gifts, and coincidental serendipity. After repeated frustrated efforts to end it all the story becomes a comic plot to make this angry man into a beloved hero.
Through numerous flashbacks in the narrative we learn about Ove's earlier life that has led up the present situation. In the present his antisocial behavior seems so extreme that it's hard to believe anybody else would make any effort to find something good in him. But as described in this story his new neighbors assume him to be a lovable nice guy in spite of his gruff demeanor.
This plot provides an example of why we should always look for the good in others. In doing so we may be saving their life.
The contrast between the subject of suicide versus a surrounding caring community makes for a feel good story as portrayed in this novel. However, I have some ambivalence about applying a comic plot to the subject of suicide. It's one of those subjects that's almost too serious to be played with in this manner. There are things about this story that could be a bad example to readers who may be depressed. In this fictional tale Ove's efforts at ending his life are always interrupted by fate in some manner. In real life fate can't be counted on to come to the rescue. Also, sad and depressed individuals aren't always befriended by overly friendly neighbors. Usually depressed individuals need to take the initiative in reaching out to others for social interactions that help make life worthwhile.
Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable story that will instill warm-and-fuzzy feelings within the souls of those who read this book....more
This book provides a history of the early days of the American manned space program told from the perspective of the wives of the astronauts. This isThis book provides a history of the early days of the American manned space program told from the perspective of the wives of the astronauts. This is a span of time beginning with Project Mercury in 1959, through Project Gemini, and ending in 1972 with the closing of the Apollo program. This era occurred during my younger years spanning between my high school years to my early professional work career. I found it interesting to recall my memory of that era with the retelling of it in this book through the eyes of the astronaut spouses.
The astronauts were considered to be heros by the American public and media. NASA encouraged this by being concerned about the image and reputation of the astronauts. Thus it was important for the astronauts to have happy marriages, or at least have the appearance of happy marriages. In the early years they successfully projected this image of all-American marriage bliss. However, once the first divorce occurred in the late 60s the floodgates were opened. Out of the Mercury Seven (Project Mercury), the New Nine (Project Gemini), and the fourteen Space Families (Apollo program), a total of 30 couples, only seven couples would stay together.
I was surprised to learn that eight astronauts died in the program’s first 12 years. That's a 27 percent fatality rate over the twelve years which provides an indication that selling life insurance to astronauts is not a profitable prospect. I remembered the death of the three in the Apollo 1 fire, but the other five deaths were mostly from airplane crash accidents which were less directly related to space flight equipment and thus not as easily remembered.
The wives referred to the launches as death watches, and their fears weren't misplaced. Everybody recognized that there were so many things that could go wrong and that the flights were dangerous. It turned out in the end that none of the astronauts were left stranded in space. But at the time nobody knew what the future held. These were stressful circumstances for the wives and families to live through, and they looked to other wives in the group for support.
Extramarital female attention to the astronauts was another source of stress on the marriage relationships. Unfortunately, many of the astronauts didn't keep their pants zipped. The problem was so prevalent that the wives had multiple nicknames for potential temptresses: a Suzy or, if the other woman sought out the men near Cape Canaveral, a Cape Cookie. The journalists of that era turned a blind eye to this sort of infidelity. I don't think journalists today are likely to be so restrained.
The book's narrative makes occasional reference to national social conditions that were taking place at the time: feminism, war protests, hippies, etc. The astronaut families were largely isolated from these things. However, the changing expectations for marriage roles probably played a role in the divorce rate.
The book is reasonably well written, and my two star rating is an indication of my low level of interest in the wives. The only reason I read this book was to prepare myself for a book group meeting.
I'm looking forward to the book, "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly for another view of women involved with the space program....more
This novel is a sensitive reflection on the intermingled lives of two couples. As captured by Stegner's skillful writing it becomes an emotional meditThis novel is a sensitive reflection on the intermingled lives of two couples. As captured by Stegner's skillful writing it becomes an emotional meditation on four lives well lived. The characters in this book are of a generation that began their married and professional lives in the late 1930s, thus they preceded my own "boomer" generation. But Stegner's reflection on their early dreams and subsequent lives emotes similar feelings within myself when I recall my early hopes and compare them with what turned out to be reality.
What ever happened to the passion we all had to improve ourselves, live up to our potential, leave a mark on the world? Our hottest arguments were always about how we could contribute. We did not care about the rewards. We were young and earnest. We never kidded ourselves that we had the political gifts to reorder society or insure social justice. Beyond a basic minimum, money wasn't even very good for people ... . But we all hoped, in whatever way our capacities permitted, to define and illustrate the worthy life.
Leave a mark on the world. Instead, the world has left marks on us. ...
In terms of adventure and action, not much happens in this book when evaluated by the standards usually applied to novels. This book is filled from beginning to end with character development. Things happen in the story, but they're mostly ordinary things that could happen to anyone. There are no incidents of violence nor betrayals to provide tension for the narrative. But the narrative does contain phycological tension in the form of personalty differences and collision of wills. In the end it is the solid loyalty of these couples to their marriage partners in spite of the described tensions that makes this story a hopeful mediation on life.
The book is narrated in the first person voice of Larry Morgan who ends up being a successful novelist. Both he and his wife Sally begin poor, but Larry's success yields a happy life together in spite of Sally's early bout with polio that leaves her crippled. Sally has a patient personality able to show understanding and tenderness to all.
What we learn about the other couple is through Larry's observations. Sid is also a writer and scholar much like Larry except that he doesn't meet with the same literary success. His wife Charity has a controlling personality with an extreme focus on organizing things.
The closing chapters of the book highlight Charity's over-the-top efforts at choreographing her own death. She is dying from stomach cancer, but meanwhile she's trying to organize everyone's activities in such a way that she can slip away (i.e. die) with minimal fuss. It's a plan that doesn't seem to take into account the feelings of her loved ones, her husband in particular.
It is my guess that many book groups that discuss this book end up talking about the psychology of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder because of Charity's behavior. I'm sorry this becomes such a significant issue toward the end of the book because the rest of the book is sort of a nostalgic tale of lives well lived in spite of miscellaneous difficulties. ...more
This book's author, George Hodgman, is facing a problem that will be faced, or already has been faced, by many members of the boomer generation. ThisThis book's author, George Hodgman, is facing a problem that will be faced, or already has been faced, by many members of the boomer generation. This is a memoir framed by Hodgman's move from his New York City life to return to his boyhood home in rural Paris, Missouri in order to assist his 92-year-old mother who has been living alone and is entering midstage dementia.
Hodgman's return in someways is conveniently timed because he is free of marriage obligations since he is single, and he also happens to be free of work obligations because he has recently lost his job as a book editor. However, his return presents a contrasting poignancy between the rural conservatism of his home town and the fact that he's gay.
The framing narrative of the book centers on interactions between Hodgman and his mother. Intertwined within this narrative are numerous flashbacks to his boyhood, college and professional career experiences. These musing function in many ways as a meditation on feelings of not belonging because of his homosexuality.
The irascible personality of his mother is made apparent by the book's descriptions of Hodgman's conversations with her. Their visit to a nursing home to explore the possibility of his mother living there is particularly painful. It is clear that such a move would be difficult and disorienting for his mother. This presents a sad prospect in the consideration of possible future care of his mother. She did not qualify for independent living which could have made the change easier.
A significant truth revealed by conversations with his mother is that she and his deceased father never discussed their son's sexual orientation. He knows that he had never talked to them about it, but he assumed his life style made it obvious. It did, but his parents simply didn't know how to discuss it or acknowledge it.
Hodgman's background as a book editor serves him well in the writing of this book. The story is well written and maintains the reader's interest. The variety of subjects touched by the book's narrative assures a wide readership. ...more
Comanche history and culture is the focus of this book. The subtitle of the book markets itself as a biography of Quanah Parker, but he doesn't show uComanche history and culture is the focus of this book. The subtitle of the book markets itself as a biography of Quanah Parker, but he doesn't show up until the final fourth of the book.
Starting with the pre-columbian history the book describes the revolutionary change brought about by the advent of horses on the plains. It enabled the Comanche who had been culturally among the lowliest among the tribes to transform into being the invaders from the north. They were a branch that had separated from the Shoshoe of Wyoming that moved into the region of Texas displacing the Ute, Pueblo, Navaho, and Apache from their ancestral lands. They seem to have been the most successful Indian tribe at taking advantage of the horse by becoming skilled as mounted warriors.
The Comanche were the principal opponents of the Spanish as they set up missions in the northern part of old Mexico. The Spanish and later the Mexican government came to accept the Comanche as a protective buffer from French—and later American—encroachment from Louisiana territory.
The beginning of what this book refers to as a forty year Comanche War begins in May 1836 with the attack of the Parker Clan settlement in east Texas. Five men were killed, two women wounded, and two women and three children were taken captive. Among those kidnapped was Cynthia Ann Parker, a blue-eyed nine-year-old. She grew up among the Comanche, married a chief, and had several children one of whom was Quanah who became the legionary leader of the tribe in the latter years of the "Comanche War."
Ever since the book Bury my Heart of Wounded Knee I've been inclined to be sympathetic with the cause of the American Indian as they resisted the white settlers taking away their land. Empire of the Summer Moon shifts this dynamic by making all sides in the conflict look evil. The horrifying atrocities of the Sand Creek Massacre are portrayed together with the nauseating torture Comanches inflicted on their captives. I was surprised to learn that the Comanche inflected their cruelty on their Indian enemies as well. Readers with low tolerance for descriptions of violence should avoid this book.
The final quarter of the book tells of the exploits of Quanah Parker. Quanah emerged as a dominant figure in the Red River War, clashing repeatedly with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. With whites deliberately hunting American bison, the Comanche's primary livelihood, into extinction, Quanah finally surrendered in 1875 and peaceably led the Quahadi to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In his years on the reservation Quanah became successful businessman/politician, got himself appointed "principal chief" of the Comanche by the US governement, and even became an acquaintance of Theodore Roosevelt. He died in 1911.
The book has a chapter about the Medicine Lodge peace conference of 1867. I found that of special interest because I have attended, in my younger days, several of the modern day pageants held by that community to commemorate that event. I found the adjectives used by the author to describe the event to be interesting. (Underlined emphasis below is my addition.)
Such beatific urges toward peace, combined with relentless and brutal raiding by comanches in Texas and the Indian Territory led to the last and most comprehensive treaty ever signed by the Indians of the southern plains. The conference that spawned it took place in October 1867 at a campground where the Kiowas held medicine dances, about seventy-five miles southwest of the present site of Wichita, Kansas. The place was known as Medicine Lodge Creek. The participants were members of a U.S. peace commission and representatives of the Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache tribes. The conference was the last great gathering of free Indians in the american West. The event was magnificent, surreal, doomed, absurd, and bizarre, and surely one of the greatest displays of pure western pageantry ever seen. Nine newspapers sent correspondents to cover it.
Some of the speeches given by the Indian Chiefs at that conference provide a melancholic, poignant, and eloquent summary of the situation of the plains indian tribes at that time in history. The following link is to the speech by Ten Bears, a Comanche chief. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ksb...
As much as a third of the Commanche tribe was not represented at the council. Quanah was a member of one of the Comanche bands that was not present, but ironically Quanah himself was present as a young eighteen-year-old because he happen to be visiting a Cheyenne group at the time. ...more
At age seventeen Mary eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley who was already married to another woman. Mary was pregnant with Percy's child when they returned from their elopement (child did not survive a premature birth). This was considered scandalous by society and they faced ostracism, constant debt. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley's first wife. Divorce wasn't an option in those days.
That was a rough start for the couple. However, their relationship endured and Mary matured into a stabilizing influence on both her husband and father. The following excerpt from the book provides a summary description of the maturation of Mary after dealing with the death of two of her children, William and Clara, and the patience she demonstrated while dealing with her husband and father.
The death of William and Clara followed by the birth of Percy Florence had completed a process of Mary's maturation. Her husband was still an emotional adolescent in spite of his brilliance, frequently took refuge in psychosomatic illness, and used imagined incidents as an excuse for his erratic behavior. But Mary achieved life long stability by the time she reached her twenty-third birthday. She had learned to curb the melancholia that she had inherited from her mother. She had claimed a remarkable understanding of human nature, and she had gained enough self control to permit reason to guide her feelings. Her teachers were her father and her husband neither of whom was able to practice what he taught. Godwin stifled his emotions until they took command and forced him to behave irrationally, even stupidly. While Shelly who was so complex that he almost defied analysis released his feelings through regressions that denied the validity of the rule of reason that he preached.
Mary gave into neither of these impulses. She had coped with her father since infancy and her husband's since adolescence. For their sakes she had accepted their prejudices, catered to their whims, and allowed their desires to take precedence over her own. Loving them she had done everything in her power to advance their careers, to enhance their reputations at the expense of her own. Sensitive to their genius she had catered to them allowing their whims to stand in the way of her own progress. She knew that Godwin's ambitions for her were unrealistic and consequently he never praised her. Shelly on the other hand always encouraged her but treated her like a tutor dealing with a pupil. Neither man no matter how loudly he preached the doctrine of equality was willing to admit that she was his peer.
Knowing the limitations of her husband and her father, Mary did not expect the impossible from them. By the time she was twenty-three she had achieved an understanding that not only enabled her to admire their strengths and pity their weaknesses, but demanded from society, if not from them, what she so freely gave to them. She would be forced to overcome a series of crises including the tragic premature death of her husband before she would obtain the freedom and recognition that she deserved. Yet she seemed content to advance one small step at a time.
It seems like every time Shelly wrote a poem that was about a woman it caused rumors to spread that he was having an extramarital affair. The following excerpt discusses how their relationship dealt with the rumors:
The significance of the Amelia Viviani episode seen in exclusively personal terms is that Mary sensibly did not allow her husband's sympathy for the girl or the writing of Epipsychidion to influence their marital relationship. It is true that both of the Shelly's sometime suffered from a sense of inadequacy. Shelly apparently feeling that his intellect might be inferior to his wife's, while Mary occasionally believed that she was too undemonstrative for his needs. In the main, however, each felt secure in the other's love. Mary was annoyed now an again by the reactions of outsiders to her husband's relationship with Amelia, but her ire did not include him. And it did not occur to Shelly, who was far less sensible than his wife, that Mary might feel even a twinge of jealousy over the feelings he expressed in the poem that made Amelia Viviani immortal. He and Mary loved over each other in real life, and her understanding gave him the poetic license to indulge in his imaginative fancy in his work.
Mary was obviously an intelligent and gifted woman who lived in a social circle that brought her into contact with some of the leading intellectuals of the era. It is also apparent that some her closest intimates had problematic personality quirks. Through it all Mary, as described in this book, comes across in many instances as the only "grown-up" person in the room. It seems like everybody in the book had money problems. Shelly was from a wealthy family and received a regular allowance, but he was always in debt because all his friends needed financial help. Mary played a role in trying to bring this outflow of money under control.
This book was originally published in hardcover in 1972. It was not targeted to a scholarly audience thus it contains no endnotes or footnotes. It does contain a bibliography which is now forty-four years old. ...more
This book is adapted from the 2003 biography, Revolutionary Heart also written by the Diane Eickhoff. This book is targeted for the young adult readThis book is adapted from the 2003 biography, Revolutionary Heart also written by the Diane Eickhoff. This book is targeted for the young adult reader, and I found it well written for that market. However, one doesn't need to be young to enjoy this book while also learning about the beginnings of the struggle for women's rights.
Clarina Irene Howard Nichols (1810 – 1885) was a journalist, lobbyist and public speaker involved in the causes of temperance, abolition, and the women's rights. The story of Clarina Nichols was largely overlooked by historians of women's suffrage during the twentieth century probably because she moved to Kansas in 1854 away from the New England vicinity where much of that history occurred. This was in spite of the fact that her prominence was sufficient to merit her own chapter in Anthony's History of Woman Suffrage. Fortunately, there have been some recent books such as Frontier Feminist (2009), Revolutionary Heart (2003), and this book, Clarina Nichols (2016) targeted for the YA market, that have raised awareness of her contributions to the cause.
I highly recommend this book to all young budding feminists. Remember, men can be feminists too. ...more
This book is written in the style of a novel and frames the story by having Rose in her older years reminisce with friends about her past. Thus the vast majority of the narrative is in her first person voice which makes it sound much like a memoir. I'm fairly confident that the author was able to capture the correct facts of Rose's story and the general characteristics of her personality because she left an extensive record was an author of multiple books, many magazine articles, and numerous letters. The novel format allowed the author of this book, Susan Wittig Albert, to assign direct quotations and thoughts to Rose which couldn't be done in the strict biography format. The result is an interesting story that's easy to read, and any reader upon reaching the end of this book will feel a genuine familiarity with Rose Wilder Lane.
As portrayed in this book the market for written material dropped during the 1930s economic depression. Rose was forced to keep writing and submitting articles and books to publishers in a desperate attempt to pay the bills.
Meanwhile her mother wrote a biography of her life titled Pioneer Girl which she asked Rose to type and submit to publishers. The writing efforts of her mother were an intrusion into Rose's other professional writing, nevertheless she complied with her mother's wishes. In Rose's judgement the biography needed extensive rework in order to be accepted by publishers but her mother resisted those changes. As expected, multiple publishers turned down the manuscript. The book was never published in that form, however an annotated version was published in 2014 by the South Dakota State Historical Society under the title of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography,
Then a publisher suggested that some of the stories in the Pioneer Girl manuscript be turned into a children's book. Rose finally talked her mother into letting her edit the early parts of Pioneer Girls into what became titled Little House in the Big Woods. A publisher accepted the book and contracted for a second book. Rose's mother dug in her heels on the second book and insisted Rose not do extensive editing. Consequently the publisher rejected the second book. After the rejection her mother allowed Rose to edit it. The publisher accepted that version and titled it Farmer Boy
Laura's mother finally realized that she needed to allow Rose to edit her writing in order to be accepted by the publishers. Then came the rest of the books in the series, and the rest is history.
The series was published between the years of 1932 to 1943 at a rate of almost one per year. Laura initially gave her mother full credit as author partly to please her mother and also to provide some income to her parents in their retirement years. Rose didn't consider them to be important books and certainly didn't expect them to be as successful as they turned out to be. Once her mother was designated as the author of the early books it was difficult to make any changes toward crediting Rose's part in the writing.
During this time Rose continued to write her own books and magazine articles which in her mind were more serious than her mother's books. It was also during this period that Rose wrote several articles opposing FDR's New Deal and became involved with the cause that is now known as the American libertarian movement.
It's an irony of history that Rose's mother is widely remembered today as the writer of the beloved Little House series, and that the product of Rose's professional writing career is mostly forgotten. ...more
This book explores technics that can be utilized to remember things. It's not a "how to" book, but rather it's an account of a year in the author's liThis book explores technics that can be utilized to remember things. It's not a "how to" book, but rather it's an account of a year in the author's life dedicated to the training in the use of mnemonics to change from being a person with "normal" memory to winner of the USA Memory Championship. The basic point seems to be that you don't need to have a good memory to remember things. What's needed is to use the human brain's natural abilities at remembering images as a means to remember the esoteric things of today such as telephone numbers, names of strangers, and in the case of memory championships, the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards.
Humans are descended from a long line of hunter gathers who needed to remember where to find food and how to find their way back home. Thus the ability to remember numbers or names of strangers did not play a role in natural selection. That is why today we have minds that can remember images better than we can remember numbers and names. Mnemonics is the technic of utilizing the human brain's natural strength as a means for helping those areas where the brain is naturally weak.
As the book's narrative follows the author's year of mnemonic training it addresses miscellaneous facts about the history of memorization technics, examples of unusual memory abilities, and miscellaneous neurological facts. So the reader of this book can learn some worthwhile facts of history and science which I found to be of more interest than the author's work at mnemonic training.
I feel sorry for any readers who pick up this book with the expectation that it is about Einstein. I went through the whole book and didn't recall any reference to Einstein. So I did a word search of the ebook text and found the word Einstein mentioned two places. One place in the author's training he mentions that he uses the imagined image of "Albert Einstein's thick white mane" as a way to remember the playing card, "three of diamonds." Then later in the book after the author has developed a system of images to remember all possible three card combinations, the word "Einstein" is used again. Under this enhanced system, "Myself moonwalking with Einstein," stands for, "four of spades, king of hearts, and three of diamonds."
The author admits that even though he is able to memorize the order of a deck of cards in less than two minutes, he still can't remember where he left his car keys....more
This novel provides a creatively constructed contrast between the horror and the humanity of war. By using a combination of the plot used in SophoclesThis novel provides a creatively constructed contrast between the horror and the humanity of war. By using a combination of the plot used in Sophocles' Antigone, and the first person narrative of seven different individuals who participated in a firefight at an isolated base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the narrative reveals the human side of the agony brought by war.
The similarities between this book and Antigone is not subtle. The references to classical Greek plays occur in every chapter of the book. Improbably, most of the young American soldiers in the story seem to be familiar with these Greek plays. It's clear that the author of this book wants the story to be tied to some of the earliest stories from human history that address the interface of humanity and the cruelty of war.
The opening chapter of the book begins with a lone Pashtun woman arriving at the edge of the military base and demands the return of her brother’s body who was killed in the battle. She claims to be the grieving younger sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites. From her first-person narrative we learn that she is the sole survivor of her family following an air attack on her village from an American airplane several months earlier. Her legs were lost during the attack and she has reached the base by pushing herself on a wheeled cart. Her plea for her brother's body has turned the psychology of war on its head.
The base is not given permission to release the body because orders from military headquarters in Kabul insist that the body is to be returned for positive identification as an important rebel leader. Tensions develop among the ranks of the soldiers because of disagreements concerning how to respond to the woman.
This situation inserts a sense of humanity into a war environment that normally requires viewing the enemy as something less than human. War can't continue if the enemy is truly human. This quandary begins to cause dissension and disagreements among the American soldiers on what to do about the woman.
The narrative is well constructed by introduction of an element of uncertainty in the first chapter that isn't resolved until the very end. (view spoiler)[The ending is not happy, but realistic. (hide spoiler)] ...more
This book gets its title from librarians who thwarted the wishes of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) by secretly moving 377,000 ancient manuscriThis book gets its title from librarians who thwarted the wishes of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) by secretly moving 377,000 ancient manuscripts hundreds of miles through a war zone. The terrorists weren't the only threats they faced because the government soldiers at road blocks were also erratic and unpredictable.
This book is part history, part description of Maghreb regional politics, and part adventure story. The book makes clear to the western reader that Timbuktu has a proud history and is the keeper of substantial numbers of artifacts from its cultural heritage.
It has always been my understanding that when people referred to, "a thousand miles from nowhere," they were referring to Timbuktu. That sort of thinking is the result of western oriented education. I've learned from this book that when Europe was mired in the dark ages, Timbuktu from the 13th to the 17th century was a center of intellectual enlightenment of the Islamic world. Scienteists, engineers, poets and philosophers congregated there to debate and share ideas. These exchanges of ideas were committed to the thousands of manuscripts written in Arabic and various African languages.
The golden age of Timbuktu intellectual culture occurred during the 16th century when the population of Timbuktu was approximately 100,000, and about a quarter of that population consisted of students from various parts of the Islamic world. In additional to religious texts the manuscripts included works of poetry, algebra, physics, medicine, jurisprudence, magic, mathematics, history, botany, geography and astronomy. This eclectic mix of scholarship thrived under the tolerant form of Sufism that prevailed during the 16th century golden age.
However, there was also other Islamic ideologies. Radical conservative Islamists saw the manuscripts as heretical. Also, the French colonial forces that occupied that part of Africa during the 19th century considered the manuscripts as plunder. Consequently a third tradition emerged, that of concealment. The native residents of Timbuktu hid these documents inside their homes and desert caves. By the twentieth century the Timbuktu's intellectual inheritance had become invisible to the rest of the world.
During the 1980s there was a concerted effort to collect these scattered and concealed manuscripts into the protected environment of newly constructed libraries. Funding from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries founded the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu. This book gives a thorough accounting of the adventures of one particular manuscript collector named Aabdel Kader Haidara.
Then in March 2012 came the invasion of Tmbuktu by combined forces of the AQIM and Tuareg rebels armed with weapons from the collapse of Libyan regime of Muammar el-Qaddafi. At first the Islamists were preoccupied with the process of religious cleansing of the dress, behavior and music of the Timbuktu residents, and thus they didn't notice the covert hiding and moving of the manuscripts. In the end only a small portion of the manuscripts ended up being destroyed by the time that the Islamists were driven out by the French and Malian military forces in January of 2013.
Ironically, the invasions by the Islamists drew worldwide attention to Timbuktu’s literary heritage and enabled the first full accounting of its magnificence....more
This is the third book in the "Return to Northkill" trilogy. Those three books are historical novels about some of my progenitors, the first generatioThis is the third book in the "Return to Northkill" trilogy. Those three books are historical novels about some of my progenitors, the first generation of Hochstetlers (a.k.a. Hostetler in my case), who emigrated to colonial North America in 1738. The first book in the series, Jacob's Choice, tells how the father and two sons were taken captive during the French and Indian War and the subsequent escape by the father a year later. The second book in the series, Joseph's Dilemma, is about the life of one of the sons who lived six years among the Lenape (a.k.a. Delaware) Indians and his reluctant forced return to his Amish community after the war. This third book is about the culture shock and social adjustments that the son, Christian, had to live through when he returned nearly a year later than his brother.
The sons were youths aged eleven and thirteen at the time they were kidnapped. When they returned they were approximately eighteen and twenty years old and thoroughly Indian. The following description of Joseph upon his return gives the reader an idea of how different the sons were from those living in the Amish community that they had left years earlier.
Jacob lifted the clunky iron latch and swung open the oaken door to reveal a young Indian silhouetted in the doorway. Anna shrank back from the sight of a tomahawk and a knife in his belt, and a heavy necklace strung with large bear claws. A leather bag embroidered with beads hung at his side, and he wore brightly beaded moccasins.
When Christian returned nearly a year later than his brother he happen to arrive while the family was eating and was so unrecognizable that they just assumed he was an Indian begging for food. So they told him to wait outside until they were finished eating. After dinner the father walked out to talk to him, and Christian said in the German language that he had almost forgotten how to speak, "Mei Noma is Christlich Hochstetla."
The father had totally not recognized him up the that point. Father apologized for not recognizing him and invited him inside to eat. That was a rough start for a homecoming that inevitably would be difficult for any family. But in those days they didn't have psychologists to help everyone deal with the necessary adjustments.
This story about Christian not being recognized and being told to wait outside while the family finished eating is based on a story passed down through the generations. Thus, this is one detail that the author didn't need to create for this historical novel. We also know that Christian did not become a member of the Amish church after his return. This provides another clue that indicates difficultly fitting into his home community.
Christian did join the Dunkard Brethren, and subsequently he is the one member of the Jacob Hochstetler family that I'm not related to. All his descendants lived in different communities from those that my ancestors lived in.
This novel develops a plot with various personal interactions that leads to his decision to join the Dunkards. As explained by this novel Christian had made a vow to his adopted Indian brother that he would never accept "white man ways."
The Dunkard community was more open to outside influence than the Amish. A Moravian missionary who worked among the Shawnee Indians and who had an Indian wife was invited to speak to the Dunkard church. Learning about the missionary gave Christian the insight that he could remain Indian in his heart while dressed as a white man.
It also helped that there was a young single woman in the Dunkard community that caught Christian's eye. He ended up marrying her. ...more
This book is first of a five volume English translation of a Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber (a.k.a. The Story of the Stone) composed by CaoThis book is first of a five volume English translation of a Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber (a.k.a. The Story of the Stone) composed by Cao Xueqin. It generally considered as one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was written sometime in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty, and the setting of the story is early in the 18th century.
This book was selected by Great Books KC group as our exposure to non-western literature for the year 2016. At the time Dream of the Red Chamber was selected for our schedule we didn't realize how long the complete work is. The Story of the Stone (1973–1980), the first eighty chapters translated by Hawkes and last forty by John Minford, consists of five volumes and 2,339 pages of actual core text (not including Prefaces, Introductions and Appendices). Total page count is 2,572. Our group decided to limit our discussion to the first volume as a more manageable reading assignment. I have no intention of completing the other four volumes any time in the foreseeable future.
It's my understanding that the complete story is about the beginning grandeur and eventual decline of the aristocratic Jia family clan. As indicated by its title, The Golden Days, this first volume is focused on the beginning prosperous years. The book provides a detailed insight into wealthy Chinese cultural life of the time and the story's narrative includes frequent use of poetry.
But this novel lays out a sprawling story line with numerous characters with names impossible for western readers to remember or pronounce. This is combined with excruciating details which at times can be beautiful, but overall becomes a heavy forest of words for the reader to slog through. Frankly, I didn't appreciate the experience very much. If I feel this way after the first volume I hate to imagine how I would feel should I manage to complete all five volumes.
"Welcome to the dark side of big data." Thus the author concludes the Introduction section of this book. Computers and the internet have enabled us to"Welcome to the dark side of big data." Thus the author concludes the Introduction section of this book. Computers and the internet have enabled us to advance into the new world of algorithms and big data with ramifications that most people are unaware of.
Surfing the web, clicking "like" in Facebook, Googling (i.e.searching on line), and making online purchases are common examples where big data is either tracking and potentially impacting our lives. Some of these are benign and can be helpful. But this book focuses sharply in the other direction, on the "harmful examples that effect people at critical life moments, going to college, borrowing money, getting sentenced to prison, finding and holding a job. All these life domains are increasingly controlled by secret models wielding arbitrary punishments."
One of the most shocking pieces of information provided by this book are the examples of how big data contributes to economic inequality. It is devastating how efficiently private colleges and payday loan companies target the economically stressed portion of the population. It's also astounding how frequently limitations and flaws of big data are ignored and substituted for the truth. It's almost comical how big data systems can be manipulated (a.k.a gaming the system) by clever institutions and companies.
Whether we like it or not this is the new world in which we all live. Citizens of this new environment need to become knowledgeable about how big data works. Otherwise we will all be its clueless victims.
The following are some quotations from the book.
The following are the closing sentences of the Introduction:
Big data has plenty of evangelists, but I'm not one of them. This book will focus sharply in the other direction, on the damage inflicted by WMDs and the injustice they perpetuate. We will explore harmful examples that effect people at critical life moments, going to college, borrowing money, getting sentenced to prison, finding and holding a job. All these life domains are increasingly controlled by secret models wielding arbitrary punishments. Welcome to the dark side of big data.
In the following the author defines some of the shortcomings she observed in how big data was being used.
More and more I was worried about the separation between technical models and real people and about the moral repercussions of that separation. In fact I saw the same pattern emerging that I had witnessed in finance, a false sense of security was leading to widespread use of imperfect models, self-serving definitions of success, and growing feedback loops. Those who objected were regarded as nostalgic Luddites.
The author worked at a hedge fund during the 2008 financial collapse. Thus when she moved into the field of consumer data modeling she looked for flaws in the use of data that were similar to what led to the credit crisis.
I wondered what the analog to the credit crisis might be in big data. Instead of a bust I saw a growing dystopia with inequality rising. The algorithms would make sure that those deemed losers would remain that way. A lucky minority would gain evermore control over the data economy raking in outrageous fortunes and convincing themselves all the while that they deserved it.
The following is the author's summary near the end of the book.
In this march through a virtual lifetime we've visited school and college, courts and the work place, even the voting booth. Along the way we have witnessed the destruction caused by WMDs. Promising efficiency and fairness, they distort higher education, drive up debt, spur mass incarceration, pummel the poor at nearly every juncture, and undermine democracy.
The author, Cathy O'Neil is highly qualified (she got her Ph.D. in math at Harvard), had work experience from inside the system (a “quant” at D.E. Shaw—a major hedge fund), and has evolved into a "Occupy Wall Street" activist. Thus she has experience and qualifications needed to explain how big data effects our lives. It's needed information. ...more
Neurology writ simple, this book provides an easy to understand description of the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Chapters are dedicated Neurology writ simple, this book provides an easy to understand description of the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Chapters are dedicated to the subjects of brain/body connections, memory, fear, intelligence, observational systems, personality, sociability, and mental health.
The audacious use of the word "idiot" in the title is a bit off-putting, but it probably communicates a similar message as those books titled, "(blank) for Dummies." It makes clear that the author and publisher have aimed this book at a "popular" reading audience.
The author is a credentialed neurological scientist (PhD, "no, really"), but seems to have found a niche for himself as author of the Guardian’s most-read science blog, Brain Flapping. His writing style is light and filled with humor, and as best I can tell the information conveyed is a respectable and correct reflection of current knowledge in the field of neurology (but I'm not particularly qualified to judge). If you check out his blog you will see that his writing does not match the style of the usual academic person.
This book is filled with an abundance of information about the various branches of neurology. While listening to the audio edition of this book I was wondering how I could summarize the variety of material for this review. Then at the beginning of the last chapter on mental health the author solved my task by providing the following summary of what the reader has learned about the human brain so far.
What have we learned so far about the human brain? It messes with memories; it jumps at shadows; it's terrified of harmless things; it screws with our diet, our sleeping, our movement; it convinces us that we're brilliant when we're not; it makes up half the things we perceive; it gets us to do irrational things when emotional; it causes us to make friends incredibly quickly and turn on them in an instant;—a worrying list. What's even more worrying, it does all of this when it's working correctly. So what happens when the brain starts to go, for want of a better word, wrong? That's when we end up with a neurological or mental disorder.
The preceding quotation sounds a bit flippant, which is reflective of the author's writing style. But within the context of the material provided in the preceding chapters it's a representative sampling.
In general I found this book to be a good overall description of what is currently known about the workings of the brain. The author reminds the reader multiple times that knowledge in this field is changing and some of the material presented may be subject to change as knowledge in the field develops.
_______ The following is not from this book. But it is about neurology. I just happened to come across this link while getting ready to write this review. It's about the differences between people on the ability to recognize faces. That happens to be one branch of neurology. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/1...
This book is an impassioned commentary on the multiple layers of meaning found in the novel, Moby-Dick. The author treats the novel with the respect gThis book is an impassioned commentary on the multiple layers of meaning found in the novel, Moby-Dick. The author treats the novel with the respect generally given the Bible, and he compares Herman Melville's work favorably with that of Shakespeare as shown in the following quotation.
Reading Shakespeare we know what it is like in any age to be alive. So it is with Moby-Dick, a novel about a whaling voyage to the Pacific that is also about America racing hell bent toward the Civil War and so much more. Contained in the pages of Moby-Dick is nothing less than the genetic code of America—all the promises, problems, conflicts, and ideals that contributed to the outbreak of a revolution in 1775, as well as a Civil War in 1861, and continued to drive this country's march into the future.
This means that whenever a new crisis grips this country, Moby-Dick becomes newly important. It is why subsequent generations have seen Ahab as Hitler during World War II, or as a profit crazed deep drilling oil company in 2010, or as a power crazed Middle Eastern dictator in 2011.
The author in this book provides a credible case for defending the lofty claims put forth in the above quotation. The irony is that when Moby-Dick was first published in the fall of 1851 virtually no one seems to have taken much notice. It wasn't until after World War I that the novel's significance was widely recognized.
If I had been a reader in the late nineteenth century I wouldn't have been able to predict that the book was destined to have a place in the literary canon. When I listened to the audio of the book several years ago I was aware of its reputation as great American literature, but I didn't retain much more than the outline of a long fictional story with some nonfiction side comments about the nineteenth century whaling industry. I am bothered by my lack of admiration because what it means is that if I happen to cross paths with the next great work of literature I probably won't be able to recognize its potential.
This book's author, Nathaniel Philbrick, in additional to exploring the beauty and skill of the book's prose also provides some history about the life of Herman Melville and his experiences while writing the book. I found it interesting that Melville's first draft did not include the Ahab character as captain of the ship. Melville met Nathaniel Hawthorne for the first time after the first draft, and it is probably from him that Melville was inspired to add Ahab with his driven and tormented soul. As a matter of fact Hawthorne was something of an inspirational muse for Melville. Hawthorne in return was encouraging and supportive but probably did not reciprocate Melville's enthusiastic admiration.
Melville was thirty-two years old at the time Moby-Dick was published and lived to be seventy-two when he died in 1891. It's sad that in most of his last thirty years of his life he probably believed the passions and pathos of his younger years which had been invested in the writing of Moby-Dick were little more than a fading personal memory unappreciated by anybody else.
"What Moby-Dick needed it turned out was space, the distance that was required for its themes and images to resonate unfettered by the turmoil and passions that inspired them. Once free of its own historical moment Moby-Dick became the seemingly timeless source of meaning that it is today."