Social groupings are complicated. How man chooses to govern himself is strikingly different in almost every group. Too often westerners can’t see beyoSocial groupings are complicated. How man chooses to govern himself is strikingly different in almost every group. Too often westerners can’t see beyond the apparent correctness of their own system – at the costly expense of competing cultures. Things Fall Apart is a clear example of two cultures. For the first time in print, the author, in English, takes the perspective of the Africans. The clan and village customs of these Nigerian subjects is explored, not displayed as it were an interesting subject in the British Museum. Achebe’s straightforward, unemotional yet marginally poetic writing style creates images of Nigerian society that make sense. He demonstrates to the reader the cost of the European colonization – the toll on family, customs, and culture. The plot dedicated to the colonization subject is minor in comparison to the development of the clan culture, but in the end it is the clash of these two cultures that provides for the dramatic finish.
Achebe chose his protagonist carefully. Okonkwo was an ideal African man. His father was a failure, and through hard work and courage he rose to the echelon of societal ranks in his clan. He was strong, powerful and hot; Okonkwo loved his African culture. When he saw that the English didn’t respect or understand their clan’s governance, he wanted to wage war, as an African should. His disgust of effeminate followers of Christian missionaries was apparent and justified – they were no longer Africans. Ultimately, his love for the African ways prevented him from adapting to the new English lords, and he, like Africa, fell apart. ...more
It’s all in a name, and Simon Winchester chose the perfect one. Nonfiction like this one is few and far between – little jewels of history are uncoverIt’s all in a name, and Simon Winchester chose the perfect one. Nonfiction like this one is few and far between – little jewels of history are uncovered amidst the most dull moments of time. Writing a dictionary on the surface sounds painfully boring, but when Simon spices it up through the eyes of Minor & Murray, the two protagonists of the book, it transforms into a delightful tale filled with surprises and wonder.
Dr. Minor is profiled so meticulously, which shows Winchester did his homework. It is interesting as well how reluctant St. Elizabeth’s was in Washington D.C. to open its records to the author. Oxford, of course, was very willing to allow full access for the book’s research; why would they not be ecstatic about a new, exciting book that once again reminds the world that the Oxford English Dictionary is the ultimate authority of the English language and the original book – taking 70 years to make. Sadly enough, neither Minor nor Murray lived to see its completion; but, in reality, the OED was bigger than just one man.
The mysterious friendship of these two men, centered around and founded upon their obsession with etymology and lexicography is a marvelous setting through which the more interesting account of the making of the OED is told. But standalone, the making of the OED is dry and lacks character, although interesting.
Which points again to the title: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, a title that is even more appropriate than its comical undertones when read aloud like from the Masterpiece Theatre. Appropriate because Winchester uses the scandalous nature of a lunatic being a principal contributor to the most authoritative name in lexicography in the world to entice the reader and keep him interested enough to understand the true subject: the making of the dictionary. ...more