Ah, Caro. I love you so! Not that this book isn't incredible on its own, but I am glad that I read this after "Master of the Senate." If I hadn't unde...moreAh, Caro. I love you so! Not that this book isn't incredible on its own, but I am glad that I read this after "Master of the Senate." If I hadn't understood how subtle and how clever ...and how oddly effective and practical... Johnson could be, parts of this story would have been less interesting. In this book, Johnson is so broadly mean-spirited and calculating. The story that unfolds is a look at him galvanizing his political machine and revolutionizing Texas politics. It's not the revealing close-up of his psyche that Master of the Senate was. (I haven't read Vol. 1 yet)
Still, incredible. So well researched, and so carefully reported. If there's doubt as to a point in the story, Caro owns up to it, but the things he's sure about he humbly points out that "careful reporters" could have easily verified. Which I think is the Caro way of saying, "Boo Yah, Bzzches!"
Something I really appreciate about Caro's approach is that, unlike so many biographers, Caro actually takes the time to see through the eyes of the supporting cast. Caro, unlike, say, Edmund Morris in "Theodore Rex," or even Debby Applegate in "The Most Famous Man in America," interviews and treats as revealing and valid the perspectives of people of color. Caro shows that the way Johnson treated his wife, his secretaries, and random soldiers is as revealing as the way Johnson spoke with Russell or Brown.
For me personally (not as a nitpicky history-reader), the best part, the beautiful, lyrical part, is the way he gives us Coke Stevenson in the middle of the florid mess that was Texas politics in this era. Caro gives us real reason to believe in and praise the public service of Stevenson without ever belittling him with flattery. Reading about Stevenson's remarkable life made me want to go find more writing about him, but I suspect none will be as revealing and substantial as Caro's.
Sigh. Tried to make this book last but couldn't. (less)
So, I have finally finished this tome. So no matter what complaining I'm about to do, I didn't put it into the "too boring to continue" category....
Ho...moreSo, I have finally finished this tome. So no matter what complaining I'm about to do, I didn't put it into the "too boring to continue" category....
Here are my two main complaints:
1. Fawning. Seriously, the author wants to have TR's wee tubby babies. There isn't a critical sentence in the entire book. In my opinion, part of what's fascinating about TR is the way that he exemplified some of the best of his time (engaging with John Muir and Booker T. Washington) and the worst of his class (that mioptic paternalism of his). Morris seems determined to gloss over any contradictions in TR's character, but I think futher exploration of criticisms of TR's policies would have helped me learn a lot more about America at the time.
2. Cummberbunds. Reading this book made me feel like I was being told a story by Horace Slughorn: "By jove, he was a grand chap, that Arthur! He wore a paisley cummerbund to the [important international summit you actually want to know about:]. I remember clearly what a penchant he had for paisley cummerbunds. Why there was a time..." Urgh! I don't care about the horses! I want to know what the Nicaraguan opposition thought of him! Or the black press. Or women, considering the fact that the push for women's suffrage was really taking off during his time in office.
Other than these two issues, I did enjoy many parts of the book. Particularly fun to read were the letters and observations of Archie Butt. Morris does, of course, describe his dressing habits, but Archie does a much better job of giving us a sense of the space around the Roosevelts.
And certainly the book did an excellent job of piquing my interest in a president who had such wide interests and a lot of wisdom to go with his great energy. I'll have to read more about him; it's hard to see very clearly with the bright light of Morris's love shining fully on TR's face.(less)
I haven't stayed up late to finish a book in a long time, but this is why I was late to work on Friday. Guibert's perspective is fresh and his writing...moreI haven't stayed up late to finish a book in a long time, but this is why I was late to work on Friday. Guibert's perspective is fresh and his writing is crystal-clear and clean; reminds me a great deal of Saint-Exupery. Using the graphic novel format to marry up the photos with the narrative was a genius idea: it carries the innocence and immediacy of the experience forward in a way a regular novel wouldn't have. Love, love, loved this book.(less)
This is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenace" with no zen, and a denial of art, really. A very apt summary of the things that are...moreIn a word: meh.
This is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenace" with no zen, and a denial of art, really. A very apt summary of the things that are appealing and very off-putting about this book can be found here http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/boo....
I really support Crawford's point that celebrating craftsmanship and trades would fix a huge imbalance in our education system and work life in this country. When he's waxing not-quite-poetic about the way that solving real problems is the only way to form truly creative and critically thinking minds, I am so in.
However, the idea that fixing motorcyles is inherantly more valuable that pursuing mathematical models for problems? I dunno. I think that whole argument has to do with the fact that Crawford clearly has issues with his dad, a mathematician.
And the idea that the mechanical trades are the only place that real work and real management happens? I doubt that as well. I work in a hybrid organization - we are shop-floor based and I work in the support groups that provide documentation and plans for our workers, and I feel that I've seen sloppy work and excellent use of problem-solving on both sides of the wall.
The thing that irritated me the most was that Crawford purported to simply use mechanic work as an example of ideal work, but in no way did he find any other examples. The best he could do was mention a firefighter as someone who might also combine technical knowledge with intuition artfully.
But there are some obvious examples of people who've been doing reality-based, creative work requiring technical know how that's undervalued by society for millenia: women. Despite the fact that they're almost entirely invisible in Shop Class, women have been doing work that, while undervalued, combines careful observation and use of feedback to solve real problems. Mentioning cooking, child-rearing, cloth making, agriculture - any traditional women's work - would have bolstered Crawford's argument that our society's love affair with technology overlooks the skills we need to make our communities work.
At least, I thought that was his argument at first. But by the end of the book, you realize that his point was "My job is more awesome that the caricatured job that I imagine you have, and this makes me both cooler and more moral than office people."
And maybe he is - I'd love to go have beers with this guy. But in the end, the book reads like a late-night bull session with a young philosophy grad, not a wider reflection on our real culture.(less)
I am devastated by each story I read in this collection. I was reading it at Starbucks last night and became embarassed to be experiencing something s...moreI am devastated by each story I read in this collection. I was reading it at Starbucks last night and became embarassed to be experiencing something so intimate and meaningful in public. And they sneak up on you - the stories aren't out for the juggular from the start, they slide past and then you're caught in the undertow ...
This is one I'm reading slowly, to make it last.(less)
**spoiler alert** Hey, kids, if you like books in which the only major descriptive moments happen during sexual torture scenes, where major characters...more**spoiler alert** Hey, kids, if you like books in which the only major descriptive moments happen during sexual torture scenes, where major characters lack motive, and where the red herrings...stink ... this book's for you!
I may feel less strongly after a few days, but I am having a hard time believing this book has hit the best-seller lists in multiple countries.
**Rant containing Mild Spoilers**
Here are my complaints:
1. The entire book sets you up to think that the alleged killing/s were perpetrated by one or more people for complicated reasons. Spoiler: They're not. A murderer, at the climax, reveals, "I like killing [people]." That's the motive. That's it.
2. The title character has her macabre past detailed at length. The salient facts to the case - how did she come into possession of her detective-ing skills? - is left out entirely. Her emotional life is ignored until it's needed for a little plot development and then ignored again for a gazillion pages. She makes Kinsey Milhoney look like a guru of emotional awareness and self-knowledge.
3. When a MAJOR DEVELOPMENT happens in the case, like, THE MAJOR DEVELOPMENT, we the readers hear about its resolution third hand. A reunion occurs and we are not privvy to it, even though it's REALLY IMPORTANT. That is LAME.
4. Stop with the Mac commericials aleady. Is it possible that the well-financed campaign for this book had to do with the fact that the dead author couldn't object to selling Apple and Kawasaki shout-outs?
5.The two plot lines are almost entirely unrelated. They don't even intersect, really; one segues into a second, and then, when the second is wrapped up entirely, the first plot returns to end with a whimper.
6. There is a Lot of torture-porn in this book. Did I mention that? Detailed description of sexual abuse, incest, and general nastiness that does nothing to advance the plot. Really. It just takes up space making you think there are reasons for the murders, but ...no, see #1. We listened to this on cd and I kept trying to forward and ending up on the absolute worst moments. Blech.
7. Several passages written as an email conversation. It's like the author realized at a certain point that he was so bad at dialogue that he'd better just give it a rest for a while and instead use stilted telegraph talking.
8. This book was not fun or smart. I kept thinking it was about to be, but I was wrong.