I'd been thinking about getting this for a while, as I'd loved some of Grunbaum's blog posts. I hesitated, though, knowing it was the kind of thing II'd been thinking about getting this for a while, as I'd loved some of Grunbaum's blog posts. I hesitated, though, knowing it was the kind of thing I wanted to share with Jefferson, and I wasn't sure it would be appropriate. So when I was at the bookstore, I made sure to flip through the sex session, and it looked okay. I mean, sure, plenty of talk about penises, maybe a tiny bit of language, but, um, 10-year-olds should know that animals have sex? And sometimes have weird genitalia? Whatever. I bought it.
Sure enough, we read about half of it cuddling on the couch together, giggling, then both caught up on what the other had read with us. We both agreed it was funniest when the narrator was having discussions with evolution, rather than just describing something. And, of course, the entries Jefferson chose to read to my parents when they visited were all from the sex section. Of course.
Often I wanted more actual science information about an animal, but this is a humor book, and I suppose I know how to google.
Karen took me to the bookstore to pick out a book (or two, or three) for my birthday, and this one jumped out at me for obvious reasons. (I'd had to gKaren took me to the bookstore to pick out a book (or two, or three) for my birthday, and this one jumped out at me for obvious reasons. (I'd had to get the full round of rabies shots after being bitten by a bat at work a few years ago.) I immediately jumped into it, then found out it was a favorite book of Mrs. Wolf! (Jefferson's 3rd grade "Western" teacher -- rapidly becoming one of my favorite people.)
But I wanted to love this book far more than I actually did. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe it tried to do too many things in too small a book, maybe it rode the line too hard between academic and pop non-fiction, and I might have preferred it if it had fallen solidly on one side or the other, I don't know. But as the book moved forward and got closer to talking about rabies in modern times, I liked it more and more. The section on the invention of the rabies vaccine was great, as was a bit on an outbreak in NYC.
But it wasn't ever that I disliked the book, there was so much fascinating material here that I wouldn't ever say that. It was only that certain parts (especially the rabies and mythical monsters section) left me wanting more.
Okay, let's come right out and say that there were a few parts where I had to mentally separate the author as the author from the author as my sister,Okay, let's come right out and say that there were a few parts where I had to mentally separate the author as the author from the author as my sister, to sort of ignore that this is my childhood she's alluding to here, my hometown, me. But those parts were mercifully small. (I will go back and process those parts later, though I'm not sure Jessa would want me to.)
Anyway, biased or not, I thought it was marvelous. Especially the Berlin chapter, which (despite there being an actual introduction) introduces the theme, the concept, the purpose of the rest of the book. At a loss in Berlin, Jessa turns to her old friend William James, who also fled to Berlin for a good part of his life, also at a time when he was struggling to find a purpose, a calling, a standard for success. James, like all the dead ladies in this book, fled his home country, choosing a new land and new culture to call his own (to varying degrees of permanence). As Jessa travels from place to place, she communes with someone who has gone before her, someone who has also shucked off the standards, the expectations, the bindings of home, and built a new life of their own choosing some place new.
As she does so, she draws lines, both obvious and unexpected, between her own struggles for meaning, the personal struggles of her dead ladies, and more universal struggles, like the artist vs. the censor, adult children struggling with the expectations of their parents, women choosing whether to exploit, struggle with, or subvert the roles made available to them in a patriarchal society.
A marvelous book that should be more widely read. ...more
So, one of the item's in the CADL's adult reading challenge this year was to read a book recommended by Book Sleuth. Well, as much as I love challengiSo, one of the item's in the CADL's adult reading challenge this year was to read a book recommended by Book Sleuth. Well, as much as I love challenging the folks who operate Book Sleuth Live, I knew I was never going to get this done if I had to rely on remembering to go post my request during the appointed weekly time. So I cruised the staff recommendations at the website. And really, this book had me at the title. Add that Nick Hornby is the author, and that it's a book about reading. The only question was, how fast could I get my hands on a copy?
Reading this book caused by to-read list to swell considerably. In fact, I feel that by now goodreads should have an algorithm that adds a set of books to your recommendations as soon as this one is on your "currently reading" shelf.
When I wasn't looking books up on goodreads, I was either thinking of taking up book blogging again or feeling fond of Hornby and wondering why it had been so long since I'd read anything by him. ...more
Little collection of bits of advice -- all about a paragraph long, not really related or organized, necessarily. Some good advice here, but the why isLittle collection of bits of advice -- all about a paragraph long, not really related or organized, necessarily. Some good advice here, but the why is often left out. I do not want to be all things to all people, for instance. On my first read through, I kept thinking that as I was not trying to take over the world or be elected to anything, I didn't need much of this advice. But scanning over it again to write this review, I like it more. I can imagine a book of advice like this tucked into the pocket of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, until it was memorized and absorbed. ...more
Oh, Michelle Tea, how I have loved thee! As soon as I saw this book at the store I knew it was only a matter of time. As I already own all of her otheOh, Michelle Tea, how I have loved thee! As soon as I saw this book at the store I knew it was only a matter of time. As I already own all of her other memoirs (though not all of her fiction), what would be the point of resisting?
That said, this memoir is pretty far removed from her other books. Tea has, as she asserts, grown up. Whether or not that makes for as fascinating reading as her young, broke, drug-fueled, yelling-at-cops-topless, occasional sex-working days, back when she indicated speech by playing with capitalization rather than just using quotation marks, well, I suspect your mileage may vary.
Tea has held a lot of strong opinions in her life, and the evidence of her mellowing on most of those certainly will (and has) offend some people. But this isn't a struggling-girl-writer-makes-good-and-sells-out story, even as Tea sometimes seems to struggle with whether or not she thinks it is. When your whole identity has been based so long on youthful hedonistic rebellion and an identification with the broke and disenfranchised, it can be hard when you wake up one day and realize you want a life where insects living in your refrigerator is not a normal thing.
I think Tea continues to display a lot of integrity here. Even as she sobers up, moves to a nicer apartment, occasionally splurges on travel and clothes, she mostly manages to not judge those whose priorities haven't undergone similar shifts. (Except those who --gasp!-- don't moisturize!) Kidding aside, there are a lot of references early in the book to Tea's ex. Now, it's pretty well-known among those who've followed Tea's career exactly who this ex is. Despite their break not being the cleanest, and despite there being some easy ammunition in her ex's identity to make him look freakish/unstable/the bad guy, she never plays those cards.
The main weakness, in my opinion, of this memoir, is that it is really a collection of memoirish essays. It often felt like it could take a little more structure/editing. That aside, I left this book with a warm feeling, a compulsion to buy moisturizer, and a little more comfort around the idea that my sudden affection for nice (kinda expensive) sandals doesn't mean I'm a bad feminist, or a sell-out. Maybe a sneaking suspicion that I'm growing up, too. ...more
This book languished on my shelves for years, and even when I finally started reading it, it took me forever to finish it, but I am so glad that I didThis book languished on my shelves for years, and even when I finally started reading it, it took me forever to finish it, but I am so glad that I did. It was filled with so much interesting information, sprawling two entire continents, and (despite the title), centuries. Which led the book to be rather wandering at times (why it was so easy to put down and go days before picking it back up), but still, as soon as it was in my hands again, I was following people around, telling them stories from its pages.
Mann spends a lot of time comparing American cultures to the more well studied civilizations of Europe, the Middle East, and sometimes China. A hard task given how little we still know about early American cultures compared to the others. But now ultimately the point. He makes a case briefly that part of what accelerated the development of Western civilization was the frequent cross-pollination of ideas from diverse cultures around the Mediterranean. What this book establishes for me is, how tragic the loss to modern humanity, that so few of the gifts of American civilization had time to pollinate anything at all before they were all but extinguished by disease and war. That, and the importance of a written language.
I spent a lot of time processing this book, as it was very dark but yet not nearly as dark as I'd feared. After having followed some of the coverage oI spent a lot of time processing this book, as it was very dark but yet not nearly as dark as I'd feared. After having followed some of the coverage of the big federal torture report, I was pretty familiar with what a lot of the possibilities were. The fact that I didn't find this book more shocking was disturbing to me.
Of course, Slahi was also deliberately trying to not be salacious, to report just what happened to him, as accurately as he could. And his ability to find, and sometimes successfully connect to the humanity in his torturers also undercut the depravity of what was being done to him.
My overall impression after finishing this book, and reading several reviews and essays about the book, was to be impressed less by the cruelty of the CIA torture program, but more by its ineptitude. That they captured, held, and tortured a man all based on such tenuous evidence. That when they finally committed to full-blown torture, it resulted in nothing more helpful than a man prepared to confess to absolutely anything that they asked him to write down, which is almost exactly what he told them, and they seemed happy with that result. But the most ridiculous was the redaction of Slahi's manuscript, which was often laughable. Such as the oft-remarked case that all pronouns related to a guard/torturer were redacted only when that person was female. Or the number of times that what was redacted was easily reconstructed by its context, and the number of times those redactions were publicly-known facts.
If you want to bear witness to the cruelty of the CIA's torture program, read the torture report. If you want to be struck by how misguided it is, or be impressed by someone who could retain their full humanity in the face of it, read this book. ...more
I could not resist this little book. I mean, first of all, the title, right? But also, I've heard a lot about Adichie, and this seemed like a good wayI could not resist this little book. I mean, first of all, the title, right? But also, I've heard a lot about Adichie, and this seemed like a good way to check her out.
The book is an adaptation of a talk Adichie gave at a TEDx conference about Africa. Adichie is a native of Nigeria who splits her time between the U.S. & Nigeria. This book uses examples from her life in both countries to illustrate how both cultures are in need of more feminist voices. She reminds us that we, the people, make culture, and if that culture is not serving us well, it is time to make culture anew.