I found this book exceedingly hard to rate and even more difficult to review. I’m too opinionated and too close to the subject.
The book was definitelyI found this book exceedingly hard to rate and even more difficult to review. I’m too opinionated and too close to the subject.
The book was definitely published now because this year is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since 1937 when the bridge opened, there have been 3,500-4,000 people who’ve leaped from it to their deaths, and a paltry 32 or so who’ve survived a leap, the latter almost all in their teens and twenties and physically fit and healthy.
Very little in this book was new to me except for some of the details of the more in depth stories of survivors, and those were touching and powerful stories. Interviewing survivors of people who’d committed suicide not off the bridge would have been just as powerfully emotional stories.
In a way I feel as though I should have given this book only 2 stars, but it was so readable, very interesting, never dull. It’s a well-written and engaging account. But, at its heart, this book is one long, single-minded, one-sided, unabashed argument for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. I think this would have been a stronger and more helpful book and even better if told through multiple points of view.
I did enjoy all the history and the various facts and factoids.
More about my point of view later, but just FYI, I came to this book opposed to a barrier and this book did not really change my mind. I expected to disagree but I did not expect to feel such rage at times. I argued with the author throughout the book. More on that later.
There was a lot of content with which I agreed or at least had positive feelings.
Also interesting was a study done, of NON-LETHAL (so not Golden Gate Bridge jumpers who’ve survived as there have been fewer than 35 of them) which found frequent incredibly short planning periods. I know some completed suicides and nearly successful suicides have been done impulsively too. In those cases a barrier could be effective.
Not new to me but one of the best things this book does is clearly describe that suicide via the GG Bridge is not necessarily painless or easy, but can be very unpleasant indeed.
I did find it disconcerting the long history of attempts to get a suicide barrier and some of the indifference and reasons for opposition. And that the railing on the pedestrian walkway was originally designed to be higher, but was probably lowered because one of the designers was short and didn’t want his view obstructed. I hadn’t known that.
I don’t doubt at all the sincerity of the author and others in favor, and not in favor, of a suicide barrier.
The author does at least acknowledge others’ objections: cost, aesthetics, and ineffectiveness, the latter being my analysis, but he has such a dogmatic point of view and he dismisses other points of view with such ease. Yes, he provides data, but boy, does he carefully choose his sources, those that back up his treatise.
There are also so many errors, including some not completely pertinent, but pesky to me, such as which half of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is being rebuilt. And some are part of his argument; I noticed what I considered a lot of faulty logic.
Worst of all, and I know this was entirely inadvertent, in my opinion, this book manages to romanticize and may be triggering to many people contemplating suicide. Not to mention it provides a couple ways to make a leap from the GG Bridge more likely to be a physically painless affair. It also gives information on how more likely to survive, and those wanting to make a grand suicidal gesture but live may try and fail; they will still most likely die if attempted.
Re the argument about the three young children murdered by parents by being thrown off the GG Bridge (a friend was working at the hospital where one child and the father were brought so I heard all about that in more detail than was in the news) as an argument for a barrier, I say parents have almost an infinite number of ways to murder their young, helpless children and then end their own lives too.
At least from the mid 70s to the mid 80s my experience was that most people “pulled off the bridge” were not there to truly jump. Suicidal gestures and attention seeking/asking for help were common, so the numbers are not as informative as they appear. Very unfortunately, back then people were more likely to get needed help than they are now. The state of local mental health care is abysmal for anyone without significant financial means.
Which brings me to the fact that 30 or so people jump to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge each year, and that is tragic. I’ll bet though that there are nearly 1,000 suicides per year in the greater Bay Area. A net is not going to help any of the others. Even worse, once a net goes up, people will be less likely to be fixated on the bridge. There are plenty of other sites that will fairly easily take its place. Most intent on suicide will find another way, or some will consider a net a challenge and they will manage to take their lives; it’s not foolproof. Or, others will jump into the net in order to get help and they may die or be permanently disabled. The net is actually (horrifyingly to me) designed to break bones, so I’d think if people dive into it they could definitely die or at the least break their necks or cause massive head injuries. The net will probably save a few lives, at least for a few years, but I suspect far fewer the author claims. The bridge does have a huge allure and it would fade for most were there to be fewer suicides off of it.
Among the mental health professionals and depressed/bipolar/other mentally ill people I’ve known and worked with, it’s about a 50/50 vote for/against a barrier of any type.
I say get people before a jump, or attempt to jump. Put all resources possible into helping potentially suicidal people whether or not the GG Bridge is their means of choice, and gestures and deaths would be more likely to dramatically decrease. Now, whatever is done or not done, there will always be suicides. If someone is determined to die, they will find a way. The author claims most are fixated on one method and if it the GG Bridge a barrier will stop them. I say for sure a few for some years, and then likely nobody. And, I know many who’ve made gestures/attempts and sometimes completed suicides who’ve gone from one method to another depending on what resources were available to them.
Some personal notes: This book did pack a punch. I’ve known three people, luckily not close friends, but close to close friends, who’ve died by jumping off the GG Bridge. Their names appear in the list of known dead in this book. I also met a survivor, met for the first time hours before her attempt and again a couple years later. I know people who’ve worked with another survivor, a person mentioned in this book, and who was also in The Bridge documentary. I’ve known many, many more people who’ve committed suicide using other means. I’ve lived in San Francisco all my life and the Bridge has always been a huge presence. Years ago I walked across it on a regular basis, mostly on the east side but occasionally on the west side too. And, unlike most people, the west side is what I’d choose if I ever were to jump. I won’t. Virtually everybody chooses the east side, but that’s partly because most years the east side is for pedestrians but the west side had often been limited to bicyclists.
I know I was especially sensitive to the author’s argument because very recently a friend of a friend fatally shot herself in the head; she lived a ten-minute drive away from the GG Bridge. I live a five-minute drive away and a fairly easy walk away from the GG Bridge but doubt I’d ever consider jumping from it, even though if I get cancer or ALS or certain other events transpire, I’ve always held suicide out as an option. (I’d like to work for adequate pain and nausea relief as a way to keep ill patients from having to resort to suicide to escape unbearable physical distress.) It irked me that the GG Bridge suicides got ALL the attention in this book, as they also tend to get locally in general. I want resources to go to all mental (and physical) health issues. Most people who live near the bridge and who are suicidal, choose other methods. They use guns, pills, hanging, drowning, jumping from other high sites, including other bridges, buildings, and cliffs, they put themselves on train tracks or in front of other moving vehicles, use carbon monoxide poisoning, and resort to many other methods. A barrier will not help any of them. Not a single one.
And, just as I was finishing up this book, I heard on the news, that while other countries have earthquake warning systems that give notice a couple seconds to a full minute prior to an earthquake, there is no money to do that locally. Doing so could save as many as 10,000 lives if the “Big One” should strike, all in a minute or two. Yes, I wish there was money for every safety measure, but since there isn’t, I want to see money used most effectively. I don’t think a suicide barrier is as effective as other mental health measures. And one argument made in the book, that funding for mental health programs can be taken away (unfortunately true) but the net is there to stay is a faulty argument. There are two vehicles involved in retrieving people from the net (a process that will take at least an hour and a half, ack!) that I’m sure will have to be maintained, and that money could be taken away, easily, unfortunately.
Interestingly, I think the author does prefer a higher rail, or some sort of barrier (unlike a net) so that people can’t jump in the first place. If there is to be a barrier, I’d also prefer that method. A net has been approved but so far there is not adequate funding; I’m skeptical whether that will happen.
In 1937, the date the bridge opened, first to walkers, my mother lived in the city and she was 21 years old. I’ve always wondered if she was one of the people who took advantage of the opportunity and walked on it on its first day.
Sorry for the long ramble. I’m probably too close to this one to write a sensible review. This is one of the few times I’d have written a better review if I’d just given a synopsis of the contents of the book.
ETA: There is a lot of interesting history, studies, stories of those whose loved ones have committed suicide and those who've died or lived after jumps. And there are helpful resources in the back of the book. But re the resources for those readers who might be suicidal or who know people who might be, given that the author doesn't think they'll often be helpful, I find it interesting that they're there. Of course, it would have been unforgivable for them not to be provided in a book with this subject matter....more
This is the fourth, and for now at least the last book in the trees series that I’ve read by this author. I’ve also read a city bird roost book by herThis is the fourth, and for now at least the last book in the trees series that I’ve read by this author. I’ve also read a city bird roost book by her. I think I’ve given all 4 stars, for slightly different reasons, but they’re all fine books.
The Banyan tree is really something! Amazing tree! I love how its branches come down and form multiple trunks, and how it, a single tree, can become an entire forest.
What I liked most about this book was the natural world part.
Also interesting, and a large portion of the book, was how the people see and make use of this tree. But it was the tree that most fascinated me, not the mythology about it or utilitarian use of it. I guess I read this series for learning about the trees, the nature, not the social (human) aspects of their habitat.
The illustrations are lovely, particularly of the tree. I particularly appreciated the first illustration, which does the the whole village, surrounded by water and at its heart, the huge tree.
According to the book, this tree grows in many tropical areas, not just India, but also in many places, including in the U.S., specifically in Florida and Hawaii. I’d love to see a really mature one. ...more
This is an excellent companion book to the television show with the same title.
There is much about the show, including many terrific photos, behind tThis is an excellent companion book to the television show with the same title.
There is much about the show, including many terrific photos, behind the scenes information about settings and characters, etc. etc.
There is also a lot of non-fiction historical information about the period.
I enjoyed it all.
It’s a beautiful coffee table type book, with quite a bit of substance.
I kind of rushed through the last couple chapters (unfortunately) because it’s due back at the library and there is a queue so I cannot renew it.
I’d recommend reading this book asap if you’re going to read it. I’m glad I read it after seeing seasons 1 and 2 but before seeing the upcoming season 3. I know many new characters and situations will be introduced and I suspect if I’d read this after viewing the third season, I’d feel frustrated at its incompleteness. Reading it now, it felt complete, and it also gave me new insight into some of the characters and situations. Poor Daisy! Her schedule is even harsher than I’d imagined.
I’ve never had servants or been a servant. I think I like it that way. I don’t think I’d enjoy either role. The series is so enjoyable though, at least so far. It was perfect for me to read this book now, while I’m waiting for the airing of the next season. I’ll watch it this time as it airs. The first two seasons I watched on DVD, one episode after the other, with a very short interval between the 2 seasons....more
This was so worth importing from England, and it was worth the money to me too, even though I’m buying basically no books these days. Even though it tThis was so worth importing from England, and it was worth the money to me too, even though I’m buying basically no books these days. Even though it took barely any time to read, it provided me with many laughs and smiles. Much of it is hilarious.
The one about the kid’s nightmares was what I read first. So funny. Then I read it cover to cover, quickly.
The illustrations are cute but I didn’t really need them.
What’s truly scary is not even how ignorant many people are, but how rude, how unethical, how outrageous so many people are. I’m not sure I’d be laughing so hard if I actually had to deal with many of these people and situations in person, but reading about them is highly entertaining.
I wanted more. If there had been many more examples and I’d have had more time of reading pleasure, I might have given this one 5 stars. I was just going to read an entry or a few here and there but I ended up picking up the book and not putting it down until I’d finished it....more
When I was in college I had a professor in a sociology class, John Irwin, who wrote the book The Felon, which was one of the books we read for his claWhen I was in college I had a professor in a sociology class, John Irwin, who wrote the book The Felon, which was one of the books we read for his class. I credit him with my deeper understanding of what it would feel like to have an indeterminate prison sentence. But he was a free man by the time he wrote the book. I’ve never believed in capital punishment, for anyone, even though I admit I hear of cases that try my deep opposition, although I do believe in life without the possibility of parole for certain individuals, people who’ve committed heinous crimes and who would be a genuine danger to the public were they to be released from prison. But I think the number of people/%age of people the U.S. has in prison is ridiculous. So, this is how I came to this book.
The first thing I have to say is that Jens Soering is an incredibly brave man to write this book and his previous books, given that he is still incarcerated and his writings are a justified indictment of the system which has him under its control.
I learned of things in this book that leave me feeling sick. This author’s case is a perfect example of a travesty of justice; I hate even using that word, given that there is no justice here, not for him, and not for so many I read about within the pages of this book. He might be able to find inner freedom but I have an impossible time accepting his situation.
This author is a good writer and he is very eloquent, and the day in the life book is fascinating. There are some “extras” but basically it follows a day from waking to bedtime. It makes me even more eager to read other such books, particularly by those about California prisons (my state) and women’s prisons. I think he has it particularly hard because he’s outside his own identified culture.
This is not his first published book, and now I have some interest in reading his other books too, particularly An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform from an Insider’s Perspective. I’m less interested in The Way of the Prisoner: Breaking the Chains of Self Through Centering Prayer and Centering Practice and not really at all interested in The Church of the Second Chance: A Faith-Based Approach to Prison Reform. For me, this book was the best one by him I could have read, especially because it took me up to his (almost) present circumstances. Mostly, I wish people who would have some sort of influence regarding his release would read them, and read the other materials pertaining to his case.
I deliberately didn’t look up the man or the case before reading this book. I wanted to experience his story as told by him rather than prejudging him in either direction. And, there is information given, gradually throughout the book, about the case and his part in it, and the informative afterword by Patricia McGinty provides great detail of the crime for which he was convicted; I’m glad it was at the end of the book and not earlier in the book. There is also a postscript by the author at the very end of the book.
There are definitely things I find a bit repellent about this guy. He seems a bit homophobic and some of his other attitudes I don’t like, but given his experience, and his inexperience, I can understand his mindset. And overall, he’s a wonderful guy, making the very best of things, not just for himself, but also for his fellow inmates. He’s also Christian and practices a form of spiritual meditation, so those details did not resonate with me. But I do admire him for how he has learned to cope.
Some of what he complains about such as lack of physical touch and isolation also affect many not incarcerated. Also, the insanities of prison life are certainly mirrored in other settings. Given human beings’ natures, I don’t find that at all surprising.
Some information in the book that particularly struck me included: the dog program, and how so few inmates participate and whom it does and doesn’t benefit, the musings of inner freedom vs. outer freedom, the power of meditating as a community, and these stats: re youths in adult prisons and those who’ve committed crimes as minors/children who are serving life sentences without parole. At the time this was written, there were 12 youths outside the U.S. serving those sentences: 7 in Israel, 4 in South Africa, and 1 in Tanzania. In the U.S.?: 2,200. I’d already known some of the (way too high numbers) of life sentences in the U.S. and the ridiculously high percentage of Americans who are/have been in prison.
This is an important account. It’s well written and compelling. It’s heartbreaking too.
I’m grateful that Kara at Lantern Books alerted me to this book and gave me the opportunity to read it. They want it more widely read, and now that I’ve read it, I feel the same way.
I’ve always felt that any prison sentence of more than few months at most would be a death sentence for me because of the lack of vegan food. I thought that otherwise I’d find it preferable to homelessness but now I’m not so certain. I am curious of the similarities and differences in women’s prisons. I suspect there are more similarities than differences between California (my state) and Virginia prisons, which is the state in which Soering is a prisoner.
Given the disturbing nature of the subject, this is a surprisingly enjoyable read. Gosh, I do hate using that term though.
4 ½ stars
edited to add: Reminder to self: level 3 prison environments (at least for men in Virginia) are vastly more tolerable than the supposed better level 1 and 2 prisons. There is a bit more privacy (a bit vs. none) for those of us who care about such things. ...more
Wow! This book is great. Every time I was thinking a place or attraction was left out, it eventually appeared. The content feels very comprehensive.
I’Wow! This book is great. Every time I was thinking a place or attraction was left out, it eventually appeared. The content feels very comprehensive.
I’d have given this 5 stars for sure but, as with virtually all printed guidebooks, so much was out of date. Places have closed entirely, prices have risen, offers have been discontinued, etc.
But, I’m tempted to buy this book for a friend who’s about to buy a house in the city, and I’m even tempted to get a copy for myself. I actually wish this was an online publication, making it easy to update as information changes.
The categories include film, readings, theater, music, comedy, dance, food, drinks, beauty services, family resources, kid stuff, shopping, health & medicine, the great outdoors, fitness, learning & lectures, libraries, pets, transportation, public art & gardens & attractions, annual events. All sorts of places are listed, and contact information is often included.
It’s expensive to live in or visit San Francisco and this is a very helpful book for people who want to fully participate in what the city has to offer but either don’t have the funds to pay full price for most things, and also for anybody who appreciates saving some money.
Reading this book motivated me to make more of an effort to do more around here and lightened my heart to see just how much is offered free or for very low prices. Much of the information I knew, but much was new to me, and I’m a long time resident.
I’m not surprised that there is a very long queue at the library for this book.
Highly recommended to San Francisco residents and visitors to the city too, with the caveat that readers do research before they head off for a bargain to make certain the places and the offers are still available.