It's December, and Aaron Englund has just left his partner of over 20 years to start life over in San Fransisco. The story follows him until June of tIt's December, and Aaron Englund has just left his partner of over 20 years to start life over in San Fransisco. The story follows him until June of the next year, and it's a combination of current events and his reflections on his parents and upbringing in a small town in Minnesota.
Aaron has a difficult childhood. His father is a policeman, and he is abusive and mean to Aaron. He wants Aaron to be a man's man, but Aaron knows he's different, though it takes him some time to realize he's gay. His mother is no walk-in-the-park either, and Aaron has a lonely and difficult childhood. How he is able to cope with his life and become a fully functioning adult is the gist of this book.
Lori Ostlund is an incredible writer. She writes of Aaron and his experiences with deep compassion and insight. There are interesting and quirky characters throughout the novel. The abiding themes of what is family, what responsibilities do we have for one another, and for ourselves, affected me deeply. A great reading experience. 4.5 stars....more
A thriller about a crime writer who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and can't distinguish things he wrote from reality. An interesting premise,A thriller about a crime writer who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and can't distinguish things he wrote from reality. An interesting premise, and it was an okay read until the end. I can't even describe how much I hated the ending....more
Todd Aaron is a 54 year-old man with autism, living in a community called Payton Living Center. The community if for the developmentally disabled andTodd Aaron is a 54 year-old man with autism, living in a community called Payton Living Center. The community if for the developmentally disabled and those with brain injury. Todd has a lot of independence, and his life is a settled routine. Then a man named Mike Hinton is hired to work at the center, and Todd feels threatened from the beginning. This book tells the story of what happens next. The book is very fast-moving and easy to read in a single day. The story is good--Todd's observations are timely and often funny. I just somehow wanted more. A nice story....more
Let me confess at the outset, I have a passionate interest in primatology, and have since I took anthropology classes in high school and college. JaneLet me confess at the outset, I have a passionate interest in primatology, and have since I took anthropology classes in high school and college. Jane Goodall was one of my heroes as a young woman. That said, this was a deeply satisfying book on every level.
Pollock's book concentrates on field narratives written by scientists studying nonhuman primates. This is more a book about field narratives, their development, and their appeal, than about specific primate behavior, though there is much of that. Pollock quotes Ian McEwan in The Literary Animal to show the appeal of these narravies:
If one reads accounts of the systematic nonintrusive observations of troops of bonobo, one sees rehearsed all the major themes of the English nineteenth-century novel: alliances made and broken, individuals rising while others fall, plots hatched, revenge, gratitude, injured pride, successful and unsuccessful courtship, bereavement and mourning.
Pollock starts with Charles Darwin and evolution to give a solid foundation for the relationships between nonhuman primates and man. This book delivers on the scientific end, but never in a ponderous or intrusive way. She writes about the works of early primatologists; many, like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, well-known in popular culture. Goodall is credited with showing that her chimpanzees were "complicated individuals with rich emotional and mental lives."
Pollock discusses the work of the most prominent 20th century primatologists and their field narratives. There are gorillas and chimpanzees, spider monkeys and baboons, orangutans and lemurs. A fascinating overview of these animals and the scientists who study them.
Woven throughout the narrative is a deep concern for the diminishing natural habitat for these animals, and the problems from climate change already being seen. There soon will be no place for a primatologist trying to study these populations in the wild; they simply won't exist there anymore.
Mary Sanders Pollock has written a brilliant book. Her premise that primate field narratives are a form of literature that combines scientific study with the romance and character of a novel really appeals to me. She makes a strong case, and I had great fun following her along the way....more
I chose to read this volume because all the stories were written in the year 1976, the year I got married. (I'm in the process of reading anthologiesI chose to read this volume because all the stories were written in the year 1976, the year I got married. (I'm in the process of reading anthologies from years that are significant to me.) The stories really evoked the era. There are stories about hippies and Vietnam, marriage and feminism, American traditional values and the "new" morality. The stories are satisfying in many ways. I can remember when these topics were consuming issues. The fact that it seems dated now is inevitable. I did enjoy reading this collection. My favorite story was Look at a Teacup, by Patricia Hampl, a story about mothers and daughters. Many well-known writers of the time are represented: John Cheever, Anne Tyler, Tim O'Brien, Tom Robbins. 3.5 stars....more
Extraordinary Renditions is a collection of 3 long, interconnected stories taking place in Budapest, Hungary. I'm intensely interested in the recent hExtraordinary Renditions is a collection of 3 long, interconnected stories taking place in Budapest, Hungary. I'm intensely interested in the recent history of the Balkans, and that's one of the reasons I like this book so much.
The first story is about Lajos Harkályi. Harkályi is a successful composer of music near the end of his life. His is about to debut his final opera, The Golden Lotus, in his native Hungary. As a young boy, Harkályi was sent to Terezin, a "model" concentration camp set up to fool the Red Cross. Harkályi calls it "the anteroom to hell itself." The concert is being held on one of Hungary's many Independence Day celebrations, so Budapest is crowded with revelers. While traveling around the city, Harkályi comes across an African American U.S. soldier being beaten up by a gang of skinheads.
Jonathan "Brutus" Gibson is an army private being blackmailed by Sullivan, his commanding officer. He is stationed at one of the "black sites"-- infamous prisons outside the bounds of law. Ervin describes these:
With an hour yet before he had to depart for Buda, he sat on the plush hotel sofa to watch television. There was no news, only reenactments of previous events, the cyclical return of war and famine and genocide, war and famine and genocide, interrupted by equally crude commercial advertisements. Only the longitudes changed, and now it was the Americans who put men in concentration camps. Harkályi, to his regret, will not live long enough to hear the music composed in Guantánamo, or in these secretive black sites speckled like cancerous moles on Europe's backside.
Brutus entered the army in an attempt to escape racism; he found it entrenched just as deeply in the army.
Independent thought, on the other hand--that was the biggest sin of them all. The only sin in the army. And independent thought from a black man was even worse. So Sullivan decided to use him as a scapegoat. He ran the base like an old Southern cracker running his plantation. He has his field niggers, like Brutus, who did the hard work--digging holes and lugging bags of concrete and shit. Then there were the house niggers, like that marine punk Doornail and the M.P.s, the adopted love children of the gay union of Uncle Sam and Uncle Tom.
Melanie Scholes is a violinist preparing to play in Harkályi's opera. She is in Budapest with her photographer friend, Nanette. Melanie is at a crossroads: is she ready to end her relationship with Nan, and return to the U.S. and get a job with a real orchestra?
One thing I particularly liked in this book was the interplay of music with the thoughts and themes. Two of the main characters are musicians, and this was a great part of the story. I'm married to a musician, and I truly believe they see the world differently. During some of the scenes with Brutus, Billie Holiday's famous song Strange Fruit was part of the background. Very moving.
Extraordinary Renditions weaves the stories of these three characters into a beautiful tapestry. The writing is subtle and lyrical. The underlying themes are deep and sometimes sharp. The place of things like fascism and racism in the 21st century is probed with great insight. An extraordinary read. 4.5 stars...more
The novel Speak is told in 5 voices from different times periods. There is Stephen R. Chinn, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, in prison in 2040 for theThe novel Speak is told in 5 voices from different times periods. There is Stephen R. Chinn, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, in prison in 2040 for the "knowing creation of mechanical life." He is in the process of writing a memoir to explain how he got where he is. Gaby White is a young girl who got too attached to her "baby bot", a robot companion, and now is ill, her main contact with an intelligent computer program. Karl Dettman is a computer scientist circa 1968, and is in the forefront of the exploration of artificial intelligence. His wife, Ruth, becomes upset with him when he refuses to program the kind of computer she wants. Alan Turing, scientist, mathematician, pioneer in artificial intelligence--a real historical figure--is also one of the voices. And finally Mary Bradford, a young Puritan woman, represented by her diary of crossing the ocean to America.
Louisa Hall skillfully weaves these voices into a compelling tale about the limits of computer science, the nature of life and memory, and how to find a way to live in a world of devastating climate change. The story is lively and interesting. A very positive reading experience. 3.5 stars....more