I remember when this book first was published. There was a huge outcry from feminists (including me) about how this reflected yet another old white maI remember when this book first was published. There was a huge outcry from feminists (including me) about how this reflected yet another old white male's biases and resentments against strong-minded assertive women. I saw the movie, but didn't read the book. Fast forward 30 years or so, and I'd have to temper that assessment. As is so often the case, the book was richer and deeper than the movie version. In his more nuanced exploration of each witch's character, Updike manages to make these women sympathetic, to varying degrees. No more than you can categorize all women into a single stereotype, you can't treat every witch the same.
Updike's writing made me miss my days as an English lit major, before "post-modern" had entered the language and come to dominate the study of literature. Master of the long sentence and the richly descriptive phrase, he gives us writing that puts us right there in the midst of a small New England town with a complete palette of characters. And yet the plot speeds along. If you love the English language as well as a good yarn (with a modest amount of bodice-ripping), then you should enjoy this work of fiction....more
Orphaned children of immigrants in the tenements of New York City were sent on trains to Minnesota to be picked by families who were to support and nuOrphaned children of immigrants in the tenements of New York City were sent on trains to Minnesota to be picked by families who were to support and nurture them. The reality was quite different, with some children placed in back-room sweatshops, sexually abused, and made to live in dreadful conditions. This reality-based novel frames the story in the present, juxtaposing the lives of a troubled teenage foster child and a 90-year-old woman who was herself fostered by horrible, abusive people. It is painful to read, but told with great humanity.
However, if you like a meaty book you can dig into and tussle with, Orphan Train is not it. I thought the reading was a bit facile, even if it did speed along. And it did hold my interest. But the writing itself seemed simplistic in places, and stilted in others. It's not a book I'd read again, but I do recommend it to those who are particularly interested in social history of the 20th century in the U.S....more
The Goldfinch wars continue, and I happily join Team Tartt. I found entire parts of the middle passage extremely difficult to stick with, but not becaThe Goldfinch wars continue, and I happily join Team Tartt. I found entire parts of the middle passage extremely difficult to stick with, but not because of the writing. What person who lived through any part of the counterculture can deny that the substance abuse accounts hit a bit close to home? Painful. And that's one reason the book is labeled Dickensian by those who liked the book. Yes, the writing is full of clichés, but that's primarily because the dialogue is realistic, and we speak in clichés all the time. I loved the comparison of moral/ethical slackness with the more honorable characters of Theo's mom and his eventual mentor, Hobie. The book abounds in good and evil, with plenty of gray as well. Rich characters, writing that moves you along, ethical dilemmas, danger and intrigue ... Gosh, people, what more do you want from a novel? This was so much better than the dead, spare writing so familiar to us as post-modern fiction. Give me an engaging book any day. Life is full of existential angst. Books provide a better resolution. And yes, I have read all the Harry Potter books.
Now I'm eager to read her first novel, The Secret History, which made such a big splash when it came out....more
This is a really lovely graphic novel that physically represents a children's picture book. IT IS NOT! Just trust me so that I don't have to crack a m
This is a really lovely graphic novel that physically represents a children's picture book. IT IS NOT! Just trust me so that I don't have to crack a major spoiler. Set in Chicago with an ethereal feel, the book spans years in the life of the protagonist. It's quite delightful in a very adult, philosophical way. Author Audrey Niffenegger wrote the story and did the illustrations. Elegant in every way, the physical book is printed with full bleeds on glossy paper. Even the endpapers are beautifully illustrated. It's a Harry Abrams book, so this is not surprising.
In her After Words the author credits The Door in the Wall, by H. G. Wells, as inspiration for the book. Readers who delight in the look and feel of The Night Bookmobile will be happy to learn that it's the first installment in a much larger work, The Library. I can't wait!
I loved this book a lot. Patti Smith manages to capture the feel of the '60s in the counter-culture, as well as her transition from home life to the aI loved this book a lot. Patti Smith manages to capture the feel of the '60s in the counter-culture, as well as her transition from home life to the artistic/creative life for which she yearned. I'm not sure why I'm so surprised at what a good writer she is; after all, she's one of the best poet/lyricists of our time. ...more
This is a disturbing book to read because it focuses on the outcasts of today's world: sex offenders. The larger question posed in myriad ways is thisThis is a disturbing book to read because it focuses on the outcasts of today's world: sex offenders. The larger question posed in myriad ways is this, "What do we do with the pariahs of society? Where do they live? How can they live?"
As with Banks's Rule of the Bone, the central character is a young boy, though in this case the Kid is barely in his twenties. His associates are a motley crew who, like him, live under a viaduct. "The Professor" plays the corpulent symbol of the decadence of overabundance, and it is through the device of his research interviews that we learn much about the Kid's background.
Banks excels at making us uncomfortable even while compelling us to read on, and he does that extremely well in this book. His characters are richly drawn, and the action of the book lies not only in the dramatic events that unfold but in the lively internal dialog to which we are privy.
The book is longish, but well worth the time, and the second half really races along. ...more
While I realize this book is upheld by many as proof of the failure of communism, I find such a summation a little too facile. There is much that canWhile I realize this book is upheld by many as proof of the failure of communism, I find such a summation a little too facile. There is much that can be said about the state of the Soviet Union in the '30s and '40s: the role of Stalin, the harsh reality of life in Siberia (for prisoner and free person alike), the reality of a country barely emerged from feudalism having to industrialize rapidly in order to fight off the attack of Nazi Germany, and so on. I'll have more to say once I finish the book, but for now I can only say that it's a very vivid account of one day in the life of a prisoner in the gulag. What does this prove about communism itself? Not a whole lot.
And now I've finished it. My book group met to discuss it the day after the 40th anniversary of the longest solitary confinement ever, for two prisoners in Angola Prison in Louisiana. We did talk a lot about some of the above-mentioned context, including the fact that life outside the gulag was little better than inside due to shortages and poverty. In the final analysis -- leaving aside the social role that the author has played (proposing a return to the monarchy in Russia, among other retro yearnings) -- this book belongs squarely in the genre of prison novels. And in a strange way, Shukov's (i.e., Ivan Denisovitch Shukov's) daily struggle for survival was far better and far more free than the existence most American prisoners face. Yes, it was cold, bitterly, bitterly cold. But: these prisoners could work, they could game the system (and did, along with the officials and everyone in between), they managed to take pride in the quality of the work they did, and they formed strong social bonds in the same way that a sports team or even a family might. Compare with the way the U.S. treats Muslims on Guantanamo and the life of Shukov seems pretty bearable. This is not to make light of conditions in the gulag, but more to point out that prison is prison, wherever you are. And this particular prison seemed little different than most the world over; in some ways, better.
So my initial trepidation about diving into a right-wing diatribe was way overblown. It's more the way that the book has been used, and that the author in particular used his experience, to make the very one-sided case that the very notion of communism is wrong. No, it's not wrong; it's simply gone as far as it can go, for awhile. There were very good things, there were very bad things. We learn and move on....more
Jane Austen never disappoints in terms of plot and character development. But that's also what makes her a bit predictable for me. I should qualify thJane Austen never disappoints in terms of plot and character development. But that's also what makes her a bit predictable for me. I should qualify that by noting that it's been awhile since I've read what are regarded as her major works. This one: maybe not so much? Would love to know what others think of this particular novel....more
This is an excellent book that I cannot recommend highly enough! Its scope is much broader than I'd initially imagined when I first heard about it. IThis is an excellent book that I cannot recommend highly enough! Its scope is much broader than I'd initially imagined when I first heard about it. I often postpone reading "buzz books," probably out of sheer orneriness. But my book group chose it for one of our reads this year, and I dutifully ordered it on my Kindle. I only wish I'd read it sooner.
This is a book about science, about racism, about gender bias, and about medical ethics. As if this weren't enough, the author manages to work the story of her own research efforts into the larger story, without making it all about her. There are heroes and villains in her cast of real-life characters, and I couldn't help but get caught up in the personal dramas of the dedicated researcher, the extended Lacks family, and the author's dogged search for the truth in the face of difficult and sometimes frightening circumstances....more
We read this for my book group a couple of years ago, and just about everyone loved it. It's a true story, and Dave Eggers is just the best storytelleWe read this for my book group a couple of years ago, and just about everyone loved it. It's a true story, and Dave Eggers is just the best storyteller. Zeitoun himself is a good-hearted man of Middle Eastern origin who reaches out in the wake of Katrina to help people. His reward for this is unexpected, to say the least. Engaging and appalling, all at the same time....more
Utterly charming book about the generously endowed Madame Ramotswe, who decides to open her own detective agency. What amazes me about this entire serUtterly charming book about the generously endowed Madame Ramotswe, who decides to open her own detective agency. What amazes me about this entire series is that the author has created great characters while maintaining a plot that moves at a good clip. Each slender volume can be read quickly, but you end up with the feeling that you've learned a lot about both Precious Ramotswe and Botswana. ...more
It's been 44 years since I started my first job out of college, as a copy editor at Scott, Foresman, educational publishers. Throughout my incrediblyIt's been 44 years since I started my first job out of college, as a copy editor at Scott, Foresman, educational publishers. Throughout my incredibly checkered career, one consistent thread has been editing. No matter what the job or where it's taken me, my editorial switch just always seems to be in the "on" position. This is the context for my reading of Amy Einsohn's very useful guide to copyediting.
Now that I'm retired from the completely engrossing field of user experience design, in which I worked as an information architect for many years, my dial is recalibrating to the somewhat less engrossing work of copyediting. I've been busy with this ever since I left VSA Partners, eager to abandon the "software du jour" requirements that made the job increasingly technical and ever more demanding.
I knew I needed some help in navigating the Chicago Manual of Style, which had tripled in size since my first copy, the 12th edition, in 1968. The 16th edition is over 1,000 pages and is fondly referred to as "the orange monster" by some of my editor pals. So I signed up for a couple of refresher courses offered online by the Editorial Freelancers Association, based in New York.
Einsohn's book is one of two texts for the course, and at a mere 500 or so pages it is the perfect companion piece to the CMS. The author writes with a light touch and a sense of humor. The language is simple and direct, and there are ample illustrations that accompany the text. Einsohn even includes exercises and an answer key.
If you think you've got potential as an editor, this book is a good place to start finding out. Most of copyediting consists of mechanical corrections and not the improvement of poorly written manuscripts. Surprised? I was, too, but this is reflective of the change that the world of publishing has undergone in the last three decades. If you're already working as a copy editor, you may be surprised to discover that making writing better falls in the category of "we don't have budget for that" and "that" is considered heavy copyediting. One thing this book and this course have made me realize is that I've been undercharging for my services!