Meh... I love Don, but this book is too obvious. He chose a subject (an incredibly wealthy and empty man) that was too easy for him. It drifts into To...moreMeh... I love Don, but this book is too obvious. He chose a subject (an incredibly wealthy and empty man) that was too easy for him. It drifts into Tom Wolfe territory and becomes a bit trashy. The ending lacks that "big picture" feel that his other novels have. (less)
There are some amazing characters in this book. Unfortunately, Tom Wolfe too frequently neglects them in favor of a class conflict / racial tensions p...moreThere are some amazing characters in this book. Unfortunately, Tom Wolfe too frequently neglects them in favor of a class conflict / racial tensions plot that may have at the time seemed controversial but now would be a pretty tame episode of Law & Order. The book is a very fun read, but it doesn't have the weight that it clearly strives to build. Some of the portrayals of Manhattan society in the 80's, though, are so tasty that they're worth the price of admission. (less)
As usual, GBS barely leaves time for dramatic action between the long declamations of his political and philosophical musings. But there's no denying...moreAs usual, GBS barely leaves time for dramatic action between the long declamations of his political and philosophical musings. But there's no denying the brilliance of what you hear: the clash between a just world with poverty, and an unjust world without it. ---
Cusins: Do you call poverty a crime?
Undershaft: The worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities, spreads horrible pestilences, strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound, or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then. What do they matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed, ill-clothed people. They poison us morally and physically; they kill the happiness of society; they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime; we all fear poverty. Pah! [turning on Barbara:] You talk of your half-saved ruffian in West Ham: you accuse me of dragging his soul back to perdition. Well, bring him to me here, and I will drag his soul back again to salvation for you. Not by words and dreams, but by thirty-eight shillings a week, a sound house in a handsome street, and a permanent job. In three weeks he will have a fancy waistcoat, in three months a tall hat and a chapel sitting; before the end of the year, he will shake hands with a duchess at a Primrose League meeting and join the Conservative Party. ---
Undershaft: I had the strongest scruples about poverty and starvation. Your moralists are quite unscrupulous about both: they make virtues of them. I had rather be a thief than a pauper. I had rather be a murderer than a slave. I don’t want to be either, but if you force the alternative on me, then, by Heaven, I’ll choose the braver and more moral one. I hate poverty and slavery worse than any other crimes whatsoever. And let me tell you this. Poverty and slavery have stood up for centuries to your sermons and leading articles: they will not stand up to my machine guns. Don’t preach at them; don’t reason with them. Kill them. ---
Undershaft: My dear, you are the incarnation of morality. Your conscience is clear and your duty is done when you have called everybody names. (less)
Like a litmus test for psychosis and self-absortion: see how far you can read before your disgust overcomes your intrigue. And then, like any of Camus...moreLike a litmus test for psychosis and self-absortion: see how far you can read before your disgust overcomes your intrigue. And then, like any of Camus's works, you are intrigued again. Probably one of the best dramatic monologues constructed in the 20th century. A true vision of humanity's delusions of grandeur and eternal shortcomings.
"A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers" [6:]
"May heaven protect us from being set on a pedestal by our friends!" [31:]
"Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism." [74:]
"I have never really been able to believe that human affairs were serious matters." [87:]
Pretentious and unconvincing. I don't understand what people love about this book so much! The opening poem is Nabokov's joke about how mediocre poetr...morePretentious and unconvincing. I don't understand what people love about this book so much! The opening poem is Nabokov's joke about how mediocre poetry is, and the following story is entertaining and creatively structured, but did not, for me, illuminate much beyond its very tight narrative confines. (less)
A riveting and revealing story about anarchy on the high seas. There is so much ocean, and no one is in control of it at all. The shipping industry is...moreA riveting and revealing story about anarchy on the high seas. There is so much ocean, and no one is in control of it at all. The shipping industry is barely regulated. Piracy is just a small problem compared to the environmental and larger security concerns about the tens of thousands of boats carrying all the things we buy and sell. Langewiesche displays his usual mastery of showing the big picture by telling the small stories: pirates, captains, military men and regulators all get their turn to shine. The only disappointment is that the author spends so much time on one ferry, the Estonia, which killed 850+ people in the North Sea. While the carnage is incredible, especially given that it occurred in the last 10 years on a boat traveling between two of the most advanced countries in the world, it does seem that Langewiesche gets a bit obsessed with disproving some of the conspiracy theories surrounding it. But after this digression, the book finishes strongly on the shores of India, examining shipbreaking yards, where men and fire destroy what's left of the world's largest boats, revealing the problems and potential within.
A completely new way to look at the world; highly recommended. Unless the idea that a terrorist could easily put any sort of bomb on one of these freighters and slip it undetected into any port in the world is likely to frighten you.(less)
Not a clash of colonial cultures but a deadly collision of pride, religion and philosophy. Two men, both bent on the correctness of their ways, destro...moreNot a clash of colonial cultures but a deadly collision of pride, religion and philosophy. Two men, both bent on the correctness of their ways, destroy lives in order to prove that they alone know the meaning of tragedy. Although Soyinka has an opinion on which is right, he leaves that thought to settle in the dust of the play's feverish, enchanted desire. What's most amazing is the playwright's ability to call up real human emotion where so many others would let stock characters play their parts; you are surprised how much more this scene in a British Nigeria can terrify you when stereotypes are cast aside.
"Not-I was lately heard even in the lair of beasts... Not-I became the answering name of the restless bird, that little one whom Death found nesting in the leaves when whisper of his coming ran before him on the wind. Not-I has long abandoned home. This same dawn I heard him twittering in the gods' abode. Ah, companions of the living world, what a thing this is, that even those we call immortal should fear to die" [11:]
"Split an iroko tree in two, hide a woman's beauty in its heartwood and seal it up again - Elesin, journeying by, would make his camp beside that tree of all the shades in the forest." [18:]
"it is the death of war that kills the valiant, Death of water is how the swimmer goes It is the death of markets that kills the trader And death of indecision takes the idle away The trade of the cutlass blunts its edge And the beautiful die the death of beauty." (less)
A short, shivering work about one New Year's Eve at a condo construction site in Buenos Aires. The ghosts of the title are a device used to lead the p...moreA short, shivering work about one New Year's Eve at a condo construction site in Buenos Aires. The ghosts of the title are a device used to lead the protagonist, a teenage girl named Patri, through a very rapid discovery of the reality of the adult world. Aira packs in many insights, most poignantly arguing that even the simplest, most uneducated person can find deep philosophical truth through living. In the end, though, the ghosts chill you even on the piercingly hot day the novel is obsessed with describing. In one passage, the narrator describes how the ghosts can be used to chill wine by forcing a bottle into their abdomen, where it flows through their bloodstream and lymph nodes and becomes an aged Bordeaux in a matter of hours. There are also little revelations, such as the stars are not images of the dead made for the living, but images of the living made for those gone to stare at in wonder. I can't describe to you how this all comes together over the preparations for and enjoyment of a family feast, but it does, beautifully. It's always good to find both a new story and a new setting put together in the same novel.(less)
Less a graphic novel than an illustrated poem. It succeeds brilliantly where others might fail, letting the illustrations add clues to the story told...moreLess a graphic novel than an illustrated poem. It succeeds brilliantly where others might fail, letting the illustrations add clues to the story told in the way Edward Gorey's best books do. Buzzati retells the ancient myth of Orpheus with a biting gloom, adding several modern elements: technology, pop songs, and our own admission of the possibility that we could someday overcome the laws of the Gods. (less)
Ultimately, a pretty disappointing book. As a big fan of the Sports Guy's columns about the NBA, I thought I would be laughing from beginning to end a...moreUltimately, a pretty disappointing book. As a big fan of the Sports Guy's columns about the NBA, I thought I would be laughing from beginning to end and learning a lot. Neither turned out to be true. By expanding upon the worst parts of his columns - his obsessive biases towards certain types of players and teams - and mostly ignoring the profound insight he usually incites with his biting humor, Simmons comes off as someone who spent too much time watching pro basketball and now can do nothing but rant about it. I wanted to learn about all the great players of history in this book, but instead I mostly learned what Simmons thinks is wrong with them.
It's clear that Simmons has thrived online due to the work of his editors in corralling his babbling and refining his humor. The supposedly hilarious footnotes in this book consist of nothing but bad porn star humor, bad 80's movie humor, and Simmmons making jokes about how he can't stop making porn star and drug jokes. It is to our great benefit that ESPN keeps this boorish immaturity out of his columns. I began glazing over them about halfway through the book. I thought, perhaps, that I was just on Sports Guy overload, but I kept reading his columns online while I read this book, and they continued to make me chortle. By the last section, "the best teams ever," I was skipping pages entirely, as it was obvious that Simmons was just blasting out whatever it took to prove his favorite team of all time, the '86 Celtics, were also the best team of all time.
You could pick apart this book's rhetoric from many different angles, but I think it can be nicely summarized by saying that Bill Simmons is a second rate writer who, because of the popularity of his humor and his honest insights, has been tricked into thinking he is in the upper echelon. The best parts of this book are when Bill quotes other writers. But just because you hang out with Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman (and get them to contribute amazing passages to your tome of rants) doesn't mean you can keep up with them on the page. (less)
A complete portrait of a man's reason. Here the story is thought, and the dissection of each part of thought into humility, humor, madness and love. S...moreA complete portrait of a man's reason. Here the story is thought, and the dissection of each part of thought into humility, humor, madness and love. Saul Bellow does not let an image go uncelebrated, nor a neuron go unprodded as he shows us the long hard process of a simple man changing his life.
"People are dying - it is no metaphor - for lack of something real to carry home when the day is done." 39
“In the crowds of Grand Central Station, Herzog, in spite of all his efforts to do what was best, could not remain rational. He felt it all slipping away from him in the subterranean roar of engines, voices, and feet and in the galleries with lights like drops of fat in yellow broth and the strong suffocating fragrance of underground New York." 46
"Those billions of red eyes from the enclosing wood looked out, stared down, and the steep waves of sound drowned the summer afternoon. Herzog had seldom heard anything so beautiful as this massed continual harshness." (93)
"He survived. And for what? What was he hanging around for? To follow this career of personal relationships until his strength at last went out? Only to be a smashing success in the private world, a king of hearts?" 119
"Can't dump the sonofabitch, can we? Terrible handicap, a soul." 123
"I am certain there are human qualities still to be discovered." 203
"To tell the truth, I never had it so good... But I lacked the strength of character to bear such joy." 210
"She was dying. Evidently Moses wanted no part of that. He was a freethinker, Darwin and Haeckel and Spencer were old stuff to him" 285
"Go through what is comprehensible and you conclude only the incomprehensible gives any light" 325
"When the preachers of dread tell you that others only distract you from metaphysical freedom then you must turn away from them. The real and essential question is one of our employment by other human beings and their employment by us. Without this true employment you never dread death, you cultivate it. And consciousness when it doesn’t clearly understand what to live for, what to die for, can only abuse and ridicule itself." 333
"A strange odor in the toilet bowl attracted his notice next, and raising the wooden lid he found the small beaked skulls and other remains of birds who had nested there after the water was drained, and then had been entombed by the falling lid." 380 (Best allegory ever?)
"If you didn't give a goddamn, it wouldn't matter. You could marry five more wives. But with your intense way of doing everything... and your talent for making a fatal choice." 412(less)
I still remember how badass some parts of this book are, particularly Arthur's training as various members of the animal world, and the great duels be...moreI still remember how badass some parts of this book are, particularly Arthur's training as various members of the animal world, and the great duels between Lancelot, Galahad et al. Perhaps my first introduction to the fleeting glory and astounding corruption of power. (less)
The supernatural parts aren't really supernatural enough, and the family drama parts are too overwrought. It bothers me when you can't tell whether th...moreThe supernatural parts aren't really supernatural enough, and the family drama parts are too overwrought. It bothers me when you can't tell whether the author or the narrator has a warped view of the world; it's like seeing "Inglorious Basterds" without knowing how WWII actually ended. The women in this novel are presented as mystic goddesses, all vastly superior to men but without man's humanity. It's a common problem with male authors, and it bothers me.
The criminal center of the novel is a heart-wrenching story, and it did make me pause to consider a family going through what this family goes through. But it did not justify several hundred pages of a rather boring ghost story. (less)