I think I loved this podcast as well as I loved the book itself...
I don't often read other people's reviews of a book after I've already read it myselI think I loved this podcast as well as I loved the book itself...
I don't often read other people's reviews of a book after I've already read it myself, but this time was an exception. I feel strangely put-off by the conversation at hand, and my only real thought is that if you can provoke such a variety of strongly-held opinions with your work, you must be doing something right.
I felt neither belittled nor bored by Delillo's prose. I found the entire thing in turns lucid, endearing, lonely, and clever. Some of the dialogue occurred to me as brilliant. I would most definitely be inclined to say a woman of a particular sort had "important hair." I don't know that literalism is always the best form to represent the tension and revelation of real conversations. I thought his stylized exchanges were right on the mark, in effect if not in verbatim delivery of the things one overhears in daily life. I don't expect novels to reproduce life as I see it, only to share the feeling of how another might. I fully expect my future 14 year-old to serve as my moral and intellectual whipmaster, even if the guilt and thoughtfulness it achieves is only in my own mind.
I think it is important, too, to recall that this book is almost 25 years old, and was written well before Prozac, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis became household phrases.
It's worth referring to the Wikipedia page just to read a little more about the history of the title. Brilliant, I think.
This one took me several tries to get into. It was recommended by my friend Audrey, always an astute and credible source for good reads, but somethingThis one took me several tries to get into. It was recommended by my friend Audrey, always an astute and credible source for good reads, but something about the first 20 pages turned me off, and turned me off again, and again.
And then, one day, I stuck with it. It took several more to finish, but I was worthless until I did - I even carried it around in my bag to steal a paragraph here and there between innings at baseball games and minutes spent waiting in the car. Riveting, all of it, and beautiful in both form and content.
I went through some of the other readers' commentaries on here, and I can't help thinking that they missed the point. The threads are in the themes, not the minor details. The details (birthmarks, overlapping references, etc.) are there to simply point the way for those who are missing the real text here, the study of the abuse of power, and the ongoing struggle between hope and equality and the destructive forces of economics and hierarchies.
What Mitchell does particularly well is shift voices without leaving the reader to feel abandoned by her guide - in each story and style is the seed of the others, showing not only the author's literary flexibility, but also the universal applicability of his ideas.
I avoided this one for years based solely on the fact that I hated the cover. I know, I know. I finally picked it up (with a different layout, mind yoI avoided this one for years based solely on the fact that I hated the cover. I know, I know. I finally picked it up (with a different layout, mind you) and am planning to devour it on the 12-hour flight home from Beijing....more
Linguistic evolution doesn't grab you? Then read it purely for the sections on animal cognition - crows and dolphins and apes...all mind-blowing. DidLinguistic evolution doesn't grab you? Then read it purely for the sections on animal cognition - crows and dolphins and apes...all mind-blowing. Did you know that some orangutans kiss each other goodnight?
Christine Kenneally does a good job of balancing a number of tricky things in this book: she takes concepts that are generally not accessible to lay readers and renders them fresh, exciting, and lucid; she clearly and coolly maps the human interest and petty (or not-so-petty) intellectual conflicts that so unscientifically go into shaping the collective knowledge of academia; she brings out the personal stories of individual researchers to lend depth and perspective to their work; and, she maps nicely both the path already traveled and the possible directions things can take in the future.
This is an ambitious, fascinating book, and I am grateful for the opportunity to read about so many different kinds of language study - from paleoarchaeology and animal communication systems to neurocognition and genetics - in one place. It starts with an interesting question, and then proceeds to wrap together an insightful and honest intellectual history of the various ways people, past and present, have tried to answer it.
If nothing else, I'd like to invite Prof. Kenneally over for tea to talk, and I'd give anything to browse in her library....more
Steven Pinker's work is generally very readable, and so he has become something of a champion popularizer of linguistics and all the fun, quirky, niftSteven Pinker's work is generally very readable, and so he has become something of a champion popularizer of linguistics and all the fun, quirky, nifty tidbits of knowledge that come with the field. Unfortunately, he also does two things that annoy the hell out of me:
1) He writes from a controversial position as if it were the only view,
2) He had one good idea a few decades back, and has proceeded to spin it out into a small cottage industry involving a number of volumes and essays; in reality, he wrote one book six or seven times.
Words and Rules is, in my mind, the most fun of the lot, mainly because it introduces some pretty fundamental linguistics concepts in clear, accessible language and effectively blows the mind of the lay reader. What could be better than that? Other books, like The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate delve more deeply into his affiliation with Noam Chomsky's ideas of Universal Grammar and the innate human tendency toward language production, or the dubiously named/conceived "Language Acquisition Device." I recommend these latter two only in conjunction with critical, post-Chomsky work on universalism and language development....more
This was a charming two-day read, and a great example of what excellent history masquerading as children's fiction should look like: appealing charactThis was a charming two-day read, and a great example of what excellent history masquerading as children's fiction should look like: appealing characters, a gripping plot that is both engaging and easy to relate to, a wealth of information, and an underlying thread of mystery that is never fully resolved.
I appreciated Gilkerson's use of technical vocabulary - not once does he talk down to his audience or assume they are unable to handle new and unfamiliar words. He uses them naturally and in context, thus allowing readers to either absorb and wonder at fabulous terms like "mizzen," "bumpkin," "quay punt," and a dizzying litany of trivial cannon bits, or send them running to a dictionary and/or encyclopedia with labeled charts - both great options, in my mind.
He also manages to sneak in fascinating morsels of etymology, as with the rumored-excellent smoked pork produced by Tortuga's pig hunters, a delicacy which they called boucan, and the island hunters themselves, the original boucaniers, giving us, in English, both "bacon" and "buccaneer." The English word "jerky" is apparently also an adoption of the Spanish-American charqui, referring to the dried smoked meat that kept indefinitely without refrigeration and so was invaluable as a protein staple for ship-bound sailors. He also clarifies the origin of the phrase Jolly Roger, referring, of course, to the traditional skull and crossbones flag of pirate lore. Originally, pirate flags were often red to symbolize bloodshed and mercilessness, and thus were dubbed the jolie rouge. This slipped easily into a twisted English form, doubling its effect by echoing a folk reference to Old Roger, an alternate name for the Devil.
Lastly, the view of history taken in this text is in stark contrast to the traditional tales of the Dutch East India company and the pat glories of the Age of Exploration. It takes, instead, a critical look at the political power games involved in the onset of the colonial period, and draws into questioning light the rule of state over the realities of human organization. It uses the word "pirate" only carefully and often with irony, and shows great sympathy for anarchist principles, suggesting that the seafaring brotherhoods were, in fact, the first real democracies, as all decisions were based on collective discussions and equal votes, regardless of social standing. A great tidbit of history, and one that points the way for further reading in the author's note at the end.