This book is definitely a good primer for the mid-tier NCO or junior officer. It can also be useful for those having to work in a joint environment beThis book is definitely a good primer for the mid-tier NCO or junior officer. It can also be useful for those having to work in a joint environment because of the insight it lends into how the Army leads and what the Army expects of its soldiers. Overall, a decent read for lower echelon leaders....more
I like stories where the lead character learns a lesson, matures, or, at the very least, redeems themselves in some way. In this story, Rabbit does noI like stories where the lead character learns a lesson, matures, or, at the very least, redeems themselves in some way. In this story, Rabbit does none of the above. I know this is a part of a series, and maybe later in the series Rabbit grows up, but I dislike him so much that I have zero desire to pick up a second book about him. I pushed through the book because there were points where I thought Rabbit would turn things around and actually answer; where would Rabbit end up? Who would he end up with? Would he ever become the man he should be? As I read the final page I walked away dissatisfied. After all those trials and tribulations, Rabbit didn't change, he continued to be the same self-absorbed jerk that one encounters in the very first pages. I gave this book two stars because Updike tells a good story. There is some humor, drama, sadness, and even hints at redemption but then the story falls away and the reader is left wondering why they stuck through it. ...more
Twain's writing seems to always produce characters a reader either roots for or against. This short story falls in line with typical Twain characterizTwain's writing seems to always produce characters a reader either roots for or against. This short story falls in line with typical Twain characterization. The premise of the story is about two boys, one slave and one master's son, switched by the slave boy's mother to prevent her son from being sold "down the river." She's able to accomplish this by the fact that she is of mixed heritage and her son's father was a white man. Therefore, he looks white and easily doubles as the master's son's doppelganger. As the story progresses, one begins to really dislike the new "master's son" as he grows up to be a spoiled, petulant child with zero morale character and is also fairly spineless. The new "slave" is kept in the household and shows all the character traits of courage and humility. However, as they both age, the life of slavery reduces the young "slave" boy to an uneducated and cowed slave.
Most of the characters in the novel are rough sketches with the exception of the title character, Pudd'nhead, the new "master's boy," and his slave mother. Everyone else is given courtesy treatment when their characters are needed to fill in the plot. It is not to the detriment of the story. Twain's story is interesting and moves along rather rapidly. I will refrain from giving anything away -- there are some nice twists to the story -- but will say it was a decent read sprinkled with typical dry Twain wit.
The most interesting part of the book was Twain's epilogue to the story. He shares with the reader how the story developed and how it was actually a composition of two stories intertwined. Twain had difficulty in separating the two but it is educational to the aspiring writer to see how a master storyteller was able to extricate an interesting story from two original thought-lines. His explanation is also quite humorous as he explains how he at first decided to kill off a few characters by having each one fall into a well but decided that, after three or four, the reader may notice.
I'd recommend the book, it's a short story and easily completed within an hour or two....more
Twain delves into a story aimed at critiquing religion in his short story "The Mysterious Stranger." The story revolves around three young boys who meTwain delves into a story aimed at critiquing religion in his short story "The Mysterious Stranger." The story revolves around three young boys who meet Satan in a field one day. Now, Satan is actually the nephew of the "real" Satan and was named after him since his family line was a "great and distinguished one" in heaven. Twain's angels are neither good nor bad but seem totally indifferent to the sufferings and ecstasies of man. When the angel interferes with members of the boys' town, the boys first see the angel as apparently doing evil to thier kin and friends. Only when the angel explains why it was better for some of his victims to suffer at the stake, or drown in a lake, do the boys begin to understand that sometimes "better" doesn't necessarily mean living a long, rich life. Sometimes a quick life, extinguished even at the stake, was a better alternative than living.
For example, one lady loses her daughter in an accident. She curses G-D and vows to never pray to H-M again. The boys wish her to have a better life, the angel chooses the one that burns her at the stake within a couple of days of her blasphemies. Of course, the boys are horrified but the angel on chides them by explaining that out of all the possible outcomes of her life, this one was the only one that would get her into heaven. Otherwise, she would have lived forty years in pain and suffering, mourning the loss of her daughter, and then found her way into hell once she died. This type of story is repeated throughout Twain's work with some positive and negative outcomes. Eventually, the boys stop asking for the angel's interference only to have a great secret revealed to them about G-D, heaven, hell, and the universe in general.
As a reader of Twain, again I recognize many of Twain's witticisms in the text. However, I think Twain's aim in this work was more to critique perceived views of religion and G-D and force the reader to reassess just exactly why such a benevolent, and powerful being, would actually care to be involved in the daily lives of such low creatures that He has little in common with. Surely, in Twain's view, such a being would care for the human race as much as the human race cares about the feelings and piety of bed bugs. Do bed bugs worship us as gods? Do we even care to know? How would we react if we found out they did worship us? Is there anything they'd possibly offer us so we would care? This is Twain's point (the bed bug analogy is my own not his) in his story. The angel is neither good nor evil because he cannot relate to the human condition. The boys perceive his actions as evil when, in reality, the angel is merely shaping out one future out of millions of possible ones for each individual. He also asserts that everyone's decisions, every day, affects the outcome of one's life.
For Twain, this is a "heavy" read where the reader has to really think about what Twain is saying. I enjoyed reading the story because it was thought provoking. It is a quick read, like many of Twain's works, but be warned it is far from as entertaining as many of his works....more
This is one of those reads that one has to take their time on. Paine makes his arguments eloquently; however, it is couched in the language of the dayThis is one of those reads that one has to take their time on. Paine makes his arguments eloquently; however, it is couched in the language of the day making for a longer read. One also has to have some understanding of the local time period in which he wrote. If one has little knowledge of the American and French Revolutions then some of the rhetoric will be lost. That being said, the essays on the Rights of Man, as well as The Age of Reason, are timeless. Paine's approach to inalienable rights -- rights everyone, slaves included, are entitled to by their birth onto this earth -- is logically constructed and moving. One can see how his writings influenced the ideas captured by the US and French constitutions. It is his essay, The Age of Reason, that is truly stunning.
Paine effectively calls into question the western world's three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He calls them all religions based on nothing more than hearsay. His deconstruction of Christian mythology is superbly done. He surely would have been in danger around Salem with what he put to paper. I'd warn anyone with strong religious views that this essay will anger them. He pulls no punches in calling into question religion and its usefulness. Paine is devoutly pro separation of Church and State and can probably be called the first individual to actually use that term. In my opinion, this essay displays Paine's brilliance as a writer. It's a moving piece of literature.
I highly recommend this work and find it disappointing that the Rights of Man is not mandatory reading in classrooms. It is well written and applies to today's world as much as it did in the late 1700s/early 1800s....more