The style is so delicious and the chapter endings have such lovely twists at times, that it's hard to put down. It made me think at times of a SpielbeThe style is so delicious and the chapter endings have such lovely twists at times, that it's hard to put down. It made me think at times of a Spielberg movie -- my emotions are being manipulated by a master at manipulation....more
Cool. Guy's got a way with words. Lotsa fun inventions here, my personal fav is "pooning". Important to remember this was written before the web actuaCool. Guy's got a way with words. Lotsa fun inventions here, my personal fav is "pooning". Important to remember this was written before the web actually existed, although lots of the pieces were in place and hackers definitely existed.
If you're into dystopias, you've got to read this one....more
“Charm” is a word that has lost its charm. Nowadays, to hear the word is to think of a girl with a pretty smile, but once upon a time it evoked magic,“Charm” is a word that has lost its charm. Nowadays, to hear the word is to think of a girl with a pretty smile, but once upon a time it evoked magic, the mysterious, the untamed. John Berendt writes with an enviable quality (and quantity) of charm, the old kind. Berendt once wrote for magazines but his first book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was a smashing success that propelled him far beyond that career. Midnight came out in 1994; now, 11 years later, out comes another book, The City of Falling Angels. Angels is remarkably similar to Midnight in a number of ways. Both are about out-of-the-way cities. Both are packed with tales of interesting, mostly unconventional people and events. Both are loosely organized around horrific events – Midnight’s central focus is the story of a murder and its aftermath in Savannah Georgia, while Angel meanders around the burning of the Fenice opera house and its reconstruction. Both tell stories of high society, of low society, and of meetings between high and low society. Berendt lived in both cities as a critical part of researching and writing the books. And there are stylistic similarities. Both stories are told in the first person – the author is present, though with a light touch. He loves to spring surprises. His ability to create little plot twists is breathtaking, particularly at the ends of chapters. So, if you’ve read Midnight you know quite a bit about what Angels will be like, how much pleasure is in store for you. But this detracts not at all from the pleasure. What is best about Berendt is the way he writes, and his chosen modus operandi for structuring books works just fine. No sense in my trying to boil down the stories of Venice found in the book. They paint a charming picture of Venice (in the new sense, but more importantly, in the old sense). The pleasure is in reading them in Berendt’s voice, meeting vicariously the people he meets, wondering about the many loose ends that emerge in the many stories (and in real life), shivering at the beautiful twists in his telling of them. By all means, read this book. ...more
Before buying and reading this book, I read some reviews, and frankly, they didn't inspire me. They talked about it being a history of the world, theyBefore buying and reading this book, I read some reviews, and frankly, they didn't inspire me. They talked about it being a history of the world, they talked about its immense, ambitious scope. Such talk causes my crap detectors to tingle. I did finally buy it after reading a laudatory review by someone I respect. And I'm glad I did, because I found it to be absolutely top notch. The phrase "history of the world" misguides because the book is entirely about pre-history. The story it tells is historical in nature, but since it is about societies for which we have no written histories, the nature of the evidence is different, and that is one key to its value. The book is a superb assemblage of evidence from different disciplines, mainly genetic analysis, archeology (including non-human fossil evidence), and linguistics, with a smattering of anthropology. This evidence is woven – with original analysis – into a story of early human history. The result is a story that isn't always pretty but that hangs together well and seems better defended – hence more believable – than I would have thought possible. I suppose this is the origin of those "ambitious scope" comments in the reviews I distrusted. I could not have imagined before reading this book that so much about human pre-history could be inferred. The writing is strong as well: cogent, well paced, never overbearing. Diamond has a gift not only for writing clearly, but for helping you to understand why you should care. For example, even though his scope includes inference of pre-historical migrations and developments (both cultural and technological) throughout the world, he organizes his presentation in terms of a trenchant theme – why did the European cultures win out over so many others? Why did the Europeans colonize Africa, South America, and so on? Why didn't the Bushmen, or the Australians, or the Incas invade Europe? And this gift extends to well-chosen personal anecdotes from Diamond's rather unusual life. He personalizes the key question (why the Europeans won) by having it come from the mouth of a Papuan politician who buttonholes Diamond on a beach, asking why the Europeans have so much "cargo" and the New Guineans so little. He illustrates the challenges of Australia by telling stories of his own adventures there as well as those of some Europeans (who died there) in the 19th Century. By bringing together evidence from a number of disciplines, synthesizing it, and writing about it in an accessible way, Diamond has done something important. It has always been said that the reason to pay attention to history is to learn more about who we are. I believe that this book can be even more powerful in that endeavor because of the vast period (13000 years) and scope (the whole world) it covers, even though the lack of a written record limits the amount of detail. I for one found it stimulating, eye-opening, maybe even life changing. ...more
Fairly gripping read, based on a true story. The language is nearly two centuries old and that makes for some challenges but there are some great charFairly gripping read, based on a true story. The language is nearly two centuries old and that makes for some challenges but there are some great characters. Could have been a bit shorter....more