Mesa, AZ, United States
I gave this four stars, but that is a little unfair. I probably need to break it down a little better. ACD's first couple novellas (Study in Scarlet; Sign of Four) were interesting but just didn't hold together well. I could easily deduce what Doyle was trying to do with Study in Scarlet, but he just didn't pull it off (3 stars). Sign of Four was a tad better fit for Doyle (3.5 stars), but still not quite up to my expectations.
ACD's true form is the short story. His longer pieces just don't hold up quite as well as Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (5 stars). ACD is a master of the short story. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes has very few duds. It is clear that not only was Doyle breaking new ground, but he absolutely pwned the form (and would for the next century). It is rare to find a literary work that sold so well initially (the Strand sold Holmes like crazy) and still appears relevant and popular today (from t.v. shows like Sherlock to Bones). That is the brilliance of Doyle's detective stories: they are universal, they are timeless, and they are -- elementary.
Griffin does a fantastic job at bringing Holmes to life.
I liked this character-driven book a lot. Martin is skilled at making those characters you once detested into new favorites and shifting the sands of his rather complicated characters a chapter at a time. I'm not a big fantasy nut, but I've enjoyed 'Game of Thrones' so far. Here is hoping he can continue this course through to a logical conclusion. I think I've got an idea of where he is heading, but I guess we will all see.
A solid Vietnam memoir from one of the best known writers seasoned by the Vietnam war. Things I liked: cover, Plato, Eric as mirror, dialogue, etc. Things I didn't: didn't seem to add much to the combat veteran memoir, repetitious, risk-free, light. Sure it was updated with the particular nuances of the Vietnam experience, but it was rather safe (a bizarre thing to say about a memoir of a combat vet).
Don't get me wrong. I liked it. I appreciated it, and will read/listen to more of Tim O'Brien. I just didn't think this was on par with Robert Graves, Michael Herr, Guy Sayer, Artyom Borovik, Bob Kotlowitz, etc. Good but just not great. I say this realizing I'm reading this 40+ years after it was first published. I allow that I may think the book is safe only because the road of Vietnam war memoirs was built with a helluva lot of O'Brien's own bricks.
This is a novel that should probably be read by everybody (fathers, sons, mothers, daughters) at 18 years and again at 50 years. I'm somewhere in between, but it still enchanted me. 'Fathers and Sons' themes are universal, but also very relevant to Russia in the 1860s (post Emancipation Reform of 1861).
IT is about the struggles between generations. It is is a novel about beauty, love, relationships, power, social etiquitte, etc. The duality of the generations in 'Fathers and Sons' allowed Turgenev to explore the thesis/antithesis of the human condition. Turgenev shows us the gulf separating the polar shores of humanity, but also the expansive beauty of the seas in between.
"The language game is so to say something unpredictable. I mean, it is not based on grounds. It is not reasonable (or unreasonable). It is there—like our life" - Wittgenstein
Once in Jr. High, I was playing a game of rugby (or as close to a game of rugby as you can get weighing 95lbs at a small private school in Provo, UT) and was totally blindsided during the 'game'. There was a moment after I pulled my face out of the dirt where I tasted both blood and clarity. Everything seemed at once to possess a pure obviousness and explode at the same time. Yes. That is the same feeling I got after I put down 'End Zone'. I shouldn't be surprised. I've been nailed by DeLillo before. Many times before. 'Mao II' and 'Libra' both laid me flat. 'White Noise' and 'Underworld' both hinted at, promised some grand apotheosis about life or the world.
'End Zone' is about language and war and men and death. It is about football. But don't get confused because war is not football, only football is football and only war is war. DeLillo wants to play linguistic games at Logos College. He wants to push language across the field. He wants blood in the syntax and grass in the prose. He wants his gladiators speaking prose poems, taking courses in "the untellable", discussing Wittgenstein, or screaming in German. DeLillo wants a university separated from the world. Isolated in Texas. In a space that exists separate from almost everything but football and fat girls. He wants to explore the chants of men. The dialogue of competition. The book could have easily slipped into a silly farce, a parade of prose, an onanistic literary game, but DeLillo comes at it with such subversive energy that he makes you forget who is holding the ball, or why the game even matters.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth". - Revelation 3:16
'How Jesus Became God' is a good packaging of current scholarship on the historical Jesus for the neophyte. The book basically explores how the crucified Jesus transformed into not just the Messiah, but the Lord of all creation. He examines the exaltation of Jesus from an apocalyptic preacher from Galilee into a figure fully equal with God. He looks at how this type of change happened in Greek and Roman culture, in Jewish culture, and how Paul and later disciples of Christ were influential in transforming their crucified prophet into their risen Lord. He also spends a fair amount of time explaining why it is impossible for historians to validate miracles, a person's divinity or specific religious events like Christ's resurrection.
Perhaps, I was just wishing for a bit more meat on the bones of this book or perhaps I was just not that surprised by many of Ehrman's points (He has covered several sections of this book in previous books about early Christianity and Jesus), but I kinda felt like this was just a watered-down repackaging of some of his better, more academic past efforts. Nothing too revelatory or Earth shattering. For me, it was about the same level of writing as Aslan's Zealot. It just seems these books while aiming for a bit of controversy (controversy sells), don't load their books with enough weight. Those who agree with them have already traveled a bunch of this same ground, those who don't agree with them are served a slim dish that seems a bit too facile. Or maybe it was just me.
I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather than roll in reverse. I enjoyed the narrative told backward; extracting the real meaning while reading the meaning back to front is a funky brain trick. I loved having a Nazi doctor at the center of the story. The movement from physical and moral corruption to a form of innocence uncovered a bit more of the lizard brain for me.
The problem, however, is bending this story without a need for infinite folds in time. There is no gliding back with prose. There are only jumps back with glides forward. Amis is forced to skip back in time, translate, and then relate the narrative forward. Again and again and again. It was a bit like walking the dog with a yoyo. You are unspooling the story one direction, but the narrative SAH|HAS to keep spinning in a reverse direction. The skips are necessary, but still disruptive to the narrative. Anyway, I liked it. It was a good thought exercise, just not great literature. A minor experiment from a very good contemporary writer.
There was a temptation to write my review before I had finished reading. To get there first before other reviewers. This race to be first, however, sometimes requires a pause, a reflection about what speed, transparency, fairness all actually require from individuals and companies. The world of finance is often opaque. Between executing a trade with your broker and another individual accepting that trade through their broker there is a ghost world operating on mico-slices of a second. It is a world filled with algorithms that are all focused on a zero-sum game where the individual seems to lose every single trade. It is a wild west were everyone is getting the shaft, except for the large banks and the high-speed traders.
No one is better at exploring the technical world of money and finance on Wall Street (and in Sports) than Michael Lewis. His talent is most obvious in his ability to spot inconsistencies, absurdities, and flaws in a system and explain them using great characters and narratives that the characters tell themselves. There is no Moneyball without Billy Beane, there is no Blind Side without Leigh Tuohy and Michael Oher, and there is no Liar's Poker without John Meriwether and John Gutfreund. There would also be no Flash Boys without Sergey Aleynikov, Brad Katsuyama and Ronan Ryan.
These characters MAKE this book great. Lewis, however, is what makes this story vibrantly great. He is a master of the New New Journalism narrative, a master of timing, and a master of getting to the story before the other suckers do. And... he appears to do it not just because he is fantastically good at it, but from all appearances because, like Brad Katsuyama, Lewis actually gives a micro-F about making the system deliver on its promise
This is where the late great Roth run began. Operation Shylock started what might just be the greatest series of amazing books by one author I can think of:
Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)
Sabbath's Theater (1995)
American Pastoral (1997)
I Married a Communist (1998)
The Human Stain (2000)
So, like I tend to do with great writers, I back into their early greats. I read backwards, crosswise, and reverse into the first.
So, 2014 (21 years after it was first published), I find myself reading and loving Operation Shylock. I am amazed by Roth's ability to bend an idea back and forth without having it break. He is able to flex and bend (sinister?) an idea until every detail has been bled out. The ink of the effort is all on the page. He is able to construct a book filled with doppelgängers, liars, Jews and Palestinian rock throwers and professors and wreck havoc on any simplicity of plot. Every mirror in Roth's novel reverses the part in your hair and eventually shows you that your belief about who you are and what you believe is constructed out of fiction. There is no fact only deception and transgression.
This novel isn't built from one narrative. It is built out of several narratives. The narrative of Roth writing about a Roth (a fictionalized version of Roth) being stalked by a Roth (Moshe Pipkin). Everyone is gaming everyone. Interjected into the narrative are several true narratives (Aharon Apelfeld, Leon Klinghoffer, John Demjanjuk (who may be also be Ivan the Terrible Demjanjuk). These "true" narratives serve to also deepen the idea of a fluid identity, our mutual responsibility, our ultimate nature to lie, to deceive, to hustle. Then there is the other true narrative. The narrative of the Jew, the Goy, Israel, and the Diaspora. Roth is somehow able to weave this all together in a way that fits and works. Roth is able to reflect on his place within the Jewish community and as a writer in a way that he couldn't without being confronted with a transgressive doppelgänger. Anyway, I'm still trying to get my brain and my stomach comfortably around the whole of it. Perhaps, I'll write more tomorrow about the missing Chapter 11, or perhaps I'll just say screw it and return to my own goy problems.
It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
It's round and wet and crowded.
At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here.
There's only one rule that I know of, babies—
God damn it, you've got to be kind."
I've only got two big rules with my two babies. # 1 be happy, # 2 be kind. Everything else is negotable, babies.
It appears that Kurt Vonnegut independently arrived at the same conclusion. 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater' happens to be a fairly straight-forward novel about money and charity and kindness and sanity. Vonnegut's novel (subtitled 'Pearls before Swine') is about the Rosewater family and how they invest their efforts into a foundation as a means of keeping the government from taxing their money. The problem is Eliot Rosewater (the protagonist) ends up not caring much about money and being infinitely charitable and kind. This obviously is a form of insanity that either needs to be exploited (by lawyers) or protected (by family).
In some ways, in its heart, it reminds me of a simplified, satirized version of Dostoevsky's 'the Idiot'. When people are good, selfless, and caring in a world like the one we all live in, they must be stupid or a little nuts. They certainly aren't likely to survive.
This is one of those fantastic little classics (it won the Pulitzer Prizes second prize for the Novel category in 1919) that while not exactly ignored, certainly aren't read as frequently today as the author's talent should demand. It was made in 1942 into a movie by Orson Wells (his second film) so it does have that anchor to keep it from slipping further into the darkness of the past. I guess old fiction is like old families.
"Nothing stays or holds truly.
Great Caesar dead and turned to clay
stopped no hole to keep the wind away;
dead Caesar was nothing but tiresome bit
of print in a book that schoolboys study
for awhile and then forget."
I guess the same can be said of literature. Most books are eventually pulped. Even the good and many, many of the great ones too are soon forgotten. The writer's impulse is for some glimmer of immortality, but memories and readers are damn fickle things. We collectively shrug off and forget those we recently purchased, those banging the publisher's gongs to get attention, and to hell with all those public domain dead writers -- even if they did write such beautiful books.
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