This is the Forrest Gump of the conspiracy-theory historical fiction novel. A master forger influenced European history and personally met and inspired the likes of Freud, Victor Hugo, Garibaldi, Napolean III, Dumas, and I'm sure many others. His importance had a lot to do with filling in the blanks on anti-Semite material and conspiracies that influenced world wars and ultimately the holocaust. Some very interesting bits of history, although a bit buried beneath a few layers of multiple-personality disorder and semiotic self-aggrandizement. It's no Foucault's Pendulum, but still kicks Dan Brown down the proverbial Potemkin Steps with great disdain. The narrator was very good.
Leaving Bulgakov out of a Russian Lit Lineup is pretty much akin to leaving Iron Man out of an Avengers movie.
That aside, I loved this course. The only downside was the lack of coverage of Bulgakov, as a result of his being banned for so long in the Soviet Union (and virtually unknown in the west at the time the professor was working on his PhD). The author didn't so much as mention him.
This covers everyone from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn, providing incredible historical context, perfectly pronounced Russian phrases and poems, and an in-depth walk through *almost* all the best Russian works.
I lived in Ukraine for 10 years, and this course still opened my eyes to a lot more about the Russian culture I was unaware of. It's brilliant, funny, educational, and insightful. Anyone vaguely interested in the history and/or literature of this part of the world should pick this up now. 36 amazing half-hour lectures for one credit is a steal!
You can't write a book like this without JD Salinger. You also can't get the genius of George Saunders without this work. So as a bridge connecting Tenth of December to The Catcher in the Rye, I am very grateful for its existence. As for its own merit, it was honest and rambly and self-pitying and desperate and depressing and irritating -- with what ended up to be very little heart. Or at least it didn't translate into heart for me. Being disgruntled with life and the lemon-throwing machine it can be only transcends it if the characters can overcome and grow from how they handle the challenges.
•He hunts without a shirt on.
•He takes over the TV station/media and exiles the majority stock holders in order to create his own news.
•The FSB plants bombs in apartment buildings and blames the Chechens (bags of hexagen marked as sugar).
•He hires 7 ambassador-cronies to oversee the various regions and control the voting process.
•He reverts to the former Soviet national song… slash fear-mongering totalitarian state.
•He jokes on Larry King Live about a nuclear submarine that sank during a drill with no rescue attempts, killing 113 Russian sailors.
•He cuddles with dolphins.
•300 hostages (mostly women and children) were killed by federal troops that stormed a school.
•129 hostages were killed post-rescue due to a gas attack by a SWAT team at a Moscow Theatre.
•The dismantling of democracy reaches completion.
•Innumerable Russian journalists, lawyers, and dissenters are imprisoned/exiled and/or killed.
•Polonium murders abound.
•He steals Kraft’s NFL Championship ring.
•And much, much more!
It's basically Deep Thoughts crammed into a flimsy plot. I love his stuff, but I could only take so much at a time due to dryness desensitization. Then I'd come back to it and it was hilarious again. His tone is hysterical, and I could definitely see re-listening to this in the future.
Equal parts Fast Food Nation, The Informant!, and The Omnivore's Dilemma. It does a great job of showing the closed door meetings, food industry rivalries, Wall Street, the government, as well as our own demands that have gotten us into the cluster we are in today. It was highly informative in not only mentioning the key players behind the food giants (like Cargill that provides the salt/sugar/fat and Monell that does the taste research), but also in the gradual developments and insider terms/tricks (stomach share, bliss point, checkoff money, line extension, single serving, vanishing caloric density) that have come together for the perfect storm of our obesity problem. Food = Drugs. I'm not going to lie... it made me want cookies, cheese, and chips pretty bad, though!
No duds to be found in this short story collection. What I like is how unassuming the 'tagonists are. (They aren't really 'pro-' or 'ant-'.) Many of the characters have a fragile psyche and plenty of self-doubt and guilt for everyone. The prose remains fascinating and unpredictable, juxtaposing an impressive vocabulary with the simple internalizing that usually goes unspoken. As with any writer, it was cool to see recurring themes, phrases, and concepts that he circled back to, and yet I never knew where each story was ultimately headed. There was social commentary, sci-fi, po-mo, slice-of-life family drama set in the near future, and ultimately a large amount of creativity. I also found a few of his articles in the New Yorker to be entertaining/thought-provoking. He reads his own work well, and sounds good sped up to the 1.25 setting.
Sprawling, ambitious, and yet somehow hits its mark. Traces the history of how we communicate, how we measure information, how far we've come, and why it matters. It unapologetically spends time in the weeds to walk through the theories (and their developers) of the mathematical/philosophical/biological underpinnings of what makes information so vital and yet overwhelming.
Much more fairytale Coraline/Stardust/Graveyard Book than American Gods/Anansi Boys/Neverwhere, but still a decent novella. Felt like a story from Fragile Things carried to completion. It was neat to hear that there was a lot from his early childhood that was pulled into this story, and it was a surprise to him that the short story grew into this -- for my money, though, I like Gaiman when he's more grit and gristle.
But less generously: not half as interesting as either. Foucault's Pendulum is much more worth the time.
Some have called this book pretentious, but I think anytime an author's main characters are moderately intelligent, it can turn off the more pedestrian among us. I am tired of reading about dumb people, and also quite glad to see the brokenness and truth with which Eugenides handles his characters, as well as the inter-relationships and complexities of smart college students trying to find themselves. To the first half of this book I would give a solid 5 stars, but somehow it gets a tad tedious yet still very well-written in the latter half. This man has chops, and I am definitely picking up Middlesex soon. As for the reader, Pittu blows the door off its hinges by smoothly transitioning between characters, gender, and accents. I would love to hear more from him.
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