Whether or not most people are consciously aware, the idea of perfectibility or lack thereof in human life is a moving force in most politics and philosophical study. It also affects most of us in our daily lives.
These lectures are an excellent overview of the history of Utopian philosophies and societies, with the lecturer offering a good survey of the relevant materials, recommendations about further reading, and interesting discussion and conclusions.
The lecturer is extremely conscientious about presenting his own opinions separately from the facts, and he is very careful to point out when his scholarly opinions are less widespread than other scholars' views. This is all as it should be.
Based on the criticism of some reviews, I must conclude the reviewers may lack experience with the structure of actual college courses. Professor Baumann does a superb job presenting a broad overview of the material, which is extremely difficult to do in an introductory survey course. Naturally, he discusses many other relevant materials that the reader may choose to study-- but he does not assume the reader has done or will do so. In addition to an excellent basic introductory course, Professor Baumann presents a certain amount of his own scholarly view; exactly that which is expected and valued in a college course, which this series hopes to replicate.
I don't think I need to review P&P, but I wanted to give a boost for Flo Gibson's narration. Some don't enjoy it-- you should always listen to a sample. But for me, Flo Gibson is THE narrator for British Fiction from this era and the following century. She may not be for everyone, and I wonder, based on the length of this performance, if the narration may have been sped up, although I don't find this when I listen. However, as a linguist, I find Flo Gibson's accent and delivery to be highly suitable to the books and time periods she narrates. Again, I completely understand that narration can be a matter of taste. She may not be for you. But she is worth a try if you want an authentic, witty, dry, humorous British delivery-- and she deserves enormous respect for her many amazing performances.
I have read a few Jody Picoult novels, such as "My Sister's Keeper" and expected her to write in a challenging way about difficult topics. I didn't find that in this book. The main character is a big-city lawyer, who ends up legally obligated to live with a 'plain' family in order to help a distant family member.
With that opening, one expects an examination of critical issues between various kinds of beliefs and communities, perhaps some consideration of the tension between valuable traditions and valuable innovations in modern times.
Instead, we follow a main character who talks about, but shows no signs of having been a modern woman, (just bad writing in my opinion), and who is way too dumb to be a lawyer, if one is to judge by some mistaken assumptions she has to make in order to keep the plot moving.
Instead, she falls in with the 'plain' lifestyle without a hitch, does chores as ordered, (yes, ordered), on top of all her supposed legal duties, and never stops rhapsodizing about how wonderful it all is, how healthy she is, etc.
The Plain people in the story are represented as having things like dishwashers, "just like us" and there is no serious attention given to the fact that it is a community that excommunicates any young person who wishes to attend college, and forbids him all contact with his family. I.e., a community that denies their children education. This is one of the main points of the story, but the author offers little in the way of opinion of this practice. It's mentioned with little comment that the women have to fasten all their dresses with pins, but no mention or questioning of such real-world issues like men being permitted to use buttons, while women are not, or the 'plain' people's refusal to install smoke detectors in their homes, preferring that their children burn up in their beds if it is God's will. I assume this particular set of plain people did use smoke detectors, unlike the ones in the region where I grew up, who fight legal battles to avoid it, or that the main character is happy to take her chances with death by housefire.
That is one set of issues with this story. There's a whole other area of problem. Picoult misrepresents occult 'research' as if it is a legitimate academic subject. It is not. If she had characters arguing that it should be, fine. But she simply has characters matter-of-factly stating that they received degrees in occult studies from colleges that DO exist, but have never had such courses. I don't know if this is just ignorance, or an actual agenda to make occult interests seem more legitimate, but regardless, it simply misrepresents the state of affairs. You cannot study occult matters in a legitimate academic setting in the United States. Even in fiction, if a story is taking place in the real world, one expects the author to use accurate facts about the world. You can't believe everything you read, but you can learn a lot about the world from a well-written setting, and a good author strives to make her setting as accurate as possible. I have no problem with the introduction of an occult element into a book, but in this book there are many mentions of the occult as a scientific pursuit in an American college that are just silly and innacurate, and the author appears to be either very credulous or deliberately misleading.
Overall, I get the impression that the author seems terribly afraid of insulting the Amish, which is bizarre because if she did, they would forgive her, in the unlikely instance that they read the book. So I assume she is merely afraid of drawing wrath from all of those people out there who romanticize these lifestyles, without having to live them, and in spite of knowing about the social issues they embody, particularly for women. The book reads as one big excuse/rationalization.
As mentioned by others, the narration is appalling. I wish I had never read this, because I can't unread it.
I got this book in a sale, not realizing it was late in a series. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I found it engaging, suspenseful, and satisfying, which is a lot to say for an eleventh in a series, and the first I read.
I enjoyed this novel throughout. It kept me interested in the story and the narration. The narrator sounds young while being pleasant to listen to. Other voices are also well-done. The main comparison between this novel and The Giver that I would make is that both are novels of futuristic dystopia. Otherwise the stories are not much the same. Both The Giver and this series are excellent and people who enjoy one will also enjoy the other. This novel has a less lyrical and more realistic quality, with hints of 1984, while at the same time having a more hopeful tone. The story is a little more complex, but very accessible to younger readers, and enough to satisfy adults. This might be an interesting listen on a car trip for about 10 and up. It might be boring for kids younger than that. I enjoyed it enough that I'm downloading the second book in the series right away.
I saw an ad for the print version of this book and came straight to Audible-- I was thrilled to find it unabridged and performed by Penn Jillette. I love the show BS and I enjoy Jillette's comedy and showmanship as much as his free-thinking skepticism. If you're learning about atheism, go to Dawkins or Hitchens for the great modern atheist manifestos. But for a hilarious read about a great atheist, and a book that defends atheism without repeating any of the traditional academic arguments more seasoned atheists and readers are already familiar with, listen to "God, No!" The anecdotes and essays are mostly auto-biographical, and I really laughed out loud, as well as giggled and snorted out loud, through most of the book. Jillette mentions that he rambles in the book, and he does. Every rambling word is utterly fascinating, and I couldn't put it down-- I listened to the entire book yesterday.
This is one of the finest books I have read in my lifetime. I used to read accounts of life in Afghanistan in the late 90s, when few but feminists were concerned about the Taliban's activities, but that was always an outside view. In Infidel, we are able to see an intimate portrait of life in Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, etc, from the point of view of one remarkable woman who saw through and rose above the abuses and limitions of her human rights.
In this book, the reader is able to to feel a deep connection to the humanity of the individuals, while at the same time understanding the entrenched problems with the social systems they have been born into.
Not only is this an education about social life in Western Africa, but also presents a great deal of information about the history and politics of the region in recent decades.
The story is told in clear, luminous prose, and I think the experience is greatly enhanced by hearing the author's own voice. I hung on every single word.
The author relates experiences of true horror in a way that is bearable, and even leaves the reader with a genuine sense of hope, and, if you are like me, renewed vigor to embrace life and fight for justice.
This is an absolute must-read. I saw a newspaper review that named Infidel as a "great work of literature" and I must agree. The book is compelling, and the author is clear-thinking, compassionate, frank, and committed to sharing her truth.
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