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Like quick sand, every chapter creates a mystery that pulls the listener deeper into the story.
Why is Owen Meany???s voice so high pitched and single noted? Who is the ???lady in red???? Who is Owen Meany???s illegitimate friend???s father? Why do the main characters keep practicing ???the shot???? What is Owen Meany???s recurring dream? Right foot, left foot, body, and brain; soon you are consumed by Irving's mysteries.
Joe Barrett???s spoken presentation is terrific because it enhances the written meaning of the story. James Atlas precedes the narration with an interview of John Irving, the author. The Atlas??? interview sets the table for what you are about to hear.
Irving writes a story about growing up in Anywhere, America where the pious are weak, the rich are intimidating and the children are indulged. It is an age like today with ministers preaching and not believing, parents teaching right and doing wrong, and children maturing physically and wasting mentally. Owen Meany is an exception, as this story tells the listener.
Owen Meany is modeled like the little man in The Tin Drum, a book about a dwarf like German citizen observing the beginning, progress, and ending of the WWII German tragedy. Owen Meany is a stunted American citizen living at the beginning of an evolving Vietnam American tragedy.
The subject of Vietnam is generally understood as an American disaster. It earned its American anti war rebellion. Irving???s story crystallizes the anxiety and frustration of that time. He offers an answer to what we can do when we become anxious and frustrated about things that seem beyond our control. It is not an easy path but redemption for atrocity begins with people of faith who see reality, have an inner morale compass, and act with a relentless commitment to stop senseless acts of war.
“Zeitoun” is a return to Katrina. It reminds one of the horror, the destruction, and the ineptitude of government. It is also a story about injustice and prejudice in America. Dave Eggers tells a story that speaks to America’s conscience—its idealism, and its reality.
Zeitoun’s life in America had been a fulfillment of the American Dream but the dream became a nightmare because of Katrina and America’s bureaucratic response to disaster. Prejudice rises as control of nature declines. Because Zeitoun is unknown to his captors, the color of his skin became more important than who he is or what he does. He became “other” rather than “one of us”. He was no longer an American to his captors; i.e. he was a “Syrian terrorist”, a “Muslim cultist”, an “Other”.
Listening to a Zeitoun’ interview in August of 2010, one believes Zeitoun still believes in the American Dream. However, in August of 2012, Zeitoun is arrested for battery and accused of contracting to have his now ex-wife, Kathy, murdered. One wonders if the trauma of the Katrina disaster is to blame for the destruction of his marriage and his spiral into spousal abuse. Tragedy seems to be following Zeitoun like Katrina’s hurricane with rising water that may still consume him.
“Lies My Teacher Told Me” is a terrible title for this book. After a first chapter, there is a great temptation to put it aside because it is patronizing. James W. Loewen demeans himself as well as his audience by inferring that conscientious history-book’ publishers and teachers are liars.
Education in history provides a framework for living life; it does not predict or tell the truth of life. The truth of life is living it. There are winners and losers. History is written by the winners. Historians like Loewen can help winners understand why they won and what helped them win but all historian’s truth is, at best, probabilistically true.
Understanding leads to wisdom and wisdom may lead to a better future with more winners and fewer losers but history is not destiny. History is only one of many tools in humankind’s search for wisdom.
Once one gets over the feeling of manipulation by Loewen’s history of America, a great deal of what he writes is interesting and enlightening. Ignore the title; get the book.
The Judgment of Paris offers a story of rebellion and art's transition from classic to impressionistic realism. Art's transition takes place in the context of war. Though Ross King’s book is largely about an art movement, it is also about France’s transition from monarchy to republic. King shows that art and history are judged by Paris’ events.
King cleverly melds the transition of art with transition in politics in "The Judgment of Paris". Change is shown to be a hard; with unpredictable consequence. Consequence of change is measured by time and recorded history. Change of minds and alliances inch society closer to something different; both in art and politics. History records the value of the difference.
Edward R. Murrow interviewed several famous people in a 1950s series called This I Believe. One of the participants was Will Durant.
Durant wrote his own “THIS I BELIEVE ESSAY” after having spent fifty years of his life researching and writing an eleven volume work titled “The History of Civilization”. His wife, Arieal Durant, a scholar in her own right, also labored those fifty years on this and other historical works. Durant writes, in his “THIS I BELIEVE ESSAY”,: “I find in the Universe so many forms of order, organization, system, law and adjustment of means to ends, that I believe in a cosmic intelligence and I conceive God as the life, mind, order and law of the world. I suspect that when I die I shall be dead. I would look upon endless existence as a curse as did the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew. Death is life’s greatest invention; perpetually replacing the worn with the new.”
Durant is not irrefutably or completely revealing the world of philosophy. He is opening a door to the importance of philosophy. He shows that philosophy addresses the fundamental questions of human life.
In Durant’s updated (1950s) version of, “The Mansions of Philosophy”, he decries the paucity of philosophical interpretation of science and the failure of late 20th century philosophers to synthesize current scientific discoveries. He infers humanity is losing its way because scientific discoveries have little context and no direction.
Geoffrey Chaucer is a master of ambiguity. Michael Drout, in the Modern Scholar series, offers an informative and laudatory appreciation of Chaucer as the Bard of the Middle Ages. Drout notes that Chaucer’s view of life is best revealed in The Canterbury Tales.
Drout offers high praise for Chaucer, suggesting The Canterbury Tales seeds centuries of fictional narratives; in part because of Chaucer’s prescient understanding of human nature but also because of life’s ambiguous truths. Drout considers Chaucer equal to William Shakespeare, the greatest poet and playwright of all time.
Though Drout does not suggest Chaucer endorses cultural’ transgressions, it appears Chaucer is ambiguous about his character’s opinions. Drout suggests Chaucer may have been repentant in The Parson’s Tale (the last of The Canterbury Tales that endorses religion of Chaucer’s era) because he is nearing the end of his life. In any case, it is clear that Chaucer is ahead of his time; earned his place in West Minster Abbey (the first poet to be buried there), and deserves his reputation as the Father of English Literature.
Drout gives his audience an excellent summary of Chaucer’s contribution to literature in these lectures; however, Chaucer is best represented by his own writing. Every listener/reader reaches their own opinion after experiencing Chaucer’s work; that is what makes The Canterbury Tales a classic.
Occasionally, Audible.com offers a discounted price on academic lectures about various literary, historical, and scientific events. After reading “The Divine Comedy” (translated by Charles Norton) Professor Shutt’s lectures are a valuable guide to a better understanding of Dante’s masterpiece.
The origin of the story seems simple but its meaning is complex and revelatory. Dante Alighieri is a wealthy aristocrat that represents a major leadership faction in 13th century Italy, the“White Gulphs” which are vying for power with the Ghibelline. Their conflict is over the integrity of the Pope in Rome at the time of relocation of the papal enclave to Avignon, France. The move occurs in 1309 and lasts for 67 years. Pope Boniface VIII sides with the Ghibelline to overthrow the Gulphs and excommunicate Dante. Dante loses his political position, his wealth, and coincidently, the life of the woman he loves, Beatrice. These crushing events in Dante’s life compel him to complete and publish (between 1308 and his death in 1321) what Shutt calls the greatest single piece of literature ever written.
Purgatory may be a way-station to heaven for a believer that is cleansed of their sin or an eternal home for the non-believer or pagan. Hell is perdition for eternity with no surcease of pain or opportunity for escape. Heaven is a place of eternal rest, peace, and love.
One is overwhelmed by Dante’s genius whether or not a believer. Shutt gives one a better understanding of who Dante was and why “The Divine Comedy” is a classic.
Jason Ryan Dorsey’s book is an insightful look at the 1977 to 1995 American’ cohort known as the “Y” or “Millennial” generation. Three observations by Dorsey are that Millennials: 1)are not tech savvy but are tech dependent; 2) are participants in the work place that includes, for the first time in history, four different employee generations; and 3) that money is not “Y” generation’s primary motivation for work.
Matures’, Boomer, and “X” generation’ managers have to learn how to suspend their ideas about what works in an organization and listen to Millennials to mutually develop a view of organizational needs that will continue to improve American’ prosperity and stability. The underlying motivation of all generations is found in human nature. Understanding human nature; meeting generational needs and desires, make the difference between organization’ success and failure.
Matures and Boomers are on the cusp of retirement. The “X” generation is too small to dominate the American system of organization management and leadership. Millennials are tomorrows leaders and managers. Current organization managers and leaders need to help Millennials grow into their futures. Millennials are the energy of America’s engine of future prosperity.
The setting for The Invention of Wings makes a mockery of its subject; i.e. it suggests a glimmer of southern enlightenment in the early 1800s. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a popular novel. However, the trials and tribulations of a wealthy white southern misfit are a pale reflection of Kidd’s counter-point tale.
The counter point tale is about a young black female slave. Kidd should have written about one white woman’s or one black woman’s story rather than juxtapose such monumentally different circumstances. A young white girl’s struggle for identity trivializes the ugliness of a slave’s desire for freedom.
The South certainly depended on slavery for economic growth in the early 1800′s but greed is only one of many reasons for man’s inhumanity to man. All the world continues to struggle with the truth of human nature. Life is a struggle between anarchic freedom and social justice.
This audio-book narration is nearly pitch-perfect but the subject is ineptly handled. The points made about slavery, the abolitionist movement, and freedom are too simply contrived. Kidd miss-handles the subject with disparate individual tragedies.
“The Jungle” is a grim tale written by Upton Sinclair about the meat-packing industry in early 20th century America. Sinclair exposes the dark side of poverty, urbanization, and immigration in the United States. It reminds one of Charles Dickens’ stories of child labor in London but does not offer much warmth or balance. Sinclair’s story offers no respite from utter degradation. There is no respite for a reader to believe there is any redemption for being poor in Chicago in the early 1900s.
Every country in the world benefits and suffers from the nature of man and the effects of urbanization; none offer Eden. America remains a land of opportunity. America still offers the best known vehicle for freedom, but equality of opportunity is a work in progress. As long as the American poor remain hidden; the rich and middle class will avert their eyes, mutter “get a job”, and think the poor get what they deserve.
Annie Jacobsen writes and narrates Area 51 with the research skill of an investigative reporter and the persuasive voice of a news anchor.
This story begins as a kitty’s meow and ends with a lionesses’ roar. Jacobsen starts with a story almost every American citizen has heard; i.e. the story of flying saucers crashing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. (See “1947 Crash Report Video” http://youtu.be/8iGHTtw-I84) This over told story almost kills a listener’s interest.
Flying saucers are a small part of the importance of Jacobsen’s research. The preeminent theme is disclosure of secret government programs that use human beings as guinea pigs. Top secret programs are financed by all governments (from the “free” and democratic to the “controlled” and totalitarian) that often experiment on human beings. In this nuclear age, these secret experiments are capable of destroying worlds. The conundrum is how to constrain any form of government that patriotically believes they are protecting their own country or mankind’s future by secretly experimenting with ideas that might destroy civilization. We are still here but destruction’s clock ticks with each new secret human experiment.
Human survival is a matter of open scientific discovery and faith; not man’s secret use of human guinea pigs to determine what is best for humankind. Jacobsen is either a Cassandra or Mary Shelley; maybe a little of both, which makes “Area 51″ worth a reader or listener’s time.
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