Yamhill, OR, United States | Member Since 2009
How can I write a review of Proust’s seminal work without sounding like some kind of blabbering idiot? This is one of the most profound books in all of literature. My goal this year was to read 80 books but I could spend an entire year reading, rereading and pondering between the covers of just this one masterpiece. Of this the Publisher’s Summary: “In this first part, Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing, and, at times, comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century, and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love.” That’s almost as bad as anything I could write. The book was at times about a profound vision of obsessive love to be sure but it was so much more. About French society at the close of the 19th century? Maybe; I wouldn’t know; I hardly noticed. For me, the book stood out for its words, the use of words, the language, the prose itself. That was the layer I got stuck in and never seemed to have emerged from. The words were often melodious; sentences were fraught with musicality. Though nothing exactly like a poem, the words did flow in a rhythm but more like that of the ocean’s rise and fall, a natural ebb and flow, not like that of the forced meter of a poem.
Within the chapters, one could contemplate or meditate for extended periods of time on singular sentences. And what sentences some of them were. Some were the longest I have ever encountered in any book but they always made sense and always stood perfectly as they were. And no, Sister Mary (grammar school English composition teacher), they were never run-on sentences. The author never takes such license. The description of a meditation only begins to purport Proust’s familiar visions rooted in the here and now. These seemingly endless sentences had the effect of drawing me in to the fathomless depths of the space between two breaths.
Obviously, it was, at least for me, not a book to be taken lightly or read nonchalantly. It was a book that at times required a certain dedication to and enthusiasm for to read. This is not a book for everyone but one that everyone interested in great literature should at least attempt. Had it not been summer and my workload less than strenuous, I might not have appreciated this book as much as I did. For me, I had to pay attention but when I did, it was a trip into my mind that only a few authors have had the ability to take me on.
Having read and now listened to this volume, I found the experiences to be quite different and each with its own merit. With a book in hand, I could more easily reread passages. With an audiobook, it sometimes felt like I could more easily internalize and be transported by both author and narrator. The narrator, in this case John Rowe, was nothing shy of outstanding in his delivery. I am so glad that he is available for the remainder of the series.
In the interest of time and space and because I could never do justice in a review to the writing’s of this master, the following is an excerpt from perhaps the most often quoted part of the book on remembering the taste of a pastry and tea. The rest of the passage can be found here:
“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?
I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, then a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself. The drink has called it into being, but does not know it, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a progressive diminution of strength, the same message which I cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call it forth again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.”
Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. His development of unique characters, worlds and systems-of-magic are perhaps for many of us without parallel in modern writing. It is in the actual writing that I am sometimes left frustrated. The story-telling is superb and keeps me coming back there's no question about it. I finished the book in less than a week and that after spending the previous week reading Book 1. Every available and non-sleeping moment was spent with the book. But there was always something missing... something that said this is still just not a literary work. Maybe it just seemed to me to be a bit too commercial. But Sanderson is young and I have no doubt that his writing will mature even more and I will come to a completely different conclusion about his place in history and the body of works considered great literature.
The production and narration by two premier narrators was excellent.
If you were to read one book on the subject of introversion, I would highly recommend Quiet. The book was superlative. The Introvert Advantage communicates many of the same tenets as Quiet just not as completely or entertainingly.
This book has been around and promoted for a while now. I've seen and been tempted but not so much till it went on sale. While I think it was worth the sale price, it was not worth my time. I was tempted to quit in a number of places but continued to hope it would somehow redeem itself. It didn't.
The book has almost 1000 ratings on Audible and over 4 stars. I don't get it. I thought the book was silly, trivial and uninspired. You can read what the book was about and why others liked it elsewhere. But for me, I'm done.
This was one great book. I loved every minute of it. Sure there were nautical terms bandied about (it's a book about the Royal Navy) and a awareness of these terms can help in its enjoyment but such knowledge is not essential. At first I thought this was a coming-of-age story and in some respects it is. And, while it could be classified as YA, this story has something for everyone. The actor/narrator Christian Rodska takes the book to a whole other dimension. His voices for all of the characters seem spot on.
The book is truly exciting, touching and hilarious. I highly recommend it. I loved it.
You’re presented with three doors. Behind one door is a car and behind the other two doors are goats. Sound familiar? It is. You pick door number one. Instead of opening your choice, Monty opens door number two and reveals a goat. He then asks you if you wish to keep what’s behind your original choice (door one) or change your mind to door number three. If you think it makes no difference whether you switch or not and that your odds are 50/50 either way, you might be surprised at the answer and enjoy reading this book. If you are surprised by the answer to this ridiculously simple challenge, you’re in for a plethora of awakenings about the assumptions we make of the numbers and statistics we hear in our daily lives.
Peppered with charm and wit; wonderfully read by Sean Pratt, I would highly recommend this title to anyone interested in a history of the development of statistics. Books about numbers are especially not easy ones to listen to but Sean Pratt reads this one at just the right pace and with just the right inflections to make listening to and learning from The Drunkard’s Walk totally accessible. I will often read two or three books at a time. This one, however, was just so captivating, it monopolized my complete attention. But then I’m a nerd and that too might be a requirement for truly enjoying this title.
There was a lot to like about this book. I felt it was original having been written in the 1st person with a protagonist who is autistic. My understanding is that the author has personal experience with a family member who is autistic and we can probably rely on its authenticity. Thinking and speaking from the perspective of one who is autistic was for me sometimes painful. I wanted to give up on the book at times. But I could not, which must say something for the book in itself.
From the aforementioned perspective, the book is quite simple. And this is not meant in any kind of derogatory sense in that respect. If most of us were more simple not only in how we view and feel about the world but also in how we relate about those things to others, there might be fewer misunderstandings among us. I think that the strongest aspect of the book is its ability to really get inside the head of the protagonist and help us to feel what he must have been feeling especially in his frustration with "normal" people. And truly, he was much more normal if not more ideal than many of us who do not carry the label of autistic.
I believe that the book deserved a better plot. The plot seemed almost too trivial given the nature of the subject material. The ending was not what I expected and it seemed too short. Further, I have to think that in the end, I would not have chosen for myself what the protagonist chose for himself. Perhaps the book was deeper than I thought and I might have missed something. But I don't think so.
I'd liked to have given the book a 3.5 stars rating but since I could not, and because for me it was quite original, I gave it 4 overall.
I think many of us are sometimes either encouraged to purchase or dissuaded from reading a book by a publisher’s summary. I know that I can be influenced by them. Like most things in life we are trying to decide about, we search for support of our position to do something that we are leaning toward such as purchasing a book. We use these summaries as well as the reviews of others to give us that little extra nudge to hit that “Add to Cart” button. In deciding to purchase The Art of Procrastination..., I believe that I was totally misled by the summary and in disagreement with most of the reviewers. This book was one of the smallest wastes of time I can imagine.
The book was one of the smallest wastes of time only because it was so short. I finished it in one round trip drive to and from a work assignment. Thank goodness I didn’t waste that time doing something that required my full attention... or... maybe I did. There’s continuing debate about whether we can safely multitask while driving. Though the book certainly was not so profound as to draw my attention away from the road. It was not so laugh-out-loud funny as to cause my eyes to tear up and obstruct my vision of the road. It was not so wise as to cause me to ponder and plumb its depths and unconsciously and dangerously change lanes. Not once did I think of Thurber, Wodehouse, or Harry Frankfurt’s *On Bullshit* though there was plenty of dung to conjure those thoughts and be analogous to the contents of this book along the country roads of my drive. The book was not for me at all insightful, charming or witty. It did not entertain, educate or illuminate.
I can only conclude that the author is, as he claims to be, the consummate procrastinator: Anything else the author might have had to do and that he put off doing, had to be more important than writing this book. If you are looking to procrastinate, justify and avoid doing something else more important then read or listen to this book. But I can promise you that almost anything else that you do instead will be more rewarding. If your wish is to discontinue your procrastinating, you will find no insights here: avoid it.
This is a wonderful little book. I have a hard copy but with Simon Vance doing the narrating and being on sale, I could not resist the audio version. This may not be a book for everyone. Taoism is probably a rather arcane subject for the uninitiated. For those who have delved its depths or even those who have not but have an interest in the subject, this is a great little primer. The book is simple and deep at the same time (yin and yang). It is both serious and humorous. The narration is impeccable.
If you are interested in further reading on the subject, for the original Tao Te Ching, I would highly recommend the translation by Stephen Mitchell who is also the narrator and available on Audible.
I've mentioned in these reviews that I think that a narrator, especially one who is also an actor, can make a good book seem better; a bad narrator can sometimes tarnish the appeal of a book that is well-written. But, when a great performer reads an incredibly well-written book, the synergy can bring the result to a whole new dimension of achievement. I think that it is this latter case that best describes Deathless.
Firstly, my Audible version of the book thankfully avoids the very annoying repetitions of “he said,” “she said…” within the narrative. Instead, the characters are acted out by the brilliant Kim de Blecourt. She has a voice for each character, sometimes subtle in nature but always unmistakably characteristic and consistent from the beginning to the end of the story. Performing a story rather than just reading it is a difficult task to pull off well as I can only surmise given how often I have listened to poorly narrated let alone unadroitly performed novels on Audible. And perhaps because of Ms. de Blecourt, I loved every one of the characters in this story: the heroine, the hero and even the villains who I came to never think of as true villains (see the blurring of dichotomies below.) The crones, elves and goblins, et al were beautifully drawn and all easily visualized from the words of the author and voice of the narrator. The sweetness and compassion that comes through in the voice of the narrator seem totally in keeping with the themes, tone and thrust of the story.
Anna Akhmatova is the translator of Deathless. I have read criticisms elsewhere of translators who were unable to accurately carry across in translation either the meaning or beauty of the original language. I’m thinking of Solaris in its translation from Polish to English. While I cannot speak to the accuracy or translational skill of Ms. Akhmatova, what came across for me was prose of extraordinary beauty. And, given what at first blush can only be described as a book fraught with rather terrible themes, the projection of any kind of beauty in the midst of all that darkness and terror is only the first of its many dichotomies. And it is just these dichotomies that I found to be one of the most interesting aspects of the book.
There are themes of extreme opposites that are clouded dichotomies within the story. For example, there is a war between two brothers, two realms, life and death but even between these, the author blurs the line. The only difference between fact and fiction is only that which the reader allows oneself to suspend disbelief [sic] in. This is a story about power: power taken and power freely given. Incidentally, the theme of dominance and submission is explored throughout the book and might be a bit too extreme for some readers. Yet here too, the subject of sadomasochism is handled by the author with such grace, finesse and aplomb, that this reader found nothing repugnant or distasteful; another blurring of what might be considered by some to be clearly right or wrong.
Valente’s lyricism combines eastern European folklore with early to middle 20th century Soviet history. The story itself speaks of that interesting amalgam of facts and fairytales. That particular time and place served not only as a poignant backdrop but was, I believe, a metaphor for enriching a much deeper story often as cold, bleak and bitter as its exterior. While listening to the book, I often had visions of an elder, Russian grandmother with a twinkle in her eye reading tales to her grandchildren at night next to a crackling fire. Though be warned, Deathless is not a book for the very young… maybe not even for the sorta’ young. It does contain some rather mature content.
As in any good fairytale, there are lessons that are taught even if not always learned by the characters. I found that most of the lessons were not taught by the protagonists but usually by the lesser characters in the story: the spirits, demons and other magical creatures portrayed in supporting roles. Here too the dichotomies come full circle with the tutors coming to learn as much as they taught which often turned out to be the opposite of what they originally taught/thought to be true. Bad often morphed into good and good into bad; the dominant became the submissive and submissive dominant; young became old became young again.
And speaking of love, what is also amazing and just occurred to me, having written about all the dichotomies within the pages, one missing dichotomy is that of love and hate, or even love and fear if that’s your preference. One of my favorite reviewers, who is also Russian, says in her review, “For me, this was, above anything, the story of war and loss.” I can see how one might get that from Deathless. While there was war, suffering and sadness for sure, I only took away its theme of love and the beauty of its prose from between the covers. I saw suffering but found no hate! Amazing. We could blame the Bolsheviks early and Nazis later in the story for so much suffering but those were among the facts and more tangential to everything else going on in the story. My focus must have been more within the fantasy where there were few if any real villains, no bad guys (or gals.) Sure, there was the wife, if you can call her that, who ate their husbands but it sounded like they deserved it. She was great fun and one of my favorite characters.
Whatever your focus, this is a driveway book: one that you arrive home to while listening and find yourself unable to get out of the car; you sit and continue listening because you cannot stand to interrupt the story. I read the book in two days and it is one I probably would not have chosen to read or listened to in the first place. While I am a sucker for a good love story, it has to be a really good one (e.g. Romeo and Juliet.) This book was more than good; it was great.
Having just been written within the last couple of years, we can probably not call Deathless a classic. For this reader, however, it is only a matter of time.
After a rather long hiatus from writing reviews, one would think that I would return with one about a well received book. Unfortunately, this is not to be the case. I was enticed to read this book based on a great review by Ryan who, it turns out, writes a great review about not so great a book. He said he read the book several times since he was a kid. While it is not a particularly interesting adult book, it is definitely Not a “kids’ book.” This book managed to capture not only the Hugo award but also the Nebula. How it did so is beyond me except there must not have been very good writing back in 1978.
The premise of the story starts off interesting: a long, disappeared race of beings leaves behind a fleet of spacecraft that present-day “prospectors” take to unknown destinations in search of wealth and fame. The destinations are unknown because the craft are not well understood and the explorer / prospectors just go along for the “programmed” ride and hopefully don’t end up dying along the way or at their destinations because after millennia the destination star system may have gone or is in the process of going nova. Or, maybe the destination is invested with poison ivy and the visitors get all itchy and scratch themselves to death. No, I’m not making this up.
The hero, who is not much of a hero, let’s just call him the protagonist, throughout the book has conversation with a robotic teddy bear who is his automated psychotherapist. These sessions include excursions into the realms of not so traditional sex to our protagonist’s relationship with his mother. I’m no prude. This is not what’s so wrong with this book. It was just all pure detritus. The book was not interesting, the narrator could not and did not save the written word. Sometimes a good narrator will do that. Not here. The book has an unsatisfying ending and in no way, shape or form could I recommend it for anyone or anything… Not for anything except maybe starting a fire in your fireplace on a day like this. And if you have a digital copy, well sorry, it’s not even good for that.
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