This classic tale is a fantastical fable of two dear friends - one of whom goes astray and is literally lost to the north woods, while the other undertakes an epic journey to rescue him. This charming, strange, and wonderful story is a timeless allegory about growing up and the challenges of staying true to one's self, and it served as the wintry inspiration for the blockbuster hit Frozen.
I hear that Andersen was a great story teller. His prose comes across as stilted and clumsy. Could that be the translator's fault, or is that what happens when an oral story teller tries to freeze his words on the page? I wish I knew. I do know that this is no simple fairy tale. Andersen has structured this masterfully as 7 episodic stories strung together as key windows on an allegorical view of human life. Along the way, he has scattered bits of literary ornamentation that you would never find in a traditional folk tale. His inserted vignettes of the stories of the flowers is breathtaking in the global scope of what they have to say. I certainly never expected to see a reference to suttee in a Danish children's story.
I don't know why this story isn't better known. By that, I mean the story Andersen told, and not just the scraps of images people associate with it. Hopefully, this recording will do something to remedy that. The Snow Queen deserves to be more than just an archetypal figure. Andersen really did have something to say, and his stories deserve better than to be co-opted by loose adaptations that say something completely different.
A war no one fully understands has devastated the planet with radioactive fallout from massive cobalt bombing. Melbourne, Australia, is the only area whose citizens have not yet succumbed to the contamination. But there isn’t much time left, a few months, maybe more—and the citizens of Melbourne must decide how they will live the remaining weeks of their lives, and how they will face a hopeless future.
Yes, it is bleak, but most of the bleakness is below the surface. Human nature dictates that most people will attempt to go on with their lives as best they can. Shute never lets go of that tension between bleakness and everyday life, yet there is very little preachiness in his telling. The behavior of the people in this situation feels right for the most part. Shute attempts to account for the range of possible reactions while keeping his cast of characters to a manageable size. I think by and large the population would react with the vague sense of unreality that he describes. Modern studies of people's reactions to major natural disasters bear him out on this. There are some very human and touching moments such as Commander Towers looking for presents for his children.
Shute also avoids trying to explain too much about how the world got into the situation presented in the book. The why is unimportant. The 1959 movie struggled with both the issue of a backstory and the preachiness aspect. I sympathize with the film maker's need for the ending to make more of a statement. As a thought experiment, I think Shute makes the wiser choice of leaving it up to the reader to ponder.
The Unnamable is the third novel in Beckett's trilogy, three remarkable prose works in which men of increasingly debilitating physical circumstances act, ponder, consider and rage against impermanence and the human condition. The Unnamable is without doubt the most uncompromising text and it is read here in startling fashion by Sean Barrett.
I regret not reading the first two books in the trilogy first (Molloy and Malone Dies). This book clearly pushes the limits of what can be said without reference to other people or things. Well, he does talk about other things but the effect is of being isolated outside of time and place; of being stuck without any external stimuli to respond to for all eternity. Hell. Probably. Unless it isn't. But there I go again. Absurdist seems like too frivolous a name for this genre, but I believe that is the usual classification. Whether the two prior books would have made this any more meaningful, they would at least have given a little context for this character. Read on its own, it is so unrelentingly bleak, it makes Waiting for Godot seem like a walk in the park. Back to the limits of what can be said without plot or character, Beckett is the master of this sort of thing. Just when you think there's nothing more to be said, and you're thinking you can't take any more of it, he manages to milk one more topic for his amorphous protagonist to rant about. But he knows when to stop. I can't say I was sorry when it was over, but I can't say I didn't appreciate this strange intellectual exercise either. I think there is a certain appropriateness in listening to this as opposed to reading it on paper. The protagonist is stuck listening to his own thoughts in real time. A similar phenomenon afflicts the brave listener willing to take on this audiobook. Good luck.
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So much of our human body is made up of salt that we'd be dead without it. The fine balance of nature, the trade of salt as a currency of many nations and empires, the theme of a popular Shakespearean play... Salt is best selling author Mark Kurlansky's story of the only rock we eat.
We need more books like this. Not quite as enthralling as Cod; it still tells a fascinating story of people trying to find ways to preserve food. Nowadays, I guess most people think of salt as a mere condiment. It's easy to forget how hard it was for most of human history to store up enough food to tide you over till next year. Salt was the answer in many cases.
I had no idea how many place names (suffixes, roots, etc.) implied an origin as a saltworks. I had never given much thought to where ancient civilizations got all their salt. There are so many other sources other than the ocean. And I had definitely never given any thought to salt as a resource over which people would go to war.
Along the way, Kurlansky treats us to some of the strange cuisine that emerged from the use of salt-preserved food. These often played a significant role in establishing cultural heritage; a heritage now fading from the world as more modern methods of food preservation take over.
A boat has gone missing. Goods have been stolen. There is blood in the water. It is the 21st century and a crew of pirates is terrorizing the San Francisco Bay. Phil is a husband, a father, a struggling radio producer, and the owner of a large condo with a view of the water. But he'd like to be a rebel and a fortune hunter. Gwen is his daughter. She's 14. She's a student, a swimmer, and a best friend. But she'd like to be an adventurer and an outlaw. Phil teams up with his young, attractive assistant.
I honestly do not know what Mr. Handler was thinking. If ever there was a case of a book's description differing from the actual content, this is it. I do not mean that the book blurb is misleading. I mean that the reviews are misleading; the people I rely on for thoughtful objective appraisal let me down. I consider myself a fan of Handler. That combined with the encouraging reviews I had seen made me look forward to this book. And there are certainly elements of this book that work well. He is very good at creating characters with individual thought processes and motivations. He is very good at bouncing these characters off each other with believable results. Those are not key characteristics of his Lemony Snicket books, but they are keenly in evidence here.
There are three things in particular that bothered me about We Are Pirates. One is that the key plot elements suggested a resolution that was serious, nuanced, and thoughtful; but instead he opted to go for a totally outrageous, over-the-top wackiness. This is one of those books where adults are basically clueless, and headstrong adolescents have nothing to rein them in. If it had been comedic that might have worked. I like dark comedy as much as anyone, but this was dark without the comedy. The second is that the author withheld information that one of the characters clearly knew from the start. This would have worked if the revelation had been especially important and transformative, but it wasn't. In fact, it ended tragically and pathetically. The third and worst offense is that a horrendously evil act occurs and there is no remorse, no consequences, no catharsis, no apotheosis, no personal growth; just a "let's pretend it never happened and get on with our lives" sort of thing.
The absence of remorse still bothers me the most.
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Straightforward in its approach, yet profound in its effect, the principles outlined in this book teach partners new and startling strategies for making marriage work. Gottman has scientifically analyzed the habits of married couples and established a method of correcting the behavior that puts thousands of marriages on the rocks. He helps couples to focus on one another and pay attention to the small day-to-day moments that, strung together, make up the heart and soul of any relationship.
There is some really great information in this book. However, there are also a number of lists and tests and things that do not lend themselves to audio. The reader/producer decided to read all the lists including the scale of answers (e.g., "most of the time, some of the time, rarely, never") for every single question. This would have been a great opportunity for one of those PDF additional material options that I see on some audio books.
That complaint aside, the book really does cover some good material. The title sounds like a pretty grand claim, but Gottman bases all his work on research. He is careful to point out that all marriages have conflict. What makes the difference is how that conflict is dealt with. The principles he refers to are about the habits of successful couples that can be practiced by anyone to develop more functional ways of dealing with conflict. That seems to be a key distinction. It isn't about good marriages vs. bad marriages as much as it is about functional marriages vs. dysfunctional marriages. To that end, he talks about the characteristics that can lead a marriage toward dysfunction. And then he offers examples and exercises to be practiced and adopted to counteract those negative forces.
Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch were the leading lights in a century that is considered the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. The Decameron, or Ten Days' Entertainment, is his most famous work, a collection of stories considered representative of the Middle Ages, as well as a product of the Renaissance.
This is, as near as I can tell, the 1886 translation by John Payne. (I do with the audiobook people would be more forthcoming with details like translators.) Payne attempted to write in an intentionally archaic idiom, and the narrator, Frederick Davidson, attempts to read it like a refugee from a Renaissance Faire. At first I found the narrator's affected mannerisms to be really offputting, but eventually I got used to it and even started to appreciate it. I think part of the problem at the outset is that Boccaccio's opening stories are pretty annoying. I felt I was going to be trapped with the most vulgar of the Shakespearian comedies. But whether it was Boccaccio warming up, or whether the stories themselves got better, or whether they just wore me down, eventually I did feel that Boccaccio deserved his reputation as a great literary figure.
The extended prologue telling of the plague that chased our storytellers out of town came as a bit of a revelation. I had not known that such a detailed and explicit account of the plague existed. The fact that Boccaccio plagiarized most of it does not detract from its visceral impact.
I never did get a sense of the ten youths as individual characters; not even the supposedly autobiographical Dioneo. The frame structure Boccaccio used was something of an innovation in its time. While it clearly suggested opportunities for further development, here it mostly serves the purpose of cleansing the palette between stories.
The stories themselves run a wide gamut, but stay within the bounds of what a group of young people would have found entertaining. All the same, they add a dimension of flesh and blood to the people of their time that is mostly lacking from the history books. Would that it were always possible to sample the literature of a time and place to give context to any study of history. Conversely, would that any study of literature be augmented by the contextual history in which it was created. With that in mind, I would merely remind the reader that this is a 14th century Italian book, translated by a Victorian Englishman into Elizabethan English, being read by denizens of the 21st century. It requires a certain amount of effort to transcend all these barriers and enjoy this book as the popular literature it was intended to be.
Ella of Frell wants nothing more than to be free of Lucinda's gift of obedience and feel that she belongs to herself. For how can she truly belong to herself if she knows that at any time, anyone can order her to hop on one foot, cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom, and she'll have to obey?
This is an utterly charming book. The premise is pretty well known by now: what happens if you are under a spell that compels you to do whatever anyone else orders you to do? Surely most of us have wished we could compel obedience at one time or another. Levine works out the consequences of this within the framework of the Cinderella story. There is a sufficient amount of silliness to hold the interest of young people. But there are also undercurrents of deep seriousness and sadness, which gives the book an interest to not-so-young people as well. I don't know that the law of unintended consequences was ever so well presented in a work of fiction.
An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise. You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK - delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework. Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart collects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday.
Once you come to an understanding that the book is basically a bundling of blog posts, it becomes possible to overlook the brief cavalier tone of each short chapter. McRaney is not breaking any new ground here, nor does he claim to. He is digesting a lot of the newest psychological research out there and repackaging it into short pithy summaries. He does it well, overall. He has an entertaining style, and he gets the gist of most things down fairly accurately. Accurately enough for most purposes.
The book's strength ultimately becomes its weakness. Because it is just recycling all the currently available information, it does not actually add anything to the conversation. If you're looking for a quick and entertaining roundup of what's new in psychology, this book fills the bill very nicely. If you're looking for an in depth treatment of a particular area, or an understanding of the implications or possible ways of mitigating the consequences, you'll want to look somewhere else.
The Devil comes to Moscow, but he isn't all bad; Pontius Pilate sentences a charismatic leader to his death, but yearns for redemption; and a writer tries to destroy his greatest tale, but discovers that manuscripts don't burn. Multi-layered and entrancing, blending sharp satire with glorious fantasy, The Master and Margarita is ceaselessly inventive and profoundly moving. In its imaginative freedom and raising of eternal human concerns, it is one of the world's great novels.
Without a doubt the best novel I have read in years. I cannot shake the feeling that there are multiple layers of references that I am missing through my own ignorance of Eastern European history in general and 1930s Russian society in particular. Even without that, it is enormously entertaining. It is also somewhat telling how similar Soviet Russia and the US are when you get right down to cases. And human nature is universal no matter what kind of system you try to impose on it.
It is a fairly densely written novel. Apart from a number of Moscow-specific place references, it assumes some familiarity with the New Testament, the Faust story, and their influence on European history in the intervening centuries. All of this is put into play in the service of a satire on contemporary Soviet society in the pre-World War II period. It is of course much more than a mere social satire.
While there is a comic tone that runs throughout most of the book, there are serious aspects as well. I am hard put to think of another book that touches on so many different aspects of humanity. The title characters manage to stay out of center stage through most of it; perhaps their essential dignity shelters them in some way... In any case, the book functions at a number of levels. It is eminently satisfying. I was sorry it had to end. Even though there were some unanswered questions, it still felt like the book had reached its natural place of conclusion, and I was happy to leave things exactly the way the author chose to leave them.