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Darwin8u

Mesa, AZ, United States
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  • Endymion

  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 23 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,048
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,183
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,192

Here, Simmons returns to this richly imagined world of technological achievement, excitement, wonder and fear. Endymion is a story about love and memory, triumph and terror - an instant candidate for the field's highest honors.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fine Part II of the Hyperion Cantos

  • By David on 09-06-12

Shrikefinn? Heart of Shrikeness? Mr Keats--He dead

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-12-18

"If there is a God, I thought, it’s a painkiller"
- Dan Simmons, Endymion

Enjoyed it, just not as much as Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. This is the equivalent of the Return of the Jedi for me. Still buzzing from the first two, but not as good as the first two either. There are certain parts I enjoyed and somethings that just seemed a bit overdone.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Death in Venice

  • A New Translation by Michael Henry Heim
  • By: Thomas Mann
  • Narrated by: Simon Callow
  • Length: 3 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 164
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 89
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 91

Published on the eve of World War I, a decade after Buddenbrooks had established Thomas Mann as a literary celebrity, Death in Venice tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful but aging writer who follows his wanderlust to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment that instead leads to his erotic doom.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • For the Love of Language

  • By William on 10-21-06

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-12-18

“Solitude produces originality, bold & astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd, and the forbidden.”
― Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

I've been intimidated by Mann. He's a mountain. I own a bunch of his works, in various translation, but keep finding reasons to walk another road, skip ahead, fall behhind. For me he has sat waiting like a distant leviathan or like death. So, finding myself in a position where I really felt I could delay no longer, I started with his shorter work - Death in Venice.

First, the introduction by Michael Cunningham is a fantastic introduction of the difficulties associated with translation. All fiction is a translation. All works differ, since they all are impacted by writer and reader. Both imperfect, both carrying their own history. Even the same work, read by the same reader at different times (think King Lear) will feel different to the reader at different stages and ages. So, it is with translations. Different translators are going to experience Mann's Death in Venice in different ways. Gustav von Aschenbach will appear the fool to some or an artist gripped by obscession and passion by others. There is no exactly right answer.

So, how was this translation? I don't know. I don't read German and have only read ONE translation, but I loved Heim's take. I love the idea of Aschenbach's obscession overtaking him and ultimately (perhaps?) destroying him. We all would be so lucky if our passions destroyed us, perhaps.

So, perhaps, I am ready for Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • I'll Be Gone in the Dark

  • One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
  • By: Michelle McNamara
  • Narrated by: Gabra Zackman, Gillian Flynn, Patton Oswalt
  • Length: 9 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,520
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7,766
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,739

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer - the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade - from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful Listen to Scare Yourself in the Dark

  • By Trixie Runnin' on 03-04-18

Unfinished, Rough, Creepy

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-18

"What I don't mention is the uneasy realization I've had about how much our frenetic searching mirrors the compulsive behavior--the trampled flowerbeds, scratch markes on window screens, crank calls--of the one we seek."
- Michelle McNamara, I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I good true crime book. It is fascinating if still uneven in parts. But when the prose is good, it is near perfect. I think McNamara approach was creative. She wasn't just writing about a killer, she was writing about those who search for the killer. She was writing about her own motivations and obscessions (as well as the many crowd-sourced, "board sleuths" that join her). The book's obvious weakness is she died before she could finish it. It is rough in parts and has large holes in it. It isn't a perfect narrative and jumps a bit (beyond what you'd expect in a book about a killer/rapist who traveled throughout California. Those that finished the book after her job did a good job of patching here, explaining there, and adapting when the director is gone. But the absence is still felt. The road is still rough.

Fortunately for the publishers (and the victims) it looks like Michelle's efforts (and those who have been working to find the Golden State Killer for the last 30-40 years) has paid off. It would have been nice for Michelle to have lived to see it. But that isn't how life works. But the publishers must be thrilled. Having the killer caught RIGHT after the book is published is like winning the lottery as a publisher. It turned this book into a mega-hit. Again, too bad Michelle wasn't around to see it.

One other note. My parents, my brother, and I all lived in Davis up until 1977 and the scenes about the the 3 rapes in Davis in 1978 spooked me. Michelle describes the bike paths and the bee lab at UC Davis and it all felt very familiar, in a way that tingles the spine and tightens the chest. I had to call up my parents to find out when we left Davis. My parents weren't exposed the EAR (East Area Rapist), who would later also be known as the Golden State Killer. But knowing it COULD have been my mom gave me a window into how amateurs and obscessives could fall into the hunt for the man who destroyed so many lives, and fell into the shadow, but has recently been (hopefully) finally exposed.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Spring

  • By: Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ingvild Burkey - translator
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5

Spring is a deeply moving novel about family, our everyday lives, our joys and our struggles. Spring follows a father and his newborn daughter through one day in April, from sunrise to sunset. A day filled with everyday routine, the beginnings of life and its light, but also its deep struggles and its darkness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • the beauty of this world means nothing...

  • By Darwin8u on 05-10-18

the beauty of this world means nothing...

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-10-18

"You see, the beauty of this world means nothing if you stand alone in it."
- Karl Ove Knausgaard, Spring

The first two books in Knausgaard's Årstidsencyklopedien (Seasonal Encyclopedia) Series were Autumn and Winter. The structure of these books was relatively (and seductively) simple. Knausgård wrote every day for three months on a variety of subjects that relate to the season and month he is writing about. He is addressing these books to his unborn/recently born daughter. I got it. I liked it. It now was familiar.

So, when I picked up this book and figured out rather quickly that the structure had dramatically changed, I was a bit upset. I had to reorder things. I questioned. I protested. I kept reading. It was the shortest of the series so far, so it didn't take too much reading to understand (or begin to understand) why. Once I did, the change was, from a literary perspective, amazing. It perfectly reflected life. We start off thinking we've got things organized. We have a plan and a method. It works. And suddenly, life happens. By abandoning the simple structure Knausgaard, for me, took a series that would be a minor work (think a Mozart Concerto, not Symphony), and turned it into something BIG. He didn't set out to do this, but he allowed (like he always does) the momentum of LIFE, both the banal and the heavenly, both the dark and the light, to dictate his art. And it worked by god.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Hue 1968

  • A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
  • By: Mark Bowden
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 18 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 952
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 893
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 888

By January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate. Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which "the end begins to come into view". The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I KNEW This Book Would Sting Me . . . .

  • By Bee Keeper on 07-28-17

Beware of men w/ theories that explain everything.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-09-18

“Beware of men with theories that explain everything.”
― Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

I told my kids the other day that they were both indirect results of Vietnam. My wife's father, now dead, had a draft number of one, so enlisted so that he would have a better chance of chosing HOW he would enter the Vietnam War. He came in at the end of Vietnam and became a professional soldier and officer (green-to-gold). The Army trained him with helicopters and tanks, and he retired a decade ago as a Colonel. My own father, concerned too with the draft, enlisted in the Navy. He also made a career of the military and we met my wife's family when our families were both stationed in Izmir, Turkey in the late 80s and early 90s. I doubt very much if either of our fathers would have become officers and made careers out of the military without Vietnam. It is weird to think of the imacts of Vietnam 50 years+ after the fact.

The Battle of Huế was fought 50 years ago in Jan/Feb of 1968 as part of the Tet Offensive. It was the biggest, bloodiest, and most pivitol single battle of the Vietnam War. Both sides claim success and both claims can probably be easily criticized. It was the turning point for the US in both our perception of the War. Bowden captures, through exensive interviews and research, the claustrophobia, filth, and horror of door-to-door combat. If anyone walks away from this with less stature, it is probably General Westmoreland who went to his grave over-estimating those NVA soldiers killed, and underestimating US casualties, and ignoring the civilians killed. One of the sharpest, deadliest quotes of the book summarizes my feelings about General Westmoreland:

“Never had a general so effectively willed away the facts.”

I have brothers who fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Everyday, I wish we paid closer attention to Vietnam so we would have avoided getting ourselves into another protracted war in a country most of our citizens know little about. Understanding Vietnam (and understanding what got us and kept us there) requires knowing DETAILS. Bowden helps to uncover aspects of this war I knew about, but at a granular level I appreciated. If this book did anything else, it made me start planning a trip to Vietnam. I'd love to see Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and of course -- Huế.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Unlimited Dream Company

  • By: J. G. Ballard
  • Narrated by: Dylan Lynch
  • Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 8

When a light aircraft crashes into the Thames at Shepperton, the young pilot who struggles to the surface minutes later seems to have come back from the dead. Within hours everything in the dormitory suburb is transformed. Vultures invade rooftops, luxuriant tropical vegetation overruns the quiet avenues, and the local inhabitants are propelled by the young man’s urgent visions through ecstatic sexual celebrations toward an apocalyptic climax. In this characteristically inventive novel Ballard displays to devastating effect the extraordinary imagination that has established him as one of the 20th century’s most visionary writers.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Vision-based Parable of Virtue and Vice

  • By Darwin8u on 05-08-18

A Vision-based Parable of Virtue and Vice

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

"For all we know, vices in this world may well be metaphors for virtues in hte next."
- J.G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company

A man named Blake crashes his plane in a small British town. He is transformed into a demigod in the town. Or perhaps, he is dead and this is some weird limbo he is stuck in. Or perhaps he is just mad. Anyway, Blake isn't a very reliable narrator. The story keeps getting weirder and weirder, breaking out of any form of simple narrative and becoming fractured, recursive, fractaled, contradictory. As this book begins to "take flight" and enters into fertile vision territory, it begins to seed and grow into some funky William Blake inspired story. In a lot of ways, this novel is a "retelling/reincarnation" of Blake's poem Milton (just as in Milton, Blake was reinterpreting/retelling/reincarnating Milton's masterpiece 'Paradise Lost'). Confused? That is OK. This book shouldn't even be thought of as dystopian or science fiction. In reality is a surreal fantasy, a vision-based parable, a verdent exploration of death, sex, and life. Read it like you would look at a painting Salvador Dalí might have done if he was exploring the art of William Blake.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Cryptonomicon

  • By: Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by: William Dufris
  • Length: 42 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,422
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,415
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,438

Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fixed!

  • By Rob J. on 04-16-17

The old gods are thrown down...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

"Over and over again we see the pattern of the Titanomachia repeated—the old gods are thrown down, chaos returns, but out of the chaos, the same patterns reemerge.”
- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon


I didn't like it as much as Anathem or Snow Crash, but like those two Stephenson novels Cryptonomicon has a large cult following, and was on the bleeding edge of a lot of ideas only starting to bubble up in 1999.

Stephenson's prose can go from poetic to obnoxious pretty fast and the tone of this novel was sometimes kinda ridiculous, but ignoring a couple big things that I generally rolled my eyes at -- I loved the novel. It moved, was moving, and came together very well at the end.

Think of this novel like a REALLY good war thriller (Red Storm Rising) that runs with three or four distinct story lines and about a dozen characters that jumps to another storyline every 6-1o pages. So even when a storyline was dragging a bit, soon I was flipped into another zone that I enjoyed a bunch. It is also a fantastic historical war novel, focused on cryptography during WWII. So, it kept reminding me of other historical novels of WWII. It seeemed a bit like Wouk's The Winds of War (except this book was strictly focused on areas mostly ignored by Wouk). Finally, it was a well-paced gernational/family novel (see Roots or The Godfather).

Anyway, it is a good book to read during the 2017-2018 boom (and perhaps bust) of cryptocurrency, since the 1997 portion of this novel deals A LOT with the establishment of a cryptocurrency (NOT a blockchain encrypted currency). Supposedly Paypal's founder Peter Thiel used to require his employees to read Cryptonomicon. It might be a myth, but if so, it is a good one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Prague Orgy

  • The Nathan Zuckerman Series, Book 4
  • By: Philip Roth
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 2 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5

In quest of the unpublished manuscript of a martyred Yiddish writer, the American novelist Nathan Zuckerman travels to Soviet-occupied Prague in the mid-1970s. There, in a nation straightjacketed by totalitarian Communism, he discovers a literary predicament, marked by institutionalized oppression, that is rather different from his own. He also discovers, among the oppressed writers with whom he quickly becomes embroiled in a series of bizarre and poignant adventures, a perverse kind of heroism.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • One’s story isn’t a skin to be shed...

  • By Darwin8u on 05-08-18

One’s story isn’t a skin to be shed...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

“One’s story isn’t a skin to be shed— it’s inescapable, one’s body and blood. You go on pumping it out till you die, the story veined with the themes of your life, the ever-recurring story that’s at once your invention and the invention of you.”
- Philip Roth, The Prague Orgy

Today has been quite a Roth day. I went to Temple Solel in Paradise Valley this AM to hear Dr. Brian Goodman speak on the secret Czech files on Philip Roth. Roth visited Czechoslovakia four times between 1972 and 1976 and was eventually kicked out for good. He was kicked out primarily for 1) hanging with dissident Czech writers (Ivan Klíma, Milan Kundera, Ludvík Vaculík), 2) his work publishing dissident Czech (and other Eastern Block writers through Penguin's Writers from The Other Europe, 3) and his work getting money to Czech writers and attention to them through PEN.

Anyway, the Zuckerman Unbound tetrology (The Ghost Writer*, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, and The Prague Orgy) were all impacted with Roth's involvement with Czech writers and the post 1968 "Normalization" in Czechoslovakia. Roth's historical imagination was captured, and his writing was expanded. Roth might have been a completely different writer without his exposure and involvement with Czechoslovakia in the 70s.

As a reader of American fiction and a lover of Roth's writing, knowing what came after this period sent chills down my spine. Not only did Roth write his great navel gazing novels (see Zuckerman Bound, but he ended up writing some of the best American Fiction EVER. He grew, matured, and started hitting home runs (Operation Shylock: A Confession (93), Sabbath's Theatre (97), American Pastoral (98), The Human Stain (00)). Wow!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Deception

  • By: Philip Roth
  • Narrated by: David Colacci, Susan Ericksen
  • Length: 4 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 14

At the center of Deception are two adulterers in their hiding place. He is a middle-aged American writer named Philip, living in London, and she is an articulate, intelligent, well-educated Englishwoman compromised by a humiliating marriage to which, in her 30s, she is already nervously half-resigned. The book's action consists of conversation - mainly the lovers talking to each other before and after making love.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Pillow Talk

  • By Darwin8u on 05-08-18

Pillow Talk

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

How could you be humiliated by something that isn't so? It is not myself. It is far from myself--it is a play, it's a game, it is an impersonation of myself! Me ventriloquizing myself. Or maybe it's more easily grasped the other way around--everything here is falsified except me. Maybe it's both. But both ways or either way, what it adds up to, honey, is homo ludens!"
- Philip Roth, Deception

Roth is experimenting with dialogue. Think of this book as the pre- and post- coital conversations between a man and his mistress, interspersed with dialogues with other women and his wife. The narrator is named Philip Roth, just to confuse things (the first time Roth uses his own name and not some stand-in like Portnoy, Kepesh, or Zuckerman) even more. To complicate matters, Roth also throws in a lot of REAL accounts (trips to Czechoslovakia, etc) that most certainly are more true than fiction. He pushes the boundaries of fiction to the point where the snake indeed eats the tail of the snake. I'm just not sure if the head is fiction or the tail. And I'm sure Roth (both the ficitional Roth and the real) would have it no other way.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Breast

  • By: Philip Roth
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 15

Like a latter-day, Gregor Smasa, Professor David Kepesh wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed. But where Kafka's protagonist turned into a giant beetle, the narrator of Philip Roth's richly conceived fantasy has become a 155-pound female breast. What follows is a deliriously funny yet touching exploration of the full implications of Kepesh's metamorphosis - a daring heretical book that brings us face to face with the intrinsic strangeness of sex and subjectivity.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 36D Kafka

  • By Darwin8u on 05-08-18

36D Kafka

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

"Don’t you see, I have out-Kafkaed Kafka.”
- Philip Roth, The Breast

[As Philip Roth awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself reading Kafka in his bed and decided to turn Professor David Kepesh into a mammary gland.]

So, yeah, that is basically it. Think of this as Roth being fixated with Kafka (see Metamorphosis) and Gogol (see the Nose). Roth was in the middle of his Kafka/Czechoslovakia preoccupation. After Portnoy's Complaint and its huge success, Roth moved to "the woods" in Connecticut; he started teaching courses on Kafka at University of Pennsylvania. He was experimenting. He was playing around. He was being indulgent.

Late 60s/early 70s Roth novels have never been my favorite, but understanding he was going to spend his next four years (1972-76) chasing Kafka and interacting with/helping/promoting Czecholslovakian writers* puts the Breast in context for me. I think of it as the birthing of the NEW Roth. The one who would go on to write the great Zuckerman novels. So, the novel? Not the best. The period? Transformative.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful