If I had to be a named after a flower, marigold would be on the short list. It’s a pretty name, and the French marigold is a particular favorite.
I’m behind on reviewing books that we’ve read for the book club. I don’t have the minutes to look up all my other reviews, so I’ll just pick up where we are now.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Trite pat pap. The narrator is grating and unbelievable. He’s intelligent enough to understand and analyze The Scarlet Letter, yet can’t figure out what’s wrong with taking a baby out so far in the ocean he’s struggling to keep his own head above water?
Pat does nothing proactive in the entire book. Everything happens to him. His minute character growth (which is not necessary for a good book, don’t get me wrong) is completely from without. The character is frustratingly shallow and refuses to delve into any emotions, but somehow he ends the story with a massive “breakthrough” that still manages to be passive. He speaks with the voice of a child, yet somehow has a penetrating insight into the goings on around him that suggests a shrewd and wry sense of humor. It’s maddening.
I can’t tell if we’re being talked down to, or the author simply marginalizes the intelligence of the mentally ill. I tend to think it’s the former, though. There are so many little pieces that just fall into place perfectly — like the old roomy from the asylum being the person who saves him on Christmas, because he just got out yesterday! Or Tiffany being able to recreate the voice and character of Nikki so well, all based on Pat’s mom’s drunken confidences. The book ends exactly like the title tells you it will, in a predictable unsatisfying Hollywood box with ribbon. Yes, the manic (depressive) pixie dream girl wins in the end. Yay, all is right with the world.
It is very stale, and reads like a young adult novel written by someone who underestimates young adults.
Matthew Quick’s writing style is pleasant enough to earn it an extra star, though. I wanted to keep reading despite all of the flaws and feeling insulted at the false, shallow “openness” of Pat’s narration. Quick has a keen sense of observation and ability to paint a picture and situation. I just think that either he wasn’t familiar enough to do the subject matter justice, or he wanted a movie made from his book and wrote it that way.
MC Frontalot is one of my favorites.
I have two little boys that are turning out to be complete little nerds. One good thing, though. They don’t have nearly the disdain for jocks that I had. I’ve managed to avoid passing that snottiness down to them. They don’t care for sports any more than I did, but it’s not a seething resentment and prejudice. There have been individuals that fit the profile, but I try to never snort derisively or proclaim, “Typical jock!” even if it’s what I’m thinking.
It’s good that the Spousal Unit waited to confess he had played football in high school until after we were already friends, or I wouldn’t have given him the time to get to know me. He’s always been a good solid geek himself, but his crossover appeal shielded him from being fully enmeshed into nerd culture. I also had a pretty big chip on my shoulder towards teachers. Turns out my Education majoring “scholar athlete” is my favorite person, so it’s good I got over myself. I really do struggle with being an elitist jerk sometimes, though.
With the kids, I’m sure it’s a combo of nature and nurture, but I’m just overjoyed we can all relate to each other. Being able to talk to your kids about science, literature, math, music, and philosophy is an unparalleled joy. Maybe jocks feel the same way about passing down their pleasures. I wouldn’t know.
This book was dense and a bit of a challenge at first. I spent a lot of time with my iPad in my lap, looking up concepts and words and historical movements I just wasn’t familiar with, as well as translating Latin, French, and German bits that I didn’t want to miss out on. Eventually I put it aside because (strangely enough) I was working on a research project that involved the history of the Freemasons. The scholarship is exactly as murky, ludicrous, and riddled with conjecture as Eco describes. He’s not exaggerating at all.
I picked it back up when I had a lull in that project. I am so glad I did. The book is drily witty and pleasantly erudite. It really forced me out of my usual reading comfort zone. I learned so much, even after I decided to only look up the most interesting and confusing words, and to leave the history alone. Part of the reason it works is because enigma is central to the very nature of esoteric history, so I really didn’t have to know exactly who was what and when to get through it.
AS a writer and historian, the book really made me think about the creative process and research. As an over-thinker, I began to analyze (ha, I hear it!) how I approach life.
One of my favorite quotes: “We were losing that mysterious and bright and most beautiful ability to say that Signor A has grown bestial — without thinking for a moment that he now has fur and fangs. The sick man, however, thinking ‘bestial,’ immediately sees Signor A on all fours, barking or grunting.”
This speaks to how often, in trying to confirm our own bias (real or created!) we will go to depraved lengths of mental gymnastics simply to misunderstand a simple metaphor, rather than admitting we might simply be wrong. It also speaks volumes on the power of deception and creativity. Whether a lie is true or not, it has power, and while that power is not always lethal, very often it can be. How many wars are wars of perception, how many murders, how many misdiagnoses even by doctors?
I have so much to think on after reading this. Themes that are touched include the commonalities of man and the search for meaning and the place of God and what happens when the concept of God is rejected. I have been challenged to delve deeper than surface conjecture, especially as a writer, creator, philosopher, and historian, at the same time as being reminded that sometimes looking for hidden meaning is its own idol and nothing but folly.
All in all, it was delightful, funny, heart-breaking, and surreal. I found it to be worth the read.
View all my reviews
I just realized that it would be worthwhile to save my reviews of the books I read here as well as on Goodreads. This was prompted by noticing the “Blog this Review” convenient little cut/paste feature on Goodreads. I enjoy that site so much!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This manifesto is a call for environmentalists to leave behind their romantic ideals and move into the 21st Century. Stewart Brand’s zeal and enthusiasm make most of this book a joy to read, and he is the first to admit his past mistakes in his efforts to serve the earth. In particular, he urges rethinking opposition to nuclear power, urbanization, and genetic engineering.
I haven’t thought much about urbanization as an environmental boon before this book. I personally am not a fan of the city, despite living in the middle of one, and would love to return to rural areas. Brand makes a very compelling argument for the healthy urban environment and how it can help clean up a lot of the poverty, pollution, and waste that we are now experiencing. This was an eye-opening section for me, and I will likely do further reading on the topic.
Brand was preaching to the choir on the next section. I have been staunchly pro-nuclear for years. Especially updating and expanding with new, updated tech (using Chernobyl or Fukushima as a boogeyman is disingenuous in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another day)can be a huge difference in our CO2 levels and provide a low-risk, high-output, and largely clean alternative to fossil fuels and other alternatives we have at the moment. I do think that Brand glossed over the human component here, but I expect that if the book were written after Fukushima, instead of directly before, that component would have been more extensive.
I was really grooving on this book, enjoying every bit even when I disagreed with him, but then I got to the genetic modification bits. And here I ran into trouble, and stalled reading it for quite some time. He does not give his opponents a fair hearing in this section, probably because he has done time as a nuclear detractor and an opponent of urbanization. He doesn’t seem to understand the valid concerns of those who urge caution and oppose genetic modification, and therefore doesn’t adequately address those concerns. He condescendingly suggests that these people are simply fearful of science and innovation. He’s clearly dazzled by genetic science, and thinks it is super cool, and anyone who doesn’t see it that way is just an old fogey.
The rest of the book, he goes back to being more fair minded and even handed. He suggests that political divisiveness and single-minded all-or-nothing thinking does more harm than good. While he clearly on the left side of the political spectrum, and can’t resist quite a few digs at the Republican party along the way, he also takes a few jabs at Al Gore. It’s apparent that he thinks Jerry Brown is the cat’s meow, though.
He discusses human intervention on the planet, and how little we know and how much we’re learning daily. He suggests that North America was destroyed by the white man, not by raping and pillaging the pristine wilderness, but by destroying elaborate terraforming projects by wiping out (mostly via germs) the gardeners of two continents.
In the last chapter, he talks in great detail about geological engineering, and some possible worst-case scenario solutions if global warming keeps up to predictions. They are all incredibly interesting and I can’t even scratch the surface of all the amazing ideas he brings to the table in the last few chapters. They all bear further investigation. As this is a manifesto, his aim isn’t to delve deeply, but just suggest that there are solutions, if we are pragmatic and open to them, but balancing that openness with being appropriately critical and wary.
Brand’s writing style is enthusiastic and clean. He is frank; even when he’s using a metaphor that he knows is imperfect he admits it. He owns up to past mistakes, and suggests that he could very well be wrong about many things he is writing about now. He suggests his readers be open and reasonable, rather than intractable and stubborn, to go about taking care of the planet we all call home. He appeals to all of us to be intellectually honest and curious and hopeful, rather than despairing and quibbling over details.
His love of science, humanity, and the world are all apparent, and even though there is much in the book I disagree with, it opens up the question of a greater dialog and research to such a degree that on the whole, I am thrilled that I read it. It has opened me up to many possibilities and ways of thinking about the planet that I hadn’t considered before, and I would suggest anyone interested in these issues, no matter what their stance, would get a great deal out of hearing Stewart Brand out.
There’s this closed group on FaceBook that I’m a member of, and today a very fun post got my wheels turning. It started out with this picture:
The person who posted asked others to contribute lists. While the names I know on this list are pretty awesome, but their influence is more relevant to a younger generation than mine, so it was a good question. It took me about 15 minutes, but I came up with the six fictional characters that probably taught me the most. This is in no particular order.
- Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time)
- Duncan Idaho (Dune Series)
- Wonder Woman
- Charlie (Firestarter)
- Calvin (and Hobbes)
- J. Alfred Prufrock
I knew each of these characters before I went away to
high school college! If I went with a lifetime of learning, I might have a different list, but I don’t really think so. Even adding in the second half of my life, I think these characters are some of the most real to me. I’ve felt each one’s story deeply. I almost put King Arthur, because I spent such a long time absolutely immersed in Arthurian legend and his story was very important to me, but it’s hard to pin down which version, and if I’m very literal about the whole thing, I can’t say he never existed anyway.
I posed the question to the Spousal Unit. It took him about 20 minutes to come up with his list:
- Scout Finch
Interesting trends with both of us. Even though I don’t have a lot of followers these days anymore, both of us had so much fun with this. If anyone is reading, I’d love to see yours.
(Strong language warning for the link below.)
This morning I was all sorts of wallowing in dreams I had failed to accomplish, trying to figure out how to make things happen that just seem impossible but I still want so much. In particular, I was chastising myself for being a 36 year old who still wants to be an astronaut so badly it makes my stomach ache. Then I decided to play Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones because I’ve been hearing random songs from it but haven’t listened to it all the way through. I heard this song for the first time.
I love synchronicity. I love that God and the universe have no problems speaking to me in my own language and that he will meet me exactly where I am instead of me being forced to listen to some holy sanctimonious self-righteous ceremonial foreign emotion.
I have a hope for love and healing for all affected by 9/11/2001. May we learn to forgive.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I swear, how much do I neglect myself while doing all of these things where I promise that I’ll do the writing I really want to do? Just seeing the last sentence in the previous post makes it painfully clear how much I just flat out don’t do what I say I’m going to, especially when it comes to doing any sort of writing I really WANT to do. I’m going to blow through the last few books that the Inklings read really quickly, because I have other stuff I want to blog on later on this week.
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
This book sucks. I truly have not hated a book so much in a long time. Chuck seems to have been bored one night and started on a writing exercise that we now get to read. I don’t know what the purpose of the book was. To break through writer’s block? To damn the readers to a boredom greater than his own? To damn his publishing house for allowing him to release this garbage? Really, it’s that awful. None of the Inklings liked it, even those of us who love Palahniuk. The main character is stupid and trite and unbelievable. Don’t read it if you love Palahniuk. Don’t read it if you don’t like Palahniuk. Don’t read it if you just want to read everything the man has written. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t really count.
This book was fun. It was a light, fast read of light meta sci-fi. Trekkies especially will love it. The codas at the end were the highlight of the book, even though the main story was plenty entertaining on its own. One of the readers was a bit tired of the meta-novel, and didn’t really enjoy it very much. On that note, I haven’t read much genre fiction that breaks the fourth wall, so it was still an interesting concept that didn’t seem trite or played to me. It was charmingly done, and engaged me throughout. I stayed up very late finishing this one.
The first book that we truly discussed as a group. It was interesting to see the different opinions on it. Rebecca Coleman’s use of Point of View was one big talking point. In my opinion, it was jarring and awkwardly implemented. If Coleman had even used more frequent chapter breaks it would have been easier to understand. There were enough editing issues to detract from the book, which was surprising to me. Coleman tells an interesting tale, but apart from the two principle characters, there was so much left unsaid in this story that left me wanting to know more, but at the same time I was so relieved when it was over that I’m glad she left out more detailed characterizations.
My favorite aspect of this book was the backdrop of the Waldorf/crunchy counterculture that the book was set in. As I have looked into homeschooling (oh, side note, that’s not happening this year) and different aspects educational theory, Waldorf has been suggested as something I would enjoy. There was some interesting stuff I saw woven into the fabric of the story, and I appreciated how Coleman used the Waldorf style narrative to present her story. I will say that I still think I’m a Montessori/unschooling type of girl. While clearly not an endorsement or a real study in a day in the life of the typical Waldorf teacher (we can only hope), Coleman’s view of Waldorf is mixed.
For next month, Sarah has picked Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright. She had an interesting exchange with Wright in the comment section of her July lexpionage post. I’m pretty excited. Squee!
The May meeting of the Inklings was light. As of the day of the group, only two people there had finished the book. Sarah had finished the book years ago, but she had a family thing. We did meet the Saturday before Mother’s Day, so turnout was light, also.
We struggled to talk about the book, because only Celeste and Chris had finished it. Sarah, the day before, had stopped by and insisted that when it was time to discuss, we spend some time talking about all of the ridiculous naming conventions Martin (and fantasy in general) clings to, especially the excessive use of Y. I found out that all of the names I was saying phonetically in my head were wrong. I felt dumb, but got over it. Sadly, Sarah’s discussion-by-proxy is about as far as conversation on the book went, but we still had fun, except when my cat Eowyn clawed a toddler’s face. That was not fun, but little Johnny appears to have bounced back just fine.
I finished a few days later. I really enjoyed the book, but maybe not enough to waste time reading when there’s a very adequate television show out there that I could borrow to catch up on what I’m missing. Although as I’m typing this out I feel maybe that’s not fair, and I should read it. I really love to read these things so much more than watch them on a screen. It’s very very rare for the movie to surpass the book for me, and such cases are rather extreme. For example, did you know George Lucas had a Star Wars book ghost-written and released prior to the release of A New Hope. It was based on the original screenplay. Don’t read it unless you’re just some kind of completist or something, because it’s horrible. (It’s also encouraging from a certain perspective that a piece of pure crap can become such a wonderful work of art.)
So I don’t know. I’m working on learning to up my reading speed. Maybe if I can get to Teddy Roosevelt levels of a book before breakfast, reading these massive tomes won’t be so daunting when I have so many other books on my to-read pile and freelance writing to do and kids to raise (and maybe homeschool? That’s a whole ‘nother post of a completely different and altogether much more important bit of wishy-washy vacillation) and a household to maintain. But I’m glad I read the first one. So far, it’s the best book we’ve read yet.
Next book: Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk!