distracted person's reading guide

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a blog for readers with a below average attention span

The Checklist Manifesto

I just finished reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

It was really dry subject matter, but intriguing at a basic human behavior level.  The soporific quality of anything longer than say, 140 characters, that wants to talk about business process?  Snore.  I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog that I have a somewhat fragile and challenged attention span?   Yeah, wake me up when this one is over….  But this managed to hold my attention and then some…

I have a tendency to discount things that are overly simple as being of little value.  This book suggests that if it isn’t overly simple, its probably of little real utility.  Hmmmm.  That’s probably true.

I once had a conversation with a very highly intelligent business consultant.  Jet fuel powered intellect on this guy.  They had just completed a study for a retail chain and had charged them some obscene amount of money for what amounted to a piece of tape on the floor in front of each checkout register.  After a futile attempt to explain the math behind retail store queue patterns (might as well have been trying to teach calculus to a fire hydrant), it was explained to me in terms I *could* understand, just what that piece of tape saved the store in expenses, plus how much it increased sales/patronage, etc.   Simply put, when the queue at a register goes beyond that piece of tape, the checker calls to open another register… Pretty damn simple solution.  Very intricate and complex mathematics behind precisely where to place that piece of tape, but simple solution.

The premise behind this book, the simple checklist, reminded me of that story because it seems so laughably simple, but the tangible results behind following a few elementary steps EVERY time and assuring that they are followed are shown again and again in this book to do remarkable things.   In the medical profession, innumerable lives are saved.  In the commercial airline industry, countless accidents are avoided.  All of this over following a few basic steps EVERY time.   The checklist itself should be able to be followed by a two year old baboon.  The thought that goes into creating the checklist, however…

This book spends a good amount of time talking about the author’s attempt to develop and adopt a pre-surgery checklist.  It gets a little gritty at times in its medical detail.

I especially balked at the chapter wherein the author goes to a building construction site.  Coming from the construction industry, his understanding of the construction schedule was about right, but the submittal log, wow, did he ever ascribe some magic to that berserkly archaic, busted-ass process that just for damn sure isn’t there.  

My favorite part was the accounting of what the checklist is and does for the commercial airline industry.   Those guys are the instigators, if you hate checklists, go find them.  

My favorite character/person was Sully, of US Air Flight 1549 renown.  This story has become so severely shopworn    that I won’t recount it here, but Gawande looks at it from a different perspective in this book.  “My Aircraft”.

This book can be summarized by interesting take on a very mundane topic.

I read this book because it was recommended by a friend.

Rating: 3

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

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Filed under: Book Reports

I, Claudius

I just finished reading I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

It was really engaging.   There’s something to be said about a good retelling of a story you already know, sort of removes the angst and fear that you might miss an important aspect of the story.   But also, the Romans, man…  they were WAY before their time when it came to sneaky political chicanery.  This book has all the intrigue (and then some) of the best LeCarre novel, it’s as astute in its historical accuracy as if written by Will Durant, and then there’s his writing,  I love Robert Graves’ writing style, to wit, the opening sentence:

I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all of my titles) who was once, and not long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot” or “That Claudius”….

I especially related the political climate of the burgeoning Roman Empire to that of the modern workplace.  Don’t we all have the looming backstabbing politics, the good people who want the republic back, the self promoting bad people who say they do, but don’t, and at least one version of the psycho, megalomaniacal, barkingly crazy Caligula?  

My favorite part was possibly the demise of Germanicus (too “spoily” to describe in any detail)  or else the scene where Caligula wages war with Neptune, trite, sure everybody has heard it, the Roman army collecting seashells on the beach, &c, &c,  but not anything like what Graves has re-imagined here. 

My favorite character/person was of course, Claudius.  He’s way smarter, although nowhere near as fierce and rapacious as the rest of his family.  It takes every ounce of his wile and craft just to survive his own relatives.  Germanicus, his brother/cousin (hell, I dunno, they have such an intricately ingrown and re-grafted family tree as would make your average Ozark hillbilly Jethro walk away in confused disgust), is close runner-up.  The scene in which his army is revolting on the German frontier and he is calmly addressing them, chiding in very thinly veiled metaphor is brilliant.

This book can be summarized by a very well crafted fictionalization of an already compelling history.

I read this book because it was on Time’s list of 100 best novels.  I also read a couple of good reviews.  Beyond that, the Romans were the seminal governmental quagmire.  Any and all deranged political fuckery we can dream up in modern times, no matter how original and creative it may seem in its cruelty, yeah… it’s been done before.

Rating: 4

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

The Affluent Society

I just finished reading The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith.

It was really the first book I’ve read that allowed even a fleeting glimpse into the opaque and arcane realm of macro economics.  The Affluent Society is a book written in the late fifties mostly in study of America’s post WWII economy.  It seeks to redefine priorities in a society that clearly has no trouble with the basics of feeding and sheltering itself.  As far as books that attempt to shed some light on our economic circumstances, I’ve tried others, but they have always been about as readable as Finnegan’s Wake were it written by a three year old child… with a magenta colored crayon… in Chinese Pig Latin.

I especially basked in the warmth of my new found knowledge.  I can now tell you the difference between monetary policy and fiscal policy, which I would have sworn were synonymous.  Aggregate demand, business cycle as it relates to differeing economic systems… tssk… child’s play.

My favorite part was in the beginning as Galbraith describes the difference between a poor society and an affluent society.  A poor society, in my mind resembles a slowly grinding gear, struggles to achieve the basics of food and shelter for the majority of its citizenry.  In an affluent society, more closely resembling a flywheel, the basics are so easily covered and subsequently taken for granted, that modern “want creation” (cool word for advertising) has taken over and is fueling a frenzy of goods production which compounds upon itself to create an ever more self-nourishing goliath of an economy.  It suggests that the challenges are different, the focus trending away from production and more towards social balance and education.   I suppose this is one of those things that is self evident somewhere in the dustbin of our sub-conscience, but its plainly spoken in a way that’s pretty easy to understand in this book.

My favorite character/person was (not applicable).

This book can be summarized by a well organized and simply stated guide to understanding our economy… better, if by no means completely.

I read this book because ?  I truly can’t remember.  Its been on my shelf, having arrived there inexplicably ages ago.  The big deal?  why the rarely doled out “4” rating?  Well, for the fleeting next few weeks before most of this recently acquired arcane economic terminology evaporates into whatever form of cerebral exhaust would expel it… maybe, just maybe, at the ripe old age of 43 I’ll be allowed to graduate up from the kid’s table as I can hold my own in conversation with the grown-ups at Sunday dinner.

Rating: 4

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports, ,

Fifty Shades Trilogy

I just finished reading All of the Fifty Shades Books by EL James.

It was really fast.  Minimal emotional investment required.  The books are long-ish, but they are written in a straightforward style one would expect from a young adult novel.  (The content is certainly not young adult…)  So that is off putting for some.  The repetition of words and phrases is another common criticism and indeed, you will notice it is repetitive.   All of the books, as best I can recall and with the exception of a few flashbacks and one part of book three epilogue, are written in first person present tense from Anastasia’s point of view.  I was personally bugged to no end by her juvenile inner dialog.  Also, not a lot of work was put into Anastasia’s character development.  Some of this made me wonder whether the editor was out to lunch.  

Other petty complaints: I’m sick of her inner goddess and her subconscious and would actually pay to see the two of them fight to the death in a no holds barred cage match.  The email exchange was irritating and rung false to me because of the perpetual changes to the subject line and auto signatures.  Really Grey?  If you can take the time to edit the “CEO Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.”  howsabout you just go ahead and delete it on your personal correspondence, huh?

So, not a lot going on in EL James’ literary bag of tricks, she appears to have a somewhat stunted vocabulary range, and the narrating character is somewhat of a cipher.  Well b-o-o, h-o-o.  This is chick romance, if you came here looking for literary chops, you are very definitely misguided.  On to the meat and potatoes…

This book is about BDSM.  I’m sure some will argue that it’s about transcending BDSM, but I didn’t get that exactly.  If you have an aversion to “kinky fuckery,” (not mine) this is not the book for you.  For the most part, I am naive to the world of BDSM, however, I did read a book called Whip Smart, Melissa Febos, a while back which is an autobiography of a college age women who came to be a professional dominatrix.  While there are some similarities between the practice as described in each of the books, there is not consensus.  Whip Smart makes it seem much more dirty, gritty and disturbing.  I wonder if this writer is very well studied or experienced with this.

So let’s talk about how this compares to other chick romance.  Keep in mind, ladies, I am reporting back from the other side… if some of this seems ill informed, it’s probably because it is…

It seems formulaic, even prerequisite  in the genre that the male character be rich, stunningly good looking and enormously well hung.  The female, she has to be a virgin.  Check.  Prerequisite accomplished.  Christian Grey is the founder and CEO of a billion, million, bajillion dollar company.  He is also capable of making every women coo and swoon.  And of course, he is a human tripod.  As for Anastasia, Ana, she is a twenty-two year old virgin, but wait!  you also get virgin who has NEVER pleasured herself, prompting me to ponder, “just exactly what kinda college did she go to?”   Of course, she has never climaxed before, not once in her young life, but manages to do so repeatedly and often in every encounter in the book… including her first… with the human tripod… My bullshit meter is standing back with its head tilted saying “ah, c’mon!”  Maybe we’ve just been doing it wrong.

I tend to cringe at the sex scenes in all genres, but I’m acutely critical of the sex scenes in the romance genre.  For chrissakes, it’s your stock in trade, you ought to at least be able to do better than Lee Child, right?  You’d think, right?  So let’s go down the checklist of my erotic writing pet peeves.  1) Clinical description of body parts:  I’m deducting points for the occasional use of the word “vagina” and the machine gun staccato repetitive use of the word “erection”.  perhaps not clinical, but sounds, so, so, constructed, built.   2.) Overly schmaltzy description of the body parts:  again, I’m deducting here.  “his happy trail” times at least fifty thousand, cringeworthy…  “down there” or in cases where its punctuated “down there!“.  3.)The verb used for the act itsself:  a passing score.  4.)  Campy dialog during the act:  a misdemeaner here for the very first time when Christian assures her “don’t worry, you stretch too..” or some such.  5.) Overly shopworn or purple adjectives: minor deduction for repetitive descriptions.  6.) Ridiculous metaphors for the act: Passing Score.  Final word on the quality of the sex writing?  surprisingly passable, more readable than the last one (see Lothaire/Kresley Cole review)although I may have been distracted by the specific “kinky fuckery” content.

I especially hated the way the first book ended (or more accurately, failed to end.)  I would have been completely disgusted had I not had the second book handy to start.  The first two books are essentially one big book.  The third book is vestigial.  This is largely why I decided to review all three book en masse, it’s really difficult to separate one and two, and three is sort-of an also ran.

My favorite part was a combination of the  first time Ana met Christian Grey in an interview in his office, and then in the epilogue in book three where this interview is rewritten from Christian’s POV.  This is a commonplace literary device, sure, but I still like it.  Also, it goes a long way towards solving one of my primary questions throughout the books, which is “Why in the name of all that is holy does this young, worldly, rich, physically perfect, well dressed, well endowed man want anything at all to do with this frumpy, klutzy, little girl?”  Certain attributes about Ana were not apparent to me until seeing her from his point of view.  This could have been handled subtly throughout the story somewheres about the first or second book. Too bad I had to wait until the very end of the third book.

My favorite character/person was Christian Grey, who is a wonderfully conflicted character.  Outwardly flawless, inwardly a 17 car pileup during rush hour.  He reminds me of the Eric Packer in Cosmopolis, Don De Lillo, which is one of my all time favorite books.  Ironically, Cosmopolis is being released as a movie starring Robert Pattinson (of Twilight renown) as Eric Packer, who is also being considered for the role of Christian Grey in the upcoming Fifty Shades movie.  Coincidence?  I think not….  betcha both movies suck.

This book can be summarized by “gentlemen, pay attention because this is new; some women evidently like the rough stuff.”  That’s the takeaway.  If that isn’t what you meant to do, Ms. James, you should definitely write another book.

I read this book because I was nominated as an expeditionary for all men to read this and to report my findings in the weekly meeting.  Specifically we must know why EVERY female in North America has now read it.  Some of them twice. 

Rating: 3

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

The Dharma Bums

I just finished reading The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.

It was really a paper thin gush of a story.   There is very little build up to action which gives it a flighty quality.  This is not a condemnation as On the Road is great, in large part for the same flighty quality, but in OTR, it seemed like the flight was the point.  There’s some appeal to that.  Not so here.  I don’t get the bodhisattva, live, love, say a campy poem, do no harm, aw shucks can’t we all get along  thing.  Just don’t get the premise.   Even the epic quest to Desolation Peak, in order to transcend…. wait for it… summer.   I’m sure there is some deeper thematic life allegory that probably went sailing way over my head.  Oh well.  Hope it lands somewhere pleasant.  

I especially eye-rolled the beat poetry stuff.  Set my camp-meter abuzz every time it came up.  Poetry for rhyme’s sake.  It’s like I’m playin’ cards with my brother’s kids…

My favorite part was somewhere in the beginning where there was a sense of awe and wonderment at what was possibly to come.  This was never really dispelled, not exactly, just never really developed into anything.  Fizzle. 

My favorite character/person was….oh, hell, do I really have to pick one?  It wasn’t Ray, it wasn’t Morley, and it wasn’t Japhy.

This book can be summarized by a down market OTR.  Nice try, but you lost me at “I’m not a Zen Buddhist, I’m an old-fashioned dreamy Hinayana coward of later Mahayanism”… which of course, was exactly what I was thinking.

I read this book because It was the first book checked out with my brand new LA library card.

Rating: 2

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

You Suck, A Love Story

I just finished reading You Suck, A Love Story by Christopher Moore.

It was really laugh out loud funny.  I have managed to irritate everyone in my household with this one.  A vampire story entitled You Suck.  The next book in the trilogy is called Bite Me.   That should tell you all you need to know.  I realize its a threadbare premise and that anything “vampire” elicits a well deserved eye roll, but this isn’t exactly Ann Rice.  This picks up where Bloodsucking Fiends (first in trilogy) left off.   Jody, who was unwittingly converted to a vampire, for sport, by Elijah, the 800 year old big daddy “vampire of olde,” has now converted her own boyfriend, Tommy Flood.  They are learning how to be vampires and struggling with the real life and moral dilemmas associated with this.  Hilarity truly does ensue.

I especially loved the characters.  They are utterly believable.  The situations they are in are ridiculous and unbelievable, but their behavior once you have accepted the absurdity of the scenario, rings true.

My favorite part was when Abby was harassing the cops. “Move along kid, go wash that shit off your face, you look like you fell asleep with a Magic Marker in your mouth.”  “Yeah,” said the kid, examining a black fingernail, “well you look like somebody pumped about three hundred pounds of cat barf into a cheap suit and gave it a bad haircut.”  “If you were a guy, I’d have you handcuffed by now…”  “If I were a guy, I’ll bet you would.  And I’ll bet I’d have to send you to the S & M ATM, because the kinky shit is extra.”  The kid leaned down so she was eye level with Cavuto and winked.    

She owns them and she knows it.  Two seasoned detectives being taken on by a knock kneed sixteen year old goth girl = funny.

My favorite character/person was Allison Green, “street name” Abby Normal.  Sixteen year old self absorbed mouthy little girl who is recruited by the main characters, Jody and Tommy, to be their servant/minion.  The sad-clown marionette, the knock kneed kid with the raccoon eye make-up, the broken clown girl.  

(context free highlight) “Then he put a pair of totally cyber wraparound sunglasses on me and kissed me.  And I kissed him back, hard, with major tongue, and finally he pulled away, as gentle as a butterfly.  So I slapped him, so he wouldn’t think I was a slut… but then so he wouldn’t think I was being frigid, I sort of jumped on him and wrapped my legs around him and sort of rode him to the ground and was accidentally kind of dry humping him on the pavement…”  

Christopher Moore must have a teenaged daughter.  I don’tknow how he would have gleened this kind of insight into their lecxicon without it.   Abby reminds me of my girlfriend’s daughter when she was sixteen; smart, cheeky, precocious and still managed to be somehow innocent.    

Chet, the overweight shaved cat in with the red sweater that belongs to the homeless guy… a distant second.   Elijah, the 800 year old vampire who has developed an affinity for tracksuits, about tied with Chet.  The Animals, as a group, they’re great too.

This book can be summarized by the chapter entitled “Being the Chronicles of Abby Normal:  Pathetic Noferatu Noobsickle”

I read this book because turns out it is in the second installment of a trilogy.  A trilogy that I read in the most unintelligible manner possible. 3-1-2.  Only after reading three and one, did I realize it was a trilogy.  Pay attention, Bill. 

Rating: 3

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

Red Plenty

I just finished reading Red Plenty by Francis Spufford.

It was really interesting.  I once had a neighbor, Igor, who was my age and had just moved to the United States from, at the time, the remains of what was the Soviet Union.  We used to talk at length about the differences in culture and the media hype on each side.  The conclusion we came to, after much vodka drinking, is that the quality of life in either country was about the same for a couple of middle-middle class guys like us….  except for the supermarkets.  This novel of loosely related individual stories paints it a little differently.  

I especially appreciated the assistance this book gave me in closing the loop on some vague theories I’ve held for a while now.   Although the Soviet Union was a spectacular failure as an economic system, it seemed to start off as a good idea.  In theory, distributing the wealth more evenly, such that 90% of the stuff does not reside with the richest 3% of the population would be great.  Just ask the OWS crowd.   This book really drove home the reality of how intricate and delicate a planned economy has to be in order to even remotely function.  Good theory, a little tougher in practice.  In practice it requires lots of “Do this…. because I said so, or else!”  type artificial motivation.  This is best portrayed by the consecutive chapters in part IV wherein a quota is established that cannot be made with the existing machine, the machine is sabotaged in order to get a better machine and the trickle down implications of this are quite far reaching.  A capitalist system may not distribute the wealth as evenly or fairly, however it works because it is organically motivated, “Do this, because it will help you if you do.”   A good analogy is the difference between the storyworlds of 1984 and Brave New World.  Orwellian “Big Brother is watching and you WILL be punished”  Soviet Union, vs “Play some obstacle golf, have more recreational sex, c’mon, all the cool kids are doin’ it…” Huxleyan USA.  How much is media hype and how much is reality is obviously debatable, but the generality isn’t.   

This theory of organic vs artificial motivation is represented in the macro by the contrast between communism and capitalism, but its so applicable to all other aspects of life.  

My favorite part was the description of the Novocherkassk Tragedy.  An increase in the price of meat caused an uprising amongst the workers.  This uprising was put down by force.  I’m paraphrasing this because I didn’t write it down, but powerful writing, “puddles of blood with white shards of human teeth…” so violent in its description.  The initial reluctance on the part of the authorities followed by inadvertent loss of control that results in paroxysm of shooting is an intangible and difficult phenomenon to describe, but its done well here.

As close runner-up, the a molecule’s view of Sergei Alexeyevich Lebedev’s lung cancer was disturbingly well written.

I also liked the chapter”Psychoprophylaxis” for its believable take on how childbirth might feel, but then I remember that its written by a man… how the hell would you know, Francis?

My favorite character/person was Chekuskin, maybe.  The facilitator.  He has friends.  He can get things, make things happen.  

This book can be summarized by “Comrades, let’s optimize!”  Its a true story, but it still tells a story.

I read this book because I’m afraid of the Russians, yes, but fascinated by them.  I read a review of this in the New York Times Book Review.

Rating: 4

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

The Castle in the Forest

I just finished reading The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer.

It was really haunting.  This novel is about Hitler’s (“Adi” as an endearing little diminutive in this story) formative years, his “family” and upbringing.  This is a  rich narrative with a large and well developed cast.  Ironically, among the least well developed characters in this book is the young Fuhrer himself.  

The book starts with the  narrator introducing himself, Dieter, DT, putative SS officer under Himmler (Heini), “A charming SS man, tall, quick, blond, blue-eyed, witty…”   Yeah, charming *might* not have occurred to me…   The special intelligence group of the SS in which DT belonged was looking into Hitler’s ancestry.  This sets the premise for the balance of the book, more or less.  There is a lengthy side plot concerning the coronation of czar Nicholas II in late 19th century Russia, which seemed irrelevant and superfluous at the time, but really isn’t.  

The passage describing the sexual relations between Alois and Klara, Adi’s incestuous mother and father, earned Norman Mailer a very well deserved “Bad Sex in Fiction” award.   Comparing the flaccid male genitalia to a “coil of excrement,” (blech) is but one relatively tame example.  It was awful, somehow I think it was intentionally so.

I especially was reviled by the manner in which little Adi came to be.  In one of the more foul and berserkly conjoined and malignant family trees imaginable, Adi is the byproduct of Alois screwing his half sister, then marrying the progeny of that, Klara, in order to procreate… Adi.  Father/grandpa, mom/sister….  Not that I’m all hung up on labels or anything, but somebody make me a color coded flowchart, immediately.  I’m… I’m confused….  There are characters from the novel Deliverance standing back in awe saying, “Shucks ma, that is some *f*cked* up inbreeding…”

My favorite part was the description of the conflict and tension between the demons and the “cudgels,” the demon’s term for the guardian angels.  Dummkopf (Dumb-ass) or DK being their blasphemous monicker for God, this is perhaps not a fantastic choice for the very pious.  I found myself drawing paralells between this and CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.  This would be Screwtape Letters’ bigger, meaner prankster/pervert brother.

My favorite character/person was Dieter, DT, the first person POV narrator.  I can’t comment too terribly much on him without spoiling.  Suffice to say, he is way more complex and compelling than Alois, Adi, Klara, any of them.  

This book can be summarized by the story of the nurturing and creation of “…one hell a monster.”

I read this book because I just wanted to read something by Norman Mailer.  Ironically his last novel, my first.  It was published in 2007, the year of his death.  Too bad.  I’d have added Mailer to the list of people I’d like to have a beer with.  I’d like to know whence this sort of imagination.

Rating: 4

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I just finished reading A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner.

It was really bleak.

I especially looked forward to the prospect of engaging in some lively and insightful book club discourse over this.  This is the first book in a new book club that I’ve joined.  Book club membership is a big step for me.  I have only ever belonged to one other.  We read one book, abandoned the second after a week or so and then ended it all in a bitter divorce after none of us could agree upon a third book to read.  We all still hate one another.  It wasn’t pretty.   This was pre-internet days so the energy investment was much larger.  This time, the lively discussion is there, I just feel like I’m sitting at the kid’s table listening to, but not really understanding what the adults are talking about.  Everybody else seems to ascribe much more deliberate meaning to every nuance and subtlety.  Really, things that would never have occurred to me.   Just reaffirming that my sweet spot truly is somewhere over there in the literary shallow end.

My favorite part was probably the third short story in the series “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.”  Except for a car chase and an explosion it has all the requisite dramatic/action elements necessary for a major motion picture.   I can easily envision the cinematography as Shiflet, the one armed man rides off into the sunset towards Mobile, Alabama.  

My favorite character/person was the Polish “displaced person” Guizac in the short story “The Displaced Person”, whose fate is so delicately hanging in the balance throughout the story.  He doesn’t seem to know or care, just carries on with his work.  He reminds me of the laborers that I work with.  Politically, walls are falling down around them, they may not know or may just not care, they keep their head out of the noise and keep doing their job.  Its admirable.   He ultimately gets run over with a tractor….

This book can be summarized by a short story collection in a Southern Gothic style I don’t much care for, rife with a big glob of  Weltschmerz I wasn’t quite in the mood for.  She is a great writer, clearly.  Simply stated style, narratives stuffed full of thematic content, compelling, albeit dour, plot lines.  It is widely referred to as dark humor.  I must be deficient in my sense of humor.  To me it just seems dark.

I read this book because I found a group on a site called Goodreads.com and this group was reading it.  Looking forward to the next book.  

Rating: 3

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports,

Foundation and Empire

I just finished reading Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov.

It was really tough to stay with.  Asimov is intricate and nuanced.  For this you must pay attention.  I was not able to do that effectively with this one.  Unfortunately for me, Asimov, and you the reader, I do pass judgment on novels based on their ability to make me pay attention.  

I especially slumbered through the entire second half or so.  I gave it due consideration throughout the whole Bel Riose crisis, finding the conspiratorial congruency between the Empire’s hyper-paranoid politics and those of the Roman Empire compelling.  I didn’t get along with the idea of an all powerful conquering force led by something called the “Mule” so I summarily stopped payment on the attention check.

My favorite part was not really applicable here.  Although I did like it when Bayta abruptly blew away Ebling Mis with a blaster, but its no secret that I have somewhat of a soft spot for tough, smart, kinda bitchy women.  

My favorite character/person was Magnifico the clown.  I guess.

This book can be summarized by, hard to say.  I lost interest and had a hard time following it.   Somewhere in this book, the story line jumped the primary series premise track.  I didn’t quite get it, but a Seldon Crisis was incorrectly presupposed by Seldon hizownself.  Say it ain’t so….  Maybe  this gets rectified in the next book in the series.  I wonder if I’ll ever know.    

I read this book because I have read other stuff by Asimov and a friend of mine recommended it highly.  

Rating: 2

1:  I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.

2:  I got it, but didn’t like it much.

3.  I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.

4.  This book will go on my shelf.

5.  I will likely read this again.

Filed under: Book Reports