Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book review’

The first time I read Ray Bradbury’s 1957 classic, Dandelion Wine, it was an assignment for school. I was a little older than Doug Spaulding, the novel’s 12-year old protagonist at the time, and to be frank, I didn’t really care for the book at all.

That was a crisis for me, as Bradbury was one of the three novelists who I really, really enjoyed (along with Roger Zelazny and C.J. Cherryh). I’d gobbled up Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and read every collection of his short stories that I could find. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Some may find it odd that I, a guy who makes his living dealing with data, computers, bugs, and code, am such a fan of low-tech.

It’s not that I dislike technology—I don’t, and I have the phones, tablets, and game consoles to prove it—but while technology has made the lives of millions safer, easier, and more pleasant, it’s also taken us away from our roots, separating our connection to the physical world around us.

Alexander Langlands, an archaeologist who has worked uncovering Britain’s history for decades, thinks much the same way, and in his book, Cræft, he explores some of the most basic skills in human history, skills that require us to touch the world with our hands, and that are intimately tied to our environments and ecosystems. Through historical context and personal experimentation, Langlands shows us how tasks that, today, we might deem very simple—tasks such as digging a trench, weaving cloth, making hay, and thatching a roof—actually require broad experiential knowledge to master. He uses cræft, the Old English of the word craft, to highlight the change in the word’s meaning over the centuries. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The problem with good books is that they show me how much I still must improve, to elevate my writing from “good” to “great.”

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, is one such book. Damn.

An aging veteran travels the backroads in post-Civil War Texas, reading newspaper articles to townsfolk who either can’t read or don’t have access to papers from the big cities. He’s asked to take with him a young girl, captured by the Kiowa when she was six, and bring her back to her relatives near San Antonio. (more…)

Read Full Post »

A long-standing obsession of mine has been act 1, scene 2, from Shakespeare’s Richard III. It’s the scene where Richard accosts Lady Anne during a funeral procession and, in the course of a few hundred lines, steers her from unmitigated loathing all the way ’round the bend to a point where she warms to his affection, accepts his ring, and considers his suit for her hand in marriage. Afterward, astonished, Richard asks us:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?

Answer: No. Never. Not in a million years.

The complete implausibility of this scene has always puzzled me. I’ve read analyses of the play, pored through the variorum of the play, all to no avail. Shakespeare, generally quite good at character motivation and development, has shoehorned this relationship into his play, telling us “Just roll with it.”

Why?

My friend Barb, who knew of my curiosity on the topic, recommended I read Sharon Kay Penman’s historical opus, The Sunne in Splendour, a historical novel about Richard III. Now that I have, I’m glad I did, but the book is not without flaws. (more…)

Read Full Post »

I spent the week in San Francisco.

I spent the week in 1949. (more…)

Read Full Post »

This weekend I finished reading a book, the first one in a while. I enjoyed it a great deal, but it was an unusual read in that, from the book’s very first page, I felt a very real connection to it. You see, my library also includes a few stolen books.

On my “old/rare books” shelf lies an 1892 edition of The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott. A family member—enamored of its exquisite etchings—checked it out from a library in the early ’40s and just “forgot” to return it. When it came into my possession, forty years later, it was agreed by all that returning it was unnecessary. Probably.

A few other books on my shelf have sketchy backgrounds, too. One is a Bible illustrated by Salvador Dali that I didn’t ask too many questions about, and another is a large-format book of the works Michelangelo that had been so obviously mismarked at a garage sale that paying the 50¢ asking price was nothing short of theft.

And so, when in the prologue to her non-fiction bestseller, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, author and journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett describes how she came into possession of a book with a less-than-pristine provenance, I felt the echoed pangs of my own guilty conscience. (more…)

Read Full Post »

When I learn a thing, I like to know the why of it.

It’s not enough to know that something is the way it is; I want to know why it is the way it is. This did not serve me well my study of mathematics since, when I got down to basic axioms and postulates, the answer to why was often: just because.

It’s one of the reasons mathematics and I have had such a rocky relationship.

It’s also why I have a love/hate relationship with recipes.

Recipes tell me what to do, but not why I should do it. Don’t get me wrong; recipes are great as a way to capture a particular dish, but in the end, they teach me little more than a procedure. I can follow each step to perfection and create the best whatever-it-is, but if I mess something up, or if it’s a cool day, or if the humidity is high, and the dish turns out wrong/different/bad, in the end, I do not know why.

I’ve read a lot of books on cooking, and though they’ve tried, none of them have successfully taught me the elusive why of the culinary arts.

Until now. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: