Global Citizenship: Poverty and Wealth,Want and Waste

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1

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time

by

3.63 rating

Comment 1: EDIT: Just so you guys all know, the word "Mortenson" is in the text a total of 1,943 times. That's right. 1,943.What I wish to do so badly to this book. 0 of 5 starsBefore I get started, I just want to say that no review I could ever write ever would ever portray how much this book sucked for me. To me, Three Cups of Tea is the perfect embodiment and representation of the most tragically horrible book I've ever read.In fact, for you today, I'm going to make a list of the 10 most tragic things in Three Cups of Tea. The 10 Most Tragic Things In Three Cups of Tea (Not in Any Order) 1: The Stilted and Pretentious WritingDon't even get me started on the atrocious writing. Relin is the worst possible person anyone could've ever chosen to write Mortenson's story. In fact, if someone else would have written the book, I probably would've enjoyed it a lot more. It may even have been a three-star read for me, if it wasn't written in a horrid and stilted manner. Relin describes every single thing down to the last detail. I specifically remember an entire scene dedicated to the entire biography of someone completely irrelevant to the book at all, some climber woman who was really brave and all that crap. Another two chapters were backstory and DIDN'T ADVANCE THE PLOT AT ALL. (No wonder it took me 83 days to read this book!)The prose of the book is more purple than Barney, and I think that speaks for itself. 2: The PacingThis book wasn't exciting at all. I felt in no way excited to read more; in fact, I couldn't have cared less. As I mentioned in the first section, Relin writes detail of every single thing (and I'm not kidding), like it really mattered what color hat his guide exiting the mountain, Mouzafer, was wearing and how many scratches it had and how long he had it and how he recalled his experiences of getting it every time he put it on. Okay, that might have been a minor exaggeration.*snickers* I jumped up, cheered, and giggled maniacally when I was done and realized I didn't have any more hell to go through before the summer was over. 3: The Blatantly Hyperbolized HeroismAnd by that, I mean how Relin writes Mortenson to be completely pretentious and how he writes this aura of perfection about him that makes him seem like Jesus descended to Earth and decided to build schools for poor and starving Middle-Eastern children. By the time I got to around page 100, I finally found Relin detailing something Mortenson wasn't good at, and I was relieved that he really wasn't the second coming of Jesus like Relin was brainwashed to believe.If you're reading this:Dear David Oliver-Relin,Mr. Gregory Mortenson HAS FLAWS.Please get this through your thick skull, since it's obvious Mortenson didn't write a word of this.Sincerely,a Frustrated Reader. 4: The LengthThree Cups of Tea is 125,000 words. For those of you who have no idea how long that really is, it's longer than Twilight. Yes, it is FREAKING LONGER THAN TWILIGHT. I'm sure if the editor of this book had any common sense, it would've been condensed to AT LEAST a maximum of 85,000. So much of this book was just extended detailing and backstories that really had no relevance to what was currently going on. I really didn't care about Marina at all; I didn't care that his throat clogged up and his sexual organ swelled every time he saw her, and that he was talking to his Balti friends about her and about how beautiful she was. Did it have anything to do with the schools being built? I'll give you a hint: the answer rhymes with the word "HO" (which happens to bring Marina to mind), and it starts with an N. 5: The Lack of Reference to Balti LanguageIn the entirety of the book, there is a lot of Balti language used, especially in the beginning when he's adjusting to life there. The Balti words are nearly always italicized (i.e.: Inshallah), but I'd say only 1/4 of all the Balti words are defined in the text, either right next to the word or in the sentences/paragraphs that follow. Google helped me a lot over the course of the book when I actually cared about what they meant because I thought they'd help me later on. I don't even remember what my example word above means. That's how scarce definitions of the Balti language was. 6: The Sentence LengthI'm gonna get this out of the way: most of the sentences in this book wouldn't even fit in Goodreads status updates, I shit you not. Goodreads status updates can be up to 420 characters. Whole sentences are commonly over that length in this book. It'd be a HUGE pain in the butt to read aloud. I don't think I've ever read a book in the history of my life that's this stretched out.I mean, seriously. Even the very last paragraph of the book (which is one sentence, people, and it's in #10) is completely stretched out and seems strangely perpetual and confusing and dramatic when it's not. It seems like Relin tried to create a cute ending and failed miserably (look at all those freaking commas!) 7: The Fabrications Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His WayThese should be self-explanatory.In fact, I'm pretty sure I would've enjoyed this book more (maybe a lot more) if I didn't know most of it was false. Knowing this makes reading it seem pointless. Why would my English teacher assign something completely fabricated and horribly written for me to read over the summer when she could've chosen much better alternatives that actually have character and aren't filled with cheesy metaphors?I've heard the previous years' choice was Lord of the Flies, and at this point, I welcome that book in with open arms. 8: The Word "Mortenson"The main flaw that arises in writing this book in third-person is how many times the main character's name is referenced. I mean, seriously, you couldn't have called him Greg? Just reading the name "Mortenson" after reading this book makes me shudder and feel sick to my stomach.I actually think this book would've been better had it been written by Mortenson; the prose would've been much less purple (maybe a nice, subtle shade of periwinkle) and I'd have been able to escape the dreadful "Mortenson" that appeared at the beginning of each paragraph. I put this book on the shelf "prose-is-purple-as-barney" for a reason.This just in: the word "Mortenson" appears 1,943 times in the text of the novel. That's right. Be warned. 9: The Painful MetaphorsRelin needs to obliviate the word "metaphor" from his vocabulary, because it doesn't truly enhance his writing, but instead makes it laugh-worthy. I write better metaphorically than him, and I'm 14 years old. Metaphors like a storage space "smelling like Africa" and the night being "bitterly crystalline" (things which still don't make sense to me) can be eliminated. Being as I, along with many others, have never been to Africa, I don't think that first metaphor should even be usable. Maybe the editor just gave up and decided he/she was done with this atrocity. (I honestly wish I had that option somewhere along the line of reading this.) 10: The Last ParagraphTell me, have you ever read anything more screwed up grammatically than this?"Mortenson put his hands on the shoulders of Sadhar Khan's brown robe, as he'd done a decade earlier, among other mountains, with another leader, named Haji Ali, conscious, not of the gunmen still observing him through their sniperscopes, nor of the shahid (a word not defined) stones, warmed to amber by the sun's late rays, but of the inner mountain he'd committed, in that instant, to climb."Can someone just shoot me now?THE ONLY POSITIVE ASPECT OF ANYTHING RELATED TO THE STORY:-The end, because I knew it was over and I wouldn't have to turn another page in it again.-Haji Ali. Anyone who says "Sit down and shut your mouth. You're making everyone crazy" to Greg Mortenson deserves my utmost respect.-The line "Sheeyit! Bitch ain't got but two dollars."(When I first reviewed this book, I gave it 0.5 stars. I've realized since then that NOTHING could ever make this book worth even a half of a star, not a cute story [in certain, very sparse, parts] or a funny line or a clever character. Nothing.)Below, I'm going to include some memorable status updates of mine and some snapshots of margin notes:Status Update 1: ""With his ear for languages, Mortenson soon had a basic Balti vocabulary." This is what I'm sure Relin meant by this sentence: "With his astounding ability to do everything he desired, including his outstanding ear for languages, within days, Mortenson was magnificently able to develop a large and complex vocabulary of the Balti people, which he was able to speak flawlessly." That's what the rest of it is like..." Status Update 2: "'The snout of the Baltoro Glacier lay at the bottom of a canyon, black with debris and sculpted to a point like the nose of a 747.' Really? 'Like the nose of a 747?' I don't think anyone knows what that is. I think 'like a G6' would be more relatable to modern society."Status Update 3: "Wow. If I look past the glaring errors and factual mishaps and exaggerations and over-detailing and overused words and complete and utter bias and misused adjectives and inexplicably long sentences and blatantly hyperbolized heroism and tragic characterization, this isn't bad!" Status Update 4: "This book has Irrefutably Biased Syndrome: "If Mortenson had known how scarce and precious sugar was to the Balti, how rarely they used it themselves, he would have refused the second cup of tea." Which, of course, is blatantly insinuating that Mortenson had the manners of a saint and was completely acceptable with leaving the sugar to the Balti. Relin is inferior."Status Update 5: "Okay. In nonfiction, don't quotes have to be exact? There's no freakin' way Mortenson remembers everything everyone said as if it were five minutes ago." Status Update 6: "Finally! Something Mortenson's NOT good at! *forehead wipe*" Status Update 7: "Why does he keep going back and forth between America and Pakistan? You'd think the airfare expenses are dwindling away what little he has left of his savings. Not a very smart investment, if you ask me."Status Update 8: "I'm going to start calling you Morty. "Dear Morty, I didn't pick this book up by choice, but if I did, I wouldn't have picked it up to hear about the prosperity of your love life. But thanks for sharing (NOT). Sincerely, A Disturbed Reader."Status Update 9: "'Mortenson arranged to go back home and see his wife, Tara, whom was expected to deliver their first child within a month. He gets kidnapped by misunderstanding people. Mortenson is rescued by kind men who arrange a party thrown in his occasion and who give him money for his schools to be built.' That was the value of the entire twenty-page chapter. Literally. And you wonder why I hate this book?"Status Update 10: "Aw! That was a cute scene. (That's probably all the positive you'll get about this book.)" Status Update 11: ""'I promise,' Mortenson said, adding the burden of another vow to the weighty collection of oaths old men kept making him take." That might just be the most clever line I've read thus far."Status Update 12: "Dang! Morty just reached into some chick's uterus."Status Update 13: "Chocolate would help right now. Chocolate always helps."MARGIN SNAPSHOTS: Photos Taken of Memorably Cruel Comments

2

A People's History of the United States

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: You can't review Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" without first declaring your own political bias, so here's a brief summary of mine:I grew up in a Communist-sympathizing household in Park Slope, that most liberal of all left-leaning Brooklyn neighborhoods. My father had a clear, if sometimes simplistic world-view: the rich were evil, and whatever side of an issue they were on, good people should be on the other side. Like most children, I rebelled, and by college, my politics could best be described as left-leaning centrism in the Clintonian sense. To my dad, this was about as bad as being a fascist or a Republican, and for years I avoided talking with him about politics. After 9/11, like most Americans, I reflexively drifted further to the right on foreign policy- mostly out of shock and a desire for revenge. While my parents were down in DC protesting the second Gulf War, I secretly felt a certain satisfaction at watching a tyrant like Saddam Hussein get taken down. Over the next ten years, however, I found myself drifting back towards the center- the 9/11 bloodlust wore off and I was left with doubts about the wars. At the same time, I was beginning to notice some dispiriting trends in our domestic situation- especially the constant cycle of boom and bust, the seemingly bottomless materialism of our popular culture, and the growing shrillness of the political debates. And then 2008 came along, when the banks blew up America. Few of my friends had benefited from the housing bubble (most were too young or too poor to buy property)- so most of us felt doubly fucked: first, by the run up in housing prices, which put even the limited prosperity of our parents generation out of reach, and second, by the bust, which put a lot of us out of work. Watching the government turn around and bail out the banks with our tax money only added insult to injury. And that's around the time I realized that my dad had been right all along: the rich really did control our country, through the banks and the government, and they really were evil- possessed of a monstrous selfishness that cared only for themselves, and nothing about the rest of us.So, you could say that when I picked up Zinn's book seven weeks ago, I was primed to be receptive to his message. And that message is simple: the rich have screwed the poor in America since the first day the Europeans arrived. In fact, since before they arrived, as illustrated by my favorite anecdote in the book: Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.And that screwing continued- first, the Native Americans on Hispanola were wiped out (in a genocide that largely goes unmentioned, even in books like Charles Mann's 1491.) Then the Native Americans on the mainland were destroyed. Then the Blacks were kidnapped from Africa, and brutally oppressed for hundreds of years in our fields. So were the poor whites, and the minorities, who were often treated as bad as the slaves. Women, of course, were oppressed the whole time, even in the richest houses. And Zinn observes that even as the general level of prosperity in the country increased, the gains were mostly hoarded by rich white men. This quote is from Henry George, a newspaperman in 1879- but reading Zinn, you come to feel like it could have been written at any time in the last 400 years: It is true that wealth has been greatly increased, and that the average of comfort, leisure and refinement has been raised, but these gains are not general. In them the lowest class do not share... This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times... there is a vague but general feeling of disappointment, an increased bitterness among the working classes, a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution. Zinn also makes a convincing case that the method by which the rich kept these gains was straightforward: whenever they were threatened by potential uprisings of people's movements, they simply turned one group against another. For instance, the poor whites against the slaves, or the poor farmers against the Indians, or the poor working men against the newly arrived immigrants, or, when the heat really got too strong, the entire country against another country- as in the Spanish-American War in the late 19th Century. All this is not to say that I was in total agreement with Zinn. Like many of his readers, I had two different kinds of objections. The first were ones of scope- I found it puzzling that he omitted some struggles (like those of Asians or Hispanics on the West Coast, or the Gays, or the handicapped), while focusing so much energy on others (for instance, the struggles of the radical unionists like the Wobblies.) I was also confused by how little there was on violent leftist radicalism in the 60s and 70s- he hardly mentions The Weathermen, the SLA, the Chicago Seven, etc. Given how many pages he spends on his generally excellent chapters on the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam struggle, these omissions seemed weird- was he consciously trying to soften the image of the left? Likewise, Zinn's discussion of events since 1980 (added in later versions of the book), seem a little breezy- much lighter on quotes and detail than the foregoing chapters. My second class of objections were about bias. Now, Zinn does a good job of defusing these- for instance, in his afterward, he writes:This is a biased account... I am not troubled by that, because the mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction- so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen, and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements..."But even so, I still found some of his positions a little simplistic. While he does a good job of humanizing the poor and the downtrodden through hundreds of quotes, he never brings the same level of detail to his discussions about the rich. My personal feeling is that the rich aren't a monolithic group (though they often behave in a more unified way than the poor)- they are still a collection of disparate individuals, families, and corporations with their own motives and interests. So when Zinn says that the rich used the pretext of nationalism to advance their own interests in World War One, I ask myself, which rich people? Was it a conscious decision by a single rich person, like the President, or a group of people, like the heads of the big corporations? Or was it a less-than-conscious choice- more an instance of lots of people in power taking advantage of opportunity to seize more power and wealth? Zinn never tells us- and he rarely uses quotes to erase this ambiguity. Additionally, sometimes he's just a little far-out- so aggressively pacifistic or leftist that he makes stupid claims. For instance, even my dad objected to his discussion of World War 2. Here's a small taste: What seemed clear at the time was that the United States was a democracy with certain liberties, while Germany was a dictatorship persecuting its Jewish minority, imprisoning dissidents, whatever their religion, while proclaiming the supremacy of the Nordic "race." However, blacks, looking at anti-Semitism in Germany, might not see their own situation in the U.S. as much different. I mean, really- the way America treated the blacks was awful- but there is a world of difference between the apartheid of 1940s America and the genocide of 1940s Germany. Those objections aside, overall Zinn accomplishes his goal of presenting the other side of American history, and convincing the reader that American government has largely been used by the rich to concentrate their wealth and power at the expense of the poor. Unfortunately, in his final chapters, Zinn doesn't offer much prescriptive advice on how to turn America in a more liberal direction of less income disparity, less war, and more civil rights. He clearly describes what his ideal America looks like- a kind of locavore anarchism, where we all live in small communities and make joint decisions through committees. But he doesn't explain how to get there, or how we could avoid the pitfalls that destroyed all the Communist countries in the past- corruption, oppression, colossal waste of resources. The closest Zinn comes to realistic advice is reminding us that liberal social change never comes without people rising up in the streets- getting out there, protesting, and generally making noise until the rich and powerful are forced to change course. During just the last couple of months when I was reading this book, we've all seen the power of direct people's movements. Unfortunately, we only saw them in the Middle East- not in America, where more than ever, we need a more just and equitable society. The question that I'm left with is that after witnessing the plutocratic orgy of the last few years, why aren't we all out there, waving banners and demanding change?

3

The Dispossessed

by

4.15 rating

Comment 1: Thoughts on The DispossessedOf the various layers of content in The Dispossessed, the most obvious is the socio-political: capitalism vs. anarchistic-communism. The claim often made is that, even though her heart is with the latter, she nonetheless treats the two structures impartially. The claim or presumption is to be found in the reviews of fantasy/science fiction devotees, those with a particular interest in anarchism and, I suspect, also those who simply read it with an uncritical eye.I don’t see that at all. Not surprisingly, given where her sympathies lie, le Guin has created the best possible picture of anarchistic communism and the worst of capitalism. In creating a capitalist society which has at its apex overwhelming plenty, perched on a base of workers whose existence is miserable beyond belief – going to hospital typically means being eaten by rats if one is poor – le Guin has created a capitalist society which is not only a morally reprehensible model but a very stupid one. Capitalism has known for a long time that one keeps those making up the base of support happy by giving them enough. That principle pertains throughout our society and there is no reason I can see to explain why le Guin’s capitalist model is different from that.Contrast the anarchistic-communist model she proffers. By placing it in a poor, harsh geography, she creates the perfect setting for that model to succeed. Although superficially she is seen to consider the difficulties with the structure – when harsh becomes drought-induced-impossible, how does one decide who lives and who dies in this society – it is obvious that the real difficulties with the model arise when one considers physical ease and economic plenty. I can’t begin to see how any anarchistic-communist model then works, let alone one which has specifically been constructed on the presumption of struggle, survival, utility, function, purpose. The model she presents borrows much from the experience of the kibbutz movement in Israel. As it has failed, so too it is impossible to imagine her ideal society surviving.This is the only le Guin I’ve read. Are all her books so stilted and contrived in style? There is a point at which dispassion by the author is hard to distinguish from a boredom that is infectious. I stopped reading The Seducer to take on The Dispossessed and this has made me appreciate how well-written the former is. It has been argued that the dull tedious style is necessary to portray the poverty and utilitarianism of her utopian society. Sorry, I can’t see that for one moment. The woman hates writing, it is – unhappily for both her and her readers – a necessary medium to communicate her ideas. If she had commissions Ray Bradbury to turn her ideas into words, he would have made something beautiful without betraying the style she wishes to impose. But, then, Ray Bradbury loves writing.Look, for example, at this list:p.110 Coats, dresses, gowns, robes, trousers, breeches, shirts, blouses, hats, shoes, stockings, scarves, shawls, vests, capes, umbrellas, clothes to wear while sleeping, while swimming, while playing games, while at an afternoon party, while at an evening party, while at a party in the country, while travelling, while at the theatre, while riding horses, gardning, receiving guests, boating, dining, hunting – all different, all in hundreds of different cuts, styles, colours, textures, materials. Perfumes, clocks, lamps, statues, cosmetics, candles, pictures, cameras, games, vases, sofas, kettles, puzzles, pillows, dolls, colanders, hassocks, jewels, carpets, toothpicks, calendars, a baby’s teething rattle of platinum with a handle of rock crystal, an electrical machine to sharpen pencils, a wristwatch with diamond numerals, figurines and souvenirs and kickshaws and mementoes and gewgars and bric a brac, everything either useless to begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its use; acrues of luxuries, acres of excrement. Sorry, but my average weekly shopping list is a more interesting read. Compare this list from The Seducer:p 63 I must be allowed to say a little bit about bicyles…because bikes occupy a very special place in people’s memories – just think of the palpable thrill that runs through the body at the memory of the drag when a dynamo is flipped in against a tyre. And even more than the bike itself, what one remembers are all the accessories and trimmings. In fact, I would go as far as to say that for many people the status seeking that has since manifested itself in having as many letters and digits as possible after the name of a car had its beginnings right here. I could mention at random the different types of handlebars, not least the so-called ‘speedway’ handlebars which were all the rage for some time and which, if I remember correctly, were even banned, in keeping with the Norwegian fondness for every possible sort of safeguard, and which boasted such features as luminous handgrips with little nubs that pressed into the palm of your hand, and gears – source of such stories as, for example, how Frankenstein pedalled up the steep slope of Badedamsbakken in ‘third’, sitting down – and a speedometer, an item which in Jonas’s day was long a rarity, owned only by boys like Wolfgang Michaelsen, not to mention a lamp of the type that had two little yellow lights on either side of the big one, like fog-lights, and last but not least, the obligatory bell, which the really cool guys replaced with a beauty of a horn. Then you had the wide variety of different saddles, foremost among them the banana seat, motorbike-style, which suddenly became the in thing, and the accompanying cross-country tyres and who could forget those mud-flaps emblazoned with an ‘N’, as if one were all set to cycle across Europe? Anything else? Oh, yes, the toll kit on the carrier with its carefully stowed contents, anticipating the suitcase-packing problem in that everything had to be slotted into exactly the right place or the lid wouldn’t close. This fastened with a little padlock, available in various colours, and came complete with minute keys; which in turn brings me on to the advent of the combination lock, with a cat’s eye on the knob, and the hunt for the most baffling combination, which was engraved on a little copy of the lock itself and which, for some, represented their first encounter with the recursive element in life. Lastly, I ought to mention all the badges for sticking onto the mudguagd, and the pennant, its rod vibrating so delightfully, and then, of course, the flags and foxtails that made you feel like the Shah of Persia as you rode around the blocks of flats. But one of the most interesting features in this connection was the trimming of the wheel-spokes, first with empty cigarette packs: Ascot, Speed, Jolly, Blue Master and, above all, Monte Carlo, the menthol Virginia cigarette that came in three varieties – yellow, red and black – adorned with little paintings which today seem quite exotic, like works of art from a bygone age, and later with triangles formed out of fuse-wire, which is to say copper wire of the sort insulated with different coloured plastics.Now that is a list. A lovingly constructed list by a man whose delight it is to write. Perhaps when going through the process of making up a language, it is perforce going to make for tedious presentation. Coming to The Dispossessed as one whose science fiction days have long passed and who has never had any sympathy for fantasy, this whole process generally irritates me, it seems such an effort for nothing. Why can’t the characters be called Barry and Kevin and Patsy? Why do they have to be Shevek and Pae? Why does the toilet have to be the shittery? Having begun the book with no patience for this, I eventually came around to the idea that her anarchistic society had to create its own language and culture. Still, I’m not convinced by the linguistics side of the story but I’m too ignorant of the area to feel comfortably criticizing it. Is the way in which the language is established and developed credible? My gut feeling is not. Nicholas Tam, in a detailed review of the book to be found here http://www.nicholastam.ca/2008/10/15/... has this to say:“…the linguistics in The Dispossessed adhere to a Whorfian model that is inconsistently applied. Pravic, the Esperanto-like language spoken on Anarres, was planned and designed to fit the needs of a communist utopia where property and class do not exist. Le Guin’s presentation of this is quite elegant: she “translates” the disparities between Pravic and Iotic (the language spoken in A-Io on Urras), along with the occasional code-switching, into English analogues—thereby avoiding the indulgent trap of science fiction and fantasy that Randall Munroe so helpfully illustrates:’Nonetheless, he is not altogether happy with the linguistics of it. I can’t help but feel that if one is going to all that trouble to invent a language, one might as well be careful about it. Le Guin’s ‘utopia’ has no word or concept for ‘wife’ but sure enough the girl who drops in to deliver the baby is a midwife. That doesn’t seem consistent to me, but perhaps a linguist will take me to task.Personally, I don’t understand why believability has to be achieved through the device of inventing language. Nor, if it comes to that, the concept dear to le Guin’s heart, numinousness. Good writing will create that effect any time over artificial devices, linguistic or otherwise. Again, Ray Bradbury achieves numinousness through nothing more than lovingly applied craft and a sensitive imagination. Since, however, The Dispossessed is polemic in nature, perhaps it is as it has to be.I’m also unsure about the structure of the book. I’m generally distrusting of books that split a story into two or have two separate stories going at once. My immediate response is that they don’t stack up to a straight chronological narrative layout….but again, perhaps if there is a book that needs such a form this is it.Compared with these big pictures aspects of the book – the linguistic, the politico-social – I felt more comfortable with her philosophical considerations at a micro or personal level. Scientists who have reviewed this book are very accepting of her main character, Shevek and his development. It not being my area I’m happy to take their word for it. I find him a very dull character, slow on the uptake. It takes him 40 years to understand things about his own society which seemed obvious and which his friends knew since they were teenagers. Is that supposed to be part of the point of the book? That he is brainwashed so convincingly by his society that this holds up his own personal development, even as a scientist, so that when he finally has his epiphany, the reader is left thinking, that could have been twenty years earlier if only he’d been open-minded.Le Guin espouses all sorts of personal/interpersonal philosophy I live by. It did not altogether fit in with my understanding that in this period she wrote ‘for men’. Her argument in favour of absolute fidelity in the context of partnership, and her observation that life and even mere sex are meaningless without both fidelity and partnership, are pretty much what I’ve believed since, like her stepping-out-of-teenage experimentation-characters, I realised that sex was nothing. It is only the loving partnership that makes it something. Is that really something written for men? The male reviews I’ve looked at make no comment on this side of the book.I was especially taken by a scene where Shevek, after some years of abject misery both personally and work-wise finds Takver. It takes them seconds to realise that they will be together for life. Sadly, they had met a long time earlier, but although she knew he was the one, he saw her, but did not see. Still, there is no point regretting what cannot be undone:‘It was now clear to Shevek, and he would have thought it folly to think otherwise, that his wretched years in his city, had all been part of his present great happiness, because they had led up to it, prepared him for it. Everything that had happened to him was part of what was happening to him now.’ Lately, before I read this book, I’ve been explaining the last 33 years of my life that way. This is the time when I felt like writing for le Guin is not just hard work, when she is writing about love.

4

The Fountainhead

by

3.83 rating

Comment 1: Note, Feb. 2011: The feedback I've gotten on this review is kind of funny. I'd like to make one thing clear, and that is that I'm far from a Rand worshipper. I can't get onboard with her whole way of life, from the personal to the political level. I will say, though, that I think her attitudes, when applied to the creative arts, are important. When you create something, I think it's fine to disregard trends and making other people happy. When you create, the person you should keep foremost in mind is you. As for the other stuff, I still agree with everything I wrote originally, which is that there are aspects of the rest of her teachings that are compelling and that are worth sampling from. But adapting someone else's principles whole hog kind of go against the very basic idea this is built upon, which is examine yourself, and what you want, and I have a hard time believing that so many people want exactly the same things she wanted. Originally, when I wrote this review, Goodreads had a much shorter word limit, and I remember running out of space. I can't remember what else I was going to say, but this will have to suffice. (Also, no, I'm not okay with the rape, kthanx.)Original review:This book is remarkable.Basic plot: Howard Roark (individual) & Peter Keating (copycat). Roark constantly fights with society but manages to survive, Keating gets lifted up by society and then destroyed by it (can you say celebrities?). This is the plot at its most rudimentary - naturally there's more to it.I understand the comments about Objectivists being assholes and I respond to that in two ways - firstly, does this not prove her point about how people respond to/treat individuals who live for themselves? Secondly, there's an exaggeration in here. Simply look at the relationships in the book - the fact that they exist. In its purest form, the most egotistical, self-centered person wouldn't bother entering into a relationship or get married, because it would imply having to consider another person (or making someone a doormat, which would go against the philosophy, because part of it is that one will exist for themselves without enslaving others - Roark refuses to let Dominique submit to something she wouldn't be happy with). Ayn Rand got married, Objectivists in The Fountainhead get married - it's not that they're portrayed as not caring about anyone (exaggeration!). The best example of the Objectivists' relationships is the quote from a scene where Roark and Wynand (publisher of the most powerful newspaper chain) are on the yacht, and Roark says something along the lines of "I'd die for you, but I won't live for you," which makes a lot of sense.People get their panties in a bunch over something that should be made distinct - there's people (individuals) and there's society (the collective of people, supposedly driven by a majority of thought). Ayn Rand's theories apply as much to society as they do the individual. This is more a story of two individuals' fights with society than fights with each other. Yes, the focus is on people giving the most significance to their own thoughts and desires, but they DON'T ignore others. They have friends, relationships, lovers. Clearly, they care about other people (Roark's treatment of Wynand after the trial at the end is a particularly good example of this). There's just not a blind caring, blind trust, blind affection, a blind desire to help, and there's the firm thought that one should affirm themselves through their own standards, not those of others. This isn't a bad thing!Like any philosophy/school of thought, you have to pick and choose from this, and there's no reason why you can't take all of the personal motivation and apply it without feeling like you're screwing over everyone you know. Again, it's a matter of exaggeration, and I don't think you have to embrace this to its most extreme measures to appreciate, understand and want to employ it. Putting yourself first doesn't mean putting everyone you know last. It's not a black or white situation.There are so many things in this that ran parallel to my thinking, the way that I've lived my life, the way that I see my life and the people in it - there were times when the similarities made me feel fantastic from knowing that they were reflected somewhere, and other times they were so close they scared me, especially in Dominique (mostly at the very beginning).I feel like I can't continue living my life as I was before. I feel like a fraud for going back to my job. I continually had to set it aside for a few minutes after a chapter because I wanted, needed to think about what I had just read. The last 100 pages were particularly hard to get through because of that. My brain turned to mush - in a good way. It's a lot to take on, but I feel better about myself for having done so.At just over 700 pages long, it's a bit of a beast, but it's worth every word, and it really only took me 2-3 weeks to get through, which is pretty quick considering I read only on my subway rides.P.S. The movie isn't very good...

5

Down and Out in Paris and London

by

4.09 rating

Comment 1: (پی نوشت بی ربط به کتاب) از وقتی که عضو این سایت شدم همیشه با این دوراهی مواجه بوده ـم که باید به چه زبانی ریویو بنویسم؛ انگلیسی یا فارسی.خیلی تصمیم سختی بوده و هنوزم هست.نوشتن ریویو به انگلیسی شما را پرت میکنه به دنیایی خیلی بزرگتر و این احساس لذت بخش "عضوی از یک جهان به هم پیوسته بودن" رو به آدم میده، ولی خب متأسفانه ما از کاربرای جدید سایت هستیم و هر ریویویی که می نویسیم زیر خروارها ریویوی قدیمی تر یا محبوب تر مدفون میشه و این احتمال هم هست که هرگز خونده نشن.این ینی شما فقط در حال هدر دادن وقت و انرژی و کمکی هستید که می تونست به کار گرفته شه، ولی نمیشهاز طرف دیگه،نوشتن ریویو به فارسی شما را به یه دنیای خیلی کوچیک محدود میکنه، دنیایی که جمعیت فعلی اکتیوش شاید کمتر از 500 نفر باشه و امکان برقراری ارتباط با مردم کشورهای دیگه رو از شما میگیره، اما بجاش این امکان رو به شما میده که جز اولین ها و محبوب ترین های کشور خودتون توی این سایت باشید و ریویو هاتون "حداقل" خونده بشن.مهم تر از همه اینا، بهترین فایده این کار،گسترده تر کردن دیتابیس و آرشیویه که روز به روز داره وسیع تر میشه توسط کاربرای ایرانیِ فارسی نویس و این کمک خیلی بزرگ و شایانی به حساب میاد برای ایجاد یه محیط که کتابخون های ایرانی بتونن از ریویوهاش برای خوندن کتاب ها یا انتخاب کردن بهترین ترجمه از کتابی که مد نظرشونه استفاده کنن.فکر می کنم دلم میخواد "مثمر ثمر" واقع بشم تا اینکه فقط "عضوی از این جهان به هم پیوسته" باشم.فکر می کنم از این به بعد ریویهام رو به فارسی بنویسم ریویو انقدر این کتاب خوب و شگفت انگیزه که برای نوشتن یه ریویو درباره ـش میشه یه کتاب جدا نوشت و بخش به بخشش رو تجزیه و تحلیل کرد!تصورات آدم از قرن بیستم توی اروپا، قبل و بعد از خوندن این کتاب قابل مقایسه نیست و ضمناً اتفاقاتش توی آلمان نمیگذره خوشبختانه!جورج اورول به دلایلی که هضمش واقعاً سخته و باید توی ویکیپدیا به طور مفصل راجع بهش بخونید تا متوجه شید، توی 19 سالگی به برمه میره و افسر پلیس میشه.حدود دو سال اونجا خدمت میکنه و بعدش از پستش استعفا میده و به انگلستان بر میگرده. ازونجایی که از بچگی رویای نویسندگی رو داشت و پاریس هم شهری بود که خیلی از کسایی که رویای نویسندگی داشتن رو به رویاشون رسوند، به پاریس مهاجرت میکنه.یه مدت توی پاریس مقاله مینویسه و روزنامه نگاری میکنه و به یه موفقیت هایی هم میرسه، ولی یه حادثه براش پیش میاد و باعث میشه توی یه بیمارستان بستری بشه.چند وقت بعد از اون حادثه تمام پول هاش رو ازش میدزدن توی یه نوانخانه و این شروعی میشه برای حوادث نوشته شده توی کتاب، حوادث غم انگیز و جنون آوری که شاید تهش خیلی هم براش گرون تموم نشدن، چون باعث شدن تا شالوده اولین کتابی که قرار بود در آینده بنویسه، ریخته بشه.ظرفشویی توی رستوران ها و هتل های پاریس و آوارگی توی خیابون ها و نوانخانه های لندن...خود جورج اورول (با اسم واقعی اریک بلیر) اصرار داره که همه اتفاقاتی که توی کتاب راجع بهشون نوشته واقعی بوده و حداقل یک بار براش توی پاریس و لندن اتفاق افتاده و اون فقط ترتیب زمانیشون رو ممکنه دستکاری کرده باشه، ولی حداقل با توجه به قسمت آس و پاسی ها در لندن میشه گفت خیلی از چیزایی که نوشته به طور مصداقی برای خودش اتفاق نیفتاده.از این رو میشه کتاب رو یجور خاطره نویسی اغراق شده به حساب آوردفقز و بدبختی سرسام آور کتاب از حد تصورت انسان مدرنی که توی سال 2015 داره زندگی میکنه خارجه!اتفاقات کتاب البته در بازه ای چن ساله رخ میده، اواخر دهه 20 و اوایل دهه 30 میلادی.صفحه به صفحه و سطر به سطر کتاب پره از لحظه هایی که اورول و دوستانِ "ات دی تایمش" دارن به اینکه چطوری گرسنگیشون رو برطرف کنن یا یه چاردیواری برای سپری کردن شب گیر بیارن، فکر میکنن و نقشه میکشن.اینکه اروپا در وقفه بین جنگ جهانی اول و دوم تا این حد جای سختی برای پول در آوردن و تأمین مخارج بوده واقعاً باور نکردنیه.و تازه اتفاقات این کتاب داره توی بهترین کشورهای اروپا -فرانسه و انگلستان- میفته!به لهستان، مجارستان،به طور کلی شرق و کشورهای جنوب شرقی اروپا فکر کنید!در پایین چندتا از قسمت های کتاب رو به صورت نمونه میارم تا یه نمای کلی از کتاب رو متصور بشید روزهای نکبت باری داشتیم، فقط شصت سانتیم (واحد خرده پول در فرانسه) برای ما باقی مانده بود، با این پول نیم کیلو نان و مقداری سیر خریدیم که به نان خود بمالیم.مالیدن سیر به نان این خاصیت را دارد که طعم آن در دهان باقی می ماند و انسان تصور می کند که به تازگی غذا خورده است ... شبی اتفاقی زیر پنجره اطاق من رخ داد.به صدای نعره ای از خواب پریدم و چون از پنجره نگاه کردم، مردی را دیدم که روی سنگ فرش خیابان افتاده است.آدم کش ها را که سه نفر بودند در حال فرار دیدممن با چند نفر از ساکنین هتل بیرون دویدیم تا بلکه به داد آن شخص برسیم اما وی مرده بود و جمجمه اش با لوله سربی سنگینی شکسته بود.رنگ خون این مرد را هنوز به یاد دارم، صاف چون رنگ شرابشب بعد چون از سر کار به خانه آمدم جنازه ی مقتول هنوز در جای خود بود و می گفتند که شاگردان مدارس از کیلومترها دورتر به تماشایش آمده بودنداما آن چه همواره وجدان مرا آزار می دهد و از خودم شرمنده می سازد این است که سه دقیقه پس از مشاهده این منظره دوباره به خواب سنگینی فرو رفتم، بیشتر ساکنین خیابان نیز مثل من بودند، ما همین قدر که دیدیم آن مرد کارش ساخته است به رختخواب برگشتیمکار در هتل ارزش واقعی خواب را به من فهماند، همان طور که با گرسنگی ارزش خوراک را درک کرده بودمخواب دیگر یک نیاز جسمانی نبود، بلکه چیزی بود شهوانی، عیاشی بود، نه استراحت و خستگی به در کردن ... روی هم رفته کارمان پیچیده و پرزحمت بود.حساب کرده بودم که روزانه متجاوز از بیست کیلومتر راه می رفتم، با این حال فشار روحی کار بیشتر از زحمت جسمی آن بود.اگرچه هیچ کاری به ظاهر از ظرفشویی آسان تر نیست، ولی اگر مستلزم عجله و سرعت باشد بسیار سخت و طاقت فرسا می شودشخص باید با وظایف متنوعی که دارد با سرعت از این کار به آن کار بپردازد و مثلاً در حالی که مشغول به رشته کردن نان هستید، ناگهان آسانسور سرویس با صدای گوش خراشی توقف می کند و پیشخدمت از آن بیرون می آید و از شما می خواهد که فوراً چای؛ نان و سه نوع مختلف مربا آماده و تحویلش دهید، و هم زمان پیش خدمت دیگری تخم مرغ، قهوه و آب میوه می خواهد، شما برای تخم مرغ به آشپزخانه و برای آب میوه به سالن غذاخوری می روید، و باید طوری به سرعت بروید و برگردید که نانی که در توستر گذاشته اید نسوزد، ضمناً چای و قهوه و ده ها سفارش دیگر را که هنوز انجام نشده اند فراموش نکنید، در این گیر و دار پیشخدمتی هم به دنبال شماست و درباره یک بطری سودا که گم شده است مشغول جر و بحث می شود ... کثافت هتل ایکس در بخش های سرویس نفرت انگیز و غیر قابل وصف بود.در کنار گوشه های چایخانه ی من زباله و کثافتی یک ساله وجود داشت و ظرف نانِ خشک پر از سوسک بود.روزی به ماریو پیشنهاد کردم که این حشرات را بکشیموی به طعنه گفت: "چرا این جانوران بیچاره را نابود کنیم؟" وقتی میخواستم دستم را پیش از بریدن کره بشویم، دیگران به من می خندیدندما فقط وظایفممان را انجام می دادیم و چون اولیه وظیفه ی ما وقت شناسی بود، لذا با عدم رعایت نظافت در وقت صرفه جویی می کردیمآشپز فرانسوی توی سوپ تف می کرد،وی یک هنرمند است اما هنرش نظافت نیست حتی می توان گفت که چون هنرمنداست،کثیف است، زیرا غذا برای اینکه خوش منظره باشد مستلزم اعمال بعضی کارهای کثیف استمثلا وقتی که گوشت کبابی را برای بازرسی پیش سر آشپز می آورند، او آن را با چنگال آزمایش نمی کند، بلکه با دست بر می دارد سر جایش پرت می کند، شصتش را به دور بشقاب می کشد و برای چشیدن مزه آبِ گوشت آن را می لیسد، سپس مانند هنرمندی که به نقاشی خود بنگرد، از دور به تکه گوشت نظاره می کند و با انگشتان گوشت آلودش که صدها بار آن ها را لیسیده است آن را دست مالی می کند ... ترامواهای پر از کارگران سوت کشان دور می شدند.برای گرفتن جایی در مترو کشمکش و نزاع در می گرفت.این قبیل مناظر در ساعت شش در پاریس عادی است.اکثر مسافران ایستاده بودند، در حالی که بینیشان به هم چسبیده و بوی تعفن شراب و سیرِ دهانشان نفس کشیدن را برای همدیگر مشکل می کرد اینا فقط چند تیکه ی انتخابی از قسمت پاریس بودن.تیره بختی طبقه کارگر توی اون دوره سرسام آوره.کتاب پر از این توصیف های حزن انگیز و متأثر کننده ـس، ولی لحن توصیف و نگارش اورول کمی هم حالت طنز داره توی برخی از بخش ها که باعث میشه حین خوندن کتاب حالت افسردگی و آه کشیدن به خواننده دست نده.کسایی که طعم فقر و کارگری رو کشیده باشن خیلی خیلی بیشتر میتونن با کتاب ارتباط برقرار کنن، چون هرچند که قابل مقایسه نیست اتفاقات داخل کتاب با کارگری در عصر فعلی، ولی ماهیتشون به هر حال یکیهجورج اورول در 47 سالگی در گذشت.این که این مرد توی 47 سال از افسر پلیس بودن توی کشور برمه تا ظرفشویی توی زیرزمین هتل ها و رستوران های پاریس تا آوارگی و بی خانمانی توی لندن و تا نویسندگی و شهرت و ثروت و نوشتن شاهکارهایی مثه "1984"، "مزرعه حیوانات"،"روزهای برمه" و همین کتاب رو تجربه کرد.باور کردنی به نظر نمیاد.در اواخر کتاب در جایی میگه: بالأخره پدی پیشنهاد کرد که به عنوان آخرین امید به راوتون هاوس برویم، اما چون طبق مقررات قبل از ساعت هفت به کسی اجازه ورود به آنجا داده نمی شد، لذا تصمیم گرفتیم دزدانه داخل شویمبه سوی در ورودی مجلل آن رفتیم و در حالی که سعی داشتیم خود را مانند ساکنین دائمی آن محل نشان دهیم قدم به داخل ساختمان گذاشتیم. ناگهان مردی که دم در نشسته بود و مسلماً مسئولیت و سمتی در آن دستگاه داشت، راه را بر ما بست و گفت: "شما دیشب همینجا خوابیده بودید".ما گفتیم: "خیر".او گفت: "پس بیرون".برگشتیم و دو ساعتِ دیگر در گوشه و کنار خیابان استادیموضع ناراحت کننده و طاقت فرسایی بود اما همین وضع به من آموخت که دیگر دشنام ولگرد خیابان را به کار نبرم.این خود یک درس و تجربه اخلاقی بود و در پاراگراف آخر کتاب میگه: حال می توانم به یکی دو نکته ای که در روزهای فقر و نداری به آن ها برخورده ام اشاره کنم.دیگر هرگز خانه به دوشان را میگساران بی سر و پا و ماقبل گدایان که با دریافت یک "پنس" ممنون و مرهون می شوند به حساب نخواهم آورد و هرگز ازینکه اشخاص بیکار فاقد انرژی و تحرک هستند شگفت زده نخواهم شد، مشتری سپاه رستگاری نخواهم شد (نام یک نوانخانه مذهبی)، لباس هایم را به گرو نخواهم گذاشت، از گرفتن آگهی هایی که در خیابان به دستم می دهند خودداری نخواهم کرد، در رستوران های درجه یک غذا نخواهم خورد.این برنامه آغاز زندگی من پس از تجربیاتی است که در این کتاب حکایت می کنم خوندن این کتاب اشتیاقم رو برای خوندن کتاب های کمتر شناخته شده اورول خیلی بیشتر کردتوصیه می کنم این کتاب رو اگه می تونید به زبان اصلی بخونید، هرچند توی قسمت پاریس یه سری اصطلاح های فرانسوی داره که لازمه برای فهمیدنشون به گوگل ترنزلیت مراجعه کنید و ترجمه فرانسه ـش رو بخونید تا بفهمید معنیش رو.اگه هم ترجمه فارسی رو می خونید، ترجمه ای که خودم خوندم خیلی خوب و عالی بود.انتشارات "ابتکار دانش"، مترجمین: مهدی نصیری دهقان، محمود حبیب الهی

Description of list:

A reading list developed to support Santa Monica College's Global Citizenship theme for 2012-13,"Poverty and Wealth,Want and Waste: the Unevenness of Globalization."