Archive

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

author: David Foster Wallace

name: Steev

average rating: 4.26

book published: 2005

rating: 5

read at: 2013/02/21

date added: 2013/02/21

shelves: fun, politics, spirit-self

review:
A collection of excellent non-fiction pieces. See my blog post inspired by one of the essays in this book: http://steev.hise.org/content/truly-m...

Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World

Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World

author: Christopher Mark O'Brien

name: Steev

average rating: 3.58

book published: 2006

rating: 4

read at: 2013/03/10

date added: 2013/03/10

shelves: fun, own-it, food

review:
This book gets a 5-stars for effort, but a 3 stars for execution, so that averages out to 4. I sympathize with all the ideas and issues that this book is about, but the author is just not a very good or exciting writer. The book reads kind of like a long marketing pamphlet or non-profit charity ask letter. That's a real slow slog when you're talking 275 pages of it.

That said, there's some interesting historical and scientific facts and figures in here, here and there but in between those there's also a lot of painfully plodding pleading and cajoling.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

author: Jane McGonigal

name: Steev

average rating: 3.81

book published: 2010

rating: 4

read at: 2011/12/31

date added: 2013/04/02

shelves: own-it, spirit-self, filmmaking

review:
This was an inspiring read, with lots of interesting ideas and positive notions. But McGonigal doesn't do a good job, or any job, of answering any potential arguments or criticisms of her ideas and her work. She assumes everyone will agree with her and not offer any competing or opposing narrative. A lot of the book reads like a sort of giant glowing cover letter she's writing to a potential employer about her career as a game designer and researcher. Which may, effectively, be exactly what it is. Still, I think a lot of the book is really worth reading and thinking about for many people concerned with trying to "make the world a better place" using "of the box" techniques.

Into the Forest

Into the Forest

author: Jean Hegland

name: Steev

average rating: 3.79

book published: 1996

rating: 5

read at: 2013/04/04

date added: 2013/04/05

shelves: after-the-fall, own-it

review:
I'm being generous to give this book 5 stars, but I'll qualify that by saying that for the most part I'm rewarding it for its accuracy. As someone interested in "end of civilization" stories, that's a big plus. The writing isn't particularly artful or groundbreaking, and it's not a piece of formally innovative literature. But, the writing also isn't terrible, and the female narrative point-of-view is, I think, very realistic (probably because the author is female). I've read way too many works of speculative fiction that totally botch the female perspective (in my humble, male, opinion).

The atmosphere of the novel is introspective and moody, as the diary of a teenage girl raised in a cabin in the woods would be. The story keeps its background cleverly vague, but what details there are are very plausible - we never find out exactly why American industrial society collapses, things just gradually fall apart and get worse and worse. The electricity starts going off more and more often and for longer periods and eventually for good, the radio stations gradually stop broadcasting, rumors of food riots and plagues are heard, but there's no specifics, which is both realistic - in that a 17 year old homeschooled girl might not be carefully tracking the geopolitical situation - and very smart for a writing strategy, because the book doesn't seem dated (in the mid-90s when this was written, I forget the exact doomsday fears, but they were certainly a little different than today's).

So the book doesn't concern itself with the big picture. Just with the little day-to-day events and choices at a little northern California house in the woods, where two parents have died and the daughters have to figure out how to live, with no electricity, no gas, and dwindling food supplies. It's not a scary, gripping action thriller like "The Road," but Hegland provides some enjoyable suspense just from getting us to wonder whether the forest fire will come closer, or whether the sister will ever get to dance to music again, or whether the tomatoes will set fruit. It's a story of interior states, yearnings, small but vital things learned about medicinal herbs and the habits of wild boars. It's a story of how things will likely happen, for at least some people (the lucky people, probably), someday, within the next 5 to 30 years - whenever the lights really finally go out. If you want to be intelligently spooked into teaching yourself how to garden and make your own candles, this might be a good idea.

The Baffler: No. 19

The Baffler: No. 19

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.23

book published: 2012

rating: 5

read at: 2012/05/01

date added: 2013/05/02

shelves: politics, own-it

review:

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

author: Neil Postman

name: Steev

average rating: 4.15

book published: 1985

rating: 4

read at: 1994/01/01

date added: 2013/05/10

shelves: politics

review:

The Baffler No. 22

The Baffler No. 22

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.23

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at: 2013/05/14

date added: 2013/05/14

shelves: fun, politics

review:
As usual, attacking favorite sacred cows, this issue of The Baffler doesn't disappoint. Highlights are the massive and detailed critique of Tim O'Reilly by Evegeny Morozov; "Fifty Shades of Capitalism", a scathing review of the megapopular softcore romance; and the article about the Marquis de Sade and how his work has been so influential and prescient for our modern culture.

One thing I don't really get is why they always have so much poetry. For a journal that's so cynical and no-nonsense, it really surprises me that they've always found plenty of column-inches for poems. Some of them are certainly above-average compared to the common fare in most zines, but I'd rather read another article brutally ripping apart "the culture of business." I also couldn't really get into either piece of short fiction in this issue. But that might be just me. I always skip the fiction in Harper's or the New Yorker too, unless it's an author I know I like, so your mileage may vary.

But overall, nice work once again, Baffler.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)

author: Douglas Adams

name: Steev

average rating: 3.98

book published: 1987

rating: 4

read at:

date added: 2013/05/23

shelves:

review:

Pen Pals (Cometbus #55)

Pen Pals (Cometbus #55)

author: Aaron Cometbus

name: Steev

average rating: 4.40

book published: 2013

rating: 4

read at: 2013/06/02

date added: 2013/06/02

shelves: fun, own-it, spirit-self

review:
I've been reading Cometbus for, oh, I dunno, about 20 years now. It's a strange feeling to pick it up again. Aaron's writing has always seemed beautiful and so vulnerable and honest, but also flawed, in that it's always so long-winded and a bit overly dramatic. It can be excused somewhat by saying it's poetic, but I don't really like poetry any more. I like stuff that gets to the point and doesn't beat around the bush or communicate in strained riddles. It just seems a little whiny sometimes, a white Berkeley punk kid, complaining about his 'mysterious', tortured heritage growing up in the hippie Eden. Waaaah.

That said, he weaves a fascinating tale that I couldn't easily set down, about an odd childhood friend that he kept in touch with all his life, but he had agreed to keep her out of all of his previous writing until she finally gave him permission - and so then he wrote this issue, almost entirely about her. Pretty touching.

Shelter

Shelter

author: Bobby Burns

name: Steev

average rating: 3.72

book published: 1998

rating: 5

read at: 2013/07/04

date added: 2013/07/05

shelves: spirit-self

review:
Really good book. It's very matter-of-fact, simple writing, but despite this its diary style pulls the reader along. Highly recommended.