February 04, 2006
You win some, you lose some. What started out as an "elegant" romantic history became far more violent than I expected. True, some narratives and storylines call for detailed descriptions of torture and death, but somehow The News from Paraguay dissolved into horror in a jarring, vulgar feeling way. I wish I had not read this book.
February 02, 2006
Hungarian author Imre Kertesz was imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp as a child during WWII and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002. In Fatelessness he recounts the story of 14 year old Georg Koves, a boy who follows a path similar to Kertesz's own. The power of this book lies in the simple, straightforward depiction of events. The language is clean, without sentiment, and yet terribly vivid. The matter-of-fact narration reveals the initial surprise and step-by-step acceptance of concentration camp conditions as a necessity of survival and a type of guilt, a story that must be shared by Georg afterwards rather than put behind him. There are no new beginnings.
It is by far the most moving, humbling account of the Holocaust that I have read.
The excellent work of Tom Wilkinson, the book's translator, is also worth noting.
December 15, 2005
Saramago's All The Words stays firmly in the world of the possible, slightly stretched truth, rather than returning to the fantastical world of some of his other novels.
Notes in the extended...
September 20, 2005
Carmona, Matthew et. al., Public Places - Urban Spaces, Oxford: Architectural Press, 2003.
A basic review of urban design with a focus on current practice, including the development process.
Notes in the extended...
July 01, 2005
Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed is one of the most influential progressive education texts of the 20th century. A Brazilian activist and educator, Friere (1921-1997) spent almost sixteen years in political exile after a military coup in 1964. In 1980 he returned to Brazil and in 1988 became the Municipal Secretary of Education in Sao Paulo when the Workers' Party (PT) he'd help found came into power.
Pedagogy of Freedom is Friere's final work, written as the precursor to a seminar he planned to co-teach at Harvard in 1997.
June 28, 2005
Deyan Sudjic's new book looks highly entertaining. An established critic of modern architecture, the Belgian author takes a flaming pitchfork to the motivations and aspirations of contemporary architects. Architecture is a product for the affluent and the powerful -- such a client base by its very nature twists the architect as well as her buildings.
His implicit lesson is: a principled architect is an architect who does loft conversions. The qualities on which a career in the big time depends include venality, opportunism, egomania, self-delusion, a vacuous manifesto, an insatiable appetite for sycophancy and a willingness to treat with tyrants. A gift for plagiarism is also useful.
June 25, 2005
In Baudolino, Umberto Eco details a world of shifting political alliances, deceit and war, all catapulting towards a mysterious quest to find the land of Prestor John. History becomes intertwined with fiction and the mythical (there are enough rocs, blemmyae, skiapods and hypatias to keep the imagination over-active), but the female characters fall into the tired sexist category of submissive, gentle innocence. Overall, Eco provides an entertaining read one esoteric level above murder mystery or harlequin romance.
June 12, 2005
The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library had a book sale at the Fort Mason Center this past weekend -- books were $1 and children's books only $.25. I managed to snag about six books during a lunch break and read the first of the stack today. Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt is a bleak and unsparing memoir describing the author's impoverished childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. McCourt cleanly recounts death upon death, disease upon disease, and begging for food and coal. Enjoy may not be an appropriate way to describe my experience with this book, but I do recommend it.
June 07, 2005
My first encounter with author Marianne Wiggins (the wife or former wife (?) of Salman Rushdie and a professor at USC) has been quite enjoyable -- it's refreshing to find a contemporary writer with such a rich, slowly reasoned palate. Maybe I'm just partial because she writes about Tennessee while living in California. In Evidence of Things Unseen, Wiggins weaves together constantly seeking characters, the physics of light and photography, and the development of plutonium at Oak Ridge to create a story of the lost and the almost found. Although the bulk of the novel flowed smoothly, the ending felt as though the final characters had been set free to try and talk their way out of the book. I'm still looking forward, however, to delving into more of Wiggins work.
Notes are in the extended...
April 19, 2005
Boldtype just published an issue on cities, including images from their favorite art books, reviews, and a reading list by city. The titles range from fiction to non-fiction and vary in how much they deal with a specific place.
March 24, 2005
Italo Calvino pieces together a collection of passages describing individual cities, each written to achieve a momentous ending sentence as though the words in between these final sentences were unnecessary, but provided mental pauses between the impact of the denouements. Quotes are in the extended entry...
March 23, 2005
I'm currently wending my way through Saramago's works. In The History of the Siege of Lisbon, he weaves between the past and the present, blending the distinctions between history, historiography, and fiction through the narrative of a copy-editor. Quotes (rather long, due to the nature of the author's writing style) are in the extended entry...