Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is in great form here! Her attendtion to details, and her ear for precise language, accent, and tone shine through. I have never been to Wyoming, but if it has half the interesting characters that populate her novels, I want to go!

I have read Shipping News, That Old Ace in the Hole, and several of her stories, but a quick trip to has completed my collection. This was partly inspired by a showing to my Creative Writing class of a video depicting her process for writing That Old Ace in the Hole. Several details of her biography related closely to characters and events in her novels, which aptly reinforces the old dictum, "Write what you know."
--Chiron, 2/24/07

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan

An elegant and smoothly written series of lectures delivered by Carl Sagan in 1985 at the University of Glasgow. Carl talks about the origins of religious beliefs, and even has a chapter entitled, "The God Delusion." I wonder if Richard Dawkins was in the audience and received his inspiration for his book of the same title. Sagan gives examples of things I have intuited for many years: the origin of religion was an attempt by primitive peoples to explain things they knew they could not do, and therefore concluded that those things must be produced by a vastly superior being; that in many early societies, life was pretty crummy, but order and obedience was maintained by the promise of a much better life in some version of heaven (and, of course punishent for the disobedient in some version of hell); and, most interestingly he directly addresses the "problem of evil." Highly recommended for rationalists, free-thinkers, and anyone who has an open mind about god(s) and religious beliefs.
--Chiron, 2/18/07

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Book That Changed My Life and The Top Ten

These two books are in a genre I love to scan. The first contains essays by authors (some well-, others un-known) who describe their encounter with a life-altering book. Many claim, rightly so, that EVERY book changes the reader. I really enjoy seeing what has influenced writers. Edited by the owner of an independent bookshop in Connecticut. I would really love to visit that store!

The second book is a list of the top ten books by about 125 writers. This volume has more well-known authors than the first. Again some well-known writers (some favorites of mine are missing -- John Updike, Anne Beattie, and Anne Tyler, to name a few), but there are interesting entries. Not for everyone, but these do make interesting "fillers" between more serious stuff.
--Chiron, 2/10/07

The Journal of Mrs. Pepys by Sara George

Interesting and cute at times. It helps if you are a bit familiar with Pepy's Diary and can match his view of events with hers. The description of the plague in 1665 and the fire in 1666 are terrific. I am filling up some time here between serious reads. Barack Obama's autobiography is next for a book club, and then two text books for a class I am taking.
--Chiron, 2/10/07

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

I have read Rushdie before -- Midnight's Children and Satanic Verses (both of which are tough going) -- but this was a wonderful surprise. This is an epic novel in every sense of the word. A huge cast of characters -- all interesting -- world-wide settings -- India, Kashmir, Pakistan, London, Paris, California, New York -- and themes that cover all the bases -- love, hate, adultery, war, peace, politics, religion, intolerance, tolerance, and more! The interesting thing about this book is that I believe it to be an allegory about American Foreign Policy since WWII.The ending was exciting, and Rushdie leads you to the precipice, then drops, no pushes you over the edge! An almost perfect novel, I give it five stars.
-Chiron, 2/1/07