THE EMPEROR : downfall of an autocrat, by Ryszard Kapuściński. Translated from Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand. New York: Vintage, 1983. 164 pp. ISBN–10 0151287716 Forty years ago today, the deposed absolute ruler of Ethiopia died in prison after more than 40 years on the throne. Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah, […]
OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD : a short history of our ever-growing deity, by Matthew Paul Turner. New York: Jericho Books, 2014. 241 pp. ISBN 9781455547340 This is a book about the history of Christianity in America, written by a young, white, evangelical blogger from Nashville, Tennessee. As best I can tell, Matthew Paul Turner […]
Over the last few years most of my writing online has been on the LibraryThing website, a social niche for book people. LibraryThing’s main product is an easy way to catalog book collections with as much or as little detail as you like. On the social side, it provides book-related local information (on the web […]
Tim Carmody at Snarkmarket wrote a thoughtful essay on reviewing books, movies, and other works in the new-media environment. In a nutshell, he points out how swarms of reviews posted at Amazon (for example) can have competing objectives, centering on what he labels immanence versus transcendence.1
The difference between these helps explain a gap between traditional newspaper reviews, which emphasize the value of the transcendent work, and consumer reviews at Amazon and countless other sites, which are more likely to focus on the particular experience with one (immanent) form of the work. Continue reading “How to review stuff”
I was recently directed to yet another complaint about the decline of literacy, the corrosive intellect-leaching power of digital technology, and our collective guilt for letting Western civilization subside into a mire of tweets, blogs, and gaming.
iPhones Have Consequences, by Sally Thomas, is a witty, engaging essay on the subject, supported by memorable anecdotes. I believe it delves deeper into the question than most such efforts, and it’s well worth reading.
I feel I must address her argument that the present college generation is dumber than we forty-somethings, seeing as I’ve argued exactly the opposite. It’s my view that the forty-somethings are the dumbest generation currently on offer, and the so-called “twixters” or “tweens” are more curious than we, and have read more and thought about more than we had at their age. Continue reading “teh kidz r alright”
This is one of those Facebook memes: a list of 15 books that matter to me, written down in the order I thought of them, without reflection or editing. I scribbled it down last year, felt satisfied, and forgot to post it. So here it is for whatever it may be worth. Continue reading “Fifteen books”
The question has become commonplace in published interviews with authors and other bookish people. I think I just read the best answer yet given to that question: Book that changed your life: Introduction to Computer Data Processing, Third Edition, 1984. If this textbook had not so clearly described how god-awfully boring a career in information […]
Last August I dashed off a pair of Wikipedia articles, one about the John Harvard Library book series from Harvard University Press, the other about its namesake, a lending library in Southwark. Today I took a break from other things to spruce up the first article. The John Harvard Library is now fifty years old […]
Given any new technology for transmitting information, we seem bound to use it for great quantities of small talk. That was biologist and essayist Lewis Thomas in The Lives of a Cell, published in 1974. Still a good book.
Looking over Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch, a 2005 exposé on the decline of the middle class, I found descriptions of the following three alternatives for the downsized corporate manager. Franchising, also known as “buying yourself a job,” is the purchase of the right to operate a local franchise of a major corporation. Most of […]