Review of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Reading Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for the first time, the Nonsense and Silliness struck me. The joy of word play, absurd dialog, impossible characters and fantastic scenes.
This is a strange book. There is not really a plot. It is very imaginative, both the characters and the dialog. Witty and funny. I wouldn’t call it a novel. There is no growth in the characters, almost no agency, they just bounce along. I am struggling to understand what it is about. Is there a point?
There is a world of cultural touch stones here. Down the rabbit hole following the white rabbit wearing a coat and kid gloves, checking his pocket watch and fretting about being late. Alice growing larger than smaller after eating cakes and mushrooms. The March Hare and the Mad Hatter having tea. The Queen of Hearts, ‘Off with their heads’ and the croquet game with hedge hogs for balls and flamingos for mallets.
All curiouser and curiouser.
I read the second half ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and tried to better understand what Lewis Carroll was getting at. Is it a bit of showing off with language? It has some linguistic arrogance by the author. And the notes from the illustrator, Sir John Tenniel complain about ‘That conceited old Don’, ie Dodgson.
It was also sort of mental Chinese food; I wished for something of more substance soon after. But it is a children’s book. I can see how it would entertain and keep youngsters interested. Who or what will they run into next? Fun.
To think it has survived and thrived for over 150 years is a testament to Carroll. We all hope our work can stand such a test of time.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll , Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel
ISBN13: 978-0-307-29087-8

Review of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I wanted to love this book. It came highly recommended by people I respect and was a number one New York Times bestseller. Alas, no.

The author uses omniscient narration which can devolve into head hopping, and there is some of that. Reading a scene with Kya and Tate, the reader is back and forth between what she is feeling and what he is thinking. It is jarring and pushed me out of the narrative. I read to experience what the characters experience, but that doesn’t work when the point of view changes constantly. Owens should have stuck to a POV for at least each chapter.
Using omni went too far when the reader learns what happened to Tate in a manner that Kya or nobody else could know. It also broke my suspension of disbelief in that I don’t think a man in love would think or act that way. It ruined that line for me and made me see the author plotting the book rather than characters living a story.
At that point I started looking for faults and found many. The dialog does not feel real; it has a stilted affectation. The sheriff and his deputy talking was to let the reader know about the gossip mill, not a conversation that felt real. How quickly Kya learned to read at age 14 or so didn’t feel true. Her knowledge gained without a library was unbelievable. And the final resolution took too much coincident luck to be credible.
But I spoke to other readers who said they had put aside these faults and had read the story as a fantasy. That might have worked. If the author had let me know not to take this story too literally, but to accept the stretches, I might have enjoyed it more. In magical realism, we accept these things and that might have worked here.
My final knock on the novel is the distance the reader feels to the characters in ‘Crawdads’. A novel is unique in the storytelling medium by being able to immerse the reader into the world, thoughts and feelings of the characters. Well done, the reader ‘experiences the story’ with the characters. We fall in love. We learn to read. We experience the abandonment. Feel the pain and the joys. But Owens doesn’t let us get that close to Kya or any characters. They are on a stage or a screen and we are watching. We can feel for them, but we can’t know them and we can’t feel with them. We empathize, but we don’t experience. And that is a sad miss.

January 22, 2021

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ISBN 9780735219090

Review of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

The vast sweep of this book is amazing. Thousands of years of evolution, culture and civilization. It is breathtaking in its scope. The authoritative voice of the author carried me through three quarters of the book until I started questioning what was included and what was left out. I would love the opportunity to sit with Yuval and debate some points over a beer. I know it would be a bracing, sparkling conversation, as this book required a stretch of the reader to take in such a huge expanse. Highly recommended.
I read this book in spurts and recommend that approach. Read and then pause to think on the material. The material covered could probably be rolled into an entire PHD Program. (Maybe it is.)
I enjoyed the big picture narrative. Like standing atop Rockefeller Center and surveying Manhattan this book dazzles.
My one knock on the book would be the short shrift Harari gives to Democracy and self-governance, and the backhanded compliments to Capitalism. Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than at any time in human history. The author debates whether we are better off today than early humans scavenging for nuts and berries millenniums ago. I sighed and rolled my eyes. And having governments that represent the people, as we have today, is not really mentioned. Because it is only a few hundred years old? Rome and Athens were Republics, two thousand years ago. But this is a minor quibble on a brilliant book. Read it and decide for yourself.
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Sapiens A brief History of HumanKind by Yuval Noah Harari
ISBN 978-0-7710-3850-1

Book Review of Vision by Gordon D’Angelo

I first read ‘Vision , Your pathway to Victory’ by Gordon D’Angelo in 2013 soon after it was first published. I did the exercises, developed a plan with 12 goals, documented the plan with initiatives, definable measurable and tangible deliverables and dates. I spent days on it and it looked great on paper. Then I put it away and forgot about. I thought. Until I stumbled on it two years later, found that old plan, and I was astounded. Eight of my twelve goals I had fully realized, and I had made great progress on two others. Just the process of following the book and putting pen to paper had moved me forward in a surprising fashion. It had been a true success.
So over Christmas this year I decided to reread the book and again put the ideas into a plan. The book is just as fresh as it was eight years ago.
So many self-help books have nebulous ideas and great platitudes and nice intellectual exercises to move yourself forward. This book, ‘Vision’ by D’Angelo has concrete steps that will definitely move you forward to your goals. It is a short book, 140 pages, so you can read it in an afternoon. But read it and then do the work. Build your wish list, work out a template for the next three to five years. Find interim deliverables, Bridge numbers, and work the plan. Develop the initiatives, develop a support network, tell the world about your plans. Find the people you can help and the people who can help you.
I am sold on this book and its approach because it worked for me once before. I am confident it will work again, and that it will work for you!
Well recommended.

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ISBN 978-1-61448-150-8