Wednesday, June 10, 2009

books

Language and Thought, by Noam Chomsky: I've always been curious about Chomsky, but hadn't gotten around to reading him since most of it seems to be about rather technical linguistic theory that is over my head or otherwise historical foreign policy debates that didn't grab me as amazingly interesting. But this was just a short lecture given about language, thought, philosophy of mind, etc, for cheap at Moe's so of course I picked it up. And it was so densely thought-provoking and interesting I'm an instant Chomsky fan. Although I will have to read more of his stuff and learn about linguistics and then re-read this to fully absorb it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, by Sherman Alexei: This is one of those books I read for my book club that I would never in a million years pick up on my own volition (young adult fiction, need I say more?). I guess I can appreciate it for what it is trying to do. While indian reservation life is not such a universally relatable theme, struggling to make your way in an antagonistic world is, and certainly exposure to reservation life is always worthwhile. But I sense that even if I had read this at an appropriate age, I would have guffawed and said "You really think I don't see what you're trying to pound into my head with this? Nice try." Hard to say. I'm glad it exists if I'm wrong. Even if the trying-to-hard-to-be-natural slangish teenager language really got under my skin. And it had one of the most cringingly melodramatic endings I've ever read.

King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild: This book is the reason it's taken so ridiculously long to get another set of three books to post about, after reading the last two in three days. I've never read such a slow-moving book. I don't want to be too hard on it, since it was very interesting for its factual historical content, and I highly recommend anyone read up on the history of the Congo (perhaps from wikipedia rather than this book, however...) but the author was desperately trying to pull off a novelesque narrative style that spent most of its time expounding on hypothetical psychological motives for all the characters, and he really didn't succeed. Every couple pages I stopped and said, "Wait a second, am I reading bad literary pseudopsychoanalysis based in plausible speculation, or a serious historical account of mass murder?" I just really wasn't the intended audience for the book, as an empirically driven scientist with little regard for story telling.