The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises
On Goodreads []

I enjoyed The Sun Also Rises but I can’t really can’t point to any one feature of the book that made it outstanding. It’s more of a gestalt feeling that raises The Sun Also Rises above any number of other books with similar stories to tell. The book is well written and justly famous for Ernest Hemingway’s clear and concise prose. The greatness of the plot is harder to pin down.

I think the most important characteristic of The Sun Also Rises is empathy. I was drawn in because I found myself empathizing with the characters on two sides of the love triangle (more like a hexagon) that is at the center of the book. I have, at various times, played the role of ‘best friend who will never be a lover’ and the lost puppy being lead around, ultimately to be left behind when something new comes along. All of the characters in the love triangle are archetypal caricatures that most of us can relate to, at least most of us who have felt the bitter sweetness of love.

I did notice that while The Sun Also Rises is famous for it’s depiction of bull fights and the running of the bulls in Pamplona these events are only briefly described in the text. It reminds me of how famous the white whale of Moby Dick [] is despite the fact that the whale manages to appear on only a few pages of the novel.


The Catcher in the Rye

J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye
On Goodreads []

I think I missed the meaning of The Catcher in the Rye by about 15 years. While it was not a bad book, at 30 it was not a great book either. The whining, mad at the world, fuck off attitude of Holden would have fit better in my world view when I was a freshman or junior in high school.

How The Catcher in the Rye slipped through my reading list in high school is not something I can comment on. We should have read this book, assuming it was not banned for using naughty words. Maybe the teachers thought it would make us more rebellious.

Anyway, Catcher is a coming of age book, and I think (looking back from closer to mid-life crisis) it is good at being a coming of age book. Too bad I did not read it when I was that age.

On Amazon

books ranting

Reading List

I can across this list via Intrepid Flame [] who got it from Random House [], maybe not the most impartial list but c’est la vie. Lets see how my reading habits stack up against the Random House Best 100 Modern English Novels of the 20th Century:

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce—Been there, done that. Hated it. []
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald—Read it in school, liked it, should read it again.
  3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce—Never read it, one Joycean adventure was enough for me up to now.
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov—Beautiful, disturbing, disgusting. In the end, the language is a greater force than the objectionable plot elements. A good book.
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley—Way too prophetic to be comfortable reading.
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner—Liked it, need to read it again to understand it I think.
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller—Yossarian Lives! []
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler—Never heard of it.
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence—Not yet.
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck—Another school book, ignored it before I heard Rage Against the Machine’s version of The Ghost of Tom Joad []. Then I went back and re-read it and like it. Not my favorite but a good book.
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry—Never heard of it.
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler—Never read it.
  13. 1984 by George Orwell—Orwell was wrong… but only about the year. Should be required reading for all British MPs.
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves—This one scares me, have not got around to reading it.
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf—Nope.
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser—Never heard of it.
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers—Nope.
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut—I didn’t think this was a good book. Maybe I was too old when I read it.
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison—Amazing. [] One of my favorite books.
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright—Nope.
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow—Counting Crows make me want to read this… have not done it yet.
  22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara—Never heard of it.
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos—Scares me.
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson—Nope.
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster—Not yet.
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James—Another miss.
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James—And another.
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald—Nope.
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell—Nope.
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford—Nope.
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell—Of course, some are more equal than others.
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James—Not yet.
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser—Never heard of it.
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner—Not yet.
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren—Nope.
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder—Not yet.
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster—Didn’t even see the movie.
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin—Nope.
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene—Nope.
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding—I like this the first time, found it a bit wanting on the re-read.
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey—Does the movie count?
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell—Nope.
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley—Nope.
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway—This one is sitting on my bookshelf even now (maybe when I finish Don Quixote…)
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad—Nope.
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad—Nope.
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence—Nope.
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence—Nope.
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller—Nope.
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer—Nope.
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth—Nope.
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov—Nope, heard it was too much like Lolita.
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner—Not yet.
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac—Never liked the beats, skipped it.
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett—Nope. Never saw the movie either.
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford—Nope.
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton—Nope.
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm—Nope.
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy—Nope.
  61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather—Nope.
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones—Nope.
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever—Nope.
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger—I did not understand this book. I put it down to reading it at age 30…
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess—Nope.
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham—Nope.
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad—I started this one. Got lost, maybe not a book for a 17 year old. Saw Apocalypse Now.
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis—Not yet.
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton—Never heard of it.
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell—Never heard of it. (But what’s with all the trilogies and quartets, is length an automatic in for this list?)
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes—Nope.
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul—Nope.
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West—Nope.
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway—Not yet.
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark—Never heard of it.
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce—Spare me. It took him 14 years to write it and he expects me to spend 14 years trying to understand him. I’ll skip it.
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling—Nope. But I did read The English Patient.
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster—Nope.
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow—Never heard of it.
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner—Never heard of it.
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul—Nope.
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen—Nope.
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad—Only excerpts in school.
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow—Nope.
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett—Nope.
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London—When I was like 14.
  89. LOVING by Henry Green—Nope.
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie—No, most of his other books but not this one. Will have to fix that.
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell—Nope.
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy—Nope.
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles—Nope.
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys—Nope.
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch—Nope.
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron—In high school. Forgot it all after the test.
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles—Never heard of it.
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy—Nope.
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington—Never heard of it.

That’s like 15 out of 100… not so good. Will have to fix that someday.


The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion
On Goodreads []

The God Delusion is a good book. It is a bit too hostile for me at some points but Richard Dawkins [] spends a chapter of the book on why he is so hostile and his position is well thought out and researched (the opposite of religion, which is what he is arguing against)

Being an Atheist I agree with almost everything Dawkins says in the book, even if some of his conclusions make me uncomfortable. Mostly I feel uncomfortable with is idea that society and we as individuals should not respect others religion and religious customs. His logic as to why we should not respect others religious beliefs and practices and his evidence to support this is convincing to me but I have a lot of good friends who have various religious beliefs and I don’t find it hard or inconvenient to respect those beliefs.

I think there are two reasons I am uncomfortable with this central point made by Dawkins in the book:

One is that I am non-confrontational in nature (people who I disagree with at work might find this a shock but it is true.) I respect other peoples irrational beliefs just as I respect other peoples sexual practices (in so far as they don’t harm other, unwilling people, like children or non-consenting adults.)

My second objection to Dawkins’ lack of respect of peoples religion is that as a vegetarian I want others to respect my choice not to eat meat and not to use leather or other animal products. I am happy to debate this point with others, but I don’t want to force my beliefs on others. I prefer Ghandi’s ideal that ‘you must be the change you wish to see in the world.’

Dawkins does point out that (western, liberal) society has a special ‘respect’ for religion outside of how it deals with other personal choices and that this is wrong because many of the choices people are vocally disrespectful of they disagree with because of their religious choice. We allow these people their ravings not because of our belief in free speech but because of our belief that it is automatically wrong to criticize a religious belief. This point, backed up by examples in the book makes it difficult to disagree with the idea we should challenge and be hostile to religious belief. This all scares me that there is some sort of Secular Inquisition or Anti-religious Revolution (descended from the French Revolution) foreshadowed in Dawkins’s book. If the western, liberal world embraces Dawkins’s ideas there will be no debating a clash of civilizations. It would be a fact of dealing with any group that defined itself by it’s religion.

I learned a good deal from the book and found it well written and engaging. The fact that the conclusions make me uncomfortable does not imply the book has a problem but that I need to consider my own stance more so I can be comfortable either agreeing or disagreeing. A good book that should be read by a great number or people both those inclined to agree and those who reject it’s basic assumptions outright.


Globalization and Its Discontents

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Globalization and its Discontents

I picked up Joseph Stiglitz book in the same purchase I got Naomi Klien’s No Logo and Peter Singer’s One World. Obviously there is an interest in globalization in that recipe. I’ve been reading The Economist [] for some years and been mildly informed on globalization and the backlash against it evident in the protests against the IMF, World Bank, G7/G8, WTO and other multinational bodies associated with it. I didn’t really develop an interest in globalization until I read The Best Democracy Money can Buy by Greg Palast.

Palast’s book wet my appetite but Stiglitz, who was President Clinton’s economic adviser before joining the World Bank, really lays on the blame. He places most of the blame for the Asian Financial Crisis, the Russian collapse, and Argentina’s Defaulting, on the IMF. More specifically he claims that a shift away from the Keynesian ideas that the IMF and World Bank were founded on is to blame. What caused the shift? The introduction of Thatcherism and Ragantonian ideals, the ousting of experienced economist and the promotion of free market fundamentalist at the IMF.

To support his accusations Stiglitz roams around the globe from one crisis to another pointing out the faults in the blind, ideological, one-size-fits-all prescriptions the IMF doled out to country after country in the past 25 years. Time and again the IMF’s blind belief in the Market becomes a vehicle for greed and capitalist hegemony. To back up the point that the IMF refused to learn from it’s mistakes and the experience of others Stiglitz points out several countries that refused to follow the IMF plan, and shows that while their development has not been as smooth as could be desired and they have not developed as fast as the IMF says they could, they have avoided the painful problems of many of the IMFs poster child countries: Thailand, Argentina, Russia. And stand better today than many of the countries who followed the IMF plans.

I found the section of the Asian Financial Crisis the most poignant because shortly after I finished the book I traveled to Bangkok, the epicenter of the crisis. The problems that began in Bangkok when Thailand opened it’s market to ‘hot money‘ [] are always recalled as something that happened ‘over night.’ How true those statements are really became apparent when I was in Bangkok. The skyline is filled with half completed skyscrapers and rusting cranes that have sat empty since 1997. Many construction sights literal closed the doors one night and never opened them again, putting hundreds of workers on the street over night.

After nearly a decade Bangkok is just beginning to recover from it’s nightmare. If Stiglitz is to be believed the IMF leadership, which shares a large part of the blame because it pushed questionable policies faster than was advisable and without tailoring them for local conditions, has not learned its lesson. Stiglitz acknowledges that the goals of the IMF, the goals of Globalization, are not inherently bad, and need not lead to the problems that we have seen. Rather it is the way the IMF uses it’s political power and money to force these ideas on countries that are not ready for them that has lead to so much suffering and poverty.

Globalization is not a new movement, it is the as old as civilization. It is the force that sent caravans down the Silk Road and the wind that launched the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria across the Atlantic. The goal now should be to move forward in a way that does not destroy entire societies so that a few rich people can get richer. Modern globalization was sold to the world as a way to bring the worlds poor into a better world. It has, to a large extent, made many of their lives worse while being hijacked to make the rich richer.

On Amazon