Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Glen Beck's Common Sense

I am a little reticent to write a review of this book. Once you start discussing politics, things can become heated. By way of disclaimer, I am likely what Mr. Beck calls a "Progressive" in his book. I do believe the founders of our country were great men. I think they did the best they could with the Constitution. But that does not mean that I think those man and that document are inerrant. I think this has been amply demonstrated: slavery, women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement. I strongly believe that the Constitution should be amended and grow as this great nation changes and we learn to be a better country, to be better people.

That disclaimer aside, to Mr. Beck's book. I tried not to have a knee-jerk reaction to it. I tried to be open minded. I am sure some, having read my disclaimer above, will dismiss my thoughts on this book outright. But nonetheless, here they are. I think Mr. Beck's book is awful. It a poorly written screed. The arguments were so disorganized, I quite often had a hard time following them. I had specific problems with some of his anecdotes. Take for example the one about the poor woman who broke a compact fluorescent light and was told she would have to pay $2000 to clean it up. But Mr. Beck does not tell the true story of what happened.1 It makes me wonder what else Mr. Beck has been mistaken or misleading about in this book.

What makes this book appealing, to those on both the Left and Right, is that Mr. Beck says some things that everyone can agree with. Many of those people who govern us are corrupted by the power they have. That is not any great revelation. What I find interesting is how he contrasts the "bad" government with the "good" capitalist private sector. Government is a human institution that is prey to human foibles. But so is capitalism. (That is not to say that I think capitalism is bad. I see it as a flawed human institution that can be both good and bad, just like our government.)


1 See the Snopes.com entry to see what really happened.

Monday, November 16, 2009

House of the Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata

I am participating National Novel Writing Month right now, so this review will be brief. House of the Sleeping Beauties is a very weird book made up of three bizarre short stories. The first, House of the Sleeping Beauties is about an old man that repeatedly visits a house where old men can, for a fee, sleep with naked young girls. Sleep but not have sex. It is really creepy in a lecherous kind of way because the old man is not very pleasant. The second short story, One Arm is a surreal tale about a man that borrows a young woman's arm and takes it home. He talks to it. He substitutes it for his own arm. This one was just plain weird. Of Birds and Beasts is about a man that has a number of pets, many of which die through his negligence. I didn't really get this story at all.

The bottom line, if you are looking for good modern Japanese fiction, don't look for it here.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins

As soon as I heard about the publication of Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth I got really excited. As an atheist, I find the theory of evolution credible. I am always surprised when I hear or read about the lengths that creationists go the make it sound like evolution is not credible, especially when they are arguing against teaching evolution in public schools. So, I was looking forward to reading a book on the evidence that supports the theory of evolution.

Dawkins book, however, is extremely disappointing. He does cover the evidence supporting evolution, but does so in an awkward manner. He constantly digresses from his main point or cuts a discussion off by saying that it is too complex for the layperson. My overall opinion is that there is a much smaller book in The Greatest Show On Earth that would have been much better. I think I might try Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne to see if I like it better.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan

I must admit this was the book that I read at the end of the Readathon, so my recollections of it are vague. Black Dogs is about a woman's encounter with two huge, menacing black dogs while on a walk in France. Her husband out of earshot, the woman is attacked by the dogs. She manages to fend them off, but her life and the life of her husband are deeply altered. For Bernard, the encounter was just an unpleasant event. But for June, the dogs are the incarnation of evil. This rift drives them apart, opening a large metaphysical gulf between them as she becomes a devout Catholic and he remains an atheist.

It is really hard to rate this book because I don't remember it very well. But I do remember my impression that Black Dogs was not as good as my previous McEwan read, Amsterdam.