Reading List - Waiting To Be Heard
I’ve been catching up on my sensationalistic female murderer reading lately — this book along with chronological coverage of the Jodi Arias trial. After O.J. Simpson spectacle I haven’t had the time or energy to follow these things as they occur any more. Kind of like sports highlights.
What we have here is basically Knox’s argument that she is innocent. What’s amazing — unbelievable really — about her account is the total disconnect between her self-portrayal and the picture of her drawn by the prosecutors. I’m sure both sides exaggerate, but there’s almost no overlap at all between the two accounts.
I’m glad I know more about the case now but not glad I had to read the book to do it. Aside from being a convicted murderer, Amanda Knox is a pretty ordinary person and writer.
Does An Archive of Flavors Make Sense?
This is a paper I presented at a conference a couple weeks age.
Abandoned Books - MWF Seeking BFF
This is such a chick book I am sheepish for even starting it; I feel like I need to explain myself. The author lived in Chicago, was married, and was looking for friends. I, too, was living in Chicago, married, and woefully lacking in friends. I thought maybe I would relate. Sadly, the gulf between the sexes is too large. A woman’s quest for friends looks nothing like my own quest. Or maybe I just couldn’t relate to her because we have nothing in common (other than friend deficit). You tell me.
Reading List - I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp
Richard Hell is a very good writer. He was not much of a musician, or much of a decent person. If he hadn’t chosen such an excellent name (he was born Richard Meyers), I doubt he would have ever been famous. His notoriety stems from being part of the CBGB scene, where he became a fashion icon and interacted with some genuinely talented musicians.
This biography moves along at a good clip, helped mostly by the fact that he was schoolboy friends with Tom Verlaine, one of the true geniuses of the punk moment. Hell was a high school dropout and aspiring poet who decided to become a musician, joining Verlaine in the earliest version of the revolutionary band Television. It’s at this point that the narrative starts to lose steam. The sex and drugs become monotonous and sad, and Hell doesn’t offer much hope or meaning or understanding.
Hell is notable for who he knew and where he was, not who he was. He’s really kind of pathetic. The early chapters offer hope that he could have been something, but he ends up mostly as a caricature. The book is still valuable as a document of the New York punk scene and its characters, notably the enigmatic Verlaine.
Reading List - Wild
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a pretty dramatic thing to do. And pretty amazing. I can’t describe this book with either of those words. The book is overwritten in parts, and the dialogue, written years and years after the event, doesn’t ring true. I appreciate that the author never comes out with a trite summary explaining what the experience taught her. But it’s not really clear how the experience changed her, other than the obvious “overcoming the odds” and “finding self-reliance.”
Abandoned Books - Tenth of December
I made it to page 11 - INSUFFERABLE! “I AM A WRITER” emanates from every syllable. This guy is considered a genius? Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough to appreciate him.
Reading List - The Last Policeman
An interesting premise: a loyal detective fights to solve a murder against the backdrop of an impending cataclysmic asteroid strike. Nobody else really cares about solving crimes when civilization is about to be wiped out. I didn’t really buy the portrait of a pre-apocalyptic collapse, and the mystery itself is not too compelling. Even worse, the sub-plot involving plans to build secret bases on the moon is just a distraction—actually, it’s the set-up for a sequel. It would have been nice if the two threads had come together at some point but they never do.
Abandoned Books - Lean In
Sheryl Sandberg’s book of advice to women in business has been in the news a lot lately so I figured I should read it to have an informed opinion. Also, I have two daughters and I want them to be successful and to be treated as equals by their coworkers. I was thinking maybe this book would have some advice for them.
I read a fair bit of the book before giving up and I have a few impressions. The first is that Sandberg gives some good, although fairly obvious, advice. Ya gotta work hard. Ya gotta be confident. Ya gotta keep improving. Blah Blah Blah.
My second impression is that I absolutely hate books about business management. I actually read a lot of business books, mostly finance, but I think management theory is mostly a crock of shit. And full of the most banal writing you will ever read. Take this example:
When I first joined Facebook, I was working with a team to answer the critical question of how best to grow our business. The conversations were getting heated, with many people arguing their own positions strongly. We ended the week without consensus. Dan Rose, leader of our deal team, spent the weekend gathering market data that allowed us to reframe the conversation in analytics. His effort broke the logjam. I then expanded Dan’s responsibilities to include product marketing. Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.
I would rather read a hundred L. Ron Hubbard novels than have to read another paragraph like this one. It just makes my skin crawl. And if you try to reframe my conversation in analytics I’m going to break your logjam.
My third impression is that I don’t want my daughters to be anything like Sheryl Sandberg. There’s really nothing about her I admire. My kids are incredibly talented and will be successful in any career they choose. I’ll support them no matter what they do—but deep down I’d prefer they not aim for the C-suite. (And for the record, I’d have the same hopes if my kids were boys. And dislike her just as much if she were a man.)
Abandoned Books - Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
There’s really nothing wrong with this book, the writing is fine and the story well told. It’s just that it doesn’t come close to another recent book with a similar title - The Long Walk. If you want to read a book about how bad war fucks you up then read that one first. But if you prefer wistfulness and nostalgia along with killing and horror you might like this one more.
Reading List - Gone Girl
If you’ve ever wondered what’s more important in making a book worthwhile reading—the author’s storytelling skill or the story itself—then you will be intrigued by this book. I raced through the first third of it completely enthralled before it begin to dawn on me that the story was absurd, the plot twists unconvincing, and the characters shallow stereotypes. But the writing is so good! The pacing is spot-on. There’s some social satire that’s insightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience even if at the end I thought it was about the stupidest mystery I’ve ever read.