An intriguing concept, pairing a memoir about living through the Iranian Revolution and the resulting totalitarian regime with literary criticism of Western literature as an attempt to put it all into perspective. Unfortunately Naﬁsi’s eﬀort fell ﬂat to me, mostly because the writing feels too weak for the task.
The structure of the book itself is confusing, as she shifts around just enough that it’s hard to follow the sequence of events, plus there are many little digressions within chapters that don’t seem to add to the story. Though the book is ostensibly centered around the reading group she begins with some students after leaving her teaching position at the University of Tehran when the veil is imposed on all female...more
It was a little funny to read this slim little book directly after Play it as it Lays, as they are both wrapped so much in hot weather and it’s been colder and colder lately.
Originally written for Holiday Magazine, the extended essay is a nostalgic look at New York City (Manhattan, mostly) from the perspective of White, who had lived and worked in the city years earlier but had since relocated to Maine. He returned one summer to write this piece, observing how much the city had changed. But yet with a few shifted details, one could easily put the same words to the New York of today, still oﬀering its gifts of loneliness and privacy (though I...more
A few years ago I abandoned my vegetarianism and started adding ﬁsh to my diet. Mostly I felt like I needed variety in my protein sources, but also there are a lot of nutritional beneﬁts to eating ﬁsh. I’ve looked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Guide many times, but have always found it diﬃcult to consistently remember what to avoid. Reading the stories behind key “avoid” ﬁshes (as well as a few ﬁsh that are good eat) should help me navigate the ﬁsh world a little easier.
The core of Grescoe’s international survey of ﬁsh is that we have overﬁshed the larger predators (like tuna and cod) and the only way to help the ﬁsh come back is...more
An attractive tight-back bound book with edge-stained pages, Make it Bigger is at its heart a survey of Scher’s work from the 70s through the 90s. Yet it feels more like a memoir or a study of process than just a portfolio of her work. I loved her discussion of discovering how to “sell down” designs at CBS Records (get the highest decision maker on your side and everyone else will fall in line). The various hierarchies of her diﬀerent positions and the diagram of a meeting are some of my favorite parts of the book.
Maybe I’m just a hater this week but I couldn’t ﬁnd much to latch onto in Didion’s exploration of her history with California, including her pioneering ancestors’ treks to get there. Though it’s kind of a personal history placed within a larger context, even the parts about her family read strangely impersonal. It seems like each chapter starts out interesting and then gets laden down with too many facts without any real narrative structure. One begins looking at the painter Thomas Kincade — and I love her description of his paintings:
A Kincade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap...more
I really loved this memoir, though I have to say that the translation probably isn’t the best. It’s hard for me to be entirely certain since I can’t read the original in Japanese, but I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that Philip Gabriel has translated two of my less favorite Murakami novels (Kafka on the Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart). I kept feeling like there were nuances that I was missing.
Even still, I found this little memoir inspiring. It’s about running, but it’s also about writing. It’s about ﬁnding focus and keeping momentum. I kind of wanted to start running right when I ﬁnished it, even though I’ve never been able to ﬁgure out how to breathe right. I...more
While I really like the concept of each piece of this book as drops that collectively represent all the challenges of her life as a Palestinian American, it felt like Hammad spent a little too much time talking about writing her story through all the diﬀerent references to wetness and where it found her compared to actually threading the pieces together. It’s a rather short memoir, largely because she was so young when writing it, so the repetition becomes tiring rather than powerful. But there’s still a lot of strength in the individual parts, even if they don’t all come together so well.more
A few months ago I listened to some excerpts from this book, and ﬁnally got around to actually reading the whole thing.
There’s something in the way Gomez has written this book that kept eliciting these knee-jerk, argumentative responses, and I’d ﬁnd myself angrily relating some piece of what I read nearly every day that I was reading this book. I suppose even from the title, it’s apparent that he’s taking an incredibly provocative stance. The crux of his thesis is an analogy between music and books, and he aims to prove that books will inevitably follow music into the purely digital world. The comparison doesn’t sit so cleanly with me — recorded music is so diﬀerent from books. Music existed for...more
I loved A Field Guide to Getting Lost, so it was only a matter of time before something else by Rebecca Solnit wound up on my hold list. This one is a pretty impressive history of walking, which has a rather left-leaning gait at times.
For whatever reason the second section, covering “From the Garden to the Wild” kept making me doze oﬀ on the train. Maybe I was just really tired or something, but those chapters all felt a little too academic and detailed, especially the entire chapter about William Wordsworth (who was an important walker no doubt), but so many quotes of his poetry? Were they really all necessary? I kept skipping around looking for something to...more
I feel as if I’ve been reading this book forever but it’s actually just been a month or so. The scope of Weisman’s imagining of the entire world suddenly depopulated of humans is so broad that inevitably some parts feel leggy. But the scenario may give the best look at our overall impact on the planet.
There are moments where nature seems so incredibly resilient that you might get lulled into thinking maybe we haven’t done so bad. Even the Panama Canal wouldn’t last long; a lock superintendent describes it as “a wound that humans inﬂicted on the Earth — one that nature is trying to heal.” But then there is all the nuclear waste, the petrochemical plants in Texas, and all...more