EppsNet Archive: Book Reviews

EppsNet Book Reviews: An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne

It’s a good murder mystery, but about two-thirds of the way through, I felt like I couldn’t indulge the author’s sexual obsessions any further and just flipped ahead to see whodunit. Every man has either “a dick like a mule” or “a dick like a Tampax.” No one has ” a dick of average proportions.” Sexual relationships are either non-existent (with one’s wife) or preposterously frequent and varied (with one’s mistress(es)). One unlikely plot device is premised on a particular woman’s “most intimate scent.” I’d suggest that the author have his head examined but he’s been dead for nearly 10 years . . . Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews; The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald

I can’t come up with a better synopsis than this article from the Boston Review: Each of these men suffers from memory and from the compulsion to obliterate it; from a mourning and melancholia so deep that it is almost unnamable; from the knowledge that he has survived while those he loved have not; from problems distinguishing dream and reality; from a profound sense of displacement. Highly recommended! Rating: Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Middlemarch by George Eliot

George Eliot is a transgender author whose work was previously unfamiliar to this reviewer. Ha, kidding! It’s hard to think of new things to say about old books, but if you appreciate the novel as an art form, or you think you might appreciate the novel as an art form if you gave it a chance, you should read Middlemarch. What it is about? At 800+ pages, it’s about a lot of things: life in rural England in the 1830s, the status of women, the bonds of matrimony, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy and politics. It’s about the heroism of ordinary lives. It’s about, in the character of Dorothea Brooke, “the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.” Here’s the conclusion of the novel,… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Death on the Installment Plan is a fictionalized coming-of-age story based on Céline’s youth in pre-World War I France. Absent are heroism, transcendence, love and the possibility of love. Instead, there is a lot of human action that comes to nothing. Death is not ennobling. That said, hopelessness has never been described with more wit, energy and imagination or more droll, breathtaking language. Here’s a sample of the black comedy, as the narrator remembers a local physician (all ellipses in the original): “The most exquisite deaths, remember that, Ferdinand, are those that attack us in our most sensitive tissues . . .” He had a precious, elaborate, subtle way of talking, like the men of Charcot’s day. His prospecting of the Rolandic, the third ventricle, and the gray nucleus didn’t do him much good . . . in the end he died of a heart attack, under circumstances that were… Read more →

What Happened?

According to this review by Piers Morgan, Hillary has narrowed down the list of people and entities responsible for her 2016 election defeat to James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Mitch McConnell, the mainstream media, the New York Times, Matt Lauer, Fox News, Jill Stein, men, women, white people, black people, Joe Biden, Anthony Weiner, and the Electoral College. Notably absent from the list: Hillary Clinton. Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

The Sleepwalkers is one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read, very close to the edge of what can be accomplished with the written word. I had never heard of either the book or the author — neither seems to have any following here in the States — but Amazon for some reason started recommending me post-WWI Austrian modernists. (I also read Robert Musil’s A Man Without Qualities, which was extremely tedious.) I don’t know who to compare Broch with, in terms of language, wit, psychological and historical insight — maybe Nietzsche, if Nietzsche had decided to write historical fiction. The book chronicles, via multiple overlapping narratives, the moral history of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the disintegration of values that led to fascism. And in his fear of the voice of judgment that threatens to issue from the darkness, there awakens within him… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Carol Dweck’s research is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs. These may be beliefs that we’re aware of or unaware of but they strongly affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing people’s beliefs can have profound effects. Dweck’s insight into fixed mindset (bad) vs. growth mindset (good) is powerful but there’s really not enough to it to sustain a book-length exposition without a lot of repetition and illustrational anecdotes, the problem with which is 1) they tend to be overly simple tales of triumph and failure with clearly identified causes; and 2) they ignore the inevitability of regression. For example, two of the people Dweck identifies as exemplars of the growth mindset are Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez. Mindset was published in 2006, after which Woods’s career imploded in the wake of extramarital… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Humans of New York: Stories

I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you’re not one of the 16 million people following the Humans of New York Facebook page, take a look there to see what the concept is all about. This book would make a great gift for anyone on your holiday gift list who knows how to read. If you’re on my holiday gift list, you’re getting this book. I wish I could give a copy to every person on Earth. Rating: Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Hotel World by Ali Smith

Happy is what you realize you are a fraction of a second before it’s too late. Hotel World takes place in and around a hotel in London, hence the title, but Hotel World is also a metaphor for life: people check in and people check out. It’s about remembering to live, remembering that you won’t live forever . . . it’s about love, not romantic love, but a mother’s love for her daughter, sisters’ love for each other . . . and it’s about how close people come to really understanding one another, which is not very close at all. Rating: Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Kudos to Francis Ford Coppola for making one of the most renowned films of all time out of this pedestrian soap opera. Rating: Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Richard Yates poses the question of how much reality people can stand, and the answer he comes up with is “not very much.” Alternatives to facing reality head-on are explored in Revolutionary Road: avoidance, denial, alcoholism, insanity and death. Some excerpts: “You want to play house you got to have a job. You want to play very nice house, very sweet house, you got to have a job you don’t like. Great. This is the way ninety-eight-point-nine per cent of the people work things out, so believe me buddy you’ve got nothing to apologize for. Anybody comes along and says ‘Whaddya do it for?’ you can be pretty sure he’s on a four-hour pass from the State funny-farm; all agreed.”   And all because, in a sentimentally lonely time long ago, she had found it easy and agreeable to believe whatever this one particular boy felt like saying, and to… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: My Antonia by Willa Cather

Woulda, coulda, shoulda . . . Rating: Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Known World by Edward P. Jones

I bought this book and read it because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. See, it says so right there on the cover: “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.” Did you know there was a time in our country’s history when black people were bought and sold as property, sometimes by other black people? And did you also know that 15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance? Human slavery is deplorable, yes, but at this late date, can it be deplored any more than it has been already? If you have new depths of insight into the hearts and minds of the participants, by all means offer them, but Jones doesn’t have them. Reading The Known World is like reading a history book, albeit with a little more authorial contempt for some of the characters. It’s customary in book reviews to mention authors whose work… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Big Short by Michael Lewis

I worked in the information technology department of a mortgage bank in the run-up to the 2007 implosion of the subprime mortgage market . . . Given that it was fairly evident at the time that complicated financial instruments were being dreamed up for the sole purpose of lending money to people who could never repay it, it’s remarkable that very few people foresaw the catastrophe and that even fewer actually had the nerve to bet on it to happen. Long story short, the major rating agencies — Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s — were incompetent in their rating of subprime mortgage bonds, giving investment-grade and, in some cases, triple-A ratings to high-risk instruments. A lot of people took the ratings — which implied that subprime mortgage derivatives were no riskier than U.S. Treasury bonds — at face value and acted accordingly. But there were also some interesting psychological factors in play, not… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

“Did you ever hear what J. Edgar Hoover said about justice?” she asked. “He probably said a lot, but I don’t recall any of it offhand.” “He said that justice is incidental to law and order.” — Michael Connelly, The Black Echo I love detective fiction — especially L.A. detective fiction — but like every other kind of niche fiction, it’s almost all rubbish. The Black Echo is an exception to the rule. I have just a couple of things to take exception to: Detectives should NEVER have a love interest. They should always be loners (cf. Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe). [SPOILER ALERT] It is absolutely impossible that Rourke wouldn’t know who Eleanor Wish is. He works for the FBI. The Federal Bureau of INVESTIGATION. He’s an INVESTIGATOR. And he knows nothing about this woman? Not even her maiden name? P.S. Don’t tell me about Linda Loring in the last two… Read more →

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The author, a Russian, displays great heart and insight in this philosophical novel, but at 900+ pages, he needs to learn how to get to the point. I look forward to his next project, perhaps with a better editor. Read more →

The Big Short

What is amazing is not just that people are greedy and prone to engage in ethically questionable activities; the big lesson is how people can reach unimaginable positions of power and essentially be (a) incompetent, and (b) not willing to do even the most mundane and trivial parts of their job. — Jeffrey Pfeffer, reviewing The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis (quoted on WSJ.com) Read more →

HW’s Book Reviews: Go the Fuck to Sleep

If you think saying “fuck” to a toddler is the funniest thing ever, and evidently a lot of people do judging from the rave reviews on Facebook, then you’ll love this book. SPOILER ALERT: The joke is that infants don’t have the same sleep patterns as grownups — ha ha — which is breaking news to this hapless unfit shithead of a parent, who spews page after page of rhymed obscenities at his child. I didn’t say “fuck” to my kid until he was a teenager, and even then it wasn’t to be funny. Seriously: Children are a gift from God and I don’t even believe in God. I love the time that my son and I were boys together more than I love anything. If you think there’s anything clever or funny about this book, please stay away from me . . . Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Odyssey by Homer

The author displays a lively imagination. The cast of characters includes both gods and mortals, and the story builds to a thrilling climax. I can’t wait to see what this promising young writer comes up with next. Read more →

Lightning’s Book Reviews: Don’t Know Much About History

Hi everybody! It’s me, Lightning! My owner’s son has this book for his AP U.S. History class. You should read it! The title — Don’t Know Much About History — makes you think of the famous song by Sam Cooke, so right away you want to know more about it! History is fascinating! For example, did you know that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had ELEVEN pugs?! The Duke used to be the King of England but he had to “adbdicate” (that means quit) so he’d have enough time to walk all of his dogs. I hope that fact is in the book! — Lightning Read more →

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