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Ragnarok: The End of The Gods – A Re-view

RagnarokRagnarok by A.S. Byatt

My Rating★★★☆☆

Ragnarok: Twilight of the Reader

While the others in the Cannongate series re-imagined the stories, Byatt reread it. And then told the tale of reading it. Underwhelming? To an extent, yes. But, the Norse myths are magnificent enough to come alive of themselves even when the author decides to color them distant.

Byatt gives her reasoning for this approach in the end – saying that she believes myths should not be humanized and the experience of imbibing the story of a myth, of how the story permeates the life, of how myth shapes an individuals and then a society’s internal life is what gives a myth its true meaning.

She wanted to mythologize this process – of how a myth can shape a life. And through her Thin Child, she might have done this to an extent, though she let me down on my expectations of a fun and thrilling adventure in the frigid, intimidating and exhilarating strangeness of the Norse landscapes.

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About ItReadicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The subtitle pretty much sums the book up. Some interesting remedies are suggested but nothing radical. The premise of the book is WYTIWYG – What You Test is What You Get – If you implement shallow tests and metrics to measure the young generation, they will evolve into that and beat you at the same game, in the worst ways imaginable.

Introduce deep reading and a love for learning instead of artificial measures; test for understanding, not for mere retention of facts – facts change and when they do, it is the ability to understand and process them that will count above mere retention. We need to teach the right things in schools but more important we should test for the right things. To repeat again, WYTIWYG.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Yo, Claudio

I, ClaudiusI, Claudius by Robert Graves

My Rating★★★★★

The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind – “So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I’ll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, so that I can apply the same criteria for reviewing any work of history, as suggested by Claudius (original source for much of Pliny’s work) himself, through Livius and Pollio (all works unfortunately lost).

Meanwhile, have a short and enjoyable snapshot sampling of the book by going through the-easy-to-follow family tree given below. Ah, the tales that can be told while tracing those lines…

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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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A Skimmable Note on Slow Reading

Slow ReadingSlow Reading by John Miedema

My Rating★★★☆☆

It is a pity that for a book that celebrates books that deserve, no demand the investment of time and all our mental and emotional faculties, it is itself barely so.

Despite its bite-sized length and lack of depth, it is still important. I would recommend potential readers to Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business if you want a deeper understanding of the issues that Miedema touches on in this book.

By the way, the book is not so much about slowing down in how much you read than in reading in a more engaged way. It is against the redefinition of reading that is brought forth by the change in the mediums of reading and in the nature of the readings available as a result. It is not against readers who read a lot because they find tv boring and find intellectual stimulation more arresting. So ‘right back at you!’ to all of my friends who suggested this book to me in all sweet irony. Thanks too, of course!

For a more comprehensive review, see Richard’s review.

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Book Appreciation: Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

Zen in the Art of ArcheryZen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

My Rating★★★★★

Are we all such helpless and inexperienced beginners with not the slightest clue on how to correct our aims or on to draw our bowstrings right?

This supposedly uplifting book has depressed me amidst its poetry and beauty into a realization that I will probably never ‘correct my own stance’ or ‘let the arrow fall at the moment of highest tension’, effortlessly hit any goal or even realize what the real goal is…

Why is there no art in life anymore? Isn’t it all that should exist? Can we please ban money and all its accouterments and live by the High Arts; that might then bring some insipid meaning back to our lives?

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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Extended

The stark stripes
of
her black and white T-shirt,
so
extended by the dark
and
lustrous strands
of
overflowing hair
across
her pearly white arms.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Creative, Poetry, Thoughts

 

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Book Review: Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being HumanSupergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In the title of Supergods, Grant Morrison seems to be promising an exploration of ‘What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human’. Does he live up to that promise? No. If you take up this book expecting moral philosophy or some kind of analysis on how the values in our fiction will help us be better humans, boy, are you in for a disappointment.

I have a sulky feeling that the only reason Grant published this book was to take advantage of the predicted upsurge in importance of comics that his pet theories tell him and the reason why publishers went ahead was to cash in on the sudden elevation in the status of pulp comics following Nolan’s reinvigoration of Batman.

So with a serious sounding title and an alluring subject matter, Morrison proceeds to happily serve up a brew of 75 years worth of comic book history, his own bildungsroman and literary criticism on his colleagues and praise for his favorites. The history that he presents is thoroughly colored by his own biases, but at least he never makes an attempt at projecting a dispassionate observer persona. The book is cursory and without focus for the most part; the history is too superficial for an ardent fan and would be way too detailed to serve as an introduction to comics. The analysis that he attempts to bring to the art of story-telling has already been done in much better fashion by Scott McCloud and the evolution of ideas and causal connection to real historical events could also have been better handled by a historian or in conjunction with one. The constant comparisons to Beatles, to Picasso and to Wagner, among others, makes one feel like Morison is trying too hard to fit something that we all know to be a mass product to the exclusive category of High Art.

Almost half the book is about the Golden and Silver ages which saw the birth of Superman and was followed by a burgeoning pantheon of copy-cat heroes like Batman and soon by original and radical version like Captain Marvel. One of Morrison’s pet ideas is the idea of the author inserting himself into the page. He gives a detailed analysis of how this grew in him and of his experiments in sending a 2D version of himself into the comic world to interact with the characters and this makes more and more sense as he himself blends into the narrative of the book in the last two-thirds and the book becomes more an autobiography than a history. Of course, the book becomes a completely psychedelic trip at this point with Morrison using up most of the remaining pages to convince us that he is God’s agent on earth to spread peace and truth. These quasi-religious ideas and Morrison’s long rants about peers soon make the book seem loose and untidy and it just plain comes apart in the last few chapters and all the good impression one might have built up for the book erodes away as the reader struggles through Morrison’s repeated assurances that there is more to the world than what we see and that extra-dimensional super heroes has made him the vessel to reach us through his art. As we close the book, even though we are thoroughly impressed by the force of his language and the wild imaginative scope of his ideas, it would be an effort in credulity to take Morrison or the book too seriously. At the very least, it pointed me to some excellent graphic novels and artists. For that and for the writing style, an extra star.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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