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review 2018-12-15 22:06
Fear
Fear: Trump in the White House - Bob Woodward

This book is somehow simultaneously alarming and unsurprising. The latter, I suppose, must come from everything I have already read and heard about the inner (mis)workings of the Trump White House. One of the most fascinating things to come about when this book was poised to be released was Bob Woodward's published interview with Donald Trump. The opening of the book notes that Trump declined to be interviewed for it. In the interview, Trump initially claimed that no one had told him about the book, the whole time Woodward was attempting to set up an interview. Then during the course of the interview, it became clear that this was a lie. That captures so much of the way Trump operates.

 

In the interview, Trump claimed that the book was going to be flawed because it lacked his input. But Woodward is thorough and even-handed. Though I have to say, when the book ended, I thought, "Wait, that's <i>it</i>?" I'm not sure how I expected the book to conclude, but it felt as though it just stopped, and everything is so.... Unsettled. I guess that's one of the possible downsides of reporting on real life. I only hope there are still people in the White House averting disaster.

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review 2018-09-29 02:16
Not the same, I promise
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath - Leslie Jamison

The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison at first glance is remarkably similar to my last post and in retrospect I probably shouldn't have read them back-to-back. (If for no other reason, than my own mental health.) In my defense, my library holds always seem to come all at once so this was just coincidental. This book. however, is more memoir than anything else…although I'd also lump it into the literary commentary category. The author takes an almost journalistic look at addiction and recovery. While Jamison does discuss the 12 Steps, she emphasizes that most need more than the 12 Steps which promotes complete abstinence in order to recover. Medication and counseling in combination with a recovery program that advises group meetings is essential to long-term sobriety. She talks in-depth about her own recovery journey and how it doesn't always end neatly with full sobriety or even one linear line to sobriety as relapses will and do occur. The first part, in truth, focuses quite heavily on "drunk writers" using alcohol as a creative crutch and how Jamison herself felt that without booze she would not be interesting enough or creative enough to write. Along with that was her preoccupation with love helped along by an addict's natural self-centeredness. It is this inflated self-centered attitude which Jamison believes is the fuel for an addict. The addiction narrative is unchanging and that's the point. It doesn't need to be new and interesting (not necessary or even possible really) because it's the sharing with others that makes all the difference when all anyone wants is to not feel alone. Maybe because I read this on the heels of Russell's book or maybe because it didn't necessarily reveal anything new to me but this was only an okay book in my opinion. If this was the very first book someone had read on this subject then I believe it would be deemed excellent but for anyone who has read extensively in this vein it didn't really cover any new ground. 5/10


That isn't to say there weren't some interesting quotes. Here are two that jumped out at me:

 

Most addicts don't live in barren white cages - though some do once they've been incarcerated - but many live in worlds defined by stress of all kinds, financial and social and structural: the burdens of institutional racism and economic inequality, the absence of a living wage. - pg 154

Most addicts describe drinking or using as filling a lack…you drunk to fill the lack, but the drinking only deepens it. - pg 155

What's Up Next: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek: Destiny #3: Lost Souls by David Mack

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-12-21 22:13
Not exactly what I wanted
Find the Good - Heather Lende

I went into Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende with a lot of perhaps too many expectations. I anticipated (and hoped for) humor of the macabre variety. Find the Good is a book of anecdotal advice from someone who regular faces death head on...or at least experiences it alongside those left behind. From the book's blurb, I thought that this was going to be a look at death with a light touch because how else can one continually run up against death and retain their positive outlook on life? I guess in a way Lende does explore the way she has had to structure her life so that she can continue to be a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen when the grief overflows. As an obituary writer in a small town, most of the notices that she has had to write were about people that she knew if not intimately then by sight. That takes a toll on a person and also fosters an environment for emotional and spiritual growth.  There are some good, positive points made but in my opinion not enough to warrant an entire book. It would have made a good article or think piece. There's very little I can say about this one other than it didn't really live up to my expectations or blow me away. It would probably work well on a short train ride or as a beach read. It's a 3/10 for me, guys.

 

What's Up Next: Thornhill by Pam Smy

 

What I'm Currently Reading: still reading Scythe and Mine Own Executioner

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-10-23 16:45
Review: Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Profilic Serial Killer
Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer - Ann McElhinney,Phelim McAleer

This book is not for everyone. The authors are very honest about what Kermit Gosnell, and what Gosnell did went far beyond abortion. He murdered and decimated. If you are uncomfortable with Ed Gein’s story, do not read this book, for Gosnell was the same type of hoarder.

This book was finely investigated, so I only deduct one star for these reasons:
* the unnecessary, in my opinion, long chapter lecturing the reader on proper journalistic practices. It’s near the end of the book, so by the time it is reached, I as the reader have the full picture of the bizarre news dodge of this story. I don’t need a mini journalism class to drive it home.
* the occasional use of “pro-abortion” in place of “pro-choice” in general (the only person I have run across who is truly pro-abortion is Dr. Gosnell, for pro- implies enthusiasm, gusto); and, in companion with this, the introduction written by a member of the Duck Dynasty family. This case is so vile, it didn’t need to be politicized at all, in any way. Just tell the reader what Gosnell, his wife, and his staff did. You’ll probably change a lot of minds on abortion. I think these leans of bias make the annoyance of the lesson of the unbiased Fourth Estate stronger. To truly make this point, the book should have carried absolutely no agenda—including no biased language (a no-no in basic journalism) and no biased celebrity endorsement.

I can’t say this enough: this is an important case, and, despite its above flaws, an important book. But I am going to type a phrase below that was in the crime scene report about Ed Gein, and please let it be your litmus test for whether or not you should read this book.

That phrase is: cup of noses

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review 2017-05-22 16:22
A Man for Our Time
Missing a Beat: The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim - Mark Cohen,Seymour Krim

Could Seymour Krim make a comeback? Could a little-known holdover from the beat generation, a writer who died nearly 30 years ago, have something new to say to the iPhone generation? Not likely, but for my money the collection of essays in Missing a Beat felt among the most present discussions of celebrity, ambition, envy, doubt, and optimism in modern America that I have read recently.

 

Krim comes across in this collection as a disappointed striver. A writer who came up through the beat generation and kept plugging through the era of New Journalism, but never quite found that pearl Kerouac had promised: “Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything.” He is constantly in the shadow of more famous friends — recounted most directly in “Norman Mailer, Get Out of My Head!” — and frustrated in his efforts to achieve the kind of fame/notoriety or the wild adventures everyone around him seemed to be having. But Missing a Beat isn't merely a collection of regrets. What makes Krim's writing meaningful is the way he interrogates his own sense of failure. Why is it that he has to measure himself by Mailer’s fame? What is wrong with being a struggling artist? Isn’t that what he had wanted? How should he measure his own success?

 

In essays like “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business,” Krim reckons as much with his own expectations and faults as he does with the terms of success society has handed him. Krim recounts how limitless possibilities have led him to chase dream after dream without settling into one place or occupation. He writes about a quiet movement of dreamers like him who have missed out on the middle class comforts of a stable career path — a savings account, a house, a family, a title, a legacy — and must sate themselves on the hope for something new and better tomorrow.

“I’ve published several serious books. I rate an inch in Who’s Who in America. I teach at a so-called respected university. But in that profuse upstairs delicatessen of mine I'm as open to every wild possibility I was at 13, although even I know that the chances of acting them out diminish with each heartbeat.”

Krim wrote “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business” when he was 51 years old — that’s better than 20 years my senior — and I’m not sure if I should be comforted or very, very worried about that fact. What Krim saw as a freak community of dreamers is just reality for many of us today for whom “careers” at one company have gone the way of the Studebaker. He seems to warn of a future where unfavorable comparisons to the financial success of peers is constant, a future that's easy to imagine as I scroll the vacation photos of my friends on Instagram.

 

In fact much of Krim's writing seems eerily suited to the social media landscape, despite preceding it by decades, a fact I think that makes it only more applicable. Too many writers get hung up on the latest app or feature, sure that society will be redeemed or destroyed by a new filter on Snapchat. Social media may highlight our insecurities, but Krim reminds us that these have been around long before we ever started carrying them around in our pockets.

“You may sometimes think everyone lives in the crotch of the pleasure principle these days except you, but you have company, friend. … It is still your work or role that finally gives you your definition in our society, and the thousands upon thousands of people who I believe are like me are those who have never found the professional skin to fit the riot in their souls.”

“For my Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business" is a standout, but the same themes carry through many of his essays including “Making It!” and “The American Novel Made Me” without becoming repetitive. Each essay seems to come from a different angle: lack of direction, envy, and ambition, respectively. The writing itself crackles throughout with the energy of the beat generation. He writes in long sentences, each with several parenthetical phrases and catalogs that go to ten items or longer. He deploys slang but sparingly and to good effect. The descriptions are grounded in real sensations using onomatopoeia and analogies to the items and people around him instead of reaching for more academic language (like onomatopoeia). His essays seem always anchored in place, even as zooms out for a wider view, the world is recognizably his.

 

Missing a Beat is a good read for anyone a few years out of school who is starting to rethink their career choices and sometimes Googles “how to work abroad” while at work.

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