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review 2018-03-22 00:21
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi
“Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds - ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes - I represent the impossible mix that never was achieved in the past. I'm the first true Iraqi citizen, he (the Whatsitsname) thinks.”

I'm completely gobsmacked after finishing FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD. I didn't really know what to expect. I'm not usually a big horror reader, but this sounded so interesting, I decided how could it hurt to try? So I borrowed the fairly short library book, telling myself I could just give it back if I wasn't into it. Not only was I into it, I read it quickly in two sittings and I've been talking about this and one other book to anyone who will listen for days.


The large number of characters are fully realized and formed. It's incredibly complex and has a deep, twisty narrative with various interwoven storylines. It's satire, dark witty humor, and on a surface level both funny and freakish. Then the minute you think for a second about what's going on, this horror novel is deeply disturbing on myriad levels. It's allegorical, it's a straight-up retelling of Shelley's Frankenstein, it's a government spoof, and a few other things.


In US-occupied Baghdad, we start off with classified documents about a "story." It involves all the usual nonsense the US government is fond of doing, and my first thought was "I can see the government classifying everything and arresting people for a story." Seemed highly realistic to me. 


It may be a substandard horror novel. I wasn't scared. It may be a poor translation, or it may simply be that the terror is found in a different reading. I was disturbed and slightly tortured about the underlying message and circumstance being satirized -- the American occupation of Baghdad, the constant drones, the literal blowing-apart of both people and a country. 


There is some true brilliance of social, political, national, religious, human, etc commentary offered.Some people found it "slow." I'd guess they were looking for a horror novel only, not one that integrates the many facets this novel brings. 


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text 2018-03-21 18:00
Reading progress update: I've read 134 out of 574 pages.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America - Nancy MacLean

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.


I'm just not finding enough time to read these days, and it's driving me crazy.

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review 2018-03-21 00:04
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

There are two competing, rather than complimentary stories in this book. Part of the blurb:


Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.


The problem is that the "quintessential" American murder she picks is the son of an LAPD detective. Of course they solve that murder. It's absurd that they have to work around their own department to solve this or any crime, but they do it. If it's possible to be more disgusted by the LAPD as an institution, reading this book may have done it for me.


It's clear that Leovy has been charmed by the men with whom she's been "embedded" for a year. At times it reads like glorification of the hardworking, put-upon detectives with complete disregard for the murder victims they are supposed to be serving. The only thing that saves it is the detectives themselves and her increasingly critical eye toward the middle and end of the book.


It's very slow to start as she introduces us to every detective mentioned with a long character study, and only around the middle does "action" happen, but even that action is fairly muted. The personalities are interesting, but I thought of putting it down once or twice. The climax comes with an interview of the suspect in the "featured murder." There are a lot of murders, a lot of statistics, a lot of complaints about the LAPD brass, a lot of passing judgement on the people they police and a lot of surprising love for those very same people.


The sheer frustration of being anyone who isn't related to the police wasn't presented. There are mountains of problems quickly tossed out, some of which could be cleared up fairly quickly if anyone cared to do so (ie, stop melting down guns that are possibly evidence.) Many of the problems are much more intractable though, and like all police departments, the LAPD has a culture that gets in its way more often than not. I wish the urgency had been imparted. I wish the case chosen wasn't the only one solved that month. I wish the problems in getting even the police department to take these homicides seriously had been the entire book. Instead Leovy covers a huge mountain of issues and offers no solutions.

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text 2018-03-17 06:07
Reading progress update: I've read 95 out of 574 pages.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America - Nancy MacLean


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text 2018-03-16 20:36
Reading progress update: I've read 65 out of 574 pages.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America - Nancy MacLean

Number of pages changes with font size.  Font size changes with device.  So I just plug in a number.


I can't recommend this enough, even on the 12% or so I've read.


They really do hate democracy and want it destroyed.  They really do.

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