Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

This is an odd little science fiction tale that was included in my daughter's curriculum. It's set in a future dystopia, where everything is controlled and orderly. Jonas is approaching his twelfth birthday, when he will begin his apprenticeship for his life's career. While some children have a pretty good idea which role they will be assigned, Jonas is in the dark. He has done well in a number of areas of schooling and volunteer work, but there's none in which he shines. When his birthday/assignment ceremony arrives, he is given the special role of Receiver of Memories. When Jonas' society was transformed, the leaders tried to eliminate as many of the unpleasantries of life as they could. This meant, of course, suppressing the memory of those unpleasant things, as well as some of the things like individuality and love which, while not unpleasant in themselves, might disrupt the serenity of the ordered society. But since sometimes such information can be useful, one person--the Receiver of Memories--is chosen to safeguard them until the time they may be needed. The curent receiver is aged and now Jonas begins the process of taking his place.

The book starts slowly, giving ample time for the reader to discover Jonas' world. The story didn't unfold as I expected, so I have to give kudos to Ms. Lowry for that. But I have to say that I didn't care for the ending, finding it to be a bit too ambiguous for my taste.

But don't take my word for it--check it out for yourself.
LibraryThing link


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Batman From the 30s to the 70s

by Bob Kane and many others

The purchase of this book was an indulgence--a luxury. I paid twelve times what I would have paid for another book of it's ilk. But then it was the Library Sale, so a more moden tome would have only cost me a buck.

I first encountered this book in my hometown library, when I was a kid. I don't know what prompted me to check out the grown up books, but I do know I was delighted to find comics in the library. (This was the seventies, mind you.) (The nineteen-seventies, you smart alec.) I read it from cover to cover, again and again. Sometimes I'd also check out the companion volume, Superman From the 30s to the 70s, but Batman was the tome I preferred. Time passed and the book eventually vanished from the library shelves. I was buying my own comics then--usually heroes other than Batman--so I wasn't heartbroken. But the book always had a spot in my heart.

Anyway, now it's almost 40 years later and I see this book in the antique and book collections room. I wrestled with my conscience for a minute or two, but I knew I'd regret not snatching it up when I had the chance. So what is this treasure I acquired? Merely a hard-bound collection of reprinted Batman stories from the 30s to the... well, you know. (As it was first published in 1971, most of the 70s stories are actually from the late 60s.) (But hey, the comics in the stores are always dated a couple of months ahead. Maybe comics publishers are calendarly challenged.) They offer the first appearance of Robin, the Joker, the Riddler, Batgirl (both Batgirls, actually) and,of course, Batman himself. Most of the stories are in black and white, but a couple are in full color. In these days of trade paperback reprints, a collection of comics may not seem so special. But back in the day, this book was a real treasure. It still is.
Update: I had to get rid of this book already. Christmas came and I couldn't think of anything better to get my nephew. I ended up ordering a used copy, paying more money for a book with far more wear and tear. Nice fellow that I am, I sent him the copy I got at the Library Sale and kept the worn copy for myself.

On my shelf. I'd put it on the bat-shelf if I had more Batman books.
LibraryThing link

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The Outsiders

by S. E. Hinton

This is like the movie Quadrophenia in reverse. You have a conflict between teenage gangs--in this case the Elvis-loving "Greasers" versus the Beatle preferring "Socs"--but the story is told from the perspective of the greasers. It's not a bad tale, as far as it goes. The cover of my copy touts the book as a "revealing novel about teenagers--by a teenager." It shows. There's a definite lack of maturity in the book's tone. Still, I've read worse.

Waiting room material.
LibraryThing link


Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Darwin Got Wrong

by Jerry Fodor & Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini

I don't know if I should review this book or not. I mean, I read it, but it was way over my head. Perhaps I should have read it with a dictionary at hand so I could understand what the heck they were talking about. But since I was reading this out of idle curiosity instead of serious scholarship, I let the big words pass by without comprehension. So what did Darwin get wrong? Near as I can tell, it's what some folks mislabel as "survival of the fittest"--the concept that what drives evolution is all those tiny mutations accumulating over the millennia until a new species arises out of an older one. The authors argue that evolution is not that simple, bringing arguments from biology and philosophy to back up their point. And that's about all of a synopsis I can offer, since my vocabulary didn't evolve over the reading of this book to increase my understanding. What I did understand, however, was interesting. We live in a rich, complex and fascinating world.

It is worth checking out.
LibraryThing link


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