More short ones

>> Saturday, February 27, 2010

TITLE: Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead
AUTHOR: Paul Bibeau

I think the idea of this book was to trace the origins of the Dracula myth, while exploring how it's lived, enjoyed and exploited both around the world and in Romania. I'm interested in the subject, but the execution was a bit of a mess, with pretty bad writing that didn't flow at all, some very forced humour and extremely roundabout ways of getting at the point of stories. I read some 100 pages before I gave up and moved on to something else.


TITLE: Being There (read in Spanish, with the title Desde el Jardín)
AUTHOR: Jerzy Kosinski

I read this because it's my dad's favourite book (which he rediscovered this summer) and he insisted I should. It's quite a weird story (which was made into a movie in the 70s) about a man who's spent his entire life as a servant, locked up in a house. He's a gardener, and his only connection to the world is his TV. When the master of the house dies, he leaves, without much idea what to do.

And what happens is that people see in him whatever they want to see, and start projecting into his simple, innocent replies a wealth of intentions and depth of meaning, and he starts acquiring influence and power without actually doing anything.

The book says some quite interesting things, and I suspect they might have been new and revolutionary when it was published. However, some of it felt old-hat to me, today, and the book suffered and felt dated for that. Still, it's worth a read (and it's so short and simply written, that it takes only a couple of hours to get through!).

PS: My dad, who despises the Uruguayan president-elect, Jose Mujica, tucked into the book a photocopy of a newspaper article in which the author attempted to project sophisticated theoretical frameworks into some of Mujica's extremely off-the-cuff remarks. I kind of see dad's point!


TITLE: Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
AUTHOR: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

"Sequel" to Freakonomics. Levitt and Dubner continue to apply their economics, incentive-based methodologies to unlikely subject areas. Most of it was good, although not as great as the first book. The last chapter, on climate change and geoengineering has been causing quite a stir, with accusations that they got a lot of the science involved wrong. I don't know enough about the subject that I would have noticed that, but I did feel that they were being awfully cavalier about the uncertainties involved. The other thing was, the strange use of the word "freak" is beginning to bother me. Is this an American/British thing? Because I just don't think it means what they think it means...



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