Aug 29, 2011

Book 7, 8, 9, and 9 1/2

How do I let time from blogging slip away like this? Is it because the blog craze is dwindling in favor of tweeting, google+, facebook statusing, mass emails, life in general? I digress. I've read/listened to 3 books and one play and wanted to review them all in one post, as I have little to say about each and thought if I combine the reviews it should add up to once decent sized post, and become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Book 7- Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell

Several individuals have been getting after me to read the Pop-Economics instant classing Tipping Point. (At least that's what I thought. Turns out they were recommending Outliers. Oh well. **spoiler alert** I read that too.) It was read by the author and fairly interesting for a boring subject. Basically he just gave examples of how little things can make a big difference, from medical epidemics to social epidemics. I wasn't too sold on Gladwell's point of view, it didn't change my mind on anything but it was still interesting and I wasn't worse off for reading it. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Book 8- Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris

I loved When you Are Engulfed in Flames so much I wanted to read something else by David Sedaris, and by read I of course mean listen to. For those of you unfamiliar with Sedaris, he writes mostly autobiographical/memoir-ish writing, with a nearly unhealthy dose of hilarity. Unfortunately, apart from 2 or 3 stories (the standout being "6 to 8 Black Men" about other culture's holidays, and specifically the Dutch Santa Claus and his 'helpers') I was not impressed. It was crasser than the first but more unforgivably, it was less funny. I should probably listen to it again, as I realize I may have given it more to live up to as I loved the first book of his I read, this one was good, but comparatively not as good. Still, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book 9- Outliers
by Malcolm Gladwell

Sure it makes sense to group the books by the same author together, but this is the order I read them. Outliers is about 2-3 times longer than Tipping Point, and about 2-3 times better. Well, no, not exactly, but I can't resist a comparison like that. The first half or so of the book was enjoyable, riveting and interesting. The second half got boring, tedious and made me regret enjoying the first half as much. If you're interested in Malcolm Gladwell's opinions on what makes people succeed, read this book. To me his opinion's boiled down to talent, practice and luck/timing. 5 stars for the first half, 2 stars for the second, averaging out to 3.5 stars total. If you're interested in learning more about less recognized things that make people succeed, read this book.

Book 9 1/2

The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

I call it 9 1/2 because one, it is a play, not a book and 2, it is less than 2 hours long. Still, if you haven't read, seen or listened to this play, you owe it to yourself, your teachers and the English language to do so. Most people, myself included, call it the wittiest play ever written. It is Wilde's masterpiece, and being one of the few authors I have read everything he's ever written, I agree. In the words of Algernon, it is perfectly phrased and quite as true as any observation in civilized life should be." For those of you unfamiliar with it, I will provide a brief synopsis and then comment on the presentation I listened to, not the play itself. It involves Jack who lives in the country but goes by the name of Ernest in the city so he can live a life of pleasure but still maintain respectability to those who know him as Jack, and his friend Algernon (I didn't name him) who pretends to have a sick friend named Bunbury to visit in the country for a similar reason. Jack proposed to Gwendolyn, who accepts him largely because she thinks his name is Ernest. When discussing the engagement with Gwendolyn's mother Lady Bracknell, Jack is found out to have questionable parentage and so is forbidden to marry her. Algernon learns both of Jack's double life and his 'excessively pretty ward' Cecily, and goes to Jack's home in the country masquerading as Jack's wicked brother Ernest. Algernon instantly falls in love with Cecily who is already in love with him, again because she's always wanted to marry someone named Ernest. There is confusion and comedy aplenty in this "Trivial play for Serious people." It is my favorite play of all time, and I can't say enough good things about it, so I won't try. This version had a full cast and I would rate it a B. I enjoyed most of the actors with the exception of Algernon who has the best lines in the play after Lady Bracknell and must have thought "breathy" was an emotion, and the only emotion Algernon could express. A minor quibble was everyone calling Cecily "Sicily" which grew annoying quickly, but Jack and Gwendolyn were satisfactory if not enjoyable and Lady Bracknell was superb (doing her best to channel Edith Evans who played Lady Bracknell in the 1952 film).
One other note, though I am an admirer of Rupert Everett and have a 'man-crush' on Colin Firth, I would recommend refraining from seeing the 2002 film of the play and rent the 1952 version as it is better in every respect. Particularly Lady Bracknell. Apparently no one told poor Dame Judi Dench it was a comedy, as she performed Lady Bracknell the same way she portrays 'M' in the James Bond movies. Now that I think about it, that's the only way I've ever seen her portray anyone...
Here I go, get Austin to talk about Oscar Wilde and you can't shut him up! Ok, the play gets of course 6 out of 5 stars and the performance listened to gets 4 out of 5 because I really only had 2 problems with it, bad Algernon brings it down a star, the pronunciation of Cecily, while annoying doesn't affect the grade.

For the remainder of the year I am endeavoring to read the Lord of the Rings in its entirety which I have not done in over a decade. Thanks as always for reading.


Charlo said...

I also fell in love wit The Importnance of being Earnest, back in H.S., I believe. Anyhow, I would have to agree that the more recent film is rather Bleh. I don't think I have seen the older version though... or maybe it has just been a while

Ammon said...

I enjoyed both Gladwell books more than you did, apparently. I'd give Tipping Point 3.5 stars and Outliers about 4.5.

Tipping Point to me was more about why certain ideas are successful (or sticky). Outliers was about what factors make some people more successful than others. I found both fascinating.

If you like Gladwell at all I recommend reading some Seth Godin next. My first suggestion would be All Marketers Are Liars. It's a fun, quick read.

Teacher Eli said...

ah. Good times, reading in the van on the way to the airport. Never seen the 1952 version. But I do think you and Colin Firth would make a FABULOUS couple. :)

Heather Mae the DIY Gal said...

These are the books I've read:

Do reading my kids homework and essays count?

I would liek to start the Hunger Games series, but....I can't never find them at the library.

Austin said...

Charlo- Glad to know there's another Wildephile in the family, and that you agree the movie is rather bleh.

Ammon- I may read that, but with the new semester starting, I doubt I'll get to it lately, so you'll probably have to recommend it again, like you did with Snow Crash.

Eli- That was fun. Didn't the bus temporarily die on the way there? Good times. And thanks for the kind thoughts re: Me and Colin, but Mr. Firth won't return my letters, but his lawyers do. One of them wants to take me to Brighton next summer...

Heather- Yes, reading ANYTHING counts. Let me know how Hunger Games goes, everyone I know who's read it has liked it, but for whatever reason it's not tempting me at all.

Alice said...

I too am wild about Wilde, and especially IofBE! (And you know how I feel about LOTR)