Here are some more reviews of books I read in Ecuador.
This book seemed okay to me at the time when I read it, and then exceedingly less interesting after I read ¨A People´s History of the U.S.¨ The information in both books is basically the same! At least this book employed a copious amount of footnotes, making his claim of a plague that killed off the majority of the Indians before the Spanish got there decidedly less dubious. My eighth-grade self would have probably really liked it.
Rating: Don´t Bother
Intelligence in Nature
A very hippy-dippy book, donated to the house by one of the beloved tour members, who herself was somewhat hippy-dippy but also very cool (throughout the tour I kept thinking ¨wow, I want to be just like you when I grow up!¨, minus the Dead Head phase, I guess). Throughout this book I kept wishing that it had been written by a scientist instead of an anthropologist. Anthropology´s fine and dandy, it´s just that every time the author self-righteously asked one of his interviewees whether they thought it was moral to do experiments on butterflies and slime mold (!), the inner hippie-dippy hater in me cringed. However, it was an interesting enough book, very readable, an anthropologist´s attempt to answer the question ¨is there intelligence in nature?¨ which inevitably leads to all sorts of other questions, like ¨what is knowledge?¨ which I liked a lot, because it reminded me a lot of (WHAM!) my thesis.
There was one quote in the book that I liked enough to write down, in the last chapter, which was about nature´s constant tendency to transform itself: Now other species seem more human to me, and humans seem more natural. Recognizing that the capacity to know exists outside humanity leads to a richer, more adventurous, and more comfortable life. Instead of trampling blindly all over the planet, we see that life´s prodigious powers are housed in all its denizens.¨ I like the idea of the necessity for constant change. I guess I fear growing stagnant, stale, crusty and moldy over the edges. It´s been a long time since I´ve had a routine. Never mind, I guess going to classes is a routine of sorts. It´s really kind of ridiculous how thrown out-there you are into the world after college. Another adventure!
Rating: Maybe Read This, If It Seems Like Your Thing
Definitely one of my favorite books now. I´d started but never finished it a dozen times before, but on a quiet day that I meant to be deliberately meditative and introspective, this was the perfect book to read. I can´t really describe it… the closest fiction author I was reminded of was Calvino, minus the po-mo stylistics. Anyway, you should just own a copy of this book in your house, so that way, one day when you´re in the right mood (preferably after doing yoga and listening in full to Tori Amos´ Under the Pink, you can read it.
Rating: Read This Before You Die
A People´s History of the United States
Again, another book that took me all summer to read. Even now I´m still not sure if I technically read it ¨all,¨ since the majority of it was consumed at bus stops, with me flipping around to different sections, depending on what I felt like reading about at the time. There might be a part in there about early revolutionary America I never got around to. But yeah, I knew this was a famous, best-selling book, so I was surprised at the strong Socialist Rhetoric. I thought America hated socialists! Anyway, one thing I found completely, emphatically unforgivable about this book was the fact that HE DOESN´T USE FOOTNOTES. HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF A PROPER HISTORIAN AND NOT USE FOOTNOTES? THE MIND BOOGLES. End caps lock. The lack of footnotes somewhat ruined this book for me, in a sense, because it meant that anything he said, I automatically questioned myself, ¨where´s the source for this? Is he just pulling this out of his butt?¨
Anyway, just so you know, the most interesting chapters of this book deal with the labor and union strikes of the early 20th century. Maybe I´m just biased, because that´s a period of history I know very little about (Corey said he preferred the Civil War and Reconstruction bits, which are good too, if a bit skimpy, perhaps unavoidable in a book this large). Also, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the chapters about Reagan and Clinton, again, another period of history I know very little about, even though Clinton was the president throughout my childhood. I was too young and out of it to care about politics, though, the most memorable things I remember thinking about the Clinton presidency is reading in the Scholastic newsletter in first grade that Clinton played the saxophone and thinking that was very exciting.
Rating: Read The Parts of This Book That Seem Interesting To You Personally
Collected Fictions (Borges)
This book is awesome, Borges is awesome, what more can I say. I can´t believe it took me this long in life to finally read Borges from cover to cover, as opposed to just the odd Borges tale in class and different compilations. I especially like how the book jacket in this edition includes ¨tigers¨ as one of Borges constant themes, among the more obvious: labyrinths, libraries, detectives, gauchos, and so on. Really, I´ll have to go away for a while and then come back before I can write eloquently about Borges. He makes me want to continue studying literature, and that´s saying something. ¨The South¨ with its amazing last sentence and ¨The Aleph¨ are two of my favorites.
Rating: Read This Book Before You Die
I also reread ¨American Gods¨, ¨Three Cups of Tea¨ and ¨The Trial.¨ All good, read-now-recommendable books. I have yet to finish ¨Open Veins of Latin America¨ and ¨Crude Chronicles,¨ both books I´ve started at least two other times during my college days, but alas, have never managed to get all the way through. I don´t know why. It´s just like with me and Virginia Woolf´s (whom I greatly admire) ¨To the Lighthouse¨: there are just some books you have in your life that you always, always begin but never, ever seem to be able to get through.
In other news:
– Our time in Ecuador is drawing to an end! Only three days left!
– Corey´s dad is coming to visit us on September 19th, exactly two days after we get back from Ecuador! He´s staying in the house with us! Hopefully we´ll rent a car and go mushroom hunting! Hopefully I won´t seem hopelessly burnt-out and strung-out in the classic Pachico way, and instead will be able to adopt some of the easy-going, chill nature that is the Way of the Guidrys.
– I have three interviews lined up, two afterschool teaching jobs and one at a Boys & Girls club.
– I decided not to apply for the Fulbright because 1) I´m too lazy to finish the application, 2) I don´t really want to do it, even in the rare chance that I actuall got it, and 3) our new housemate-roommate is a Fulbright scholar himself and a bit of a turd who wants to work for the F.B.I. and corporate America and dismissed the Fulbright as ¨something that´ll make my resume look good¨ as opposed to an opportunity to do something genuinely wicked cool and helpful and great and amazing. I know you´re not supposed to let one bad apple spoil the barrell, but still, the exchange left a sour taste in my mouth about the whole thing. I think I´d rather do cool stuff on my own, as opposed to on the federal government dollar, bearing the time when I actualyly *want* and *need* it, as opposed to just applying out of my half-assed tendency to want to apply for EVERYTHING.
– I´ve been doing a cleanse/juice fast, just because it felt like it was the right time for it. I never thought I would be full from just drinking maracuya juice, but there you go. This has been a good way for me to learn to 1) exercise my willpower and self-control, two things that definitely always need constant work, and 2) how to be hungry without being cranky and intolerable, as I usually am. We´ll see how I feel by the end of today. Will I feel high and detached in the best Zen sense, or merely… intolerable?