Archive for August, 2012

bookmark: beneath the metropolis

Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities – Alex Marshall

This is an interesting book, but I was hoping for much more. The author examines several cities around the world and describes what is underneath each city. I was hoping for much more historical information and more in the way of pictures, but most of the information centers on sewers, water mains, and subway trains. Indeed, subways are a big focus of the book, with the theory that you cannot have a big city without an effective way to move a lot of people, and the only realistic way to do that is the subway. There is some historical information, particularly for the older cities, but it is not the main focus of the book.

The book is easy reading and not overly long. The cities covered are New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Mexico City, Paris, Rome, London, Moscow, Cairo, Tokyo, Beijing, and Sydney.

(Finished 8/27/12)

Colonial New England on 5 Shillings a Day – Bill Scheller

Structured like a travel guide, you won’t get any in-depth discussions about the culture of colonial New England, but you will get an overview of what you might see, who you might meet, and where you might go on a trip to the locale. It is almost like a “Cliffs Notes” of that particular period.

(Finished 8/16/12)

Exuberance: The Passion for Life – Kay Redfield Jamison

Somewhere along the way, I lost my exuberance – my passion for life. There was a time when I had it in spades, at least when I wasn’t on a downward trend. At some point, though, the extremes melded together into a grey fog, and that feeling of life being an exciting thing turned into just one day after another. I like to think that I would give almost anything to have that exuberance again, but maybe I couldn’t handle it now.

Kay Redfield Jamison personally knows what exuberance is, as well as it’s polar opposite. I think that her personal experience compelled her to write this book exploring the breadth and nature of exuberance, and I read it for the same reason. Once you touch the sun, it’s hard to go back into the cave.

The bulk of the book is biographical in nature, describing the exuberance of scientists, authors, artists, teachers, actors, musicians, military men, animals (other than human) and as it is expressed in fictional characters. The author describes the joys of exuberance and the effect of exuberance on her subjects, and in their use of it in their work and play.

Ms. Jamison writes with a poetic flair (no stodgy clinician, she) and many times she brought me right to the edge of experiencing the exuberance of which she was writing. Having experienced it in the past, I was primed to follow her lead. The book has, for the most part, a rather rhapsodic view of exuberance.

Tempering that inclination, though, were the last couple of chapters. A discussion of the pitfalls of unbridled exuberance was a good way to end the book for me. After reading chapter after chapter about people who experienced what I once experienced (and wanted to experience again), it was good to have some justification for that grey fog that is now my life. It was good, though, to also have my spirits lifted for a while.

(Finished 8/9/12)

bookmark: anansi boys

Anansi Boys – by Neil Gaiman

This is definitely the best of the three Neil Gaiman novels I have read. If you have read American Gods, you will already be familiar with the Anansi character. This story is about his sons, with Anansi making guest appearances along the way.

This was a much more complete story than American Gods and had a more satisfactory conclusion than Neverwhere. My only quibble is that the conclusion of the book (really more of an epilog) uses the technique common to true crime stories on television, where the follow-up status of the characters are summarized in a few paragraphs each, rather than being an organic part of the story, but in truth that’s a minor quibble as the story stands on its own without those final notes.

This was definitely not a book I struggled to finish. I started it Thursday evening and finished it midday Sunday. Good reading that kept me turning the pages, and neglecting the stuff I had to do around the house. Oh well.

(Finished 8/5/12)