27 May 2009

hans rosling on statistics in concept

another video post similar to yesterday's. i'm a big fan, and especially appreciate how his message lines up with a book i'm currently reading which argues against blanket aid strategies. its a bit longer of a speech (20 minutes), but really engrossing.

26 May 2009

hans rosling on hiv statistics

a really excellent and interesting video on hiv statistics. only ten minutes - well worth the watch, both for the awesome graphs and for his take on interpreting data.

25 May 2009

party aprons

in celebration of a friend's wedding, we had a cooking class instead of a wild night.

decemberists - here i dreamt i was an architect

20 May 2009

interpreter of maladies - jhumpa lahiri

jhumpa lahiri || interpreter of maladies || 5.0/5.0

i really loved the namesake, lahiri's second work, and so have been looking forward to interpreter of maladies for a long while. i wasn't disappointed!

first, i was pleasantly surprised that the book is not a novel, but a collection of nine short stories. i've not read too many short stories, but i really enjoyed the format and look forward to discovering more. i've heard stephen king has really excellent short story collections.

i think i enjoyed interpreter of maladies more than the namesake, though i couldn't put my finger on why. each of the stories is unique, but they share a common threat of raw humanity. some are heartbreakingly sad; others are warm and uplifting. all share a realness that i think is lahiri's true talent - she uses astute details to sculpt incredibly human and relatable characters.

the stories themselves are but well-written vessels through which these characters arc. a must-read, in my book, and the 2000 winner of the pulitzer prize.

17 May 2009

the god of small things - arundhati roy

arundhati roy || the god of small things || 2.5/5.0

the god of small things won the booker prize in 1997, and is a very lyric novel. perhaps because i was rushing through it to meet a deadline, i had a hard time loving the book.

the story centers around an indian family (specifically a pair of fraternal twins), and jumps between 1969 and the present day. focusing on the destruction of childhoods through tragedy, the novel paints a unique heartbreak for each character.

the novel owes its title to the small talk and focus on minutiae that often accompany calamity. the elephants in the room are never discussed, and the breeding alienation and malcontent shape the lives of the young twins.

in general reviews are very polarized for the god of small things. its voice is beautiful, but it wasn't my cup of tea - too ethereal, i think. but, a booker prize is a good sign - give it a shot?

animal, vegetable, miracle - barbara kingsolver

barbara kingsolver || animal, vegetable, miracle || 4.0/5.0

animal, vegetable, miracle is a narrative chronicling kingsolver's attempt at eating solely locally for one year. as the author of the bean trees and the poisonwood bible, i know she has many fans through her career as a novelist. this non-fiction piece is as beautifully written, but is co-authored by her husband and daughter.

i really enjoyed this book, but i suspect it will please mostly readers who are interested in food ethics and sustainability issues. i recommend it either way - if you're passionate about such issues, its a fun and informative read; if you're not, she makes some compelling arguments that are worthy of consideration.

it's not for the faint of heart, though. i've been acutely aware of food sources lately - at a brewery tour in milwaukee this weekend, i was dying to ask the origin of their barley. i'm newly haunted by guilt in eating bananas, but am overly pleased to be eating rhubarb from the backyard.

i know the green movement balances on a precipice between guilt and complacency. animal, vegetable, miracle is just the right amount of guilt for me. you?

oh yes, a bonus: set in virginia. :)

10 May 2009

the brief wondrous life of oscar wao - junot diaz

junot diaz || the brief wondrous life of oscar wao || 3.0/5.0

the description on the back of the book that hooked me reads:

things have never been easy for oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick dominican ghetto nerd. from his home in new jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, oscar dreams of becoming the dominican j. r. r. tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. but he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fuku-the curse that has haunted the oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

are you sold yet? i really enjoyed this novel for its originality, its striking voice, and its multiple references to the realm of tolkein. some other big pluses: footnotes throughout, which sprinkled historical reference to the story, and a jumping timeline which created a strong theme across generations.

not entirely my style, but its been very well-reviewed (notably, the 2008 pulitzer for fiction) so definitely worth a read if you're intrigued!

05 May 2009

in cold blood - truman capote

truman capote || in cold blood || 4.5/5.0

i'm not usually a true crime reader, so i'm glad that in cold blood generally escapes that genre and somehow makes it into fiction. perhaps its because of the liberties taken by capote in the details, or perhaps because its verging on being a classic, but i'm glad it was there for me to find.

in cold blood actually reminded me strongly of richard russo's empire falls in the description of small-town life. the writing is really beautiful, and capote succeeds in humanizing the players in this incredible story. as you likely know, the book is based on the real-life slayings of a family in kansas. capote's research is remarkable, and the end result is a gripping, novel fraught with emotion, and which i absolutely recommend.

i've never seen the film capote, but after reading this, i'm interested in learning more about the author's life. doesn't hurt that the film was so critically acclaimed!