All posts filed under: Book Reviews

What Are Organisms?

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Book Reviews

What is an organism? It’s not an easy question to answer. When faced with such a challenge, it is natural to employ metaphors that help us formulate some preliminary ideas about what it is we’re dealing with. These metaphors relate something that is mysterious to us, like the organism, to one that is well known to us, such as the machine. We know what machines are, and generally how they function, and so this metaphor […]

The Blind Watchmaker, Cont’d

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Book Reviews / Reflections / Science

This week I finished the audio version of The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, which I discussed in my previous post, and I’d like to give a few responses to the book as a whole now that I’ve completed it. Dawkins’ overall objective with this work is to describe how the dizzying mélange of organized complexity we find in the biological world can be explained by the properties of non-living matter, the blind mutations of […]

Nevermind the Watches

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Book Reviews / Reflections / Science

This holiday season I received a gift subscription to Audible, and because I spend most of my reading time with works of fiction, I thought I’d use the daily commute for non-fiction. The first book I chose was Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. For reasons I cannot explain, I found myself curious recently about the theory of evolution, how it has evolved with the emergence of genetics, and what some of the open questions and […]

On Genius, Part 3: Lolita

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Book Reviews / Reflections

I finished my first Nabokov yesterday. Lolita. I thought it was shockingly good—delicate, grimy and translucent all at once—though I’m acutely aware I will need to read it another time or two if I wish to speak intelligently about it. As I sit here and wonder how to take the seething swarm inside of me and capture it somehow on the page, I’m realizing it’s an interesting opportunity to continue the vein I began in […]

In Defense of Polyculture

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Book Reviews / Reflections

There’s a way in which identity politics are a luxury. To engage in them, you at least need a voice. Over the past several months I’ve listened to Sam Harris’s interview with Charles Murray, for instance, his subsequent debate with Ezra Klien of Vox magazine, and a later interview by Harris of Coleman Hughes. These were interesting segments that collectively explore the residual difficulties of speaking about the issue of race in America—among other things. […]

The Round House, A Review

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Book Reviews

Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House is first and foremost a good story. If I was to recount the basic narrative in less than a page—as you would if someone asked you, “what was that one about?”—I think you’d find it interesting even then, and for me it would be hard to do so without wandering off into some enticing narrative thicket. That’s not something we can say about every book that toys with literary […]

The Sellout, Satire At Its Finest

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Book Reviews

In his landmark paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” philosopher Thomas Nagel suggested that an organism is conscious when there is something that it is like to be that organism. It’s a beautiful definition, I think, and one that can be expanded to all sorts of questions of identity. What is it like to be American? To be a farmer? To be an art critic? To be a woman? To be Latino? […]

On the Discovery of Everything…

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Book Reviews

I should give a warning here. Unless you’ve already read the book To Rise Again At a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, after reading this post you’ll know a great deal more about it than you did before. I’ve tried not to give too much away, but of both joy and necessity I’ve said more than a little. I think regardless of what I’ve noted here, the wit and audacity of Ferris’s prose merits a read […]

Inspiration and Grace

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Book Reviews / Reflections

When I was in high school I underwent one of those sea changes that sweep through us. My mother was hospitalized for a time for treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder, my dad lost his job, we made weekly trips down to the church’s food pantry, and eventually my parents separated. The real weight of it occurred during my senior year. One of the interesting things that came out of this was the freedom to leave […]

A Review of Lincoln in the Bardo

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Book Reviews

This morning I finished George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which I greatly enjoyed. I enjoyed it not only for the quick flecks of prose that struck like the tongue of a benevolent snake; not only for the scenes of the self-evinced departed rummaging through their own private psychoses, e.g. the Bardo; not only for the utterly imaginative mechanisms and rules of the in-between to which they clung; but for the manner in which […]