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41. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
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42. The Road to Wigan Pier
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43. The Disappointment Artist
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44. Mystery and Manners : Occasional
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45. The Undertaking: Life Studies
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46. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews,
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47. Thomas Jefferson : Writings :
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48. The Right Words at the Right Time
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49. Teaching a Stone to Talk : Expeditions
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50. A Life in Medicine: A Literary
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51. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down
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52. George Orwell: An Age Like This
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53. The Best American Magazine Writing
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54. The Best American Essays of the
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55. In Praise of Shadows
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56. The Art of the Personal Essay
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57. From Acting to Performance : Essays
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58. The Colossus of New York: A City
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60. Writing on Water (Terra Nova Books)

41. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Henry David Thoreau
list price: $2.50
our price: $4.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0486284956
Catlog: Book (1995-04-12)
Publisher: Dover Publications
Sales Rank: 5931
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Meditations on human existence, society, government and other topics.
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Reviews (59)

5-0 out of 5 stars Burn the libraries; their worth is in this book.
As Omar said of the Koran, I say of Walden. This is the single greatest book I've ever read, hands down. Words really can't describe how amazing it is, though I doubt that it will affect many people the same way it has me. That said, this edition (the Konemann) is one of the best I've seen. The book itself is helpfully supplied with footnotes (which are something of a necessity for a born quoter like Thoreau), unobtrusively marked by a leaf in the margins of the pages, which refer you to the notes in the back: this is an excellent way to supply these notes without interrupting the flow of the text. There are no elaborate essays on the meaning of Walden, however, so the reader is left to judge the book on its own terms. The book itself is svelte and compact; a perfect backpack-sized vade mecum.

This book, with shipping, is less than 10 dollars. It was one of the best purchases I've ever made.

5-0 out of 5 stars Reflecting Pond
Walden, what is it? Is it a book on nature, a book on ecology, a book on human nature, a prescient description of the struggle between modern civilization and the land that nurtured it, a critique of mankind, a string of quotable gems, an account of a mind, or, like Star Wars, a way of slipping a deep and human spirituality into someone else's mind without their recognizing it? It depends on who is doing the reading and when. Read it for any of these purposes, and it will not disappoint. If you've never read it, read it. If you read it for class years ago and hated it, read it again. This may be the most subtle, multi-layered and carefully worked piece of literature you'll ever find. By keeping the down-to-earth tone (no doubt in reaction to the high-flying prose of his friend, R.W. Emerson) Thoreau pulls a Columbo, and fools us into thinking he's writing simply about observing nature, living in a cabin, or sounding a pond. Somehow by the end of Walden, however, you may find it is your self he has sounded. People have accused Thoreau of despising mankind, but read deeper and you will discover he loved people well enough to chide us, show us our faults (admitting he's as bad as the worst of us), and give to all of us this wonderful gift, a book you could base your life on. There is more day to dawn, he reminds us at the end: the sun is but a morning star.

4-0 out of 5 stars Reflective, yet limited
Thoreau was a reflective man. He asked pertinent questions, but just didn't go far enough in his search. As a pagan, he was unaware of the realities of Jesus Christ. In spite of his limited vision, he had some profound observations at times. One of my favorites is:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple-tree or an oak. Should he turn his spring into summer?"

5-0 out of 5 stars Incredible!
I had not read this growing up but wish I had. This is such a wonderful book. There are not many pictures in here - just a hand drawn map in one part of the book. Its excerpts from Thoreau's journal over the two year period when he lived on Walden's pond. He did not live like a recluse (he went in to Concord almost every day) so its not a book about living alone per se. Its more about reflecting on life, considering why one "is" and recognizing the beauty and mystery of nature around us every day, everywhere. Thoreau talks of regular daily things too like what it costs him to farm, or having cider, or building a chimney. The writing style is conversational, open, honest. He doesn't try to get tricky with words, he just tells it like he sees it. It's so beautiful. For anyone (like me) who indeed sees nature as their "religion" or sees the Great Spirit in every leaf, tree and bug, this book will be adored. So many wonderful messages, thoughts, woven throughout this book. Its an incredible work.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just a man trying to shift for himself.
Thoreau went into the Concord woods "to live deliberately" and to try to approach in practice his excellent motto--multum in parvo--much in little. Setting off to transact some business as simply as possible, Thoreau began his famous experiment a happy man. Importantly, he concluded it 26 months later in the same convivial state. After proving to himself it could be done, he saw no point in continuing his experiment in such extreme fashion, becoming once again "a sojourner in civilized life."

Thoreau was certainly not alone in the woods. Apart from the many visitors he welcomed, he took frequent trips "into town," or met woodchoppers and ice cutters during his marathon sojourns through the fields and forests surrounding his wooden castle. While most men, as he famously said, "led lives of quiet desperation," Thoreau seemed to soak up the life and energy of every waking hour, giving him an inexhaustible supply of earthly happiness. There was nothing quiet or desperate about Thoreau.

Classically-educated Thoreau was patently devoted to the writings of ancient authors, but to him the words and pages written by Nature were far more interesting and pleasing than histories in Latin or 2500 year-old Greek sagacity. In fact, Thoreau read very little during a good portion of his Walden experiment. He preferred sometimes just to sit on his doorstep from morning to noon, steeped in the sights and sounds of the abundant nature surrounding him. Of course he also wrote. But the Walden we read today is not simply a collection of his raw, day-to-day diary reflections. In fact, it wasnft until a few years later that he expanded and painstakingly polished the rough journal entries he made during his stay in the woods. Whatever the case, the writing in Walden is brilliant throughout. Foremost, Thoreau was a writerca profoundly masterful one at that.

People read his Walden for a variety of reasons. I read it because it speaks with an immortal voice...and every word, phrase and sentence resounds with transcendent clarity. This simple little book is so full of hope, wisdom and inspiration that one can read it a thousand times and each time discover a new kernel of brilliance or vision.

During his lifetime, traditional success would never be his. But you would have had to argue with him over the definition of success. "The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind," the author so wisely said. It is precisely because of such profundity that his "success" is guaranteed for as long as people still read good books.

"Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour." --H.D.T. ... Read more

42. The Road to Wigan Pier
by George Orwell
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0156767503
Catlog: Book (1973-09-01)
Publisher: Harvest/HBJ Book
Sales Rank: 142926
Average Customer Review: 4.29 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (17)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Lively
There's no point to defending Orwell's attitude towards the progressive rich (as expressed in this book). But his point is really quite simple: the working classes are more old-fashioned and less academic than the upper classes; therefore, if the stereotypical socialist is a "bearded fruit-juice drinker" who discusses Marx over tea, the movement is not going to collect members. Not revolutionary, but true enough and expressed with enough vigour to make it an entertaining polemic.

That said, I prefer the first half of the book, where Orwell describes his stint in the coal-mining districts of the north of England. He is excellent on the squalor and awfulness of life in the mining towns, as well as the unemployment question and the general effects of the Depression. The chapter on working-class houses in Sheffield, though less vivid, is also excellent. Orwell isn't too much of a graphic artist, but he gives you enough detail that it's a minor imaginative task to reconstruct the lifestyle he's writing about.

And, having reconstructed this landscape, it's difficult not to half-agree with his evocation of the dignity of a working man's life before the war, or to feel with him that "it is not the triumphs of modem engineering ... but the memory of working-class interiors - especially as I sometimes saw them in my childhood before the war, when England was still prosperous - that reminds me that our age has not been altogether a bad one to live in."

5-0 out of 5 stars A vividly written book, controversial in its own day
It's worth knowing that this book was originally commissioned by the Left Book Club, a Socialist book club in the UK, and when the manuscript arrived they realized Orwell had delivered more than they'd bargained for. In part one, Orwell brilliantly reports on the atrocious living and working conditions in northern England in the 1930s. His chapter covering his visit to a coal mine has been often anthologized, but the entire section consists of equally vivid portraits. In part two, Orwell discusses Socialism with such a jaundiced eye that it had the editors of the Left Book Club wondering if they could get away with printing only the first half of the book! Orwell did not fully believe in Socialism until he fought in the Spanish Civil War after "Wigan Pier" was printed, and contrary to the right-wingers who have claimed him as one of their own, Orwell was a dedicated Socialist to the day he died, but a skeptical one. Read "Wigan Pier," and for more information, read Orwell's diary he kept during his trip to the north in Volume 1 of the Collected Essays.

3-0 out of 5 stars The novelist, not the analyst, speaks...
This 1937 book is a political and social commentary about aspects of working life in 1930s England, and an endorsement by the author of socialism as the best way forward.

The title is 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. But at the end of Chapter 4, we are told: 'Alas! Wigan Pier has been demolished, and even the spot where it used to stand is no longer certain.' Presumably the book title is the author's joke, and was intended to mean, 'the road to nowhere certain'?

The book:

Part 1 (of 2): Images. We are told that many 1930s working people are dreadful people, and that many live dreadful lives. We are shown how unpleasant 1930s lodging houses are, how hard the life of a miner is, how poor the quality of British housing is; we are told about overcrowding, about the horrendous 1930s unemployment situation in England, about the poor diet of the working classes, trying to live on a budget, and about poor people having to scramble after pit trucks to get coal; we are told of the north-south divide. The writer does not spare his criticisms of the nature of working people, as well as criticising their situations.

Part 2 (of 2): Endorsement of socialism. We are told about the division of British society into 'classes' in the 1930s: that people are brought up to perceive themselves as divided into certain 'classes' in which they tend to stay; we are told the history of the author's life as a policeman in Burma as part of the machinery of oppression there, and of his experience living as a pretend-tramp. We are told that the future, for the worker, lies in socialism (despite many socialists being an unappealing lot), and that workers ought to unite against the 'bourgeoisie', through socialism, by reference to their common status as exploited workers, rather than by reference to other factors (i.e that all paid workers should unite as one group against those controlling/paying them).

This peculiar book is interesting, thought-provoking and intelligently written, but it is somewhat half-baked in places, rants a lot, is very rude about a lot of people, especially about manual workers; is unfocussed and unclear in what it wants to say, and the book leads nowhere certain except to endorse some vague form of socialism as the appropriate way forward, at the end. Noticeably absent from Part 2 is any analysis of how economics work, or consideration by the author of any impracticalities inherent in socialism. The book is a rant rather than a more incisive analysis.

A lot of people will probably find themselves reading this book after reading some of Orwell's fine fiction works. If so, they will probably find this book a little disappointing. His fine style of writing and his brilliant mind shine through, but the analysis itself disappoints, particularly in Part Two, the second half of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars The bookshop clerk hid it from the other customers
I found this book when I was living in Sydney, Australia. When I brought the book to the front to pay for it, the clerk kept tucking it under a paper bag, hiding it from the other customers milling around the desk. Everytime I took it out from under the bag, the clerk hid it again. This happened several times, until I finally left. It gave me the immediate feeling that I was buying something a little bit illegal, a little dangerous, something that I shouldn't have, because the clerk had never done that to me before or after.

The first thing I noticed about my little copy of the Road to Wigan's Pier is that is said it was not for sale in the U.S.A.. I recognize now that it was because of copyright issues, but at the time, I thought maybe the reason I had never seen this book in the States, is because it was somewhat suppressed for some reason.

I was expecting more 1984, not a documentary of life in Northern England, not a political commentary. Since then, I have read the book perhaps ten times. It seems that Orwell (Blair) wrote the populist 1984 and Animal Farm simply to get readers to read his earlier works, like this one. Orwell is clearly a master of words, of pacing and of emotion. He can manipulate the reader transparently. By about the fifth reading of Pier, I began to feel that Orwell could have written bestsellers like 1984 and Farm much more easily than this one.

So why is the book important, if for half of it he simply analyses the now-historical beginnings of the Socialist movement? Maybe because it doesn't matter in what direction Socialism has headed since he wrote this book, he wasn't analysing socialism or class issues as much as was busy digging up the truth of socialists, of the unemployed, of the homeless, of the middle class and the upper class. This analysis is still just as valid in 2004, as it was in 1930, even if the names of the political parties and the occupations have changed.

This book was witten by a truthful person, who perhaps stretched the truth a bit, or condensed it, or altered it. These are literary devices. But the meaning of the book, as is most valuable today, is about a poverty-stricken middle class that gets itself into debt to keep up the appearance of a higher class. And it is about a lower class that is essentially better off, even with the hungry belly and the dirty rooms, than this affected middle class from which Blair came.

Maybe this is the message that is so dangerous, the one that bookshop clerk tried to hide from the other customers. This book brings the poverty to light, and finds that the poverty-stricken can redeem themselves. But when Orwell unearths the truth of the middle class, the true subversive nature of this book spills all over the floor like a drunk puking on stage. What has not changed in almost a century is that the middle class may never be redeemed so long as we think that a "plate of strawberries and cream" is somehow our key to salvation. It fills our guts with something other than what we genuinely hunger.

To toss that plate onto the floor and stomp around the house for a piece of black bread with hard crust will wake the babies. But more dangerous, it may force the owner of the strawberry farm and the owner of the dairy farm to get their own hands dirty. "And what of the farmhands, if these soft-hands are doing the work they once did?" As Blair points out, it can only get better when you're already living at the bottom.

2-0 out of 5 stars Mixed Emotions
The first half of this book was very consuming. I found myself caught up in the mines of England and could relate to the characters with Orwell's great descriptions. But the second half of the book was totallu different. It was Orwell writing a paper about how he felt about socialism and class destinctions in England. To some this may be a very appealing subject, but to me, I had trouble understanding what Orwell wanted to say to the reader. Part one of this book is great and I highly reccommend it, but once I began to read part two I had trouble picking the book up to finish it. ... Read more

43. The Disappointment Artist
by Jonathan Lethem
list price: $22.95
our price: $15.61
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Asin: 0385512171
Catlog: Book (2005-03-15)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 19203
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Lethem's genius
Lethem is a fabulous writer who has an unbelievable skill for writing deeply personal, poignant, and moving essays, short stories, and novels.this collection is very personal, and is not the typical type of essay.however, the essays are vastly interesting and fun to read.

4-0 out of 5 stars So he navel gazes, he has one hell of a navel!
Some readers have expressed their dislike of Lethem's navel gazing in this collection, I didn't mind at all. His essays on Jack Kirby and the Searchers are some of the best writing I've read about comics or film in a long time. The scene where he describes his cynical junkie friend ruining a viewing of the Searchers should resonate with any member of Generation X who had their private passions invaded by the that slew of non-commital flakes we found ourselves surrounded with in the 1990s:eyebrow cocking stoners, who despite their lack of commitment, were always vigilant for passion, always ready to chide us for taking a stand on anything, whether it be a political position or art. If there's one thing I didn't like about this book was Lethem's display of self-consciousness about seeing Star Wars 21 times, something that no one from his generation would bat an eye at. If anything, it says more about the world he lives in than the writer himself.

3-0 out of 5 stars disappointing
I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I was (surprise!surprise!) disappointed.

I'm into a lot of the same things Lethem is into:the same books, movies, music, etc.I bought this book new when I heard it contained essays in which the author tried to make sense of his fascination with such pop culture phenomena as "Star Wars" and "The Searchers."

Unfortunately I can't recommend this book.I can't quite put my finger on just what was so unsatisfactory about it, but the author never really communicates, if you can understand that.

There remains throughout an imposing wall, a gulf, between the narrator and the reader, an invisible barrier of motivation and understanding that Lethem is unable to break down.

No.If you're gonna write, you've really gotta put your heart on the page.There must be a million ways to do this, but at some point you've got to lay yourself bare and put it on the line.It seems that Lethem knows a million ways to avoid doing just this:humor, anecdotes, trivia, etc.

Reading the essays, you keep asking yourself vital questions about character and circumstance that never get answered.In the end, the book will prove to be a disappointment both for fans of pop culture and for aficionados of the personal essay.

Again, I'm not sure what's going on here.Lethem writes about very sensitive and personal topics, but his style is so cluttered with distractions and vague expressions that in the end you finish the book feeling that you not only haven't come to know the author, but you haven't really learned anything about anything or anybody.

Or been entertained.

3-0 out of 5 stars hard to connect much until the end
The Disappointment Artist is, as one usually expects of any collection, a bit of a mixed bag.The problem I had with it was that for me, the best essays, the most moving and most universal ones, came at the close and so the book, though slim, was a bit of a struggle to get through. The essays are a mix of memoir and critical book and film review, and a blend of both to look at Lethem's influences over the years.
It will come as no surprise to Lethem fans that comic book were one such influence and they take up most of one essay and appear in several others.Another essay details his passion over the Searchers, another looks at the films of John Cassavettes (the most strictly critical essay),One on his viewing of Star Wars 21 times has more to do with young Lethem and his mother's impending death then the movie itself. While it has some powerful moments, the essay as a whole is strangely aloof.This was my reaction to most of the essays. Part of it certainly having to deal with my lack of knowledge of several of his topics (the searchers, Cassavettes), but even those topics I am strongly familiar with (comic books, Star Wars), the essays never connected for me. I never felt Lethem fully universalized the experience for me nor did he fully personalize it except in rare moments, so I was caught in this strange area between--not fully caught up in the topic nor fully caught up in the writer's feelings about the topic.For that reason, the first half of the book was a struggle, not particularly compelling and somewhat slow.Things changed in the latter half as more of Lethem began to appear in Lives of the Bohemians. The Beards, the last piece, was by far my favorite.
Fans of Lethem will recognize his influences and those who share his interests will probably enjoy this book much more than I did.For others, though it may destroy the internal structure of the collection, (since most of these were published beforehand that isn't such a big deal), you may find it an easier start to begin "13 1977 21" the essay on Star Wars and then move to The Beards or Bohemians.Mixed recommendation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lethem unplugged?
I first ran into Lethem's fiction back in the early 90's, when his first novel, Gun with Occasional Music, captivated me. As a novel it was unique and fascinating and glorious... and obviously a homage to Philip K. Dick, an obsession I too have indulged. Subsequent novels cast about for something to say before finally getting back on track in the last couple of years.

I read the essay "The Beards" in the New Yorker recently and had to own this book. Suddenly a lot of things about who this guy is and what he's about were clear. Each of his essays, so "about" obsession or longing or the importance of certain films or authors or what-have-you are also explorations of his internal landscape and the larger themes of growing up, or coming to grips with our own or our parent's humanity.

Unplugged from the need to fictionalize, Lethem finds a voice that sometimes eludes him in is fiction. And it is a funny, moving voice with interesting tales to tell. ... Read more

44. Mystery and Manners : Occasional Prose
by Flannery O'Connor
list price: $14.00
our price: $11.20
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Asin: 0374508046
Catlog: Book (1969-01-01)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 39428
Average Customer Review: 4.86 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime. The keen writings comprising Mystery and Manners, selected and edited by O'Connor's lifelong friends Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, are characterized by the directness and simplicity of the author's style, a fine-tuned wit, understated perspicacity, and profound faith.

The book opens with "The King of the Birds," her famous account of raising peacocks at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia. Also included are: three essays on regional writing, including "The Fiction Writer and His Country" and "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction"; two pieces on teaching literature, including "Total Effect and the 8th Grade"; and four articles concerning the writer and religion, including "The Catholic Novel in the Protestant South." Essays such as "The Nature and Aim of Fiction" and "Writing Short Stories" are widely seen as gems.

This bold and brilliant essay-collection is a must for all readers, writers, and students of contemporary American literature.
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars 5 1/2 Stars...Fun in the Process!
O'Connor writes with such wit and wisdom that I found myself overwhelmed. I began to mark pages, then realized I was marking each and every one.

Tucked between two short pieces, the meat of the book deals with the craft of writing, the motivation and method, and the spiritual heart of fiction. Never have I read so direct an approach to the mix of religion and art. O'Connor's words can be applied to creative efforts in all fields and in all branches of Christendom. Why then, with such poignant insights penned over forty years ago, does the Church at large still look down on artistic endeavor? Must everything preach a literal sermon for the concrete Western mindset? As O'Connor makes clear, art speaks truth only when it embraces life in all its shades of good and evil.

This book could be titled aptly, "Freedom and Frustrations." Any writer diving into this work will discover O'Connor's pearls of wisdom beneath the waves of public narrowmindedness. Don't pass this by if you wish to make art that matters. You'll be encouraged. You'll also be freed to have fun in the process.

5-0 out of 5 stars Marvelous book
This book is rich with humor, insight, courage, practical tips on the writing life. It includes the reader as an honored guest and sends the reader back out into the world satisfied and eager. In an age that mocks simple faith and profits by the downfall of belief even as it piously and hypocritically scolds those who have been misguided, this book is good news. It is a heartening guide back to the world where faith is fresh and plenteous and the faithful are not confounded for their beliefs but are encouraged by the warmth the book generates. The heart is ignited and a good journey is begun with the author as a companion. This book contains a wealth that promises to stay around for all time.

5-0 out of 5 stars Impressed by mystery
As an engineering student, I lean towards thinking of mystery as something temporary and, well, bad. The whole goal behind scientific research is to expel mystery - at least in the immediate context. Flannery O'Connor's timeless writings opened my eyes to the world beyond certainty, and I had to nod in agreement at her insightful appreciations of human quirkiness or critiques on deviatory literature teaching methods. (Of course science know uncertainty at the atomic/subatomic level, but we call that statistics.) In the end, I marvel at the little gems in this book, thoughtfully crafted by a master artist, laced with earthy truth and nitty-gritty humanness, and don't hesitate to recommend at least a library peek to anyone.

4-0 out of 5 stars Everyone's entitled to an opinion
Flannery O'Connor shares opinions about (mainly) writing in this collection of previously unpublished transcripts of lectures. At times the text seems unwieldy, perhaps because the editors faced the dual duties of fidelity to the original work, and a need to prune over 50 transcripts into a non-repetitious form. There is also a clever editorial sleight of hand, with the inclusion of the first essay on the peacocks and pea hens - I was confused by it at first, then half way through the book realised it set the mood, the tone of how to read the book. That after reading 'King of the Birds', we have an impression of Flannery O'Connor - that she is a stickler for detail - which informs the rest of our reading. It is an experiential understanding of what she means when she says that a story should not be dissected but read as a whole, stands as a whole, and the whole informs whatever understanding we get out of it.

Lots of delicious gems in here for anyone who wants to see the other side of Flannery O'Connor's work. In a way it is a contradiction that this book was published at all, as the author felt that the obsessions writers have about how other writers work, what other writers think about writing, was pointless. She believed that all was contained in the stories themselves. Are we going to take her advice?

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book that helps writers to focus on their craft!
For anyone wanting to understand the theory and importance of writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, get this book. Flannery O' Connor delves deeply into the mystery of writing, why people do it, struggle over it, sacrifice so much of themselves in order to do it, to a slew of other fantastic bits of information and reasons. Mystery and Manners has narrowed my own overly broad understanding of why I write. It has helped me to focus, not on just the many types of writing, but also on the type of books that I read and should read in order to be a fully developed writer. O' Connor discuses a lot on voice and plot and theme; her views are so clear and exact. Any professional or novice writer will really appreciate her collection of essays. More than anything, writers will appreciate O' Connor's affirmation of their own views. They too will appreciate her understanding of the difficulty and importance of why people write. I can not praise this book enough. ... Read more

45. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
by Thomas Lynch
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140276238
Catlog: Book (1998-09-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 20917
Average Customer Review: 4.49 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Thomas Lynch serves his readership as a poet and memoirist, and his townspeople as a funeral director. In this wholly unique collection of essays, the two vocations meet as Lynch shows himself to be a competent functionary of mourning--dispensing comfort and homespun wisdom to the grief-stricken--as well as a poet poignantly tuning language to the right tones of private release. He is also a man of sardonic wit, uncovering humor where we least thought to find it--in our fear of and fascination with death. In its homages to parents who have died and to children who shouldn't have, its tales of golfers tripping over grave markers, portraits of gourmands and hypochondriacs, lovers and suicides, The Undertaking displays an impressively wide vocal range--from solemn, nostalgic, and lyrical to acerbic, sprightly, and unflinchingly professional. ... Read more

Reviews (45)

5-0 out of 5 stars Life Studies from the Dismal Trade is the key phrase.....
Life Studies from the Dismal Trade is the subtitle of Thomas Lynch's extraordinary collection of essays. It says far more about the substance of this book than the title itself.

Lynch is the sole funeral director in Milford, Michigan. As such, as he states in his opening, he "buries a couple of hundred of his towns people". It is not, an occasional aside notwithstanding, the technical aspects of his job that lynch focuses on here, however. As the subtitle suggests, it is the living that concern Mr. Lynch, and, in fact, as an undertaker, it is the living, not the dead, he truly serves. For, as he is wont to point out, the dead don't care.

The living, on the other hand, care a great deal. Especially in cases of tragic, unforeseen death. The young murder victim's family, the suicide's family, and so on.

Mr. Lynch is a published poet. So his essays are not the dry stuff of technical journals, but rater elegant, philosophical expositions on the nature of death, the nature of survival, and the nature of his profession.

One would think that this would be a rather depressing read but, in fact, it is anything but.

I have recommended the book to many friends-boomers like myself with aging parents. Reading this book helped me to deal more effectively with my own parent's deaths. It helps one put some perspective on the rituals that we observe attendant to death. That it manages to inform and entertain as well is a remarkable achievement.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Pathos & Humor of Dealing with Death
Perhaps it is Thomas Lynch's Irish heritage that shines through and illuminates his views of death. He certainly has the fabled Irish way with words, and can turn a phrase with the best. One of my favorites is: "The poor cousin of fear is anger."

Lynch also exhibits the traditional Irish inclination to find humor even in the deepest throes of sorrow. Ironies abound in this work. His career as an undertaker has made him familiar with death, perhaps too familiar for his liking at times, so he can be matter-of-fact about it, but never disrespectful. The man's writing has some of the qualities of the prototypical Irish wake, at once keening for the loss of friends and neighbors and celebrating the lives of those left behind.

Those are the qualities that make this slender volume (202 4-3/4 by 7-3/4" pages) such a valuble work. For this reader, at least, it provided a new perspective on death and "the dismal trade" that Lynch practices. It well deserved its spot as Runner-up in the National Book Awards. I recommend it to you.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Dead Don't Care
Thomas Lynch's book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, is an emotional bungee jump, hurling your mood to an all time low, only to bring you back to out loud laughter. Lynch covers many topics from the political history of his town, Milford, to the actual embalming of his own father to prepare him for his "afterlife." Mr. Lynch pounds home the verifiable truth that "the dead don't care". No matter how careful or careless we tend to be in the planning of memorial services, funerals, etc. Lynch contests that we are just doing it for ourselves and truly "the dead don't care." Thomas Lynch has many hands on experiences that he logs through out his emotional roller coaster of a book. This is a MUST READ for anyone who has lost or will lose someone close to you. THAT MEANS YOU!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Very Thought Provoking Book
This is one of those books that I had a hard time putting down. The author deals with the subject of death (and those who survive) in a compassionate, caring way. He obviously has pride in the service that he provides, and after reading his stories, you will agree that it is well deserved. The title sounds depressing, but this is an inspiring work.

5-0 out of 5 stars A sociology lesson of life and death and the funeral bizz
This is a fabulous book. A wonderous look at life and death and what is all means to our mortality. Lynch has a keen and interesting way to describe what we all are thinking non-verbally. Being a reserve police officer, I have a friend who is a funeral director and like Lynch, look at life in a whole different way than most people do. This is a must read. Lynch is creative and talented in the pages you will read. It's hard to put the book down for too long - it even goes with me to the "...." as Lynch so delicately calls the place where we take our "santitized" poops.
You gotta get this book. ... Read more

46. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose--1983-2005
by Margaret Atwood
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786715359
Catlog: Book (2005-03-10)
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers
Sales Rank: 45688
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

From one of the world’s most passionately engaged literary citizens comes Writing with Intent, the largest collection to date of Margaret Atwood’s nonfiction, ranging from 1983 to 2005. Composed of autobiographical essays, cultural commentary, book reviews, and introductory pieces written for great works of literature, this is the award-winning author's first book-length nonfiction publication in twenty years. Arranged chronologically, these writings display the development of Atwood’s worldview as the world around her changes.

Included are the Booker Prize–winning author’s reviews of books by John Updike, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, and others, as well as essays in which she remembers herself reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse at age nineteen, and discusses the influence of George Orwell’s 1984 on the writing of The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood’s New York Times Book Review piece that helped make Orhan Pamuk’s Snow a bestseller can be found here, as well as a look back on a family trip to Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion, and her "Letter to America," written after September 11, 2001. The insightful and memorable pieces in this book serve as a testament to Atwood’s career, reminding readers why she is one of the most esteemed writers of our time. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Must for Atwood Fans
I was introduced to the works of Margaret Atwood several years ago through A Handmaid's Tale.For several years, I knew her only as a writer of fiction novels.With this collection of essays and reviews, I have finally come to fully appreciate what an amazing writer she is.I cannot praise this book enough.Itis divided into three parts according to the time in which they were written.The works contained in this book include her own process of writing such novels as the Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, to reviews of other works (she only reviews what she likes), to personal stories.

This is the kind of book that I feel the need to highlight and discuss with my friends.I started to photocopy various selections to give to my best friend to read, but in the end I decided just to lend her the entire book, post-its sticking out all of the pages, marking the sections I think she must read.Read it one section at a time, or all in one sitting, either way, this collections shows just how talented and thought-provoking Margaret Atwood is as a writer. ... Read more

47. Thomas Jefferson : Writings : Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters (Library of America)
by Thomas Jefferson, Merrill D. Peterson
list price: $35.00
our price: $22.05
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 094045016X
Catlog: Book (1984-08-01)
Publisher: Library of America
Sales Rank: 8629
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The most comprehensive one-volume selection of Jefferson ever published. Contains the "Autobiography," "Notes on the State of Virginia," public and private papers, including the original and revised drafts of the Declaration of Independence, addresses, and 287 letters. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Comprehensive Collection
This edition of Jefferson's writings is an excellent comrehensive collection. Edited by Jefferson biographer Merrill Peterson this volume is a treasure.

It includes Jefferson's Anas, Autobiography, The Notes on Virginia( complete), Summary View of the Rights of British America, his version of the Declaration of Independence, numerous public papers, and addresses. This volume is a must have for the Jefferson reader. It also very necassary for the current state of the American Republic which would be wise to hear the words of this great man. A great buy!

5-0 out of 5 stars Jefferson, a renaissance man.
This book is a treasure: it contains many of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and his letters.
They are reveal a crisp thinking, like Voltaire, Rousseau, the abbey Gregoire, Rabeau Saint Etienne, and other geat thinkers of the 17th Century (T.Jefferson meet with most), as well a Pascal who was way ahead of his time. TJ try to explain the rational for generosity, compassion, respect for life, respect for people, respect for justice, and more: anyone who claims to be president of the USA (or any sovereign nation) should read and understand this book. Unfortunatly this is probably not the case... Politicians love to use a citation of TJ, but their policies would often be despised by TJ.
Let's hope that the future will give the US presidents with the values of this great thinker, and for the time being let's just be patient.

5-0 out of 5 stars Almost One Stop Research
As a student in England, doing work on military academies, I came across the notes, papers, writings, etc of Thomas Jefferson in the bibliography of "West Point", by Norman Thomas Remick. I'm absolutely thrilled that Merrill D. Peterson has put it all together in one 1600 page book. It makes this part of my project almost like one stop shopping. The book is marvelous as a research reference, while at the same time being very interesting reading. By the way, as I see that the book "West Point" is not among the Amazon books on Thomas Jefferson, I hereby highly recommend it to you. It was marvelously interesting, as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars Needed NOW More Than Ever!
JEFFERSON: Writings, Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia ... etc. is a collection of Thomas Jefferson's political soul in writing.

Today, perhaps the most anti-democratic bipartisan political elements in American history infiltrated the United States Congress ... wrapping themselves in the mantle of Thomas Jefferson. The ONLY antidote for their well orchestrated propaganda is to actually know what Jefferson stood for by reading what he himself advocated for the democratic republic of the United States of America.

In 1984, the Library of America published this indispensible collection of the most important of Jefferson's writings. And just like his Declaration of Independence and his friends' Constitution it is necessary to have this resource on your bookshelf.

Speaking of the Declaration of Independence, did you know after Jefferson wrote it out "perfectly" [his words] the first time, the colonial representatives who would eventually sign this document revised it at least TWICE? All versions of Jefferson's nation building document are included in "Thomas Jefferson Writings ..." Read about his first condemnation of slavery in the Declaration ... which was deleted by the representatives, and more.

Also, read Jefferson's letter while to James Madison he was in France; in which he strongly recommends including a bill of rights in the new constitution. Also read in his letters to Madison exactly what is Jefferson's concept of a just economy, and much more.

At $25, this book is the 20th and 21st Centuries' biggest bargain!! ... Read more

48. The Right Words at the Right Time
by Marlo Thomas
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743446496
Catlog: Book (2002-04-26)
Publisher: Atria
Sales Rank: 12370
Average Customer Review: 3.75 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

For everyone who needs a hero or loves a good story, here is an inspiring collection of personal revelations from more than 100 remarkable men and women who share a moment when words changed their lives.

Award-winning actress and bestselling author Marlo Thomas is joined by such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Tom Brokaw, Cal Ripken Jr., Steven Spielberg, Venus Williams, Rudy Giuliani, Toni Morrison, Jack Nicholson, Mel Brooks, Laura Bush, Billy Crystal, Tom Wolfe and Katie Couric, who each tell a story of a crucial turning point in their lives brought about by the right words at the right time. These first-person accounts of challenges and victories can provide guidance to all of us as we come to life's crossroads.

Al Pacino and Gwyneth Paltrow were instructed by words they heard during a crisis.Billy Crystal and Chris Rock used their humor to guide them.Ruth Bader Ginsburg received advice from her mother-in-law on her wedding day that continues to help her on the Supreme Court. These original stories encompass life's struggles and adventures and demonstrate how people we admire found hope and inspiration through words delivered by family or friends, heard in a movie or play, sung on the radio, told in a joke or even drawn in a cartoon.

The Right Words at the Right Time gathers the wit and wisdom of more than 100 innovators, thinkers and cultural icons and puts them into one collectible book.

... Read more

Reviews (53)

4-0 out of 5 stars We've Heard It Before, But It Has Value
Joining the "story about someone who did something great" bandwagon is Marlo Thomas. It is not as if such stories are unimportant. But it seems our bookshelves are packed with the tales of celebrities and how they overcame adversity or foolishness, each one blander than the next.

Thomas ain't Turkel. Pick up anything by Studs Turkel.

Itzhak Perlman's story is intriguing, but only because his adversity has always been as clear as his mastery of the violin. He doesn't seem to be playing the PR game.

Otherwise, there is a canned tone to the stories. I can't explain this, but something in the phrasing is so ordinary, it seems to miss the passion that must have been behind the people who lived the stories. Maybe it was overedited, or ghost-written by a cub writer who hasn't lived through any adversity. I think the stories have power, but not this version.

I recommend "The Right Words at the Right Time" as a easy summer read, the kind of book you read as a passenger or leave up at a vacation home...

5-0 out of 5 stars this is a wonderful book
This book is for everyone who has felt discouraged, overwhelmed, embarassed, saddened and confused. The experiences of the contributors in this book are so diverse as our the contributors themselves. They are comprised of actors, CEOs of major companies, movie directors, talk show hosts, musicians, athletes, activists, journalists, artists and politicians. These are some of the stories, people, and words that stood out for me.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani who learned that life is a combination of great tragedy and great beauty from a woman who lost her father, husband, and son all in one year. He learned to celebrate the beauty and the positive things in life. Oprah Winfrey was inspired by the words of a producer who said just be yourself when she felt overwhelmed starting out as a talk show host years ago. Her main compettion was Phil Donahue who was the king of talk shows at the time. The same idea motivated Marlo Thomas when she was started out as an actress. Her legendary father advised her to run her own race. Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of learned an important lesson by listening to the words of his grandfather It is much harder to be nice than clever. I thought those words as like so many in this book to be profound. Actress Jennifer Aniston was inspired by a speech written by Marianne Williamson given by Nelson Mandella. The gist of the speech is that we all have a light or gift within us that we all need to share. Journalist Ted Koppel took the words of Roy Rogers to heart when he read that everyone is ignorant just on different subjects. Steven Spielberg was inspired by the words of a Davy Crockett movie The words Be sure you're right, then go ahead gave him the confidence to drop out of college and become a director.

Some of the most interesting insights come from people who are not as famous. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a historian who worked with President Johnson writing his memoir was inspired by the words of psychologist Erik Erikson that the richest lives attain an inner balance comprised of work, play and love. Erikson concluded that we should not sacrifice one need to pursue another. The contribution by Dr. David Ho is interesting to me because of what he does for a living. David Ho is the director of AIDS research and through his efforts with different drugs patients live longer and healthier lives. Patients focus on living and not dying because of him. I enjoyed the wisdom in the story of political advisor Mary Matalin who learned from her father that confidence is what separates successful people from unsuccessful ones. Confidence is created from 3 things being prepared, having experience, and never giving up. This is an idea I will never forget.

There are some cliches in this book, but they are interesting because of the people who were motivated by them achieved great things. Astronaunt Sally Ride was inspired by the words reach for the stars and became the first woman in space. Toni Morrison was motivated by the words anything worth doing is worth doing well. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for her novel Song of Solomon later in life. Designer Ralph Lauren was inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra and the song My Way.

The Right Words at the Right Time is an excellent book filled with pearls of wisdom. This book has wonderful insights about life, work, character and love.

5-0 out of 5 stars Who knew I would love this book?!
To the few reviewers of this book who gave it a negative rating:

what's wrong with you?! You CLEARLY missed this point of this gem of a publication.

I was browsing around the bookstore at the local mall just passing time while my eye glasses were being repaired. I was standing near the bestsellers section, when for no particular reason, this book's cover caught my eye. I picked up a copy, glanced at it, flipped the pages, then discarded it back on the shelf and thought, uhgg, one of those chicken-soup, pseudo-inspirational, publications; you know, a book version of a "chick flick"...ah, no thanks. Then, and maybe it was the fact that I noticed the NY Times bestseller band at the top, or maybe the sincerity of Marlo's expression -- I don't know -- but I picked it up, again flipped through the selections until I found a contributor I recognized: Matt Groening. I read his, the another, then got to Mel Brooks..BAM..I was hooked. I've got to admit, the old widsom you can't judge a book by it's cover took on a literal truth in this case. When I glanced at the back cover and saw that all of the royalties of the book go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, I was instantly sold and proceeded to register to buy it.

The idea for this book and it's ultimate objective are both obvious and genious. Bravo Marlo and Friends!

This isn't literature, no, it's light reading with most entires being 3 or 4 pages; the contributions are from a diverse collection of musicians, actors, activists, entertainers, doctors, CEOs, journalists, politicians, direcors, writers, politicians, artists, and other people who are well known because of the success they've attained.

But the entries from the likes of Sidney Portier, Jay Leno,
and Itzhak Perlman are golden nuggets; personal experiences
of pivitol points in these contributors lives and given up in the name of charity -- awesome!

There are lessons and wisdoms in this book you can bank on. To say this book is replete with inspiration and would be an understatement. Best of all, you can read an entry in like 2 minutes!

If you don't buy this book, it's your loss.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Power of Words
This book shares the personal stories of different celebrities from different areas of endeavors and of different political persuasions. As such, the collection is a bit of a mishmash - some thoughtful and meaningful stories; some rants and riffs of self-centered yammering that should have been edited - heavily. Also, the factchecking was surprisingly sloppy in places.

However, I took away a valuable lesson - the importance of our words, and how they radiate out into the world in ways we can't anticipate. For example - the simple words of a firefighter's grieving mother touched Rudy Giuliani and guided him and inspired him two weeks later on Sept. 11, 2001.

Who knows how what we say may change someone's life? This isn't the greatest book I've ever read, but that "lesson" will stay with me for a long time.

1-0 out of 5 stars Negative twenty stars
This is trash. The book consists of two to three page stories about actors and politicians, and a very few stories about people who actually deserve respect. For some reason, we are supposed to care about important events in the lives of people we don't know, and who don't write long enough stories for us to get to know them. These stories are mostly poorly written, often nonsensical, and never though-provoking. In short, this book lacks substance, meaning, relevence, or literary merit of any kind.

If you want to read something inspirational, stay away from the chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of "inspirational" books. Read some real literature. I reccomend the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. ... Read more

49. Teaching a Stone to Talk : Expeditions and Encounters
by Annie Dillard
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060915412
Catlog: Book (1988-09-01)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 26788
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Here, in this compelling assembly of writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard explores the world of natural facts and human meanings. ... Read more

Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Seeing Life With Her Eyes Open
A couple of months ago, I happened upon the wholly enchanting For the Time Being by Annie Dillard. Following up on that, I just read this Teaching a Stone to Talk, and I will certainly be continuing to explore the work of this amazing author.

Teaching a Stone to Talk is a collection of essays that contains some true masterpieces. My personal favorite is the first, "Living Like Weasels," in which Dillard encourages us, and points for us the way, to remember how to live. Others are almost equal. "An Expedition to the Pole" cleverly and poignantly compares the journeys of arctic and antarctic explorers with the goings on in a tiny church congregation searching for God. In "God in the Doorway," Dillard expounds on an encounter with a woman and uses it to illuminate on the nature of God's love.

Teaching a Stone to Talk is a truly amazing work. Whether she is writing about nature, an eclipse, or about a conversation with a small boy, Dillard manages to mesmerize the reader with her words and humor, and she blows the reader away with her wisdom and insight.

5-0 out of 5 stars Contains some of her finest essays
I remember a paradoxical statement about the Bible that I heard attributed to Karl Barth: "The Bible is not the word of God, but it contains the word of God." Well, TEACHING A STONE TO TALK is not Annie Dillard's finest book (that distinction belongs to either PILGRIM AT TINKERS CREEK or AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD), but it contains her best work, i.e., some essays that are as good as anything that she has ever written. Almost inevitably, as in most collections, some of the essays aren't nearly as strong as the best, but the good ones make this slender volume essential reading for any fan of Ms. Dillard.

My personal favorite among the fourteen comprising this book is also the longest, "An Expedition to the Pole." I consider myself to be a deeply religious person, but I also find church services to be almost unbearable (much like one of my literary heroes, Samuel Johnson). In this essay, Dillard contrasts her experiences in an utterly dreadful church service with many of the attempts in the nineteenth century to mount expeditions to reach the North Pole. The attempts of those adventurers are simultaneously tragic and laughable, in that their goal was so vastly beyond their means. The implication is that the same is true in worship: we attempt to worship god, but our efforts are clumsy and fall far short of the mark. There is nobility in both, and certainly Dillard doesn't want to imply that worship is futile. But the parallels are there. It is a brilliant essay.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Luminescent Feast for the Sentient
Her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the Pulitzer for non-fiction in 1974, establishing her reputation for magical writing and eyes that see the world in a special way that open ours when she describes what she is seeing. In this 5th book she continues her exploration of the world and translating it into human terms and meanings. Don't dismiss Dillard's narratives as simple excursions into nature with lessons or morals tacked on. Dillard's descriptions are powerful. You not only see the total eclipse she watches from a Washington hillside; you feel its aura, shudder in the morning chill, sense the mixture of awe, wonder and even momentary fear as the crowd screams.

Annie Dillard writes with an eye for splendor and for suffering, with a sense of amazement and of loss. She witnesses events: the sun eclipses, a deer struggles at the end of a rope, a weasel meets her eye. There is a man burnt, a flight of wild swans circling, a young girl who vows never to change, a band of polar explorers who drift on ice floes. Annie Dillard is an explorer, in the world and on the page.

Teaching A Stone To Talk: Expeditions and Encounters is a collection of stunning personal narratives that stretch from eastern woods and farmlands to the Pacific northwest coast, to tropical islands and rivers.

4-0 out of 5 stars Teaching a Scientist to Write
Albert Einstein himself once said, "The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking." A scientist is not more intelligent than a layperson, but rather thinks differently. A talented scientist thinks of every aspect of life in terms of science and facts and hypotheses and theories. A talented scientific writer thinks of science in terms of people and society and relevance and literature. Annie Dillard, the author of Teaching a Stone to Talk, achieved the status of "talented scientific writer" by infusing each of her words with science, literature, and importance.
After reading only the first few paragraphs of this book, it was evident that Annie Dillard was an excellent writer, regardless of what she was writing about. After reading a few more paragraphs, I realized that this was going to be a good book for more than its literary merits. The science aspect of Teaching a Stone to Talk is written in the form of a concentration, not an overwhelming theme. This book is very effective in that it examines so many areas of long-studied and complicated science and still manages to present each one in simple terms. I am not a scientist by any means and I understood every last scientific reference and technological term. More importantly, I understood them not as pages of facts, but as human-interest stories.
Each of the book's 14 chapters was split into two consecutive sections: one concerning the science and one concerned with the people. For example, the second chapter, "An Expedition to the Pole," takes turns telling about research expeditions to Polar regions and the congregation of the author's church. Although the two topics seem completely unrelated, the author points out that both the members of the expeditions and the members of the congregation are searching blindly for something and are too often concerned with their own petty issues. This organization is well structured and seems a natural progression.
The facts of the book are not presented as theories; they are presented as observations. The previous studies of scientists are cited and discussed in detail, and they are also validated by the author's own experiences. For instance, after the author tells the history of polar expeditions, she tells the story of her own voyage to the Arctic Circle and the occurrences she observed. Dillard describes each detail of her voyage so that the reader may experience second-hand what he or she will most likely never experience first-hand.
I did not learn about science from the book Teaching a Stone to Talk. I learned about the most important, fundamental foundation of science: observation. The author observed nature and its land and creatures, but she also observed people and their habits and expectations. This book is a true reflection of the significance of science in everyday life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing adventures........ can only be expressed by Annie Dillard.

This collection of Dillard's travels and experiences will simply make you want to go out and experience each for yourself!

You will long to find yourself in the midst of a solar eclipse: "The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head and blade shone lightness and artificially distinct as an art photographer's platinum print. This color has never been seen on earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a 19th century tinted photograph from which the tints have faded...............The sky was navy blue. My hands were silver." Reading Dillard's words has simply made me promise myself that I will not pass from this life without having witnessed the wonder of a solar eclipse.

The remainder of Dillard's expeditions and encounters are equally amazing. Travel with her words and come to know the terrors of the North Pole, the sheer tenacity of weasels, the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands, the journeys of mangrove islands, fantasic mirages over Puget Sound and much more. Dillard brings each to full life through her descriptions and her thoughts on each. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a sense of curiosity and adventure! You'll love it! ... Read more

50. A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology
by Joseph D'Donnell
list price: $27.95
our price: $19.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1565847296
Catlog: Book (2002-06-01)
Publisher: New Press
Sales Rank: 345124
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A stirring collection of stories, poems, and essays on all aspects of the medical profession, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the "Children of Crisis" series. A century of unprecedented scientific advances has left the medical profession facing profound ethical and procedural crises, as doctors, nurses, hospice workers, psychiatrists, and others involved in the healing arts struggle to keep up with the science while staying true to the humanitarian goals at the heart of their work. A Life in Medicine explores questions such as, "What is a 'small, good thing' in medicine?" "Can patients be instruments of grace?" and "How does one muster one's compassion for (so-called) 'difficult' patients?," bringing together provocative and moving writing on the moral and ethical lives of physicians, nurses, and psychiatrists, and injecting a dose of contemporary reality into a centuries-old discussion. The book is organized around the central themes of altruism, knowledge, skill, and duty, and contributors include well-known writers, doctors, nurses, practitioners, and patients, who address life and death, cancer and AIDS, seizures and psychosis, advocacy and anatomy, from both ends of the stethoscope.

With stories by: Raymond Carver • Anton Chekhov • Shusaku Endo • Anne Fadiman • Laurie Moore • William Carlos Williams

Poems by: • Hart Crane • Walt Whitman • Raymond Carver

And essays by: • Wendell Berry • Robert Coles • Robert Jay Lifton • Sara Lawrence Lightfoot • Audre Lorde • Lewis Thomas • Albert Schweitzer • Terry Tempest Williams

and others. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A truly fine blend of literary accounts and health issues
Poems, essays and stories by those involved in the healing profession make A Life In Medicine: A Literary Anthology a truly fine blend of literary accounts and health issues, organized around central themes of altruism, knowledge, skill and duty. Doctors, nurses and health practitioners alike consider what it means to care for patients in a century of rapidly-changing scientific advancements.

5-0 out of 5 stars A literary look at the human side of medicine
Whenever I see a book with Robert Coles name on it I know it will be worthwhile to read. Coles served as one of several editors of A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology and the selections within are outstanding. They include poems, essays, short stories, and excerpts from longer works. The authors range from those working in the field (nurses, medical students, midwives, and physicians) to those not commonly associated with the field (e.g., Raymond Carver).

The book is thought provoking and emphasizes how we are all connected to the process of life and death. As a physician (with writing as an avocation) I thought it offered a wonderful look at the many facets of medical care and those that deliver it.

This book would be a wonderful gift for anyone in the profession but can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the human condition. ... Read more

51. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down on It
list price: $6.99
our price: $6.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0804105820
Catlog: Book (1991-03-02)
Publisher: Ivy Books
Sales Rank: 46938
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his first phenomenal best-seller, EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN, Robert Fulghum reminded readers everywhere of some plain and still-true truths.Now, picking up where he left off, Fulghum turns our eyes to show-and-tell, weddings, his own ten commandments, and more insightful and unique observations on what our world is and was....

... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Life Observations!
Robert Fulghum has a magnificent sense of humor, which contributes greatly to his skill as a writer and speaker. With his Unitarian sense of the world, he sucks us in...even when we don't realize we are being sucked in. He captivates our imaginations and emotions and much like our friend from Lake Wobagon, he makes the everyday come alive with excitement.

It's well worth your time to read this book.

Jeffrey McAndrew
author of "Our Brown-Eyed Boy"

3-0 out of 5 stars Emotion Without Substance
I extensively mark books that move me, motivate me, inspire me, and instruct me. I have virtually no marks in this book. It reminds me of the communicators who know how to play with an audience's emotions, but when they're gone, there's no substance. This book will move you emotionally, but it doesn't really leave you any better off in the long run.

Fulghum has the gift of communication. He can tickle your emotions, but he just doesn't say much when he's through. His book is full of personal anecdotes. Nothing wrong with that, per se. A lot of storytellers have made a fine living that way. If that's what you want, escapism, then you'll find it in this book. It's just that Fulghum and I apparently don't have the same worldview or appreciation for the same things.

5-0 out of 5 stars i was 14 when i read it and now i want it back
i really liked this book a lot when i found this book at a second hand store the girl that worked there made such big deal about that every one looked at me like i was weird or something i was like "yeah hes a really good writter" even my mom was like is he really good i said i think so.... so 4 years later am like am going to get me every book i read by Robert Fulghum

5-0 out of 5 stars It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It
With great wit and gentle grace, Robert Fulgham holds up a mirror so that we may see ourselves and our foiables more clearly. He has a unique ability to point out the treasure of the little things, the common things in life. After reading one of his books, I feel more serene, more appreciative of my blessings, and smile at the memories he has helped me recall. If you have not been "stopping to smell the roses" this book will help you start. Enjoy!

4-0 out of 5 stars Show and Tell
This was my first introduction to Robert Fulghum and meeting this humorous man was truely enjoyable. Like many personal accounts on life, there were things that he writes about I found touched me deeply and others that were just interesting. It was a pleasure to take a peek into his world of "show and tell" and compare it to my own. Robert Fulghum's perspective is healthy and positive and he even redeems himself with the dog population in the credits at the back of the book. His humor added a dimension to some of his tales that made them truely memorable "lessons of life." A book to make you laugh and cry. ... Read more

52. George Orwell: An Age Like This 1920-1940 : The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters (Collected Essays Journalism and Letters of George Orwell)
by George Orwell, Ian Angus, Sonia Orwell
list price: $17.95
our price: $17.95
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Asin: 1567921337
Catlog: Book (2000-08-01)
Publisher: Nonpareil Books
Sales Rank: 141164
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Inside the Mind of the 20th Century
I'm not going to review all four volumes of this collection separately; what I say below applies to them all.

There are lots of reasons to read Orwell's letter, essays and journalism:

1. He's a great writer. It's a pleasure to read him, just for entertainment value. There's a little piece of doggerel from Orwell's school days that he quotes several times that is now stuck in my head:

The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and the unjust fella
But more upon the just because
The unjust has the just's umbrella

I don't know why that sticks with me, but it's a great illustration of Orwell's use of solid, colloquial and even humorous English.

Moreover, in addition to providing wonderful model prose he occasionally writes essays about writing and language (the use of "Basic English", oratorical versus conversational English, what drives a writer, the totalitarian perversion of word meanings, etc.), which are insightful and interesting.

2. If you're interested in the Second World War (or for that matter, the Spanish Civil War), Orwell's writings amount to a sort of diary, a primary document. Even his book reviews almost inevitably contain some reference to the political and historical scene.

3. Orwell loved socialism (yes, the man who write _1984_ was a democratic socialist), but he loved freedom more. His simultaneous battle for socialism and against totalitarianism (i.e., the Soviet Union) is engaging, even -- or maybe particularly -- where he drops the ball.


I think Orwell's heart was in the right place -- he had seen close up (and written a good deal about) the suffering of the poor. Like many people who have their hearts in the right place, he jumped immediately to the idea that redistribution of private property and collective ownership of the means of production were the only way forward.

On the other hand, he was a writer and a man of ideas, a person who greatly prized personal freedom. His essays give an intriguing glimpse into the battle raging inside him between collectivism and individual liberty.

5-0 out of 5 stars The First of a Terrific 4-Volume Set
I read this set many years ago, and it's great. There were better novelists, but Orwell was the best 20th Century essayist, at least in English, that I know of. Together with "Down and Out in Paris and London," "Homage to Catalonia," and "The Road to Wigan Pier," these four large volumes comprise the best of Orwell's nonfiction. As an essayist, Orwell was consistently clearminded, idealistic, honest and to the point. He is a pleasure to read, and he is one of my intellectual heroes.

I don't have a copy in front of me as I write this, but I'm pretty sure this first volume contains Orwell's unforgettable essays on the inner life of colonialism, "Shooting an Elephant" and "A Hanging". I highly recommend this set to anyone who is the least bit interested in Orwell. ... Read more

53. The Best American Magazine Writing 2004 (Best American Magazine Writing)
by American Society of Magazine Editor
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
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Asin: 0060749539
Catlog: Book (2004-09-01)
Publisher: Perennial Currents
Sales Rank: 6008
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Book Description

In the magazine world, no recognition is more highly coveted than an "Ellie," presentedby the American Society of Magazine Editors. Selected from thousands of submissions, the pieces in this anthology represent the very best of those -- outstanding works by some of the most eminent writers in America:

Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) on living and creating with chronic fatigue syndrome

Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) on love and surfing

Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) on modern torture and the "landscape of persuasion"

Seymour M. Hersh (Chain of Command) on the "selective intelligence" used by the White House to justify the war in Iraq

Calvin Trillin (The Tummy Trilogy) on his favorite force of nature, the newsman R. W. Apple, Jr.

Tucker Carlson (CNN's Crossfire), the "whitest man in America," on a peace mission with Rev. Al Sharpton

And many more!

... Read more

54. The Best American Essays of the Century
by Robert Atwan
list price: $18.00
our price: $12.24
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Asin: 0618155872
Catlog: Book (2001-10-10)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 26855
Average Customer Review: 4.11 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This singular collection is nothing less than a political, spiritual, and intensely personal record of America"s tumultuous modern age, as experienced by our foremost critics, commentators, activists, and artists. Joyce Carol Oates has collected a group of works that are both intimate and important, essays that move from personal experience to larger significance without severing the connection between speaker and audience.
From Ernest Hemingway covering bullfights in Pamplona to Martin Luther King, Jr."s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," these essays fit, in the words of Joyce Carol Oates, "into a kind of mobile mosaic suggest[ing] where we"ve come from, and who we are, and where we are going."
Among those whose work is included are Mark Twain, John Muir,
T. S. Eliot, Richard Wright, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Tom Wolfe, Susan Sontag, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Joan Didion, Cynthia Ozick, Saul Bellow, Stephen Jay Gould, Edward Hoagland, and Annie Dillard.
... Read more

Reviews (9)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not the best of the century
Some good essays here, but a number of boring ones as well, if they had 100 years of essays to choose from, I'm suprised this was the best they could come up with.

5-0 out of 5 stars Authority and beauty
I don't think I'm alone in viewing essays as members of a somewhat lower caste than novels and non-fiction books. Maybe it's because I associate the essay with newspapers, and people like George Will who pretend to know more than their readers. I think the editors of this essay collection understood that popular conception, and tried very hard to fight it. In line with that fight, one of the organizing themes of this book seems to be ``Essays About Individual Experiences." True, many of the essays take individual experiences and move into a more general realm, but they're always grounded in the author's experiences. Contrast this with George Will - Trinity College undergrad, Princeton grad school in political science - writing essays about poverty and policy. There's more legitimacy - in my mind, anyway - in Richard Wright writing an essay about ``The Ethics of Living Jim Crow."

Many of the essays in this book, like Wright's, are on the subject of race in America. We have Zora Neale Hurston's ``How It Feels To Be Colored Me" (``Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How *can* any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It's beyond me."); Alice Walker's ``Looking For Zora," on her attempts to find Hurston's lonely, abandoned, unkempt gravestone in Florida; Maya Angelou's ``I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" (later part of a book of the same name); Martin Luther King's ``Letter From Birmingham Jail"; and so forth. As the editors suggest, race has been one of the longest-running struggles in the United States; it shouldn't surprise us that it has produced works of such power. The autobiographical format of these essays particularly fits with their subject matter. That format works a lot better than, say, a collection of statistics (however truthful those statistics might be).

_Best American Essays_ is far more than a book about race, however. It contains some hilarious essays, like S.J. Perelman's ``Insert Flap `A' and Throw Away" (on his attempts to put together toys for his kids); an essay on bullfighting (Hemingway's ``Pamplona in July"); essays about suicide (``The Crack-Up" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, William H. Gass's ``The Doomed In Their Sinking", Edward Hoagland's ``Heaven and Nature"); Stephen Jay Gould on why humans seem to need to divide a complex continuum into a discrete beginning and end (``The Creation Myths of Cooperstown"); and on and on. All of them are almost crystalline in their density of information. All of them left me, after 10 or 12 pages, reeling as though I'd just set down a novel.

I'm particularly fond of William Manchester's essay memorializing the battle of Okinawa (``Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle Of All"). I normally enter essays about war with a large dose of skepticism and revulsion, and this one was no different. ``Great," I thought, ``Manchester was a vet, so this will be another essay about the glory of armed combat." It is nothing at all like that. To use a nice vogue term, it is a deconstruction of what war really is, and what war has become over the centuries. It turned from 15-minute battles around the time of Agincourt to 10-month-long subwars of attrition during World War I. But let's look at those minutes-long battles, says Manchester:

``The dead were bludgeoned or stabbed to death, and we
have a pretty good idea of how this was done. ... Kabar
fighting knives, with seven-inch blades honed to such
precision that you could shave with them, were issued to
Marines ... You drove the point of your blade into a
man's lower belly and ripped upward. In the process, you
yourself became soaked in the other man's gore. After that
charges at Camlann, Arthur must have been half drowned in

The essay reveals war's pointlessness and the revulsion that mankind must feel in its presence. Coming from someone who fought on Okinawa, it carries more weight than all the world's pundits could ever bestow. The entire volume holds this authority. Since its contributors are also some of the most talented authors that the U.S. has ever known, there's no reason not to buy this astonishing work.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Perfect English Teacher Study
Since I am studying to be an English Teacher, I found the reading of the essays to be very useful in my studies. They helped me to gain a better understanding of an essay. I was able to picture where the reader was and to feel their pain or joy in what they felt as they wrote the essay. I especially loved the essay from Langston Hughes and Mark Twain. I recommend this book to all, not only those who want to teach but also to those who want to enhance their reading and knowledge.

5-0 out of 5 stars one woman's eloquent collection
Many would regard the task of selecting "The Best American Essays of the Century" as a most daunting honor, to be approached with much nail biting and trepidation. Whatever you choose, dissenters will howl. Oates, no shirker when it comes to hard work and firm opinions, offers her choices with confidence. "My preference was always to essays that, springing from intense personal experience, are nonetheless significantly linked to larger issues."

Arranged chronologically, the essays lean heavily toward reflections on the human condition within American culture. The writing is, without exception, eloquent and insightful. Race is a pervasive theme and inspires the most powerful pieces. The best essay in the book is James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son;" visceral and intimate, full of pain, bewilderment and searing honesty, whole of heart and intellect. Pieces by Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Langston Hughes, no matter how familiar, still shiver the soul with the conjunction of powerful intellect, soul-searing experience and the intimacy of an articulate voice.

My second favorite essay could hardly be more different. John Muir's "Stickeen," has it all: adventure, peril, pathos, the passion for nature and exploration, and the curious relationship between man and dog; a rousing good story.

Other themes place the writer in his contemporary culture; F. Scott Fitzgerald wrestling with despair, Jane Addams contemplating the downtrodden old women who comfort themselves with myths, Katherine Anne Porter internalizing the atom bomb, Tom Wolfe escorting a settled man to his rebellious son's slum apartment, Randolph Bourne exploring how his crippling disabilities have shaped his life, Mary McCarthy confronting anti-Semitism in a railroad club car.

Some find a kernel of sharp insight in a childhood memory: James Agee recalling his undefined place in the tableau of a summer night, Eudora Welty on her early reading habits, E.B. White facing mortality while revisiting a boyhood camp with his son, Edmund Wilson taking stock of the old stone house in the bleak Adirondacks only to discover he has carried it with him all his life, Cynthia Ozick devouring books in her parents' depression-era drug store, Vladimir Nabokov probing the awakening of consciousness in his Russian boyhood.

There are literary essays, but they are not the strongest: T.S. Eliot on tradition in literature, Robert Frost on sound and meaning, Susan Sontag defining "camp." And there are gaps. Joan Didion's "White Album" explores the confusion of the 60s, but there are no real political essays. The women's movement, save for a didactic Adrienne Rich piece, might never have happened, ditto for Watergate and even World War I. There are only two war pieces: harrowing Vietnam reportage from Michael Herr and William Manchester's thoughtful response to the Okinawa War Memorial. The immigrant experience is represented by Richard Rodriguez' reflection on the pain and promise of becoming Americanized and Maxine Hong Kingston's poignant story of a shunned Chinese aunt, a long-ago suicide. Science is almost completely absent, save Stephen Jay Gould on the creation myth and Lewis Thomas' famous, brief essay "The Lives of a Cell." There's no political satire and no history, except as autobiography is history. But there are two essays dealing with suicide (William H. Gass, Edward Hoagland).

This is one person's careful collection of a century's important voices. All of the writers are well known, all have published at least one collection of essays, all of the pieces have been collected at least once before. Although there are a few humorous pieces (Mark Twain, S.J. Perelman, James Thurber), this is a sober and reflective collection, each essay the product of long thought.

The book would be a rich and valuable reading experience at any time, but is especially comforting during these somber, grieving days. This is paradoxical, since the best pieces are those that lay bare the country's worst injustice - racial prejudice. I expected to have trouble reading these painful essays, not wanting to feel angry or ashamed about my country right now, but it wasn't so. The unparalleled eloquence, the intimacy of these articulate voices, stand in such stark contrast to the vicious ignorance they've endured, that they hearten the reader by proving the strength and durability of the human heart.

3-0 out of 5 stars Could Hardly Get Past The Title
But I did read many essays here and of course they are fine, for the most part. But with what arrogance did the publisher choose such a title. It puts too much pressure on the essayists here to have that Best and Century invading their words. ... Read more

55. In Praise of Shadows
by Junichiro Tanizaki, Charles Moore, Edward G. Seidensticker, Thomas J. Harper
list price: $7.95
our price: $7.16
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Asin: 0918172020
Catlog: Book (1980-01-01)
Publisher: Leetes Island Books
Sales Rank: 30202
Average Customer Review: 3.83 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars The beauty of half-light
"And I realized then that only in dim half-light is the true beauty of Japanese lacquerware revealed....But in the the still dimmer light of the candlestand, as I gazed at the trays and bowls standing in the shadows cast by that flickering point of flame, I discovered in the gloss of this lacquerware a depth and richness like that of a still, dark pond, a beauty that I had not before seen. It had not been mere chance, I realized, that our ancestors, having discovered lacquer, had conceived such a fondness for objects finished in it."

In 1993, Japanese novelist Jun'ichiro Tanizaki laid out his views on the Japanese aesthetic sense, in a short essay entitled "In Praise of Shadows". Though by no means an encompassing exploration of the subject, and at times decidedly idiosyncratic, Tanizaki's views shed a new light - if I may use that ironic metaphor - on the art and in particular the architecture of Japan, by revealing the way in which the concept of beauty evolved in concert with the darkness or semi-darkness in which life was lived. In this respect, the essay is brilliant, and capable of radically changing one's perspective on light and shadow, form and color.

Yet certain ideas of Tanizaki's can be disturbing. For example, on race and the paleness of skin, he writes "Thus it is that when one of us goes among a group of Westerners it is like a grimy stain on a sheet of white paper. The sight offends even our own eyes and leaves none to pleasent a feeling. We can appreciate, then, the psychology that in the past caused the white races to reject the colored races. A sensitive white person could not but be upset by the shadow that even one or two colored persons cast over a social gathering." Is this view the perverse opinion of one man, or the pervasive thought of a generation? I don't know the answer. Perhaps it is best to simply let time obscure these malformed passages into the shadows of his text, and to let the deeper insights - on art, food, and architecture - catch the eye and hold the attention.

The essence of Tanizaki's perspective is perhaps best captured in discussion of lacquerware; his words on this subject form the heart of his essay:

"Sometimes a superb piece of black lacquerware, decorated perhaps with flects of silver and gold - a box or a desk or a set of shelves - will seem to me unsettlingly garish and altogether vulgar. But render pitch black the void in which they stand, and light them not with the rays of the sun or electricity but rather a single lantern or candle: suddenly those garish objects turn somber, refined, dignified. Artisans of old, when they finished their works in lacuqer and decorated them in sparkling patterns, must surely have had in mind dark rooms and sought to turn to good effect what feeble light there was. Their extravagent use of gold too, I should imagine, came of undertanding how it gleams forth from out of the darkness and reflects the lamplight.

"Lacquerware decorated in gold is not something to be seen in brillaint light, to be taken in at a single glance; it should be left in the dark, a part here and a part there picked up by a faint light. Its florid patterns recede into the darkness, conjuring in their stead an inexpressible aura of depth and mystery, of overtones but partly suggested. The sheen of the lacquer, set out in the night, reflects the wavering candlelight, announcing the drafts that find their way from time to time into the quiet room, luring one into a state of reverie. If the lacquer is taken away, much of the spell disappears from the dream world built by that strange light of candle and lamp, that wavering light beating the pulse of the night. Indeed, the thin, impalpable, faltering light, picked up as thought little rivers were running through the room, collecting little pools here and there, lacquers a pattern on the surface of the night itself."

4-0 out of 5 stars The subtle beauty of the shadows
The ideas in Tanizaki's essay on the Japanese appreciation for shadows and nature-based arts and architecture should come as little surprise for those familiar with the Japanese culture and tradition. Tanizaki's suggestion that these inclinations came from practical origins made sense (a lot better than the still-common theory that the Japanese idea of aesthetics is a result of different, Japanese genes). It also seemed to me that the Japanese were more inclined to resign themselves to fate and find beauty in what was at hand (like the shadows) than to fight nature and create light at the expense of beauty.

What interested me most was the fact that Tanizaki has a "us versus them" mentality, not so much that Japan or the West is better than the other, just different. However, it seems that if a young Japanese person were to read this essay today, it would seem just as "foreign" as it does to an American.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to read Tanizaki's essay, which discusses everything from the theatre to the bathroom, gold and lacquer, women and race. One cannot help but read Tanizaki's essay without feeling his loss at the erosion of traditional society and the innate beauty within it. At the same time, it makes you look around and notice the lack of beauty in our everyday lives (in terms of art and architecture). America, too, was once a land of shadows and a people who we probably able to appreciate their beauty. Tanizaki probably never considered the fact that his culture and ours are really not so fundamentally different.

If you read this essay, don't get caught up in Tanizaki's occasional bad-mouthing of Western culture (remember that he probably would have never dreamed that this short essay would be translated and read in the West!) Instead, treat this as a rare look into a common Japanese mindset and an opportunity to see for yourself whether Tanizaki's praise of shadows is a worthy one or not.

3-0 out of 5 stars is there ever a "pure Japan"?
Where is this "pure Japan" the author constantly refers to in his book?
The enormous influence exerted on Japan by China throughout its imperial history, but particularly during the medieval period, is well-known. China, in its turn, benefited a great deal from cultural exchanges with India. The point is: when we come to culture, almost every culture, and certainly every great civilization, is a mixed hybrid. There is no such a thing as "pure"--"pure-bred culture" would have become extinct a long time ago.
Also, are Japanese people supposed to be doomed to live in candlelight for ever and ever? Why cannot they claim the modern inventions their own? Is modernity always synonymous with "the west"? I see this as dis-empowering for Japan, not empowering.
I am not a Westerner if "Westerner" in the author's definition means "a white person" (he does not think much about blacks or Asian Americans--I guess they are not on his horizon), but I think the Xenophobic tone in this book is decidedly the most unpleasant feature.
I don't like many aspects of modern life. I, too, appreciate the beauty of lacquer ware in candlelight. On one of those rare days of power outage, I enjoy using my oil lamp and just watch the shadows on the wall. But, modern life is all we have in this lifetime. It's no use to deplore it on and on. We should try to do something about it, change it and make it better. Using electric bulbs in an antique lamp is fine. But there's no need to keep whining about how the terrible West ruins everything "purely Japanese," because "pure Japan" has never existed.

5-0 out of 5 stars In Eulogy of the Historical "Oriental" Aesthetic
A real treat to read the work of a great literary mind on a non-literary subject, namely, the aesthetic of traditional Japan culture. I really enjoyed this part-essay, part-rumination on a nostalgic Japan-past that was falling out of favor at the time Tanizaki wrote this. Through his panegyrics, his probing examination of the "natural" beauty to be found in unglamourized, un-Westernized, and un-madeover No plays, women, and lacquerware, he weaves a rather eloquent essay in defense of it.

As it stands, In Praise of Shadows is a somewhat moribund piece on the falling away of the subtlety, the grace, and the pure aesthetic he has grown to love. Such an approach is empathizable, and ultimately rewards the reader with an appreciation for the aesthetic, as it once was in Japan, and has since been historically reverred for. But, in the end, as Harper duly notes, that is all that it is--history, like a mural hanging on a wall in a museum. It is nice to admire and esteem for its cultural value, but anywhere outside of that "musuem," it is antiquated relic-ry of the past. Tanizaki's words are not a reactionary call for reversion, for a Return to classical treatments of the world, but, with resigned traditionalist sentiments, a mournful eulogy of it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking piece
Tanizaki's 1933 essay is an excellent introduction to the Japanese aesthetic. True, it IS the personal reflection on one man who, were he anyone else, would probably be dismissed as a curmudgeonly crackpot. However, 'western bashing' is not the issue here -- a point that he makes repeatedly is that had Japan remained closed to the influences and technology of the west, those things that have developed in Japan (and, arguably, later developed Japan) would have had a very different complexion. Although he does not speak for all Japanese, the points he makes -- tastes in architecture, decoration, etc -- appear over and over in ordinary Japanese people's homes and lives, even today, 70 years later. (I recommend this book to anyone going to visit Japan -- it gives most Westerners an entirely new perspective on how to view Japanese art.) ... Read more

56. The Art of the Personal Essay : An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
list price: $18.95
our price: $12.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 038542339X
Catlog: Book (1997-01-15)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 28318
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

For more than four hundred years, the personalessay has been one of the richest and most vibrantof all literary forms. Distinguished from thedetached formal essay by its friendly, conversationaltone, its loose structure, and its drive towardcandor and self-disclosure, the personal essayseizes on the minutiae of daily life-vanities,fashions, foibles, oddballs, seasonal rituals, love anddisappointment, the pleasures of solitude,reading, taking a walk -- to offer insight into thehuman condition and the great social and politicalissues of the day. The Art of the PersonalEssay is the first anthology tocelebrate this fertile genre. By presenting more thanseventy-five personal essays, including influentialforerunners from ancient Greece, Rome, and theFar East, masterpieces from the dawn of thepersonal essay in the sixteenth century, and a wealth ofthe finest personal essays from the last fourcenturies, editor Phillip Lopate, himself anacclaimed essayist, displays the tradition of thepersonal essay in all its historical grandeur, depth,and diversity. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars THE Personal Essay Anthology
There are a lot of really poor essay anthologies on the market. This is not one of them. Lopate himself is an accomplished writer, but he does his readers the great favor of including a broad range of authors, temporally and experientially. Many anthologies skip the masters (Montaigne, Orwell, Johnson) in favor of more modern--and less talented--authors. If you are looking for a single anthology of essays this is the one. It covers the entire genre like no other. And it is comparitively cheap too.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing Compilation
The book opens with a terrific overview of the personal essay. Not only does it discuss the place of creative nonfiction in the writing spectrum but it gets to the heart of the personal essay -how we express the human experience. Lopate walks us, the average reader, through the choosing and the parceling of these kinds of works and by the end we are prepared for the well laid journey ahead.

The voices are so varied - from George Orwell's beautifully written essay on life in a British boarding school to James Baldwin's piece on his father's death and life as a Black man in America. We feel with each author, cry with them and share in their triumphs. Though the styles are quite different from one author to the next, the common thread is each person's love of writing, their adept manipulation of language, and the most important element of the essay - their honesty in each line.

This is an excellent choice for those are learning the art of creative nonfiction or for those more seasoned readers or writers who truly want a satisfying read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing tool!
This has been a great reference into the insight of the personal essay. The introduction is about thirty pages long with rich detail of everything you ever needed to know about the "personal essay". Lopate delves into his selection, rationale and arrangement of this book. Everything you ever needed to know about the essay is here!

The collection consist of seventy-five essays, spanning over 400 years. The first section is called the forerunners, these are the earliest dating from 1600's, included: Seneca, Plutarch, Kenko, Shonagon, Hsiu, Michel De Montaigne. Then, the rise of the English essay: Abraham Cowley, Addison & Steele, Samuel Johnson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginia Woolf, Orwell, etc.

It is categorized for easy identification of types, style and forms of essays. Excellent collection and reference!...MzRizz

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Anthology on the Market for Personal Essays
A book that has travelled with me for years and well worth all the space in my limited luggage space. I would definitely take this book to a desert island and it would be a book that I would grab off its shelf if my house was on fire.

Time has made me appreciate the voices contained within its cover greatly.

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful collection of essays
One of my favorite books - it has a eclectic, rich, and well-thought collection of the greatest essays from the classical to the modern era. Entertaining and meditative at the same time. ... Read more

57. From Acting to Performance : Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism
by Philip Auslander
list price: $30.95
our price: $30.95
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Asin: 0415157870
Catlog: Book (1997-08-01)
Publisher: Routledge
Sales Rank: 915922
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Book Description

From Acting to Performance collects for the first time major essays by performance theorist and critic Philip Auslander.

Spanning over a decade, the essays survey the changes in acting and performance that occurred during the transition from the ecstatic theatre of the Vietnam era to the postmodern irony of the 1980s. Starting with the modern acting theories that inspired theatrical experimentalists of the 1960s such as Jerzy Grotowski and Jacques Copeau and ranging to 1990s performance artists and stand-up comics such as Kate Bornstein and Roseanne Barr From Acting to Performance provides critical analyses of modernist acting theories. Auslander argues that traditional theatre and contemporary performance studies are united by shared concerns and critical approaches. ... Read more

58. The Colossus of New York: A City in 13 Parts
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0385507941
Catlog: Book (2003-10-21)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 38116
Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In a dazzlingly original work of nonfiction, the award-winning novelist Colson Whitehead re-creates the exuberance, the chaos, the promise, and the heartbreak of New York.Here is a literary love song that will entrance anyone who has lived in—or spent time—in the greatest of American cities.

A masterful evocation of the city that never sleeps, The Colossus of New York captures the city’s inner and outer landscapes in a series of vignettes, meditations, and personal memories.Colson Whitehead conveys with almost uncanny immediacy the feelings and thoughts of longtime residents and of newcomers who dream of making it their home; of those who have conquered its challenges; and of those who struggle against its cruelties.

Whitehead’s style is as multilayered and multifarious as New York itself: Switching from third person, to first person, to second person, he weaves individual voices into a jazzy musical composition that perfectly reflects the way we experience the city.There is a funny, knowing riff on what it feels like to arrive in New York for the first time; a lyrical meditation on how the city is transformed by an unexpected rain shower; and a wry look at the ferocious battle that is commuting.The plaintive notes of the lonely and dispossessed resound in one passage, while another captures those magical moments when the city seems to be talking directly to you, inviting you to become one with its rhythms.

The Colossus of New York is a remarkable portrait of life in the big city.Ambitious in scope, gemlike in its details, it is at once an unparalleled tribute to New York and the ideal introduction to one of the most exciting writers working today.
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Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful little book.
I read a great deal of this book in a bookstore this afternoon, knowing good and well that I had no business buying another book - I ended up buying it (half because I was in love with it, half because the author was doing a reading at the same bookstore later in the evening and I wanted a signed copy). Sufficed to say - I went to the reading, finished the book on the train and I am in love with this man's words and have fallen in love with New York AGAIN (both his and mine)

The writing is so beautiful and raw and smart and witty and has the tendency to remind us how wondrous all of the things we overlook as ordinary really are and just how singular NY reallt is. And, of course, god bless the man who can write in tons of tenses and not lose the audience's interest. Whitehead feels to me (having not read his other work) like the rare kind of writer who can write to and for anyone.

Everyone is getting this book for christmas. Everyone. I hope many read it, its give-you-goosebumps lovely.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead
The author begins the book by defining a New Yorker in the
context of reminiscing scenes and occurrences deep in the
past- perhaps 20 years ago or 30 years ago or more. Centenarians
can think back almost 100 years to how the city was at the turn
of the previous century . Native New Yorkers have experienced
the underground subway, Broadway, Coney Island, billboards,
restaurants, famous museums and historic sports events. The
"true grit" New Yorkers can recant the hustle and bustle of the
rush hour and the beauty of Times Square at night-particularly
New Year's Eve.This work is perfect for every reader interested
in the history of New York City and the details of historic
landmarks and milestones.

1-0 out of 5 stars Free Association At Its Worst
People that laud this type of 'work' are the type that can read something significant into anything because they don't want to admit that they don't get it. He tries to paint a picture of Gotham using mawkish free association which comes across as pseudo-intellect at its worst/best. I was really looking forward to this book because it sounded like a very cool exercise and interesting look into the greatest city on the planet. Hardbound pretentious excrement.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic.
Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York: A City in Thirteen Parts (Doubleday, 2003)

When one encounters the name "Colson Whitehead," one is apt to think of an old Irish immigrant viewing the city through a jaundiced eye, bleary from another night of stumbling home in rush hour only to find he's locked himself out of his bachelor pad and can't get to the can of beans sitting on the counter seductively calling his name. Instead, what we're given is a young (younger than I am, anyway) born-and-raised New Yorker writing about the place he calls home.

But Colson Whitehead's The Colossus of New York is not just another travelogue. Oh, no, my friends. In fact, it is anything but; I seriously doubt the NY tourism board is going to be recommending this one. At times loving and ominous, sweet and sassy, laugh-out-loud funny and painfully depressed, The Colossus of New York is much like New York itself. There are eight million stories in the naked city, Whitehead wryly quotes, and one would think from reading this that every one of them is feeling a completely different emotion from any of the others at any given moment, and that it's all a constantly swirling chaotic mass. Amen.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is how Whitehead manages to take this odd, impressionist look at New York and map it onto you, the reader. You're liable to find at least one or two snatches of sentence per page you can identify with, even if you've never set foot within an hundred miles of the place. Thus, even if you care nothing about New York, it's probable he's going to keep you interested in its goings-on. A beautiful thing, that. But the draw of the book, and its continuing majesty throughout, is Whitehead's ability with language. His diction takes us from the language poetry of Charles Olson to the Nuyorican-style street rap that passes for poetry among slammers, but with Whitehead the language never loses its poetic drive. All of it, even the ugliness, is beautiful.

And above all, The Colossus of New York is a love song, the kind that one would write to one's spouse after seventy years of marriage if one could find a way to include all one's spouse's faults and still make it beautiful. This is a powerful little book, and highly deserving of the widest possible audience. A shoo-in for the top ten list this year. **** ½

5-0 out of 5 stars Colossal!
The observations in this magnificent little volume--and the way they are expressed by the author--are just exquisite. So much has been written about the great city, but this captures its spirit best of all (better even than E.B. White's "Here Is New York"--a great achievement indeed). The writing is pure poetry. I don't know why New York provokes such veneration in a way that few other cities do (certainly not my hometown, London), but for someone who spent a few years living on the Upper West Side, it certainly made me want to return. The book will make you homesick for New York even if you've never been there. ... Read more

by Joseph B. Mccullough
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684824396
Catlog: Book (1996-12-06)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 16574
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Indispensable religious satire
Mark Twain promptly proves with this volume that he is, indeed, as the title states, "America's Master Satirist." Having grown up in a fundamentalist Presbyterian community, Twain knew his Bible well; and, like any thinking person, his beliefs and attitudes relating to it changed as he grew older, wiser, and more experienced. Although Twain - due to many factors, such as the death of several children and his wife and his failed investments - grew famously bitter towards the end of his life, his vision remained remarkably clear-headed, though clearly suffued with pessimism - indeed, his zest for the truth and absolute intolerance for mankind's accepted irrational beliefs became even more razor-sharp during this period. Although there are writings in this volume from all phases of Mark Twain's career, the majority of them do come from that latter period - a period in which, indeed, the exploration of these themes was the main facet of his writing. Included are such well-known items as the Diaries of Adam and Eve (as well as several other Old Testament characters), Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven (published here in full for the first time ever), and, of course, his masterpiece, Letters From The Earth. In these, and the other, oftentimes more obscure pieces, Twain burlesques and satarizes freely, calling mankind on both his steadfast taking to irrational and illogical beliefs, as well as on his sheer stupidity and gullibility. If one is looking for a satire along the lines of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, then this is DEFINITELY not the place to look; however, if you have a fondness, as I do, for the darker, more probing side of Twain, then this is a volume that you must most definitely pick up.

5-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly non-controversial
I am a very religious person, and I was somewhat skeptical about reading this book when I received it as a gift. My husband and I read each other the diaries of Adam and Eve, and by the end we were both so moved we cried. True, it is excellent satire, but it is hardly offensive. Mark Twain manages to weave in sincerity and bits of truth with his masterful parodies.

5-0 out of 5 stars Right-Wing Religionist Praises Mark Twain
NEWSFLASH: I am a very religious conservative (aka "right-wing nut") who believes in the Bible and other books of scripture as the word of God, yet (unlike another reviewer would predict) I love Mark Twain's religious satire. I think that he has a keen eye for truth -- he sorts out the garbage of man-made religious fluff from the stuff that really matters. In many ways, his religious writings actually support my own beliefs in his tongue-in-cheek way. I don't think this book has any use if you intend to "bash" right-wing religionists with it. Anyone who would be shaken by Twain's writings probably doesn't really believe what they profess anyway...

I have read most of the writings in this book, although not in this edited compilation, so I cannot give my rating based on that. The five stars I have given in my review are for Mark Twain's works themselves.

4-0 out of 5 stars Generally, a good collection
In the decades since his death, many of Mark Twain's writings have been reorganized into common themes such as protests, speeches, short stories and sketches, and full works of fiction in larger volumes. A recent welcome addition to these is The Bible According to Mark Twain, which includes diaries of Adam, Eve, and other Old Testament characters, various speculations on what the imaginary Heaven might be like (including Captain Stormfield's), some autobiographical dictations, a few pieces that appear in print for the first time, and, of course, Letters From the Earth.

It also contains too many of the editor's notes that plague most of Twain's posthumous releases. Here, notes take up 50 of the book's first 260 pages (10 more are blank). Why do editors feel compelled to insert their version of Twain's autobiography before every entry? If they must share this information with readers, they can do so at the start or the end of the book, without interrupting Twain's far superior writing. Granted, some of the details are worth knowing: Twain read Paine's Age of Reason while piloting riverboats. This helped shape his views toward Christianity. But other statements are extremely irritating: "...we have omitted the five-and-a-half page attack on the concept of the virgin birth (mistakenly referred to as the immaculate conception) because that discussion is not closely related to the writings in this volume." Yes it is! Claims like this make me wonder what else is missing. The rest of Twain's writings on religion need a book of their own, WITHOUT the gratuitous editorial comments.

I'll let Twain have the last word:

"From the beginning of time, whenever a king has lain dangerously ill, the priesthood and some part of the nation have prayed in unison that the king be spared to his grieving and anxious people (in case they were grieving and anxious, which was not usually the rule) and in no instance was their prayer ever answered. When Mr. Garfield lay near to death, the physicians and surgeons knew that nothing could save him, yet at an appointed signal all the pulpits in the United States broke forth with one simultaneous and supplicating appeal for the President's restoration to health. They did this with the same old innocent confidence with which the primeval savage had prayed to his imaginary devils to spare his perishing chief -- for that day will never come when facts and experience can teach a pulpit anything useful. Of course the President died, just the same."

5-0 out of 5 stars Every Bible-thumper should read this book!
Anybody looking for a way to deflate the self-righteous, Bible-thumping, polyester-wearing right-wing nuts of our day ought to give them a copy of this book. Not only does this book show how ridiculous the Bible is, it does it in a very comical inoffensive (if you have an open mind it's inoffensive) way. A book every thinking person will love! ... Read more

60. Writing on Water (Terra Nova Books)
list price: $42.50
our price: $42.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0262182114
Catlog: Book (2001-06-01)
Publisher: The MIT Press
Sales Rank: 650999
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Taking both a scientific and philosophical approach to water in its myriad forms, this collection covers everything from resource management and protection to the profound mysteries of life's liquid. Writing on Water is part of the Terra Nova series of books, which is devoted to showing "that environmental issues are cultural and artistic as well as practical and political." True to that aim, the essays, stories, poems, and photographs in this enlightened and entertaining compendium cover a wide range of waterborne topics. In his essay "The Rarest Element," physicist Sidney Perkowitz explains that despite thousands of years of scientific advancement, our understanding of water "fails just as the questions get truly interesting.... [M]any of the most basic and familiar properties of water remain tantalizingly, and frustratingly, unexplained." In an excellent piece on the endlessly complicated world of water rights, Peter Warshall, editor of Whole Earth magazine, notes that for effective watershed governance, "you need the discipline of working rules and a good sense of humor. Admire humans and their leaky canteen-like bodies, and gently, firmly cover their greedy mouths before an insatiable thirst destroys the town." In "Rain," poet Joseph Bruchac celebrates water as the alpha and omega of life on earth: "Long before we / who walk, swim or fly / arrived / this pond was singing."

This impressive collection also features the writings of Bob Braine, Anne Collet, Robert Grudin, David Morse, Eva Salzman, and Octavio Paz, as well as the photographs of Adam David Clayman, Helen M. Ellis, Sally Gall, Margaret McCarthy, and Jerry Uelsmann, among others. Rich in scope and consistently rewarding, this book will be of interest both to those studying water issues and to those content to sit and watch the river flow. --Shawn Carkonen ... Read more

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