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Stephmo in Columbus is doing 28 things including…

Listen to the Audio Books My Dad Sent Me

6 cheers


Stephmo has written 7 entries about this goal

I am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe

I started this June 1st and finished it September 3rd. It felt much longer.

I got to the point in this book where I was so far into it, I was finishing it out of sheer spite. I refused to let the simple story of a girl that could not possibly exist going through the most impossible of self-inflicted problems get the best of me. I fully accept that this accomplishment, much like the tale of Charlotte Simmons, really means nothing.

Know what’s interesting? At the very end there is a brief interview with Tom Wolfe. At one point, he’s asked if he created Charlotte as an answer to the criticism that he has all but ignored women in his writing. He had an answer that went on about how he hadn’t set out to do it on purpose but that he found Charlotte so compelling as a character and he really wanted to find out what happened to her.

So who is this Charlotte that is so compelling that Wolfe had to write about her? On the surface I suppose she’s an intellectually stimulating virgin saving herself for marriage with no patience for those morally inferior to her but prepared to mother inferior men into superior versions of themselves. She gets to Dupont despite her inferior economic class, her lack of opportunity and her failure to have everything handed to her on a platter. She’s come to college to experience intellectual pursuit only to discover that all potential women friends are simple, slutty, guttermouth girls and while all men seemingly fall at her feet, they’re unworthy of Charlotte’s attention due to their morally inferior character.

While making Charlotte an object of conquest to three men (a starter on the basketball team, a major player in the biggest fraternity on campus and the token smart boy with a chip on his shoulder), Wolfe also makes it clear that no woman will be her true friend. Charlotte quickly alienates her roommate and makes no real attempt to create a social circle for herself outside of two hangers-on that merely get her to our fraternity guy. It really is this dull, and yet Charlotte seems to take great glee in this lack of friendship as a badge of honor. After all, why be friends with those who are morally inferior to you?

Of course, she does have the guys that are constantly after her and her and her morally superior ways. And why exactly do these guys stick around after the first few conversations? She has nothing in common with these men (well, virginity with one of them and she likes him least), she is clueless about popular culture, her ability to empathize is non-existent, she has no discernible hobbies and she can’t even accept a simple invitation to lunch without being completely annoyed. I can understand the equally social-awkward guy who complains constantly about his virginity putting up with some of this behavior for a prolonged period – but the player in the fraternity (even as a conquest?) or the starter on the basketball team? With no real kindness that comes from Charlotte ever – with no moment where she even remotely lets up or has a moment of fun that isn’t her gushing about her being superior to others simply trying to fit in, why am I to care if this girl from a small mountain town really makes it as arm candy?

Then again, it’s Wolfe’s fantasy and not mine.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I started this May 4, 2010 and finished it May 28, 2010

The subtitle to The Tipping Point might be better called How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and by the word “How” what I Mean is More of a Discussion on the Nature of How Things Connect and Get Sticky and Not So Much a Step-By-Step Thing – Think Philosophy and Not DIY. At least that’s what I ended up having to explain when I mentioned that I was listening to this book over the last month – individuals thought I was reading some sort of step-by-step guide on how to make things “tip.” Not that I didn’t gather some nuggets that can lead to better ideas, but that’s really the whole point.

Gladwell’s book breaks down a variety of topics – from Paul Revere’s Ride to Blue’s Clues to Suicide in Micronesia to Teen Smoking – and discusses what it is that made these things tip where other things languished or never made it out of the gate. He’ll introduce you to the individuals that are key in most movements – connectors, mavens and salesmen – and how they’re the ones that will bring an idea from a simmer to the tipping point.

Again, Gladwell isn’t providing rock-solid answers to why things tip. Instead, he’s offering general ideas, but within these ideas are a lot of fantastic nuggets of information.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

I started this on April 1, 2010 and finished it May 3, 2010.

In one afternoon, Takeo (once Tomasu of the Hidden) sees his life go from that of a simple, peace-loving country boy to being the adoptive son of the leader of the Otori clan, being trained in the way of a warrior. As we make our way through the story, we’ll discover that the annihilation of an entire village is not what it seems and that Takeo’s ability to hear anything and everything is not a gift of chance. Did I mention the love story involving the kidnapped slave girl who may or may not be cursed with the ability to bring death to anyone she is betrothed to just before they marry? All in all, this first book in the Tales of the Otori series (once a trilogy, long since expanded), manages to paint a harsh picture of the structure of Feudal Japan, the tight structure for each class and weaves an exciting and often violent story with a side of romance. Of course, we get very wrapped up in honor and promises whenever we need such a construct to throw up artificial conflict (and ignore it when we also need conflict), but I suppose this is the author’s right. I will likely read future volumes, but I do hope that we find that Takeo’s conflict arises from more sincere places rather than random promises he’ll be forced to follow when it is quite clear that he’s willing to ignore others when it suits him.

As an aside, the audiobook takes the time to have two different narrators read Takedo and Kaede’s parts (male and female, respectively). In the end, this actually detracts from the overall experience of the book, as the female narrator tends to make all of her female characters sound like small, frightened girls no matter the situation. It’s not horrific, just one of those minor points of irritation when the narration shifts.

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

I started this Feb 26, 2010 and finished it Mar 31, 2010. Just a lot of commuting listening – 16 hours of unabridged listening to Campbell Scott.

He was the highlight. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the book, it just wasn’t anything super. I realized in talking about books today that some of Atwood’s earlier books – The Edible Woman and The Handmaid’s Tale I still remember bits and pieces of all these years later – and the last 2 Atwoods, I’ve just felt like calling her up and going, “Mags, it’s like this. I love the environment, you love the environment. You hate crass commercialism, I’m not all that thrilled with it either. And sure, we both agree that far too many people see their lives controlled by companies they work for out of fear of not being able to have the stuff they want and need. And, no, they can’t tell the difference. But, hey, you know what? You’re not even being subtle. Seriously. It’s like you’ll sacrifice everything to not be so subtle and hope that your cleverness will hide what would be a rejected SciFi channel script.”

Margaret really spent too much time telling needless exposition and making up clever labradoodle-like names for the bioengineering stuffs and forgot that she should actually put on a show for the readers. Seriously – there must have been 10 minutes worth of audio one day on a game called Blood & Roses where she worked out the rules in which world atrocities were exchanged for works of art – the original point to demonstrate the good in humanity vs. the evil (of course the game largely favored the bad). In the end, of course, it was just payoff for a line about humans 2.0 (long story) possibly going down the wrong path when they created a graven image – because it was the beginning of art.

My point being – we go through the game play in this attempt to be clever (making up Blood & Roses) while our demonstration (show) in the real world was to SHOW derision for art (!) but conclude that art somehow was a major threat. I’d say she was being deliberate, but the derision of art was part of another need to go on and on about how the educational system was really a caste system meets NFL draft for the corporate world.

I’m actually making this seem more clever than it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was plenty fine for the commute, but Atwood has certainly done better. It just won’t be staying with me for a long time.

Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan

I started this on Jan 3, 2010 and finished it Feb 26, 2010! No roadtrips to help and 24 hours of listening to the unabridged edition. :)

Having listened to the audio book for nearly two months on a short commute to work, I feel as if I nearly lived the entire peace conference of 1919. Then again, I’m also living in an era of ongoing negotiations for a health care bill meant to solve the problems of a country in a fair and diplomatic manner that has become mired down in nasty politics, backroom deals, sidebars having nearly nothing to do with the main issue at hand and threats upon threats if individuals do not get their way…all so something historic and good can finally happen.

How does the saying go? The more things change, the more they stay the same?

In nearly 24 hours of audio, MacMillan’s book gets one point very clear: Politics has gotten no worse or better in the last one hundred years. No matter the issue or the cause, we’re still the same, coming together as a group speaking of nothing but the greater good. When everyone gets down to business, however, it becomes clear that in the pursuit of the greater good everyone intends to shuttle just a little something to the side that will just happen to befit their pet causes. And if it means moving boundaries, dissolving a country or two, asking some people to adopt a new nationality or demanding a little something based on land occupied a thousand years ago – what of it?

MacMillan humanizes the peace treaty process and gives credit where credit is due. It is a fascinating story, although it does become tedious in parts…where minor players with interesting personalities are afforded far too much time in the book, it makes the German response to the treaty seem almost rushed. Still, we could all do far worse than knowing the story of how men come together to carve up the world and their people in the name of peace and how those decisions changed the world forever.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I started this on 12/22 and just finished it 1/3 (roadtrip to Toledo helped).

I’ve read Malcolm’s column’s here and there, but never read any of his books. Blink was a great listen – he read the book himself. I actually do analysis, so I was a bit apprehensive at first, but then I realized that this wasn’t about abandoning all thought in favor of snap judgments, but in favor of understanding how to make snap judgments. Snap judgments are best in an environment where you understand how to strip away the “noise” of extraneous data and can concentrate only on the most basic pieces of data needed to make a decision.

He gives a lot of voice to analysis paralysis and how one might articulate why you can explain when you’re done needing additional inputs BUT also warning you when you’re likely too anxious to make decisions because you don’t know yourself well enough.

Good thought.

So my Dad sends me this player...

Preloaded with over 50 audiobooks. He likes to do things like this – when he heard that I’d have a real commute with my new job, he wanted to give me more than just music to listen to on the way to work. Now I need to remember to take the player with me more often!

He preloaded it with a mix of everything. I’ve created a list and it’ll keep me busy. These will count towards books read since these are unabridged.

Stephmo has gotten 6 cheers on this goal.


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