Monday, March 9, 2020

Democracy and Its Crisis by A. C. Grayling - Non-fiction

Democracy and Its Crisis written by A. C. Grayling is a timely exposure of the state of Western democracy today. Grayling takes the reader through historic political events in England, America and France. The author outlines the rise of power in a democratic state of play with its various nuances as they occurred in the past era.

Grayling proceeds to decipher how democracy has evolved into its different transformations; sometimes for the good of the people and other times in a questionable manner that results in "tyrannical takeover" by certain elected leaders. It explains the rationale for our current situation with the rise of populism in the Western democratic countries. There are suggestions on how democracy can be maintained through appropriate governance models.

Democracy and Its Crisis is a very good read as it resonates loud and clear to today's political situations in Western democratic countries.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey - An Autobiography

As a seasonal National Parks ranger in the late 1950s, Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, describes his experiences and narrates a series of stories of his interactions with the people and wildlife in the National Arches Monument  now known as National Arches Park in the Colorado Plateau region of the desert South Western United States.

Abbey praises the natural environment of this area and preaches against any development in the form of modern revitalization for the purpose of enabling tourists to enjoy the Park with comfort. This, he believes would take away from absorbing the rustic natural wonder of this area.

He captivates the reader with his vivid descriptions of the flora, fauna and gigantic formations of stone sculptures. These wonders are formed, not by man, but by the natural erosion of this region. There is the balance rock, the three gossiping sisters, the courthouse and so forth are the named rock wonders situated in this Park.

He explains how he occupies his time alone on this tour of duty; he is anything but bored; instead he engages with the environment in ways that would make the reader envious of what it means to befriend nature, its surroundings and its inhabitants.

Desert Solitaire is a fascinating autobiography that leaves an indelible mark on the reader’s mind.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Pearl by John Steinbeck - Fiction

John Steinbeck, author of The Pearl, takes the reader to a small town near the Gulf of Mexico. The people are poor divers who live off their hope of finding pearls and eventually selling these pearls. It is an inadequate lifestyle that provides the bare minimum.

Kino and Juana and their son Coyotito are the main characters in this story. Kino is a third generation diver. On this one particular dive he brings up a very large pearl. It becomes the talk of the town and everyone gathers around the Kino brush house.

The story unfolds as the dreams of what could be as a result of cashing in on this pearl. But it is a difficult road ahead as Kino tries to sell the pearl.

Steinbeck brings out the nature of the human spirit in this folktale as he exposes the nuances of the plight of Kino Is not literate enough to decipher if he is being told the truth or not. And there is no one in their neighbour hood who can inform him as they too are not literate. It is a fascinating story that highlights how the disadvantaged survive in this kind of environment.

The Pearl has a dramatic ending as the reader goes through the ups and downs that Kino and his family face while try to sell the pearl.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Tyrant Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt - Non-fiction

In Tyrant Shakespeare on Politics, Stephen Greenblatt has written a timely analysis on politicalLeaders as depicted in Shakespeare’s works. Greenblatt picked King Lear, Richard III, Macbeth to illustrate how leaders can influence and become tyrants while ruling its people.

Greenblatt portrays each leader during his time of rule showing how the people were maneuvered, distracted, punished severely by death if the ruler’s wishes were not followed or posed a threat to the ruler.  The descriptions with analyses accurately depict the cruelty and barbarous manner of leadership of these political leaders of the time.

There are similarities of what the world is experiencing today from the current political leaders. Greenblatt’s analyses has many parallels that highlight the possible demise of our representative democracy of today.

The author points out that Shakespeare, whilst writing these works, was very careful and astute in depicting these characters of a different era from the one he was living in. Shakespeare was well aware of what could happen to him had he written about his contemporary political leaders.

Tyrant Shakespeare on Politics is a timely read that enables the reader to become aware and possibly  become active in ensuring our return to genuine representative democracy from our political leaders.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Book Review: River of Fire My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen Prejean - Memoir

River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, by Sister Helen Prejean is a mesmerizing description of Prejean's path of life. From the very beginning, the reader meets this honest to goodness young woman who joins the convent to become a nun.  She is an extrovert and faces everything that comes her way with impulse and zest for becoming spiritual by loving God every inch of the way. 

Prejean lives in Louisiana in a white suburb and does not encounter the African Americans who live in poverty not too far from her suburb where the two groups do not interact with each other. Hence Prejean is oblivion to the plight of the African Americans living near her. The reader becomes aware that Prejean is an academic, goes to university, becomes a teacher and loves literature. She believes her role in life is to become spiritual and enable the young students to be aware of Jesus and live like He did while on earth all within the confines of her white neighbourhood.

Over time, Prejean is enlightened by another nun's quest to work for social justice right in Louisiana among the African American group. Prejean follows suit and moves from being apolitical to political as she engages in working with the African Americans in her neighbourhood. The author aptly describes her transformation with wit and humour as the reader observes this change. There are episodes of her more than friendly relationship with a priest and its evolvement.

Towards the end the reader gets insights into Prejean's activism in social justice issues that culminate to her writing Dead Man Walking and how that was an inspiration for a movie of the same name.

River of Fire is a captivating read about one woman's transformative life.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Book Review: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P. D. James - Fiction

P. D. James in Sleep No More unravels six murderous tales. Each tale captivates the mystery surrounding the act of murder; the unsuspecting murderer or the person who knows but does not divulge the information that is crucial to solving the murder case. These tales are set in the backdrop of Britain as James gracefully brings in the landscape and culture entwined in what are horrible cases of murder.

There is a gentleness in the narratives that keeps the reader wanting more. James cleverly sets out the plot with suspense and surprise that incorporates the chilling effect, typical in any murder case. The tales involve going down memory lane that describes traditions of days gone by. This creates a sense of nostalgia for the readers who are familiar with these traditions. There are secrets and lies that add to the conundrum of each tale.

Sleep No More, in its short story format, is an excellent read that gives the whole essence to the murder mystery case for each tale.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review: Wanderlust: A History of Walking - Non-fiction

Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking, traces the activity of walking from the past to the contemporary era. It delves into how philosophers regarded the act of walking as part of their thinking process. From their walking experiences, writers and poets were inspired to create their literary works. For instance, the author cites William Wordsworth walking through the English countryside that formulated many of his poetic works. Historically, women were not allowed to walk; and over time and with the evolving change of dress, women began going on walks as a leisurely activity.

As more and more people engaged in this walking activity, they were trespassing private property in England, but this activity eventually resulted in creating walking pathways. Walking in demonstrations and protest movements empowered political change. Over time, with the increase of suburbanization and the rise of the use of the car, walking was frowned upon and became an activity done by the poor as described by Solnit.

Solnit addresses the cultural nuances of walking and aptly describes the social impact of walking, but peripherally refers the era of walking on a treadmill and driving to shops to purchase gear for walking and mountaineering without much depth to its importance on health and well-being.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking gives the reader a glimpse into the activity of walking that dates  back to a different era and how this activity evolved over time. It is an interesting read.