Nov 222011

Summary:  Everybody poops.  Nobody talks about it.  It’s a big problem everywhere.  In the First World disposing of sewage consumes too much water and generates unimaginable quantities of industrially and pharmaceutically contaminated waste.  In the Second World, sewage isn’t treated; just dumped in the local river.  In developing countries, 2.6 billion people crap in the open in close proximity to their drinking water.  Poop is one of those topics nobody wants to talk, write, or read about, but the author, Rose George, makes it seem like the most important environmental issue on the planet.  She runs out of steam toward the end of the book.  There’s a little too much focus on India and not enough on Africa, but those are minor quibbles.  Kudos to her for discussing the unmentionable.

Nov 202011

An old man lies in his bed surrounded by family and his memories as his life winds down like the clocks he used to fix.  He once drove a horse-drawn cart of household items to sell to rural, early-nineteenth century, New England homesteads.  The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and somehow I missed the point.  The book was half plot and half romantic depictions of people in nature in a part of American history that probably only ever existed in the minds of contemporary American fiction writers.  The poetry of Harding’s language didn’t hold my interest and it opened gaps in the narrative that became too long before returning to story.  Obviously, the critics and most readers loved this book.  Feh.

Nov 072011

A book about and probably for young adults, and not a very good one at that, about a high school farm boy accepted at a small, fictional, liberal arts college in Wisconsin who becomes the best shortstop in the storied history of the college baseball team .  The first one hundred pages of the book is a spot-on parody of liberal arts Presidents, students, and faculty in all their self-important insistence on political correctness, academic freedom, and carbon neutrality.  Then the plot grinds on, the characters never rise above juvenile mistakes, even the old people, and the book loses sight of making a point beyond the fact that guy buddies can be close friends and then enemies without ever really talking to each other in more than monosyllables.  The critics loved it, but I bet they didn’t read closely past the first fourth of the book.