Monday, January 29, 2007
by Muhammad Yunas
Have you heard of Mr. Yunas? He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in establishing Grameen Bank, the first bank to arrange micro-credit (loans usually less than $300) to the poor. This model of banking has since spread around the world to alleviate poverty and create a self-sustaining model of independence.
The book is the story of his life and Grameen Bank. He writes in a casual, conversational style that is easy to read.
After a visit to a local village in the 1970s, when he lent $27 to a poor woman so she could end the cycle of dependence on moneylenders and lift herself out of poverty, he was inspired to found Grameen Bank
He paid attention to the poor around him. And he paid attention to what it would take to make them self-sufficient (not dependent on charity).
It fascinated me that paying attention and being resourceful can wreak such a wonderful outcome (btw, why do we usually only say "wreak havoc"? we should start saying "wreak joy/life/beauty").
Isn't that an attribute of all great entrepreneurs and innovators--that they are paying attention at the right moment? In Farsi, "paying attention" translates to "well-gathered thoughts". What do you need to pay attention to?
Monday, January 22, 2007
by Barbara Vine
Ms. Vine goes into a bit too much detail on the biography process, and the central intrigue about the good doctor didn't grab me. In addition, the other two story lines she is juggling (the House of Lords and the pregnancy) end up getting almost as much attention, and detract from the central mystery.
I suppose I was expecting quite a lot after The Minotaur, and I found The Blood Doctor lacking. However, she is still very deft in her prose and I do believe if the book had been halved in size, it would have worked excellently.
But read it and tell me if you disagree.
Despite The Blood Doctor and because of The Minotaur, I'm not giving up on her yet, and have checked out another Vine book and two Ruth Rendell books. Reviews on those to come.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons
Funnily enough, I picked up this book because I was cleaning the library out of their Kaye Gibbons collection, and scooped this accidentally! Good accident. I had a jolly time reading this quick read. No relation in themes or style to Kaye Gibbons incidentally.
It's a humorous satire, poking fun at the melodramatic novels popular at the time (CCF was first published in 1932). Flora Poste, our heroine, finds herself an orphan--but despite being "athletically and lengthily educated", she has no means of making a living, and off she goes to live with some relatives in the country. She then proceeds to apply her common sense, levelheaded, omniscient, and modern approach to fixing all of the resident evils of the motley family living there.
Yes, the book is fun and quite funny, but it also made me noodle on (my boss uses this phrase, I think it's hilarious) the notion of "fixing" people's problems. I recognized myself in Flora Poste, and while I rather liked Flora, she was also incorrigible and such a busybody! However, dear friends, rest assured that I'm not sure I'm going to become less of a busybody (matchmaking, offering unsolicited advice, etc.) anytime soon...You may remember, that this novel was a made for BBC movie, starring Kate Beckinsale (who oddly, I find annoying in real life, but fine on sceen) back in 1995. It is now on my Netflix queue as well. (Good reviews of the film too, which is lovely).
The grandmother, when she's young, gets this lucky charm, that's supposed to bring her an easy life. Her husband leaves her, tries to con her, she works as a doctor in the early 1900's when infection and poverty are rampant--but she is blessed with a wonderful daughter and granddaughter---they're all three smart, good-looking, admirable, love each other deeply and admired.
The grandmother gives the charm to her granddaughter (fully believing in its worth as a lucky charm) as a gift to her granddaughter's future husband and tells her to tell him "It's a charm for an easy life. Just depends what your definition of easy is."
I love that. The relativity of life and the difference perspective makes about how you feel about your life.
There's another line I really like too where the grandaughter says of her grandmother "I admired her energetic mind and her muscular soul." Isn't that a great thing to have--a muscular soul? One that's strong, flexible, resilient?
As many of you know, I haven't posted on here in over a year...the truth is I struggled with what would be appropriate fodder for this semi-public forum. I have strong notions of privacy (even with my random, usually trivial, silly or boring) regarding my internal world--thoughts about myself, life, the people I love, even just the people I know slightly just seemed to precious to broadcast to any Joe Blow who happened to be clicking through the blogger "next blog" feature.
However, I've decided to take the plunge again (with some urging from my good friend and tireless blogger, Wendy) and reinvent this blog as a place for me to post my thoughts on the books I read.
As you probably know, (if you're reading this, you probably know me) I'm a grossly voracious reader. I probably average about 6 books a month, and that's a slow month.
The good, the bad, the ugly, it will all go here. My notions of privacy will probably still be a little uncomfortable with cracking open my head about the books I spend my free time on (giving you strong glimpses into who I am and why I read what I read), but I'm willing to go for it, in the interests of being both modern and entertaining, as well as creating a good record of what the heck I spend that free time on!
I look forward to receiving a lot of comments and reactions to my reviews and hope that there is strong differences of opinion, because I love debating books, almost as much as debating films.
Note to Pedram & Wen: I can be a lazy mofo, so keep me on track!
(Bonus points if you can figure out why this particular picture of Madonna's graces this entry)