A Game of Thrones
Just finished Book 1…Intrigue! Sifting through the axes, swords, beheadings, battles, horses, wolves, whores, dragons, kingdoms, honor, trying to figure what is so compelling about this book. Whatever it is, I need to know what happens! So glad (/sad) I have the boxset.
I love the map! But why doesn’t it include the Free Cities and where Daenerys is…?
NW, by Zadie Smith
How different the dialogue and narration in the beginning of NW, so abstract and dreamlike. Although gaps are filled in as the story continues, it remains largely a story told in pieces. While this is not my favorite by Zadie Smith (that’d be On Beauty), it nonetheless hinted of why I enjoy her. Her characters are always so full! This book is actually more of a novella, very short, but still the characters are so lively. The relationship between Keisha and Leah, the evolution of 2 childhood friends, scant descriptions but chosen well – becoming different people, growing apart, growing back together, both struggling. I ended up wanting more, either more about them, or more stories like theirs. The relationship between Leah and Michel, the man more beautiful than the woman, “and for this reason there have been times when the woman has feared that she loves the man more than he loves her. He has always denied this. He can’t deny that he is more beautiful.” Two quite different people, coming together through physical attraction, and then as an afterthought trying to make their lives work together. All this told in Smith’s native (Brit) language is charming, “innit.”
There seems to be the underlying theme of alienation in a city brimming with people. This is especially so in Keisha’s life. Surrounded by so many loved ones, yet lonely and desperate, grasping at random relationships online. All the characters are loosely related, yet similarly troubled…Did Nathan kill Felix ? It was extreeeemely circumstantial if so (calling the cops in the end, Nathan panicking), or am I over-reading?
Lastly, I need to include this because it’s haunting me…sorry in advance: “He grabbed the mouse-tail [tampon string] between his teeth and pulled. It came out easily. He left it like a dead thing, red on the white deck. He turned back to her and dug in with his tongue. He looked like he was frantically tunneling somewhere and hoping to reach the other side. She tasted of iron, and when he came up for air five minutes later he imagined a ring of blood around his mouth. In fact there was only a speck; she kissed it away. The rest was quick.”
Low-status person with intellectual capital but no surplus wealth seeks high-status person of substantial surplus wealth for enjoyment of mutual advantages, including longer life-expectancy, better nutrition, fewer working hours and earlier retirement, among other benefits.
Human animal in need of food and shelter seeks human animal of opposite gender to provide her with offspring and remain with her until the independent survival of aforementioned offspring is probable.
Some genes, seeking their own survival, pursue whatever will most likely result in their replication.
" - Zadie Smith, in NW
Good Calories, Bad Calories (Gary Taubes)
I just finished reading this book for the 2nd time…partly as reinforcement that I must continue battling a sugar addiction. If you only read one paragraph, it should be this:
“Insulin works to deposit calories as fat and to inhibit the use of that fat for fuel. Dietary carbohydrates are required to allow this fat storage to occur. Since glucose is the primary stimulator of insulin secretion, the more carbohydrates consumed – or the more refined the carbohydrates – the greater the insulin secretion, and thus the greater the accumulation of fat. ‘Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat [and disease].’” —> In other words, sugar/carbohydrates = death (more or less).
I have been admittedly obsessing over food since I discovered last year that I was pre-diabetic (I no longer am). This book is dense, but if waded through, shines lights on chilling notions that the “low-fat, high-carb diet” research outcomes are correlated to funding/consulting fees by big sugar product companies (aka wishful science, or selection bias) + such research is wrong.
I understand peoples’ reticence towards new diets – after waves of veganism, raw, gluten-free, paleo, ad infinitum – but this book doesn’t attempt to push a diet. It unearths the history & science behind nutrition and its effects, to “…consider the possibility that it is the quality of the nutrients in a diet and not the quantity of calories that causes [diseases of civilization].”
My review from the 1st time I read it in 2012 (I apparently didn’t know what a carb was, ack):
I currently have something of a scavenger diet and I am searching out more mature alternatives as my physical activity increases, which is why I read this book on a recommendation from a friend (whose diet consists completely of meat and greens). The basic thesis of this book was twofold: 1) in terms of obesity and disease, a diet consisting of fat is better than a diet consisting of carbohydrates; and 2) if anyone believes the converse, it’s due to the findings of improper scientific methods. It should be known: this is not a how-to diet book, but rather a scientific exposé. I appreciate the tremendous amount of research that went into this book, and also that when he started researching, author Gary Taubes did not know what his conclusions would be.
Regarding the nutritional evils of carbohydrates – I don’t think this was revolutionary in terms of obesity, as most people know they can’t eat excessive amounts of bread and sugar without weight gain. However, I WAS surprised at what really constitutes a “carbohydrate,” both simple carbs (refined sugar, candy) and complex carbs (certain vegetables, fruit, whole grain breads, legumes). According to Taubes, we really need neither! And here we reach the controversial part – we don’t need fruit and whole grain in our diets? I understand that obscure scientific studies have shown that people thrive on fat-only diets, but what about vitamins and minerals in fruits & whole grain? We don’t need those?
AND, what about the larger effects of being strictly fat/meat consumers, i.e. the vegetarian argument that by eating less meat, we would free up grain, “the world’s most essential commodity,” to feed the hungry? Taubes does not refute this, but merely notes that this argument became intertwined with the medical issues of fat and cholesterol in the diet, further advancing the idea that fat is bad for us. Maybe this is because it was not his intent to defend a fat diet, but just to highlight its merits, even though it’s a patchy account of the fat diet if not all factors are considered.
Aside from the nutritional values, Taubes delves into the topic of obesity, which I found pretty intriguing. He suggests that obesity is NOT caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy output (calories in over calories out). Taubes claims that to say overeating and sedentary behavior causes obesity is 1) an assumption: something that accompanies the process of becoming obese (overeating and deficient physical activity) causes it; and 2) a tautology: these terms are defined in such a way that they have to be true (i.e. ‘alcoholism is caused by chronic overdrinking’)… true but meaningless because it confuses association with cause & effect. The apparent answer to obesity is not a physiological disorder, nor a character defect (lacking will power to remain on diet), but rather WHAT calories we consume. Essentially, if we consume fat, we will be more satiated with less. I think this is logical, but I also think he is underrating the power of the mental factor in peoples’ relationships with food.
As to the second part of the thesis, Taubes claims most scientists and doctors pay attention to only that evidence that confirms their existing beliefs about disease and obesity. Also, that most don’t keep up with any changing literature in their fields because they are too busy. The result: mainstream medical establishment insisting a low-fat diet is healthiest, ignoring contrary evidence, and advising public to adhere to unsafe diets! My only problem with this is that scientific studies seem so arbitrary…there are billions of them + small factors in subjects may alter results + causation is hard to determine (does chronic illness lead to low cholesterol, or vice versa?).
Overall, I think this was an interesting book, and it sparked a lot of interesting conversations with people while I was reading it. However, it seemed really repetitious (fat is good; carbs are bad); it was at times like reading an encyclopedia (sample sentence: “The two demonstrated that it was, indeed, the hypothalamus, not the pituitary, that regulated adiposity in the rats; lesions in a region called the ventromedial hypothalamus would induce corpulence even in those animals that had their pituitary glands removed.”); and I generally wanted more of the author’s thoughts (instead of study after study after study…tie it together for us, Gary!). On the upside, I did learn the true meaning of terms like adipose, triglycerides, ketosis, glycemic index, and thrifty genes. Unfortunately, I’m still left with many questions on health & diet.
The Instructions, by Adam Levin
I bought this book on a whim after thinking it may be love at first sight due to its girth. To my delight, I read on the back that people compared Levin to David Foster Wallace, one of my greats. After consuming all 1030 pages (and getting through daily comments on bus or street by strangers asking me if it was the bible), I realize the only reason that people compare him to Wallace is because of the extreme tangents + similar magnitude of Infinite Jest, which is a pretty cheap comparison…
This entire story consisted of 4 days in the POV of a deranged yet genius 10 year old, Gurion, who believes he is an “Israelite messiah.” Not knowing anything about this book or author, I was on edge when I neared the end, because I had no idea where it was going. When I got to the end, I still had no idea where it was going.
Like most novels, there were poignant elements (though sparse). Some of Gurion’s thoughts were sweetly childish, such as the way he thought about girls or talked to his parents. “’Yet it has true pieces,’ said Yuval’s Sara. That sentence was so pretty, and if I weren’t so in love with Esther Salt, I think I would have fallen in love with Sara Forem, just for her nervous Israeli English…” Or the way his father calls him boychical when trying to be sentimental. Then there was the whole idea of the school being “the arrangement,” an organization that is actually against the children it pretends to serve (true pieces), and the children cultishly identifying with the slogan “we damage we” because they were on both sides of damage – sometimes damagers, sometimes being damaged. There was a lot of fodder for this theme to go places…but it didn’t. Instead it had some whacked out fantastical ending that hit too close to home with all the school shootings, and an increasingly hallucinative narrator that made me uneasy. Although, it was an interesting 180 a reader makes concerning trust of the narrator – as the book begins, I revered him as intelligent and lovely, but by the end I was actually uncomfortable with his level of crazy, and felt a little betrayed.
Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful book, though yes yes ‘looks are often deceiving,’ I always learn that the tough way. This book tried so hard, and I was behind it until I realized there was nothing cohesive to make it over the barrier into something great. It was close though.