Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nevermore: Star of Istanbul, Innocence, Citizen Canine, and Lines of Descent

Our Nevermore members are never shy about voicing opinions.  At this week’s meeting, one member proclaimed The Star of Istanbul by Robert Olen Butler to be the least thrilling thriller she’d ever read.  Set in 1915, the book features war correspondent/spy Christopher Marlowe Cobb who is now on the Lusitania.  His assignment is to keep an eye on a suspicious German, but he finds he also has eyes for actress Selene—who may also be working for the Germans.  The book has been praised for its attention to historical detail while bringing in some derring do.  Our reader thought it was more derring don’t. 

On the other hand, a member had nothing but praise for Dean Koontz’s Innocence. Addison Goodheart’s appearance is deemed so horrific that he has chosen to live hidden away in some large city.  He meets Gwyneth, a teenage girl being stalked by a man who may have murdered her father.  Our reviewer found the book to be beautifully written and poetic.  She highly recommends it.

Another highly recommended book is Citizen Canine by David Grimm, an examination of how the relationship between humans and their companion animals has evolved.  At first mere dogs and cats were too inconsequential to be considered property; that designation was reserved for horses, cows, or other useful creatures.  Now, however, the importance of companion animals is recognized to the point where some consider them family members and court cases are fought over custody.  Grimm discusses the history of humans and their animals in this very readable, fascinating book. Our reviewer said it was a “great book” and that it made her want to “just sit and read.”

The final book discussed was Lines of Descent:  W.E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah.  Appiah examines how Du Bois’ experiences in America and in German helped to shape his thinking. Du Bois attended Harvard University and studied with William James, and then in 1892 he went to Germany where he studied with German intellectuals.  Du Bois rejected the idea that race was a strict biological construct and believed that culture, racism, and social conditions were more dominant factors.  Appiah quotes him as saying, “The black man is a person who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia.”  Du Bois struggled to define race, much as we still struggle today, and many of his writings have helped to shape the on-going discussion. Our reviewer said that it was a slim book—only 240 pages—but had much food for thought.  He intended to re-read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment