Posts Tagged ‘books’
Alex Epstein has done a useful thing by writing The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, published last year by Portfolio/Penguin. He links fossil fuel consumption to our high quality of life and exposes the fraudulence of Amory Lovins, Paul Erlich, Bill McKibben, John Holdren, and James Hansen–alarmists whose predictions of doom haven’t quite been realized.
While reading the book, I was reminded of Michael Crichton’s postulation: “I suspect the people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today.”
Epstein enhances the hopeful scenario. But some basic problems affect the quality of his writing, casting a shadow over the pages:
- A college professor once said a paper I’d written was “this-y and that-y,” and I remembered her lesson. Lack of variation in sentence structure as well as lack of ambition in finding new names and in rephrasing will lead to overdependence on pronouns. (See example below.) As the result, Epstein tends to drone.
- Words and phrases are repeated too often within individual sentences, paragraphs, and pages as well as throughout the book. If I’d read “cheap, plentiful, reliable energy from fossil fuels” one more time, I might have driven to Orange County, where Epstein’s Center for Industrial Progress is located, and pointed my exhaust pipe at the door.
- Far too often, he violates a basic stylistic rule, namely, it’s not necessary to italicize words for emphasis. The reader will provide his own. On p. 207: “That is, a revolution in fossil fuel technology occurred because our government didn’t know enough about it to demonize and ban it.” OK, I get it!
- I kept seeing “which is why” and “which is what,” which should have been slapped down.
Pages 110-111 exemplify the general problem.
In the afterword–which is what I wouldn’t have read except that I was on a plane and this meant I had nothing to do besides stare out the window at the ruined landscape–Epstein thanks his editor “who put in the time to make every page better.”
The question arises: what did she start with?
Without a doubt, Epstein has established himself as a factor. Despite the wooden and pedantic tone of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, I’m glad I read it.
But unless his writing improves in future works, I’ll stick to summaries written by intrepid reviewers.
Translating a novel from Finnish to English must be like landing a spacecraft on Jupiter’s moon Europa in order to tryst with winsome Gwyneth Paltrow, who avowed she’d be there, too.
Sometimes, as in Arto Paasilinna’s The Year of the Hare, the sentences, like mine, come out a little funny:
Their apartment had become an extravagant farrago of shallow and meretricious interior-decoration tips from women’s magazines. A pseudo-radicalism governed the design, with huge posters and clumsy modular furniture. It was difficult to inhabit the rooms without injury; all the items were at odds.
Wasn’t “farrago” an early 1960s Ford, fitting into the model lineup between the Falcon Futura and Fairlane 500? The Farrago Finesse was top of the line?
Wait, it’s already highlighted in my dictionary. It means: “A confused mixture: hodgepodge.”
Herbert Lomas, the novel’s translator, was very capable, and so far—other than the gummed up passage on display—this fable’s pages have flown by. Mr. Lomas specialized in Finnish; he had taught in Helsinki and somehow mastered the difficult tongue.
Maybe he had an easier time picking it up than most would, but Finnish looks pretty challenging.
It shares almost no root words with English or other European languages, meanwhile adding complex variables. To learn Finnish must be about as simple as being handed a hammer and saw with the instructions that you, having no experience whatsoever in the textile industry, must build a loom and produce piqué-knit shirts. You have three weeks.
Does it ease your mind that Finnish is related to Estonian, more distantly to Hungarian, and to some small languages in the Ural Mountains of Russia? If you could learn Finnish, then Udmurt and Erzya are, so to speak, just a few steps away.
How many novels written in Udmurt by G.D. Krasilnikov are being overlooked for translation into English? Gennady Dmitrievich, we need you!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,300 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Being tagged on Facebook to name 10 books that have stayed with me, I received these meager guidelines:
- Don’t think too hard or take more then a few minutes.
- They don’t have to be great works of literature but must have affected you in some way.
Of course, I’ve overthought it. And there’s the need to elaborate and provide context.
From youth, a group of titles comes to mind: Old Yeller (by Fred Gipson), Rascal (Sterling North), The Pond (Robert Murphy), The Yearling (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), and Animal Farm (George Orwell). All featured animals (but no cats).
So here’s my list:
Fahrenheit 451: My younger sister Kate and I accompanied our father to the the Francois Truffaut film version when I was 11 and she was 10. It was hard to comprehend. The fire trucks had funny sirens compared to those I was used to. And why were firemen setting books ablaze? I’ve read Bradbury’s novel a couple of times since and figured it all out.
Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky. My idea of a big, important novel. In our home, our father cultivated a disdain for high culture in general and British culture in particular. (Continental culture came in a close second, though.) The monarchy and all that proceeded from it were derided. Of course I was affected, so I wasn’t inclined to read Thackeray or Hardy. When I was 19, in my first college literature class, Crime and Punishment was exotic, a premium novel I’d always heard of. And not British.
The American, by Henry James. After an American literature survey course, when I first heard of Henry James, I read this novel over Christmas break. The experience opened me up to a different kind of writing–the realism and the prose–and gave a view inside a rare world. I’ve read a fair amount of James since.
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe. After college, I found my way to this nonfiction novel, which in its enjoyably bombastic style and robust subject matter offered release from academic constraints.
The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey (and illustrations by R. Crumb), was encountered when I was in my late-20s–the perfect thing at the time. I’ve never reread it, but maybe I ought to!
White Noise, by Don DeLillo, is a satire about a family fleeing an “airborne toxic event” (namesake of an indie rock band) and rings true in every line.
The Baron in the Trees, by Italo Calvino, is my favorite of his novels, although not long ago I had a great time reading another of his absurdist fables, The Nonexistent Knight.
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg, came along at the peak of my interest in Scandinavian literature and film, the rare thriller on my shelf.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is the best contemporary novel I’ve found in years. The main female character, Madeleine, made me think of someone I’d once been very fond of.
Great Expectations, by Dickens, embodies the benefits of this great novelist, now that I’ve finally gotten around to him. (I finished in June.) It’s quite a page turner, actually, and one superb line after another.
That’s 11 books. Good thing I read so slow, or I would have finished many more, adding to the difficulty of this task.
A skunk in the works. All boogered up. Guber and Peters.
The latter phrase, a grouping of two proper nouns, should endure as a quintessential expression of incompetence and subversion from within, no matter what organization. A Sioux Falls accounting firm could be just as Guber-and-Peters as a Hollywood studio.
I’ve just finished “Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood.” This report by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters, already a generation old, fills in some gaps in my knowledge of Hollywood.
Made into a movie, this comedy would require airsickness bags in the back pockets of all seats.
As Sony aimed to marry hardware and software, Sony executives were convinced they needed Guber and Peters to run their new studio. It was a mess from the start, but Guber and Peters made everything worse with their grandiosity. Huge salaries for themselves and other execs, overpayment on scripts and productions, a fleet of jets, and even lavish Christmas parties for the staff. Expenses at Sony Pictures were way out of line with revenues.
One starts to root for the protagonists to meet a grisly end. But in Hollywood, you get a production deal.
This is a very well told story, although Jon Peters disappears rather abruptly from the narrative. Not that the reader misses him! Orangutans are better behaved.
If at any time in the near future you find yourself spending several billion dollars to acquire a Hollywood studio, follow your own instincts about how to run it instead of letting loud-mouthed promoters sit behind the steering wheel. Then you’ll be all Guber and Peters.
- Magic Johnson’s group adds Peter Guber in bid to buy Dodgers (cbssports.com)