Friday, February 25, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
1. Respect space: Avoid "crosstalk" or talking over others.
2. Allow space: Some members are more outgoing and others more reserved. If you've had a chance to talk, allow others time to offer their thoughts as well.
3. Be open: Keep and open mind, learn from others, and acknowledge there are differences in opinion. That's what makes it interesting.
4. Offer new thoughts: Try not to repeat what others have said, but offer a new perspective.
5. Stay on the topic: Contribute to the flow of the conversation by holding your comments to the topic of the book, keeping personal references to an appropriate minimum.
Many thanks to Reading Group Choices for providing these guidelines.
These principles are useful not just for book groups but also for business meetings, family gatherings, online chat rooms, blogs, etc. If you would like to add another suggestion that, in your experience, is helpful in promoting a civilized discourse, please leave it in a Comment.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Having read the Larsson trilogy and some of Mankell I felt I would be remiss not to add Three Seconds. Prison, drugs and police informants: there you have it. A volatile mix. This is very definitely a stay-up-late, get-up-early, take-the-phone-off-the-hook kind of book. I still have difficulty with the Swedish place and street names but it didn't seem so bad this time. Maybe I'm just getting used to it.
The drug of choice in this case is amphetamines. If you want to know how to manufacture it, how to smuggle it between countries, how to cut it and how to get it inside a prison, this is the book for you. It is all here...in detail. Not always a pleasant read but informative to those of us in our cocoons. And do you really know what your spouse/partner does at the so-called office or when she/he is supposed to be at home with the sick children?
Several times in the book the line "It takes a criminal to play a criminal" is repeated. Perhaps we will now have to extend that to say "It takes a criminal to write about a criminal." One of the co-authors Borge Hellstrom is described as an ex-criminal. Teaming up with journalist Anders Roslund seems like a good decision on his part. In this book they have raised some troubling questions: about the use of criminal informants to investigate other crimes, about the access to drugs in the prison system, about the manipulation of data by the police and higher authorities. Do the same things happen here? Should we care?
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
It is a remarkable story: of a wife’s devotion to her injured husband – and a very painless way to learn a lot of brain science. West was in his mid-seventies at the time of the stroke and already battling diabetes and heart disease. Immediately after the stroke he could manage only one sound: Mem, mem, mem… Over the next five years Ackerman, assisted by an extraordinary therapist, was tireless in her efforts to help West regain his ability to write and speak coherently. Just reading about the struggles is exhausting. But Ackerman is a poet and the language with which she describes their efforts, their small successes, their setbacks is rich and delightful. Because West was an accomplished writer before the stroke, he is especially frustrated by the simplistic exercises put forth as traditional speech therapy. It is Ackerman, the wife who knows him better than anyone else could, who devises exercises like the One Hundred Names (all of which are recorded at the end of this volume).
The science is fascinating…and fun. Has it ever seemed to you that women talk faster than men? “Women can pronounce words faster than men, and utter more sentences in a given amount of time. Maybe because women use both hemispheres to comb through sounds, while men mainly use the left side. With a richer bounty of connections among neurons and a more thickly wired “corpus callosum” zooming traffic between the two hemispheres, the female brain may be better organized for language. Whatever, the reason, females are less prey to stuttering, dyslexia, autism, and other language problems, including aphasia.” Aphasia is the diagnostic term given to West’s condition.
The book will not be released officially until April. I was fortunate to receive an advance reader’s copy for review from the publisher through Reading Group Choices. I hope that somehow each and every one of the caregivers of Gabrielle Giffords, but especially her husband, will receive and read this book. The importance of having a primary caregiver deeply invested in the success of the outcome cannot be overestimated. I hope that none of us has to face such a daunting task – but the odds are that some of us will. This book will give hope and comfort.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Our narrator is Jack, age 5. I would like to hear an opinion from a child development specialist but the voice seems true to me (the book jacket says that the author has 2 young children) and very compelling even to an adult reader. I can't say that the language is beautiful because it is after all the language of a 5-year-old but it is very poignant and at times quite humorous. Jack and his mother face extraordinary challenges, some the same, some different. And there are times later in the book when the roles reverse and the child seems to have the greater maturity.
The author has tackled a challenging subject in a way that you will not soon, if ever, forget. Although this book lost out on the Booker Prize to The Finkler Question, it was awarded the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, well-deserved. Try to enlist a friend to read this book at the same time that you are reading it because you will certainly want to discuss it when you finish.