Tuesday, January 30, 2024

I interupt my hiatus with this doozy

 I’d argue that we have become so sad, lonely, angry and mean as a society in part because so many people have not been taught or don’t bother practicing to enter sympathetically into the minds of their fellow human beings. We’re overpoliticized while growing increasingly undermoralized, underspiritualized, undercultured.

Read David Brooks' column here.

We know from studies by the psychologists Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley that reading literature is associated with heightened empathy skills. Deep reading, immersing yourself in novels with complex characters, engaging with stories that explore the complexity of this character’s motivations or that character’s wounds, is a training ground for understanding human variety. It empowers us to see the real people in our lives more accurately and more generously, to better understand their intentions, fears and needs, the hidden kingdom of their unconscious drives. The resulting knowledge is not factual knowledge but emotional knowledge.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Finished: 'The Devil Takes You Home' by Gabino Iglesias

 I finished reading my 34th novel of 2023 a couple hours before midnight. It was almost as bad as the Vikings' performance against the Packers. "The Devil Takes You Home" by Gabino Iglesias is one of those books I requested for Christmas. I'd seen it on some "Best Of" list I'd run across and it looked good.

This genre-defying, Shirley Jackson and Bram Stoker award-winning thriller follows a father desperate to salvage what's left of his family—even if it means a descent into violence.

Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

It might be good for some readers, but not me. For starters, some of the book, not a lot but enough to make it difficult, was written in Spanish. I know just enough Spanish to order in a Mexican restaurant and to say "Buenos dias" and "Gracias" to the guys who shingled my roof, but not much more. 

It was also terribly violent. I like some violence in my books, heck I'm a serial killer book aficionado (some more Spanish I know). But this was too detailed for my taste. Instead of just shooting or stabbing a man, Iglesias spent a chapter on cartel members cutting off a man's toe. Just cut it off and move on.

It also incorporated a lot of mysticism, dreamy stuff. I didn't care for that either.

It kept me interested enough to finish, but I did speed read the final half of the book. My speed reading method I picked up somewhere is to read the first and last sentences of long paragraphs. If there's enough to interest me I read the entire paragraph, but usually not. It's enough to get the gist of things and not lose sight of the plot.

So I made it through. Will give it a 5 of 10 on the Haugenometer. It has a 4 of 5 on Amazon and 3.7 of 5 by Goodreaders, so they weren't exactly knocked out by it either.