Saturday, November 29, 2008

109 East Palace by Jennet Conant

Whilst in Santa Fe this summer, we picked up a couple of books about Los Alamos and Robert Oppenheimer.

109 East Palace serves as an interesting and illuminating, if not stellar, social history about the creation of and living conditions at Los Alamos.

Using Dorothy McKibben, the Santa Fean who ran the small office which served as the entry point for the secret Los Alamos installation, as the entry point for the story, Conant's first intention seems to be to provide us with the look and feel of the war time home of many of the best scientific minds of the era. As long as she is working towards this end, her book works.

However, as she strays from this goal and begins to try to become more of an overall historian of the overarching events put into motion at Los Alamos, the book loses its focus and suffers from superficiality.

This superficiality became brutally apparent upon reading just a few pages of the other book we purchased in Santa Fe, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.

In comparison, American Prometheus is clearly the better crafted project but, considered on its own, 109 East Palace is a supremely serviceable entry into the subject matter.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I read about Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew
in The Japan Times and thought a bit of children's lit might be a good read for my commute. It's a charming adventure tale of a not so brave little shrew, a rodent, who admires his plucky grandmother's courage, but really would be happy just to stay home, where it's warm and cosy, and plan of one day going on an adventure.

As luck would have it, adventure comes to him by way of a mysterious, fragment of his grandmother's writing and a weird letter. It's an offer he can't refuse, as much as he'd like to.

The author is witty and charming. Nurk is a delight and probably a third or fourth grader could tackle it with ease.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lamy of Santa Fe by Paul Horgan

1976 Pulitzer Prize for History.

It caught my eye this past July while I was in Santa Fe.

Fascinating window into the difficult life that was the West in the mid to late 19th century. Horgan takes us from France to Ohio to New Mexico and back many times as we follow Jean Baptiste Lamy and his lifelong friend, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf on their journey from young priests sneaking away in France to Archbishops of Santa Fe and Denver respectively.

Horgan painstakingly details the conditions and tribulations these two men encountered as they did their part in bringing education and religion to the American West.

Well researched and well written translates into well-read.

Shock Doctrine

My friend Yuki recommended The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalismso I ordered it from the library. (My library got it from Wilmette.)

What a powerful book! Yep, I'm shocked. To my core. Naomi Klein, an investigative journalist from The Nation looks into the work of Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist. She examines his theory that the best time to implement change, economic, political, educational, whatever, is right after a disaster hits. When a population has been hit with a hurricane, tsumani, or coup, they are unable to question or oppose radical changes to their systems. So that's the "best" time for say the Chicago Boys or Neocons to enter the scene and experiment with other people's countries or cities.

I will warn people that this is not a cheery book. Don't read it after reading about say some horrible tort or injury. So for me it's take a long time to get through.

I haven't finished the book and it must go back to the library. I will get it again after my exams are done.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doctor Faustus

I've felt so guilty about spending time doing things not related to law school that I haven't written this post. Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford World's Classics)is a legendary play by Christopher Marlowe. It's the story of a scholar who sells his soul to the devil. We read it for my Act One Great Books selection last month.

It is a quick read, as most plays are. I expected a five or three act structure, but Marlowe divides things up into I think 12 scenes. That did seem disjointed and at times uneven. I read a book of essays that confirmed that idea.Doctor Faustus: Divine in Show (Twayne's Masterwork Studies) states that many scholars think the version we have is more of a draft and that more than one author worked on it. (Again, this a quickish read if you don't read each essay. Something to read on the train where you can't study. The guilt, the guilt.) Faustus is a work like Dracula, that I enjoyed more by reading about the intellectual history and social issues that influenced the author than I did reading the work itself which was pretty good. I do think it would be marvelous on the stage where you'd get the effect of the costumes and set.
Got to get back to Torts. More later.