Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Seventh Book Review Blog Carnival Is Up

Natasha at Maw Books Blog has worked from dawn till dark to produce today's Book Review Blog Carnival. No matter how hard I tried I lost count every time, but there are more than 80 posts in this issue. The range of subjects is, not surprisingly the biggest ever. There is something for every book lover on your Christmas list.

The eighth edition will be hosted by on January 4th. You may submit a book review post from your blog at Everybody is welcome to participate.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

David Wroblewski

This is another book that I learned about by listening to the Diane Rehm Show on the radio. The author was on for an interview and aroused my interest because Diane, David Wroblewski and I are all dog people. Wroblewski has written a novel set in an unusual dog breeding kennel which produces unusual dogs and the dogs are central to the story he tells. The founder of this kennel, the grandfather of it's central character, had the idea to breed dogs based on behavior instead of conformation. He took dogs of many, and sometimes no breed, that had performed unusual and sometimes heroic acts, dogs that got written about in the newspaper, and he created his own breed of dogs. He clearly researched both breeding methods and obedience and service dog training for the book, although the results achieved by this fictional kennel are probably not possible.

The book is written from many points of view, sometimes even that of one of the dogs, but never sinks to a level of cuteness or anthropomorphism while doing so.

The difference between us and our animal companions is one of degree and not of kind, Descartes notwithstanding.
The idea of creating these dogs that are intelligent and loyal but able to to make moral choices is a fascinating one. It gives the book a kind of Sci Fi speculative edge. What if you bred and trained dogs for intelligence and judgment? How far could you take them? What part of their behavior is learned and what effect does inheritance have? This question is played out in the dags and in the humans in this story.

This is a coming of age novel, as many first novels are. A young man, Edgar, grows up on this farm, where his parents are engaged in breeding and training these amazing dogs. Edgar is unable to speak, although he hears normally, and communicates with a half made up sign language, to everyone, including the dogs. Edgar is destined to take over the kennel and continue breeding and training these amazing dogs.

But this coming of age novel takes a wrong turn when Edgar's uncle Claude comes home after a long absence. In fact, not until Edgar's father suddenly dies and Claude starts paying unwanted attention to Edgar's mother, does the reader realize the Wroblewski is re-telling the story of Hamlet on a dog breeding farm.

Like the play, the novel ends tragically. I won't spoil it by telling you how. It is a satisfyingly thick book, a good long read, and I highly recommend it.

Note: revised 12/22/08

Making Lemonade

Kindelicious has given me the Lemonade Award for showing great attitude and gratitude. Now I'm supposed to pass this award on to at least ten other blogs who show similar attitude and gratitude.

On the other hand, I just kicked Entrecard off my blog. My attitude may be a bit sour just at this moment. I have met some outstanding bloggers through my association with Entrecard, but the burden or working their system has also interfered with my ability to effectively manage and post to my blogs.

When the world hands you lemons, make lemonade, the old saying goes.

I want to give this award to the best lemonade maker I know, JohnC of Life Onwards.

Shinade of The Painted Veil deserves this award. She has been a good friend and now she needs her friends' support to help her through a rough spot. She has good music on her blog, too.

Silvie Dixie of A Glimpse of La Rochelle has been a steadfast friend to a whole community of bloggers at FuelMyBlog.

Scott at My Thermos gets an award for occasionally making me stop and think.

Carol at Bass-ically Speaking gets the lemonade stand, too. Solidarity forever, sister.

A special mention to Turnip at Turnip of Power, a blog that gives real, good advice to aspiring bloggers, rather than warmed over gruel and hype.

Mudge at Left Handed Compliment seems to need a nudge. Bro, don't forget your blog!

Sugar Queen, we're praying for you, gal. Get well and post when you can.

That's eight, not "at least ten" blogs. I'm not good at following directions.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Book Review Blog Carnival #6 At Imaginary Lands

The sixth edition of my runaway creation, the Book Review Blog Carnival, has been posted at Imaginary Lands. There are 40 reviews in this edition. Don't miss it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

What You Should Know About Politics But Don't

A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues
Jessamyn Conrad

Let me say first, that there was not a lot of new information in this book and I found the title only slightly less offensive than the "for dummies" series of books, which I refuse to consult on principle. I've read over a couple of them, meh. It went downhill from there.

The book starts off talking about elections and explains about voting districts and political parties and the electoral college. Then it gets into voter suppression and fraud, gerrymandering campaign finance and the trouble with electronic voting machines. The following chapters take on a long list of hot button issues: recession. stagflation, the mortgage crisis, isolationism, health care, homeland security, no child left behind, all the while maintaining a neutral non partisan tone, the News Hour with Jim Lerher, on Prozac. "Some believe that torture is inherently morally repugnant and is never justifiable. Others think there may be some very restricted circumstances in which torture is morally acceptable, while still others contend that those conditions are broader."

Some people bend over backwards to not have an opinion, too, and Jessamyn Conrad is one of them. Some people think torture is sometimes OK? Let's put it out there, Jessamyn. The Bush Administration denies that it ever tortured anyone and if it did, then they must have deserved it. And besides, if the President does it, it's legal.

I became weary of the neutrality. None of the burning issues of the day have any relevance weight, meaning or value in this book, just on the one hand and on the other.
The publisher got blurbs from Barack Obama and Bob Dole for the front cover. I guess John McCain was too busy to answer the email.