I got stuck in the mud trying to finish the last three books I chose.
In fact, I still haven't finished the third: "Just Mercy," lawyer Bryan Stevenson's tale of his attempt to free a man wrongly condemned to die on death row.
I can't finish this book because every time I try to dive back in, I get too worked up: the injustice presented here is too overwhelming.
I chose this book on the recommendation of a friend who said it would "change your life."
It certainly has. I now trust no one.
This is "To Kill a Mockingbird," updated for our times, stripped of any literary pretensions.
There's a film adaptation too, and "Just Mercy" will premiere widely nationwide on January 10th. So yes, Roger, I'll see you at the movies.
Here are two other books that took me forever to finish:
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Having fond memories of this novella from my school years at Notre Dame, I started reading the Kindle version... and found myself stalling, putting the book aside, then dreading to reattempt to follow the stilted language of the opening pages. This was the "Dover Thrift Edition," translated by Stanley Appelbaum. (In his prodigious and accomplished career, he had translated Ovid's "Art of Love," another book I fondly recalled from school.)
But I guess I'm not in Indiana any more. Having lived in New Jersey for so long, I can now officially confirm I have no patience.
I eventually tried the Audible version of a newer, award-winning translation (by Michael Henry Heim) read by Simon Callow. Somehow, listening to a sophisticated English accent made the passing words and story tolerable. But disappointing still.
I wasn't moved by the book. The main character is simply creepy. The decay of the setting isn't as profound as I once thought. The Venice of Gustav von Aschenbach is Disneyland compared to the portents in the real world today, Venice included.
College Me would have chalked up my disappointment to the translation. I've always been wary of literary works that are not in their native language. But as Michael Cunningham notes in his very wise introduction: "All novels are translations, even in their original languages... None of us reads precisely the same book, even if the words are identical."
The thing is, I can't tolerate leaden genius any more.
On this, perhaps Aschenbach and I would agree: Let me be awed and thunderstruck by all the simple beauty in the world, even as our world begins to fall apart.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
THIS is a really good book... although not quite as good, even if in the same vein (excuse the expression), as last year's "Bad Blood."
The journalism here is terrific. The problem -- and why I kept putting this aside before finishing it -- is that there are no characters to root for.
Not only that, but all the bad guys -- and, yes, they are all guys -- wind up insanely rich in the end.
It was painful to read about all the excess, all the wasted wealth, all the casual crimes (the incident of a female Uber employee's head being forcibly shoved into a pile of cocaine is simply noted in passing).
There's no moral to this story, and so much damage done in the wake of Uber's success.
It's page 364 of 365, and I'm ready to close the book on the "Super Pumped" decade, when technology combined with greed to widen the gap between rich and poor.
I have to believe that in the 2020s, Mike Isaac will have better stories to tell.
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