Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jewish With Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice
(Zalman Schachter & Joel Segel, 288pp)
I read about half this wonderful book in January, and looked at it again last night, realizing that I won't likely be able to read more for a while. This is a great and inspiring discussion of how to re-enter Judaism. Surely one of the most memorable instances of Zalman's ability to sacralize the mundane is encapsulated in his dialog with a teenager who is awkward about his masturbation, and Zalman exhorts him to save some of that for shabbos, and "invite G-d into that."

Monday, February 26, 2007

P.S.1 Symposium: A Practical Avant-Garde
(Mark Greif, Eliza Newman-Saul, Dushko Petrovich, moderated by Keith Gessen)
If you're looking for interesting, look to N+1. This symposium on the role of the avant-garde, which fits nicely in 64 pp, has a lot of provocative and sharp ideas. Greif's opening places the avant-garde in a relation to what can be called the 'perennial', or to my ears, the canon. Dushko lays out a very interesting argument about how all modern art is avant-garde, and thereby, seems weightless and insubstantial, lacking any traction with any evaluative stance. Newman-Saul instantiates an evocation of radical imagination that makes her work and approach sound interesting. This pamphlet is not a manifesto, but is published by N+1's research branch, with an eye toward the big prize, namely art that is worth our full consciousness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Sixth Revised Edition
(Gwen Gotsch & Judy Torgus, 465pp)
This is not a technical guide to answer any hard questions about lactation. It's structured more along the lines of an exhortation to breastfeed, with lots of quotes from women who say how great it was to breastfeed. This book may be of value as an introduction, but the level of information rarely goes beyond what one is likely to receive from pamphlets. I also must add: I got the version of the book for parents of boys; throughout, all references to a baby used the masculine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sheetrock & Shellac: A Thinking Person's Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement
(David Owen, 320pp)
I paged through this urbane reflection on houses and their construction. The author uses his most New Yorker-ly tone to keep every topic elevated and diffuse, genial and one or more levels removed from the grit. I imagine this is targeted to the audience that likes to think about house projects, rather than actually do them.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Guitar: an American life
(Tim Brookes, unabridged on MP3, punted after a couple of hours)
I thought this would interest me, but it must really be solely for those who play guitars. The story weaves the author's quest for his own handmade instrument with the background, history, etc.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Happiness : a guide to developing life's most important skill
(Matthieu Ricard ; translated by Jesse Browner, 281pp)
I've had this book out from the library for 3 months, and now admit I've stalled at p136. The orientation of Ricard is worth hearing (viz, how Tibetan Buddhist practices enable us to access the most authentic source of happiness). The metaphors show their provenance from a buddhist temple, as the parables typically reference homely images. For example, gold and jewels are meant to evoke the most valued items that may otherwise be neglected. I ended up losing my stamina, even though I would be open to listening to the remainder. The book has served one purpose, in re-opening my mind to the relevance of Buddhist practices to enabling me to learn how to manage negative emotions.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
(Brian Wansink, unabridged, 6:26)
A great review of the cognitive cues that can drive us to supersized bodies. One of Wansink's most brilliant tests involved the bottomless bowl of soup (where a pipe continually maintained the level of soup), and those unlucky enough to eat at that trough greatly overconsumed. Wansink provides useful countercues that one can introduce to fight against the CostCo contextualized Cereal in a Drum.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The wicked son : anti-Semitism, self-hatred, and the Jews
(David Mamet, 208 pp)
Rather than an argument, this is a pugnacious text raring to pick a fight. I didn't quite finish the book, but it was interesting to read such a splenetically ferocious account of feelings, about 80% of which I share.