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L. Rephann "curious about everything" (Brooklyn, New York United States)
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Unbearable Lightness Of Being
Unbearable Lightness Of Being
by Milan Kundera
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.13
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars impossible not to find yourself somewhere in this book, Jan. 11 2003
A friend lent me this book at a time in my life where I was confronting some of the same issues that the protagonists here were. I don't think this is a book about sex or war or infidelity. It is about choice. Sex, war, etc. are metaphors used to convey the choices we (and those around us) make, and ultimately, how we respond to choice. Each character experiences some sort of crisis which demands a choice. Some choices are made swiftly and strongly (Sabina leaving Geneva once her lover Franz leaves his wife), other choices seem to come after years of indecision, and perhaps a change in the character's desires/needs (Tomas finding happiness in the country). Each one of the main characters finds some aspect of happiness in finally coming to terms with their lives and themselves, yet the characters are all so different. One of this book's most important questions for me is: are we more different than we are alike (Tomas' 1% of difference among women)? And if so, does that difference make some of us fundamentally incompatible, destined to live parallel lives without ever having the opportunity to connect and learn from the one who is deemed incompatible? I think we stand to learn the most from people/situations which vex us, provided we can maintain our centerdness and approach the tension (like that between Tomas & Tereza) with an eye to what it might help us learn about ourselves.

Choke
Choke
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.68
189 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars funny, quick, kinda sick, Jan. 11 2003
This review is from: Choke (Paperback)
This is a very quick read. If you spend more than two days on it, I'd be surprised. The pace of this story makes it easy to consume, and like a thick chocolate milkshake, you'll be loving it while it's going down, then feel maybe a little yucky the next day. The characters are fascinating because you wonder if such people really exist or if they are just semi-monsters created in Palahiuk's mind. One thing about Palahniuk, his characters are consistent, so a creep is a creep throughout. There is a shot at some redemption/healing stuff going on here at the end, with one of the characters, an ex-sex addict who collected a large rock each day he didn't jerk off, that seems perhaps a touch out of place, but is necessary for Palahniuk to tie together the threads of his ideas. Not a "deep" book per se, fun to read and thought-provoking in some respects. Quick and (relatively) painless.

Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
by Carl Hiaasen
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars the shady side of Disney, Jan. 11 2003
I read this book several years ago and since then, I have become somewhat obsessed with Carl Hiassen and his writing. This is a very short book that details Disney's influence on S. Florida. Needless to say, the influence isn't wholesome, which is what makes this book fascinating: the dichotomoy between the public face of Disney and their corporate, anti-humanist reality. A chapter on a "model community" called Celebration foreshadowed "The Truman Show."

Escape From Intimacy
Escape From Intimacy
by Anne W Schaef
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.26
85 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars life-changing!, Dec 1 2001
This review is from: Escape From Intimacy (Paperback)
reading this short book has changed my life. i found myself detailed in practically every page. having experienced several failed relationships and a generally "unlucky in love" sort of life, i recognized myself in these profiles of sex, romance, and relationship addicts who form "pseudo relationships" that are designed to keep the addict from knowing her true self. Schaef, a recovered "pseudo relationship" addict, details all the tricks of this disease, which is a progressive and fatal addiction like all other addictions (drugs, alcohol).
if you think this statement sounds like malarky, read Schaef's book to see how true it is! Addiction serves to alter a person's mood or perception. This can be accomplished without drugs or alcohol. Relationship addiction is a "process addiction," whereby the addict spends his or her time focusing on an external stimulus (the relationship) instead of taking care of their Self! Most useful is Schaef's list of behaviors exhibit by sex, romance, or relationship addicts. I found myself in nearly every one!
This constellation of addictions is tricky to detect because the very skills to support the addiction "appear" to be relationship skills AS TAUGHT on tv, movies, in the general folklore of our culture. Which, as Schaef explains, is an addictive society, so it reinforces our addictive behaviors. These process addictions are VERY common, and at the heart of other conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc.
DO NOT BE FOOLED...cynics may read this review and find what I've written here to be self-help/new-age gibberish. Schaef's book is very short (158 pp.), extrememly readable, totally lucid, and very clearly organized, with information that builds on itself in an expert, lockstep manner.
I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who suffers in relationships. If you have failed relationship after failed relationship, or are in an abusive situation, or feel compelled to lie/cheat/distort the truth to maintain a relationship, or have any other self-realized behavior that you know is unhealthy but don't know what is "wrong," PLEASE READ THIS BOOK.
I believe this book will have a life-changing affect on anyone who reads it and relates to the information within. After all, the disease of addictive relationships is a disease of relating: we are not relating to people, but to our fantasies of what "relationships" SHOULD be.

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
by Jonathan Kozol
Edition: Paperback
127 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars eye opening, Nov. 12 2001
i couldn't put this book down when i started reading it. each essay, which covers a particular city and school system, points out things wrong with public education in the USA, and who's getting the shaft: KIDS. some of the essays are jaw-dropping. i would've never believed it was so bad out there, but moreso, i didn't understand or even begin to see the politics involved in public education at each and every level. education may be a major political issue at the national level, but as it seeps down into district, local politics, that's where the mismanagement, corruption, bloat, and simple lack of care become most astonishing. as a teacher in the NYC public school system, most of what i read in kozol's book, i have come to see (i read the book before i started teaching) in real life: 30 books for 180+ students; roaches and rats in the classrooms; inept and careless administrators; rampant truancy and disaffection (but can you blame the kids? they are often left at home while the parent--usually one--works two or more jobs). the problems are severe and the solutions, you'd think, would be just as severe. but nothing changes and teachers are left in the middle, blamed by both administrators and parents. public education in this country needs to be seriouly revamped, but according to Kozol, and my own views and what i've seen, it's unlikely anything will change for URBAN education until racism and inequality are also addressed.

The White Boy Shuffle: A Novel
The White Boy Shuffle: A Novel
by Paul Beatty
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars too black for whites, too white for blacks: crazy mulattos, Nov. 11 2001
as a semi-mulatto (no one would call me on it racially but culturally i feel it) i found solace in beatty's satire. no one is safe: latinos, blacks, whites, japanese, intellectuals, athletes, gang bangers. the characters are vivid, the idosyncracies of each group captured with amazing precision. even beatty's acronyms can't be beat: NAPPY, a group of high yellow negros who walk around fist pumping and diashiki wearing, calling out white people when they're at least 50% white...etc. beatty's hilarious, and he breaks down, with humor, what goes on with black folks everyday (witness protagonist gunnar's athletic scholarship to a prestigious college, where the coaches see him as points to be scored, but gunnar knows he's holding the cards); being too intellectual to run with the gang bangers, but running the risk of being gang banged if you show your book smarts to anyone.
i thought this book was hiloarious, although i'm still rumminating on the ending, which i won't give away here!
enjoy...you will definitely laugh out loud. i wonder what spike lee thinks of this book. i'm sure he's read it.

Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America
Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America
by Nathan Mc Call
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.68
124 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars most profound book i've read, Nov. 11 2001
Reading the other reviews of this book, and seeing that many reviewers wondered where McCall's self-judgement or remorse came in, I don't think this book would be the same if McCall spent 400+ pages whining about what mistakes me made. He lets the errors of judgement and difficulties of life stand out glaringly clear to all of those who should choose to read them.
This was one of the most profound, important books I've ever read for several reasons. One, it helped me understand the black male psyche from one point of view (mccall's) but when paired with other "prison" writings (cleaver, malcolm x) can help a non-black person understand the difficulties that black males go through in this society. Two, I teach in a poor neighborhood in NYC and this book helped me understand a lot of the mental stress and strain young children are under. When living amongst an oppressed people, where money/status/power/priviledge/mobility are slim, the tricks and games humans will play on each other to get ahead/survive may seem crazy or illogical to those of us who don't live that life. To those that do, it is real. I was better able to understand the pressures of being black, and the different masks black men wear, by reading this book. Three, this book shows how difficult it can be to turn around from past mistakes/actions, but how one must continue. McCall's life could've turned out so differently. He kept fighting and made it so he could have a "piece of the pie" and actually provide something to his children, and show his parents all their help was not totally lost, and prove to himself that he could do it. He said, after serving three years in prison, that he believed he could do anything if he made it out alive. That belief was tested at times when he went through difficulties at various workplaces, with his women, or in the transition back into society from prison. He even went so far as to think for a second that prison was an easier place to be (monastic) because there he could focus entirely on himself, and all threats were known entities. Four, this book helped me at a time in my life where i felt (feel) the walls are closing in on me. My problems are not so deep as McCall's, but i know what it feels like to feel that there are NO options, or the few you have are all bad, and you must simply do the best you can, keep thinking, keep struggling. This is a story of a spirit unwilling to throw in the towel, determined to carry out the strength that miraculously keeps it alive, striving, growing, despite all odds.
I will never forget this book. For those who say it ought to be required reading, I agree. It is an amazingly honest memoir. I'm not disappointed in McCall for not showing "remorse" or appearing contrite about what he's done. He lets his words speak clearly to us, showing us that he has learned from his mistakes, otherwise he'd be unable to sit down and write a book as honest and powerful as this one.

Soul on Ice
Soul on Ice
by Eldridge Cleaver
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
40 used & new from CDN$ 1.07

5.0 out of 5 stars the real deal from an educated black man, Nov. 11 2001
This review is from: Soul on Ice (Paperback)
racism is still alive and well in the USA, despite surface gains by some people of color. this book goes into a theory for black/white tensions: the primeval mitosis, when humanity split into male/female, black/white, etc. and our dichotimies became external rather than held within each human. eldridge has some very serious ideas about why our gender roles are lined up with "race," and how the Body and Mind have become province to certain ethnicities. to heal our world, all humans must become whole: Mind, Body merging instead of blacks being all Body "supermasculine menials" and whites being "omnipotentent administrators." eldridge's glance into inter-racial love are interesting, if not at times confusing since he fell in love with his own (white) lawyer. eldridge's writing is strong and his prose is evocative. i think the best essay in this book is the one on primeval motosis, where he lays out his theory on tensions between the races. but all of them are excellent, especially when cleaver examines the vietnam war and wars against colonionalism the world over and links colonial/liberation struggles to the struggle for equality in the US! deep stuff, seeing as how "liberation" has been "won" because all nations, no matter how squalid and repressed, have the honor of participating in capitalism (aka globalism). blacks and other oppressed people in the USA have also bought into the switcheroo. read cleaver and see that many of the issues happening in the late 60s have not been resolved.
another thing i often found myself thinking: for a man who was incarcerated, and before the advent of the internet, cleaver must have put in so much effort to get the political/social information he did. even prison can not hold the mind/thoughts of someone who will reach out despite constraints.

The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery
The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery
by Janwillem van de Wetering
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars funny, honest, tale about one man's search for truth, July 29 2000
I read this book when I became fascinated with the literature of retreat and monastic practice. Besides being a good introduction to how a Zen monastary in Kyoto operates, Empty Mirror is a heartfelt examination of one man's struggle to find meaning in life, and meaning in his search for meaning. Anyone who has wandered the path of truth will have had times when s/he wonders: what is this for? what am I accomplishing? what have I learned? will this mean anything to anyone but me? what is the larger meaning?
Jan-san (as the author is called by his fellow monks) is totally honest in his account of his stay in Japan. His monastic life is mixed with occasional days off visiting brothels and eating food outside the monastary gates, while within its walls, the monks and master crack jokes, goof off, watch TV and share cigarettes.
Empty Mirror can at times be disillusioning, but only in the best way possible: the author approaches his new surroundings and genuine attempts at truth-seeking with that wonderful Western virtue of skepticism. A quick, memorable book that reads as much like a novel as it does a memoir.

Wild Seed
Wild Seed
by Octavia E. Butler
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars the sheer power of imagination, July 26 2000
This review is from: Wild Seed (Mass Market Paperback)
This is the first Octavia Butler book I read, recommended by a friend who is a fan of hers. I was not disappointed. Her "speculative fiction" contains ideas which are only a few degrees removed from our current reality. At the rate humanity is evolving, there may come a time in the future when psychic gifts, immortality, supernatural healing abilities and astral travel are innate characteristics, as opposed to legend or the rare, often disputed examples that exist today.
In this story, Doro and Anyanwu, two powerful beings, cross paths. The core story of Wildseed is the developing and deepening relationship between these two beings, and their relationships to lesser evolved, but still powerful, beings like them. Doro "farms" these poweful beings with rare gifts; he engineers them. Anyanwu just is; she is "wildseed," and occasionally out of Doro's control. Although Anyanwu is female and Doro male, their power, sensitivity, passion, and determination transcend; they are portraits of the most powerful, the most full, that a human spirit can be. Seen as metaphors for human spiritual development, Anyanwu and Doro are the fantasies many of us carry in ourselves, the fantasy of ultimate power, a power of Creation that borders on the divine.
Butler's writing is strong, supple and gorgeous. She's the type of writer than can turn a phrase so beautifully, that you'll read it over several times, letting her insight and creativity sink in. Butler's imagination is wide open. Only a mind totally open could dream up characters such as these.
Although I haven't read any other Butler books, I did buy "Earthseed" to read next. Butler's writing is a gift, a magnificent talent that cuts to the heart of the matter.

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