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An Act of Loving
An Act of Loving
by Robert Russell
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empathy Has No Legal Definition Though Murder Does, 30 May 2011
This review is from: An Act of Loving (Hardcover)
Robert W. Russell wrote only one novel but two memoirs: "To Catch an Angel" and "Island." Amazon reviewers have reviewed the memoirs but no one has taken on the novel. Why? Perhaps no one has taken on his novel because it's not an easy, comfortable, soft if inspiring and openly courageous work, like the memoirs, and being so, it upsets the image one has of the author.

But because the author died only last month in April 2011 and because his "To Catch an Angel" was such an inspiring book when I first encountered it on Sister Kathleen Miriam's Recommended Reading List for would-be high-school students in 1963, a best-seller then, and a work even more stunning and profound when I reread it at the age of 40, I wanted to learn more about this terrific human being's work, motivated by the shocking fact that no one on Amazon had ever reviewed it and, apparently, few other non-Amazon reviewers too.

I like to think that Robert Russell, being blind from the age of 5 or so, liked taking on new challenges and wanted to see if there was something he really could not do and so decided to write a novel, a contemporary mainstream novel replete with existential themes such that it might well compete with the likes of great European novelists -- Albert Camus and his "The Stranger," for instance. I think he did it.

I mention Camus and "The Stranger" intentionally because the author's main character also mentions Camus and the main character in "The Stranger," Mersault. Mersault kills someone. Syd Mers, the protagonist of "An Act of Loving" kills someone. Were both guilty of a crime? If Mersault's murder was senseless and reasonable men cannot determine justice for him, reasonable men cannot determine justice for Syd Mers, although the law says that it can -- and does.

For a time I thought the theme of this novel might be a kind of philosophical justification for euthanasia, but by the time I finished the last three chapters, I knew the source for the theme wasn't so base or so mundane as a foundation for mercy killing. Robert Russell wanted to show how important is the judgment of the human heart, sans law, the rule of empathy in human decision-making which, while inarticulate at times, is still more wise and more just than any law mankind has devised. The heart can ring truer than any verdict pronouncement of guilty.

There are two difficulties with reading this work, which is complete and leaves no stone unturned. It has a wide and slow arc that encompasses more than is actually necessary to the plot without being terribly gripping although readable. The second difficulty is that once the reader has uncovered the central plot point, it's simply emotionally difficult to "hang in there" and stay to the end because, in a word, the story becomes "depressing." But it is worth every bit of time trying to stay with the book to the very end because a much greater understanding of the whole is obtained and because what the novels says is not at all depressing and wondrously profound. As dull a professor as Syd Mers seems to be through almost 44 chapters of the novel, in the end there is no more sterling hero -- or anti-hero -- than he regarding his circumstances and his acts of love.

Single Lady (Lost American Fiction)
Single Lady (Lost American Fiction)
by John Monk Saunders
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lives of the Rich and Snockered, 26 May 2011
Five guys, all "ex-warriors of the sky" (according to the inside book leaf cover) and a gorgeous gal with gams named Nikki (no last name) meet in Paris, go to bars together, drink endlessly, banter endlessly, and then, on a lark, decide to take a trip to Lisbon, Portugal.

The main guys are Bill Talbot, Shep Lambert and Cary Lockwood (who also happens to be, like the author, a former Rhodes scholar). Shep Lambert is a sweetheart of a guy, totally in love with Nikki, but who gets knifed to death at a circus (just as he realizes he's definitely going to die from alcoholism regardless of his small-willed attempts to kick the habit). Bill Talbot, besotted for the umptyninth time, jumps into the bull ring at Lisbon and gets himself gored to death after he slips and falls to the ground. Nikki, who has been in love with Cary Lockwood ever since he romantically took her to Pere Lachaise cemetery and told her the medieval tale about Heloise and Abelard, finally gets Cary Lockwood to confess his love for her back at the Carlton Hotel in Paris after their return from Lisbon, which is how the novel comes to reach its end.

Everything these characters say and do is fueled primarily with endless streams of ready money (which is never discussed and never fretted about in the novel) and secondarily with copious amounts of tasteful, quality alcohol.

The first 163 pages are filled with the relentless, easy-breezy, Paris life of rich ex-patriots in the 1920s and wall-to-wall laughter and carefree banter. Nikki is the first character whose body starts to show proof of fragility "under the influence" and unromantically develops colitis as a result of her drinking, though she never quite quits her habit. Shep Lambert is THE one whose stomach seems to be made of enhanced steel -- until that memorable near-end of his life when he discovers that the alcoholic demon has sunk its claws deeply and fatally into him.

Once the narrative takes its sharp turn outside of Paris and into Lisbon, there is more sobriety of spirit and less laughter and silly banter amongst the characters -- despite the continuous consumption of alcohol. The author really gets inside of the Shep Lambert character, but pretty much everyone else is seen from the outside, by their actions, by their speech.

The entire novel is tirelessly written in straight declarative sentences with annoyingly little variation in sentence structure.

In the "Afterward" written by novelist and writer Stephen Longstreet is a too brief summary of the author's life and a highly opinionated literary analysis of the novel as a kind of earnest, journeyman's copy of Ernest Hemingway's "A Sun Also Rises." The title allows the would-be reader to think this novel is about "a single lady" or Nikki, the only female in the novel, but the whole story is really about a whole group of select people at a specific point in time and at specific place that is no more.

Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady
Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady
Price: £5.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World Classic, Yes, 26 May 2011
This novel ought to be read by everyone, particularly by every girl reaching puberty and every woman who is still single. This novel is a playbook on the many tricks an unscrupulous man uses to use and dump a woman. This novel also ought to be read by any young male teenager or single male who thinks his play-ah techniques are new, unique, and will lead him to be a bigger play-ah in the world scene. This novel is a masterful moral tale that the world still needs to read, particularly when you read of women in non-U.S. countries being killed for having been raped. Clarissa, the protagonist in the novel, is more than a survivor of rape.

This is also a great Christian novel that clearly depicts the lines of good and evil on an earthly and metaphysical scale. Whereas Clarissa starts out in life as a completely innocent but starchy and stuffy Christian, she grows throughout her trials in the novel, if not into an admirable woman in the end with the finest and firmest bonds to Christianity ever depicted in literature, then into a woman who becomes transfigured before the readers' eyes into a saint. The novel also shows what an earthly face of Satan might look like.

This novel requires patience. It builds its drama very slowly. It took me two and a half months to get through it, but I was completely satisfied in the end and want to reread it. Jonathan Franzen has nothing over Samuel Richardson.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
by Paolo Giordano
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Separation and Disconnecton as a Natural Mode of Living?, 26 May 2011
This novel starts and ends with prime numbers, beginning with Chapter 1 and ending with Chapter 47. Mattia, a mathematician, considers himself to be a prime number in the (prime) third section of the novel entitled "In and Out of the Water": "alone but not close enough to really touch" -- another human being.

And Mattia views Alice, another protagonist in this story, as the same (though this reader wasn't convinced. Mattia is the only character who lives without a significant other in his life; Alice, at least, is married for three years).

Mattia calls himself and Alice as well "twin primes." Twin primes are mathematically rare, and this rarity metaphorically makes for an unusual pair of protagonists who both feel they are truly outsiders in the world. But true to the nature of prime numbers, the author, a bel ragazzo physicist, keeps his episodic plot structure consistent with this universal law of (rare and odd) primes.

The novel, therefore, holds no surprises on that account in regard to what happens to his primary pair of protagonists, characters who also are, again like prime numbers, deeply and divided in themselves (if not "into" themselves) throughout most of the novel.

Still, if human beings can be prime numbers, or are doomed to be, then there can be a great stream of people who are natural numbers as well, that is, people who happen or appear between the primes, people who can and do touch another human being, natural numbers, so to speak. Such natural numbers are people who are not divided in themselves and who can connect with others.

While Mattia and Alice are divided creatures, misread and misunderstood in their early childhoods by parents who didn't read their emotional signs as to who they were and what they were feeling as young children such that, consequently, their parents maligned them and harmed them, and while Mattia and Alice, each in his or her turn, have become solitary primes or seeming to be so, that is, social outsiders (or, maybe social robots), even as they grow into young adults, they are nonetheless surrounded by "natural" people, many of whom actually do love them and want to care for them.

The story reveals that these "natural people" are unable to read Mattia's and Alice's signs as well and, consequently, these have to go their separate ways as well -- characters like Fabio (Alice's husband), Denis (a gay friend), and Nadia (Mattia's one-time lover), all of whom are minor characters but who are nonetheless well-depicted and appealing in their own right.

While the entire novel seems poetically devoted to the mathematical laws and consequences of prime numbers per se, in more humanistic and psychological terms, the author, through his portrayal of his two main characters, tends to avoid having them confront the social consequences of their actions, which seems to happen through the author's film-like quick-cut and cut-away narrative methods.

Thus, Denis, who apparently has a lot of gay sex in bathrooms, carries on without any fear of contracting AIDS at all. Alice, an apprenticed photographer on her first professional job for her boss, deliberately exposes all the film in a wedding shoot, but she never gets fired nor never gets her comeuppance. Mattia has a one-night stand or two -- and the women involved never get upset that they've been used nor do they become pregnant even though no one is prepared. At the near-end of the novel, Mattia, a novice driver, drives the car while Alice rides at his side and recklessly come close to being hit by a truck -- but they never collide with it.

These later, ensuing, frequent absences of consequences for the main characters show up as if the author wants the reader to understand that whatever consequences may now happen to Mattia or Alice in adulthood, nothing can compare to what happened to them in their childhoods -- since the consequences of their childhood wounds loom over their lives for the rest of their lives. But having these characters remain in their childhood selves, frozen, arrested in their development, even as they grow into adulthood makes their later, older behavior and choices appear infantile at worst or adolescent at best. The reader feels stuck, too, in the characters' childhoods throughout the entire novel.

What was most fascinating for this reader about Paolo Giordano's novel was the minimalist and poetic way it was written, true to the traditional omniscient, third-person point of view and thus able to get into every characters' heads intimately and quickly, yet done so lightly and with such keen discrimination that the reader feels no heavy-handed authorial tone or intruding authorial voice in the story at any time, though it never disappears.

The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Cogitative Cozy for the Comfortable and Lazy, 26 May 2011
There is something quite apt in Amazon critic Stephen Droion's mention of the "English Mystery Writer's syndrome" in regard to Mr. Smith's first novel in the Scottish series. He diagnoses the syndrome in terms of plot structure, but I see the syndrome in the overall architecture of the novel.

The central character, Isabelle Dalhousie, regards herself as a moral philosopher who just happens upon a murder and then justifies her curiosity into the event with a thin smattering of ethical rumination to give motive for the character's actions for the rest of the novel. Mr. Smith, of course, must then invite the reader into the central character's moral concerns and moral cogitations if she is to be a true "moral philosopher," and here's where the reader uncovers the rub: after all is done and said, after learning about akrasia, hypocrisy, zeugmatas and syllepsies, etc., these moral cogitations are really only hypothetical rhetorical natterings of the "The ABCs of Philosophy" variety, like tags or word-bubbles in a cartoon character's speech -- nothing rigorous or serious, fundamentally. That is to say, even the central character's "moral philosophizings" are strictly under the domain of the English mystery cozy: thought as a nice, warm cup of tea. The happy-ending will be coming shortly, but meanwhile . . . have a nice sitdown and listen to me as I natter busily on and on. . . ., Isabelle Dalhousie and the author seem to say.

Like many other unattached, single, mature (over 40), female detectives or gumshoes, deliberate or accidental, this novel, too, does not lack another feature of the cozy: a cat, only the "cat" in this cozy is Isabelle Dalhousie's neice whose actual name is Cat.

For all her inner chatter -- and there is a lot of inner chatter in this woman, Isabelle Dalhousie is an appealing fictional character if no philosophic heavy-weight, more sound than fury. The setting in Edinbburgh with its music, history, architecture, streets, paintings makes a charming, parochial setting for this pleasant woman, more school-marmish than philosophical, all her references to Kant, Hume, and Hannah Arendt aside.

The nearly cross-word puzzle-ridden depth of the references to Scottish culture in this entertainment are also charming and completely unintimidating such that anyone who hasn't the least understanding what importance philosophy has to life can enjoy this novel without the slightest qualm. Mr. Smith too admits (in an interview) he writes his novels in a trance and doesn't regard writing fiction in the least bit as "cogitative" (his own word). So, have fun, enjoy! Or not!

Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance (Yale Studies in English)
Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance (Yale Studies in English)
by Nick Salvato
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pound, Zukofsky, Stein & Barnes - A Dishy Quartet, 26 May 2011
Despite the highly academic and abstract title, the content of this book is a literary deep dish pizza of the who's gay and what's gay variety. If you take the Yale Studies jargon out of the book, so full of sentences that appeal to deconstructionist professors, like Stanley Fish and Stephen Greenblatt, what you get, actually get, is an exciting exploration into four famous modernists whose works have something very campy and interesting to express about their gay sexual desires.

The least convincing of these four studies was the first one on Ezra Pound ("Fronting Pound"). Just because Pound identified with some female characters in his Japanese dramas doesn't make him a closeted fag or a man in drag as author Nick Salvato clearly desires to depict him, although I did appreciate learning from the author how the erudite Pound didn't quite understand the Japanese language in the plays he claimed to admire so much.

Pound is introduced into the studies, from my point of view, simply because the second famous modernist, Louis Zukovsky, admired Pound and Zukovsky was -- well, he was soooo gay in the way he wrote - gay and lewd! Zukofsky wrote to Pound offering up his gay writing for inspection and judgment. Pound apparently did not disapprove. The study Nick Salvato does on Zukofsky's most original and difficult-to-grasp writing is so well executed -- fun, funny and a literary delight, I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying reading "Bottoming Zukofsky." The author's detective work, consistency and follow-through is astounding here, and I say this having very little acquaintance with Zukofsky's work.

The study on Stein called "Topping Stein" was the first essay I chose to dive into and read because I am a great enjoyer of and admirer of Miss Stein's writings, even the most difficult of her works. For Stein enthusiasts, i just want to say that there's meat on this deep dish pizza of literary excavation. The essay is not a fluff piece and the labor of interpretation and decoding of her play "Byron" or "Faustus" is a tour de force work of art on behalf of the author and it will surely refresh the reader's notion of sadism and how Stein refused to be "topped" in so many senses of that word.

Someone who also did not wish to be topped but was, I think, was the fourth famous modernist in this book, Djuna Barnes. I felt the study "Backing Barnes" was a disappointment in that the exciting energies of discovery that the first three studies seemed to be creating for a build-up to a crescendo simply didn't happen here. The study is flat and literary, although informative. I am not a fan of Djuna Barnes' novels or other writings and that may account for the stale (rhymes with Yale) study here, tediously teasing apart sentences that reveal Djuna Barnes' views on incest and lesbianism.

These four studies are fronted and backed by two essays introducing and discussing, and then concluding quite academically, the postulates of camp and what the author's intentions are -- intellectually and in regard to literary criticism -- for this book. Again, some deconstructionist professor out there may be paying attention to the author's finicky attenuations, but for this reader, the essays were neither memorable nor necessary. The four studies are themselves very worthwhile essays -- in the true sense of that word -- and thus are highly recommended because of the real work and originality involved.

American Romances: Essays by Rebecca Brown
American Romances: Essays by Rebecca Brown
by Rebecca Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compellingly Enjoyable Reading, 26 May 2011
I am grateful to the earlier Amazon reviewers of this collection of eight essays by Rebecca Brown. They were right that this work deserves five stars; my trust in them was fully validated.

I invite all prospective readers to read the first two essays in particular, "Hawthorne" and "A Child of Her Time." Both essays are touching to the point of tears and personal even though, for instance, "Hawthorne" is not about the author but about composer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, born in Hawthorne, California, and 19th century author Nathaniel Hawthorne, "a beach boy too." The second essay, "A Child of Her Time," while being about the author, stays close to the ideas in "Hawthorne" while exploring the meaning of childhood. I enjoyed the second essay very much, I think, because, like the author, I, too, was a "Navy brat" (although the author never uses such a phrase), and lived out the consequences of such a lifestyle in my childhood.

The essay "Priests" is well-researched and thoughtfully provocative, especially for its emphasis on the gay meaning of "parfait" as a heretical but noble Albigensian answer to Roman Catholicism. I did not like, however, that the author conveyed the notion that Gertrude Stein was somehow the originator of another kind of parfait, the Oreo cookie. "Stein, for her part was not only the authoress of the modern version of the Albigensia Liturgy of the Supper, but also actually The Giver of the Name to the cookie that had remained heretofore . . . unnamed." Not true, not true. The author has taken advantage of a commercial mystery and instead inserted a false answer.

In "God without Words," readers learn that the musical composer Mendelssohn did not trust words whereas the author, as a writer, does -- and must, yet she allows that the mystery of growth and maturity is often wordless.

"Extreme Reading" offers up, among many ideas, the idea that you can take an inferior, piece-of-crap novel and edit it so that it reads like the novel you desire, a novel that mirrors your life. British playwright Joe Orton did just that -- with library books! -- and today his "defacements" of library books are now artistic treasures!

The sixth essay, "Invisible" makes a great read all by itself. Tracking the old movies about "The Invisible Man," "The Invisible Man Returns," and "The Invisible Woman," Rebecca Brown takes the phenomenon of being invisible as a metaphor for queerness not being recognized and works miracles with the lesbian as well as gay identities related to this metaphor -- through footnotes! The whole piece is a work of learning, fun, and intrigue.

The penultimate essay "My Western" is a return to the personal realm for the author as directly excavated in the second essay, and the reader clearly sees the consequences of being raised as a "Navy brat" -- without, I think, pity or sentimentality, though at times I did wonder whether the author was striving to jerk those tears out of the reader with lines, echoing the child actor Brandon de Wilde in the movie "Shane," like "Come back! Come back!"

The final essay, "Young Goodman Brown: A Gloss" returns to the theme of the first essay, "Hawthorne." An abstract art-piece, Rebecca Brown does, nonetheless, rest her case.

I thank the creative author for writing this delightful, thoughtful, entertaining collection as it was a delightful travel down the path of gay experience, both literary as well as personal.

God And Sex: What the Bible Really Says
God And Sex: What the Bible Really Says
by Michael Coogan
Edition: Imitation Leather
Price: £18.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Frustratingly Nice Book, 26 May 2011
I'm going to be blunt and try to be brief. Sex sells and so does talk about God. This book, however, doesn't mount the subject of sex until half-way through, at page 101. It has nothing to say about God either -- until the very end, around page 172. That's a whole lot of reading (delayed gratification) about "nothing" (not sex and not God) for a book whose subject is supposed to be about both.

The first 100 pages deal with the ways, customs, habits and traditions of the old Judaic tribes, a sociological/anthropological grasp of the incredible and nasty gaps in true justice and liberty for all, as revealed in the Old Testament. Most of the content of this book is largely focused on the Old Testament, although what insights the author does provide into the New Testament from the historical perspective are full of zingers that will arouse the reader's attention.

Many other Amazon reviewers, especially John L. Murphy, have done a beautiful job carefully combing the virtues of this book, and for those deeply involved in religious matters, such full-scale analysis may be helpful and enriching. I do not prescribe to any religious views but am merely curious as to what Bible readers think.

I cannot but agree with Michael Coogan in finding that there's only metaphor and myth in the Bible. I was hoping perhaps to see some kind of defense for homosexual men and women in this liberal, even progressive, tidy tome against fundamentalism and dogmatism, but i was frustrated to that end as well. Michael Coogan is no dogmatist and the reader is given to understand, he wouldn't morally condemn homosexual men and women for being sexually oriented to the same gender, not certainly on the basis of Leviticus or St. Paul. But that's all he's got to say on this particular controversy.

This leather imitation volume is beautifully designed. The rounded edges of the Eucharist-white pages, along with the soft, buttery cover and the endpaper design with a colored reproduction of Flemish painter Jacob Jordaen's depiction of "The Temptation" are all just so palpably seductive you don't want to let it out of your hands. If only the content inside would have justified this reader's curiosity.

Chapter 4 of this book contains a detailed and gruesome examination of a story from Judges that is absolutely so horrific and ugly, even the author tries to escape the full consequences of its hideousness. If you are the type of person who likes snuff films and is psychopathic, you'll love this part. But, again, the story told, like many of the stories revealed from the Bible in this book, are about violence and murder, not about sex and not about God.

The novel: what it is
The novel: what it is

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasantly Antiquated Essay, 26 May 2011
I did not know that F. Marion Crawford was born in Italy and that after getting a good education in America, he returned to Italy and lived there till he died. Perhaps that fact of his being a "foreigner" of sorts accounts for his not "turning up" in lists of American novels of the 19th or 20th century. Yet, according to Wikipedia, Graham Greene and F. Scott Fitzgerald were aware of him and his novels, mentioning Crawford in at least one of their own respective novels.

This book was first published in 1893 when Francis Marion Crawford was 39 years of age. At 108 pages, the book is one extended essay with brief breaks here or there, no chapters at all. Wikipedia summarizes the essence of the essay-long book quite well:

"The novel, he wrote, is 'a marketable commodity' and 'intellectual artistic luxury' (8, 9) that 'must amuse, indeed, but should amuse reasonably, from an intellectual point of view. . . . Its intention is to amuse and please, and certainly not to teach and preach; but in order to amuse well it must be a finely-balanced creation. . . .'."

The essay adds the idea that a novel is really just a portable play and the best novels strike at the heart. From the writing, the reader must assume that the author knows a lot about writing novels if only because he has so many opinions about them, and indeed, Francis Marion Crawford's works extend to more than 32 volumes from historical novels to mainstream novels to ghost and horror stories. Many of his novels are listed on Amazon for purchase and many more still are available for free on Gutenberg Project as well as Online Books.

This essay strives to state what, insofar as I know, only Ayn Rand definitely stated in her esthetic theory almost fifty years later: a novel is combination of realism and romanticism.

I cannot recommend this work for any particular insights into the novel; it's simply charmingly written and the words are dressed in the intellectual style of a politer society that has long since gone.

Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty
Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty
by Simon Baron-Cohen
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sugar in Tea and Lots of Empathy, 26 May 2011
This book is a quick and easy read despite the, at times, repetitive, tedious and reductive, scientific jargon of the lab scientist. If you have the time, this book can be absorbed in a day. I had chores to do Saturday, so it took me two days. The author has a sense of "we" and inclusiveness in his writing style, thank goodness, which boosts the reader's motivation to plow through the jargon. The author practices the empathy he teaches about in this book so the reader has another level, a meta-level, of understanding of the subject.

The most unique aspect of this work is the author's contribution to an understanding of those who do evil and hurtful things to others: above all else, it is due to a total and complete lack of empathy, a phenomenon that can be traced, measured and predicted through science's understanding of the brain. The scary part of this information, not mentioned in the book, is how this scientific knowledge can lead to "pre-crime arrests," as was illustrated in the movie "Minority Report." Whether the person is a psychopath, a person suffering from an anti-social disorder or a borderline personality or a Narcissistic personality, each type mentioned here manifests "Zero degrees of empathy" that has negative consequences for others as well as for the self.

A second unique aspect of this work is the author's understanding of Asberger's Syndrome as a systematizing function of the brain, a logic function that seems to carry with it its own moral code (based on logic or logical consistencies). Here is another type of personality that also suffers from "Zero degrees of empathy" but this deficit often has positive consequences for others and can have positive consequences for the self as well.

The author's purpose in writing this book is to put empathy in the forefront of our consciousness, politically as well as socially and parentally. All infants and children need "a pot of gold" of emotional warmth and appreciation bred into their brains and bones so as to develop into smart and empathic adults. As Jackie De Shannon once sang in the late 1960s for future generations' benefit, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." We also need to solve the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians that does not involve the U.S. simply turning over billions of dollars annually to "support" Israel. Simon Baron-Cohen thinks empathy is the universal solvent to that end.

My only disappointment with the book is that while empathy is the author's main focus, he can only mention one person (besides an earlier example of a female psychotherapist), Bishop Desmond Tutu, as an exemplar of what it means to have "super-empathy" -- and no scientific proof whatsoever to back up his assertion whether for Mr. Tutu or the female psychotherapist. You have to take his word on faith simply because he is a scientist. I have a better example, although still lacking in scientific rigor: read the novels of Henry James.

I am a better person for having read this book. It refreshed my spirit and revitalized my "double-mindedness" (that's a very good thing, according to the author) such that I recommend it to everyone, even if you already are an empathic person. The likelihood, however, of this book causing major political changes in the world we live in today is very low. Why? Because the major political changes the world is now so painfully and destructively undergoing are being perpetrated by the very psychologically warped types that comprise the dark subject of this author's study of evil.
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