The Books of March


The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden — C Valente
This is a reread. These are among the first of her books that I read and among the first that she pub­lished. The prose is not as mature as lat­er prose but the onion struc­ture of the book, with its lay­ers and lay­ers of tales each being told to the lis­ten­er whose own tale we are read­ing is fas­ci­nat­ing. The inter­wo­ven mytholo­gies of the steppes and the sea and the star­ry ori­gins of the world make me smile. I like it bet­ter than some of her more recent work, even if I do occa­sion­al­ly get sick of there being a sim­i­le for every noun.

* sooth­ing mythopet­ic tales *

The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown
Not all that. In part because I’m a devout athe­ist and Ms. Brown relies on God. A researcher into var­i­ous human emo­tions, she is best known for her work on Shame. She’s well know and wide­ly respect­ed and I can’t under­stand why giv­en that there is noth­ing new in here. I think that this might not be her best book. Or at least not the best place to have start­ed look­ing at her work.
* no more inter­est­ing than most self-development books *

Culture Clash — Jean Donaldson
One of the bet­ter books on canine eti­ol­o­gy. It’s been a while since I read it and I was prompt­ed to go back to it by the reports of some recent research into the effec­tive­ness of neg­a­tive mark­ers in oper­ant con­di­tion­ing. I want­ed to look back at some of the broad­er work on canine behav­ior and train­ing meth­ods. If you think of your dog as a fur­ry lit­tle child sub­sti­tute you’re not going to like much of what’s said here. But if you’re curi­ous about how it is that we try (most­ly on the suf­fer­ance of our dogs) to cohab­it with a species that has entire­ly dif­fer­ent rules for going along and get­ting along, this is for you.

* clas­sic in the field, rec­om­mend­ed for every curi­ous dog lover *

Listened to:

Angela’s Ashes — Frank McCourt
Read by Frank McCourt. In a rever­sal of the usu­al Irish fam­i­ly moves to America and makes good. Brooklyn-born McCourt’s fam­i­ly left the USA and returned to Ireland  where they lived in the sort of oppres­sive pover­ty that most Irish were leav­ing the coun­try to escape. Opinions are firm­ly divid­ed on the mer­its of the book. Some claim­ing that it trades in mawk­ish clichés and oth­ers that it is tran­scen­dent. (Though why any­one would think that it is either of those two extremes I don’t under­stand.) I think it’s actu­al­ly a mid­dle of the road sort of book and that I prob­a­bly would have stopped about a third of the way through if I had been read­ing it. But I was­n’t read­ing it I was lis­ten­ing to Frank McCourt read it. And much like his Frank lis­ten­ing to his father’s sto­ries of Cuchiulainn I could­n’t stop.
* Rather like lis­ten­ing to a rel­a­tive who’s lived and “inter­est­ing” life talk about the old days.