April, 2005

Apr 05

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Written in 1959 by a native Nigerian, Things Fall Apart was maybe the first really non-Western novel that I ever read, during my first quarter at Stanford. I was completely blown away by the book then, and wanted to re-read it now to see what I thought (I’ve also been reading some histories of Africa lately that I need to post about, so am interested in other points of view).

The title is taken from a poem called “The Second Coming”, by W.B. Yeats — an incredibly powerful poem — here are the lines from it that are quoted at the beginning of the book:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The narrative tells the story of Okonkwo — a leader among his tribe and the surrounding towns. As the book starts, Okonkwo thinks a lot about how much better he’s become than his father was — how much richer, how much stronger, and how much more respected. Given the title, you can probably imagine how it goes from there.

I was struck reading this book that it really tells two stories: one that’s really about Africans and the introduction of outsiders, colonizers, and new technologies, but another that’s more universal about how hard it is to hang on to the past and fight against change. And whether it’s worth it or not.

Anyway, I like this novel now as much as I did when I read it 16 years ago — very glad to have gone back to it. It’s such a simple story but really very powerful.

Apr 05

The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman

This is one of the huge mass of books coming out in the for-kids-and-sort-of-like-Harry-Potter genre — I’ve always liked those & had fun reading them, so figured it’d be a fun book for our vacation. This particular book is notable in that it features a heroine instead of a boy, and is a story that a father made up to tell his daughters each night, in a serial style. It also has really terrific cover art.

But that’s the best thing about the book. The story is boring & predictable; the characters are flat. Not a great book at all. Published by Scholastic, the publishers of the Harry Potter series — just trying to cash in, I’d say.

Apr 05


Kathy & I just got back from a great trip to Maui — we spent 6 days on the island, and had a great time. (I’ll post a link to some pictures in a bit.) Among other things, we enjoyed the Road to Hana, seeing the crater of Haleakala, and eating at Mama’s Fish House (awesome). The weather was terrific — and now that we’re back in California it seems cold all the time. 🙂

Read a ton of books — mostly popcorn fiction type stuff — I’ll post them over the next few days.

One of the strangest feelings there was being 6 hours behind East Coast time — you really feel like by the time you’re up, had breakfast and are starting your day that most of America’s news has already happened. Weird.

Anyway, fun trip — glad we got a chance to do it.

(Incidentally, we borrowed a great guide book from Mike Schroepfer: Maui Revealed, by Andrew Doughty & Harriett Friedman — indispensable.)

Apr 05

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

The 3rd installment, and the first book that really starts setting up a world of characters and story lines that are outside of Harry’s immediate relationships. This wasn’t my favorite book the first time that I read it, and I sort of thought that most of it was more complicated than it needed to be. Reading it this time, though, I liked it quite a lot better. Sets up a ton of Harry’s relationships going forward, of course, and gives a lot of clues to his character and how it’s going to grow through the rest of the books. The 4th book, which I’ll read shortly, has a lot more plot movement than this one (and is a little bit simpler). The other thing that I’m struck by is that as the books progress, Harry obviously gets more mature, the subject matter gets more mature, and the structure of the books get more mature. This is a pretty amazing thing that Rowling has done, which is to create a series of books that grows up along with the reader. I tend to undervalue these books sometimes because of the incredible hype that they’ve received — re-reading them reminds me that they’re just terrific.

Apr 05

Daylight Saving Time info

Here’s a good link to a CNN piece on DST:


(it actually works a little bit better if you click to it from the CNN home page, but it’s usable via this link.)