Wednesday, December 26, 2018

[Book] Euphemania by Ralph Keyes

Book Cover
I love puns, and this is a book about the grandfather of puns... the good ole euphemism.  This book moves smoothly from subject to subject bringing up lots of history.  It is sometimes funny, but it doesn't overplay.  Overall, it's a pretty serious book about the very human desire to avoid talking directly about certain subjects.

Chapter Listing
Mincing Words
From Bears to Bowdlerism
Speaking of Sex
Anatomy Class
Secretions and Excretions
Under the Weather and In the Ground
Show Me the Liquidity
Words of War
Brave New Words
Why We Euphemize

I found the chapter on sex to be the most interesting.  I'd go so far as to say that the whole book is worth it for Speaking of Sex and Secretions and Excretions.  I learned a huge amount that I never even suspected, having grown up with so many euphemisms as "normal" speech.  Even the "proper" terms that I've been taught are usually euphemisms from another language.  I also find myself much more accepting of curse words after reading this book.

One aspect of this book that surprised me is that there are sprinkled references to euphemisms in other languages.  In retrospect, it is clear that euphemisms often jump from one language to another, and morph slightly as they go from language to language.  I found these parts to be fascinating none-the-less, and really makes me wish I had the patience to really learn more than just English.

Bottom line is that I found this book to be delightfully charming.  I learned a lot (and have already forgotten far more).  As usual, I'll include the escape reasons...  If you are bored by puns, have no interest in etymology, or just don't want to think about language now that English class isn't mandatory in your life, I won't think less of you for skipping this one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

[Book] There There by Tommy Orange

Book cover
I will start by noting that this book started slow for me.  It took me over two weeks to read the prologue up through the fourth chapter.  Once I passed that, I read the next 80% of the book in two days finishing on a third.

Every character in this book is a Native American either from or converging on Oakland California.  There is a lot of exploration, especially among the young characters, of what it means to be Native in the city.  A native away from the things externally associated with being Native.

I loved this book, but I feel I should not have liked it at all.  This book has most of the things that I've complained about in reviews past.  The book is non-linear.  The book retells the same scenes from different perspectives, sometimes many chapters apart.  The book jumps between grandmother to grandchild without reminding us of the shared relationship.

Yet, the details emerge.  The memories re-ignite.  Not the way I expect them to, but there is always enough there that I'm not left confused and angry.  Chapter headings are helpful here.  They name the character that the chapter will focus on.  The perspectives are amazing in how different each character sees the world.  Which things energize and which things turn off.

The author does an amazing job really pushing the personality drivers of each person, making families familiar in a way that is obvious, while making each character a fully believable individual.  There are multiple people in this book that I wish I could just sit down with an have a conversation with, or just share a meal.

By just about the middle point of the book, it becomes clear that these individual pieces of story are all converging.  More and more, the life stories that are being told are intersecting in place and time.  In this, all of the exploration, the meaning, are all in service of the overall story-arc.  The shifts in place and time, are to help us avoid spoilers for what is to come, and it is done very well.

This is a book I'm recommending without reservation.  I don't do that very often.

There is violence, gang, domestic and sexual, though the sexual violence is not described in graphic detail.