Monday, July 19, 1993

Is There a Doctor In the Zoo?

by David Taylor

The early years of an exotic animal veterinarian. An enthralling, fascinating, hilarious, wonderful story. One thing that impressed me was how much a pioneer Taylor was – no anaesthetic dart guns, no zoo or exotic animals classes in vet school back in the '40s and '50s – yet Taylor made it work. I loved his assessment of Christian outlooks on animals, the drug-dealing Arab episode and especially his anecdotes about the chimps. They certainly are a lot smarter than we think!

Thursday, July 15, 1993

Good As Gold

by Joseph Heller

The trials and tribulations of one Bruce Gold, professor and possible Secretary of State. While not up to Heller's masterpiece Catch-22, of course, this is a solid satire. In fact, it mixes surreal, sharp humor with passages of pure political barbs and with passages of straight emotion – what it's like growing up Jewish, being Jewish in America, the family's recollections and tribulations, etc. The last part was particularly moving. Although I am a bit of a sap as a reader – I like to see a happy ending, even if in this case Bruce doesn't really deserve one.

four stars

Tuesday, July 6, 1993

Changing Places

by David Lodge

A comedy about an exchange between two university professors, one English and one American. (It's Lodge's "mandatory American novel.") Funny, intriguing, and written in a loose, varied style (one chapter is all letters, for example). I liked it a lot, and it left me wanting a sequel.

four stars

Friday, July 2, 1993

The Importance Of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

Farcical play about mistaken identity and class relations.  Funny, witty, light escapism. Has the usual Wilde epigrams and lofty generalizations about "life." 

five stars

Thursday, July 1, 1993

Saint Francis

by Nikos Kazantzakis

A fictionalized account of the saint's life, as told by his assistant Brother Leo. A powerful, thought-provoking work. Kazantzakis ponders: How can there be two ways to Paradise, one of effort but also one of ease? How can there be Paradise as long as anyone is not saved (is in Hell)? Mostly, like Last Temptation, it was about struggle, but the struggle to shun the earthly in everything – although it's noted that the urge for heaven can be a temptation as well (pride). I wondered how much is fact – did Francis really meet the Sultan? Go on Crusades? The book also points out that loving God might be easier without struggle (if we eat, for example, we pray with a clearer head). One basic flaw that hurts the book as narrative: a lack of continuity throughout – a sense of unconnected events instead.

four stars