Cites & Bytes @ Bailey

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Recently Read...

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. I believe this book was being considered for Freshman One Book and would certainly serve to provide some interesting discussion. The first half of the book recounts Simon Wiesenthal's surreal encounter with a dying Nazi who, after describing an atrocity in which he participated, asks Simon to forgive him on behalf of the Jewish people. Wiesenthal does not. Later, when he locates the German's mother, he does not tell her of her son's acts and keeps silent. Both of these silences caused him to question himself and should be considered in light of his later career as the "Nazi Hunter," who brought many German war criminals to justice. The second half of the book consists of short essays by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Albert Speer, Primo Levi, and others with experience of tragedy. Some argue for forgiveness, some argue against it. A few advocate smothering the Nazi in his hospital bed. Some apparently believed Wiesenthal's story was apocryphal. Very thought provoking book... what do you think?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. One of the student workers in the IMC recommended this book to me. Dave Eggers is currently the editor of McSweeney's... a delight for another day. When Eggers' parents died of cancer within five months of each other, Eggers and his older siblings reshaped their lives to care for their youngest brother, Toph. Eggers describes himself as a "single mother" and provides a devastatingly tragic, cynically humorous look (I can abuse an adjective or two myself!) at his life in San Francisco, including an attempt to get on MTV's Real World and the birth of Might magazine. I think it is difficult to describe this work because it is many things -- you should read it yourself. To me, it is fresh, frank, self-conscious, raw, honest. The scenes of his mother's illness and death are meticulously truthful and moving. The long and winding worrying that Eggers experiences every time he leaves his brother with a babysitter resonated with me... in fact, all of his dire inner predictions and planning for eventual disaster struck a real chord. Reviewers seem divided, but I really enjoyed this book.


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