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“THE SON OF JOSEPH”— Looking for Father

“The Son of Joseph” (“Le fils de Joseph”)

Looking for Father

Amos Lassen

Eugene Green’s “Son of Joseph” is about the world of a troubled teen, Victor (Victor Ezenfis) who is not happy living with his single mother, Marie, (Natacha Régnier) and her insistence that he has no father. One afternoon, home alone, Vincent goes through the cabinets at home and he finds a document that connects him Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric), a hotshot book publisher who left Marie for the sake of philandering in the literary world.

Vincent has been intensively studying the violent father-son gesture in Italian master Caravaggio’s 1603 painting “Sacrifice of Abraham”, of which a wall-sized replica of which hangs in the teen’s bedroom thus letting us know that he will use what he has learned to find his father.

Vincent manages to copy the key to Pormenor’s office in a chic Parisian hotel and hides under the sofa to eavesdrop on him. He soon realizes that Oscar isn’t the father any boy would dream of. This discovery together with Vincent’s odd obsession with the Caravaggio in which Abraham holds a knife against his son Isaac’s throat, results in the boy doing the opposite and handcuffing and gagging his father (who still doesn’t know his identity). However, Vincent’s indecisiveness involves choices between good and bad and when he finally puts the blade against Oscar’s neck, he runs away from what he’s done without fully achieving his goal.


In one of the first scenes, Vincent and a buddy talk about a profitable sperm-selling operation, we see that is not a comedy. The film’s main exchange of ideas and emotions comes between Vincent and the adult Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione) who is Oscar’s ne’er-do-well brother. They meet by chance and become friends by looking at the world together in the parks, streets and museums of summertime Paris. A visit to the Louvre acquaints Vincent with two religious masterpieces: Philippe de Champaigne’s “The Dead Christ” and “Joseph the Carpenter” by Georges de la Tour. The latter painting makes the entire meaning of the film clear especially when Vincent casually remarks that Joseph isn’t little Jesus’ real father but Joseph (the movie character) suggests that he became a real father through the presence of his son.

“The Son of Joseph” is filled with talk about God, Biblical art, life, parenthood, filialness and relationships, but this is not handled seriously and there are more serious ideas at center of the film. There’s a reason the two main adult characters are called Joseph and Marie, and it seems that director Green gently plays around with the expectations of the viewers. In the film’s Biblically inspired chapters that have names such as The Sacrifice of Abraham, The Flight to Egypt and The Golden Calf, we get a (satirical look at the ridiculously self-obsessed publishing world. There is the combination of highbrow and lowbrow elements all through the film.

In one scene, Oscar shows up for some afternoon fun with his assistant and as illicit deeds take place above the camera (with the sound communicating everything we need to know) all we can do is see and admire the decorative construction of the furniture.

This principle of elimination informs every scene here, from a literary cocktail party that Vincent crashes to a dinner date between Marie and Joseph, that shows a blatant disregard for naturalistic ambiance. Green outlines his character’s feelings and motivations in dialogue and makes sure that there is no interruption of sentiments. Yet, a sense of psychological complexity and mystery remains.

Green shares his views on parenthood and the evolution of the family construct. He has a wry sense of humor and although the film is concerned with Biblical art and filial relations, this is handled lightheartedly. When Vincent discovers that his father is a vile egomaniac, he decides to get his revenge and cultivates a plan heavily influenced by Caravaggio’s painting.

Green combines formal precision with garrulous personalities to give a dreamlike impression of reality. Each character talks directly to the soul of the viewer making it impossible to escape the romance and joy on the screen. Green’s thoughts about life, love and misplaced paternity are great fun. Victor’s plan to covertly observe his dad is complicated when he’s mistaken for a prodigious young novelist by a pretentious book critic Violette (Maria de Medeiros), who ushers him awkwardly into the champagne gossip circuit of the Parisian literary scene, a great target for satire.

“Adulting 101” by Lisa Henry— A Real Struggle

Henry, Lisa. “Adulting 101”, Riptide Publishing, 2016.

A Very Real Struggle

Amos Lassen

Set in Franklin Ohio, we meet Nick Stahlnecker, an eighteen-year-old guy who he is not yet ready to grow up. At his summer job, he works with Jai Hazenbrook and has quite a crush on him. Jai is twenty-five and has come home just long enough to make enough money so that he can leave. back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. He figures it will be worth being home and living in his mother’s basement so that he can see the rest of the world. Nick, however, is not a part of his plans yet he discovers that it is not necessary to travel to have adventure when someone like Nick is in his sights. Yes, readers, this is a romance.

Jai tries to convince himself that Nick is only a temporary attraction and that he has no feelings for him. However, that is not true. This is the story of Nick’s summer before he goes to college. Nick is impulsive and very honest but he also lacks direction regarding what he wants to do in life. His parents have pushed him to go to college and have chosen his major for him— criminology.

Jai loves to travel. His plan was to work the three summer months and then travel the rest of the year. When he met Nick, he was immediately drawn to him and they slowly get to know each other and have great sex. He has really never had so much fun before and this was so unexpected. At first, each saw the other as a friend with benefits and even when they became “boyfriends” neither would admit that this was the case. It is fun to read how their lust became love but it happened very slowly. In the beginning each thought of what they were doing as a hookups but as they spent more and more time together and got to know each other, they realized that it was so much more than just sex.

It is not easy becoming an adult and we see both guys struggling with it. Jai is much more of an adult than Nick and he does not want to live a life without adventure. He seems not to believe in relationships, especially since there is so much to see and do. A relationship could hold him back. Basically Jai is an introvert and really functions well alone even though he has had affairs for years. However, he really likes Nick and his unbounded energy.

This is a very funny story yet it has a deep message about becoming an adult. Nick learns that becoming an adult does not follow ten easy steps while Jai sees that sometimes the greatest adventure you can have requires no travel and could be standing right next to you.



“In the Name of the Family” by Sarah Dunant— One of History’d Most Notorious Families

Dunant, Sarah. “In the Name of the Family”, Thorndike, 2017.

One of History’s Most Notorious Families

Amos Lassen

The quick rise of the Borgia family in Rome has taken Italians by surprise, as Pope Alexander VI Rodrigo Borgia openly uses his illegitimate children as dynastic weapons. His son Cesare is the arrogant, sadistic leader of a victorious mercenary army, and his scandal-soaked daughter, Lucrezia, is a pawn in the marriage game.

In Florence, people lament what has been lost after the mad monk Savonarola s pious reign. We really see that violence is an acceptable kind of diplomacy and Niccolo Machiavelli, a clever and calculating undersecretary who does well in conditions like this and he tries to use affairs of state to his own ends. Machiavelli is impressed with the influence and boldness of the Borgias and one man in particular catches his eye.

Cesare defies his own father and hatches a secret plot to consolidate his power and feed his ambition. Lucrezia, whose previous husband was murdered by her possessive brother, is set to marry once more to further the Borgias advantage and her future sister-in-law is a formidable adversary.

While alliances are forged, tensions within the regions of Italy intensify, and deceptions are set like traps. Dunant’s novel is a psychological look at the familial relationships between Father Rodrigo and his children. Set from 1501-1503, we meet three Borgias who work for the family and construct fame and fortune together diplomatic, political and military genius. All three Borgias, we see, were intelligent strategists. Sarah Dunant combines the lives of the infamous Borgia family, actual historical events giving us a look at corruption, manipulation, and intrigue.


“The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer” by Bonnie S. Anderson— “The Queen of the Platform”

Anderson, Bonnie S. “The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer”, Oxford University Press, 2017.

“The Queen of the Platform

Amos Lassen

Ernestine Rose who was “known as the queen of the platform” was an outstanding orator for feminism, free thought, and anti-slavery. Yet, she would gradually be erased from history for being too much of an outsider because she was an immigrant, a radical, and an atheist.

Rose was the only child of a Polish rabbi but she rejected religion at an early age, successfully sued for the return of her dowry after rejecting an arranged betrothal, and left her family, Judaism, and Poland forever. She went to London and became a follower of socialist Robert Owen and met her future husband, William Rose. Together they moved to New York in 1836. In the United States, Ernestine Rose rapidly became a leader in movements against slavery, religion, and women’s oppression. She was a regular on the lecture circuit, speaking in twenty-three of the then thirty-one states. She challenged the radical Christianity that inspired many nineteenth-century women reformers and even though she rejected Judaism, she was both a victim and critic of anti-Semitism. After the Civil War, she and her husband returned to England, where she continued her work for radical causes. By the time women achieved the vote, for which she had tirelessly worked so hard for, her pioneering contributions to women’s rights had already been forgotten.

Rose was active in the religiously-motivated abolitionist movement and free thought and worked tirelessly to see that ALL people are created equal. What is so interesting is that Ernestine Rose’s commitment to equality and justice is almost virtually unknown. This book changes that and I must admit that before this I had never heard of her before and author Anderson brings the past to us and in doing so gives new perspectives on the present. Rose’s activism came at a time when it was rare for women to speak out on political issues, and certainly not about on their own rights.

She was “a woman of fierce intellect and uncompromising convictions”. Bonnie Anderson makes sure that Rose’s legacy will both inform and inspire those who are still fighting for equal rights.



“The Road to Ithaca” by Ben Pastor— Book Five of the Martin Bora WWII Mystery Series

Pastor, Ben. “The Road to Ithaca”, (Martin Bora) , Bitter Lemon Press, 2017.

Book Five of the Martin Bora WWII Mystery Series

Amos Lassen

In May 1941, Wehrmacht officer Martin Bora is sent to Crete, which has been recently occupied by the German army, to investigate the brutal murder of a Red Cross representative who was a friend of SS-Chief Himmler. All the clues point to a platoon of trigger-happy German paratroopers, but Bora wonders if this is what really happened. Some of you undoubtedly that this is the fifth of a series and you might wonder why you have not read my reviews of the other four. The answer is simple— this is the first Ben Pastor book that I have read and obviously I did not have to read the others to enjoy this.

Bora goes to the mountains of Crete to solve the case and he makes his way between local bandits and foreign resistance fighters. He soon finds himself torn between his duty as an officer and his integrity as a human being. (This is something we do not see too much of among German officers; humanity was not a quality that they aspired to). Bora assumed that he was being sent to Crete on a routine mission of picking up cases of wine for the German embassy in Moscow. However, the moment he lands, he is ordered to investigate the shooting of the Swiss guard by German paratroopers. As Bora searches for the truth, he, along with the readers, finds himself drawn into the political landscape of Crete and the world of of German conquerors, neutral expatriates, the local Greek police force, resistance fighters and Spanish rebels who are now fugitives. Crete is a place that always seemed to be somewhat simple but we see here that occupied Crete is complex. Bora learns that with every step he makes in search of someone who actually saw the shooting. As he looks for this witness, Bora engages himself in serious soul serrching. W see him as a conflicted man who is caught between the idea of integrity that was instilled in him as a strict Prussian and his obligations and responsibilities to the German army.

The story is told through alternating first person entries in Bora’s diary and the third person narrative and these seem to make things that much more difficult. Because this is such a fine character study of Bora, I found myself forgetting that I was actually reading a mystery novel.

Pastor draws explicit parallels between Bora’s journey into the heart of Crete and Odysseus’s Odyssey. The author alternates between Bora’s personal entries into his diary (first person) and the main narrative (third person), which adds to the personal dilemmas faced by Bora. As I moved deeper into the narrative, I forgot at times that this was a mystery.

Bora is a German aristocrat, a Catholic and a German Wehrmacht officer and has the reputation of being an example of a soldier with honor who is required to fight for a cause that has no honor. Before coming to Crete Bora served in the German diplomatic mission in Moscow for less than a month before the Nazi invasion that Bora knew was coming.

English soldiers who are now prisoners-of-war supposedly witnessed the murder and now Bora must find out who is responsible. The German army is uncooperative and the paratroopers are determined to protect their own and we learn that one of their officers, a devoted National Socialist, has been holding a boyhood grudge against Bora’s aristocratic family.

Bora gains the help of a reluctant local police inspector and a female American archaeologist and he must go on a journey to learn the truth. He realizes that in Crete, time is not important.

The plot goes way beyond Bora’s investigation of a war crime and even though he makes it back to the safety of the German embassy in Moscow, he is still away from home. To say anymore would ruin the read and I would hate to do that.

“Tenderloin” by Court Haslett— Skid Row, the 70’s

Haslett, Court. “Tenderloin”, Sleeper Hayes, 2017.

Skid Row, the ‘70s

Amos Lassen

It is the summer of 1978 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the place where the outcasts and the marginalized of the city live—

criminals, ex-cons, alcoholics, hookers, castoffs, the unlucky, and weirdoes. These are people who always seem to lose whatever battles they’re fighting. Yet the Tenderloin is the place where people go to have fun. There was a bar for every person regardless of class, income, sexual orientation, etc. In recent years, the Tenderloin had become a bit more violent than ever before and a sense of desperation began to exist among the regulars.

Sleeper Hayes is a man who lives and does well in the Tenderloin— he is a gambler who likes his drink a bit too much and has many friends there. However, for a reason unknown to us at the start, there is a policeman that wants to see him dead T.L., not as a criminal, but as a gambler, drunk, a caretaker, and a friend to many, well, except for maybe the cops considering one of them wants dead. When one of Hayes’ friends is murdered, Hayes begins looking into the death.

Nelson lives in Hayes’ apartment building. He Hayes’ is a best friend and a cripple who loves to smoke dope. While time and dope have caused his voice to slur, Nelson’s mind is sharp and he can talk about anything

Sleeper is thirty-five years and had dropped out of the hippie movement He is an apartment house manager with connections that allow him to call upon the right person at the right time to help during times of trouble. He helps his friends and has great compassion for them. On the other hand, he has nothing for those he does not like and they know how he feels about them. He is one of those mysterious characters and we are never sure if we like him or hate him.

.But negating his compassion is his downright rude treatment of those characters he does not care for. Sleeper’s attitude and his overindulgence combine to in just a way to make me hold back my opinion on whether or not I like the guy. Sleeper is still a little mysterious to me.

There are several story lines going on at the same time and many characters but the main plot has to do with the murder of Cindy Teague, a prostitute who had once been a member of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. member. Writer Court Haslett brings 1978 in the Tenderloin to life and is a mystery that will keep you turning pages as quickly as possible. Haslett is obviously very familiar with the neighborhood and I understand that almost every place he mentions once actually existed. The events that we read about actually happened as well. The 70’s were quite a strange time in the history of this country and Haslett captures them wonderfully here and with excellent storytelling skills and fine prose. To say anymore about the plot could ruin an exciting read for others so I will not say anymore except that I urge you to spend a few hours with “Tenderloin”. You will not be disappointed.


“Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism” by Camille Paglia— Building an Alliance

Paglia, Camille. “Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism”, Pantheon, 2017.
Building an Alliance
Amos Lassen

Camille Paglia is an advocate of gender equality and she is fearless. In this new essay collection that looks at feminism, she challenges us to build an alliance between strong women and strong men. From one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality—a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and challenges us to build an alliance of strong women and strong men. This collection are the essays that she considers to be her best. If you have read or seen Paglia, you know that she is outspoken, intelligent and independent.

Camille Paglia is an enigmatic brilliant intellectual and an excellent writer who will not be died to dogmas and conventions. Now that is nearing her 70th year, she has a life she can be proud to look back at.

She can look back on a lifetime of involvement in the intellectual movements of her time. She came of age as the sexual revolution was reaching a high and lived through the 1960s and watched others and herself leave behind stereotypes of the 50s.
Paglia was influenced by the first wave of feminists— the women who fought for all women to enjoy the fundamental rights to property ownership, employment, and voting and elective office. Paglia gives Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex) credit as the leading edge of second wave feminism that came to the brought to the United States with Betty Freidan in “The Feminine Mystique’. First-generation feminists had not been anti-male, and in fact were grateful to men for granting the progress that they achieved while the second generation perceived men as enemies obstacles to what women wanted to achieve. These feminists claimed that gender was a social construct that had been forced on women by men seeking to preserve a patriarchy. The transition was slow.

The first chapter of the book is challenging for most readers. Some of the selections were taken from Paglia’s “Sexual Personae” with many references to classical Greek literature. It is also a survey of philosophical trends and I found it quite brilliant as an undergrad and it still is. Paglia’s look at the evolution of feminism is classic (and classic Paglia). Paglia’s principal thesis is that modern feminism is an incredibly simpleminded take on a vastly complex topic. She claims that he ancients understood it better than we do. These passages from this first chapter of the book are important. Paglia maintains that sexuality and eroticism are the intricate intersection of nature and culture and that feminists oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it to a matter of social convention. She says that society must be readjusted and sexual inequality must be done away with. This is very Rousseau and he sees a new popularity in the 60s with the beginnings of the development of feminism.

Paglia says in the introduction to this collection of essays that “history moves in cycles” and looking at her early work, we see this clearly. The issues in the headlines as the same as the 1960s with rape on college campuses, sexual harassment, political correctness and her views on them are just as incendiary as ever. She spoke on date rape at MIT back then and she spoke about the tension between political correctness and free speech. A lot of people have not liked her representation of independent thought.
With the victory of Donald Trump, a man who is an unrepentant sexist and harasser over the first female major-party nominee proved that feminism has not yet completed its historic task. In Paglia’s view, elite academic feminism is doomed to failure because it has never truly come to grips with the biological imperatives of gender. The feminism that puts focus on sexual politics, doesn’t see that sex exists in and through the body. It is her understanding of the body that is the intellectual basis for her dissent from feminism. She came from academic obscurity to front-page intellectual celebrity with the publication of “Sexual Personae” her study of the history of sexuality in Western art. She posited an eternal conflict between the male, Apollonian principle and the female, Dionysian principle. Its view of human psychology was tragic, in the tradition of Nietzsche and Freud. She claims that by ignoring the productive tension at the heart of male-female relations, feminism becomes shallow, censorious, and ineffectual. She was particularly incensed by the anti-pornography crusade of Andrea Dworkin and has stated that “Pornography is a pagan arena of beauty, vitality, and brutality, of the archaic vigor of nature. It should break every rule, offend all morality.” This is how she sees her own intellectual life, which often breaks rules, frequently offends.“Sexual Personae” was rejected by seven publishers and five agents but it was what was instrumental in changing how university presses sell books.

It became necessary to write in an autobiographical manner for a while, because I was such an unknown. University presses in those days did not employ the publicity techniques of major trade houses; my photo wasn’t even on the book. (Indeed, the commercial success of Sexual Personae was instrumental in changing the marketing strategies of university presses in the 1990s.) My positions were so heterodox, for example, that I was absurdly attacked as a right-winger by The Village Voice (to which I had subscribed for nearly 20 years)—even though I had just voted for the African-American activist Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic primary. Throughout the first half of the 1990s, I did use autobiography but only as a secondary supplement to the main themes of my work. I am primarily a scholar—old-fashioned as that concept is in this period of robotic poststructuralist “theory.” My main influences are British and German classical scholarship from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries. The title of this new book suggests that the liberation of women involves, or depends on, the liberation of men.
Paglia says that Jewish-American women aggressively speak out and confront, without fear of loss of “respectability,” as it was defined and enforced by the WASP establishment code that once governed U.S. business, politics, and education. The Jewish marriage contract is unusual in guaranteeing women’s rights, suggesting the power that Jewish women have always wielded in the home and family. Paglia says that she was impressed by the abrasive vocal style of Jewish women when she was growing up and she even tried to imitate it. She further maintains that Jewish-Americans, in their zeal for legal studies, regularly challenged the status quo in ways that other Americans rarely did. Paglia’s revolutionary fervor for political and institutional reform come from Jewish tradition that she took on. Can we still learn from Paglia? You bet we can and we need to.

“Tau Bada: The Quest and Memoir of a Vulnerable Man” by John E. Quinlan— A Memoir

Quinlan, John E. “Tau Bada: The Quest and Memoir of a Vulnerable Man”, edited by Alex Cruden, MCP Books, 2017.

A Memoir

Amos Lassen

John Quinlan philosophically looks at his inner man in “Tau Bada”. He was called Tau Bada which means  “big white man,” when he met the tribes of Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, north of Australia.

Quinlan and his wife Fiona tried their luck at a fishing business before becoming coffee exporters in Papua New Guinea. There, Quinlan used his expertise as a businessman to pull together over 2400 people from numerous different tribes to form a business focused on coffee collection, processing, logistics and export. What he think about were the cultural differences and the fear and mistrust that some of the tribes felt toward him and toward each other.

Quinlan’s memoir is a true-action story about money, new love, cultural challenges, the essential messages of the American West and of the South Pacific, as well as a personal journey of self-discovery.

This is a true account of Quinlan’s life with his failures included. After losing his job security and the end of a marriage, Quinlan decided that he needed change in his life and took off on a motorcycle trip in August of 1999. It was then that he met Fiona who was from Papua New Guinea. Because he and Fiona were honest business people, John and Fiona expected the same from their employees. They provided opportunities for local farmers to harvest a cash crop something that had never happened before in New Guinea. However, when John entered the village of Kiara, he was the first white man to ever do so and vengeance was there.

The book comes together from the journals that Quinlan kept during his journey and we see a man who lost his egoism and sense of self when he lost his job in Michigan. He began searching for healing and wanted to make sense of what he thought was a great life and going to Papua seemed to be a good choice.

What the book is really about (in the words of the author) is “the quiet transitions to real courage and the soul milieu that connects and binds us as mutual occupants of a shared planet.” Quinlan begins his book with this quote and then goes on to show why this is really what he wants to say. We see that Quinlan’s courage, stamina, and trust as they are tested over and over throughout his life.

He fell in love with Fiona Tanner, a beautiful woman at first sight as she did with him and when he learns that her visa has expired, Quinlan tries to help her make a living for herself, her three daughters, and ultimately himself as well, in Papua. From this they go into the tribal areas of Papua New Guinea where Quinlan is called “Tau Bada”. They start a coffee business, and tribal customs and native superstitions lead to vengeance, betrayal, and ultimately an attempt on their lives.

This is a not just a memoir— it is also a tale of adventure, a look at building a business and a love story. The Papua New Guinea home of John and Fiona becomes a center of both profound joy and constant anxiety where death is certainly a possibility.

This is a fascinating read about courage and adventure that we all share. There is something for everyone—intrigue, danger, humor and the power of love.



“The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman— Rethinking Birds

Ackerman, Jennifer. “The Genius of Birds”, Penguin, 2017.

Rethinking Birds

Amos Lassen

Writer Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. She travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research from the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia to the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia as well as the mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy to the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states. She shares the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds and also explores the newest findings about the brain of the bird itself. In this, she shifts our views on intelligence.

 Looking at the Clark’s nutcracker, we see a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember several months later. We meet mockingbirds and thrashers that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours. We learn that birds use their special genius in technical ways and Ackerman shares their social smarts of birds; how they deceive and manipulate, eavesdrop, give gifts, console one another, blackmail their parents, alert one another to danger, summon witnesses to the death of a peer and might even grieve. I doubt that we have ever considered these traits in reference to birds.

By adding personal anecdotes to science, we get quite a story that shows us how to appreciate the exceptional talents of birds and see what birds can reveal about our changing world. I doubt that I would have ever considered reading this if I had not been sent a review copy but now that I have read it, I am ready to learn more and more about our feathered friends.

Author Jennifer Ackerman is a wonderful writer who is just as fun when she is serious as when she is laugh-out-loud funny. I was surprised throughout and learned about how different types of birds bond, and how they teach their young to perform certain important actions they will eventually need to survive.

“The Genius of Bird” celebrates bids behaviors, patterns, reversal learning and the importance of studying birds in their natural environment to learn more and better understand them, This is quite a big read but every word is chosen to express something about birds. It is such a pleasure to be entertained while learning something (or a lot of something’s) new. I commend Ackerman’s ability to give usscientific concepts accessibly and lyrically. She gives many interesting facts that she and backs up with history or science. We gain “deep respect” for the birds as we read a moral consideration of the world.

Birds’ brains may be small and they are built differently from mammalian brains, yet they can still execute prodigious feats of intellect. Jennifer Ackerman has written such fascinating information that she leaves the reader wanting more. We learn how birds carry out their vast migrations, how they find their way home, why male birds sing from their hearts out why female birds choose their mates by these efforts and this is just a sampling. These and many other questions are explored, with no final answers and we get even more questions that make us want to find out for ourselves.

“South Pole Station: A Novel” by Ashley Shelby— Problems

Shelby, Ashley. “South Pole Station: A Novel”, Picador, 2017.


Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered what it takes to survive at the South Pole. Moist of us never even think about that part of the world and certainly as a place to live. The average temperature is 54 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no sunlight for six months of every year.

Cooper Gosling believes that she has what it takes to live there and although she is not sure that this is a positive quality, she nonetheless feels that she has nothing to lose by doing so. She is thirty years old and dealing with a family tragedy. Her career goal of being a painter is not working well and so she accepts a place in the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Program and goes to Antarctica. There she comes into contact with others who are motivated by ambiguity like herself and the only thing that those who live at the South Pole have in common is that that they don’t belong anywhere else.

When a fringe scientist arrives, claiming climate change is a hoax, the group is shaken and the community there becomes part of a global controversy that threatens where they are and where they call home. This is a comedy of errors set in the last place you would expect to find one. Our story becomes one about “the courage it takes to band together when everything around you falls apart”. What I found here was that everything we deal with in our world today—science and politics; art, history and love are dealt with at the South Pole as well but with the addition of frostbite.

We meet the scientists, researchers, misfits, lovers, medics, plagiarists, cooks and artists who live in an insular society at the bottom of the world. This group of people might be misfits but we soon love them as we learn about family, grief, creativity and science. Quite simply, this is a fun read that mirrors the lives we lead but in a place where most of us would never consider living.