Reviews of Books

Nettes Stück über Erinnerung und Loslassen

Da ich Theaterstücke quasi nie lese, sehe ich mich nicht in der Lage all zu sehr darüber urteilen zu können. Ich fande den Mix aus Medien spannend (einige Szenen sind instagram Reels oder Youtube Videos). Inhaltlich waren auch schöne Themen drin.

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Can't stand on its own

This is the second book in the “Tiffany Achings” series, following the excellent The Wee Free Men—which I read thrice when I first encountered it!

Why am I talking about the first book? Well, because much of this book is dedicated to recap or summarize parts of it. Characters are reintroduced in detail and relevant plot points are retold in great detail. BUT, these recaps focus very much on the content and “facts” without repeating the witty prose, jokes and puns that accompanied these events in the first book. Overall, these parts just make you want to reread the first book to (re-)experience these events properly.

Next to retellings of the first book we thankfully do get a new plot and some new quirky characters. But overall I'd say that these new characters aren't as interesting and the plot is also not as exciting. Our protagonist Tiffany is very passive and mostly gets pushed around while we are dragged along. This changes only at the very end—on the last 50 pages—when Tiffany finally acts with intelligence and agency and themes of identity and self are discussed in interesting ways.

That ending on its own does definitely reach the genius of the first book, but 300 pages of mostly mediocre fluff really drag down this book as a whole. I'm very curious to see where the next book falls.

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Zu welcher Idylle hast du keinen Zugang? Und willst du das ändern?

Eine Frau stürzt sich von einem Häuserdach. Doch sofort, macht das Buch einen Zeitsprung zurück und wir lernen eine handvoll Charaktere kennen, deren Lebenslauf durch diesen Sprung einen Schock erfahren wird.

Dieser Roman handelt von Leben, die sich verfahren haben—ganz heimlich auf eine Spur gekommen sind, auf die sie nie wollten. Sie finden sich in unglücklichen Ehen oder sinnlosen Affären, im zwecklosen Festhalten an der Vergangenheit oder der Flucht vor ihr, in aufgegebenen Träumen. Und nun werden sie wachgerüttelt durch den Sprung, bekommen die Chance, etwas zu verändern.

Die Autorin präsentiert uns mit einer wunderbaren Vielfalt an Schicksalen, und ebenso vielen Umgängen mit dem disruptiven Event. Jedes Einzelschicksal ist voll von Wahrhaftigkeit und wird dann kunstvoll in ein gemeinsames Narrativ verwoben, welches noch einmal größer als die Summe seiner Teile ist.

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I'd rather be lonely than with this book

Terrible. I got this because it was a footnote in the excellent Arcadia. I was hoping for some insights into loneliness as a concept, what it means for us today, and how we (can) deal with it.

All these topics do appear in chapter headings, but the chapter content does not really provide answers. The author seems scared to say anything in his own words and instead cites philosophers, poets, films and TV shows. Working with citations obviously is not the problem, and working with fiction as examples or to define terms is actually a thing I enjoy immensely, but the author should do more to guide us between these different voices and provide should some own commentary. In the end it reads more like one of those conspiracy cork boards with red string than a book: “What's loneliness? The protagonist of Taxi Driver describes his loneliness like this, Nietzsche says that and Kant says that. Let's talk about Social Media. Here's a poem and here's a quote by some philosopher. Next topic.”

When the author does provide some of his own words it's to over-explain every little concept with two examples each. Some basic ideas are even explained multiple times in different chapters bloating this book to probably double the size it could be—and it's still just 140 pages excluding references and end-notes!

My last gripe with this book was that it gendered in every way possible: It uses a generic “he”, sometimes a “he or she”, once a “s/he” and a couple times “they”. Any one of these would have been better than to mix them all throughout!

Overall, no fun at all to get through, while also not providing any great insights. You'd be better off reading the opening four paragraphs of the Loneliness Wikipedia page. I wrote that as somewhat of a joke, but I just checked It's actually got 95% of the facts that I took from the book.

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Clever und unterhaltsam

Dieser Roman war eine Freude zu lesen. Dieses Labyrinth aus relativierenden Aussagen, die sich gegenseitig widersprechen, bis nichts mehr gesagt wird, ist ein zeitloser Kommentar zur Bürokratie und zur kapitalistischen Entfremdung im Allgemeinen.

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A hundred years old and still very much relevant

Virginia Woolf explores the topic of “Women and Fiction”. She describes a fictionalized research into this topic where she entertainingly experiences examples of her talking points during research. This style is very entertaining and makes it a breeze to read through this little essay.

In addition to her funny writing she's also making points that are sadly still relevant today. It's nothing advanced, but I'd say it's one of the best introductory texts into feminism.

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A few good ones

Just like her book High Tide the poems are mixed. Mostly forgettable, with a few great ones thrown in. But since there's no postcards this one's a bit better as there's more poems overall and as such more good ones as well.

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Beautifully capturing the present

I got this book after seeing the Video at a Museum in Amsterdam (https://vimeo.com/639528236). And it's really amazing. It's the first time I've read a poem with footnotes and a bibliography.

Arcadia lyrically examines our current society especially with regard to consumerism and social media. It builds on the work of philosophers and thinkers both current and old. In this examination I saw beautiful words put to what I had been feeling for a long time. But then it goes further and offers up a possible path forward to escape this hellish condition we find ourselves in.

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A couple excellent short stories

This collection contains five short stories dealing with the topic of desire in some way. The first and last story that really resonated with me making this a very worthwhile read.

The first one demonstrates how love can be unreasonable, drastic and disruptive. It also carries a heavy mystical or fantastic undertone which is common for most of the stories in here.

The last story is more melancholy and deals with loneliness that butts up against a love too good to be true.

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Good starting point and reference

I never really got what a Code of Conduct is and what it can achieve. While the meat of this book is how to respond to violations it also quickly lays out what a CoC is, what it's for, when it's good to have one (always) and the main things to keep in mind when writing one. Overall, it made me excited to work on getting a CoC implemented in my communities and appreciate the value a CoC can have. One plight gripe I had with this book is the middle chapter. It lays out how to deal with different cases one might encounter, like dealing with abusers with social awkwardness or mental health issues etc. This part got too slow and uninteresting for me, because there's a lot of repetition and it didn't all feel relevant for a general read. I'd recommend only reading as far as you like in that section and then move on to the next chapter. As a reference it is of course important to list all these cases.

You can get it for free here.

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