thoughts on books: the master and margarita

Great book! I’m not sure how I first heard about this book, but I seem to be drawn to the Faustian story of selling one’s soul to the devil – not sure what that implies about me. I also enjoy Russian literature – there is something very rich in best of Russian novels. When I read Mikhael Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in 2014, it was the second story about Stalinist Russia I had read within a couple of months (Animal Farm was the first), so I was primed. While The Master and Margarita is a novel, it is based on the experiences of the author and represents a commentary on the oppression experienced by creative people in 1930s Moscow.

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thoughts on books: war & peace

Yep, I went there. What can one say about War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy? The scope and length of the book was enormous – my version was spread across three books! I have to give this one a 5/5.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional … and numerous … and had two or three names of the following flavors: full formal name, shorter formal name, traditional nickname or individualized nickname. As with Russian novels, making sure you can follow the character names is important! In addition to the epic story about Russia in the early 1800s and their dealings with the French, each of the main characters also undertook a journey – many of which were as gripping as that broad international struggle.

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working and balancing

I read an article in my news feed that talked about the important factors related to finding a job that will make you happy. The article, published in The Atlantic, pointed to having a sense of accomplishment, being part of something that makes the world a better place, and several other factors as being key elements. I agree that these things contribute to a better job experience. When I first started out after college, these were the key things for me. It wasn’t about money but about making a difference. Over time, my focus has shifted a bit but I still value the idea of contributing to making life better for people.

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thoughts on books: slaughterhouse-five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was one of those books that I put off reading – maybe the title scared me off. When I finally read it in 2014, I ended up rating it 5/5.

I really loved this book – it’s fascinating to see Billy Pilgrim’s life story unfold as a series of vignettes at several points in time. The time-travel element contributes to the sense of both coping with the reality of everyday life and processing the horrifying memories of war – in this case the destruction of Dresden in WWII. It took Vonnegut years to get this book together and the only way that he could tell his story was through this character and this method of storytelling. It’s a book that is, on one hand, an absurd and fantastic journey, and on the other hand, is painfully poetic memoir.

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on the move

My mother and I frequently watch Escape to the Country, a British show about moving to the tranquil countryside in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. It’s a calming show and one that we can both enjoy. Unlike most of the U.S. design or real estate shows, the properties are unique and lovely in their own way. We’ve seen walls of every shade imaginable, doorways where even I would have to duck, staircases that cannot possibly meet a modern building code, and ceiling beams that are structural not decorative … and often are in the neighborhood of 400 years old. I despair of the reaction from the House Hunters crowd who would probably want to gut the place and install granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and an open floorplan. And I say this as someone with stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops and a largely open plan space in my last apartment.

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why the jeopardy! chaos matters to me

Happy Labor Day! I’m weighing in on one of our controversial workplace topics … ok, not really. I’ve rewritten this post a couple of times now – the first draft was turgid, the second preachy. Let’s hope the third time is the charm. You might ask why I just don’t move on to another topic. After all, this is really not the most pressing labor issue of our time. Well, that’s a fair question and at first, I didn’t understand what kept bringing me back, but now I get it ….

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thoughts on books: the grapes of wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was another reread for me – I read it as a teenager and then again at age 49. I enjoyed it as much this time as when I read it 30+ years ago and was just as indignant at the policies, practices and behaviors of those who held the money. And I ached for the families who had to pack up and leave their homes and who met cruelty and heartbreak as they tried to resettle. It’s such a beautiful book with a fundamental message of decency, published in 1939.

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