So Rich, So Poor by Peter Edelman


Rating: 4

So Rich, So Poor encapsulates in 162 pages the forces that keep people in poverty in America. It’s written by Peter Edelman, a lawyer and former policy advisor to Robert F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. He draws on fifty years of experience in government to give a perspective on poverty in its historical, political, and sociological dimensions.

The book is structured like a research paper with the facts and reasoning of his arguments bookended by an introduction and conclusion (“tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em”). This makes it a little bit repetitive, especially about three-quarters in, but it’s set up so that the casual reader can get the general idea by reading only the introduction or conclusion.

Honestly, I still don’t have a great grip on how poverty or welfare really works after reading this book, so this “review” will mostly be notes and highlights, but hopefully it’ll still be informative and thought-provoking. Continue reading


Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

proseFrancine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer isn’t really about close reading, and it’s not really about learning to write better. It’s mostly about giving budding writers recommendations for books to read that exemplify good writing skills, and bringing some forgotten works back to the attention of general readers of literature. Continue reading

Aleph by Paolo Coelho

alephAleph is a novel, which the author calls non-fiction, of his spiritual and physical journey across the entirety of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Coelho allegedly travels through time, has out-of-body experiences, and becomes the love-object of a girl about forty years his junior.

My response to this book, in three words, is: “Yeah fucking right.”

You may call me a non-believer in magic, spirituality, new-age hocus-pocus, and for the most part, you would be right. I can maybe give credit to phenomena like aliens or ghosts, because they’re culturally universal, and discussing them is productive because by talking about them we gain outside perspective on our own lives (What would the dead think of this? What would aliens think of that? What does it feel like to be outside or other than ourselves?).

From what I gather, Aleph is about 3 things: Continue reading

Drift by Jim Miller

Miller-Drift sample.inddJim Miller’s “Drift” is a collection of short vignettes about San Diego through the eyes of many different people. It is a sampling of different backgrounds and ideologies and how these flavor the way each individual sees the world. Every chapter switches point-of-view, which adds richness to the story. The impression that you walk away with after reading this book is that although everyone’s ideological structures differ, they are logical given each person’s backgrounds and experiences. A few examples of the POV vignettes include:

* A woman in Tijuana working as a prostitute to open a shop back in her hometown.

*One of Joe’s former students who drops out and stops taking his pills, who loses his housing and ends up screaming, “I can see the light around you!” at passerby.

* An office worker named Janey who listens to “Raging Robert” on the way home to her same-as-the-others peach-hued home (driving by a Ralphs — so on the way to Carmel Valley, perhaps?).

* A cultural critic writing about the four types of tourist and yearning to return to New York.

Its main characters (although one could argue that San Diego is the main character) are Joe, an adjunct English professor, and Theresa, one of his former students who he starts dating after the semester ends. Joe’s knowledge of San Diego’s history creates contrast to what he sees, which is what every tourist knows just by looking. Joe is a flaneur, he likes to drift around the streets, observing his surroundings and thinking about places in historical perspective. In one memorable scene he passes the majestic California Building and thinks:

“The California Building announced an illusion of a romantic Spanish past that had never existed. It was a concrete manifestation of the desire for history without blood.” Continue reading