Lincoln in the Bardo – a review

This book is terrible.

It won the Man Booker Prize. All kinds of critics love it.

The audio version slightly better. But one hundred and sixty-six individual narrators (led by Nick Offerman & David Sedaris) still couldn’t make it either interesting or understandable.

The most popular review on GoodReads:

I really tried, but listening to this book is impossible. I want to appreciate the voices, the story, but I can’t get past the format. Like wading through footnotes. Is it possible to ignore the format when you READ it? About to throw in the towel and get a refund.

The most popular critical review on Amazon:

The style was original but tedious. The various voices, very truncated at times and others long …

I was comparing Dostoyevsky’s far superior and adventurous novella Bobok where the decaying corpses quarrel and grumble and a sharp and memorable view of Russian society emerges. This book is not memorable save for its unrelenting tedium.

George Saunders has long been accepted as one of the masters of the American short story.

In this, his first novel, the Lincoln trapped in the bardo is Willie, the cherished 11-year-old son of the great civil war president.

As his parents host a lavish state reception, their boy is upstairs in the throes of typhoid fever. Saunders quotes contemporary observers on the magnificence of the feast, trailing the terrible family tragedy that is unfolding. Sure enough, Willie dies and is taken to Oak Hill cemetery, where he is interred in a marble crypt. On at least two occasions – and this is the germ of historical fact from which Saunders has spun his extraordinary story – the president visits the crypt at night, where he sits over the body and mourns.

The cemetery is populated by a teeming horde of spirits – dead people who, for reasons that become an important part of the narrative …

NY Times review 

I switched to low brow Hard Luck Hank comedy SciFi books.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter should be regulated

Great article.

Al Franken:

Last week’s hearings demonstrated that these companies may not be up to the challenge that they’ve created for themselves. In some instances, it seems that they’ve failed to take commonsense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech. …

… we can’t trust the companies to get it right …

… as has become alarmingly clear in recent months, these companies have unprecedented power to guide Americans’ access to information and potentially shape the future of journalism. It should go without saying that such power comes with great responsibility. …

ProPublica recently revealed that up until two months ago, Facebook allowed advertisers using the company’s self-service ad-buying platform to target more than 2,000 people who expressed interest in the topic of quote “Jew hater” and other antisemitic themes. …

As it stands now, Google and Facebook control 75% of all internet news traffic referrals …

Currently, Amazon controls over 83% of e-book sales, nearly 90% of online print sales, and almost 99% of digital audio sales.

Amazon has since used its unprecedented monopsony power to force publishers to agree to contract terms and conditions that the publishers say have stalled price competition …

… how do we ensure transparency and accountability from them going forward?

We must not let big tech threaten our security, freedoms and democracy

barely made it to Washington D.C.

I flew Air Canada 7608 from Toronto. My ticket was purchased on United because exactly the same seat cost less on United.

It’s a Code Share UA 8552S.

I booked on United online. Check the cryptic name on my ticket.

That’s the only email I got from United with my name on it. Air Canada sent me nothing.

Somehow — and I’m quite sure it was in the antiquated United Airlines computer system — my last name was still MCCHARLESRICH when I arrived at the airport.

It was flagged quickly by Air Canada. They don’t care about first or middle names, but the last name must be the same as is on the passport.

Air Canada check-in sent me to the United counter. But the United counter isn’t allowed to change last names on tickets. They sent me to a courtesy phone.

After 4 talks with United and 2 with Air Canada my boarding pass STILL said MCCHARLESRICH.

A flustered Air Canada senior staffer finally sent me off with it anyway quite sure I’d be stopped at U.S. customs.

That man was a pro. He looked over my paperwork carefully. And sent me on my way.

Have a good flight.

No doubt he’d seen United F-up that way before. Running some characters of the first name on to the last. It was obvious to any thinking person that there was no deception.

#respect for U.S. customs.

Lesson learned?

Do NOT fly @United. They suck.



I love trains. Enjoyed my recent Seattle to Vancouver trip on Amtrak. Cost was about the same as fancy buses, about double Greyhound. Cheaper than the fast ferry Seattle to Vancouver.

I’m reluctant to take Amtrak mainly because of their horrible on-time performance.

The sorry state of Amtrak’s on-time performance, mapped (2014)

My trip was about 5 minutes late. Not bad.

Amtrak promised me Wifi. It did’t work on that train. 😦

flying to the American S.W.

Canada is great. But the winter weather #sucks(™).

I’m off for a couple of weeks hiking. I’ve never visited New Mexico.


KashaKatuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

I booked with Delta. The same seat on the same flight is priced differently depending on which Code Share partner you book with. WestJet #sucks(™).