Something In Between

I dislike writing reviews, but I also dislike not saying anything after reading a book. So what to do? Which one I dislike more? Those people trained in writing workshops or master programs know how to criticize without offending anybody, but I’m unschooled in this direction. The compromise will be to read books written by authors long dead. Usually nobody cares if I say something unflattering about a dead author’s book. And for contemporary books, I’ll try to stay on the positive side or try to spin a criticism into a compliment, which is a craft I haven’t mastered yet.

“Chicago Poems” By Carl Sandburg. When he said, “I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard”, he was not thinking of those future protests that topple statues, for example in 2020. But rather he wanted statues for the common men, who were “feeding people instead of butchering them.” I have to say after a while, this book started to grow on me. I like the fact he uses long sentences, often with endings more interesting than the beginnings. For example, “Wires climb with secrets, carry light and carry words, and tell terrors and profits and loves — curses of men grappling plans of business and questions of women in plots of love.” I guess he deliberately tried to be plain and un-decorative, but the effect is still as wonderful.

“Black Rednecks and White Liberals” by Thomas Sowell. I wrote a review about this book, but somehow deleted out of carelessness. WordPress didn’t have an old copy for me. How frustrating. It is a fun book to listen to, especially when he talks about immigrants in America, black Caribbeans, Lebanese doing business in Africa, Jewish diaspora, the plight of middle-man. I know one black Caribbean, who’s from Jamaica (the country) and who now lives in Jamaica (the town) in Queens of New York. He is polite to a fault and often speaks very softly even if when he’s describing a distressing moment of his life. “People deliberately lock their car doors when I walk past.” He said to us. “Yell at them that it’s unfair.” The Canadian lady said. She grew up in a convent and gathered a lot of pent up energy. “I have to choose my battle.” The Jamaican replied. The Canadian was a little unconvinced. Also the implication might be the Jamaican has too many battles to fight while the Canadian has too few. I couldn’t remember what happened next since this was a long time ago when we were all in graduate schools.

I really like this book and the author’s point of view that the redneck culture holds people back and prevents them from pursuing a better life. However one thing the author forgot to mention is that the property tax funded education is doing a lot of damag to poor kids who cannot get a good education because of their parents’ income. In Central New Jersey, the only townships with good schools are Edison, East Brunswick, Plainsboro, and Princeton. The property tax is outrageously high in these four townships. Most low income parents are not willing to pay such a high tax, except immigrants. Most immigrants want to send kids to good schools no matter what. They could starve themselves on one bowl of rice a day and work 24/7 on low paying jobs just so that their kids can have a better future.

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