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Book 49 Completed

July 28, 2010

I know that I’ve slowed down a bit these past few days.

It’s “Mad Men.” You see, Matt and I never got into the show when it first started — we’re not really hurting for TV to watch. But it’s summer, LOST is over, and we do have AMC — so, with all the promos for Season 4 starting up, we decided to jump on the moving train. Of course, we’re “start at the beginning” kind of people. So, we’ve been methodically watching Season 1 and tonight we’ll move on to Season 2. (Matt has been lamenting the fact that the show isn’t on HBO — as he thinks it’s a shame Christina Hendricks’ doesn’t get to show her breasts. I probably shouldn’t post that for the world to read. But hey, what man hasn’t thought that while watching this show? Women too for that matter!)

Once we put Elliott to bed, we’ll pop in a DVD and watch three episodes a night. As you can imagine, this cuts into reading time. But we’re on a strict timeline! Comcast On Demand has Season 3 through August 8th for FREE. And then we’ll only be a few weeks behind Season 4 — which we’re DVRing. Oh technology, you waste so much valuable time.

Regardless, of this “Mad Men” marathon, I’ve finished Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald.

My general review: I wouldn’t waste your time with this. There have to be better books on the subject that are less condescending and shallow.

There are parts of this book that are good — insightful and interesting. She’s best when her writing style mimics Mary Roach (of Stiff, Spook and Bonk fame — whose books I’ve liked a lot). What Roach does well is write about obscure and bizarre things with a certain degree of objectivity, while still writing in a personable and engaging manner. I think that’s what Macdonald wanted to accomplish. But she failed.

Her main failure comes with thinking that her own tirades and observations are interesting. She just comes across as a spoiled, annoying, selfish brat. But when she’s exploring the different religions in India in depth and discussing those religions from other people’s perspectives — setting her own bias aside — that stuff is well written. She’s a better journalist than memoirist. It’s an interesting premise — an atheist wants to explore religion in India and see what happens. But her cynicism is too much — it doesn’t read like she’s cynical and doubtful…it reads like she’s disrespectful and narrow-minded. I don’t really think atheists are wired to be open-minded to spirituality…so, that alone seems like a misfire.

Macdonald may not be any of those pejorative adjectives I’ve just assigned to her. The fact is, her writing portrays her that way. She is not endearing. (She views India’s poverty as “gross” and the “worst of humanity” instead of feeling an ounce of compassion. As a matter of fact, the only nice thing she does the entire book is she turns down her dream house because the servant’s quarters aren’t big enough for their driver and his three grown children.) She isn’t someone who you read and think “I want to be friends with her!” She’s someone who you’d end up at a bar with, spend the entire evening listening to her complain and pontificate about how much she knows about living abroad, and the whole time you’re waiting for someone to come rescue you from the conversation.

All of that aside, there is some really cool stuff in here about India’s spiritual side. That is worth reading. I tell ‘ya, when it’s Roach-like and Macdonald’s bias takes a backseat, it’s good. Too bad her racist and ethnocentric (sorry to use that word again — but it’s as accurate as I can get) attitude color the entire book in a negative way. It’s a shame she couldn’t see the beauty beyond the smog, the leering, the outdated dating practices, and the crazy religions. (Hey — I was kinder than the goodreads reviewer who just called the author a “bitch” and calls it good.)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2010 2:06 am

    I can’t believe you chose an American travelogue for a country that produced Salman Rushdie, Geeta Mehta, Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Arundhati Roy, Rabindranath Tagore and RK Narayan!!!

    Please promise that you’ll use native writers for China, Japan and Indonesia. I’d appeal for a do-over, but I realise you’re on a schedule.

    • July 29, 2010 6:32 am

      Haha! Yes, well Australian travelogue for one thing — which goes to show that ignorance and idiocy do run wider than my great nation. And in fairness — I’m not allowing re-reads and I’ve already read quite a few of those authors. (To great success.) AND it was on my bookshelf already.

      Not the greatest criteria for sure…but I have misses and hits.

      Yes, it wasn’t a great read. But writing the poor reviews are more fun than the glowing ones.

      In an ideal world, I’d only read native writers. Maybe my next challenge. đŸ™‚

      • July 29, 2010 10:31 am

        Oh whoops – my mistake about Macdonald’s nationality.

        Btw, have you heard? Mary Roach has a new book coming out, called “Packing For Mars”.

  2. July 29, 2010 4:52 am

    I didn’t want to spoil your reading experience before you finished the book, I was about to say I saw copies of Holy Cow out for sale at the pittance in the library last year which says something about the book. Better luck next time Shelbi, there are many wonderful writers from India.

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