Lavie, et al. – The Divine

The Divine by Boaz Lavie; art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
Date read: 22 May 2017; re-read 12 June 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc

Cover image of The Divine by Boaz Lavie; art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka

Paperback, 149 pages
Published 2015 (First ed.) by First Second
Source: Interlibrary Loan, Summit [Univ. of Oregon PN6790.I73 L38 2015]

[5 June] Great! I don’t even remember most of this book. Just spent time flipping through it and not much is triggering anything.

[13 June] My body has been betraying me for a couple weeks and the day I read this was one of the worst. I was doing a lot of self-medicating then so it seems fair. I am sure I don’t remember much of anything I read that day. So I re-read it last night. As I actually re-read a good portion came back but a re-read definitely made a review possible. Thankfully it only took me about 40 minutes.

The contributors’ statement gives a good overview. The artists (Asaf and Tomer Hanuka) are also twin brothers:

“In January 2000, Associated Press photographer Apichart Weerawong took a photo of two twelve-year-old twins. It was taken immediately following the raid of a hospital by the Thai army, where those twins held 800 people as hostages. Weerawong’s photo was quickly distributed all over the world, becoming and unparalleled image of childhood without childhood: chain-smoking child-soldiers, their eyes as tired as if they were fifty years older. Like many others, we were captivated by this photo. For several years we would take a look at it from time to time, trying to decipher it, learn something about childhood, about life in extreme circumstances, and about ourselves.

The twins in the photo are Johnny and Luther Htoo. During the late 1990s they led a group of hundreds of Karen refuges from east Burma, called “God’s Army,” and fought the Burmese army for dispossessing them from their lands. The Htoo twins were surrounded by legends: it was said that they had magical powers, that they were invulnerable to bullets and mines, that they knew the Bible by heart without even reading it once. When we started working on the book, we drew our very first inspiration from these legends and from Weerawong’s photo, but we took it to a place which is completely our own: it has become fiction. Luther now lives in Sweden, and Johnny lives in a Thai refugee camp, waiting to reunite with his mother in New Zealand. For us, however, they will always be twelve-year-olds, in a photo we’ll never quite understand.”

Asaf, Boaz, and Tomer, 2014

The artist twins [1974] were ~26-years-old when the photo was published, for context.

As they said, it is a fictional riffing off of “God’s Army.”

For an even less rosy view, see Wikipedia: God’s Army (revolutionary group)

From the story itself:

About the twins:

“Everyone calls them “The Divine.”” … “They are brothers to dragons and companions to owls.” 78

Right before all hell breaks loose:

“I love Quanlom nights?”

“You know what they say about the nights here?”

“Tell me.”

“Night is a blessing, until you come across someone with better eyesight.” 102

Recently married explosives expert with a pregnant wife takes a hush hush government contract job in a remote country with which we have no diplomatic relations for a goodly sum of cash.

A dragon. Magic. Belief. Naming. Justice. War. Greed. The fallout.

I did quite enjoy this. Both times I read it. Recommended but not for the faint of heart. Features/contains cruelty, callousness, child-soldiers, wanton killing and some torture.

This is the 11th book read and 12th reviewed in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

 

Lasko-Gross – Henni

Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross
Date read: 24 May 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc

Cover image of Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross

Paperback, 155 pages
Published 2015 (First ed.) by Z2 Comics
Source: Interlibrary Loan, Lane Community College [PN6727.L3683 H46 2015]

I quite enjoyed this tale as the 5-star review shows.

Henni lives in a very restrictive society but she dares to question, which is often a dangerous thing.

“But aren’t you at all curious?”

“”The mouse who peeks in the viper pit is eaten.””

“Yes. People often quote me that proverb.”

“Seriously Henni, “Quiet obedience is the very source of our unity.””

“But are we truly harmonious / or simply skilled in crushing dissent?” (25-26, emphasis in original)

Driven onward by conformists of various sorts, Henni acquires a mission during her search for truth and the application of reason to find someone important to her who is “dead” to the world, their world, just as she now is.

Not a lot of words with quite effective artwork. The color palette is mostly black and white with a bit of blue, blue-green and purple. I am not a great judge of age but perhaps 10-12-year old and up might be a suitable target age.

Highly recommended. Quick read. Important commentary on society.

By the by, I absolutely adore that the subject headings for this are:

  • Dissenters, Religious — Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Reason — Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Teenage girls — Comic books, strips, etc.

This is the 12th book read and 11th reviewed in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

Sowa – Marzi

Marzi: a memoir by Marzena Sowa, with art by Sylvain Savoia; translated by Anjali Singh
Date read: 23 February – 12 March 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc, 2017nfc, 2017trans

Marzi: a memoir by Marzena Sowa, with art by Sylvain Savoia

Oversize paperback, 230 pages
First American edition published 2011 by DC Comics. Published by arrangement with Mediatoon Licensing, France. Original title: Marzi – L’Integrale 1  – La Pologne vue par les yeux d’une enfant
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel SOWA MARZENA]

I quite appreciated and enjoyed this memoir of young girl growing up in 1980s Poland. While Sowa may have experienced them quite differently, many of the topics and events that she covers are also touchstones for me as I spent much of my time in Europe in the 1980s and both of my children were born there (1980 and 1983).

These are some of the big events/topics she covers and dates from Wikipedia:

  • The Polish Pope, John Paul II       16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005
  • Solidarity / Solidarność                  founded on 17 September 1980
  • Martial law Poland                          December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983
  • Chernobyl                                       26 April 1986
  • Tiananmen Square                         04 June 1989
  • fall of the Berlin Wall                       began the evening of 9 November 1989

I was in Germany the first time when Pope John Paul II was elected and for the rise of Solidarity. I quite well remember the declaration of martial law in Poland. I was stationed on a nuclear missile site in then West Germany and the entirety of the US military in Europe went on high alert.

When Chernobyl happened I was stationed in Belgium and well remember not being able to eat certain food products for months.

I found her young, but lived, experience of and reactions to TV, religion, visiting rural relatives for farming and vacation, living in a high-rise and stairwell culture, American toothpaste, food lines, and so on to be interesting and empathy building. I, too, have experienced sides of many of these but certainly not all and often not to the extent she did.

Highly recommended!

This is the 21st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc] and the 9th reviewed.

This is the 2nd book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge [2017trans]. Whoa! I am way behind on this!

This is the 9th book in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

 

Lewis, et al. – March, Book One to Three

March, Book One to Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (art)
Date read: One 12 January 2017; Two and Three 13 January 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc, 2017look, 2017nfc

Cover image of March, Book One by John Lewis, et al.Cover image of March, Book Two by John Lewis, et al.Cover image of March, Book Three by John Lewis, et al.

Paperback, 121, 179, 246 pages
Published 2013, 2015, 2016 by Top Shelf Productions
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [E840.8 .L43 A3 2013 v.1 / 2015 v.2 / 2016 v.3]

My timing for reading books is kind of uncanny lately. We started reading Berger’s book the night before he died and thanks to COCC getting these and putting them on the new book shelf I was able to read Rep. John Lewis’ autobiographical graphic novel series just before that jackass Donald Trump attacked this icon of the civil rights movement and American hero.

I truly enjoyed these books. They did a wonderful job bringing together some things I have heard about vaguely over the years of my life but should have known more about.

President Obama’s first inauguration provides the bookends to the series, along with being woven throughout it.

The sense of personal duty to others and to the cause of justice and humanity is in the forefront of these books. One would be hard pressed to not come away with a profound respect for John Lewis and the many others who put their lives on the line to make America a better place.

The march on Washington, the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, Martin Luther King, Julian Bond, Malcolm X, SNCC, the Voting Rights Act, and many other events and icons of the civil rights movement are all here.

U.S. Representative John Lewis represents Georgia’s 5th congressional district which covers much of urban Atlanta. He was elected to this position in November 1986 and has held it ever since. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Obama.

I highly recommend this series. Being graphic novels they are a quick read but provide enough coverage of the people and events of the time that one could easily branch out to learn more about them as one wished.

If you are at all confused as to why people are upset Trump attacked this man then you need to read these books. Trump is the worst sort of jackass and learning about those he attacks will be one of the best ways to understand how truly damaged and damaging he is.

This is the 3rd – 5th books in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

This is the 3rd – 5th books in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc]
and 2nd – 4th reviews.

These books count for the categories: A book a friend recommended (Angel Rivera), Post-election understanding, and a microhistory, in my 2017 “the looking all around list” Self-Reading Challenge. With these categories I have now completed 16 of the goal of 30 out of 40 categories. Not bad for the first half of January.

Berger – Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing by John Berger
Date read: 01-10 January 2017
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017look, 2017nfc

Cover image of Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Paperback, 166 pages
Published 1977 [©1973] by British Broadcasting Corp. and Penguin Books
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [N7430.5 .W39 1973]

I read this to Sara beginning in the evening of 1 January and the next day saw via Twitter that Berger had died.

There are seven essays, three of which are entirely visual, while the others contain lots of images to illustrate his points.

I quite enjoyed this book although at times I simply had to suspend belief, if you will, as his writing style here is very aphoristic. He makes many claims, most with little to no justification. When I understood what he was on about—happened several times—then I pretty much agreed. When I did not it was easier to begin questioning those claims.

Essay 7 on what he calls “Publicity” is about advertising (and perhaps slightly broader) and I understood almost all of it. And agreed with most all of it. But then I once did a couple semesters with Richard Stivers on technology and advertising and spent much time with his books, The Technology of Magic and The Culture of Cynicism, so was well prepared for Berger’s take.

The book is a very 1970s book in so many ways. That in no way diminishes its value today though.

If you can take the aphoristic writing style then it is highly recommended. I only gave it 3 stars for that reason. I prefer a little more “justification” with the claims I read. If one has to know enough about something to be able to understand, and potentially agree with, an author’s claims then what is the point of reading them in the first place?

This is the 2nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc] and 1st review.

This book counts for the category A book of essays in my 2017 “the looking all around list” Self-Reading Challenge.

2017 Books To Read Challenge (personal)

This reading challenge–the “Books To Read Challenge (personal)”–is my own attempt to whittle down the to-be-read pile and I have it done it for a couple of years now. In fact, some of these books have been on those previous lists.  They reside on my 2017poss shelf in Goodreads.

There are a total of 85 books which includes some 8 on pause. Of these I challenge myself to complete 2 from each of the 16 categories and a total of 35.

Maybe by upping this number quite a bit—aimed for 12 of 44 in 2016—I will do better at getting through some of these. Then again, I know that’s a laugh because other books will continue to show up and there are already more than 1150 others on the Goodreads to-be-read shelf.

Beer and Brewing

  • Amber, Gold & Black – Cornell
  • The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp …: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes – Joshua Bernstein
  • Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers (Brewing Elements) – John J. Palmer and Kaminski
  • New Brewing Lager – Noonan
  • The Brewer’s Companion – Mosher
  • The Homebrewer’s Companion – Papazian
  • Pubs and progressives : reinventing the public house in England, 1896-1960 – Gutzke

Central Oregon

  • Hiking Oregon’s History – William L. Sullivan    
  • The Deschutes River Railroad War – Speroff
  • Oregon’s Dry Side – St. John

Erotica

  • The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica – Caraway, ed.
  • The Jade Door – Chaiko
  • Burlesque and the Art of the Teese / Fetish and the Art of the Teese – Dita Von Teese, Bronwyn Garrity

History

  • Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend – Karen Essex
  • The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse – Brian Cowan
  • Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage – Stephanie Coontz
  • Hip Hop Family Tree – Piskor
  • Hoptopia – Kopp

Librariana

  • Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age – Alex Wright
  • Everyday Information: The Evolution of Information Seeking in America – Aspray & Hayes, eds.
  • Language and Representation  in Information Retrieval – Blair
  • What is Documentation? – Briet [translation]

Language [Language and related]

  • Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything – David Bellos
  • Integrationist Notes and Papers 2014 – Roy Harris
  • Basic Color Terms – Berlin & Kay
  • The Unfolding of Language – Deutscher

Literature [(lit, poetry, essays, short stories) and literary theory]

  • The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language – Mark Turner
  • Imagination in Place: Essays – Wendell Berry
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino [translation]
  • Seven Gothic Tales – Isak Dinesen
  • Collected Fictions – Borges [translation]
  • Scenes of Clerical Life – Eliot [which ed.?]
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet – Flaubert [translation] [which ed.?]
  • The Little Town Where Time Stood Still – Hrabal [translation] [which ed.?]
  • The Things We Don’t Do – Neumann [translation, short stories] [2015 Open Letter ed.]

Philosophy [loosely defined]

  • Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning – Bradd Shore
  • The Sovereignty of Good – Iris Murdoch
  • You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense – John T. Lysacker
  • Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals – Mark Edmundson
  • Conjectures & Confrontations – Fox
  • Philosophy on Tap – Lawrence

Post 2016 Election

  • Islam: A Short History – Armstrong
  • Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric – Farnsworth
  • Shaming the Devil – Jacobs
  • Wickedness – Midgley
  • Dead Feminists – O’Leary
  • Purity and Danger – Douglas

Renewal

  • The Wayward Mind: An Intimate History of the Unconscious – Guy Claxton
  • Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict – Tsultrim Allione
  • Soul: An Anthology – Cousineau
  • Chi Walking – Dreyer
  • Healing Trauma – Levine

Sex & Gender

  • Straight: The Surprisingly Short History Of Heterosexuality – Hanne Blank
  • Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation – Elissa Stein
  • Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction – Cheever
  • A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis – Friedman

Tech & Software

  • Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas – Seymour Papert
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – Garfield
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation – Pollan
  • Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power – Josef Pieper, Lothar Krauth [translation]

Wander

  • The Practice of Everyday Life – de Certeau [translation, philosophy]
  • Selected Stories – Walser [translation, short stories]
  • The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs – Gooley
  • The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness – Solnit, or one of her others
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder – Taleb

Assorted/Too Lazy to Classify

  • How to Worry Less about Money – John Armstrong
  • Myths, Dream and Mysteries – Eliade
  • Taste – Stuckey [science]
  • Home Comforts – Mendelson

Re-reads

  • Eros the Bittersweet – Carson [renewal]
  • Reverence – Woodruff [renewal]
  • On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year – Roripaugh [poems]
  • What Do We Know – Oliver [poems]
  • Ambitious Brew – Ogle [beer]
  • Wisdom, Information and Wonder – Midgley [philosophy]
  • Middlemarch – Eliot [lit]
  • Winter Hours – Oliver [poems]

On Pause

  • Second-Hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority – Patrick Wilson [Philosophy]
  • Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight – James Atlee [Assorted]
  • Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: Taosports for Extraordinary Performance in Athletics, Business, and Life – Chungliang Al Huang & Jerry Lynch [Assorted]
  • Take Control of Automating Your Mac – Joe Kissell [Tech & Software]
  • The Good Rain: Across Time & Terrain in the Pacific Northwest – Timothy Egan [DPL ebook]
  • The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason – Mark Johnson [Philosophy, Renewal]
  • Full Catastrophe Living – Kabat-Zinn
  • The Breathing Book – Farhi

Clearly some of these books could go in other of these categories. There are also other categories I am tracking not in this list but all of those are covered by something here.

To recap, of a total of 85 books (which includes some 8 on pause) I challenge myself to complete 2 from each of the 16 categories and a total of 35.

Ottaviani & Purvis – The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis (illustrator)

Date read: 15-16 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc, 2016nfc

Cover image of The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis

Hardback, 234 pages
Published 2016 by Abrams ComicArts
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [QA 29 .T8 O772 2016]

 

I enjoyed this, just as I enjoyed Ottaviani’s Feynman, which I read in 2012. I also just marked most of his books as To Read in Goodreads.

“I still work as a librarian by day, but stay up late writing comics about scientists.”

I didn’t know he was a librarian too!

Aha! That’s right. “He now works at the University of Michigan Library as coordinator of Deep Blue, the university’s institutional repository.[1][2]” [per Wikipedia].

The book consists of some prefatory material, 222 pages of graphic novel, an author’s note a bit over a page long, an annotated 3-page bibliography and recommended reading, and 6-pages of notes and references.

The graphic novel proper consists of the following sections: “Universal Computing” (pp. 1-66), “Top Secret Ultra” [think Bletchley Park] (pp. 67-152), and “The Imitation Game” (pp. 153-222) [links are to Wikipedia].

Highly recommended! If you know about Turing, and have, like me, perhaps read his papers on universal computing and the imitation game (philosophy and applied computer science undergrad), then this is still a great resource with all of the notes and references to specific works that might be of particular interest to you.

If you know little to nothing about Turing then this is a great introduction. Far better even than the recent (2014) movie, The Imitation Game, with Cumberbatch and Knightley. The presence of actual citations and sources are the basis for this claim.

This is the 41st book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 20th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

This is actually way past 20 nonfiction books for me this year; I simply have failed at reviewing quite a few, or finishing reviews, which is essentially the same thing. Many were started.

Love and Love – Shadow Rock

Shadow Rock by Jeremy Love and Robert Love
Date read: 06 June 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

LoveLoveShadowRock

Paperback, 80 pages
Published 2006 by Dark Horse Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [J Graphic Novel LOVE JEREMY]

This is a cute book by various members of the Love family that I requested from my public library, due to looking for the Bayou books.

This is certainly for a younger audience than the Bayou books. It is a paranormal murder mystery that while perhaps missing some nuance as such has African American characters including one of the main ones, and class and race issues, along with other important topics being brought in. Life is complicated even if the mystery aspect of the book is not.

The artwork is solid and always supports the story quite well.

Highly recommended for 10-years or so on up.

This is the 30th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Dysart, et al. – Neil Young’s Greendale

Neil Young’s Greendale by Joshua Dysart (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

Date read: 30 May 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysar

Hardback, unnumbered
Published 2010 by Young Family Trust and DC Comics
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic novel DYSART JOSH]

I greatly enjoyed this. It went places I hadn’t imagined and it’s far more complex than it needs to be as if there are more Green family stories out there still to be told. Almost makes me tingle.

Let me back up. I heard and acquired this album when it came out in mid-2003 and listened to it many, many times. I was fully immersed in Greendale lore as either directly elucidated or as hinted at on the album. I truly wanted to have a serious “book discussion group” about this album as a text, as a narrative. I was at university at the time and was well-integrated into a couple of those sorts of discussion groups then so it made some sense. Sadly, it never happened. The album truly is that complex. There is one other album from around the same time that I believe merits the same treatment, Poe’s Haunted.

Greendale (the album is Young’s twenty-sixth studio album and his ninth with Crazy Horse. My copy was one of those which “… was originally released with a DVD of live “Neil-only” acoustic performance of the Greendale material from Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland.” So this was another interpretation.

At some point I also got the movie, which gave another spin on the story. Clearly, Greendale was a rich mental ecosystem for Young.

This graphic novel adaptation by Joshua Dysart and others, with a short intro by Neil (and supposedly some direct involvement) really expands the world while keeping the story the same. It really is pretty brilliant. I honestly think I want to own a copy of this. As I said above, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Greendale on a fairly serious level.

Highly recommended whether or not you know the album or even if you can’t stand Neil Young (I know those people exist; I don’t hold it against them.).

I really wish there was more of this world, perhaps exploring more of those members of the family who barely made a complicating appearance.

Description from Vertigo website:

“Legendary singer-songwriter, musician and activist Neil Young brings one of his most personal albums, GREENDALE, to comics. Overseeing the work of acclaimed writer Joshua Dysart (UNKNOWN SOLDIER) and fan-favorite artist Cliff Chiang (HUMAN TARGET), they compose a graphic novel that explores a whole new dimension to the album that Rolling Stone voted as one of the best of its year.In the Fall of 2003, as the nation gallops into war, a politically active teenage girl named Sun lives, loves and dreams in a small California town named Greendale.Sun’s always been different. There’s been talk that the women in her family have all had a preternatural communion with nature. And when a Stranger comes to town – a character whose presence causes Greendale to, well, go to hell – she’ll find herself on a journey both mystical and mythical. To face the Stranger, she’ll unearth the secrets of her family in a political coming-of-age story infused with its own special magic.”

This is the 26th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

McQuaid – Tasty

Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid

Date read: 21 February – 05 March 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc, 2016poss

Cover image of Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid

Hardback, vii, 291 pages
Published 2015 by Scribner
Source: Own. Bought via Amazon July 2015 (released January 2015).

Contents:

  • 1 The Tongue Map
  • 2 The Birth of Flavor in Five Meals
  • 3 The Bitter Gene
  • 4 Flavor Cultures
  • 5 The Seduction
  • 6 Gusto and Disgust
  • 7 Quest for Fire
  • 8 The Great Bombardment
  • 9 The DNA of Deliciousness
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

1 The Tongue Map

Covers the origin and spread of the infamous tongue map.

Edwin G. Boring, in his “magisterial survey of the science of the human senses,” Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology (1942), reviewed an experiment (1901) by David P. Hänig (2):

“He [Hänig] found the threshold for detecting each taste varied around the edge of the tongue. The tip, for example, was more sensitive to sweetness and to salt than was the base.

It wasn’t clear what this meant—if anything—and the differences were very small. But Boring found this notion interesting and went to some lengths to illustrate it. He borrowed the data from Hänig’s study and turned it into a graph. The graph was just a visual aid; it had no units, and its curves were impressionistic. But the result was that—perhaps to dramatize the point, or perhaps inadvertently—Boring made small difference in perception appear huge.

The wayward chart became the basis for a famous diagram of the tongue, divided into zones for each taste: …. Linda Bartoshuk, a professor of psychology who has studied the map’s origins, believes it came about through a game of “telephone”: First, Boring exaggerated Hänig’s findings. Then researchers and textbook editors misinterpreted Boring’s graph, using the peaks of its curves to label specific areas on the tongue. A final round of confusion produced a diagram with taste boundaries clearer than those on a world map” (2-3).

“The old diagram has lost much of its cachet in recent years. But it still lingers in some areas of the culinary world, including coffee and wine tasting, which value tradition and continuity as much as science” (4).

The chapter goes on to explain the research that has proved the tongue map wrong and also discusses some other topics, such as the development of taste in children. We learn that  flavor science made great strides in the 20th century, and is progressing with astonishing speed in 21st.

Beginning early on, I found it quite interesting, but the endnotes are that asinine textual selection thing. Grrr.

2 The Birth of Flavor in Five Meals

“The first inklings of flavor appeared as early life-forms began to sense the world around them and the taste of nutrients floating by in seawater excited primitive nervous systems. … Five ancient meals, each taking place at a turning point in evolutionary history, help explain where the ensue of flavor, and Homo sapiens’ talent for culinary invention, came from” (17).

3 The Bitter Gene

While not exactly a hop head, I do like many bitter foods and drinks and—like most everyone—had to learn to like them. As a serious beer drinker, homebrewer, student of brewing, friend of hop growers, …, I am especially interested in bitterness and its detection.

There is a test to determine if one is a non-taster of bitterness, which includes about a quarter of the US population [PROP test, 6-n-propylthiouracil]. 58

The biology of flavor perception, and particularly bitterness, is crazy intriguing and as we learn more it will only get more so (68-71).

“… the preponderance of them [correlations] indicates that bitter taste biology influences the whole body. Since the DNA of taste receptors was decoded over the last decade, it has been found all over the body: along the digestive tract, in the pancreas and liver, in the brain, and in the testicles. (Smell receptors have also been isolated in the liver, heart, kidneys, sperm, and skin.)” (69).

4 Flavor Cultures [Fermentation]

5 The Seduction [Sweetness]

6 Gusto and Disgust

Brain damage, “wild children,” and other topics to show that “Feeling and observing disgust generate similar patterns of brain activity, and similar feelings” (146) because “Distaste and the “yuck” face are the products of an ancient circuit of firing neurons, blood flow, and neurotransmitter activity in the brain that includes the insula and orbitofrontal cortex. Disgust uses the same circuit.” (145).

“The insula, remember, is also a hub for many of the body’s internal states and feelings. … It also contains a distinct kind of neuron found only in the brains of humans, great apes, elephants, and whales and dolphins” (147).

Which goes to show that, “This means that visceral taste reactions underlie our most sophisticated behavior, animating our thoughts and judgments about everything from politics to money.” 148

7 Quest for Fire [capsaicin]

Quite interesting and includes a good bit on the search for the hottest peppers.

8 The Great Bombardment

Potato chips, fats, flavor’s deep connection to pleasure, and why there’s always room for dessert, among other topics.

9 The DNA of Deliciousness

Gastroscience, new mappings of the flavor space, and umami.

Wrap-up

I know I could’ve done a better job with this review but I want to re-read it in the not too distant future anyway. I also need to go back and get the sources I marked and read those. So it is what it is. Take my word, very intriguing.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anyone interested in our senses of taste, aroma and flavor, but especially for anyone seriously tasting (and/or judging) beer, wine, coffee, etc.

This is the 15th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

This book also is one of my 2016poss books.