Pause! That’s what it feels like to be reading at a leisurely pace and not to be writing. But now that the temperature is soaring into the 40s and the ice is melting, it feels like Play! – or at least, a time of new beginnings. So, I am back to the blog with a few thoughts on recently read books.
Have you been in a meeting when one comment starts an avalanche of agreement that soon seems to lead to an inevitable conclusion? That is one of the symptoms of bad groupthink in WISER: GETTING BEYOND GROUPTHINK TO MAKE GROUPS SMARTER BY Cass R. Sunstein. Other symptoms: incorrect statements get amplified, instead of corrected; groups become polarized; common knowledge is emphasized, instead of new knowledge being introduced. Suggestions for remedies to make groups smarter include: silencing the leader until others comment, rethinking rewards and incentives, and assigning roles based on unique strengths of participants. Sunstein is a professor at Harvard and has served in the Obama administration. An interesting and fresh look at how meetings do and do not work.
I am an Anne Tyler fan. I like her quirky characters and the Baltimore flavor of her books. A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD is her newest novel, (her 17th!) As usual it’s the story of a family living in Baltimore and moving towards a destiny that seems driven by both their histories and their usual roles in the family. Four generations of an ordinary family who “imagined they were special” fill a narrative that moves back and forth through time and reveals secrets and explanations for the characters’ choices and attitudes.
I become ever more intrigued by short stories that at their best expand fewer words on the page into greater impact in my mind. HONEYDEW: STORIES by Edith Pearlman is indubitably one of the best examples of this art form. Pearlman’s writing is exquisite. Each story drops you into a world confusing at first and then intricate and perceptive and totally engaging. Characters and settings are varied, as are the concerns- some actual, some psychological- of the characters. Human predicaments abound – affairs, pregnancy, anorexia, trauma, displacement, to name a few. Keen understanding without judgment pervades each story. Harsh topics softened by human kindness.