Monday, February 1, 2010

Freakonomics and Agnes and the Hitman

Odd pairing, I know. As far as I can tell the list that follows comprises what these two books have in common: they were published in English, they have two authors, I read them in the same week, neither elicited a strong enough response from me to actually want to give them a proper review. So instead, just a little blurb on each.

Title: Agnes and the Hitman
Author: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (2007)

Holy hell I can't remember the last time I saw italics used so extensively. I think my brain actually started to fizz like pop rocks due to the italics. I eventually had to mentally edit them out as I couldn't take it anymore.

Crusie's books have always been sort of hit or miss with me. I don't know if it's all of her books or just the ones I've read but the courtships are always so fast; that never works for me in contemporary romance. What did work for me in this one was the hilarity that was Agnes's anger problem and the awesome supporting character of Carpenter.

rating: 3 of 5 stars (without italics) 
            2 of 5 stars (with italics)

Title: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Author: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Publisher: William Morrow (2006)

This book is chock full of interesting information and I can see why so many people have read it. I didn't care that it didn't have a 'unifying theme' but I was often struck by how random even the individual topics were at times. Analogies were used that I thought would be explained later but were really just as random as they appeared. Seriously, through the whole thing I was like, you're not going to say any more about the pantyhose than that?

My favorite bit from the book was this (p. 89 of the paperback edition):

It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyperliterate economic sage, who coined the phrase "conventional wisdom." He did not consider it a compliment. "We associate truth with convenience," he wrote, "with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem." Economic and social behavior, Galbraith continued, "are complex, and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring. Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding."

I was once in a friendly debate with someone and they kept saying something that I really didn't think was true. However, at that time, I didn't have evidence to back up my position. I decided it was time to finally get some evidence. I did extensive research on the topic, compiled dates and numbers, proudly organized it all and then presented my shiny new evidence. I was so thrilled with what I was able to find because some of it was even a surprise to me. I thought how great it was that we were going to have some hard facts to talk about. You can imagine my flabbergastation when this happened:

sgwordy says - Look at all my shiny evidence. Can you believe that this is what is actually going on?
someone's response - I don't care what the numbers say that isn't how it works.

I was, to say the very least, stunned - and not just because gathering that evidence required reading over some DOD budgets (ugh!) and I was a bit put out that my effort was not rewarded. I was truly stunned that someone could be so stuck on the "conventional wisdom" that s/he would not even entertain evidence to the contrary. Galbraith's words describe so succinctly what I could not understand. I think I'm going to have to look him up for some future reading.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I have always wondered what would happen to Rachel's brain if she read too many italics. Fizzing like pop rocks was second on my list after implosion.