Murder, modesty, and managerial mystery (Books 6/12/06)

I finished Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie about a week ago, and it was as good as expected. I’d seen the film/TV version, and it’s a great story with an unexpected ending. Well, unexpected if you’ve never seen it before. The actual book was very good, and had the perk of the narrator not being Hastings, as is usually the case (and is the case in the TV version), but a young nurse who is recalling her observations of what happened. This gives the story a fresh outlook, as we get a slightly different interpretation of Poirot rather than the same phrases Hastings always uses.

I also finished A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit, which was amazing, and which I will have to purchase my own copy of, as I’m sure the library won’t look kindly on me keeping theirs. Shalit looks at the Jewish laws of modesty, and then examines several factors and results of modesty not being seen as virtue in today’s society. (We’re talking both modesty in clothing and attitude.) Her findings are disturbing and depressing, and show the fallacy in the argument that modesty is just a male construct to opress women. (There’s a great chapter on male modesty tying into concepts of chivalry that really illustrates this.) I’m recommending this to a great many people; it’s an important challenge to the accepted status quo.

This was brought home even more to me when, after finishing the book, I read probably the most disturbing article I’ve ever read– a Rolling Stone article about the sexual practices of students at Duke. Here we have intelligent, beautiful young women who are thrilled and flattered at being “chosen” by frat guys to help haze new pledges by setting up scenarios wherein the girls demand the pledges perform sexual acts on them. As the article says:

“On the one hand, this was a powerful experience for the girls- they got to dominate the boys for a change. On the other hand, it was all done at the direction of the boys, for whom the party was designed.

‘The girls are doing it as a friendship gesture for these guys, but when you think of it, its really kind of demeaning'” said one of the frat guys.

Hmm, ya think?

To its credit the article points out the absurd wrongness of all of it, but the fact that this kind of thing is happening, not just at Duke, and that young women think that they’re being modern and free and liberated is just depressing. If my brain were more together I’d write more about it, but for now I will be satisfied to say, go read this book.

I most recently finished Company by Max Barry, a hilariously dark look at corporate America. We follow Jones, the newest hire at Zephyr, a company that doesn’t seem to do anything, or have any customers. As he tries to determine exactly what the company does and what his role in the company is, he gets deeper and deeper into corporate politics that are as absurd as they are realistic. The hilarity comes from the truthfulness of it all- the reason someone is fired is roundaboutly because someone else thinks the fire-ee ate their donut; the IT department is cut to save money, and then no one can be productive because the network goes down. Just exactly what Zephyr does and what Jones finds out makes this a great read. It’s stuck in my head over the last couple days, and I definitely recommend it.

Current total:51

Just finished: Company by Max Barry

Next up: Not sure

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