What's Going On Here?

There are SO MANY wonderful book review blogs out there and I can't compete with them, that is for sure. So this is not a book review blog. This is just a way for me to organize what I have read so that I can be better at matching the right book to the right person. The blog title comes from the brilliant mind of the most talented woman who ever lived, Ms. Judy Garland. The full quote is, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." That is what I hope to do here and in ever aspect of my life.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is it better to happy or intelligent?

Can one be both?
That question is brought up in Jesse Kellerman's new book The Executor and I have been asking everyone for their opinion ever since I read it. 
Some people have been shocked and offended, crying indignantly, "Why can't you be both?" as they look at me like I've just asked them to cut off their hand or something. 
I mean, come on, I didn't invent the question.  Jesse Kellerman didn't invent the question.  I don't even think Jackson Browne did when he sang "I'm gonna be a happy idiot..." 
We've all heard the phrase "ignorance is bless."
Kellerman's book is filled with philosophical questions, as the main character, Joseph Geist, is a student of philosophy.  Well, kinda.  He is on suspended status from Harvard because he hasn't been able to finish his Ph.D. in eight years.  Geist likes to think a lot and talk a lot and so the book is quite wordy.  His thesis is about free will and so that big debate is in there as well.  Geist is not a Calvinist, and believes strongly in free will and so there really isn't anyone for him to blame for what happens to him, but I did find myself feeling sorry for him as his situation gets worse and worse because of his foolish choices. 
I am all over the place here, much like Mr. Geist.  Let me start at the beginning. 
Oh before I do that, I have to admit to I learned something new in this book.  Did you know that there are two main fields of philosophy?  Continental Philosophy which includes dudes like Nietzsche and Sartre, people I've heard of and studied and Analytic Philosophy, which I never knew existed!  Bertand Russell is an example of one of these dudes.  Bertrand Russell is no relation to Rosalind Russell or Jane Russell.  At this juncture it is important to note, however, that Jane Russell was born in Bemidji, Minnesota, which is less than an hour and a half from Judy's birthplace. 
At Harvard, only Analytic Philosophy is studied and Continental Philosophy is considered to be of much lesser importance.  That's according the book, but I have no reason to believe it isn't true.  Of course, I have no reason to believe it is true, now that I think about it!  Does anyone know? 
Back to the beginning.
Geist has been thrown out of school and thrown out of his girl friend's apartment.  He doesn't have any marketable skills and he has no desire to work.  He considers himself a "thinker" you know, so why should he work?  In the Harvard Crimson he comes across an ad seeking a "conversationalist" and he interested right away.  In short order he is hired by Alma, a wealthy woman in her late 70s.  Their relationship isn't Harold and Maude-esque, like Geist's friend jokes, but it is loving.  It is based on their mutual intellectual snobbery and just plain, old fashioned fondness.  Alma is much more appealing than Geist.  Geist is very hard to love, I think, but I am sure Kellerman wrote him that way. 
Their relationship is cool, Geist moves in to Alma's mansion.  All is going really well.
Then Alma's nephew Eric shows up.  It might be Erick or it might be Erich, I listened to the cd.
Eric(h/k) is bad seed, but very charismatic, as bad seeds often are. 
Once Eric(h/k) is in the picture the whole situation starts to spiral.  Geist slowly becomes, well, he unravels, I think that's the best way to put it.
There is a brief time when the book becomes The Diary of Fate.  It's not bad or totally out of place like the whole mess that You was, but it seems a little weird. 
The ending is quite good and terrifiying, a real train wreck and I really enjoyed the suspense that Kellerman was able to build.  This is another great effort from the Kellerman family and worth the read, for sure.

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