Tag Archives: benjamin hoff

Books Reviews of 2006

File this post under blasts from the past(s). As my 10 years blogiversary approached last year, I was feeling nostalgic about my old, hand-coded website, so of course I looked it up on the Wayback Machine. I was braced for something really amazing, and instead I found a website with roughly ten book reviews and three recipes on it. Below you will find the un-edited book reviews from 2006 aka most of my website back then (spoiler alert: they’re kind of pretentious). I hope someone on the internet finds them useful someday.

The highlight of this set of review, I believe, is that it contains my first reading of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as my hilariously waffling on Science Fiction, which I now love. Part one of this series is Book Review of 2003, if you finish this yet crave more, and I also added my annotated bibliography on James’s The American to the site. These are all the book reviews that the vault holds, so I hope you enjoyed them!

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid A Small PlacePublished in 1988 Kincaid’s A Small Place is an unflinchingly angry portrayal of post-colonial, post-slavery life on the island of Antigua. To put it simply: Kincaid is as mad as hell, and she’s not going to take it anymore. If you’re white and can shelve your defensiveness for a moment this book is actually really enjoyable, it’s written in first person and directed at “you,” the British colonizer and/or the fat white tourist.

Kincaid’s sense of humor is wonderfully dark, and there are a lot of moments of humor, if you keep an open mind. Still, at the heart of the matter is the story of Antigua’s decay, left to rot by the British colonizers, with a population that doesn’t vote openly corrupt officials out of office. She openly points out the irony of the celebration of emancipation and the valorization of the Hotel Training School, which teaches the residents of the island to be servants.

In the end, Kincaid concludes that no one is to blame, that after slavery the masters are no longer evil and the slaves are no longer “noble,” but that everyone is merely human. She problematizes the matter, but offers no solutions, which might irritate those concrete sequentials among us. Also, she refers to Columbus, and the explorers in general, so adored in American culture, as “human rubbish” on multiple occasions. You might not agree with Kincaid, but this is one topic someone should be pissed off about, and her unapologetic narrative is about as honest as you can get.

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Benjamin Hoff Broke My Heart

Dear Mr. Hoff,

I want to start by saying that I adore/d “The Tao of Pooh,” it’s allowed me a means of communicating someone amazingly important to me to seemingly anyone and, as you know, that’s pretty tricky, since It sort of is an incommunicable thing. For years I’d been hesitant to pick up “The Te of Piglet,” but I wasn’t sure why, since Piglet is my favorite character from the Pooh stories, so a few days ago I finally started reading it …

It struck me that you seem to have some strongly negative emotions towards those you label “Eyores,” which seems not so compassionate or understanding on your end. I ignored this and read one but imagine by extreme sadness when I read your 4-5 page section, bashing feminists as “Eyore Amazons.” I was stunned. You had just finished a section that stated that people who don’t know about things often go on about them, incorrectly, as though they know more about them than people who actually do … only to do that exact thing. It’s as if someone handed you the “S.C.U.M. Manifesto,” said, “Hey, there’s something called feminism, check it out!” and you sat down to write.

You blame feminists for the death of chivalry, death of what you call femininity, their lower wages, you mock that we now say “person” instead of “man” … really it was shocking to read. I don’t know what research, if any, you actually did, or if you know any people who would be considered anything but the most radical feminists, but wow. Most feminists, so you know, believe that masculinity and femininity, as they are defined in Western culture, are restrictive to both sexes. You claim that men are now sensitive, caring people, and that feminists are women who just want to be the old archetype of men. I imagine that there was some kind of personal story that goes along with these 4-5 pages, but I’m disappointed that your editor, even in the early 90s, let these comments pass. They’re inaccurate, they’re alienating, and their judgmental, aggressive tone doesn’t even feel Taoist.

Anyway, I hope the book gets better from here on out, though this has somewhat colored what was my complete respect for you. It has been 15 years though, perhaps you’ve changed your mind since then …

All the best,