Saturday, November 26, 2005


Today is all about words. The word of the day is "defenestration." This is defined as the act of throwing someone or something out a window." While the word makes sense, one might wonder why one would need such a word. It turns out that the Bohemians are the cause of this term.

In 1419 seven members of the Prague city council were thrown out of windows to their deaths by a Hussite crowd. This sparked a series of wars, called the Hussite Wars. This was the First Defenestration of Prague.

In 1618 two Imperial governors were thrown out a window in Prague by local Protestants. They landed in a pile of dung and consequently survived, bruised and stinking. This was a major cause of the Thirty Years War. This war killed between 15% and 30% of the population of Germany and depopulated several cities. It was as bad as World War II for Central Europe. That war probably was going to break out anyway, but the defenestration helped trigger it. This was the Second Defenstration of Prague.

In 1948 Tomas Masaryk was found in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry. The Russians said he jumped. In retrospect, it is clear that this was the Third Defenestration of Prague.

And that is the definition and background of the word defenestration.

I have not done a "book review" post in a long time, and nobody really responds to them anyway. TOO BAD!

Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories, Stuart Dybek. This guy grew up in Pilsen and Back of the Yards. Both are South Side hoods in the Chi, and during Dybek's childhood they changed from Slavic neighborhoods to Spanish neighborhoods. The stories are from that period, and are fantastic. By the way, my buddy F recommended the book. Recommendation: NOW THAT YOU KNOW, YOU MUST BUY.

The Coast of Chicago, Stuart Dybek. These stories are later in Dybek's life, I think. They are a little more magical, and the first one is set near Loyola University, which is a North Side institution. Still good stories, but I really loved Childhood, whereas I liked this one. Recommendation: BUY.

The interesting think about Dybek's writing is that he was a South Sider, and I was a North Sider. He was older than I. Nevertheless, the language, experiences, and other elements of the book all were so comfortable and familiar that I felt like I was having a discussion with a "guy" from the Chi, rather than reading a book.

The Coffee Trader: A Novel, David Liss. Historical fiction about the people who introduced coffee in commercial quantities to Holland. Really much more interesting for the history of the conversos and their lives in Amsterdam. The book also does not do a very good job explaining the futures market, and I say that as a life long Chicagoan, with the predominant futures markets on the planet. Recommendation: BORROW. MAYBE ACTUALLY WALK TO THE CPL AND BORROW.

Choke, Chuck Palahniuk. I won't even summarize. Suffice it to say, I did not enjoy this book. I did not feel like it had any tension driving it forward. I did not really know or care what the point was. Recommendation: AVOID.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. On the surface this book is about a murder mystery. But it isn't really. It is really a journey of discovery for an autistic boy. Self-discovery. He, of course, learnes about other people, but being autistic, any discovery about someone else he can internalize is a self-discovery. That's fine, but it really is not very entertaining. Recommendation: GRAB IT OFF A TAKE-ONE LEAVE ONE RACK.


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