A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life by Criag Venter

Craig Venter is the head of Celera, the private research company that won a race with the National Institutes of Health’s Human Genome Project to sequence the human genome.

Now, in a clumsily written autobiography, Venter offers his side of the story, whining a little about being an eternal underdog, fighting for truth and attempting to make scientific discoveries solely to help others. His opposition in this struggle by a league of scientists out to advance their own careers, by a federal bureaucracy incapable of rationally using public funds to promote scientific advances (Is big brother ever active and rational?) and by the heads of corporations willing to do almost anything to make money (is there any other purpose for big business to pay attention to anything else?).

Venter accuses all of the big players—the Human Genome Project’s Frances Collins and Nobel laureate James Watson, among many others—of outright dishonesty. Ignore the over whining and be skeptical of the accusations, but there’s still a terribly depressing story about the politics of big science.

Venter also attempts to contextualize the controversy swirling around the patenting of DNA sequences. Despite this book being unbiased it is well worth reading for the fascinating perspective it offers on one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time.

A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life by Criag Venter

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The Original of Laura – Vladimir Nabokov

A husband smashes a paperweight on the hand of his nympo wife as she rumages through his desk. The brutality is not payback for her affairs, but a warding off of her perceived attempt to snoop into his unfinished “poisonous opus.”

Are we, the morbid readers of a piece which the master never finished and, as the legend goes, he gave instructions to destroy on his death bed, the ones who really deserve the bruised knuckles? Many who shell out full price for this thick hardcover which contains less than four thousand words will no doubt feel a certain feeling of being shafted. The decision to publish photographic images of Nabokov’s original index cards side-by-side with a typeset version is kind of charming. Is this a way of adding more pages to the big hardback???

The novel is about a fat, aging professor who copes with death by turning it into a sexual game and who copes with his wife’s serial infidelities by writing a humiliating novel about her.

As a side project, the professor is deconstucting, “The Interpretation of Dreams.” We get plot and character in fragments. Yet the story is full of surging emotions. These are disturbed and quite often really nasty folks. One can still care for the characters nevertheless, despite them and despite the fact that the novel is barely a first draft. Less is more, and with Nabokov nothing is more than less.

The story behind the book’s journey to print overshadows the actual story in the book, which itself is a unique literary achievement. In the introduction, Dimitri Nabokov explains the curse of his inheritance: does he go ahead and destroy the text or does he publish it. In the end, he decides for our benefit: he is no longer going to deal with the debate, no more being hounded by academic stalkers. He has made us all the caretaker of his curse. We even get our own set of index cards…

 The Original of Laura - Vladimir Nabokov

The Original of Laura - Vladimir Nabokov

Anthony Burgess a Clock work orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a engaging, disturbing, and thought provoking book that was first published in 1962. This is a powerful piece of literature today as it was back then.

A Clockwork Orange satirizes extreme political systems that are based on opposing models of the perfectibility or incorrigibility of humanity. Written in a futuristic vocabulary invented by Burgess, in part by adaptation of Russian words, it was his most original and best-known work.

Set in a dismal dystopia, it is the first-person narrative of Alex, the protagonist, who has a passion for classical music and is a member of a vicious teenage gang that commits random acts of brutality. Alex is almost innocently committing violent crimes with his friends for he is not trying to be bad, he just is. He likes violence, and that’s the way he is.

Alex’s gang has a mutiny and sets a stage for him to be arrested by the police, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But then the opportunity to change presents itself to Alex – in the form of state-sponsored psychological rehabilitation for his aberrant behavior involving mind altering visual therapy with audio background of his favorite Beethoven (EGAD!) and he can’t help but take the offer. How could it be?

Alex is transformed through the behavioral conditioning into a model citizen, but his taming also leaves him defenseless and incapable of listening to classical music or performing acts of violence…

A Clock work orange first came out in the 60s, and the American version lacked the last and 21st chapter from the original story. When it was republished, the book had the 21st chapter. With the last chapter or without it, the book will have an entirely different feel to it. The old copy represents the horrible realization that bad minds are always bad and then the newer version (improved American edition?) leaves the reader with hope.

Hope for Alex, and hope for oneself. Change is possible, the book says, no matter what sort of person you are.

Is being good truly good if it is not by choice? Is it good to be bad, if that is what one chooses?

A Clockwork Orange is truly a great work, one that will appeal to people for different reasons and affect them in completely different ways. But it will affect them. A must read for any thinking mind.

Anthony Burgess a Clock work orange

Horton Hatches the Egg – Dr. Suss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Horton Hatches the Egg is wonderful tale for adults and kids alike that concerns an elephant named Horton, who is convinced by an irresponsible (villainous a deadbeat parent?) bird named Maysie to sit on her egg while she takes a short “break” which lasts four months…

The absurd sight of an elephant sitting atop a tree makes quite a scene. Horton is laughed at by his jungle friends, exposed to the elements, captured by hunters, forced to endure a terrible sea voyage, and finally placed in a traveling circus. When the egg hatches, the creature that emerges is a cross between Horton and Maysie, and Horton and the baby are returned to the jungle.

The book has a lot of messages sticking through to the end, facing your fears, patience and persistence . . . a lot of patience and persistence.

Horton Hatches the Egg - Theodor Seuss Geisel or simply Dr. Seuss