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07 March 2014 @ 08:32 pm
Oy vey.  
Every so often, I locate a book (or other communication) that bothers, annoys and generally gets to me, but is clearly carefully-thought-through and full of good ideas.

Just such a book is Nassim Taleb's "Antifragile."

I am having to look up a lot of words to read this book. Okay. He often uses these words in nonstandard ways. Oy.

He is against academia in favor of actual practitioners. Okay. He believes that excuses him from justifying most of his (mostly good, accurate) ideas. Oy.

He makes a wide variety of obscure references with little explanation. Okay. He occasionally gives incorrect references (Tantalus had the water and fruit, not the rock.) Oy.

Reading this book without Google would be much, much more frustrating.

As is I'm having to be careful to not spend long on Wikipedia for each reference.

Flaneur. Bricolage. Apophatic. Joseph Tainter. Gladstone. Hormesis. Sarcopenia.

And a number of things I knew but I'll bet most people didn't like Mithridatization.
 
 
 
sesmosesmo on March 8th, 2014 08:21 am (UTC)
That can be done badly or well. Charlie Stross did it well in Accelerando. It sounds like this guy did it badly.
Noahangelbob on March 8th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
I've read a lot more of it now. I still have no idea whether he did it well or badly.

His ideas are amazing. His writing is infuriating.
IANAL: avatarqueen_elvis on March 8th, 2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
I am not surprised that an author who rejects academic authority has apparently also rejected editing. (Was this self-published?)
Noahangelbob on March 8th, 2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
Nope, not self-published. Nassim Taleb is a significant author with a big publisher and a previous bestseller ("The Black Swan"), oddly enough.

He just... writes really poorly for somebody matching that description.

The back cover quotes the Wall Street Journal saying his writing is as much Stephen Colbert as (lofty academic whose name I'm forgetting).

That's... not as far off as I'd like. Not just the occasional silliness, but the sort of semi-insane aggressive disrespect for the common perception of reality.

Don't get me wrong, the common perception of reality has flaws. But redefining your own reality and *not telling the reader how* makes a book very, very difficult to follow.

I don't have to agree with a Southern Baptist or a Libertarian tax-refuser, but I can read either one if I know I'm doing so. Reading somebody equally weird with no clue about their specific biases is much harder.
Rachel: Samuraimiss_mimsy on March 9th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
Reading a book like that on a kindle (or other electronic device) has been worthwhile and edifying. Doing it in paper, I doubt I would have made it past the first chapter.

However, the historic references wouldn't have been a problem, although some of the vocabulary would have been. I may have to consider this book during the summer.
Noahangelbob on March 9th, 2014 05:25 am (UTC)
I can see how it might be better on Kindle if you assume Kindle == "to skim".

Otherwise it would be harder, at least for me -- I find a laptop is much better for "book in one hand, a keyboard and Google at the ready."

Then it's fine as long as I don't get too sucked into a single Wikipedia entry and go back to the book reasonably promptly.
rbusrbus on March 13th, 2014 08:59 pm (UTC)
My little kindle-bug has a pretty good built-in dictionary, but wouldn't get all those words.

Kudos on reading the book - I would've never made it. I detest people who write with lots of words that 99% of everyone won't understand. One, every once in a while, is good for the soul. Too many pisses me off as just so much bushwazee bullshit.

Though, I get the same feeling reading turn-of-the-century and older fiction and autobiographies. Lots of words I don't understand. Still, those words were in mostly common use, back then. It's just that we've stopped using them!
Cool-Mantg2k on March 17th, 2014 12:18 am (UTC)
I had forgotten about this post until looking back over LJ just now. I was in a course last week in which the term "anti-fragile" came up in discussing software architecture. I think the instructor (Juval Lowy) may have borrowed the term from this book.
Noahangelbob on March 17th, 2014 12:22 am (UTC)
Very likely. There's not a good term for this other than Taleb's that I know of.