May 29, 2019

"As an avid spelunker and one who also ventures into dark underground places thought abandoned, the geek in me looked forward to this book. Alas..."

"... it never really conveyed the way I feel when in these places aside from a Rick Steves-tourist aspect. It's cool...we all see the world differently and maybe this book is for those who would never dream of going into the crawlspace under their house"/"I bought this book for my husband and it did not meet his expectations. He said it mainly covered the gruesome underground swampy creepy areas under cities. I expected that it dealt with underground facilities that were ancient but no."

Those are the 2 one-star reviews at Amazon for "Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet." I like to read one-star reviews of books that have, overall, great reviews. Sometimes the dissenter is right. A "Rick Steves-tourist aspect" felt like a serious warning, though "I bought this book for my husband and it did not meet his expectations" was not. What do I know about her husband? He sounds rather peevish. Let him buy his own books.

Ah, well. I bought the book anyway. I was moved to buy it after I stumbled into it while searching for another book with the title "Underground." There's also the highly praised novel "Underground Railroad" and the great classic "Alice's Adventures Underground."

I can't think why one would want to go on a reading spree of books with a distinctive word in the title, but maybe you've done that once. If so, what was your word? If not, and you had to do it, had to read 4 books with the same distinctive word in the title, what word would you choose? (Note: distinctive word. No joke answers in the "the" category.)

From the 1-star reviews of "Underground Railroad": "Readers are expected to credit a literal Underground Railroad; too feeble an authorial imagination for magic realism, so result is confusing anachronism"/"It is obvious that this book won the Pulitzer because of politics, not the quality of the writing. It was so disjointed. I also object to his altering of history such as portraying the Underground Railroad as an actual railroad. The story of slavery is poignant enough. I know it is a novel but there are some facts with which you should never take liberties!"

From the 1-star reviews of "Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche" (the book I was originally searching for): "this review has nothing to do with content, but im pretty furious that i have found MULTIPLE typos in the kindle version....."


DavidD said...

Would you trust a complaint about typos from someone who would write “im pretty furious that i” in a review?

tim in vermont said...

I couldn’t finish Notes from Underground, even though it was a short novel, as it seemed like an all too faithful accounting of the dark crawlways of my own soul, with of course names and the setting changed to protect the innocent.

Temujin said...

Best book about anything underground I've read: "The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand". Riveting portrayal of the world of underground cave divers. It has nothing to do with the underground railroad, but it's a pretty amazing story that happened recently. I'm sure the book is available through the Althouse portal.

rhhardin said...

A friend long ago was president of the cinema club at work and one year put out a schedule consisting of only wwii submarine movies.

Cinema club humor.

Ann Althouse said...

"I couldn’t finish Notes from Underground, even though it was a short novel..."

Ah, yes, another classic. I should have included that. It was overshadowed in my Amazon search and I didn't think of it. I've never read it, I must admit.

traditionalguy said...

Rev: 16:15 comes closer. " Then the Kings of the earth,the princes, the generals, the rich and the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free hid in caves among the rocks of the mountains."

Our interest today turns to a cave of sorts called outer space. Instead of being surrounded by earth and rocks, we can experience being surrounded by nothingness. When doing this travel, don't forget to pack well because you cannot buy anything you forgot when you get there.

Ann Althouse said...

"Best book about anything underground I've read: "The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand". Riveting portrayal of the world of underground cave divers."

One of the best magazine articles I have ever read is "In Deep/The dark and dangerous world of extreme cavers."

Ann Althouse said...

That best magazine article was in The New Yorker.

Thinking about it again made me search for the author's other work, and I ended up buying "Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts" (which has only 5- and 4-star reviews at Amazon).

tim maguire said...

DavidD said...Would you trust a complaint about typos from someone who would write “im pretty furious that i” in a review?

Are you suggesting they are not typos? Or that an internet comment should be held to the same standards as published literature?

Typos are an annoying distraction. The sloppiness of the production process raises questions about what else they got wrong. If the proofreading is this bad, how bad is the fact checking?

Ralph L said...

Atlanta Underground isn't, or wasn't. I think it folded.

I can't seem to scrape up enough enthusiasm to read an unread classic, forget about a recent book.

Ralph L said...

Naomi Can Spell!
Vernon Can Read!

Ralph L said...

My sister used to direct an 1811 Quaker plantation museum in Jamestown NC that claims to have one of two false-bottom wagons left from the U R. I pointed out that almost all of the wood was modern. Them Quakers are right proud of being anti-slavery. They've been putting on an outdoor musical about slavery and the U R for decades at Snow Camp.

susan.h said...

The word "Annotated". I read The Annotated Alice that reveals a lot of word play, logic puzzles and chess moves that I missed when I read The Alice books as a child. The Annotated Lolita--that was Quilty the first time Humbert and Lo visited The Enchanted Hunters? I missed it. I guess annotated classics are becoming a thing: Jane Austin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Grant's memoirs, etc etc.

gilbar said...

i always check the one star reviews for restaurants before going; WHY do people hate this place?
There will ALWAYS be bad reviews, sometimes they are relevant, sometimes not. Is it because,
"they didn't have an extensive gluten free vegan selection" ?
"they called this 'authentic mexican', what was with the yellow cheese and the tater tots?

Sometimes, they're just funny!
"We came in with a group of 27, and they told us that they couldn't seat us! Why does this hole in the wall only have two tables!?!?!"

Michael said...

I see you continue to romance the idea of Japan. You two should go. You will love it. The Murakami you reference is very interesting especially since such horror is so incredibly rare as to be nonexistent in Japan. Deaths by guns are usually under ten for a year in the entire country.

Phil 314 said...

Professor, you have a wandering mind in the morning.

(And if your cafe posts are any indication, your feet do the wandering in the afternoon.)

gilbar said...

In Japan, annual deaths resulting from firearms total
2014: 28
2013: 32
2012: 25
2011: 30
2010: 52
2007: 40
2006: 19
2005: 22
2004: 38
2003: 67

Timeforchange said...

I use to show others where fresh cold water came out of springs in Southern Indiana. Until while cave exploring I found an under-ground creek and next to it was a big turd from I don't know what. Don't drink the spring water.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

RE: Underground Road and Quakers. My Grandmother(b:1894) was Quaker. Her family history was Quaker from the earliest immigration in the 1600's to the colonies.Vermont, then to Pennsylvania (before there was a US or States) and then to Paoli,Indiana in the early 1800's. The township/area was prominently known for it's part in the Underground Railroad.

NO record of my particular ancestors personally participating, but I don't doubt it.

The current extended family, descended from her 5 sisters and one brother, still live in Paoli, on the same farms, and are still Quakers.

RE: Underground the book. Ancient archeology that deals with underground structures and underground living, is actually pretty interesting. The book sounds like it might be good and for a person like me who will NEVER go into dark closed in spaces, it could be a source of vicarious entertainment

Krumhorn said...


I once read a book because it had Chatterley in the title.

- Krumhorn

rhhardin said...

Jean Genet: I recognize a recurrence of my childhood love of tunnels. I bugger the world.

Krumhorn said...


I once read a book that had Goldfinch in the title. Or maybe it was because the author was deliciously named Tartt. I forget which.

- Krumhorn.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

It looks interesting. I mean, it’s not Watership Down or anything, but when cheap used copies show up on Amazon I’ll grab a copy.

Narr said...

Never got into Dostoyevski. A complete muddlehead as far as I'm concerned.

Tunnels and underground passages are rife in V.N.'s Pale Fire, at least the Kinbote memoir.

There's a historic antebellum property in my city, now the centerpiece of some local mythology for the African-American and Civil Rights History tourist trails (and more power to local tourism, y'all come!). Based on nothing more than family lore, it is now presented as a major stop on the Underground Railroad . . . the guides take people to the cellar area and point to a tunnel, and I've heard one say, "You can still see where the tracks were laid."

Gives me the blues

Sam L. said...

Also, there is the Air Force Underground: Minuteman III missile crews on duty around Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.

tim in vermont said...

"Dostoyevsky’s a muddlehead! I give it one star!”

I've never read it, I must admit.

Maybe the above review will help. Anyway, it’s not something I could recommend to anybody. You have to come to it yourself, I think, though I think that it is a great book, it’s not all that accessible, and may appear muddled. I will probably finish it now that I said what I said about it out loud. It’s under the seat of my pickup truck, I think.

DavidD said...

Tim M.,

I’m sorry, but if I’m going to complain about typos then I’m going to try my darndest not to make any while I’m doing it.

I get your point, though. I once red-penciled a technical work, correcting all the typographical errors; it was the only way I could get through it.

Sad, really—something slapdash that would never have gotten published except that it had Peter Norton’s imprint on it.

gbarto said...

I can't think why one would want to go on a reading spree of books with a distinctive word in the title, but maybe you've done that once. If so, what was your word?

In the age of Kindle, I actually do this all the time. Most recently, I looked at every title available on the Kindle with the word tantra and read 3 or 4 of them (all with Kindle Unlimited). A while back, I did the same with the word Tocharian. I've also done Cthulhu, Norse and sprite. If your interests are a bit off the beaten path, searches on both Amazon and Google tend to bring up a lot of garbage and a lot of things that aren't relevant. As a result, you wind up scrolling through a hundred items and the four you actually read may have nothing to do with one another but turn out to be interesting for other reasons.

In the old days, bibliomancy, magic with books, was done by opening your Bible, pointing a finger and seeing if the verse it landed on had something to say to you. But in the era of e-books, a keyword based bibliomancy is now possible and, if you're not finding what you're looking for through the regular channels, it can be occasionally illuminating.

Ann Althouse said...


I understand going for a word where it’s the topic you want to study. It would be more capricious where the word wouldn’t work like that.

Bob said...

True crime writer Harold Schechter is fond of one-word book titles: Deranged, Depraved, Deviant.

tim in vermont said...


Will Cate said...

I hope the book meets your expectations.

Ken B said...

I can think of a reason to read books with a word in the title. It’s good now and then to let a little bit of randomness in, to let it find you a book. Not uncontrolled randomness, but just a bit to get past your usual unconscious habits.