Thursday, September 5, 2013

Taleb and his Swan


So I wanted to read Taleb for long. I had read a few reviews, heard the name a few times here and there and have seen his books in display at all books stores. Antifragile was the first one that caught my attention, thanks to some online review. When I checked the price during next visit to a book store, I found the book somewhat costly. 800+ bucks for something unknown is terrifying. Spending some 200-300+ for an unfamiliar, unread-before-author is OK, but when that rupee figure tends to reach the 1000 mark that's scary. And the new market condition and rupee fall doesn't help the cause either.

Then I saw the paperback edition of Black Swan priced at 30% discount in FlipKart. Not bad I thought. Its below Rs. 300 now. And Black Swan is considered to be the masterpiece of Taleb. Why not start with it then? So I bought it.

Waiting for the book you have ordered is one of the greatest pleasures that online shopping has brought in our lives. There's an expectation, some anxiety, curiosity and even some imaginative thinking about how the books is going to be.

Once I got the book in my hands, as I always do when I get a new book to read, I scanned the barcode in my android using the GoodReads application. Of late I've started keeping a log of books I have read and planning to read in goodreads. Thanks to technology even a lazy person like me can keep a log easily and without spending much time. 

When I scanned the code the goodreads page for 'Black Swan' appeared. And then I saw the rating given by Adwaith as 3 out of 5. "Not cool" I thought. Adwaith is certainly amongst the reliable when it comes to books/reading/political  views/ideas and philosophy etc. So that was my first clue about the book.

I just glanced at the black covered thing. Covers were crowded with opinions from celebrity writers, thinkers, quotes from news paper reviews... Phew... and then I saw in back cover Nial Ferguson praising the book as 'top class' or something like that. That should have been my second clue. Come on its Nial Ferguson! I have ROTFL'd at many of the foolish remarks that he made in his book 'Civilization - West and the Rest'. And not to forget his infamous spat with Pankaj Sharma, historian and author. If Ferguson praises a book there should be definitely something wrong with it.

Anyway bottom line is that I am yet to finish the book. And it seems like its going to take eons for me to finish it. The intention of this note is not to reject Taleb as a thinker or his idea of Black Swan. It is a genuine idea and deserves some attention. But the book as a whole is boring. That best describes it in one word. Author is stretching a simple and single idea too much so that it gets difficult to turn pages after few chapters. Repetition is bad. To add more pain to it, Taleb is either confused or deliberately dressing up old ideas such as 80-20 rule about wealth with new terminologies and jargons and try to present it as a fresh idea. Not cool Taleb, not cool.

I remember Adwaith telling me that Taleb is a great thinker and I tend to agree with him, but may not agree that he is a good writer. This whole best selling saga is surprising about the book. One may even wish if the thinker used a  ghost writer. Or fetch a co-author from that hyped journalist class. Or at least employ someone to  edit the entire thing to make it readable.

OK so now I am all the more doubtful about spending 800 + bucks for Antifragile. Anyone has a copy to lend for free?

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Singularity എന്ന ബ്ലോഗില്‍ പ്രസിദ്ധീകരിക്കുന്ന ലേഖനങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം പൊതുതാല്പര്യാര്‍ത്ഥം ഉള്ളതാണ്. അവ ലേഖകന്റെ അനുമതി കൂടാതെ തന്നെ വാണിജ്യപരമോ വാണിജ്യേതരമോ ആയ എന്താവശ്യത്തിനും ഏതൊരാള്‍ക്കും എപ്പോഴും എത്ര തവണ വേണമെങ്കിലും മാറ്റങ്ങളോടെയോ അതേ പടിയോ ബ്ലോഗിലോ ഇതരമാധ്യമങ്ങളിലോ സ്വതന്ത്രവും സൌജന്യവുമായി ഉപയോഗിക്കാം. മാറ്റം വരുത്തുന്ന പക്ഷം അതില്‍ ഈ ലേഖകന്‍‍ ഉത്തരവാദിയല്ല. പുനഃപ്രസിദ്ധീകരിക്കുന്ന കുറിപ്പിനൊപ്പം മൂലലേഖനത്തിന്റെ രചയിതാവു് എന്ന സ്ഥാനം ലേഖകനു് നല്‍കുന്നതു് അഭികാമ്യം. എന്നാല്‍ ഇതു് നിബന്ധനയല്ല. മറ്റൊരാളുടെ പേരു് പകരം കൊടുക്കാന്‍ അനുമതിയില്ല. വീണ്ടും ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്ന പക്ഷം ആ വിവരം ലേഖകനെ അറിയിക്കണമെന്നും ഈ പകര്‍പ്പുപേക്ഷാപത്രം ഒപ്പം നല്‍കണമെന്നും താത്പര്യപ്പെടുന്നു.