Monday, April 16, 2012
There are many shortcomings to Freakonomics that frustrated me and inhibited my enjoyment of the read. The repetitiveness of the chapters caused the book to drag on, which made it rather boring through the middle and end of the story. The interrelation of these chapters and how they seemed to all connect to each other contributed to the bland and repeating structure of the book. Also, the author's arrogant tone in most of his explanations turned me away somewhat from the book, although his cleverness and irresistible wit brought me right back in. All in all, one may have a love-hate relationship with the book because of the usable and seemingly important information, even though it is arranged in the same boring and cliche way throughout the entire novel.
There are many qualities that made this book praiseworthy, but some are more predominant than others. The author's sheer ability to explain, twist, solve, bend, and present problems and solutions makes the book seem credible. This gives the audience a sense that they learned something actually useful after reading the book. When readers feel accomplished, proud, or glad after reading a story, that is when the author knows that he/she accomplished what he/she strove for when first writing the book.
The main theme of Freakonomics is to remember to always look deeper into something than the obvious and cliche answer. The author does a fantastic job in truly analyzing economic patterns and data, and refutes many common myths and misconceptions. The author often explains that the situations mentioned in the book may be applied to many other situations, and encourages the reader to begin to analyze such situations with the same vigor and intensity as the author does. Again and again does the author presents a seemingly concrete and obvious trend, but twists it in a way that either explains it better, analyzes it further, or provides a better solution than the one at hand.
There are many similarities and differences between the two books (Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and the autobiography of SLASH) that I chose to do evaluations on. Firstly, Freakonomics is revolved around economic ideas. SLASH, on the other hand, is about a rock band and the 80's and 90's heavy metal scene. Additionally, Freakonomics is basically a number of occurrences that is each explored and investigated. SLASH, however, is a narrative account of Saul Hudson's life from his birth to present day. Both of the novels use satire and controversial humor to attract a rebellious audience, though. Another similarity is the sarcasm that both authors take up throughout both stories.
There are many topics discussed in Freakonomics, but the topic I found most intriguing was the theory that it is much worse to cheat to lose in sports than it is to cheat to win. Levitt describes the 1919 White Sox, who conspired with gamblers to fix a World Series by ensuring several losses. They became formally known as the "Black Sox". Levitt also discusses the movie "On the Waterfront?" where Marlon Brando plays a boxer who believes all of his present problems resulted from one fight that he took a dive in. The last incident he describes is the intentional losses at sumo wrestling matches; those who already have 8 wins in a tournament intentionally lose to other sumo wrestlers that have just 7 wins and only need one more to secure their top spot in one of two elite divisions.
In Freakonomics, because it is an Economical Non Fiction book, there is a lack of dialogue and characters. Additionally, there are few specific times and places that are described, and even mentioned. Therefore, the events that take place in society is the most important element in the book. After all, the book is essentially a cluster of occurrences that are relevant to the common topic of the chapter. These occurrences make up the backbone of the book. Without the occurrences, the book would have no context, and would just contain ramblings of some weird economist. The events provide evidence and credibility to the author.
Freakonomics has several moods that are prevailing throughout it; one of which is intuitive. The whole purpose of the book is to unveil common misconceptions about all things related to money. As directly written in the introduction of the book, "This is about stripping a layer or two from the surface of modern life and seeing what is happening underneath." In all chapters, Levitt dives deep into the happenings of today's economy and explains to the audience how and why it happens.
Another mood that prevails in the book is rebelliousness. The author often discusses rather controversial topics, almost too calmly and nonchalantly for a conservative audience. It seems the author likes to get down to raw facts and sugar-coats nothing for the reader, which could lead to some to become offended. Although most authors try to avoid this, Levitt embraces it. When making a connection to the Roe vs. Wade case, which was the first abortion case ever to reach supreme court, to the dramatic drop in crime rates in the 1990's writes, "Now, as the crime drop experts (the former crime doomsayers) spun their theories to the media, how many times did they cite legalized abortion as a cause? Zero." Levitt appears to bash crime experts in this quote. The author clearly exercises his right of Free Speech in this quote, and that is why he is so popular with his books; because people like to read things that cause controversy.
The only mood that struck me on a negative note was the author's arrogant mood that he presents in many situations throughout the book. In many situations he presents his ideas as if they are 100% true and concrete, while all the author really is is a theorist. Nobody will know exactly "How to be a perfect parent", but the author sure makes it seem like he knows exactly what he's talking about. He is, of course an economist, and EVERYONE knows that economists make great parents, right? Not really. His theories that are presented are believable, but never admits that he may be wrong, which in some ways makes his arguments somewhat hollow.