MixedThe New York Times Book Review... uses the female anatomy as a vehicle to detail the way the author’s body has failed her, and society has objectified it, throughout the course of her life. Which might feel as retro as the title in the post-gender world we are supposedly living in, but as Copaken describes it, it is an effort to turn that old patriarchal framework on its head ... It’s a clever organizing principle. But to corral all the aspects of a life into anatomical categories can feel jolting, as Copaken veers among catastrophic ailments, the \'death spiral\' of her marriage, freelance writing, an imploding media landscape, the inadequacies of health insurance, sexual harassment, Eastern wellness, her father’s death, Black Lives Matter protests and, eventually, Covid ... There is a gratuitousness throughout, though: with anecdotes serving only to highlight the presence of semi-famous friends and an entire chapter devoted to airing past grudges against those who have diminished, in sometimes sexist ways, Copaken’s past work ... after nearly 500 pages, a reader may be left wondering what this book is meant to be. Is it an exploration of the hardships of being a woman today, a take on the medical industry that doesn’t take women’s pain seriously, or is it an overindulgent effort to prove her worth? It is all of these things, but the latter undermines the former.
PositiveElleUllman is a rare breed, a writer and former software engineer, and she offers a vivid, gripping window into what it is to be shaped by keyboard characters and machine, in which a single wrong tap can bring entire systems crashing down ... But Life in Code isn't focused on what it is to be a female per se. Rather, it is a stream of staccatolike depictions from Ullman's 40-plus-year career. She describes turning down a job from Google's Larry Page and engaging in an e-mail relationship with a guy who could only express his feelings through the medium of code. She writes poignant passages about love, animals, and artificial intelligence. How do computers think? she wonders. To readers who may not know the lingo—abend (another word for 'crash'), Unix, COBOL—prepare for a learning curve. But there are also relatable observations: Those who can't 'do' become project managers, a common tech-world dis. Ullman relishes tech's beauty while fearing what it has created.