Robert Durick's Reading in 2011

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Robert Durick's Reading in 2011

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Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 2011, 3:40 pm

I was a member of the 2010 group, here. I was also a member of the 2010 25 book challenge, and my list of books read in 2010 there may be easier to read than the one in Club Read.

The following are the books that so far I reckon to be the best, most engaging, or most important of my reading in 2010:

The Reformation
Wolf Among Wolves
The Given Day
Last Exit to Brooklyn
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Glass Room
Out Stealing Horses
Black Lamb and Gray Falcon
Khrushchev added after some deliberation; very informative

Special Mention, but not really first list players:
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Sh*t My Dad Says
Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs

Good Explanations, and everybody should read them, but short of something that is important:
Too Big to Fail
13 Bankers
Secrets of the Temple
Best of All Possible Worlds
American Liberalism; added because I would like the many elements in this book to be part of the conversation.

I expect this list to change.


Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 2011, 4:44 pm

Here are some of my thoughts about what I will start the year with, taken from the end of my Club Read 2010 thread.

Having seen the recent movie of The Tempest, I am pretty eager to read through it. It would be an evening's reading for the play, but I have the Norton Critical Edition and want to read all of the explanatory apparatus too. I have cracked the spine on this and expect a real start on it today.

I have Feast of the Goat for my church book group discussion in February which will also count as a foreign read for this group if I remember correctly. In Le Salon we will be reading Wallenstein. We have a spin off group reading The Federalist. Seamus Heaney's Beowulf will be discussed I think in the 75 Book challenge; I've read it but would like to hear him read it aloud and perhaps have a look at the trappings in the Norton Critical edition. Also for the 75 Book challenge I have Sense and Sensibility.

Happy New Year,


tammikuu 1, 2011, 4:18 pm

>2 Mr.Durick:, Robert, what did you think of the new film of the Tempest? I have heard mixed things.

tammikuu 1, 2011, 4:29 pm

Robert, I was curious about your reaction to the film, too. I well remember Paul Mazursky's less-than-successful updated version of it. Funny, I also bought an annotated version (I've forgotten which one) for a reread this year, not knowing that Taymor was going to take it on.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 2011, 4:51 pm

I had mixed feelings about it.

Helen Mirren was as good as Helen Mirren usually is.

The play was set well, in the wilder sections of Hawaii, but the special effects could have been done much more smoothly. They were, to me, a huge distraction given that special effects are done so well in filmdom nowadays.

Prospera failed to give her end of career speech which was a major impetus to my looking for the real script (I've read it and watched other versions before).

I thought that people with an interest in seeing Shakespeare should see this movie, but most moviegoers should leave it alone.

A fellow I know who stages participatory readings of Shakespeare thought it marvelous, although he mentioned the zippers in some of the Elizabethan clothing, so my take may be idiosyncratic.


tammikuu 1, 2011, 11:10 pm

Welcome back Robert. I have The Glass Room on my read soon list based largely on your and a couple other LT recommendations.

I'm going to try to pick up the Heaney Beowulf for the group read as well. I've been wanting to get it since it came out.

tammikuu 2, 2011, 1:13 pm

I may have to put this on my list of movies to see, although to be without "this rough magic I here abjure" would be tough! The Tempest is one of my fave Shakespeare plays; another being the v. different Twelfth Night.

tammikuu 3, 2011, 10:19 am

I think I'm gonna have to get that kitteh book. (Don't tell anyone, you know, street cred).

tammikuu 3, 2011, 9:49 pm

I also loved The Tempest. I read it during a Shakespeare class in college, then saw it performed by our college drama group. So witty, so fun. I haven't seen the movie.

When I was in graduate school, 3 of us sat around a fire for several nights and read King Lear (another of my favorites). Someone was The Fool, another person was Lear, someone else was all 3 of the daughters. It was great fun! Several friends of mine were thinking of doing something similar -- a "read Shakespeare with wine around the fireplace". We still have to pick a play...


tammikuu 3, 2011, 10:10 pm

Robert, the movie sounds dreadful, but I'll probably go see it just to see Mirren. I found my copy of The Tempest. It's the Arden Shakespeare.

k4k, I'm now smitten with the idea of a Tempest group read with friends. I did this sort of thing years ago and can only hope that I have enough friends currently who are game enough to try it.

Robert, good luck with all of your group reads. I'll look forward to reading about them.

tammikuu 3, 2011, 10:52 pm

For some reason, film directors have a hard time making a decent version of the Tempest. I wonder why? I am still excited that Tamor's version is out. I loved her Titus Andronicus.

tammikuu 3, 2011, 11:16 pm

The movie was not dreadful. It just was not as good as I would have liked and it had that special effects distraction. Mind you, the play calls for special effects. I thought they needn't look like opera (a genre I love) and be mannered; they could've been real as in, say, Avatar. I don't know why various producers think they need to alter the script, in this case except for the feminine Prospera.

I haven't been to the local Shakespeare participatory readings, but they have been going on a long time. I think that they are attractive to quite a few people.


tammikuu 3, 2011, 11:26 pm

Sorry, dreadful was a bad choice of word on my part. I'm probably allowing myself to be unduly influenced by all of the flack that Taymor is taking, fairly or unfairly, for Spiderman on Broadway. Not the same thing, obviously.

tammikuu 3, 2011, 11:45 pm

I wonder whether she is stretching herself too thin. She also directed the current Metropolitan Opera Magic Flute.


tammikuu 4, 2011, 12:06 am

the best movie version of the Tempest is Derek Jarman's:

it doesn't have much to do with the text but it really captures the mood and meaning.

And then there is Peter Greenaway's 'Prospero's Books':

tammikuu 4, 2011, 12:22 am

Prospero's Books is one of the few films I've seen in a theater that I've also bought on DVD. I believe it is also the last movie discussed in the Norton Critical Edition; I can't wait (yes, I can) to see how they relate it to the play.


tammikuu 4, 2011, 12:38 am

I don't know that I need the camp of Jarman's interpretation, but, what the heck, I like opera, so I put it on my BN.COM audio visual wishlist anyway.


Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2011, 8:07 pm

The Tempest is one of the few Shakespeare plays I haven't read. I plan to go through my Norton Shakespear one year, but I don't think it will be this one. I may check out the Taymor film in the meantime since I loved her Titus Andronicus.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2011, 8:45 pm

I think The Tempest is one of the best of S's plays -- up there with King Lear and A Midsummer's Night's Dream -- I will definitely see Taymor's film, but I must admit approaching it with trepidation. Nobody has done justice to the play on film -- neither Jarman nor Greenaway does it all for me. I thought Mazursky's Tempest was an interesting contemporary adaptation -- but Shakespeare it wasn't. I've seen a couple of wonderful stage productions -- one at the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1970 and one at Chautauqua about 10 years ago. The only filmed version that works for me is the one I saw on TV in 1960 for Hallmark with Maurice Evans, Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Roddy McDowell and Tom Poston. The special effects creak, but the acting works, even now -=it's still the one I show my students.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 14, 2011, 12:10 am

I felt as though I was stumbling about in my reading and so had nothing to say here, although I have begun to enumerate the books I've read on my 75 Books Challenge in 2011 thread. Now I think I can do a little bit more than try to trace my initial stumblings for the reading year.

It took me two nights to read The Tempest itself. We started the year with rain, and with rain we had mosquitoes. I wasn't sleeping well because of them and thought what seemed to be an allergic reaction was related, but it turned out to be a cold. It took me forever to read the critical and other articles at the back, and I got very little out of them. After reading that stuff I still like the play as a story about a noble wizard isolated with his daughter on an island told well, very well.

I turned immediately after that to Wallenstein by Friedrich Schiller and read that pretty coherently and promptly, provoked by a thread in Le Salon Litteraire du Peuple pour le Peuple. It started out feeling pretty thin, but the narrative that preceded became more and more important thematically to the material that developed so that I became intrigued by the writer's workings. In the end we know that some of us are cut out to be the keeper of the castle rather than the prince, and for good reason.

Having three ways to turn then, with one of them aggravatingly blocked, I picked up Feast of the Goat, and my reading is straightforward in it. Comfortably into it, I know that it'll count towards the translated work for the challenge in this group. I'll also be ready for our church book group discussion of it in February. So far I haven't found a reason to value the book except for a retelling of the history I ignored in the making as a callous adolescent in high school and as an underclassman. I suppose to be artfully impelled to feel sleazy shows some strength in the work.

My CD's and Norton Critical Edition of Beowulf, a verse translation were in today's mail, unexpectedly. So I will be able to join in on the discussion on the 75 Books Challenge in 2011 thread which opportunity I feared that BN.COM had lost for me. This will also be the March book for the church book group, although I really tried to talk them into Sense and Sensibility which I will also take up soon for another discussion in the 75 Books Challenge in 2011. I hope to be able to pursue most of Austen this year with them, but that's a pretty distant goal for someone who has put her off this long.

Meanwhile I actually have been reading in and about The Federalist Papers for Urania's group. We are up to the fourth. I find myself in agreement with the idea of the United States of America. Sadly, to me, I haven't set down my thoughts very much so far.

Anyway, my reading seems to be coming together in at least some coherency, and I can refer back here to see where I have been and am supposed to be.


tammikuu 15, 2011, 3:56 pm

One thing I liked in the first three hundred pages of The Feast of the Goat was the central character's immense will and its inability to overcome the medical problems attendant on age. Mostly those pages confirmed my indifference to Mario Vargas Llosa, but the last hundred pages showing the recovery of the Dominican Republic from decades of tyranny were fascinating.

Totalitarianism and the behavior and character of ordinary people of good virtue in a tyrannical society interest me. Reading this book fed that interest, but it didn't have the strength of, say, the biographies of Stalin or Khrushchev.


Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 2011, 11:00 pm

I felt I had come home to a novel I could sink into with Sense and Sensibility. It was a surprise. Of her other works I have read Pride and Prejudice. I don't remember its ending, but I remember its tedium. I will be rereading that later this year (maybe next in order), and now I am curious as to whether I will like it this time around.

Sense and Sensibility is about sense and sensibility in the young women, and some of the older folk, and some of the young men, of the independent middle class of very early 19th century England. Sense wins out.

The commentary in the Norton Critical Edition was not entirely useless so I won't recommend against it, but some of the commentary was just plain offensive, even considering the randiness of young people.

I have a book on the great financial collapse of America that I want to start right away. I have Beowulf to read for a petering out discussion on LibraryThing and a church book group discussion in March. I would like to turn to one or the other tonight, but I also have some catching up to do on The Federalist Papers to pull my weight in that discussion. And to compound the short distractions, I believe a package from today's mail contains an anthology of short stories we want to start discussing in Le Salon.


tammikuu 26, 2011, 4:47 pm

With a government complicit in the robbery of its citizens it is unlikely that prosperity will be available to the masses. Nevertheless Chasing Goldman Sachs suggests that Wall Street bankers could be reined in. Its strengths, though, are in showing the faults of the system in the first place. The big one, besides the general greed, is that competitiveness among the masters of the universe leads every one of the players to try to beat Goldman Sachs at all the games it plays. That led to a perfect storm.

I have read several books about and around the subject and now add this to Secrets of the Temple, 13 Bankers, and Too Big to Fail, my favorites among those I've read, for rounded understanding of it all. The author has also posted in her threads on LibraryThing some suggestions about what to read; I will be looking at some of those.

I have started the Norton Critical Edition of Beowulf and have stopped just short of the battle with Grendel. Seamus Heaney's deliberation on his translation is fascinating and clearly led to a congenial rendition. The poetry was just flowing through my kenning as I started up the epic. This is not my first reading of the poem, but it is my first reading of this edition. I hope to get back to the discussion in the 75 Books... group, and we will be discussing the Heaney translation at church in March.


tammikuu 31, 2011, 3:12 pm

I have finished that volume of Beowulf and will likely reread the poem proper shortly before our church book group discussion. I have so far read about a third of Grendel which, I think, will inform my reading of Beowulf and possibly spur discussion -- what if we don't take it as a given that the monster is a monster?

Tolkien has made it clear that this is supposed to be read as a poem rather than as merely an historical artifact, and I accept that clarity of vision. I nevertheless wonder what to take away from it. How is my life changed by my reading of the poem as a poem?


Muokkaaja: helmikuu 4, 2011, 3:22 pm

I'm lazy today and so copying from one post to another.

Grendel is now done. The importance of it I think is in the results of the dragon's lessons for the monster. Most important is: what is the meaning of life to the aristocrats if they have no monster? But of course also there is the important standing observation that there are usually second viewpoints, and this book reifies that observation.

I turned immediately afterwards to The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel by Robin Feuer Miller because I think I need to be told what it is I read last year when I read the novel. The discussion in Le Salon... was replete in detail, but there was the old tree-forest conundrum. The first three chapters give me hope of some enlightenment.


helmikuu 1, 2011, 3:08 pm

25 - Let me know how you like the Brothers K criticism. I'm still mulling over my BK review and would like to get to some good criticism eventually.

helmikuu 1, 2011, 4:40 pm

Robert, I also look forward to your thoughts on the Miller book. I hope to tackle the rest of the Salon threads (I stopped reading them about midway through the book due to some time issues) later this week.

helmikuu 4, 2011, 3:21 pm

Miller's book caused me to refocus on The Brothers Karamazov, but I still cannot stand on my own two feet. As I read the bulk of the book I used a sort of catchphrase, the flow of grace, to orient myself in all of the diffuse complications, but as I finished it last night I realized that the novel is about everything. It is also the story of the Karamazov family in their village in Russia. It is very carefully and intricately assembled, sometimes maybe even more than it need be.

Despite my weaknesses in the matter I believe The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel has been useful to me.

NB I have been using the wrong touchstone for Professor Miller; the one in this message is correct. Also I apologize for the amount of formatting in my main paragraph, but I need the emphasis and the kinds of emphasis to show my concerns.


helmikuu 5, 2011, 3:14 pm

There is grim cheer in The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman. As the financial world collapsed in the middle of the last decade, some people saw it happening and bet on its happening. It put some of the ones on the other side in their place, although they were bailed out monetarily and by reputation, for the most part, by the current administration. This book focuses on J.P. Paulson who made the most money on the deal, but it also covers some other folk, one of whom went off with a small fortune to lead the hippy life on an island.

Buy gold.

The book is not very well written, but the writing gets the job done.


helmikuu 15, 2011, 6:39 pm

There I was reading two of the papers per week from The Federalist, an essay as I felt like it from The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, and fluidly in The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, when up popped The World Undone, a history of World War I a discussion of which is now started in Le Salon... I read straight through it; it is a charming and lucid book about stupidity and the hell of war.

When I finished it last night I read a chapter about the orality of rabbinic literature, then slept well.


helmikuu 17, 2011, 8:16 am

is that because rabbinic literature has a soporific effect? I have trouble sleeping. Would this help?

helmikuu 17, 2011, 4:22 pm

I tried to read the Mishnah once and decided that it was impossible without having sat around a second or third century yeshiva (is that a redundancy?) for 40 years, but I'm finding the book at hand to be interesting even if not disruptive of sleep.


helmikuu 18, 2011, 7:35 am

You thread is very enjoyable, Robert. And you have reminded me that I want to read The Feast of the Goat.

helmikuu 18, 2011, 4:19 pm

I'll be looking for your reaction. My take on The Feast of the Goat is growing richer in retrospect (also in cranky irritation at the other book group members at my church).


helmikuu 22, 2011, 5:34 pm

I have finally finished The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature. I continue on in The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report and The Federalist.

I wish that there were one fat book that would tell me about Judaism in the way that I want to know it. I also wish that I could explain the way that I want to know it. I am coming to know more than I would have expected from the scattered sources I have had to use.


helmikuu 28, 2011, 5:11 pm

I have more books on my list regarding the financial debacle in America and much of the rest of the world. Today's Arts and Letters Daily added some books to that list. I have read some serious books already about it. So The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report was essential and detailed, but it should not be the first book or the only book anybody reads on the matter. Furthermore I would like to read more from the dissenters and may, despite strong reluctance, look on-line for it.

People did us wrong and profited mightily from it. That includes the regulators who still collect their salaries and inflate their resumés.

I would like to read something on what would have happened that hasn't happened if the big players had not been bailed out, especially if AIG had been allowed to collapse. I would like to read something about what would have happened if the money we spent had been used for orderly dissolution of those businesses and support of the smaller businesses that were allowed to fail because they weren't (but now are) important enough.

Other books have points to make and use details, mostly scrupulously, that need filling out. This book does that; its strength is the research that the staff did. It may have investigated with presuppositions that weren't in the investigation challenged and may, according to the dissenters, lack sufficient analysis.

Please read about this stuff. It will affect you and what happens to you might be dangerous.


maaliskuu 2, 2011, 6:21 pm

Taking a break I read The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel which interestingly could be taken at any of several levels. I read it but, as someone who only dabbles at mathematical ideas, I could have studied it. I am glad to understand, I think, the difficulty in claiming a center for a 2-sphere. The author is sometimes a little sloppy in his writing (I hope and suspect that he is not sloppy in his mathematics), but that is less of a distraction than a curiosity.


maaliskuu 7, 2011, 1:23 am

In another group I said that Spinoza was a better and smarter man than I, yet I had the temerity to disagree with him. Having finished Spinoza by Steven Nadler now I continue to believe that he was better and smarter than me, but the point I single out to disagree with has changed. I disagree with his dismissal of the possible import of women in governance.

I thought earlier that I disagreed with him on his notion of volition in a fully determined world. Now I think instead that he may have a consistent view of it, but that it is still something of a muddle. (As a matter of faith I don't believe in determinism.)

If the God that is is the God that we need then I have to reflect on how the God Spinoza believes in colors my understanding of the God that I need. I should probably also reflect on whether that is meaningful.


maaliskuu 9, 2011, 2:55 pm

I bought To Say Nothing of the Dog because of affection expressed for it on LibraryThing and because it was readily and cheaply available. The other night exhausted but not ready to sleep and having just finished Spinoza, I wanted fluff, so I picked up Connie Willis's book. Fluff it was, and it was unnecessary, but it was pleasant enough to finish once started. In the last hundred pages I was eager to be done with it, so I stayed up late to finish it.


maaliskuu 9, 2011, 3:44 pm

Thank you for your perceptive comments. I generally don't want to read the books you are reading, but I like finding out what you think about them. You are beginning to convince me to read some of the plethora of books on the recent financial catastrophe. I have Nadler's book on Spinoza and have been putting off reading it for years. Maybe I should look into it while the looking's good. Also the book about the Library of Babel is one that I hadn't heard of and that sounds fascinating. Thanks!

maaliskuu 12, 2011, 3:11 pm

I own a couple of gold coins and a few shares of stock though I'm retired on a fixed income and can't do much in the way of investing seriously. Gold attracts me (as it does a couple of billion other people), so I like to dream of being rich with it even though it is typically a bad investment (it works better as a hedge against inflation or against catastrophe). So I read The Goldwatcher (see to feed my fantasy and maybe improve a future purchase.

The book spends most of its time telling us how the dollar is imperiled; it is really a slapdash effort. The information on investing is sketchy and incomplete in frustrating ways. The book's merits are in its references. I have not pored over the bibliography, but it looks interesting. The high point is a long list of web sites that I hope to spend time with.

Put one tenth of your money into gold, half in bullion and half in stocks; adjust yearly. Caveat emptor.


maaliskuu 17, 2011, 4:17 pm

deebee1 got me interested in The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand that I had kinda put on my ignore list when I read the reviews when it came out. I have a long standing interest in what it means to be Jewish and on the development of that faith community and of the faith itself. I also have some interest in world politics. This book is fascinating on the origins of the Jewish people, insofar as one can say there is such a thing, and on the Zionist abuse of history and thence of a multitude of Israeli residents.

The Invention of the Jewish People will be one of my best books of the year.


maaliskuu 19, 2011, 8:34 am

So glad that you found the book as fascinating as I did.

maaliskuu 19, 2011, 2:52 pm

Thank you for bringing me to it.


maaliskuu 21, 2011, 1:17 am

There is much to marvel at in Pride and Prejudice and no petty part of it is just Jane Austen's craft. There is more.

That there are people of merit and cads at various levels of society is made plain by this book, and their motivations vary. That one is constrained by circumstances regardless of one's individuality is made plain by this book. That men and women marry well and ill and for a variety of reasons, beyond affection, is made plain by this book. Et cetera.

Serious readers of novels in English have a duty to read Jane Austen. That duty is turning out to be a real pleasure. My reading of Sense and Sensibility in the first two months of this year hinted at it, but I had a memory of the tedium of this novel just at hand; it turned out not to be tedious. I expect that I will read four more of her novels this year and perhaps some supporting literature besides the apparatus of the annotated novels or the Norton Critical Editions.

I suspect that Portrait of a Lady will be next up, but there are magazines I want to read, thousands of other books including a couple of hundred right now...


maaliskuu 27, 2011, 8:02 pm

The Portrait of a Lady proved appropriate for Women's History Month. I don't know whether it is coincidence that led to the group reading of the book. There are so many strong women in it of varying character and perhaps none of complete success that I suspect as it honors women it reflects reality for most of the world. Life is hard and not uncomplicated even for the fine manipulators of fate.

This novel will be a high point of the quarter and strongly in the running for high point of the year.


maaliskuu 30, 2011, 3:52 pm

I felt honor bound to reread Out Stealing Horses for my book group discussion next week. I strongly seconded another member's nomination of the book, and I had forgotten a good many of the details and some of the order of the story. It stood up well to a rereading.

Also I had just finished The Glass Room when I read it the first time. It felt a little thin after that. On this reading, although it followed The Portrait of a Lady, it had enough impact not to suffer in comparison. It may be that a rereading can be a richer experience.

On to Jane Eyre.


maaliskuu 30, 2011, 4:10 pm

Pride and Prejudice has been a favorite reread for many years. When I was younger, I read it for the romance, but it's so much more than that for me now--though I still love the witty banter, which in my dreams I manage to achieve, but never in real life. Sigh...

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2011, 4:35 pm

I used to do witty banter in drunken reverie but never in dreams. Dreams have been for foreign languages, none of which I am competent in.

I have a feeling that once through Jane Austen will be a real pleasure but that I won't repeat it.


maaliskuu 31, 2011, 8:37 am

I enjoy your comments very much Robert.
Pride and Prejudice is a favourite novel of mine. I love Austen's wit and think she's at her best in this particular novel.
The Glass Room: I was underwhelmed by it. There was much to admire but it somehow fell short of the mark.

maaliskuu 31, 2011, 5:00 pm

I could justify The Glass Room to some extent by looking at the interaction of characters and how they changed or stood their ground in the face of circumstances, but it is true that my appreciation of the novel is much more an emotional one. I had occasion to read the last page many times, including once in front of my book group, and I choked up and shed at least a tear every time. The book is not at hand, so I can't test that right now.

What I'm also saying, then, is that without that emotional reaction the book might not be as important. I don't feel ashamed of my reaction so I suspect that there is a basis for it, but in the end it is an emotional construct.


maaliskuu 31, 2011, 5:24 pm

Well, I'm a totally emotional reader, so I can relate. For years when someone asked me what my favorite book was, I would first think of Ellen Foster which is just a little, and quite simple, book; but every sentence felt so perfect. I think what made the sentences so satisfying was that I had an emotional connection to practically every sentence. Some books can be great writing, but I don't feel that emotional connection. I had the Glass Room on my wishlist last year and I think I'll put it back on again.

maaliskuu 31, 2011, 10:38 pm

#51 I certainly didn't have an emotional reaction to it. Rarely has a book made me shed a tear. The saddest book I've ever read was A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, and a very good novel it was.

huhtikuu 4, 2011, 1:02 am

I had read Jane Eyre recreationally in high school and couldn't remember anything about it except that there seemed to be a disturbing amount of coincidence. With the movie coming out and following my asking an innocent question about a book discussion on LibraryThing, I have come to read the book. There are reasons to think it not great, but I loved it. And, oddly for me, I take its greatest importance to be as a well told love story rather than an exploration of character despite the character of the characters. The level of coincidence worked for me as an old man who has seen the amount of coincidence there is in real life.


huhtikuu 8, 2011, 4:09 pm

"The phallocratic nature of language" or something very similar took an important part in one of the critical essays in the Norton Critical Edition of The Wide Sargasso Sea. Much of the commentary in the book was as devoid of serious meaning as that. The novel proper was only 112 pages (I think) but took me three days to read. It is loved by many people; I am not among them. I found it tedious and not informative regarding the human condition or its inspiration, Jane Eyre. Its conjectures could be matched by anybody, although the reality of the setting in the Caribbean islands might have required some personal familiarity with them.



huhtikuu 18, 2011, 1:11 am

With Hardy and Eliot on my must read before I die list, and Dickens close behind them, with having just read Jane Eyre, and with my participation this year in the 75 Books Challenge Austenathon (having read Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice so far this year, with Mansfield Park on deck) and finding that though I could appreciate all of these 19th century English novels as I am, I might improve my appreciation with some knowledge of the details of the lives of the characters. I have read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool.

There is a lot of information in this book. Some of it has sunk in, and some likely never will (I just used the word scullion about myself as I washed dishes at church), but a good bit of it seems incomplete. Also Mr. Pool has a competent chatty writing style that suffers from some of the solecisms of chat that can be distracting in reading. I will find this book useful, but I wish it had been better.

Meanwhile I have dipped into several books which I hope to continue in but which have set back completion of anything but this. And I have discussions and challenges coming up which require me to dive into others. I don't know what I'll be reading tonight. On offer are The Perennial Philosophy, The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, all of which I've started, a couple of books about Jane Eyre for a current discussion in the 75 Books Challenge and a June discussion at church, 2666 for a current discussion in Le Salon..., and Destiny Disrupted for May discussion at church. I feel a little overwhelmed. And just from the immediacy of it, I would like to read what I brought home Saturday because they are all calling to me.


huhtikuu 18, 2011, 7:06 am

Robert, first things first, old boy. Fix yourself a drink.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2011, 4:20 pm

I had some cranberry-raspberry flavored sparkling water (not quite colorful enough to call soda) and went to bed to read a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology on the attributes of God, a chapter in The Perennial Philosophy claiming to be about God in the world, and the introductory chapter to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. One day soon I'm going to have to start 2666. I got up this morning and fixed myself a drink for breakfast -- it revolves around chocolate milk and protein powder.



huhtikuu 18, 2011, 9:58 pm

Hi Robert - just de-lurking long enough to let you know I'm enjoying your thread. Cheers.

huhtikuu 18, 2011, 11:14 pm

Hi Dan. I don't have much to say.


huhtikuu 19, 2011, 3:32 am

58: Don't be put off by 2666, it's not a 'difficult read' - the prose is quite straight forward. Part IV "The Part About the Murders" can be quite a struggle (simply because of the subject matter).

I'm looking forward to hearing (or seeing, as the case may be) your thoughts as you go through.

huhtikuu 19, 2011, 4:04 pm

I got through to the beating of the cabbie last night. The writing is competent and fairly entertaining, but I don't have a sense of substance yet. I'll keep going.


huhtikuu 21, 2011, 4:48 pm

Lazy reading, lazy copying of my reaction:

Gods' Man by Lynd Ward did not take very long to read. It is a graphic novel that I read, so to speak, because it was there. A closer look at the pictures later on is in order. It is the medium in this case that is important; the narrative would not hold up especially well against verbal novels (yes, excellent writing could belie this), but it supports an emotional engagement with the visual story line.


huhtikuu 24, 2011, 5:09 pm

Just catching up here. Glad you enjoyed Jane Eyre. It's one of my favorites, and I'm almost done with my reread. I have always found it interesting how little the coincidinces bother me.

Unfortunate about Wide Sargasso Sea. I enjoyed it a good deal, but I think you may be onto something with regards to place. The evocativeness of it is what made the book for me; the whole thing feeling like a blanket of humidity is spread over it.

Looking forward to 2666 which I'm going to start this week.

huhtikuu 24, 2011, 11:08 pm

62 - I didn't get much of a sense of substance until Part II, when you start to see how the parts flow together and intertwine. I'm glad Bolano's heirs decided to release it as one book (rather than five per Bolano's instructions), I don't think I would have gone back for Part II after Part I if that had been the case.

toukokuu 1, 2011, 8:44 pm

If the take on Western history in a later part of Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary is good reporting on the Muslim understanding of it, it is okay. If it is the author's take on it, then the whole work is suspect. Nevertheless this felt like a competent survey of how the mess of modern Islam rose out of its origins. I read this book for a church book group discussion coming up on Wednesday; I am reserving my unpolitically correct snark for that discussion.


Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2011, 11:51 pm

Robert - Interesting, I had the opposite reaction. I found his brief pieces on the history of Western Europe as some of the highlights in the book. (I copied some of it out here (see post #169): )

toukokuu 1, 2011, 10:54 pm


If I can find some free time coincident with some energy in the next day or so, I'll try to dig a few of the assertions I objected to out of the book, but I can't guarantee it. I thought, though, as I read it that he might have been giving us European growth as Muslims see it, in which case it could be interesting. I didn't feel, as I read, that my objections were highly interpretive, but they may have been.


toukokuu 1, 2011, 11:55 pm

I would like to read them, but I know finding and copying that out is a pain and takes time. I'll look for posts here.

toukokuu 4, 2011, 4:26 pm

Dan, I haven't forgotten our conversation here, but I have meanwhile finished one of the several books in which I've been reading a chapter, essay, or article at a time.

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre edited by Elsie B. Michie has informed my reading of Jane Eyre, but it did it at the cost of my wading through the muck of styles of criticism developed in the last forty years or so. Gratuitous mentions of Jane's body and phallic this or that wearied me. On the other hand the nature of Jane's character, stamina, rebellion, and compliance was brought forward in some of the articles and gave me means to think about her. This book will not be among my best books of 2011.


toukokuu 5, 2011, 9:30 am

Robert, if you summon the courage to read 2666 I just might join you.

toukokuu 5, 2011, 4:39 pm

I've started it, but I've stalled. You can join a bunch of us over in Le Salon:

I think I'll try to get back to it to finish before mid-month when I've got a commitment to read Mansfield Park.


toukokuu 17, 2011, 4:34 pm

Of every book one can ask, "So what?" I do that most often when the book hasn't let me know, and I am now asking it about 2666 which I finished last night. It has at least one theme, I guess an existentialist one, everything is crap but one can be diverted by passion. To show the crappiness, Roberto Bolano indulges in a lot of sleaze, enough for it to seem gratuitous. Passion is shown not to be rabid but often along the lines of duty or pursuit of what is interesting at hand; I suppose that is an interesting notion.

On to Mansfield Park and I hope back to The Perennial Philosophy and The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology.


toukokuu 18, 2011, 10:06 am

#73 Interesting comments. Elsewhere on Club Read someone has given it a good review. I guess I'll have to decide for myself.

toukokuu 18, 2011, 4:59 pm

Definitely I think you should decide for yourself. Also have a look at the discussion in Le Salon that I linked to above.


toukokuu 19, 2011, 9:23 am

Thanks for the link Robert.

toukokuu 25, 2011, 4:00 pm

I have finished the Norton Critical Edition of Mansfield Park and found considerable merit in both the novel and the commentary. I liked it a lot more than those who rank Jane Austen's novels do, but it is beginning to seem to me that my favorite among them at any time is the novel that I am then closest to.


toukokuu 28, 2011, 4:13 pm

Erich von Daniken's Twilight of the Gods is not just wrong; it is incoherent. I occasionally like to read pseudo-science, a guilty pleasure, to see where speculation can take us. This speculation is alliteratively enough specious and not entertaining. My next foray in this field will be UFO propulsion systems, and I hope they are better.

Meanwhile I am still reading the back of the Norton Critical Edition of Jane Eyre for discussion in my church book group on Wednesday and The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, which I am reading at the rate of several articles a week.


Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2011, 5:08 pm

Robert, I had a year of reading sci fi at school (after which I got it out of my system) but during that year I also read a lot of pseudo science (von Daniken, and also Lyall Watson).

Also some pretty zany cryptozoology. I remember taking it with a pinch of salt, but being tremendously entertained.

kesäkuu 6, 2011, 3:49 pm

Good Book by David Plotz sketches the Old Testament, and he let me know some of what I have missed so far. Plotz draws themes together that a less careful reader (me) would only take fuzzy notice of. He is respectful, even loving, of the work, but in the end comes down not in favor of the Old Testament celestial monarch. I think I can recommend this book to anybody who has an incompletely pursued interest in the Bible.


Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 9, 2011, 4:00 pm

I believe that a large, prosperous middle class correlates with a strong economy in which almost all participants do well and by which the country remains strong. So with that prior agreement I come to Robert Reich's short book Aftershock in which he sees the deliberate class disparity in incomes in the United States as eliminating the middle class and destroying what the people founded or flocked to the country for. Temperate redistribution of income, if done soon enough, will correct things; he lists the modes of redistribution which he suggests in his last couple of chapters. Otherwise our economy is not fixed, and we will all go to hell in a hand basket, although the rich will go last.

The reading of this book was not rich, but I think that it might be good for a lot of people to go through it.

He mentions regulation briefly and in only one or two pet areas. I tend to think that extensive careful and meaningful regulation could do much to straighten out our economy and our national social and natural environment. Now I suppose that the jerks would call me a socialist for that, but I am not interested in much public ownership of corporations, and I believe in regulation rather than direct participation in deals between economic parties. I also say that as someone who spent his adult life in government employ who distrusts a good bit of what governments do because of it -- therefore my emphasis just above.

Finishing that I turned to The Lexicographer's Dilemma, a descriptivist's dismissal of protected standards of speech so far, and think it may be interesting mostly to those people who are interested in it. I think I will enjoy finishing it, but it might not suck in grammar or language haters.


kesäkuu 9, 2011, 3:37 am

Aftershock looks interesting. I am also interested in what you say about being in the governments employment. I spent most of my working life in Local Government in England and it certainly has left me with a jaundiced view of its workings and the politicians I worked for

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 10, 2011, 4:55 pm

We all know our native language and so we all know everything that is important to know about it except maybe a few words that we haven't got around to yet, and the way we do things is good enough for government work. But some folks in England, then in America, from about the seventeenth century on thought we should be told how to do things in English. According to Jack Lynch they were often right or at least temperately contentious. In his The Lexicographer's Dilemma he traces these attitudes of punctiliousness versus norma loquendi from Dryden through Merriam Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language and on.

I knew a bunch of this stuff, sometimes differently shaded, from the desultory reading of my youth. This brought it together and added to it. I think this book should be standard among us lexicon lovers.


kesäkuu 13, 2011, 3:23 pm

I'm lazy and stupid today, so this is just copied over from my 75 books challenge entry:

Siberia is so big perhaps it is hopeless to try to capture its magnitude especially in a book. Its diversity and its internal consistencies might be a little easier to grasp. These latter are better portrayed by Colin Thubron in In Siberia than is the former. A map helps, but where a couple of inches equals eight hundred miles one loses touch with how far it would be to walk, and then, I guess, to walk back. Before railroads, before carriages, before horseback riding, what?

And just why can't people live in the forest and find a living?

This book contained so much information and yet left so many questions I begin to wonder whether this is part of the riddle wrapped up in an enigma that we will never get into.


kesäkuu 19, 2011, 9:53 pm

I did it again -- copied from my 75 books challenge entry:

There is in a good bit of interfaith dialog and in certain giddy new age enthusiasm a claim that at heart all religions are the same or are different paths to the same goal. They are not, and there are a few voices now expressing that they are not. Among those voices is Stephen Prothero's in his book God is Not One. In this book he describes eight current religions with influence in a substantial part of the world. Sadly, although he does make some assertions as to their differences he mostly relies on the fact that their descriptions differ to make his point. He finds that it does us all a disservice to claim that all religions are the same, and thinks, I think, that a meaningful dialog among religions is possible only when we recognize the differences.

I was at an interfaith event yesterday and could not get anybody to talk about this notion. Too many people just want to feel good about being among people who all were able to talk with one another; that turns out to be pretty superficial. Oh, well.


kesäkuu 21, 2011, 4:12 pm

The writing in People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks reminded me of some of the stuff dashed off by 50's science fiction writers. So I tried to ignore it to follow the story and, having done that, wonder if there is something other than the framing story that makes the book coherent. I will probably mostly listen when my church book group discusses this in July.


kesäkuu 21, 2011, 8:42 pm


I thought I was the only one who was less than thrilled with People of the Book. I am relieved to know that I am in excellent company.


kesäkuu 21, 2011, 8:57 pm

I wasn't blown away, either. I did find March an excellent book, however.

kesäkuu 22, 2011, 1:36 am

Robert, thanks for pointing me to your "other" thread. Now it's on my radar screen. ;-)

kesäkuu 23, 2011, 3:17 am

>86 Mr.Durick:

I felt there was nothing to People of the book. The story was a bore, and it was all technique. I suppose I fell for the title, the exquisite cover design and the hype. When I was younger, I would carefully scrutinize books before buying, or even avoid bestsellers out of principle. Now, I so often buy in an impulse...

kesäkuu 23, 2011, 6:34 pm

The Big Short is a two day entertainment on the great crash and robbery of the American public of 2008. There were people who bet against the financiers and complicit government agents and won big. One was John Paulson about whom there is a good enough book in which some of the others are mentioned. In this book a number of others are characterized; it isn't just a recounting of what they did (buy credit default swaps), but a look at who they were. It is not deep, but it is clearly written and informative.


Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 26, 2011, 2:29 pm

Portrait of a Lady may compete with it, but few novels that I have read confront the notion of power in romantic relationships as plainly as Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm. Here, also, is the wit we hope for from English humorists whether he takes on Clio, vanity, or fate. The book may seem light for one of the best of the twentieth century, but there are no faults, that I noticed, in it. Poor Cambridge.


kesäkuu 25, 2011, 8:16 pm

That's an interesting perspective on Portrait of a Lady and Zuleika Dobson. They are so different in tone that it wouldn't have occurred to me that they are both approaches to the same theme. I don't think I have ever laughed as long and hard as I did when I finished Zuleika Dobson. Poor Cambridge indeed!

kesäkuu 26, 2011, 11:59 am

How nice to find a whole group of people who also disliked People of the Book!

kesäkuu 30, 2011, 5:58 pm

The Indus is full of history, and, as Alice Albinia makes clear in Empires of the Indus, something like history is going on there now. With tightening and greater depth this book could be far better, but I don't know that it has any competition; it is good enough for someone who wants the information now in one place. One of the big lessons from the book is how traditional man's inhumanity to man is; another is how reckless humanity has been with what is valuable.


Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2011, 6:30 pm

Here, Daniel led me to this test. And here if I read it correctly are my somewhat approximate results:

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...

Conscientious, Fulfilled, and Spiritual

8 Renaissance, 0 Islamic, 4 Ukiyo-e, -13 Cubist, -18 Abstract and -6 Impressionist!

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence affected literature, philosopy, religion, art, politics, science, and all other aspects of intellectual enquiry. Renaissance artists looked at the human aspect of life in their art. They did not reject religion but tended to look at it in it's purest form to create visions they thought depicted the ideals of religion. Painters of this time had their own style and created works based on morality, religion, and human nature. Many of the paintings depicted what they believed to be the corrupt nature of man.

People that like Renaissance paintings like things that are more challenging. They tend to have a high emotional stability. They also tend to be more concientious then average. They have a basic understanding of human nature and therefore are not easily surprised by anything that people may do. They enjoy life and enjoy living. They are very aware of their own mortality but do not dwell on the end but what they are doing in the present. They enjoy learning, but may tend to be a bit more closed minded to new ideas as they feel that the viewpoint they have has been well researched and considered. These people are more old fashioned and not quite as progressive. They enjoy the finer things in life like comfort, a good meal, and homelife. They tend to be more spiritual or religious by nature. They are open to new aesthetic experiences.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy

Also if I read it correctly, here is a slightly bigger but still approximate picture of my results.

Altogether too often I was forced to choose where I had no preference, and I thought I had selected several cubist works. Oh, well.


heinäkuu 1, 2011, 4:14 pm

The fluency of Ethan Frome is to be marveled at, and there are no gaps in the narrative. The frightful cold of mountainous, winter New England chills as do the relations of its characters. As powerful as that sounds, I don't know what to make of this novel. I'll let it settle knowing that it merits at least subconscious attention.


heinäkuu 4, 2011, 3:58 pm

There are subjects in which one thinks one can opine without knowing the subject, or where knowing a little seems to empower the intellectual right to opine. It often, even generally, turns out that one's authority to opine is desperately limited. I am, having finished The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology last night, in that desperately limited stage in systematic theology. I reckoned into the wee hours on the amount of study it would take just to understand my own faith, and soon enough I was living in a Borgesian library.

Anyway, if someone talks about aspects of systematic theology within my hearing now, I'll be able at least to place it in the discipline and perhaps to place it in my own understanding. This book was fully Christian, and I am not, so I had to read into the chapters what something said might mean to me -- that is I might pay attention to the necessity of making the trinity primary in a Christian theology to see how I might in my own search look for what is primary there.

This is too difficult a book for people without some kind of compulsion or prior understanding. It is mostly narrow in its focus on Christianity. Nevertheless I am convinced that it is rich and that I will benefit from having read it.


heinäkuu 4, 2011, 5:08 pm

Sounds interesting Robert.

In the back of my mind I was sure you were a regular church goer - but how does it come about that you consider yourself not fully christian? Sorry - you have probably annswered this before. But just curious...

heinäkuu 4, 2011, 5:46 pm

I regularly go to a Unitarian-Universalist church. I am not a Christian because I have not been led to a sense of commitment to it as a coherent entity. I believe we should take our wisdom from anywhere we can find it, and my denomination has principles that say we look at the world's religious or wisdom literature in a responsible search for what is true and right. I came to God through the twelve steps which is a non-denominational path. I am likely in the next few months to spend a few Sundays at a Quaker meeting house.

I believe strongly in rationality and sometimes take on anti-Christians who, despite their claims, don't reason well, but you won't find me defending the Trinity or a notion that Jesus was any more godly than many other holy men.


heinäkuu 5, 2011, 1:51 am

It sounds as though you and I are from similar pews, Robert. The difference between us is that I haven't been at a church service since my twenties because I realized I was at least agnostic. I feel some kinship with Melville in this department.

heinäkuu 5, 2011, 7:10 am

>81 Mr.Durick: Robert, I was interested in your comments on the Reich book. I enjoy listening to Reich when he provides commentary or is interviewed, and have read several of his books (in the past). For the most part, he seems to keep his books short and to the point, which I appreciate. I may pass this one by though.

Just catching up. As always, you are doing some interesting reading.

heinäkuu 6, 2011, 4:49 pm

Maybe Absence of Mind is a screed against the completeness of reductionism. The rooting of consciousness in physiology is not sufficient to deny the importance of consciousness as consciousness, and one might do some similar thinking about the soul. Marilyn Robinson's lovely writing and careful concision may have obscured her message. I'm not sure what to make of this book or of its possible importance.


heinäkuu 6, 2011, 8:35 pm

#103 - nice to see your response to this Robinson book. I'm thinking, based on your comments, and despite my appreciation for Robinson as a writer, I shouldn't go out of my way to read this one.

heinäkuu 12, 2011, 5:12 pm

I couldn't keep going after midnight last night, so before I got out of bed this morning I finished the Norton Critical Edition of Emma. The Austenathon discussion of the work starts in three days in the 75 Books in 2011 group. Emma Woodhouse is a curiosity among Jane Austen characters. Austen said that her readers wouldn't like her, and I disliked her at the beginning. She, however, is open to correction. Circumstances drive themselves in this book, and Emma learns that they do, although it seems an irremediable trait of hers that she wants always to be ahead of them. Her learning lets her accept that she is not entirely in charge in the circumstances despite that she might have hopes otherwise.

This is the fourth Austen novel I have read this year. Each time I have finished a book it has been my favorite, and I can remember each one as a favorite. Emma is my current favorite but with recognition that Sense and Sensibility and the others also merited that affirmation.

This Norton Critical Edition was not overburdened by a postmodern imperative to psychoanalytic, marxist, queer, feminist analysis, and most of the contextual and critical supplementation contributed to my reflection on the work as a novel to be read rather than subjected to a reading.

This book is taken by some credible critics to be the best of Austen. It may be. I think, though, that on long reflection I will reckon that I enjoyed the three earlier ones more; time will tell.


heinäkuu 16, 2011, 8:20 pm

Well, I am adding Empires of the Indus to my wishlist, but it may have to wait a bit--it's $99.00 on Amazon!

heinäkuu 18, 2011, 12:50 am

It's $11.58 in trade (textbook) paperback from BN.COM:


Little is known about Jane Austen's life. Her family destroyed the bulk of what documentation there was. From the little that was left, from documentation outside the family, from the history of the times, and from her novels themselves a biographer has to reconstruct the most likely life it seems. Claire Tomalin has done a readable job at that in her Jane Austen: a life. My reading of the novels is better informed for my having read this conjecture, and I am hopeful of being able to bring some of it to our discussion in the Austenathon in the 75 Books in 2011 group.


heinäkuu 18, 2011, 2:35 pm

The trade paperback edition of Empires of the Indus is also available at Amazon. You have to click on the second picture on the LT book page. It is also available for Kindle at $9.32 just FYI. I may have to spring for this. It sounds more interesting now that I've considered it a second time. Thanks!

heinäkuu 29, 2011, 3:50 pm

I've spent a week and a half at The Oxford Handbook of Fascism edited by R. J. B. Bosworth. Fascism is not well-defined and even after six or seven decades of analysis not well-understood. This book did manage, however, to throw a lot of light on the subject. Any of us who think it can't happen again are apparently wrong, and those who think it can't happen here are misguided -- I know, we'll define it away using American exceptionalism to consecrate it. I think that there are things the United States is doing that Fascists have done, but we are not fascist yet; we have to be careful, and perhaps we are not being careful.

Fascism, by the way, is not to the way of thinking of the serious analysts, merely governmental tyranny. Exactly what else makes it fascism varies from analyst to analyst, some firmly writing off what others firmly require -- intense nationalism and autarky are a couple of, or unified, examples.

I actually have some sympathy for fascism, but it is so qualified that you wouldn't see it in anything I would support. I don't believe we should actually hang the capitalists; I think instead that we should regulate capitalism. I wonder whether we will. I'm not for a single party system; I just think that we should bring to trial Republicans and find them guilty. And so forth. I also have some sympathy for anarchy. I am adamantly against violence even as political expression. Mostly I am just conservative (not neo-conservative, tea party, or Republican Party), bleeding heart and somewhat green.

This book is really full of information, and I commend it to anybody interested in the subject.


heinäkuu 29, 2011, 8:27 pm

Actually, fascism is a socialist phenomenon and should not be confused with capitalism in any way. The difference between fascism and communism is that the latter was an international campaign, whereas the fascists were statists. Nazi was short for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, i.e., National Socialist German Worker's Party. It is the progressives who try to paint so-called fascists on the right. They were merely the state version of communism. They are all leftists, when it comes down to it. Hitler and company despised Russian communism because it was competing with it in the international arena. But fascist and communist/socialist values were essentially the same. There was a certain tolerance for capitalist enterprise in Nazi Germany as long as it worked in the government's favor. Similar to what we are seeing in China today. A good recent source on the subject is Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg.

elokuu 3, 2011, 1:00 pm

109 - I like your spread of political sympathies Robert. I see myself as somewhere between a Whig and a nihilist.

110 - interesting viewpoint, Suzanne.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 7, 2011, 11:12 pm

Abigail Adams was mostly but not entirely a good person as she is presented by Woody Holton. There is a ton of surviving correspondence involving her, so this book pretty much does not conjecture. In the center of the swirl that generated the United States of America, she can be a focus for understanding what our country was then and was meant to be.

She was meddlesome at times. She was a little hypocritical about the virtues of the investments that gave her an independent fortune. She supported the Alien and Sedition Acts and some of the arrests made under them by patriots of contrary persuasion.

But is was her country, and she owed a lot to it. She was good to people in substantial ways. She spoke early about feminine equality with masculine discretion.

I was glad to take a few days to read this. My church's book group will discuss it in September.


elokuu 8, 2011, 4:16 pm

Although the book is a little lightweight I stayed up until 2 am to finish The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman. Reading it straight through I was wonderfully excited about the stories, but I'm pretty sure who was who among the very many characters hasn't stuck. This is a series of connected stories of alienation and redemption written in clear, short sentences. It is set in an imaginary land somewhat coincident with the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, and I read it for the Club Read challenge in that regard.


elokuu 11, 2011, 4:08 pm

If anybody reads Meta Math! and gets anything out of it, please let me know. I didn't.


elokuu 16, 2011, 5:55 pm

I was encouraged in fulfilling a reader's duty to read Wuthering Heights by my successful reading of Jane Eyre and some of the writing available about it and about the three sisters. In the back of my Norton Critical Edition of Emily's book there is an ancient review from which I crib:
Such a company we have never seen grouped before; and we hope never to meet with its like again. Heathcliff is a perfect monster, more demon than human. Hindley Earnshaw is a besotted fool, for whom we scarce feel pity; while his son Hareton is at once ignorant and brutish, until, as by the hand of an enchanter, he takes polish in the last scene of the tale, and retires a docile and apt scholar. The two Catherines, mother and daughter, are equally exaggerations, more than questionable in some parts of their procedure, and absurdly unnatural in the leading incidents of their life. Isabella Linton is one of the silliest and most credulous girls that fancy ever painted, and the enduring affection and tenderness of her brother Edgar are so exhibited as to produce the impression of a feeble rather than of a virtuous character. Of the minor personages we need say nothing, save that, with slight exceptions, they are in keeping with their superiors.
And from them an enduring morality tale is crafted. That great horror Heathcliff is the only one of the lot with character. That character is to be despised yet against the insipidness of the others it is on him that my fascination focused. I was ready for him to be gone, but I didn't want to stay among the others beyond satisfying my idle curiosity.

The craft of the book combined fluency with depth that it took some additional reading to plumb. In the end this was a pleasant duty.


elokuu 16, 2011, 6:10 pm

114: Heh. I'll accept this as a challenge, since I have the book. Not sure when though.

elokuu 16, 2011, 6:27 pm

I do hope to see your report when you get around to it. The testimony is there that he discovered something important, but the book lacked a capacity to reveal anything but the author's apparent fat-headedness.


elokuu 22, 2011, 1:07 am

I took up Hav by Jan Morris as soon as I finished Wuthering Heights in part because NYRB Books had been kind enough to send an ARC of it. It is a travel book of an imaginary country. I enjoyed the reading as I read it, but I did not rush to it each evening with enthusiasm I think because it was fictional which leads in a case like this to an existential conundrum, no pun intended.* Ms. Morris says that Hav is an allegory. I could easily see that it spoke of human, geographical, and political truths in ways that good fiction should, but perhaps through dullheadedness (or, kinder to myself, excessive literalness) I could not map from this book to anything in history that I knew about.

The book did, however, meet my expectations. That is, it is a literate travel book of an imaginary country. So I would not recommend against it.



elokuu 22, 2011, 2:35 pm

elokuu 22, 2011, 3:21 pm

Hav sounds interesting. Jan Morris has been on my radar screen forever. Way back when she was James Morris I read Cities (no touchstone) which remains a favorite. Also read Conundrum more recently. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere is also kind of interesting, but it helps I'm sure if you've been there. I haven't and was a bit frustrated by that. Some day . . .

elokuu 22, 2011, 4:46 pm

I really liked Hav, partially because it was fiction. Morris can be condescending when she writes her travel narratives--Hav was a gracious book. Also, being imaginary, I was free to picture Hav however I wanted.

elokuu 22, 2011, 5:01 pm

no matter how many times I watch that dog never gets over the hedge

elokuu 22, 2011, 5:02 pm

I can't stop watching that video. It makes me laugh.

elokuu 22, 2011, 5:34 pm

122/123 - glad I'm not the only one.

elokuu 24, 2011, 4:40 pm

The subtitle of A Truth Universally Acknowledged edited by Susannah Carson promises: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen. Are there 33 great writers? Probably so; probably not these so much. Anyway these writers were for the most part more interested in explaining something that they felt they understood about her novels than about why they were drawn to her. Those few who took on the nature of their attraction were the liveliest. The book nevertheless took me back to those novels of Austen's that I have read and let their take color mine. There is no scene in Jane Austen set among men only. Jane Austen wrote of what interested her in what she knew -- big deal? Well, yeah; we got from that six marvelous novels that are alive about the human lot two hundred years after their conception.


elokuu 27, 2011, 4:07 pm

The Golden Rule: Safe Strategies of Sage Investors edited by Jim Gibbons is a collection of short, easy to read essays and speeches on gold buying, mining, and investing. It is not deep and not likely very interesting to anybody who isn't already interested, but it held my attention for a few days.


elokuu 30, 2011, 5:33 pm

It is too long ago for me to be sure of the sequence of my becoming aware of Diego Garcia. I heard that the Navy had a base there and that only a few plantation owners had been bought out. Feral burros, someone said, were the only remaining fauna. Then I got scheduled to take a load of cargo there and did. A 'BritRep' with a rope for a belt and no patience with sailors ran things -- telling me incorrectly over the radio, for example, that I was at the wrong island because he could not see my approaching C-130. The Sea Bees cooked us breakfast on a flat piece of metal mounted over torches or some such. There were few buildings about although the commanding officer came out and asked for a squadron plaque for his officers' club.

I was scheduled once for another load, but for one reason or another didn't go. The airplane was not really up to the trip, so I was just as glad we didn't go. I've forgotten what happened to the cargo.

I thought it might be good to be assigned there to be something of an on-duty hermit, but I failed promotion to Lieutenant Commander and became a civilian instead.

I long ago spotted Island of Shame by David Vine on BN.COM. From the little I could tell about it I was pretty sure I wanted it and put it on my waiting-for-the-paperback wishlist. It took forever, but I finally got it. I was hoping for the story of what had been built and what was going on there from this "The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia."

What I got was an anthropologically minded history of the displacement of the indigenous population that is the shame of the title. It is a compelling study, and the displacement is a shame. The Navy's complicity in it mounts from the same indifference to anything outside the establishment's greedy needs that got me in my indifference to those needs passed over for promotion. Hundreds of people tranquilly employed were tossed out of their homes without most of their possessions. Their pet dogs were shot, poisoned, and burned. They were given tiny reparation payments years after their displacement. They suffer joblessness, drunkenness, drug addiction, and early death in Martinique and the Seychelles. Bah to the British for doing this; bah to the US for compelling HMG to do it.


Muokkaaja: elokuu 30, 2011, 10:58 pm

Robert, Interesting trivia. This is the first I've heard of the island's existence.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 30, 2011, 10:10 pm

You can get a lot of information about Diego Garcia in the book Outposts by Simon Winchester. It describes the history of some 20-odd islands, and areas, which are remainders of the British colonial empire, scattered around the world.

elokuu 30, 2011, 10:43 pm

Island of Shame goes onto the wishlist.

elokuu 31, 2011, 12:02 am

Daniel, one of the reasons it was picked was that it is out of the way with minimum interest in it. It is not surprising that you haven't heard of it.

Edwin, Simon Winchester is mentioned in the credits. I don't know whether Vine used his book. I'm interested in looking at the Google Earth references and hope to get to them in the next day or so.

qebo, I hope that it interests you. It may pale against African genocide for example, but to know our government's cavalier disrespect for people who are not them is important even if that particular island is not especially in your field of vision.


elokuu 31, 2011, 9:40 am

Cavalier disrespect for people who are not Us is a sadly ubiquitous feature of humanity. I have just about finished reading Unbroken, in which the horrors inflicted by Them feature prominently. It is useful to keep in mind that we are not pure.

elokuu 31, 2011, 4:56 pm

James Hamilton-Paterson invokes T.S. Eliot at the end of Cooking with Fernet Branca, and indeed that may be the way the world ends. It apparently hasn't ended for the protagonist, however, despite his immediate fears; there are at least two more volumes in the comic series, and I plan to get them. I have heard varying judgments of the second volume, but the third volume is held in esteem by credible reviewers.

I want shonka.


syyskuu 5, 2011, 3:52 pm

More on shonka just because I'm not going to say much about the book I finished last night.

I finished UFOs by Leslie Kean last night. I don't trust the author.

As I a pilot I saw two flying objects that were unidentified for awhile. In a bus load of student pilots out in the wilds of some God forsaken state, Florida or Southern California or some such, I saw an iridescent lens like object aloft hovering at length; it finally lost shape and dissipated. South of Guam one morning I saw a bright light at my altitude on a constant bearing (constant bearing threatens collision as a rule of thumb) so I called center and asked about traffic; there wasn't any. I didn't have a navigator aboard to check the almanac, but I reckoned after awhile that it must be Venus and never had a collision.

Anyway, she says we should be investigating UFO's aka UAP's and publicizing the results in the United States. They are there, and we should learn what they are.

I don't think many people have to read this book.


syyskuu 10, 2011, 4:53 pm

I have known the name Anne Boleyn. Now I know Anne Boleyn from Hilary Mantel's point of view. In just about a month I will come to know her from Donizetti's point of view by means of The Met Live in HD. I wonder if I will have a realistic picture of her at all.

Wolf Hall is about the character of Thomas Cromwell and brings along the character of early sixteenth century England and some of its important personages. The narrative structure is first person viewpoint in a third person voice. 'He' without an antecedent is almost always Thomas Cromwell. Reflections on society and recent history are always stuff that are in his memory. This is clever and revealing. We have the intimacy of interior observation but characterized by a sort of independent objectiveness. Cromwell serves himself, his household, and a few people high in his regard, but we see the importance to him from a sort of outside stance and sympathize with him as he puts other people in their place.

I really enjoyed reading this book and hope that there is a sequel.


syyskuu 10, 2011, 5:37 pm

I'm currently reading Wolf Hall, although it is slow going as I am constantly distracted by other books, but I like it very much. I'm not so sure I would want a sequel though, I often find sequels to books like this so disappointing; they never seem as good as the first book.

syyskuu 11, 2011, 3:44 pm

I had the same reaction to Wolf Hall. I wanted to get stuck into the sequel immediately.

syyskuu 20, 2011, 3:55 pm

A diversion while I work towards the end of The Magic Mountain:

It is a box full of Maru, the cat.


syyskuu 22, 2011, 11:31 pm

There is much to be had from studious attention to The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, but because I don't care I won't be paying it that studious attention for the most part. I have read it from the first page to the last, and will keep it by my computer while the people who do care go over it in Le Salon. I may even ask a question from time to time. It is my conclusion, however, that this is one of those nominal classics that the innocent should spare themselves if they are not interested.

Happy to be done with the drudgery I may pick up Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel for relief later tonight, or I may get started in the fifth Austen of the year for discussion in the Austenathon in the 75 Books in 2011 group. I am contented by having those pleasures facing me after the long trek in the Alps.


syyskuu 26, 2011, 2:22 am

It was Essential Dykes to Watch Out For that got the nod. I actually picked up The Oxford Handbook of Free Will to read a chapter and was so inattentive that I got through every word of the chapter without ever finding out what the author was trying to convince me of. Picking up EDTWOF then I got pulled right in by some of the liveliest and most authentic characters I have run into in a long time; these women really want to live the authentic life even when they don't know what that is or have to fake it. They are full of humor and the author is full of humor. The issues are real, but they are made to sit easily within the reader's attention. I am usually quite content to be done with a book, even one I liked. But I want to spend more time among these people.

I have read the introduction to the Norton Critical Edition of Northanger Abbey and will be moving on in that, although I would like to take a look at a few magazines.

syyskuu 30, 2011, 5:08 pm

I have said over in the Austenathon threads in the 75 Books in 2011 group that the Jane Austen novel that I am closest to is my current favorite. Having just finished Northanger Abbey I am, for now, closest to it.

I love sarcasm, and in this one the young author was up front in her entertaining with her wit. Some of it was directed at political matters (the privilege of the rich, perforce against the struggles of the poor; the possibility of riotous strife) which was mostly smoothed over in her later novels. Some of it was directed against the silliness of people serving themselves and pretending to be worldly. She read her writing aloud to her family, and some of this wit may have amounted to jokes in the drawing room. Her gift and craft elevated the jokes, the wit, to real literature, however.

The much vaunted parody of gothic novels actually more deeply compares the gothic novel world view with reality and finds some horrifying similarities, albeit without the grisliness that I understand is attendant in gothic fiction.

I owe a lot to this Norton Critical Edition for exposing me to the depths of Austen's writing in this short book. The novel was special enough just read through, but to see, credibly, what she was up to and how she did it, beyond what I saw for myself, made the accompanying essays important to me. Some Norton Critical Editions seem to miss the mark entirely in their critical apparatus, but this one mostly did a very good job.


syyskuu 30, 2011, 5:34 pm

I've always thought that Northanger Abbey gets overlooked. Yet it's the one that most makes me laugh. Back to lurking ...

lokakuu 2, 2011, 11:36 pm

The puns in Amazing Disgrace by James Hamilton-Paterson go by so slickly that they can be overlooked. There are also not so obvious references (writers not up to the Samper standard take as many as 10½ chapters to write a history of the world). The novel ends up being not so laugh-out-loud funny as Cooking With Fernet Branca. It was pleasant to take in all the cleverness, though, and I'm content with having read it. I wonder how much I missed.

I will be taking on the third volume in the series soon enough, but tonight will tell whether it is next.


lokakuu 3, 2011, 7:04 pm

Well, Rancid Pansies, the third volume in the Cooking With Fernet Branca series, was next. I read two thirds of it last night and the rest of it before I got up this morning. It was more fun than the second volume, still not as laugh out loud as the first volume, but perhaps with more obvious punning and stuff -- I may be guilty of liking ease in my easy reading.

There were laugh out loud moments. I don't like snot jokes so I stay away from South Park. I don't like vomit jokes especially, but the vomit scene in this book had me chortling and gave me that feeling around my eyes that identifies felt laughter. There were a few other scenes that had me chuckle at least.

I have Chelsea Handler's latest paperback to read, but I may be overdosing on sweets and need for awhile something with more serious intent, history or a morose novel. We'll see.


lokakuu 4, 2011, 10:14 am

I have, quite mysteriously, acquired a copy of Cooking with Fernet Branca. Thank you for letting me know why--I'll remember it as a book to read when I want something witty.

lokakuu 5, 2011, 3:08 pm

Back to Hilary Mantel - she was recently interviewed on a BBC programme. I missed it but caught a couple of excerpts. She explained she always had doubts about the physical world - whenever she touches a wall, for instance, she is never sure whether her hand might not be about to go right through it.

I also remember an article in the Guardian over here, looking at famous people picking their picture of the year. HM picked a photo of the torso of someone in a white laboratory coat carrying a frightened monkey. she said in 50 years time we would look back on such activity in disbelief 'they still did that in 2010?'.

These and similar statements make her stand out from the crowd in my opinion. I have yet to read any of her books, but I think she has to be seen as a visionary, she sees ahead of most people, and attacks things from a different angle.

I'm n ot sure if this is accessible outside the UK, b ut this is the excerpt:

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 5, 2011, 3:52 pm

There is a black band across the picture with 'Not available in your area' printed on it in white when I try to bring it up. Thank you for the effort. I should probably Google her today; our church book group discussion on Wolf Hall is tonight. I've heard already from some of them -- a few like it as much as I do, and a few more think it's a tedious waste of time.


PS I have discovered that the first transmission of Anna Bolena has been descheduled here in favor of a local film festival. The second showing will be when our book group meets next. So I guess I'll miss it. It is set much later in the marriage than Wolf Hall is, so it has little direct reference, but I wanted to build some sort of personal image of her.


lokakuu 6, 2011, 6:19 pm

How we behave when our subconscious takes over is fascinating. I have been particularly interested in how we behave when we are compelled by an addiction and in how we behave when we have learned something so well that we no longer think about it as we do it. On Second Thought by Wray Herbert talks mostly about the behaviors we have inherited genetically and gives scant reports on specific behaviors under the names of the psychologists who have researched the matters. He mentions addiction and gives hints about what we can learn to do automatically ('you cannot think and bat at the same time'), but he does not get into them. Only a few times and then only barely he gets into the subject which is the subtitle of the book: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits.

Wray Herbert is not a very lively writer, and this book was a lot duller than it should have been even with the shortcomings I have mentioned.


lokakuu 7, 2011, 10:58 am

148: Too bad. What makes us human is a thin veneer over eons of evolution, and that's kind of a problem sometimes.

Re Meta Math!, I gave it a try, briefly, and was immediately irritated by the words emphasized in bold where they would be in emotive speech, but not where they would be useful for the reader seeking important terminology, and the excessive! use of exclamation!! marks!!! It's still in my TBR pile, but it's moving downward.

I finally got around to reviewing Reinventing the Sacred, which you had expressed interest in awhile back.

lokakuu 7, 2011, 5:14 pm

Thank you. I may have to reread Reinventing the Sacred. I have read a lot more on emergence, and a number of other things, since I first read it, and I suspect that he has important stuff to say that I just didn't get the first time around.

I don't encourage you to take up Meta Math!, only to report on it if you do.


lokakuu 10, 2011, 6:46 pm

The Booker Prize winning The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson is sometimes blurbed as being funny. I saw one funny thing in it. Treslove would just as soon not invite Finkler to a party because he didn't especially like him, but he was an old friend so he had to. There are some subtle references: there is a line from Paradise Lost in it, for example; that can be intriguing.

The book can absorb one if one lets it; I did. It pretty much makes the case that we need The Guide for the Perplexed. I wish I knew where my copy was. I do have an unread life of Maimonides near my pillow, and I could read that.

The book also reopens the notion that a philosemite is an antisemite who loves Jews for consideration.

I am looking forward to discussing this in my Church book group's December meeting.


lokakuu 11, 2011, 8:15 am

I read Meta Math several years ago. I sensed that the content was significant, but I could not make head or tail of it. I think this is a specialized book for mathematicians and computer scientists, but has been marketed to those who are not. For some reason. I recall the author had various interesting side observations along the way but I do not remember what they were.

lokakuu 11, 2011, 5:20 pm

Dreaming in Chinese took me less than a day to read; the most important thing I got out of it was that I shouldn't have bothered reading it. The central notion of the book is language; I was astounded to read in the text that the author had studied linguistics as a graduate student and later in the description of the author that she has a PhD in linguistics. I think maybe she has the idea that a book for the masses doesn't need to be written carefully.

We learn from this book that Chinese popular culture is different from other popular cultures in the ways that popular cultures typically differ. We learn that Chinese is a difficult language for foreigners, especially foreigners with non-tonal native languages, to learn and that it differs from other languages in ways like other languages differ from other languages, although some not so much. We learn that we won't understand it without studying it. There are a few examples. I gave the book a full star because there are a few examples.

Don't bother with this book. I think that Oracle Bones with a slightly different center of gravity might be more productive.


lokakuu 11, 2011, 6:13 pm

Alright, already! Off of the wishlist, it comes.

lokakuu 11, 2011, 7:10 pm

153: Ouch! I read it earlier this year, because James Fallows plugged it on his blog. I wasn't expecting linguistic depth, was hoping for more of a memoir. My impression is it was something of a side project, maybe a way to be a good sport when her husband's job took her to China. My sister-in-law, who lived in Taiwan for a year, said even the chapter titles resonated.

lokakuu 12, 2011, 9:19 am

>153 Mr.Durick: Ouch. I won't read my copy of Dreaming in Chinese any time soon.

lokakuu 15, 2011, 10:13 am

Told you so... Dreaming in Chinese is extremely shallow.

I hadn't looked carefully when I requested the book though BM, and it was a domestic mooch.

I gave it 2 stars for the value as a travel memoir. Perhaps that's what the author had in mind, and her editors, aware of her PhD in Linguistics, steered it toward (more) language. A bad brew.

lokakuu 16, 2011, 10:23 pm

Well, I got serious about China, although not so serious as to master the immense detail, with The Pattern of the Chinese Past by Mark Elvin. In three sections he takes on three big questions about the two millenia of China. He addresses no trivialities. "Why did the Chinese Empire stay together when the Roman Empire, and every other empire of antiquity of the middle ages, ultimately collapsed? What were the causes of the medieval revolution which made the Chinese economy after about 1100 the most advanced in the world? And why did China after about 1350 fail to maintain her earlier pace of technological advance while still, in many respects, advancing economically?"

The first section was too dense for me to get it, except that there were people and regimes who made it so. There were powerful people who profited from a large China.

There were people who profited from the medieval advances, and there was a need to feed an already large population. Certain educated people were in positions to think about important questions, and developments were revealed and disseminated.

Many reasons for the failure to advance technically have been proposed by specialists. Elvin seems to think that the main reason was that marginal improvements were too expensive to be sought for in a fairly advanced age of productivity with limited natural resources at hand.

I can see why this book was recommended to me, wherever it was that I saw it recommended. It is detailed to an extent that one had to set aside a lot of what one reads if one wants to read it as a narrative -- that would be me. So I can recommend it, but with that 'beware.'

I may go for easy when I pick up another book tonight. I have Chelsea Handler's latest paperback waiting for me.


lokakuu 17, 2011, 4:59 pm

I read Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and got a kick out of it. So I read My Horizontal Life and wasn't so entertained. Just a little bit back when Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang came out in paper I picked it up. I read it last night. I laughed a few times. I reckoned that was likely the last book by Chelsea Handler that I would read, and she has enough money not to need my support.


lokakuu 20, 2011, 10:59 pm

Once upon a time I bought a few gold coins as a hedge against catastrophe and because I like gold. I have wondered whether gold might rather have a more routine but important role in our finances, and more recently I have wondered whether there might be any realistic possibility of the dollar's being backed by a fixed amount of gold. Gold, the once and future money by Nathan Lewis discusses that and shows, if his interpretations are correct, that soft money (not gold backed or otherwise fixed in relationship to something else fixed) and high taxes ruin economies.

The first chapter or so of this book was sufficiently puerile as to be tedious, but the reckoning that followed held considerable interest. I don't think that the book answers all the questions it brings up (I have others on the shelf that I still intend to turn to), but it sure addresses a lot of things that are important to all of us who are paid in, have, or spend money.


lokakuu 21, 2011, 3:20 pm

I read something by David Sedaris once upon a time, maybe Me Talk Pretty One Day. There was some entertainment value in it, although I wasn't as entertained as some in our church book group. So Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk got good press and looked pretty good. I waited for the paperback and ordered it when I was already placing an order. I read straight through it and didn't find any biting wisdom or laugh aloud humor; in fact I didn't find anything to remember.


lokakuu 24, 2011, 5:23 pm

I am on a committee at my Unitarian Universalist church that is facilitating the development of a new mission statement for the church at a time when we have just for the first time in about sixteen years taken on a new settled minister. Among the congregation are folks who would like our church to be bigger in membership, attendance, and character. Robert Latham, known to LibraryThing as Robert T. Latham has written a book on moving from a 'pastoral' congregation of up to 175 Sunday attendees to a 'program' congregation of more than 175 Sunday attendees (there are actually important outliers) that stresses the importance of an accepted mission, Moving on from Church Folly Lane. I have met the Reverend Latham, seen him interact with a small group (our committee), and discuss his views with a large group (a Sunday service). I bought two of his books when I met him. The other night the minister coaxed a couple of us to read this book. I have.

The task is impossible. I despair.

Our church already has some of the political characteristics of a bigger congregation along the lines that he proposes in his book, but because we are not that big we don't have the resources that he says we should put into it. He is also not clear about distinguishing between hopes and reality. He says that if we have a compelling mission we can't help but grow. He doesn't allow for a credible congregation that may want to retain small service warmth. If we don't build a bigger church so as to be inviting to a bigger Sunday attendance we are not being true to the mission we would have if we were a bigger church. Without that mission we cannot attract the bigger Sunday attendance to fill those seats the we would have if we were true to that mission. Augh!

The mission is to come from the congregation, but led carefully by the powers of the church. There should be an endless deliberation in workshops to see that the congregation gets to develop the mission, but the powers must constrain the congregation so that they make it a genuine mission and a genuinely religious mission, and all that in a faith without creed. I have seen this congregation deliberate on what they want from the church; they lie; they have special interests; and so forth.

We would do best to declare the church as a Sunday morning social club for liberals. I am an old man and naturally conservative; how would I fit into that?


I think that I will go now to read the review that is posted on LibraryThing about this book.


lokakuu 26, 2011, 12:55 pm

162: How do you fit into that now?

lokakuu 26, 2011, 5:00 pm

I don't understand your question. Maybe it's the antecedent of 'that' that I don't follow. Ask on.


lokakuu 26, 2011, 5:45 pm

162: I am an old man and naturally conservative; how would I fit into that?
163: How do you fit into that now?

lokakuu 26, 2011, 6:15 pm

Gotcha! I actually have some experience fitting into that, so my question may have presupposed an innocence that I don't actually have. The Sunday morning club that we have now claims, by way of surveys, that it wants intellectual stimulation. It lies, but the producers and directors sometimes try to cater to that notion; I pay attention then (I know about the lying from the reactions I get from people otherwise willing to converse who have no opinion on what has been said in the service). I am actually socially more liberal than anti-miscegenationists but more conservative than those who think children screaming at a solemn occasion are engaging in necessarily permitted expression.

I fit in by temperance, toleration, protest, peripheral activity, and finding my place among congenial congregants. My temperance includes leaning on those things that I do agree with. I have given up on pursuing much that is transcendent in my church environment (I might expect some of the notions broached by Ralph Waldo Emerson to come up, but they don't), but I can look for what is immanently spiritual, for example social service.

I am a religious person but neither a Christian nor a Buddhist, the biggest institutional alternatives in my area. I have given some thought to looking into the Quakers. I could turn to, and often enough on other days of the week do, a twelve step program. I also keep in reserve the possibility of an entirely independent religious practice which might express itself on Sundays in day hikes.

I think I asked my question because from my experience and reflection I want more than and other than a Sunday morning liberal club.

Thank you for bringing up the question. It is important for me to reflect on these things and probably to keep what I say true to who I am.


lokakuu 27, 2011, 2:17 pm

Thanks. That's an interesting answer. I ask in part because your situation intrigued me, and in part because I'm becoming inclined toward attending the local UU church, and although a Sunday morning social club for liberals might be more compatible for me than it is for you, I'd also expect... something... more. Your ways of fitting in seem to me about as much as I would hope for, actually. I have a similar (though maybe diluted) dilemma: glimmers of religious inclinations but not Christian, and averse to converting to something with a label. I attended Quaker meetings for a few years, in other cities, so can respond to your thought: surely worthwhile to look into alternatives, but you'll get even more "endless deliberation", possibly less "immanently spiritual ... social service" at the level of the congregation (though there is AFSC), and then there are the meetings themselves -- some people find them meditative, but I kept wanting to pull out a book to read.

I'm curious: what are examples of "intellectual stimulation" that people have no opinion about?

lokakuu 27, 2011, 4:45 pm

The biggest thing that keeps me going to church is the community I have found there and my relating to it through a part of it. So for example I was at a potluck last night followed by a game (speed scrabble) in which we all know each other well enough to joke with and about one another, and we know the church so that we can talk about what's going on there beyond the official line (some of which amounts to gossip). I am a member of the book group; some say that it's my book group, but I say that it's Molly's. I show up for many of the special events, memorial services, dinners. I wash the dishes for a lot of the events. I participate in the bimonthly or so work parties. I am a part of it.

I cannot cite you a specific example right now of the sermons I have tried to pursue during coffee hour. I have, however, several times over asked a question like "Don't you thing so and so was a contradiction?" and received a response like "Oh, I just kinda like to get the general drift." I have mental photographs of doing that with both men and women. Adult religious education when it occurs is sparsely attended although I would say that those who do attend are very enthusiastic -- we had one retired school principal, very cranky atheist, who loved our Old Testament discussions.

I also understand the Unitarian Universalist churches vary across the country. Each is its own and furthermore one goes from Congregationalist like churches on the east coast to secular humanist societies in the west. So the proof of that pudding would be in the attending.


lokakuu 28, 2011, 6:20 pm

lokakuu 30, 2011, 6:23 pm

too adorable

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 4, 2011, 6:16 pm

I have a new appreciation for bildung and a new friend in innerlichkeit, the genius and demon of German intellectualism and art, from the book The German Genius by Peter Watson. This 850 page book is thick with names that can't all be mastered in one reading, and for the most part they are justified in the text. It would be churlish to discredit such a heavy book for its occasional solecisms and misunderstandings. The Germans thought well and hard about a lot of things. Too often, perhaps, they kept their thought and thence their art separate from politics. There was the horrible moral lapse in the first half of the twentieth century. Germans are still trying to come to terms with that lapse or to separate it, as before, from their thought.

There was a lot to this book, and it could be read as a narrative. It may not be for everybody given its focus, density, and length, but anybody who read it would profit form it.


Muokkaaja: marraskuu 7, 2011, 3:07 pm

How It Ends by Chris Impey is on one of my favorite subjects, the doomed world. He is an academic astronomer; perhaps that explains his gross failures in writing. The chief failure is that despite all the interesting stuff here, the load of crap takes a lot of shoveling just get back to neutral. Add to that illustrations (figures, graphs, charts) that do not illustrate seemingly scattered in just to be decorative. I read details here that I hadn't seen elsewhere and that I am glad to know, but overall the book is a failure.

Compare it to Martin Rees's Our Final Hour or even Death From the Skies by Philip Plait, and you'll see what a failure it is.

I tried to follow that up with Robert Durling's Paradiso (this is a link; I could not readily find a touchstone). I got through the introduction, Canto 1, and its notes and was worn out. I might pick up something else.


marraskuu 13, 2011, 4:17 pm

I picked up Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. It is a self absorbed depiction of the vastness of Siberia. As America goes to hell in a handbasket carried by the minions of the privileged classes, Russia seems more wretched still, by a long shot. One might think that an independent life in a northern forest would be ideal for the harmless, solitary human being, but it sounds like a bad place to be except for the most avid survivalist. Still Siberia's appeal as a place of the imagination remains; as a younger person I would have gone there for awhile had things been different -- I suppose.


marraskuu 17, 2011, 3:38 pm

To wrap up the Austenathon in the 75 Books in 2011 group I have finished Persuasion by Jane Austen CURSE THE TOUCHSTONES and The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. I am happy to be among those readers who have read all of her adult novels. This latest one was a twist for her in showing a solitary heroine who had to learn romanticism from a basis in prudence. It had all of the splendor of Ms. Austen's right assembly of words.

The book of criticism was a little slim.

I have yet to read her uncompleted works (Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon) but suspect that they will come soon.


marraskuu 21, 2011, 4:29 pm

A Splendid Exchange by William J. Bernstein is a readable and informative history of trade from 3000 BC Sumer through contemporary transglobalism. It seems to be well balanced regarding such hot topics as free trade. It is interesting revealing even such arcana as the trading power of different hull shapes. And it is a chapter in the longer story of man's inhumanity to man.


marraskuu 25, 2011, 4:02 pm

Marcelo Gleiser is a Dartmouth professor of Natural Philosophy and other stuff. In A Tear at the Edge of Creation he has written an introductory work of cosmology that has too many gaps in its simplification to be reliable as an introduction. He also aims to show that the search for a unified theory of the cosmos may be a lost cause, and he claims that the desire to find that theory may arise from the same brain processes that make us search for a monotheistic providence in the universe. This is actually a pretty good book, but it has to be read with care because of some of his carelessness.



marraskuu 27, 2011, 6:41 pm

The Quants by Scott Patterson is about the role of the mathematical geniuses in the financial world in the destruction of the economy. Most of them came through it with fortunes that you or I would live exciting lives on for the rest of our lives, but sour pusses that they were they felt bloodied. This is an exciting book, but it should not be taken as a complete picture of what went wrong. I would like to have several billion dollars, but I am coming to have less and less sympathy with rich people. There were people betting fortunes at poker that would keep a family for more than a year. This was not money that was used to make jobs either through investment (even in bank accounts) or through spending.


Muokkaaja: marraskuu 29, 2011, 5:41 pm

Bruce Chatwin reflected on his researches in Africa and visits to a few other places in a frame of the Australian outback and called it The Songlines. I suspect that he was more of an interesting person than an interesting writer. It is only a suspicion because this is the only book of his that I have read; many like it though, so it must have some heft among his works. I am not saying that I dislike the work; it was pleasant. To know the outback I will have to read more and perhaps look at pictures; I don't feel that he has taken me there. His vignettes of the people seem to skim over people who otherwise may have some depth.

Oh well.


marraskuu 29, 2011, 5:10 pm

Interesting response to Songlines. I understand your need to look elsewhere to understand Australia...the book wasn't really about Australia, IMO. I'm thinking about it now, though, as I prepare for the OT read. I'm wondering where these biblical stories originated and if there is a connection to the ideas in Songlines.

joulukuu 11, 2011, 2:12 pm

When the important Jews were shuffled off to Babylon a writer-editor invented second temple Judahism (the h is on purpose) which flourished from the return sponsored by Cyrus until the Hasmonean dynasty. New ideas were constantly introduced to common attention -- resurrection for one. That religion centered on an icon, the temple at Jerusalem. When it was razed there were two responses to it that led to lasting faith communities -- the Jesus faith and Rabbinical Judaism.

The first nine books of the Tanakh took the Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem; they are a different nine books than the first nine of the Christian Old Testament (nine is what I remember sitting downstairs with the book upstairs); it is a matter of reordering not of replacement (although the Pentateuch stayed in order and became central as the works of Moses). There are intertestamental books from the late second temple history like the stories of the Maccabees. In the first century of the common era Paul wrote letters before the the razing of the temple and others wrote other books of the New Testament after it, possibly to preserve lore that would be lost without writing it down. The Pharisees thought long and hard and came up with the notion of the Oral Torah and tried to capture it in the Mishnah; rabbis commented on that and developed the two Talmuds culminating in the Bavli in the very late fifth century to very early seventh century. There were other rabbinical works that fed the spirit of the times.

That world went from a temple on a hill to a temple within us. The commonplaces could not be kept only in the heart; they had to be preserved.

And there is so much more.

It took me just shy of two weeks to read the 600 or so pages of Surpassing Wonder by Donald Harman Akenson, an historian who has looked in this book at the development of all of these tracts with an historian's eyes. The detailed contents of the tracts are not the focus here, but the general things that people developing new religions were doing came under the lens. There's a lot in this book and it is readable if possibly slow going.


joulukuu 11, 2011, 2:37 pm

On the wishlist.

joulukuu 11, 2011, 2:52 pm

Dan, I've been thinking of you as I read this. You are about to read the Pentateuch, the books of Moses. Akenson asserts that the first nine books (and I can confirm that number if you need it) of the Tanakh (not of the Old Testament) are actually the unit that matters with respect to the building and ensuing religion of the second temple. I have not read straight through either; in fact my Old Testament reading is spotty, but it sounds like it could be an interesting exercise with some long, dry spots.


joulukuu 11, 2011, 3:50 pm

I plan to keep going through the entire OT, and then the NT and then, perhaps, the Koran, so I'll certainly cover all nine, I'll just have to use something other than Alter. (Not sure how this will go, or how I'll handle the long dry spots. I'm hoping, like Spenser, it will pick up a momentum of its own.)

Nine would add Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, but exclude 1 & 2 Kings. Not sure why the break. I haven't memorized what I read, but David seems to mark the break from myth to some historical accuracy. In other words, from Salomon on the authors had access to some kind of chronicles. But, I don't know which book(s) covers David.

joulukuu 11, 2011, 5:35 pm

I dug out the book and dug out the first reference, I think, to those nine books. Samuel and Kings were divided into two parts later. He lists the books:


which is your list adjusted for the integrity of those books divided later. He says:
These nine books are a unity. They take the story of the covenant -- the interaction of Yahweh and the Chosen People -- from the creation of the earth down to the 560s [sic] BCE, when after thirty years as a prisoner in the equivalent of a gilded cage in Babylon, Jehoiachin, former king of Judah was set free...That is an end to an historical chronicle written by someone who had hope, but who had no idea of what the next chapter of the Chosen People's history would contain.
Akenson holds to that through the rest of the book.

I may have to find a Bible hereabouts and read those books in sequence.


joulukuu 11, 2011, 5:49 pm

Ok, that makes more sense. That is the TaNa of the TaNaKh :)

joulukuu 13, 2011, 2:29 pm

I got in a cosmological frame of mind and read The Book of Universes by John D. Barrow. The book is about the shape of the universe and the shapes of possible other universes. It is also about the study of that shape and those shapes over the years. I cannot readily summarize the book, but it was comfortable enough to read in two days and full enough of information that I thought I would force it on a friend.

It gives some references to those who make the credible claim that it is most likely we live in a simulation. I will have to have a look at those, but apparently one philosophical conclusion in the matter is that if you believe you live in a simulation you should live for the day.


joulukuu 18, 2011, 1:53 pm

Word lists can be fascinating, and the word lists of The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World by J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams bore the attention I paid them. Because most of the book is paragraphed and annotated word lists (with lots of abbreviations, parentheses, and brackets) it didn't bear actually reading for the most part, although what I could read straight through I did read straight through.

We can't know closer to 4500 BC to 2500 BC when the proto-indo-europeans were a single coherent group, nor can we know where their homeland was. We can know that authority had a small vocabulary, and that there were wheels and agricultural implements.

I respect this book, but it is a reference more than a history (or quasi-history of a prehistoric society). I cannot recommend it for straightforward reading.


joulukuu 18, 2011, 6:52 pm

Hi Robert,

My LT has lain dormant for more than a month and I'm just now trying to catch up with some of the threads I've been enjoying this year – yours included. You have been reading some very interesting books in the interim. Sadly, my own list of books to be read is so long, I hesitate to add anything else at the moment, but I have at least starred this thread for future regrazing. The Book of Universes particularly got my attention. The idea that we're living in a simulation is about as good a guess as any of the others I've heard. It is certainly imaginative and makes me want to know more. Maybe I will add that to the want list.

joulukuu 18, 2011, 7:09 pm

The book is about a lot more than that, however, so don't expect too much on that subject.

I'm glad to see you back.


joulukuu 21, 2011, 1:56 pm

How to Live by Sarah Bakewell puts Michel de Montaigne in a setting and admires him. 500 years later our affection for cats seems to be roughly the same. It is easiest to philosophize when one has power, position, and prestige. This is a pleasant book.


joulukuu 21, 2011, 3:37 pm

I, too, enjoyed How to Live. Would really like to find time now to curl up with Montaigne. Hopefully, next year . . .

joulukuu 21, 2011, 5:08 pm

Montaigne is on my list for next years reading, glad you both liked this book.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 5:56 pm

190,191,192: You might be interested in this thread in the 75 books group: Montaigne's Essays, one at a time.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 7:18 pm

Thanks qebo

joulukuu 22, 2011, 3:28 pm

I think that I should follow that thread. I may never actually read the essays although I have them here somewhere. Bakewell has provided the excuse -- we don't know what the proper edition is.


joulukuu 23, 2011, 2:43 pm

I have not read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I saw the Swedish film of it, then rushed upstairs to Barny Noble's to buy The Girl Who Played With Fire. I read most of that in one reading. I wasn't ready to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in hardcover, but I was able to get it in trade paperback from The Book Depository. I read most of it in one reading. I may yet read the first volume and reread the others.

Coincidental with this week's release of the American film of the first volume, the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy appeared on store shelves. I have read it. It is lightweight and not exciting on its own account, but it has taken me back into the excitement of the story reading that took charge of my attention in the first place. The authors of the articles are not afraid to invoke Aristotle and Kant. They don't only do that; they look at whether we can use the trilogy as literature, for example.

I am happy enough having read this book that I wish that The Psychology of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is winging its way to me now, were here already.


joulukuu 23, 2011, 3:32 pm

I haven't actually been to a movie in years. The trailers of the movie look intriguing. Hope it comes on Pay-per-View pretty soon.

joulukuu 23, 2011, 3:35 pm

I am a little obsessive about movies. If you have to choose one and you can, see the Swedish one. The American version was competent, but I was excited by it, maybe enthralled, as I was with the Swedish version.


joulukuu 25, 2011, 9:27 am

Happy Holidays!

joulukuu 25, 2011, 2:05 pm

Merry Christmas, qebo.


tammikuu 1, 2012, 9:20 pm

In 2012 I will be here. I will probably finish the book I am reading, The Novel, tomorrow or Tuesday, and I'll make an entry shortly after that.

Merry 2012,