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Member: WilfGehlen

CollectionsYour library (354), To read (4), All collections (354)

Reviews28 reviews

Tagssci-fi (33), hayden-lib (26), phil-lit (24), am-lit (15), brit-lit (14), russkii-lit (13), phil (13), euro-lit (13), pop-sci (13), lit-crit (12) — see all tags

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Recommendations6 recommendations

About meI seem to be a reader of genre fiction series, looking at the books on my electronic and pine shelves. Clusters are science fiction and spy novels. Commonality is the ease of immersion into the worlds of Frodo, Richard Seaton, Kim Kinnison, and George Smiley. Haven't bathed in these waters for a while, though.

Having had some time to myself recently, I started a journey through philosophy and literature, with no formal syllabus, one book suggesting the next. I found that writing provides me with the necessary focus for critical reading, so I created a blog to record my travels.

I try to keep in mind the dictum: without entropy, life itself would be impossible, so manage it responsibly. That is, live on the edge between chaos and stasis, live fractally until you fill up all the whitespace in your life. I have yet to integrate all these concepts, so for now I resort to Camus, who writes, "but the point is to live" and "the present and the succession of presents before a constantly conscious soul is the ideal of the absurd man" and "the absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter end and deplete himself."

"Non, je ne regrette rien."

Remember, mathematics is dominated by the irrational. Two plus two is four occupies only a small corner.

About my libraryBooks in my LT library are either on my shelf or have passed through my hands and are now sitting on a remote shelf. The latter are tagged with -lib. All have touched me in some, not necessarily profound, way.

GroupsA Pearl of Wisdom and Enlightenment, Author Theme Reads, Awful Lit., Beauty would save the world, Books Compared, Books that made me think, Club Read 2009, Existentialism, Fans of Russian authors, Group Reads - Literatureshow all groups

Favorite authorsAlbert Camus, Anton Chekhov, Herman Melville, Richard Benson Sewall, William Shakespeare, E. E. Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, Lao Tzu (Shared favorites)


Favorite bookstoresBook Ends, Harvard Book Store, McIntyre and Moore Booksellers, MIT Coop, New England Mobile Book Fair, Porter Square Books, Prospero's Books, Quantum Bookseller Services, The Book Rack: Arlington, MA, The Harvard Coop

Also onblogspot, IMDB

Membership LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway

LocationCambridge MA USA

Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/WilfGehlen (profile)
/catalog/WilfGehlen (library)

Member sinceNov 25, 2008

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Hi, Wilf - loved your comparison of Ode on a Grecian Urn and Slaughterhouse Five at Books Compared. I've been busy and have not been checking in at LT very often - it was a nice surprise to find this comparison. I've added a response.
Hi Wilf, I notice you're an R. Crumb fan - did you know he just published a comic book form of the Book of Genesis? My father (who actually knows Robert Crumb personally, yes I am a name dropper) just got it in the mail and is raving about how good it is, saying it's not really a spoof, and it is playing the story rather close to how the Bible describes it.
Thanks, Wilf. I did see your post, and I agree with you about Margarita being courageous, in multiple ways - acting on her beliefs and compassion, following what she loves, believing in a work of art, running off with the devil on a chance of word about her lover.
Wilf, it is you who is right !

I found it out when trying to understand the deeper meaning of the Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.
The biggest error one can make in understanding this great book is to read it in terms of Mann's own publicized toughts and actions.
I wanted to tell you something about M&M but I don't know at what page you are.
Don't want to spoil anything : )
Glad to have you back man!

I'm thoroughly enjoying M&M! I read it first about 25 years ago (gulp) but it didn't make that much of an impact on me as it has now.
did you put a link somewhere to your review?
Wilf, are you there? You've been inactive for a while. I hope everything is ok with you, and that you will be able to join us for the M&M group read. We are all counting on you.

Hi Wilf,

I have to agree with your take on Bloom. I really fell for him during my trip through Dublin with him! A truly generous soul.
I wasn't aware of the Albertus Magnus/Victor Frankenstein connection, but your query put me in mind of the mincing Dr. Praetorius's homunculi in the film "Bride of Frankenstein", which put me in mind of Sven Delblanc's book Homunculus, which is a 1960's update of the theme. There is a nice organic quality in the Argol book, which just now made me wonder if Heine might not be a material emanation of Albert and Herminien's collective intellect. Nah, probably not.

Sorry to say that I have never read Les Miserables, but I have a really nice old collected editon of works of Hugo, with nice illustrations, including the iconic image of Cosette, the waif with the broom who reminds me of a girl I knew in college. As you can see, I have a bit of a problem with associative thinking. No wonder I never get anything done.
Hi Wilf,

I absolutely HATED Born Yesterday. Aside from the acting conducted at fortissimo yelling for most of it, I found Kanin so didactic and obvious I could not stand it. (Animal Farm: Four legs good, two legs bad. Kanin: Democracy good, corruption bad. Fine in Orwell's hands, less so in Kanin's.) If it had been a TV show, I would have turned it off well before halfway point, but having paid for expensive tickets I sat through it. On the other hand the production of Moon for the Misbegotten was spectacular. Jenny Young's performance ranks in my top three of all time, and I have seen powerhouse acting all over the world. She had me crying in the last scenes and that does NOT happen lightly. If you have not seen it, I would most highly recommend it.

I am confused now about MM. Are you suggesting that there will be a discussion BOTH in Group Read and Brent's group? Different audiences presumably? I must confess I have only come to Brent in the last week through Murr's misadventures and have no idea who his audience is. Are you going to take part in both? Should I join Brent's Gang, too, just to see different perspectives? I am a little trepidatious about MM. I have been reading a lot of positive comments about it but at the same time am not sure about too much doom and gloom in my life. I was planning to be reading a lot of Dostoevsky over the past 12 months, and bailed on my group early since it was too bleak for me and the humour which others saw I was missing. I hope that will not be the case with MM.
Hi Wilf,

it's out there. just give it some thought. I'm a bit handicapped having not read Melville (well, except Bartleby in high school) or Camus...or the vast majority of classics for that matter. :)

You have some wonderful and carefully constructed ideas. The way you analyze works is very different from how I've typically done so myself. I'm actually pretty simple, and mostly just get a storytelling experience out of the reading. Sometimes I can get a bit more. I started to read through your thread this evening, for the first time. I made through post 15...but that will give me enough to think about for awhile.

Hi Wilf,

Thanks for the comment. It's nice to meet a fellow geoscientist here. I fully agree about LibraryThing. I'm thinking about your comment regarding the amateur in literature. The arts are strange in that they are made by something resembling experts, but they strive to be accessible to everyone; whereas a development in something like astronomy can have value even if only a small number of astronomers get it. That makes the sciences straight forward, where as the arts hover in a space never well defined.

I really enjoyed your post about the Seifert poem. You just brought in so much extra information. It was a lesson for me.

Road trip!

Will intersect briefly with the Breakfast with Buddha road trip, but no bowling and no mini golf. Just a whirlwind tour with no whirlwinds, we hope, stopping just short of Kansas.
I have a vague idea that a league is three miles. Hadn't heard the horse thing before, though it makes sense. When you live in a world where you go either horseback or by shanks mare, you tend to measure distance in amounts either you or the horse can travel in a given time.

The Russians have, or had in prerevolutionary days, a unit of distance called a verst. I never was able to grasp what that was in relation to English units. I learned, or at any rate was taught, metric units as a kid, but never did take to them. Give me good ol' English units any day. I donno, the metric system seems so mechanized or something. The English system has character and charm.

If only they could, or would, divorce the terrible noise from the lovely display, I'd love fireworks. I can only watch them on television, and that with the volume muted. Though I agree the concept of fireworks being made for television is pretty peculiar. Wonder what Gandalf would think of it? LOL
Erm... I think the twenty thousand leagues in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" refers to the distance our heros travel with Capt. Nemo in the Notilus, not how far down they go. Not sure, but I think twenty thousand leagues down might constitute a journey to the center of the earth.

Hey Wilf,

Yeah, nice and quiet just the way I like it (except for the blankity blank fireworks! Bah humbug! *grin*) How was your Independence Day?
Looking forward to that caviar & vodka! Did I mention we'll be reading Proust in French?

Happy 4th!
Thanks. I seem to have a mania for stating the obvious...
Great No Exit review, Wilf. I'd like to friend you so I can keep better track of your fine reviews (and because you seem pretty cool too) if you don't mind. If you do mind, well then &%^$#@!*^#@.
Thanks. Actually, I've read it three or four times and, yes, enjoyed it very much.

Adding books from my dirtworld library to my online one. It's a slow process, but I enjoy it.
I like your description of reading as "bathing." That's the perfect analogy!

I've been mulling over your comments about Moby Dick for a while, and I think you've got to be right about it being an older Ishmael narrating - I mean, I've read absolutely no criticism of Melville or the book, but it's the only answer that makes sense - except that the very early narration, mostly when he's still on land, feels so in-the-moment, and so... clueless, for lack of a better word, both before and after the painting, that it's easy to leave that part of the book with the impression that it's young Ishmael. Then, of course, by the time you see the vaunted whale 450 pages later, you've forgotten all about that little clue. Or, at least, I had. I'm coming around to the idea that it'll be worth reading again sometime when I'm not in the middle of moving house so I can get a less fragmentary view of it.

Thanks for your comment!
Good Luck on your mental quest !
Don't make it too difficult for yourself lol
Hi Wilf,

I had a look at your nice library.
Is it correct that your blog has not been updated since december 2008 or am I looking at the wrong place ?

Congrats on the Hot Review of [Ulysses]!
Thanks for the comment! I also enjoyed your review, and I'm glad to see validation of my enjoyment of hearing the words out loud. I work 3 blocks from downtown St. Charles, so I probably don't appreciate it as I should, and the sudden O'Fallon boom keeps me away, at least from anything that requires travel south on Highway K. O'Fallon does have a nice downtown too, though, as long as you stay north of Highway 70.

I am also in whole-hearted agreement with your philosophy (living "on the edge between chaos and stasis"). Life is far too short to do otherwise.

I'll have to stay posted on what you're reading. Thanks again!
For Musil you should start with The Man Without Qualities - and that would be more than enough for many...a huge book and if you are not on Musil's wavelength you will give up well before the end. For me it is a window into a world I intuitively identify with (much like Kafka).

I also have an intention in my mind to yet obtain his essays and diaries - a fascinating fellow in many many ways.

Broch I know less off - but the Sleepwalkers is commonly reckoned his best. However, on certain 'bohemian' threads on this site it has been suggested that The Death of Virgil is equally important. I'm willing to believe it - and when I find time!!? it will certainly be read.
Compliments on your splendidly entertaining and informative book reviews.

As your tastes appear not disimilar from my own, I wonder if you have read any Robert Musil or Hermann Broch?
Thanks for the advice on how to tackle Moby Dick. 98% of what I read in my spare time is canon, but every now and then I come across a book and begin to realize how helpful covering it in a class might've been. One of my friends has been shoving stream-of-consciousness novels down my throat as of late, not all of them with a linear plot, so hopefully it'll make Melville easier to get through.
Yes, I read the review of the Book of Mormon, and sent it to my "jack mormon" friend who also thought it was completely hilarious.
Hi there - thanks a lot for your compliments on my Catcher in The Rye review - glad it was of some use and that others think the same way.

Genomics research sounds fascinating. What aspect of genomics research are you studying? What University? And philosophy is definitely something that tugs at my heartstrings, having done a degree in it, and I still love it and write about it on occasion.

As for your "personalised bookmark" - LOL, I do hate it when I've let people borrow my books and never get them back, but I don't think I have the chutzpah you do, to physically threaten the poor reader every time they open the page!

Thanks again,
Great review of We. That novel is indeed much more deeply layered than the mere dystopian label so casually dropped upon it. I've always thought 1984 & Brave New World were inferior to it, and now I know why. Thanks!

I'm sorry, I don't recall that particular tale. My problem is remembering them....Here is the best place to ask for help, though, the SurLaLune fairy tale message board. If you post there, odds are you will find someone who remembers it:

You might want to check out (from Amazon):Will & Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life by Dominic Dromgoole (Paperback - May 1, 2007)Buy new: $14.95 $11.2138 Used & new from $1.00
Fun to run across another Skylark fan! Thanks for dropping me a line.
Too funny! -- now I have to go look into Buckaroo Bonzai...

And yes, you DO need to read Everything is Illuminated -- as in Catch-22, the hilarity makes the horror bearable.

Thanks for commenting!
You'd get along well with my brother, the physicist by education who became an IT manager, and who now writes SF.
Isn't being literate and a 'Doc' Smith aficionado a bit of an oxymoron or are the Lensmen and Skylark books mental palate cleansers?
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