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The Cantos of Ezra Pound (New Directions Paperbook) by Ezra Pound

The Presocratics by Philip Wheelwright

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

Hymns and fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin

Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

The Mishnah : A New Translation by Jacob Neusner

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Member: skholiast

CollectionsYour library (201)

Reviews19 reviews

Tagsphilosophy (43), fiction (39), poetry (37), spirituality (24), myth (16), theology (15), poetics (15), sui generis (14), lit. crit. (13), history (11) — see all tags

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About meI am a teacher and fellow-student among school children in Seattle, Washington. For as long as I can remember I've kept (at least) two books with me: one to read; the other, blank. If I am not reading or scribbling, I'm probably walking to the next café.

I am also a musician and lover of music, and am listing some of my record library on the closest thing to a musical analogue of LibraryThing, called --O Brave New World, that hath such time-wasters in it!-- where I also go by skholiast:

Surpassing even books or music for me-- which is saying quite a lot-- is the pleasure of dialogue; a pleasure more intense, but also rarer-- though now I think of it, maybe literature is (ideally) a subset of dialogue. In any case, for good talk, I will (temporarily) lay aside whatever I am reading-- and half the time we wind up discussing books, anyway.

I maintain a blog on philosophy and other matters, Speculum Criticum Traditionis

Enquirie, Camaraderie, Faërie!

About my library"It suffices for [the commoner-intellectual] to recount the books he has read -- and his biography is complete." --Mandelstam

I have lived with, in, and on top of books since before I could read. (Thanks, Mom!) The first fictional character I remember relating to was Bilbo Baggins. The next was Dorian Gray. Probably explains a thing or two.

My library has been stored in many manners and permutations. For a while I lived in a tiny studio with my bed in the breakfast nook atop of fifteen banker's boxes full of (some of) my books. Later I kept some 200 cubic feet of them-- less than half-- in a storage unit just across the street; I visited them often, but still, I felt like a bad parent. Twice in my life I've let go a good quarter to third of my books, accommodating my library to available space; and having recently moved, I am now in the midst of purge number three, which, I don't mind saying, calls for the courage of Achilles, the discernment of Solomon, the resignation of Marcus Aurelius, and (by the time I finish) the non-attachment of a Bodhisattva.

When I joined LibraryThing, I had just moved into a new apartment, and I decided to keep "the absolute essentials" in my study on a shelf next to my desk. The attempt proved a lesson in the elasticity of "essential," but choosing two hundred to list here was a helpful accessory exercise. Initially, I listed 200 "desert island" books. Later, I tried to be "representative" in my choices as well as honestly showing what I considered to be a genuine reflection of who I am as a reader and thinker. My latest revision of the list has had to do with wearing my commitments more on my sleeve. That is, some books listed are here not because I would be able to read them over and over but because they have strongly informed who I am and the choices I make. Also here are the occasional works with which I fiercely disagree but whose rigor I respect and engagement with which keeps me honest. And of course, my relationship to these books changes all the time....

In other words, this list of 200 is a work in progress. It's possible I may continue to rotate titles through from time to time before (inevitably?) upgrading my membership to "lifetime".

Three volumes don't appear which are standards: The Bible, Homer, and the dictionary (preferably the O.E.D. --I've got the 2-vol. set with the magnifying glass). I take it for granted (more and more mistakenly) that every library, like every hotel room, will contain at least the first (actually every hotel room, like every library, ought to contain the second as well; in fact, at the risk of sounding like a dead white colonialist, I'd lobby for Shakespeare, Dante, Plato, and the Mahabharata too). The third... well, it *is* the library, as it were edited down to its elements-- sort of the Reader's Digest Condensed Version.

"Philosophy does not consist in asking what men have said, but in asking after the truth of the matter."
--St. Thomas Aquinas (In I lib. de Coelo, lect. xxii; II Sent., D. xiv, a. 2, ad 1um).

"Yet...if that olde bokes were a-weye,
Y-loren were of remembraunce the keye.."
--Geoffrey Chaucer, (Legend of Good Women, ll 25-26)

"Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience.... If a writer is not driven by a desire for the most demanding verbal precision, the true ambiguity of events escapes him."
-- John Berger, ("Credibility and Mystery")

GroupsA Pearl of Wisdom and Enlightenment, Baker Street and Beyond, Christian Worship and Liturgy, Christianity, Inklings, Philosophy and Theory, Poetry Fool, RYM/Rate Your Music


Favorite bookstoresMagus Books (Seattle), Moe's Books, Open Books: A Poem Emporium, Ravenna Third Place Books, Revolution Books, Shakespeare and Company (Paris), Strand Bookstore, Weller Book Works

Favorite librariesUniversity of Washington - Suzzallo Library

Other favoritesRichard Hugo House


LocationSeattle, WA

Favorite authorsNot set

Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/skholiast (profile)
/catalog/skholiast (library)

Member sinceJun 29, 2006

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Love the profile image. Is it London during the Blitz? On the Continent in WWII? Why I think destroyed books could be identified as to place and time, I'm not sure.
Have you seen the newest news? or something like that, can't be sure...pretty far in ye ol' bag right neowwwwwww....sha sha sha!
Well, brother, I suppose that's because I was going shelf by shelf, not to mention the the FACT that the poem is all, is all, is...the only thing worth my sustained the only thing that HAS and WILL save my life (such as it is)...
Actually, Jehovah Resigns is only on my wishlist (I thought I had it tagged as such, sorry if my library is a tad unclear). Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck finding a copy yet.
Apologies for delay in responding; unintentional, I assure you.
Intrigued to note 15 titles we share, but even more by your 17 splendid reviews.
Never heard of Glenn Parker, alas, but you make me keen to learn more, esp where you note that "The bivalence of a word like "become" is one of the pieces of fallout from Babel. Parker knew very well that language obscured as well as made possible." I'm great fan of Brautigan at any rate (esp. "Dreaming of Babylon" and "Revenge of the Lawn") though I prefer Ann Carson for her poetry. From your review of her "Eros the Bittersweet" I (particularly) liked the whole paragraph beginning "Her relationship with her texts, if one can put it like this, is itself erotic" and that ends "prying open the whole word, the whole self."

Ashberry is another poet I'm unfamiliar with, by and large, but your summary "prayer in the pulse...almost a breviary" makes him sound attractively "religious" (in inverted commas, note). Most religious writers (I do not exclude Martin Buber)are practically unreadable and only marginally better than most "poetry" on the market. Happily, John Donne is an exception on both fronts, and I thoroughly endorse your high opinion of him.

I guess we either like or loathe Kant, and I'm afraid I can't abide him (or the Enlightenment, period). Foundations or otherwise of the "Metaphysics of Morals" sounds like a contradiction-in-terms, but I take your point that he could be a great "stylist" when he needed to. So could Bertrand Russell and John Henry Newman, even Karl Popper on occasion, but would anyone care to advocate any of them as "wise"? (instead of plain "silly"). More generally, I'm unconvinced by the Kantian image of Wittgenstein, whom I see as more Augustinian, but I take to your neat conclusion that these issues are "not..incontestable" but engage questions "most worth contesting".

Certainly you are correct "Cuisine is more than a matter of munching" and on your advice I shall look out for Irma Rombauer's book. Thanks.

On the "Illuminatus" trilogy, you note that "Not only were Shea and Wilson the original Deleuze and Guattari; their book is way funnier."
It is also a lot sexier, of course, which has to be a bonus.

"Lost in the Cosmos", I'm afraid, left me comatose (not unlike my posting must be leaving you) but I agree he makes an interesting reminder of CSPeirce's triadic rather than dyadic epistemology.

Like all Chesterton's works "The Man Who Was Thursday" merits a mention and I agree that Borges only saw three-quarters of his hero.
Our little Argentinian friend was always trying to be clever, whereas to GKC it was second nature, almost effortless. Only GK's bete noir, Oscar Wilde, was ever wittier. Or more profound.

Finally, I love your suggestion that Finnegan's Wake should be read before going to sleep, to induce dreaming in "stereophonic etymology"

Mazel tov
Thanks, it's nice to know that you went to the trouble of browsing my small library. Sorry about the delayed response, I have spent some time in London and have just come back.

I have read all your reviews, which I enjoyed very much. In fact I'm going to read quite a few of your books. I like your clear style and your intelligent and interesting observations. In fact it makes me very happy to know that people like you actually exist, living on top of your books and hauling them along wherever you go.

As for me I care very little about literary cathegories, what matters to me is whether the books have any bearing on my own life or not. And that may quite as easily be children's books as the more forbidding things obviously intended for adults to grapple with.

What I'm really looking for is books that make things stand out from the background and in a way come into being through that particular text. To be quite honest this can be very scary, because seeing things in a new and different way can mean changing. The creative effort of poetry sometimes trigger things in myself that push me into a phase of transition which can be very freaky indeed.

I often think of the poetic project when I do things that are a bit over the top like bungee jumping. I mean I stand ready on the platform, the abyss snapping at my feet. In this moment of overwhelming fear I listen to the jumpmaster's countdown. And then suddenly I enter a new dimension, a timeless realm of poetry and love and insights and life and death. This is the moment where my darkest fears suddenly are transformed into joy and elation and clarity, the moment when I experience life in all its vibrancy and intensity.

This obviously sounds like a rather childish and trivial personal thing, but to me it seems like a good analogy to the poetic effort. And when I read poets like Eliot or Keats or Sylvia Plath I always do it with some awe and trepidation because I have to think of the dreadful leap they had to make into the abyss to get to these insights. Poetry is rather dangerous stuff that should never be taken lightly.

I'm very happy to have got this small glimpse into your life. Happy reading!

And by the way. Yes, my life is quite interesting come to think of it.
Just feeling old and read your reviews and perked up again. Thanks. In your low moments, in the triadic pinball of depression, be advised that your contributions are recognized, valuable, and profoundly appreciated.
My interest piqued by your Davenport review I started paging through some of your other notes, and came across Jehovah Resigns. It sounded intriguing, and was going used for something like 65 cents from one of the on-line used book emporiums, so it's now a part of my library. I haven't read it yet.

It sounds, to say the least, different.
Thanks for responding to my review of your review, and also for passing over in silence the rather embarrassing typos. The sloppiness comes from typing the message at work while trying to attend, simultaneously, to six or eight other distractions. Continuous partial attention is the curse of our age.

"Yick," Davenport would have said.

I just read your excellent review of Guy Davenport's The Geography of the Imagination. Your review, since all of Davenport's work, including his letters, can be seen as one connected and continuous project, is simultaneously a review of the whole treasure chest of riches the sage of Lexington left us). It made me happy to encounter another who appreciates that remarkable book and its too little known begetter.

The world is a poorer place without him.
I stumbled upon your comment on another users page about the poet Larry Levis -- how you wept at a reading. Where did you here him read? He was an incredible reader -- and teacher.
Thanks for all this info on the post posties. Like I was saying, I've thumbed through some of the books of these guys but I have not studied them. But of course I may have acquired (as you indicate) some of their stuff by 'osmosis' on the floor of Barnes & Noble or Borders. I have to check out Wright - thanks for mentioning him!

On Strauss, this little thesis of mine will never get much acceptance so long as the 'culture wars' continue. If you need to think that Strauss is bad then he is the follower of the supposedly 'fascistic' Nietzsche. Now, to ward off this attack his followers overplay the Plato hand. Both interpretations, imho, make Strauss incoherent. Now, there are 'incoherencies' in the thought of any genuine philosopher due to the comprehensive nature of the philosophical project and also the insurmountable opacity, for all forms of human reason, of the Whole. Of course, Humanity itself remains a riddle too... However, in spite of all this, interpretation (or commentary) should strive not to introduce more confusion but rather to explain it such as it is.
skholiast wrote:

Hi again. Among modern Euro-thinkers, I think Badiou is a major player. He's wrong, but his theses have a ferocious consistency, and like Sartre he can't be disregarded w/ impunity. Zizek makes a similar point to yours about the puppet and dwarf; but I find him a little cloying to read for long stretches. He's very clever and fun for a while, in part because he's inherited Freud's fondness for jokes; but after a certain point I begin to veer towards adapting Capote on Kerouac: That's not thinking, it's typing. I've encountered divergent verdicts on Agamben, as well as on Vattimo. For myself, I find the latter more readable. As re. Taubes' book on Paul, I agree- it is the best I've seen-- mainly because he does *not* try to reduce Paul, though he does make explicit a political dimension. (Also, the tone of the book, reproduced from the lectures, makes it a pleasure to read). On the theological front, N.T. Wright's recent work on Paul is i.m.o. the most plausible and important work in decades.

You make a very interesting point on Strauss and al-Farabi (i.e., that the Islamic thinker is the hinge for understanding LS's claims about esotericism and his conception of what philosophy is). I will have to think that one over.
posted by skholiast at 3:43 pm (EST) on Sep 25, 2006
To be honest I've only thumbed through the the recent (mostly leftish) St. Paul literature in the big 'superstores' of retailers like B&N and Borders. The best of it -and thus I bought the book!- from what I could see was old Jacob Taubes book, 'The Political Theology of Paul'. In fact, guys like Agamben, Badiou, and Zizek arrived on the scene a bit after my initial explorations in philosophy. I have tended over the years to read, and buy, only 'canonical texts'. Who is the strongest of the latest batch of euro philosophers? Who would you recommend? Why? ...I need to read these guys so I 'get' the all references floating out there on the 'net.

In my review of Walter Benjamin I perhaps touched on some of the points you have in mind. I joked about how the philosophical position of puppet and dwarf had switched. With Benjamin, the ugly, but wise, dwarf 'theology' hides in the puppet 'historical materialism' in order to ensure that historical materialism always wins. Now, or so many of our contemporary readings would lead us to believe, the ugly, but wise dwarf 'Marxism' is to hide in the puppet of theology. I perhaps flatter myself in believing I indicated why Benjamin ultimately must prefer his configuration to the au courant one now being peddled.

I had not made the connection between todays essays on Paul and this essay by Kierkegaard. -Good point! Had I thought of it I would have probably mentioned it but my focus was on Kierkegaard's contempt of 'modern Christians' and the argument between philosophy and religion. The gist of this last is that any religion (or God!) that cannot unite human History will suffer repeated attempts by philosophy to do so...


skholiast wrote:

Hi again,

read your recent remarks on Kierkegaard with interest. This essay (Genius v. Apostle) is all the more relevant at present now that Agamben and Badiou and Zizek are all chiming in with their "readings" of St. Paul. S.K. had already anticipated their approach in the early 19th c.
posted by skholiast at 2:20 am (EST) on Sep 24, 2006
Hello - I'm amazed to see that someone else knows about Ernest McClain. The greatest work of philosophic archeology I've ever seen. Have you ever heard the absolutely over-the-top piano playing of his MIT associate Ernst Levy? If not, check him out, but be warned, his Lizst Sonata is the most way-over-the-top thing I've ever heard, and I've heard quite a bit.
Agree with you completely about a need for a music equivalent of LT, but no basis like Amazon, or LC exists to my knowledge.
Best regards.
Hi, well right now I live overseas, but I was born in Seattle, lived down in near Vancouver when small, north of Seattle in junior high, and went to high school in eastern Washington and have relatives in both East and West. Ofetn when people ask "Where in Washington?", I respond "all of it", which I acknowledge is a bit flippant. How about you?
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