dchaikin causes his own troubles in 2013
This is a continuation of the topic dchaikin sidesteps into 2013.
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Life gets in the way. I started a new job today. Good stuff, but...it makes life complicated. For the moment things are peaceful and I can spend an evening catching up instead of dealing with this or that on the never-ending list of issues to deal with. So, part 2.
Books I'm currently reading:
Books Recently Read:
Old threads: 2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2, 2011 Part 1, 2011 Part 2, 2012 Part 1, 2012 Part 2, 2013 Part 1
2013 List of Books Read - as a warning, note that books 1 through 14 link to the part 1 thread
1. Miami by Joan Didion (read Dec 29 - Jan 6)
2. The Gettysburg Review : Volume 10, Number 2 : Summer 1997 (read Dec 4 - Jan 19)
3. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard, E. H. (read ~Dec 27 - Jan 23, with my son)
4. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max (read Jan 1-24)
5. 1 & 2 Kings in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Fully Revised and Updated), edited by Harold W. Attridge (read Sept 22 - Jan 28, with a long break of Nov/Dec)
6. Beloved by Toni Morrison (read Jan 8-30)
7. Stickman Odyssey : An Epic Doodle : Book One by Christopher Ford (Read Feb 8)
8. Parable Hunter by Ricardo Pau-Llosa (read Jan 20 - Feb 21)
9. The Epic of Gilgamesh - Read an abridgement translated by E. A. Speiser in The Ancient Near East : An Anthology of Texts and Pictures edited by James B. Pritchard (Read Feb 23)
10. Toni Morrison's Beloved : a Casebook - edited by William L. Andrews & Nellie Y. McKay (Feb 7-25)
11. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, edited by David M. Bevington & David Scott Kastan (Feb 25 - Mar 12)
12. Hamlet, a Guide (The Shakespeare Handbooks) by Alistair McCallum (Feb 25 - Mar 12)
13. Driven to Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood (Revised) by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey (read Mar 12-20)
14. The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith (Read Mar 1-28)
15. Seeking Palestine : New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home by Penny Johnson & Raja Shehadeh, editors (read Mar 21-29)
16. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (read Mar 30 - Apr 13)
17. 1 & 2 Chronicles in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version (read Feb 10 - Apr 16)
18. Introducing Wittgenstein by John Heaton & illustrated by Judy Groves (read Apr 18-20)
19. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (read Jan 25 - Apr 27)
20. Re Arts & Letters : Real West - Volume XVII, Number 1, Spring 1991 (read Mar 15 - Apr 27)
21. Wittgenstein : A Very Short Introductionby A. C. Grayling (read Apr 20-28)
22. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & illustrated by Leland Myrick (read May 1-6)
23. Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretation) (read Apr 13 - May 12)
24. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (read May 16-21)
25. Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (read May 20-28)
26. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (read May 22 - June 16)
27. The Paris Review 196, Spring 2011 (read Apr 27- June 23)
28. Strike sparks : selected poems, 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds (read June 2-26)
29. The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño (read June 24 - July 2)
- The Book of Ezra in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Read June 1- July 3)
30. Sula by Toni Morrison (read July 3-8)
31. Treat Your Own Neck by Robin McKenzie (read July 9)
32. Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (reread June 29 - July 16)
33. Stickman Odyssey: Book Two: The wrath of Zozimos by Christopher Ford (read July 30)
34. The Trophies of Time : English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century by Graham Parry (Read mainly July 9-31)
35. The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion by Michael Mosley & John Lynch (Feb 18 - Aug 5)
36. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (read July 20 - Aug 8)
37. William Stukeley : Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England by David Boyd Haycock (read July 31 - Aug 11)
38. The Clockwork Universe : Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick (read Aug 11-18)
39. The Road from the Past : Traveling Through History in France by Ina Caro (read Aug 6-24)
40. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne & Ernest H. Shepard (read Jan 25 - Aug 26)
41. Science Deified & Science Defied : The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, From the Bronze Age to the Beginnings of the Modern Era, ca. 3500 B.C. to ca. A.D. 1640 by Richard Olson (read Aug 26 - Sep 3)
42. Mayflower (Audio Book) by Nathaniel Philbrick, narrated by George Guidall (Listened to Aug 27 - Sep 10)
- The Book of Nehemiah in The Jerusalem Bible (Read Sep 14)
43. Nine Horses by Billy Collins (read Aug 8 - Sep 20)
44. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Audio Book) by David G. McCullough, narrated by Edward Herrmann & David G. McCullough (Listened to Sep 13-29)
45. Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon (Audio Book) by Steve Sheinkin, narrated by Roy Samuelson (listened to Sep 30-Oct 4)
46. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (read Oct 1-13)
47. Midnight Rising : John Brown and Raid that Sparked the Civil War (Audio Book) by Tony Horwitz, narrated by Daniel Oreskes (listened to Oct 5-16)
48. Masada : Herod's fortress and the Zealots' last stand by Yigael Yadin (read Oct 13-16)
49. How the Irish Saved Civilization : The Untold Story of Ireland's Role in the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe (Audio Book) by Thomas Cahill, narrated by Donal Donnelly (listened to Oct 16-24)
50. Sacrificing Truth : Archaeology and the Myth of Masada by Nachman Ben-Yehuda (read Oct 17-26)
51. Vermilion Sea : A Naturalist's Journey in Baja California by John Janovy, Jr. (read Sep 15 - Oct 27)
- The year 1000 : What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium (Audio Book) by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger, narrated by Grover Gardner (started listening Oct 24)
- The Elements: The New Guide to the Building Blocks of Our Universe by Jack Challoner (started Oct 5)
- A Theory of Flight by Andrew X Pham (started Sep 24)
- Cuba: Poems by Ricardo Pau-Llosa (started Sep 21)
- Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas (started Sep 5)
- The Literary Guide to the Bible by Robert Alter & Frank Kermode (Editors) (started Jan 21, 2012, reading along with the Bible)
- How to Read the Bible : A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel (Started Nov 28, 2011, reading along with the bible)
- A Wolf at the Door : and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (started Apr 13)
- The Ancient Near East : An Anthology of Texts and Pictures by James B. Pritchard (read bits Feb 18 & read Gilgamesh Feb 23. Too much here though.)
- Toni Morrison : Conversations by Toni Morrison, Carolyn C. Denard (Editor) (skimmed for Beloved references on Feb 1)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh (Norton Critical Editions) by Benjamin R. Foster (read the intro and 1st four tablets May 14-15...just not in the right place to re-read this now.)
- The Revolution in Science, 1500-1750 by A. Rupert Hall (started Sep 4) - returned to the library
- Science and Religion : Some Historical Perspectives by John Hedley Brooke (started Aug 17) - returned to the library
15. Seeking Palestine : New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home edited by Penny Johnson & Raja Shehadeh (2013, 210 pages, read Mar 21-29)
Not that I’ve had time to review lately, but I’ve stalled on this partially because I don’t want to figure out my own contradictions. Not that I can’t, although maybe it’s true I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to go there. I developed such a deep affection for Israel during my visit there last summer. I’m not ready to pick up those emotions and look at what ugly things might be underneath them, I’m not ready to challenge them with any reality.
A book such as this does not allow me to get out of all that so easily. This is a collection of personal memoirs by Palestinians about Palestine. The collection is superb, and some of these authors are simply spectacular, at least they certainly are here, in this form. Every entry is strong. Either Johnson and Shehadeh had a great wealth of material to work with or they really mined the material well. Or both could be true.
What to take form all this? Surely we are all aware on some level of the costs of Israel’s existence to the Palestinians. Israel marks for them the end of a long continuous history in large parts of one-time Palestine, tearing at cultural foundations and leaving a large Palestinian diaspora. And while we debate where to point the finger, or simply cringe at the stiff necked simplifiers with fingers in their ears who stand my their weapons and declare themselves right, we don’t have much a chance see the humanity in the consequences. That is, I think, what this book offers. An artistic exploration of the humanity within the Palestinian loss.
I took notes as read this, then passed the book on, leaving me with only my notes to review from. Hopefully there will be some value in the rest of this review. My favorites get an asterisk.
*Susan Abulhawa : Memories of an un-Palestinian story, in a can of tuna - I wish I could capture this. Susan lived for brief periods of time with each of her parents and various other relatives, and various orphanages, moving back and forth between the US and the Middle East. She touches on most of her childhood and its many horrors and varieties of abuse, while recounting a brief stay at an orphanage for Palestinians in Palestine, called Dar al-Tifl...a tough place she can only capture with an affectionate wistfulness.
Beshara Doumani : A Song from Haifa - Writes about his father in Palestine between WWII and Israel (1945-8) through a Palestinian bar song from the era about beautiful Jewish woman.
*Sharif S. Elmusa : Portable Absence: My Camp Re-membered - Bitter as Elmusa is, his writing, a mixture of poetry and prose, is beautiful. He discusses taking his children to the now-destroyed refugee camp that he grew up in. But this essay goes many places, and includes thoughts on his decision to write in English, references to the Odyssey and Ibn Battuta, comparisons between Palestinians and Native Americans, an interesting look at Cairo, and a frustration with America’s one-sided support of Israel over Palestine. He writes, “It is a politicized oxymoron, even if a privilege, to be from a tiny, colonized country struggling to rid itself of Israeli domination and, at the same time, to be a citizen of an empire that is the principal keeper of Israel.”
Lili Abu-Lughod : Pushing at the Door: My father’s Political Education, and Mine - A memoir about Lili’s father, a leading Palestinian intellectual, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. The memoir includes, prominently, his story about his mother, Lili’s grandmother, and her lost world of pre-Israel Jaffa.
*Adania Shibli : Of Place, Time and Language - Shibli is a master of sorts at subtly. In these three pieces she says everything through what she doesn’t say. It’s very clever and striking. In the second piece, Out of Time, she begins by discussing a Palestinian short story she read in school, permitted by the Israeli authorities who were generally very thorough censors. What caught her attention with the story (The Time of Man by Samira Azzam) was not the writers intent, but the regular day-to-day life he describes. She asks, “Was there ever once a normal life in Palestine?” Later in the story, as she carries on about a watch that stopped while traveling, leading to an Airport interrogation in Israel, where she causally mentions, “Everything proceeded as normal in such situations”
Suad Amiry : An Obsession begins with a poem whose attributions I was confused on, but was either hers with quotes from Mahmoud Darwish, or entirely from Mahmoud Darwish. But then she goes to discuss three questions she hates: Are you married? Do you have children? and Where do you come from? In the later she tells us that when she doesn't want to talk, she answers that she is from Amman, Jordan. ”Sorry, Jordan, much as I am indebted to you and love you, somehow you do not inspire interesting conversations.” - I find that line such a wonderful commentary on the crazy story that is Israel and Palestine.
Raja Shehadeh : Diary of an Internal Exile: Three Entries - Shehadeh probably can be more highly regarded for his frustrated observations than his limited prose. Still he marks an interesting history of Palestine through the history of a building that was originally built the British military, but later had many lives, including serving as the bombed out headquarters of Yassar Afafat. Reflecting on Arafat he writes “I could see how failed armed struggle had completely dominated our leadership’s vision, taking precedence over the nonviolent resistance waged in the streets as well as in the courts by challenging Israeli legal maneuvers.”
*Mourid Barghouti : The Driver Mahmoud - This was a wonderful fictional story about taxi van full of passengers who together form a cross-section of Palestinian society, driven my a young man trying to avoid suddenly-appearing Israeli checkpoints through heroic maneuvers and the use of what I can only call a divine crane.
Rema Hammami : Home and exile in East Jerusalem Hammami, an anthropologist studying Gaza, chronicles the sad history of her Palestinian neighborhood, Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, from roughly 1989 when she confronts an Israeli soldier arresting a nine-year-old girl by asking him if he has children, and he responds, “Yes, I have a little girl but she doesn’t throw stones,” through to 2002 where she finds herself surrounded by checkpoints.
Rana Barakat : The right to wait: exile, home and return - My notes begin to fail about here. For this essay about Mahmoud Darwish, Edward Said, the nature of exile, and a curious comparison of an intellectual with an exile, my notes include the comment, “intelligent but big-words…flawed writing, IMO”...but don’t over-inflate my flippant notes while reading, this was interesting.
Fady Joudah : Palestine that never was: five poems and an introduction Lois/avaland quoted one or two of these elsewhere, nothing to add here
Jean Said Makdisi : Becoming Palestinian - An interesting essay by the sister of Edward Said, unfortunately I don’t have any notes.
Mischa Hiller : Onions and diamonds - no notes...and I forgot what this was about...
Karma Nabulsi : Exiled from revolution - ditto, sigh...
Hey that's cool. I had your other thread starred, and as a 'continuation' thread, it automatically starred this one for me too.
Congratulations on your new job.
Hi Daniel. Love the colorful book covers across the top of your thread.
Thanks for taking the time to share some thoughts on Seeking Palestine!
Many familiar names amongst the authors you've mentioned ... sounds like one for the "Must Buy" list :)
Best wishes in the new post!
Congrats on the new job, Dan. Hope it turns out well for you. I'm looking forward to getting back into the Bible read this summer!
Seeking Palestine sounds Interesting. I have added to my wishlist. It is really sad, because are always two sides to every story like this. Coming up with an equitable solution here seems almost impossible because of the wide expanse between those differences.
Congratulations on the new job, Dan. And thanks for posting that great review of Seeking Palestine, which I'll be on the lookout for since you and Lois praised it so highly.
Wonderful review of Seeking Palestine, Dan, and one with such personal significance for you. I am so glad that I bought this book after Lois's review and still have it ahead of me to enjoy.
Congratulations on the new job, Dan! Same general field? I assume you are still in Houston or your absence probably would have been much longer given the stress of moving house AND changing jobs. Regardless, it's nice to see you back!
Thanks for your thoughts on Seeking Palestine, Dan. We all bring something different to the books we read and you have an interesting perspective. Was the Bargoudhi a fictional story? I took that to be a true story with a bit of fictionalization....just my sense of it. It was lovely to revisit some of the pieces through your summaries.
Congrats on the new job, btw.
Tackling a new job, the Bible, and Wittgenstein all at the same time? Dan's the Man!
Wow, lots of comments. Thanks all for the congrats.
#4 Choc - Cool, maybe I should actually make use of staring sometime...
#5 Akeela - How nice to get a visit here from you. Seeking Palestine comes highly recommended from me, hope you get there.
#6 Jonathan - I need to get back into the Bible myself. I've been crawling through. Finished Chronicles, but haven't gone any farther.
#7 Colleen - Hope you get to SP.
#8 R-nyc - Thanks!
#9 Darryl - Thanks for the nice comment. SP is one you would likely find rewarding.
#10 Linda - Thanks. Hope you enjoy when you open SP up.
#11 Katie - Thanks. The new job is very similar. I work for TGS, still in seismic and still working on salt interpretation.
#12 Avidmom - Thanks!
#13 Lois - You are welcome. After I wrote it, I found myself re-reading your review and comparing our comments. Also, thanks for the book! It's moved on to a good place.
#14 Steven - I'm finding creative ways to make Wittgenstein look easy.
#15 Annie - Thanks!
To my fellow move-home-start-new-job-AND-maintain a Club Read warrior! You deserve the best of luck Dan in the new job! What a year eh?
The books are increasingly a retreat of solace...
Thank you for your excellent review of Seeking Palestine. I too had added it after Lois' earlier review of it, but I would have added it now for certain in the event that I'd missed that. I know that I need to read this book, and your comments act to reinforce that impression.
Club Read has more or less taken over about 75% of my LT time so far this year - and that's as fine as the many wonderful threads going on. I do still enjoy an occasional random tagmash of course... Enjoying your read a lot - keep on keeping on!
#20 Paul, now without the beacon...or is it still implied by Polaris? Anyway, thanks, and, yeah, what a year, and thank goodness I haven't moved too. Sadly reading time is slim of late, but, yes, it's especially nice when I get it. I think you would get a lot out of Seeking Palestine.
w00t on the job Dan! and thanks for the wonderful review / fresh reminder to get to Seeking Palestine.
Well after watching Paradise Now about Palestinian suicide bombers on dvd last night, I have to get Seeking Palestine for sure! Good movie.
Dan - have you seen this? Was at B&N today and spotted it for the first time. A little late for us but glad to know it exists.
Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
Congratulations on your new job, Dan - hope it goes well. Lovely review of Seeking Palestine,
Merrikay, I'm not familiar with Paradise Now, but curious. And thanks.
MJ - you are always so nice. Thanks for the woot.
Jonathan - I preordered it and have it...but...oye. First I read his Song of Deborah and it was awfully done (but the notes were good). Then someone linked me to a review joyfully trashing Alters Psalm translations...it was a great critique. Anyway, Alter is a scholar, not a poet. I'm a little down on him and thinking about looking elsewhere for poetic translations. Also, yeah, it's late for us, I need to move on.
Rachel - Thanks and thanks. The new job has been entertaining. You would think these companies were similar, but I'm in a different world. Much to learn...will be good in the end, I think.
Excellent review of Seeking Palestine it's nice to revisit some of the works. Like Avaland I really thought that the Bargoudhi story was just an exaggerated true story, but after re-reading it does feel fictional. I was wondering if this would tarnish your impressions of Israel after what sounding like such a wonderful trip there, it's certainly understandable to have conflicting feelings. I tend to think conflicting feelings is far better than being locked into something so unflexing as a hardline opinion like all those loud talking heads.
Congrats on the new job!
Sad to hear that! I'm a bit fan of Alter but I haven't done too much critical analysis of him. I will try to compare him to the Hebrew when we go through our next book. I would suggest NRSV for the next walkthrough, but with Alter's invaluable commentary.
I'm under-active here, but not completely dead.
16. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977, 341 pages, read Mar 30 – Apr 13)
There is something fun in the curious way Morrison presents this. Things happen that make us wonder. Every character seems to have a name that is clearly meaningful, and yet it’s never clear what they mean. And, actually, we never seem to be fully in reality. Even the location, somewhere near a not-inspiring Flint, MI and yet where one can look over Lake Superior, is impossible. But why?
Names do come about in a wonderful variety of forms, including three Macom Deads, the second naming his daughters Magdalena and First Corinthians, and a having an estranged sister named Pilate. Pilate, a somewhat goddess like character without a navel, is unmarried with an unmarried daughter and granddaughter, that later one named Hagar. The third Macom Dead, the book’s main character, acquires the name Milkman initially because his mother nursed him too long (till he was about 8?), but Milkman grows up unaware of the origin of his name. His best friend is Guitar. And so on.
The story is a coming of age of sorts, even if Milkman’s coming of age takes place in his thirties. He must somehow be driven to leave his comfortable and stifled middle class life (funded by his father’s success as a slumlord), and travel through his family's past, ending up in a dirt-poor black community somewhere in Virginia. He finds mythical and real roots, perspective, and a very different view of life. But he leaves a kind of wreckage behind along the way. And the ending is a most precarious one.
There are many things going on through out this novel. Some seem to be clear, such as the racially conscious tone and the criticism of middle-class blacks as rootless, soulless imitations of white people. The mythological links to the Odyssey in Milkman’s travels. And again in the opening Icarus-like scene where salesman Robert Smith dives off a tall building intending to fly, leaving behind a note that says something simply like, “I love you all,” and very powerfully illustrating the black glass ceiling, where black professional prospects cannot exceed.
But this only touches the surface. The reader is left to ponder, and ponder widely as there is simply no easy take. This books goes many places, and the tracks are obscured. When I put it down, I simply had no response. A good book, but how good? And what was the point? After much thinking and reading a Bloom’s collection of essays on it, I still can’t clearly answer that second question, although I can say this is a pretty good book. Enjoyed it.
I've only read one of Morrison's books, The Bluest Eye. I probably should try another. Your reviews make me want to do it.
An intriguing review, Dan. I truly do not understand why an author as talented as Morrison would make choices that seem to deliberately obscure the meaning of her book. I did love her Beloved.
Good review of Song of Solomon, Dan -- I haven't read it in years; your review makes me want to revisit it soon.
Another puzzling book Dan. It certainly sounds puzzling from your review. I will only be worried if you find the Robert Jordan puzzling.
#31 Avidmom - Thanks. Sounds like the reviewed worked a bit, at least for you...
#32 Colleen - I read the Bluest Eye after reading this, and enjoyed it too. But this is a better book by a better writer. I recommend trying another Morrison.
#33 Linda - From the essays (I hope to review them too eventually) it's clear that Morrison had a lot of ideas in her head at once. It's partly the time period, black thought and literature was evolving fast. But, anyway, it wasn't that Morrison was trying to be obscure, it was that she was trying to put many different ideas into this book and make them all work...and also, if we can believe her forward where she claims it was with this book that she found her muse, I think the book had a life of it's own and she let it work itself out it's own way, to an extent.
#34 Jane - That's a really nice comment. Thanks!
#35 Katie - You know I'm in awe of your mythical shelves. I don't think you would regret pulling this one down.
#36 Bas - Oh, Jordan, it's the right time for me to finally read his last. It's only puzzling in it's lack of finale-ness, if that makes sense. Anyway, puzzled is probably my most normal state of mind...
Song of Solomon is the only Morrison that I've read - though I do want to read Beloved now after reading your review - and I also found it puzzling and with a profusion of ideas which may have been why I couldn't entirely get into it. The writing was very good though. Also - good review.
And a late congrats on the new job.
Great review of Song of Solomon, Dan. You've piqued my interest in this book, so I'll add it to my wish list.
Maus - I'm glad I'm not the only one who maybe felt there were too many ideas in one book. I did, however, really get into this one.
Darryl - you have said something similar about two Toni Morrison books I have reviewed now...just saying... because I know you haven't like cat least one if her books that you have read.
Song of Solomon is one of my favourites. It's been so long since I've read it that I need to do a re-read.
My first response to it was a feeling that Morrison was trying to get across the idea of self-determination, through death if need be.
It seemed that Milkman had all shackles on him that were as bad or worse than those those of his ancestor Solomon's slavery. His mother, his class, his family, and in his best friend a distorted version of himself. Morrison seems from the very first to be riffing on that song, whose title I can't remember, but the chorus goes, 'Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave', echoes of which find itself into Beloved as well.
She does this not only with Milkman but with he three lead female characters in the way she contrasted the paths of Milkman's mother (whose name I can't remember off hand) and that of Pilate and Hagar. I'd like to know what Bloom thought, even though he'd probably think I was way, way off base. Anyhoo, great review.
41 - and that self-determination thing? Frederick Douglass autobiography is the most fascinating study I have ever seen of the cognitive processes of sorting those things out. e.g.. he asks himself, if he is the property of his owner, is it stealing if he takes bread from his master and puts it in his own stomach? I haven't read Song of Solomon but it sounds like I would enjoy it.
Yolana - I need to go through notes again, but i think self-determination, at least in this way, is a new perspective to me. You have me thinking.
Merrikay - I read Frederick Douglass's autobiography years ago, and I've forgotten almost everything except that I loved it, loved the way he wrote.
43 Yay! I want everyone to read and love it. Wasn't it wonderful? Bonus - it was an A history paper for me in my first college history class, which was a wonderfully eye opening experience.
#45 Avidmom - glad you mentioned that book in this context. I had assumed that Douglass in the title referred to Stephen Douglas (hadn't noticed the spelling difference before - one or two 's's).
>40 dchaikin: Darryl - you have said something similar about two Toni Morrison books I have reviewed now...just saying... because I know you haven't liked at least one if her books that you have read.
Hmm. According to my LT library I don't own any books by Toni Morrison. That can't be right; I'm certain that I own Jazz. I looked at her bibliography, and I don't think I've read any of her books. So, I'm not sure why I have a negative opinion of her. I'll have to read one or two of her books in the near future.
Darryl -- Toni Morrison is incredible. I strongly suggest listening her read Jazz -- it gave me a whole new perspective on the book after having read it twice -- I actually heard the jazz riffs in the words. Nobody quite achieves what Morrison does. And I'm so passionate about her, I'm going to repeat this post on your thread!
Darryl - We're trying to wear you down. It's not so easy to force a book into your reading schedule (I've been catching up on your thread...)
I finished Sharon Old's Pulitzer Prize winning Stag's Leap, which was good, but not really striking like the few other poems of hers that I read. So, I started Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002...wow...more like what I expected. It's not the sound, but the effect. Here is a fun one:
Rite of Passage
Then a little blurb from a spring 2011 issue of The Paris Review. This is from an interview of nonfiction writer/journalist Janet Malcolm by Katie Roiphe. Malcolm is famous for having written, in The Journalist and the Murderer, "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."
>53 dchaikin: - if the 'I' of the journalist is a construct of the journalist doesn't that mean the morality of this construct is not necessarily the same as the journalist? It then follows that it can become a defence. i.e., if the 'I' says that all left-handed people are the spawn of the devil and should be destroyed the journalist can then defend themselves by stating the I in the article does not reflect the true I of the journalist.
>56 Jargoneer: - was the next line, "The Catholic Church is the best, all other churches are rubbish. Give me my Teddy."?
I find the Rites of passage poem a little sinister, but then I have never been in a room full of six and seven year olds.
Albert Camus had a few things to say about journalism and journalists:
"There are some who want to inform quickly rather than informing properly. It is the truth that suffers"
"People try to please rather than enlighten"
#54 - Turner - Can't answer for Malcolm. It would seem to me that the journalist is actually intending a truth, and hence means the "I" as actually the journalist, and then the fictional construct of the "I" is just kind of a accident fully encased within the nature of the journalism. Hence they are responsible for any non-truth, and yet everything they write has a fictional and untruthful aspect to it.
#55 - Colleen - Cute.
side thought though - if an author claims a work is entirely fiction, and yet it's not, there are non-fictional aspect to it...well...first of all the author is somehow dishonest up front, and second I 'm entertained the authors fiction is partially a fiction in itself...
I'm not entirely sure that makes sense.
#56 - : )
#57 - MJ - Oh, I really need to read that book. Andy, in my opinion, you might like Strike Sparks quite a bit.
#58 - Bas - it is sinister, but in the way boys that age actually are. She captures their innocence and confusion and potential of & fascination with violence and exploration of this all brilliantly in that poem. As for Camus, what's interesting about Malcolm comments is that she discards all those people, all those flawed reporters of various kinds, and she drives her point right into the most sincere and dedicated journalists, the ones really trying to get the truth, and really putting the work into it. The line strikes the best in the field...and it's entirely true.
17. 1 & 2 Chronicles (96 pages, read Feb 10 – Apr 16)
from The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Fully Revised and Updated
edited by Harold W. Attridge
Oye...Ok, after reading Genesis through Kings, reading Chronicles is painful. It’s the same story all over again, often word-for-word, with emphasis on David and the kings of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel and the lost tribes, often the focus of Kings, are largely ignored here.
What is interesting are the differences. Chronicles is often seen as a cleaned up history. Most of David’s questionable and outright bad actions in Samuel are left out here... as is all the color. This version of David is much more laconic. And, there are many small changes in the later kings of Judah. Many bad kings in Kings are cleaned up and made good. The hero kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, are polished of all flaws from Kings.
Also Chronicles apparently preserves some aspects of the text that are now missing in Samuel and Kings, either due to apparent scribal errors, or curious decisions. One wonderful example is the angle of death hovering with a sword over Jerusalem in retribution to David for taking a census. (Readers are left with the impression that this census is one of the worst activities of any king at any time).
Here is 1 Chronicles 21:15 & 16:
And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but when he was about to destroy it, the Lord took note and relented concerning the calamity; he said to the destroying angel, ‘Enough! Stay your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was then standing by the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.That little piece was left out of Samuel.
I guess if you are a biblical scholar, then Chronicle’s existence is wonderful. The same story, but from different and altered sources and with many curious contradictions. The possibilities of study are extensive, even if nothing is conclusive. But, if you are just reading, well, for me it got old.
Great review, Dan. I think part of the problem is you kind of ruined it for yourself with your own good habits. You are a careful and a thoughtful reader, so it's no wonder you found the recap painful at times. In contrast, I zipped through Kings, forgetting half of what I read as soon as I read it, and so Chronicles was an appreciated chance to reinforce the material. That wouldn't be the case all the time, but for a story with this much repetition and this many names it helps. I guess this is kind of an ant and grasshopper parable and you will one day be able to disquisit like a Bible scholar whereas I'll read the same things again and again and smile vaguely through my dementia.
(Also nice to see a few fewer bad kings, cos Kings had bad kings to spare.)
Dan, with all those books you have read recently you must be way behind with your reviews.
#61 - Martin, I reread my message #62 and thought it sounded weird. Not intentional. Anyway thanks. I have no idea what disquisit means.
#63 - Bas - I'm 13 behind. It's not that I've read that many books, but more that I lost about two months of LT time.
>64 dchaikin: ha, no worries, I didn't see it anyway:) Disquisit was just my attempt at a verb back-formation from "disquisition." In general, any time I say anything that seems weird, it is meant innocuously.
Great review of Chronicles Dan. My understanding is that it is an early book of propaganda. Perhaps that is too strong a word and inappropriate, but from what I recall from discussions I remember hearing, and I could be way off here so forgive me, but the northern kingdom of Israel fell to invasion some considerable amount of time before the slightly longer lasting kingdom of Judea. This possibly explains the more relaxed portrayal of David, as he was a Judean. If the two kingdoms had had a reversed history of collapse then who knows if King David would have become quite the totemic figure that he in turn became? Perhaps Michaelangelo's statue would have been of King Omri...
I think what emerges from a reading of Genesis through Chronicles is a sense that there are several editors at work here, and there is more than a fair share of editorialising going on. A trend that continues surely with all the remaining books of the Old Testament and into the New?
Paul - I could write an essay in response to post, but most of it would be to explain why I think what I think and how my thoughts are just one person's very poorly supported ideas...and so on...
But reading it in order does leave some interesting impressions, and one is the sense of concatenation...the sense that one text is put after another, regardless of their consistency or inconsistency...the other is the focus on history. It's really not about religion, at least not so far, it's about one group and their efforts at becoming and being religious...or failing to be religious.
18. Introducing Wittgenstein by John Heaton & illustrated by Judy Groves (1994, 173 pages, read Apr 18-20)
As part of my weird quest-to-reread-Infinite-Jest, I decided I needed to read certain key influences on David Foster Wallace, including Wittgenstein's Tractatus...or did I? And anyway, where to start on such a book? So, I started here. The illustrations are random and vaguely pointless, but text is nice and simple. It highlights how absolutely fascinating Wittgenstein the person was. I finished quite a bit confused on Tractatus, but felt something of a comprehension of Wittgenstein's main later work, Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously). The overall effect of this book was to get me started on and interested in Wittgenstein. That's a success.
19. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (2011, 656 pages, read Jan 25 – Apr 27)
What was I thinking to read this and what was I thinking to read it the way I did? Anyway it all worked out. Steve Jobs was terribly arrogant, carelessly ruthless (sometimes intentionally so), and amazingly impressive all at the same time and in the same life. Walter Isaacson, editor of Time Magazine, is a master of the modern popular biography. What am I trying to say anyway? I had some kind of love/hate relationship with both the author and the subject, which just makes this hard to respond to.
Ok, first of all Jobs. You probably know the basics, the Apple II, Steve Wozniak's world-changing creation from his free time, and the company that came out of Steve Job's garage. Maybe you recall Pong, or the original Macintosh and the original GUI screens. Perhaps you know the story of Job's luring John Sully away from Pepsi, although you may not know Sully later kicked Jobs out of Apple. Maybe you know of Job's roll behind Pixar and surely you know his roll in reviving Apple and leading the way to the iPod, iPhone & iPad, and actually changing the world. And it might cross you mind, if your about my age, or maybe one or two decades older, on how much of this is actually THE story of our time - the creation of the personal computer through to the iPad...all this from a guy who couldn't code.
What Isaacson brings across all this is the striking mixture of traits that made Jobs Jobs. He was spoiled, selfish, pouty, brutal, motivating, inspiring, manipulative, cruel, conniving and two-faced, sharp. A showman and master salesman, a man who could lead and make his people make things, just with his words. His ups and downs are fascinating, and it all came together so perfectly when he returned to apple, it's really a tragedy he isn't still around to see it evolve...to make it evolve. But still, I just can't help thinking to myself of the time when Jobs was presented as retuning to Apple, and there was much cheering...how many of those people cheering were Apple employees, and how many were aware that they were cheering their own layoff?
As for the writing, Isaacson allowed me to read this book in four months without losing anything. You can pick it up, read for 20 minutes, and put it down with a story in your head, complete, and then you can pick it up again two weeks later without even noticing the lapse. He is an artist. I don't know why I kept trying to find something wrong with Isaacson, something I didn't like. Maybe it was the Time Magazine thing, or maybe it was the forward where he felt the need to mention the number of interviews he did for this book (which left me wanting to believe he was in some way insecure about the interviews he didn't do.) I don't know. Isaacson was pretty thorough and tells a great story. I think I just wanted him pining for depth. Surely it's there, but he just doesn't really seem to put any of that pining part in the final text. An artist of sorts, one of our time.
What to conclude on all that? This review is more of mixed rant. It's a great book and great story, even if part of me apparently didn't want it be.
I've noticed the Steve Jobs cover in your first post for some time and have been watching for your review. I am a long-time Apple user and fan - for over 25 years now - and I have put off reading this book in case the unvarnished truth about Jobs, and all the negativity which seemed to surface everywhere after his death, might somehow put me off Apple products as well as the man. I always thought of Jobs as a perfectionist and I've never known a perfectionist who is easy to get along with. Thanks to your review I'll move my copy further up the tbr pile.
I have this book, and now maybe I will think about reading it. Thank you.
I've never owned an Apple Device much less used one, but have found Jobs to be such an interesting character. It never seems to fail that someone who is great at one aspect of their life are seriously deficient at another. I'm curious as to how Apple will fair in the future without Jobs pushing for the kind of innovation that has seemingly changed the world.
best review of the Jobs book EVER!So glad to have you back. hope all is going well
Great review of the Jobs biography. The recent news about price fixing ebooks is another reminder that Apple was and is just as cutthroat as any other corporation, no matter how much their marketing has made them into some kind of counterculture heroes.
#71 Avidmom - Thanks. I'm always happy to rant...
#72 Vivienne - I doubt the book will discourage you from using any Apple product. For me it did the opposite. I think what is interesting about the negative press on Jobs is that it was often incorrect or exaggerated (if you believe Isaacson). The press rarely hit accurately on the his main, and very human, flaws.
#73 Darryl - Thanks!
#74 Coleen - oh, I have piles of books that I should think about reading...actually, I do think about it all the time.
#75 Kevin - The iPad is even better than a good pencil...(but a bit more expensive)
#76 Merrikay - Goodness, I hope I can spend more time here again. I've been missing my LT friends, and just watching the unread posts accumulate. All is well, just adjusting.
#77 Steven - Not aware of the news, interesting. Trying to remember the details, but I recall that Apple was very aggressive with music, forcing the price down. But with ebooks Apple came in late, so, under Jobs, they didn't have the leverage to be aggressive. So, interesting.
#78 MJ - Thanks!
>79 dchaikin: Over the years I've been so frustrated at those who criticize Apple (and Jobs) so bitterly without ever having tried the product. I'm glad this has been gradually changing and that Isaacson elaborates on the negativity.
Great review Dan, thanks again!
"It's really not about religion, at least not so far, it's about one group and their efforts at becoming and being religious...or failing to be religious."
That's what I really like about the Tanakh. It covers so much of human life. Not just the "religious stuff" - as if that's somehow separate anyway.
Applauding and lurking the bible read. I hope to get back into it soon. Sorry I've been so flaky!
Excellent review of the Steve Jobs biography. Just another super salesman! perhaps he would have made a great politician.
Good to see that the biography was so well written.
#80 Kevin - I'm sticking to that comment (and typing this on my iPad)
#81 Vivienne - I know I'm clueless, but the only serious criticisms I'm aware against Apple products is the price.
#82 hey Jonathan! I need to catch on your thread too. I also need to start Nehemiah...dragging though. Ezra did not rekindle my motivation.
#83 Bas - Despite the wording in my review, Jobs was more than a sales man. He was also a visionary with a keen eye for design, both in the software and in the container. He did a great job of making design a high priority, and he managed Apple in way that kept the designers and development constantly interacting. Without him, the quality of all our electronics would be much worse and much more clunky.
He would have made a terrible politician, he pissed everybody off.
>84 dchaikin: Dan, I remember people I worked with being totally disgusted with me for having a Mac (I mean, really annoyed!). I kept hearing they were only good for "graphics", whatever that meant. Most had never seen a Mac in action and were quite satisfied to put up with DOS and use sentences with dot-dir in them. At that time they could have enjoyed full colour luxury, desktop publishing, etc., on the Mac.
Not so long ago a friend, who had long complained bitterly about Apple products (again, never having used one) said he preferred to "get under the hood" to repair his own computer or to add stuff. Then he got an iPhone - and his opinions changed dramatically. He is now 100% Apple, but still touchy enough that I still don't know why he felt so strongly.
That's interesting. Isaacson talks about how the original Macs had two big problems, they were underpowered and they were built to discourage tinkering. Hackers didn't like them. The current Apple products are also pretty much impossible to tinker with, with one big exception in that you can add apps.
20. Re Arts & Letters : Real West - Volume XVII, Number 1, Spring 1991 (242 pages, read Mar 15 – Apr 27)
Main editor: Lee Schultz
A strange theme for a literary journal. The collection is very literary, but it occasionally has cowboy-ish themes; a mixture which I personally find a bit awkward. There is an art to the western genre and cowboy poetry, there is a reason I avoid both. Anyway, a lot of terrific stuff here, especially the opening piece by Frank Waters, originally presented orally decades* before this was published. And I met some wonderful poets. I adored the entries by Ray Gonzalez. I also enjoyed Violette Newton, Mike Hobbs, Sheryl St. Germain, John Groman & Tom Hansen, among others. The long list of contributors with excerpts below is for my own benefit. As usual, read at your risk. My favorites have an asterisk.
*I looked it up once, and didn’t write it down! Not looking it up again.
Lee Schultz – Editors Note
*Frank Waters – Words -- Wonderful stuff here exploring the power of the word, poking around the world and through history. I’m limiting myself to one two-paragraph excerpt:
Indo-European dominance of the world in modern times is of course a remarkable phenomenon. Its languages, particularly English, reflect our materialistic ideology. The early reverence for the sacred magic of the word gave way to the compulsion to practical economics.
Dick Hearberlin – Cowboy Dialect in Andy Adams’s Campfire Tales -- Yes, a essay on cowboy grammar, and yes it’s actually that boring
*Max Evans – Sam Peckinpah: Outlaw of Celluloid -- From a future book, about Evans crazy experiences with the very wild Peckinpah
Archie P. McDonald – Lonesome Dove and Larry McMurtry: Personal Reflections -- Great stuff about the grads chool environment and the quiet McMurtry. Also a terrific response by McMurtry to a detail critical analysis
Clay Reynolds – Trout Fishing in Texas -- Humor comparing magazine covers of fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains to fishing farm raised Trout in Texas
Lenore Carroll – Letter Home
L. D. Clark – Ghost Town -- Curious story of a loner in a ghost town who has some weird thoughts
William Eastlake – Red Muslims and Uncle Tomahawks
Mary Vanek – True Love
David Jurkiewicz – The Rise and Fall of Joe Normalkowski
Elizabeth Tallent – Eleven Buffalo Prayers
Terry Wiggs – On the Mesa
Grace Butcher – Voice From the Ruins
*Hugh Abernethy – Pueblos and Oppenheimer – terrific rhythm
-- The Sotol Vista – I’m able to see more layers, or think I do. Good stuff. Sotols thrumming
-- The Bread of Dreams
Del Marie Rogers – Crooked Tree
Paul David Colgin – Creed – four lines
*David Yates (1939 – 1985)
-- Dickey’s Announcement – a favorite. Compares a drunken face to the morning sun on Guadalupe Peak
-- Sign Along U.S. 90 Alternate
-- The Day Jesus Came to Gonzales, Texas
-- Song for Old Buffalos Like Me
Tino Villanueva – translated from Spanish by James Hoggard
-- El Mandado (trans: The Errand)
-- En El Claroscuro de los Anos (trans: In the Charoscuro of the Years)
Thomas Hornsby Ferril (1896 – 1978)
-- Elegy -- New Mexico
-- Metamorphoses: 1806, In the Afternoon of an Antelope
-- Waltzing the Arroyos
-- New Year’s Day, Bosque del Apache Refuge
-- Living on Hardscrabble
-- The Digs on Escondido Canyon
-- Black Wings Wheeling
-- Honky-Tonk Blues
-- Washing the Marlboro Man’s Feet
-- Important Region Experience/Poem
Justin Spring – Carol Gillespie
B. H. Fairchild
-- The Doppler Effect
Bruce McGinnis – The Plainsman
Conrad Shumaker – The Rattlers
Arthur Winfield Knight
-- Doc Holliday: Drunk
-- Pat Garret: The Job
-- Sounds from the Cactus Thorn
-- Sitting Outside the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado, A White Butterfly Lands on my Shoulder
It is a spec of light
-- The Cathedral of my Father
-- The Snake in Winter
S. M. Judice – Winter Woodducks: A Parable
C. J. Wells
-- The Cowboy Talks of Poetry
-- Reason for Leaving
Suanne Doak - Visit
-- The Rhododendron Speaks to the Redwood
-- On an Angry Horse Before a Narrow Road Lined with Barbed Wire Fencing
Joseph Colin Murphey – Never a Trade-in
Gilbert Benton – The Hydraulic Log Splitter
Marcyn Del Clements
-- Caruther’s Canyon
-- Last Dream Before Morning
-- Winter Feeding on the Four Sixes
-- August in Northwest Texas
Tom Padgett – Oklahoma News
Chris Willerton – Learning to Wear the Ring
Laura Kennelly – Flash Flood
Lynne B. Butler
-- Looking for Eagles
-- Roping Corrals
-- Barrel Racer
-- Riding the Line in Deep East Texas
-- A Place for Philosophers
-- A Farewell Party
-- The New Class
-- The Airport in Albuquerque
-- The Streets of Fort Worth
Barney Nelson - Jinette
Robert W. Clark
-- Travel Saints
-- Passage with Glaciers
Don A. Hoyt – Visiting the Gulf
Meredith Picard – Spring Storm
Gary S. Rosin - Intersections
Mark Cunningham – Early January
Michael Busby – A Night Across West Texas
-- My Father’s Backyard
-- My Father Was Driving Us to America
-- Oil of the Pecos Valley
-- Pecos Landscape
-- Rodeo Rider
-- Big Sky
*Sheryl St. Germain – Dallas Texas: Not from a Native Daughter
An excerpt, on how “Many who live here are not Texans”
We have come here for work, we have come to this amorphous,
*Peter Wild- Frontiersman
Actually about a dog. I can’t get the spacing right on this thread, but it ends:
As he pounds down the dirt wood road
*John Gorman – a most curious pair of poems
-- Local History
*Tom Hansen – Would-be Cowboy Belly-button Deep
Must quote this wonderful piece about reading…but I’ll skip most of it:
I am reading
Francis Edward Abernethy – reviews Karankawa County: Short Stories from a Corner of Texas by Neal Morgan
Terence Dalrymple – reviews Elmer Kelton and West Texas: A Literary Relationship by Judy Alter – sounds like a great book
Gerald M. Lacy – reviews Taking Stock: A Larry McMurtry Casebook edited by Craig Reynolds -- Lacy praises the value of the content, but blasts the editor for weird ordering and repetition between introductions and content.
Art and photography
by Barney Nelson, LaVerne Harrell Clark, Erica Craig, Pat Evans, David Jurkiewicz, Larry Ketchum, Megan (?), Francis Edward Abernethy, Allen Richman, Mark Rossi, Paul Rossi, Florence Rossi, Jim Snyder & Rondalea Stark
21. Wittgenstein : A Very Short Introduction by A. C. Grayling (1988, 142 pages, read Apr 20-28)
Still thinking about reading Wittgenstein's Tractatus, I picked this up. Throughout this book, all the way to the closing section, I was really motivated because Grayling's explanation is really clear and makes following Wittgenstein seem suddenly very simple. (He doesn't do such a good job on Philosophical Investigations). But Grayling closes by telling us Wittgenstein was poetic, but really had very little content and wasn't much of a philosopher.
I could write a lot about how to respond to that. I mean it leaves me questioning the entire book, and specifically whether Grayling oversimplified to make this point; and it also leaves me questioning why the heck I'm bothering with this content-less philosopher. And, well, I'm not sure which line of questioning is the right one.
In any case even Grayling agrees that Wittgenstein was one of the most fascinating personalities of the 20th-century. This is the guy who never got his degree because he refused to respond to his advising professors suggestions on polishing up his work. He told the professor something to the effect that the professor should do all this work himself, because if he wasn't worth that kind of effort, then the work was crap. And then, later, Wittgenstein all but committed suicide in voluntary duty during WWI, volunteering for the most dangerous assignments. But he survived, and his experiences led directly to Tractatus. Wittgenstein slowly came to the conclusion that Tractatus was flawed, and spent the rest of his life explaining why, in the process exploring the nature and limits of language.
Wittgenstein also killed a major work of his mentor, Russell Bertrand. He spent a day telling Bertrand the work was conceptually flawed. So, Bertrand stopped working on it. What is most interesting, and what I didn't know before this book, was that Bertrand never really understood Wittgenstein's criticism. He just felt that if Wittgenstein was so passionate about his criticism, it must be right in some way.
22. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & illustrated by Leland Myrick (2011, 266 pages, read May 1 - 6)
Disappointing. I read this hoping to for some kind of introduction into who Feynman was. I was hoping for some depth, but within my limited comprehension of physics. This has an overview of Feynman's life, told in first person. The illustrations are good and it kept my attention. But, I closed this feeling that there just isn't much here. I was left with the impression that Feynman was a quirky guy, happy to be outspoken, with a good idea here and there. Surely that's not the whole picture. Whatever it was that made Feynman special isn't captured.
I took abnormal psych from an old Berkeley burnout who used only Foucault and Wittengenstein for texts. I thought I was so cool :) it was mindblowing.
Well, i'm intrigued by that Merrikay. I have not read or read about Foucault.
I've seen enough references to Foucault to make me more interested in perhaps reading him than Wittgenstein, but I fear that before I pick up one of these philosophers I should read at least the major works that came before (i.e. Descartes, Kant, etc.), otherwise it would be like trying to learn calculus without first learning algebra. Maybe I'm wrong on that.
Too bad about the Feynman book. I remember really enjoying his memoir Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman many years ago.
Good for you Dan in planning to tackle Wittgenstein, that is somewhere I fear to go at the moment. I really enjoyed your thoughts on the Grayling book - made me laugh.
Steven - Wittgenstein is part of my Infinite Jest re-read prep project, one that has lost much of it's momentum. But anyway Descartes, Kant and the rest of the philosopher...it's just too much. They will have to wait for another state of mind.
Bas - Thanks. The fear factor is why started with a graphic book take and then a Very Short Introduction. I needed some context and direction. I think the next step is Tracatus itself. Then, maybe a more serious book on it to explain to me what I just read.
Irlen Syndrome...is it real? Seems no one can say for sure what it is or isn't or how to treat it anyway. I took a test. I see lines "double" (actually they don't split, they have shadows that don't nicely stay in one place). I've always noticed I have trouble mentally just focusing on a single printed word. So, I'm testing out $4 turquoise plastic overlays. The next step would be several hundred dollars.
>92 dchaikin:: Oh, that's a pity. Both because I have Feynman on my TBR pile and was hoping for better from it, and because Feyman really was a guy with an absolutely amazing brain, as well as being quirky and outspoken and likeable, and any book about him that fails to capture that really is doing him a disservice.
Bragan - I should have asked you for a suggestion before I read that. Do you have any suggestions for an intro to Feynman?
Hmm. I tend to recommend Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and its follow-up volume What Do You Care What Other People Think?. Those are probably still heavier on the quirky anecdotes and lighter on the scientific genius than you might be looking for, though. There are a couple of not-bad biographies, but they both get into levels of physics that make my head hurt, and I have a degree in the subject. If you want to experience Feyman talking about physics, The Character of Physical Law is fantastic, and involves much more basic physics, but could still be difficult going if you don't have an affinity for the subject.
101 - oh my but the titles themselves do call!
94 - Yeah I had to go (in those days we actually had to GO) to the library and start with the books that told me what the other books said :).
I'm enjoying your reading comments, Dan. Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! calls to me from my TBRs whenever someone here mentions it, which is often!
#101 Thanks Bragan. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman goes on the wishlist.
#102 Merrikay - It still puzzles me that how seemingly offbeat it feels to be a non-academic reading essays about books. This is normal, right?
#103 Thanks MJ.
Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretation) (New Edition) edited by Harold Blood (2009, 209 pages, read Apr 13 - May 12)
This collection of nine essays was worth the time and effort, and there was some effort. Song of Solomon is a puzzling and complicated book full of a variety of ideas. Published in 1977, it reflects its time where rich, complicated and quickly evolving ideas were being thrown around by the black intellectual community about black history, and race relations and the various consequences of being black in America. What these essays did for me was to bring out of this some of the main themes (which aren’t all that clear) and give me some sense of the cacophony of ideas within. They also added a lot of detailed info I would never have picked up on. This kind of stuff brings out more of the book and makes it richer. My one complaint with these essays is that none of them address Guitar, one of the key characters, in much depth. So, of course, it’s Guitar that I now think most about.
Since reading this I have read Morrison’s first two books, The Bluest Eye and Sula. Both are very good, with Sula something more than simply very good. I’m happy with my impression of the The Bluest Eye, and I’ll leave it there, at least for now. But Sula has left me wondering. I’m hoping to read some essays like these on Sula.
Below is a list of the essays with (hopefully) brief comments, just enough to give sense of the books content.
Harold Blood - Introduction
Bloom has a great point near the end here. Morrison has often and clearly denied any influence in her writing by William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf, two writers she studied closely in graduate school is often compared with, especially Faulkner. It’s a weird claim of hers. Anyway, Bloom’s point is that a novelist cannot chose their own predecessors.
Trudier Harris - Song of Solomon
Makes the curious observation that Milkman, the hero of Song of Solomon (or, as she says, the anti-classical hero), leaves behind him a trail of trampled women who propped him up along his journey. It’s a curious aspect of the book, and very obvious once it’s pointed out. But what is Morrison saying by doing this?
Patrick Bryce Bjork - Song of Solomon: Reality and Mythos Within the Community
Highlights the fairytale imagery throughout Song of Solomon, which may explain it’s surreal aspect. And brings in Roland Barthes ideas that on how myths simplify the story and lead it to meaning.
Brooks Bouson - Quiet as it’s kept: Shame, trauma, and Race in the novels of Toni Morrison
My notes say “Wordy”. Bouson sees Song of Solomon as primarily about black shame and about how this has resulted in a denial of black history and an embrace of “bourgeois (white-identified) pride”.
John N. Duvall - Song of Solomon, Narrative Identity, and the Faulknerian Intertext
My notes say “A very good chapter”, which is too bad because I don’t remember any of it. Duvall compares Song of Solomon to two Faulkner novels - Absalom! Absalom! and Go Down Moses (note: I have never read Faulkner).
Dana Medoro - Justice and Citizenship in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
On social justice, black history and philosophy of justice. Also includes an interesting comparison and contrast of Guitar and Pilate, two of the main characters.
Wes Barry - Tony Morrison’s Revisionary “Nature Writing”: Song of Solomon and the Blasted Pastoral
An interesting discussion on what nature writing is. The key point in this essay, on how a kind of mysticism towards nature differs for blacks verse others, didn’t make much sense to me.
Lorie Watkins Fulton - William Faulkner Reprised: Isolation in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
A very interesting comparison of Morrison to William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. Morrison seems to favor Faulkner over Woolf, at least in the somewhat complicated ideas discussed here.
Judy Pocock - “Through a glass darkly": typology in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
An analysis of the character names in the book, which is much more complicated and unclear than I expected. “Through a glass darkly" is line from First Corinthians, the name of one Milkman’s sisters. (line 13:12)
Judith Fletcher - Signifying Circe in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
Circe is a key side character in Song of Solomon, and also a key character in The Odyssey. Fletcher argues she "signifies" and ruptures the Homeric tradition.
I had not heard of the Bloom's Modern Critical interpretations series. This one certainly sounds good. Thanks for the review Dan
Interesting observations on a book I haven't read. I remember your review of Song of Solomon. If I should ever read it, I will definitely also look for these interpretive essays.! Great review, Dan.
Thanks, both of you.
Bas - I don't know if it's really "good". Seriously. First I haven't read enough of these kinds of essays to judge; and, second, whenever I read these kinds of essays, always in the back of my mind is that sense that they could be done better in some way. They have value nonetheless.
Linda - Thanks for the compliment and for letting me know you got some value out of my post.
24. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970, 215 pages, read May 16-21)
I have waited too long and forgotten too much. My memory is a jumble of details. Too bad, because I closed this pretty impressed with the effect and how much I enjoyed it.
The edition I read, from 1993, had an afterword by Morrison where she gives her own book a literary critique. She is a wonderful literary critic, but she is so harsh are herself, too harsh. She tells us the main point was lost in the book because she lacked the writing skills, at the time, to pull it off.
It is so many years since I read Toni Morrison, and I'm glad you're reintroducing her to me.
Just catching ups again.
I think we now all realise that Steve Jobs wasn't the anti-Christ but he was probably distantly related. If I learned anything from him it was that you can fool a lot of the people all of the time. (Of course, all Apple users should thank Microsoft every day as they saved the company when it was on brink of total collapse).
>105 dchaikin: - reading your review reminded me of a documentary I watched recently about Alice Walker and there was a photograph of a number of black female writers, including Toni Morrison, who were accused of betraying their race by producing novels that portrayed black men in a negative light. This wasn't a minor disagreement, it was played out on television and major magazines - it seems hard to believe now but people really used to care what novels said. Now it only matters what celebrities say.
Colleen - have you read any others my Morrison?
Rebecca - That's a nice compliment. Thanks. Glad I've been able to do that.
Turner - "it seems hard to believe now but people really used to care what novels said" - First a realization...wow, that really isn't the case today. It seems like popular novels now only entertain. And second, I can't recall a time in my years of awareness that people did care on a wide cultural level about something serious in a novel.
I wrote this last night and hesitated to post. I'm totally unqualified, but I seem to be trying to actually review poetry.
25 & 32. Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (2012, 89 pages, read May 20-28, then re-read June 29 - July 16)
28. Strike sparks : selected poems, 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds (2004, 208 pages, read June 2 - 26)
Reading the 75th anniversary edition of Poetry Magazine last year (the issue is from 1987) was a big deal for me and changed how I read poetry. It also left me with a list of fascinating poets to pursue. Sharon Olds was one of these. When Stag’s Leap won the Pulitzer Prize this year, it seemed like a good excuse to read one of her books.
Stag's Leap is a collection of poems covering the break-up of Olds's marriage after some thirty years, when, apparently, her husband walked out on her. She addresses the confusing and conflicting emotions she feels over time. The opening section deals with the shock of it. The rest of the book explore various aspects and seem to hover over a lingering doubt about those thirty years, about the possible difference between what she thought their relationship was and what the reality may have been.
But I didn't know what to make this collection. It's not exactly purely poetic, at least to my senses. Olds is kind of telling a story with each poem, and using the poetry as a method of approach. It seemed to me to be way to address something hard to face head-on. With poetry, she can move around the issue, touch on a detail here and there, give a sense of atmosphere, all somehow saying quite a bit, losing directness for subtly. But the poems themselves feel like a lot of talking, instead of like, well, a poem. I'm exaggerating a little here.
So, anyway, next I picked up her collection, Strike Sparks: Selected poems, 1980-2002, which starts off quite different. Her poetry does strike sparks in her early collections. These poems are striking, blunt and leave an impression. (And this is what she was writing in 1987 when Poetry Magazine published that 75th anniversary issue.) But over time her poems evolved in a different way. The wittiness fades, and the poems get deeper. One collection was of poems about her recently deceased father, and covers an assortment of mixed feeling about the him, his state of dying and her feelings afterward. Altogether this was a spectacular collection of poetry. I absolutely adored it and hated returning the book the library...I finished the collection on my kindle, but the attachment to an electric copy just isn't the same.
Newly enlightened, I purchased a kindle edition of Stag's Leap (I had used a library book before) and read it again. Was it different? Well, for whatever reason this time the poems covering the time her husband left, when she was still in something like a state of shock, were riveting. They are sad, but so powerful, so alive in that moment. The rest of the collection didn’t change for me though. In some of these poems I could see the craft, or just enjoy her sly, off-beat self-observation. But, overall, there were still several that didn’t do anything for me (possibly I just missed something)
Now, I know I'm no poetry expert. As far as I can tell, Stag's Leap has some wonderful poetry. But, it seemed uneven to me. If your interested in Sharon Olds, I would recommend starting with Strike Sparks, or, alternately, starting with an earlier collection and moving forward in time.
Dan, I'm glad you didn't permanently hesitate to post your comments on the poetry - really interesting thoughts and responses.
Have you read any Donald Hall? I read his Without - a collection about his wife's illness and death - and it made me realize that I could "get" poetry, even if only on a purely personal level. It's really lovely, though heart-breaking.
ooh, I really want to read that set of essays on Song of Solomon also if you're in a Feynman mood I really enjoyed The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.
Excellent thoughts on the Sharon Olds poems Dan. I am always interested as to how people read poetry, for example with the collection did you read it from cover to cover, did you re-read many poems and did you spend a longer time with your favourite ones. Of course the real test of whether you like a poem is whether you are prepared to learn it by heart.
Dan you hooked me earlier on Strike Sparks and it's a pleasure to read more of your reactions to Sharon Olds.
I love poetry reviews! But I also know from experience that they can be enormously difficult to write. Thanks for taking the plunge and sharing your thoughts on Sharon Olds, Dan.
Reading the 75th anniversary edition of Poetry Magazine last year (the issue is from 1987) was a big deal for me and changed how I read poetry. I'm curious how it changed the way you read poetry. I often struggle when reading poetry, but do enjoy it, and have to remind myself that it is okay to not always "get it".
Katie - I'm not familiar with Donald Hall. I'll keep that name in mind. Billy Collins was the first poet I was able to read and get something put of.
Yolana - check your library. American libraries tend to have a lot of Toni Morrison, possibly because she is the most recent American Nobel Prize winner for literature (it's been a while since an American author won). And thanks for the Feynman recommendation.
Colleen - yay about Beloved. There is a lot more there then in The Bluest Eye. Song of Solomon is a fun book on top of everything else.
Bas - that "real" test asks a lot. Olds reads easy, so I would read several poems in a sitting. I might come back to a few but mainly because I was thinking about sharing them and wondering which ones might work. I've been off routine for a while now, so I never got in a good routine while reading these, but I might read them in bed or might read them in the morning before work (My main reading time lately. I drive in early to beat the traffic, the spend an hour having breakfast and reading)
Merrikay - Thanks!
MJ - your posts are always so nice. Thanks for the compliment.
Linda - you're welcome. The thing with Poetry Magazine, as far as I can gather, is that they have had a small number of editors each with strong opinions that tend to favor certain aspects of poetry. One aspect that seems to have been continually emphasized is the rhythm within poetry. The 75th anniversary issue was a huge collection of top poets of that time (1987). Reading that many really high quality poems, each so strong in that rhythm aspect, something just clicked. Since them poetry has a sound to me, a written sound. And, now I notice a lot of poetry is jarring, has poor rhythm or doesn't quite seem to have any. It's a difficult effect to create. A lot of poetry I have read in journals has clever ideas, or other interesting (and also poetic effects) but very few accomplish that rhythm.
26. A Memory of Light (Book Fourteen of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (2013, 895 pages, read May 22 - June 16)
Those who know my reading might be wondering why I’m reading this series, and the stuff behind that question does explain why I waited till May to read this book. I pre-ordered in November and it arrived at my house on January 11, 2013. By May Half-Price books had copies in piles.
So I held off on these 900 pages knowing I would read them slow despite their shallowness. And then life got stressful and I needed to be in a simpler place. Twenty-two years have passed since I borrowed book one of this series from the fantasy-reading son of my mother’s boyfriend. We were snow skiing in Colorado over the winter holiday break of my senior year in high school. That book, one I would never pick up today, took me somewhere books had never taken me before and kicked off my delayed-reading life. But a lot has happened to me since then.
Anyway, the book. It gets a lot of friendly reviews from readers who have suffered through the entire series. Not exactly praise. But readers like the end...because Brandon Sanderson managed to pull it off, no small feat, especially for a replacement author...and because it works. It’s a nice end to what almost accidentally became a very brutal story with death everywhere. But, ultimately, it’s a disappointment. A long overdrawn sequence of battles stifling the interesting aspects of all these (hundreds!) of characters we have come to know. For a character driven series that eventually got itself completely tangled in its own complexity, this was a very simple and not particularly fulfilling end.
27. The Paris Review 196, Spring 2011 (242 pages, read Apr 27 - June 23)
edited by Lorin Stein
This was my first time reading The Paris Review and discovering their wonderful interviews. I can easily recommend this journal just based on the two interviews from this one edition. But the highlight for me in this issue, other than the cover, which I love, was the long selection from the Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich, the first quarter of the at the time unpublished book. But, as it’s a 2011 issue and the book is now published, I was able to and did immediately buy the rest of the novel on kindle and continue reading it.
ps - Anyone know what the numbers mean in the titles of the interviews?
pss - A lot of this issue is available online here: http://www.theparisreview.org/back-issues/196
Roberto Bolaño, The Third Reich: Part I
The first of four installments The Third Reich, with by illustrations by Leanne Shapton (including the illustration on the cover). I’ll review the book later.
Joshua Cohen, Emission
The narrator meets a one-time drug dealer hiding in Berlin. This spoiled child of a college professor is outed as a drug dealer when, in a weak moment charmed by a girl, he gives away his name and tells a very funny and embarrassing story. The girl posts all this online and the story goes viral. Entertaining stuff.
Ann Beattie, The Art of Fiction No. 209 - interview by Christopher Cox
I don’t know anything about Ann Beattie, but the interview was fascinating. If I got this right, she was highly praised early in her career by big names (like Raymond Carver), mainly for her original style. But that style isn’t original anymore and it seems her popularity has faded.
Janet Malcolm, The Art of Nonfiction No. 4 - interview by Katie Roiphe
A bad interview of an absolutely fascinating author. The interview was over e-mail and the answers felt too clean, not much is revealed. But Malcolm is an author I want to read now, especially after this line in the introduction:
Her ten provocative books, including The Journalist and the Murderer, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, In the Freud Archives, and Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, are simultaneously beloved, demanding, scholarly, flashy, careful, bold, highbrow, and controversial. Many people have pointed out that her writing, which is often called journalism, is in fact some other wholly original form of art, some singular admixture of reporting, biography, literary criticism, psychoanalysis, and the nineteenth-century novel—English and Russian both.Poetry
Chris Andrews, Two Poems
Five Poems of Kabbalah translated from Hebrew by Peter Cole - These are wonderful
Stephen Dunn, Leaving the Empty Room
Linda Gregerson, Slaters’ Measure
Clare Rossini, The Nitro
Pavel Zoubok, Collage
John Jeremiah Sullivan, Unnamed Caves - On Native American cave are hidden in the Applachians. Very interesting
Édouard Levé, When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue - translated from French by Lorin Stein
I own that issue of The Paris Review, but I haven't read it yet (along with at least 15-20 others!).
Anyone know what the numbers mean in the titles of the interviews?
I'm pretty sure that they refer to the order in which they appeared in the magazine, i.e., The Art of Fiction No. 1 would most likely have appeared in its first issue.
ETA: Yes, that's right. The Art of Fiction No. 1 article featured E.M. Forster, which appeared in the inaugural edition of The Paris Review, which was published in Spring 1953:
E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1
Interesting review of The Paris Review. I have several collections of their interviews, beginning with The Paris Review Interviews I (I believe there may have been an earlier series of collected interviews as well), and it seemed to me the series deteriorated as the editors must have picked the most interesting interviews for the first volume, then the second volume, etc. Later, they put them all on line, and they are indeed fascinating.
I was never really an Ann Beattie fan, but Janet Malcolm is fascinating, and I would like to read more of her work than I have (both in the New Yorker and in books).
The cave article sounds fascinating.
I probably should read The Paris Review, but I already get more magazines than I can read. Thanks for sharing this one with us.
My son was a huge Robert Jordan fan when he was in HS, but I don't know if he's kept up with the series. The last volume I bought for him was in 1997 when he was a freshman at Georgetown.
124 That is a wonderful story and makes such an important point doesn,t it? Thanks for telling it.
Glad you got to finish the Jordan series even if it was a disappointment. I know a lot of people who loved those books at some point and for others it was the series that got them into fantasy. A lot of them are into GRRM now and are hoping he'll finish his series sooner rather than later.
Too bad about the Malcolm interview in The Paris Review. I'm also interested in reading more by her after finishing In the Freud Archives.
Thank Darryl. 209 is close match for one interview an issue over 58 years (and presumably ~200 issues, depending on whether the number of issues per year has varies or always been four). But only 4 Non-fiction interviews...?
Rebecca - That is a funny problem. How do you not put your best ones in the first volume? The magazine pile is an issue I have never solved. For a couples years now I've stopped subscribing to any magazines. This is partly because I have piles of literary reviews there were given to me one time and that I'll be able to read through...But I feel guilt for not supporting any...
Jane - That must have been book 7. Book 8 is the first bad one, where nothing happens and yet story gets much bigger.
Merrikay - Yes, it's an interesting lesson. There is something unpredictable about what kind of books we respond to...and when we might respond to them.
Maus - I think I'm done with any standard genre fantasy...except maybe Tolkien...or if I somehow convince myself to read Jordan...or if I somehow take up someone other interest that sends me to fantasy... Oh, and the Janet Malcolm interview - I'm still very glad I read it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in her. It's just the way it was done, there was something of Malcolm that we didn't have access to.
Your review sent me over to The Paris Review website, Dan. There are certainly lots of interviews with great authors to explore there. Thanks!
I haven't yet read anything by Janet Malcolm, but since our library system has a decent selection of her books, I will hopefully rectify that. I noticed that she has a new book out that looks very interesting: Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers.
I've looked at Forty-One False Starts in the bookstore, but haven't quite bought it yet.
Linda - that title sounds terrific...checked amazon reviews. Professional reviews seem to be in awe of JM. Regular reviews leave me with the impression that it's mostly good, but overall a mixed collection. Not sure what to make of that. I don't think I'll start there.
Dan, I enjoyed your reading of Sharon Olds. I read Stag's Leap and enjoyed it, more than One Secret thing (? I think that was it's name) a year or two ago. She can be very precise and powerful in her phrasing. I haven't read anything else by her. In some ways I am wary of her and her power. That may just be me.
I also enjoyed reading how your ear tuned itself, sounds amazing.
I also enjoyed what you said about Janet Malcolm. I read some of The Silent Woman once, in fact I think twice, or read not much but found it very powerful and gave up twice and always have a strong feeling I should retry it. Maybe now I've read more Plath and Hughes and of them.
and now I read what you said abut the Wittgenstein book you read - I liked the Introducing Wittgenstein book, that may have had text by John Heaton I think, not sure now without checking. But also his book on Wittgenstein and psychoanalysis is very good, at least for beginners like me. I never got far with the Tractatus itself, nice idea, read bits, sound a fraud now. Read bits of others things too and enjoyed Ray Monk's biography and Anthony Kenny's book on him (the last also a partial read so far). the stories about him are so powerful so often and so interesting usually. Interesting the idea of him as a poet.
Hi Tony. Intrigued by your phrasing "wary of her and her power" about Olds, and wondering what you mean. You have read quite a bit on Wittgenstein. Thanks for listing those book on him. I've read Heaton's Introducing Wittgenstein (see post #69 above). His Wittgenstein and Psychoanalysis is not so easy to acquire...actually none of those are so easy. Kenny's book is $30+ on amazon kindle. As for Tactatus...a library copy is in the house...but I haven't had the nerve to start reading it yet. (and maybe fear of Wittgenstein is the true reason I'm reading about 17th & 18th century antiquarianism & science.)
29. The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño (2011, 288 pages, read June 24 - July 2)
translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
I stumbled across this in the spring 2011 issue of The Paris review. The novel was found posthumously among Bolaño’s papers (and only partially typed). The writing is dated to 1989, which makes it Bolaño’s first novel. (He had previously published poetry.)
This is my first look at Bolaño, who I’ve been interested in but also intimidated by. Based on his titles, what I know of the plots, and what I think I know about South American writers, I was expecting something difficult to read and understand. So I was surprised how gentle the writing is here. This is a complex and interesting novel, which touches on some dark and serious things, but it doesn’t read that way. The story opens with a Udo and his girlfriend on a beach vacation in Spain, from Germany. They are young. Udo narrates and brings up his history of vacations in Spain, and then his obsession with a game based on World World II, titled The Third Reich. He considers himself something like the master of the game in all of Germany.
It’s pretty clear early on that Udo is on some kind of mental edge and we expect him to collapse somewhere along the line. But...they’re lovers on the beach and Bolaño softens the atmosphere so the book slows down. It pulled me in. I was relaxed reading this, fully escaping my own real world and was able to just hangout in the book and enjoy watching Udo’s quirky collapse. Much to think about here. I don’t imagine this is Bolaño’s best or most powerful novel, but I’m very happy to have read it.
Nice review of The Third Reich, Dan. I'm not a huge fan of Bolaño, but do own the issues that contain this novel (three or four, right?) so I'll likely read it at some point.
ETA: Yes, it's divided into the four 2011 issues of The Paris Review, #196-199. I own all of those.
Interesting review of the Bolaño -- I've been intimidated by him too, so maybe this is a good one to start with.
Excellent review of The Third Reich Dan. This novel has garnered some good reviews.
Darryl - Hope you enjoy. It sounds silly but one reason I liked having the first quarter in the magazine was that I felt that I had a good out if I didn't like it.
Jane - i would recommend it to you. (I didn't think literature professors were allowed to be intimidated.)
Bas - Thanks. I scanned through the other LT reviews. They are good quality reviews...although none of them seemed to get lost in the atmosphere the way I did.
I was looking through books at the weekend and I realised I have a copy of Sharon Olds' Stag's Leap and on the basis on your review I will take a look at.
My problem with poetry is that I tend to start, read a few poems and then forget about the book. It's not that I'm not interested but because there is usually no narrative it is easy to put aside. Once it is aside it somehow gets more difficult to pick up again. I have thought about taking a week a month off longer narratives to concentrate on poetry, essays and short stories.
>137 dchaikin: - when I started reading that review it sounded so familiar that I thought I had read it but thinking about there must be another Bolano that starts with the same premise of the young couple on holiday because the game aspect of it provokes no memory.
>140 baswood: - there was a point where Bolano's standing was so high after his premature death that his last shopping list would have been awarded 5 stars and described as ground-breaking and poignant.
>136 dchaikin: sorry Dan I missed that bit of your reading. You know there is a film about Wittgenstein? (though have to admit I never made it through it). Philosophy books are always expensive. I got Monk's book 2nd hand, Kenny from the library. I also want to read Norman mslcolms memoir of him. My tractatus and PI are barely touched, also have culture and value, likewise. Must get more discipline.
As to Olds, my wariness is about the power of her words, maybe also to do with her feminine peperspective and then totally irrationally just from having sampled her writing I also know she had a collection named Satan says and that's probably a large part of the reason I am wary, not read it, talk about judging a book by its cover, but it's also how I imagine her voice with such a topic, potentially very powerful to me.
I was relaxed reading this, fully escaping my own real world and was able to just hangout in the book...
That's the highest compliment that can be paid to any book, IMO.
30. Sula by Toni Morrison (1973, 181 pages, read July 3-8)
How to capture this?
Morrison’s second novel leaves a mark. It reminds me of a side story by Pat Conroy in his memoir My Reading Life. As a young author he had a chance to meet Toni Morrison, but she refused to sign a book or talk with him apparently because he was white and male. Conroy obviously never forgave her. Before Sula I hadn’t been able to see that person behind Morrison’s writing (although there are strong hints in Guitar and his carefully reasoned murders in Song of Solomon). There is a complex but palpable anger underneath Sula. In a 2004 forward to the novel Morrison wrote about Sula that she "rooted the narrative in a landscape already tainted by the fact that it existed" - and this is an underlying point in the novel, the hurt and limitations of being black in the US.
The short novel parallels the lives of Nel Wright, a good girl raised in a good home, and her childhood best friend Sula Peace, who grew up in more wild circumstances too complex to describe here. Both grew up in an impoverished segregated black community in the hills outside a white valley Ohio town in roughly the 1930’s (??). In Sula the reader is confronted. A complicated character, she searches for her own freedom in a variety of forms, breaking many societal norms, and crossing over into some gut-wrenching crimes...crimes that don’t seem to bother her. The reader is left to wonder what do with our mixed feelings of admiration and disturbance, and Morrison offers no easy answers.
This is a terrific read that can stir up some conflicting emotions deep down in the reader.
33. Stickman Odyssey: Book Two: The wrath of Zozimos by Christopher Ford (2012, 229 pages, read July 30)
Harmless and worth the distraction, but not much going on here.
Nice review of Sula, Dan. I'm still not eager to read anything by Toni Morrison, though.
Nice reviews of The Third Reich and Sula. I've read two works by each of the respective authors, but not these. I had no idea that the title of The Third Reich comes from the board game. I've played many such games in the past, probably including that one, so this is a book I'll definitely want to read just to see how it fits in.
Dan I’ve not been motivated to read more by Morrison (have only read The Bluest Eye to date) ... until your review of Sula, thank you!
I see you’re currently reading Nine Horses by Billy Collins -- I snagged his new Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems from Early Reviewers, and the one I remember most of those he pulled forward from Nine Horses is “Istanbul,” have you read it yet?
Following your reading of Toni Morrison with much interest. Any more in the pipeline?
Thanks all for the nice comments.
Katie - you're most welcome
Darryl - : ) I suspect you still have plenty of other reading options.
Colleen - Very true. Sula, in particular, stirs up conflicting emotions. It left me with a lot to think about.
Steven - I'm not sure in what manner The Third Reich is based on real games. From the description it sounded like an impossibly-almost-realistic game. But surely it was inspired by some kind of real gaming.
MJ - very kind comment. I'm in a weird place reading-wise in that the words aren't getting to me. (Which is maybe why I'm reading nonfiction history/history of science themed books.) Having trouble with poetry, which led me to try Billy Collins again. Nine Horses seems very good, although I'm only getting so much out of it. Istanbul is a great poem, thanks for getting me to go back and read it again.
Bas - Tar Baby is next. But, because of the place i'm in (see my response To MJ) I'm holding off on it for the moment.
>153 dchaikin: Definitely so, Dan! I think I could take a two year sabbatical from work, not buy another book during that time, and still not get to all the books I own and want to read.
No doubt time's telescope has the effect of making the intellectual history of the Middle Ages seem more monolithic than it really was. Apart from the theological schisms that produced bloody massacres like the Albigensian Crusade, apart from the ever-present tension between Christianity and Islam, there were less violent disputes between Realists and Nominalists, between Dominican and Franciscan Orders, between the literally faithful Aristotelians and such innovators as the followers of Averroes or the Oxford mathematical school. But at least so far as the philosophy of nature is concerned the historian is inclined to feel that an essentially Aristotelian consensus dissolved in the latter part of the sixteenth century, to be replace not by one but a multitude of schools: atomists, Cartesians, Hermeticists and Paracelsians, Helmontians, Platonists and Pythagorean mathematicians, eclectics and individualists of many types.
If you are off the wikipedia, you might understand another reason why I'm reading about the history of science - all these curious and fascinating and weird schools of thought and whatnot. This paragraph comes from the opening of a chapter in The Revolution in Science 1500-1750 by A. Rupert Hall. The chapter is titled "New systems of scientific thought in the seventeenth century".
That does sound intriguing, Dan, but I'd put it in the "too many books, too little time" category because I fear it would open up such a world of more books to read . . .
I'm getting worse:
The search for order in a chaotic world...informs poetic work as surely as it does the work of science, visual artists struggle for harmony of form, and the desire for universality and certainty is as central to metaphysical and theological speculation as it is to scientific thoughtfrom Science Deified & Science Defied by Richard Olson.
Dan, keep posting the philosophy and history of science quotes! They are great.
Jonathan, I'll have to see where it goes. Olson is taking me far from where i intended to be. I just left Mesopotamia where the ability to come up with a predictable celestial calendar led to a gnostic rebellion...or something like that.
Let's see if I can do this. The images below should be my main TBR shelf, the books I most want to read (of those I own). But, for whatever reason, I hardly ever actually read these... They should end up in the somewhat random order they are on my shelf, but they won't look like my shelf because these are covers, and I only see spines. And, if you're curious, there are 26 books here. I have two other similar shelves which are maybe a rung down in priority and...roughly six more shelves after those. And then there are all the other books...
Great science quotes. And you got a few heafty tomes there in the TBR.
Great line-up of TBRs, Dan. Your science history reading also looks very interesting and I'm looking forward to more of your comments.
Your science quotes are quite interesting. Love the pictures of your TBR. Maybe if I could be that organized, I would find it easier to choose my next book.
#164 - Bas, I am, just not these books...
#165 - Kevin, yes, some big tomes, but they all look so small on the shelf. One problem is that reading one of them isn't an end in itself, but merely a jump off place for more books...taking me far from the shelf again...
#166 - Linda, the science stuff...and antiquarian stuff...has been fascinating. The scholars of this era...each was quite a character.
#167 - Colleen, I picture you very organized...hmm...
#168 - Rebecca - I'm not quite sure what to expect from The Wave-Watchers Companion. Since I'm in seismic and work with waves of a sort, I'm hoping for some kind of conceptual overlap...but there may not be. As for The Echo Maker, I'm under the impression there is a science-y aspect to it. I've read mixed reviews on it, but I'll try to be patient with it. Anyway, echoes-sound waves-seismic...there is a life link...
Some very interesting books there, Dan. I've read four of them. The Sea would be my favorite, but I recommend you read Lolita first if you haven't done so. The Crying of Lot 49 and Freedom are great. I wasn't as enthused as other have been about The Land of Green Plums.
Richard Powers is an author I need to read. He sounds like someone I would like.
I'm interested to see what you learn about El Llano Estacado except that it's flat and dry. (I used to live in Odessa.)
haven't read Lolita...maybe I should start with another Banville...maybe I should read Lolitla sooner rather than later....
I picked up El Llano Estacado at the Texas A&M Consortium press building while on campus a couple years ago. No clue what's inside. (It's published by Texas State Historical Association.)
>172 baswood: - I'd like to think that if you visited Paris Texas there would be buskers at every corner playing lonesome slide guitar.
>170 StevenTX: - I read The Appointment and had the same reaction. Not that keen to go back to Muller.
>161 dchaikin: - it's an intriguing list. Glad to see the Pynchon book is The Crying of Lot 49, one of his massive tomes may have pushed the list over into hernia land. Ozick is a writer I keep meaning to get round to but never do despite having a couple of books gathering dust on the shelves.
>169 dchaikin: Dan I am fairly organized, but when it comes to books... I will have several in mind as next up, when a recommendation or something about the book I am reading points me elsewhere. When I was having trouble this week, it was because my next two books were theoretically No Ordinary Times and The Balkan Trilogy. Both are quite hefty though, and I really needed to start something on my kindle so that I could pop it in my handbag. Such a problem to have.. :)
#172 - Yes, and coincidentally I used to live in Paris, Texas, too.
Odessa was given its name by Russian-born railroad workers who said the surrounding prairie resembled the steppes of their native land. There's no Black Sea near our Odessa, however, unless you count the sea of oil that lies beneath it.
Not far from Odessa is the delightful little city of Marfa, Texas. It was named after a character in The Brothers Karamazov by the wife of the railroad manager who founded the town.
#173 - Sorry, no buskers. I lived there as a child, and the one thing I remember most about Paris was the ever-present smell of the vinegar factory which was the town's largest industry.
>161 dchaikin: Dan -- like vacation, getting the books out and thought about is lots of the fun. Much to look forward to on that shelf.
I too enjoy your TBR patchwork quilt. I am biased because I enjoyed it myself, but I would read Lion's Honey.
176 - Unfortunately, I'm at the putting the books back after vacation stage. Bummer. Bags and bags of books I haven,t read and need to put back in their subject area but don't want to let go of them. But I can't walk through my room.
Love love love the cover pics. and the science info. Do you listen to Science Friday on NPR? Love that show. Kills my TBR list tho. Not as bad as you guys on Club Read do tho.
Dan -- I share your reactions to Sula. Tar Baby I found really depressing to get through -- probably my least favorite Morrison, and the last one I would recommend to anyone. But Morrison remains at the top of my favorite writers list.
#172,3 & 5 - Steven, you are the second person I've me with Paris, TX in your childhood. Honestly, Odessa doesn't bother me so much, especially if the founder had some Russian heritage. But I'll never wrap my head around Paris, Tx. It's just bad humor, somehow.
#173 - Jargoneer - I've read one small book by Ozick, it was years ago, but I really enjoyed it. Pynchon is originally for my Infinite Jest re-read, but in the back of my mind I think I will need to read Pynchon sometime.
#176 MJ - Yes, there is a lot to look forward, but each book takes different mentality to approach it. So, in reality, putting them all next to each other like that is kind of silly. It works for inspiration though.
#177 Jonathan - I'm am really curious to read anything by David Grossman. Hoping Lion's Honey reaches me. Sometime biblical fiction falls flat with me (like in God Knows.
#174 - Colleen, the weird I find with reading is no matter how organized I am, it doesn't actually help me figure out what I will read next. My mind is to capricious, apparently.
#178 - Rebecca - I don't any history will ever wrap my brain around Paris, TX.
#179 - Merrikay, putting books away can cathartic too. Once they are out of sight, your brain and think freshly about what to read next. Hope it has that affect on you.
#180 - Jane - somehow I expect Tar Baby to be a tougher read than the previous ones I've read. I feel there is a clear progression with each book of hers at I've read so far (in the order written, not in the order I read them). But not sure how or whether Tar Baby will fit that. Also, I think it's a bit longer than the others i'ver read. I hope to read it, regardless. But I do sense some hesitation.
Well that is a good point Dan. I have read some REAL losers lately so could use a fresh perspective! One thing that has happened is my tastes have matured since being retired and able to read better literature, but I still tend to grab some crummy stuff when wanting a break, but it turns out just to frustrate.
Hi Dan! I've finally caught up on your thread. I'm in awe of how you continue to stretch your reading boundaries with continued Bible study, poetry, history of science, philosophy, and literary criticism. You are indeed giving yourself a graduate course of study!
Of your planned reads, I've read several:
Jews, God and History
A Pigeon and a Boy, which I enjoyed quite a bit
The Land of Green Plums, which I did not like as much as The Hunger Angel, and I've decided that I don't care much for her writing
Mountains Beyond Mountains, quite an astonishing tale about Paul Farmer
and I loved In the Heart of the Sea and own Mayflower, but haven't read it yet. Are you enjoying it?
Congrats on the new job, btw!
Richard Powers is one of my favorite contemporary American male writers (are those enough limiters for you?) However The Echo Maker is one of my least favorite of his books. I think you're a scientist/engineer? If so you might like The Goldbug Variations, although it is a tome. My other favorite is The Time of Our Singing which is also a tome.
I think the town of Desdemona, Texas is near Odessa, is it not? When my grandfather remarried at age 82 he moved to a ranch near Desdemona with his new wife. This has no relevance to anything, other than Desdemona is another nice Texas name.
Deborah, Desdemona and Odessa are both on Interstate 20, but they are not very close. Desdemona is, however, not too far from Dublin, TX... I do want to try Echo Makers. What did you not like about it?
#184 - Hi Lisa! Good to know about A Pigeon and A Boy. Mayflower - it's long and the actual Mayflower is fairly small portion of the book. At the moment I'm 50 years past the Mayflower, in the midst of King Philips War (I'm rooting for the Indians, but they keep losing) and still have three of 11 CD's to go. But, yes, I'm enjoying it.
My office gave me a $200 amazon gift card. Well...books are the way - ones I don't want or can't get in electrical format. The first just arrived - Thinking about the earth: A History of Ideas in Geology by David Oldroyd - inspired by Kevin's review (Stretch), and also because it was cited in The Clockwork Universe and fits in my history of science theme.
I used to live on a street in Dallas named Desdemona; does that count?
Dublin, Texas, used to be famous for producing the only cane sugar-sweetened Dr. Pepper until the corporate headquarters shut them down.
Congratulations on your Amazon gift card, Dan. When I retired the office gave me a card of about that amount. The executive officer, obviously concerned that I might think my buying options were limited, told me at least three times "They sell other things than books, you know." I never managed to convince her that a person would actually WANT to spend $200 on books.
Steven, can I work at your office? :P
To be fair, Amazon does sell good music, and without all the weird DRM stuff that comes in the iTunes store.
Yeah, sure, after 30 years you'll probably get a gift card too!
And, of course, I've bought lots of other stuff from Amazon over the years too, but I always use gift cards on books.
Why is that Steven? I do the same thing. I get stuff from Amazon, but NEVER use a gift card for anything other than books. It would no doubt be a sacrilege but I'm not sure why!
"They sell other things than books, you know."
... but...it's gift card...
Seven more books arrived today:
Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances A. Yates - cited repeatedly in every history of science book, and in Religion and the Decline of Magic...also in Poquettes' threads from past years (another lost and missed CR member). This is the book I'm most excited about reading...and it's probably not a very easy or pleasant read.
Montaillou by Emmanuel LeRoy Landurie - recommended by Janeajones for the Albigensian Crusade. I love that the back has a one line blurb from Keith Thomas, author of my current read (Religion and the Decline of Magic).
Omensetter's Luck by William H. Gass - This is ostensibly part of my prep for re-reading Infinite Jest. It was an influential book on David Foster Wallace. But...first of all, I've really slacked on off this "prep" and second, I gave up on Tractatus, didn't even open it up before sending it back to the library, and third I skipped Ulysses, which I am simply not prepared to read yet. This is the next book on that prep list which I determined might be readable...
Three Graphic books
The Property by Rutu Modan - I really liked her Exit Wounds and I've read a few positive reviews on this.
Economix by Michael Goodwin & Dan E. Burr - this kind went viral around here, no? My wishlist credits bragan.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle - which was on my wishlist based on a review by mkboylan
And...because in le Salon someone linked to an article that blasted Robert Alter's translations of the psalms...and then praised this translation of the same with wonderful examples:
The Jerusalem Bible
(ETA it was dcozy who linked me to Eliot Weinberger's thrashing of Robert Alter's Psalms: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n02/eliot-weinberger/praise-yah )
I like your TBR quilt, spread out for us like that. I can't do that -- the moment after I pull a book out with a sense that it must be read next, all of the other books suddenly look more appealing. There's something about saying that I will read these four books next that means that I'm really saying that I'm not going to read any of those other books anytime soon.
That said, I enjoyed your comments on Sula and I'm interested to see what you think of several of the books you have planned.
I've had Montaillou on my TBR since I visited the Cathar castles back at the end of the 1980s! I do mean to read it one day!
I need to find some Rutu Modan. From what you wrote about Exit Wounds, I think I would like her works.
I am excited to hear your thoughts on the religion and magic book. Yates also wrote a book on the memory palace, a mnemotic device used by medievals. The memory palace enabled Matteo Ricci, the first Catholic missionary in China, to learn Chinese characters rapidly, opening intellectual and scientific discourse between the West and China in a way admirable today.
#194 - Alison - it's not all the different for me. I've tried a few different tricks. I've tried "stirring" the pot so the speak, winnowing out ones I maybe don't want to read right now, and putting moving more desirable ones up front. For about a week or more I was carrying around Vermillion Sea - I never opened and just moved it off the shelf (along with The Echo Maker, The Appointment, Mountains Beyond Mountains, The Shawl & Freedom - which were replaced with my new purchase). But I did recently pull two off and read them - The Trophies of Time and The Road from the Past - so, it hasn't been a complete failure...
#195 - That's good encouragement Rebecca, maybe I'll beat you to it ??
#196 - Lisa - After the Isaac Singer debacle, I'm hesitant to encourage you on a book. :) I did really liked Exit Wounds though.
#197 - Good to know Steven, thanks.
#198 - Jonathan - Poquette raved about France Yates a few years ago and has a terrific review of The Art of Memory posted - it's from 2011. I've been curious ever since that time.
Oh, there will always be the occasional book we read differently, but that keeps our discussions interesting. You encourage me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, and I appreciate that. So keep the recs coming. :-)
Another book just arrived:
Cuba: Poems by Ricardo Pau-Llosa - recommended by janeajones, on my part 1 thread.
#199, I have no doubt you'll beat me to it, Dan, although I just finished a book I've had on TBR since 1992, so I may well eventually get to it!
I feel honored by the new arrived books -- hope they meet your expectations ;-}
#199 - after what I posted to Alison here, I ended up finally opening Vermilion Sea today. Not sure I will finish, but I really appreciated his perspectives on how the more he learns the more there is to learn. In his words:
Every zoologist knows a great deal about hundreds of kinds of animals, sometimes from the literature, sometimes from having encountered them. But except for those you specialize on, the superficial familiarity only underscores the ignorance you feel...
Wonderful quotes from Vermilion Sea. Thank you for taking the time to type them in.
giggling aboutall of our book rituals e.g. TBRs oh lord I love books!
oye - late responding here. You're Welcome Lisa...and, Merrikay, you know, we must do whatever works...
34. The Trophies of Time : English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century by Graham Parry (1995, 376 pages, read mainly July 9-31)
I’m worried where I might go writing about this. It’s probably a bad sign that I want to start by talking about the book I read four years ago, which led me to this one. That book was Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill, part of Harvard University series of short books called Wonders of the World. It worked because Hill didn’t explain Stonehenge, but instead wrote about the history of the cultural response and study of it. It turned out to be, for me, a fascinating intro in the history of science in England, with the clear highlights being the English antiquarians, especially John Aubrey and William Stukely. And that led to this book...although I can’t explain the four year delay.
Graham Parry’s The Trophies of Time is maybe the book to start with to learn about 17th-century antiquarians. The first chapter is on William Camden, the author of Britannia, which was such a wonderful failure it inspired the whole English antiquarian movement. (The father of antiquarian study in England, was apparently John Leland, but he is not covered here, except in a passing comment). It was a failure because it was supposed to be a chapter written as a contribution in someone else's book (a world atlas by Ortelius) and it was supposed to be about Roman Britain. But Camden got carried away discovering sources and history, he spent most of his efforts trying to bring light into the tribes of pre-Roman Britain. His book covers the whole island, and making efforts to locate every recorded Roman town. It was only after he published the first edition that he fully began to realize and appreciate that the Anglo-Saxon contributions to the English were far more significant than the British Celts.
This was terrific and inspiring start to the book, which the immediately dissolves into a lot of dry detail on various famous, semi-famous and really obscure antiquarians. His biographical information is brief, but Parry summarize and analyzes, in some detail, all the major 17th-century antiquarian works, moving from author to author. If you want to know about :
- Richard Verstegan
- Sir Robert Cotton and his most magnificent library (which had the only existing copies of Beowolf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...but Cotton didn't know that. The Antiquarians weren’t interested in literature)
- The purely secular and possibly atheist John Selden - the “learnedest man on earth” (I don’t recall the book addressing Isaac Casaubon) who wrote against the divine right of kings during the reign of James I. Selden managed this by presenting the arguments in the form of documented historical facts which naturally lead to his conclusions, but not actually making any kind of conclusion or explanation...making his books almost unreadable today. (He was eventually jailed for his assistance in writing a constitution for the Virginia Company)
- James Ussher - who dated creation to Oct 23, 4004 BC, but was a serious scholar who Parry calls, along with Selden, the leading antiquarian scholar
- Sir Henry Spelman - who linked the fall of England landed families to something like a curse on them for taking church land after the English Reformation, but who also did a great deal of serious research into Anglo-Saxon records and language. (The landed families really did fall in large numbers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The cause was apparently the change in the English economy from land-based to money-based)
- the Anglo-Saxon expert William Somner
- John Weever, the quirky recorder of funeral monuments
- Sir William Dugdale and his tour de force of antiquarian publications
- or Roget Dodsworth, Dugdale's major and unpublished source
- Thomas Brown’s "Roman" urns (they were Anglo-Saxon)
- William Burton's commentary on the Roman Antonine Itinerary
- Thomas Fuller's Church-History of Britain
- or John Aubrey, the books other gem across from Camden
then this is your book to start with.
And you will also find short sections on Irish antiquarian James Ware, on Robert Plot, the quirky and pathetic Aylett Sammes (who was probably right, by accident, in that the Phoenicians probably did reach Britain and use the Islands as a source for tin), Charles Leigh, Edmund Gibson, the driving force behind the translation of Camden's Britannia from Latin to English along with commentary, additions and updates, Edward Lhwyd, who had the best contributions to this Britannia translation, on Wales, and William Stukely.
For those still reading...The antiquarians were the first to do serious research of the ancient history in England. They saw themselves in a race against time, as the main record holders were the Catholic churches and monasteries, which were getting torn down and neglected after the English Reformation in the 16th-century. Much of what they recorded was otherwise lost in their lifetime, sometimes by chance. William Dugdale published his history and description of ancient St. Paul's Cathedral in 1658; it would burn down in London fire of 1666 (to be replaced by Christopher's Wren's creation). In a way they led directly to the scientific revolution, with John Aubrey fitting in as something like a link. The Royal Society was founded in 1662, and Aubrey joined in 1663. I can get a little carried away with Aubrey…Unlike every other antiquarian, Aubrey hated reading through the written records. He was the first to turn to the field work, the first to write up an archeological treatise in English (on Stonehenge and unpublished). Apparently something like the ADD antiquarian, he wrote on soil types, marine fossils, Stonehenge & Averbury, on rural folk customs and folk tales, on the chronology of architecture, on the history of noble costumes, on the history of the changing shape of family shields and tombs, on the change of Saxon hand writing over time, and his Miscellanies, which was actually published, in 1695, on the paranormal and dreams. Each of these included many original finds. But Aubrey was so out there, and so everywhere, that he never figured out how to organize his field work-based research and his work was mostly unpublished. Aubrey leads to Edward Lhwyd, the poorly known Welsh antiquarian who constantly travelled to do more field work, collecting folk tales and even studying the rocks and fossils in Wales. Lhwyd did publish some, but most of his work was unpublished and lost after his death.
Parry’s book is great stuff for those interested and willing to risk being inundated by so many names, titles etc. of the period.
Excellent review of The trophies of Time: English antiquarians of the seventeenth Century. A fascinating subject. I have always bracketed antiquarians with enthusiastic amateurs, or at least an eccentricity that is curiously British, which is no doubt not true. Some excellent links for those so inclined.
Sounds like a book I'd like to get hold of dan.
Partly for the eccentric and often closeted people who studied these things, and partly for their subject matter.
There has been a number of books about the 'tribes' of Britain recently, all very interesting. It seems that there is still a lot of Celt blood in the average Modern Briton, even though their language and culture was obliterated by the Saxons in all but a few outlying provinces...
Great review of The Trophies of Time : English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century. I loved your description of John Aubrey as the ADD antiquarian. I've often thought about the history and the beautiful books that were lost during the Reformation. Very interesting stuff.
That's certainly an interesting look at England's fascination with its own history. In The Isles: A History, which I read earlier this year, Norman Davies complains that there was far too much emphasis placed on the Saxons during this period at the expense of the Celts. This was countered somewhat by a Celtic revival in the late 19th century when Arthurian legends became popular.
I visited Stonehenge this summer, and was surprised to learn how much is still being discovered, debated, and reinterpreted about the site.
>For those still reading...
I always look forward to your sections like this. Very interesting Dan!
I'm watching my daughter at a Tae Kwon Do tournament, but I just wanted to say thanks for all comments.
(which had the only existing copies of Beowolf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...but Cotton didn't know that. The Antiquarians weren’t interested in literature)
Great review, btw.
Great review, but the Stonehenge book sounds moderately more interesting to me. I read a Wonders of the World book on Vesuvius a few years ago, and ended up being disappointed that it focused on cultural reactions to Vesuvius rather than the geology or social impact. It sounds like the Stonehenge book is similar in its approach.
#219 - Rebecca, I don't know whether you would enjoy the Stonehenge book or not. The Vesuvius book sounds interesting to me. As for The Trophies of Time - there is a reason there area so few copied on LT and that my review was the first one posted - it's a terrific book, but interest in the topic is limited.
#218 - Jonathan - I was skeptical too and looked it up in Wikipedia, which does agree. The worst part is that Cotton's library, the best in England in the 17th-century, caught fire in 1731. Just think what was likely lost...oye...maybe don't think about that. (If you want to know more, you could start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_library )
#216 - MJ - I wish I could make replies as nice as your comments. Thanks!
#215 - Susie - Nice to know my review passed on some of the info. The book was quite a history lesson for me.
#214 Steven - that"s a curious comment by Davies. I can't really respond because I'm not sure which is true. Parry does a funny thing of reporting what the antiquarians said, but not really correcting their errors. Certainly the language is mainly derived form Anglo-Saxon. There are legal customs that are derived from the Anglo-Saxons, but much of that was completely overturned by the Normans. The folklore, on the other hand, I would image has many Celtic elements.
#213 - Colleen - I had never really thought about those consequences of the English Reformation. Throughout the Middle Ages the church was the historical depository. The monasteries preserved the history...not just on paper, but embedded within the architecture too. Once they were neglected, all that stuff was in the wrong place, and so much of it was lost. (This link may be of interest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries )
#212 - Z - this might be a book for you. Certainly parts of it you will love. Interesting about the Celtic genes.
#211 - Bas - In that era pretty much everyone was an amateur. There was no training in how to study ancient history, or how to learn Anglo-Saxon. They just had to kind of figure it out on their own. But, with the exception of a few like Ussher and Dugdale who were sponsored and supported by the king, it wasn't a financially beneficial path in anyway. They weren't doing this for a living. They we're certainly eccentric.
As for this being an English thing, I would like to know how true that is. Parry focuses entirely on British, but he discusses all their sources and influences and correspondences - and there was much interaction with other antiquarians throughout Europe (which is why so much of this was published in Latin first).
35. The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion (BBC) by Michael Mosley & John Lynch (2010, 274 pages, read Feb 18 - Aug 5)
I picked this up at half-price books hoping for an easy interesting read for times when I couldn’t quite focus. There are six sections on the cosmos, matter, life, power, the body and the mind. Each is made up of a series one-to-two page blurbs and lots of photos. The feel is like a magazine. I really enjoyed the first two sections, especially parts on Antoine Lavoisier, who I hadn’t heard of before and who was far ahead of his time and understood the significance of Joseph Priestly’s discovery of Oxygen far better then Priestly did. But the rest of the book was too skimpy, skipping hundreds of years as it stumbled through the scientific highlights, which left no sense of flow...or connections. Also the bibliography in the back is disappointing, just a short list of popular science books (five to ten per section), and not all good. I have not seen the BBC TV series this was derived from, maybe it worked better in that medium.
I wrote the comments below on Aug 9 & 10, just after finishing the book. It reads a bit odd, but I can't possibly capture this book now the way I did seven weeks ago.
36. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (1998, 165 pages, read July 20 - Aug 8)
There are so many things a writer can do with words, things that go beyond the basic, almost laconic straightforward meaning of the words. They can stir emotions, and suddenly writing can become wistful. They can hint and without ever saying anything challenging, create tension in the reader. It’s almost magic how they create something out of nothing.
I’m thinking about this after finishing Ex Libris, which receives raves from widely spread areas of the LibraryThing spectrum. It’s, of course, a book of essays on the theme of reading and books. I can’t quite place my skepticism, but while I wanted to read this, I could not imagine what could possible be so special...and it’s variety I’m thinking of. Readers tends to have reading personalities characterized by certain kinds and ways of reading. I have never met anyone that reads quite the way I do. So, I just assume a book about reading will cover other ground, something of peripheral interest to me personally...and cover it in a way that is only peripherally interesting to me. What this means other than that I have some kind of personal issues about reading another reader’s writing on reading, I haven’t figured out yet.
Anyway, to Fadiman. Fadiman comes across to me as a highly skilled essay writer who can be great on occasion. She is exceptionally polished, and knows how to bring in many different things to link the reader to her points, and bring the reader in; and always one of those things has to do with some kind of literary anecdote.
She opens her preface with a short paragraph about an obsessed reader (of course) and a short paragraph highlighting her own reading obsession (we guessed that from the title), and then paragraph three opens:
I began to write Ex Libris when it occurred to me how curious it was that books are so often written about as if they were toasters. Is this brand of toaster better than that brand of toaster? At $24.95, is this toaster a best buy? There is nothing in how I may feel about my toaster ten years hence, and nothing about the tender feelings I may yet harbor for my old toaster. This model of readers as consumers--one I have abetted in many a book review myself--nearly omits what I consider the heart of reading:If you need to find out what she considers the heart of reading, then, those few of you who haven’t read this yet, you’ll have to get your hands on your own copy. It’s outside my point. It’s that just like that Fadiman has captured my imagination. She’d pulled me away from my regular concerns and anxieties about life, she has my attention. And she did this over and over again. A wonderful collection of essays.
I think I have a copy of Ex Libris kicking around somewhere. From the sounds of your review, I should find it. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention.
Wonderful review of Ex Libris, Dan. I am adding it to my wishlist.
I am one of the people who has loved Ex Libris for years; in fact, I keep extra copies around to give to people as gifts! There are essays I still remember, and they bring smiles to my face.
I hadn't heard of Ex Libris before, but I'll now be on the lookout for a copy. I have a number of this type of book, however, but never get around to reading them.
Me too, Steven. I pick them up thinking that I would enjoy reading about another bibliophile, but then get too busy reading my own things to get to reading about theirs!
Great review of Ex Libris. I like her comparison of books to toasters.
Nice review of Ex Libris, Dan. I liked it when I read it earlier this year, too, though I found parts of it a bit over the top.
I also had not heard of Ex Libris It goes straight onto next months to buy list (next month is just one hour and twenty minutes away). Great review Dan
Great review of Ex Libris, Dan. I think I own this, although it isn't in my LT library, and I'll plan to read it next year.
Thought I had my reading planned for the next while, and then I read about yours. The Trophies of Time sounds intriguing. Montaillou and Ex Libris are both already on the TBR pile. Now I'm sorry (as I knew I would be) that I left the book on Elizabethan glimpses of science on the shelf in the second hand bookstore.
Looking forward to your thoughts on Keith Thomas.
Ridgeway Girl, love your image of a TBR quilt. Now I can spend hours rearranging my floor books that way and assure people it's art, not a mess.
I thought everyone on LT had read and loved Ex Libris...Nine commenters here, but only two of have read it and one of you has an equivocal response. I'm actually surprised by that. Anyway, it's recommended by me for everyone here - even those of you to whom it might not appeal.
#224 - Lisa, I owned my copy six years before I read it. You're welcome
#225 - Linda, thanks & Yay! No wishlist is big enough.
#226 - Rebecca, wondering what you favorite essays are.
#227 - Steve, not sure whether you should read the others, but I think you will enjoy this one.
#227/8 - Lisa & Steven - I'm looking at the History of Reading by Alberto Manguel...I really should read it some time.
#229 - Susie - I have a lot of issues with second to last toaster we bought. I'm still upset about that junky thing...
#230 - Katie - Can you elaborate on your "a bit over the top" comment? I'm very curious. Maybe I should go read or re-read your review.
#231 - It's October Bas. Enjoy.
#232 - Darryl - thanks, enjoy.
#233 - Sassy - I'm excited Trophies of Time caught your attention. As for Keith Thomas, his book is terrific and overwhelming at the same time - so much information per page, it's such a relief when he summarized or interprets and my brain can relax a little. I'll be reading for a while, long enough that my library copy won't do. I might have to purchase a copy. Enjoy the, er, quilting.
>234 dchaikin: - Dan, I wrote in my review " Fadiman occasionally struck me as a bit too "precious" and her over-the-top love of all things bookish a bit disingenuous, or perhaps exaggerated for purposes of the book, but she shares some wonderful insights and amusing anecdotes." To be honest, I don't remember exactly what I meant by that...
#237 - Katie - thanks for sharing and very entertained by your last comment. I think your comment is a fair characterization.
But I'll still recommend it.
Merrikay & Colleen - goodness, now only 2 of 11 have read Ex Libris...hope you both find the book and enjoy it.
I have read and loved it! (although I agree it can be a little precious, but I think its heart is definitely in the right place).
#234, Dan, I loved the essays about merging their libraries, courtly and carnal book lovers, her minor reading obsessions, what you write inside a book you're giving as a gift, the proofreading one; from another collection, which wasn't as good, I remember the one about what people do to go to sleep when they can't sleep.
Add me to your tally of those who've read Ex Libris and loved it. I'll find my copy and see if I can recall my favorite essays.
37. William Stukeley : Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England by David Boyd Haycock (2002, 303 pages, read July 31 - Aug 11)
I should be able to give a quick summary of this book, but the first quick review I tried to write went on and on. So, up front, this is a PhD dissertation slightly modified for publication. It's not the best reading, although that does not mean the author can't write. I suspect he can be a very good writer. But this is a fact-tsunami. I wrote down fifty names in my notes for chapter one. Each section is basically an entire field of research broken down into a summary with numerous citations. (Parry's The Trophies of Time gets a large portion of a section all cited to it). The purpose is to un-romanticize William Stukeley's apparent change in character. Stukeley was a close friend of Newton and spent much of his career in what is generally considered serious research, making a classic study of Stonehenge, for example, with careful observation, measurement, the first excavations, and thoughtful comparison to other megalithic structures. In this he is considered unusual for and ahead of his time. But later in life he started publishing religious-driven interpretations that were, first of all, far outside the religious norms, and second, not really based on any of his observations. He also later became a minister. The change is striking. But Haycock shows there was never any change. Stukeley was always very religious, as was Newton and most of his small close circle (although some were openly atheist). But, like Newton, Stukeley couldn't publish any of this wacky stuff until later in life, in a different time and with a better reputation. When he felt the time came (significantly, long after Newton's passing) he then happily compromised and contradicted his own observations to make his strange points.
All this may sound fascinating, but, unfortunately, at least where Stukeley is concerned, it's not all that interesting. Haycock successfully demystifies and exposes Stukeley - first of all as a terrible scientist (my conclusion, not Haycock's) with a tendency to make bold conclusions that were not supported by any data and commonly lacked what I would consider basic common sense. His idea that thunder causes earthquakes was published, respected and taken very seriously. Of course it's pure (and moronic) conjecture. His idea that Elephants mate with the female on her back, based on his (maybe not so careful) dissection of an elephant, made it into reference books. But this was an era when science was nascent, and the scientific method was preached but hardly followed. Also, Stukeley's religious ideas aren't very interesting. They aren't spiritual, or deep, or psychologically complex, but merely an effort to make an argument. He was stuck on this idea that holy trinity predates Christianity, something that was also important to Isaac Newton, who felt differently. So Stukeley managed to find in Stonehenge and, especially in Avebury, a large and fanciful expression of a Druidic trinity (the fact that these megalithic structures predate the Druids by about 1500 years wasn't known till much later...although one might have simply observed the lack of bronze or iron tools...but that would require some fundamental skills in archeology. Anyway, I'm digressing.)
But, Haycock's book is almost more about Isaac Newton than the Stukeley he ruins, and in this it is rewarding. Newton was a complex oddity. He was highly religious in heretical ways, but also very private. So he never published about his religious ideas during his lifetime, and what he did publish was cleaned of all this, and strictly observational, making him appear to have been one of the early pure scientists. He consorted with similarly minded people of the era, but only a few and was very touchy about who he would get close to. Stukeley was in with Newton, then out, and then later back in again, all for supporting or contradicting Newton's ideas. In exploring Newton and his world, Haycock, of course, covers about everybody, but he brings out a lot of color to the quirky world of the English Royal Society. Filled with experts and amateurs of all sorts, the society was strikingly open and contradictory. It's interesting to see how Newton's private and public views worked within the Royal Society, providing some structure, but not pushing too fast for purely secular, atheistic methodology. He bridges two errors quite gracefully...well in this limited view, anyway. (Wait till I review the The Clockwork Universe...Newton was an astounding A$$).
This is another book I was led to by Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill. Hill made Stukeley sound absolutely fascinating. She cited Haycock with some kind of praise because I've been eying his book for years, but it lists on amazon for around $100. I found and read a copy available for free online, here: http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/prism.php?id=135&name=33
Nice review, Dan. Some of the early scientific ideas were absolutely ludicrous, but at least they were from thinking outside the box for that time period.
Fascinating review, Dan. I've been reading some proto-science fiction from that time period, and the mixture of solid science, religious conjecture, and folklore can be quite amusing. Quirky and contradictory to be sure.
Speaking of Newton, have you read the novel Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson? I have heard that it is well-researched, and I liked Cryptonomicon and Anathem, but it is a major reading commitment. Isaac Newton is a major character, with cameos from just about every other figure of the time period. I started it, but was put off by Newton skinning animals. Not sure if that is accurate, which is sometimes the problem with historical fiction. Anyway, just wondering if you (or Steven) has read this and, if so, what you thought.
#244 - Colleen, you have a great point. My review is really a rant. These early scientists and their quirky ideas were actually so important in keeping science creative, open and accessible as in developed. Not every society shares their information as openly as Western Europe has historically done with the sciences and history.
#245 Steven - I'm so entertained at how close our reading has been while pursing completely different goals. That is why I have so enjoyed your reviews of these obscure early sci-if-ish works, it opens new perspectives.
#246 Lisa - i have wanted to read Quicksilver and the other books in the trilogy...i'm pretty sure I own Quicksilver. Newton is fascinating, and that's even without his accomplishments. I don't know if Newton skinned animals. I've enjoyed Stevenson, but he has his quirks and I see him more as fun than literary. ETA - but fun in a kind of serious way.
I found Neal Stevenson's cyberpunk boring (as opposed to many other of his fans). I thought Cryptonomicon was a hoot. The scene where the family placed a deceased members belongings in the parking lot according to an x, y plot of monetary and sentimental value was one of the funniest things I've read. But Anathem was a much tougher book for me, as it contained so much math and philosophy with which I was unfamiliar. I think the Baroque Cycle is more like Anathem than the other stuff of his that I've read. Entertaining, but historically detailed, I think. Which of Stevenson's books have you read? I checked your LT library but couldn't find them.
Lisa - I read Snow Crash in 2004 and really enjoyed it and still have some attachment to that experience...but it sounds you might not like it, and, for what it's worth, I was in a different place when I read it. And I've read Crytonomicon in 2007. It was fun, but...well, I'm not as attached to it. I own Anathem & I'm pretty sure I own Quicksilver (LT says I do), but haven't read either.
I own several of Neal Stephenson's books (they fill up a shelf rather quickly!) but haven't read any of them yet. As long as I continue to do my SF reading chronologically it'll be years before I get to them, but things could change. You're making Cryptonomicon sound very enticing, and I've heard nothing but raves about Snow Crash. Maybe I should start plotting out my future reading on an x,y grid instead of a one-dimensional timeline. :)
250: Maybe I should start plotting out my future reading on an x,y grid instead of a one-dimensional timeline.
251: Please do and put the grid up for all of us to enjoy!
And to copy! I'm intrigued.
Excellent review of William Stukeley: Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England. Those enlightenment intellectuals and scientists, all seemed to be part of some glorified gentleman's club. The thirst for knowledge was so great and ideas moved so fast that someone like Stukeley could easily become part of the gang. Fascinating stuff Dan.
idle thoughts on Snow Crash - if thought about from the perspective of a librarian, and what might be the ideal librarian...it might work much better than if look at from a literary perspective...it's not literary at all...but it's not genre either. It's about technology, information and an imaginative future failure of US culture. It has other flaws of sorts, like an effort to be cool. Oh, and getting outdated might be an issue...I'm very curious what Bas or Stephen might make of it...given both may hate it...
#253 - Bas - Thanks. I like your assessment. The flaws, struggles and contradictions of the era are what I find most interesting...but I think I was looking for more in Stukeley than was actually there.
38. The Clockwork Universe : Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick (2011, 364 pages, read Aug 11-18)
Dolnick does several things wonderfully - he tries to put the reader into the mentality of the era (Newton lived 1642 to 1727), then he explores what it took the discover/invent Calculus, then covers the Newton-Leibniz wars over who invented calculus, which Newton won in the most bastardly of ways, then what it took to be Newton and come up Principia, and just how out there Newton was. There are several interesting conclusions. One conclusion is summed in a quote by "a NASA climatologist", "Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works." Another highlights how the hyper-religious & religiously-driven Newton essentially took God out of the physical universe by making God unnecessary. (And how Leibniz did too, in his own way. He was also very religious) A side note at the end is that this stuff in the scientific revolution leads to the American Revolution.
That's enough of a review. But I'm in a mass information mentality, the more the better, and I want to share. Feel free to stop here... but I have more to say ...
The Calculus War: For a while Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz becomes the hero of this book, and Newton quite the villain. Dolnick concludes that both Leibniz and Newton invented calculus independently, because you see them working it out in their existing notes (which are extensive in both cases). But in the battle, and it was a bitter one, there were some interesting variables and Newton had a tactical advantage. Leibniz was brilliant polymath, with a wide range of expertise. But, his mind was his livelihood. Dependent on acquiring sponsors, he was constantly trying to impress (and succeeding). His main sponsor, a German nobleman, became the King George I of England, which would have been great if Newton hadn't also been English and George hadn't felt some need to act more English. Newton was a landowner. He wasn't wealthy but he didn't have work. So, he could afford to spend years working out ideas, and maybe still not publish them (He never published any of this 1000 pages of notes on alchemy). Newton was also president of the Royal Society. Failing to get help from King George in his battle with Newton over credit for calculus, Leibniz handed the judgment, following King George's advice, to the Royal Society! Oops. Newton personally wrote the judgment, presented as that of a special committee. The committee gave credit to being first (Newton was 20 years ahead of Leibniz in inventing calculus, but didn't publish) and also falsely accused Leibniz of getting a hold of Newton's notes and therefore possibly stealing the idea of calculus from Newton. This judgment was passed all around Europe as that of the highly regarded Royal Society and was widely accepted. Leibniz was crushed. Newton would die a hero and, have a hero's funeral march and massive tomb. Leibniz would die simply, with no fanfare in a simple grave. The irony of all this is that Newton's notation was unclear and difficult to use, whereas that Leibniz's notation was quite nice. Today we use Leibniz's notation when writing out calculus.
The Clockwork Universe: Dolnick's final conclusion is one of the most interesting parts of the book. At this point we know how religious Newton was. He really believed that God has made the world and that the more we understood how the world works, the closer we got to god. So, working out the ideas in his Principia was, for him, a very religious and religiously driven act. But, if you can explain how God's world works...well, you no longer need god. And that, ironically, is Newton's legacy. His Principia was critical to freeing future scientists from religious bonds. The world worked as it did, whatever the initial cause. Studying this world became a purely physical endeavor.
Side Note 1: I think it is fascinating and hysterical that the inventor of calculus did not use it for explaining gravity or anything else in Principia. It's all explained with painstakingly worked out geometry and algebra and the like. It is such an embarrassing thing that Newton later claimed he did the initial work using calculus, but was afraid no one would believe it unless he also worked it out in the way he presented it. That was a lie, he really didn't use his own tool.
Side Note 2: I should also point out that Dolnick does not appear to use many primary sources, which I think is fine considering what he doing here. But, wow, his secondary sources make up an absolutely wonderful list of books published over the last 50 years.
Here is a selection from Dolnick's bibliography:
Isaiah Berlin, The Age of Enlightenment, 1956
Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983 - cited a lot
Jocab Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, 1973
A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, 1954
Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, 1953
S. Chandrasehkar, “Shakespeare, Newton, and Beethoven, or Patterns in Creativity” - a lecture that is cited a lot.
Allan Chapman, England’s Leonardo: Robert Hooke and the Seventeenth-Century Scientific Revolution, 2004
Gale Christiansen, In the Presence of the Creator: Isaac Newton and His Times, 1984
Gale Christiansen, Isaac Newton, 2005
Emily Cockayne, Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 2007
I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science, 1985
I. Bernard Cohen, Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and James Madison, 1997 - I think this is a look at how the scientific revolution leads to the American Revolution...something that never occurred to me before.
Lorraine Daston & Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750, 2001
George Dyson, Darwin Among the Machines, 1997
William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 1994
Mordechai Feingold, The Newtonian Moment: Isaac Newton and the Making of Modern Culture, 2004
Charles Goulston Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity, 1960
Rupert Hall, From Galileo to Newton, 1981
Rupert Hall, Philosophers at War: The Quarrel Between Newton and Leibniz, 1980
Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, 1981 - cited in other works I’ve read
Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, 2004
Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits, Building the Scientific Revolution, 1999
Lisa Jardine, On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Life of Sir Christopher Wren, 2002
Nicholas Jolley, Leibniz, 2005
Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, 1970 - highlighted in text as the best history of astronomy
Robert Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants, 1965
Steven Nadler, The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil, 2008
The Diary of Samuel Pepys - must cover the early years of The Royal Society, the London plague of 1665, the London fire of 1666, and, well, just London in this era.
Roy Porter, The Creation of the Modern World, 2000
John Redwood, Reason, Ridicule, and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England 1660-1750, 1976
Paolo Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, 2001 - cited in text, seems like good stuff.
Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in the Seventeenth Century England, 1995 - author cited in text and praised
Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, 1996 - ditto
Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of the Modern World, 2006
Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 1983
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 1971 - cited over and over (only in notes)
Adrian Tinniswood, His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren, 2001
Eugen Weber, Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages, 2000
Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton, 1980 - the definitive biography, and at some 900 pages, it should be.
Richard Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, 1973
Michael White, Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer, 1997
Great review of The Clockwork Universe. Coincidentally I was just looking up some information about Newton earlier this week, wondering when he formulated his Laws of Motion. (They are routinely violated in the 17th century proto-science fiction novels I have been reading.)
Your reviews of science books are fascinating, Dan. Keep them coming!
BTW in my early medieval lit class Tuesday we discussed Cotton and his library. I felt viscerally sad when hearing about all the lost manuscripts we may never see again. Beowulf was not burned entirely, but it was singed and several pages have a corner missing. Thankfully a Danish scholar made a copy for himself before the fire, so we have the complete Beowulf. The threads of history can be so thin.
Sounds like a great book on a subject I've always wanted to do more about. I did a course on Leibniz once and had not known about his calculus work until then and was quite shocked but sadly not surprised by the way Newton took the credit. Great review. Is Spinoza in the bibliography at all or is mention made of him?
Steven - Principia was published in 1687. He had to be talked into publishing it. Dolnick tells how Edmund Halley, with great and careful tact, talked Newton into it. It is also hard to follow. Apparently Newton doesn't explain anything, he just moves from proof to proof.
Jonathan - How cool that Cotton's library came in a class of yours! It's obviously important, but I had never heard of it before. I cringe thinking about all the works that must have been lost...
Sassy - Spinoza wasn't really discussed in anyway I recall. But Dolnick does cite The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of the Modern World by Matthew Stewart
How have you got so interested in The Enlightenment? I am really enjoying your reviews and thoughts.
Bas - Not sure. It started with Stonehenge, and Stukeley and then it kind of went from there. Somehow I have put myself in a history state of mind - wanting a lot of facts in interconnected ways and this era has provided that. At the same time reading literature has been tough...
The Courtier and the Heretic is on one of my TBR shelves. I will have to read it. Thanks.
Catching up and fascinated with your apparent fascination with 17th and 18th c. intellectual and scientific history. It's a period I avoided throughout most of my career as I really wasn't drawn to the literature (Pope and Swift), but the ideas and advances are fascinating. My way in was through a book like Timothy Brooks' Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World which used art as an entree into science and exploration.
I think you have your reading cut out for you, Dan! I love seeing how your reading leads you down different paths. Very fun to follow along with you.
Lisa - I think reading everything in post #256 would be a full time job. Meanwhile I'm still trying to get through The DoveKeepers - bleh...I was not cut out for book clubs...
#263 Sassy - I expect due report on The Courtier and the Heretic. :)
#264 - Jane - noting Vermeer's Hat, except I think I'm already in...
39. The Road from the Past : Traveling Through History in France by Ina Caro (1994, 329 pages, read Aug 6-24)
Reading themes that led me here (an experimental entry): TBR pile & general interest in pre-19th-century European history
I'll conclude up front: This was an enjoyable but flawed book. Ina Caro is apparently something of an medieval history expert, although her bibliography here does seem limited. She is perhaps an OK author, but there are some awkward aspects in this book.
What I didn't like - the opening paragraph in the introduction which includes the line: "When I see the typical American tourist, I feel like yelling out, 'Don't do it that way, it's no fun. Do it my way.". The book is targeted to Americans and line is intended to be helpful...but if I had read that in the a book store, I would have put the book back down and maybe gone and wiped my hands with something. To her credit, this line is consistent with her real feelings. Ostensibly a travel book, it only works that way if, like Ina Caro, your spouse is a successful author and you and your spouse have the time and means to spend a month or so in France about every year.
I'm being too harsh?
But there are good parts here too. She does two things well. The first is that this serves as a quick and mostly painless and entertaining overview of the history of France. I did enjoy it. The second is her habit of describing her day in some location, and all the wonderful little experiences she has, then moving immediately to the history of gore and slaughter that underlies it. It's striking and effective. I had never heard of the Albigensian Crusade, but Ina Caro has left me absolutely fascinated by it.
The book works until about the end of the hundred years war (She does well with Joan of Arc, by the way). As the French kings become more secure in the power, the book become more a repetitive description of various palaces.
40. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (1928, 180 pages, read Jan 25 - Aug 26)
Reading themes that led me here: Just something random on my iPad to read with my son
This was my first time reading this. My son's interest wavered as we went months between reading, but he didn't forget and we eventually finished. Tigger didn't excite him, but Piglet's heroism might have. I was moved my Pooh and Piglet's friendship.
41. Science Deified & Science Defied : The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, From the Bronze Age to the Beginnings of the Modern Era, ca. 3500 B.C. to ca. A.D. 1640 by Richard Olsen (1982, 312 pages, read Aug 26 - Sep 3)
Reading themes that led me here: History of Science
I'm a little down on this one because instead of inspiring me it left me discouraged. I wasn't able to follow or keep track of the big and seemingly loosely defined themes. Olsen's definition of science was awkward, and seemed too open and flexible. The book seemed to change focus, but still always come back to that definition. Perhaps this is all normal for this kind of book. It's a tough topic. I was frustrated with what I couldn't follow - that I can't seem to figure out what Platonic or Neoplatonic means, or trace how various subtle things lead to...whatever they lead to. I can list the topics chronologically - ancient Mesopotamian Astronomy, pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, Aristotle...then something??...Alexandrian early analogy-focused Christians, St. Augustine, St. Basil, Islam and Astrology, Averoes, Avicenna, the rediscovery of Aristotle, Hermetic stuff and the occult, Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon and the division of religion and science. But, what exactly that gets me, I'm not sure.
ETA - wonky touchstone won't touchstone. You can find the book (sans my scribbled comments) here: http://www.librarything.com/work/2442164
42. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, audio book narrated by George Guidall (2006, 480 pages in paper format, Listened to Aug 27 - Sep 10)
Reading themes that led me here: The only audio book I could find of interest on my libraries shelf - my first time looking. But it was nice that this was the era I've been reading about in the history of science.
This was my first audio book. I have since listened to two more and I'm mostly through a third. Suddenly most of my "reading" is audio. I only listen in the car. I've been treating these like I might listen to NPR. They have to be nonfiction and informative, or better, history-ish, and books I'm OK missing bits here and there because I was mentally tuned out...and I don't want to repeat.
About the book: It's interesting but very long. It was weird to be apparently done with Plymouth, and certainly long past the Mayflower, but only find myself half way through the book. The book carries on through an extensive history of King Philip's War. Upon finishing the overall affect is that the story of the Pilgrims was mainly a prologue for the much more interesting war.
Philbrick does make the Pilgrims quite interesting as he traces them first from England to The Netherlands, then the prep for their voyage, then the voyage on the Mayflower (which is only a small part of the book), and their history in Plymouth where they die in multitudes, and make peace and war with the Indians. After Cromwell leads a Puritan takeover of England, the Pilgrims are left with a bitter doubt of the purpose of the whole episode. It's quite a story.
But King Philip's War was fascinating. It was so interesting to see the Indians develop their techniques. At first they perform terribly in battle. The didn't know how to fight Europeans, and they didn't know how to slaughter in battle. That was not their normal way. But they learned. And there was a point in the war where the Indians, finally using their knowledge of the landscape to their advantage, really felt they had a chance to win, and maybe they did (and what would that have done to history?). And it's interesting to have a description of these Indians, by English prisoners, returning from this critical battle. The Indians won this battle, but failed to wipe out the English as they needed to. English prisoners describe the Indians dragging themselves back from this victorious battle, in full awareness that they may have just lost the war. The English eventually learned they needed to have Indian allies to win. These allies were critical guides and terrific fighters. As the war dragged on, the body counts escalated and the English finally out-supply the Indians, who ran out of ammunition and food. There were other mistakes too, like King Philip's general incompetence. The result was something like a local ethnic cleansing.
I should mention that the narrator, George Guidall, was excellent, managing the reading as a performance without sounding like he was performing.
Recommended, but don't expect a quick read.
Great reviews! The Mayflower sounds really interesting. It's going on the wishlist.
Agreeing with avidmom. Loved your description of Pooh and Tigger. Mayflower on the wish list. I might do the audio too.
An interesting series of reviews, Dan. Too bad they weren't all what you hoped, but Mayflower does sound interesting.
What I didn't like - the opening paragraph in the introduction which includes the line: "When I see the typical American tourist,...
I agree with you on that. People who live in Europe or who have the wealth and leisure to spend weeks there every year don't appreciate that for most Americans a week in France is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for which we've saved for years--and that by the time most of us can take such a trip we are in our 60s or older.
#271 - thanks Susie
#272 - Colleen, audio might be the best way to with Mayflower.
#273 - Steven, I still haven't made that trip to France...maybe I'm just jealous.
I think I'll pass on the Caro, although I do need to read a general history of France. I think her attitude would annoy me, too. I have had Mayflower on my shelves for several years now. I picked it up after enjoying In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, which I heartily recommend if you haven't read it yet. Melville based Moby Dick on this historical incident.
Lisa - I have a copy of In the Heart of the Sea. I'm looking forward to it...I don't think you would like Ina Caro.
Excellent reviews Dan.
After reading your review Dan I was surprised to discover that Ina Caro was American. Not a great idea to upset your fellow countrymen in the first paragraph. It's so difficult to come up with an original idea for a travel book; Ina Caro sounds just partly successful
I am also a fan of Nathaniel Philbrick's in the Heart of the Sea and so I have added Mayflower to my wishlist
I should edit and make the point that Ina Caro was actually writing her book for Americans. I think she saw her comment as being helpful - look, here is a way to do it better. It's just...well...there are more eloquent ways to make that kind of argument.
(I made a small edit in the "what I didn't like" paragraph)
I've had the Ina Caro on the TBR for years -- doesn't seem like it will be moving up very fast!
Wonderful that you read Pooh with the Shephard illustrations. The Disney ones drive me round the bend.
Mayflower sounds like a good one. I am yet another of those In the Heart of the Sea fans.
I'm actually interested in the Caro book too, after reading your review. It's always interesting to see what people with more time do when on holiday as often it does let you know about places perhaps more interesting than the well worn tourist circuits.
Rebecca - I don't know how you would respond to Caro. It's disappointing, but still useful if you can overlook the flaws.
Sassy - That is how Caro maybe should have presented it - as something special she was able to do and therefore share with us, instead of, well, what RidgewayGirl says. And, yeah, In the Heart of the Sea, need to get there...need to read Moby Dick again sometime too and those would seem to go together...
So, so much to catch up on here, Dan. I admire your persistence with regards to poetry, and Sharon Olds, no less! I very much enjoyed your responses to her work. I think I may have mentioned (before I dropped off the Club Read map) having once been a fan of hers. When you get a minute, check out the Michael Crummey (Canadian) poem I recently posted there. I think you might like him. And if you are looking for an anthology to explore, I highly recommend the The Norton Book of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (2 volumes, paperback, with that thin paper) - it seems to have something from everyone in it (now, why can't I find that in my library - did I never add it? Sigh).
I enjoyed Philbrick's book for its easy storytelling as much as anything (and though I have the hardcopy, I may have done that as an audio book back in my commuting days). And a great followup to Mayflower on audio, would be Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. She combines detailed history and dry wit to expose some of what we aren't taught about those early days. Having read much New England history, including the diaries of William Bradford and John Winthrop, I found her book quite fascinating, and a real treat.
I love seeing those science books. Wish I had the time to catch up with it all. Great reading, as usual, Dan.
Just catching up... My, your thread has been busy the last few weeks. (I have tumbleweeds in town on mine - my autumn reading has slowed somewhat!) Your thread is an endless mine of information and variety.
Really enjoyed your review of 'Ex-Libris' - I still have the pleasure to look forward to.
Your history of science reviews are fascinating and a source of learning for me. Too bad that 'Science Deified & Science Defied' was a disappointment to you.
Very good review of 'Mayflower' as well. I have had Philbrick's 'In The Heart of the Sea' on my TBR shelves for ages now, but I'm adding this one to the wishlist as well.
Terrific reading and reviewing, Dan. I think I’d listen to anything read by George Guidall; very much enjoyed his audio narration of Don Quixote. (And now seeing your recents of Pilgrims + audiobooks I can see that you might like The Wordy Shipmates.)
#284 - Lois, it's always a little special when you visit here. I enjoyed the Crummey you posted...i'm reading terrible stuff lately, i feel a need for good literature and to get myself reading poetry again...i will keep him in mind. I will keep that Norton book in mind too. And i like Sarah Vowell, hope to get to her again. As for those science books...i think i might have overdone it...
(Need to check on my son who is NOT asleep...)
Hi Paul. I'm behind on your thread (among others) so i'll be sure to watch out and dodge any tumbleweeds. Thanks for reading my miscellany here.
Thanks MJ. And yeah, i do actually hope i get around to giving The Wordy Shipmates a chance to be wordy. Don Quixote on audio...hmmm....
Pardon my personal complaints here...but i'm annoyed with myself. My current book stinks, and i refuse to give it up and every other book i'm reading right now suddenly looks like overwhelming nonfiction information and i've just trapped myself in a rut. All i need to do is drop all these books i'm reading and pick up something good and fresh and give it a chance - something actually well written. Annoyed that i refuse to do this...
Sorry, trying to get this out of my system...
Mk - well, that's something I had not considered. Where does one turn for liberation theology?
Well I was being a smarty pants because my mind is still on my last review that you commented on, and I was remembering that I wrote too much and still didn't talk about religion and the mistakes addressed in that area. And I know nothing much about liberation theology but suppose I need to read Gutierrez A Theology of Liberation, although Phillip Berriman Liberation Theology looks like a much simpler start for a simple mind like mine.
Oh go read something fun -- you don't need to improve your mind all the time!
Mk - don't think i'll go there
Jane - something to corrupt the mind wouldn't be so bad either.
Good choice. The thought makes me tired. I could also use something light!
By the way, the mistakes they said they made re: religion were in trying to take it away.
#293 Dan, I'm in a mood where I can't read my usual grim and serious books, and have to read books that are absorbing and entertaining, so I say go for it!
Maybe it's the season, knowing grim and serious winter is bearing down (on some of us at least). Having the same trouble.
Why not re-read something you love to get yourself out of your current book slump?
>290 mkboylan: I originally read that as librarian theology, which I think would be an interesting subject if it exists .... LOL!
Good tries, appreciate the suggestions
Sassy - I don't think that's it...Houston lacks that grim and serious aspect of winter. But then, who knows.
Susie - that makes great sense...and I can't fully explain why I'm not doing that.
Rebecca - yes! Wait...what am I going for again?
I think I need sleep...then maybe I can think about what to read.
Also catching up...
Nice review of The Clockwork Universe, Dan. I was originally an engineering major and took more calculus courses that I'd like to think about now, so this book sounds like one I'd be interested in reading.
The Ina Caro book sounds awful. I hope that she treats her husband, Robert Caro, better than she does the readers of her book and the unwashed Americans she encounters in France.
I agree with everyone else about punting away bad books, especially after I spent the first two weeks of September reading the 1000+ pages in The Kills, which my inner completist insisted I had to read in order to finish the Booker Prize longlist. I hate my inner completist sometimes.
"I hate my inner completest sometimes."
I have a hard time giving up on books, but somehow my pile of books with a bookmark stuck partway through is growing. I haven't officially given up, I'm just resting...
As I reread this post, it seems too gloomy, and I don't mean to gloom on your page, Dan. I think I'll move it to my page, and if you want to think about only reading books we enjoy or enjoy learning from, come on by.
Lisa - I read your post and didn't feel gloomy. It's good advice. I tend to try to read what works best at the time, thereby, in theory, avoiding the slumps. But my mind is a fragile thing, and when it switches I can still end up caught in the wrong books.
But the advice here may be having an effect. I open ex Alice Munro's The View from Castle Rock this morning. Unfortunately i really am very tired lately (reason not clear, so weird) and didn't get very far. But, picking a new book because I thought I might enjoy it...a step in the right direction.
Darryl - sorry about The Kills and your inner completist. If calculus or Newton is your thing, do read The Clockwork Universe...and i hope you enjoy. It's a book worth the time and effort, IMHO.
I hate book slumps, in part because books usually help my mood, either by distracting or lifting. But a book slump makes me terribly grumpy and out of sorts. Sometimes browsing the new books shelf at the library helps. Either I see something completely different to try or I am reminded of a book at home that I want to try. Sometimes I just hate all of my books, so going to the library or bookstore is a help.
Or Maybe starting a new thread would be distracting? Whatever you end up trying, good luck!
Dan how about an illustrated book? Radioactive came to mind, and I recalled you liked it so I looked through the books we share and I see Cathedral and The Art of Looking Sideways in your library (though the latter is big and "noisy").
Or, not illustrated but just plain comfortable: I also see Gift from the Sea and Bird by Bird.
I think I just needed to not be sleepy. Was awake in a normal sense today, and it was strikingly enough different from the last few days that I noticed and appreciated being normal. Hopefully whatever that tired spell was is over and done with, yuck. And I picked up Sacrificing Truth again and actually found it interesting...which may simply be because I'm more awake, or may be because it's finally getting to the point. So, on with the boring books...maybe...at least onward enough to get closure.
Bas - I haven't been able to read the bible, can't sustain an interest in it lately.
Thanks all for the suggestions.
And, Lisa, I know I should start a new thread, but our machine is sick and I'm stuck working only on the iPad, and I just can't fathom starting a new thread just now...but worst case I'll be another two months or so...
No problem. I suggested it not as a reminder, but because I like organizing things and find starting a new thread soothing and sometimes inspiring.
>310 dchaikin: As a wise person once said to me (and I have repeated to myself numerous times since), "don't should all over yourself."
Lisa - thanks. Sometimes that works for me too. I usually end up updating my library information.
Lois - good advice from said wise person.
Alas - I have finished Sacrificing Truth, and the pain is maybe over. : )
Just noticed that you've recently read Masada: Herod's fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand by Yigael Yadin. Very much looking forward to reading any comments or a review of this that you might post up in due course. As you'll know, Yadin was the Godfather of Israeli archaeology and I've been lucky enough to visit Masada on several occasions, but never actually read any work by him. I wonder how well his book is written.
Paul - I don't know if I will do Yadin justice, but suffice it to say his work on Masada was imaginative interpretation that had little to do with the archeology and doesn't follow Josephus, but instead "confirmed" the Masada myth...His work has been heavily criticized.
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