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Category: What I’m Reading Now
What book(s) I’m reading now and what I think about the subject, the writing, the book design and the author. Most of these are books by the bedside: books I read in the final hour or so before sleep each night. There is usually a stack of 10-20 books on the go at any one time.
When he died of tuberculosis in his mother’s home, in 1862, 44-year-old Henry David Thoreau had already made his mark on the world with the publication of several books and numerous essays, including Civil Disobedience, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, The Maine Woods, A Yankee in Canada, and his classic, Walden, or Life in the Woods. I trust we’re all familiar with Thoreau’s major works, at least their titles, particularly Walden (first published in 1854). Thoreau — … click below for more!
Back in December, before Godaddy broke my blog through technical incompetence, I had written a piece about the first stanza in Inferno, the first book of Dante’s trilogy, The Divine Comedy. Since that post seems irretrievably lost, I decided to write another in the same vein. So please bear with me if this seems redundant. It all began innocently enough on Tuesday late last year when I was searching through my bookshelves in search of something I can no longer … click below for more!
Eyyyyyyy Wssup guys This was the entire first post that started a thread in a group I belonged to on Facebook. I think seeing it aged me a decade, and encouraged me to leave the group afterwards. Walking barefoot on broken glass would cause me less distress. All the poster needed to do to make me despair enough to seriously consider slitting my wrists would have been to write “yall” instead of “guys” (thus removing any actual words from the … click below for more!
At the end of his long and storied life, Giacomo Casanova found himself a lonely man in a damp, cold castle in Bohemia, a small German kingdom distant from all the places where he had lived and loved. The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality. He is from an older world, a more refined and gentile world than everyone around him, and as the 19th-century approaches, he struggles … click below for more!
In his famous work, Essays, Michel de Montaigne, channelling the Epicureans, wrote that, “All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim. (Book I: On the Power of Imagination).” And I have to admit that what we euphemistically call “junk food” is a widespread pleasure that many of us enjoy these days. Of course, Montaigne, ever the skeptic, also wrote, “Que sais je?” (What do I know? Book II, Ch. 12). I did it again: I … click below for more!
It was a dark and stormy night… Shakespeare’s last solo-authored play, The Tempest, opens with a storm (the eponymous tempest) in which a group of elite passengers (a king, a duke, relatives, and courtly hangers-on) gets washed overboard (or jump) while the working sailors remain safe onboard their ship. In fact, the working class are sturdy, brave, and steadfast as they struggle to save the ship and passengers, while the panicked elites run around like headless chickens on the deck, … click below for more!
Niccolo Machiavelli and Michel de Montaigne never met, nor could they have — Machiavelli died six years before Montaigne was born, and they lived about 1,200 km (800 miles) apart — but imagine the conversations they could have had if they had lived at the same time and close enough to visit one another, to have dinner together. Imagine the hard-nosed philosopher of the body politic and the curious philosopher of inner space, together, discussing humankind, discussing ways of living, … click below for more!
There’s a passage from the novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (by Muriel Barbery, Europa Editions, 2008, p. 116-117) that so delighted me when I came across it that I read it aloud to Susan: “Mildly hemorrhagic urine” is, to me, a form of light entertainment: it has a nice ring to it and evokes a singular world, a brief refreshing change from literature. For the very same reason, I enjoy reading the leaflets that come with medication, the respite … click below for more!
Unless you’re an academic who has studied The Bard for your entire career, you really need a guide, a Virgil if you will, to enter the dark forest of Shakespeare and find your way about in it. At the very least, you’ll want a guide to Shakespeare’s language and wordplay to illuminate the texts. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides to be had in the printed world. From essays on a single soliloquy to books that explore the entire canon, … click below for more!
Wonderful thing, the internet. You can type “complete works reading list Shakespeare” into a search engine and come up with dozens of lists with a recommended order for reading The Bard’s plays and poems over the period of a year. And none of them the same or seemingly made with the same logic. But, it seems, many have taken up the challenge. In almost no time, I had several lists to examine (here’s a PDF I made of the first … click below for more!
When the First Folio was published in 1623, it had 36 of the Bard’s plays, listed in three categories: histories, tragedies, and comedies (it didn’t include his longer poems, or the sonnets)*. And even then, these were not all of his plays. Several were not included, although they were known to the folio’s compilers. For reasons unknown, there were several plays missing from the original canon, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; The Two Noble Kinsmen; Edward III; The Book of … click below for more!
I’ve always liked reading “wisdom tales”; I still read and delight in those Zen Buddhist stories that Paul Reps recounted in his book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which I first encountered in the late 1960s. Not long after that, I discovered the many tales of the Mulla Nasrudin retold by Idries Shah, and the stories of the Wise Men of Chelm, the imaginary city of fools in Jewish folklore. Decades later, I still have most of these books. I suspect, … click below for more!
The “authorship question” — who wrote Shakespeare’s works, aside that is, from Shakespeare himself — is a conspiracy that seems a metaphor for modern society. It contains the seeds of many popular conspiracies within it: pseudoscience, suspicions about authority, declarations of revelation, blind faith, angry defences, opinions and interpretations, Youtube quacks, amateurs posing as researchers, wild claims, and the paranoia we find on social media. You can find its counterparts in alien abductions, chemtrails, Pizzagate, Trump’s election victory, pro-disease/anti-vaccination protests, … click below for more!
I’ve been a fan of Haruki Murakami’s novels for several, recent years, and have read nine or ten of them already. Those I’ve read have all fit into the category of “magical realism”; a style of fiction that was made famous by Latin American authors like Gabriel García Márquez (you would have encountered this in his bestselling book, 100 years of Solitude).* It’s a technique of writing where the imagined, or the fantastic enters the mundane world and is treated … click below for more!