It's been a week or so since I finished reading this book. Five years ago I think I would have waxed lyrical about the banality of madness so cleverly...moreIt's been a week or so since I finished reading this book. Five years ago I think I would have waxed lyrical about the banality of madness so cleverly displayed by Fowles and I still do acknowledge his supreme ability to pull off such a task seemingly effortlessly. In my 'old age' though I am less energised by this and more touched by the beautifully crafted unfurling picture of the fragility of the human spirit - a sadness at his inescapable wounded soul which thoughtlessly wounds in turn. I'm not letting the protagonist off the hook with this statement - what he does in the book is inexcusable - but Fowles conveys well that sense that he himself (Ferdinand) is completely incapable of viewing his actions in this light. His actions and thoughts are all the more disturbing in their very banality - not stupidity, not evil, not vindictive - but unutterably mundane and beige.
On a separate theme: a base note I picked up from my reading was the fact that Ferdinand (sorry - never did pick up his 'real' name) would have been unable to follow through on his fantasies without winning a large sum of money which effectively frees him from the necessity of being forced into socialisation. I recently read Ian McEwen's book 'Enduring Love' which had a similar theme - in that case a religious / mentally disturbed nut who inherits a large sum of money - and this wealth frees them from the obligation of working for a living, further isolates them from society and in their idleness feeds their perversion or at least gives their perversion air to breathe. It seems so woefully middle-class to assert that working is good for the masses to keep the social fibres intact! Is it true? I'm still contemplating it. Certainly I could think of quite a few things I would like to do if I suddenly won the 'pools' which wouldn't include abducting the object of my obsession and watching her/him everyday beat his head against the glass. (less)
This is a man who stripped back all the gloss and debris of modern life and revealed the kernal of life's necessities. I find myself getting excited/r...moreThis is a man who stripped back all the gloss and debris of modern life and revealed the kernal of life's necessities. I find myself getting excited/reinvigorated just reading his laser sharp commentary on what man needs to be happy in life. His discussion on the idiocy of indebting oneself voluntarily to a mortage was particularly aposite to me. The 'poor' civilised man but the rich 'savage' - not just in that he does not have debt but also that he/she is not enslaved to keeping house - 'a blade of grass does not gather dust'. A clear thinking man who in some ways reminds me of Nietsche with his critique of modern society. (less)
Modjeska's turn of phrase is beautiful. I like the device of interweaving 'story' with essays though it can make it difficult to either connect with t...moreModjeska's turn of phrase is beautiful. I like the device of interweaving 'story' with essays though it can make it difficult to either connect with the various characters or keep a sense of continuity going. At this stage the essays are more interesting than the story.
Loved the 'girl with the silver hands' story being mulled over and analysed in the light of lived experience over and over in both the fictional narrator's life and all the woman's lives of the book. All in all a wonderful read with important issues to think about. (less)
The idea of this book is so seductive, along the lines of Yourcenor's "Hadrian's Memoirs', of bringing to life history with a glimpse into the thought...moreThe idea of this book is so seductive, along the lines of Yourcenor's "Hadrian's Memoirs', of bringing to life history with a glimpse into the thoughts and private life of a 4th century woman. It seems to me somehow that the ideas she espouses are thoroughly modern however much I agree with them - I wonder if her arguments could conceivably have been argued by one of her situation and epoch. I am not particularly familiar with the era but enjoyed the glimpse of the cusp between the classical and the medieval - the author seems more classical in her thinking whilst Augustine, with his extreme hatred of the flesh and the 'impermanent' seems to embrace the coming dark ages where the church held sway over the minds of men in such a limiting and impermeable fog for so long. All in all a very enjoyable read - with quotations of classical authors and philosophers brought to life. There's something about philosophy and mythology used in this way that makes it a living breathing thing. (less)
This book was like a bolt from the blue. It was compelling and beautiful. I did have to remind myself that this is a fictional account of Hadrian's li...moreThis book was like a bolt from the blue. It was compelling and beautiful. I did have to remind myself that this is a fictional account of Hadrian's life (and hence perhaps not 100% accurate) but even so, this is what history should be - full of senses, emotions and wonderful insights into the human condition. It took me ages to read as I had to keep going back and re-reading whole passages that struck me as pertinent as well as being written like a work of art. I thoroughly recommend this book to historians and literature buffs alike. (less)
I am always surprised by Greer's actual writing. Her public persona is so contentious and brash. Previous to this book I had only read Greer's feminis...moreI am always surprised by Greer's actual writing. Her public persona is so contentious and brash. Previous to this book I had only read Greer's feminist writing (i.e. 'female eunich' and 'the whole woman'). Particularly in this book, she has a very measured and well supported style that weaves a cross stitch of fact and speculation into an enjoyable tale. She makes sure that the reader knows when she is fictionalising. Her main argument is that in the absence of documentary evidence why are Shakespearean scholars so willing to believe that Ann Hathaway/Shakespeare was a viper tongued, ugly, unlovable woman who Shakespeare couldn't wait to abandon after having been prodded to the alter at the end of a shotgun? In the process of making sense of what documents that do survive from the late 16th century on William and Ann themselves and using other sources unconnected to the Shakespeares, she covers a very interesting period in the economic and spiritual life of the family in Stradford. I enjoyed particularly Greer's analysis of what activities a housewife would be engaged in both in terms of keeping home and hearth but also in contributing to the family income as well. In terms of an analysis of academic prejudice Greer manages to get the reader thinking once again about what kind of woman Ann Shakespeare might have been and assessing our own social moors.
To quote the last paragraph in the book... 'all this, in common with most of this book, is heresy, and probably neither truer nor less true than the accepted prejudice. Ann Shakespeare cannot sensibly be written out of her husband's life if only because he himself was so aware of marriage as a challenging way of life... The Shakespeare wallahs have succeeded in creating a Bard in their own likeness, that is to say, incapable of relating to women, and have then vilified the one woman who remained true to him all his life, in order to exonerate him. There can be no doubt that Shakespeae neglected his wife, embarrassed her and even humiliated her, but attempting to justify his behaviour by vilifying her is puerile. The defenders of Ann Hathaway are usually derided as sentimental when they are trying to simply be fair. It is a more insidious variety of sentimentality that wants to believe that women who are ill treated must have brought it upon themselves. The creator of Hero, Desdemona, Imogen and Hermione knew better. Ann might say like Lady Macduff: I have done no harm. But I remember now I am in his earthly world, where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas, do I put up that womanly defence to say I have done no harm? (IV. ii. 75-80)'.
A satisfying conclusion to a satisfying book.(less)
I was completely ready to be hit with Adorno when I did. While he seemed to be thoroughly one-eyed, and polemical, I thought he made many many salient...moreI was completely ready to be hit with Adorno when I did. While he seemed to be thoroughly one-eyed, and polemical, I thought he made many many salient observations. I can't say, having had time to be un-enthralled by his myopic gaze, that he is entirely correct but my god there are times when I see something on tv or hear discussions about this program or that, that I am forcefully reminded of his arguements about the culture machine and its function. (less)
There is so much to like about this book. When I first picked it up I was a little daunted by the math play in the book but soon realised that Auburn...moreThere is so much to like about this book. When I first picked it up I was a little daunted by the math play in the book but soon realised that Auburn was dumbing it down for me/or rather glossing over the finer detail for the mathematically challenged like myself. The 'madness' theme was beautifully and masterfully developed. I couldn't help but think about Mr. Foucault as I was reading it. I have recently seen the movie and must say I was pleasantly suprised by how well they did. I'm looking forward to seeing it on stage sometime.(less)
What I loved about Anna Politiskya's commentary is that she gave details, names and effects of terrible acts not abstracted in any way. For this reaso...moreWhat I loved about Anna Politiskya's commentary is that she gave details, names and effects of terrible acts not abstracted in any way. For this reason her book was disturbing in the extreme but I felt it was necessary to my studies into contemporary Russia. She was an amazingly brave person who despite great personal danger persisted in exposing 'the truth'. I hope her courage is not overlooked or her mission forgotten.(less)
I read this book while I was down with the flu, which added a dimention to my reading as I was isolated in my room for a couple of days. I read some o...moreI read this book while I was down with the flu, which added a dimention to my reading as I was isolated in my room for a couple of days. I read some of the reviews for this book on Good Reads and I must say my experience of this book is quite different from what some other people have reported. Azar's opening two chapters were enough to suck me into her world and engross me. Her reading of Lolita was wonderful and I like the way she able to bring her reading of this book, her reflections on Humbolt into the context of her own experiences in Tehran. One of the criticisms of this book that I read on Good Reads is that her reading material is too western centric - i.e. that she gives too much praise to the literature of America and therefore might give the American reader the impression that their lit is 'better' than Islamic or Iranian literature. I didn't read her book choices in this way. In a way, because America became such a central focus of hatred for the regime in Iran during the revolution she picked this material to demonstrate how biased and myopic this focus was, and how it failed to see the complexity of American life - i.e. that books like Lolita or the Great Gatsby were not recieved with one interpretation in America and that many of the criticisms leveled at those books in the Iranian context were also been discussed in America - i.e. that they were immoral or had flawed heros.
She talks quite considerably about the difficulty of becoming as she calls it 'irrelevant' in her own country. She describes the constant scrutiny that women get on the streets if they are seen to be too alluring or if they wear 'pink socks' or let their nails grow or have a strand of hair fall out from under her head covering. I was thinking of this in the light of my own 'Australian' context. Obviously my life is not as restricted in terms of what I wear or how I choose to adorn or comport myself in public. In fact, these choices are fairly banal and mundane. Yet, for Azar this restriction caused her to examine aspects of herself and her society to work out what really mattered. Because the system made socks important, choosing to wear pink or striped socks became a subversive act. Beyond the immediate existential questions of how an individual is able to deal with having their public and private lives so micro managed, I also enjoyed her questioning of the effects of these policies on society as a whole and especially her understanding of the role of literature in allowing a person to understand complexity in life as a whole.
I must say, when I read her passage about the 'trial' of the novel 'the great Gatsby' in her class, I experienced a different book than I had read. She managed to inject me with a wonderful sense of excitement and a desire to reread Gatsby with new eyes.(less)
I finally read this. It has been on my list since I was at uni because so many of the intellectuals I read there referenced this book somehow. I quite...moreI finally read this. It has been on my list since I was at uni because so many of the intellectuals I read there referenced this book somehow. I quite enjoyed the language - I was of course reading it in English (I would love to be able to read Latin but alas my education was sorely deficient in this regard). More took a long long time to say anything however and his vision for a fair, egalitarian society where women could be more than housewives, divorce and euthanasia were legal, and poverty and hunger were eliminated was buried deep under a thick layer of verbosity and moralising pontification. Also what he says here - especially about tolerance for varying religions (except for Atheists who by rejecting an afterlife are outside of the law) doesn't quite gel with what I thought I knew about his treatment of protestants and willing participation in the hatred of the time. (less)
This book was such a delightful education to me of my own region - it provided an alternate history than the one handed to me by my elders and teacher...moreThis book was such a delightful education to me of my own region - it provided an alternate history than the one handed to me by my elders and teachers in school. I have since done quite a lot of research and Peter Walker's account seems to be fairly accurate (as accurate as you can get in this case). It was a wonderful starting point for my cultural awakening!(less)
How much should we divorce an idea from the one stating it? How much can we forgive of a philosophy that has motivated a man to support a movement tha...moreHow much should we divorce an idea from the one stating it? How much can we forgive of a philosophy that has motivated a man to support a movement that was decidedly murderous? How much should philosophy be accountable to its consequences and/or be able to play out in reality. I am really enjoying Wolin's analysis of the effect of Heidegger's 'fall' on four of his Jewish students and the ways in which they were able to explain/analyse/reconcile/reject Heidegger's teachings in their post war work. These are questions that have been nagging me in my own lay person's reading of philosophy and I am glad to have them touched upon in this very readable text. (less)