Re-read a classic to start off the new year. As with every classic, this too turned up in a new light. With echoes of Schopenhauer, Kant and even Comt...moreRe-read a classic to start off the new year. As with every classic, this too turned up in a new light. With echoes of Schopenhauer, Kant and even Comte, this deep poem suddenly took new life in this reading. Now what is left is to search out which way the influence spread before flowering in this expression - east to west, the other way, or is it an early amalgamation of all philosophy like all truly great poems are.(less)
This tends to me among the top five books I recommend to anyone who cares to ask.
Questioning and undermining Rousseau's 'noble savage' was one of its...more This tends to me among the top five books I recommend to anyone who cares to ask.
Questioning and undermining Rousseau's 'noble savage' was one of its essential goals (as Alan mentions below), hence the positioning of a classic dystopia in an idyllic setting and the choice of 'boy-scout' perfect protagonists. It is as good a dystopic novel as they come. And essential because most dystopic novels were set in urban settings, giving the illusion that extreme control leads to dystopia. Golding shows that extreme freedom can too.
It is a great work because it speaks so truly of the human tendency away from organized civilization. To me, the one fault is the ending -- the time scale given to the thought experiment was too narrow, allowing only one swing of the societal pendulum.(less)
The first half is written by Thoreau, the accomplished philosopher and soars much above my humble powers of comprehension; the second half is written...more The first half is written by Thoreau, the accomplished philosopher and soars much above my humble powers of comprehension; the second half is written by Thoreau, the amateur naturalist and swims much below my capacity for interest.
After reading about the influence the book had on Gandhi, I had attempted reading Walden many (roughly four) times before and each time had to give up before the tenth page due to the onrush of new ideas that enveloped me. I put away the book each time with lots of food for thought and always hoped to finish it one day.
Now after finally finishing the book, while I was elated and elevated by the book, I just wish that Thoreau had stuck to telling about the affairs of men and their degraded ways of living and about his alternate views. Maybe even a detailed account of his days and how it affected him would have been fine but when he decided to write whole chapters about how to do bean cultivation and how to measure the depth of a pond with rudimentary methods and theorizing about the reason for the unusual depth of walden and about the habits of wild hens, sadly, I lost interest. I trudged through the last chapters and managed to finish it out of a sense of obligation built up over years of awe about the book.
The concluding chapter, to an extent, rewarded me for my persistence and toil. In this final chapter, he comes back to the real purpose of the book: to drill home a simple idea - "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings."
This I think was the core philosophy of the book - if you pursue the ideal direction/vision you have of how your life should be, and not how convention dictates it should be, then you will find success and satisfaction on a scale unimaginable through those conventional routes or to those conventional minds.
I will of course be re-reading the book at some point and thankfully I will know which parts to skip without any remorse.(less)
My first exposure to Gladwell. SO was more or les blown away by the ideas. Have grown more conservative in acceptance of his views as I have grown fam...moreMy first exposure to Gladwell. SO was more or les blown away by the ideas. Have grown more conservative in acceptance of his views as I have grown familiar with his topics through other books. But still an eminently quotable book.(less)
He had just finished his thirty-fourth reading of the play. The unsaid hate, the unseen events, the half-imagined wrongs;...more Satanic Verses: A Composition
He had just finished his thirty-fourth reading of the play. The unsaid hate, the unseen events, the half-imagined wrongs; they tormented him. What could cause such evil to manifest, he just could not figure. He loved him too much to believe the simple explanation.
And then the idea starts growing on him - to explore the growth of evil just as Shakespeare showed, explored the tragic culmination of it. And because you show the growth, it can no longer be a tragedy, no, no it has to be a comedy. A tragicomedy. Yes. And he set to it. He painted Othello as an Indian actor, worshiped and adored and off on a mad canter to get his Ice Queen, his Desdemona. On his way he meets him - the poor man trying to forget his own roots and desperately reinventing himself, his Iago.
Yes Iago too was once a man. What twists of fate made him evil incarnate? He sets out his prime motif: The question that’s asked here remains as large as ever it was: which is, the nature of evil, how it’s born, why it grows, how it takes unilateral possession of a many-sided human soul.
Wait a minute, he blinks at his notes, if Iago is evil incarnate, does that not also mean that he is Satan incarnate? Chamcha then is Satan incarnate? Then Othello has to be God? A little bit more corruptible maybe? Let us make him the angel Gibreel, he decided. As an aside, as the angel, he can slip into that reality in his dreams and reenact the story (history?) of Prophet Mohammad in inflammatory fashion, maybe talk about the 'Satanic Verses' since his Satan can't help but gloat over his little jokes. Why not call the novel so too, except that it would mean something else - the verses that the real Satan of the story, Iago, sings in Othello's ear. He knows that this might be cause for misunderstanding, might ruffle a few feathers, but it is just a digression, the real story is beyond that - it is not the Event Horizon. But he can't help himself. He never could keep a story simple.
Ah, now something beyond mere Othello is taking shape is it not? If Iago is Satan, then surely it is in character to enjoy with consummate pleasure the sight of his own jealousy consuming himself - the green-eyed monster that feeds on itself. So Satan decides to narrate the story of one of his incarnations? Or rather, possessions? The questions that are to run his plot are flowing freely now. How an ordinary man when in contact with an angel inevitably had to transform into Lucifer himself. How can one exist without the other. They meet and the spiral ensues and Iago mutates and agitates and like a cancerous growth his strange fate builds until he turns his wrath square on his angel, his Othello. And how can he then not try to destroy what he is not, what he can not be. There is the moment before evil, then the moment of, then the time after; and each subsequent stride becomes progressively easier. But what about before and after the madness? It surely must be an ordinary life, with ordinary joys and pains. It is a cosmic drama, he concludes.
In the process, every insinuated implication in the play is to be played out in this story - Cassio does sleep with Iago's wife, Iago is madly lustful of Desdemona, Othello is a deserving victim of directed revenge for very real ills and Iago needs no invented or unbelievable reasons for his actions. He is justified. It was inevitable.
Salman Rushdie sets down his pen.
He has vindicated Iago, many a literature lover's favorite character.
"...even to laugh is only an imperfect expression of the real ridicule of life. For it to be perfect one ought properly to be seri...more Single Quote Review:
"...even to laugh is only an imperfect expression of the real ridicule of life. For it to be perfect one ought properly to be serious.
The most perfect mockery of life would be if the person who propounded the deepest truth were not a dreamer but a doubter. And that isn’t inconceivable, for no one can propound the positive truth as excellently as a doubter, except that he himself doesn’t believe in it. If he were a hypocrite the joke would be on him; if he were a doubter who perhaps wanted to believe what he doubted, the mockery would be entirely objective, existence would be mocking itself through him; he would be propounding a doctrine able to explain everything and the whole race could repose in it, but this doctrine could not explain its own founder.
Were a person clever enough to conceal the fact of his own madness, he could make the whole world mad."