As someone who is largely ignorant of most of Arab history, I found this book fascinating. It's long and dense and manages to provide an interesting oAs someone who is largely ignorant of most of Arab history, I found this book fascinating. It's long and dense and manages to provide an interesting overview of the Arabs from their ascension following the conquests of Muhammad and his affiliates, through the establishment of the caliphates, the wars with Europe, the rise of the post-colonial nation states, and right up to the close of the 1980s, stopping just before the Gulf War. There are a number of parts where Hourani has to skim or gloss-over, and even within the tightly-maintained parameters the author sets for himself there is simply too much material to cover in a book this size. Probably the most interesting parts where those dealing with how ordinary people lived life day to day at various points in their history, since it's often pretty hard to get a sense of what it's like to live as a regular Joe in this epoch or that given that most often the attention in usually lavished on stuff like battles and trade agreements. Large parts of the book (in fact, it's probably the central theme) are also dedicated to explaining how Islam works, how it's put into practice through the Muslim bureaucracy, what that has meant at various times for the inhabitants of Arab nations, and the necessity of interrogating and adapting traditional Muslim values as a result of increased pressure from the West, with mixed results....more
It's funny, in a breakneck, breathless sort of way. The main character is clearly an imbecile but not without her positive qualities. I suppose the moIt's funny, in a breakneck, breathless sort of way. The main character is clearly an imbecile but not without her positive qualities. I suppose the moral of this book is that when you get on the sex train you never really think about where it's gonna stop until you've reached the end of the line. So buy a car, or even a bicycle. The first symbolises wealth and power, and will get you laid, the second will trim your arse and makes you attractive to socially conscious solicitors, who you can then marry.
I don't know she appears self reflexive but ultimately it's clear that her insights are shallow and obvious and she's really just a cowardly narcissist. I enjoyed the character Miss Fielding created, anyway. Funny! A bit like Absolutely Fabulous, what with the constant pop cultural and faddish references. The mother is a pretty brilliant piece of terrible, too. Deserves to be talked into getting a facial with a cheese grater - the latest thing! I liked it!
Sad that so many women think and act like this, even when they weren't born into a hellish middle class straight jacket. I suppose you get torn between two extremes at times. Plus some people are just hopeless drunks (o/)
Now to breeze through the sequel and get back on track with my reading target....more
Finished the Opium Confessions. The information is interesting, but mostly of that vague, generalist sort that could only have been considered usefulFinished the Opium Confessions. The information is interesting, but mostly of that vague, generalist sort that could only have been considered useful in the early 19th century. The writing, however, is superb - an over-sexed mezzanine of verbiage - with any number of scenes and incidents that stick with you long after you've closed the book. The dreams in particular, though quite short, are striking in the power of their imagery. The book could have done with a few more freak-outs, to be honest. True of most things, I suppose.
Have read a bit of Suspiria de Profundis. De Quincey seems to have gotten a hold on some of his wilder linguistic impulses, directing them with a bit more power and foresight. I'm pretty excited to find-out just how much of this stuff Dario Argento took to heart....more
There's a great deal to admire in this book. Across three hundred pages and four billion years, Stapledon serves-up everything from doomed utopias andThere's a great deal to admire in this book. Across three hundred pages and four billion years, Stapledon serves-up everything from doomed utopias and world-spanning eugenics programmes, to autocratic super-brains, Martian invasions, terraforming, time-travelling telepaths, super-minds, degraded sub-men, conscious stars and more philosophy than you can shake a stick at. The central question of the book seems to be how humanity can remain sane, and achieve something close to perfection, in an indifferent universe where death lurks around every corner. Is perfection possible to begin with? If not, is there a philosophy we can adopt which will somehow render the seemingly inescapable cycle of rise and fall, doomed to end with the death of the stars and seemingly devoid of redemptive qualities, palatable to all concerned?
The conclusion seems to be that there comes a time when you have to face facts - that, while the universe is a thing of beauty, it's a terrible beauty, and no matter how far we "progress", we'll never be much more than a bunch of precocious infants groping in the dark. Three superior races arise in course of this book, and each is undone by some folly or other - usually a natural accident on a cosmic scale, handled poorly by people not quite mature enough to deal with the ming-boggling ramifications of the situation, and a little too wedded to the old ways (no matter how admirable those ways might seem) to think outside the box.
There are some silly bits, and some of the speculation in the first few chapters might seem a bit quaint, but all in all this is a damned good book.