You can read the wonderful first two chapters, skip the Gnostic, self-conceited/borderline fascist bullshit that is the rest, and move on to some of HYou can read the wonderful first two chapters, skip the Gnostic, self-conceited/borderline fascist bullshit that is the rest, and move on to some of Hesse's better books, where similar problems are explored way more profoundly....more
The book has its flaws, the biggest one being the one-dimensional characters, but its main idea and sense of hopelessness are conveyed very well. TheThe book has its flaws, the biggest one being the one-dimensional characters, but its main idea and sense of hopelessness are conveyed very well. The quote from 'The Hollow Men' in the beginning pretty much sums it up:
In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river… This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.
There's an old joke about bai Ivan (in Bulgarian bai is an honorary form of address towards an older person), the man who knew everyone. Different verThere's an old joke about bai Ivan (in Bulgarian bai is an honorary form of address towards an older person), the man who knew everyone. Different versions exist in other countries as well, but I prefer the Bulgarian one, so here it is:
Bai Ivan was a janitor in a big factory. One day the boss said to his employees that he wanted everyone to be extra diligent tomorrow, because the prime minister would be visiting the factory. On the next day the prime minister arrived and the boss began showing him around. Suddenly the prime minister stopped, as he noticed bai Ivan wiping the floor nearby. "Bai Ivane, my friend!", greeted the minister. "How are you?" The two embraced each other and engaged in a friendly conversation. Bai Ivan's boss was surprised, but didn't say anything. After a while the prime minister went on with his visit, which turned out to be successful. Some time passed and the Bulgarian factory was about to make a huge deal with the US government. The president of the United States would come personally to discuss the final terms. Again, the boss told his employees to behave and do their jobs. Before the president's arrival, helicopters appeared and began circling the building. There snipers, dogs, bodyguards, lock, stock and barrel. Finally, a motorcade of twenty vehicles approached and the president got out of a fancy SUV. While he was being shown around, the president noticed bai Ivan, who was coming out of a larder and was covered with dirt and cobwebs. "Bai Ivan!", the president exclaimed. "What's going on, old buddy?" The two embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks. They talked for some time, and then the president went on to sign the deal, agreeing to favourable terms for the Bulgarians. The boss was astounded, but again he didn't say anything. A few months later he decided to go to the Vatican for the Pope's Easter message. As a sign of gratitude towards his best employee, the boss invited bai Ivan to come with him. So they went to Rome and were standing in the crowd gathered in front of St. Peter's Basilica, listening to the Pope's message. As the Pope was talking, his eyes suddenly widened and he exclaimed: "Bai Ivan! Come here, my child, join me while I deliver my message to the people." Bai Ivan looked at his dumbfounded boss, who only managed to nod, so bai Ivan went to the Pope, who embraced him and kissed him. After a while bai Ivan went back to his boss, but some worried people had gathered in a circle around him. Bai Ivan made his way through and saw his boss lying unconscious on the ground. He managed to bring him round and asked him what had happened. "Bai Ivane", his boss said, "when it turned out you were friends with the prime minister, I accepted that. When the president of the United States rushed to embrace and kiss you, I somehow accepted that too. Even when the Pope invited you to join him just now, I was able to stomach it. But when some Japanese tourist standing next to me pointed at the Pope and asked me who that guy next to bai Ivan was, I just couldn't take it.
If you wonder what bai Ivan's story is and how comes he knows all those important people - well, this book is a take on that....more
Once again we have a tired Patrick, an annoying, nosy Erika, couples with broken dreams of grandchildren, devIf you've read one, you've read them all.
Once again we have a tired Patrick, an annoying, nosy Erika, couples with broken dreams of grandchildren, devastated people making coffee or cleaning the house with mechanical movements, a victim from Fjällbacka who moved to Göteborg and returned, not willing to talk about his past, Melberg who thinks the simplest answers are the right ones (and contrary to reason he is wrong as usual), and so on. Some passages actually seem like they were outright copy-pasted from the previous books.
Now, this is not necessarily bad. Fans of the series would know what to expect and probably would not be disappointed by the repetition. The real problem was that this time even the crime investigation, which didn't really lead anywhere, wasn't particularly interesting. The dénouement, which was revealed in a couple of pages and without much connection to the investigation, was reminiscent of a previous one and not fulfilling at all. ...more
This book is one third father and son with issues travelling through the country, one third introduction to Pirsig's metaphysics of Quality and one thThis book is one third father and son with issues travelling through the country, one third introduction to Pirsig's metaphysics of Quality and one third general crash course in philosophy.
The country descriptions, the father-son relationship and the effects of electroshock therapy are interesting, though I didn't feel really engaged, perhaps because both the narrator and his son are kind of assholes at times (which, I admit, is understandable, given their mental health issues).
The Philosophy 101 part of the book is maybe not the most accurate and unbiased, but Pirsig's reading of it is still interesting even if you are already familiar with the subject matter. (Note: If you are not, don't take his thoughts about Plato, Aristotle, etc. for granted.) It serves as the necessary background for the introduction of the metaphysics of Quality, which is the central theme and also the one that I found disappointing.
At the beginning, while Phaedrus hasn't fully developed his theory yet, he confuses basic concepts, without realizing the criteria for the basic quality he is talking about (not his later idea of Quality) depend entirely on human taste or on the particular purpose which humans have instilled in objects, and are not something inherent and universal.
Phaedrus might have had 170 IQ as a child, but it still takes him 50 pages and countless hours of pondering to begin asking basic questions about Quality which he should have asked himself at the very beginning (and other questions remain unasked). It is then that he starts talking imagining some lag between vision and intellectual realization, which is really the field of neuroscience, not rhetoric, and says that the initial awareness of Quality is somehow dependant on our a priory analogues without being part of the intellectual process.
Further on more discrepancies appear. The author talks about Quality as something universal, independent of the subject-object duality, but at the same time his own examples show that this Quality is wholly dependent on the situation and the individual's point of view.
And if Quality makes reality, as Pirsig claims, then it should be everywhere, which would make the whole thing pointless, because everything would have equal quality. Instead he goes for the other option, saying that Quality somehow makes reality, but appears only in some arbitrary parts of reality. For example, it exists in the country, but is nowhere to be found in the big city (despite the narrator saying earlier that Buddha resides equally well everywhere, and that to say otherwise is to demean Buddha and oneself).
So which is it? Is there Quality without humans? Pirsig doesn't bother to ask that question, even though earlier he makes a pointless argument about the law of gravity not existing before humans (and Newton in particular), again failing to distinguish between the basic ideas. He says that the law of gravity did not exist before Newton, because that would mean it has existed before the universe itself, just hanging out there in the void, and that would be stupid. But there is a really simple resolution to this. The "law of gravity" is merely a description of the way gravity works. There was a way gravity worked before there was Newton, but not before there was a universe. With the birth of the universe gravity and the way it works were born too. Pirsig's argument is just sophistry, as is much of this book.
The author sometimes sounds like a smartass, only failing at the smart part. He claims his theory is revolutionary, but at the same time he himself admits it is not really anything new. And he has no reason to sound so zealous and arrogant about a metaphysical concept, besides his own conviction, which he does not defend with much arguments, and dismisses counter-arguments as Aristotelian and irrelevant.
On the bright side, the rest of the story is enjoyable, there are some nicely formulated thoughts here and there, and, undeniably, the book is very influential (not among philosophers, though), thus the three stars....more