Naked Is the Best Disguise: The Death and Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Samuel Rosenberg is a literary criticism revolving around Sherlock HolmesNaked Is the Best Disguise: The Death and Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Samuel Rosenberg is a literary criticism revolving around Sherlock Holmes, but unlike most Holmesian critiques it focuses on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle more than on examining the works themselves for the sake of the work. Rosenberg speculates that Doyle left clues throughout his work that reveal hidden meanings and connections between the Holmes stories (and other of Doyle's work) and Nietsche, Oscar Wilde, Dionysus, Christ, Catullus, John Bunyan, Frankenstein, Robert Browning Racine, Flaubert, T. S. Eliot and others.
The title, which may seem odd at first, comes from William Congreve's The Double Dealer and preface the book.
No mask like open truth to cover lies, As to go naked is the best disguise.
And Rosenberg claims that Doyle has used the open "truth" in his stories to disguise his real meaning and display his true self.
Samuel Rosenberg was a literary detective who also published surprising discoveries about the work of Mary Shelley, Melville and others. In this work Rosenberg posits that Doyle was a brilliant allegorist who left "purloined letter" references to both literary figures and people from real life. He would have us believe that the blueprint for Professor Moriarty was Friedrich Nietzsche and that Irene Adler stood in for George Sand.The author encounters the people who knew Doyle and who, he says, turned up in his stories; displays clue after clue about Sir Arthur himself; and claims the discovery of the real meaning behind the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
I must say that Naked Is the Best Disguise reads rather oddly from someone claiming to be a literary detective. Rosenberg's prose actually reminds me of Dorothy L. Sayer's Miss Climpson. His work is littered with exclamation points and italicized words and I can almost hear the breathless, urgent tone as he declares his earth-shattering revelations! Although, perhaps I am doing Miss Climpson a disservice--because Lord Peter Wimsey's right-hand woman is much clearer in her reports to Lord Peter than Rosenberg is in his ecstatic "discoveries" about Doyle. If his literary detective work is really that accurate (and I have severe doubts that it is), then he certainly shouldn't need to broadcast it at the top of his lungs and highlight it with little neon signs to say: "Look at this brilliant bit of deduction! Aren't I clever? Nobody else has figured this out yet. And if I use enough exclamation points and italicize all the important words, then you, poor reader, can't possibly miss my point."
So...the method of delivery is quite distracting--as is his frequent digressions to explain just where he was when each brilliant discovery about Doyle's work occurred to him. On a train. At a hotel. Wandering around the countryside. Because, by golly, where you are when you suddenly realize that "This reference is exciting!" (yes, he actually put that right there in the text) is just about the most important thing you can relate while trying to convince your audience that Moriarty is Nietzsche. Or wait---maybe that's Colonel Sebastian Moran. Yeah--he's Nietzsche. NO....they're both Nietzsche! Did I mention that he seems a bit confused?
I don't know if Rosenberg is actually as earnest as he seems to be about all this exclamatory nonsense or whether this is a bit of literary critique parody put on for his friendly group of Holmes aficionados. It doesn't much matter to me. All I know is it was tedious, convoluted, and pedantic when it wasn't being all breathless and urgent and I can't say that I recommend it at all. He has not convinced me with the comparisons he's made. It's sort of like statistics--you can make them mean anything you'd like them to mean. One star. Maybe
Star Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant is a collection of essays edited by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Decker. These essays use episodes and moStar Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant is a collection of essays edited by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Decker. These essays use episodes and moments from Star Trek's various incarnations and feature films to explore philosophical issues ranging from the nature of communication between very disparate species to logical development of Vulcans to the ethical dilemmas found in Deep Space Nine. The essays use one of the icons of fictional space exploration to explore the philosophies of the human race.
The collection opens with an examination of one of my favorite Next Generation episodes, "Darmok." It discusses the essence of truly alien communication and commends the popular television show for addressing the difficulties in a very real way. Most science fiction novels and programs represent the universe as being full of very human-like creatures who all, magically, either speak English or have a language that translates very nicely into English when run through a universal translator. But philosophers have posited that a truly alien species would probably have points of reference so very different from ours that there may not be the common ground to allow such easy translation. "Darmok" reflects this idea while keeping it grounded in just familiar enough territory for the average viewer to understand.
Next up are two essays on the nature of Vulcans. One explaining the logic of Vulcan by giving a brief overview of the civilization of Vulcan and its dependence on the teachings and philosophy of Surak. The second compares Data's wish to be human to Spock's efforts to completely control his human side. It also discusses the relative merits of being able to control one's emotions versus the complete absence of them.
Other topics covered include revenge (courtesy of The Wrath of Khan) and whether it has a part in a meaningful life--and, ultimately, just what a meaningful life is; issues of morality and how it relates to the Q; the ethics of cloning and genetic manipulation (courtesy of Dr. Bashir and "The Masterpiece Society"; rational moral autonomy vs. full moral autonomy (Star Trek: Insurrection); the consequences and effects of collaboration (Nazi Germany via the Cardassians and Odo & the Bajorans); Business Ethics 101--can the Ferengi teach us anything?; human nature and individuality (vis-à-vis the Borg); the idea of recognition and importance of each individual (the entire philosophy of Star Trek); fantasy versus reality and the merits of the holodeck; the nature of time; the foundations of faith, and the nuts & bolts of life, death and immortality.
This is a very interesting, but very dense book. For someone who doesn't have a hefty philosophical background it gets a bit deep at times, but never so deep that I felt like I was drowning. Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the time. My favorite essay? The one on "Darmok" and language. Four stars.
David L. Ulin has called his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. He might have called it Why Narrative Matters or TheDavid L. Ulin has called his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. He might have called it Why Narrative Matters or The Lost Art of Thinking Deeply. These are both issues that he is very concerned with. He argues that because of the overwhelming amount of information that streams through our consciousness thanks to the internet we do not have the time or the attention to devote to truly immersing ourselves in the story--the narrative. Whether that be a story we are reading, being told, or even living. The constant race to keep up with the latest email, FaceBook post, or Tweet prevents us from savoring the moment...and even interferes with the ability to remember what we've done in a truly human way. As we devote more time to recording what we do in virtual space, we have no need (or time) to store those events in memory.
Ulin's argument is that reading...real reading..takes time. It takes concentration. When you hold a book in your hand, that's all you do--read the story. You can't change screens and check your email or the news or the weather. Deep reading makes you connect with the story and the characters. Your imagination becomes engaged and you try to picture what Victorian England or the American frontier or a battlefield of World War II might have looked and sounded and even smelled like. You examine motives based on what the narrator has told you. You make judgements about who's right and who's wrong. Who the good guys and the bad guys are. In the best reading experiences, it is the immersion that matters.
Ulin asks: Do books, does reading matter anymore? The answer: Yes, to those who still can get lost in a book. To those who can pick up a book and shut out the world and all its distractions for an hour or two or more. It matters to those who can read and find new ideas or new ways to consider old ones. It matters to those who can read and discover viewpoints different from their own. And even if that reading is digital--it matters if any type of immersion, any type of deep reading occurs.
Overall, Ulin asks and answers some important questions about reading and its place in the digital age. The book wasn't quite the celebration of books that I was expecting. But Ulin does have many important insights about the way we read and how the way we read may be changing. Three and a half stars....more
Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter is a collection of articles and essays edited by James L. Christian and published in 1976. The artExtra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter is a collection of articles and essays edited by James L. Christian and published in 1976. The articles were drafted in the shadow of the lunar landings and while the preparations for the Viking mission to Mars were well under way. People had long looked up at the sky at night and wondered what was out there--but now astronauts were making the first steps into space to find out. So, of course, speculation on what kind of life might exist on other worlds began to grow...particularly speculation about the possibility of intelligent life. These articles from eminent scientists and science fiction writers (and some, like Isaac Asimov, who were both) consider what the discover of intelligent interstellar life might mean to the human race--in philosophy and in practice; to our thoughts on religion and science. We even have a word from one of science fiction's favorite aliens--Mr. Spock of Vulcan.
Some of these essays are quite good and interesting--those by Asimov, Ray Bradbury, James L Christian, Kendrick Frazier, and Michael Tooley are all thought-provoking and written in terms that a layperson can understand. The "conversation" between Leonard Nimoy and his alter-ego Mr. Spock is charming and allows questions about interaction with aliens to be addressed in an entertaining way. The rest of the book goes quite over my head--lots of detailed scientific discussion about the probability of life-supporting planets and how many of those might generate intelligent life and the odds of that life trying to contact us (or sitting out there listening to our efforts to contact them)...it all makes my head spin. And, of course, this bit of non-fiction from 1976 is sadly out of date and out of touch. Unfortunately, our space program hasn't really progressed in the ways predicted by the scientists and science fiction writers of the '70s. We're not colonizing space; we're not making great efforts to explore much further than our backyard in the solar system. And if there are intelligent civilizations out there...I wouldn't be surprised if they have marked our planet as the insane asylum of the galaxy. We seem rather intent on doing ourselves in--if not through wars, then through pollution or disastrous climate or environmental effects. Why would they want to get in touch with those crazy Terrans?
An interesting read--if only for Asimov, Bradbury, and Nimoy--but not quite the stuff that three star books are made of. Two and a half stars.
I have to say that Monsieur Montaigne doesn't do a whole lot for me. It may be the translation, but he comes across as rather pompous, full of himselfI have to say that Monsieur Montaigne doesn't do a whole lot for me. It may be the translation, but he comes across as rather pompous, full of himself, and long-winded. I think the most irritating thing is that he spends one whole essay ("Of the Education of Children") telling us how tutors/teachers shouldn't just teach children to regurgitate facts or spout the learned words of the great men who come before them, but should be taught to reason and understand what the great men's words meant and embrace and make the thoughts their own. Then...Montaigne spends the rest of the book (and even this essay) dropping quotations from Homer and Horace and Dante and (you name the great classic thinker) here, there, and yon like a non sequitur looking for a connection. About one out of every five or six he'll incorporate properly into his discussion (properly according to his stated "rules"), not exactly practicing what he preaches. So, apparently, when it comes to quotations it is do as I say and not as I do.
I will admit that his theory on educating children does strike home a bit when you think of America's modern tendency to "teach to the test." As Montaigne says (oooh, I'm throwing in a quote!) "They slap them into our memory with all their feathers on, like oracles in which the letters and syllables are the substance of the matter. To know by heart is not to know; it is to retain what we have given our memory to keep....Sad competence, a purely bookish competence!" But, overall, Montaigne's philosophies as presented were a slog to work my way through and they did not provoke a thoughtful engagement as I expected.
I will refrain from giving a rating. Given the overall response on Goodreads and the references to Montaigne that I have seen repeatedly in my academic life, I'm sure I'm missing something.