One of the most profound American thinkers of the 20th century, Reinhold Niebuhr has a knack for grabbing hold of the wildest contradictions containedOne of the most profound American thinkers of the 20th century, Reinhold Niebuhr has a knack for grabbing hold of the wildest contradictions contained within the human breast, presenting them to the reader in shimmering new light. Good and evil are inextricably bound up in the nature of humans and in their institutions. Niebuhr's apparent goal was to infuse liberal Christianity with a sense of paradox & mystery, and in this he succeeded.
However, in many of his later essays, he reveals that he clings too strongly to the mystery, pleading agnosticism & shaking his head when presented with the supernatural, especially that most central of all Christian doctrine: the resurrection of Christ. With this I take issue. For all his prophetic boldness in proclaiming a complex, Christian understanding of human nature to the (political) powers of this earth, Niebuhr shies away from anything besides the most wishy-washy symbolic understanding of the central tenets of Christian belief. And this is Niebuhr's failure: that he did not realize that the paradoxes of a Christian understanding of grace & original sin must be grounded in the literal, historical, saving work of Jesus Christ....more
A delightful romp through '50s French culture through the eyes of a master semiotician and skillful writer. The essays (usually 3-4 pages long) providA delightful romp through '50s French culture through the eyes of a master semiotician and skillful writer. The essays (usually 3-4 pages long) provide close readings of everything from pro wrestling to strip clubs to wine and steak to toys....more
Informative history of Taiwan, starting from the earliest aboriginal settlers several thousand years ago, up through mainland Chinese interest in theInformative history of Taiwan, starting from the earliest aboriginal settlers several thousand years ago, up through mainland Chinese interest in the island, through Dutch and Japanese occupation periods, through the authoritarian period under the KMT, ending with the perilous democracy of the present. The interest of this book owes itself to the subject matter - Manthorpe tells the tale without much flair, tossing aside such astounding tales as that of George Psalmanazar, a French vagabond who gained notoriety in 18th century England for claiming to be Formosan (Taiwanese) despite knowing nothing of the place. He also focuses on large scale political issues to the detriment of exploring the inner worlds of his subjects, the people of Taiwan. Furthermore, he tells the story with a clear bias toward the Taiwanese independence movement, even going so far as to make excuses for Chen Shui-bian's recent acts of corruption. That said, the book is a good point of departure for exploring the long and twisted history of Taiwan....more
An encyclopedic overview of everything remotely related to China's southern borders during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Schafer is an erudite and thAn encyclopedic overview of everything remotely related to China's southern borders during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Schafer is an erudite and thorough scholar, drawing on a broad range of sources from both East and West. What's more, he knows how to craft a sentence. The Vermilion Bird is an extremely useful resource for anyone interested in the material culture of imperial China and required reading for anyone wishing to study the Tang Dynasty. The only problem is, this book is meant to convey information, not draw conclusions, so the detailed descriptions sometimes feel tedious. Nevertheless, I am glad to have it on my shelf as a ready resource when translating Tang poems....more
The first English-language biography of China's most celebrated poet (李白, romanized as Li Po, Li Bo, or Li Bai, depending on which system you use, thoThe first English-language biography of China's most celebrated poet (李白, romanized as Li Po, Li Bo, or Li Bai, depending on which system you use, though at the time his name was probably pronounced something like Li Bak), popular Sinologist Arthur Waley undertook an enormous task with verve and lucidity. Waley is a skilled writer, and weaves a coherent biographical narrative out of evidence scattered poems, letters, inscriptions, and early biographical notes. Furthermore, he uses Li Bo's life as a entry point into a survey of the major events in 8th-century (CE) China: the constant changing of power at the courts, the chaos leading to and culminating in the An Lushan Rebellion, the circles of Daoist (Taoist) alchemy, the vagaries of a wandering, jobless poet's life. For all this, I applaud Waley's efforts.
Yet the account given is in fact quit unsympathetic to the poet. The book was originally written for a series titled "Ethical and Religious Classics, East and West," the stated goal of which was "to place the chief ethical and religious masterpieces of the world, both Christian and non-Christian, within easy reach of the intelligent reader who is not necessarily an expert." Set in this context, Li Bo is obviously a profligate, recognized by his contemporaries for his poetic genius, wildly flashing eyes, and perpetual drunkenness. Indeed, Waley ends his book by calling Li Bo "boastful, callous, dissipated, irresponsible and untruthful" - adjectives which could describe most artistic geniuses, from Aristophanes to Tao Qian to Shakespeare to Byron to Picasso to Welles. For this, I withhold my applause of Waley's efforts....more
Bought this used for a penny on Amazon, and by golly was that the best penny I ever spent. Sure, the Time Life series on the "Great Ages of Man" fromBought this used for a penny on Amazon, and by golly was that the best penny I ever spent. Sure, the Time Life series on the "Great Ages of Man" from the '70s strikes one today as being little misguided, overly optimistic, a relic of the humanism that brought about Great Books series and the like. But Edward Schafer is not only a well-known historian amongst Sinologists, he's also a fabulously gifted prose stylist who knows how to draw you into his often obscure topics. The result is a great contribution to this ol' series. The book also features some wonderful, glossy illustrations of ancient paintings, sculptures, and pottery with nice, concise captions. The book succeeds in exactly what it proposes to do, and for this I say it's worthy every penny....more