Where some children's authors choose to artfully pack in extra material that can be fully appreciated only by an adult reader, Roald Dahl instead chooWhere some children's authors choose to artfully pack in extra material that can be fully appreciated only by an adult reader, Roald Dahl instead chooses to write clearly and deliberately for a single audience - the child. This is something to be celebrated, as it demonstrates Dahl's keen understanding of the Child's mind and his willingness to serve it.
Dahl does not patronise his audience. He provides them with the gristle, the tragedy, the darkness and the terrible happenings from which most other author's will 'protect' them. The characters that he writes are caricature, for sure, and Dahl acknowledges this - but only whilst also acknowledging that caricatures are always rooted in truth. For the child, I'm sure, this forbidden knowledge is a large part of the attraction towards Dahl's work: He provides them with a glimpse into the abyss and they are thrilled by the vertigo.
Intellectually, as well, Roald Dahl does not at all patronise his audience; difficult words like 'insuperable' and 'indelible' are used freely and when the comic violence of his world clashes with the adult reality of Miss Honey's life, Dahl does nothing to cushion the blow or to hide the implications and, indeed, draws attention to them through the enquiries of the protagonist.
A curious mix of British English and Americanisms (pants for trousers, fanny for bottom) is employed and some considerable contortions are taken in order to set the scene without using the term 'Primary School'. This is quite interesting, as it points towards the notion that Dahl intended the book for immediate internationalisation. Quite interesting indeed. The edition that I have points out at the back that the US publishing of Dahl's earliest works preceded their publishing in the UK. This is something that I had not formerly realised, and it makes a great deal of sense....more
Schopenhauer here discusses how happiness is not a state in its own right but rather a state made manifest by the absence of a different state: the stSchopenhauer here discusses how happiness is not a state in its own right but rather a state made manifest by the absence of a different state: the state of suffering; in his terms, happiness or goodness has a 'negative' nature and suffering or evil has a 'positive' one. This is better understood in the sense that a shadow is not a thing in itself but rather a thing that is brought into being by the absence or impediment of a source of light. A shadow has a 'negative' nature; it exists only as a negation of something 'positive'. A light has a 'positive' nature; it truly exists.
There are echoes here again, as in other collections of Schopenhauer's essays, of his inability to self-validate his views and of the despair that it evidently causes him:
"[There is] a source of pleasure, and consequently of suffering, available to [Humans] alone and one which preoccupies him beyond all measure, indeed more than all the rest put together: ambition, and the sense of honour and shame - in plain words, what he thinks others think of him."
As with 'On the Horrors and Absurdities of Religion', the better part of this volume is the first half. Schopenhauer's most lucid writing is in the eponymous essay, which is the first in this volume and throughout the first half of the book he even has some rather good moments of wit; criticising Leibniz ('...the best of all possible worlds.') thusly:
"The creator created not only the world, he also created the possibility itself: Therefore he should have created the possibility of a world better than this one."
The real gem of this volume, after the eponymous essay, is 'On Women' which is valuable in the same way as is a blood diamond or a labour camp. In this essay he shares with us such snippets of his enlightened thought process as 'One needs only to see the way that she [women] is built to realise that she is not intended for great physical or great mental labour,' and, 'What there ought to be are housewives and girls who hope to become housewives.'. The most shocking thing of all that I have to tell is that these snippets are by no means even close to the worst that Schopenhauer has to say about women; he writes on the matter with a measure of bile that really seems hard to believe. In its outrageousness, it makes for very compelling reading.
He often resorts to tricks of rhetoric in order to win the reader to his point of view, rather than arguing his views persuasively and having them stand on their own account. Ultimately, and long before I reached the back cover, I found myself having grown weary of his presence (which felt somehow exuded from the pages). Schopenhauer is a tiresome man and, as he would probably say - 'Any thinking reader must agree with me on this point.'...more
This volume opens with 'On Religion: A Dialogue' which discusses, alternately, the utility of religion and how it endangers rational thought. AlthoughThis volume opens with 'On Religion: A Dialogue' which discusses, alternately, the utility of religion and how it endangers rational thought. Although the points made on either side will be largely familiar to most readers, this constitutes the best portion of the book and is still an entertaining read that occasionally gives pause for thought with relevance to the modern world :-
"Even if a real true philosophy had taken the place of religion, nine-tenths of mankind at the very least would receive it on authority, so that it too would be a matter of belief."
The latter essays 'On Ethics', 'On Psychology', 'On Religion' and 'On Various Subjects' are each split into ordinally sub-headed chunks. The main insight that can be drawn from reading these is, unfortunately, not a philosophical one but only that Schopenhauer was wildly misanthropic and illiberal, and that he held himself in far greater esteem than he did the hoi-polloi.
There are many attempts made to coin aphorisms throughout, so much so that I began to suspect that Schopenhauer's aims lay more in crafting them and having them be quoted than it did in properly and clearly communicating his ideas. It is unfortunate that though several of these would-be aphorisms hit the mark (and the best of them has already been quoted in a review by Jason Mills), the majority lack that necessary ring of truth.
I think that Schoenhauer's distaste for the masses and his desire for validation from his peers (the two principles pervading this volume) is well borne-out by what he states in 'On Various Subjects' 5B:
"The great misfortune for intellectual merit is that it has to wait until the good is praised by those who produce only the bad; indeed, the misfortune already lies in the general fact that it has to receive its crown from the hands of human judgement, a quality of which most people possess about as much as a castrate possesses of the power to beget children."
It seems that of the many user reviews for this book here at GoodReads, the ratings are, in the main, split quite cleanly and for quite evident reasonIt seems that of the many user reviews for this book here at GoodReads, the ratings are, in the main, split quite cleanly and for quite evident reasons.
Of those who rate the book poorly, we have two camps. The first of these camps is comprised of those unfortunates who approached the novel with the expectation of a plot-centric romance and were repulsed when they found that those expectations were sorely fulfilled. The second of these camps is comprised of those who cannot easily discern the subtext - which is quite the shame, as the value of 'Pride and Prejudice' is almost entirely contained within that same subtext.
Of those who rate the book highly, we have three camps. Those who are prone to fits of the vapours when confronted with period romance, those men who feel that liking Austen is somehow outre, and those who agree with me. Happily, that last camp is quite a large one.
The reality is that 'Pride and Prejudice' is ill-represented in the public-conscious as a romance, when its true nature is at least as much in the way of being a social satire. To come away from this novel fanning oneself and flushed with love-love thoughts and feelings is to have missed much of what it contains; in the same vein, it should not be approached as a romance lest you find yourself half-way through the book and still 'waiting for the novel to start'. If you have not, at the very least, smiled wryly to yourself before the end of the 30th page then you are best off laying this book to one side - it probably isn't for you.
I rather enjoyed this novel although I felt that it progressed through three distinct sections and that the transitions between these sections were not entirely smooth - beginning with an out-and-out satirical comedy, transforming into a gentler satire, and finally becoming a romantic drama. I enjoyed the first and the last section immensely but as I enjoyed the middle section only moderately, I must give this only 4 of the 5 available stars....more
I found myself in the position of starting this book with already a very good idea of its tone and the events that it contained - this despite havingI found myself in the position of starting this book with already a very good idea of its tone and the events that it contained - this despite having never knowingly watched the television series, nor listened to the radio play nor watched the movie of some years ago. This is the extent to which Douglas Adams' work has seeped into the popular culture - you should no more expect to be surprised by the contents of this book then you should expect the same from your first viewing of 'Star Wars'. It begins, then, in an upward battle to capture my attention; ultimately, it will fail to do so.
The book reads very much like something written for screen and it is, I think, for this reason that I found the book difficult to properly engage with. To say that it was light reading feels disingenuous and I certainly wouldn't levy such a remark as a disparagement, given my affinity for children's books - reading HHGTTG instead felt like reading an extended synopsis.
Despite all that I've said, it wasn't an unenjoyable read - the dialogue in particular was really quite witty. Douglas Adams' reputation for this precedes him and with good reason - but it was not quite sharp enough to leave a lasting impression. The frequently surreal events were amusing, but what may once have been exciting and new modes of comedy feels very middle-of-the-road to a new reader in 2012.
I would by no means have this book or its author be done down, but I equally have no intention to read the next installment in this trilogy of five. I may, however, be tempted to catch the movie - this material would require little to no adaptation in order to make a hilarious film....more