I wasn't prepared for the specifics of Marxism, Socialism, and Judaica discussed in Abramky's book, but I am still glad that I read it. I enjoy readinI wasn't prepared for the specifics of Marxism, Socialism, and Judaica discussed in Abramky's book, but I am still glad that I read it. I enjoy reading books about books, so the title caught my eye. Sasha Abramsky is the grandson of Chimen Abramsky, a revered book collector who filled his London home with thousands of books, hence the title.
But this isn't (just) a family memoir. The grandson is a scholar, so he discusses the contents of the book as well as the historical, political, and academic context of Chimen Abramsky's book collections.
Chimen lived outside of Moscow as a youth and later studied in Jerusalem and then London. He was a faithful follower of Marx and then Stalin, hoping that Communism could user in a more just political system. Over time, Chimen (and other European and American Communist party members) came to understand the horrors of Stalin's rule. Chimen left the party and tempered his ideals to be a progressive.
By moving from room to room of his grandparents' house, Sasha reviews his grandfather's life while reviewing Chimen's collection of books, letters, pamphlets and other documents. We also meet many members of the salon that Chimen and his wife hosted at their home.
As a person married to a book enthusiast, I am afraid to let my husband see this book. On the other hand, I admire the life that Chimen built as a book collector, book seller, book cataloger, an educator and as a host of lively political debates. He made a great contribution to many people's and developed a great collection that is now dispersed over several libraries and available to future generations of scholars. ...more
Chittister offers meditations on various themes affecting everyone's life but with a view towards how we can approach them in as people moving into anChittister offers meditations on various themes affecting everyone's life but with a view towards how we can approach them in as people moving into and through late life. On the ladder of concrete examples and abstract ideas, the writing is quite abstract. There are very few anecdotes, examples, statistics or other specifics. This made it a little difficult to apply the concepts without slowing down to generate my own examples. Nevertheless, the concepts discussed are thought provoking.
The basic premise is that late life is a time of continued development. The book helps readers see life challenges as invitations for growth and cautions against the temptations to detach, despair and subsequently devolve.
The themes addressed are as follows: Regret, Meaning, Fear, Ageism, Joy, Authority, Transformation, Newness, Accomplishment, Possibility, Adjustment, Fulfillment, Mystery, Relationships, Tale-Telling, Letting Go, Learning, Religion, Freedom, Success, Time, Wisdom, Sadness, Dreams, Limitations, Solitude, Productivity, Memories, Future, Agelessness, Immediacy, Nostalgia, Spirituality, Loneliness, Forgiveness, Outreach, The Present, Appreciation, Faith, Legacy, Afterwards: The Twilight Time.
I suggest reading just one section slowly over a week so as to have time to explore the implication of the statements. For example, in the chapter "Mystery," Chittister writes: "Mystery is what happens to us when we allow life to evolve rather than having to make it happen all the time. It is the strange knock at the door, the sudden sight of an unceremoniously blooming flower, an afternoon in the yard, a day of riding the midtown bus. Just to see. Just to notice. Just to be there." It takes a while to grasp the concept of "allow life to evolve," especially if the reader is still very much rooted in external achievement as a measure of happiness. (I'm 52, but I have a 13 year old as well as a non-driving 16 year old, so it's hard to "just be" when I am still playing taxi mom as an older parent.)
It's a good book to read as a daily meditation guide, but I wouldn't read it on a plane. It would be overwhelming to attempt to read in one sitting.
Knowing what I do about Oscar Wilde from his pithy quotes, I am absolutely shocked at this novel. It's very moral! Yes, the character Henry Wotton speKnowing what I do about Oscar Wilde from his pithy quotes, I am absolutely shocked at this novel. It's very moral! Yes, the character Henry Wotton spews cynical and satirical quotes throughout the length of the novel. However, the plot reveals a theme that cautions the readers against these vices: the worship of art, beauty, appearances, hedonism and youth.
I regret not having read this novel when I was in my early 20s. At 50, I am hardly tempted to worship youth. But the novel still has value to me. I identify less with Dorian at this point and more with Henry--the corrupter of youth. Another theme is the power of influence over others. Henry is full of regrets, and he fills Dorian with all kinds of desires that he, Henry, cannot or dares not pursue. Henry plays puppet master to Dorian to ill effect.
Another theme is the use of art as a place to deposit morality--on a pedestal--far away from personal choice and accountability. In the end, the work of art (the portrait) cannot really function as a substitute. By the last page, the true character of Dorian is revealed.
I find it so interesting that Wilde wrote such a work when he was a man consumed with so many trivial aspects of life. It reads like a confessional to me. I see the author wrestling with the vanities of the world (including his own wit) and seeing how hollow they can be. It's a great meditation on the role of art in society and the dangers of hedonism. It's better than any sermon I've heard on the topic. Bravo, Mr. Wilde. ...more
I taught this as part of a world literature class. It was a challenging book but very interesting. It reminds me of Peer Gynt in its scope. MemorableI taught this as part of a world literature class. It was a challenging book but very interesting. It reminds me of Peer Gynt in its scope. Memorable characters and a lovely ending. ...more
A collection of aphorisms--wise sayings--from the Buddhist tradition. The introductions name drops a lot of British authors, which I found distractingA collection of aphorisms--wise sayings--from the Buddhist tradition. The introductions name drops a lot of British authors, which I found distracting rather than illuminating. But the primary text itself come from 3rd century BCE, and they reveal core teachings imbedded in mundane details of life of that era. A good daily devotional text that encourages self-control, detachment and awareness as some of the devices for achieving enlightenment. ...more
Peck's novel is difficult to categorize because it blends genres, draws on several disciplines, and employs multiple narrators to solve a series of inPeck's novel is difficult to categorize because it blends genres, draws on several disciplines, and employs multiple narrators to solve a series of interconnected Whodunnits. The strongest voices in the novel belong to Hyrum (the self-taught scholar), Dora (a local poet), and William (the most articulate of the cowboy conjoined twins). Each narrator invokes the viewpoints of additional characters, who serve to simultaneously clarify and confound the evidence around the related mysteries.
Despite this cacophony of perspectives, I was propelled through the novel because of its central question: What happened to the poet's baby, born in the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab? But the more I read The Scholar of Moab, the more I realized that the baby's fate was really not the knottiest problem to be addressed. Like the dingo-ate-my-baby movie, "The Cry in the Dark," the central mystery is really this: How do we as individuals and as communities construct and act upon truth?
In order to discover the truth of the baby's disappearance, a redactor presents a series of texts -- much in the same way that Stoker's novel Dracula assembles multiple documents for the reader. This device allows Peck to dismiss the truth-trumping single narrator. These various, sometimes conflicting documents dethrone truth and spread it around. Who has the authority to answer our questions about truth? The reader gleans information from the usual suspects: artists, scientists, philosophers, and mystics.
And in a manner that is partly realistic, partly satirical, we observe how truth gets played out by the people of Moab. They are a community who holds a largely common framework for constructing truth. An entire town of regular, salt-of-the-earth types combine church doctrine, folklore, and town gossip to make meaning out of the phenomena of their daily lives. We laugh at them, but they are really clownish stand-ins for the whole of the human race.
As this dark comedy unfolds, I was looking for a little comfort. One passage that provides comfort comes from Hyrum's quest to pinpoint the meaning of "Dickensian," a word that vexes him for a year as he reads the entire works of Dickens in an attempt to decode the word's meaning. He's rewarded finally with this epiphany: Dickensian for Hyrum means "a deep bleakness & poverty & misery suffered for a purpose that will eventually turn into Light" (p. 66). My own quest for making meaning of Peck's novel leads me to believe this is a key concept. The residents of Moab, its seasonal visitors, and even the main characters' far-flung colleagues and family members all suffer some form of bleakness, poverty and misery. Heck, we readers do, too. It's part of the human condition. But the novel also reveals moments of light that illuminate, comfort and bolster. Converging images, coincidental meetings, recurring themes, unexpected connections give the characters (and the reader) some hope that there is truth out there. Somewhere. (Cue music from X Files.)
If Peck offers any common ground, it's probably the landscape itself. Despite being a novel that explores a number of philosophical propositions, it's refreshingly vivid in its descriptions of the people and their environment, the beautiful landscape of the Moab area. So don't be afraid that you will be lost in a fog of philosophical statements. You get to take a tour of the red rock region of southern Utah with a brief side trip to Vienna. And on occasion there is a truck, a trailer park, a library, a parade, and a diner.
What the novel presents is a clash of competing paradigms at war with each other. Sometimes people fight with each other, as do Hyrum and Adam (a geologist), who quarrel over the question, "Is Dora sane?" Sometimes individuals are at war with themselves. The conjoined twins dramatize in a fantastical fashion the duplicity possible within a single entity. But as a single-headed person, this novel invites me to see such a war within my own multi-perspectival mind, my own multi-layered soul. And I was glad to have Peck unveil these conflicts, even if it means that I will never believe in "plain truth" again. ...more
At first blush, Dietrich's collection of poems looks like a work of fan fiction. This book is very far from that. Yes, Dietrich uses the FrankensteinAt first blush, Dietrich's collection of poems looks like a work of fan fiction. This book is very far from that. Yes, Dietrich uses the Frankenstein monster as the dominant image for his collection. However, he does much more than demonstrate his affection and reverence for this important pop culture icon. This collection throws some flickering torchlight on the cycles of birth, life, love and death. It's part philosophical meditation, part a campy romp through allusions both classy and trashy, and ever the gallery of excellent poetic form on the word, image, and storytelling level.
These observations are made through a variety of voices from the Frankenstein myth: the monster, his gypsy lover, a priest, and the scientist. But these characters are transmogrified by Dietrich's creative genius. They exceed the boundaries of Shelley's novel and Whale's classic film adaptation. Dietrich uses these works surrounding this icon to decompose and recompose ideas related to creation / creativity, love, sexuality, identity, desire, death, and more.
Yes, this is a very smart book, but it's paradoxically accessible. In fact, I am mesmerized by Dietrich's ability to create a fantastical world, more strange than I could ever forge myself.
For example, this excerpt from the poem "The Monster, The Master and The Windmill": "Here trapped between fire, fall, and windmill blade, unaware, perhaps, of the Quixotic irony fate has found them in, they struggle. One machine, one man. One maker, one unmade."
Here Dietrich shows the eternal churning forces of life and death represented in one time, one place. The monster and maker are joined by God and all creatures and by that Spanish dreamer, Don Quixote and by us. We fleshy creatures in various states of being and unbeing are all churning and turning in the water, the mud, the machinery and the ash. A microcosm of the whole of human history.
What a strange and marvelous place that I could never imagine myself. But yet I never feel lost along the way, so somehow I'm collaborating in Dietrich's acts of imagination. How does he get inside my brain? Buy a copy of Monstrance and see if you can figure out if you are Dietrich's co-creator or if you are his creature. ...more
I fancy myself as articulate and a competent reviewer of books, but I feel inadequate to the task of describing Green's book. So. justRead this book!
I fancy myself as articulate and a competent reviewer of books, but I feel inadequate to the task of describing Green's book. So. just. read. this. book.
But because I am manic and talk too much and I can never, ever leave well enough alone, I'm going to offer up something anyway.
For thousands of years, people have wrestled with the theodicy question: why do bad things happen to good people? While I not claiming that John Green has provided a satisfactory answer to that soul-gnawing question, he has offered a version of that question that reflects our time.
In The Fault in Our Stars we meet a 21st century version of Romeo and Juliet, teens who are trapped not by long-standing family fueds but by the indominatable, unreasonable forces of cancer. The book does not just feature two young lovers. It also introduces us to their entourage, very young people and their parents dealing with very big issues.
He captures the post-modern feel of hyperself-awareness and ironies upon ironies while still preserving the warmth of humanity. He mocks sentimentalization of illness and death using references from both high and low culture, and yet he conveyes feeling.
Yes, Green perhaps superimposes his own acerbic wit into their voices, but I can tell that he has spent hours imagining their situation and honoring them by using his gifts to give their hopes, sorrows, questions, and observations voice. This book is no Afterschool Special. It's often raw, gritty, painful, angry -- and yet beautiful.
The book is also hopeful through some paradox. Green takes cancer by the shoulders and looks it in the eye and sees all the horror, the horror. Yet his characters respond with humanity--with all its various forms. The good, the bad, and the totally shitty.
I'm not going to say this is a cancer book. The characters invited us to recognize that everyone dies. Everyone has to ask hard questions about suffering and the meaning of life. But those with cancer ask these questions is such concentrated ways, compressed into smaller spaces of time and place. I invite you to walk alongside Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, and the constellation of friends and family that surround them so that you can think and feel and cry about life and about its beauty and horror. And beauty. And horror. (Infinity - because neither beauty nor horror get the last word).
In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reope In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reopen narratives in cinema through the use of sequals. Even though Frankenstein and Dracula die in early films, sequals abound that bring these monsters back to fight another day, and another and another. Then he moves to his area of expertise to discuss why people desire sequals, and how the authors of that era of British literature used sequals and biblical narratives as a means to communicate their developing positions about controversial topics of their era.
Austin deftly weaves together theories from narrative theory in order to perform a close reading of these important 17th C/18th C works: Milton's Paradise Regained, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Defoe's The Further Adventures of Robison Crusoe, and Richardson' Pamela in Her Extalted Station. In order to adequately explain each text, Austin situates them in their historical context, explaining the political, cultural and economic forces that shape each work. Or more accurately, the book demonstrates how these authors turned the tables on society and used their writing to serve as a cultural force.
The element that ties each of these works together is the authors' use of biblical tropes to shape both the content and form of their literary works. The book progresses from extremely overt uses of biblical features in Milton to more sublte uses employed by Richardson. Nevertheless, Austin clearly shows how each author was inspired by the major tropes, themes, and archetypes of the New Testament, often supplanting the use of Old Testament devices in their previous work. For example, Bunyan's first work, Pilgrim's Progress, shows Christian going through an arduous set of tests and observing the unclean being punished. In Bunyan's sequal, Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Christian's wife, Christiana, adds traveling companions as she journeys, forming a community of saints similar to those that St. Paul sustained.
In order to achieve this analysis, Austin employs a number of narrative theorists: i.e., Stanely Fisth, Northrup Frye, Frank Kermode, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georg Luka'cs, and Paul Ricouer. He also draws on criticism of several experts in 17th and 18th British literature as well as a handful of evolutionary psychologists.
Chapter 1: Narrative Closure as a Cognitive Problem Chapter 2: God's Sequel Chapter 3: "His Great Duel, not of Arms": Davidic Typology and Rhetorical Combat in Paradise Regained Chapter 4: The Figural Logic of the Sequel and the Unity of The Pilgrim's Progress Chapter 5: "Jesting with the Truth": Figura, Trace, and the Boundaries of Fiction in Robinson Crusoe and it Sequels Chapter 6: Everbody's Story: Pamela as Type ...more
Dietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest laDietrich excels and mixing high and low culture, and he demonstrates this in The Assumption, where he uses this ability to penetrate to the deepest layers of the human psyche. In The Assumption, Dietrich presents a series of poems that examines assumptions, referring not only to the missing line of an enthymeme, but also to holy ascensions of biblical figures. And as a bonus, the title also refers to the many other peoples and cultures who try to climb ladders towards the divine. He also recognizes how these encounters with the sublime happen by accident or by an act of terror. His allusions to various close encounters range from archeological evidence of prehistoric rituals to tabloid reports of alient abductions--and dozens of other irrational, soul-quaking connections between the human and the extra-human.
I can't imagine that any one reader can trace all of Dietrich's influences, so these poems represent for me what would happen if a very large convention center quadruple books itself with these events: MLA, Comic-Con, Society of Biblical Literature, and the National Science Teachers Association. The syngergy of such a fantastical meeting is apparent in these pages, and I can imagine readers from any one of these subcultures enjoying the "cross pollination" of mixing with the other three fields. So if you are a person of letters, a pop-culture vulture, a theologian, or a science nerd -- come on and swim in the primordial soup of The Assumption. The water is fine. ...more
I just wasn't in the mood for this. It's a book of short stories that play with the element of time. It's too abstract for my tastes right now. But II just wasn't in the mood for this. It's a book of short stories that play with the element of time. It's too abstract for my tastes right now. But I would recommend it to anyone interest in time-space and such. ...more
I think this book is an amazing testament to the human spirit, but I am deeply disturbed that many people use it to blame victims for not rising aboutI think this book is an amazing testament to the human spirit, but I am deeply disturbed that many people use it to blame victims for not rising about their suffering that is often caused by systematic violence (unjust policies, systematic racism and sexism, racial profiling that restricts civil rights, etc.) I am sure Frankl would be appalled at how people of priviledge sometimes read it and tell people who suffer to "get a good attitude" like that guy in the concentration camp who refused to let the Nazis rain on his parade. ...more
I read this as part of a course on Foucault. As a person who loves definition / classification as a mental exercise, I found it interesting to read FoI read this as part of a course on Foucault. As a person who loves definition / classification as a mental exercise, I found it interesting to read Foucault's history / analysis of how modern medical practices came into formation. ...more