Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reading for November

One piece, the second half of a book from last November.

Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov (part 3 and 4) link

Friday, October 16, 2015

Links to the Past

Sophocles in the Age of PTSD link

Dostoevsky and the Fiery Word link

Shakespeare's Curtain Theater found link

Galen on Science and Humanities link

The Weeping Philosopher (Existintial Comics) link

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Moby Dick - Melville

The basic story of 'Moby Dick' is fairly simple and well known.  A man, 'call me Ishmael', signs on to a whaling boat.  During the voyage, the crew discovers that the Captain, Ahab, lost his leg to a whale the previous year.  Captain Ahab is now bent on revenge.  He will seek out the whale, Moby Dick, and kill him.
When I was younger, I had a children's version of this story.  I don't remember the exact name or publisher, but the format was that of a smaller than usual paperback.  Every other page was a black and white picture, so you could flip through the book and get a fairly full telling of the story.  (I did read the text, too.)
A few years back, I created my very first book project.  I had run across a poll, asking what is the greatest American novel.  I felt some small bit of shame, because I had read so few of the books.  Over the next few years I read through them all including, for the first time, the unedited 'Moby Dick'.  (This is my long-winded way of saying that this was a reread for me.)

In many ways, the story is simple.  The summary that I mentioned up above cuts out some of the important details, like the friendship between Ishmael and Queequeg.  Really, it doesn't mention any of the relationships or characters aboard the ship.  Or the philosophical musings of Ishmael that make up the heart of the book.
For instance, Melville writes about the relationship between the sea and the land.  Most of the world is covered in water, with bits of land sticking up.  Under the water are unknown and unknowable creatures, while only the land can support men.  Melville says:
For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!
Melville also interweaves chapters of narrative with full blown chapters of naturalism concerning the whale.  We learn about the whales dimensions and anatomy.  We learn something of their behavior and where they are hunted.  Melville isn't shy about disagreeing with other authors in his opinions.  He spends a great deal of time on the history of whalers and the laws regarding whaling.  (I've got a post in mind on some of his legal aspects.)  After I read this a few years back, I thought that these chapters could be skipped without too much damage to the overall impact.  I still feel that way, though I would encourage any reader to at least sample each one.  I didn't find the anatomy interesting but I did enjoy the history.  Your mileage may vary.

One of the more imposing aspects of 'Moby Dick' is that it has become synonymous with English Lit symbolism.  It may be rife with symbolism, for all I know, but if I missed it, I didn't suffer for the lack.  In other words, don't be scared off.  This book is well worth reading.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Author Timeline

Euripides 480-406
Plato 428-348
Aristotle 384-322

Augustine 354-430
Aquinas 1225-1274
Montaigne 1533-1592
Galileo 1564-1642
Bacon 1561-1626
Descartes 1596-1650
Newton 1642-1726
Locke 1632-1704
Hume 1711-1776
Kant 1724-1804
Melville 1819-1891
Dostoyevsky 1821-1881
James 1842-1910

Monday, October 5, 2015

Books Read in September

Looking back, I really didn't read much in September.  I'm not sure why.  It felt like I read quite a bit but certainly not many books.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This book comes very highly recommended.  It's a global best seller.  Was turned into a movie.  Is on a ton of 'best' lists.  And I hated it.  Hated, hated, hated.  The entire story-telling style was incredibly gimmicky with tiny lists and definitions.  It was as if the writer couldn't bear the thought that people could immerse themselves in the story without constantly looking at the writer.  The story, itself, was interesting, but the awful writing torpedoed any quality.  If you had People magazine have a go at 'Gone with the Wind', you'd have a similarly awful result.  Yuck.

The rest of the month was spent a) reading 'Moby Dick', b) reading early American history books from American Heritage or c) nibbling around the edges of other past enjoyments.  

The short stories were a mixed bag at best this month:

Competitors, Rosenfeld - good
A Distant Episode, - not good
Wants, Plaey - ok
Goodbye My Brother, Cheever - ok
My Sly Stops for a Cup of Joe, Bull - good

I'm somehow ahead of schedule, with only 11 short stories left for the last three months.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Links to the Past

What Happened to French Thought - link

Does Literature Beef up Your Mind? link

Why Conservatives should Read Dostoevsky link

Recreation of Archimedes Sphere link

Rap Version of the Iliad? link

The Apology (Existential Comics) link

Thursday, October 1, 2015