Read This, Not That, Since Modern Readers Have To Choose One

For some reason, Friar delved into a list of books provided by GQ entitled 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read:

We’ve been told all our lives that we can only call ourselves well-read once we’ve read the Great Books. We tried. We got halfway through Infinite Jest and halfway through the SparkNotes on Finnegans Wake. But a few pages into Bleak House, we realized that not all the Great Books have aged well. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we—and a group of un-boring writers—give you permission to strike these books from the canon. Here’s what you should read instead.

Sounds like the ill-read leading the unread to me, but it does present itself as a book quiz! Here’s the list. I’ve bolded the titles I’ve read:

Old Canon: New, Improved GQ Canon:
Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurty
The Mountain Lion
by Jean Stafford
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Olivia: A Novel
by Dorothy Strachey
Goodbye to All That
by Robert Graves
by Michael Herr
The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
The Summer Book
by Tove Jannson
The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
Near to the Wild Heart
by Clarice Lispector
A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Fire
by Shirley Hazzard
Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
John Adams
by David McCullough
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Clarice Millard
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
by Frederick Douglass
The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
by Alvaro Mutis
The Ambassadors
by Henry James
The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich
by William L. Shirer
The Bible
The Notebook
by Agota Kristof
Franny and Zooey
by J.D. Salinger
Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather
The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Earthsea series
by Ursula Le Guin
by Bram Stoker
by Denis Johnson
by Joseph Heller
The American Granddaughter
by Inaam Kachachi
by Keith Richards
The Worst Journey in the World
by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
by Jonathan Franzen
Too Loud a Solitude
by Bohumil Hrabal
Gravity’s Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon
Inherent Vice
by Thomas Pynchon
Slaughterhouse Five
by Kurt Vonnegut
by Mary Gaitskill
Gulliver’s Travels
by Jonathan Swift
The Life and Opinions of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Stern

Of the entire list, the books that I have not yet read but might someday includes Dracula and maybe some Pynchon (although I think the title I have on my to-read shelves is The Crying of Lot 49). The rest of it? Meh, the kind of thing you already find on college syllabi these days.

But to call them canon–even some of those on the left side of the list–presupposes that anyone will give a flying fish about them in a couple of decades. Which I doubt.

Good Book Hunting, April 19 and 21, 2018: Hooked on Books/Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

Well, it is Book Sale Month here in Springfield. The friends of the local libraries hold their book sales. Did that stop me from swinging by Hooked on Books to see what they had on their dollar carts when I had a few minutes to kill on Thursday? Of course not.

I got:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which I don’t have to read in case her case comes up in a trivia night as it already has.
  • Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. The suspicious young man who didn’t know Hooked on Books used to put red dots on the spine for dollar books was skeptical that this book by a popular author was on the dollar books cart, but he found some damage to the spine that might account for it. Probably brought some termites home with me or something on this book.
  • Golden Times: Tales Through The Sugarhouse Window, which looks to be a collection of columns or musings.

Meanwhile, in Ozark, the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale had already kicked off to little fanfare, and we only managed to go on Saturday morning. Bag day. It still had a sizeable selection when we got there, which allowed me to fill only three bags (and my beautiful wife filled one). So, for eight dollars, we got:

  • The Willow Bees, a collection of musings from a local author, I reckon. There was a stack of them available.
  • 1001 Ways To Be Romantic. Probably not like Keats and Byron.
  • Death of a Doxy, a Nero Wolfe mystery.
  • Act of Treason by Vince Flynn. Heather likes him, so I’ve been picking up his books. Since I’ve not started reading them yet, I’m probably picking up multiple copies of each. But, hey, bag day. I had to pick this up in case I hadn’t already.
  • Country Editor’s Boy, a collection of country memories.
  • A collection of stories by Dorothy Parker.
  • Athabasca by Alistair MacLean.
  • Naked Came The Manatee, a novel by a collection of Florida authors including Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry.
  • The Secret Power Within by Chuck Norris, a Zen musing by the actor.
  • Two collections of Sally Forth comics by Greg Howard.
  • The Trivia Lover’s Guide to the World.
  • Home Song, a Cape Light novel that might not even be about Christmas. What’s next for me, cozy mysteries and romance novels?
  • License Renewed, one of Gardner’s later James Bond novels since I’ve been watching the films with my boys.
  • The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Susan McBride, one of the Debutante Dropout mysteries by the St. Louis area author. My god, is this a cozy? How far have I fallen?
  • Nightmare Town, a collection of stories by Dashiell Hammett. I’ve probably read them before. But not in this volume.
  • Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes, a writing book. Because I’ve been meaning to delve into fiction again.
  • Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric. It looks to be a collection of quotes with explanations about them.
  • Einstein for Beginners. After my recent failed forays into higher physics, I probably need this. If I can’t get it, the next stop is Physics for Dummies.
  • Sharpe’s Fury, one of Bernard Cornwell’s historical series. Which I might already own in paperback, but bag day. Although I probably would have paid a buck for it anyway just in case I didn’t have it.
  • Skin Game, one of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. Which I probably don’t already have.
  • Pocket Quips, a little paperback of one-liners and gags.
  • The Bourne Identity. We passed through Nixa on the way to the book sale, and I remember that someone recently put up a joke sign on the Welcome to Nixa sign that said “Home of Jason Bourne”, but I guess that’s the movie version. I’ve not read the book, but some years ago I listened to one of them on audiobook. My wife loves them, though.
  • Starwolves: Battle of the Ring and Star Wolves: Dreadnaught. Because they had a similar name to Star Wolf: The Weapon From Beyond. But the series are quite likely unrelated.
  • Iroshi, The Glaive, and Persea. I picked up The Glaive to see if it’s related to Krull (no). It’s the second book in a series about a hero with an actual glaive. I found the first (Iroshi) and another in the series nearby, so I bought them. Because bag day.
  • Gust Front by John Ringo.
  • March to the Sea by John Ringo and David Weber. I’ve been seeing a lot of Ringo hit the book sales and used book stores lately. There must be something in the publishing cycle of an author that dictates how soon this happens after an author gets notice and sales. Ringo seems to have hit that point in his career. I really should read one of the ones I’ve been picking up to see if I like them before I acquire the whole collection only to determine I don’t like them. Well, another besides The Hero, I guess.

So that’s, carry the one, thirty-three new books. Or, at my current pace, two years’ worth of reading. For essentially nine dollars.

I’d better get to reading instead of telling you about it.

Book Report: Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein (1984)

Book coverThis is a later Heinlein novel. Published in 1984, it has a heft to it that the earlier rocket jockey stuff had, but it’s a bit boggy and ends less than well from my perspective.

The story: A fundraiser from a world where religious fundamentalism has its way is on vacation cruise when he bets fellow passengers that he could walk on fire like the south Pacific natives. After he does, he faints from the fumes, and when he awakens, he is not in his own world any more. Things have changed, from the underlying technologies to the name by which his fellow passengers recognize him. He discovers that his alter-ego in this world is carrying a million dollars in cash and has been having a (sinful!) fling with an attractive ship’s maid. After a while, he professes his love for her and suddenly, both of them find themselves shifting worlds with nothing but what they’re wearing and carrying. On each, they pick themselves up and make plans, only to be thwarted when worlds shift again.

It’s an interesting conceit, but it becomes a little unfocused toward the middle, and the last quarter or fifth of the book gets a little unwound as the book, as a wise man put it in a comment on the review of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:

…its final act falls apart when the story goes cosmic.

At the end, we have a relationship of Satan and Yahweh along with some other deities as subordinate to a still higher power (which might be subordinate to an even higher power, onto infinity). Of course, spoiler alert: They were testing this fellow, and the end takes place after Armageddon. Also, after Ragnarok. Where the world has not ended for the Norse gods somehow.

You know, trying to weave actual theological entities into fantasy novels is most often a real mess (see also Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, the for-a-while-last, but now penultimate, book dealing with God somehow–I’ve not made it through that particular volume).

Still, Job is a good read in spite of all of that. Heinlein keeps the story moving along rather well, which is a nice contrast to the other science fiction book I’ve read recently (Voyage From Yesteryear). I’m pleased to be getting to the end of the Heinlein later stuff, but I probably won’t reread it unlike some of the rocket jockey stuff.

Book Report: Weird But True by Leslie Gilbert Elman (2010)

Book coverMore interesting than the book itself is the way I ended up with it. I took my children to Barnes and Noble last week, as I was looking for a guided journal full of writing prompts to get me writing longer things again, and as a treat, I told them they could each spend $7. Which is enough for a magazine, but probably not enough for a great big Lego book with collectible mini figure or picture encyclopedia a la James Bond. So they looked for a while, which gave me time to scour the store for the thing I sought but whose genre I did not yet glean and then to choose amongst the various instances. And to browse the magazines. And to prod them. The youngest settled on an Archie comic digest, but the older dithered. We looked over the magazines. We looked over the discount books. We went through the kids’ section. Twice. He spotted a Mad magazine special edition, but it was $12, which is more than $7. So I went over to the discount books and picked up this item which was marked $6.98 because it’s kind of like the encyclopedia-type books he’s been filching from my shelves recently and stuck it under my stack to buy and present him as a fait accompli.

Well. I got into line and called them over. It turns out that he and his brother pooled their money to get the Mad magazine special edition (his younger brother rather goes out of the way to do nice things for his older brother). I didn’t have a chance to put it back, so I bought it. And I’ve read it.

It’s a listicle of a book: 200 pages with a fact presented in a sentence or paragraph, sometimes grouped with similar themes, but not always. Many of them were things I already knew, weird but true, and others were kinda yawners. I’m not sure I read anything I retained. But the giant plastic island of garbage I mentioned here appears in this book.

But it filled thirty minutes while the younger practiced basketball at a high school gym way up north, and it gives me a book to count against my anemic 2018 total.

Now it will appear on my read shelves amongst the encyclopedia-like books. From which my oldest will filch it, no doubt.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, March 24, 2018: Hooked on Books

I had a little time to kill in southwest Springfield yesterday afternoon, so I stopped by Hooked on Books to see what they had on their dollar book carts.

A couple things that looked interesting, anyway.

It includes:

  • A self help book called Busting Your Rut which is a pun on a slang phrase for achieving male orgasm, so it’s got that going for it.
  • The Long Good Boy, a Carol Lea Benjamin (the author) Rachel Alexander and Dash (the dog trainer detective and dog characters) mystery. I read an omnibus edition of the first two in the series, Dash, P.I. in 2009 and was not sure until I researched for this post whether the book I bought today was included in it (and even if I checked the book report first, it is not especially enlightening). This book was not in the earlier collection.
  • A Frederik Pohl novel called Narabedla Ltd.

Three books for three bucks. Not bad.

But when the bookseller tried to put the receipt in the cover of one of the books along with a bookmark, I asked for it so I could put it in my wallet. “Put it in there, and I might not see it for ten years,” I said. Which could well prove true.

Book Report: Stories of an Outstanding Cat by Fr. Michael Sequiera (2017)

Book coverI grabbed this from the free cart at church last Sunday, and I dived right into it because it’s a short, pleasant book written by a retired priest who adopts a stray cat.

The vignettes are small–a page or two–and the stories simple, but they’re amusing, especially if you’re familiar with cats. The priest anthromorphizes the cat a bit, having conversations with it in English. The cat’s a bit of a biter–the priest says it’s to punish the priest for not doing what the cat wants. I currently have a biter, so I empathize.

It was a quick read, upbeat and, yes, full of exclamation points. This is a signed copy, and I wonder how it got from Connecticut to a free book cart in Springfield so quickly. Even Five Themes of Today took years, but it started in the UK.

Book Report: The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin (2018)

Book coverI bought this book when I saw a conservative blog I read (I forget which, but I hope it’s not the hoity-toity Ace of Spades HQ Sunday Morning Book Thread since OregonMuse posts my books) mention it and say that it was anti-Trump or something. To be honest, it’s not particularly anti-Trump: It does not mention him by name, which is refreshing in a book you’ve been told is a sucker punch hit job. It does say that The Twilight Zone told uncomfortable truths/stories (which is kind of like the Resistance, amiwrong?), but you see that sort of thing in a lot of books touting shows, both current and historical. A couple of entries have phrases of dubious provenance but that are clearly meant to refer to These Dark Times, such as mentioning jackboots returning in the 21st century and whatnot. But overall, not something that Michael Moore or–what’s that guy that was a “comedian” and then “Senator” from the state that elected that wrestler who wore feathers as governor?–would have written.

But I got it because I remember a little of the show and thought it might be interesting.

I’ll be honest; at the outset of reading this book, I could only remember one episode of the show (“A Stop At Willoughby”, which I saw sometime in adulthood, I think). As I read it, I also remember seeing “The Shelter” at some point in my youth, probably in the 1980s when another Republican was in office, and the fear of nuclear war led to great art like The Day After and Testament (not the band) as well as a whole genre of post-apocalyptic movies.

But this book is a bit of nostalgia trip in taking me back to my youth, when this program was syndicated and available for watching (although apparently I didn’t watch or remember too much) along with a lot of other old black and white programs. The book itself is entries for individual actors, actresses, producers, directors, musical composers, and other people associated with the series along with the individual episodes, themes, lots, and other markers from the series. So when running through the actors who played in this program, it listed other things they appeared in, including series like Combat!, Black Sheep Squadron, and other things that hit syndication while I was coming of television watching age and beyond. Notable actors who played in epidodes of The Twilight Zone include William Shatner, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, and others that I know mostly from other works. Still, it was a varied bunch, and their connections to old television shows that I sort of remember remind me of a time. You know.

Secondly, the list of programs that I don’t recognize humbles me a bit. I mean, many of the anthology series (Playhouse this and sponsor Theatre that) were done live, so recordings do not exist. Other shows, like Peter Gunn and so on, I recognize the names but don’t think I’ve seen. I didn’t see them on television in the day, and I’m not sure they’re easy to find on television (or other media) today. There was a whole world of television that came on before I was self aware and that I’ve never seen. Likewise, the movie credits indicate a wide world of films, including war films and detective movies, that I’ve never heard of and have never seen.

So the book rather inspired me to look for some of these things to view. And, of course, to watch the television program itself which I see is available on Blu-ray for less than $60. So I might think about that, too.

I’d say “I hope I can get some use out of this on trivia nights,” but trivia nights’ trivia tends to be more recent than this program these days.

But I enjoyed the book. And I paid full price for it and don’t regret it, which says something.

Book Report: Virtue and Happiness by Epictetus / Calligraphy by Claude Mediavilla (2003)

Book coverAs you might recall, gentle reader, I bought this book at ABC Books last month because I thought it said Epicurus. I’ve already read Epictetus’s Discourses. This book is derived from a subset of the Discourses called the Manual or the Handbook or the Enchiridion (depending on who’s talking about it and the translation, I gather).

The producer of this book is a calligrapher living in Paris who presents epigrams from Epictetus, formatted like poems, with Greek versions of the same or derivatives calligraphied up on the facing page. As such, the author presents it more as a calligraphy/art book than anything else. His afterword section describes his life and technicque in greater detail than the preface described Epictetus.

Still, it was a quick breeze to read (and adding to my woefully behind annual reading count this year), and it does present some of the wisdom of Epictetus in a koan, Tao Te Ching kind of fashion.

But as to calligraphy as an art form in itself, I’m not sold.

Good Book Hunting, March 18, 2018: Redeemer Lutheran Free Book Cart

The church I attend has a cart near its library with cullings from the library that people can take home. Most of the time, this mostly includes devotionals and Bible translations, but last week I spotted a couple of more non-churchly titles on the cart, and I was interested.

I decided to wait a week to give everyone else a chance since I’m not exactly hurting for things to read. But since nobody else grabbed them, I took some.

I got:

  • Quantum Enigma, a small textbook about quantum physics. I’ve tried to read a couple of higher physics books in the last year, and each time, I follow along thinking, “Okay, that makes sense. I get it.” And then I come to a sentence or two where I’m all like, “Wuh?” and then I can’t understand any more and sometimes I lose the understanding of what I thought I got. I’m hoping that eventually repetition and different approaches from different sources will make it click permanently.
  • Stories of an Outstanding Cat, a collection of anecdotes by a retired Catholic priest about a cat that joined him at the rectory at his last church. I’ve picked it up, and it looks to be a quick read full of exclamation points.
  • 201 Great Questions, a book of questions that might make a better road trip conversation book. Better than Zobmondo!, anyway.

Of course, the owner of ABC Books came along while I had a free book, and I had to play cool, like I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I think he bought it. Unlike me and the book.

Book Report: Of Reading Books by John Livingston Lowes (1929)

Book coverWow, Brian J., you might ask. Didn’t you used to read books? I know I ask myself that question frequently. But my reading time was curtailed the first quarter of this year. First, I didn’t have a lot of time to read a small “carry” book that I took out with me to various locations where I’d have a half hour or hour to kill. I’ve not been going to martial arts classes enough this year so far, and when I do, it’s been on days where I’ve not had to get there for my children’s classes, where I would wait for mine to begin thirty or forty five minutes later. And instead of sitting on a bench in church on Sunday mornings during the Sunday School hour, I’ve been schlepping my laptop to a local coffee shop to try to bang out the beginnings of a novel. Also, as you might recall, I’ve been working my way through some Shakespeare, and the book that I’ve picked up in the middle of Measure for Measure is long, too. So I’ve not been adding to my annual to-read list very much this year.

However, this month I have determined that the schlepping of the laptop is a lot of work compared to the actual throughput I get in writing (currently, I’m on page two of the novel, as it takes me ten minutes to get to the coffee shop, a couple minutes to eat a pastry or several, and then I have to pack up twenty minutes later to return to church to pick up my family), so I decided to return to my perch at church to do some reading.

I started with this volume that I got in December. Because it’s short, and it’s about reading books. How meta.

At any rate, the author gave this particular speech at two separate commencements to the graduating class of 1929. It’s broken into three parts. The first talks about reading at the university, and how so much of the university is designed to teach the students marketable skills and not so much about the classics and the love of learning. The second talks about how it’s important to learn to love reading when you’re young, as the things you read then you will read with relish and zeal that you lose a bit as you get older. The habit, built then, will lead to a lifetime of reading which might lack the zeal of the young but brings its own pleasure. In III, he explains the benefit of being well read, where it will lead you to make synthetic connections between things that you might not otherwise get, and that only broad reading gives you this chance to make those connections between the things you read and encounter.

The book is very literate, chock full of allusions and quotations (without sourcing) that he expected a college graduate to get in 1929, many but not all of which I recognized in spite of a twenty-some year old degree in English and philosophy and continued reading since then (he quotes Miranda from The Tempest which is fresh in my mind).

But his address really just illustrates that what goes around comes around. You find contemporary thinkers worrying about the university not teaching young people to think or read the classics and only teaching them skills for commerce. Of course, William Wordsworth talked about too much getting and spending, too, even before Lowes.

The commencement addresses were given to college students of the late 1920s, which were more hoity toity than you get today after the GI Bill and government loan programs made it available to everyone. And they hit the workforce and the real world months before the stock market crash that launched the Great Depression. So history has made itself a double-effect narrator that makes us cringe a bit for those students.

So worth an hour or so of your time if you’re into books or history, I suppose. Or if you have to start furiously padding your annual list of books read.

The Noggle Library, Doing Right

My youngest son, who is not as young as he used to be, is reading Where The Red Fern Grows in fourth grade. His teacher is reading the book in class, but the youngster like the book and wants to read ahead, so he picked up a copy and will probably finish the book this weekend.

This morning, he said to me, “This is not Miss Cole’s. This is ours. Whatever book Miss Cole is reading, we already have.”

Well, yeah. And most of the books his English and Philosophy professors would have assigned him thirty years ago.

Now, not so much.

Confession: Being that I have yet to read either of them, I sometimes confuse Where The Red Fern Grows with The Red Badge of Courage.

Book Report: Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan (1982)

Book coverAs you might recall, gentle reader, I am a pretty big fan of James P. Hogan (see also the reviews for The Multiplex Man, Paths to Otherware, The Legend That Was Earth, and Martian Knightlife). However, do not let the stretches of time between those book reports diminish my claim. That I apparently haven’t read something by Hogan since 2009 more indicates how time flies when you get older.

The exposition of this book: In the near future (nearer to us than to readers in 1983), international relations are tense (the Soviet Union is still around, and the Chinese/Japanese alliance (?!) is a rising power). An international space probe is launched to a habitable planet around Alpha Centauri. At the last minute, the building blocks of human life are added with the thought that the robots and computers on the probe can build habitation and factories and whatnot that will then build human children to live on the distant planet to ensure humanity survives in case of a cataclysm on Earth. A major war erupts, and an American civilization rebuilds first and sends a generation ship to the new planet, Chiron, to enlist the residents there in the predicted war against the Eastern Asians, who send their own ship four years after the Americans. In the twenty-year journey, the Americans on the Mayflower II have developed their own politics and expectations of their first encounter with the Chironians, and they’re stumped when confronted with the libertarian utopia that has evolved in the forty years when the society with its abundant technologies build itself from scratch.

That’s the setup, and the bulk of the book describes the interaction and adjustment or lack thereof of the individuals and institutions to the Chironian way of life. About halfway through the book, I thought perhaps the book would take a twist akin to a book I’d read some time before — Code of the Lifemaker. Which, as it turns out, is Hogan’s next book. But this book did not take the turn I expected, and it was straight forward and earnest throughout.

Thematically, the book deals with how a society might build structure itself if the base understanding of life and the universe was one of abundance instead of scarcity. How would they organize politically? How would they make their lives meaningful? The book goes into some alternative science premises that Hogan used a lot. As I was reading, I was thinking the Chironian society was like something I’d seen before in The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith.

Overall, the sweeping themes and meta nature–with political subplots and chapters on quantum physics (with which I’ve tried to grapple with on numerous occasions recently) bogged down my reading of the book. I would have enjoyed it with fewer characters and sidelines, but that’s probably because my attention span has shortened over time.

Also, I think Hogan’s hopeful thesis about how people raised in abundance and without the death-focused strictures that I assume he associated with Christianity and old timey religions would behave. Forty years later, our Western society’s generations raised since this book came out, have proven to be quite petty instead of interested in all being little Howard Roarks and Dagny Taggarts.

Still, an interesting concept and a breath of fresh extraterrestrial air amid the Shakespeare comedies I have been reading this year.

Oh, Poems, No Less. Poems, Everybody!

So I have released my infrequently threatened/promised collection of poems.

Entitled Coffee House Memories, it contains just short of 100 poems that I wrote mostly in my college and immediately post-college life. I spent a lot of evenings at coffee houses and their attendant open mic nights.


Man, I wrote a lot of sonnets, and some of them are pretty good, I still think. But some of them are a little, erm, saucy? Not bawdy, but they’re clearly about making love. So this, like John Donnelly’s Gold, is not something my children can take to school for show and tell. It’s funny; I used to perform said poems in coffee houses in front of dozens of people, but it’s been a while. I’m pretty sure I’d feel like a creepy old man reading one of them out loud now. And/or I’d blush furiously. But I’m convinced they’re good poems, so they’re in the collection.

Also in this volume:

Not included: “Springfield Panera Bread BDU”, although I did include a number of other haiku. And pantoum or two. And a couple villanelles, I thing. I did write a couple bits of free verse, but I always favored more structured forms, like the sonnet.

The book includes two chapbooks I released in the middle 1990s, Unrequited and Deep Blue Shadows. The latter is named for a poem inspired a bit by a song by the band Lillian Axe.

It might be the only poem inspired by anything by Lillian Axe.

In my defense, the book also features three poems inspired by “One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand” by Edmund Spenser. So clearly, my influences are varied.

At any rate, it’s available for Kindle now for 99 cents, and hopefully will be available in paperback in a week or so.

So if you’ve got a buck and a Kindle, grab one now.

In related news, I guess I still have four or five ISBNs left, so perhaps I should write something else.

Good Book Hunting, February 16, 2018: ABC Books

Of course, yesterday’s post needs to be followed up by a But I Really, Really Need To Buy This One post.

Yesterday, we headed up to ABC Books to get some gift cards for the coaches of my oldest son’s basketball team for the thank you cards he’ll give them at the end of the season (or sometime–he’s been known to forget such cards for up to six months when they’re exhumed from his desk or backpack and given to the recipient). And we couldn’t just get gift cards (although I must have done that on one or two occasions last year). So I brought home a couple things to read someday.

I got:

  • The Celts, a history of the Celts which was in the World Religions section for some reason. Strangely, I might already have a copy of this floating around somewhere.
  • Virtue and Happiness by Epictetus. Wait a minute, I thought this was Epicurus. Since it’s Epictetus, I might have already read it. Ah, well, I’ll read it again, expecting Stoicism now that I look at it more closely.
  • The Beauty of Gesture, a book that equates Tai Chi with playing the piano or something. It looks interesting.
  • The Tao of Christ. In my reading of the Tao, I’ve noticed some similarities to the parables of Christ. This looks at it in depth.

Prediction: I’ll read The Tao of Christ first. If history is any guide, I’ll read one of the four this year, although the Epictetus might also make its way into my annual reading.

Amateur Hour

So ABC Books posted this on their Facebook timeline:

Of course, I think 20 unread books in a home means that nobody lives in the home and it’s being staged for sale by a realtor.

For the record, I have almost 20 unread books that I bought at ABC Books last year.

They include:

From May 5:

  • Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: H. Richard Niebuhr
  • Understanding Zen
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • The Search for Satori and Creativity

(In my defense, I did read The Tao of Elvis from that trip, and I started but put down The Search for Satori and Creativity.)

From September 29:

  • Strength Finder 2.0
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Bible
  • The Rights of Man
  • Everyday Zen
  • The Analects of Confucius

(From that trip, I did read Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus.)

From November 28:

  • Makers of the Modern Theological Minds: Martin Buber
  • Makers of the Modern Theological Minds: Teilhard De Chardin
  • Makers of the Modern Theological Minds: H. Richard Niebuhr
  • Don’t Know Much About the Bible

(Yes, that is the second copy of the book on the other Niebuhr that I bought; once I realized it, I gave one away as a Christmas gift.)

From December 31:

  • The Sword of Genghis Khan
  • Of Reading Books
  • Murder in the Catherdral
  • A collections of Aristophanes
  • A collection of Euripides

(I did, however, read Killer Mine.)

Frankly, I’m stunned that I’ve only been to ABC Books five times in the last year. And what restraint!

But, yeah, Nogglestead has a couple of unread books, but that does not stop me from buying more.

Book Report: The Cotswolds by Robin Whiteman and Rob Talbot (1987)

Book coverLike the book on Raphael, I hoped to read this book during football games. I picked it up last fall after reading two books with Cotswold/Catswald in the title (Cotswold Mistress and The Catswald Portal). But, as I mentioned in the report on the book on Raphael, I didn’t end up watching a lot of football last autumn, so this book, too, got pushed off but now serves as an interlude between the Shakespeare plays I’m working on.

The book suffers from a similar malady to the Raphael book: A high prose to image ratio, and that the captions beside each image go beyond what you’re looking at in the picture itself. An image of a cottage or a landscape with a distant mill in it will mention the region’s history and role in the wool trade in the Middle Ages (hint: almost whatever the village, it was probably involved).

That said, I really enjoyed the book. The sense of old one gets from European cities definitely trumps the 200 years, maybe, you get out here in the Middle Western and Western parts of the United States. Combining this book with the travelogue of Kim du Toit, who spent part of last year in England, and I might someday be tempted to leave the relative safety of the middle of this country for England. I’d better hurry while there’s still an England, though.

At any rate, a cool book. A step up from the normal tourist takeaway books I read about different regions or the coffeetable photography books about San Francisco or New York.

Book Report: The Library of Great Masters: Raphael translated by Paul Blanchard (1991)

Book coverAs you know, gentle reader, I sometimes like to page through books of poetry, art, or photography whil I watch a sporting event such as a football game or a baseball game, where I can browse a small chunk, watch a play, peruse a bit, watch a play, and then ingest a bit more during commercials. But, Brian J., you did not do that much this past football season! What gives? Well, gentle reader, this was not a good year for the Green Bay Packers, as you know, so I did not stick with football games for the full three hours. Also, some of the books I picked out had pretty high text-to-image ratios and required a bit more attention than I could muster during football games.

This is one such volume. It’s a collection of paintings done by Raphael accompanied by a biography. The text did not lend itself to easy perusal for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a pretty detailed art history piece, where we learn about with whom Raphael worked in his youth and the influence that myriad Italian Renaissance painters had on him and in which of his works. As I have no idea who any of these guys were, I did not get much from that. Secondly, the book talked about paintings whose images were pages away, so by the time I got to the painting, I’d forgotten what I’d read about it.

So I couldn’t read it during a football game. So I read it as part of my breaks from the volume of William Shakespeare that I am reading currently. The book still had the same drawbacks to reading at length, but I got through it.

I want to flip through these books to get a sense of what the author’s work looked like and maybe so I can say something intelligent about it. I’m not sure I could tell a Raphael from another Renaissance painter, but I can tell one from a Rembrandt, although this book says Raphael used chiaroscuro as well–but to be honest, Rembrandt used the effect better. Also, although they must have been getting better by the time the cinquecento rolled around, the proportions of the bodies are still a little off. You look at some of the shoulders on the people relative to their necks and heads, and you have to wonder how their eyesight was.

At any rate, I’ve learned the difference between the quattrocento and the cinquecento from this book, so I’ve got that going for me. For those of you who don’t watch football and thus are not exposed to Renaissance art, that’s the 1400s and roughly 1500-1530 in Italian art.

Worth a browse, but probably better if this is not your first exposure to Renaissance art.