All posts for the month February, 2009

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (X)
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien ()
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (/)
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling ()
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (X)
6 The Bible – (/)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (/)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell (X)
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (/)
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott (/)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (X)
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller ( X)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (/)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier ()
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien ()
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk (X)
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (X)
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger ()
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot (/)
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald ()
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens (/)
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy ( X)
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (X)
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (/)
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (X)
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (X)
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (X)
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (X)
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (X)
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens (X)
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis ()
34 Emma – Jane Austen ()
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen (/)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (X)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini ( X)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres (/)
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden ()
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne (X)
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell (X)
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown ()
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving ()
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins ()
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery ()
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (X)
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood ()
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding ()
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan (X)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (X)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert ()
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (X)
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth ( X)
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon ( )
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (X)
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (X)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon (/)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (X)
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (X)
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt (X)
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold ( )
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (/ )
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac (X)
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy ()
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding ( )
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (X)
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville (X )
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (X)
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker ()
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett ()
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson ( X)
75 Ulysses – James Joyce (X)
76 The Inferno – Dante ( /)
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (/)
78 Germinal – Emile Zola ( )
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray ( )
80 Possession – AS Byatt ()
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (X)
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker (/)
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (X )
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert ( /)
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry ( )
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White ()
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ()
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton ( )
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (X)
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery ()
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks ()
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams ()
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole ()
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (X )
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas ( X)
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare (X)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl ()
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (/)

(X) = 40 actually read at some time
(/) = others part read / familiar with multiple dramatizatons & commentaries / have copies / may yet read
(..) = Several positively avoided on the strength of popular popularity 😉

Thanks to Sam at Elizphanian.

Slavoj Zizek writing in 2001 in The Cabinet.

The “Western Buddhist” meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way for us to fully participate in capitalist dynamics while retaining the appearance of mental sanity. If Max Weber were alive today, he would definitely write a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism.

Thanks to Chris Locke at Mystic Bourgeoisie and his Cluetrain Manifesto “Now there are 50 million bloggers, easy. They still can’t read, but they can type.”

I have this “he doth protest too much” relationship with Chris. I caught the Cluetrain zetitgeist before Chris went anti-mystic. Like clearly he’s right that recognising any value in the mystic could be a slippery slope to new-age twaddle to be avoided and defended against. I shall consider myself chastened on that score. But I do read plenty – even too much.

With so much gloal activity dependent on appearances, the appearance of sanity may be a poor substitute for the real thing, but conversely how in fact do we recognize real sanity / insanity when we experience it ? I shall have to digest the Zizek piece, but it seems fair to recognize and question the apparent insanity in western globalization and the reasons why “Eurotaoismus” (Peter Sloterdijk) is seen as providing a valuable counter-balance. All things in moderation, even reading.

I see that Ant’s second Pirsig documentary installment “On the Road With Robert Pirsig” gets an airing tonight at a reading of ZMM in the Twin Cities, where a couple of local bloggers also picked this up.

A little biographical detail is that the event at the Sean Muda Studio is in the same “Roberts Shoes” building as the flophouse on Chicago and Lake where Pirsig escaped the family home whilst writing the major part of ZMM.

Interesting little blog from Lloyd Budd … associated with AutoMattic / WordPress.

Initially drawn by the Learning by Doing Something Else post, but then couldn’t resist the Starting New Year’s Resolution in February post and the reference to “reading in bars”. Story of my life.

While the king was looking down,
The jester stole his thorny crown.
(Re – previous opensource post).

Why am I reading “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (Edward Gibbon 1776, D  M Low 1960 abridgement, 910 page , 1974 edition by Chatto & Windus) ?

I picked it up from my father’s book-case a couple of years ago because the Neil Hannon / Divine Comedy lyric “Gibbon’s divine decline and fall” from the Noel Coward inspired “I’ve Been to a Marvellous Party” jumped into my head every time I walked passed it on visits to the old home – the cut-glass diction over the tinkling ivories with a stonking dance beat imposing itself – unforgettable.

There is plenty written about the book and its many abridgements – Wikipedia is as good a place to start as any, and the list of “emperors” and Roman timeline  help too. There are also plenty of on-line copies of the full text . The book is credited (no doubt from a very British perspective) with being the first real modern written history, with clear objectivity in quoting sources, as well as clear rhetoric in interpretation, doubt and speculation too. It says at least as much about 1770’s imperial England as it does about “Rome” from 27BC to 1453AD – yes that’s right the 15th Century ! The prose is truly wonderful though, even if many historical errors and speculations have been “corrected” by later scolars and sources.

I’ve read up to page 143 (of 910) so far, the first page of Chapter 15, “The Rise of Christianity”, which Gibbon famously associates with the decline of civilization (as we might have known it) from about 300 AD onwards, though he goes back to cover the old-testament historical perspective to set his scene.

A candid but rational iquiry into the progress and establishment of Christianity may be considered as a very essential part of the history of the Roman empire. While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol.

[My emphasis – 18th century memetics … “itself” note, men’s minds are simply the medium]. Anyway, the reason I paused to blog about Gibbon was this wonderful passage at the end of Chapter 13 where he is really bemoaning that the rot of the decline has irreversibly set in on all sides, not just in the corruption of power and politics, but in learning, architecture and the arts, and in …. philosophy.

The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked, however, by the rise and rapid progress of the new Platonists. The school of Alexandria silenced those of Athens; and the ancient sects enrolled themselves under the banners of the more fashionable teachers, who recommended their system by the novelty of their method, and the austerity of their manners. Several of these masters, Ammonius, Plotinus, Amelius, and Porphyry, were men of profound thought and intense application; but by mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labors contributed much less to improve than to corrupt the human understanding. The knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists; whilst they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both these philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming their reason in these deep but unsubstantial meditations, their minds were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered themselves that they possessed the secret of disengaging the soul from its corporal prison; claimed a familiar intercourse with demons and spirits; and, by a very singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of magic. The ancient sages had derided the popular superstition; after disguising its extravagance by the thin pretence of allegory, the disciples of Plotinus and Porphyry became its most zealous defenders. As they agreed with the Christians in a few mysterious points of faith, they attacked the remainder of their theological system with all the fury of civil war. The new Platonists would scarcely deserve a place in the history of science, but in that of the church the mention of them will very frequently occur.

[My emphases again]. Divine.