What I’ve Been Reading

What I’ve Been Reading

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 in What I've Been Reading | 0 comments

BraveNewWorld_FirstEditionIf you get bold enough to read 1984, of course you’ve got to follow it up with Brave New World. Which I must say I liked significantly less.

I get Huxley’s point, I really do, warning us that human beings don’t need a totalitarian system to crush the our spirit into sand….we can entertain ourselves into dumbness and passivity and inert happiness. Can’t argue with that. But the sour and savage distaste for the female body in this book–either as a voluptuous, pneumatic instrument of seduction and promiscuity and more of that mindless pleasure that’s going to ruin us all, or as a fat (horrors!), filthy, weak, flabby embodiment (literally) of mortality and corruption–well, that made it hard to appreciate the savage satiric genius. I could see that the genius was there, but I couldn’t much enjoy it.

And it’s not just the body, it’s the human spirit that is rendered disgusting in Huxley’s antiseptically clean prose. 1984 made me feel that the humanity was at risk, but still precious. Brave New World made me feel that the human spirit wasn’t worth the struggle. Might as will take a gram of soma and go to the feelies and watch it disintegrate.

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What I’ve Been Reading

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 in What I've Been Reading | 0 comments

24921988The remarkable Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. Will Porter, blind since birth, experiences sight for the first time after a corneal transplant. Wonderful, right? A miracle of modern medicine, right? Not exactly.

The ending is a bit rushed, which is a real shame, because the book up until this is a fascinating and entertaining musing on honesty, beauty, and the many different types of perception. Sharp, funny, not in the least sentimental, and guaranteed to make you think.

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What I’ve Been Reading

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in What I've Been Reading | 0 comments

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Delightful fan art of Monty and the love of his life, Percy.

Or rather, listening to–a stunning audiobook, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (such a great title) by Mackenzi Lee, and narrated superbly by Christian Coulson.

It’s the 1700s, and Lord Henry Montague–Monty to his friends, of which he has many–is a rake. A charming and delightful rake, who loves wine and cards and women and boys and who won’t let anything, including his stern father, get in the way of a good time. Especially if the good time involves his best friend, Percy.

Monty and Percy are off on their grand tour of Europe, and Monty is determined to make Percy fall in love with him by the time they head back to England. Events intervene, of course, as they always do, and there’s a villainous French duke and a spooky Catalan alchemist and some truly marvelous pirates, plus a tender and hilarious love story. The ending contains some supernatural elements that I had a bit of a hard time with–I was quite prepared to accept that these 18th century characters believe in alchemy, but startled to discover that alchemy actually works. Still, I’d forgive any author anything for the relationship between these two boys, who flirt and fight and break each other’s hearts from England to France to Spain to Italy. Can’t wait to listen to it all over again.

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What I’ve Been Reading–1984

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 in What I've Been Reading | 0 comments

teaserbox_27680941Call me a cliche, but I did what so many other people are doing these days–I read George Orwell’s 1984. Somehow, it was one of those classics I never managed to get to, despite an English major and a career in literature. (I never read The Illiad either. I admit it. I only recently got around to Middlemarch.)

So much was chilling, so much was eerily familiar. If you’ve read it, you don’t need me to go into it–the glorification of war, the vicious hates that transfer all critical thinking and all criticism away from the powers-that-be onto vague, nebulous, ever-changing others. And of course, the doublethink. Mexico will pay for the wall, but they won’t, but they will. War is peace. Obama bugged Trump Tower, but he didn’t, but he did. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

And yet…somewhere in there I found a sliver of hope. No, really.

Winston Smith is not a very heroic hero. He isn’t terribly brave. (Julia is much bolder). He’s not all that smart. (All his instincts about people are completely wrong.) He doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

All he has going for him is some basic humanity. A joy in rare physical comfort and glimpses of beauty–the smell of real coffee, the clouded loveliness of old glass. A sense of the past as something that actually existed. Brief love shared with a woman. These are small things.

But look at what the Thought Police and the Ministry of Love have to do to get him to surrender. Look at what he endures. It takes hours and days and actually years of brutal mental and physical torture before all that is good in Winston is ground down to nothing. He’s a simple man, an ordinary man, just one man–and it takes all their resources to undo him.

Humanity dies, but it doesn’t die easily.

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