Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

I have driven by this scene for the last couple of weeks.  It is in a field next to HWY 80 right as I leave Marshall heading toward Longview.  I finally remembered before passing to pull over and take a photo.  I'd say this "room" has a view, wouldn't you? 

 I am enjoying Rameau's Trio and Sonata for Strings no. 5 and Harpsichord as I write. I'm not sure it best conveys the mood of the book I'm about to review but it was what was on my classical station.

A Room with a ViewA Room with a View by E.M. Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So far this is my favorite story by E.M. Forster. He wrote it in 1910 before WWI which may explain its optimistic attitude compared to the more pessimistic view that shadows Passage to India which was written in 1927.

Lucy Honeychurch has gone on a trip to Italy with her cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. The story opens with Charlotte and Lucy in Florence at their hotel seated in the dining room.

Charlotte is complaining that the owner of the hotel promised them rooms with a view but they have no view. Not only that, but the hotel is filled with English people. Even the proprietor is a "cockney".

We might be in London, Lucy laments.

Their conversation is interrupted by a man at a nearby table crying, "We have a view, we have a view!"

Charlotte is too shocked to reply to such an obvious display of vulgar gloating, something a little child would do and entirely unbecoming in a grown man.

The man clarifies. He and his son, would be more than happy to exchange rooms because the view means nothing to them and so much to the ladies.

Instead of appreciating the generosity of the man's offer, Charlotte is disgusted at his lack of social propriety. Who is this stranger, breaking social boundaries and making an offer that would put her and Lucy under "obligation"?

Later, Charlotte and Lucy do take the rooms because another man, Mr. Beebe, who is rector to their church back home and who is also touring Florence encourages them to take up the offer and shows his displeasure with Charlotte's airs. Noticing Mr. Beebe's displeasure motivates Charlotte to accept the offer.

This sets the tone for the book. We realize that Forster is lampooning artificial social constructs that pass as manners but in reality keep people alienated from each other.

Charlotte and Lucy are quickly informed by the other hotel lodgers that the elderly man, Mr. Emerson and his son, George are not "one of us" and should be snubbed accordingly.

Charlotte, a penniless relative who is only in Florence because Lucy's mother is paying for her trip, is only too eager to stand on her dignity and turn her back to the Emersons. Lucy is not so eager.

Reading the first part of the book it is easy to conclude that we are going to have the usual stick figures, each representing a "type" of "good guys" and "bad guys".

Charlotte is a "bad guy" representing the snobbish Englishwoman. Mr. Emerson and George are the "good guys" because they are the underdogs and free spirits who won't conform to social norms. Their being snubbed commands our sympathy.

But it isn't so cut and dry as that.

Charlotte is tiresome, but everyone else, with the exception of a few people, possess an assortment of angles that allow us to see their shortcomings but also to perceive their humanness and sympathize accordingly.

Lucy gets to know the Emersons and finds she likes them very much but is disturbed by the fact that she likes them because she feels she shouldn't. When George impulsively kisses her, she is even more confused.

Charlotte, who witnessed this affront immediately removes Lucy and herself to Rome. This enrages Lucy because she has grown to an age where she wants to make her own decisions.

If it were merely a battle of the wills where she and Charlotte confronted each other from opposite hills and started firing, the war would soon be over and the case closed. But Charlotte is one of those characters that doesn't operate that way. She is a master manipulator.

She gets her way with Lucy every single time because her weapon is insisting on doing everything that Lucy wants to do, even if she, Charlotte, is "too tired to walk, but if you insist..." and the reason Charlotte took the larger room with a view is because it had belonged to the son, George, and if Lucy slept in it, she would be "under obligation" to him. Charlotte was all about doing things "Lucy's way" and thus ensured for herself getting her own way.

If Lucy put up any kind of fight, Charlotte was quick to announce, "Oh, of course, we must do everything Lucy's way because after all, I am a penniless relation who is only here because of your mother's generosity...of course I must sacrifice...."

Charlotte gets her way but at a price. Lucy loathes her and so do most people who come into contact with her. Charlotte knows this and uses it as another weapon in her arsenal. "I know I'm unwanted..."

One wonders if Charlotte, a spinster, is not serving as a warning to Lucy: "This is what you could become one day if you don't break away and follow your heart." I won't say what that desire is in case a reader hasn't read the book.

Yet, Charlotte knows the "right way to do things" and it is the lash she cracks over everyone if they protest because English people must behave "correctly".

Things could be suffocatingly heavy if that's all there were to the story. If E.M. Forester's intention was only to point out the hypocrisy of English custom, the story would quickly devolve into tiresome sermonizing.

But he balances Charlotte out with most of the other characters who are likeable and very human. Yes, they may act the snob and be a little overly concerned with who is acceptable and unacceptable but mostly they forget about it and enjoy each other's company.

Lucy's trip ends and she goes back home to her mother and brother who are simply charming individuals. They are easy going, easy to accept others and quick to include them in their circle without much ado. When Mr. Emerson and George move into their neighborhood, Lucy's family invites them over without ceremony.

George, Freddie and Mr. Beebe sun bathe together and are soon running around stark naked like a group of school boys.

When Lucy and her mother accidentally come across them, one supposes Forster plans to use the incident to expose the English woman's "unnatural aversion" to nudity but not so. Later when Lucy endeavors to introduce her to George her mother asks if it is necessary, or perhaps they could consider themselves already introduced.

Even Lucy's fiance, who spends a good deal of the book looking down his nose at everyone comes to himself in the end and turns out pretty decently, even if it does take a momentary crisis to provoke that decency.

The rich, pleasant color that Forster paints most of his characters (there are a few ugly ones) is a pleasure to read, but the best part of the book is his writing style. Here's an example:

Mr. Beebe and his twelve year old niece Minnie are visiting Lucy's family. Lucy's brother Freddy and Minnie are playing some kind of game involving tennis rackets and broken balls.

"Freddie possessed to a high degree the power of lashing little girls to fury, and in half a minute he had transformed Minnie from a well-mannered child into a howling wilderness."

That is a sentence I enjoy repeating to myself. It's descriptive powers are brilliant. And most of his sentences are similarly fluid and descriptive. Especially the inner thoughts of each character from which the third person limited narrator bounces between.

Ironically, the most boring characters are Mr. Emerson and his son, George. They are hardly developed as people and seem to serve only as tools to point to the archaic character of Edwardian society. If any preaching is done it is when Mr. Emerson pontificates in a Thoreau-esque fashion about the meaning of life in some sort of transcendental fashion which I found as meaningless as it is devoid of joy. If George is supposed to attract us as he did Lucy, he fails. He's not around enough or says anything worth reading to make him very interesting.

Nevertheless, the overall tone of the book is one of affection and the lucid writing makes it a treat to read.

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E.M. Forster 1879-1970

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Tyranny of Guilt: an Essay on Western Masochism by Pascal Bruckner translated by Steven Rendall

Pascal Bruckner is considered one of the eminent philosophers in France today.

The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western MasochismThe Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism by Pascal Bruckner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pascal Bruckner clearly and successfully articulates my own thoughts and feelings concerning the West's heavy love affair with flagellating itself.

He makes so many good points and I certainly won't attempt to list them all, but
here are a few:

Once upon a time the West had good reason to feel guilty of slavery, racism, genocide, fascism, communism, imperialism etc... but those days are gone. We are still apologizing for events that have happened hundreds of years ago. The most recent events, like segregation and racial discrimination hearken back to the years before affirmative action which was the 1950s. Notice how all the popular movies about racism in the U.S. take place in the fifties or earlier? But according to our culture of Western guilt nothing has changed.

Yes, we have poverty and too many minorities and immigrants living in ghettos, but are the reasons still due to racism and discrimination?

Bruckner gives a resounding "No!" He then elucidates on what actually does hold minorities and immigrants back. It is the tyranny of Western Guilt. Because when the great white west tells African and Middle Eastern immigrants and also racial minorities in the U.S. that "It is all due to the evil white empire that you are degraded." What are you saying? You are calling these people degraded.

What can be more degrading than to make a career of victimhood?

The terrorist threats? The West's fault! Poverty among immigrants? West's fault.

Bruckner's book goes further into citing specific historical sources and also political leaders that have profited by perpetuating this myth and the people that follow along because it makes them feel virtuous while they continue to live in upper scale, segregated neighborhoods, putting their children in private schools while denying minorities who are too poor to pay for these schools the same choice and have to put their children in dangerous, failing public schools and continue to live in gang-ridden neighborhoods.

Bruckner makes an interesting observation about the recent turn against Jewish people, especially in Europe. They were acceptable as victims of the holocaust, and living in ghettos, but once they rose to equal status to the rest of Europe and America and built their own nation, they are the "new fascists" and the Arab nations are Israel's victims.

He points out how Europe enables anti-nationalism because we are not supposed to identify with a particular country anymore but see ourselves as part of a global community. So people gleefully boo during the French national anthem during soccer matches. Algerian immigrants who were born and raised in France wave Algerian flags while never ever intending to step foot in Algeria.

The career of Victim-hood demands that we see ourselves as the tyrannical oppressors of Middle Eastern countries while never contemplating why these same people are desperately trying to get out of their own countries and come to Europe, America and Canada.

He brilliantly points out a fact that the self-flagellates are blind to: that to view yourself as an oppressor or tyrant is to hold yourself as guess what? Superior! And guess what it also does? Holds your "victims" as Inferior.

The results of this Western Guilt is to preserve racial division and create an even greater hostile environment between the different groups than when there was actual discrimination.

An excellent quote from the book:

"It is a mistake to believe that making schoolchildren feel guilty in accord with the principle 'your ancestors enslaved mine' will make them like the idea of human diversity any better or will seem to them anything more than a theatrical artifice.

Just imagine little blond, brunette or curly headed kids coming up to each other on the playground and introducing themselves as descendants of slaves, of colonized peoples, of slave traders, of bandits, of peasants, of beggars...

...Why ask boys and girls to make themselves the contemporaries of crimes that may have been committed three centuries ago...we are supposed constantly to inject rage and anger into them. "

He goes on to say that perhaps we should simply abolish any kind of statutes of limitations on crimes, give all of us a portfolio at birth of grievances to exploit. That we can go back as "far as the Middle Ages" to "demand justice."

Our present system of white guilt has produced "chronic malcontents" where no one can ever get on with their life and enjoy it. We must either view ourselves as oppressed and be miserable or as oppressors and be consumed with guilt (another form of misery).

Somebody finally put in print what I have been thinking for ever so long.

The book says far more with many historical recitations and I don't agree with everything he says, especially concerning Christianity, which he considers the originator of guilt, at least the Medieval Catholic church, which is an oversimplification and it ignores the gods of pagan countries who had to be constantly appeased in order to avoid destruction.

He says that the Enlightenment threw off religion but retained the mantle of guilt. This is his theory of origins but he can't really substantiate it.

However, his observations of the here and now are compelling and one of the most perspicacious studies on the subject.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Confessions of an Original Sinner by John Lukacs

You will notice I write my reviews well in advance.
It is March first, Ash Wednesday.  I am sitting outside in only slightly nippy weather. Hercule Parrot is on my hand as I type. Luckily he is light as a feather (ha!).   My piggies are nibbling grass a few yards away.  My dogs are patrolling the backyard.  I'm grateful for them because they keep the Red-Tailed Hawks away from my pigs, although they do occasionally sit in the upper branches of my Oak tree (the hawks, not my dogs) and peer down like a couple of old men with their arms clasped behind their back. My pigs are well-fed.  Could a hawk lift them?

By the way, I am listening to Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto, 2nd movement as I write.  It is simply one of the most beautiful, poignant pieces of music ever.  I hope you will find a recording and enjoy it.

Confessions of an Original SinnerConfessions of an Original Sinner by John Lukacs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lukacs was born in Hungary and as a young man went to live in England because his mother was an Anglophile and thought it was the only place for her son to become educated. He stayed there for school and college but returned to Hungary in time for WWII. His father was Roman Catholic (the religion he embraced) but his mother was Jewish and he was forced to fight in a Jewish battalion during the war.

After Germany's defeat, he realized that his country was going to become part of the Soviet "Iron Curtain" so he fled to America where he got a job teaching at a college. He has some interesting opinions about the responsibility Churchill and FDR had in letting Stalin have so much of Europe.

This book is filled with his memories but also his observations of Americans and comparing them to his own upbringing and also the culture prevalent in Europe at the time.

He has a habit of making some rather sweeping generalizations about American citizens, some of which I agree, others which I'm not sure it is completely accurate to make so broad a conclusion about so many people. But I think his is the perspective of an outsider who spent many years as a foreigner, feeling like a foreigner, being viewed as a foreigner, even though his goal was to assimilate into American culture.

He noticed that the average American was parochial in that they possess little interest beyond the scope of their immediate environment or culture. Little to no interest was shown him about his own background or history, even though it is very interesting and unusual.

Another observation was that over eighty percent of college educators are liberal and teach their classes accordingly. They filter every subject through the lens of socialist ideologies.

I thought this interesting as well as surprising since he made these observations back in the fifties and sixties. Lukacs remarks that there is a population of progressive elitists that believe the socialist model is the only experiment that can be successful and that America should look to Europe as a blueprint on which to construct our own society.

Never mind that the majority of immigrants in the world, including Europe, were (and are) applying for Visas to the United States. Lukacs considers these "elitists" to be out of touch with reality and can only preserve their vision by living in their self-made bubbles in the world of academia.

He notes that people out in the real world just want jobs and to pay their bills have a more pragmatic outlook.

I did not find much of his personal history interesting, except when he described his extreme loneliness for some years after immigrating because it was so hard to access people already entrenched in family and communities of which he had no part. As someone who has moved around a lot, I appreciated this because I experienced the same alienation.

He did finally marry and it was to a woman whose family could trace their ancestry back to the original settlers. His father-in-law was part of the "Old Money Aristocracy." When his wife died he married another woman belonging to the old Aristocracy, this time from the Old South. Lukacs does not say but I wonder if marrying these women was an unconscious effort on his part to finally belong to his chosen country. If his roots did not go deep, at least his children's did.

The information Lukacs presented was very interesting but his writing could be a bit dry. I hope that was not how he lectured to his class at University. There were certain musings, recollections and details that could have been eliminated to produce a more fluid content.

Nevertheless, this book is worthwhile and I recommend it.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

All Hallow's Eve by Charles Williams

Josh and I celebrated Valentine's Day the Saturday after because I am trying to lose weight and have joined Weight Watchers.  I weigh in on Thursdays.  So far I've lost ten pounds in the last month in a half.  Something I wasn't able to do on my own for the last two years.  Just knowing I'm going to have to get on that scale in front of  another woman who is going to record it is the impetus to control my eating habits.

But Saturday we went and bought chocolates from a factory.  They were very, very good.  I'd show you but I ate them before I thought of taking a picture.  Ah well, enough of that; on to the review:

All Hallows' EveAll Hallows' Eve by Charles Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to review because I feel that Williams was making a lot of statements that weren't clear to me. Therefore, all I can tell you is what I thought the book was about.

At the very beginning, two women are killed. They find themselves, as spirits walking the streets of London. The women, Lester and Evelyn, are entirely alone except for each other. The race around looking for other signs of life. As the travel over the city, we get to know them.

Evelyn is a petty, cruel person who enjoyed tormenting another girl in school named Brenda. Brenda was a weak helpless person who had no one to defend her. She spent most of her time at school trying to escape Evelyn.

Lester, while not exactly a sterling character, found Evelyn's small-minded sadism toward Brenda tiresome. She had tried half-heartedly to prevent Evelyn from getting at Brenda but mostly to stop Evelyn from annoying her, Lester, rather than hurting Brenda whom she also found tiresome.

In this Twilight land Lester and Evelyn undergo changes. This is due to the fact that a sinister figure is on the horizon who is doing his utmost to turning himself into a counterfeit Christ figure.

The Clerk, or Father Simon as he is called by his followers, seems to be able to imitate some of Christ's traits. He apparently heals people of diseases and physical disabilities. He does have supernatural powers, but he has obtained this through witchcraft and nercromancy.

Father Simon, unlike Christ, does not love anyone. I'm not sure he hates anyone. He has a single minded obsession on which he exerts all his energy. His goal in deceiving people is to become worshiped and adored like Christ. His plan is to get the world to come under his dominion and worship him.

His daughter is Brenda and he somehow is able to use her as a portal to communicating with the spirit world. Brenda, as I have said, is a weak, passive creature, hated even by her mother who only does the Clerk's bidding and hopes to make Brenda as miserable as possible.

I do not want to give the story away, but some unexpected turns and developments of character transpires along the way. Some who were weak or indifferent rise to something higher and better, more noble and wonderful than they knew they were capable of. Others who were bent on evil, become more crippled in their mind and emotions. They wither and shrivel as they ever more weakly try to absorb and dominate others.

Charles Williams was a member of the Inklings, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield. Unlike Lewis and Tolkien who placed their stories inside fantasy worlds. Williams surreal tales take place in a contemporary and real setting.

Another difference is that while seeming to attain a definite Christian premise concerning good and evil as well as pointing to an eternal development in the condition of the human soul, Williams seems to veer from Orthodoxy by implying that people can still come to salvation after they are dead.

Overall, a book well worth reading.

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He is writing that sort of book in which we begin by saying, let us suppose that this everyday world were at some one point invaded by the marvelous.

— C. S. Lewis on Charles Williams' novels
Charles Williams (188601945)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Owner of the House by Louis Simpson
 Water Lillies by Claude Monet (1840-1946)

 I'm listening to La Mer by Claude Debussy.  French Impressionist Music is one of my favorite genres. Ideally you should listen to Debussy or Ravel while looking at paintings by Monet, Cezanne, or Pissaro.  The flood of brilliant chords washing over each other with their stretched tonality, which at the time was pushing the musical envelope in Western culture, is the audible equivalent to the Impressionist painters pushing contemporary artistic limits defining form and color.

The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001 by Louis Simpson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fellow blogger reviewed a poem by Louis Simpson and it intrigued me so I bought this book.

I find his poems to be reflective and as capable as giving me a vision of what he's writing about as if he had taken a professional, artistic photograph. A photograph with the same dream like, haunting quality of Diane Arbus' work, except Simpson does it with his writing.

Simpson's parents are European, his mother is Russian Jewish, but Simpson was raised on the island of Jamaica. His poetry encompasses his heritage, particularly the persecution of Jews in WWII, culture on a Caribbean island and his later immigration to America.

Poetry provokes aesthetic responses. The style and substance may resonate with the reader or not. Simpson's did with me.

Here is one of his shorter poems.  Like the impressionist music and art, it suggests images through the words as they enter into the reader's mind.

As Birds Are Fitted to the Boughs

As birds are fitted to the boughs
That blossom on the tree
And whisper when the south wind blows-
So was my love to me.

And still she blossoms in my mind
And whispers softly, though
The clouds are fitted to the wind,
The wind is to the snow.

And perhaps someone could explain the following poem to me.  I've been puzzling and puzzling over it.


Adele said, "I know a game.
Each of us has to describe
his or her most embarrassing moment.
Then we'll all four take a vote,
and the winner will have a prize."

Joe told of going for a swim
and walking out of the showers
to find himself standing naked
at poolside, in plain view.
He had walked through the wrong door.

Maura's most embarrassing moment,
she said, was the evening
Joe's parents came to dinner
She made a shrimp remoulade,
and ruined it entirely.

Adele's most embarrassing moment,
she said, was at Carnegie Hall,
in the Divertimento for Strings
She played a wrong note, a clinker.
She could have died.

Maura was staring at Adele.
Then she said it was late
and they had to be going.
Maura and Joe are no longer
 a foursome with Frank and Adele. 

So what actually went on there?  Was Adele setting everyone up to feel stupid so she could then brag about playing at Carnagie Hall?  Did she not foresee that she would lose Maura and Joe's friendship?  Or was this her way of getting rid of Maura and Joe and in a nasty way to boot?  Or am I assuming the worst?

A thank you goes out to Tim Davis at Informal Inquiries for making me aware of Louis Simpson.  I also have his biography which I will review as soon as I read.

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Louis Aston Marantz Simpson (March 27, 1923 – September 14, 2012) was an American poet  born in Jamaica. He won the 1964 Pulitzer for his work At the End of the Open Road. (source:  Wikipedia)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hippolytus by Euripides translated by David Grene

The man on the book cover looks like he's in agony.  Is it because of the merciless doom that descends on all mankind at the hands of capricious gods?  Or is it because my parrot, Hercule, has bitten sizeable chunks out of the side of his book?

I wrote this review at a late hour, hopefully it doesn't come across too sassy.

HippolytusHippolytus by Euripides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again, the gods ruin everyone's lives and also cause their tragic death by execution or suicide. Sucks being an ancient Greek.

Hippolytus worships Artemis, the Virgin goddess and out of devotion remains chaste. Aphrodite considers this a personal affront and decides to avenge herself against him by causing his stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him.

While his father, Theseus is away, Phaedra, after spending pages lamenting her lot and helpless desire, confides her plight to her nurse. The nurse, who obviously can't keep a secret, tells Hippolytus. Hippolytus then embarks on his own lengthy soliloquy, railing against the wretched nature of women and their inferiority. He's so ugly about it that I almost didn't care what was about to happen to him, the jerk.

Nevertheless, it isn't fair what happens. Theseus comes home to find his wife has hanged herself. She has left a tablet on which she has written that Hippolytus has raped her. Theseus is enraged and exiles his son, then calls upon his father, Poseidon to avenge him, which he obligingly does, proving that the Greek gods are not omniscient or Poseidon would have known Hippolytus was innocent. Then again, considering how he treated Odysseus, maybe he's just a sorry sapsucker.

 Artemis comes to inform Theseus of the truth of the matter but it is too late. Poor timing on her part, but even the gods cannot thwart the fates.  Theseus rushes to his dying son, who forgives him.

It's interesting how often mankind is shown to have greater honor and virtue than the gods in many of these plays and sagas.  That raises many questions.  How did Greeks come to worshiping such gods and how did they arrive at the conclusion that these gods were unjust?

 Many of these plays and poems seem to demonstrate that gods are inferior to man in morals.  Even Zeus acquired his position through "might makes right." Prometheus Bound, a play I will review later, more fully develops this idea.

The chorus plays a small role in this play, only occasionally inserting a third person narrative, usually a lament.

All of the Greek plays I have read so far seem to implicitly describe a great force that draws mankind like an inexorable twine of steel along a predestined path. Plays are mostly dialogue, but through the words one can hear the cry of mankind feeling coerced into traveling a line of destiny through a travesty of events that cause their doom.

I wonder how they arrived at this conclusion? Could it be the result of ancient peoples turning from their authentic Creator and worshiping false gods and ultimately becoming enslaved by their own falsehood?

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Agamemnon by Aeschylus Translated by Richmond Lattimore

When my mother's eyesight deteriorated to the point she could no longer read books, (she can, fortunately still read on her Kindle using a large font) she let me take what I wanted, so I took a lot of her books back to my home.  

One of them was this collection of Greek Tragedies.  I don't know if Lattimore is the best translation.  I found it readable which is all I require.  Someone else might suggest another translation.

Agamemnon (Oresteia, #1)Agamemnon by Aeschylus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have not read a lot of Greek plays so it took me awhile to understand what was happening. I should have read the introduction first, which would have made events clearer.

However, I'm also glad I didn't because it allowed me to arrive at my own conclusions.

For those of you who don't know, Agamemnon was Commander-in-Chief of the Greeks who fought at Troy. He sacrifices his daughter to appease Artemis. This play is one of vengeance and also intrigue.

Agamemnon comes home with Cassandra, his prize by lot. Cassandra is a prophetess who has been doomed by Apollo for refusing him. Therefore, she prophesies but is not believed.

In this play she prophecies her own doom and also Agamemnon's.

I won't tell more because some readers might not know the story as I didn't so found the development contained a couple of surprising twists.

But what one really enjoys in reading Greek plays is the form. I found that very interesting.

The dialogue carried on back and forth between a person speaking a monologue and the chorus. Soloist, Chorus, Soloist, Chorus.

This is very much how classical concerto form is structured. As a musician I recognized this. Look at Handel's Messiah. Every chorus is preceded by a soloist. Or a piano or violin concerto, it is the same form. The same is true for Opera.

Even in a Mozart Piano Sonata the melodic line starts with a "soloist", then a chorus.

So my greatest interest in this play was the form more so than the substance, since the storyline was quite simple and also told in the Odyssey.

If you don't already know the story there are some unexpected twists.

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While I was reading, Hercule occupied himself with my bookmark.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Henderson the Rain King and Herzog by Saul Bellow

Recently I joined GoodReads and I am linking up my reviews here with there as an experiment.  We'll see how this works.

I haven't read Bellow in years but I'm going to be reading him now because I bought three collections of his stories from the Library of America.  I remember in my twenties I liked him but I was frustrated by the lack of storyline.  Now I know better.  There is never really any story line in Bellow's novels, only the stream of conscious thoughts of the protagonist as he tries to figure his life out.

Henderson the Rain King

Henderson the Rain KingHenderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is just a crazy book about a man, Henderson, traveling to Africa and trying to help out some native tribes. With one tribe he succeeds in destroying their only water cistern. The next tribe tries to make him their next king because he participates in some native dance which causes rain.

As is true for most of Bellow's stories, the protagonist is on some kind of journey where he is struggling to discover just who he is, what he wants, and why he is suffering the way he is. He desires something that is always out of reach and attempting to get it takes him to some interesting, sometimes terrible places, including disconcerting discoveries about himself.

 We hear Henderson's voice in the first person as he explains his life to us.  He is married once, then twice to women that are as bizarre as he is.  I cannot really figure out why he left his first wife for the second except that he was tired of her.  The second wife is a bit crazy, but she was somehow able to lure him away from the first wife through sex appeal, for lack of a better description. This is a common theme in Bellow's works.  Man thinking through his nether region as Chaucer or Shakespeare might say (or might not, who am I to presume?).

Bellow's characters do a lot of nether region thinking and tend to find themselves married to psycho-women.

Henderson runs to Africa.  He is always searching for something, but what?  He wants to be a millionaire and he gets it through an inheritance.  He buys a pig farm (Henderson is not Jewish but Bellow is and I wonder if he's trying to say something satirical) but it doesn't satisfy.

"I want, I want!" is his rallying cry and the recurring theme of this novel.

So he is in Africa and meets up with natives.  One tribe  is suffering from thirst; their cattle are dying, but not because there is no water.  Their water hole has frogs in it and the superstitions of the tribe prevent them from drinking from it or even letting their cattle drink.

Henderson is inspired to do something.  He decides to blow the frogs out of the water hole with dynamite.  He succeeds and also destroys the water hole.  He leaves.

His next encounter is with a tribe whose King wants Henderson to help him recover his Father who has been reincarnated as a lion.

Before this episode, however, Henderson must participate in a dance that will make it rain. He does and it rains.  He also moves a statue of the tribe's goddess.  Frankly I did not understand a whole lot of what was going on here.  Why did he need to move the statue?

Or why did he need to learn how to act like a lion, other than to communicate with the King's father?  It does not turn out as planned and the lion kills the King and Henderson is next in line to be King.

But he does not want to become king.  Upon first arriving at the tribal land he stays the night in a building wherein is a dead man.  Who this man is is a mystery but not forever.   Henderson realizes that the dead man in the building was the previous king to the current one and it doesn't take a brain surgeon, or any kind of surgeon, to realize what the future will hold for him.

So Henderson escapes and returns to his family and his pig farm.

I have to admit that while I like reading Bellow's style, I really did not understand this book at all and I must say reading about Henderson roving about Africa  was not terribly interesting.

HerzogHerzog by Saul Bellow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unlike Henderson the Rain King, Herzog is written in the third person limited narrative. We hear only Herzog's thoughts, see things from his perspective...this is normally how Bellow narrates his stories.

Herzog (like Henderson) has left his first wife and young son for a seamy siren whom he marries and with whom he eventually has a young daughter. Again, like Henderson's second wife, Herzog's second wife is nuts. She leaves him for one of Herzog's friends (always an especially low blow) and tries to keep him away from their daughter.

Herzog spends a lot of time thinking to himself. He thinks about his wives, his friends, famous people, their actions, how these actions affected him, how his participation fit in with everyone else's behavior. He decides to write letters to every single one of these people and explain to them their role in his life and his opinion of them and himself.

While he recovers from his wife's betrayal, he meets another woman, Ramona, who is gorgeous and eager. She carefully prepares her apartment, culinary talents and personality, not to mention her talent as a sex partner to dazzle and completely him win over.

She is a woman in her thirties who is running out of time.

Herzog enjoys all she has to offer but there is something inside of him that says, this is a little too artificial. Hadn't he been here before with the last wife? Another part of him wants to believe that this next chapter is going to erase the misery of the previous chapters of his life.

The story ends with us not knowing where Herzog is going.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

I am on a French Impressionist track these days.  Currently I am listening to Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major, Second movement.

A couple of days ago I ran into a woman who worked in the office of the school where I taught for several years.  She reminded me why I don't subscribe to the local paper:  I'm tired of seeing former students photos there.

Not for earning awards or any graduating from college. But because they are dead or in jail.  

My former colleague told me that a student I taught in the fourth and fifth grade was now going to prison for murder.

I remember this boy as being a behavior problem and I did my best by allowing him to come in to my music room and help me set up each morning.  Probably he was glad to get out of his homeroom class, but I found if I could develop relationships with my students outside of class, it helped with discipline issues. 

A couple of years later when I walked into the Middle School where he was, he saw me and greeted me with a big smile.  That surprised me because I had never seen him smile before.

I know there are deeper and more serious reasons why too many children are turning out the way they are but I also saw that the children we taught were getting more and more out of control, not only because of their chaotic home life, but because we as teachers are not allowed to provide any consequences for bad behavior. And, frankly, we teachers spend more time with these children than their parents do.

Why do I mention this? (And sorry if I've depressed my readers, I'm feeling a little depressed myself since I learned about this student.)  Because the book I'm reviewing offers some acute observations as to why too many students are falling through the cracks.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your ChildTen Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would give this book ten stars if I could. It should be required reading for anyone with children.

Esolen writes in the form of irony. He tells you all the effective ways that will kill your child's imagination, sense of wonder, creativity, appreciation for nature, a healthy view of love and sex and body image, and sense of the transcendental.

Each chapter breaks down exactly how to accomplish this. Carefully follow his instructions and you too can have a child that will roll along on that assembly line of correct thinking, and conform to ideologies dictated by mass entertainment (he refused to call it pop culture because there's nothing cultural about it) and they will be shoved out at the end into a nihilistic, bleak, adult who can then turn around and start the process over with their own children. 

Perhaps needless to say, his narrative is sarcastic, at times bitingly so.  Those who don't agree with his stance may not appreciate it.

A few of his admonitions:

1. Don't peddle truth; only shades of grey because all ideas have equal merit.

2. Keep your child indoors as much as possible, preferably in front of a television set so they will be unable to truly socialize with other children, create their own games, songs, chants, or how to resolve conflict for themselves. Keep them forever monitored.

3. Keep them in public school for longer and longer hours and shrink summer vacation because spending eight hours or more a day under florescent lights in a windowless room is healthy. Make sure recess is minimal as well as lunch to prevent any free socialization. This must all be managed by adults- but not their parents; their parents need time to be themselves as they pursue their careers.

4. Games must be formal and structured by adults in the form of sports. This also will prevent actual socialization and cull the imagination.

5. Replace fairy tales with political cliches and fads. Better yet, crush their spirit by making them constantly fearful that the world is about to be destroyed by evil people who are bent on destroying the environment, making animals endangered, and let's not forget "global warming" oh wait... we're calling that "climate change" now...anyway, don't let them read actual books from bygone times. Oh, and don't let them look at great art or listen to great music. Those things irreparably spark the imagination.

6. Ridicule anything that is heroic or patriotic.

7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex.

8. Level distinctions between man and woman (or spay and geld).

9. Distract children with the shallow and unreal. And surround them with noise. They must never, ever have moments of silence.

and finally:

10. Deny the transcendent or fix above the heads of men the lowest ceiling of all.

I thought the book was refreshingly honest, especially after spending several years as a public school teacher. He knows what he is talking about and expresses his acutely perceptive observations with a shrewd eye for language or as someone who actually spent most of his childhood outside, reading quality books and quietly contemplating the transcendent.

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For those who pray, please pray for this young man.  He is the same age as my son.  They went to school together.  Horrible things happen to people in prison and I just pray for his salvation and protection.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Korea Style by Marcia Iwatate

Korea StyleKorea Style by Marcia Iwatate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was very interesting. I liked the narration that explained the architectural and decoration goals of the owners and their collaboration with the architects. Also how it pointed details in each photo of the placement of the furniture, statures, or the history of specific ornaments.

Coffee tables or other utilitarian pieces of furniture such as lamps and end tables often were originally other things like a fisherman's cutting board etc.

Nothing in the rooms are left to chance. Each thing has its purpose and space.

The rooms are bare and ascetic as if they were meant to be used as mediation spaces based on Buddhist philosophy. Nothing to distract the emptying of the mind.

Rice paper is placed on windows to create a soft glow of filtered light. But many modern windows were clear in order to better enjoy the outer courtyards with their foliage and waters. This seems to be a common tradition of Korean houses: an inner courtyard. I would like to know more of the history and purpose of this tradition.

A lot the things are organic: wooden tables, stones as decoration. But interestingly the outsides were very modern, the walls made of steel and concrete, although there were a few traditional Hanok houses included.

Having said that, as much as I admired the simplicity and beauty I know could not live in such bare dwelling places. I would find the emptiness oppressive, not peaceful. I need more warmth, more detail, more visual stimulation, more books. I like my house because the walls are wrapped in books.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Case of the Queenly Contestant by Eric Stanley Gardner; Widows Wear Weeds by A.A. Fair

The Case of the Queenly Contestant (A Perry Mason Mystery)The Case of the Queenly Contestant by Erle Stanley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Typical fun read with Perry Mason and his sidekick Della Street. No spoilers!

A woman with a regal baring comes to Mason to retain him. She tells him that the newspaper for her local town wants to find her whereabouts and she at all costs wants to remain anonymous.

Twenty years ago she left her small town after winning a beauty contest and headed for Hollywood. Life did not go as planned and for reasons she's not willing to divulge even to her lawyer she is desperate to keep the newspaper and the townsfolk from knowing her whereabouts.

Mason must find out her secret. He must also find out why the local newspaper wants to discover what happened to her. Is it really just idle curiosity over a local or is there a more sinister reason?

The fact that two Private Investigators from the town are shadowing Mason make him believe the latter.

The story moved at a good pace, kept my attention and piqued my curiosity. Gardner knows how to structure a plot line without any unnecessary events or conversation that would congest the overall arch.

Not a deep or profound story, Gardner's no Dostoevsky but he's enjoyable to read the same way eating a handful of Hershey Kisses tastes great. Just don't make an exclusive diet of it. Perfect for a weekend curl up.

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Widows Wear WeedsWidows Wear Weeds by A.A. Fair

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A.A. Fair is a pseudonym for Eric Stanley Gardner who wrote the Perry Mason series. Out of curiosity I bought a collection of books that he wrote under a different name about two different sort of mystery solvers.

No spoilers.

I think there is a book that writes about the meeting of the two protagonists but I wasn't sure if I had it so I plunged in with the first book I plucked off my shelf.

A.A. Fair's mysteries involve an oddball couple: Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. Together they run a private detective agency. How they met, I don't know but they took up shop together and at least in this mystery the arrangement works.

Bertha Cool is no Della Street. She is built like a cement truck and carries all the finesse and charm of one. She's rough, crude and gets what she wants, which is to make sure they get paid well for their casework.

Donald Lam, a slender handsome man of smallish stature, is the one on the streets doing the actual investigating. He also seems to be the one with the most brains. Other than finances, Bertha Cool doesn't seem to have a whole lot of foresight, a trait that is starkly demonstrated in this story.

The story: Nicholas Baffin, a local restaurant owner, comes to Lam and Cool because he is being blackmailed. He wants Lam to meet the blackmailer with him and pay him off. Lam informs Baffin that blackmailers have a way of demanding more and more money and the worst thing one could do is pay them.

No, no, Nicholas Baffin insists. We need to pay him off and be done with it. It's not for him, understand, but for the famous movie star that he has compromised and, in fact, it is her money that is going to the blackmailer.

Things sound sketchy to Donald but Baffin is paying well and Bertha's eyes go "kaching!" so they take the case. Everything seems weird from the get go and afterwards, Lam discovers that the blackmail scheme was a set up, but why? Why would a man risk his marriage by pretending to be having an affair and being blackmailed?

Another strange incident: Nicholas Baffin invites Lam, Cool and the Chief of Police to eat at his restaurant. They are placed at a table where they are in the spotlight. Obviously, Baffin wants everyone to know they are there. What happens next (no spoiler!) compromises them all and sets a turgid series of events that makes it tempting to all involved to disengage in dishonest practices so as not to be incriminated to a horrible crime.

This was a very quick read and just as fun as the Perry Mason novels. I am impressed that Gardner was able to adeptly write mystery novels in a way that did not imitate his other novels. Lam and Cool are very different people, as I said, and the story line, at least in this book was developed in a different way than the Mason mysteries.

Good, old school reading.

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Eric Stanley Gardner
A.A. Fair

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

 My little buddy likes to watch me write.  He especially enjoys the music I listen to.  Currently it's Boy With a Coin by Iron and Wine. 

The Thin ManThe Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nick Charles is a retired detective who has quit the profession to devote himself to Nora, his rich wife, and her financial investments.  However, Clyde Wynant, an eccentric inventor is missing and his secretary, Julia Wolff, is found dead in her apartment.  She is found by Wynant's ex-wife who is looking for him.

So who killed her?  That is the premise.  The rest is your basic formula of rounding up suspects and witnesses, each colorful characters in their own right.

Well. What did I think?

It was a good mystery. Mostly it was playful banter between Nick and Nora Charles as they flirt and question and party with suspects, witnesses and innocent bystanders. Let me give a sample conversation which I made up but is not much of a caricature.

Nick: Darling you looking ravishing!

Nora: Why thank you darling. Another drink?

Nick: Not you, dear.  I was talking to the sexy young thing, who is mad as a hatter and may have killed her father, standing next to you and I will have a drink.

Nora: (Giggle) Darling, you are incorrigible, it almost makes me not sorry to be outrageously flirting with the very handsome man who is also a murder suspect. I think I'll have a Scotch.

Nick: Make me a Scotch too and why should you be sorry? We're a modern progressive couple who thumbs our noses at Prohibition.  Why adhere to other social norms? You know I'm not serious. You're the only lovely lady for me.

Nora: That's comforting, but you're not finished with your vodka.

Nick: I will be in two minutes.

Nora and Nick: Laugh, laugh, laugh! 

Nora:  Oh, what about the murder?

Nick: Isn't it obvious who did it?

Nora: Is it?

Nick: Yes. Now let's continue flirting and drinking.

Nora: Yes, let's.

Of course, Hammett is a lot wittier than me but that's mostly what I got out of the story: a lot of conversation that didn't seem to go anywhere. Maybe it was in his contract to write so many words, which would explain the unnecessary dialogue.

I can't say I didn't enjoy it or would never read a Hammett again. It was not uninteresting and maybe the movies are better. It's a question of taste, I suppose.

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Postscript:  Josh and I just watched the movie.  The book is better. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Things have come to a head in the Wilfong household.  The wife knows she has a problem, but the husband is sympathetic.  The wife has wanted a parrot for a long time.  The husband says she can have a parrot if they give away three guinea pigs.  Wife simply can't.  Wife thinks.

What if wife abstains from buying another book until she has read every single book already in the house?

Husband calculates.  That would actually save money, the parrot's initial cost and maintenance costing less each month than wife's book budget.  


I haven't come up with a name yet.  He's an Indian Ringneck Parrot.  My sister has been suggesting Bagheera, Baloo, Kaa and Shere Khan but I'm not feeling it.

Maybe something bookish?  Hercule Parroh kind of appeals to me.  I'm open to suggestions.

The Warden  (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1)The Warden by Anthony Trollope

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Warden is the first of of six books called the Chronicles of Barsetshire. At 157 pages it is the shortest but extremely interesting.

Septimus Harding is the warden of an almshouse for twelve bedesmen. Bedesmen are elderly retired men who are payed to pray for their benefactor.

A medieval bequest allotted a certain sum of money for the living of these twelve men and also the warden. At this time the twelve men were living off of a paltry sum that barely paid for their room and board while the warden was living in luxury in a large house, spending his evenings playing his beloved instruments and socializing.

John Bold, a zealous young man, sees the disparity and decides to take legal action against the warden so that the money can be more equitably distributed.

The Archdeacon, Mr. Grantly, who is also Harding's son-in-law, browbeats the bedesmen and also his father-in-law, insisting that the money is distributed at it should and the elderly men should be grateful for their living.

The story gets into the press because Bold has mentioned the lawsuit to a friend who writes for the Jupiter. The public takes a dim view of what they see as exploitation of the poor and abuse of authority by the Warden. The Church in Barchester begins to receive bad publicity.

Surprisingly, the Warden himself is guilt-ridden and worries that the bequest has not been carried out as intended. A further complication is that John Bold is in love with Harding's daughter.

I won't retell the story, that's just to get the ball rolling. What makes this story interesting is how well Trollope dresses his characters. There are no cartoonish parodies as in a Dickens or Austin novel. Even the Archdeacon, who is quite a blowhard, has his vulnerable side, as manifested in his relationship to his wife.

As in other Trollope novels I find myself asking, "How is this going to turn out?" The Warden is not a story of high action and suspense, yet there is a certain amount of "pressure" if you will, that urges one on to the end towards the resolution.

Another quality I enjoy in Trollope's novels like this one is that he shows how people think. Especially people who are doing things they know they should not be doing. It's insightful to see how they justify to themselves and their world why they are acting the way they are. Surprisingly, some don't try to justify themselves and honestly enjoy what they are doing for the sake of it being bad.

I only have the sixth in the series after this and since I am currently on a book buying fast, I don't know if I should read the last book or wait.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Socrates by Paul Johnson

Socrates: A Man for Our TimesSocrates: A Man for Our Times by Paul  Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A concise overview of Socrates based on what little information we have. While Johnson may employ some guesswork as to what part of Plato's Republic is Socrates or Plato coloring Socrates with his own ideals, he is no more guilty than most historians on this point.

I notice that some reviewers have been harsh almost to the point of vitriol on Johnson "infusing his Christian ideals" on poor Socrates. Every single historian has a slant or bias and to think otherwise is naive. It's the reader's responsibility to read with discernment as well as many other sources.

While this book is not the most in depth or exhaustive biography, Johnson does have a good suggested reading list that points the reader to good sources.

This book serves as a good introduction to the philosopher's life.

I have read several of Johnson's biographies and I find them to be short, highly readable, and always respectful of his subject, which is not always true with other biographers.  His research is meticulous and his conclusions well-supported.

I had always had a hard time separating Plato and Socrates and now I know why.  Plato recorded much of what we know about Socrates in his Dialogues.  Johnson insists that at the beginning Plato faithfully records Socrates words and ideals but later starts to record them through the lens of his personal biases.  Johnson delineates the two for us but also tells the reader that ultimately they have to decide for himself which is pure Socrates and which is a hybrid of Plato and Socrates.

Based on what little we know because Socrates wrote nothing down, Socrates grew up neither poor nor rich. He  fought in the Peloponnisian War.  He never sought riches and apparently refused to receive wages for his teaching, unlike other contemporary philosophers who profited well by becoming household teachers or teachers for hire.  

He had a wife and children, but it is not explained how he took care of them since he never worked but taught for free.

His philosophy was founded on the belief that morals are absolute and he is primarily known for his teaching on ethics.  His method of teaching was to deconstruct everything his pupils said. He taught them through debate.

He met every statement with a "Why do you think that?" "How can you substantiate your position?" and often gave the opposing view in order to cause the other person to come up with counterarguments.

Socrates believed in absolute good and consequently did not believe in the Greek gods because they were obviously not good, but rather tyrannical, childish, selfish and capricious.  This did not make him popular with many Greek citizens.

But he did believe in the supernatural and even a "God" although perhaps not aware of or acknowledging the God of the Bible.This book gave me a better appreciation of St. Paul's experience when he tried to engage the Athenians in discussing the "Unknown God". It also increases my understanding when in Acts 17:16-21:

 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”  Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (ESV)

A famous situation is when an Oracle declares there is none wiser than Socrates.  Socrates protests, claiming to know nothing but upon discovering that most people think they know a lot he concludes that he is the wisest because, unlike others, he is aware of how little he knows. 

In fact a Socrates paradox is "I know that I know nothing."

He was an ardent Athenian and refused to live anywhere else, even when he was condemned to die by suicide.  He refused to escape even though he apparently could.  The reason for his trial and death was because of political infighting and Socrates' criticism of what he considered Athenians' immoral practice of city politics. 

Now I have Plato's Dialogues on my list and I hope to read them soon. 

I also have a biography of Darwin by Johnson that should prove interesting.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner

Another beautiful rainy day.  I'm listening to Fountain, a piano solo by Maurice Ravel.  Simply perfect for posting a new book review.  Hopefully you will enjoy reading thoughtful commentary on an interesting book while listening to wistful, reflective music.  A gray sky would make it all perfect.  (You in the north may disagree but cool weather is so delightfully refreshing here in Texas.)

The Little Book of PlagiarismThe Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is brief, interesting and quickly read. Posner is a judge in the United States Second Court of Appeals and a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school. In this book he defines plagiarism, explains the difference between it and copyright infringement and when it is actually a crime.

He lists some famous examples of modern plagiarists plus a history of plagiarists in the past. He discusses why plagiarism is a crime, why should it be a crime and why some plagiarists should be more severely punished than others. Also, he points to times in the past when plagiarism was not considered much of a crime, or a crime at all, and why.

He also cites a few famous authors who, because of famous and influential friends, did not suffer career losses, even though they were exposed as blatant and prolific plagiarists.

I felt his writing could have been clearer at times ("Should plagiarism be a crime or a tort? It should not be.") Excuse me, but that was an "either or" question and if "tort" means the same thing as "crime" than you should have inserted a comma after crime or in some way made it clear that you were using a synonym and not asking a question that demands a choice.

That is one of a number of obtuse expressions of which Posner is guilty.

Also, I disagree with his attitude that the only reason plagiarism is wrong is because it puts the plagiarist in commercial competition with the original author. How about stealing from the author is morally wrong? You deserve to be discredited and punished for that.

He includes quotes from some people who do not believe there is anything wrong with plagiarism because of their egalitarian philosophies:

"Notions of genius, of individual creativity, and of authorial celebrity, which inform the condemnation of plagiarism, make the leftist uncomfortable because they seem to celebrate inequality and 'possessive individualism' (that is, capitalism)."

He writes of another self-described "liberatory pedagogy" believes that students "should not be punished for 'patchwriting'.

Overall the book is worth reading, especially if you are an aspiring writer (like me:) )

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