Literature

Recommended books and media

Here is a list of the books and media I’ve read over the years that I have either (a) enjoyed the most or (b) learned the most from. Within each category, authors are listed alphabetically. Where more than one book is listed for an author, I’ve listed the books in order of preference. Fiction/Literature/Literary Nonfiction: Dante Alighieri, Inferno Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine; Fahrenheit 451Willa Cather, O Pioneers!; My Antonia Albert Camus, The Stranger

Readings from the stories of John Cheever

It was after four then, and I lay in the dark, listening to the rain and to the morning trains coming through. They come from Buffalo and Chicago and the Far West, through Albany and down along the river in the early morning, and at one time or another I’ve traveled on most of them, and I lay in the dark thinking about the polar air in the Pullman cars and the smell of nightclothes and the taste of dining-car water and the way it feels to end a day in Cleveland or Chicago and begin another in New York, particularly after you’ve been away for a couple of years, and particularly in the summer.

Readings from Charles Taylor and Erich Auerbach

One way to put the question I want to answer here is this: why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable? … Important as science is to our present outlook, we mustn’t exaggerate its causal role here, and make it the main motor of the transformation. Our encasing in secular time is also something we have brought about in the way we live and order our lives.

A vacation and a reading list: a personal update

It’s hard to believe how quickly things happen. My summer term - roughly six hours a day, five days a week of education classes - is drawing to a close, and as of Friday afternoon I’ll be free for an entire month (the life of a student is good - certainly beats two or three weeks of vacation over the course of a year). I’ll be in Colorado (Boulder, Telluride, Denver) for almost two weeks, in Chicago for one, and in Muskegon for one - as well as a few days of camping in Northern Michigan with friends.

Should we finish the books we begin? It depends.

In an article published in Friday’s Washington Times, economist Tyler Cowen makes several interesting and provocative arguments about reading and books. 1. “What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?” Cowen says: “Give up.” 2. “We should treat books a little more like we treat TV channels,” (Cowen) argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring series.”

Quotes from Michael Walzer and Harold Bloom

At the very center of conservative thought lies this idea: that the present division of wealth and power corresponds to some deeper reality of human life. …They want to say that whatever the division of wealth and power is, it naturally is, and that all efforts to change it, temporarily successful in proportion to their bloodiness, must be futile in the end. Michael Walzer –“In Defense of Equality” in Howe, ed.

Quotes from Bishop, Hayden, Olson, and Melville

From The Man-Moth He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky, proving the sky quite useless for protection. –Elizabeth Bishop From Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday Oh who and oh who will sing Jesus down to help with struggling and doing without and being colored all through blue Monday? Till way next Sunday? –Robert Hayden From Questions of Travel Should we have stayed at home,

Excerpts from Czeslaw Milosz's 'Milosz's ABC's'

I made it, but I have always tried to remember that I owe it to my lucky star, not to myself, and that right next door are entire neighborhoods of unfortunates. I will say even more: the thought of their grueling labor and unfulfilled hope, of the gigantic prison system in which the unneeded are kept, taught me to look skeptically at (America’s) decorations - those well-kept houses amidst the suburbs’ greenery.

Quotes from Edward Abbey and John Cheever

We make the coffee with river water, dipping a canful from among the rocks and letting it set for a time until the silt settles to the bottom. For entertainment we have the murmur of the river, the drone of cicada and amphibians, the show of nighthawks plunging through the evening gulping bugs. Afterwards we sit by the fire until the fire gives out, listening, smoking, analyzing socioeconomic problems: “Look here, Newcombe,” I say, “do you think it’s fitting that you and I should be here in the wilds, risking our lives amidst untold hardships, while our wives nad loved ones lounge at their ease back in Albuquerque, enjoying the multifold comforts, benefits and luxuries of modern contemporary twentieth century American urban civilization?

Readings from Camus and Melville

I once said that, after the experiences of the last two years, I could no longer hold to any truth which might oblige me, directly or indirectly, to demand a man’s life. Certain friends whom I respected retorted that I was living in Utopia, that there was no political truth which could not one day reduce us to such an extremity, and that we must therefore either run the risk of this extremity or else simply put up with the world as it is.