Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A List

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, by Alexander McCall Smith. Does Mma Makutsi finally get to wed her beloved Phuti Radiphuti? What do her shoes tell her in this installment? Does Precious Ramotswe finally confront a case which she can't quite unravel? I like this series, and this newest book in the series does not disappointment. I like the courtesy of the old Botswana ways. I like the genuine but not showy affection Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni feel for one another. These books are comfortable.

Three Dialogs of Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett. I read this because it was the next book in a course of study I have set myself. The three dialogs are The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. It's been long enough since I finished Crito (my course of study is going forward slowly) that I don't recall what it's about. Oops; so much for learning anything from my course of study. The Apology is Socrates' defense of himself when he was brought up on charges of corrupting the youth and corrupting worship. Phaedo is an account of the conversation Socrates had with his followers when in jail on the day he was to drink the hemlock. I like The Apology. If Socrates was as he is presented as being, he was a truly noble man.

The Wordsmith's Tale, by Stephen Edden. This was interesting and well-written, poetic and whimsical. The narrator tells his family story, beginning with his great-grandfather, which is a story interwoven with English history. It begins before William the Conqueror sets foot on English soil, and ends after his death. As the narrator was a storyteller by trade he shares some of his stock of stories as he tells his family story, and his stock resembles, in a primitive way, tales familiar to us as folk and fairy stories. There is much sadness in this book, and a fair amount of sexual references, but the story was interesting and the writing was fine.

The Three-Arched Bridge, by Ismail Kadare. I believe this is the first book by an Albanian author I have ever read. It was great. Spooky, like Poe. I was reading it one night, when my husband was at work, and I had to set the book aside to wait either for morning light or for the presence of another adult in the house. And yet the spookiness is not the point of the story. The story of the book takes place in Albania a long time ago. The narrator is a learned monk. The threat of Turkish domination is looming on the horizon. Of all the books on this list, this book has the distinction of possessing the greatest literary merit. (We'll allow The Apology to have the greatest philosophical merit.)

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, translated by Hastings Crossley (isn't that a great name?). Epictetus was a Stoic. These Golden Sayings of his promote that bracing view of life. As it happens I am also reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. The contrast between the two books is striking. While to some degree they counsel reaching for the same goal, that of not complaining, but accepting one's lot (Epictetus of course refers to gods, while Burroughs to God), yet they are worlds apart. Epictetus expects you to find the strength you need to be stoical within yourself. Burroughs offers the help of the Holy Spirit. Epictetus speaks as if one can stand before the gods and sincerely claim to merit their approbation. Burroughs confirms that one needs a mediator between oneself and God. Epictetus does away with all excessive feelings. Burroughs allows that one may feel the pain of one's circumstances, may plead with God with tears and lamentations, yet submit to His will. I do think there is value in reading Epictetus; it could stiffen one's spine with good, but not with the best, reasons. But it is not a work of grace (not that I expected it to be).

On the Narrow Road: Journey into a Lost Japan, by Lesley Downer. The author took a walking tour of Japan, following in the footsteps of Japan's Shakespeare, Matsuo Basho (of the 17th century). The author weaves together her own experience, the experience of Basho, and the more distant history of Japan (Basho himself followed in the footsteps of a legendary Japanese warrior, Yoshitsune). I enjoyed this book and appreciated the view it provided into a culture I know very little about. Ms. Downer jumped around chronologically a bit too rapidly from time to time, leaving me occasionally confused as to which of the three eras she was talking about. Aside from that problem I thought the book was well-written. She mentioned that 'why' is not a question considered appropriate in polite Japanese circles. That left me wondering, do the children there not go through a 'why' phase? Or is just squashed quickly? It also made me aware of how often I ask why. It's a word that escapes my lips multitudinous times a day.

And with that I am caught up! Time for a little victory dance. I had begun to wonder if I could maintain a blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment