Lasko-Gross – Henni

Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross
Date read: 24 May 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc

Cover image of Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross

Paperback, 155 pages
Published 2015 (First ed.) by Z2 Comics
Source: Interlibrary Loan, Lane Community College [PN6727.L3683 H46 2015]

I quite enjoyed this tale as the 5-star review shows.

Henni lives in a very restrictive society but she dares to question, which is often a dangerous thing.

“But aren’t you at all curious?”

“”The mouse who peeks in the viper pit is eaten.””

“Yes. People often quote me that proverb.”

“Seriously Henni, “Quiet obedience is the very source of our unity.””

“But are we truly harmonious / or simply skilled in crushing dissent?” (25-26, emphasis in original)

Driven onward by conformists of various sorts, Henni acquires a mission during her search for truth and the application of reason to find someone important to her who is “dead” to the world, their world, just as she now is.

Not a lot of words with quite effective artwork. The color palette is mostly black and white with a bit of blue, blue-green and purple. I am not a great judge of age but perhaps 10-12-year old and up might be a suitable target age.

Highly recommended. Quick read. Important commentary on society.

By the by, I absolutely adore that the subject headings for this are:

  • Dissenters, Religious — Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Reason — Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Teenage girls — Comic books, strips, etc.

This is the 12th book read and 11th reviewed in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

2017 Books To Read Challenge (personal)

This reading challenge–the “Books To Read Challenge (personal)”–is my own attempt to whittle down the to-be-read pile and I have it done it for a couple of years now. In fact, some of these books have been on those previous lists.  They reside on my 2017poss shelf in Goodreads.

There are a total of 85 books which includes some 8 on pause. Of these I challenge myself to complete 2 from each of the 16 categories and a total of 35.

Maybe by upping this number quite a bit—aimed for 12 of 44 in 2016—I will do better at getting through some of these. Then again, I know that’s a laugh because other books will continue to show up and there are already more than 1150 others on the Goodreads to-be-read shelf.

Beer and Brewing

  • Amber, Gold & Black – Cornell
  • The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp …: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes – Joshua Bernstein
  • Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers (Brewing Elements) – John J. Palmer and Kaminski
  • New Brewing Lager – Noonan
  • The Brewer’s Companion – Mosher
  • The Homebrewer’s Companion – Papazian
  • Pubs and progressives : reinventing the public house in England, 1896-1960 – Gutzke

Central Oregon

  • Hiking Oregon’s History – William L. Sullivan    
  • The Deschutes River Railroad War – Speroff
  • Oregon’s Dry Side – St. John

Erotica

  • The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica – Caraway, ed.
  • The Jade Door – Chaiko
  • Burlesque and the Art of the Teese / Fetish and the Art of the Teese – Dita Von Teese, Bronwyn Garrity

History

  • Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend – Karen Essex
  • The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse – Brian Cowan
  • Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage – Stephanie Coontz
  • Hip Hop Family Tree – Piskor
  • Hoptopia – Kopp

Librariana

  • Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age – Alex Wright
  • Everyday Information: The Evolution of Information Seeking in America – Aspray & Hayes, eds.
  • Language and Representation  in Information Retrieval – Blair
  • What is Documentation? – Briet [translation]

Language [Language and related]

  • Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything – David Bellos
  • Integrationist Notes and Papers 2014 – Roy Harris
  • Basic Color Terms – Berlin & Kay
  • The Unfolding of Language – Deutscher

Literature [(lit, poetry, essays, short stories) and literary theory]

  • The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language – Mark Turner
  • Imagination in Place: Essays – Wendell Berry
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino [translation]
  • Seven Gothic Tales – Isak Dinesen
  • Collected Fictions – Borges [translation]
  • Scenes of Clerical Life – Eliot [which ed.?]
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet – Flaubert [translation] [which ed.?]
  • The Little Town Where Time Stood Still – Hrabal [translation] [which ed.?]
  • The Things We Don’t Do – Neumann [translation, short stories] [2015 Open Letter ed.]

Philosophy [loosely defined]

  • Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning – Bradd Shore
  • The Sovereignty of Good – Iris Murdoch
  • You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense – John T. Lysacker
  • Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals – Mark Edmundson
  • Conjectures & Confrontations – Fox
  • Philosophy on Tap – Lawrence

Post 2016 Election

  • Islam: A Short History – Armstrong
  • Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric – Farnsworth
  • Shaming the Devil – Jacobs
  • Wickedness – Midgley
  • Dead Feminists – O’Leary
  • Purity and Danger – Douglas

Renewal

  • The Wayward Mind: An Intimate History of the Unconscious – Guy Claxton
  • Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict – Tsultrim Allione
  • Soul: An Anthology – Cousineau
  • Chi Walking – Dreyer
  • Healing Trauma – Levine

Sex & Gender

  • Straight: The Surprisingly Short History Of Heterosexuality – Hanne Blank
  • Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation – Elissa Stein
  • Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction – Cheever
  • A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis – Friedman

Tech & Software

  • Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas – Seymour Papert
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – Garfield
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation – Pollan
  • Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power – Josef Pieper, Lothar Krauth [translation]

Wander

  • The Practice of Everyday Life – de Certeau [translation, philosophy]
  • Selected Stories – Walser [translation, short stories]
  • The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs – Gooley
  • The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness – Solnit, or one of her others
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder – Taleb

Assorted/Too Lazy to Classify

  • How to Worry Less about Money – John Armstrong
  • Myths, Dream and Mysteries – Eliade
  • Taste – Stuckey [science]
  • Home Comforts – Mendelson

Re-reads

  • Eros the Bittersweet – Carson [renewal]
  • Reverence – Woodruff [renewal]
  • On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year – Roripaugh [poems]
  • What Do We Know – Oliver [poems]
  • Ambitious Brew – Ogle [beer]
  • Wisdom, Information and Wonder – Midgley [philosophy]
  • Middlemarch – Eliot [lit]
  • Winter Hours – Oliver [poems]

On Pause

  • Second-Hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority – Patrick Wilson [Philosophy]
  • Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight – James Atlee [Assorted]
  • Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: Taosports for Extraordinary Performance in Athletics, Business, and Life – Chungliang Al Huang & Jerry Lynch [Assorted]
  • Take Control of Automating Your Mac – Joe Kissell [Tech & Software]
  • The Good Rain: Across Time & Terrain in the Pacific Northwest – Timothy Egan [DPL ebook]
  • The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason – Mark Johnson [Philosophy, Renewal]
  • Full Catastrophe Living – Kabat-Zinn
  • The Breathing Book – Farhi

Clearly some of these books could go in other of these categories. There are also other categories I am tracking not in this list but all of those are covered by something here.

To recap, of a total of 85 books (which includes some 8 on pause) I challenge myself to complete 2 from each of the 16 categories and a total of 35.

Lee and Hart – Messenger

Messenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee and Sam Hart

Date read: 16 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc  2016nfc

Cover image from Lee and Hart's Messenger

Paperback, unpaged
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Another quick read which I quite enjoyed. I am counting it under my 2016 Nonfiction Challenge also as it is based on historical facts. Clearly, the conversations are not “accurate” and so on but that could be the case in any biography. Just because a biography is relatively short and adapted to a graphic novel format does not mean it is no longer a biography nor no longer nonfiction.

This is maybe an hour read so still not a ton of time invested. I am sure I could have found some other way to learn as much about Joan of Arc in as little time but the Wikipedia entry would not have been near as entertaining.

The final page is also accurate but oh so highly entertaining. The things the Church does in the name of God. History weeps.

Recommended.

This is the 4th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 4th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Books read in 2015

It looks like I read 171 titles in 2015 with another 7 re-read which were previously read in other years and 2 re-read which were also first read in 2015. There were, of course, titles skimmed, put on pause and given up on.

This year I have been tracking my reading in a Google Sheet and at Goodreads. Still working out workflow for this mess of an activity; i.e., tracking book reading.

The first grouping will be data from my Google Sheet, followed by some from Goodreads, links to previous 2015 reading-related posts, and a list of titles read in 2015 by gross categories.

Google Sheet

This data consists of total entered in Sheet, breakdown of reading status of titles brought forward from 2014, titles entered in 2015 and their breakdown of reading status, reading challenges, books re-read, ebooks, “genre” breakdowns, and sources for the books.

Total

198 [all are in Goodreads]

Brought forward from 2014:

Total 7
Finished 3
On pause 3
Currently Reading 1

Entered  in 2015:

Total 191
Read 171
Gave up 4
Skimmed 3 [skimmed many I did not enter in Sheet; 34 in 2015 according to Goodreads]
On pause 11
Currently reading 8 + 1 started in 2016

Reading Challenges

My own reading goals for 2015: 9 Read [of 12 committed to] + 2 currently reading + 3 on pause. I may post on this separately but calling it met, if barely.

2015 Reading Challenge: 35* of 50 categories. I may’ve accomplished some of the others but I have no good way of knowing re a couple categories. Not concerned. I may post on this separately. Calling it met; had no real criteria in mind so 35 seems fair.

2015 8th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge: 52. Completed on 25 April 2015. In total, I read 99 graphic novels or manga [does not include rereads: 2015 2 + previous years 2 + 1 gave up] but did not post & link reviews for the challenge.

2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge: 20. Completed 20 April 2015 [includes 1 reread from previous year + 3 in graphic novel challenge also; does not include 3 on pause or 1 I never reviewed]. I finished 68 nonfiction books but clearly did not review or link then to the challenge.

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge: Goal of 75, reached 29 April 2015. Recorded 166 books for 221% of goal. These totals do not include ~3 books re-read nor those titles read and re-read in 2015.

Books Re-read

Total 11
Read 1st in previous year 8 [Nonfiction/Beer, NF/Literature & Language, 2 Graphic Novels, 4 Lit]
Read 1st & 2nd in 2015 3 [Nonfiction/Beer, 2 Graphic Novels]

Titles Re-read

Saunders – Dinner in the Beer Garden
Doyle – Through the Magic Door
Dingess, et al. – Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1: Flora & Fauna $
Folio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City (Girl Genius 13) $
Vaughan & Staples – Saga, Volume One
Vaughan & Staples – Saga, Volume Two
Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Adams – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Adams – Life, The Universe and Everything
Adams – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Boak & Bailey – Gambrinus Waltz $

[$ = read & re-read in 2015]

Ebooks

Total 36 + 2 on pause (1 each)
Kindle 3 finished (2 Beer, Erotica)(incl. 1 re/read 2015 Beer) + 1 on pause (Tech)
PDF 34 (2 Assorted, 30 Graphic Novels + 1 on pause (Tech)

I read so many PDF graphic novels as they are all from either the Girl Genius series via a Kickstarter or from a Dungeons & Dragons Humble Bundle I bought earlier in 2015. I have done a couple Humble Bundles and have read few of them; I tend to forget them. So I wanted to get to work on that and chose these first.

Genre

NF [includes 6 graphic novels, 1 of which is of war poetry + memoir]

Total 92
Finished 68
On pause 11
Currently Reading 7
Gave up 3
Skimmed 3

Fiction

Total 104
Graphic Novels 93 + 1 gave up
Erotica 2
Lit 8
Poetry 1 + 1 currently reading

Other Breakdowns

Photo 6
Beer 26 + 2 currently reading
Graphic novel 99 + 1 gave up [includes 11 manga & 6 nonfiction]
Erotica 2
Poetry 3
Memoir 3 + 1 gave up
Central OR 4 + 1 currently reading
History 10 + 1 currently reading
Translations 21

Together

Read 1
On pause 1
Switch to ind. reading 1
Currently reading 1

Sources

Own 92 + 3 more bought after getting from a library
DPL 77 + 1 gave up + 3 on pause + 1 skimmed + 3 then bought (1 of which still reading) + lots more skimmed. 85 total.
COCC 6
ILL 0 [acquired 2 : 1 gave up and 1 on pause]
Summit 6 + 2 currently reading
Friend 1

Goodreads

This data from my Goodreads account includes, 2015 Goodreads Challenge status, reading status breakdown, and some numbers from specific shelves (mostly used to verify same info from elsewhere).

2015 Challenge goal 75
Read 163 [does not include 7 re-reads]
Currently reading 8 + 1 from 2016
Gave up 2
Skimmed 34
On pause 6

Shelves

2015-gnc 61 [does not include rereads: 2015 2 + previous years 2]
2015nfc 21 [includes 1 reread from previous year; 1 review not written]
translation 21
together 1 + 1 currently reading + 1 on pause + 1 switched to individual reading

Other 2015 reading posts [re challenges, etc.]

List of 2015 Books Read by Category

Assorted

  • Quadback-Seeger – World of the Elements: Elements of the World
  • Attlee – Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight [on pause]
  • Backes – Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana [on pause]
  • Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
  • Stilgoe – Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places
  • Stivers – Hair of the Dog: Irish Drinking and Its American Stereotype
  • Scerri – The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction
  • Rubel – Bread: A Global History (The Edible Series)
  • Jung – Man and His Symbols [gave up]
  • Bishop – Living with Thunder: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of the Pacific Northwest [currently reading]
  • Rothenberg, ed. – White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism
  • Egan – The Good Rain: Across Time & Terrain in the Pacific Northwest [on pause]
  • Sahlins – Waiting for Foucault, Still
  • Babauta – Focus: a simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction

Assorted Cookery

  • Robertson – Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker
  • Steen & Noyes – The Great Vegan Protein Book
  • Scicolone – The Italian Slow Cooker

Assorted Memoir

  • Nguyen – Stealing Buddha’s Dinner [gave up]
  • Pollan – A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Beer & Brewing

  • Boak & Bailey – Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer
  • Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Allen and Cantwell – Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Mallett – Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse
  • Saunders – Dinner in the Beer Garden [re-read]
  • Dunlop – Portland Beer: Crafting the Road to Beervana
  • Amato – Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer … Even More
  • Fix – Principles of Brewing Science: A Study of Serious Brewing Issues
  • Coutts – The Perfect Keg: Sowing, Scything, Malting and Brewing My Way to the Best Ever Pint of Beer
  • Mosher – Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer
  • Barich – A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub
  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Nelson – The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe
  • Beechum and Conn – Experimental Homebrewing: Mad Science in the Pursuit of Great Beer
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution
  • Hornsey – Alcohol and Its Role in the Evolution of Human Society [currently reading]
  • Boak & Bailey – Gambrinus Waltz: German Lager Beer in Victorian and Edwardian London [read & re-read this year]
  • Palmer – How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Beer Right the First Time
  • Bostwick and Rymil – Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer
  • Mosher – The Brewer’s Companion: Being a Complete Compendium of Brewing Knowledge … [skimmed]
  • Foster – Pale Ale: History and Brewing Techniques, Recipes: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Home Brewing 4th ed
  • Hughes – A Treatise on the Brewing of Beer
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew
  • Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food [currently reading]
  • Shales – Brewing Better Beers

Central Oregon

  • Dunegan – Best Hikes Near Bend (A Falcon Guide) [currently reading]

Central Oregon Memoir

  • Waterston – Where the Crooked River Rises: A High Desert Home

Central Oregon Memoir & History

  • Ramsey – New Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon

Erotica, Sex & Gender

  • Williams – Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
  • Christina – Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories about Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More
  • Tyler, ed. – Luscious: Stories of Anal Eroticism

Graphic Novels

  • Foglio, et al. – The Secret Blueprints For Volume One (Girl Genius 0)
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne & the Beetleburg clank (Girl Genius 1)
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (Girl Genius 2)
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (Girl Genius 3)
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams (Girl Genius 4)
  • Bendis & Maleev – Scarlet
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess (Girl Genius 5)
  • B. and MacOrlan – The Littlest Pirate King
  • Pham – Sumo
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (Girl Genius 6)
  • Abnett and Culbard – The New Deadwardians
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius 7)
  • Kerascoët and Hubert – Beauty
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones (Girl Genius 8)
  • Vehlmann & Kerascoët – Beautiful Darkness
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm (Girl Genius 9)
  • David and Lopez – Fallen Angel
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse (Girl Genius 10)
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Hammerless Bell (Girl Genius 11)
  • Mina, et al. – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Book 1
  • Mina, et al. – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Book 2
  • TenNapel – Ratfist
  • Moon and Bá – De: Tales: Stories From Urban Brazil
  • Tobin and Dewey – I Was The Cat
  • Merveille and Tati – Hello, Mr. Hulot
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (Girl Genius 12)
  • Cruse – Stuck Rubber Baby
  • Pedrosa – Three Shadows
  • Perlow, et al. – Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black
  • Dingess, et al. – Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1: Flora & Fauna [read & re-read this year]
  • Collins & Rayner – Road to Perdition
  • Moning, et al. – Fever Moon: The Fear Dorcha
  • Lucke – The Lunch Witch (#1)
  • Wilson and Alphona – Ms. Marvel: No Normal
  • Wilson, et al. – Ms. Marvel: Generation Why 2
  • Dingess, et al. – Manifest Destiny, Vol. 2: Amphibia & Insecta
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 2: Crossroads
  • Greenberg – The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 3: Bound
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 4: A Town Called Penance
  • Foglio, et al. – Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City (Girl Genius 13) [read & re-read this year]
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 5: Winter Wolves
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth Gun: Book 6: Ghost Dance
  • Bunn and Hurtt – The Sixth gun: Book 7: Not the Bullet, But the Fall
  • Nolan – Hunters of the Great Forest
  • Vaughan and Staples – Saga, Volume One [re-read]
  • Vaughan and Staples – Saga, Volume Two [re-read]
  • Vaughan and Staples – Saga, Volume Three
  • Vaughan and Staples – Saga, Volume Four
  • McCloud – The Sculptor
  • Carey, Willingham, et al. – The Unwritten: The Unwritten Fables, vol. 9
  • Carey & Gross, et al. – The Unwritten: War Stories, vol. 10
  • Miller & Varley – 300
  • Vance & Burr – Kings in Disguise: A Novel
  • Hagio – A Drunken Dream and Other Stories
  • Remender – Strange Girl Omnibus
  • Fawkes – The People Inside [gave up]
  • Moore & O’Neill – Nemo: Heart of Ice
  • Ralph – Daybreak
  • Kelso – The Squirrel Mother
  • Selznick – The Marvels
  • Doctorow and Wang – In Real Life
  • Fleisher, Mishkin, et al. – Dungeon & Dragons Classics, Volume 1
  • Grubb, Mishkin, et al. – Dungeon & Dragons Classics, Volume 2
  • Mishkin, et al. – Dungeon & Dragons Classics, Volume 3
  • Mishkin, et al. – Dungeon & Dragons Classics, Volume 4
  • Salvatore, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms: Cutter
  • Grubb, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics, Volume 1
  • Grubb, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics, Volume 2
  • Grubb, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics, Volume 3
  • Grubb, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics, Volume 4
  • Greenwood, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms, Volume 1
  • Zub, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate
  • Salvatore, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt – Neverwinter Tales
  • Salvatore, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt, volume 1: Homeland
  • Salvatore, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt, Exile
  • Rogers, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague
  • Rogers, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: First Encounters
  • Rogers, et al. – Dungeons & Dragons: Down
  • Foglio, et al. – Girl Genius: Second Journey Book One: The Beast of the Rails

Graphic Novels Manga

  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 1
  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 2
  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 3
  • Yoshinaga – Ooku: The Inner Chamber, vol. 1
  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 4
  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 5
  • Yoshinaga – Ooku: The Inner Chamber, vol. 2
  • Mori – A Bride’s Story 6
  • Yoshinaga – Ooku: The Inner chamber, vol. 3
  • Yoshinaga – Ooku: The Inner chamber, vol. 4
  • Anno – Sakuran: Blossoms Wild

Graphic Novel Nonfiction

  • Redniss – Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love & Fallout

Graphic Novel Nonfiction History

  • Wilson, Dickson, et al. – Fight the power!: A visual history of protest among the English-speaking peoples
  • Stavans and Alcaraz – A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States
  • Bagge – Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story

Graphic Novel Nonfiction Memoir

  • Abirached – I Remember Beirut

Graphic Novel Nonfiction  War Poetry

  • Duffy, ed. -Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

History

  • Schivelbusch – Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants
  • Swaby – Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World

History Memoir

  • Coe – Frontier Doctor: Observations on Central Oregon & the Changing West

Literature & Language

  • Ozecki – A Tale for the Time Being
  • Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, #1) [re-read]
  • Adams – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker’s Guide, #2) [re-read]
  • Adams – Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker’s Guide, #3) [re-read]
  • Adams – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (Hitchhiker’s Guide #4) [re-read]
  • Johnson – Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia
  • Brontë – Wuthering Heights
  • King – Euphoria [2016 DPL A Novel Idea Selection]
  • Harris – Integationist Notes and Papers 2009-2011
  • Harris – Integationist Notes and Papers 2012
  • Harris – Integationist Notes and Papers 2013
  • Doyle – Through the Magic Door [re-read]
  • Ramsey – Thinking Like a Canyon: New and Selected Poems, 1973-2010
  • Gilbert – Collected poems [currently reading]

Literature & Language Graphic Novel War Poetry

  • Duffy, ed. – Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics [also listed above]

Philosophy

  • Wilson – Second-Hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority [on pause]
  • Wellmuth – The Nature and Origins of Scientism
  • Berlin – The Power of Ideas [currently reading]

Photography

  • Atkeson – Oregon, My Oregon
  • Atkeson & Miller – Ski & Snow Country: The Golden Years of Skiing in the West, 1930s-1950s
  • Atkeson – Oregon II
  • Atkeson & Ross – Oregon III
  • Marbach and Pokarney – Oregon Harvest
  • Curtis – The North American Indian: The Complete Portfolios

Renewal

  • Huang and Lynch – Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: Taosports for Extraordinary Performance in Athletics, Business, and Life [on pause]
  • Kabat-Zinn – Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness [currently reading]
  • Johnson – The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason [on pause]
  • Segal – Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse [on pause]
  • Levine – Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences
  • Farhi – The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work [currently reading]
  • Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Smalley & Winston – Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness
  • Krznaric – How To Find Fulfilling Work
  • Black – More Anti-Inflammation Diet Tips and Recipes
  • Wahls – The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine
  • Gunaratana – Mindfulness in Plain English
  • Krucoff – Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain: Easy, Effective Practices for Releasing Tension and Relieving Pain [on pause]
  • Moore & Gillette – Lover Within: Accessing the Lover in the Male Psyche [on pause]
  • Cooksley – Seaweed: Nature’s Secret to Balancing Your Metabolism, Fighting Disease, and Revitalizing Body and Soul [skimmed]
  • Brantley & Millstine – Five Good Minutes in Your Body [skimmed]
  • Fallon – Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

Tech & Software

  • Kissell – Take Control of Automating Your Mac [on pause]
  • Martinez and Stager – Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom [on pause]
  • Rawlins – Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer Technology [gave up]

Final Comments

I think this slices and dices this data more than enough for me this year. I would not mind having a breakdown of authors by gender but that is loaded with many problems (multiple authors, determining gender of some, etc.) and I am not that concerned about it. I read fairly widely and try to read from a diversity of diversities, knowing that I can always do better.

I want to keep reading things in translation; I feel I did well this year. I should try to read a bit more poetry and erotica, sex & gender this year. I am satisfied with the amount of re-reading, the number of ebooks, and of nonfiction. I hope to read a few less graphic novels and more varied things in literature & language; e.g., more actual lit, more on language and more poetry as previously mentioned. Maybe some re-reading there. Poetry books are close at hand.

All in all, I’m calling 2015 a good year for me and reading. I met all of my goals, and only one of them I feel could have been more solidly met.

I am very happy to be ending some part of my 2015 with a great score for the year. Particularly happy to have the thought documented.

Here’s to your (and my) reading in 2016.

[Post(s) coming soon]

 

Greenberg – The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
Date read: 28-29 April 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Cover image of Greenberg's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
Hardback, 1 volume unpaged
Published 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Deschutes Public Library (GN GREENBERG ISABEL)

Sara picked this up at the public library when browsing the shelves. Turns out I added it back in January to my To Be Read list as the author was under 30 when she wrote it and that counts for my one remaining challenge [see below].

I actually began reading this because I had just come across a World War I war poem adapted by Greenberg in another graphic novel I am currently reading, Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. The poem she adapted was Osbert Sitwell’s “Therefore Is the Name of It Called Babel.” She also adapted another poem in the same volume.

I enjoyed the Encyclopedia quite a bit. Not sure why it needed to rip off the Bible so much though. Decent early 21st-century remix of stories.

This is the 75th book in my Goodreads 2015 Challenge which “completes” that one for me.

It also qualifies as an Author under 30 for my 2015 Reading Challenge.

This is the 53rd book in my GN2015

Bagge – Woman Rebel

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, First hardcover ed. by Peter Bagge

Date read:01-02 March 2015

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Image of cover of Bagge's Woman Rebel

Hardback, 72+ pages

Published 2013 by Drawn + Quarterly

Source: Deschutes Public Library (BAGGE PETER)

Margaret Sanger was an American sex educator and nurse. She opened the first birth control clinic and, in effect, began Planned Parenthood. She is a fascinating person, to say the very least.

This title was interesting enough. There is a 2-page intro called, “On Peter Bagge and Margaret Sanger” by Tom Spurgeon (editor of The Comics Reporter), the graphic novel proper in 72 pages, followed by two pages on “Why Sanger?” by Peter Bagge, and 18 pages on “Who’s Who and What’s What,” which is actually the endnotes. Yep. No indication in the text that there was more context, and perhaps photos or other images, in the back. Grr.

Also, the text in the introductory and back matter is tiny. Grrr.

The author does do a good job of telling us where he took artistic license in the back matter. Clearly, other stories—as he points out—can and have been told.

Fast read. Positive but honest portrait of a complex woman. Mostly marked down for not alerting me to extra context and small type.

This is the 39th book in my GN2015

This is the 14th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

de Botton – How to Think More About Sex

How Think More About Sex How Think More About SexAlain de Botton; Picador 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

I read de Botton’s How to Think More About Sex on 1-2 November 2014. It was not quite what I expected; I also expected more. Then again, I gave a mixed review to The Architecture of Happiness, which suffers from some of the same issues.

But first, the contents:

I. Introduction

II. The Pleasures of Sex

     1. Eroticism and Loneliness

     2. Can ‘Sexiness’ Be Profound?

     3. Natalie or Scarlett?

III. The Problems of Sex

     1. Love and Sex

     2. Sexual Rejection

     3. Lack of Desire: Infrequency, Impotence, Resentment

     4. Pornography: Censorship, A New Kind of Porn

     5. Adultery: The Pleasures of Adultery, The Stupidity of Adultery

IV. Conclusion

Homework

My comments and excerpts:

de Botton writes in an overly generalized fashion, he considers few alternatives, he is quite probably contradicting himself on a couple occasions, he is often anthropomorphic and reifies to no end, and he seems to have written this book from a healthy, Euro-skinned, heterosexual of reasonably decent (or better) looks perspective. Gays, transexuals, asexuals, whatever do not appear. Do not get mention. Nor do the vast majority of people who are of mediocre appearance at best. Apparently, the only ones who should be thinking more (clearly/intelligently/humanely) about sex are healthy good-looking heterosexuals. Not.

I know this book is short but it leaves so damned much out. And that is perfectly fine and certainly expected. But if you are leaving out that much of the human experience of sex without even mentioning that you have no space for it then you do not deserve to name your book How to Think More About Sex. It really is that simple.

Based on this alone, one probably ought skip this book. But it is short and it has great moments. There are things of import to think about that he brings up. Some of his offerings for ways in and/or out of things are fine and some are bunk. But he is trying to intelligently discuss sex. I appreciate the hell out of that! But this only hits on occasion and it misses by so damned much in its general approach to ignoring much of the world’s population’s individual experiences.

Let’s dive in.

I. Introduction

I really liked this bit in the Intro. The end of that first paragraph is a bit over the top but I can’t argue really with that full one after it. He does a decent but succinct job of showing how messed up our “thinking” is about sex and, thus, why we may need to think/talk/act more intelligently about it.

“…. We [are] bothered by sex because it is a fundamentally disruptive, overwhelming and demented force, strongly at odds with the majority of our ambitions and all but incapable of being discreetly integrated within civilized society.

     Despite our best efforts to clean it of its peculiarities, sex will never be either simple or nice in the ways we might like it to be. It is not fundamentally democratic or kind; it is bound up with cruelty, transgression and the desire for subjugation and humiliation. It refuses to sit neatly on top of love, as it should. Tame it though we may try, sex has a recurring tendency to wreak havoc across our lives: it leads us to destroy our relationships, threatens our productivity and compels us to stay up too late in nightclubs talking to people whom we don’t like but whose exposed midriffs we nevertheless strongly wish to touch. Sex remains in absurd, and perhaps irreconcilable, conflict with some of our highest commitments and values. Unsurprisingly, we have no option but to repress its demands most of the time. We should accept that sex is inherently weird instead of blaming ourselves for not responding in more normal ways to its confusing impulses.” 6-7

II. The Pleasures of Sex

He leaps right in trying to show that sex is messy and great and vengeful and loving and …. He does a good job showing that we truly are less in charge than we think when it comes to sex. This is also a bit thin for someone new to it (I am not) but he’s on the right track. Evolutionary biology can only explain so much (if it does at all) and one has to bring other theories to bear to explain more than mere biological sexual attraction for reproductive purposes. He does. Are they the right ones, or at least highly useful?

     1. Eroticism and Loneliness

          “It could sound disgusting — and that’s the point. Nothing is erotic that isn’t also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: at the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission. The privileged nature of the union between two people is sealed by an act that, with someone else, would have horrified them both.” 22

          “Sex temporarily liberates us from the punishment dichotomy, well known to every one of us since childhood, between dirty and clean. Lovemaking purifies us by engaging the most apparently polluted sides of ourselves in its procedures and thereby anointing them as newly worthy.” 37

On fetishes:

          “In a clinical sense, a fetish is defined as an ingredient, typically quite unusual in nature, which needs to be present in order for someone to achieve orgasm.” 38

          “In this wider sense, fetishes are simply details — most often related either to a type of clothing or to a part of another’s body — which evoke for us desirable sides of human nature. The precise origins of our enthusiasms may be obscure, but they can almost always be traced back to some meaningful aspect of our childhood: we will be drawn to specific things either because they recall appealing qualities of a beloved parental figure or else, conversely, because they somehow cancel out, or otherwise help us to escape, a memory of early humiliation or terror.

          The task of understanding our own preferences in this regard should be recognized as an integral part of any project of self-knowledge or biography. What Freud said of dreams can likewise be said of sexual fetishes: they are a royal road into the unconscious.” 39

Tying our fetishes to issues of values and the good life which he’ll bring out later:

          “The pleasure we derive from sex is also bound up with our recognizing, and giving a distinctive seal of approval to, those ingredients of a good life whose presence we have detected in another person. The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy’, the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.” 44

     2. Can ‘Sexiness’ Be Profound?

          “A consensus emerges about which sorts of faces we find most appealing. From these studies [cross-cultural], evolutionary biologists have concluded that a ‘sexy’ person of either gender, far from being an unclassifiable abstraction, is in essence someone whose face is symmetrical (that is, the right and left sides match precisely) and whose features are balanced, proportionate and undistorted.” 81

          “The discipline [evol biol] absolves physical attraction of the charge of being purely superficial. While conceding that we judge people by their appearance, it holds that appearances themselves are anything but trivial and indeed point towards some rather profound qualities.” 84

     3. Natalie or Scarlett?

          “Evolutionary biology confidently predicts that we will be drawn to people on the basis of their evident health, but it has not put forward any truly convincing theories about why we should prefer one specific healthy person over another.” 63

But what about people who clearly are not “healthy” who find love and are attracted sexually to others?

          Wilhelm Worringer’s theory on art appreciation; essay, “Abstraction and Empathy,” 1907 64-8

          Worringer’s theory applied to sexual attraction 69-72

          “We then declare people ‘sexy’ when we see in them evidence of compensatory qualities, and are repelled by those who seem prone to drive us further into our extremities.” 70

          “We need both art and sex to make us whole, so it is not surprising if the mechanisms of compensation should be similar in each case. The specifics of what we find ‘beautiful’ and what we find ‘sexy’ are indications of what we most deeply crave in order to rebalance ourselves.” 72

III. The Problems of Sex

This section attempts to offer possible remedies, or at least ways in, to mitigate some of the many problems with sex. Of course, only a few are covered in the short space allowed. I am not sure how effectively he deals with some of them either.

     1. Love and Sex

          “It’s time for the need for sex and the need for love to be granted equal standing, without an added moral gloss. Both may be independently felt and are of comparable value and validity. Both shouldn’t require us to lie in order to claim them.” 79

Amen! The data on this–and he does provide some; there is much more–show what a damaging idea modern love (and marriage) truly is. Maybe someday perhaps the two can be pulled apart in a more sane and sensible way but I have my doubts.

     2. Sexual Rejection

          “We don’t have to take sexual rejection as a sure indication that another person has looked into our soul and registered disgust at every aspect of our being. The reality is usually much simpler and less shattering than that: for whatever reason, this particular individual just can’t get turned on by our body. We can take comfort in the knowledge that such a verdict is automatic, preconscious and immutable. The one doing the rejecting isn’t being intentionally nasty; he or she has no choice.” 82

If we could already use reason in regards to love and sex then this probably would be less of an issue than it is. Realigning our views on the issue, as he suggests, would be useful but quite unlikely to be of use to more than a handful of people, statistically speaking.

     3. Lack of Desire:

          i. Infrequency

               “The solution to long-term sexual stagnation is to learn to see our lover as if we had never laid eyes on him or her before.” 97

               “While going about their quite different types of business, the lover and the artist nonetheless come up against a similar human foible: the universal tendency to become easily habituated and bored, and to decide that whatever is known is unworthy of interest. We are prone to long for novelty, kitschy romanticism, drama and glamour.” 99

               “We should try to locate the good and the beautiful beneath the layers of habit and routine.” 102

          ii. Impotence

     Argues that this is a “symptom of respect.” Not buying that for a second, except in some percentage (I’m going with small) of all cases. And the reason why is all the bullshit he says about men in these paragraphs. Again, overly generalized beyond all possible acceptance. Gamergate and #teamharpy, along with way too many other things today show us that most men have not “evolved” as de Botton seems to think.

          iii. Resentment

               “By overwhelming consensus, our culture locates the primary difficulty of relationships in finding the ‘right’ person rather than in knowing how to love a real — that is, a necessarily rather unright — human being.” 121

Yes. This bit is quite valuable. Again, shows the utter destruction caused by the currently prevailing (by those in power) views of love and marriage in Western society.

     4. Pornography:

          i. Censorship

I. Just. He seems to accept, and argues, that pornography is extremely dangerous to society and that some form of censorship is necessary. He is writing in particular about the Internet. Yes, indeed, let’s let nanny-state governments censor the Internet so we can get back to work. Jackass! There are so many intermediate steps.

I should explain that my vehemence here is he because he made no real argument for pornography being an immense destructive force; just assumed via anecdata.

          ii. A New Kind of Porn

I. Just. Don’t. But now he wants a new kind of porn. “Virtue porn.”

“Yet is is possible to conceive of a version of pornography that wouldn’t force us to make such a stark choice between sex and virtue — a pornography in which sexual desire would be invited to support, rather than permitted to undermine, our higher values.” 139

OK. This might work for a few folks; he should go back and re-read his discussion of fetishes though, as a first caution. And some of his examples later on make some sense; again, for a few folks. But his discussion. Oy! His example to lead us into pornography that might support our virtues is Sandro Bottticelli’s The Madonna of the Book, c.1483.

Seems to be contradicting himself in these two sections also. Porn must be censored. Oh, look, a new kind of “virtue porn.” Make a choice or choose a middle ground, sir.

     5. Adultery:

          i. The Pleasures of Adultery

               “However, the real fault in the situation lies in the ethos of modern marriage, with its insane ambitions and its insistence that one person can plausibly hope to embody the eternal sexual and emotional solution to another’s every need.

               Taking a step back, what distinguishes modern marriage from its historical precedents is its fundamental tenet that all our desire for love, sex and family ought to reside in the selfsame person. No other society has been so stringent or so hopeful about the institution of marriage, nor ultimately, as a consequence, so disappointed in it.

               In the past, these very distinct needs — for love, sex and family — were wisely differentiated and separated out from one another.” 152

          ii. The Stupidity of Adultery

This section brought out how also very middle-class and above focused it is.

IV. Conclusion

     “When every contemptuous but fair thing has been said about our infernal sexual desires, we can still celebrate them for not allowing us to forget for more than a few days at a time what is really involved in living an embodied, chemical and largely insane human life.” 175-6

I can certainly agree with this view, but while he did a decent job arguing this, if it was what he truly meant to argue then I suppose it would have been a somewhat different book. Or perhaps not.

Homework

This is the sources section.

Conditionally recommended is what I am going to say. That is, if you want to think more about sex. Then again, if you want to think more about sex then I would recommend this book [any edition would be fine], even if the focus of each is not the same.

Administrivia:

I had to create a record at Open Library so I could use John Miedema’s OpenBook plugin. I had hoped I was done with adding so many records there but is good to be writing again. And it is a nice record.

The Tree of Life (movie)

[This is one of the remaining DigiWriMo posts.]

On Black Friday, we finally got around to seeing The Tree of Life, which was a pretty big movie not that long ago. I knew a little about it—that it was fairly existential, had (at least) two major interpretations, was well-acted, and beautifully shot—and I had been looking forward to it.

At less than a half hour in I tweeted the following:

Is The Tree of Life worth watching? <30:00 in & I’m bored to tears and falling asleep. Decent nature photography but … [tweet]

It was putting me to sleep and I really was not impressed in much of any way yet. Sure, there was some great “nature” cinematography but much of it seemed to be NASA images or stuff taken from assorted nature documentaries; the stuff that wasn’t simply CGI, that is, or ginned up in more analog ways. Seeing as I get the NASA Image of the Day in my feeds and I am fairly well-versed in nature documentaries they were going to have to do better.

I sat through the whole movie, despite Sara suggesting I go upstairs and write. When it was over I tweeted:

Um, The Tree of Life is one of the worst films I have seen. Pretty sure @esquetee has a different opinion of it. Oh well. [tweet]

It is not that there was little action, as I adore so-called ‘foreign’ and independent films, many of which most Americans cannot sit through due to lack of action. That is not a problem I have. Storytelling is what is important and I guess, for me, the issue was that there really isn’t a story in it.

Honestly, to me, as a whole, this movie seriously sucked. Sara liked it. As she said, it is open to interpretation—which I fully agree with. But we even seemed to disagree on how many boys the family had. The problem with such a work that is so open to interpretation is that it has to give you something to work with, something you can hang an idea, and perhaps an argument, on. In my opinion, The Tree of Life gives one nothing to work with at all.

It did, though, leave me pensive and in a contemplative mood. But. With nothing to contemplate it was an absurd mood to be in! It simply managed to piss me off. Late Friday afternoon would have been a perfect time to be in such a mood if only there was some content to the mood.

I did read through the entry for the movie at Wikipedia and while I agree that if one takes that interpretation then it makes reasonable sense, but I see absolutely no reason to do so. Perhaps that is what the filmmakers intended but, if so, I say that they failed. Brad Pitt’s character in no way—to me anyway—represents ‘Nature’ or even ‘nature.’ Nature is not obsessed with the freaking lawn! Nor is nature stuck in a dead end job and trying to grasp for what it can along the way. And Jessica Chastain’s character fails to embody ‘grace’ for me. And that is assuming one even buys into the whole lesson about one “must choose to either follow the path of grace or the path of nature.” [Wikipedia]

Now clearly, many people disagree with me about this movie (see the Wikipedia entry) and perhaps you, reader, are one of them. More power to you! I am glad that you enjoyed it, just as I am glad that Sara did. All of the above was based on my opinion and if I failed in a few cases to word it so explicitly then I apologize. Please take it that that is the case. I would not argue that your opinion of the movie is wrong or misguided as we all react to story, and the telling of it, in different ways.

Thankfully, later we watched Hysteria. That will be the next post.

Synopis: The Tree of Life: Sucks. Although many others have a vastly different opinion.

 

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge Personal Assessment

In October 2011, after finishing another book reading challenge, which a friend of mine had handled excellently, I decided it was my turn to reciprocate, and I wanted another reading challenge, so I came up with the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

This post is my reflection on how it went for me.

Initial choices

I made a list of 30 books of which I hoped to read 20. Then, because I’m a cataloger/classifier, I divided them into 6 gross categories just to see what areas I had picked and then to maybe lean towards reading at least one from each to ensure my reading stayed broad. (Of course, I read many other books during this timeframe that were not on my Challenge list. Many of those were graphics novels and poetry.) After a couple of months, because of certain timely shifts in interest I non-specifically substituted 2 books.

My full set of initial choices and their categories can be seen at My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

How it worked out

The following is how it worked out for me. The books listed are the ones I finished (and 2 which I started but did not finish yet):

HISTORY / ANTHROPOLOGY / RELIGION

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade

PHILOSOPHY

In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov (substitute)

LITERATURE / FICTION / POETRY / CRITICISM

Pale Fire (Everyman’s Library, #67) by Vladimir Nabokov

The Way It Is by William Stafford

Transformations by Anne Sexton

PROFESSIONAL READING

(Began only) Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet by Christine L. Borgman

(Began only) Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (substitute)

Thoughts/Commentary

As is fairly evident, I did not do well with the challenge I set myself. I finished 6 books (30%) and began 2 others out of the 20 I was aiming for.

Now, there are extenuating circumstances seeing as we moved halfway across the country this summer, which sucked up an awful lot of time. We also jumped into life in Bend with both feet when we arrived which only made the moving in process longer. (I hope to be writing here about some of the things we have done since arriving in Bend soon).

Extenuating circumstances or not, I am perfectly happy with the way the challenge turned out for me as I explicitly learned something about myself. I was loosely aware of it before, but this just cemented it.

That is, there are too many interesting books out there for me to specify what I will be reading over the next year.

I still want, and intend, to read all of the books on my challenge list. Just as I intend to read many others on previous lists or those on no particular list. There will also be many new books or books new to me that I will read. (E.g., we have acquired 136 books in the 1st 9 months of 2012 (during the Challenge) but that number doesn’t include books acquired in Oct-Dec 2011, nor the many books read from assorted libraries.)

So, the bottom line is, I need a somewhat looser form of reading challenge to be ‘successful’ by any sort of standard measure. Maybe as vague as “I’ll read x number of books in the next year” is the best I can do. I would hope to be able to provide a little more structured early guidance to myself perhaps, but I’m not sure I know what that is. While my reading choices are not fully based on whim by any means, they are heavily influenced by a wide variety of input mechanisms—friends (in assorted ways), sites like Goodreads or Library Thing, tweets by others, the book catalogs that two librarians (us) receive in the mail, browsing shelves in multiple places, book reviews stumbled across, and so on and on.

There simply are too many books out there waiting to be read for me to be so scheduled about what I will read. And I am perfectly happy with that.

I hereby declare the Two-Thirds Book Challenge a success for me. I look forward to seeing how the other participants assess their own personal Challenges.

 

 

 

Todorov, In Defence of the Enlightenment

In defence of the EnlightenmentTzvetan Todorov ; translated from the French by Gila Walker.; Atlantic Books 2009WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

I almost bought this book when it came out in December 2009, but I had read at least one review which was not very positive. I wish I could find whatever I had read to see whether I agree with it. I have tried but I failed.

I have read at least three other Tzetvan Todorov books that I am certain of: Facing the Extreme, Imperfect Garden, and Hope and Memory. I have enjoyed them all, even when I have not entirely agreed with him.

I decided to pick this up now as I am taking a class this semester in Enlightenment Literature, or, more specifically on Anglo-American Enlightenment literature. Todorov focuses on the French Enlightenment, understandably; he has lived in France since 1963. Certainly, a few other thinkers from Germany, England, and America crop up but the vast majority of references are to French thinkers.

I read this book, in essence, twice between 3 February and 5 March 2012. I read a chapter or two and then I went back and reread and took my notes, leapfrogging slightly ahead with my reading over my note taking.

I have decided to count it as a Two-Thirds Book Challenge book as it is directly applicable to my current interests, it is a fairly meaty book for its length, and, as I said, I read it twice.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s not bad but it seemed a little narrow-minded, or defensive, perhaps. And, yes, I am fully aware that it is supposed to be a defense; but, there is a fine line between making a defense and being defensive.

Contents:

  • Introductory Note
  • 1 The Project
  • 2 Rejections and Distortions
  • 3 Autonomy
  • 4 Secularism
  • 5 Truth
  • 6 Humanity
  • 7 Universality
  • 8 The Enlightenment and Europe
  • A Note of Conclusion
  • Notes

The physical book (hardbound) is a nice artifact, well edited, no typos, with good margins, but no index.

§ Introductory Note

“… I set out here to outline the key points of Enlightenment thought, without losing sight of our times, in a continual back-and-forth movement between past and present” (2).

§ The Project

Trying to define the Enlightenment project is difficult for two reasons: (1) It “was a period of culmination, recapitulation and synthesis, not one of radical innovation”; and (2) “Enlightenment thinking was formulated by a great many individuals who, far from agreeing with one another, were constantly engaged in bitter discussions, from one country to another and within each country” (3-4).

Three ideas form the basis of the Enlightenment project, according to Todorov:

  1. autonomy
  2. the human end is the purpose of our acts
  3. universality (4-5)

“[W]hat we need today is to re-establish Enlightenment thinking in a way that preserves the past heritage while subjecting it to a critical examination, lucidly assessing it in light of its wanted and unwanted consequences. … [I]t is through criticism that we remain faithful and put its teaching into practice” (23).

§ Rejections and Distortions

Enlightenment thinking was the subject of much criticism, particularly from the civil and church authorities that were being challenged (25). Many criticisms were directed against caricatures of Enlightenment thought, while some simply misread its spirit, Todorov tells us.

But this is one of the weak points of the book; Todorov told us earlier that many different and disparate voices vehemently disagreed about what exactly was the Enlightenment project but throughout the rest of the book he gives us a pretty straightforward account, claiming that such-and-such is the Enlightenment view of each topic that he covers. But it simply is not that easy. While I agree with him in general outline most of the time, the discussions he provides really need to be more complicated and nuanced. Perhaps that would lengthen the account but if one is going to defend the Enlightenment then one should do it well and not use an oversimplified caricature of Enlightenment thought.

I do think he does a decent job of showing how various ideas that pass for a fairly mainstream view of the Enlightenment are actually distortions of it, and how these ideas were often bastardized in the employment of dubious, and much worse, ends.

§ Autonomy

Twofold movement: “a negative movement of liberation from norms imposed from the outside and a positive movement of construction of new norms of our own devising” (41).

Discusses various forms and kinds of autonomy, such as collective vs, individual, of thought, opinion, etc., and its abuses by thinkers such as de Sade. Some of the possible conflicts between demands for collective autonomy and individual autonomy discussed include:

  • education as indoctrination (50)
  • economic globalization (51)
  • international terrorism (51-2)
  • mass media (53)
  • influence of fashion / spirit of the age/place (53-5)
  • public opinion (54-5)
  • advertising (55)

 § Secularism

Discusses various forms of temporal vs. spiritual power and what exactly secularism is. Other threats discussed are the family, Communism, Nazism and fascism. As Todorov tells us, “The enemies of a secular society are many” (70). Several pages discuss the role of the sacred in a secular society, and it does have one.

§ Truth

Distinguishes between two types of acts and discourses, those that aim for the good and those that aim for truth (77). Also discusses dangers to truth.

“The political life in a republic and the autonomy of its citizens are threatened by two symmetrical opposing dangers: moralism and scientism. Moralism reigns when the good prevails over truth and, under the pressure of the will, facts become malleable materials. Scientism carries the day when values seem to proceed from knowledge and political choices are passed off as scientific deductions” (82-3).

The scientism that arose, and is still with us, was opposed by some Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Rousseau (85). Some of the dangers of scientism discussed include:

  • 20th-century totalitarianism and the elimination of ‘inferior’ races and/or reactionary classes (86)
  • the temptation to rely on ‘experts’ to formulate moral norms or political objectives (86)
  • the sociobiological’ project (86)
  • heterogeneity in the paths to knowledge (87-8).

Moralism is, of course, much older than the Enlightenment and its dangers are also discussed.

Todorov writes, “Truth cannot dictate the good but neither should it be subjugated to it. Scientism and moralism are both alien to the spirit of the Enlightenment. But a third danger exists, and that is that the very notion of truth be considered irrelevant. … [The challenge to truth in totalitarian regimes] is that the very distinction between truth and falsehood, between truth and fiction, became superfluous in light of the purely pragmatic considerations of usefulness and convenience” (91-2)

He then goes on to show several examples in the US where truth is subjugated to “usefulness and convenience” in the very late 20th-century/early 21st (92-4). We would do well to think about these kinds of issues. And, yes, he slams present day France repeatedly throughout the book, too.

§ Humanity

Discusses how the shift of the human to the center was practically Copernican; “Not surprisingly this reversal elicited strong opposition from those who defended the existing hierarchy, from Bonald to John Paul II” (103).

de Sade is again mentioned in this chapter for his distortions of Enlightenment views.

§ Universality

Discusses equality and human rights, along with challenges to them such as the death penalty, political correctness, and relativism.

§ The Enlightenment and Europe

Discusses why the Enlightenment happened where and when it did considering that none of its ideas were particularly new, and some went back thousands of years.

“The lesson of the Enlightenment consists in saying that plurality can give rise to a new unity in at least three ways: it encourages tolerance through emulation; it develops and protected a critical spirit; and it facilitates self-detachment, which leads to a superior integration of the self and the other” (143-44)

§ A Note of Conclusion

On why the Enlightenment still holds relevance today:

“The reason for its topicality is twofold: we are all children of the Enlightenment, even when we attack it; at the same time, the ills fought by the spirit of the Enlightenment turned out to be more resistant than eighteenth-century theorists thought. They have grown even more numerous. The traditional adversaries of the Enlightenment — obscurantism, arbitrary authority and fanaticism — are like the heads of the Hydra that keep growing back as they are cut. This is because they draw their strength from characteristics of human beings and societies that are as ineradicable as the desire for autonomy and dialogue. … Added to this are modern distortions of the Enlightenment, in the form of scientism, individualism, radical desacralization, loss of meaning and wholesale relativism, to name a few” (149-50).

The Enlightenment may be history but it is still extremely relevant today. Enlightenment thinking was highly complex, and it was disputed by those within and without the project. It deserves not to be oversimplified.

This is a decent book and it was worth reading, but it is flawed by simplification where there should have been complexity.