EppsNet Archive: Books

Book Banning and Other Shenanigans

 

I heard just the last piece of a news item on TV last night about someone or other wanting to ban To Kill a Mockingbird from a school library — I didn’t even catch if it was left-wing nuts or right-wing nuts, but book banners always remind me of Kurt Vonnegut’s response to these sorts of dimwits: “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!” Granted, To Kill a Mockingbird is not a very good book, vastly overrated, but there’s no case that I can think of for banning it from a school library. You might think I’ve painted myself into a corner here with a First Amendment argument given that another currently hot topic is schoolbooks on sexual topics. But no, I think reasonable people can agree that some types of subject matter are not appropriate for school… Read more →

The Management of the Life of the People

 

Even in [1931] the Macmillan Report could already speak of “the change of outlook of the government of [England] in recent times, its growing preoccupation, irrespective of party, with the management of the life of the people” and add that “Parliament finds itself increasingly engaged in legislation which has for its conscious aim the regulation of the day-to-day affairs of the community and now intervenes in matters formerly thought to be entirely outside its scope.” — F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom Read more →

It Wasn’t Much Good for Reading, But . . .

 

I recently read Omon Ra, a Russian novel that I’d heard good things about. I didn’t really like it at all. This afternoon, I saw some kind of a large black pincher bug on the living room carpet. My copy of Omon Ra was lying nearby and I picked it up and smashed the bug with it. So I can’t say that the book was a complete waste of money . . . Read more →

A Moment of Love

 

Everything was worn out about people: they complained about debts; they were involved in gossip; they had five-storied houses built; they traded in large objects; they bought ships, mines, vineyards; at bridge parties they lamented worriedly and falsely about being too busy; everybody talked about his work, whereas, in fact, nobody did anything; people played bridge and for whole nights groaned for a moment of love. — Miroslav Krleža, On the Edge of Reason Read more →

You Can Get Away From Envy

 

I am earning, let us say, a salary sufficient for my needs. I should be content, but I hear that some one else who I believe to be in no way my superior is earning a salary twice as great as mine. Instantly, if I am of an envious disposition, the satisfactions to be derived from what I have grow dim, and I begin to be eaten up by a sense of injustice. . . . The man who has double my salary is doubtless tortured by the thought that some one else in turn has twice as much as he has, and so it goes on. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon. But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I dare say, envied Hercules, who never existed. You can therefore not get away from envy by means of success alone, for there will always be… Read more →

Envy is the Most Unfortunate

 

Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature envy is the most unfortunate; not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he is also himself rendered unhappy by envy. Instead of deriving pleasure from what he has, he derives pain from what others have. — Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness Read more →

Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown

 

One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds of disaster. If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important. — Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness Read more →

How to Know if You’re Doing the Job

 

When I give a speech at a corporate event, I often ask those in attendance, “Do you know how to tell if you’re doing the job?” As heads start whispering back and forth, I provide these clues: “If you’re up at 3 A.M. every night talking into a tape recorder and writing notes on scraps of paper, have a knot in your stomach and a rash on your skin, are losing sleep and losing touch with your wife and kids, have no appetite or sense of humor, and feel that everything might turn out wrong, then you’re probably doing the job.” This always gets a laugh, but not a very big one. Those executives in the audience recognize there is a significant price to pay to be the best. That price is not something they laugh at. — Bill Walsh, The Score Takes Care of Itself Read more →

Utterly Different From What We Expected

 

We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected. — Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom Read more →

P.J. O’Rourke, 1947-2022

 

Like many men of my generation, I had an opportunity to give war a chance, and I promptly chickened out. I went to my draft physical in 1970 with a doctor’s letter about my history of drug abuse. The letter was four and a half pages long with three and a half pages devoted to listing the drugs I’d abused. I was shunted into the office of an Army psychiatrist who, at the end of a forty-five minute interview with me, was pounding his desk and shouting, “You’re fucked up! You don’t belong in the Army!” He was certainly right on the first count and probably right on the second. Anyway, I didn’t have to go. But that, of course, meant someone else had to go in my place. I would like to dedicate this book to him. I hope you got back in one piece, fellow. I hope you… Read more →

God Hates Children?

 

“God hates children.” For a moment Viking Man is too lost in his reverie to have heard, but then he turns to the other man. “Can’t say I ever thought of it that way, vicar.” “God is always killing children in the Bible, or threatening to,” says Vikar. “He kills His own child.” Viking Man nods slowly. “That’s a hell of an observation,” he says. — Steve Erickson, Zeroville Read more →

2021: The Year in Books

 

These are the books I read in 2021, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (fiction), Zeroville by Steve Erickson (contemporary fiction) and Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Hollywood 1969

 

“You’ve got people your age just coming into the business who will be running Paramount in five years, along with Warners and Columbia and Fox and MGM — all of which will be run by companies that have nothing to do with pictures — who have never heard of Minnelli or Preminger, or just might be erudite enough to think of Liza when you say her father’s name. Then you’ve got people like me who have been around long enough not to have much romance about any of it anymore and are just trying to find some cover because we have no idea what’s going on. Biker pictures are winning prizes at Cannes and pictures about cowboy hustlers in New York getting sucked off in the cheap seats are winning Oscars, so the execs upstairs who are old enough to be my grandfather — which means we’re talking Dawn of… Read more →

The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position. — Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Débrouillard

 

Débrouillard is what every plongeur wants to be called. A débrouillard is a man who, even when he is told to do the impossible, will se débrouiller — get it done somehow. One of the kitchen plongeurs at the Hôtel X, a German, was well known as a débrouillard. One night an English lord came to the hotel, and the waiters were in despair, for the lord had asked for peaches, and there were none in stock; it was late at night, and the shops would be shut. “Leave it to me,” said the German. He went out, and in ten minutes he was back with four peaches. He had gone into a neighbouring restaurant and stolen them. That is what is meant by a débrouillard. The English lord paid for the peaches at twenty francs each. —George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London Read more →

Sad, Tumultuous Middle-Age Years

 

Divorce, abandonment, the unacceptable and the unattainable, ennui filled with action, sad. tumultuous middle-age years shaken by crashings, uprootings, coups, desperate renewals. — Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights Read more →

That Is the Way to Get Attention

 

Divorces and separation — that is the way to get attention. Everyone examines his own state and some say: Strange, they were much happier than we are. There are streets in the East 90’s where youngish couples on the wave of success buy town houses and do them over at great expense, uncovering old wood, taking off the stoop so that drunks cannot loiter, making a whole floor for the children to be quiet on. The strain and the cost and the house, a mausoleum with both names on it waiting for the dates to be filled in, drives the couple to separation. The streets are called Death Row. — Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights Read more →

But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind. — Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

EppsNet Book Reviews: Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

 

This book is terrible. It’s pretty well known and has a good reputation among fans of “experimental fiction” but it’s terrible. It’s so bad that there should be a law under which the author could be arrested and charged with subjecting readers to the endless meanderings of a mediocre mind. The book could be read aloud to terrorists as a torture device. I couldn’t come close to getting all the way through it and I hurled it into the garbage. Ironically, I found that I bought two copies of the book, I don’t know how. Maybe I bought one a while ago, forgot about it, and bought another one. Maybe I bought one online and one at a bookstore. So actually I threw both copies in the garbage. One star is a generous rating but it does take time and effort to write a book, even a bad one, and… Read more →

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