EppsNet Archive: Books

First Lines

Newest addition to Lit Quizzes. identify the source and author. Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car. Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews; The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald

I can’t come up with a better synopsis than this article from the Boston Review: Each of these men suffers from memory and from the compulsion to obliterate it; from a mourning and melancholia so deep that it is almost unnamable; from the knowledge that he has survived while those he loved have not; from problems distinguishing dream and reality; from a profound sense of displacement. Highly recommended! Rating: Read more →

Passing for Normal

The onset of the state of mind consisted in a loyalty to objects. She apologized to one egg for having boiled it, to another for not having selected it to boil. Since it was impossible to know with much precision whether an egg prefers to be boiled or not to, she was always in a state of indecision, followed, as soon as she had taken any action, by extreme remorse. Since this is not far from the predicament of most people of any sensitivity or conscience, she passed for normal. — Renata Adler, Speedboat Read more →

Decisions Are Not “Right” or “Wrong”

Decisions are bets on the future, and they aren’t “right” or “wrong” based on whether they turn out well on any particular iteration. An unwanted result doesn’t make our decision wrong if we thought about the alternatives and probabilities in advance and allocated our resources accordingly. . . . It would be absurd for me, after making a big bet on the best possible starting hand (a pair of aces) and losing, to spend a lot of time thinking I was wrong to make the decision to play the hand in the first place. . . . When we think probabilistically, we are less likely to use adverse results alone as proof that we made a decision error, because we recognize the possibility that the decision might have been good but luck and/or incomplete information (and a sample size of one) intervened. Maybe we made the best decision from a… Read more →

You Think I’m Inept?

“You think I’m inept? You think I’m inadequate? If I’m inadequate, where are you going to get people who are adequate . . . if I’m . . . do you understand what I’m saying? What am I supposed to be? What are other people if I am inadequate?” — Philip Roth, American Pastoral Read more →

Experts and Empty Suits

Our inability to predict in environments subjected to the Black Swan, coupled with a general lack of awareness of this state of affairs, means that certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject than the general population, but they are much better at narrating — or, worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan Read more →

Greatest Living American Authors

With the recent deaths of Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe, I’ve moved a couple more notches up the list of greatest living American authors. Why not celebrate by picking up a copy of my book? Read more →

Philip Roth, 1933-2018

The final question assigned to the class was “What is life?” Merry’s answer was something her father and mother chuckled over together that night. According to Merry, while the other students labored busily away with their phony deep thoughts, she — after an hour of thinking at her desk — wrote a single, unplatitudinous declarative sentence: “Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive.” “You know,” said the Swede, “it’s smarter then it sounds. She’s a kid — how has she figured out that life is short? She is somethin’, our precocious daughter. This girl is going to Harvard.” But once again the teacher didn’t agree, and she wrote beside Merry’s answer, “Is that all?” Yes, the Swede thought now, that is all. Thank God, that is all; even that is unendurable. — American Pastoral RIP Philip Roth Read more →

Making Better Decisions

I can’t decide which one to get . . . Read more →

Tom Wolfe, 1930-2018

Everything that bloggers have done for journalism — and I personally think they’ve done a lot — Wolfe did it first, he did it 30 years earlier, and he did it better. And I think we’re still catching up to him. — Lev Grossman Tom Wolfe had a rare combination of ideas, insight and a virtuosity with language. A lot of writers do well with at most one out of the three. You can read Tom Wolfe quotes all over the web but I include one of my favorites (from The Bonfire of the Vanities) here: Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later . . . that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of… Read more →

If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. — George Orwell, Animal Farm

A Nest, a Haven and Calm Place

The low trolley on its cushiony rubber tyres luxuriously bore the corpse away down the middle of the ward. There was speed and secretiveness and deftness in its movement. Over the dead man’s face was a blanket, so that age, torture, ugliness and fear, all were hidden. Instead of looking on this covering, this careful manipulation as an hypocrisy and cheat, I saw it for what it really was, a desperate effort to make life bearable and sane. I admired the doctors and the nurses. I admired every human being in the world who, on top of a million, million horrors, yet built a nest, a haven and calm place. — Denton Welch, A Voice Through a Cloud Read more →

Turning Away Wrath

There are answers which, in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room, and to have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is all on your own side is even more exasperating in marriage than in philosophy. — George Eliot, Middlemarch Read more →

George Eliot on #MeToo

Let any lady who is inclined inquire into the comprehensiveness of her own beautiful views, and be quite sure that they afford accommodation for all the lives which have the honour to coexist with hers. — Middlemarch Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Middlemarch by George Eliot

George Eliot is a transgender author whose work was previously unfamiliar to this reviewer. Ha, kidding! It’s hard to think of new things to say about old books, but if you appreciate the novel as an art form, or you think you might appreciate the novel as an art form if you gave it a chance, you should read Middlemarch. What it is about? At 800+ pages, it’s about a lot of things: life in rural England in the 1830s, the status of women, the bonds of matrimony, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy and politics. It’s about the heroism of ordinary lives. It’s about, in the character of Dorothea Brooke, “the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.” Here’s the conclusion of the novel,… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Death on the Installment Plan is a fictionalized coming-of-age story based on Céline’s youth in pre-World War I France. Absent are heroism, transcendence, love and the possibility of love. Instead, there is a lot of human action that comes to nothing. Death is not ennobling. That said, hopelessness has never been described with more wit, energy and imagination or more droll, breathtaking language. Here’s a sample of the black comedy, as the narrator remembers a local physician (all ellipses in the original): “The most exquisite deaths, remember that, Ferdinand, are those that attack us in our most sensitive tissues . . .” He had a precious, elaborate, subtle way of talking, like the men of Charcot’s day. His prospecting of the Rolandic, the third ventricle, and the gray nucleus didn’t do him much good . . . in the end he died of a heart attack, under circumstances that were… Read more →

Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them. — George Eliot, Middlemarch

2017: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2017, roughly in the order listed. Not as many as I wuld have liked but I spent the first half of the year having a mental and physical breakdown. I’m back on track now. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (fiction) and From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Likes and Dislikes

Likes Dogs, books, spicy food Dislikes: Systems of thought that reduce the richness of human lives to impersonal laws, systems and numbers. Oxford commas. Read more →

Crossing the Border

It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, conviction, faith, history. Human life — and herein lies its secret — takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch. — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Read more →

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