EppsNet Archive: Books

The Saints Went Marching In

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. — Matthew 27:51-53 It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told. The writer of the book of Matthew should have told us who the saints were who came to life again and went into the city. and what became of them afterward, and who it was that saw them — for he is not hardy enough to say that he saw them himself; whether they came out naked and all in natural buff, he-saints and she-saints; or whether… Read more →

What Comfort Can You Give Him?

When you get a person to look at the sun as it bakes down on the daily carnage taking place on earth, the ridiculous accidents, the utter fragility of life, the powerlessness of those he thought most powerful — what comfort can you give him from a psychotherapeutic point of view? — Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death Read more →

Two Great Fears

We now know that the human animal is characterized by two great fears that other animals are protected from: the fear of life and the fear of death. — Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death Read more →

To Make the Accusation is to Prove It. To Hear the Allegation is to Believe It.

Simply to make the accusation is to prove it. To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence. The label is the logic. Why did Coleman Silk do this? Because he is an x, because he is a y, because he is both. First a racist and now a misogynist. It is too late in the century to call him a Communist, though that is the way it used to be done. . . . That explains everything. — Philip Roth, The Human Stain Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne

It’s a good murder mystery, but about two-thirds of the way through, I felt like I couldn’t indulge the author’s sexual obsessions any further and just flipped ahead to see whodunit. Every man has either “a dick like a mule” or “a dick like a Tampax.” No one has ” a dick of average proportions.” Sexual relationships are either non-existent (with one’s wife) or preposterously frequent and varied (with one’s mistress(es)). One unlikely plot device is premised on a particular woman’s “most intimate scent.” I’d suggest that the author have his head examined but he’s been dead for nearly 10 years . . . Read more →

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 →

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