EppsNet Archive: Books

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 would 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 →

What Happened?

According to this review by Piers Morgan, Hillary has narrowed down the list of people and entities responsible for her 2016 election defeat to James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Mitch McConnell, the mainstream media, the New York Times, Matt Lauer, Fox News, Jill Stein, men, women, white people, black people, Joe Biden, Anthony Weiner, and the Electoral College. Notably absent from the list: Hillary Clinton. Read more →

To Young Women Considering a Career in Technology

You’ve probably read a lot of articles about how sexist and awful the culture is for women in technology. I think if anything deters young women from technology careers, it’s this glut of articles saying how sexist and awful the culture is. I’ve worked in software development for 30 years. In my experience — and feel free to discount this because I’m not a woman — the culture is not tough for women. If anything, men give women the benefit of the doubt because they’d like to have more women around. As Holden Caulfield used to say, “I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they’re only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something.” Yes, I have seen bad things happen to women in tech, but I’ve seen bad things happen… Read more →

Identity Politics = Liberal Suicide?

Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. He’s got a book coming out, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. As you might have surmised from his job title, Lilla is a liberal himself. His concern is “the divisive, zero-sum world of identity politics” and its negative effect on liberalism in America. Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal: As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate. Over the past decade a… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

The Sleepwalkers is one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read, very close to the edge of what can be accomplished with the written word. I had never heard of either the book or the author — neither seems to have any following here in the States — but Amazon for some reason started recommending me post-WWI Austrian modernists. (I also read Robert Musil’s A Man Without Qualities, which was extremely tedious.) I don’t know who to compare Broch with, in terms of language, wit, psychological and historical insight — maybe Nietzsche, if Nietzsche had decided to write historical fiction. The book chronicles, via multiple overlapping narratives, the moral history of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the disintegration of values that led to fascism. And in his fear of the voice of judgment that threatens to issue from the darkness, there awakens within him… Read more →

Voltaire and Me

According to LibraryThing, Voltaire’s library and my library have three books in common, even though Voltaire died almost 200 years before I was born. The three books are: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne I also have in my library one book — Candide — written by Voltaire. Read more →

The Blindness and the Wretchedness of Man

hen I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe, and man without light, left to himself, and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island, and should awake without knowing where he is, and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. I see other persons around me in conditions of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them, and seen… Read more →

2016: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2016, roughly in the order listed. I got off to a good start then had a kind of a breakdown later in the year. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (fiction) and For the Time Being by Annie Dillard (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Doors That Didn’t Necessarily Need to Be Closed

You know, you spend your childhood watching TV, assuming that a some point in the future everything you see there will one day happen to you: that you too will win a Formula One race, hop a train, foil a group of terrorists, tell someone ‘Give me the gun,’ etc. Then you start secondary school and suddenly everyone’s asking you about your career plans and your long-term goals, and by goals they don’t mean the kind you are planning to score in the FA Cup. Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg — that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagined, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing the dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor tiles is actually largely what people mean when they speak… Read more →

You’re Walking Around With a Mask On

You know you’re walking around with a mask on, and you desperately want to take it off and you can’t because everyone else thinks it’s your face. — Pat Barker, Regeneration Read more →

This Was the Room I Had to Live In

This was the room I had to live in. It was all I had in the way of a home. In it was everything that was mine, that had any association for me, anything that took the place of a family. Not much; a few books, pictures, radio, chessmen, old letters, stuff like that. Nothing. Such as they were they had all my memories. — Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep Read more →

3 Possibilities

From The Possibilities of Organization by Barry Oshry (with very slight modification): Possibility I. Internal Warfare We can misunderstand one another’s worlds; we can misinterpret one another’s behavior; we can see malice, insensitivity and incompetence behind one another’s actions; we can see ourselves as the well-intentioned, blameless, helpless victims of other people and of circumstances; we can act accordingly and go to war with one another. Possibility II. Understanding and Accommodation We can see into, comprehend, accept and adjust to one another’s worlds; we can accommodate to others, acting in ways that make it possible, easy even, for them to do what we need them to do in order for us to move ahead with our work; we can see the “stuff” that comes at us from others as the behavior of people struggling to cope with and survive in the unique conditions of their worlds; we can choose NOT… Read more →

Harper Lee, 1926-2016

28 Sep 2008 I took my son to the bookstore to buy To Kill a Mockingbird for his English class. They had two paperback editions available — one with a fancy binding for $15.95 and another one for three dollars less. I pulled the cheaper one off the shelf and my son asked, “Why are we getting that one?” I said, “Because it’s three dollars less for the same book.” “I like the other cover better,” he said. “Gimme three dollars.”   23 Oct 2008 FATHER: Would you take out the trash please? SON: Are you KIDDING?! I’m doing homework! I’ll take out the trash if you read To Kill a Mockingbird and tell me what each chapter is about. FATHER: I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird. You want to know what it’s about? ‘Racism is Bad.’ Now take out the garbage.   RIP Harper Lee Read more →

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