EppsNet Archive: Literature

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

Like Virgil

Like Virgil, I recognize that I may have falsified reality in my attempt to create beauty . . . 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 →

George Orwell: “I Told You So”

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press review of the official calendar Hillary Clinton kept as secretary of state identified at least 75 meetings with longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors and corporate and other outside interests that were not recorded or omitted the names of those she met. — Associated Press Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said that Clinton “has always made an effort to be transparent since entering public life.” In addition to the unrecorded meetings with donors, this effort at transparency includes setting up a private email server to use as Secretary of State, and giving speeches at $200,000 per to Wall Street banks and investment firms, foreign governments and other special interest groups under a contract that prevents anyone from releasing a transcript of what she said. Merrill went on to say, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” 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 →

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 →

Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries, For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring; A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers, And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades; The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything; A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect; But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad! It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air, With joy with you, O soul of man. — Walt Whitman, “Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries” Read more →

2015: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2015, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: Hotel World by Ali Smith (fiction) and Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (non-fiction). Honorable Mention: Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Disgrace, Lament for a Maker, Nothing. My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Huckleberry Finn Banned Again

A Pennsylvania high school has removed Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its 11th-grade curriculum after complaints from students who said they were made “uncomfortable” by the novel. The school’s principal defended the decision to remove the book from the curriculum. “I do not believe that we’re censoring,” he said. “I really do believe that this is an opportunity for the school to step forward and listen to the students.” He went on to add, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Because if suppression of material you deem objectionable is not censoring, what is? As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!” Read more →

Cashing In

When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy. — Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Read more →

Happiness is Not . . .

Happiness does not consist of the gratification of your wishes. Anna Karenina, for example, is quite illuminating on this point. Try reading a book once in a while, you’ll pick up on a lot of universal errors like that. Read more →

All Joy Wants Eternity

O man, take care! What does the deep midnight declare? “I was asleep— From a deep dream I woke and swear:— The world is deep, Deeper than day had been aware. Deep is its woe— Joy—deeper yet than agony: Woe implores: Go! But all joy wants eternity— Wants deep, wants deep eternity. — Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Read more →

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. — W. B. Yeats, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Hotel World by Ali Smith

Happy is what you realize you are a fraction of a second before it’s too late. Hotel World takes place in and around a hotel in London, hence the title, but Hotel World is also a metaphor for life: people check in and people check out. It’s about remembering to live, remembering that you won’t live forever . . . it’s about love, not romantic love, but a mother’s love for her daughter, sisters’ love for each other . . . and it’s about how close people come to really understanding one another, which is not very close at all. Rating: Read more →

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