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Books I Read in 2010 (Pt. 4)

 And here's the last of 'em...

*bold and asterisked books are ones that I recommend


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811) - I enjoyed the book.  Elinor, Marianne, and their mother are truly interesting characters.  Nonetheless, the plot is pretty trying... a bunch of rich people who contribute no labor to society sit around and wonder about each other... a few of them get themselves into some relational trouble...

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813) - My experience with this book was not so different... Elizabeth and Jane manage to be as likable as Elinor and Marianne were, and Darcy is okay too.  But it's still just a bunch of privileged people being privileged... It's not like they are actively self-absorbed, rather, they seem to literally know nothing else... they seem so preoccupied in their own little world that they don't even realize they are actually victims of their wealth.

*The Revelation of John, Volume 1 (Revised Edition) by William Barclay (1976) (183 pages) - Barclay was (and is) a very influential Scottish commentator, and it's easy to see why, once you get a taste of his charismatic writing.  His works (as I've read them so far) are not directed and organized by a presented, reasonably systematic hermeneutic- that hermeneutic being something I look for in a serious commentary.  Nonetheless, the man demonstrates heroic empathy, and it makes his devotional-styled moral exhortations fairly appealing.  And, even on the academic side, he does offer quite a bit of background information on the culture and history of the cities of the churches to whom the seven letters in Revelation are written.  It's this first volume's particular attention to representing the original audience of Revelation in its city-by-city context that makes me recommend it.

The Revelation of John, Volume 2 (Revised Edition) by William Barclay (1976) (232 pages) - Not to drone on about Barclay's commentary on Revelation, I did not find this latter volume as illuminating as the first.

*The Game:  Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss (2005) (452 pages) - Wow, what to say about this book? My friend Randy wanted me to read it a few years ago, but, after hearing a little bit about it, I utterly rejected the idea of reading it.  It sounded like your typical alpha-male frat-boy douchebaggery.  And then I found the book in Iraq, in a different frame of mind (and not recognizing it as the book Randy recommended earlier), and was immediately enthralled.  I quickly realized it was what I had rejected earlier, but didn't care, and read it in two sittings (which is significant because I'm a slow reader).  Without a doubt, the book is repulsing, morally and culturally.  And yet it taps into some very neglected masculine concerns (for me, and apparently lots of other guys, anyway).  Furthermore, some of it is just outrageously entertaining... the format of the book is one that enjoys mixing between narrative, correspondence, and technical styles.  But at the very least, reading this book will bring up some very important concerns, and discussing them with someone else will make for a very important conversation.  I would love to exchange thoughts and insights concerning this book with most anyone.

*Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (1959) (263 pages) - This is classic science fiction... it's incredible how many later sci-fi works stand on the shoulders of this imaginative original.  But besides giving roots to much of the modern sci-fi backdrop, this book truly stakes its territory in the philosophy department.  The characters are adamant thinkers and speakers, exchanging unrealistically long and serious discourses on principles, motivations, and systems.  Although the book is itself a campaign for a more militarized society and world, it gives the concern for violence a dignity that the militant tend to neglect.  The arguments in this book invite me to meet them with whatever objective arguments I may find... there is no impossibly high wall of emotionally-blinded patriotism to kill the discussion.  And further, the book presents a case for militarism that is not just pensive but hands-on, rough and ready, without entitlement, leading from the frontline.  Jesus may not have been militaristic, but he shared, and exemplified, that sort of cross-bearing leadership.  So, although the book tragically makes a case for being pro-military, it does it very well (much better than virtually all cases for militancy I've heard from people in my life, with much more consistency and integrity), and that goes a long way.  I guess I'm taking what I can get...


Long Live the Written Word,


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:32 am (UTC)
I think you might be missing some of the subtext in Austen's works--she was commenting on the rigid structure that women have to navigate in society. Much of that structure took the form of assumed feminine roles and the constraint of expectations. And, in both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, the families are hardly well off. In fact, poverty is a constant threat. They're more middle class than anything else.
Jan. 17th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
I was going to say this too. P&P is all about the problems you face if you are a(n upper) middle class woman in a society that says you are not a full person and cannot act like one. You can't work, you won't get a family inheritance, you may not always be able to live off the income of your immediate family (at least not without falling into poverty) - so what do you do? You pretty much have to marry, so the ethical and moral dilemmas are naturally centered around that. If P&P were set in the modern era, I'd picture Lizzy in law school and Elinor as a doctor or social worker, etc, but they don't have those options.
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
I wonder...
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
If middle class still involves having servants do all of your work for you...
Jan. 17th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
Back then it did, yeah.
Jan. 17th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
...then middle class is quite actually upper class (at least to those doing your work for you!)
Jan. 17th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, classes were different back then. It's inadvisable to try to do a direct comparison of our idea of social classes to theirs--it just invites confusion.
Jan. 18th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
If you look at it in terms of cars though, the Bennetts are essentially a 1-car family. When Jane wants to go visit her friends, she asks if her father has the horses or if she can use them to take a carriage. That sort of problem wouldn't even occur to the Bingley and Darcy types.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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