Category Archives: Books

Book Store Friday

Not a bad haul.

The Dostoevsky I’ve not read and it’s clean paperback edition.
Ken Burns does it again; I haven’t read Hemingway since college and I liked the look of this edition and got it.
Someone had donated a number of these penguin editions. One of my favorite professors in college recommended Pnin and a $5 hardback seemed worth it.
While I’d read “If I had a hammer” as a kid, I had not read this autobiography and I’m looking forward to it.
$14.

The Human STain

“…how easily life can be one thing rather than another and how accidentally a destiny is made…on the other hand, how accidental fate may seem when things can never turn out other than they do.”

(As I read the third round of Gatsby essays, this time on the American Dream, and feel the same ideas bubbling up, many of which flow directly from a google search of “Gatsby American Dream” or “Gatsby Opportunity”, I’m wondering if next year if I shape the essays as a response to quotes like this. ).

Roth, Philip. The Human Stain.(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000), pp.125-126.

Great Line on introductions

What the reader wants to know is not what you plan to say but where you stand. They need some assurance that your point of view promises fresh illumination. They listen to your tone of voice, which conveys your intentions more quickly and clearly than a summary outline of the forthcoming composition. A vigorous introduction, therefore, will seek to establish not so much the subject matter to be addressed as the author’s way of addressing it. It will announce or at least prefigure the argument the author plans to pursue.

Lasch, Christopher. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Edited by Stewart Weaver. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Mohawk

“I wouldn’t worry about him too much. Nothing can ruin a good boy except growing up, and he’s going to do that no matter where you live.” 179

“Ann herself was no stranger to adversity, but she always hated any situation that could only be endured. She was able to summon the courage for a bold, confident stroke, but simply getting by left her dispirited, and it seemed that the older she got, the more frequent these situations became.”
224

Richard Russo, Mohawk, (NY: Vintage, 1986).

Thinking like a critic

I had forgotten this passage. Will use it Thursday and Friday:

A.O. Scott:

Are you serious? Anti-intellectualism is virtually our civic religion. “Critical thinking” may be a ubiquitous educational slogan—a vaguely defined skill we hope our children pick up on the way to adulthood—but the rewards for not using your intelligence are immediate and abundant.

As consumers of culture, we are lulled into passivity or, at best, prodded toward a state of pseudo-semi-self-awareness, encouraged toward either the defensive group identity of fanhood or a shallow, half-ironic eclecticism. Meanwhile, as citizens of the political commonwealth, we are conscripted into a polarized climate of ideological belligerence in which bluster too often substitutes for argument.

There is no room for doubt and little time for reflection as we find ourselves buffeted by a barrage of sensations and a flood of opinion. We can fantasize about slowing down or opting out, but ultimately we must learn to live in the world as we find it and to see it as clearly as we can. This is no simple task. It is easier to seek out the comforts of groupthink, prejudice, and ignorance. Resisting those temptations requires vigilance, discipline, and curiosity.

A. O Scott, Better Living through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth (New York: Penguin Books, 2017).

(Introduction is online)

Gish Jen

As a teacher and parent, I seem to encounter this a lot. Perhaps I’m speaking on a frequency that’ s inaudible to teenagers.

Listen, then, if you have ears.

Gish Jen, Typical American a Novel (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), 4.

Night Watchman

Appreciated and liked this novel a lot.

Final line from acknowledgments:

“Lastly, if you should ever doubt that a series of dry words in a government document can shatter spirits and demolish lives, let this book erase that doubt. Conversely, if you should be of the conviction that we are powerless to change those dry words, let this book give you heart.”  

Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman (New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2020).