A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars  - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank E. Schoonover, Ray Bradbury I certainly never imagined that I'd read anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs -- let alone something entitled "A Princess of Mars" -- but it was on the Coursera Fantasy and Science Fiction reading list along with a lot of good solid classics that I had read, so I was curious.What a surprise! Of course it was full of battle scenes and there isn't an excessive amount of character development and the princess had to have tiny little hands (because who could fall in love with a woman with normal-sized hands?) but the writing was much better than I expected.The frame for the action-adventure story is actually quite melancholic (rather like the Iliad wrapped in a Walter Scott novel) -- it's no accident that the main character is from the American south. The whole thing is quite nicely crafted: it doesn't wander around needlessly; there's a good balance between world building and action; all the characters act according to their characters so they're not just puppets of the plot. One other aspect of the writing that stood out for me was the quality of the descriptions. They're very evocative, many of them (especially when related to nature and landscapes) are quite beautifully done.One unexpected side to the protagonist: he states very clearly that he has no problem killing people but that it's important to be kind to animals. And he acts on this a number of times even though it's not necessary to the plot. What an odd touch for an adventure story. There are quite a number of little surprises like this.All in all, there are a lot of reasons why this book rises above the genre.

I Love a Broad Margin to My Life

I Love a Broad Margin to My Life - Maxine Hong Kingston Painfully bad. Obscenely, aggressively naive.I persevered until: I felt love palpable and saw love manifest -- it's pink. ... I could open my arms wide and gather up great big pink balls of Peace and hurl them east toward Iraq... also threw pink balls of Peace to the Iraqi children, to protect them... Grotesque and offensive.

The Poetry of Rilke

The Poetry of Rilke - Rainer Maria Rilke Five stars for the Edward Snow translation. The Robert Bly and Stephen Mitchell "translations" are rubbish.

Kaputt (New York Review Books Classics)

Kaputt - Cesare Foligno, Curzio Malaparte, Dan Hofstadter One of the most beautiful and horrible books I have ever read.

The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head

The Self Illusion - Bruce M. Hood Just stopped reading this today.

36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction - Rebecca Goldstein “The plural of 'opus' is 'opera'”“I love the way you know these things...”Welcome to the self-congratulatory Olympics! I can't even be bothered to pick it apart. Suffice it to say that it's one long fireworks display of "cleverness" that leaves nothing but ashes in your mouth. Subtext to the entire thing wails "Look how smart I am!"Hollow, shallow and exhaustingly pretentious. Embarrassingly mundane observations that wouldn't seem deep even on a TV sitcom. The characters are insultingly ridiculous, the plot seems non-existent. The witty-banter dialogue is dull -- nowhere near as witty as it thinks it is. "Was he having a Proustian moment?"Ugh.


Remainder - Tom McCarthy I loathed this book from beginning to end. And what truly drives me mad -- it's one of those very rare cases where I can't decide whether it's brilliant or a hollow, pretentious waste of time. Can it somehow be both?

Currently reading

Aldous Huxley
Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities
Paul Cartledge