Monday, September 01, 2008

Online reading: week of September 1, 2008

A review of Brenda Wineapple's new book White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The author calls it an attempt "to throw a small, considered beam onto the lifework of these two unusual, seemingly incompatible friends." It definitely rounds out the Dickinson I'm used to seeing.

"If it seems a tad precious to peg 300-plus pages to an almost exclusively epistolary friendship -- Higginson and Dickinson met only twice, when he came to visit her at her home in Amherst, Mass., and his letters to her do not survive -- not to worry. Ms. Wineapple specializes in imparting flesh-and-blood substance and narrative thrust to literary biographies."

Daniel Mendelsohn on Herodotus and The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. I’ve been eyeing this since its release and can’t wait to read it. The Landmark Thucydides is wonderful and I have been wanting to re-read Herodotus...I can't think of a better resource to do so.

“And so, in the end, the contemporary reader is likely to come away from this ostensibly archaic epic with the sense of something remarkably familiar, even contemporary. That cinematic style, with its breathtaking wide shots expertly alternating with heart-stopping closeups. The daring hybrid genre that integrates into a grand narrative both flights of empathetic fictionalizing and the anxious, footnote-prone self-commentary of the obsessive, perhaps even neurotic amateur scholar.”

Theodore Dalrymple muses on consciousness, a topic that has been in the forefront of several recent books posted here, in Of Death and Transfiguration
The precise boundaries of the sacred are always disputable, but we cannot do without an awareness of the sacred, even when we know that sacredness is not a natural quality, that it is not just ‘there’ in the way that natural qualities such as weight and density are, that it does not inhere as a natural quality of anything, that it is imposed upon the world by us in a way that other qualities are not. And that is part of the reason why a purely scientific attitude to life is both undesirable and impossible.

Unfortunately, people have often tried to adopt an impossible attitude to life. The mere fact that the attitude is impossible doesn’t mean that the attempt is without effect, quite the reverse. Attempts to desanctify human life in the name of rationality have, in my view predictably, resulted in the most terrible of crimes.

10 Questions for Tom Wolfe at
“If you add up the college education of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner, you get to spring break of freshman year.”

David Pryce-Jones reviews David Lebedoff's The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War. "School exams often ask candidates to compare and contrast two unmatched subjects, and that is what David Lebedoff has done with Waugh and Orwell. In his eyes, the two are both geniuses with unchallenged places in the great canon of literature that justifies England to posterity—and more than that, they have the self-same persona."

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