‘Walking’ By Henry David Thoreau


Walking began it’s life, according to the introduction, as a lecture. It’s a fine, well-written piece by one of America’s finest stylists.

But Thoreau feels a little juvenile to me nowadays. Frankly, when I was reading this, I kept thinking: wow, I should really read some Emerson.

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I was reading Apollonaire’s Zone when I had to pause over the last lines.

My edition translated it as:

Sun throat cut

But I had to stop because something was bothering me.

You may already know what I just realized – that Aimé Césaire had taken the title of his most famous work from that line; only I had only read it in a far more aggressive translation:

Solar throat slashed

Magician: Master


A little less ‘D&D’-y than its predecessor, but a little more needlessly complex mythology. A lot of deus ex machinas at work here. On the positive side, some nice subversion of expectations (no one gets the princess).

The next volume, while a direct sequel to this one, I gather, is more of a novel within the same world than a continuation of the same storyline. And I’ll probably read it, but I won’t rush. Does that make sense?

Varieties Of Religious Experience


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I thought that I’d read this before, but now I’m not so sure. Surely, I wasn’t thinking of Henry? More likely, I was imposing some stereotypes and prejudices onto my memories.

What my memories left out was how gentle and credulous the scientist was of religious experience and feelings, most especially towards a sort of combination of positive thinking and what we would call ‘new age faith healing.’ He is slightly less gentle towards of forms of Christian belief and gives the impression of personally being a vaguely agnostic Methodist (except when receiving positive energies from new age healers).

James, when speaking about knowledge, frequently uses the term ‘warranted.’ I bring this up because of Alvin Plantinga’s advocacy of using the word ‘warrant’ instead of ‘justified’ when defining knowledge. I am cruelly and inadequately simplifying here, but one reason is that he didn’t like the moralism implied in ‘justified,’ at least not in an epistemological context. How much did Plantinga take from James’ gentle treatment of religious feeling and his use of ‘warranted?’

‘Magician: Apprentice’ By Raymond E. Feist


I enjoyed it and I feel like it improved over the course of the book, but… I have a question for those who might know: did he shameless rip off Dungeons & Dragons or did D&D shamelessly rip off from Feist? Because the magic system seems like a good faith effort to justify/explain the D&D system of magic (which is all about creating a justification for why wizards shouldn’t be all powerful).

This was one of the books that I remember seeing in Waldenbooks and B. Dalton as a kid, with Feist being a prolific and popular author on the sci-fi and fantasy shelves of those now defunct (I believe) bookstores.

‘Inventing A Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson’ By Gore Vidal


I was forewarned regarding Vidal’s dislike of Hamilton, but was surprised by his frequent dismissal of Jefferson (though I loved his depiction of the third president in Burr) and his seeming affection for and interest in John Adams (though the McCullough biography was still within a couple of years of peak popularity, so maybe he felt compelled).

No one in their right mind reads a history by Vidal in order to know history. Understand more, perhaps, but not to know it, if that distinction makes any sense to you. And I know enough, I feel, to know what to distrust and what might offer some new understanding.

But I have always found Vidal’s obsession with American politics vaguely surprising. It makes perfect sense and he was, really, a frustrated politician, in many ways, in addition to the family history. But his public intellectual style and Brahminic accent, not to mention his long time home in Italy, he always felt like someone who should have spent the life of his mind with Cicero rather than Washington.

A Fighting Man Of Mars


Yup. Still reading these. Next up is Swords of Mars, which features John Carter as the protagonist for the first time since the third book (I think Fighting Man is the sixth or seventh book). But let’s not talk about John; let’s talk about Tan Hadron and his lady love, Tavia.

What’s the plot? There’s a kidnapping, beautiful women (including the most capable female character yet in Tavia, who is able to fence and pilot rocket ships with the best of them!), and plot twist after plot twist. The heroes keep encountering the enemy, having him at their mercy and then somehow getting captured and dumped into a new and terrible situation. This keeps happening. There are three or four books worth of plot crammed into several hundred pages, so let’s just say the action never lags.

And I still love it!