I borrowed it from the library, but with everything I had going on, especially the other reading I needed to do, it was clear I wasn’t going to have time to finish it before the due date (there was a long-ish waiting list for it). So, I pre-ordered the softcover version (because, as much as I want good books to succeed, that doesn’t mean I have to pay for a hardback copy; especially since it was so much less awkward to hold and read the paperback, even an oversized one).
It is not about Transcendentalism, but about the town of Concord, Massachusetts from the 1790s to mid 1840s. The opening history is about the town figuring out how to memorialize its role in the Revolutionary War and it closes with Henry David Thoreau giving the lectures that would make up Walden. It’s a close reading of the history and archives of a particular place that happened to have been very important in American history.
The structure is a thing of magic. It manages to move chronologically through time, while, at the same time, being arranged thematically. There is a section about religious change, as the long-time minister of the official church moves towards Unitarianism and rival churches are formed. There is a section about the rise of manufacturing. And, of course, there is a great deal about Ralph Waldo Emerson, though he does not dominate the book, because it is, ultimately, social history, not intellectual history.
Stop talking about the philosophy of Socrates, please. We don’t know what it is. We have three writers who put words into his mouth – Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes – all of whom had clear and different agendas for which they were using the idea and memory of Socrates. I would suggest that Xenophon might be the most accurate, because his Socratic dialogues seem to have the least personal agenda. Aristophanes was mocking the future hemlock drinker and Plato was building his own metaphysical structure, but Xenophon’s agenda seems little more than to show that he was a basic, but positive moral influence and not, as he was accused, a corrupter of the youth. But we don’t really know what he said and thought, beyond clearly having irritated many people.
And check out the whole magazine, they are publishing some great articles and reviews; I would suggest that they are a European equivalent to something like The Los Angeles Review of Books, which is to say a place for intelligent essays and reviews (many of them, more intelligent than mine, I am freely willing to admit).
I do not like the provocative title. I don’t think it is particularly useful. Years ago, before I became a father, I read Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station (I have not read any of his poetry, or rather, any of his poetry collections; I have probably read one of his poems in a magazine), but Hatred is my first time returning to him.
The actual contents are much less provocative than the title and perhaps the publisher picked it, so let’s give him some benefit of the doubt.
He makes some nice points and has a very interesting analysis of Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. He has a great deal to say about implicit bias in poetry criticism that, while not new, is important to say.
But overall, the book is interesting rather than captivating and also meanders a bit, which increases the sense that the title wrote a figurative check that the copy can’t cover.
The ur-text for all arguments for poetry in the English tradition, Sir Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesy is better than you think. Don’t let that archaic spelling in the title throw you off.
I have heard it described as being very Aristotleian, though I confess I don’t see it myself, except insofar as both are operating under the shadow of Plato and both attempt to answer Plato’s challenges with more practical than theoretical answers.
After first reading it, one of my thoughts was its timelessness. In both a good and bad way. If you made the language blander and more modern, you could slap David Brooks name on it and claim it had been published in The Atlantic under the title “Poetry is dying: I have a plan to save it.”
The plan is reject literary theory and focus on how poetry is of practical value, as a moral and pedagogical tool. Which isn’t wrong, but feels inadequate.
I had always Gilson described as being a sort of Christian existentialist (people felt the need to add ‘Christian’ because figures like Sartre made their atheism such an important part of both their public image and the problem they attempted to solve). It took me a while to see it until I then read a bit of Hans Urs Von Balthasar, another Catholic thinker (better known as a theologian than a philosopher, though the difference feels hazy to me). Balthasar is a German and Gilson is French, but in terms of how their tendencies towards a sort of existentialism played out, Gilson is very much in the Heidegger mode, concerned with capital ‘B’ Being, whereas Von Balthasar has Sartre’s concern with freedom.
Gilson is attempting to reassert a sort of primacy for beauty. In. formulation of Being, Beauty, and Truth, many times, religious thinkers will put Beauty to use in the service of helping people experience the other two, especially Truth. Gilson seems to have Truth and Beauty emanate more or less equally from Being.
A lot of what he writes in The Arts of the Beautiful seemed to miss the point, to me. He made a mention of something resembling Stendhal Syndrome, and this helped confuse me, because he is not writing for the person who experiences art, but only about making art (in fact, his main point is that art is not a form of knowing, but or making; which doesn’t really make sense for the viewer, I would say). Once you get that, it all, more or less, makes sense.
This short novel was a fun, if predictable read. A group of men in an exclusive club, improbably named The Grills, eating, drinking, and reading newspapers. Three men have connected stories around the murder of a returning aristocrat and a disreputable, larcenous Russian princess.
But any careful reader will quickly see the game: the storytellers are trying to delay a charismatic member of Parliament from going to the House of Commons and delivering a forceful speech in support of a naval bill. The MP is a fan of mysteries and they hope, like Scheherazade, to delay him by dragging out the mystery (when one man finishes, the next announces, a ah! I have more information to illuminate this mystery).
They succeed in delaying him and announce that they have saved the Empire from wasteful spending, only for the MP to say, wait, I gave my speech this morning and the bill passed – I was just going to have dinner with a friend.