This Thing Of Turning Old Books Into Journals Or Handbags Need To Stop


I was walking through a festival in Alexandria when I saw a book that caught my eye.

Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

This was the book that made his fortune and allowed him to become a full time man of letters. I was thrilled.

But no. It’s a blank journal. The old book (it must have been from the thirties or twenties, at least) has been eviscerated and the words of an important figure of the English Romantic movement, a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, thrown out to make room for whatever insipid thoughts contemporary humanity sees fit to record.

A bad bargain.

Arguably


 

It is perhaps because of also reading Vidal’s essays that I checked this out from the library. A powerful and important writer who is likely to still be forgotten. Will my child grow up to read Hitchens?

As the current events he covered recede (into the dark fields of the Republic?), there are still gems that will be worth reading in a quarter century, especially his ruminations on early US history and on his seeming inspiration, Thomas Paine.

Also, as much as one might love listening to his voice, it is easier to forgive and understand his political positions when reading his actual words (I should add that I have only read one of his books that weren’t collected essays). He is, at his best (which he is not always at), at wonderful writer.

United States: Essays 1952-1992


I am continuing my exploration of the oeuvre of Gore Vidal to the surprise and perhaps disappointment of some friends and family who do not necessarily consider him a fit topic for deep delves.

And essays are always a tricky thing. And Vidal’s (but it feels better to call him Gore, doesn’t it?)… Gore’s essays are often considered his finest work, but also his worst. The majority of his political essays, despite his clear eyed and strong understanding of politics up until perhaps Reagan, have not aged like fine wine. Or rather, they are fine wine that was improperly stored and turned sour or else flavorless.

The book is divided into three thematic sections. The first is on literature and is a joy. Both his acclamations and his eviscerations are delicious and the latter want to make me you chortle (that is the word). The second is on politics and while there is much that is good, there is more that is – not necessarily bad, but also not necessarily worth reading anymore. The third and final section is about “state of being,” which, while vague and unwholesomely metaphysical, is also a return to form. He dives into his childhood love of the Oz novels. He writes about himself and his work and life. Politics and literature touch on it and always in a fascinating way.

America The Philosophical


A sort of history of mostly twentieth century American philosophy (Carlin threatens to talk about Emerson, but doesn’t; he also writes briefly about the mostly nineteenth century Peirce and James in the context of Peirce, but those two reached into the next century; he also finds space for this millennium and even for Obama). Continue reading