Review: ‘The Club: Johnson, Boswell, And The Friends Who Shaped An Age

What began as an admirable effort to show the wide ranging influence of an eighteenth century London club whose members included Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Joshua Reynolds, and Edward Gibbon rapidly devolved into an unsatisfying biography of Boswell and Johnson.

On the other hand, I learned that the classic nursery rhyme, ‘Do you know the muffin man,’ likely has salacious organization and I was inspired to do some googling and found that you can rent Boswell’s ancestral Scottish manse for your holiday.

Bridge Over The River Kwai

I bought this at World at the CornerWorld At The Corner. Because it takes place in Thailand, it seemed appropriate.

My in-laws took me to see the river. Which, incidentally, you have been pronouncing. If you end on a long i sound (like ‘my’), you are saying water buffalo. It should be end on a vowel sound more like that in ‘hey.’

The book itself is written in a strange style. Weirdly matter of fact, like Hemingway without any emotional adjectives. Or like a report which tries not to interrogate motives. Very different from our collective memories of Alec Guinness sabotaging William Holden’s sabotage.

‘The Four Loves’ By C.S. Lewis

I bought this because I had recently read a book about the Inklings and because Solid State Books has a wonderful selection near the bar (yes, they have a bar) on the philosophy shelves.

While I always bring my nook with me to Thailand, I always bring at least one paperback book. Something that is not too big and which stands rereading. Past international travel selections have included Wordsworth and Wuthering Heights (which I once read three times on a summer trip to Spain).

I had forgotten what an engaging writer Lewis can be (the last book I read of his was the turgid conclusion to his Space Trilogy). He reminds me of Thomas Merton and the G.K. Chesterton of Orthodoxy. Perhaps more like Chesterton’s conversational style, but even more so. I know that he honed a lot of his style via radio broadcasts and this has that feel of a fireside chat to a small group of curious acquaintances.

A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

Space opera but almost totally lacking in shots fired. Those fired are key to the plot but, notably, the protagonists never fire back.

A good ensemble piece that steals greatly, but not badly, from Firefly (but with aliens).

I enjoyed it and agree with all the great reviews, but it felt a little thin on its own. In honor of the Firefly reference, it felt like the pilot to a very good show. The pilot is good, but is really intended to set up the season. I’d rather it had felt like a whole season than just the pilot.

World At The Corner

As it turns out, World at the Corner is a barely two week old bookstore in Bangkok (thank you, May, for letting me know about it). You may know my love for bookstores if you follow me at all.

It is a small but lovely, mostly English language bookshop near the royal palace. They specialize in art books, literature in translation, and generally books that, as the owner’s brother (and a famous photographer), Nat, said, show you new horizons.

I bought, in honor of the country, Bridge Over the River Kwai. My daughter bought Cat Is Better. Note: she is not getting a cat.

But I saw a dozen books that I wanted to get, including several I had never seen anywhere else (and I visit a lot of bookstores).

Riverby Books Has Closed

I was walking back towards Eastern Market on Sunday and made a point of walking Riverby Books. I have been trying to restrain my book buying habit lately but it was on my way back (I’d been visiting some museums earlier) so why not?

And I saw… well, you can see the pictures.

It was never my favorite, partly because it was a little more expensive than other used bookstores but it had some wonderful rare books and its selection was high quality.

Seeing this left me feeling very melancholy. The bookstore was sold to new owners a year or so ago, so one hoped they would have kept it going.

Good Day – Book Art & Contemporary Political Art

I went into the office on a Sunday because I simply couldn’t believe that over the course of four and a half day holiday weekend I hadn’t received any work emails (I hadn’t but then again, our systems were being spotty and people claimed to have tried to send me documents).

Upon discovering that my fears were groundless and having already found parking downtown, I decided to spend a little flaneur time.

First, the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The museum was not only free that day but featured a Book Art Festival, which is a fancy way of saying that young, creative types set up tables with their zines and chapbooks and letterpress creations.

Naturally, I bought five books. One of those books was a book of art reproductions created in the wake of Trump’s election which leads to my next fortuitous encounter.

While walking to Chinatown in search of noodles, I passed by a sign that pointed through a door and up some stairs to the Center for Contemporary Political Art.