27 November, 2006

Quick catch-up

I haven't been keeping up to date with what I've read recently, so here is a quick catch-up:

Alan Furst's Blood of victory - it says a lot about Furst that while I vaguely remember enjoying this, I can't remember what it was about, just the noir-ish atmosphere and a couple of characters. His WW2 thrillers are enjoyable enough, but very samey and unmemorable after a while. [72]

Rabbi Lionel Blue's autobiography A backdoor to heaven. I loved this, as I adore Rabbi Lionel Blue (he does Thought for the day on the Today programme). Such a funny, human man. I wrote him a fan letter to say how much his TFTD cheers me up. [73]

Two texts by Kant, for my course: What is enlightenment? and Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View. I've written about these for my course and will try and dig it out and post it on here at some point. [74] [75]

Further German philosophy: extracts from Herder's Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity and from Hegel's Lectures on the philosophy of history. And oh boy, the Hegel is hard. [76] [77]

More fun is V. P. Brady's Love in the theatre of Marivaux which I'm reading for my French enlightenment course and really enjoying. I'm beginning to appreciate Marivaux more: the lightness, the elegance, the wit. It's like good, non-tragic ballet. [78]

Less interesting was Jonathan Wolff's Why read Marx today? which is short and easy and nothing I don't already know. [79]

16 November, 2006

Two kinds of American children

Unearthed some childen's books in the library that I hadn't read since I was very little, and since the gloominess of autumn and going back to college was stressing me, I had a little escapist binge.

First By the banks of plum creek, By the shores of Silver Lake and The long winter: three books from Laura Ingalls Wilder's accounts of growing up in pioneer America. Her family pack up their belongings in a wagon one day and drive West into unpopulated land where her father stakes a homesteading claim to some land and they settle. As a child, I was more impressed by the strictness of the parents - no playing on Sundays, no contradicting, children should be seen and not heard. The amazingness of actually just taking your entire life and driving off into unknown lands almost passed me by. Now I'm stunned at how brave they were. The politics are also interesting, especially the politics of community in The long winter. [66][67] [68]

Secondly, another series that has a rather less individualistic attitude towards community and society: Mildred D Taylor's books about growing up black in Depression-era Mississippi, Roll of thunder, hear my cry and Let the circle be unbroken, and the prequel to these The land. These are truly brilliant, terribly sad books about the awful difficulty of bringing up a child in an apartheid system both to have self-respect and to be safe from being attacked by white people around her for being 'uppity'. [69] [70] [71]