January 24, 2007

Yay Existentialism!

Filed under: bookish, criticism, religion — ted @ 6:59 pm

In the Chronicle, Texas professor Robert Solomon defends existentialism from its critics and those who misunderstand its premise:

Only a few weeks ago I heard a radio commentator declare that the “nothing really matters” lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was truly “existential.” And I still hear pundits and some of my university colleagues decry existentialism as the source of our nihilistic gloom, the reason why our students don’t vote and why they experiment with dangerous drugs. I listen to such comments with a mix of amusement and horror because I like existentialism and I think that existentialism, not pessimism, is what America needs right now.


November 12, 2006

from Mill’s Autobiography

Filed under: bookish — ted @ 4:28 pm

A weekend selection:

Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way. The enjoyments of life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a principal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, ot putting it to flight by fatal questioning. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life. And I still hold to it as the best theory for all those who have but a moderate degree of sensibility and of capacity for enjoyment, that is, for the great majority of mankind.

— J.S. Mill, Autobiography, Book 5

November 2, 2006

Burglarize a Nobel laureate

Filed under: bookish, literature — ted @ 10:57 am

And make of yourself an example for a larger point about the cultural and political situation in your country.

Last week, Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer was robbed in her house in Johannesburg. She was unharmed, although it seems she was roughed up a bit after refusing to give the robbers her wedding ring.

A week later, Gordimer was keen to view the incident from the other side. The robbers, she said, are products of a society grappling with the legacy of South Africa’s past. “I know that South Africa has a terrible problem with crime, with violent crime. But I don’t think the answer is more police. I think we must look at the reasons behind the crime. There are young people in poverty without opportunities. They need education, training and employment. That is the way to reduce crime,” she said.

A similar, though more violent, South African burglary is described in the novel Disgrace — written by countryman (and fellow Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize winner) J. M. Coetzee — which was just named the “best novel of the past 25 years” by the Guardian.

October 13, 2006

Masterful, Indeed

Filed under: art, bookish — ted @ 10:42 am

Today’s New York Times has a glorious review of the “Masters of American Comics” exhibition now open in Manhattan and Newark. Since I most likely won’t make it to the exhibit, I’ll have to settle for the Slide Show which accompanies the article. Sigh…

Above: two of the better panels (described in the Times as “Superman Suicide”) from the best graphic novel ever, Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth. Please (I beg of you) click to enlarge. And then read the book — it will blow your mind, I promise.

October 10, 2006

Tell me I am not writing into an abyss…

Filed under: bookish — ted @ 3:17 pm

This video promoting literacy is adorable.

October 9, 2006


Filed under: bookish — ted @ 8:11 pm

Following in the footsteps of the New York Times, the Guardian held their own “What’s the best novel in the past 25 years?” contest, featuring works published in England, Ireland, and any of the colonies. The winner was J. M Coetzee’s Disgrace, a work I just finished reading myself (it was superb).

Lists of this sort are easy to criticize, but I always find them interesting and beneficial, especially as a younger reader who wasn’t off age when most of these books were published. I’ve heard enough mention of Amis’s Money and McEwan’s Attonement to put them on my own list of books needing to be read, and a list like this helps guide my choices in the future.

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