procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

book reading tizzy

i've loved getting my head into some books of late.
first came Gulliver's Travels (via, then i finished off Calvin's Institutes, then Ben Elton's Inconceivable, then the diary of Anne Frank, then a penguin excerpt from Herodotus, Xerxes Invades Greece.

Gulliver was great, particularly as i'd only ever read a dumbed-down version of the first part, the voyage to Lilliput (which the supposed abomination of a film is broadly based on). what was striking was the decline in humanity evidenced in each of the four parts. the God-fearer Swift was interested to show the absolute depravity of man, which is revealed bit-by-bit throughout. indeed, by the end of the book (SPOILER ALERT) Gulliver cannot stand the sight nor smell of others of his species, so disappointed is he with the race he was unfortunate enough to be born of.

Calvin was long. and often concerned with defending orthodox Christianity against people who are long-gone and arguments long-forgotten. i was struck with his thoughts on baptism, as well as confirmation, which i will write about soon. i'll probably have to read it all again when i finish college - the beginning, read two years ago on the bus, is a distant memory.

Elton is a great writer, whether for TV or his novels. he did a great job in this book of making the whole vibe associated with trying to conceive a heck of a lot lighter. this isn't why i was reading it - but the depths of despair i understand can be associated with this issue, when cut with Elton's humour, couldn't hurt. i think...

Anne Frank was great. seeing the war from a little teeny-bopper's perspective (i refuse to say tweenager) was very different. i've talked to people who were her age but in Australia (my nan) - a thoroughly different perspective - as well as someone her age in Germany (my Gast-Oma). it's funny to think that they probably all would've gotten along well. what i found hard reading it was as the dates got closer to (SPOILER ALERT) her being found and taken to a concentration camp was her ignorance. the last entry shows her to be a typical selfish child - like all 14 year old girls the world over since time immemorial - who just happens to be in hiding with seven others in Nazi-occupied Holland. so she whinges to her diary - and that's it. no warning. the hagiography in the beginning of the book was a bit odd, yet not unexpected. but a great example of the pointlessness of war, greed, xenophobia, that catches all and sundry up in its wake.

finally, Xerxes. this is where the inspiration for the movie the 300 came from. a couple of years ago i read Thucydides' the Peloponnesian War, which has a very similar style. frustratingly, there are 9 and a half blank pages, and the story isn't finished - (SPOILER ALERT) Athens is sacked - and the book stops! what happens to the ships that have sailed down south? does Xerxes make it across the isthmus? of all the relatively inane things that are included, why include them, and not finish this part of the story, AND leave blank pages? what are you doing with Penguin Epics mr/mrs Penguin? anyway, it was interesting to read Herodotus explain the origins of all the various tribes and nations - where they'd come from, who they moved on, their descent, origin of their name etc. it is bizarre to think of a time when you could emigrate somewhere where there was noone where you were going - hey, this looks like a good place to start a settlement that will still be here in a few thousand years!

but otherwise, onto some serious reading. Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred. should keep me going a little while.

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8:24 pm  

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