100 Greatest - A Sometimes Odd Collection
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The Shock of the New--opened my eyes to the value of modern art and ways of thinking about art in general. Hughes was a witty, masterful writer, electrifying on more than one topic.
Ways of seeing--very short, shares with Hughes the capacity to spark new ideas about visual stimuli and the plastic arts whilst connecting them to the socio-political matrix... frequently assigned to freshers in various disciplines for good reason. Apparently it was based on a TV series--probably worth seeing if Berger narrated.
Eminent Victorians--you think you know irony, but you don't know irony like Lytton Strachey knew irony. The downside is that it would help/you might be tempted to absorb ridiculous amounts of godawfully tedious Victorian lore to appreciate fully what this subtle monkey did.
The autobiography of Alice B. Toklas--some of the easiest Stein to read, and god willing you'll fall in love and read more
Orientalism by Edward Said--white dickheads love to hate this book, and higher praise is unknown to man. Or do I mean woman. I'd turn the Guardian's blurb on its head though--it's that Western politics and condescension are romanticised by the orientalists.
Postwar by Tony Judt--first ever that a Western historian presented a view of Eastern Europe that breaks with the glum, monotonous clichés. Solid yet readable, a feat.
An image of Africa--how dare an African criticise a European literary great's "take" on Africa? Did the stupid savage not get it's all a metaphor?!?! Start listening to Achebe and some day you may stop being a white supremacist asshole.
Godel, Escher, Bach--Hofstadter's only the second most-romantic book but least laboured. Don't fear it, most mathematicians can't read for shit, nobody writes books for them. This is a book for dreamers and children.
Rousseau's confessions--no, I'm not recommending it (specially, I mean, it's a free country, anyone can read whatever), I just have to express--not for the first time--my wonder at how breathtakingly free white dickheads feel they are to show in public what swine they are. How confident, somewhere deep down or even right there on the surface, that they are nevertheless loveable, admirable, that someone somewhere will greet the sight of their ass warts with standing ovation.
De profundis--I had a weird experience with this book. I read it in one go and fell asleep and dreamt I was in a prison cell--in Wilde's prison cell--and that he was telling the book to me. I got caught in such a whirlpool of despair (possibly because I was despairing enough on my own account already) that when I wrenched myself awake I felt I had just escaped dying. I was also utterly convinced, for a time at least, that I understood what had happened to Wilde in the smallest detail.
Not promising anything, but who knows what might happen to you if you read it.
The diary of a young girl--I can't count the times I read this as a pre-teen/teenie. I suppose if you keep re-reading it, she keeps being alive again. I suppose I can't actually believe that she died.
Symposium--was there ever such a bunch of white dickheads like the Greeks. And yet for some reason they have a woman philosopher at the banquet with them. Which is how we know it never really happened.
Important text for LGBTQ+ rights movement.
Meditations--god knows why but at eighteen years old I was mad about Marcus. Oh no, wait, I remember--I was catastrophically, tragically in love. Suicide beckoned (not really, strictly theoretically.) Stoicism rocked my foundering boat.
When I recovered, I was a cynic.
Montaigne's Essays--this. This is The Best Book. If people dropped the Bible and the Qur'an for Montaigne we'd truly live in the best of all the possible worlds.
The communist manifesto--also this. This is The Best Book. Fuck conservative fucks and soggy liberals, they are burying us all. When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman? One for all and all for one.
On the origin of species--just an all-around lovely book and the most charming, humane approach to science I can think of.
Danube--Magris is the kind of voice and person of erudition you'd want perched on your shoulder like a familiar at all times to explain everything you see and hear more probingly than you could imagine possible. His grasp of subjects is rivalled only by his humanity and generosity. Once he's gone he'll never be replaced, that mould of intellectual, classical in foundation, modernist in heart and mind, simply doesn't exist anymore.
The rings of Saturn--strange to see Sebald classed as non-fiction... Let's say he used fact to poetise in a manner wholly his own.
>7 LolaWalser: Again, years since I read it but aside from its being interesting & readable what I liked about Rousseau's Confessions was not the person it revealed but the way in which he was revealed. (I'd say the same of the essays about his walks but diff. kettle of fish as by then it was psychosis he was so blithely unaware of exhibiting.) Because he wrote well enough to carry readers along with him I wonder do some of them overlook the extent of his assholery; I seem to remember stopping now & again and thinking 'what? what did he say a few chapters ago? I can't believe he'd admit that, never mind doit!' with belated indignation. (Nowadays I'd just roll my eyes.)
I don't remember how much of a "first" Rousseau's "tell-all" was--didn't, ummm, say Augustine set the real precedent? Anyway, I don't mind the warts per se, it's the smarmy obfuscation, embellishments, actual lies... but mainly the sheer chutzpah a dude can allow himself in wallowing in his shit in public makes me sick with envy. Sure he lost some but he won some too. No woman can do this. No woman wins at this "confessional" game. No woman can behave like this and escape unscathed, straight into the Western Canon no less. *seething resentment at the injustice of it all!*
Speaking of weird, have you read his stuff on theatre and acting etc.? Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. D'Alembert on the Theatre Might give pause to the Taliban. You could take a boy out of Calvinist Geneva, but not vice versa...