Posts Tagged ‘books

30
Nov
08

Reading

I’m a bibliophile. I think it’s because books were my refuge when I was young. Escapism. I remember, as an early teenager, closing the door to my room, and in the dim light presented by a single, cheap lamp, reading my favorite fantasy novels–The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock. To this day I consider those books to be the exemplary way to present an anti-hero. And the hero dies at the end– groundbreaking in the day of Tolkien’esque fantasy.

I managed to bring with me to Germany, about 45 of the books from my library and there will be more on the way. The library here on the base is very good, and I’ll make pleanty of use of it.

Reading through Random House’s top 100 books of all time (English language), it was interesting how many of those books I’ve actually read.

Here’s what I remember reading from the list:

Animal Farm
The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe
The Catcher in the Rye
1984
Watchmen
Neuromancer
Slaughter-House-Five
The Secret Agent
The Magus

I’m embarassed of course at how many books on the list I have not read. I’m sure I wouldn’t like most of them, as I feel that while many of the older writers that make up this list were great artists, most of their techniques and language doesn’t apply now. There are exceptions of course. Leo Tolstoy comes to mind. This list is only of books originally composed in the English language, so the great Russian writers aren’t listed. You can never have a complete list of great novels without Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Anna Karenina.

I own several other books on the list that I’ve not gotten to, but will eventually. I, Claudius (the Public Broadcasting mini-series was awesome, though), Catch-22, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Nostromo. Also, take note that the lsit was the board’s list. There was also a reader’s list which included more science-fiction, a genre always undercut by “experts”. To me an expert on books is anyone who reads them. I find most literary critics to be pompus, pipe-smoking libs who think a great book is one they can’t understand. Of course, I’m suspicious of the reader’s list too, because it contains far to many novels from Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard, lending more of a cult-following and notoriety factor than you’d want if you were seeking objective critique ( I almost said Objectivism). And the board loses some credibility by forgetting, To Kill a Mockingbird and Middlemarch. Laughable…

There are many great books that will never make any lists. Feel free to list some in your comments. Like I said, great books don’t have to be on literary lists.

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13
Nov
08

Reading List: The Suicide of the West

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While I have the time, I guess I can continue on with a preferred reading list.

This book, The Suicide of the West, did not so much change my view of what’s happening here in America, and to a larger degree to withering Europe, but it certainly did define the reasons as to why it’s happening, why cynicism, self-hate and loss of public virtue and values will in the end result in the West becoming decidedly Un-Western.

Authored by Chris Smith–former culture minister to Tony Blair– and Richard Koch–consultant and business man, the book is small, but excellently organized. Written clearly, and inspiringly, The Suicide of the West examines the building blocks of the West, hewn from perhaps our greatest age: The Enlightenment. They are: Christianity, Optimism, Science, Growth, Liberalism, and Individualism. The West can only fall from the inside. When the inside is hollow, when our identity and motivation disappear, then the barbarians can have at tearing down our gates and sacking the temples. We’ve seen the start of that too…

I think I’ll be reading this book for the rest of my life, actually. Once a year, to remind me that the depressing media and casual nihilists hanging out in the coffee shops, complaining about the evils of America are nothing but haters contributing to the decline of their own world.

09
Nov
08

Possibly the best book I’ve ever read

0939767287 When I worked at the police department, I found a little paperback in a metal desk’s drawer. The desk was inside the commanding officer’s glass cubicle. It was called Night Dogs, authored by Kent Anderson. At the top of the book was an endorsement by James Patterson, probably the best selling author of suspense and police procedural books. He said that Night Dogs was the truest and best police book he’d ever read. Heavy props…

I took the book home and began to read. I was drawn into a psychologically dark world, where the main character, former Vietnam-vet and now Portland, Oregon police officer, Hanson, battled not only against crime, but his memories of the war in Indo-China and against the greatest war that can be waged: The war against self.

The book is semi-autobiographical. Kent Anderson himself was a special forces sergeant in Vietnam and a police officer in Portland in the seventies. He knows what runs through a cop’s mind, the constant battle of violence against benevolence. At once, a cop must be a servant, and then a warrior ready to kill. No easy task. In one scene, which reminded me of several instances I’d encountered, Hanson goes to a call for service where a mentally ill Vietnam-vet is causing a noise disturbance. Hanson speaks with the vet inside his apartment. The veteran is mentally deranged, still wearing old army issue clothes with pictures of his war-buddies pinned to them, speaking ominously about laser beams being shot through his windows and all along there is an air of danger, that at any moment this man may snap and try to kill the police officer. Hanson thinks to himself about what he’ll do if he’s attacked, and decides he’d probably have to punch the man in the throat, that that’ll stop anyone, but he concludes that you never know what a deranged person can withstand and still keep going. I remember dealing with some mentally ill people. They’d stare and speak as if they knew something you didn’t, saw into worlds that only they knew existed and sometimes they were convincing enough to make you wonder if that other world really did exist…

I highly recommend this book. I’m not even sure if it’s in print, but I think Random House still puts it out. There’s also a prequel, called Sympathy for the Devil. It’s about Hanson’s time in the Nam.





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