Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Proceedings of a Noodle

You will remember, loyal reader, that back in August 2014 we started reading 'the Western canon' at a rate of about 100 pages a week, with the ultimate aim of having read the 'whole thing' after seven years. A good 20 months later, we're finally about to start week 10 of the project, which suggests that completing all 370 weeks of this little conversation that we've entered will probably take us the next 60 years or so. Seems like a long-term plan, even in comparison to ridiculous blog projects like Michael's Infinite Art Tournament.

I've actually been reading a lot more lately than I have in many years, having a lot of free time on my hands and access to a series of large and interesting public libraries here in Oxford, but Iain M. Banks and Isaac Asimov are a little outside the scope of the Conversation, as are all the graphic novels that I've been rabidly consuming, so little useful progress has been made.

It's time to get back on the horse, so without further ado, let's get on with the review for 'Week 9' of our little project.

Week 9 in Review

Last week: 124
Conversation so far: 1023

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the Third, Ch. 6 - 9
Well, we've finally finished up Hard Times, and I'm pretty sure that I can say without reservation that it's the least interesting Dickens that I've ever read. And there wasn't even the joy of a happy ending that you can always rely on from the man. A very odd fish indeed. Michael's recent review sums it up nicely, I think, in saying that if even second-rate Dickens compares favourably to most other fiction that this one probably isn't even second-rate.

It wasn't without positives, though. Dickens is still Dickens, a little ray of quotable and ridiculous sunshine in his dialogue, and I'm going to miss my 'weekly' dose, but overall I found Hard Times to be too preachy and predictable, well short of his best. It's also hard to read what with all them working-class accents the whole time. My advice, skip this one, or if you have to read it, get it on audio-book so that you can appreciate the accents instead of having to wade through them.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part Two, Ch. 3 - 4
As good as my local library is, their single copy of Lolita is a popular item and I've yet to get my hands on it. I have read Pnin during my time in Oxford, though, so I've not totally abandoned Nabokov, but Lolita will have to go on Hiatus until I can acquire a copy.

The Odyssey of Homer
Books IX-XII
That child of morning, rosy fingered dawn, is all over the place here, but there's some other great lines too: 'However splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far from father or mother, he does not care about it'. Preach it, Homer. These books contain all the good stuff that you learnt about in your eight years of Primary School Greek classes, Cyclops, that big bag of wind, Ogres, Witches, visiting Hades, Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, all the best bits. He's really just packing it all in there. I mean, do I really need to read the rest?

Crito by Plato
Socratic dialogues are just so much fun, aren't they? I enjoy the clear paths of logical argument in this one, the whole thing flows nicely and Socrates doesn't get distracted by minutiae. This is the one that features Socrates friends offering to break him out of prison and him refusing on the basis that it would be immoral to escape since he respects the laws of Athens and it is the will of the city that he die. I had this idea from the Zeitgeist that he'd rejected them because he was stubborn, but in this version at least he seems to have some pretty good reasoning. I like this one enough to agree that it would be a Crito-cal text in my personal 'canon'.

If I were in his shoes I'd still be looking towards some kind of appeals process, though.

Of Death by Francis Bacon
Don't be scared of death, philosophers have no idea what they're talking about. That's it. With too many Latin quotes to keep the uneducated reader guessing. Let's hope that Bacon doesn't keep doing that so much or I might have to give up and learn the damn language. It might be faster than looking all these guys up.

The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon
So, turns out that this is an unfinished utopian novel, published by Bacon back in 1627. As a novel, it's...not very interesting, but I imagine that it's included in the list of 'great books' for its discussions about the scientific method in a period when 'scientists' weren't invented yet. Apparently the novel was part of the inspiration for the development of the Royal Society, but I wouldn't be recommending it. So far I've not been very impressed by Bacon at all, but at least one can understand what he's saying most of the time.

Some funny stuff in the readings this week. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Kate Beaton's book and make some little comics out of the weirdnesses I come across as I read. That could be be fun.

Week 10 Readings

If you'd like to read one or more of the coming weekly texts with me, here's what we're gunning for this week. It's a relatively short one in terms of page count, but I have the feeling that it's actually going  to be a pretty tough week, with Homer bringing the only Fiction for the week. Might be a good week to have something lighter on the side just in case, I'm thinking.

The Odyssey of Homer
#gbww #fiction #greek
Books XIII-XVI (40 pages)
What comes next in the Odyssey? To be honest, I don't actually remember, but now that he's manages to get rid of those pesky crew-members who keep screwing things up, maybe Odysseus is finally on the home stretch? That said, we're only just starting the second half of the text now.

Phaedo by Plato
#oneshot #gbww #philosophy #greek
 (32 pages)
We're really steaming through the Socratic dialogues, huh? Next up is Phaedo, the one which comes next chronologically after Crito and I'm pretty sure is the one that the old man finally ups and dies in. Then again, I had in my head that there were four dialogues and this is only the third we've read, so either we've missed one or there's one more to come after this. (Meno, you dummy!).

Elements by Euclid
#new #ggww  #mathematics #greek
Book I (29 pages)
Just to round out the Greek for the week, we're starting out on our first big project, a marathon read of the most famous textbook of all time. If we can get through this, not only will we have a better understanding of the fundamentals of maths, but we can draw a little confidence that maybe we'll be able to see through some of the drier texts on the list.

#oneshot #gbww #politics #english
(3 pages)
Just so the whole week isn't just Greek to me, we also have the US Declaration of Independence. It's not exactly Dickens, but it should make a nice change of pace, methinks.

Happy reading. 

1 comment:

Irac said...

Ah. ...However splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far from father or mother, he does not care about it'.
Dr d you I marine that your mother would finally find this, read it and cry?
Enjoy that fine place while you are there my precious son, and come home once you have done so as a wiser, more experienced, and well rounded person.
I look forward to that day.