Books I have read: speed round

As you might have noticed, things have been a little quiet around here of late. I have a lot of things going on and I am a little distracted/uninspired. To catch all of you up on my reading I thought I would give a few dis-jumbled thoughts collected in one place rather than pretend I am going to write more thorough reviews later.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was attracted to the Bloomsberg edition with its beautiful Mervyn Peak illustrations and its quality binding and sewn in book mark, but this classic children’s tale left me a bit underwhelmed. Oh sure, I giggled at a few spots but overall it just didn’t seem quite as funny or interesting as an adult. Maybe you had to be in the mood. Will Self raves about it in the introduction, but I suppose that is to be expected. Maybe Through the Looking Glass will be less ho-hum.

The Red Badge of Courage. I had picked up a Barnes and Noble Collectors edition of Stephan Crane’s classic Civil War tale some time ago, but decided to pick it up as I was continuing my reading of “war novels.” {See here, here, and here for example} I found the story interesting but have been able to muster much deeper than that. Two things that caught my eye. One was how all of us must wonder about our courage under fire. Few of us are challenged by war or other extreme measures (excepting any soldiers that might be reading this) and so we all carry a certain level of doubt about ourselves. This is what haunts Henry Fleming (the main character in the story) as he prepares for battle: is he brave and valorous or a coward? Both, it turns out. Another issue caught my eye was how Crane captures the social dynamics of soldiers. Whether it is the hurry up and wait life in the military or the way the infantry interacts with their commanding officers, Crane’s depiction of the pre and post battle scenes seemed real. Amazing to think Crane, who was quite young and had never served in the military, could capture the interaction of soldiers and the chaos of battle.

On Bullshit Harry G. Frankfurt. Phil made mention of Maud’s links concerning Professor Frankfurt/s work and offered: “I think we live in a vulgar time, and we will not step out of it through moral philosophy like this.” I would lean toward Phil on this one, but I really don’t know what to make of this slim reissued essay. Is it a tongue-in-cheek laugh at academia or a serious discussion of a real cultural problem? Both? I felt that it represented a philosopher having some fun with an interesting subject and then taking on a more serious issue at the end. I also agree that the Dan Neil review Maud linked to is unhelpful, not only because of its left wing animus, but because it just further proves that we are unable to agree definitively on what is BS.
More: Roger Kimball tries to make sense of it all in this Wall Street Journal article and Timothy Noah takes a look at the issue at Slate.

– Never fear, or fear depending on your perspective, I do have some stand alone book reviews in the pipeline. So stay tuned.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).