Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Modern Reader's Guide to Dante's The Divine Comedy (1999)

Still need to finish Le Comedia; about 2/3rds thru I switched to the Readers Guide by Gallagher.

Although at times it is a little short but it is obvious that a complete guide could be 3 volumes.

I think that what among many things became clear is just what an incredible story he wrote. Where is the analysis of how he came up with it? Was it a dream, a vision, did he use a flow chart maybe?

This thing is so elaborate and well thought out how many versions would he have gone through? I am unaware of any other more complete description of the entire underworld - over-world.

So completely impossible to Summarize  but these are a few of the notes that speak to me
I marked about 25 pages in the guide that illuminated. 

Many of the quotes below are directly from Gallagher.

Dante covers many sins;
  • The sin of a passionless or disinterested life.
  • Wrath; horrible destructive valueless
One of the surprising sins that gets special attention is FRAUD; a major sin.
Making someone do or think something that is not true for personal gain, wow do we have some politicians headed for Hell!

As Dante was exiled he may have become tolerant of other marginalized peoples.

This statement took a while to comprehend but again Absolute power corrupts Absolutely. 
"For where the force of intellect is added to ill will and power, mankind can have do defense"

In Purgatory:
PRIDE, pride of Blood, Talent, and Power; OMG these are the people we suffer every day.

ENVY; the root of all evil.

 A deep and worthwhile discussion regarding Virtue and its direct tie to Free Will.
Free Will is an amazing scapegoat, somehow are lives are lived with laws of our own making and laws that are imposed upon us.
So the moth to the flame of Desire, we are left to our own devices for controlling these strong, compelling, irresistible compulsions.

  •  Dante explains how the sole gets into the embryo; just to try and explain this its incredible.
  • "Lust is Cured not by reason, but by a higher love"
  • Beatrice speaks: "How did you (a wretched man) dare to come to this mount where men are happy?" 
  •  Experience is the fountain of human arts
  • "How can noble fathers beget such ignoble heirs?" 
  • A further discussion of how each of us is born for one greatness but are lead, strayed, convinced, or otherwise directed to another path
  • Never Deny, Seldom Affirm, Always Distinguish; pride can keep hasty persons from changing their minds.

  • nobility of blood is a mantle that quickly shrinks; "if we do not add to it, day by day, time goes around it with scissors"
  • In lamenting about corrupt clergy: "It's the old story; discipline creates wealth; wealth destroys discipline"
  • "Faith is what gives substance to hope" faith may provide the foundation for spiritual growth. 
  • Aquinas: Love is to wish good upon
  • I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

Overall a good experience; the mid section is a little tedious but the beginning and the ends are good.

As I have claimed before, these pre 19th cent. books can be a little didactic as well as having a predictable happy ending; as our hero ends life rich in family and fortune.

It is a great adventure tale with several different adventures; not just the island.
Robinson finds in a slow way what is the nature of man in relationship to others by being without the others. He discovers self-reliance and mans inherent goodness in the midst of tragedy. He is however completely oblivious to the ills of slavery even though he was taken as a slave for 7 years and embarks on a trip to buy slaves! He reflects upon many things but never on the ills of slavery.

And I do like the world as viewed thru 18th cent.  eyes.

This 100+ year old book is a pleasure.

In pretty rough shape but fully readable

Christmas 1901!

 Notable passages:
"I had now brought my state of life to be much easier in itself than it was at first, and much easier to my mind, as well as to my body.  I frequently sat down to meat with thankfulness, and admired the hand of God’s providence, which had thus spread my table in the wilderness.  I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them.  All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have."

"How strange a chequer-work of Providence is the life of man! and by what secret different springs are the affections hurried about, as different circumstances present!  To-day we love what to-morrow we hate; to-day we seek what to-morrow we shun; to-day we desire what to-morrow we fear, nay, even tremble at the apprehensions of. "

"How infinitely good that Providence is, which has provided, in its government of mankind, such narrow bounds to his sight and knowledge of things; and though he walks in the midst of so many thousand dangers, the sight of which, if discovered to him, would distract his mind and sink his spirits, he is kept serene and calm, by having the events of things hid from his eyes, and knowing nothing of the dangers which surround him."

"I told him with freedom, I feared mostly their treachery and ill-usage of me, if I put my life in their hands; for that gratitude was no inherent virtue in the nature of man, nor did men always square their dealings by the obligations they had received so much as they did by the advantages they expected."

FYI, the 1989 movie is terrible

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift (1726)

A difficult read
These 1700's books tend to be very didactic

It is a hard look at human nature both the wealthy and the poor. I don't' know how much of an aristocrat Swift was but he knew the inner working of those in power.

I don't recommend it just because it is so tedious, however, the outline of corruption, pettiness, manipulation, etc. is as relevant today as it has ever has been.

Not really having any idea that it was in 4 parts I found the obvious or simplistic switch between parts annoying. The endless rationalization of the various worlds is tedious too, and I love the tedium of the early 1800s writings but...

This nice 1912 addition is illustrated with some fun good quality pieces

As we know Swift was not a fan of base human nature, this made it all worthwhile, these are some of his searing commentary:

"“My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved, that ignorance, idleness, and vice, are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied, by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them.  I observe among you some lines of an institution, which, in its original, might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions.  It does not appear, from all you have said, how any one perfection is required toward the procurement of any one station among you; much less, that men are ennobled on account of their virtue; that priests are advanced for their piety or learning; soldiers, for their conduct or valour; judges, for their integrity; senators, for the love of their country; or counsellors for their wisdom.  As for yourself,” continued the king, “who have spent the greatest part of your life in travelling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country."

" I have too great a veneration for crowned heads, to dwell any longer on so nice a subject.  But as to counts, marquises, dukes, earls, and the like, I was not so scrupulous.  And I confess, it was not without some pleasure, that I found myself able to trace the particular features, by which certain families are distinguished, up to their originals.  I could plainly discover whence one family derives a long chin; why a second has abounded with knaves for two generations, and fools for two more; why a third happened to be crack-brained, and a fourth to be sharpers; whence it came, what Polydore Virgil says of a certain great house, Nec vir fortis, nec foemina casta; how cruelty, falsehood, and cowardice, grew to be characteristics by which certain families are distinguished as much as by their coats of arms; who first brought the pox into a noble house, which has lineally descended scrofulous tumours to their posterity.  Neither could I wonder at all this, when I saw such an interruption of lineages, by pages, lackeys, valets, coachmen, gamesters, fiddlers, players, captains, and pickpockets."

"He asked me, “what were the usual causes or motives that made one country go to war with another?”  I answered “they were innumerable; but I should only mention a few of the chief.  Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never think they have land or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption of ministers, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle or divert the clamour of the subjects against their evil administration.  Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more.  Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent."

"I told him, “that a first or chief minister of state, who was the person I intended to describe, was the creature wholly exempt from joy and grief, love and hatred, pity and anger; at least, makes use of no other passions, but a violent desire of wealth, power, and titles; that he applies his words to all uses, except to the indication of his mind; that he never tells a truth but with an intent that you should take it for a lie; nor a lie, but with a design that you should take it for a truth; that those he speaks worst of behind their backs are in the surest way of preferment; and whenever he begins to praise you to others, or to yourself, you are from that day forlorn.  The worst mark you can receive is a promise, especially when it is confirmed with an oath; after which, every wise man retires, and gives over all hopes."

By the way, Yahoo's in Swift's world are stupid beings useful only for work and to cause trouble.

"But I had another reason, which made me less forward to enlarge his majesty’s dominions by my discoveries.  To say the truth, I had conceived a few scruples with relation to the distributive justice of princes upon those occasions.  For instance, a crew of pirates are driven by a storm they know not whither; at length a boy discovers land from the topmast; they go on shore to rob and plunder, they see a harmless people, are entertained with kindness; they give the country a new name; they take formal possession of it for their king; they set up a rotten plank, or a stone, for a memorial; they murder two or three dozen of the natives, bring away a couple more, by force, for a sample; return home, and get their pardon.  Here commences a new dominion acquired with a title by divine right.  Ships are sent with the first opportunity; the natives driven out or destroyed; their princes tortured to discover their gold; a free license given to all acts of inhumanity and lust, the earth reeking with the blood of its inhabitants: and this execrable crew of butchers, employed in so pious an expedition, is a modern colony, sent to convert and civilize an idolatrous and barbarous people!"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

the generation of leaves

As is the generation of leaves, so to of men:
At one time the wind shakes the leaves to the ground
but then the flourishing woods
Gives birth, and the season of spring comes
into existence;
So it is with the generations of men, which
alternately come forth and pass away.
– Homer, The Illiad, Book Six

As Vladimir Lenin wrote, “In some decades, nothing happens; in some weeks, decades happen.” Get ready for the creative destruction of public institutions, something every society periodically requires to clear out what is obsolete, ossified and dysfunctional — and to tilt the playing field of wealth and power away from the old and back to the young. Forests need periodic fires; rivers need periodic floods. Societies, too. That’s the price we must pay for a new golden age. 
James Truslow Adams (wrote) of an ‘American Dream’ to refer to this civic faith in linear advancement. Time, they suggested, was the natural ally of each successive generation. Thus arose the dogma of an American exceptionalism, the belief that this nation and its people had somehow broken loose from any risk of cyclical regress …. Yet the great weakness of linear time is that it obliterates time’s recurrence and thus cuts people off from the eternal — whether in nature, in each other, or in ourselves.

Conform, or Else

In a Fourth Turning, the nation’s core will matter more than its diversity. Team, brand, and standard will be new catchwords. Anyone and anything not describable in those terms could be shunted aside — or worse. Do not isolate yourself from community affairs …. If you don’t want to be misjudged, don’t act in a way that might provoke Crisis-era authority to deem you guilty. If you belong to a racial or ethnic minority, brace for a nativist backlash from an assertive (and possibly authoritarian) majority.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1836) Ill. Gordon Ross

A friend of mine said he started it and just put it down; I'm not that easily discouraged.

However... it is not an easy go; it takes a lot of twists and starts all over the place but eventually settles down.

As a series publication turned into a book it has that sort of feel.

Superb insights into politics; Absolutely describes horrid partisan politics tha could have been written yesterday!

Its a story of some well to do's and their mis-adventures in travels

I have this perfect condition 1938 Heritage pressing

Great inspirations:
‘You think so now,’ said Mr. Weller, with the gravity of age, ‘but you’ll find that as you get vider, you’ll get viser. Vidth and visdom, Sammy, alvays grows together.’

And too:
It is the fate of a lonely old man, that those about him should form new and different attachments and leave him. I have no right to expect that it should be otherwise with me. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Anne Boleyn by Evelyn Anthony (1957)

Amazing; a superb book, a captivating read.

Evelyn is an outstanding writer and I can't wait to read another of her writings.
We don't know just how good looking Anne was but Evelyn one a hot number!

So the King becomes more and more full of himself and is spirited on by Anne in his Supremacy quest.
Unwittingly she is finished off by the very omnipotence she promoted

He seems to unload all of his friends from an early age and so ends up quite alone.

If the Church of England was invented for no other reason than to facilitate a divorce its no wonder there was so much hatred, even till today.

We often feed upon our own success and VIII was no exception, after the painful "nice" exile of wife 1, wife 2 was handled in a much more expeditious manner.

Wow this is why we don't have Kings

Friday, September 15, 2017

Winter's Tales by Baroness Karen von Blixen (Isak Dinesen) (1942)

Again some short stories they don't always allow the reader full depth.
But I do love the Baroness' style; there are times when a whole paragraph it made of 5 word sentences; so compact, precise, and efficient.
Nice 1st ed

Our girl was a very smart / educated person; her understanding of human nature and far more interesting the nature of the wealthy and the privileged classes is amazing. Her portal into the mind of the High born and of the bigot born is excellent.

However the tales are mostly sad.