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Brief book notes

January 8, 2012

Kevin Edgecomb mentions the new book by Andrei Orlov, Dark Mirrors:  Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish DemonologyIn fact I bought the book when it came out in November, but I haven’t cracked it open yet.  I had better do so soon!

Kris Merino promises a review soon of Matt Kish’s Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (which is also available online).  Interestingly, Kish’s book is keyed to the Signet edition of Moby Dick, but does not contain its text.  (Kish mentions a similar project, Zak Smith’s Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel “Gravity’s Rainbow” (and Smith’s illustrations are also online.)

Oxford University Press has its winter sale going on now.  I ordered some books.  A few months ago, I read the Oxford collection of Sophocles’s  Theban plays and Aeschylus’s Oresteia plays and I very much enjoyed the approach they took to translation.   Up until now I have mostly admired the Grene-Lattimore translations, but the Oxford translations are fascinating interpretations.  So I decided to order the complete set of Oxford-translated Greek tragedy at 50% off (sale price:  $56)

I also ordered the second and third volume in Phillip Cary’s Augustine trilogy at 65% off.  (The first volume, alas, is not on sale.)  Here is how I came to read Cary.  I had bought his book Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to DoReaders, I bought Good News with impure motives:  I bought the book so that I could read it and mock it.  The capsule descriptions of the book led me to believe that it would be an easy target and I could make an entertaining rant about it.  But, when I actually read his book, I was surprised that I found myself finding it to be rather good.  So instead of mocking Cary, I decided to buy his scholarly trilogy.

I also ordered Jennifer Radden’s Nature of Melancholy:  From Aristotle to Kristeva at 65% off.  I bought it because I am such an admirer of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.  This book promises to be a great resource of some of Burton’s sources and some of the reactions to Burton.

(This also reminds me of a wonderful favor that an order taker from Oxford University Press did a decade ago for me.  I wanted to buy the six volume Clarendon Press annotated set of Anatomy of Melancholy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but as you may know, it is quite expensive [The current price is $1650.]  The order-taker found some special sales for me in her catalogues so I was finally able to buy it at a small fraction of the regular price.   Let me tell you – the set is absolutely fantastic and really “unlocks” Burton.  I’ll have to review it in detail sometime.)

Finally, I ordered a book that may be something of an embarrassment, Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt, which reportedly argues for a maximalist reading of Exodus.  Now you might think that I bought this to reinforce certain religious views that I have, but that is not the reason.  Instead, I bought it because I love books that take literature seriously.  Thus, I am immediately attracted to books that treat Hamlet as a real person, and that books that treat the Trojan War as a real event, and books that treat Dracula as a real person, and books that treat Sherlock Holmes as a real person, etc.  In my opinion, there is a sort of ontological argument that applies to any excellent work of literature – literature creates its own reality.  Books “come alive” in our head.  (Thus, when Isaac Bashevis Singer said he believed in the supernatural, I believe that statement can be taken in two ways:  either he believes in them a priori, or he believes in the a posteriori, because of the stories about the supernatural are just too wonderful not be become “true” in a sense when we read them.  I also take seriously his comment “I once said whenever I am in trouble I pray. Since I am always in trouble, I pray all the time.”)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2012 10:02 am

    Nice post, Theophrastus! And I love your analsis of what Singer might have meant. Can you provide us a link to Kris Merino’s discussion?

  2. January 9, 2012 8:24 pm

    I don’t think Kris has posted her review yet, but she promised it in the comments to this post. When I see her review, I’ll try to remember to mention it here.

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