Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, September 2017
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualification
to opine on any matter of history, or horitculture.
- Elsa Hart, The White Mirror
- Mind-candy historical mystery, in which an exiled Chinese scholar untangles
multiple mysteries in a snow-locked valley on the western borderlands. I
lapped it up with a spoon and only wish there were more.
- Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century
- By "Traditionalism", Sedgwick means a very specific school of thought,
whose roots he traces to the early 20th century, which is all about how there
exists One True Tradition of primordial wisdom and indeed literal magic, passed
on by initiation, whose loss has given us the horrors of the modern world.
This is a synthesis of a bunch of themes of varying ages and origins (including
Renaissance syncretism a la Pico della
Mirandola), and which might be left to
were it not for two things. One, which is Sedgwick's main theme, is that
Traditionalism, in this sense, had a lot of adherents among eminent names in
the 20th century humanities, especially among scholars of religion,
like Eliade, and
especially among scholars of Islam. The other is that it got bound up with the
more intellectual elements of Fascism, and some of the various rightwing
mountebanks (Bannon, Dugin) lurking around those now in power are either
full-bore Traditionalists, or influenced by them.
- --- I first read this in 2005; it's just as interesting, much less in a "how curious" and much more in a "oh, shit" spirit.
- L. Sprague de Camp, An Elephant for Aristotle
- Mind candy historical fiction, in which Alexander sends his old teacher a
present from India, and we follow the adventures of the beleaguered-yet-plucky
Greek soldier who has to make it happen. (De Camp did a good line in
beleaguered-yet-plucky protagonists.) I read it as a teenager, and
re-read it now that it's available electronically with pleasure.
- --- This book is also the source of a question which has puzzled me ever
since reading it. Why didn't anyone in antiquity realize that Greek,
Persian, Prakrit, Pali, etc., were all much more similar to each other than any
of them were to Aramaic, Hebrew, etc.?
- Mary Louise Kelly, The Bullet
- A thriller in which an academic's seeking help with carpal
tunnel leads to increasingly bizarre and dramatic events. Despite the
impressive amount of mayhem, this may be the least dude-ly (good) thriller I
have ever read. Highly addictive mind-candy.
- G. E. R. Lloyd, The Ideals of Inquiry
- More of Lloyd's comparative studies of ancient Greek and ancient Chinese
thought. (India and Mesopotamia also get some attention.) This time he focusing on (as the title says) what each culture thought of
as the ideals of inquiry, both in terms of what satisfying knowledge should be
like, and how to get there. (He's good, as usual, on internal diversity within
- Charles Soule et al., Letter 44: Escape Velocity and Redshift
- Matt Dembicki and Evan Keeling, Xoc: The Journey of a Great White
- Ryan North, The Midas Flesh (vol. 1)
- Comic-book mind candy, assorted.
- Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River
- A wonderfully-written, highly compressed history of the Columbia
River, and how people have interacted with it. There are some bits I'd really
like to know more about (could the local Indians really have not
traded foodstuffs with each other?!?), but I see why it's a classic of
- Amy Raby, Assassin's Gambit, Spy's Honor, Prince's Fire
- Mind candy fantasy/romance; perfectly enjoyable as fantasy novels.
- Andrew Moore, Paw Paw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit
- An interesting mix of food writing, popular botany, regional history and
- Disclaimer: Moore lives in Pittsburgh, and I've grown paw-paws in
my garden here, but we've never met.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
The Beloved Republic;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Writing for Antiquity;
Tales of Our Ancestors;
The Running-Dogs of Reaction;
Posted at September 30, 2017 23:59 | permanent link