May 25, 2008

What I’m Reading: The Everything Philosophy Book

Filed under: reading — crcb @ 10:35 am
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I’ve been working through a slim volume of Pico della Mirandola’s writings for weeks. The 282-page* Everything Philosophy Book, by James Mannion, took me three days.

I usually like the Everything series of books from Adams Media. Mannion’s book is interesting in spots, but overall it disappointed me. It’s badly written (the “breezy,” “casual,” “cliches don’t count against you if they’re in quotes” style grows tiresome quickly), it’s badly proofed, and it’s unfocused.

The first 16 chapters are an overview of Western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to “Modern and Postmodern Philosophers.” The remaining nine chapters are a grab-bag — almost as if the author had run out of things to say, but had to pad the book to a contracted-for length. I suppose I can see a reason for the chapters on religions, and (sparse though it is) the chapter on African and Native American philosophies. But shouldn’t chapter 21, on Objectivism and Right Livelihood, and chapter 24, on New Age beliefs, be included in the historical overview? (As chapters 18 and 19, perhaps. Just a thought.)

And then there are the more puzzling chapters. Chapter 17, “Sociology and Anthropology.” Chapter 18, “Psychology.” OK, I could make a case for those fields being relevant to philosophy (Marx and Maslow), though I’m not sure Mannion makes that case. But a long chapter on Alcoholics Anonymous? The philosophies of Star Trek (the original series), The Avengers (not the movie) and other long-defunct TV shows? Couldn’t the author just bump up the font size and use wider margins?

And then there are the oversimplifications. Some degree of that is necessary in an overview for a general audience. I’m just not sure how much is deliberate, and how much is through ignorance. Does Mannion really not know the difference between reincarnation and transmigration of souls, for example?

But perhaps the most perplexing philosophical question this book raises is — Why do I write more about books I dislike than books I like?

*Counting appendices, which I read.


May 22, 2008

What I’m Reading 5-22-2008

Filed under: reading — crcb @ 5:54 am
Tags: , ,

I’m still working on the Mirandola and Seferis books, both of which are slow going and very rewarding.

(Aside: according to Mirandola, everything that exists is divided from what it is not, and undivided from itself. The inescapable conclusion is that I do not exist. More on that in another post, maybe.)

I recently started and finished The Everything Philosophy Book: Understanding the Basic Concepts of Great Thinkers — Socrates to Sartre, by James Mannion, which is a very quick read. I plan to post a review here soon.

May 3, 2008

The End of National Poetry Month

Filed under: national poetry month,Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 11:55 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s over. I wrote my poem a day (sometimes two, but sometimes I let a heteronym fill in for me), and they’re all posted here, from the atrocious to the mediocre.

I’ve done this in previous years, but it was never quite the challenge before that it was this time. I changed jobs early in the month, and have been working long hours in my new position. Sometimes it was an hour or two past midnight before I got a chance to write my poem, and I never had much time to spend on any.

Still, I have 30+ new poems to show for it (if I count Rameshi’s, Basil’s, Isem’s and Mary’s). With luck, when I revisit them in a few months, I might decide I have half a dozen worth keeping and revising.

Poem for April 30, 2008 – It’s Never Easy

It’s Never Easy

Our Mayor Phagus has never died peacefully.
Once he fasted for a week, then ran naked
through the snow calling on us to repent
before succumbing to exposure. Once
he shot people at random from the courthouse steps
until a maverick judge took him out.
Now his thick curtains are drawn; rumors say
he beats his family, and as they sleep
with one ear cocked, he gnaws the end of his power
while a fever hollows him out. It won’t be long
until he gives his eulogy
and succeeds to the office.
–Isem Goins

Since Isem wrote this, it’s safe to say it’s an allegory of some sort. I hope the author, at least, knows what Mayor Phagus represents.

Poem for April 29, 2008 – Properly Chastised

Properly Chastised

That’s not rain, it’s just
water falling from the clouds.
Honestly, you have such
a negative outlook.

I’ve had this bit of dialogue in my head for a while. I’ve been planning to make it into a play, but there’s nothing to add.

Poem for April 28, 2008 – Tone Poem with Felicitous Devotion

Tone Poem with Felicitous Devotion

man’s anger voice and love
april’s tambourine obliges
for the low and the sweet lay
a messy saucer of booze

another drink with a dicey duchess
another friend with tender gin
may’s the month of the jovial couches
of sullen lust of naive soirees

too soon the quail’s solar care dies
for man that weepy shaman
eat these birds ok and men of business
and two memoirs of charlemagne

june’s mauve anger melts
the knees while fools dither
god devours lions called from their dens
the gallantones ring of torn felines
–Basil Cartryte

Oh, Basil. You mix 1918 dada with 1880 French symbolism, and think you’ve made something daring and new.

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