Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How To Live

THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY is full of people who are full of themselves. A half-hour’s trawl through the online ocean of blogs, tweets, tubes, spaces, faces, pages, and pods brings up thousands of individuals fascinated by their own personalities and shouting for attention. They go on about themselves; they diarize, and chat, and upload photographs of everything they do. Uninhibitedly extrovert, they also look inward as never before. Even as bloggers and networkers delve into their private experience, they communicate with their fellow humans in a shared festival of the self.
Some optimists have tried to make this global meeting of minds the basis for a new approach to international relations. The historian Theodore Zeldin has founded a site called “The Oxford Muse,” which encourages people to put together brief self-portraits in words, describing their everyday lives and the things they have learned. They upload these for other people to read and respond to. For Zeldin, shared self-revelation is the best way to develop trust and cooperation around the planet, replacing national stereotypes with real people. The great adventure of our epoch, he says, is “to discover who inhabits the world, one individual at a time....”
By describing what makes them different from anyone else, the contributors reveal what they share with everyone else: the experience of being human. This idea—writing about oneself to create a mirror in which other people recognize their own humanity—has not existed forever. It had to be invented. And, unlike many cultural inventions, it can be traced to a single person: Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a nobleman, government official, and winegrower who lived in the Périgord area of southwestern France from 1533 to 1592.
Bakewell, Sarah (2010-10-19). How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Kindle Locations 75-99). Other Press. Kindle Edition. 
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I almost fell out of the chair laughing at the self reflection presented in the first paragraph from the introduction of Sarah Bakewell's How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer.  After the initial laugh, I felt somewhat admonished.  Indeed what is my blog but a festival of self?  Perhaps it is time to tear this down and become respectably reticent.  But as I read on, I found that I am simply presenting self in the fine tradition of the inventor of the essay--Montaigne.  

I haven't read this book yet, only started it, but I was so amused with the opening quote that I thought I at least have to point to my dear readers that this book is on the Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99.  Alas because it is a Daily Deal, it will only be on sale for today, October 30, 2014 at that price.   Amazon further sweetens the deal, if you buy the Kindle edition, you can get the Audible version for 99 cents (which is Whispersynched to the Kindle edition and you can do "immersion reading" on devices that support it, predominantly Kindle-Fire Tablets-the current Kindle e-readers do not have audio).  If you do buy both, be sure to buy the Kindle version first.  Otherwise you will be charged the full price for the Audible version.  I am not sure but you may want to restrict your Audible purchase to the Amazon website rather than using Audible's website to ensure you get the 99 cent price after buying the Kindle edition.  Audible has Apps that you can download for a variety of devices here:

Again the Kindle version is only available today at the reduced price of $1.99.  Available here:  

One thing about Kindles, they are cash registers for Amazon.  Good God!  My blog is turning into an Amazon advertisement.  No I am not getting paid.  How dumb is that?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Several Short Book Reviews

Soul to TakeSoul to Take by Helen  Bateman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have often read in my flakey New Age readings that Souls between lives sort of "hang out" with the prospective new parents immediately before and during a pregnancy.  Well here is an excellent short novel that speculates on the Soul observing and possibly choosing parents.

Bateman has wonderful character development and she has provided an interesting contrast between the lives of the prospective couples and the Soul's last few incarnations.  Bateman wisely avoids getting caught up in any kind of technical details about how all this works.  With her excellent writing skills, Bateman packs a lot of story in a compact and concise package.

Being a New Age flake, this story nicely coincides with my particular beliefs, but I don't believe that you need to be a flake to enjoy this well written novel.  Excellent debut novel!   I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

View all my reviews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actually not a bad story.  She just took way too long to tell it and the book ends in a bit of a cliff hanger, thus ensuring the reader will read the rest of the series.   I get cranky when authors do that, so my 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 stars.  I knew it was a series before I started reading it and I also knew that I probably would not read any additional books in the series.  The book was one of our book club selections and I read it to see what the big whoop was about.  As I predicted before starting the book, I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.  

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
 I am not sure what to make of this book.  I think it would have been more convincing if it had been either written in third person or the author had been a woman.  Coelho writing in a woman’s first person voice just came off less than true to me.

I tried to be sympathetic to the protagonist but she resisted my best efforts.  She has a wonderful life and is seemingly willing to throw it away because she is bored.  Perhaps we should feel sorry for her because she does not have one negative thing in her enchanted life to occupy her and life, marriage, career, success, extreme wealth, security, and happy healthy normal children are, well boring--although she loves her husband, her life, and her children.  OK this happens.  To alleviate her boredom she finds herself unwittingly drawn into an affair with an old high school lover, gently at first.

Caution Spoiler:

He treats her like an appliance, which she seems to alternately hate and like. Then she gets into a snark fest with her lover’s wife and decides that she has to destroy this woman for being haughty and having the audacity to be concerned about her husband. The protagonist spends 5000 francs on cocaine to plant in the woman’s desk. My sympathy for her goes out the window.

She then has a sort of confession to her husband who makes it easy for her and indicates that he loves her and if there is anything to forgive, she is forgiven. OK all should be well, if her husband can forgive her, I can too. But then a week after this confession of sorts, she has one last wild and wooly tumble in the hay with her lover because she needs closure. Goodbye to all sympathy. 

The book closes with a loving discussion of the love of love that will survive in the universe for all time after all the humans are long gone. It should have restored my sympathy to the protagonist but instead, sort of reminded me of Nicholson Baker’s mystical orgasmic spheres that float through all eternity in his book Vox.

It was not a bad book but it could have been a lot better.