Weekend | What are you reading? open thread

15 thoughts on “Weekend | What are you reading? open thread”

  1. I have several books going at once.
    – I am about to finish C.S. Lewis’ essay An Experiment in Criticism which has been enlightening and is teaching me to look at books as works of art, to be taken in and enjoyed like a painting.
    – I am halfway through The Amenities of Book Collecting and Kindred Affections, which is delightful.
    – I am re-reading The Lord of the Rings which I think perfectly applies to our modern times. This particular passage (correspondence between Gandalf and Frodo) struck me last night:
    “Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord, he has risen again. Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again. I wish it need not have happened in my time. So do I and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, our time is beginning to look black. The enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance.”
    – And I am reading several sub-stack dailies (classics delivered in small chunks everyday via e-mail).

    1. Hi Jane
      Good to see you here. Hasn’t Marica done a nice job? I too am working on The Amenities of Book Collecting. Interesting read. Probably would have been too poor to collect books. I would probably had a well worn Bible and a cherished McGuffey’s Reader. I’m also perusing The Andy Warhol Diaries. A bit of voyeurism into the lives of the art society in the ’70s and ’80s and the rich and famous who gathered around them.

      1. Yes, the blog is beautiful! I have read bits of The Andy Warhol Diaries. I know a few people who were part of that scene back then and the stories are wild. Not much has changed in the art world, in my opinion. The parties are still glittering and nothing is out of reach to the elite and their darlings of the moment.

  2. Well, I’ve mostly been reading Volume One of the Gulag, which is slow going, but riveting. It reminds me a little of reading RFK, Jr’s book on Fauci–I can only read so much at one time, but it is so important that I want to absorb as much as I can, and so I read slowly. Then I walked over to my British bookshelf to see if I had a book and my eye caught all the diaries of Pepys. I really enjoyed the excerpts I read over the years, beginning in high school, where we read a lot from 1666, the year of the Great London Fire and from 1665, the year of the plague. So a few years ago I began gathering all the volumes. Why hadn’t I read them yet, I wondered. So I began with 1660. I had so many questions–despite all the annotations–that I had to pick up the companion. But it has been fascinating. There are so many aspects of interest. I had never before contemplated the actual bloodless Restoration and all the dynamics behind it. I tended to think of it as Cromwell’s dead and we go back to the Stuarts. Silly of me. But what’s really fascinating is the different languages he spoke, all the musical instruments he played, how he worked at his singing, constantly socialized, went to the pubs for his morning draught, spent seemingly little time at work and yet had two jobs, how he wrote ciphers for his employer, helped build up the Navy–I mean it is far more of a Renaissance lifestyle than I ever really imagined. And yet there is little to no emphasis on social status–in one entry he goes to visit his employer who isn’t at home so he hangs out drinking with the butler and playing music with him. It’s truly fascinating on numerous levels.

    1. “so he hangs out drinking with the butler and playing music with him”

      I LOLed. I’ve never read Pepys. I should make an effort.

      Those do-you-ever-sleep? types are really something. And there seem, at least to me, to have been so many of them compared with today. They were producers. It’s amazing how very much they did produce. Here. Here’s a pen and some paper, and a flame to read and write by. Go write something consequential.

      I still have Gulag penciled in for Jan-March.

      1. I also want to start Gulag in January, but PG/A.M. has inspired me to also start Pepys in January. I am going to try and squeeze in one diary entry per day. Why not start the New Year off with a challenge?

        1. My reading list has become very fluid over the years. I add titles, and months later replace them with something else that I have come across. Do you ever re-read the same book? I read an early edition of Spence Observations, Anecdotes and Characters of Books and Men. Then a few years later, I stumbled across a modern annotated edition published by Oxford University and thought… why not… The annotations turned out to be very helpful in better understanding Spence’s text.

          1. I’ve been puzzling over this since you posted. I used to reread books. But now I tend to go back and reread passages rather that whole. It’s funny because there are movies I can watch again and again and still get something more or notice a nuance I’d missed before. Among those I’ve dipped into lately are Tolkien’s Fairy Tales, Lewis’s Screwtape, and (do not laugh, it’s a great book) J.C. Penney’s Lines if a Layman.

    2. I started the Gulag when it first came out. True, it was fascinating and hard to imagine as a twentysomething from America. I’m not sure I finished it. Maybe I should consider it again. It is amazing the men, mostly, and women who produced, invented, provided so much. Always, as Marica implied, doing so much more than others.

  3. Studies in the History of Education Opinion from the Renaissance. S.S. Laurie. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1903.

    Heh. You can’t italicize in the comments. I’ll put it on the list. I also note you can’t include a photo.

    This is one of my current reads. It begins with a discussion of thought on education during various periods of the Renaissance. That section concludes with chapters on The Jesuits, and Montaigne. I started with the second section, “The Modern Period, from 1600 A.D.” I’ll go back and read the last two chapters of the first section when I’ve finished.

    “The Modern Period” begins with… Bacon (1561-1626)! From there we move onto Comenius (1592-1671), the “Sense Encyclopædist and Founder of Method. Interesting guy. I’m going to post about him some other time. For now here’s a tidbit:

    “Nor, to say something particularly on this subject, can any sufficient reason be given why the weaker sex should be wholly shut out from liberal studies, whether in the native tongue or in Latin.”

    He is followed by a discussion of Milton (1608-1674) who’s described as the Classical Encyclopædist. Then we have three (3!!) chapters on Locke (1632-1704), the “English Rationalist. Finally, there’s a chapter on Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the modern Sense-Realist. Not a fan of Spencer but I’ll read it.

    1. I think the period referred to as the revival of learning which technically is the catalyst that triggered the growth and development of education during the early Renaissance is important. Sandys in his Harvard Lectures on the Revival of Learning assigns the dates from the death of Dante in 1321 to the Sack of Rome in 1527. [other scholars use different dates]. The movement was initially led by Petrarch and Boccaccio as well as others and it was focused on the rediscovery of classical literature.

      St. Basil at the end of his life in the 4th century had already laid out the fundamental principle that would govern the use of pagan literature in Christian education. In his study Address to Young Men on the Study of the Greeks, he had formulated the following simple guideline: “when the pagan writers teach what is good, and noble, and true, they are to be read, while if they teach vice they must be shunned.” Due to initial objections to the study of the classics by the Catholic church, this guideline was revived because humanists realized, as Aeneas Sylvius wrote in the in 1450; “without literature, I do not know what you can be, but a two-legged donkey”.

      Erasmus plays an important role in the development of education in northern Europe. Once Luther and the Reformation had established its prominence in
      Northern Europe, new changes and developments took place. Educators like Philip Melanchthon laid the groundwork for the protestant educational system in Germany. So, once you arrive at the 17th century, the fundamental principles of education had developed differently in Southern Europe v. Northern Europe.

      Just some thoughts.

      1. Okay. But I’m looking at thing from the perspective of the new method– the beginnings of the scientific method, a al Bacon. Evidence vs intuition.

      2. Oddly enough, I have come across a lot of criticism of the Italian revival of the classics. Some critics feel it created a stilted, unimaginative style and I am trying to remember the context of where I read this. Of course no one would include Dante or Boccaccio in that criticism–so I think it must have been a criticism of scholasticism itself. I believe the exact criticism was that the rigid adherence to the principles laid down during the Italian Renaissance tended to stifle thinking in Italy.

        1. I agree. But the progress seems to have worked well while Pope Leo was alive. I think the resistance came from the church hierarchy and the monks. Erasmus mentions in his letters about constant battles with the church hierarchy and clergy who attacked him at every opportunity. So, his Praise of Folly was probably closer to reality than anything else. Pope Leo allegedly laughed when he read it.

          The revival did take a completely different turn after the reformation had stabilized in the north. My impression is that what began in Italy was transformed in Germany and Holland in places like Leyden, Wittenberg and Basel.

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