Sunday, August 02, 2020

Lockdown Review of Books

This is the list of books I've read so far during the lockdown, although it includes a few entries from just before things got serious. In fact the first two I remember reading on my last BART commutes back in February, which seems like the distant past now.

It's kind of all over the place, for better or worse. I'd like to say it represents my wide-ranging intellect but it could also just be randomness. But if you think this list is random, you should look at my stacks of unread books and wishlists!

On second thought there's quite a bit of thematic unity to be teased out here. The literary novels (White Noise, Wittgenstein's Mistress, Blood Meridian) are all more or less obviously about nihilism, all are attempts to face nothingness, meaninglessness, and death head-on.

This bleak topic is counterbalanced by a whole slew of visionaries who are untroubled by the nihilistic disease and instead create elaborate, vast, and questionable systems of occult meaning (Blake, Moore, Woodring, Vimalakirti).

If that stuff is too far off into hippie woo, to contrast with it we include one book that has something to do with my day job in software (Brooks). He was the architect of IBM's System/360, and you can't get much more straight-mainstream-rationalist than that!

And interestingly, a couple of books play around on the border between rationality and the lands beyond. Though one is fiction (Crowley) and one nonfiction (Kripal) they both are about academics who lose their faith in hardnosed rationality and materialism and end up exploring more ethereal domains.

Wow, I am really impressed with my ability to come up with post-hoc structure and rationales! Swear to (the possibly dead) god that I didn't plan any of that out! I guess the influence of the last book I blogged about is pretty obvious (in fact Kripal was Erik Davis's thesis advisor).

Here's the list. I hope to write more detailed reviews of at least some of these, and will expand or link here.

  • Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson, 2/11
  • The Flip, Jeffrey Kripal, 2/16
  • The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman, 2/23
  • Promethea v2, Alan Moore / J. H. Williams, 3/11
  • Distraction, Bruce Sterling 4/2
  • Congress of the Animals / Fran / Weathercraft, Jim Woodring, 4/22
  • White Noise, Don Delillo, 5/3
  • Why William Blake Matters, John Higgs 5/20
  • Black Sunday, Thomas Harris 5/25
  • Ægypt, John Crowley 6/21
  • The Vimalakirti Sutra, tr. Robert Thurman
  • The Design of Design, Fred Brooks, 7/14
  • Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frye
  • Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee, 7/16
  • Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, 8/2

1 comment:

Dain Fitgerald said...

Aw, I miss BART. I miss commuting, full stop (so to so to speak). Nice to hear from you!