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The Great Books Of The Western World



  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Very busy with some exams until next week so not really making progress on SSGB.

    Finished 12 MORE RULES, probably better than the original is my conclusion. Genuinely far reaching in its thought, although lacking any central narrative, it’s a book of disparate essays (rules).

    Still enjoying THE TWO TOWERS from time to time.

  • just finished EAST OF EDEN for the 2nd time. Steinbeck’s finest work IMO….a big sweeping read but beautifully written and perfectly paced. Most of all, its just a good story

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    It's been a busy few weeks, reading neglected to an extent.

    Reorganised my library and a fair few paperbacks are heading to a charity shop now. Have to make room, I literally have about three yards of a backlog stacked up that I needed space for.

    SS-GB by Len Deighton... I'm approximately halfway through. It's enjoyable, not dated at all, but it is hampered by the total lack of charisma of the main character. He is "Archer of the Yard", an ace detective, but to be honest he simply comes across as a blank. No emotions, no strong feelings other than a largely unexplained total commitment to his duty.

    Almost finished THE TWO TOWERS by Tolkien. Very much getting more of the interplay between Sauron and Saruman this time around, or at least ... Gandalf's theorising about the nature of their relationship.

    There is a chapter called "The voice of Saruman" which is probably the strongest in the book, and gives a sense of some of the mental powers and inner states of the characters that is sometimes glossed over by Tolkien.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished SS-GB.

    As an alternate history, I would highly recommend it. Also quite effective in evoking the period in question, the wartime food shortages, the bad clothes, the class relations and so on.


    I enjoyed Kaplan's SOLDIERS OF GOD: WITH ISLAMIC SOLDIERS IN PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN a few years ago. It's on the U.S State Department's recommended reading list for employees, and basically it was written by Kaplan in that twillight period where the U.S was in support of the Mujahudeen in Afghanistan and along the border with Pakistan, who were fighting the Soviets, but was beginning to become aware of the threat from foreign fighter jihadis among them. Kaplan, a journalist turned public intellectual / analyst, was early in identifying troubles coming down the line. SOLDIERS OF GOD was interesting because Kaplan was able to do a relatively objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the fighters concerned, this was obviously before 9/11, when afterwards it seemed like any attempt at rational analysis of the qualities, good or bad, of the mujahudeen and their allies went out the window.

    I'm a little more sceptical of WARRIOR POLITICS, it looks like the kind of "secondary literature" that I hate. Each chapter is relating foreign policy realpolitik to the thinkers of the ancient world. As long term readers of this thread will know, my firm belief is that rather than reading what a contemporary person has to say about Machiavelli or Sun Tzu or whoever, you should simply read the primary texts...

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Still reading WARRIOR POLITICS. It's easy reading.

    Kaplan hyopthesises in the introduction that the future is sprawling, gigantic city states ... That there will be large cities which will wield more geopolitical power than do present day nation states. He seems to envisage an endlessly consumerist, internationalist experience, where modernity means people the world over become more similar than not.

    The dangers and challenges he envisages relate to ethnic, religious and national feuds exacerbated by modern technology and instant communication, and he makes the bold claim that it's greater political freedom which actually allows these faultlines to erupt into violence. Kaplan basically suggests that if you give people the freedom to make informed choices, they will default back to generational conflicts in their shared pasts.

    I don't necessarily disagree with his pessimistic view of a humanity divided along ethnic, religious and cultural lines, but I think his globalist consumerist future is somewhat in doubt. I'm not so sure the future really is the endless economic growth and internationalisation he thinks. I wonder if energy, food and water shortages won't push us into a flatlining of economic growth (Willingly or not). I could see a push for a self-sufficient and independent Europe, and the same in the USA and in wealthier parts of Asia. And a stagnation or indeed disaster situation in poor southern hemisphere countries due to climate and neglect by an increasingly inward-looking developed world.

    When it comes to Kaplan's idea that freedom enables conflict, I guess that may be true in terms of internal conflict in disintegrating nation states, but many of the ones who are making incursions into their neighbour's countries, or credibly threatening same, are the autocracies. Russia has done it 3-4 times in the past few decades... Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine... China threatens Taiwan... North Korea / South Korea... Not sure of Kaplan's central claim that freedom causes bloodletting... Repressive states probably shed the same or a greater amount.

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished Kaplan's WARRIOR POLITICS.

    An interesting and brief read. Very much a defence of realpolitik. A summary of key points:-

    • Kaplan argues that self interested foreign policy is the only moral foreign policy. He basically argues that it's only possible to be moral or adhere to a moral code if you have the luxury of being able to implement it safely, draws on Machiavelli and others to justify this
    • He is a sceptic when it comes to international law and the notion of international human rights as something very durable outside of the context of a country like the United States acting as a global underwriter of it. I wonder what he would make of recent EU strength vis a vis Russia, not sure he or many others saw that coming. I think we're seeing a dynamic where the EU has shown it will react to hostility by pushing closer together and relaxing controls on what it is prepared to do militarily and in terms of other coercive tools available to it
    • He believes (As I do) that much of the southern hemisphere and developing world is facing into a protracted period of complete chaos and failure caused by a combination of youth bulges, ethnic conflict and coming food and water shortages
    • What does he get wrong? He seems to envisage a cornucopia of economic and corporate plenty that will just keep coming in the future. He imagines powerful and wealthy mega cities that will become like new nation states. I'm not sure how that squares at all with the climate emergency that's coming down the tracks. I think we're looking at an end to globalisation and the economic growth of the past 30 years and a move to slower, more regional economics and politics

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Now reading Brandon Sanderson's STEELHEART, which feels a little bit like a YA novel... Is it YA? Could be. Very readable and easy going. Can't help but keep thinking of "The Boys", there's a very similar vibe and I guess the premise is the same.

    Finished THE TWO TOWERS and on to RETURN OF THE KING.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished STEELHEART. Enjoyable but a little bit lightweight, definite YA qualities to it. Not sure I will read on in the series, but never say never.

    Quite far into RETURN OF THE KING, I'm enjoying it, I think often on re-reads it's the first two books that stick with you from before. I didn't have a detailed recollection of the siege of Gondor.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    For the forseeable I'm going to alternate fiction and non fiction choices.

    I'm really enjoying my reading at the moment. One thing I want to preserve is that enjoyment, but I also want to continue reading a bit of a mixture of genres. I want to keep some history and reasonably serious non fiction in the mix. At some point I would like to mix back in some classics. If I were going to do a shortlist of what I could see myself revisiting from my Great Books reading list, I'd probably do (at the moment):-

    • Thucydides
    • Marcus Aurelius
    • Livy
    • Edward Gibbon
    • Jane Austen
    • William Shakespeare (I'd probably do some more audio of plays from the BBC)
    • Dostoevsky (A bit more lukewarm on this but I did really enjoy CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, so I wouldn't rule it out)

    I also have a real soft spot for THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. I would consider something else by Dumas, maybe THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK?

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Started (re-started, really) Rod Dreher's THE BENEDICT OPTION.

    I feel like this is an important book for the religious and non religious alike.

    Dreher's analysis is that the West has become secularised and "post Christian" to a large extent, with mainstream law and culture largely antipathetic towards the dwindling minority of people who want to live orthodox Christian lifestyles.

    He also sifts through research which supports the idea that even among Westerners who do identify as Christian, their self-reported understanding of Christianity is largely a 'hollowed out' Moralistic Therepeutic Deism (MTD), a term coined by researchers, which is characterised by being a pretty easygoing belief system that puts personal happiness at the centre of the person's worldview, and where God is not largely required in a person's life except when something is going wrong.

    So Dreher argues that not only are Westerners departing various Churches in record numbers, he says they don't really understand the belief system they're discarding anyway.

    He baldly states that the decline of Christianity in Northern Europe and North America is "irreversible" but that the faith will survive in China and the global south.

    The thrust of his argument in response to this set-up is that the decline should prompt people to largely abandon attempts to evangelise and fight culture wars, and rather create resilient faith communities within the broader culture, which will the preservation of a Christian lifestyle within the community. Dreher is talking in terms of not so much the first generation benefiting and holding on to their beliefs, he is suggesting an approach like this to ensure the continued faith of the second and third generations, so they aren't assimilated / leave the Church.

    The titular reference to Benedict is, of course, because all of this is somewhat similar to the formation of the Rule of St Benedict, following the fall of the Roman Empire, when Benedict set up a series of monasteries which were like lifeboats amid the collapse and corruption of the Empire. Dreher argues, in effect, for a new "Benedict Option" that would see the creation of little Christian communities and networks throughout the West.

    There are at least some projects of this nature that seem to be doing well. I find it a fascinating idea, even as an agnostic.

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    I made the mistake of reading Dreher on Twitter. A bit of a pro Russian slant for a long time.

    It’s perhaps logical that someone might write logical well reasoned books but then do a lot of bad takes on Twitter, but it’s always disappointing.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Still working through THE BENEDICT OPTION.

    Feeling now like I will have to get a copy of THE RULE OF ST BENEDICT and just read that, I don't like secondary literature, the chapters where he paraphrases Benedict slightly bother me as I'm not sure Dreher is totally reliable as a narrator.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    In the final stretch of RETURN OF THE KING.

    It's incredible that after the destruction of the One Ring and the coronation of Aragorn there's still this protracted end book... Wouldn't happen nowadays. The "scouring of the Shire" is a wicked sting in the tail.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Very very close to the end of RETURN OF THE KING now.

    "The scouring of the Shire" is just ended, and from memory now there's just a protracted bit about people going into the West.

    It's a long time since I recall reading "The scouring of the Shire", and as I said above, my impression of it from past readings was that it was a somewhat odd end part. I understand Tolkien had multiple purposes with it... It's part of the overall story arc about the ending of an older age, the beginning of the new one (Dominated by men), and part of that is that he needs to show that the people left can no longer live in the old idyll, they're in a kind of industrial hellscape after the scouring, whether they like it or not. But I didn't remember that Sam manages to somewhat remedy that within 6 months or so, using the seed and soil gifted to him by Galadriel. Although the state the hobbits find the Shire in on their return is indeed grim, by the end of the "scouring" much of it is undone and their world is set to rights. Reading some commentaries online, I think that's forgotten a little bit, people focus very much on the industrial harms wrought in the hobbits absence, but not the end-state, which seems quite pleasant to me.

    Overall I have to say I really, really appreciated the whole segment this time around. I loved the "heroic return" of the travellers, the battle of Bywater, and perhaps especially that final showdown with "Sharkey" aka Saruman. Really great.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished RETURN OF THE KING and now about halfway through PRISON: A SURVIVAL GUIDE by Carl Cattermole.

    This is a Penguin book written by a former UK prisoner about HMP service, and what it's like to be inside. It's obviously meant to be a bit funny, but it comes across as quite a dry, technical "how to" manual on the bureaucracy and operations of UK prisons. Although he acknowledges there is violence and bullying on the inside, he does clearly say that it's nothing like "Oz" and similar depictions of prison, which is good to hear.

    Still working on THE BENEDICT OPTION. Struggling to find time to make significant headway at the moment.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep


    Certainly worth reading, even if you don't agree with all of the Dreher's arguments or conclusions.

    His last chapter on eros / sex is probably the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

    I'm not sure I can get behind his idea to pack single people into shared communal living where they'll live a chaste life until marriage. If it was Ireland the amount of riding and drinking that would go on would be... Unholy, I guess...

    I agree with his central premise that religious freedoms are being tested as never before and this process appears to be accelerating. It's increasingly clear that it will be hard to reconcile and protect both religious orthodox lifestyle choices and adhere to a socially progressive agenda, the two things are inimical.

    In this respect orthodox Christians will join other religious minorities who take their faith seriously in living as subcultures largely separate to the mainstream.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Also finished PRISON: A SURVIVAL GUIDE and a few chapters into Douglas Murray's WAR ON THE WEST.

    Murray is a very good writer and an excellent debater. THE STRANGE DEATH OF EUROPE remains one of the best commentaries on immigration and European politics I've ever read. It was genuinely enlightening, in respect of how whether a government is left or right leaning, they are usually equally ineffective at regulating inward migration to Europe, and this situation has been the status quo for approaching 30 years. THE MADNESS OF CROWDS an equally sharp examination of trans and critical race ideologies and their implications.

    Yes.. There's a "BUT" coming.

    BUT I feel Murray has, in recent years, 'jumped the shark'. It used to be that he let his opponents hang themselves, with their own words. In the two books above, that was his approach, and it worked wonderfully well.

    Now he seems to be chasing a more U.S orientated career and as a consequence the rhetoric has been dialled up. WAR ON THE WEST rehashes arguments already made more effectively in THE MADNESS OF CROWDS and THE STRANGE DEATH OF EUROPE, but now Murray delivers them with a more theatrical flair, it all feels very much like he's preaching to a particular audience who will already agree with him.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    THE TOWERS OF SUNSET by LE Modesitt Jnr, a little diversion.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Still going on with WAR ON THE WEST.

    One of the central 'new' elements (New to him) Murray presents here relates to the racism, antisemitism and sexism of Karl Marx. He uses Marx as an example of a historical figure who was much more virulently 'bad' in terms of his stated views on these issues than Locke, Hume, Kant, Jefferson, Churchill etc. I was quite taken aback myself when Murray laid out what Marx had written - not just in private correspondence - but in public addresses and open letters. Pretty extreme stuff by any yardstick.

    The antisemitism in particular is very aggressive, Murray reasonably compares it to the later rhetoric of the nazis, and I'd agree in tenor it is similar. Marx wrote of 'loanmongering' Jews with sinister power, describing them as 'leper' types with a grip around the world.

    Of slavery, Marx wrote that it was 'just another' economic category, and appeared to suggest that without it the United States could not have become the progressive force it did (At the time, Marx had high hopes for the United States).

    Murray argues Marx gets a pass whereas others do not, because his beliefs have a continuing central utility to the anti-western project.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished THE TOWERS OF SUNSET. I remember this as one of my least favourite Recluce novels.

    Creslin, the hero, is comically over-powered, a master swordsman as well as the world's most powerful magician, it removes much of the real tension.

    A complete contrast to THE MAGIC OF RECLUCE, where the protagonist had this great "everyman" quality about him.

    Now reading John Christopher's 1956 book THE DEATH OF GRASS.

    THE DEATH OF GRASS is a very prescient apocalyptic novel. It's a little harder edged than John Wyndham, to the point of probably being an upsetting and nasty read by contemporary standards. There is a scene where a mother and daughter are raped by looters (off screen, it is not graphic) and what's disturbing about it is the nonchalance of the other, mainly male, characters in the aftermath.

    Christopher imagines a rice-eating virus that emerges in China, called Chung Li. 200 million Chinese people die in the subsequent famine, and it's the efforts of Scientists to contain Chung Li that somehow cause the emergence of a 5th variation that will also eat other crops. World-wide famine ensues. Christopher's small band of protagonists flee a London placed under martial law, in an effort to reach a closed valley owned by the main character's brother, where they imagine they will be able to live as subsistence farmers, living on root vegetables, the only crops that have a chain of continuing.

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Done with THE DEATH OF GRASS.

    So pessimistic in its reading of human nature, and Christopher envisages a breakdown of morality and community that is so rapid your knee jerk reaction is to say he goes too far.

    But as I closed this book, I wondered.

    If someone writing in that era, the 1960s, a time when social institutions still had a lot more heft and cohesion than today, believed that the wheels would come off that fast in the event of a rapid onset global emergency (a super famine), then we should probably take notice.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished THE WAR ON THE WEST (I'd recommend, but just to be clear, this is very much a 'culture war book' that is aimed at centre right or people further to the right, no one else is going to enjoy the polemic tone I don't think).

    Now listening to THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt... The Audible is also read by her, which is neat. She has a pleasantly wry Southern accent and reading voice, like Holly Hunter.

    A wonderful book, I've read a good chunk of it before, 20 years ago, but for some reason did not finish. For those unaware, it's something of a 'whodunnit', except the victim and the perpetrators are known from the opening page. It's more of a study of the setting and the characters involved... An eccentric, close-knit group of classics students at a fictional New Hampshire liberal arts university, who are devoted to a cult-leader type professor.

    I'm also reading THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE IRA by Ed Moloney, the most recent edition which goes up to perhaps 2007.

    Moloney has turned a bit... Well... "Old man shouting at cloud" in recent years, but this is him at his high point, this is his magnum opus and a study of the IRA and modern Irish history that has never been bettered.

    The "secret history" element of the title refers to the fact that, at the time, Sinn Fein and PIRA were not that keen on openly talking about the genesis of the peace process and the extent to which they participated at the beginning. The reason being that in the 00s there was an ongoing need, post signing of the GFA, to preserve the goodwill of a suspicious grassroots. There was a need, before final decommissioning to preserve a tougher image. Moloney argues that over several years it was this hardnosed political approach that led to the gradual pushing of Hume and others to the sidelines, post GFA, and the rise of Sinn Fein to their present centrality. And the flip of that was Trimble and the UUP being pushed out by Paisley and the DUP. People forget that Sinn Fein did not immediately become the party it is now, post GFA, they were in the wilderness for a fair period, still bargaining over things like policing.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    And I just noticed that by total chance both my current reads refer to secret histories!

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    I'm really soldiering through THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE IRA, if you'll excuse the pun.

    It's very detailed, but I actually feel that at times Moloney sacrificed narrative flow and his prose for that granular detail. It feels like at times its a book of notes that no editor could hope to do better organising than Moloney himself, and so at times just when you think you've reached a particular point where things are moving on - Adams taking control of the IRA following his release from Cage 11 or whatever ... Just when you think Moloney has finished laying out what he has found out as the insiders' account... He'll then turn the dial back to six months before and start again, from a slightly different perspective. It feels glacial.

    On the final chapters of THE SECRET HISTORY which is truly deserving of being called a modern classic. Bravo, Donna Tartt.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Forgot to mention that I polished off - in a matter of a couple of days - THE LORDS OF SILENCE by Chris Wraight. A very, very dark Warhammer 40k novel about 10,000 year old "plague marines" and their travels through the cosmos in a pestilent and bloated spaceship.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    For a bit of light relief I'm reading THE FLIGHT OF THE EISENSTEIN by James Swallow.

    Finished THE SECRET HISTORY last week and I'm surprised that it has not yet been made into a movie or TV show, it seems perfect for it.

    Finding the last half of THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE IRA a little turgid and heavy going. Moloney's central argument is interesting although thusfar he hasn't quite spelled it out explicitly. As I understand him, he's basically suggesting:-

    1. Gerry Adams began as a strategic visionary in the West Belfast IRA and that the first portion of his rise to prominence was a combination of ability combined with political skill and ruthlessness.
    2. He heavily implies that Adams, at times, may have engineered outcomes for the IRA which specifically harmed his political opponents within the movement. Sometimes very subtle, but on other occasions I think the implication was that Adams let entire ASUs be killed or arrested in order to remove them. This is before any suggestion by Moloney that Adams was compromised.
    3. Finally, the assertion that is becoming stronger as the book goes on is that there is a basis for believing that a senior member or members of the IRA and Sinn Fein was, at some point in time, compromised and that it was Adams or someone within his immediate circle. Moloney returns again and again to the apparent leaking of the Eskund arms shipment from Libya, and argues that although there was a spy on the ship, it's likely that there was also someone at a more senior level.

    Moloney's other big narrative is that the peace process was essentially a 'pre cooked meal' where all parties already knew before they begun, years in advance, what the make-up of the agreement would have to be. The challenge was to bring the grassroots on all sides into alignment with those realities, and it took several years to do.

    I have to say that I have an increased amount of respect for Adams in one sense. The chapter dealing with the twilight years of PIRA, before the GFA, set out quite clearly that Adams was making these efforts with regard to the peace process and the military elements of PIRA were actually almost worsening in terms of their target selection and practices. This was the era of the coerced 'human bomb', where drivers of vehicle borne IEDs were made to drive into checkpoints, and the IED detonated against their will. Moloney - no friend of Adams, it must be said - is quite clear that this was a source of intense frustrations for the Adams camp, and reading Adams' statements from the time that comes across.

    Of course history is written by "the winners" so we have a kind of airbrushed and manicured version of PIRA, Sinn Fein and GFA history from all involved now, especially Adams, but it's interesting to look back and see that actually they were less cohesive and centrally controlled as an organisation than one might assume.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Finished TSHOTI … In fairness to my summary above, Moloney does not actually ever explicitly assert he thinks Adams or McGuinness were agents towards the end. This was my first reading but I think he leaves it hanging in the end, it’s unclear. He does a good argument in the closing chapters of illustrating how in the late 90s the IRA really “tore the arse” out of properly disarming and ceasing criminal fundraising, don’t think I quite realised how much bad faith bollocks-acting went on by the SF / IRA leadership even at that stage (And in the late 90s they were much were still largely one and the same at the top).

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    Some light fantasy ... LE Moddesitt's rather unfortunately titled THE MAGIC ENGINEER.

    I'm also listening to Marcus Aurelius' MEDITATIONS, which I read as part of my Great Books reading list. Still an excellent example of stoic philosophy, although the opening pages are a bit week.

    He's somewhat more humane than Epictetus I feel.

    Stoicism is sometimes reduced today to being about muscular individualism, a means of coming to grips with the pressures, pains and frustrations of society. But Marcus Aurelius says "man is born for community" and there is no doubt that his central message is that we should strive to "do good", likening that purpose in a man as to a grapevine designed by nature to bear fruit...

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    I've somewhat slipped out of a updating this log, must get back into it.

    Re-read some old fiction while on holidays there, classics from my teens and early 20s... David Gemmell's LEGEND and LAST SWORD OF POWER among them. There's no better 80s / 90s sword and sorcery / heroic fantasy author.

    Right now, reading Robert Kaplan's THE COMING ANARCHY, which is another short book he wrote that is in the realistic school of international affairs. For Kaplan, there is no objective reality or bedrock to international law and human rights, there are only hegemonic forces willing to underwrite them for a period of time through the threat of force.

    Kaplan wrote this in the 90s and his future is a bleak one, with youth bulges and resource shortages causing warfare, famine and the breakdown of natures on a massive scale.

    While not all his numbers have worked out as he projected, it is safe to say that I would agree with him that it's likely the next 40 years are going to make the last 40 years look like a bit of a golden age of international peace (in relative terms).

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,550 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Black Sheep

    I went on an odd binge of reading David Gemmell novels there... WOLF IN SHADOW, THE LAST GUARDIAN and BLOODSTONE.

    Now, somewhat starved of non-fiction so I'm going to start working that back in.

    Last night I began reading Thomas Merton's THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN. Merton's autobiography is often held up as one of the most important Catholic books of our day. He converted to Catholicism and entered a Trappist monastery is the gist of it, but it's been compared to St Augustine's THE CONFESSIONS in that he is considered to have lived an active life in the world before turning his back on it.

    I tend to avoid the retrospective introductions to these things, but on this occasion I read enough to discover that he was initially discouraged from entering the Franciscans because he disclosed he had fathered a child out of marriage with a young woman (Possibly at a university, I'm not clear). I must admit it leaves he slightly cold about him. It's suggested Merton 'tried to find her' and couldn't, but frankly I'd like to know more about what efforts he made.

    I don't believe this is mentioned in THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN, which makes it a book of its time, but still disappointing to me.