Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reading outside the GBWW schedule

I recently realized I was perilously behind in my classical reading blog, especially in the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW) reading schedule. I have not stopped reading, but I have been diverted by books outside the GBWW series.

One contemporary book that I finished was the political/philosophical satire called "Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington"by Cathcart and Klein. This book targeted politicians and well-known polemicists who use illogical, evasive or deceptive arguments to persuade the public. Although I did enjoy it, I found it overtly partisan and not as entertaining as Carthcart and Klein's last book "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar".

A more stimulating book was "Viva la Repartee" by Mardy Grothe. This collection of retorts, rejoinders and witty, pithy comebacks from celebrities, politicians and others was glued to my hands. It often made me think, "Why didn't I say that?" I think it did stir up some creative thoughts in me which I hope will surface when I need a riposte.

A modern classic I finished was "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002. This books describes a small, dying town in Maine and the characters that dwell in it. Since my formative years were spent in small towns I could easily relate to the situations the characters found themselves in. Divisions of wealth and class are much more apparent when you cannot escape from your own small world. The story was also well told and I found the denizens of this town to be vivid and sympathetic.

In our book club we read a classic of Victorian English literature, "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte. Published in 1847, this is the story of a young woman overcoming poverty, loneliness and distrust. By holding true to herself she becomes educated, develops close friends and eventually discovers love and becomes independently wealthy. This was a satisfying, but voluminous novel (nearly 600 pages) and Bronte's vocabulary required my dictionary's frequent consultation. This was a book I wanted to read and I am glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy it.

A final book that I finished in the last few months was the "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. This novel won the prestigious "Man Booker Prize" in 2002, which is awarded to the best work of English fiction produced that year by a "Commonwealth Nation" (e.g. UK, Canada). It is the story of a young Indian boy whose father is transporting his zoo from India to Canada when the ship carrying them sinks. The young boy, Pi, must then survive a long journey alone in a lifeboat, his only companion a hungry tiger. One of the more interesting parts of this book is how Pi decides to become a Christian, a Hindu, and a Muslim all at once, which provides some fun and thoughtful moments.

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