Monday, October 01, 2007

Tagged for the Book Meme

Karen, of Beyond Understanding, tagged me for the book meme that’s been going around. I’m honored, I think. As someone with sensitive eyes, I do a lot of “reading” by listening to a tape or CD while lying down with a cold washcloth over my eyes. So I’m going to include recorded books as well as recorded lecture series as “books.” For one thing, it’s the only way I can work Rick Roderick into my answers. And as I promised Karen, my answers will be a lot more long-winded than hers. Here goes:

Total Number of Books:

I’m going to assume this means the number of books I own. I probably have about 50 here at The Closet Over the Stairs in Bloomington. At the big yellow American Foursquare in Elkhart, we’ve probably got over 1000.

Last Book Read:

Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile. It’s the story of how a Cold War liberal from Texas almost singlehandedly made it possible for the mujahideen in Afghanistan to defeat the Red Army. Arming the mujahideen was a major factor in bringing down the Soviet Union, but it also paved the way for the Taliban and al-Qaida. Checking Wikipedia, I find it's been made, as they say, into a major motion picture. (I have yet to see "Now a Minor Motion Picture" on a book jacket.) This one really appears to be major, though.

Last Book Bought:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams. A brilliant and funny science fiction explanation of why Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is a fragment. Ive also ordered a used copy of the cssette lectures, Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the 20th Century by Rick Roderick.

Five Meaningful Books:

An Autobiographical Novel, by Kenneth Rexroth. One of the most fascinating things about Elkhart, Indiana is the number of creative people who have lived there. Writer Ambrose Bierce, playwright Charles Gordone (first African American to win the Pulitzer for drama), and architect Marion Mahony Griffin are among many with Elkhart connections. While poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth spent only a few early years in Elkhart, his portrayal of his childhood there is spellbinding. Like many memoirs, it’s not always factually accurate. But his telling of life in 1910-era Elkhart, 1920s Chicago, and San Francisco in the ’30s and ‘40s is simply fascinating.

Philosophy and Human Values by Rick Roderick. The library finally discarded this one, but I’d check it out every few months. This four-tape set begins with Socrates, touches lightly on Roman and medieval philosophers, and then covers Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Nietszche, Kirkegaard, and Freud. Roderick intersperses his lectures with his West Texas humor and devastating critiques of America in the Reagan-Bush I era, when the lectures took place. Roderick’s courses are available over the Web at this site.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle. See below.

Twilight of the Great Trains, by Fred Frailey. It wouldn’t be On the Slow Train without a train book in here. The 1950s Handbook of American Railroads helped maintain my childhood passion for trains, and Peter Lyon’s 1967 To Hell in a Day Coach was a big factor in my advocacy of passenger train service. For a positive look at the future of rail travel, Supertrains by Joseph Vranich is a good one. (More recently, Vranich has been seduced by the Dark Side, or perhaps frustrated by Light side, and is now an ally of those who wish to destroy passenger train service. Vranich will tell you he wants privately-operated super trains instead of quasi-public Amtrak, but his right-wing allies would no more invest in high-speed rail than in dirigibles.) But for an understanding of the American passenger train, Frailey’s book is ideal. He looks at the last days of privately operated passenger train service over pro-passenger lines like the Seaboard Coast Line and anti-passenger roads such as the Southern Pacific. Most passenger trains, Frailey says, actually made money or broke even until the late 1960s, when the Post Office eliminated the Railway Post Offices (literally rolling post offices where mail was sorted enroute).

The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. He's another onetime Elkhartan, though I discovered Bierce long before I moved to Indiana. Some of my cynicism has to be laid at Bierce's doorstep. And yet underneath Bierce's cynicism is a romantic idealist. But the Devil's Dictionary is fun. Even the most happily married person would sometimes agree with his definition of marriage:

"The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two. "

Five Pople to Tag:

I'll pass on this one. I enjoyed doing the meme, but I'm not comfortable sending it on. If anyone wants to do it, be my guest.


Sustenance Scout said...

Fair enough, Steve! Thanks for your list; I'll go ahead and note it in the comments section of my bookish post. I knew yours would be unique--and not at all long-winded! K.

Lisa said...

What a great list of books! Your posts always inspire me and now that I have some specific references, I may steel myself to finally take the time to study some of the great philosophers. You are a great influence Steve.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hi Steve, thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed the Devil's Dictionary, and Bierce's Civil War fiction is a favorite of me. What a mystery about his disappearnce in Mexico, eh?

Sustenance Scout said...

Hmmmm disappearance in Mexico? Care to elaborte Charles and/or Steve? Don't make me resort to Wikipedia! :)

steve said...

Karen, thanks again for tagging me.

Lisa--Thanks again. If you can download Philosophy and Human Values, (I couldn't get it to work), it's a good start.

Charles--Thank you for visiting. And I completely agree with you on the Civil War stories--"A Horseman in the Sky"is one of my favorites."

Karen--Bierce went off to Mexico in 1913 to cover the revolutionary movements there. He sent a last letter saying something like "dying by a bullet is better than falling down stairs." And that was the last heard of him. There have been several works of fiction about Bierce's end. Carlos Fuentes's "Old Gringo," later made into a film, is best known. And then there's Stanley Ellin's short story "Specialty of the House," which proposes another end for him--as the main course.