Why a blog for books I’ve read?

Welcome to Reading Now. It seems that as I read I keep finding recurring themes. Maybe a blog is the best place to track and share the great themes or waves of literature. I have often kept records of my reading, but limited myself mostly to tracking the quantity of pages read. Here I can categorize and summarize books by themes, make recommendation, make a few comments, and even share some memorable quotations. After all, it isn’t how much you read, but what you learn from your reading that is important.

I tend to read books that are similar in genre. I have tagged entries by genres, maybe not using standard categories, but making my own as I go along. I have extensive collections of eBooks and print books. I have created two lists of books indexed by author. First a list of conventional print books and then a list of eBooks. All entries are tagged by author’s name so you can find all entries about an author’s books by clicking the author’s name.

Ruth — Elizabeth Gaskell

This is the story of a teen-aged orphan who is apprenticed to a dress-maker by her unwilling guardian. On a Sunday afternoon she was observed outside a tavern with a gentleman above her station. Whereupon her mistress the dressmaker summarily fired her. Without anyplace to turn the child was cast upon the mercies of the young man.

The two young people, not really a couple, travel together on the way for him to join his mother on some trip. After a delightful expedition the young man takes sick. Ruth stays by him and nurses him until his mother arrives. As soon as the young man is able to be moved, the mother dismisses Ruth and takes the man away with her. A misshapen old man takes and interest in Ruth and calls his dear sister to come help him with nursing Ruth who has herself taken sick at her ejection from the young man’s protection.

The rest of the story is about Ruth. She overcomes many obstacles but has many setbacks. You’ll have to read the rest for yourself. Hint: she does hear from her lover again.

The Adventures of Pinocchio — Carlo Collodi

I have read Pinocchio before, but yet it seemed still fresh on this reading. This is a very wonderful allegory. Forever little boys who are disobedient and are lazy have been turning themselves into little donkeys. Carlo Collodi made a good call when he put this truth into his wonderful story.

The wonderful idea here is that no simple person needs to continue to be a blockhead. With love and a great deal of hard work they can cease to be a blockhead. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if like Dr. Seuss, there would be a world Carlo Collodi day?

The Origin and Permanent Value of the Old Testament — Charles Foster Kent

“… the Old Testament contains truths marvelously adapted to every age and type of mind. The importance of the religious culture of the child is emphasized by the comparatively large proportion, of writings especially fitted to hold the attention and arouse the imagination and shape the ideals even of the youngest. Nearly half of the Old Testament consists simply of narratives. Those inimitable stories, which come from the childhood of the race, have a perennial fascination for the child of today. They find him on his own mental and moral plane, as they did the primitive child, and by natural stages lead him on and up to the higher standards and broader faith of Israel’s later prophets and sages, and thus prepare him to understand and appreciate the perfected life and teachings of Jesus.

Kent, Charles Foster, The Origin and Permanent Value of the Old Testament, Kindle Edition (2012), pp. 111-112.

“The subject-matter, therefore, supremely suitable for the earliest moral and spiritual culture of the child, is clearly the simple and profound prophetic stories of the Old Testament. It is very questionable whether the many excellent paraphrases now current are a gain or a hindrance. The ancient prophets and the generations who have retold them were inimitable story-tellers. To attempt to improve upon their work is futile. A simple, clear translation is all that is required.”

Ibid. p. 112.

Myth, Ritual and Religion – Volume 1 — Andrew Lang

“While the attempt is made to show that the wilder features of myth survive from, or were borrowed from, or were imitated from the ideas of people in the savage condition of thought, the existence—even among savages—of comparatively pure, if inarticulate, religious beliefs is insisted on throughout”.

Lang, Andrew. Myth, Ritual and Religion — Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 106-108). Kindle Edition.

The gist of this book is that anthropologists set myth on one side of human experience and religion on the other. One important feature is that myths are irrational and religion is rational.

The major fallacy of anthropology is the belief in evolution. Truth and rationalism did not build up over time. Rather man fell from truth and pursued an irrational path. Greek mythology and the writings of Homer arose after the Israelite departure from Egypt. Moses described an apostasy that would come upon Israel after his own death. This apostasy is something all nations have suffered:

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked–
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek–
Then he forsook God who made him.
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.

“They made Him Jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.

“They sacrificed to demons who were not God.
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.

:You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.

“And the LORD saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.

“Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.

“They have made Me jealous with what is not God;
They have provoked Me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people.
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

“For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And burns to the lowest part of Sheol.
And consumes the earth with its yield,
And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

Genesis 32:15-22, NASB

A passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans echoes the theme of Moses’ song:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress truth in unrighteousness,

because that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing to be wise; they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Romans 1:18-23, NASB

Keep these two Bible passages in mind and reading Lang’s history will make more sense.

Theocritus Bion and Moschus Rendered into English Prose — Andrew Lang

Theocritus Bion and Moschus Rendered into English Prose gives us a glimpse into the literary history in ancient Dorian Greek dialect. The subject matter is reminiscent of Lang’s Myth, Ritual and Religion. The Greeks in their literature seem rather like the savages Lang cites in other continents. Perhaps the Greek culture is not all it has been made out to be.

These idylls add up to being little more than art-deco pulp fiction, a very huge kiss-and-tell literature. From Myth, Ritual, and Religion we learn that the more a history is retold, the further the myth gets from the history. Perhaps it is that very principle that caused the Inspirer of Holy Writ to forbid adding to His Word.

Nevertheless, I found a few passages quotable:

“He is the best of bards who takes nothing that is mine.”

One of the stories praise Ptolemy who as one of Alexander the Great’s generals became the ruler of Egypt after Alexander’s death.

Yea, and he taketh him a portion of Phoenicia, and of Arabia, and of Syria, and of Libya, and the black Aetheiopians. And he is lord of all the Pamphylians, and the Cilician warriors, and the Lycians, and the Carians, that joy in battle, and the lord of the isles of the Cyclades, – since his are the best ships that sail over the deep, – yea, all the sea, and land and the sounding rivers are ruled by Ptolemy.

Lang, Andrew, Theocritus Bion and Moschus Rendered into English Prose, Kindle Edition (2012) Kindle Location 1185.

Evidently Ptolemy ruled over a great bit more than what Theocritus wrote. One of Ptolemy’s Libyan navigators made his way to what would be called the Sandwich Islands and established a supply station there called Maui Gardens. But it seems that Maui did not give up his exploration in the island paradise. Sometime probably in his lifetime an expedition from Libya landed most likely on the California coast, perhaps up the Gulf of California. A land party was put ashore. This party became the Zuni tribe or was assimilated into that tribe. The tribal language is said to have a connection with the Libyan tongue.

So among the myths of even Theocritus we find a pearl of history.

Secret Places of the Heart — H. G. Wells

Secret Places of the Heart is a character study of a acolyte of the new world order. A rich fuel magnate serves upon an energy commission of Parliament. He comes to a doctor between sessions to ask for drugs. The doctor who is a psychiatrist rather than a general practitioner suggests a trip. The major portion of the book is the confessions they share upon the road.

Midway in this road trip the two men meet two younger women. One of them is the heir to a fuel fortune in America. The English gentleman and the American woman share an interest in history. But once they move from the conversations about the past they find a common ground in a philosophy of the future of world energy distribution.

What becomes of this new friendship? Is the greater future achieved? You will have to read Secret Places of the Heart for yourself.

Some of the supposed historical facts seem to be a bit off. It was the feeling of history Wells was after, not the real history.

The Sea Lady — H. G. Wells

The Sea Lady is an interesting novel. A mermaid follows a man she observed in the South Seas to the home he would visit in Kent County, England. There she managed to get herself taken into the house of which the man’s fiancee was a resident.

As usual Wells manages to work in some commentary on his own culture. Somehow the things that English gentlemen and ladies thought important were valued differently by the immortal siren.

The one thing I discovered is that I would have liked to have heard more about the lives of sea people.

The Island of Doctor Moreau — H. G. Wells

The Island of Doctor Moreau is a strange sci-fi story. Moreau had once been known as a creator of freak creatures. His business was operating on a variety of animals to turn them into humanoid creatures. Eventually he had to leave England, and he continued his experiments on an island. Hence the title.

The story begins with the hero of the story being shipwrecked. He is picked up by a ship that is carrying Doctor Moreau as a passenger. The cargo is a lot of caged animals Moreau is bringing back to his island.

Does our unfortunate traveler survive his visit to Doctor Moreau’s island? How is he changed forever by the experience? Is H. G. Wells using the strange creatures of Doctor Moreau as a commentary of people back in civilization? Read this book and tell me what you think.

The First Men in the Moon — H. G. Wells

The First Men in the Moon is almost a pure science fiction novel. The first eighty percent of the book is pure science fiction. Two men become friends in a rural place in England. One is seeking privacy to write a play, and perhaps a place to hide from his creditors. The other is a researcher studying the properties of various alloys that filter various forms of energy. His special interest is to find a material that will block the force of gravity.

In short. the experimenter develops the anti-gravity substance, the writer suggests an application for controlling the substance, and together they go off to the moon. While exploring and learning to get around in the low gravity of the moon they loose their ship. The large part of the story tells of all they see and experience on the surface of the moon and inside its tunnels and crevices.

The writer makes it back to earth to write his story. This is the bulk of the novel. The rest of the story is communication from the inventor who was stranded on the moon and what became of him.

The Homeric Hymns A New Prose Translation; and Essays, Literary and Mythological — Andrew Lang

Descending, as it did, from the mythology of savages, the mythic store of Greece was rich in legends such as we find among the lowest races. Homer usually ignores them: Hesiod and the authors of the Hymns are less noble in their selections.

For this reason and for many others we regard the Hymns, on the whole, as post-Homeric, while their collector, by inserting the Hymn to Ares, shows little proof of discrimination…

Lang, Andrew, The Homeric Hymns A New Prose Translation; and Essays, Literary and Mythological, Kindle Edition (2011), Kindle Location 142.

The Hymns read like the world’s first soap opera. “Zeus and All My Children” with “As the World Turns” rolled into one. There are even some references that might be considered a word from the sponsor. Apollo the far-darter has a car named after him, the Dodge Dart. And perhaps the advertising of Volkswagen a few years ago is also based on Apollo. “Fahrvergnügen” sounds like a corruption of far-darter. Certainly Apollo was the first to enjoy driving pleasure.

The quote from H. G. Wells in The Dream is appropriate here.