Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Week at the Library (30/9)

Books this Update:
  • Fates Worse than Death, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Wisdom of Harry Potter, Edmund Kern
  • Our Chosen Faith: an introduction to Unitarian Universalism, F. Forrester Church and John A. Buehrens
  • Flim Flam!, Rames Randi

I'm growing steadily more busy with schoolwork, but am still managing to read a little. This week started with Kurt Vonnegut's Fates Worse than Death, a collection of essays generally about life in the 1980s. The essays are built off of lectures given during that time period, and through them Vonnegut expresses a kind of hopeful cynicism. He fears for the future of humanity, but gives no quarter to those who say human history has been nothing but deteriorating. Scoffing at Reaganites who say that those days were the worse ever, he points out that American history is progressing: slavery has abolished, suffrage has become universal, and it's possible that the "age of American freedom" is just beginning. Vonnegut is as pleasurable and thought-provoking as ever.

Next I read through The Wisdom of Harry Potter, Edmund Kern's attempt to defend the series against political and religious criticisms of its perceived lack of morality. Kern sees Potter as a Stoic hero, one who accepts his fate but works within it for the betterment of all. Kern could only analyze the first four books in totoal (given when the book was published), but after commenting on the moral themes displayed in them goes on to deal with Harry's detractors, from both sides of political and religious spectrums. He also defends the series as literature. It's worthy reading for Harry Potter fans who take the books more seriously than just a fun way to spend an hour, or for those interested in the intersection of philosophy and culture.

I finished Our Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Univeralism this week, it being on the obvious subject. The book is very straight-forward, with seperate chapters written on Unitarian Universalism's themes. It was light on history, but seemed fair overall.

Lastly, I finished James Randi's Flim-Flam!, a work of debunking covering UFOs, Pyramid mysticism, psychic surgeons, and other similar topics. Randi writes casually, with a lot of biting humor. Some topics were more interesting than others, but I imagine skeptics and those interested in the listed topics would enjoy it.

Pick of the Week: Vonnegut's Fates Worse than Death.

Potentials for Next Week:
  • The Last Command, Timothy Zahn. This is last in the Thrawn trilogy. I started on it last week.
  • The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton
  • Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins, Maddalena Bearzi and Craig B. Stanford. This is a recommendation from a friend. I don't know what makes me think I'll possibly get it to it this week.
  • Last Seen in Massilia, Steven Saylor.
  • Music of the Civil War Era, Steven H. Cornelius. I'm anticipating simply mining this for information for my seminar paper on folk music of the Civil War, but depending on my needs and time, I may read it through properly.

The first is a definite, as is the second, although I don't expect to be able to enjoy it until the weekend or later. I'm hoping to get access to the Saylor novel sometime this week, but I'm not certain I'll have it.

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