Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, January 2012
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Writing for Antiquity;
The Great Transformation;
The Commonwealth of Letters;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Enigmas of Chance;
The Dismal Science
Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
- A rather rambling and formless, if amiable and enthusiastic, popular
history of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura and its rediscovery during
the Renaissance. The grandiosity of the subtitle is not, thankfully, insisted
upon in the text, which in fact says rather little about the quite interesting
history of how Lucretius was taken up, and Epicurean ideas were elaborated on,
in early modern Europe. Passages of novelistic you-are-there detail, which
Greenblatt admits are totally made up, are mercifully brief and fairly clearly
marked as such. (Such claims of influence as he does make strike me as very
thinly supported, though not clearly wrong.) Enjoyable, if slight, if
you are prepared to care very deeply about books, and to sympathize with
- (I am not sure why Greenblatt writes that the only
manuscripts we have from the ancient world
are those from
Herculaneum preserved by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In Egypt and other
desert countries, manuscripts have survived
Ptolemaic and even earlier times, some of
them rather famous.
But he is not a classicist, and one hopes he is a bit more careful about his
C. Jacob, Strangers
Nowhere in the World: The Rise of Cosmopolitanism in Early Modern
- On the positive side, the subject is important, and there were lots of
interesting anecdotes and suggestions. Against that, it is far too
scatter-shot and lacks not only a single global argument, but even much
cohesion within individual chapters. It is also far too limited in scope, to
the Enlightenment and its immediate predecessors in the 17th century. But if
one wanted to look even at what was distinctive about that sort of
cosmopolitanism, it's very strange to not even try to compare it
traditions, or the
way the travels of
learned artists spread styles and ideas during the Renaissance and before.
(Comparison with any other part of the world is of course too much to expect of
a Europeanist, even one interested in cosmopolitanism.) Finally, Jacob makes
causal claims — e.g., that alchemical ideas in early-modern natural
philosophy were displaced by mechanical ones because the latter were less
politically troubling to monarchies — with a sweep and assurance totally
out of proportion to anything she presents by way of evidence or argument.
Over-all of little value to me, but perhaps of more use to specialists in the
- Amar Bhidé, A Call for Judgment: Sensible Finance for a Dynamic Economy
- Full-length review: Hayek contra Chicago.
- Rachel Loden, Dick of the Dead
- Not as good as her
Imperium, but still great:
Shall I write a poem about you
And your epic struggle against stupidity?
Feh. But if the brain is a city
I too have rooms in the swampy part, surrounded by crocodiles.
The monarch butterflies sail down from the Canadian Rockies
To overwinter in Pacific Grove, pair off and fly away;
They bruise me. I get crankier.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the Saugatuck
Please text me beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Palookaville.
- Gerda Claeskens and Nils Lid Hjort, Model Selection and Model Averaging
- Full-length review: How Can You Choose Just One?.
- Shorter me: the best available review
of model selection from a
statistical standpoint. Presumes a reader with some knowledge of asymptotic
- Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
- Exactly as good, as monstrous, and as ambiguous, as I remember it
(unlike The Sundial).
One mark of its excellence is that its things that go bump in the night are
perfectly convincing, and yet the real horrors are all those of the
all-too-human mind. I am not sure what point there is to other haunted house
- ObLinkage: Kit Whitfield on the first paragraph of the
novel. Whitfield is exactly right about the way "small, unnerving
echoes whisper back and forth along her pages". (Take, please take, the
ending, for example.)
- Patrick O'Brian, The Letter of Marque;
The Thirteen Gun Salute; The Nutmeg of Consolation;
Clarissa Oakes / The Truelove
Posted by crshalizi at January 31, 2012 23:59 | permanent link