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Tuesday
Nov142006

too many books?

So many books that I don't even know what I have anymore.  The book, The Case of the Philosophers' Ring, that I mentioned in my last post as one I would like to track down?  It dawned on me that I already own it.  Picked it up years ago and it has been sitting in a pile of unread Sherlockian pastiches in my study.  This was not the first time I discovered I already owned a book.  It's worse when I actually purchase a book, then realize I had it all along. 

Case of the Philosophers' Ring (I'm surprised the American edition wasn't changed to Case of the Sorcerers' Ring) looks even more intriguing now that's it's in my hands.  Not only are Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein present, but also the rest of the Cambridge Apostles, G.H. Hardy, John Maynard Keynes, etc.  But that's not all!  Two of the Bloomsbury set, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, join the fray, as well as creepy Aleister Crowley and the "Scarlet Woman," Leila Waddell.  The book is well designed, too, including images of the historical participants.  Here's the front cover of the dustjacket.   

Tuesday
Nov142006

Ecofiction

Carlin Romano reviews Michael Gregorio's Critique of Criminal Reason, a historical mystery in the philosophical mold of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose:

Gregorio, identified as a "professor of philosophy" who "lives in Italy," rechannels Eco's first novel in intriguing ways. His protagonist, Hanno Stiffiniis, is a small-town magistrate in East Prussia at the beginning of the 19th century. Stiffiniis is summoned by King Friedrich Wilhelm to take over the investigation of four brutal murders in Königsberg, the historically German city (now Russia's Kaliningrad) best known as the lifelong home of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

Yes, Kant eventually joins the investigation.  I hadn't thought of this kind of book as a sub-genre, but Romano has some interesting things to say about "Ecofiction."  And he mentions this one by Randall Collins which I would love to track down:

 The Case of the Philosophers' Ring (Crown, 1978), a playful tale in which Bertrand Russell asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the theft of Ludwig Wittgenstein's mind.

Monday
Nov132006

HG Wells' bookplate

From the Lewis Jaffe's Bookplate Junkie blog, comes HG Wells' exlibris.  That's just so great.

Monday
Nov132006

So we begin

So we begin the new blogsite with the Great Cham of literature, Dr Samuel Johnson.  Theodore Dalrymple, when he's not beating the apocalyptic drum, bewailing the imminent destruction of Western culture (as if there is such a thing), writes some very good essays.  I especially like this one about the literary value of Johnson, "What Makes Doctor Johnson Great?"   I must admit it's hard for me not to enjoy an essay praising Johnson and, puff piece though this is, perhaps Johnson needs a little good press these days.  I'm not saying I completely agree with Dalrymple on his assessment.  For one, he derides Voltaire as superficial and shallow, yet Dalrymple himself uses superficial and shallow illustrations to make his point (i.e. Voltaire's portrait).  That a portrait can reveal the sitter's "character" is the ultimate in judging a book by its cover and makes me suspicious of Dalrymple's analysis of Voltaire's text, as well.  If I had the choice of reading only one of the two authors (Johnson or Voltaire), I would choose Johnson as more worthwhile, but I wouldn't relegate Voltaire to the dustbin.   However, I come not to bury Dalrymple, but rather to join him in praising Johnson. 

Why do I find Johnson so worthwhile?  It's the sum of all his parts.  It's Boswell's account of his life, as well as Johnson's own writing: his verse, his Rasselas, his essays, his Dictionary.  I think the only one of these that is, hands down, a masterpiece of its genre, is the Dictionary.  But I probably most enjoy Johnson's essays from the Idler and the Rambler.  The prose style is a little dense for modern readers (come on, we're just not raised to read 18th century prose), but once delved into, these essays just shine.  What it must have been like to read Johnson hot off the presses.  Project Gutenberg has the Rambler,  Adventurer and Idler series online.  But definitely check out Terry Coombes' Literatis site for a much more reader-friendly experience.  He currently has the first 28 issues of the Rambler posted. 

Monday
Nov132006

Welcome

1 jerome 2.jpgWell, here it is.  Bookmark it now.  The vastly improved Bibliothecary blog.  There is still a good bit of tweaking to do over the next couple of weeks, but I figured I could start posting now.  New features include RSS feed capability, permalinks and my favorite, live comments.  As always the Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.  So tune in every day (many times a day) for links to the best and most interesting reading on the internet, as culled by yours truly.

Prosit,

Ed

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