April 17th, 2017

cass, can you not


Yet who reads to bring about an end, however desirable? Are there not some pursuits that we practise because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards–their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble–the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, "Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading."

Virginia Woolf, the last paragraph of How Should One Read a Book?
cass, can you not

Books! (Words and Money Edition)

Heyday (Ben Wilson, 2017/#25): Cf. this post.

Cunning Plans (Warren Ellis, 2017/#26): A short collection of his talks. Nothing new if you follow his writing, but he has an interesting sense of humor; I wonder how that comes across on the stage.

Elektrograd (Warren Ellis, 2017/#27): Not sure it counts as a book - a Kindle single, maybe? A bit formulaic, anyway, environment aside (and in our atemporal technopastiche shared fictional meta-universe, I guess the environment is non-formulaic in a by now formulaic way).

The Taste of Conquest (Michael Krondl, 2017/#28): An informal look at the history of the European spice trade, with chronological sections focused on Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. It's more general interest book than history, so a certain degree of fudging shouldn't matter, but the way it describes the Fourth Crusades makes me somewhat skeptical of the rest of the historical material. Not uninteresting, in any case.

The Limits of Empire (Benjamin Isaac, 2017/#29): Looking in quite a bit of detail to the epigraphic and archaeological evidence, this books postulates that the Romans didn't really think in geographical terms, or of a Grand Strategy, and that in practical terms they had no concept of or interest in defensive boundaries: limes never referred to defensive works as we understand them, and troops were usually deployed to protect commercial routes and so on (in other terms, with an eye on dealing with rebellions and maintaining Roman authority, not defending or policing provinces in the way a modern state would be expected to). It's a convincing argument, I think. Perhaps a way to summarize it would be that the Romans conquered peoples, not territories, that they did it out of the momentary interests or whims of emperors or generals, not any coordinated strategy, and that they didn't think they needed an excuse, or that this conquest gave them much or any obligations towards the conquered.

Common Reader, Second Series (Virginia Woolf, 2017/#30): A very interesting set of biographical and critical reviews. Never hagiographical, but neither unkind, and both the thoughts and the prose used to express them makes obvious her own impressive talents. She has Borges' gift of making you enjoy reading her opinions on books and authors you've never read nor will want to.