Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest Book Report -- Updated

Latest arrivals in the DarkLibrary -- Some of these you've seen before, but this is the latest configuration. I've now separated my Shakespeare books from the reference shelf, which is just around the corner. My entire house is becoming one big sprawling library - shelves cabinets and carts loaded with books in just about every room now.

Note there are NO BRICKS!! That was a disaster! Even after thoroughly scrubbing them and letting them dry for several days, wherever they made contact with a surface (such as the cover of a book for instance) dampness seemed to be drawn out from inside, and along with it all manner of insidious fungaloid or bacterial growth, causing a grotesque constellation of whitish stains to sprout on the boards of the two endmost books, which I have twice now scrubbed with Clorox disinfecting wipes. It seems to have eliminated the offending discoloration. Fortunately here in my Shakespeare collection the end books are massive enough to serve as self-standing bookends themselves.

I've stopped referring to the No Fear Shakespeare series from Sparknotes - I found I disliked it because it's too easy to just read the modern - decidedly non-poetic - version and just skip even looking at the Bard's actual words - not how I want to learn my Shakespeare! So after a bit of research I've settled on the Folger paperback editions, which feature the play on the right-hand pages and brief explanatory notes opposite. Vastly preferable, because it forces you to actually read the poetry and then wrestle with the terms until you reach some hard-won glimmer of understanding. It still occasionally leaves you foxed and flummoxed on certain terms though, which is why I have Shakespeare's Words - a concordance of the difficult terms from all his work. Between this and the Asimov's Guide, which gives a wealth of historical and other information, I'm developing a decent understanding of Macbeth, the first of the plays I'm diving into. Fun factoid - getting the Folger paperbacks used, you often get notes - occasionally legible even - from former readers; sometimes illuminating, frequently confounding.

Freeing Shakespeare's Voice is a guide for actors - teaching how Shakespeare must be acted. Our current speech patterns are rational, materialistic, and utilitarian to such an extent that we tend to choke off any hint of powerful emotion or passion, which in Elizabethan days people decidedly did NOT do! Also body language must be powerful - unlike the very minimal movement we tend to use today.

And here's the reference shelf in its latest configuration. All traces of brickish contamination hopefully scrubbed away! After buying a concise Webster's dictionary I became disgusted with how small and stripped-down it was. Nothing like the massive desktop volumes I remember on my parent's bookshelves - finger-grooved with imprinted letters for easy flipping to exactly the right section. So I haunted Amazon and studied the various types of available dictionaries until I decided on the Compact Oxford, and made sure I bought one that included the original slipcase with a little drawer on top for the magnifier that you need in order to actually read it! The original magnifier was not included - I've ordered a 3x page magnifier with LED lights built in that will fit the drawer and hopefully is powerful enough. Even with reading glasses on I can't make out the words at all! 

Origins is an etymological dictionary - tracing the origins of words and the ways the meanings have changed over time to what we know today. Fascinating stuff! As for The Great Books, The Great Ideas and The Western Canon - I'll do an in-depth post on them quite soon. If you're interested and don't want to wait, google something called the Syntopicon

Nestled on this innocuous little shelf underneath the reference library is my homeschooling material. You can't see the 2 fully loaded cardboard boxes stacked behind it, imprinted with the Memoria Press logo - those hold the books I've already completed and that I have yet to delve into. It seems apropos that Logic and Critical Thinking (seen in the last 2 pictures) are - at least visually - beneath the reference books (including the Encyclopedia of Philosophy) because logic and critical thinking are the basis and prerequisite for philosophy. 

I'm also currently working my way through a book called An Introduction to Philosophy by one George Stuart Fullerton, which I got from Archive.Org - originally published I believe in 1901.

I didn't intend this phase of my life to be quite so - bookish - but that's what it's become! And I love it!

P.S. --
I've just now  bought the Kindle editions of The Dream of Reason: a History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance and its sequel The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy by Anthony Gottlieb. These seem to be exactly what I've been seeking - entertaining and informative accounts of these important periods in the history of rational thought (or the attempt at it anyway) done in narrative form rather than as a listing of events and dates. Make it FUN! I think a subject so potentially mind-numbing needs to be made fun. The second volume ends just before Kant, who will begin the upcoming third volume. Looking forward to that one!

Here's a good review of both books on The New York Times' website.

P.P.S. --
I was quite surprised to find that each of these periods of unfettered philosophical activity - sparked at times when rational thought managed to briefly throw off the manacles of proscribed religious and political repression - only lasted about 150 years! With centuries of the Sleep of Reason lying in between!

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