So today I finally finished what I started years ago -- reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. It was quite good and I'm glad I've finally read it. In the face of reading Zen and the Art of Robert Pirsig's Ego, it was refreshing in its honesty (and lack of psuedo-philosophy.)
Egger's book also caused one of those proverbial forehead slaps we all have from time to time. In his interview with MTV he tells the story of his father, drunk and violent and angry at whatever child-misdeed, breaking down his son's bedroom door. Eggers also recollects his childhood hopes of the child-abuse being discovered by some tattling teacher, suspicious of curious bruises and whatnot.
And thats when it hit -- I always think about how unpunished my childhood seemed in comparison to my brothers (not that I know for sure, the next youngest is 6 years older.) I always attributed it to my being relatively "good." I don't doubt that part of that is true, but I was also deathly afraid of my parents -- I had the shit beat out of me a couple of times. All before I turned 8. The last time I recall being punished, when I was in 7, I had to explain to the teacher that the bruises on my face were from falling off my bike. Dubious. And I always thought that was the end of that. But now I suspect not.
I really don't know or understand the affects such discipline (loosely used) had on me. At once I feel I'm beyond it, that I recognize what they did was mistaken, that they came from a different time and place and simply didn't know better. At the same time, its something I think of from time to time, something I vow never to be like, something I don't like to think of because I can still recall the shame in answering my teacher's probing question.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance might be the worst thing I've ever read. The title must be ironic; the book is one big mastubatory ego trip. Pirsig is not only a judgmental prick, but an inadequate bumbling idiot. He regularly creates false dialogues like Plato in order to further his "points." He misunderstands technology, regularly presuming it to be 20th century phenomenon and, further, thinks that nature somehow appeals more to human comprehension than that he considers "unnatural." I could go on... but what a waste of a day.
The book is really an exercise in an idiot claiming to be a genius while simultaneously denying he is one. That it is in the philosophy sections of bookstores is fucking laughable.
So in the past week I've had a bit of a spate of reading. I have yet to receive my computer at my new (old) job, let alone any kind of login ID. And since I don't need any kind of training (can you say monolithic?), I've spent my time and their money reading. So, in the past five days, I've read, in order, Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald, Coming Up for Air and Burmese Days by Orwell, (reread) Slaughterhouse-Five, and just started Moby Dick.
I enjoyed the Orwell books most. Of course I've read Animal Farm and 1984 and enjoyed them, but Coming Up for Air and Burmese Days are really quite different, not so ideologically driven. Someone else explained to me how (note, I'm quite dumb actually and need these things pointed out), in Coming Up for Air, Orwell combines ideas of modernity with the "post (Great) war left" ideology that marks Orwell's generation; it is (apparently) a common fallacy to see the two as conflicting as they both essentially revolve around a de/reconstructing of the self in order to find your (ever-changing) place in the world, through accepting modernity and/or destroying nostalgia.
Anyways... thanks Big D.
Update: I've now also read Down and Out in London and Paris by Orwell. It is now my favorite Orwell book -- preceding Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed by a full 70 years. Amazing amazing amazing. And hilarious. He seems to write so effortlessly.
I've also read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (hated it) and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (loved it). I think there is another book in there, but I can't recall right now.
I'm all for "resistance against (cultural hegemony of) the United States," but this is fucking ridiculous. "The West and the rest" amirite Chirac?
You fucking patronizing asshole. I certainly hope there aren't any painting portraying women wearing burkas.
I'm not sure I agree with Mark Kleiman on the issue of flag burning. I too have sympathy for those who react badly, in lieu of personal circumstances, at reports of flag desecration. However, I also have sympathy for those who react badly at reports of US military actions, which affect countless innocent lives, carried out under the catch-all rubric of protecting our freedoms.