Posts tagged literature.

I signed up for audible to receive a free audiobook of Infinite Jest, a $75 dollar value for free! However, I forgot to unsubscribe.

Six months later, I had five credits for audiobooks. Looks like it wasn’t such a bad mistake after all!

Books that I plan on reading. ›

They look so amazing. Don’t you agree? Let me know if you want to read one of these with me. :3


Currently Reading: Atomised by Michel Houellebecq

Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust is all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow ‘new age’ philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections. Atomised (Les Particules elementaires) tells the stories of the two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is in its dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, in its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls’ magazines. A dissection of modern lives and loves. By turns funny, acid, infuriating, didactic, touching and visceral.

Yuh, I’ve read this.

What’s the big idea? ›

Dostoevsky tackled free will, Tolstoy the meaning of life – but is it still possible to write philosophical novels?

At St Andrews University in the early 1970s, philosophy was still a required subject for entry into an honours course. To leave the way clear for reading modern languages, I decided that the requirement would best be dispatched in my first year. Before I knew it, I was hooked and ended up dropping one of the languages in favour of a joint degree in moral philosophy and Russian. For me it seemed the dream ticket. Russian literature was awash with existential difficulties and moral disorder, from the problem of free will in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1880) to the meaning of life itself inTolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) – not to mention all the ungovernable passions, suicide, murder and suffering humanity encountered along the way. Philosophy on the other hand, with its categorical imperatives and systematic approach to concepts of right and wrong, would provide a disciplined moral analysis.

It didn’t quite work out that way. What I discovered was that while philosophy and philosophers were good at asking questions and setting out arguments, their engagement with truth was often woefully abstract, and a world away from the stuff of novels, or what we might call “fictional truth”. The two forms are, of course, very different. A philosophical theory sets out its stall in a particular way: first a, then b, in order to establish c. The analytical style rigidly separates reason from imagination, precision from imprecision.

The novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch spoke, in a 1978 interview, of “a certain cold clear recognisable voice” necessary to philosophy, one that has “a special unambiguousness and hardness about it”. She might have added that it is a voice unsuited to reflecting the actuality of people’s lives or “the close connexion of bliss and bale”, as Henry James put it in his preface to What Maisie Knew (1897).

The more novels I read at university, the more I felt that fiction was where truth was to be discovered. I seemed to experience Melville’s “shock of recognition”; which is to say re-cognition, for it was there already, waiting to be reawakened – the knowledge that some things, not least what it is that makes us human, can never be adequately expressed in conventional philosophical prose.

It is not immediately obvious why this should be. From ancient times, philosophers have addressed the question of how best to live; which is also, quintessentially, the concern of storytellers everywhere, especially those engaged in “serious fiction”. The pursuit of knowledge and truth – this too is common ground, and if only Plato had seen it that way, he might not have banned the poets from his Republic. But Plato regarded the poets – the forerunners of novelists – as troublesome and lacking in the right kind of knowledge (not pure enough). They dealt in dangerous emotions – fear, sorrow, pity – all of which weakened the character and led to moral degeneration. Philosophy and literature were set on different paths.

After reading for a degree in both subjects, however, I came to understand two things: that the puzzles and paradoxes of philosophical reflection are not best aired in the narrow, arid corridors of philosophical tracts; and that Plato was wrong to think that literature had nothing to offer philosophy. It is one thing to study John Stuart Mill’s defence of utilitarianism in ethics; quite another to read the passage in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), where Raskolnikov tests utilitarianism to its limits by taking an axe and cleaving an old lady’s head in two. Illustrations of this sort might even persuade us that moral philosophy needs the novel for the fullest possible expression of its aims.

The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.

Francoise Sagan (via fridaynightsaturdaymourning)

(via collinesjaune)

DFW on Commercial Literature and Reading

The young lady. He has pointed out a young lady to you. She is there between two rows of bookshelves in the shop, looking among the Penguin Modern Classics, running a lovely and determined finger over the pale aubergine-colored spines. Huge, swift eyes, complexion of good tone and good pigment, a richly waved haze of hair.

And so the Other Reader makes her happy entrance into your field of vision, Reader, or rather, into the field of your attention; or, rather, you have entered a magnetic field from whose attraction you cannot escape. Don’t waste time, then, you have a good excuse to strike up a conversation, a common ground, just think a moment, you can show off your vast and various reading, go ahead, what are you waiting for?

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (p. 29)

I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.

No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre (via talkativolive)

The Hungry Mind: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut ›


Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Country: United States
Genre: Fiction; Science-Fiction; Satire
Date of Publication: 1963

Vonnegut’s 1963 satirical science fiction novel still manages to pack a powerfully subversive punch whose thematic elements—nuclear terror, the complications of science,…

It’s amazing how many things I have in common with the writer, Kevin. I also read Slaughterhouse Five, then Cat’s Cradle. Great review.


January 5, 1960: Albert Camus is dead.

If someone told me to write a book on morality, it would have a hundred pages and ninety-nine of them would be blank. On the last page I would write, “I recognize only one duty and that is to love.” And as far as everything else is concerned, I say no.