Lesser Known Classics

An interesting article appeared in The Guardian promoting some lesser known classics published by Penguin Classics. I admit to having read only one of the selections but I do have a couple of the titles hanging around my bookshelves. Which titles do you consider adding to your reading list in the next few weeks?

download-1.jpgYou might ask whether a book can justify the term “classic” if it only has a handful of readers. I believe it can. There are three essential criteria for defining a classic: it must have endured a number of years; it must have intrinsic literary quality; but, most crucially, it must still be alive, to be able to connect with readers, thrilling them with flashes of recognition and revelation. This is the brilliant paradox at the heart of a classic: it may have been written centuries ago, but its kernel of truth still feels startlingly contemporary. So it doesn’t matter how many people admire a classic; the important thing is what it can do to you. There’s even a particular pleasure when you make a literary connection and you know you’re among a limited number of initiates. “Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne,” wrote Virginia Woolf, for example, about the esoteric 17th-century essayist, “but those that do are the salt of the earth.” So I recommend striking out and investigating those more shadowy shelves. What follows is a personal selection of some less well-known classics. I hope you enjoy these and that they lead you to other lesser known passages in the marvelous library of world literature.

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Big Fat Books

Have you noticed this?

Books are steadily increasing in size, according to a survey
that has found the average number of pages has grown by 25%
over the last 15 years.

Booker2015I have to agree but as the article in The Guardian conjectures, this may have something to do with the growth of electronic readers and digital editions. About ten years ago I experienced a painful strained wrist and coincidentally read The Tale of Genji: do you suspect there was a connection?

I have always treated big fat books differently from the more manageable volumes. Until fairly recently the size of the book was involved in my decision whether I bought the book or whether I requested it at the local library. Big books took longer to read, so to avoid those exorbitant library fines, I often would simply buy the book and take my time reading it.

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The End of Capitalism Has Begun

CapitalismEveryone should read Paul Mason’s article in The Guardian titled, The End of Capitalism Has begun. It’s full of ideas and observations, many of which are intuitive but others came as a complete surprise. It’s long but well worth reading to the end.

The premise is, of course, that Capitalism is unsustainable and is in fact already being taken over by a new and more logical model which the author calls Post-Capitalism. The key element of Post-Capitalism is the explosion in the accessibility of information in the age of computers and the internet. One observation Mason makes is that information does not fit into the tradition business model of Capitalism. To put it succinctly: What do you charge for information? The traditional model would charge based on the scarcity of the product—the more rare it is, the more it costs—but information is everywhere and can easily be accessed. As the information grows, if you follow the traditional pricing method, the product will get cheaper and cheaper until the business can no longer support itself and goes under. Capitalism is eating it’s young.

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