Monday, March 20, 2023

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

The Abolition of Man: Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools


This is a challenging book to review. It is brilliant, profound, and timeless, even though it was published in 1943.


It is nearly prophetic.


It is Lewis’ defense of Natural Law versus Subjectivism and derived from a series of lectures he delivered at King’s College Newcastle. The lectures directly responded to a contemporary book espousing subjectivism in education, but I infer Lewis’ lectures and book were also in response to subjectivism as a whole.


It’s a short book but too big to synopsize into a few paragraphs. It is surprisingly lacking in Christian ideology. This was Lewis’ expressed intent. He makes a purely logical case, the conclusion being that when subjectivism has its way…


Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of man.


I’ve not read That Hideous Strength by Lewis, but I understand it to be a fictional rendering of The Abolition of Man.


Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Classics Club Spin #33

It is time for the 33rd edition of the Classics Club Spin – List 20 books from my CC TBR, by Sunday, March 19. The mods then pick a random number, and I have until April 30 to finish reading my spin book. Presumably, there’s some penalty if I don’t, but I always do, so no worries.

I like my entire list. It has a couple authors that I really like, but haven’t read in quite some time: McCullers, Cather, Conrad; some new-to-me authors that I’ve been meaning to get to for quite some time: Wilder, Achebe; some other new-to-me that I have no idea what to expect: Beerbohm, Green, Gardner; and then a mix of very familiar to not so familiar authors. I don’t know what to hope for. I’ll just say The Day of the Jackal because the title is intriguing.



1. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

2. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

3. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

4. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

5. Post Office by Charles Bukowski

6. Loving by Henry Green

7. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

8. The Magus by John Fowles

9. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

10. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

11. The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

12. Grendel by John Gardner

13. Things Fall Apart by China Achebe

14. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

15. Cool Hand Luke by Don Pearce

16. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

17. O Pioneers! By Willa Cather

18. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

19. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

20. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Bookworm Tag

Rachel at The Edge of the Precipice tagged me with this, and she was tagged by Samantha at Bookshire. I’m sort of a boy scout about rules, but I’m not certain if I have to answer both Samantha’s and Rachel’s questions? So to be safe and avoid any severe penalty, I’ll answer both.

Samantha’s questions:

1. Hardback or paperback? 

Neither. I use an e-reader, though I usually buy a Hardback version of books I’ve read. My bookshelves are like a trophy case.

2. Did you have a favorite comic book or graphic novel as a kid, and if so, what was it? 

Spider man; especially Spidey vs. Hulk

3. What is your favorite devotional or inspirational book, and why?

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. It’s a five-year study that is basically the same as his five-year radio broadcast that went through the entire Bible

4. Would you rather have to read only one book for the rest of your life, or never get to reread a book?

I agree that it’s a terrible proposition, but if I had to choose, I’d give up rereading.

5. Least favorite literary villain? 

Randall Flagg from The Stand  And by this, I mean he was an excellent villain.

6. What is your favorite romance trope?

Sacrificial Love 

7. If you could spend a day with your favorite author, what would you do with them? 

J. R. R. Tolkien, probably have a pint of warm English beer, and try to get him to spill some dirt on C.S. Lewis

8. What is the longest book you've ever read, and did you like it? 

Remembrance of Things Past which happens to be the longest novel in the world. My version was a bit over 3,000 pages. It is more commonly known today as In Search of Lost Time, which I think is the better title, since I will never recover the lost time I spent reading this book. Hated it, but I read every word.

9. Do you have a favorite poet, and if so, who is it? When did you learn about them? 

I don’t really have a favorite. Perhaps Rudyard Kipling.

10. Have you ever cried over a fictional death scene, and if so, which one(s)?

Yes, Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities


And now my answers to Rachel’s questions:

1.  If you had to go into the witness protection program, and they gave you the option of moving inside a book, where would you like to go?

If I don’t have to put up with the murderous locals, I’d choose the river from Deliverance.

2.  Have you ever claimed to have read a book you actually hadn't read?

I’m pretty sure I’ve done this, but many years ago. I’ve read em all now.

3.  What author have you read the most books by?

Charles Dickens

4.  Do you ever buy fun bookish merch like mugs, shirts, artwork, etc?


5.  Do you usually read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?

I’m usually going very slow through a biography, and read several novels before I finish the biography. 

6.  Are you a mood reader, or do you plan out your reads?

Mostly planned, but I do alter the plan sometimes.

7.  If you could meet the author of your favorite book and ask them one question, what would you ask them?

What happened to you? …to Stephen King

8.  Have you ever tried a new food or drink because you read about it in a book or story?

I don’t think so, but I would love to try lembas bread.

9.  Have you ever named a pet after a book character?

I don’t think so, but my brother had a pet hawk named Galadriel…and I was the one who got him to read the Lord of the Rings, so sort of by proxy.

10.  What book are you reading right now?

Currently reading James Madison: A Biography. He is an impressive man, but boring. I hope he meets Dolly soon. I think she will be much more interesting.

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (novel #217)

There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasn’t about death. He wasn’t sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or about goodness.


The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel set in North America. The book opens nine or ten years after a global holocaust, which took place in the late 20th or early 21st century. Nearly all animal and plant life has ended.


The man and his son, never named, are among the last survivors scavenging the charred earth for food. All survivors are desperate. Many are thieves. Some are murderers and cannibals. The man and the boy are good guys.


Which is one of two motifs McCarthy uses. The boy frequently asks if they are the “good guys.”


There are other good guys.

You said so.


So where are they?

They’re hiding.

Who are they hiding from?

From each other.

Are there lots of them?

We don’t know.

But some?

Some. Yes.

Is that true?

Yes. That’s true.


The man often describes the two of them as “carrying the fire.”


The two ideas are related but separate. The meaning of “good guys” is obvious, while “carrying the fire” is never explained.


Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of this technique: leaving something vague for the reader to infer. I feel like, “OK author, you had something in mind; what was it?”


But in this instance, I liked it. I don’t know why. There are differing interpretations for “carrying the fire”; here’s mine.


The “fire” is the belief that humanity is not a cosmic accident and will not be exterminated by one, the belief that we are created in the image of the Creator and are the stewards of Grace and Beauty. The holocaust destroyed everything beautiful. Carrying the fire is the hope and commitment to seeing it restored…against all hope.


Making the man and the boy heroes I could cheer for.


The boy to his father:

Are you real brave?

Just medium.

What’s the bravest thing you ever did?

He spat into the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.


The boy was born shortly after the holocaust. He never knew the world that was. His father tells him stories of it but thinks he must seem like an alien to the boy. When the novel opens, the boy’s mother is dead; both father and son have memories of her.


There are moments almost like joy. They discover a bomb shelter stocked with food and provisions. The boy gives thanks to the people who prepared but were unable to use it. Such moments are few and do not last. Most days are tedious misery or paralyzing terror. The reader never expects a happy ending, but in the end…there is a glimmer of hope. The fire burns.


My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars




This is my second reading of McCarthy. I liked Blood Meridian, which is also quite grim. I’ll read more by McCarthy, but I may schedule him amongst some lighter fare.




Film rendition: The 2009 film starring Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit-McPhee is an excellent portrayal, quite faithful to the book, well acted, and visually bleak.



Thursday, February 23, 2023

What's in a Name 2023 Challenge

This is my third year taking the What’s in a Name challenge, hosted by Carolina Book Nook


Book titles must contain or reference…


A punctuation mark

One of the Seven Deadly Sins

“You” or “Me”

A Chess Piece

A Celebration

Begin with Q, X, or Z


My choices for these categories:





Faucault’s Pendulum


Umberto Eco



Seven Deadly Sins


Killing Floor


Lee Child



“You” or “Me”


Never Let Me Go


Kazuo Ishiguro



Chess Piece


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain





The Member of the Wedding


Carson McCullers



Q, X or Z


Zuleika Dobson


Max Beerbohm



Tuesday, February 21, 2023

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (novel #216)

They [American gods] were afraid that unless they kept pace with a changing world, unless they remade and redrew and rebuilt the world in their image, their time would already be over. ~ Narrative


I’ve been intrigued by this novel but also dubious. Intrigued because I think Gaiman is an artist with words, dubious because it’s a bit out of my comfort zone.


Intrigue won out in the end.


This fantasy is about American gods – the little “g” gods that immigrants brought to America, both fairly recent since the discovery of the New World and ancient, the first peoples whose origins are mostly lost in prehistory. These gods, the creations of myriad cultures, are mostly forgotten, forsaken, and feeble.


Yet they endure in mostly human form and often as pathetic or bitter shadows of their former glory.


Speaking of shadows, the main character is Shadow Moon – not a god – released from prison a few days early due to the tragic death of his wife. Shadow is a strange dude. He is shaken by nothing: not the death of his wife, nor meeting gods, leprechauns, or imps; not by talking animals, nor TV shows that speak to him. These and other chimeras appear in Shadow’s world, and he treats them as casually as finding a penny on the sidewalk.


Like when he meets the ghost or zombie of his dead wife…


Her cold hand sought his, and he squeezed it gently. He could feel his heart beating in his chest. He was scared, and what scared him was the normality of the moment.


That was the first thing I didn’t like. I’m certain that Gaiman intended to make Shadow hardened and aloof, but he was unbelievable.


The story is captivating, at times almost maddeningly so. I couldn’t figure out where it was all leading and couldn’t stop until I knew.


It is leading to an epic battle between the old gods and the new gods of modern America: technology, capitalism, and mass marketing, which also have embodied agents. Shadow is stuck somewhere in the middle.


Despite the intriguing need to know what was next, I was mostly disappointed. At first, it had a feel distinctly like Stephen King’s The Stand, but as it progressed, it felt more like Gaiman’s own Sandman. Besides Shadow’s un-believability, the ending was anti-climactic. The characters were the best parts. Odin aka Wednesday, who was the other main character, Shadow's new employer, leader of the old gods and the one calling for the war.


They made me. They forgot me. Now I take a little back from them. Isn’t that fair? ~ Wednesday


Pain hurts, just as greed intoxicates and lust burns. We may not die easy and we sure as hell don’t die well, but we can die. ~ Wednesday


There was Shadow’s cellmate Low Key, who turned out to be Loki. Most of the gods went by monikers that were subtle clues to their mythical identities. I caught a few, but many were lost on me. Gaiman did his research, and he can certainly write.


My Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars


I’ll read more by Gaiman. I enjoyed Coraline and Stardust, but Sandman not so much. But one of the best things I’ve read by Gaiman is his foreword to the 60th-anniversary edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.




Saturday, January 28, 2023

Daphnis and Chloe by Longus (novel #215)

Daphnis and Chloe is a novel written by second-century Greek novelist Longus. 


Yet somehow, The Tale of Genji, written in the eleventh century, is considered the world’s first novel.


I don’t get it either. So, I’ll move on to my review.


To be more precise, it is a Greek romance novel. Some have suggested that “romance novel” may be why it isn’t considered a novel, but if that’s the reason…Well OH MY GOODNESS, we need to rule out Genji as well then! He only falls in love about 57 times.


But I’m rambling off-point. It is boy meets girl in ancient Greece's poly-theistic and mythological culture. It is set on the island of Lesbos – probably the author’s home.


Daphnis and Chloe are foundlings of unusual circumstances. The goatherd Lamon discovers Daphnis in the fields being suckled by a goat and with tokens suggesting noble birth. Later the shepherd Dryas finds Chloe being suckled by a sheep also with distinctive tokens. Each child is adopted by their finders, though neither step-parents nor the children know the mysterious origin of the other.


The children assume their step-father’s vocation, naturally encounter each other, and fall in love. But In their youth and innocence, they don’t understand their feelings nor the cure that can satisfy their longing.


When they met, they rejoiced; when they parted, they were sad. They pined with grief. They wished for a something, but they knew not what.


Various events threaten their happiness. But Pan and his nymphs intercede and seem determined to give Daphnis and Chloe the chance they seem fated to.


It is predictable in general but unexpected in specifics. It’s a bit different from a Victorian romance. It’s rather short and easy to read. I didn’t love it. It didn’t stun me, but I’m glad to have read it as a sample of a setting and form I’m unaccustomed to.



My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars