Tag Archives: Books

Kafka on Books

Franz Kafka on books:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? …we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.



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Book Night on Boing Boing

All interesting book posts:

Reading Kafka improves pattern-detecting skills.  This one speaks for itself.  So…he turned into a bug?

List of books read by backpackers.  Eco, check.  Borges.  Check.  King Lear.  I would love to backpack w/ this list.  Small quibble though: Why would someone travel w/ Foucault’s Pendulum when Eco published a book of short stories — more conducive to reading on the train — called “How to Travel w/ a Salmon”?  And, for the record, the best travel-perceptive book I’ve read was Allen Ginsberg’s “Travels to India” while living in Costa Rica.  Dramatically different parts of the world, but Ginsberg perfectly opened my eyes to romanticize even the gross stuff.

Dave Eggers’s new book about the CF immediately following Hurricane Katrina.  I am not an Eggers person, but I will read this.

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I cannot wait to read this book

How Not to Act Old: 185 Ways to Pass for Phat, Sick, Hot, Dope, Awesome, or at Least Not Totally Lame.

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Dharma Bums and Buckley

William F. Buckley interviewing Kerouac:

The best part of this is the contrast between WFB’s determined, derisive condescension and Kerouac’s strung-out, catch-me-if-you-can exhaustion. Both look wearied by the other’s presence, but that was likely the trend for Milton Berle contests in that era: Don’t pull it all out; just look bored enough to win.

And the virtue of restlessness? When I was 16 it was as though Jack’s Subterranean soul pumped directly through my veins.  As I get older I’ve lost that relish for restlessness.  I’ve come to regard it as a simple pitfall that hits hard once in May, once in October.

But there is something about that era. Kerouac literally mobilized a generation. He recorded what he saw — what he understood — of his peers as from the outside looking in.  Kerouac’s perspective glorifies a series of archetypes, most famously Neal Cassady (“Dean Moriarty” in On the Road, once arrested when he woke his neighbors drunkenly, nakedly playing the bongos on a friend’s Texas ranch).

I have always considered JK a mobilizer.  Watching this video with the blessedly-wizened lens of my aging eyes, Kerouac appeals less like Noam Chomsky and more like Holden Caulfield.

Kerouac does not speak a new language that electrifies his listeners’ ears, as I once thought. Rather, he’s a brilliant misfit, filled with observations but entirely objective and always slightly removed from his company.

There is something so comforting about watching that objective exploration of the process of learning to engage in one’s own life.  Now, revisiting old books, old authors, and old thoughts it’s comforting to realize that I too have learned a thing or two about changing gears.

Courtesy of Boing Boing.

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Espresso Books

Taken from The Atlantic’s Daily Dish:

By Andrew Sullivan

Books, printed while you wait:

According to On Demand Books, there are currently five Espresso machines in the U.S. (with 10 others in locations throughout Canada and the U.K.). This, though, will soon change. Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand, said that “within a relatively short period that number will be increasing dramatically.” On Demand is releasing a new model of the machine, version 2.0, which will print books faster–roughly four minutes for a 300-page book as opposed to eight minutes–and be offered at a lower price point. Neller added that the Espresso machine can now be leased as well. The 2.0 model will be on display at the London Book Fair.

Link to Daily Dish

How exciting! I wonder whether this will bring back our attention spans. In the past 2 years I’ve only opted to read books rather than articles/magazines/blogs on vacations, even though over the course of a week reading books would likely take exactly as much time. Last year The Atlantic ran an incredible piece about asking whether “Google is making us Stupid” because we as a culture have become addicted to instant gratification and flash attention. But as a result we have traded our experts for generalists. We’ve scrapped our institutional knowledge entirely in favor of the almighty change.

I have a list of books for summer, which I’ll list soon (so I can enjoy crossing them off!).

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Quick Notes on Originalism

Tom Bell (who spoke to my Koch Fellow class last summer, and on whom I have a greater-than-small crush), discussing why he rejects Originalism:

We often speak of consent in binary terms, boiling it down to “yes” or “no.” In practice, however, consent varies by degrees. We tend to afford expressly consensual transactions more respect than transactions backed by only implied consent, for instance, which we in turn regard as more meaningful than transactions justified by merely hypothetical consent. A mirror of that ordinal ranking appears in our judgments about unconsensual transactions. This article reviews how a wide range of authorities regard consent, discovering that they treat consent as a matter of degree and a measure of justification. By abstracting from that evidence, we can outline a theory of graduated consent. This article concludes by testing a graduated consent theory against such problems as enforcing standardized agreements, justifying political coercion, and reading a constitution. In those and other applications, a theory of graduated consent can help to advance legal, moral, and economic reasoning.

I like this argument. Bell uses a “contract” frame for my favorite anti-Originalism argument, that a judge cannot claim adherence to “original intent” if he gets to both define the relevant words and decide how they apply. Scalia’s brilliance and command of the language is pretty breathtaking, but I get frustrated with his jurisprudence sometimes when he acts like an intellectual bully, taking liberties with definitions and legal standards that are not true to the purposes of maintaining a coherent body of law.

Here’s a bit of my (fairly poorly rendered) reaction to J Scalia’s “A Matter of Interpretation” (after the jump).

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