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review 2018-04-24 15:53
Timon of Athens / William Shakespeare
Timon of Athens - William Shakespeare,Thomas Middleton

Timon of Athens is a bitterly intriguing study of a fabulously rich man who wastes his wealth on his friends, and, when he is finally impoverished, learns to despise humanity with a hatred that drives him to his grave.

 

This is probably the Shakespearean play that I like the least of those that I have seen thus far. The plot line reminded me strongly of many celebrities today, who have made a ton of money and don’t really pay attention to the details of it. They spend wildly on themselves and their hangers-on, and then suddenly find themselves bankrupt. Just as suddenly, all of their “friends” disappear, leaving them holding the bills. Timon follows this pattern to a T.

But, more often than not, today’s celebrities pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and reorganize their lives and end up living in a more modest, reasonable way. They realize their part in the whole debacle. Timon doesn’t—he blames everyone, even the people who tried to help him. And it’s all everyone else’s fault, he doesn’t accept a bit of blame for his misfortunes. He goes from one extreme to the other—from wealth to living in a cave eating roots. When he discovers buried treasure, instead of taking responsibility & getting his life back on track, he once again uses it to prove that he is hard-done by.

I can see why this play is rarely performed now—Timon’s form of self-denial after his ruin is hard for me to empathize with. I can understand being more careful in relations with other people, but I don’t understand his Unabomber-like withdrawal from human society. For me, roughing it is a cheap motel, so you won’t find me living in cave no matter how low my fortunes may fall.

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review 2018-04-23 21:11
The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić
The Bridge on the Drina - Ivo Andrić,Lovett F. Edwards,William Hardy McNeill

This is a sort of fictionalized history, which the author referred to as a “chronicle” rather than a novel. It spans about 350 years in the history of Višegrad, Bosnia, telling the story of the town and its Ottoman-era bridge from the 16th century to World War I. The book dips into the lives of individual characters, usually for vignettes of a chapter or less, but focuses more on the general feeling or changes in the town and the reaction of townspeople in general to key events than on particular characters. There are some astute character sketches; Andrić seems to have a good understanding of human nature. But overall it is a sweeping history told much more in narrative summary than specific scenes, and the town and bridge themselves, rather than particular families or plot threads, provide continuity between chapters.

It is a well-written (or well-translated) book, though a dense and slow read that felt much longer than its 300 pages. There’s a melancholy atmosphere throughout, with time passing and empires marching on indifferent to the fates of individuals. Readers should know that in the first 60 pages there is a horrifically graphic impalement scene that I did not need in my head and that a few years from now may be all I remember about the book. I persevered only after learning that there are no other graphic torture scenes, though death is a frequent occurrence throughout.

It’s also worth pointing out that, although to English-speakers this may seem like timeless storytelling, Andrić – a Bosnian Serb who ultimately made his home in Belgrade – is a controversial figure in Bosnia, and some see the book as advancing an anti-Bosniak political agenda. To me, as an outside reader, he seems to treat the Muslim and Serb populations of Višegrad both with humanity and fairly evenhandedly, with the important caveat that the Muslim population is referred to as “Turks” and “Turkish” throughout. Based on a bit of online research, this is inaccurate: the Bosnians were Slavs who had their own Bosnian Kingdom prior to their conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1463, after which most of the population converted to Islam. But a reader ignorant of the region’s history might take Andrić’s terminology to indicate that Bosnia’s Muslims were Turkish colonists or transplants and that the Serbs were the original population. It occurs to me now that the impalement might be another subtly political decision: no such detailed brutality is described from any rulers other than the Ottomans, and Andrić imbues this scene with the maximum body horror, at a time when graphic violence in media was likely much less common than it is now (the book was published in 1945). Surely he knew how much this would stick out in readers’ minds.

Overall, the book did teach me something of the history of the Balkans, and presents a plausible chronicle of how history was experienced by everyday people over the course of hundreds of years. While I struggled a bit to get through it, I wouldn’t discourage readers who enjoy this sort of thing.

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review 2018-04-17 01:42
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism - George R. Knight

The Great Disappointment in October 1844 appeared to have brought the end of Millerism and Adventism; however it proved to be just the end of the movement’s initial rise.  William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight follows the life of William Miller and then the development of the movement that sprang up from his preaching of the imminent Second Coming of Jesus in ‘about the year 1843’, including the men who helped shape the movement with him and then influenced the believers after October 22, 1844.

 

Knight begins the history by placing the Christian theological background that influenced the rise of Biblical prophetic study as well as revivalism, including showing that Millerism was the last gasp of the Second Great Awakening.  He then delves into the life of William Miller, the events of which would later influence his abandonment and later rediscovery of his Christian belief before his studies brought him to his monumental belief that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur ‘about 1843’.  While Miller’s message was engaging from the start, his preaching was only in rural New York and Vermont until chance brought him in connection with younger men who found the truth of his words but knew how to use the day’s modern methods to spread it farther than Miller ever knew possible.  Knight relates the growth of the movement among believers in numerous denominations which later leads to a reaction from those same denominations as well as the Millerite leaders attempt to keep down fanaticism amongst believers.  The meat of the book covers the “Year of the End” from March 1843 to October 1844 with all the internal and external tension that occurred during that time as the expectation of Jesus return was a daily hope until the date of October 22 was accepted.  The final section of the book relates the histories of the Millerites that kept their Adventist hope after the Great Disappointment.

 

Given the subject matter and Knight being the most prominent Seventh-day Adventist historian today, one could have expected prominence of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist church.  However, save for Joseph Bates who was a prominent Millerite in his own right, the future Seventh-day Adventists are kept until the last two chapters of the book.  If anything this was a story of the Millerites and Adventists who didn’t become Seventh-day Adventists, which is important for both those within and without the SDA denomination to learn about and especially for the former to learn lessons from history.  For the general Church history reader, this book reveals the last big gasp of the Second Great Awakening that occurred in the United States as well as the ramifications of it over the past 170+ years.

 

I had expected this book to be a pure biography of William Miller; however the history of the movement named after him turned out to be a far better surprise.  William Miller and the Rise of Adventism is for numerous audiences for those interested in Adventist history, American religious history, Christian history, and many more.  While George R. Knight is a prominent Seventh-day Adventist historian, his scholarly approach gives the reader a full, unbiased picture of this time.

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text 2018-04-16 19:25
Hej, Ptasiek
Ptasiek - William Wharton,Jolanta Kozak

Milion stron o ptakach, ich piórkach i nóżkach, a ja nie ominęłam ani linijki, więc to chyba po prostu bardzo dobra proza. Dziwaczna, obrazowa, momentami groteskowo zabawna. Niestety wciąż nie do końca rozumiem zakończenie, a wszystkie recenzje, do których udało mi się dotrzeć, starannie ten temat omijają (coś mi mówi, że pewnie autorzy też nie do końca zrozumieli).

 

"Tu trzeba było zapytać, co to znaczy "być wariatem", ale nie zapytałem.Ten Renaldi wie zdaje się tyle, co i ja. Każdy ma jakąś swoją prywatną szajbę. Jak się z nią włazi w paradę zbyt wielu ludziom, mówią na niego wariat. Czasami człowiek sam już nie wyrabia, przyznaje się, że zwariował, i wtedy inni się nim zajmują."

 
 

 

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review 2018-04-15 16:24
My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems - William Morris

 

A book of poetry by K. Morris. The poems explore different themes, lamenting the passing years, questioning what is called "progress" among others, but there are some nonsensical funny ones too. 
One poem that I liked:

The Seasons

Leaves swish like water
As I walk through
Them to reach the park. 'Tis true
Autumn is still here.
Yet, I fear winter will give no quarter;
For each season does murder its daughter
Who dies not, but rather sleeps
And creeps
Forth to softly kill
Her father who will
Rise once more.

As it was before
So it will remain. The perpetual cycle
Of the seasons, a vital order does bring
Spring
Follows winter stern
Buds return
And soon,
Come summer, flowers will bloom.

Autumn imperceptibly doth replace
Summer's flushed face.
While the fall's slow decay
Whispers, "Winter is on his way."

And another:

Midnight Rose

No light, garish and red
Only night's dead
hour
And the flower
Whose bloom
Was gone too soon.

The moon
Shone on
The rose picked
And stripped
By the wind that trifles,
Rifles,
And is gone. 

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review-- thank you.
 

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