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text 2018-05-01 05:02
Fellow members of the Humboldt fan club ... for your TBR enjoyment
Alexander von Humboldt: The Complete Drawings from the American Travel Journals - Ottmar Ette,Alexander von Humboldt,Julia Bayerl

700 pages of Humboldt's own work, in a slipcase. 


This stunning volume delves into the extraordinary illustrated notebooks of Alexander von Humboldt’s journeys through the Americas, which reveal the graphic musings of an intrepid explorer, a writer and philosopher, and the father of the environmental movement.

On occasion of the 250th anniversary of Humboldt’s birth, the drawings from [his] diaries are now available in a large format, slip-cased edition. Structured thematically, the 450 illustrations have been painstakingly reproduced, complete with handwritten notes, ink stains and water spots. Humboldt drew everything he saw—Incan ruins, electric eels, the transit of Mercury, silver mines, and ocean currents. In addition to being remarkably well preserved, these drawings offer tremendous insight into Humboldt’s prescient observations.

Featuring commentary by a renowned expert on Humboldt’s work, this breathtaking volume will bring to life one of history’s most accomplished thinkers, while providing fascinating reading for anyone interested in history and nature.


It will be mine... possibly at the cost of a kidney, but oh yes, it will be mine.  


Coming September 4th to a TBR pile near you.

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text 2017-07-17 20:41
The Invention of Nature - Reading Update: Part 5
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf

I am a little sad.


This was a fascinating book, and I loved the chapter that described the last years in Humboldt's life and the political changes that he was surrounded by, even tho for Humboldt the novelty of revolution had worn off because he had seen and been in the midst of so many of them.


As for the remaining chapters on Perkins, Haeckel, and John Muir, I am in two minds: We did not really need them to understand Humboldt and his times. But, they do illustrate - again - the far-reaching impact Humboldt and his work have had on a future generation that would lead to the birth of environmentalism. 


I appreciate the link that Wulf creates between the extraordinary Humboldt and the subsequent discussions that are still current affairs more than I criticise Wulf for meandering a little in the last three chapters


What a book! What a guy!

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review 2017-02-04 00:00
Humboldt's Gift
Humboldt's Gift - Saul Bellow What a shallow author. He longs for a world that never was and is a wanna be for the ways things aren't. The story is decent enough but the author really wrote the book to muse philosophically on the nature of life and to offer philosophical insights on the nature of mortality and offer a refutation to the Myth of Sisyphus. This is where he fails miserably.

A good author should be able to dazzle you with his wit while baffling you with his bullshit. This author (or his characters) are incredibly lacking in the philosophical foundation they are pretending to have. They mention Hegel and his Phenomenology repeatedly but they have certainly never read it nor do they really understand Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Nietzsche, ... or any of the other thinkers gratuitously named dropped through out the story. BTW, Arnold Toynbee is completely forgotten today because his Christian Teleological process to history is stupid, and only pseudo-intellectuals from 1976 would have thought he was worth reading or having him on their shelf.

I couldn't help but think of two books while listening to this story. The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, one of the worst books ever written. Both Bloom's and Bellow's books oozed a contempt for the way things are today (at least when they were written) and how things ought to be in their pretend fantasy world which includes a lot of references to great thinkers but never getting beyond things used to be better within their closed to progress minds. Then I had remembered Bellow had written the forward to the book. How appropriate. The other book, "Gravity's Rainbow", a somewhat contemporary book to this one. Pynchon, the author, was able to grasp the fine points of different schools of thought (I never read better explanations for the memory less probability distribution function , and Pynchon is not a mathematician but knew how to weave the threads of the story into a coherent whole like a Persian rug) and make them coherent and tie them together under one rubric something that Bellow just can't bring himself to do, because he really doesn't understand what's behind the thinking within the author's and books he continuously seems to name drop (except for Walt Whitman, he used him correctly).

I didn't hate the story. I hated the shallow approach to life's question the author gave. I hated the longing for the way things used to be but never were. I hated the conservative mind set the author embraced. I find it hard to believe that the author for this book was voted rewards of sorts. I can only guess that judges who think that the musing of college freshman who have only read summaries by other people about great writings dazzled them because they never took the time to read the great thinkers themselves.
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review 2010-01-12 00:00
Humboldt's Gift (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
Humboldt's Gift - Saul Bellow Well, it's definitely not a quick read. The humor is wry and sometimes, I give a little start, then realize something funny just went by and I go back and read it again. So, it's slow progress.

OK, am done with the book now. I did like it - the central theme, the characters. I liked how Humboldt always striving for perfection in Art and Beauty as ideals, will eventually be remembered for a couple of potboilers he has scripted. How Citrine finally managed to find the right balance.

BUT, i could have been spared some of the extremely long detours on anthroposophy and the Angels and the Spirits fo the Form and Personality. Gah.

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review 2008-11-11 00:00
Humboldt's Gift - Saul Bellow,Jeffrey Eugenides There is not much need for me to review this book, as it is well known, and as I already wrote substantial reviews of Herzog and Sammler's. As a young man, when I read this, I adored it (5-stars); this time, I saw also its flaws (4-stars).

All the threads of Herzog, Seize the Day, and Sammler come together here in near perfection... 'near'. A picaresque comedy, Charlie Citrine is throroughly modern, and romps through the latter part of the 20th century, trying valiently... like Harry Houdini ( -- Harry comes from Charlie's hometown, in Appleton, Wisconsin)... to get out alive. And, as this is a comedy, he almost succeeds... 'almost'.

The slap is sometimes too broad or too slick...

And then there is Bellow's obsession here with Rudolph Steiner... WTF...? Are we supposed to take this seriously...? Philip Roth thought it was irony, and in large part the text proves that he is right. And yet Bellow is joking entirely... Well... what can you do. You haven't understood the 20th century...urban, passionate..., living on the edge of the light as it warps at accelerating speed into history... if you haven't read Humboldt.

My only reason for reducing this book from five to four stars is that I have just finished...

The Dean's December.

((Ahh... A fine book. Review to follow...))

((Read this book 30++ years ago -- and adored it. Will reread it now, as part of my rereading of Bellow.)
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