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review 2017-09-29 00:34
Republic
Republic - Robin A.H. Waterfield,Plato

The writings of Plato have been one of the cornerstones of Western thought for two and a half millennia used for both secular and religious purposes, sometimes not as he intended.  Republic is one, if not the, most famous piece of Plato’s philosophical/political writings and the translation by Robin Waterfield for Oxford World’s Classics adds to the debate that surrounds it.

 

During a thorough 60+ page introduction to Plato’s text, Waterfield most significant translation is “morality” instead of “justice” for the Greek word dikaiosune because of the definition provided by Aristotle of the word.  With this word decision and with her discussion of Plato’s complete disregard to politics, Republic turns from a work of political theory into one of philosophy concerned about the improvement of an individual’s life and not that of a Greek polis.  Using the cultural terms and norms of his time, Plato sets out to express his belief that individuals can improve and better themselves outside the communal structure of Greek life.  This was a radical notion given that individualism—especially as we know it today—was not a part of respectable Greek political life, the individual’s life was bound up in the community and if they went off on their own it was dangerous to the civic order and with the relationship with the gods (the charge against Socrates).

 

While Plato’s overall thesis is thought-provoking, some of his supporting arguments via mathematics and his lack of details about how to improve one’s morality and thus goodness are detriments to Republic’s overall quality.  Although later individuals, in particular early Christian fathers, would supplement Plato with their own supporting evidence for those in the 21st Century these elements can be stumbling blocks.  Even though Waterfield’s translation provided to be very readable and her  notes beyond satisfactory, the constant flipping to the back of the book to read them and provide myself with the context to what she was saying while at the particular place in the text was somewhat unhelpful but footnotes at the bottom of the pages might have been worse.

 

Republic is one of the most significant pieces of Western literature and whether you approve of Waterfield’s translation or not, it is a very good was to look at a piece of text long-thought to mean one thing and see it as something completely different.

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review 2017-09-28 21:46
An inspiring read that will challenge your beliefs
Do You Realize?: A Novel - Kevin Kuhn

I’m reviewing this novel on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity. If you are an author and are looking for reviews, you can check here.

It is a bit difficult to categorise this story. It is not straight science-fiction, although there are sci-fi elements (a strange app that allows people to travel between dimensions and parallel universes), elements of family drama (a man in crisis who can no longer stand his job, whose teenage children are having difficulties, whose relationship with his wife is starting to suffer, and who experiences a number of tragedies in his life), and much discussion about the philosophy of life, humanity, the future, and matters that could fit into the category of spiritual and inspirational literature.

The novel follows the story of George, who has a managerial position in an insurance company but hates his job, and whose whole life seems to have lost its zest and momentum. He meets a man in the train, Shiloh, who asks him interesting questions (all related to song titles that also serve as chapter titles) that make him think and who keeps challenging his beliefs. At some point, he gives him an Apple watch and tells him to test an App of his creation. This App allows him to travel to his own past, only it is not his real past. He can travel to a parallel dimension and relive a day in his life, but instead of his real life, it is the life of a different version of him in that dimension. So his experience in that world is not necessarily the same but it has many points of contact with the one he already lived through. Whatever happens in one version of the world does not impact another. Although to begin with, he travels with the intention of changing things in his present, he soon realises that is not possible. He becomes frustrated as he is not sure why he has been chosen or the whole purpose of the experiment and Shiloh is less than forthcoming. George needs to come to terms with what his life is really about and learn what is really important.

There is nothing peculiar or remarkable about George at first sight. He loves his wife, Elena, a stay at home mom, but their relationship has become lost in everyday tension, problems, and stress. He is not particularly insightful and his life does not appear to be important. It is not evident why Shiloh has chosen him. Perhaps the fact that there is nothing particularly remarkable or peculiar about him is intended to make the readers find it easier to put themselves in his shoes and follow the process, as he is a very familiar and recognisable character, even if we do not share his personal attributes or his life story.

I liked the interaction between George and Shiloh and the fact that he was a pretty mysterious but engaging character. I liked his T-shirts (always with funny puns on Physics-related subjects) and his enthusiasm. His interactions with George were definitely more tell than show, and they made me think at times of Philosophy treatises, like Plato’s Dialogues, even if the ideas were based more on concepts and theories of modern Physics, Ethics, music, and even sports.

The novel is divided into a number of sections. First, we have the conversations between George and Shiloh that I found illuminating and fascinating, although at times they could be frustrating and somewhat repetitive; especially when George seemed a bit slow in understanding some of the ideas and the concepts.

Second, we have George’s everyday life, where we get to know his wife, and his daughter, and son, although I felt I knew more about the children than about the parents, particularly George. That is likely due to the fact that the story, although told in the third person, is told mostly from George’s point of view (until the very end of the novel, where we see Shiloh’s perspective), and although he shares some memories, he reflects and thinks more about his family than he does about himself. They are all nice at heart and, in many ways, their problems are very much those of a fairly privileged society, until tragedy strikes.

Third, we have the chapters where George travels in time and he starts to realise what his life is really about.

And last, but not least, there are the dreams. One of the side effects of those trips are very vivid and weird dreams and these seem to be consist of visions of what most of us would think time travel would be like, as these dreams take him from prehistoric times to a faraway future.

Although I was not sure how connected I felt to George’s character, towards the end I felt engaged with him and his family (perhaps because I could personally relate to some of the things they go through as a family). Although it was more of an intellectual experience than an emotional one for most of the book, I did become attached to the family by the end. And the book gave me much to think about.

The book reminded me a novel I read not long ago, The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello (you can check my review here), and although the stories and the writing styles are quite different, both of them went beyond the plot to question much bigger things.

The novel flows and ebbs. It is not a fast read, but it is an engaging one and I wanted to keep reading, intrigued, like the protagonist by what Shiloh would come up with next. I did not find his explanations of physics, ethics, and other concepts complex to understand and, apart from some moment of irritation when George seems to find it difficult to accept and understand what is happening, I found the style of writing easy to follow, with heavy moments and some lighter ones, and I thought the balance between the theoretical discussions and the life drama was well-achieved for most of the book.

I’d recommend this book to people looking for inspiring books and books providing bite-size information about recent theories in Physics, Ethics, and views of the world we live in that will make them think about the future and reconsider their priorities. I think lovers of music (Rock and Roll in particular) and sports will enjoy it in particular.This is not a book full of action for those who love adventures, or a standard sci-fi book, so I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the book and see how they feel.

 

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review 2017-09-23 23:29
Carpe Jugulum - Terry Pratchett
Carpe Jugulum - Terry Pratchett

  I've only read this one once before, and that ten years ago, so I didn't remember much, and didn't remember the Mac Mac Feeble were in it. And Greebo. Plus the whole Omnian question, and the christening. A delight, but by no means a simple one. Is there another writer who makes me feel so kindly toward other people? Dickens, Austen, Vonnegut all appeal to the same part of my brain, but none of them puts me in such charity with humanity, although Christmas Carol comes a close second.

 

Personal copy

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review 2017-09-19 01:21
The devil asks you to sign
The Crucible - Arthur Miller,Christopher Bigsby

When ruling is based, and made stringent, on fear of an outside opponent, and someone has the brilliant idea of escalating yet to marking a personal opponent as an outsider, and it catches.

 

Might be easier to stomach going in without knowing how the episode goes and likely part of the reason that one was picked: no way really. Because no sucker-punch surprise horror can surpass the terror of inevitability, of seeing the evil the pettiness, the hysterical fanaticism and envy wreaths, knowing all the while the devastation it lead to.

 

I'm a bit discomfited by the part women play on this, saints or demons with little true humanity, but as a whole, a masterful depiction that ages all too well for my ease of mind.

 

Giles Corey, the contentious, canny old man, takes the badass-crown with his memetic "More weight". He knew what it was all about, and everyone could keep their saintliness debate to themselves. With Proctor the sinner and Hale the naive believer, they make a nice triad.

 

 

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text 2017-09-17 18:55
Reading progress update: I've read 41 out of 143 pages.
The Crucible - Arthur Miller,Christopher Bigsby

Our difficulty in believing the—for want of a better word—political inspiration of the Devil is due in great part to the fact that he is called up and damned not only by our social antagonists but by our own side, whatever it may be. The Catholic Church, through its Inquisition, is famous for cultivating Lucifer as the arch-fiend, but the Church’s enemies relied no less upon the Old Boy to keep the human mind enthralled. Luther was himself accused of alliance with Hell, and he in turn accused his enemies. To complicate matters further, he believed that he had had contact with the Devil and had argued theology with him.

 

That last bit was funny if cynical. What is building to, what follows


In the countries of the Communist ideology, all resistance of any import is linked to the totally malign capitalist succubi, and in America any man who is not reactionary in his views is open to the charge of alliance with the Red hell. Political opposition, thereby, is given an inhumane overlay which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized intercourse. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence. Once such an equation is effectively made, society becomes a congerie of plots and counterplots, and the main role of government changes from that of the arbiter to that of the scourge of God.

 

is to be taken dead serious.

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