Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: books (page 2 of 2)

The Name of the Rose

Finished reading The Name of the Rose today. An excellent book I can’t recommend highly enough. It is a book about perversions. Perversions of faith, of knowledge, and of sex, and the ways in which these perversion lead to bad ends. It is about the conflict between faith and reason (this theme was the main focus in the movie version), between religious and temporal power, between the learned and the unlettered, between the powerful and the weak.

In many places, the book touches on matters of current interest, and it is rife with eerily relevant quotes.

The conflict between faith and reason is still with us in the fight between creationism and science. The stalwart conservative of the book, Jorge, polemicized:

“Preservation of, I say, and not search, because it is a property of knowledge, as a human thing, that is has been defined and completed over the course of the centuries, from the preaching of the prophets to the interpretation of the fathers of the church. There is no progress, no revolution of ages, in the history of knowledge, but at most a continuous and sublime recapitulation.”

Contrast with the progressive protagonist, William:

“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means, a precept the commentators of holy books had very clearly in mind.”

This has some resonances with the position of the right wing that dissent is somehow unpatriotic, and questioning the government intolerable. And despite the lapdog media’s reluctance to call the government on its shit, we are seeing some of G.W.’s whoppers coming back to bite him. The narrator, Adso, hopefully observed

Such is the power of truth that, like good, it is its own propagator.

Some unpatriotic churls have wondered why we invaded Iraq on the suspicion that it had WMDs, when North Korea was openly admitting they had them. Adso was told by the nomadic heretic Salvatore that

…when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies. I reflected this is why the simple are so called.

It’s been noted in a few places that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats see the world in shades of gray, and believe in compromise; Republicans see the world in black and white, and don’t. In a showdown, William accused Jorge:

“…the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came. You are the Devil, and like the Devil, you live in darkness. If you wanted to convince me, you have failed. I hate you, Jorge, and if I could, I would lead you downstairs, across the ground, naked, with fowl’s feathers stuck in your asshole and your face painted like a juggler and a buffoon, so the whole monastery would laugh at you and be afraid no longer.”

Jennifer Government

Just finished reading Jennifer Government by Max Barry, a blackly satirical story that answers the musical question “what would happen if Ayn Rand had her way?” The book has inspired an online game and is evidently being adapted to the screen.

It would actually make a good comic book, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s a fast read, and suggests visuals that would be a lot of fun.

The story is fun but improbable, the characters are a bit sketchy, the plot moves quickly. Joe Bob says “check it out.”

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Very enjoyable. Partly, to me, because of its involvement with the early days of comic books (I collected comics when I was younger), partly because it’s just an engaging story. Michael Chabon seems to have done a prodigious amount of research to fill in the details of the story he’s telling. I have no idea whether there was a Hofzinser Club for magicians in Prague, or what it was like, but Chabon’s account of it has the ring of truth. His writing style occasionally treads a blurry line between inventive and precious, and sometimes comes close to annoying me, but is mostly straightforward. The story–of the brief golden age in the days before the war as the USA emerged from the depression, of the closing Holocaust in Europe, of creating a comic-book empire, and inevitably of men and women–makes for a good read. The themes–of tragedy, of opportunities foregone, of emergence, and so on–are common enough but not less worth reading because of it.


Just finished reading David Sedaris’ Naked. Like his other writing, it’s hilarious, and consists mostly of personal anecdotes that he’s embellished perhaps just a bit.

This one includes a more schmaltzy (but still hilarious in spots) essay on his mother when she had lung cancer.

The book’s last essay, the one from which it draws its title, is upbeat, in a disturbing sort of way. Two words: pudding toss.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Just finished William Gibson’s latest, All Tomorrow’s Parties, a follow-on to Virtual Light. As usual, he does an excellent job with spartan wordsmithing and big-ideaness. As usual, he leaves at least as much unsaid as said. And, as usual, he confuses “braze” with “braise.”

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