Posts Tagged ‘johan gottlieb fichte’

Books Not Recommended for Summer Reading

July 5, 2009

Below is a very personal and idiosyncratic list of books that are best left to seasons other than Summer if at all. If you have other recommendations for this list, Ask the Agent invites your participation.

aberdeen

Lord Aberdeen

 Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen. This book  is perhaps the greatest oddity in the history of the printed page. It  was originally published in 1925 and has been long out of print. The author  of the book is either the 4th or 5th Earl of Aberdeen. It is not entirely clear. From the appearance of the dour visage on the cover, one questions whether His Lordship made any significant contribution to the world of Tomfoolery of the late Victorian  Period. Indeed, one would question whether the concept of “crack a joke” would even enter the same universe of discourse occupied by Lord Aberdeen.

 

200px-Johann_Gottlieb_Fichte
Fichte

Foundations of a Complete Science of Knowledge (Grundlage der Gesammten Wissenschaftslehre.) Johan Gottlieb Fichte. Once a towering figure in German Idealist philosophy, now happily  forgotten. Unfortunately for me, when I was 25 and a graduate student in German history, I foolishly picked Herr Fichte’s thought as the subject  for my master’s thesis. I was required to read the entire  660 page work in its original German. The number of expressions in German that I knew at the time was  limited. I believe I could give a pretty  good rendition of: “Wanna go back to my place?” and also “Shut up, you Nazi”.

I will never forget the impact of those first words upon my mind.  (Roughly translated): “X  is in the Ego, and posited through the Ego, for it is the Ego which asserts the above proposition, and so asserts it by virtue of X as a law, and must therefore, be given to the Ego;…”

At the time I was doing considerable experimentation with certain (how shall we say) mind altering drugs and attempting at the same time to win my girlfriend back from a free love commune. Fichte’s immortal words restored my hope and gave a new sense of purpose to my life.

bulwer-lyton

Bulwer-Lytton

The Collected Works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Several years ago, I had a quintessential Berkeley experience. I was having dinner at my local hamburger place and was informing  my companion that I was to give an introduction to Salman Rushdie later that evening at Cody’s.  A stranger at the next table turned around and said “Salman Rushdie will be remembered as the Edward Bulwer- Lytton of the twentieth century.”

This audacious and entirely uninvited judgment peaked my interest in this great, but forgotten   Victorian novelist. He is most remembered now for the  first sentence of his novel Paul Clifford, “It was a dark and stormy night”. There is a general consensus amongst critics that this is the worst first sentence penned in all of English literature. He is also remembered for the hackneyed and ponderous expression: “The Pen is Mightier than the sword.”  I would not begin reading these collected  works this summer or any other season for that matter. For those who will not read Bulwer-Lytton’s works, I also recommend that you not read: The Letters of the Late Edward Bulwer-Lytton to his Wife.

chaucer

Chaucer

 

Canterbury Tales.  Geoffrey Chaucer. I recommend not reading this masterpiece as it is written in original Middle English.  Unlike the first sentence penned by Bulwer-Lytton above, Chaucer has written one of the most memorable first sentences in all of literature 

“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote, /The droughte, perced to the roote, /And bathed every vein in swich licour / Of which vertu engendred is the flour,…”

It is doubly remarkable in that it appears to be utterly meaningless and with numerous misspelled words to wit (or should I say to witte?). Not unlike my daughter’s first grade homework assignment: “What Daddy and I did on the weekend”.

god

God

The Book of Numbers. There have been periods of my life when I have felt the darkness of doubt come over me. And I have turned to scripture to be restored and renewed. And in these dark times, I have always found profound consolation in these words from Numbers 2:16:

 “All that were numbered in the camp of Reuben [were] an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty, throughout their armies. And they shall set forth in the second rank.”

But wait! There is more.  I cannot overstate the deeply moving and profoundly spiritual qualities of this great book of the Bible. To my knowledge,  there is no  text in world literature that that truly captures at once the heroic and tragic quality of the human endeavor  as in Numbers 25:1

” And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.”

Gentle Reader, I humbly present for your consideration – The Book of Numbers. 

 

 

 

 

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