Book review week continues...
Julian Baggini's review of Rebecca Goldstein's new book is here. I agree with him about all the smarty-pants characters. So beautiful! So brilliant! So...boring! I'm awfully sorry to say that the book sags badly in the middle--and by the middle I mean about 300 pages. I did love the first 50 pages though--really loved them! My next column is about the book, so I won't say more. By which I mean--next after the current issue (in which I review Avatar).
p.s. I couldn't disagree more with this explanation why Avatar lost. It lost because it was Disney-like and predictable, despite being utterly gorgeous.
I read her book, Betraying Spinoza, and while it was very very clever, it told me a lot about Rebecca Goldstein and not enough about Spinoza.
I agree with you and Julian about the smarty-pants characters, especially since one knows how beautiful! and brilliant! she and Steve are, so it's impossible to read about the s-p characters without feeling as if it's self-referential, and given all the admiration, that's...erm.
How about that Texas school board, huh?
I did really like the first 50 pages! Yeah, I kept thinking about Rebecca and Steve while reading. The book seems just a wee bit self-congratulatory. Look at us--aren't we marvelous? Except the first 50, which parodies academia in a way I found totally hilarious.
Re: Texas school board. The blood boils. I read the whole NYT article to my kids yesterday and had to explain to them that things they read in textbooks are not necessarily true. There are dentists out there deciding what it would be good for them to think. It's totally appalling that this is the case.
(But then, to calm myself down, I also pointed out that textbook writers sometimes distort history to give women and minorities more role models...which led to an interesting discussion. Is that bad?]
I was a bookish child, much too bookish for my parents' taste, and whenever he saw me reading, my father would comment with certain superiority: don't believe everything that you read in books. My father represented an ignorant, materialistic businessman (I never considered that I was buying books due to his earning power), a advocate of the school of hard knocks, and I paid him no heed. In fact, I believed far too much what I read in books, especially what I wanted to believe. Of course, I had little life experience to compare with my reading experience. Still, it's good that children, especially bookish children, learn that they cannot believe all they read. Everyone needs a Descartes moment or several Descartes moments in life, when they become, if only for a moment, skeptical of all they have read and heard from parents and teachers. Hopefully, those Descartes moments begin as early as possible in life. Without those Descartes moments, bookish children tend to grow into Don Quijote, who believed everything that he read.
The blood does indeed boil. (Have you seen the blow-by-blow liveblogging by the Texas Freedom Network? Good stuff. You Are There as ignorami toss Jefferson in favor of Aquinas and Calvin. Erk.)
True about textbooks of course. Textbooks by their nature very unideal. Sigh.
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