Some Thoughts and Excerpts from 2014’s Book List

Posted by Brian PCF
Dec 25 2014

2014 was another year of “the plan only survives first enemy contact”, which I take as part of the basic pattern of life and thus ain’t stressing.

Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine by Critchley and Webster.

My best book BY FAR of 2014. If I had to describe the question that the authors are trying to answer it would be: Can we broaden our understanding of Hamlet through the lens of Nietzsche and Foucalt, not as a academic or pretentious exercice futile, but as a way to expand our understanding of the nature of man.

Some excerpts:

On Love: “As Hegel writes somewhere in a note, love is the most monstrous contradiction. It defies understanding. To love is to give what one does not have and to receive that over which one has no power.

To love is to freely negate the stubborness that is the self and to live in loyalty to an affirmation that can dissolve like morning mist with the first experience of betrayal. To be or not to be – is that the question? Perhaps not. Perhaps love is a negation of the being of my selfish self that binds itself to naught, to little nothings in the hope of receiving back something that exceeds my power, my ability, my willful control, even my finitude.

Love is an admission of the power of powerlessness that cuts through the binary opposition of being and not being. Of course, there are other existential choices on display in Hamlet: Claudius’ world of espionage and brutal political power, Polonius’ foolish scholarship and and mastery of cliche, Gertrude’s conquest of personal satisfaction in the name of survival, Hamlet Junior’s inhibited, suicidal, and chatty nihilism, even Hamlet Senior’s spectral fiction of the existence of great men and kingly nobility.

But we have tried to listen to something else in the distracted globe of Hamlet, words whispered in the wings, some other way of loving.”

On psychoanalysis: “The modesty of analysts is such that they only issue a call. This is what you are! It is not in their power to set any human defect, if there even is such a thing, right. They can only help to bring you toward a gap in yourself, a place of radical loss in the abyss of desire. Give yourself to it.”

Like most great works, and this surely qualifies, you are left with more questions than answers. But one gets the distinct impression that the authors have laid out a treasure map of authors who can both illuminate Hamlet but also receive illumination from the play as well.

The Law, Frederic Bastiat

As much a philosophical treatise as a book on the purest juris prudence, Bastiat’s work is a brief and clearly laid out explanation of the source of the law and it’s application. Both the episteme and the techne.

On the source of law: “It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty and property exist. On the contrary, it is because of personality, liberty and property exist beforehand that men make laws. What then is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

On law in the hands of government, which is especially apt to the (finally recognized) travesty of civil forfeiture: “It has acted in direct opposition to it’s proper end; it has destroyed it’s own object; it has been employed in annihilating that justice which it ought to have established, in effacing amongst Rights, that limit which was its true mission to respect; it has placed the collective force in the service of those who wish to traffic, without risk and without scruple, in the persons, the liberty, and the property of others; it has converted plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defense into a crime, that it may punish it.”

The Bed of Procrustes, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

To describe my level of man crush on Taleb would circle us right back to Critchley/Webster’s concept of infinite love. I can’t overstate the level of true thinking with which Taleb examines what most would describe as “business” or “economics” or “math”, but which is fundamentally the nature of man.

On Plato: “In twenty-five centuries, no human came along with the brilliance, depth, elegance, wit, and imagination to match Plato – to protect us from his legacy.”

On Wisdom: “It takes a lot of intellect and confidence to to accept what makes sense doesn’t make sense.”

On the “Seven Season”: “At any stage, humans can thirst for money, knowledge, or love; sometimes for two, never for three”

On meditation: “Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone.”

On seeking advice: “When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else.”

Honorable Mention:

Fairies and Fusiliers, Robert Graves

Babylon
The child alone a poet is:
Spring and Fairyland are his.
Truth and Reason show but dim,
And all’s poetry with him.

Brave Genius, by Sean Carroll

Sean Carrol qualifies as a “brave genius” to try to tackle this subject. Imagine trying to describe the philosophical and literary merits and personal history of the great Albert Camus along with the Nobel winning chemist Jacques Monod. How they fought together during the French Resistance, became friends, and struggled through their adult lives to balance success, philosophical contradiction, and penser pour penser versus deep thinking for the sake of humanity.

The rest of the list:

I can “recommend” all of these without hesitation. To justly describe them in a blurb is to discredit them.

Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
Richard III, Shakespeare
The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare
Relativity, Einstein
QED, Feynman
Plutarch’s Lives: Ceaser
Plutarch’s Lives: Brutus
Shakespeare: Julius Ceaser
Shakespeare: Hamlet
Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine, Critchley & Webster,
Letters of Seneca, Seneca
Ali and Nino, Said
The German Mujahid, Sensal
A Scanner Darkly, Dick
Desolation Island, O’Brian
Genome, Ridley
The Fortune of War, O’Brian
The Surgeon’s Mate, O’Brian
The Ionian Mission, O’Brian
Treason’s Harbor, O’Brian
The Far Side of the World, O’Brian
Henry IV, Part I, Shakespeare
The Reverse of the Medal, O’Brian
The Letter of Marque, O’Brian
The Thirteen Gun Salute, O’Brian
The Nutmeg of Consolation, O’Brian
Plutarch’s Lives, Lycurgus
Iliad, Homer
The Truelove, O’Brian
Guard, Guard, Pratchett

*Note: not many (in fact I think only one) of these books came out in 2014, but that’s when I got around to reading them.

**To see the original 2014 List, click here.

***To see the 2015 list so far, click here.

****If you have suggestions, please post to comments.

3 Responses

  1. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21413662-what-if

    I generally end up reading tech books for work or student papers for other work however this book is pretty good so far.

    Also didn’t read this one this year and pretty sure I already gave it to you but one of my favorites:

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/161121.My_Own_Country

  2. Kevin says:

    Did you read all those this year? That’s a lot. I read all 3 hunger games, and the last 2 GOT and I felt pretty good about that.

  3. Josh S. says:

    The sense of an ending. -Barnes
    The picture of Dorian gray – Wilde
    Sous chef: 24 hours on the line -gibney
    Sacre bleu -Moore
    Watching the door: Belfast – Kevin Meyers