December 23, 2008

Make new friends but keep the old

This may be a bronze of the ancient Greek bard Hesiod. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

It is the immemorial custom at this blog (for the last couple years anyway) to reserve the last week or so of the year to discussing items from the Goat Rope book shelf. This involves giving a shout out to some of this year's best reading material, although little if any of it was written in 2008.

(Note: While El Cabrero is pleased to discuss selected books, I cannot divulge the total number of books consumed this year lest my employer realize what a slacker I am.)

This first installment consists of classics, many of which have been revisited after years since the previous perusal.

So here goes, starting with the ancients. The ancient Greek bard Hesiod was no Homer, but he had his moments. I started 2008 with another run through the Theogony, his account of the origin of gods, the universe and everything. As he put it,

In the beginning there was chaos.

Come to think of it, there still is.

Then came another look at Plato's Symposium, a dialogue on the nature of love. For some reason, I liked it better the last time I read it. Followers of this blog will not be surprised that the Odyssey of Homer got another look, since I spent a couple of months taking the long way home with its hero.

I also took another look at Rome's answer to the Homeric epics, the Aeneid of Virgil. Virgil was a more elegant writer than Homer although I prefer the latter. One difference between the work of Homer (whoever he was/they were) and Virgil is that the Homeric epics grew while Virgil's was self-consciously written. Good though.

I love these lines from Aeneas' visit to the underworld (which make a great mission statement):

...your arts are to be these:
To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
To spare the conquered, battle down the proud.

That works for me...

On the borderline between ancient and medieval literature lies Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy, a wonderful book by a man who was unjustly accused by the Powers that Were and which was composed while he prepared for a particularly nasty death. His musings on the nature of Fortune inspired this year's series on luck and randomness. It's definitely worth a look.

HEARTS OF DARKNESS, then and now, form the subject of this elegant rant by Chris Hedges. El Cabrero is a sucker for Joseph Conrad references.

LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO CUT SPENDING? There is quite a bit of indefensible "defense" spending which is really just corporate welfare.

EVERYBODY HURTS, but we hurt more if we think people are deliberately inflicting it.

PARLEZ USTED PAJARO? Here's an item on deciphering the songs of birds.


No comments: