Books I read 9/8/2015

A person gains attention on the internet mainly by talking about themselves. To that end: here are the books I read this week, and how I feel about them. Why would you be interested in this? I have absolutely no idea.

This Week I read:

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by Frederick Starr: Pretty much as the subtitle says – an intellectual history of Central Asia during that period when it was dominating the philosophical, mathematical, medical and scientific firmaemnt.. Always interesting to read about a part of the world of which I know only a little, of which Central Asia is at the top of the list. Really made me want to take off on my do-before-I-die trip through the 'stans. Somewhat dry, but that's to be expected given the nature of the work. It also gave a lot of pushback to the Mongols-as-civilization-builders meme which has gotten a lot of play in academic circles in recent years, though to be blunt I have absolutely no capacity to mediate in this particular dispute. Interesting if you have the time.

Were there swords: There were not a lot of swords, no.

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima: Best known as this point in the West for the least successful coup attempt in the history of mankind (worth a Google, I promise), Mishima is still generally considered one of the great 20th century Japanese writers, and one can see why. This book is beautifully written, even in translation the prose sparkles. I admit that the story itself, which is sort of a lost-love story and sort of about Mishima's obsession with suicide/brevity/emotional purity/the transient nature of perfection, did not resonate in any particularly strong way with me. It reminded me a lot of the German romantics, so if Rilke etc. is your bag this might do it for you. Maybe if I'd read it 15 years ago the passion in the novel would have affected me more strongly, as it was I felt a little bit like, ugh, grow the fuck up kids. Anyway, just me.

Were there swords: No.


Doctor Frigo by Eric Ambler: Fucking Eric Ambler, man, fucking Eric Ambler. Best spy novelist ever, though the protagonists are never spies, just regular folk in over their heads. Very cleverly written, possessing a moral weight which more conventional novels in this genre can only dream of, never allwoing geopolitical concerns to outweigh the human element. Not his best (personally I would go with Judgment for Deltchev though there are lots of contenders) it's still pretty stellar, definitely worth a look.

Were there swords: Not really, but there's action of various sorts.

Right Now I Am Reading: As soon as I post this, I'm going to buy another beer and read Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, which should be fun. Update: Bought beer early.