Cambridge History Of Ancient China

The Cambridge histories set a pretty high standard, and the volume on the Han Dynasty (also co-edited by Michael Loewe) has been one of my favourite books for many years. Aside from that, pre-Imperial China is an extremely interesting topic, so my expectations for this were high and I was extremely disappointed.

Many of the writers are competent. Some have an axe to grind or a personal pet theory to promote, which is poison to a book like this. The absolute low point is the chapter by David Nivison, and I have no idea why the editors didn't reject it. It's full of polemical claims about dating and composition for which he almost never provides evidence (aside from phrases like "most scholars consider", which doesn't even fly on Wikipedia). When he does hint at what evidence he's using, his reasoning is generally circular (we know text A was written in century B because it has idea C. We know idea C comes from century B because it is recorded in text A). He's also sassy and arrogant, which wouldn't have annoyed me if he had actually done the work.

The two best chapters are the are those on the Spring and Autumn period by Cho-yun Hsu and early imperial China's relationship to pre-imperial China by Michael Loewe. Aside from that, there are better ways of familiarizing yourself with most of these topics.



DC: The New Frontier, Volume 2

What starts off with a lot of potential turns into a checklist of DC heroes firing their lasers at a completely nondescript generic villain with no motivation. Will they fire their lasers hard enough? At first it seems like no they won't, but, in the end, yes they will.



Candide - Voltaire

This book is meant to make fun of Leibniz. It's fairly funny and I enjoyed it as a teenager, before I was familiar with Voltaire's other works.

Leibniz has a spotty record as a philosopher, but his contributions to mathematics go far beyond the calculus you normally hear about. His fingerprints are all over pure math and formal logic and computer science and computer hardware and engineering in general. Next time you're in an airplane and it doesn't crash, thank Leibniz twenty times over.

Voltaire, on the other hand, was a rich, sarcastic dickhead whose rants against Jewish and Black people were extremely racist even by the standards of the 18th century. Screw this book.



More English Fairy Tales - Joseph Jacobs
Click on this. It is beautiful.

I was looking for a neat little traditional poem that Wordsworth mentioned, and Google gave me this extremely lively mix of familiar and less-familiar stories. Jacobs does an excellent job of finding good stories and retelling them in his own voice.



The Clouds - Aristophanes

Socrates farts.



Prometheus Unbound - Percy Shelley

This painting accurately represents the pain of the boredom I felt when reading this book. I can't believe someone read Prometheus Bound and thought this was the direction the story was supposed to take.



So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away

It's his most beautiful novel, the complete product of all his years of excellent prose and poetry. It's also painfully bleak and morbid in a way even his darkest books hadn't been.



The Robbers - Friedrich Schiller

This is the worst review I've ever written.



Wait Until Spring, Bandini - John Fonte

Miserable people doing miserable things and feeling miserable about it.

This book gets thrown around by people who like Bukowski. I'm not a huge Bukowski fan, but I find his books more readable than Fonte, just because Bukowski knew when to occasionally crack a joke or give a character a charming quirk.

Loving the graphic design, though. Look at that up there.