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A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 03/12/2006
My Affliction Reloaded

I did one of these last year for my Star Wars blog, and I figured it was a good time to start another. As I mentioned there, I have an irresistible (perhaps obsessive-compulsive) need to read a great many books simultaneously, often no less than 10. This may or may not be motivated by a general repulsion with boredom: I always need to be doing something that I feel is useful with my time. As you might imagine, sleep is one of my greatest enemies. In the end, though, it always slays me.

Here's a list of some of the books I'm currently reading:

The Iliad

The Iliad by Homer

It's about time, really. A small obsession with epic poetry began with my introduction to Dante's Inferno, but since reading the Divine Comedy, I've only read Beowulf and the Epic of Gilgamesh. I'm reading the Robert Fagles translation of the Iliad from Penguin, and from the snippets I've sampled in the seventy-five-page introduction to the book, it seems like it's going to be a fine read.

Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Woodring Stover

The novelization of Star Wars Episode III. This is one of the best novelizations of a movie I've read, which seems to be a pretty common opinion regarding this book. I don't always agree with some of Stover's interpolations, but like his other books, this is as close to literary as Star Wars gets, rewarding for an egghead with degrees in philosophy and literature like me.

For my review of this book, check out Revenge of the Novelization (2/19/2006).

Playboy - 50 Years of Photography

Playboy - 50 Years: The Photographs by James R. Petersen

There is text introducing the different sections, as well as captions identifying the individual girls, so I think I can claim to be reading this alright. Blame it on nostalgia for my childhood, but the airbrushed look to Playboy has always appealed to me. Seeing some of these foxes from the 50s and 70s creates a nice disjoint in my mind as I imagine what the girls must look like now, but yet through the magic of photography, here they are, preserved in their young bombshell bodies. A girlfriend of mine once told me it's wrong to look at bare breasts while you're squatting on the can, but I haven't had much of a problem.

Messages to the World

Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden edited by Bruce Lawrence

The title pretty much says it all. This book is a compilation of many of the public statements made by the dude at the top of the FBI's most wanted. I figured I should get to know him to the best of my abilities. From the snippets I'd heard of bin Laden's speeches, I always suspected he was an intelligent man, and this book has thrown the light on his ready ability for spotting logical inconsistencies. The content of the messages seems to become somewhat redundant after a while, but I'm only a third of the way in.

For my review of this book, check out Osama Bin Laden, Part 1: The War of Faith (08/27/2006).

Lies my Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

History never interested me much until I took a course in college. This book, recommended to me with a palpable degree of passion by several of my sociology-majoring friends back in uni, seems to offer a plausible explanation for the boredom phenomenon commonly experienced in history classes. Lies is an addictive reveal of the most dogmatically taught history of my younger years, putting the lie to many "facts" endorsed by history textbooks in the K-12 American school system. With copious endnotes and logical arguments, Loewen demonstrates that people and events of a controversial or indeterminate nature tend to be polished for easy consumption.

I've never thought of myself as particularly cynical, but the author's voice is often overly indignant for my taste, as if he cannot even conceive of how this sort of oversight or cover-up is possible. The answer is simply that society progresses slowly, and our own ugliness is difficult to face. Nonetheless, it's clear that he feels strongly about his subject and the reader is the beneficiary of his positively channeled outrage.

The Impossible

The Impossible by Georges Bataille

Frankly, I was only drawn to this book because I had once written a philosophical piece to which I'd given the same name. However, the description of Bataille as the king of "divine filth" pretty much had me convinced I had in fact encountered a kindred spirit. However, while conceding to Bataille an apparent brilliance of ideas (some I find blisteringly poignant and important enough to transcribe... when coherent), this book largely reads to me like unpolished brainstorming and journal entries. If I may, Bataille seems a man who felt he had discovered some insight of significance, but was still trying to puzzle it out or was too lazy to make it intelligible-likely both.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

The movie was crap, we can all agree to that. But while I really enjoyed the first installment of LXG, I'm not a terrible fan of the second volume. The story was okay, and the Hyde character had some terrific moments, but there just wasn't enough punch to make this story mean anything to me. I was left wondering why a master like Moore decided to take on this mediocre project, and perhaps my distaste has to do with a growing inability to spot the nudge-nudge wink-wink references to old literature as most of the 18th century canon got used up in the first volume.

The esoteric nature of the references is certainly the reason why I've been struggling to get through the 50 or so, small-print pages of Almanac included at the back of the book; I've been at it for about, oh, the last four months. One page at a time, Abe, one page at a time.

-- Abel

<< 03/05/2006 | 03/12/2006 | 03/19/2006 >>

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