22 November 2015

Christmas Books

The Illustrious House of Ramires, by Eça de Queirós. A novel about an ineffectual nobleman writing an historical novel about his heroic ancestors. Queirós has been called the Portuguese Flaubert.

Large Fees and How to Get Them : a book for the private use of physicians, by Albert V. Harmon, M.D. If you practice early 20th medicine and want large fees, this book  is essential reading. If you don’t, there are still lessons in its amusing and unsentimental discussion of various topics, like in the chapter “The Bugbear of Ethics”, where Lyman advises “ethics in its place is a good thing...But there is such a thing as overdoing the ethical proposition”.

Histrionics: Three Plays and Over All the Mountain Tops, by Thomas Bernhard. Bernhard once said “I despise actors, indeed I hate them, for they ally themselves at the least sign of danger with the audience and betray the author and completely identify with stupidity and feeble-mindedness. Actors are the destroyers and exterminators of imagination, not those who bring it to life and they are the true gravediggers of literature.”

The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror, by William Sloane. In the 1930’s Sloane wrote two exceptionally inventive and elegant horror novels, then for the rest of his life did other things.

01 November 2015

That Scientific Air

[I]n the popular mind, there is a manifest association of political innovation with scientific advance. It is not uncommon to hear a politician supporting an argument for a radical reform by asserting that this is an Age of Progress, and appealing for proof of the assertion to the railway, the gigantic steamship, the electric light, or the electric telegraph. Now it is quite true that, if Progress be understood with its only intelligible meaning, that is, as the continued production of new ideas, scientific invention and scientific discovery are the great and perennial sources of these ideas. Every fresh conquest of Nature by man, giving him the command of her forces, and every new and successful interpretation of her secrets, generates a number of new ideas, which finally displace the old ones, and occupy their room…[but] experience shows that innovating legislation is connected not so much with science as with the scientific air which certain subjects, not capable of exact scientific treatment, from time to time assume. 
- Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Popular Government.