Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Prize Winner

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize. I hadn't really been paying much attention to this possibility, but it's a nice acknowledgement of the work he's done to raise awareness of global warming.

And how, pray tell, do the right-wingers react? With a sense of pride for a fellow American?

Sorry, no. A perusal of the comments on the Times article reveal, amidst the general feeling of appreciation of Gore's work, the sour grapes of the right ("questionable science", "Jimmy Carter", and the personal attacks they have internalized by parroting Limbaugh for all these years). Well he won it, they didn't, and it's too late to expect any graciousness from the knuckle-draggers.

In the context of American anti-intellectualism, the ignorant masses always resent the educated. They prefer the so-called "man of action" to the person who procedes based on reasonable judgement. Look where seven years of a "man of action" have gotten us: dissatifaction at home and hatred for us around the world. Gore's honor at least serves to remind the world that there are still some decent Americans left.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Penguin Modern Classics

One of the joys of book collecting is an increased appreciation of graphic design and how it evolves over the years. Penguin Books have had one of the most interesting evolutions in the publishing world. You can't tell a book by its cover, but the quality of Penguin texts married with excellent design standards makes Penguin Books a reliable source of good (and good looking) literature.
I have collected the "old style" Penguin Modern Classics for years. Many of the ones I have are UK editions which were never for sale in this country. I am currently entering my collection into my LibraryThing catalogue.
Today I came across a collection of covers from the most recent incarnation of this series. Lots of use of photography, which gives them a nice clean look. Not a tremendous amount of overlap with the old series, so maybe I should start a new collection....
For a look at the new covers, go to:


I began this blog because I wanted to write about out-of-the-mainstream books I've read. I have finally gotten around to reading Beloved by Toni Morrison. This book has become part of the modern canon, and is hardly obscure, so I'll skip a lengthy plot summary. The novel, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a story of the violence and degradation of slave life and the scars carried by those who labored and suffered under that system long after it ceased to exist as an institution.

Beloved is the story of Sethe and her family, who reach Cincinatti via the Underground Railroad and build a post-war life there, haunted by the past in the form of the child Sethe has murdered rather than submit to a life of slavery. As a story of human sorrow and strength, it could be a story from the Holocaust, from Kosovo or Iraq or any number of the disasters of human degradation that have plagued our history. It is a story about dealing with wrenching loss and humiliation, finding one's way when one has plumbed the depths of despair. It is a cry from those who historically have had no voice at all.

A consertative commentator recently wrote a column trying to explain why slavery "wasn't all bad". The sheer idiocy of making such a statement in the 21st century shows how disconnected we have become from disturbing historical realities. Give him another 25 years, and Michael Medved and his ilk could be the next wave of Holocaust deniers. After all, once the witnesses are gone, we can make up any story we like about the past, can't we?

A novel is not a historical record, but a well written novel can give insights into the human condition and give some voice to those who have not been heard. I don't know the genesis of Ms. Morrison's novel, whether it is based on any known historical incident, but it stands as a voice or an echo from a people who lived and died in a shameful, immoral system that mocked our ideals that "all men are created equal."