Immanentize the Book Reviews

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:37 pm
l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
[personal profile] l33tminion
I meant to get around to write a post on the reading I did at Sandy last week. But last week was exhausting, and the weekend was pretty busy. I didn't have nearly as much interrupted reading time as some years, but I did get in a good thousand pages:

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea: This conspiracy-weird-humor cult-classic novel has definitely left its mark on pop culture, and it's certainly one of the things I was making reference to way before I actually read it. A sensible read given how fond I am of RAW's humor re the Principia Discordia and the like, but to be honest I think the Principia is quite a lot funnier. Still, if you read that and decide you'd like more of the same but want something that's heavier on the narrative, a lot less G-rated, and about a kajillion times longer, Illuminatus! is pretty good.

Class by Paul Fussell: Fussell's musings on the American status system are most interesting when he's relating other people's take on the subject (e.g. the idea that class politics might be divided among factions of "The Guilty" and "The Cross" certainly seems to have some present-day relevance). Most of the book is Fussell's extensive cataloging of differences between social classes in America. To put it another way, Fussell defines the middle class as being motivated largely by anxiety about their (in)ability to rise in the class hierarchy, and the bulk of the book by that view is mostly middle-class-baiting. Many of Fussell's observations seem to have stood the test of time pretty well. Some seem bizarre. (Is "vodka with water" really an upper-class drink, and was it ever? A little on that topic turns up this interview with "The Gronk", who is certainly rich and (semi?)famous, but would a pro-athelete be upper-class in Fussell's taxonomy? Fussell says that it's a middle-class mistake to focus too much on profession, but he also might have something to say about that nickname.) The book concludes with a chapter on the role of college in the status system, which is one of the more interesting bits given how the higher-education bubble has developed since. In Fussell's view, the problem is that college is advertised based on average increases in earning potential, but this conflates selective universities (which help) and non-selective colleges (which don't). That problem seems to have been "fixed".

Minimalist Parenting by Christine K. Koh and Asha Dornfest: The book this most reminds me of is Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. It certainly has a similar philosophical bent. But Caplan's book had a pretty clear thrust of argument (people underestimate the benefits of parenting and overestimate the returns on certain kinds of parenting effort, therefore they underestimate the number of children they should have; instead of stressing out about the prospect of parenting, maybe consider having (more) children and just being lazier about it) and it backs up that argument in the sort of way you might expect an economist like Caplan to do. Minimalist Parenting, likewise, is what you'd expect from two bloggers, basically an organized collection of "lifehacks"; less in the way of numbers, more in the way of "try it and see".

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