THE reading list, part 2.
Non-fiction (like the fiction list, in no particular order):
The Best American Essays of the Century, Joyce Carol Oates and Robert
I bought this book because it included several famous essays that I kept happening on references to, but hadn't read, such as Susan Sontag's "Notes on 'Camp'," Joan Didion's "The White Album,", and Mark Twain's "Corn-Pone Opinions." I'm actually about 2/3 through with it. It's got other good stuff in it, such as Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail,", Steven Jay Gould's "Creation Myths of Cooperstown," and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack-Up." Warning: very heavy on race, and light on sports and science. Some of the essays, such as those by Henry Adams and Gertrude Stein, are virtually unreadable, at least by me.
Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia
This is the book that made Paglia famous. I don't know how far I'll get into it; the prose style put me off the first time I tried, but I really like Paglia's other writings (although recently she's been accused of taking certain stands only to shock her readers), so I'll give it another go.
Courtesans and Fishcakes, James Davidson
A well-regarded cultural history of Classical Athens. Sex and food. Things haven't changed much, have they?
Japanese: The Spoken Language, Part 2, Eleanor Harz Jorden, with Mari Noda
Investing in Real Estate, Andrew McLean, Gary W. Eldred
...the hell? Real estate? You've got to be kidding!
Seeing Through Clothes, Anne Hollander
Odd as it may seem, especially in a het male who dresses out of the L.L. Bean and Land's End catalogs, I find fashion interesting. This book is oldish, first printed in 1975. It's a history of both clothing and nudity, and the depiction of both in art, from Classical times to the time of its writing. I gather it's well thought of.
A Long Line of Cells, Lewis Thomas.
This is a compilation of three volumes of essays on biology by Dr. Thomas: Lives of a Cell (which won the National Book Award), The Medusa and the Snail, and Late Night Thoughts While Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Lewis Thomas was president of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NY in the 70's and 80's. These essays were originally published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Discover for the most part. Thomas writes very entertainingly, is not afraid to face head-on what might be strange or unnerving, and has a way of writing with exceptional openness and clarity about the weirdness and wonderfulness of the natural world. I've browsed through these books, but probably haven't read more than a quarter of the essays in them. That must be fixed.
The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History, Stephen Jay
More popular biology. I've only read one other book by Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, which I really enjoyed, although I'm not sure I buy his ideas of evolution being driven solely by 'contingency'.
The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict over Creativity,
Enterprise, and Progress, Virginia Postrel
I'm a fan of Virgina Postrel, libertarian writer and thinker, formerly an editor of Reason. Postrel describes herself as a 'dynamist', and in this book posits that the most important current political conflicts in the developed world are not 'Left' vs 'Right', but 'dynamists' vs 'stasists'; i.e., those who favor growth, creativity, and change, over those who want chiefly to preserve the status quo. This distinction cuts across traditional ideas of Left and Right. I used to enjoy Postrel's editorials in Reason, and miss her now that she's no longer writing regularly for that journal.
Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?, Kenneth V. Iserson
Iserson is an academic emergency physician who has written this very well-reviewed text on funerary customs and practices through the ages. Sometimes I feel morbid!
Grammar of the Film Language, by Daniel Arijon
A classic text on filmmaking. No, I'm not intending to make a film, but I've been becoming more interested in the technical aspects of the movies. When you know more about art, any art, you have a better appreciation of it, and enjoy it more, I think. This book, and the next one, are my attempt to learn more about film.
The Five C's of Cinematography : Motion Picture Filming Techniques,
Joseph V. Mascelli
And that's it. Enough? No, in reality I probably won't get through this mess of books this year. But I hope to make a start.