Tuesday, June 23, 2009

49, 48, 47

Three books this week. I'm officially on the slope downward.

Becoming Enlightened: Dalai Lama -I was supposed to keep a moratorium on philosophical/religious texts. They're slow going. You have to think about it. Otherwise, there isn't much point.

This is basically a more detailed overview of the path of being a Buddhist and works out some of the why --though with the lama's usual proviso: It's better to stick with the religion of your own culture if you can.

I got a lot out of it, but mostly it would be prattling to try and explain why it works for me. Suffice to say, the book gave me some comfort and illuminates my purpose. Rock on.

A Voyage Long and Strange: Tony Horwitz -A history and travel writer's retracing of the discovery, conquest and colonization of America by the vikings (roughly 1000 AD), the Spanish (roughly 1500), the French (mid-1500s) and eventually the English (1600s).

It's a fascinating look at the history that has been mostly ignored in average history class rooms. I learned a bunch, including about "The Black Legend" and "The White Legend" of Spanish conquest and the on-again/off-again nature of Columbus's popularity as an icon. I also got a good snootful about the basic universality of European cruelty and barbarism against indigenous peoples, who were largely pretty decent to the assholes who showed up uninvited. They didn't start getting angry until after their village stores and burial sites had been looted a couple of times.

It also managed to give more complex portraits of the men who came to conquer. Sure, they were greedy, homicidal and amazingly short-sighted, but they were also resourceful, brave and resilient. They were also the products of their time. It's difficult to completely condemn the conquistadors as murderers when the world of 1500 was all about domination and subjugation.

The book provided lots of little inside tidbits and showed how the marks left 500 years ago by explorers and lunatics, still remain in parts of the Americas. It was both horrifying and hilarious. Often, the history of European discovery of the West reads like a Monty Python skit gone terribly wrong.

The Monster Loves His Labrynth: Charles Simic -I don't read enough poetry and this really isn't Simic's poetry, but poetic sketches and random musings from his notebooks. Some are funny. Others are profane or touching. As might be expected, it runs a little on the self-absorbed side about the vocation of being a poet, but an interesting look at how Simic sees things.

No comments: